Friday, December 23, 2016

6 Amazing Cooking "Tricks"

Found these tips both very useful and fun (the banana trick)....especially #s 5 & 6 since we all hate to peel a hard boiled eggs and garlic cloves.

Hope  you enjoy....your comments & thoughts welcomed.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Beginners Cooking Tip-How to Use a Recipe

Those who don’t enjoy cooking find it a chore or too challenging.  One reason may be they are intimidated by the recipe. The list of ingredients and/or the actual instructions may be lengthy.
To start, browse through the recipe from beginning to end. While it may appear long, the list of ingredients frequently itemizes very common items like butter, cooking oil, salt, pepper, various spices, etc. The instructions may look complicated but, again, simply detail basic procedures like setting the correct stove top or oven temperature are detailed. Get familiar with the methods or processes and get a feel for how easy or difficult they may be based on your abilities. You want to be comfortable and try to cook the dish or you may pass for feel of the dish not coming out just right. If you’re uncomfortable, try cooking it just for yourself and experiment/practice your skills. Even the best chefs have burned toast or cooked a hard boil egg to to speak. Remember, recipes are used by the best cooks around the world.
Now that you’ve read through the recipe, you know what’s involved and the ingredients you’ll need. You want to have all the ingredients when you start. It will be very frustrating to start cooking and run out of something simple. You’ll lose your enthusiasm and interest.
Next step…prepare the ingredients.
Make sure you have the right ingredients...and the correct quantities. While you can generally substitute Dijon mustard for spicy brown mustard, you can’t use dry mustard. You don’t want to find out you need 3 cups of chicken broth when you only have a half a cup. As you get more experience with cooking, you’ll learn how easy it can be to substitute and/or adjust quantities.
Now….make sure you have the right cookware and utensils.
Most recipes will call for a specific type of pot or pan, but rarely is it “exotic” and not something you already have in your kitchen. Basic large spoons, ladles, tongs and “flippers” usually cover what you need. A tip…if you’re using “non-stick” or enamel coated pots and pans make sure you use wooden rubber type utensils so you don’t scratch the coated surfaces.
Here’s a recipe that lists nine ingredients but as you read it and see it is very simple, including instructions.
Recipe for White Clam Sauce
1 (10oz) can minced clams
¼ c. olive oil
½ c. butter
¼ tsp. pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp. oregano
3 Tbsp. (heaping) dried parsley
3 Tbsp. onion-chopped fine
1 Tbsp. grated Romano cheese
Combine all ingredients and heat in a sauce pan. Pour over cooked linguine. Makes 2 servings.
Some time ago I decided that if you have to do something several times a day, why not make it a hobby and enjoy it. Cooking can be fun and give you a sense of accomplishment…not to mention a very enjoyable meal for your family or friends.
Visit my website@ for a quality selection of enamel coated cookware that will serve all your cooking needs.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Cooking Tip-How to Braise Meat

If you want to enjoy a gourmet meal using inexpensive cuts of meat then you’ll want to learn how to “braise”. Braising means browning the meat oil and/or butter then slowly cooking in a covered roasting pan. The meat is covered in a liquid which usually includes some combination of water, broth and red or white wine. Cooking time can take from one to several hours as this method is used to tenderize and intensify the flavors in the meat and accompanying vegetables. Despite the time frame, most recipes are usually fairly simple and don’t require any advanced skills.
Follow these basic steps and you and your family or friends will thoroughly enjoy the results.
Step 1-Choose your favorite cut of meat. Lamb, beef, veal or pork shanks are very common in these recipes. Beef shoulder roast, chuck roast or brisket are also good choices. These cuts are usually tougher with higher levels of collagen. Collagen, when cooked at low temperatures for an extended time creates a gelatin which helps the tenderizing process. You can use chicken but it should not be skinless and bone should be in. Legs and thighs work best. The real secret is in the slow cooking.
Step 2-Brown the meat in some type of fat…olive oil, butter or some combination suggested in the particular recipe. The browning process is intended to add color and flavor enhancement. Frequently, the recipe may call for rolling the meat in flour seasoned with salt and fresh ground pepper. Again….a flavor enhancement. The browning process is done in a Dutch oven or large heavy pot with a lid. The browning step may take 10 -20 minutes to cover all sides of the meat. It only cooks the surface of the meat and the earing locks in flavor.
Some tips….the meat should be patted dry and free of moisture or it will “steam” more than brown…don’t crowd the meat so any moisture can escape. Size of the portions, if not whole, should be the roughly the same for even cooking.
Step 3-Add liquids. As I mentioned earlier, depending on the type of meat and recipe, you can use wine, water, stock/broth...usually a combination of these liquids. At this point you will usually add onions, garlic, spices, vegetables and any other flavoring you may like. Some cooks/recipes say don’t cover the meat & vegetables entirely. I have covered with liquid and the results are very good.
Step 4-Cover the Dutch oven or pan. You can cook over a stove top or in the oven. I prefer the oven as it provides more even cooking on all sides and results in the best flavor and tenderizing. Follow the recipe for the correct oven temperature. Remember it will always be low….300-325* or less.
Here are some typical cooking times...                    
Lamb shanks….4-6 each a pound…2 ½ hours
Veal shanks….4-6 each a pound…2-2 ½ hours
Shoulder roast…3-4 pounds…roughly an hour per pound
Chicken (remember bone in/skin on)….1-1 ½ hours

Give ‘braising” a try….you don’t have to be a gourmet cook to enjoy a wonderful meal!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Have Fun With A Tagine

If you enjoy trying international cuisine, then invest in a tagine. A Moroccan tagine is a two part cooking vessel that traditionally is made of clay or ceramic.  It has a cone shaped top. Tagines are used to cook stew like dishes.
Part of the fun is that tagine recipes can be very easy to prepare and cook. Once you stock several spices frequently used in the recipes (turmeric, ginger, cinnamon to name a few), the ingredient list can be pretty simple. The main part of the stew can include beef, lamb, chicken or fish. Fruits are usually part of the dish….prunes, dates, dried apricots. You can also prepare vegetarian dishes. Another reason why cooking with a tagine is easy...only one pot. You don’t need any other special kitchen equipment or other pots or pans.
Besides making for a unique looking piece of cookware, the cone shaped top serves a practical purpose. The lid ensures that heat condenses at the top so that the dish does not dry up even if left on the stove overtime.
When your family or friends come into the kitchen, they’ll know a tagine meal is in the works. There is a tiny hole in the lid to let out some steam and it fills the air with the wonderful smell of the spices used in tagine recipes.

Back to easy….tagines are very attractive. They can be plain or come in a variety of colors and painted patterns. As a result, remove the lid and bring the meal directly to the table as the bottom serves as an attractive serving dish.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Dutch oven Basics

Dutch ovens can either be cast iron or aluminum. Cast iron Dutch ovens can be the traditional matte black or have an enamel coating…inside and out. Stainless steel Dutch Ovens are usually enamel coated.
The traditional uncoated Dutch oven is perfect for outdoor camp fire type cooking but for everyday use in the kitchen, you may prefer the enamel type. For two main reasons…first…they don’t have to be seasoned and…second… the enamel coating essentially creates a “non-stick” surface making cleaning much less of a chore
The Dutch oven is a very versatile piece of cookware. They have a thick bottom and sides. This feature creates even heat distribution and no hot spots. Dutch ovens also have a heavy, snug fitting lid. Flavor of the food is enhanced because the heavy lid helps retain moisture. The versatility of the pot is evidence by its multiple uses. You can bake, broil, sauté, braise or roast a dish. It can used stove top on any surface or in the oven. Roast vegetables…braise some ribs…brown meat… create your favorite soup or stew. Enamel coated cookware is very attractive and can be taken directly from the stove or open to your table.
Dutch ovens come in two shapes…oval and round.
If you’re roasting fish, pork chops, beef or chicken, the oval shape is said to be better. I’ve read that it is also better for making no knead bread.
The round shape Dutch ovens provides even heat distribution as it fit better on a round burner. It also works a little better when you have to stir soups or stews.
If you’re looking to get your first, and possibly only Dutch oven, give some thought to the size. They come in a wide variety of sizes to suit your most common need. Think in terms of a one quart size is good for a one person meal. Unless you are into larger dinner parties, a five quart round or 6 quart oval pot will serve you well for most family/small party needs. My personal thoughts are that a little larger is more practical than a little smaller.
If you do want a Dutch oven for camping, here’s what you should know…
·         It should be cast iron. Not aluminum or other metals.
·         The wall and bottom thickness should be uniform for even heat distribution.
·         It should have those 3 stubby legs on the bottom for stability and allow a little clearance between the pot and the coals.
·         Lid should fit tightly to keep the heat inside.
·         Lid should have a raised rim so coals can be put on top for campfire baking.

·         Should have sturdy “bail-type” handles so you can safely handle very hot and very full ovens.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Kitchen Islands-Some Thoughts

I not a builder or an interior decorator...just someone who enjoys my time in the kitchen and watching those “fixer upper” and house flip shows. I’ve noticed they usually seem “standard” in the ”MacMansion” size homes. They vary in smaller homes from not having one to various sizes.

If you looking at a new home or remodeling what you have, some thoughts and suggestions.
First, islands can serve a single or multiple purpose. They can simply be used as additional counter/prep space or function as an eating area, serving area, cooking area  or some combination of all these depending on your needs or life style. I’ve found that islands create a gathering space during for dinner parties.Large ones are usually fixed in place. Small versions can be ‘mobile’.

Pictures are worth a thousand words……

Just some food for thought. If you found helpful or not, I welcome any comments or your own ideas.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Cooking Tips For Beginners

Whether we want to or have to, there may come a time when you need to cook.
When I first got married…some 40 years ago…I decided to dabble in the kitchen.
I worked in banking and my wife was a dental hygienist. As a result, I had the traditional Federal holidays off but my wife had only the major ones like 4th July, Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc. Being “home alone” some days, I decided it would be a thoughtful gesture to prepare a nice dinner meal when she came home from work. Like most newlyweds we had a good number of assorted cookbooks given as shower or wedding gifts. The assortment included books for the beginner or “easy meals”.

That’s where you begin…

Tip #1-Get one or more of this type of cookbook. If you’re like me, “a picture is worth a thousand words” and these books usually include pics so you can see your creation. Helps build confidence plus ingredients are generally straightforward and as the book implies instructions easy to follow.

Tip #2-Review your pantry first and then make a shopping list for the needed ingredients. Over time, you’ll find that you will collect an assortment of spices and seasonings and just have to get the main ingredients. If you’re like me, you won’t check as often as you should and wind up with several jars of oregano, parsley, garlic powder, etc. Then you create a clutter problem.

Tip #3-Once you have all your ingredients, do all the prep work first. Chop the onions, slice the vegetables, mix all the liquids, measure out per the recipe…etc.

Tip #4-If you’re making a main course, one or more side dishes and maybe a sauce, check the time needed for each one. You don’t want to start a vegetable that takes 10 minutes if your chicken dish takes a 45 minutes to roast. While the 45 minute chicken is roasting, you can organize yourself for the other dishes. Tip #4-A would be to invest in more than one timer in your kitchen so you don’t get confused or forget when did I start that dish?

Tip #5-Take time to set a nice table. While you don’t have to do this every day, it takes little to no effort to use those nice placemats and napkins you got as a gift along the way and the “special occasion “dishes that were wedding presents. It will make the meal more special for your spouse, friend, or guest and make you fell even better about time you spent preparing it.

Tip #6- If you’re so inclined, enjoy the meal with a nice bottle of wine.

These are my ideas for the beginner. There are many others and over time as you find them, the better, and more enthusiastic a cook you will become. Besides that cooking will become easier and more economical. Some of the tips will become natural, others you may want to write down and keep for reference.

Over the years, I feel I’ve graduated from a “rookie” to a very good “amateur”. You don’t need years of training to enjoy a wonderful meal. Just the desire……

Hope this helps motivate you to expand your cooking talents. I welcome any commnents from those of you who found these tips helpful...or not.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Recipe for White Clam Sauce

An uncle on my Dad’s side of the family enjoyed dabbling in the kitchen. Don’t know what was his source of inspiration but he came up with a very simple recipe for white clam sauce that has been a favorite of ours.
If you enjoy linguine with white clam sauce, then try this….
1 (10oz) can minced clams
¼ c. olive oil
½ c. butter
¼ tsp. pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp. oregano
3 Tbsp. (heaping) dried parsley
3 Tbsp. onion-chopped fine
1 Tbsp. grated Romano cheese
Combine all ingredients and heat in a sauce pan. Pour over cooked linguine. Makes 2 servings.

P.S….Don’t forget a nice Italian red wine and some crusty bread for dipping!

Bon Appetit’…….

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Red Wine with Steak…White Wine with Fish…Maybe Not…..

A few years back I found an article in a popular cooking magazine that had a great idea for a small dinner party…..”small” because the premise can get expensive for more than one or two couples.
Traditionally, we have been taught that red meat is best served with a good red wine and fish (or any white meat) is best enjoyed with a good white.
The article suggested adapting those “norms” to your own personal taste.
Here’s the expensive part….you set your table with 5-6 glasses of assorted wines…2 dry reds...2 dry whites… a sweet dessert wine and a champagne.
Then create a multi course meal with…each one doesn’t have be entrée’ size portions.
You sample a taste of several wines with each course and decide for yourself which brings out the most flavor and enjoyment for you.
I used the idea for an upscale New Year’s Eve dinner party, but I’m sure you can do the same thing with a more casual menu.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Why Invest In Enamel Coated Cast Iron Cookware

Like many people when you think of cast iron cookware you may think of the matte black finish on heavy pots and pans that you use cooking in a fireplace or over an open campfire. Enamel coated cast iron cookware brings the long time features of cooking with cast iron into today’s kitchen.
Enamel coated cast iron cookware is an excellent conductor of heat. As a result, it does not produce hot spots and foods will brown evenly. With enamel cast iron, the sides, bottom and lids retain heat resulting in totally even heating. It is very energy efficient. Because the enamel coating seals the surface, moisture is retained and liquid stays in the food. This enhances flavor and tenderness. Whether you want to bake, roast, sear, brown or blacken enamel coated cast iron is perfect for all these uses. Enamel cast iron is well suited for lower heat for browning and high temperatures for searing or blackening. These pots, pans, skillets, Dutch ovens all have smooth bottoms and are suitable for all types of range tops and any type of range or oven…gas, electric, induction. This cookware may be used in your oven with temperatures as high as 450*F.
If you are already using ‘traditional’ cast iron cookware, enamel coated cast iron has some added advantages. First, it doesn’t need to be seasoned. With traditional cast iron cookware, you should avoid using it for acidic foods like tomato sauces or chili. The acidity has potential to damage the cast iron’s seasoning and potentially allow iron and other metals to seep into the food. You don’t have these problems with enamel coated cast iron.
Second, the smooth enamel coating prevents food from sticking and makes clean up much easier and eliminates any worry about rust.
On the topic of easier clean up…some tips on caring for your enamel cast iron cookware:
While enamel cookware is normally dishwasher safe, hand cleaning is recommended. It helps preserve the cookware’s original appearance. Don’t use steel wool or other abrasive type pads. Nylon pads or soft scrapers are best.
Let the hot pot or pan cool before putting it into water for washing. The temperature shock of a hot pot in cooler water could cause cracking.
If you enjoy preparing your meals with traditional cast iron cookware, then you can enhance your enjoyment using cast iron with an enamel coating.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Enamel Coated Cookware-Benefits & Advantages

While not professionally trained, I’m more of a “culinary enthusiast” than a casual cook. If you’re like me, you want to enjoy cooking, present an attractive table and spend more time with family and guests. For these reasons, it’s helpful to know the benefits and advantages of enamel coated cookware.
Cooking at high temperatures can make food stick to plain stainless steel, aluminum or cast iron pots and pans as they don’t provide much resistance to heat Cleanup is a hassle and takes away from enjoying the time preparing meals.
The first noticeable benefit of enamel coated cookware is the smooth, glossy feel on the outside of the pots and pans. This glossy finish, both inside and out, is added for two important reasons. The first is to allow you to cook at high temperatures. Food does not stick, making cleaning much easier and you can use recipes which require more intense heat adding more variety to your meals. Also, enamel cookware heats quickly which makes these pots excellent for long simmering. Enamel cookware is also noted for cooking food more even
A second benefit of enamel coated cookware is that it resists rust as a result of the thick, glossy coating. This gives your cookware a longer useful life. Enamel cookware is known to be very durable and the outer texture is able to stop damage from the elements in your kitchen that effect cookware.
We are a very health conscious society. The Internet is filled with articles giving advice on healthy eating and living. There are health benefits to using enamel coated cookware. The enamel coating helps create a buffer zone between food and the metal base. The usual metal base is reactive with alkaline or acidic foods. This adds components of metallic compounds and even slight metallic taste to your food. Many cooks avoid using plain stainless steel pots for cooking dishes like chili and tomato sauces.
Adding to the advantages of enamel cookware is style. Today, kitchen designs frequently incorporate open shelves or cabinets with clear glass doors allowing you to display this fashionable style of cookware and add a touch of flair to your decor. Enamel cookware comes in a variety of stylish, contemporary colors. Pots and pans come in assorted shapes and sizes. If your cooking needs are simple, you can be well served with 2 or 3 basic pots or skillets. If you like to braise, roast, sauté, grill or fry, there is a perfect pot, skillet, grill pan or roaster for you. With various sizes, you can find a shallow skillet designed for grilling or a deeper skillet for frying. You can find larger pots for making stock or soups. Smaller ones are common for stews. Plain stainless steel, aluminum or cast iron creates a more “utilitarian” look. Also, the stylish appearance and light weight of enamel cookware allows you to take it directly from the stove or oven directly to the table. A reminder….use a trivet to avoid scorching you tale top.
If you want to enhance your cooking experience then enamel coated cookware is right for you. It is one of the most popular types of cookware found in today’s kitchens. 

Pictures Worth A Thousand Words

One of the benefits of enamel coated cookware that I noted in prior blogs was the attractive designs and colors of the pots and pans that can enhance the decor of your kitchen. Today, kitchen designs include open shelving and/or cabinets with clear glass doors that display your cookware and dinnerware.

To illustrate......

Compare the items below....

Strainless Steel Dutch Oven....

 Enamel Coated Dutch Oven.....

Stainless Steel Pasta Pot/Steamer....

Enamel Coated Pasta Pot/Steamer....

This is my own personal opinion and taste. While I prefer traditional cabinets and furniture, I also enjoy color. Just some ideas if you're planning to remodel or just change the style of your cookware.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Kitchen Utensils & Enamel Cookware

When choosing kitchen implements for enameled cast iron cookware, it is important to understand the nature of the enamel that makes it different from ordinary cast iron pots and pans. Standard cast iron can be given nonstick properties and rendered easier to clean by seasoning with hot oil or grease. Baking oil into the pan at high temperature forms a bond that reduces the likelihood of rusting and iron getting into the food, and also makes it relatively nonstick and easier to clean.

Enameling is also a way of creating a barrier between the food and the iron base, and enameled cookware is fairly easy to clean and possesses an acceptable degree of nonstick properties, though you should try to avoid burning food onto the bottom or sides of the pan. If you do, however, enamel is fairly resistant to scratching - much more so that straight cast iron, stainless steel or nonstick Teflon surfaces. It can therefore tolerate scouring better than these other surfaces, but is very sensitive to knocks and bangs that can chip the enamel off the base.

Enamel is not baked on paint, as many think it to be, but is silica, or glass, that is mixed with pigments and then melted onto the iron surface. The process creates a bond that, while strong enough for normal handling, can chip if given hard knocks. If you drop enameled cookware onto a hard floor, for example, it is liable to chip, but not if you stir the contents with a metal spoon.

Nevertheless, although you can use stainless steel and other metal kitchen implements with enameled cast iron cookware, you are advised not to, and to try to use wood, plastic or silicone. Silicone is a form of plastic that has been cured and cross-linked to render it heat resistant, a property that ordinary plastic kitchen implements lack.

Wood is best for any type of cookware, but most people have a set of wooden spoons in their kitchen arsenal, and perhaps a wooden spatula, but very little else. You can get a wider range online, but the ladles and slotted spoons tend to be very small in comparison to their metal or plastic alternatives.

Plastic is excellent in respect of protecting your cookware, but it can be soft and can get even softer when hot. Not only that, but forget to take it off the pot when cooking and you will have given a new meaning to plastic food! The same is true of a plastic spatula or fish slice: these kitchen tools rarely last long without showing signs of a few burns. Which takes us to silicone kitchen tools.

Silicone kitchen implements are heat-rated, and some are rated as high as 900 degrees, so they will not soften or melt in the same way as normal plastic. There is also a good range of silicone implements, such as turkey lifters, fish slices, spatulas and cooking spoons, but still not as many as are available in stainless steel.

The problem with stainless steel is not that it scratches enamel, because it doesn't as long as you are not trying hard to do so, but that if you hit the pan with a heavy stainless implement it might chip. Nevertheless, it is possible to use stainless kitchen utensils for enameled cast iron cookware as long as you are careful, and make sure that you don't knock or drop any implements onto the pan.

Taking an overall view, when choosing kitchen utensils for enameled cast iron cookware you are likely best advised to use wood or silicone where you can, particularly for stirring spoons and the like, and stainless steel where you must. That is a reasonable compromise, but if you prefer to have a battery of tools hanging from racks on your kitchen wall, then stainless steel looks great but be very careful when using them.