June 27, 2013

Keeping Fresh Herbs Fresh

Italian parsley is the most used fresh herb in my kitchen that gives me quite as much trouble. Buying a bunch of fresh parsley usually get me two or three uses out of it before it reverts to dirt. Sage, thyme, and rosemary last a couple of weeks. Since I’m growing my own, I’ve found a way to enjoy green freshness on demand without being so wasteful.

Basil will live perfectly happily on a cool counter and may even sprout new roots). Cilantro and parsley (and other “soft” herbs…tarragon, sage) prefer to be covered loosely with a plastic bag and put into the fridge. They’ll last this way for at least a week.

herbs

Keeping Fresh Herbs Fresh

Loosely wrap herbs in a damp paper towel, then seal in a plastic bag filled with air. Refrigerate for up to five days. Check herbs daily, as some of them lose their flavor after a couple of days.

Store herbs bouquet style. Cut tips off the ends of the stem, about 1 cm or so, then place bunches of herbs, stems down in a glass of water covering 1 inch of the stem ends. Change water every other day and herbs should keep for up to a week. Snip off stalks as you need them.

To revive limb herbs, trim off ½ inch of the stems and place in ice water for a couple of hours.

herbs

The best herbs are fresh, so have some of your favorite herb planes nearby – either in pot or in your garden. Then when you need them, snip off what you need. The plant will continue to grow providing fresh herbs for weeks or months. In most cases, heat reduces the flavor of fresh herbs, so add then to your dished as a last step and as a garnish when served.

Parsley and cilantro are delicate herbs. Trim their stems as soon as you get them home, and stick them in a small glass full of water. Spritz them with water, cover them loosely with a plastic ziplock bag, and put them in the fridge. Every couple days, change out the water and give the stems another small trim to keep them fresh.

Rosemary, thyme, and oregano, are considered hardier herbs which will brown and mold if kept in water. Wrap them loosely in damp paper towels and then in plastic wrap, and keep them in the crisper or in your fridge door — the warmest spot in the fridge is ideal. Swap out the paper towels for fresh ones every couple days.
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June 14, 2013

Easy Party Appetizers – What to Serve

Last weekend, my wife hosted a Bunko party for seven of her girlfriends. She knew that the focus was on fun and the dice. But, who can play on an empty stomach?

What should she serve? A few bottles of wine were a definite, but what appetizers go with Bunko? Anyone could display a cheese platter with some colorful fruit and call it a day. Or fill some bowls with assorted nuts. But not her. She wanted a spread that was easy and would impress. Because our kitchen is storage challenged, we have basic cutlery (carving, pairing, filleting, larding and boning knives, graters and mandolines), a few stainless steel pots, a copper sauté pan, and a couple of cookie sheets. So, she couldn’t be too elaborate.

Puff Pastry Squares with assorted toppings. Parmesan Crisps with Pesto. The ideas started flowing, and the shopping list began to grow. The three focuses were: pretty food, bite size portions, and repeating ingredients.

Appetizer 1: Bruschetta

brushetta

Slice French bread baguette into ½” slices. Place on stainless steel cookie sheet, brush with olive oil and bake at 350 until golden brown about 15 minutes.

Topping suggestions:
Cream Cheese, basil leaf and sliced tomato, Cream Cheese and Caramelized onions, Sprinkled Parmesan cheese, Olive tapenade mixed with cream cheese, melted Chocolate Chips chips spread on toasted bread sprinkled with chopped walnuts, or Cream Cheese spread with walnuts and honey drizzle.

Appetizer 2: Parmesan Crisps with Basil Pesto

brushetta

1 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese, 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary or thyme or ½ teas. Dried, 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper. Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients together. You can use Terracotta rectangular baker for this recipe, or place on a baking sheet coated lightly with cooking spray. Place tablespoonfuls of the mixture with a couple inches between each, and spread them out into ovals about four inches long and two wide. (You should have about 12 crisps.) Bake in the oven until they turn golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Cool crisps flat on a metal rack.

Topping suggestion:
Store bought basil pesto

Tip: Stainless Steel tri-ply or Copper Skillets work best when you caramelize.

Appetizer 3: Puff Pastry Squares

brushetta

Thaw puff pastry and cut in to 2″x2″ squares. Brush with egg wash (1 large egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon water) and bake at 350* until golden ~20 minutes.

Topping suggestions:
Basil Pesto and Olive Tepanade from Trader Joe’s, Cream Cheese and Caramelized Walnuts (see recipe), Grated Parmesan Cheese and Caramelized Onions (see recipe).

Caramelized Walnut Ingredients: 1 cup sugar, 1/3 cup water, 2 cups walnut halves, Cooking spray or silicone sheets

Preheat oven to 325°. Combine sugar and water in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add nuts to pan, and cook 22 minutes or until sugar mixture thickens and coats nuts, stirring occasionally, watch carefully. Immediately spread nut mixture in a single layer on a edged cookie sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 325° for 20 minutes. Separate nuts with 2 forks. Cool completely.

Caramelized Onions Ingredients: 1 1/2 pounds onions, peeled, halved, and thinly slivered, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 1 teaspoon olive oil, Salt and pepper

Tip: Here’s how to caramelize onions nice and perfect.

In a 3- to 4-quart pan over medium-high heat, frequently stir onions and garlic in oil until onions start to become limp; reduce heat to medium-low and stir frequently until onions are very soft and browned, 40 to 45 minutes. If onions start to stick to the pan, reduce heat further and stir in 2 tablespoons water. Add salt and pepper to taste.

All of these dishes were delicious and beautifully plated. But most importantly, they left for her time to socialize with her girlfriends. Food always makes a party better. So she kept it good and simple and all were impressed with the edible easy treats.

June 8, 2013

Baby Kale and Steak Salad

Weekends can involve late nights with big greasy pizzas. After indulging in a few drinks even a substandard dish can seem to satisfy. There are other dishes that can be healthier and better tasting. There is a Baby Kale and Steak Salad that is fit for a chef. It has a dressing that includes fish sauce, lime juice and vinegar. This dish has multiple vegetables along with the steak.

Read the full article here:
Baby Kale and Steak Salad

kales salad

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June 4, 2013

Still the Best Dessert Suggestion

Not only sometimes but all the time that we needed fresh fruits to finish a meal. In fact, many of us agree on fruits as still the best choice to finish a meal. It is even less routinely than preparing something decadent. Summer is still the season that bears delightfully-tasting sun-kissed fruits. It is during this season that we see baskets and baskets of different fruit varieties.

fruits

While enjoying a slice of crunchy apples or a juicy watermelon, why not make it extraordinary by transforming the fruits into something different? Imagine how slices of fresh berries make a wonderful sweet after-meal treat when poured over with frozen yogurts, or stirred into batters to make crunchy and fruit-smelling, scones, bars and squares. Just make sure your knife blade is sharp so as not to mush the fruits. What about mid-morning fruit sorbet, and chucked strawberry or pineapple topped with jellied raspberry puree for the afternoon? Contrast is delicious, remember.

Fresh fruits, frozen or dried are whole foods that contain natural sugars from the fruit itself yet are low in calories and saturated fat. Even during the royalty times, people used to serve fresh fruit slices on platters. There are so many possible fruit dessert variations. In my case, I like cutting oranges half with the rind on. This makes a beautiful fruit plate that always makes a hit.

fruits

Another idea is to make fruit shake, smoothies, fresh fruit juice and concoctions. Have you tried low-sugar smoothies using banana? You’ll not forget Peanut-Banana Espresso Smoothie. Try it.
You will impress everyone serving them with concocted real fruit-tasting juices. Broiling ripened fruits also brings out the fruits inherent sweetness. You can also use pineapple for a variation. Make granite treat with ripe melon and apple juice with squeezes of lime juice to perk up the flavors.

Slow juicing them is a lot better. Frozen grapes and raspberries can be made to mini-popsicles, too.

The possibilities are endless. I suggest that you begin discovering plenty of fresh fruit dessert recipes that use orange, or orange juice a lot. You don’t only add some after-meal zest, you are embracing a very healthy treat full of vitamins!

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May 18, 2013

Which Knives Work Best for Salads

All knives work fine in salads. However, for freshly and flawlessly chopped vegetables and the finest salad presentation, choosing the type of blade and its initial sharpness are the most important factors.

Experts believe that it’s better to invest in a few good quality knives that can endure over time than buying a full set of cheaper knives which corrodes in less time. Most sources agree that an 8-inch chef’s knife is the most important knife in your collection of cutlery. Many experts say a knife like this can handle most kitchen tasks. But regardless of what you read about a brand of knife, the most important thing to regard is how the knife feels in your hand. Balance should not be ignored.

asalad

Since green or chopped salads contain fresh produce like tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, olives, carrots, celery, cold meats like grilled chicken, pickled peppers, cooked legumes, pickled beets, greens such as romaine or spinach, and cheeses; getting a knife that feels good in your hands, something that shouldn’t be too light nor too heavy, but ideally sharp, is crucial.

You’ll like this video tips on how to dice tomato.

salad

For hulling strawberries or sectioning oranges, a pairing knife is ideal. Why? Because you hold the fruit as you cut it, this job is much safer when performed with a paring knife than with a chef’s knife. It may take time and practice, but the moment you master the right hand positioning, you can begin cutting like a pro which in turn cuts your preparation time in half.

Do you know how to segment citrus fruits?

Some people prefer slicing their green leaves than tearing, and sharp blades in a knife offer a quality that allows the leaves to stay green longer rather than torn leaves. Any sharp knife cuts each vegetable to the same size, which improves the visual appeal of the salad. A cook with excellent knife skills won’t need a chopper, though, and may even find it quicker to simply use a sharp chef’s knife to chop vegetables.

asalad

Another one is a serrated utility knife which is used for slicing bread, meats, or other foods with a hard crust or outer skin. I too find this knife ideal for cutting juicy or soft vegetables, such as tomatoes. The full-tang assembly extends from the tip of the knife to the end of the handle, which adds a really good balance and heft. Basically a lettuce knife will boast to cut both vegetable and lettuce but instead opting for a stainless steel knife would prove to be a better choice.

It’s not extravagance to stuff your kitchen with a variety of kitchen and salad knives. It makes things easier as you only have to choose a right one for a particular requirement and thus will help you to rightly maneuver through the cutting, slicing and chopping.

Quality knives may sound “very” expensive, but if you investigate prices on standard pieces from European, Western and Asian makers, high-quality knives use harder steel. Since different knives come from different approach in style, function and performance, it is only constant that price also comes with the over-all nature of the knives.

I honestly always go for Fissler.

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The Best Varieties for Tomato Lovers

Have you ever wondered why steaks go great alongside a great side with tomatoes? The sauce of the tomatoes with the juicy steak makes a good combination and yet very light. Tomatoes are known acidic in flavor, yet they come out still winey and sweet.

In making salads, the bicolors, with mild and sweet yellow flesh shot through with veins of red, are a visually stunning subset of the yellow/orange category. Tomatoes are guaranteed to give any salad or sandwich a slice of summer in every bite. Tomato lovers or not, it’s only a must to learn The Best Varieties for Tomato Lovers

tomatoes

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Calories in Garden Salad

The favorite choice for the term “Garden Salad” for a cup of lettuce with assorted vegetables is about 11 calories. Many times a healthy salad turns into a not-so-healthy one because of the salad dressing. People often tend to use too much, so stick with the recommended service size of two tablespoons.

A “green” salad of leafy vegetables, like lettuce, spinach or cabbage, is a healthy choice for your diet as long as you don’t cover the salad with dressings and other fatty foods. Once you put on all the fatty dressing, croutons and various other toppings you can actually make a salad worse for you than a hamburger. Calorie and nutritional information for a variety of types and serving sizes of Garden Salad might be of interest.

asalads

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May 12, 2013

Slicing Crosswise or Lengthwise – Explained in Pictures

The difference between the two methods can be important to some recipes, especially during grilling. For example, when an onion is cut lengthwise, its root section will remain intact, preventing smaller segments from falling through the grill. When an onion is cut crosswise, it will not stay together as well.

Why does all this matter? Let’s say you’re trying to make onion rings. You want to cut crosswise. But let’s say you want to grill an onion and you want all the layers to stay intact as a little onion wedge. In that case you want a lengthwise cut, so the root holds all the layers together. This is a good read.

length-vs-cross-310

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What Kitchen Tools Might You Consider Outside the Small Basics?

Any job can be compared to cooking, and like any job, cooking can be easier when you have the right tools. So what tools should every kitchen be stocked with then?

Every kitchen needs basic kitchen tools like a vegetable peelers, can opener, grater, cutting board, colander, masher, and kitchen shears. It even requires measuring cups and spoons, mixing bowls, hot pads, oven mitts, whisk, and a spatula. Many wives consider stovetops, smokers, and grills, among the very reasonable addition to the bigger items.

What additional items might you consider outside of the small basics – a mini food chopper for fast and quick chopping of vegetables; a blender perhaps, or coffemaker that calls for easy coffee all the time. What about grinding herbs and spices with a mortar and pestle, zest lemons and limes with a zester, dish ice-cream with a scoop or nutcracker for freshly chopped nuts to your meals.

cooking

Having the most useful kitchen utensils at hand will make it easier to prepare many recipes. With the many things to do in the kitchen, these basic cooking tools always come into play for each different task. You might have thoughts for the following:

• Washing and drying up fresh foodstuffs are made easy with a strainer and salad spinner.
• Slicing, chopping, carving, boning, pairing and dicing all kinds of food such as crops, fruits and vegetables can be convenient with a food processor. Vegetable peelers, mandolins, knives and graters are very useful and helpful cooking utensils to have on hand.
• Measuring is another basic routine in the kitchen that requires measuring dishes, cups (both wet and dry measures), and measuring spoons. This is very important to baking. Weighing is also required in the kitchen for the correct portioning of meats and other ingredients necessary for recipes that have cooking times affected by weight.

cooking
A small weighing scale is reasonable

• Temperature is significant which can affect the things going on in your kitchen. An oven or meat thermometer is key to having accurately cooked meat that is safe to eat, and should be included in your pantry of cooking utensils.
Mixing is very basic in cooking. No kitchen would be complete without a cadre of mixing bowls. So, a selection of bowls in assorted sizes is essential to fast and well-organized cooking.
• Manipulating, poking, prodding, lifting and stirring, are what implements like spoons, forks, spatulas, and tongs are most useful of.

Check out various kitchen tools here to make the most of out of your collection.

Another thing to take into account, there are a lot more useful cooking utensils and appliances you may want to consider buying like flour sifter, ladles, pepper mill, ramekins, rolling pin, salt shaker, rotary beater; deep fryer, juicer, compact mixer, and many more.

Understanding the need of your kitchen from storage to preparing food, cleaning to cooking and presenting will give you idea what kitchen utensils you should consider buying. Quality is very important. Even though some kitchen utensils are expensive, you are sure they will last for a long time without needing replacement now and again.

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May 11, 2013

Colorful Veggie Pasta Salad

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. Surprise your mom or wife with fresh veggies and pasta “al dente” turned into a colorful and delicious dinner. Here’s a recipe that uses sweet cherry tomatoes, carrot, green onions and bell pepper. Of course, you can use whatever vegetables you like. Kalamata olives, if you like, is another addition, then top the salad just before serving with some freshly grated Parmesan, or any cheese you’d like.

For special occasions like this, its fun to turn eating time into something really special. Check for the full recipe.

colorful salad

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