Teflon is a dishwasher’s best friend

Are you like most people, do you love to cook but dread to clean up after? Have you tried to convince your husband/wife or partner that they should do all the clean up if you do all the cooking? Not having much success? You are not alone. Most people have better things to do with their time than scrubbing pots and pans.

You have to make a choice, either you can spend your time cleaning or you can just go with non-stick. You can try good stainless steel pans with copper bottoms. Within a short time, you may have copper bottoms that are more black than copper. How to get, and keep, them clean is the problem. One option is to move away from the copper bottoms to just stainless steel and with plenty of butter or shortening they are relatively non-stick, if you keep a close eye on them. However, if you make a mistake and burn something in the pan it can be very difficult to remove the black burn from the pan bottom. It involves a lot of elbow grease and scraping and some sort of cleansing agent.

How has Teflon changed people’s lives? In the early days clean up was easy at least for the first few months. Then invariably someone would forget to use only plastic utensils and what followed was a big scratch. Shortly the big scratch would begin to peel and now you need to buy a new pan or else you will poison the family.

That was then, this is now. There is a new generation of Teflon. So what if you use a metal flipper, you can laugh when you use you metal whip in the pan. Nothing happens. No scratches, no peeling and best of all no sticking. These are pieces of cookware that you can use and love, everyday of the week.  

This is not to say that you will never own a stainless steel pan. Everyone needs a large stock pot, a roasting pan or other pieces of stainless. When it comes to deep frying or boiling large pots of pasta, stainless steel can work very well. One thing that stainless steel has going for it is that it is offered in many more options than non-stick is. It is much easier to find a nice stainless steel double boiler then it is to find one with Teflon. So for most of us our kitchens will include a combination of both stainless and non-stick pots and pans.

Will you replace the stainless ones with non-stick? The answer is yes, if it is possible to find the equivalent. It really is all about the ease of cleaning and the fact that we are all looking for ways to get out of the kitchen as quickly as possible. As more and more pieces are available to us we will soon be stainless steel free and enjoying the extra time with our families and friends.

Storage Tips for Dried Herbs and Spices

Dried herbs may not be your first choice when cooking a dish. Everyone prefers to use fresh ingredients but dried herbs last a lot longer than their fresh brethren and you need a lot less to get the job done. As a general rule, if a recipe calls for a fresh ingredient, you will only need about a third of the amount of the same dried ingredient. Dried spices also admittedly add a great deal of convenience to cooking. But just because dried herbs will last longer, it does not mean they will keep forever and they do eventually go bad and lose their potency. Once the herb or spice starts losing its aroma or no longer smells like it should, then throw it out because it will not have the flavor it should either. Dried herbs will last at least a year or even a bit more if you take the time to store them properly. Some dried spices will last even long than that.

Airtight containers

Whether you dry your own herbs, or buy already dried herbs from the supermarket, the first thing you should do is make sure they are in an airtight container. Glass canning jars are preferred over any sort of plastic. Plastic, though it seems airtight, can actually be permeable and cause your herbs and spices to lose potency sooner than in a glass container. Store-bought herbs and spices generally come in a plastic container or bag. If you plan to use your herbs relatively soon then these containers are fine.

Avoid moisture, heat and light

Keep dried herbs and spices away from moisture, heat and light. They should be kept in opaque containers if you have them or you can simply put your clear glass jars into a brown paper bag. It is always good to keep herbs and spices in closed cabinets away from the stove or other heat sources. Direct heat and also ambient heat from light will shorten the lifespan of everything from oregano to thyme. Moisture, obviously, will ruin herbs and spices and can cause them to grow mold. The airtight container should prevent moisture.

Only crush as much as you need

If you dry your own herbs, store them whole and crush them as you need them to prolong their flavor. Whole dried herbs will generally keep for up to two years. If you crush them they keep for around a year. If they are a powder, they will only maintain their potency for about six months.

Tasty Ground Meat Steaks with Gravy

There are times when people might want to have something a little different than burgers and fries, even when they are homemade. Hamburger steak might be just the ticket for something that is filling and great tasting, but isn’t a burger that is served on a bun. This meal is great for satisfying big appetites, too.

This recipe was put together decades ago and it has been a family favorite ever since. It is also easily changeable, depending on individual tastes and what ingredients are on hand. As appealing as it is, it is a meal that can be equally enjoyed regardless of the time of year, and it is neither difficult or expensive to make. 

Ingredients (for four hungry people):

2 pounds ground beef or other ground meat
1 large onion, finely diced
1 bell pepper, finely diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 pound mushrooms, sliced (optional)
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon oregano
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups prepared brown gravy, hot

1. Mix the ground meat, onions, sweet pepper, celery, mushrooms, eggs and spices. Form the meat mixture into four equal oblong patties, each about a half inch thick.

2. Heat the oil in a large fry pan and fry the meat patties over medium heat, turning them over during cooking. The patties are done when the juices seeping out of the meat have no pinkness. This usually takes between 15 minutes and a half hour.

3. Serve the hamburger steaks on a platter or large plate, with the gravy spooned over the top.

The gravy can be made from the drippings in the pan, adding more olive oil if necessary and stirring in flour, cooking until the desired consistency is reached, stirring constantly. This usually takes no more than a few minutes. If desired, gravy can be made from a powdered mix, however. 

The hamburger steak can be served with cooked vegetables or it can be put on a bed of cooked rice. A wonderful variation is to put fresh, ripe, tomato slices over the top of the steak, prior to adding the gravy. Another variation is to sprinkle the meat with grated cheese before topping with the gravy. Using duck or turkey eggs instead of chicken eggs can slightly alter the flavor, as well. The eggs are mostly to hold the meat together.

Additionally, uncooked rolled oats can be added as a meal stretcher. One cup of oats to the above recipe can result in enough hamburger steaks for five people, without greatly altering the taste.

This is a meal that goes great with a green salad, too. Fresh strawberries for dessert is a fitting end to the supper and chances are good that people aren’t going to want anything that is too rich after such a filling meal. Homemade onion rings are great as a side dish.

Hamburger steak is especially good for families who enjoy having steak but can’t afford it. It isn’t hard to make and the flavor is fantastic. Even people who can afford steak often enjoy this main course. The preparation time usually isn’t much of an issue, either. Further, though usually cooked on a stove top, the steaks can also be barbecued instead.

For an especially delicious meal capable of taking care of strong appetites, this is one to try. 

Tapioca Pearlsuses for Tapioca Pearlsbubble Teatapioca Puddingtapioca Flour

Tapioca Pearls also referred to as boba in some cultures is a common ingredient found in Asian desserts, in tapioca pudding, and in sweet drinks such as bubble tea.  The use of tapioca pearls is a wonderful addition of texture to these sweet treats and drinks.

Tapioca is a starch that is derived from the plant species Cassava or Manihot, esculenta. Cassava is a wooded shrub of the spurge family that is native to South America. Commercially the starch that is produced by this particular plant species can be found in powder form, fine and or coarse flakes but most commonly in pearl form. The sizes of tapioca pearls can vary from 1mm to 8mm in diameter, with 2 to 3mm diameter being the most commonly used size.

The use of tapioca pearls varies from region to region, for example in the West Indies tapioca pearls are used as a provision cooked alongside meats and fish. In India tapioca pearls are used as a thickening agent in puddings and in Northern regions of India tapioca pearls are eaten by themselves as a snack. Throughout the United Kingdom tapioca pearls are consumed in tapioca pudding made using tapioca pearls, sugar and milk. In the United States tapioca pearls are eaten in tapioca pudding form as well as cooked with oysters this dish being coined “Oysters and Pearls.”  Throughout the country of Africa tapioca pearls are a staple breakfast food due to the foodstuff being rich in starch.

Tapioca pearls especially the large pearls are normally found to be brown in color however they can also be found dyed blue, green and in a wide variety of pastel colors. These larger pearls are commonly found in green tea drinks like bubble tea and pearl milk tea.

Another use for tapioca pearls is to make tapioca flour. When choosing to substitute your common cooking flour with tapioca flour you gain a unique chewy factor to baked products like muffins and biscuits. Tapioca flour is also a great thickening agent for soups and stew, and when used instead of regular flour when making a loaf of bread allows for the whitest loaf of bread you will ever see. Tapioca flour can be a great replacement for flour in recipes for waffles, crepes and pancakes as well.

When considering cooking with tapioca pearls be sure to use the highest quality pearls available to you. Good quality tapioca pearls will be similar in size, smooth and unbroken.  

Steam Vergetables

Steaming is the best way to bring out the tastes nature intended for food to have. This process of cooking allows heat to surround the food with enough heat to cook inside and out while retaining the vitamins without burning or overcooking. The best way to steam vegetables is with a double boiler. However, since that method requires more time, another option is the ever popular microwave.
DOUBLE BOILER METHOD
A double-boiler is made of two fitted saucepans. The bottom saucepan is usually filled with water to provide heat and the top pan is made like a sifter to take in the heat from the bottom pan.
Fill the bottom saucepan with enough water (approximately 3/4 of saucepan) and let it boil at medium to high heat. Once the water has started boiling and steam starts to rise, fill the second saucepan with fresh vegetables and place on top of the first saucepan. Cover the vegetables and let it steam until the vegetables are tender. Be careful not to overcook the vegetables. It usually takes beefy vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower about 5 to 7 minutes to be tender. However, it is important to use your mouth to test the tenderness. A tender vegetable should not melt in your mouth, but rather require a little chewing before breaking down. Once the vegetable is tender, turn the heat on low and add sea salt, turmeric powder or plain ground pepper for taste. Sea salt is important because it brings more taste out of the vegetables without overpowering them as table salt does. Leave the vegetables on low heat for one more minute or until the salt is absorbed. The salt should be added in at the end because the vegetables are tender enough to absorb them.
MICROWAVE METHOD
If you don’t have enough time to use a double boiler or don’t own a double boiler, have no fear because steamed vegetables can be made in the microwave. Fill a plastic container with the vegetables desired and add 1/4 of the amount of vegetables used. For example one cup of vegetables needs 1/4 a cup of water. Once again add sea salt to taste, cover and put in the microwave for approximately 3 minutes. It is important for the vegetables tom remain covered as this allows the heat to be trapped. The time it takes for the vegetables to cook depends on the power of the microwave being used and the vegetables being cooked. Some microwaves might steam vegetables in 3 minutes while others might need 6 minutes, so use your mouth to test its tenderness. Be careful when taking the lid off the plastic container as the steam will be extremely hot. Make sure to open the lid away from your face and let the vegetables cool down before tasting.
Steaming allows vegetables to retain all their vital vitamins, so make every effort to steam your fresh vegetables as much as you can. Steamed vegetables make great additions to rice and couscous plates. If you’re making soup, you can steam the vegetables above the soup in a double boiler before adding to the soup. However, do this only if the vegetables are steamed for half the original time. Add them as the last ingredient so as to avoid overcooking them. Steaming them above the soup allows them to retain more of the flavor. These are fun and flavorful ways of enjoying vegetables to achieve your healthy goals this new year.

Steak sauces to tempt the tastebuds

Having lived in the French countryside for almost thirty years, the writer’s experience of French cuisine tells her the best sauces are those made at home. The way in which they help the presentation of steak is that they add another dimension to the cooked flavor of the meat, as well as keeping that meat tender and moist, which is what good cooking is all about.

Sauce a la maison

This is the tastiest kind of sauce to go with steak. Taking traditional recipes and exploring different ingredients to get the taste to perfection, this is a favorite. It is one used in the kitchen on a regular basis to tempt the taste buds of visitors, who tuck into their succulent steak, and experience the pleasure and delight of sauces.

Ingredients

Two shallots (medium in size)
Fresh tarragon
Butter
Black pepper in a grinder
Two tablespoons of Pinot de Charentes
Dijon mustard

Beginning the cooking stages of the steak, put a little Dijon mustard on both sides of the steak and cook in good quality butter. The idea is to seal the meat though not to cook it. Cut the shallots into small, thin pieces (half rounds), and add these to the steak, gently simmering until they are soft. Chop up a handful of fresh tarragon into tiny pieces and add to the mix. This idea was taken from the basic recipe for Bearnaise Sauce, though it was discovered that the Bearnaise wasn’t sufficiently tasty to give the steak the real star treatment it merited.

Using the pepper grinder, grind a couple of twists of pepper on both sides of the steak. The original addition of Chablis was too bland, and experimentation with Pinot de Charentes, gave a  taste which is more distinctive. Adding this to the cooking process last, close the pan by placing a lid on it, and turn down the heat so that the dish simmers.

Serve with fresh vegetables.

The sauce really does do justice to the steak, and is simple to make. It keeps all the meat juices intact and allows the meat to cook slowly but thoroughly, retaining its juiciness and not drying out.

Poivre vert

Using the recipe above, replace the black pepper with green pepper, and use the same ingredients though at the end of the cooking process mix fresh cream into the sauce. This is a richer sauce and goes well when the vegetables that you are serving seem bland. When vegetables are rare because of seasonal changes, the dish can compensate by adding an element of richness to the steak itself, though if serving in season with new potatoes, the choice would be the sauce without cream.

French cooking is amazingly versatile. By changing ingredients, each cook can create his or her own sauces based on the foundation of traditionally tested sauces. Ingredients, such as fresh mushrooms in season, can change the taste subtly, as can substituting the shallots for spring onions in season.

Sauces enhance cooking and the experimentation that is awaiting those who are new to discovering the benefits of sauces will eventually decide on which sauces can be defined as the best for serving with steak. These would be the choices the writer would make, based on experience and the most important factor of all, the taste factor.

Tandoori Chicken is Baked at very High Temperatures in a Special Clay Oven

Tandoori chicken is baked in a special clay oven at extreme temperatures; it can be served as an appetizing tikka starter or as the hugely popular main course with masala sauce and has become almost symbolic of Asian cuisine. 

Ingredients:

curry powder,

chicken breast,

red food dye,

natural yoghurt,

tinned tomatoes,

tomato purée and

boiled rice. 

Marinade the chicken in a mixture of curry powder, yoghurt and red food dye for as long as you can; then bake the chicken in a preheated oven on the top shelf at 200 for 30 minutes.

This roasted chicken prepared with yoghurt and spices has to be cooked in a cylindrical clay oven called a tandoor for best results and it normally requires a specialist chef to bake it, though the top shelf of any normal oven will suffice.   

For the tikka starter serve the baked tandoori chicken in small pieces with sprigs of cilantro, slices of cucumber, red onion, tomato and lemon. 

For the main course, heat up a mixture of single cream, tomato purée and tinned tomatoes with as much curry powder as required – there is a time and the place for a hot curry and for a mild curry and I think this one should be medium!

Add the now famously “tandoorified” chicken chunks to the masala sauce and serve with rice when hot.  

Tandoori chicken is normally marinated in yoghurt with seasoning like cayenne pepper and red chilli powder to give it that distinctive spicy colour. Turmeric and paprika too, are often added to the chicken that is far from succulent once finished! 

Following the upheaval resulting from partition in 1947, people started baking chicken in tandoor ovens which until then were only used to cook naan bread. These clay ovens are bell-shaped and set into the earth where wood or charcoal was used for fuel; the flavour of this meat became so tasty it appeared regularly at official banquets and state occasions, soon developing a world wide reputation.

Tandoori clay ovens were traditionally fired by charcoal or wood, burning within the oven itself and the food would be exposed to the fire and radiance of the live heat. This hot air baked in a convection cooking style that smoked the meat thoroughly as well giving it a distinctively dry texture and delicious flavour. 

The extremely high temperatures of the tandoor oven would remain lit for days to keep this heat alive and the tandoor looks like something between an ancient makeshift earth oven and a more modern one, bringing a little history with it, thus the oldest examples of these ancient devices have been found dating back to the Indus Valley Civilizations and the mound site of Balakot, Pakistan.

What Is Microdermabrasion: Anti Wrinkle Treatments That Work

So what is microdermabrasion. An anti wrinkle treatments that work is what one desires. This method is a way of eliminating imperfections in the skin. The way this process is implemented is that it exfoliates or peels off the skin’s top layers. This skin resurfacing treatment works mildly in wearing away the outer layer of the skin. A stream of micro particles applied to the face is associated with the Microdermabrsion process. There are different machines used in the Microdermabrasion procedure. And there are three different types of crystals used when employing this method. The crystals are sodium chloride, aluminum salts, and sodium bicarbonate crystals. These crystals are moved under pressure to loosen and slightly remove the dermis or outer layer of the skin. The skin is gingerly sand blasted with the help of the Aluminum oxide micro crystal abrasion machines. Another name for these machines are the diamond tipped wand. This method will reveal a new fresh layer on the surface of the skin.

Micro dermabrasion helps revitalizes your skin faster than you would think. This process is a non-invasive way to restore dull skin. Furthermore, large pores are decreased plus fine lines and wrinkles are eliminated. Another way Microdermabrasion helps is by reducing defects in the pigment and deminishing acne scars. Newer skin cells are then formed with greater levels of collagen. In result, the appearance of the skin is much improved. The difference between Microdermabrasion and dermabrasion one is more intense than the other. Microdermabrasion is typically a quick and safe procedure and is a good option for just about any skin type. It is more of a milder routine versus Dermabrasion which is a more intense method. Dermabrasion is used in the treatment of scars or deep lines in the face. Using the Microdermabrasion process is good for individuals with skin sensitive. Now what some would like to know is how well does microdermabrasion work.

Summer Picnic Safety Tips for Children

Children love the fun, and frolic, of summer picnics.There are, however, summer picnic safety tips to keep in mind for children, to keep the summer picnic activities safe.

First of all, if meat or any other kind of food is going to be cooked over an open grill, or barbecue pit, be sure the children are playing far enough away from an open flame to avoid any possible burn accidents. Children are too busy having fun and playing to watch out for any possible hazards.

Remind children not to touch, or handle any raw meat that may be set out waiting to be cooked, or grilled. If, however, they do handle raw meat they should wash their hands thoroughly to avoid any contamination, or cross contamination of other foods that are nearby.

Check the area you chose outdoors for the picnic is not too close to a heavily wooded area, rich with foliage. That area may have poisonous plants growing, such as poison ivy, or poison oak, and children probably won’t be cautious of which plants to avoid.

It’s best to make sure your children wear a sunscreen when they are outdoors in the hot, summer sun. An SPF sunscreen of at least 15 is recommended, with a larger amount required for any lengthier time out in the sun. Sunburn can occur quickly when no sunscreen has been directly applied on your children’s skin.

Children need to keep well hydrated in the summer at picnics, and any other time. Children may forget to take time out when they are playing and physically active, to drink some liquids to replenish the fluids in their bodies.  Typically, children do not adjust as well to hotter temperatures than adults do, and therefore, need to replenish their liquids more frequently.

If your summer picnic includes a spot near a beach, river, or pool facility, remind your children to refrain from getting too close to the water unless, of course, they are under adult supervision. Typically, children may be attracted to play near water, and accidental drowning can occur in even small amounts of water.  In fact, drowning is the second leading cause of death for children under 14 years of age.

It’s a good idea to keep hand sanitizer available for children to ensure their hands are clean before eating food at the picnic. Children can easily pick up germs, or bacteria from different picnic area surfaces.

Keep  some kind of insect repellent, or bug spray handy at your summer picnic so children can be protected from annoying mosquitoes, including  some that carry the West Nile virus, or any other insects that can cause bites, itching, and possible further infection.

Children should be cautious to avoid drinking from outdoor water faucets since they can be a breeding ground for germs. It’s best to bring along bottled water, or juice drinks, to avoid any bacteria present on public surfaces.

The summer is a great time for children, and adults to enjoy a family picnic, keeping in mind there are a few tips to follow to keep your children safe.

Sports Drinks vs Energy Drinks

There are so many varieties of sports and energy drinks flooding the market, targeting athletes or anyone else whose high level of activity dictates a special kind of hydration. The choices available to those who feel the need for vitamins, caffeine or nutrients of some kind in their hydrating drinks can be mind-boggling.

There are drinks of all flavors and colors claiming a range of benefits due to their additional ingredients. How can a health-conscious athlete, or any other individual, decide between a sports drink and an energy drink when wishing to obtain maximum benefits while fulfilling hydration needs? What is the difference between a sports drink and an energy drink, and why not opt for plain thirst-quenching water?

Sports drinks are categorized as “food” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with strict laws governing the labeling of ingredients.

Sports drinks contain dissolved minerals, such as sodium, electrolytes and carbohydrates. Sodium and other minerals help to regulate fluid balance in the body. Because of the mineral content, sports drinks do a better job of maintaining fluid balance than plain water.

Most sport drinks are isotonic, meaning they contain similar concentrations of salt and sugar as the human body. Sports drinks also contain carbohydrates, the body’s preferred energy source during periods of intense activity.

Energy drinks, on the other hand, are considered “dietary supplements.” Energy drinks are not required to have FDA approval before production or sale. The FDA does not regulate how much caffeine and other stimulants go into energy drinks. Many energy drinks contain mega doses of sugar, caffeine and other energy boosters and have become a substitute for coffee to provide the energy to get through the day, or to feel energized for recreational activity, for many adults.

However, the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition and the Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness have stated that energy drinks “are not appropriate for children and adolescents and should never be consumed by them.” Mayo Clinic and  medical professionals report seeing teenage patients who present with heart palpitations that cease when they stop using energy drinks.

With respect to sports drinks vs. energy drinks, as with any other food item, reading the label of contents and making informed choices is the responsibility of the consumer.

Whatever choice is made when selecting specialty hydration drinks, be clear about your purpose and the impact ingredients will have on your system. Remember also that for most individuals, to maintain daily hydration during normal activities all that is really necessary is adequate amounts of water.