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    Get the most from your cast iron cookware

     

    Cast iron cookware is an old fashioned form of cookware that still has a place in today's world of modern cooking. You will find all types of cast iron pots, pans, skillets, tea kettles, and even large dutch ovens. Those who routinely use cast iron swear by it's versatility and durability. I personally think that a good set of cast iron cookware is hard to beat. There are a few conditions that you do have to meet when using cast iron. One of these is seasoning the new cast iron items that you buy or maintaining the seasoning of the ones you already own. Seasoning of cast iron is required to promote a non-stick surface on the cookware and make it easier to clean. Another consideration when dealing with cast iron cookware is maintaining the items in an environment where they will not begin to rust. Rust is one of the true enemies of the otherwise durable product. If these two conditions are met, then the cast iron cookware that you buy today, could still be in everyday service a hundred years from now. The first aspect of seasoning cast iron is to start with a clean pan. Take the newly purchased item and remove any adhesive from stickers, and any other foreign material that does not belong. Washing the pan with warm soapy water and then drying it completely is normally sufficient. Next, pre-heat your oven to about 250 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. The next step is to use lard or some other animal fat like bacon grease to start the seasoning process. Avoid vegetable oils as they tend to get very sticky and can ruin a brand new pan. Coat the inside of the pan with the lard and place it into the pre-heated oven for about 20 to 30 minutes. You will want to keep an eye on it to make sure the grease doesn't get too hot and start to smoke during this process. Once time has passed remove the pan and get rid of the excess grease inside the cast iron pan. Then, put the pan back in the oven for another 20 minutes or so to finish the seasoning process. A new cast iron pan may require several treatments like this to establish a good "layer" of seasoning. What I mean is that you may have to do this a couple of times before the pan starts to become really non-stick and easy to use for everyday cooking jobs. Afterwards, you can use the cast iron to cook and it wouldn't hurt to use it to fry bacon or something fatty every once in a while to help maintain good seasoning on the pan. As mentioned before, rust is one of cast irons true weak points. Rust can quickly turn a beautiful, well seasoned pan into a useless eyesore that you aren't quite sure what to do with. Preventing cast iron from rusting is simple if you remember a few guidelines. Always store your cast iron in a dry place. Do not keep it under the kitchen sink or hanging above your stove where it will be exposed to a steady supply of steam. Never put your cast iron away without thoroughly drying it. An easy way to dry cast iron is to place it in a hot oven for about five minutes or put it on a stove burner on high for a minute or so. This will burn off any excess water left over from when you washed it and will almost guarantee the avoidance of rust. If you do discover that your cast iron treasures have become rusted over time, there are steps to reclaim them. You may even come across a beautiful historic piece of cast iron at a yard sale or flea market and decide to revive it. Check out my article on restoring rusted cast iron cookware for more tips on reviving your rusty cast iron. With a proper knowledge in seasoning and caring for cast iron cookware, you can enjoy all of the benefits of cast iron without all of the drawbacks that are inherent to it. With the proper care, the cast iron pans that you buy and use today can be handed down to your children and grandchildren for them to enjoy.

         
    Get to know your cookware

     

    Selecting the cookware for your kitchen implies a few certain points you should consider: budget, cooking and eating habits, your family size, etc. One of the most essential points in choosing cookware is the material it is made of. Often, such an important detail is simply overlooked or is considered to be minor. In fact, proper understanding of differences between cookware materials will assist you in making the best choice and further on, will help maintain your cookware in a good shape. Stainless steel cookware is very common thank to its moderate price and a number of qualities, such as good tensile strength, excellent corrosion resistance and non-reaction with alkaline or acidic materials. Using stainless steel cookware allows using less oil and it better preserves the nutritious value of food. The drawback is that stainless steel does not conduct heat well, so the cookware requires a thick aluminum or copper core in the bottom and, sometimes, the sides to conduct heat more evenly and make the cookware more responsive to heat. Stainless steel cookware care is quite simple as it can be washed in a dishwasher and scraped with nylon pads. Special stainless steel cleaners will help bring the shine back. Non-stick cookware is a blessing when cooking and reheating sticky kinds of food. This coated surface also means you will need less oil or fat while frying on it. But you have to be careful while using and washing non-stick cookware. Avoid scratches on the surface or it’ll lose its properties. Use only wooden, plastic, or coated utensils when cooking. Wash in hot soapy water but never in a dishwasher. Cast iron is comparatively inexpensive, conducts heat evenly and once heated, keeps it for a long time. Such cookware is good for deep-frying and slow cooking. The main problem is that it rusts, stains and becomes pitted when exposed to air, moisture and certain foods. Do not wash cast-iron cookware in soapy water, instead try wiping clean with a paper towel. To prevent rusting, remove any excess moisture from the surface and coat with oil before storing. Aluminum cookware is quite cheap compared to other materials. It’s very lightweight yet strong. It is a good conductor of heat and does not easily distort when exposed to high temperatures. The obvious drawback is its reaction to acidic and alkaline foods leading to corrosion and spoiling the taste of the food cooked. That’s why it is often coated with stainless steel or anodized coating to protect the food. It doesn’t require any special care, usual washing in a soapy water is enough. However, if the surface has anodized coating, you better avoid washing the cookware in a dishwasher and be careful not to scratch the finish. Lined copper cookware is quite expensive, though has a number of advantages. It conducts and responses to heat very well, cools down quickly when removed from the heat, preventing food from burning and becoming overdone. Copper cookware is a good choice for many cooking methods. The main problem is that copper interacts with everything it comes in contact with. Moisture in the air causes it to form a film on it that is poisonous and salty food causes a chemical reaction that can make food have a metallic taste. For that reason copper cookware is lined with tin, silver or stainless steel to enhance its qualities. Care includes delicate washing with soapy water and regular polishing with special copper polish to keep its bright copper shine.

         
    Gluten free cooking

     

    Gluten Free Cooking When it comes to cooking, there are many dietary restrictions that will be encountered along the way. One restriction that is gaining some degree of notoriety in recent years is the need for a gluten free diet. Gluten is a substance that is commonly found in flour products that a decent sized portion of the population has a negative reaction to in some form or another. For these people, gluten free isn't a choice it is absolutely necessary. Gluten free cooking does impose many restrictions and often makes it quite difficult to enjoy something the vast majority of us take for granted-dining out. The good news from those who require gluten free cooking is that more and more restaurants are beginning to acknowledge this condition and offer some selections that are gluten free. It takes time, just as it did with low carb craze for the demand for these products to make it worth the industries while to make adjustments in their way of preparing foods. While on the one hand it is frustrating to not have the option of dining out, there is some challenge to finding new and tasty foods and combinations for cooking each and every night without falling into a rut of the same old foods that you know you can eat without worry. Consider cooking gluten free a challenge rather than a chore and you may find that the process is much more enjoyable. You might even find that you appreciate the meals you've worked hard to prepare even better because of the great sense of accomplishment. There are many resources available for those who need to eat gluten free foods. There are even more and more 'convenience' or prepackaged foods that are designated for gluten free cooking. This means that those who once had no option but creating meals from scratch do now have the occasional shortcut available to them. We are even finding cookie and cake mixes that are now gluten free in order to enjoy some of the finer things in life for those who would have been completely deprived only a few short years ago. Changes are being made and resources are being shared through the Internet that help not only adults that require special gluten free cooking and diets but also support for the parents of children who must have gluten free diets. Cooking for children in the best of circumstances is often difficult. It is even more difficult when there are excessive dietary restrictions that often eliminate the possibility of our children enjoying childhood favorites. That is why it is so important to seek out the many resources and recipes that are available for gluten free cooking. If you require a gluten free diet and have no idea where to start or what you should be cooking you should check out the many websites and blogs online that address the issues and needs that are faced by those requiring gluten restrictions. You will probably be amazed at the wealth of information that is available. Also, if you have a Trader Joes or Whole Foods store in your area, most of them either offer or will order gluten free products for your cooking needs. Gluten free cooking does not have to be the chore many of us think it must be and all gluten free food doesn't taste like cardboard. Take the time to get to know the wonderful gluten free recipes that abound and incorporate them one at a time into your cooking repertoire. You will be amazed at how wonderful you feel as well as how great the food tastes. 606

         
    Gourmet cooking for pleasure

     

    Gourmet Cooking for Pleasure Gourmet cooking is a style of food preparation that deals with the finest and freshest possible ingredients. This means that to enjoy authentic gourmet food you must prepare your food immediately after purchasing the fresh ingredients that will comprise your meals. Not only do you want to purchase the freshest ingredients when cooking gourmet meals but you also want to insure that you are purchasing ingredients of superior quality. Those who excel at gourmet cooking and food preparation have many options available to them. From catering to opening up their own restaurant these talented individuals who are entrepreneurial in spirit often do quite well in the world of business if their talent is sufficient. When it comes to cooking gourmet food the two rules mentioned above are the only hard and fast rules. Everything else is purely a matter of adventure and taste. Now this doesn't mean that any and everyone can become a gourmet cook simply by going out and purchasing the finest and freshest of ingredients and throwing them into a pot. There is some degree of art involved when it comes to gourmet cooking and a large degree of skill that is necessary in order to achieve these culinary masterpieces. You should also understand and be prepared to discover that fresh ingredients are not always available so there are times when compromises must be made when cooking gourmet meals. For this reason you capitalize on what is in season and plan your meals accordingly whenever possible. One important quality when it comes to cooking gourmet food is the layering of flavors. You should be able to taste the meat or seafood as well as the vegetables, herbs, and spices that comprise your skillfully prepared meal. You should not however rely on taste or aroma alone when cooking gourmet foods. As I mentioned above gourmet cooking is a large degree skill but there is some degree of art involved. For this reason, presentation is a key component of the gourmet dining experience. Through a few freshly chopped herbs on the plate before placing the food or top the food with appealing and aromatic herbs that will compliment the flavor of the meal you have prepared. Present the fruits and vegetable sides in a visually appealing fashion rather than simply tossing them onto a plate. With proper presentation even foods that were simple to prepare can take on the flavor of a gourmet feast. This is something you should keep in mind whether your cooking plans for the evening involve the gourmet or the every day. The thing about gourmet cooking is that it is to some degree more art than science. This means that there is always room to improve your skills and stretch your limits as a cook. There will always be the next great challenge or the 'what if' when it comes to flavor combinations. In fact, some of the greatest foods began with someone asking, "What would happen if I added this?" Always ask what if and always seek to improve your skills. The good news if this is an avenue you wish to pursue is that there are often gourmet cooking classes offered at gourmet food shops in your area. Some colleges or local community programs will also offer these sorts of classes for a few if you are interested. This means that there are almost always opportunities to broaden your experiences with gourmet cooking and expand your horizons. Whether this is your first time considering gourmet cooking or you are an old pro, keep in mind that skills can be learned over time with the proper motivation and an open and honest desire to learn. If you want to learn more about gourmet cooking there is really nothing to stop you from doing so other than yourself. The Internet, your local library, and many bookstores across the country have countless volumes of information that can help you get started on your journey to gourmet cooking bliss. 667

         
    Grill your steak the right way

     

    : No matter what you preference in a steak, maintaining good moisture should always be your goal. When searching for a good cut of beef, look for a cut with good consistent marbling. Fat equals flavor so very low fat content in meat will tend to dry it out and have much less flavor. You should not have to coat a great piece of meat with sauce just to get flavor, in fact you should avoid using a sauce at all. You want to see visible grains of fat running through the meat but not large pieces of fat. If you do see larger pieces simply trim them off. As you cook your steak the fat will melt and naturally tenderize the meat. After removing the meat from refrigeration seasoning the meat with generous amounts of salt and pepper. Many other herb and spice combinations can be added to your taste just be sure you have plenty of salt and pepper in addition to any other seasonings. Allow the meat to come to room temperature before grilling. When grilling your steak first make sure that you have your grill nice and hot. This will give the outside a nice crust and will also help seal in its natural juices. If you fire flares up at any point, move the meat off the flame. While you want a hot grill, you do not want direct flame on the meat for any extended time period. The worst mistake that most grillers make is to continually flip the meat time and time again. Continually flipping the meat does nothing but cause the meat to dry out. Flipping the steak over and over does not make you a grill master, doing it right, does. In the end you will flip your steak 3 times which will mean you have cooked both sides twice for 3 minutes on each side. For cross-hatch marks on your meat simply turn it 45 degrees when flipping. Total cooking time should be roughly 12 minutes. This will achieve a medium rare steak depending on how hot your grill is. Because every grill it different you will need to experiment to get the desired results. There is no exact way to tell when the steak is done. Without cutting the meat open and risking the release of its juices, the best way is to either press the meat to judge its tenderness or use a meat thermometer. If you choose not to press the meat, you can use you hand as a guide. For instance if you take you index finger and touch the fleshy part of your palm right under your thumb, that is what rare should feel like. Conversely if you touch you pinky to that same part of your palm that is the consistency of well done. So from finger to the next starting with your index finger and ending with the pinky it would be: rare, medium-rare, medium and well done. Herb rub: 1 tablespoon dried thyme 1 tablespoon dried oregano 1 tablespoon kosher salt 2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper 2 teaspoons mustard powder 2 teaspoons paprika 1 teaspoon onion Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a bowl. Brush the steak lightly with olive oil and rub in herb rub.

         
    Grilling hamburgers and sittin on an old ice cream freezer

     

    Grilling hamburgers, one of my earliest backyard grilling memories. Our Family would get together, usually on the weekends, and have a hamburger and ice cream supper as we say here in Texas. I can fondly remember sitting on top of the old ice cream freezer while my Dad, Uncles and Granddad took turns at spinning the old hand crank attached to the water soaked wooden ice bucket. Today, the hoodless grill would resemble a throw away variety you would take to the beach, but then we were in tall cotton and in for some delicious eating. The ice cream would be flavored most of the time with a can of crushed pineapple. Or, just maybe, someone would have given us some fresh ripe peaches to mash and toss into the vanilla ice cream mixture. Cooking out then was a real big treat for the entire family, always with a lot of laughter, running and playing. Grilling the hamburgers soon became my responsibility, even though I was only about 10 years old at the time. Carefully building the charcoal fire in that old grill we had was a test of my better Boy Scout skills. Once the charcoal was covered in a fine white ash the grilling could begin. The ice cream was being packed in more ice mixed with a generous amount of rock salt mixture to be allowed to season, while we all ate our terrific tasting hamburgers always topped with lettuce, red ripe tomatoes and onions. The catsup bottle would be passed around as everyone would take their turn, shaking or popping the bottom of the bottle to get the thick tomato sauce from the jar. Ribs today are one of my favorite backyard treats, but the hamburgers still to this day come sliding across the plate for a delicious grilling feast. Ah the ribs, good tender slab of ribs with the meat falling off the bone, slathered with a generous portion of smoky chipotle barbecue sauce. Just enough heat in the sauce to add a nice warm blanket right on top of your tongue. Did you know the chipotle is nothing more than the Jalapeno smoked and dried usually with mesquite wood? They are quite delicious giving a nice smoky flavor to your food. Guacamole is also a favorite topping with just about any grilled meat, especially beef, pork or chicken. Creaming those fresh ripe avocados together with a nice garden ripe tomatoes, chopped green onions, try a little chopped chipotle as well. Season your delicious concoction with a squeeze of fresh lime juice, toss in some cilantro, salt and pepper and call it a meal by it self. Thick juicy T-Bone steaks are a great treat as well as chicken fajitas. Fun to do because everyone gets to pile their own into a large flour tortilla made just to suit them. Yes grilling today is just as much fun today as it was when I was growing up. The old three legged grill has long since been tossed onto the trash heap. Replaced with a big cast iron wood smoker and grill, sure I have a handy gas grill for almost daily use but nothing is better than firing up the old trusty smoker. My great nieces and nephews are now the ones running and playing. They are always beaming with delight as the scoops of homemade fresh peach ice cream is served up with one of "Nana's" homemade cookies. Someday though I think I will pull out the old hand cranked ice cream freezer. After all, they are missing one of the best parts of the family cookout. Sitting on the old freezer, holding it down while their Dad, Uncle and Granddad take turns cranking the old beast. I wonder if they would sit still that long?

         
    Grilling secrets for the perfectly grilled steak

     

    There is nothing quite like a good, juicy steak cooked on a grill. But, many people don't know grilling secrets such as the best cuts to use, what size they should be, how long to cook the steaks, and marinades to use. Choosing the correct cut of meat is very important when grilling. Some of the best steaks for grilling are the premium cuts such as: - Filet Mignon The filet mignon is a stylish cut taken from the heart of the beef tenderloin that has outstanding taste as well as texture. - Top Sirloin The top sirloin is a juicy cut taken from the center of the sirloin - the tenderest part - and a great cut for grilling. - T-Bone The t-bone is a succulent cut that is a favorite of steak fans. It is both a strip sirloin (with the bone) and a tender filet mignon. - New York Strip (sometimes known as Kansas City Strip) The New York strip is such an excellent cut for grilling, many grilling experts refer to it as the "ultimate" steak for cooking out. - Porterhouse The Porterhouse is a very large steak that is actually a combination of two steaks: the New York strip on one side and a tender filet on the other. - Rib Eye Another classic cut, the rib eye has marbling throughout the meat - making it one of the juiciest cuts as well as very tender. Thickness of the steak is very important. Each cut should be between 1 inch and 1 Ѕ inches thick. The strip steaks and top sirloin should be a little less expensive than the filet mignon, t-bone, porterhouse, and rib eye. Many people like to marinate their steaks before cooking. You can purchase marinades in the grocery store (A1 brand offers several different types) or make your own. If you are not opposed to using alcohol, beer makes an excellent marinade. You can combine 1 12-ounce can of beer, Ѕ cup of chili sauce, ј up of salad oil, 2 teaspoons of soy sauce, 2 gloves of crushed garlic, and 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard. Let that simmer for 30 minutes over a medium heat. Marinate your meat in the mixture overnight in the refrigerator to tenderize and allow the meat to absorb the flavor. You can also brush your meat with the marinade as you cook. Another great homemade marinade includes 1 Ѕ cup of steak sauce, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1/3 cup of Italian salad dressing, 1/3 cup of honey, and Ѕ teaspoon of garlic powder. Many people prefer to use a rub on their steaks rather than marinate them. A rub is a combination of spice and herbs that is rubbed on the meat about an hour before grilling. It adds a great flavor to the meat, but is quicker than marinade as it does not require the overnight soaking. An excellent recipe for a rub that will give your steaks a smoky flavor is 1 tablespoon of chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, cracked black pepper, white pepper, and kosher salt plus 2 teaspoons of oregano, 1 teaspoon of coriander, and Ѕ teaspoon of cayenne pepper. If you use a rub, be sure to rub the mixture into the cut of meat, not just daub it across the top. There are other options for cooking steaks other than marinades and rubs. Many times, filet mignons are served wrapped in bacon (held on by a skewer) or you can cut your steak and combine it on a skewer with vegetables like peppers, squash, and onion to make a shish kabob. Coat your grill with non-stick kitchen spray before you begin to keep your steaks from sticking to the grill. Preheat your grill before placing your steaks on. Resist the temptation to put your steaks on before the grill is properly preheated. The proper temperature for grilling steaks should be around 550 degrees Fahrenheit. Trim any excess fat from the side of the cut to prevent flare-ups and curling when grilling. You should only turn your steaks once on the grill to prevent drying them out. How long you will cook your steak depends on how well you want it cooked. You can use a grilling fork with a digital thermometer to see how well done your steak is. If you want your steak rare, the temperature should be no more than 150 degrees when done. If you want medium, the temperature should be no more than 160 degrees when done. Finally, if you want well done, you should have a temperature of at least 170 degrees. After grilling your steak, allow it to set for five minutes before serving to let the juices settle. Serve with a baked potato, salad or other side dish and enjoy!

         
    Grilling tips for the dog days of summer

     

    Grilling is going to the dogs. According to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, 81 percent of Americans own a grill and average grill usage is up to 26 times per year. And, with three-quarters of dog owners saying they consider their dog like a member of the family, more and more owners are including their four-legged friends in the barbecue fun. According to grilling guru Kent Whitaker, author of Smoke in the Mountains Cookbook: The Art of Appalachian Barbecue, "Grilling is a family affair and today our dogs are like part of the family. My dog Moses is my grilling assistant who keeps it fun and entertaining, while we all enjoy the real meat aromas on the grill." Whitaker, a past winner of the Emeril Live Food Network Barbecue Contest, and Moses have teamed up with ALPO brand dog food to teach dog lovers how to include their four-legged friends in the backyard barbecue fun. They are offering grilling demonstrations and the following tips at ALPO "Beefstro" events throughout the country. Great Smells Mean Great Flavor Use marinades, rubs, sauces and different woods to add extra flavor to your barbecue favorites. While you're manning the grill, have another family member keep your dog entertained with the savory smells from his favorite dog treat. Hold the treat in front of his nose and ask him to perform a simple trick, such as sit or stay for a food reward. Relax With Fun and Games While the food is cooking, play fun games the whole family can enjoy, including tag, hide 'n go seek and fetch. Make sure you have balls, flying discs and chew toys to help your dog work up a healthy appetite. Include A Place Setting Create a theme for your barbecue and make sure all of the decorations and table settings match. And, when it's time to sit down and enjoy the feast, don't forget to set a place setting for your four-legged family member. Put a placemat and bowl on the ground by your table and serve your dog a hearty, healthy meal of ALPO Chop House Originals brand dog food with the real meat taste he craves. Live A Little Don't be afraid to experiment and try new things at your next family barbecue. Try new sauces, appetizing dips, breads and side dishes such as Tex-Mex Tater Salad and Fire Baked Beans. And, to give your dog even more excitement at mealtime, feed him different forms and flavors of his favorite food. Leave the Clean Up for Later Family affairs such as backyard barbecues are special times to be savored. So take advantage of having the whole family together and leave the dishes for later. Serve a grand finale dessert while sharing favorite family stories and end the festivities by taking an evening stroll with your canine companion.

         
    Grilling tuna steak for a simple gourmet meal

     

    Looking for a delicious and simple way to grill up that fresh tuna steak that you just caught or bought from the local seafood market? Grilled tuna steak is a delightful and exciting entree for any special meal. There are various methods to spice up and flavor your catch, but today we want to talk about a popular method using wasabi powder. This unique spice is being used by many top chefs to add a special flare and flavoring to the tuna. Assemble the following recipe ingredients: • tuna steaks, cut to a thickness of 3/4 inch to 1 1/2 inch each ( your preference ) • 4 to 6 ounces of butter • 1 cup of teriyaki marinade • 1 tablespoon of wasabi powder • 2 chopped green onions • 1 tablespoon of olive oil, peanut oil, or vegetable oil • salt and pepper to taste Get started by marinating the tuna in the teriyaki marinade. Place the tuna into the marinade and completely coat both sides of the meat. Cover, place into the refrigerator and let the tuna sit and marnate for an hour or more, overnight is good too. When ready, start up your grill and get it good and hot, but not too hot. Ideally bring it to the same temperature as if you were grilling a regular beef steak on the grill. Then mix the wasabi powder, butter and the green onions together and place it aside for the time being. Once the grill is to the ideal temperature and you are ready, then brush the oil onto the tuna steaks and season the meat with salt and pepper to taste. While grilling, periodically baste the tuna with the left over teriyaki marinade. This will help to keep the tuna moist and add additional flavor. Cook until they are done to your desired temperature, then serve with the butter. You can also let some butter melt on the tuna fillets as they are cooking as well. Alternative set of recipe ingredients and marinade flavoring: • tuna steaks, 1-inch thick • Sesame oil • 1 rounded tsp. cornstarch • 1/3 c. rice vinegar • 1/3 c. mirin • 1/3 c. soy sauce • 3 tbsp. minced crystallized ginger Popular tuna species: Tuna is a popular, delicious and rich tasting seafood that is prepared in many ways. It is perfect for grilling, sautee, and broiling. The flesh of tuna is pink because the tuna's muscle tissue has a higher oxygen capacity than other fish species. • Bluefin: An important source of seafood, providing much of the tuna used in sushi. It is a particular delicacy in Japan where it has been reported that the price of a single giant tuna can exceed $100,000 on the Tokyo fish market. • Yellowfin: found in open waters of tropical and subtropical seas worldwide, though not in the Mediterranean Sea. It has been reported to be up to 94 inches in length and 440 lb in weight. The second dorsal fin and the anal fin are both bright yellow, thus the common name, and they are very long, as are the pectoral fins. The main body is very dark metallic blue, changing to silver on the belly. • Albacore: found in the open waters of all tropical and temperate oceans, and the Mediterranean Sea. It is a prized food, and a significant fishery. Methods of fishing include rod and reel, long-line fishing and purse seining and are highly sought after by sport fishers and recreational fisherman. • Bigeye • Blackfin

         
    Healthy cooking is a must for families

     

    Healthy Cooking is a Must for Families When it comes to cooking healthy meals for our families, there is always some degree of dissention among the ranks. The good news is that there are recipes that are very healthy but the healthy nature of these recipes is somewhat disguised. What they do not know in these instances truly should not bring harm their way (outside of allergies, which should never be ignored). Healthy cooking is often difficult as most of us do not want to spend time planning and preparing meals that our families refuse to eat. At the same time, we want our families to be healthy so we feel compelled to learn new and improved ways of cooking healthy foods for our family to enjoy (and unfortunately in some cases scorn). With weight and nutrition being known as the culprit in so many health conditions it is impossible to ignore the importance of not only eating healthy ourselves but also of teaching our children the importance of eating healthy. One way to insure that your loved ones are in fact eating healthy is to make sure that you are cooking healthy and nutritious foods for them. This does not mean that you cannot enjoy the occasional calorie splurge or even that you shouldn't. The key to cooking healthy is learning to control portions and understanding the importance of moderation. For those that are hoping to incorporate healthy cooking habits into their daily routines, there are no more resources available than ever before in order to assist you in those endeavors. You can seek the services of a professional nutritionist, your doctor can offer advice, you can find all kinds of books on healthy eating, cooking, and living at your local library, and the Internet is an outstanding source of all kinds of information when it comes to leading a healthier lifestyle all around. There are many books and magazines that are filled with recipes that encourage healthy cooking and eating habits. If you truly love to cook, then there is no shortage of recipes that you can try out along the way. The really good news is that you can incorporate healthy cooking into your cooking routine whether you are cooking for one or a household of ten. There are many that will argue that cooking healthy food costs more than cooking the prepackaged foods that pack on the calories and additives. The truth of the matter is that when you compare the costs with the medical bills of the future for failing to do so, they seem rather slight by comparison. Yes, good food costs more money. In many cases, that is a simple fact of life. However, by learning portion control and eating the proper portions you just may discover that you are actually spending less as you adjust to the proper amounts of food you should be consuming in order to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. Cooking healthy isn't an overnight change; it is a lifestyle change that should be implemented one step at a time. You do not have to go into your kitchen and through out every little thing that you deem 'unhealthy' only work to not buy more of these items once they've been used. Make wiser decisions when purchasing fats for food preparation and you will discover that you've made a vitally important step in the process of incorporating healthy cooking and eating habits in your home. It's those small steps you take towards your goal of cooking healthy foods for your family that will matter far more than any giant leap. Before you know it you will find that you all have more energy and a better sense of overall health than you would have imagined before changing your cooking habits. If that isn't enough to encourage you however, you can always check out the excuse to go shopping for new clothes after you drop a size or two. 660

         
    Hot diggity dog preparing the perfect frank

     

    Let's be frank: Americans love hot dogs. In the U. S., people on average eat 70 franks each year. Although consumers do "relish" their dogs at certain events-baseball games, barbecues, picnics, etc.-hot dogs are a favorite dinnertime meal for the family or a quick convenient snack when on the go. Quite simply, hot dogs are a staple of the American diet. When it comes to preparing a great-tasting hot dog, how you cook and dress it isn't as important as the frank you choose. Besides the traditional all-beef variety, there are hot dogs for every taste bud, including turkey for the health conscious or ones with robust flavors that are perfect for the grill, such as the new GrillMaster franks. Speaking of the grill, while microwaved and boiled hot dogs are popular, 60 percent of Americans prefer their hot dogs grilled, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. Sara Lee Executive Chef Brian Averna is a self-proclaimed "foodie" and has perfected the art of grilling hot dogs. His tips include: • DO prepare the grill by coating the rack with vegetable oil or cooking spray. This will prevent food from sticking and will ease cleanup. • DO use tongs to gently turn hot dogs to avoid accidental cuts or holes that would cause natural juices and flavors to seep out. • DO use pure and clean lump charcoal to prevent foreign substances or impurities from altering the flavor of your franks. Also, allow at least 30 minutes for the coals to reach the proper glowing white-ash stage before you begin grilling. • DO use mesquite chips and keep the grill covered while cooking if you like the "smoky" flavor. Once your hot dog is ready, pile on the toppings. Remember, dress the dog, not the bun. Condiments should be applied in the following order: wet condiments (mustard, chili), followed by chunky condiments (relish, onions, sauerkraut), then shredded cheese and, finally, spices such as celery salt or pepper. Different regions of the country have different variations of their favorite hot dog topping recipe, but there is no right or wrong way to top a hot dog.

         
    How much propane is in your tank

     

    Propane tanks used to be included in the purchase of a gas grill. Not anymore. As a result, propane tanks have gone high-tech, and you may want to pay attention when shopping for a new cylinder. One of the new tanks on the market now actually lets you see the level of gas left in it. The Lite Cylinder is made from a translucent composite material that makes it easy to see how much liquid propane (LP) is remaining in the tank--which means there's no longer an excuse for running out of gas while hungry diners wait in frustration for dinner to finish cooking. Another big difference is that the 20-pound LP cylinder weighs about 30 percent less than a traditional steel cylinder. The casing around the tank is made from molded plastic, which also contributes to the decreased weight. With many more women barbecuing today and millions of aging baby boomers still barbecuing, this lighter cylinder is sure to be popular. The casing is offered in a number of colors, lending a designer touch to every backyard. The cylinder is available currently in beechwood, red, blue and yellow. Unlike steel, it is corrosion-and rust-free. It is also low maintenance because the exterior can be cleaned readily with soap and water. In January 2006, Good Housekeeping recognized The Lite Cylinder with one of eight of its 11th Annual Good Buy Awards given to new household products that solve common problems and are excellent values. It noted that this composite cylinder is easy to fill, easy to attach to a grill and easy to handle due to its light weight. A Good Housekeeping editor who demonstrated some of the winning products subsequently featured it on "Good Morning America." Now when it's time to select a propane cylinder for the new grill - or even a patio heater or mosquito trap-you have more options than ever before.

         
    How to achieve victory in a cooking contest

     

    Competitions are still one way of really gauging the strength of a person or even of a product. People join contests to prove their worth or if not try to see how they could respond to the expected comparisons, the consequence of beating the competitors off. For the performing Arts like dancing, people realize a next door out. Contests involving the need show talent or ability, sets criteria in choosing the most wanted winning throne. One problem in contests is the incidences of fraud caused by contest organizers, some unfairness from the jurors or judges. There is one contest that is far from the flaws mentioned above. It is the cooking contests. Cooking is a good past time and as a contest it I has the most unbiased results. Does it end there? No of course. There are helpful steps to join in debates and to go home away with the bacon. 1. Read and follow directions carefully. Directions are part of the contest. A misunderstanding will cause a big effect if neglected. 2. Creativity is the key. Watch food trends and adapt your recipe accordingly. Try to use your own means to discover ways on how to keep your skill improving. 3. Do not use abbreviations. If asked to write the recipe down, show industry and do not use short cuts. 4. Simplicity and ease of preparation make winning recipes. Do not act hurried or look so pressured. 5. Use accurate U. S. measurements. Measurement will affect the taste of your recipe so be keen about it. 6. Garnish is very important. Always remember--eyes eat first. Catch attention and later the taste. 8. Analyze recipes that have won previous contests. There may be a trend in the taste of judges or organizers. 9. Be sure ingredients used are readily available. For you not to cram and destroy your own show, be very prepared. 10. Keep up with current diet and health trends. Health is wealth. 11. Write preparation directions in complete sentences. Think of the receivers of your work. Consider their understanding. And how you could help. 12. List ingredients in order of use. 13. Study your favorite cookbook. 14. Be creative when naming your dish. 15. Streamline a recipe by combining steps. 16. Adapt a recipe for a different occasion. 17. Create a recipe using ingredients that were once considered unusual but are now readily available in your grocery. 18. Consider a dish's versatility. 19. Look for ways to enhance flavor. 20. Create a new shape or appearance for an old recipe. 21. Include the size of any dish, pots, pans, or casseroles used. 22. State the cooking temperatures and time needed to cook the dish. 23. Give the number of servings. Be realistic. "Serves four" is different from "four servings." 24. The recipe should have wide appeal. 25. Type or print your recipe. 26. Double-check the contest rules. 27. Make a copy of your recipe. Always make a copy of your recipe for your files. 28. Use a separate envelope for each recipe entry. 29. Your recipe must be original. Originality is a very big edge over others. It will show how creative one really is. Cook. Express. Win.

         
    How to barbeque perfect bbq ribs

     

    If you are grilling BBQ ribs on a regular charcoal grill, then you’re probably frustrated when you find that your ribs are tough instead of “meat falling off the bones” tender. If this is the case, then you can learn how to barbeque perfect ribs easily by preparing your ribs properly in advance, before you ever place them on your grill. Most master grillers prepare their ribs first, before cooking them on a charcoal grill. This is why some grillers cook perfect ribs every time. Usually at a BBQ event, guests see the cook placing the ribs on the grill, never knowing that work was done beforehand to get the ribs ready. Those new to grilling assume that the cook is just brushing sauce on the ribs, and then cooking them until done directly on the grill and this isn’t always so. To prepare your ribs, first bring a large pot of water to a boil. You should do this the day before your BBQ event or dinner. Add a bit of salt to the water, and then bring it down to a simmer. Add your ribs, cover and simmer them for 1 to 2 hours and then carefully remove them from the pot. Your ribs should be tender and juicy now, but you shouldn’t place them on the grill just yet. Place them in a large bowl, add your BBQ sauce, cover and refrigerate this overnight. This provides ample time for the ribs to marinate in the sauce, to produce that rich BBQ flavor that everyone loves so well. The next day, light your grill and let the coals die down to warm glowing embers. You should never BBQ your ribs over an open flame; this can burn the sauce and ruin the flavor of your BBQ ribs. Once the flames have died down, brush some more sauce on your ribs and place them directly on the grill. Cook for 10 minutes, brush some more sauce on the top of the ribs, turn and cook the other side for 10 minutes. Continue cooking the ribs in this fashion until they are fully done, turning your BBQ ribs every 10 minutes while adding fresh sauce at every turn. Once your ribs are done, place them on a serving platter and serve while they are still hot. Your guests will go crazy over your delicious, juicy and tender ribs. This is the proper way to cook perfect BBQ ribs. If you just throw the ribs on a grill, without preparing them first, then your ribs will be very tough and not very good no matter what type of sauce is used. BBQ sauce is used to add flavor, not to cover up inferior cooking. Don’t you owe it to yourself and to your dinner guests to go that extra mile, ensuring that your ribs are not only tasty, but also mouth watering tender? You’ll be known as the best BBQ rib griller in your area. Especially if you combine your juicy and tender ribs with your very own homemade BBQ rubs, sauce or marinades instead of using those pre-bottled sauces provided in local grocery stores.

         
    How to buy store and prepare potatoes

     

    No doubt about it...the beloved potato is clearly the most popular vegetable in the United States. Potatoes easily adapt to many flavors and methods of cooking. This article defines the characteristics and the best uses of some well-known potato varieties, how to choose and store potatoes and several basic ways to prepare potatoes without any or a minimum of added ingredients. Well-Known Varieties, Characteristics and Best Use Russet Potatoes - This potato is slender, oval shaped with a rough brown skin and lots of eyes. They have a mealy texture when cooked and cooked russets will start to fall apart when cut due to the low moisture and high starch content. This variety of potato easily absorbs butter, dressings and sauces. They are best used for baking, frying and mashing. White, Red and Yellow Potatoes - These potatoes are round and keep their shape when cooked. Due to their high moisture and low starch content, they have a firmer texture and won't fall apart when cut after cooking; they are also slow to absorb butter, dressings and sauces. These potatoes are best for boiling, steaming and roasting. They are also excellent creamed or scalloped and in salads. Yellow and red potatoes may be mashed, but they will not be as fluffy as russet potatoes. New Potatoes - Freshly harvested and marketed during the late winter or early spring, new potatoes are tiny to small potatoes of any variety. Their skin is tender and they do not need to be peeled. When cooked, they have a firm, waxy texture. New potatoes are best when used soon after harvest and prepared by boiling, steaming or roasting. Tips for Buying Potatoes > When buying potatoes, choose ones that are firm, have smooth skins and are without any sprouts or blemishes. Avoid potatoes with wrinkled skins, sprouted eyes, cut surfaces, soft or dark spots, decayed areas (usually at the ends), or sunken spots. > If possible, purchase potatoes that are fairly clean but unwashed. Potatoes that have been washed will spoil quicker. > Avoid purchasing potatoes with a greenish tint or cast. This indicates that the potatoes have been exposed to light during storage, which can produce a bitter taste and may be toxic to some people. > Choose potatoes that have a heavy feel and are uniform in size and shape. They will cook in about the same time and will be easier to peel. How to Store Potatoes > Store potatoes in a well-ventilated cool, dry, dark area such as a cool closet or dry basement (never under the kitchen sink). > When stored between 45F to 50F (7C to 10C), potatoes will keep for several weeks. If stored at room temperature or in a warm place, potatoes will remain at top quality for only about 1 week. > Do not store potatoes in the refrigerator. The starch will begin to change to sugar and alter the taste; the potatoes will also turn dark after cooking. > It is best not to store potatoes near onions. Tips for Preparing Potatoes > To clean potatoes, soak briefly in cool water to loosen the dirt and make scrubbing easier. Scrub gently under running water with a vegetable brush or sponge; trim away any eyes or blemishes. > Always be certain to remove any sprouts or eyes when peeling potatoes and if a potato appears green under the skin, peel it deeply to remove the green part...that green portion could possibly make you sick. > To prevent potatoes from turning dark, cook immediately after peeling or cover with water and add a small amount of salt, lemon juice or vinegar. > When preparing French fries, soak cut potatoes in lightly salted chilled water for approximately 1 hour to remove some of the starch and produce crisper fries. > Use cooked (not raw) potatoes when making a potato dish ahead to prevent the potatoes from discoloring. Consider cooking the mixture until almost done, cool and refrigerate; complete cooking just before serving. > Potatoes and dishes with potatoes do not freeze well due to their tendency to become mushy when thawed and reheated. Partially cooked French fries, mashed potato patties and baked stuffed potatoes may be frozen. Potato Yields Three medium potatoes equals approximately 1 pound, which will yield: * 2 cups French fried potatoes * 2 cups mashed potatoes * 2-1/2 cups peeled and diced potatoes * 3 cups peeled and sliced potatoes * 2 cups potato salad * 2-1/2 cups shredded potatoes Basic Methods of Cooking Potatoes Baked in Oven - Select and scrub potatoes of similar size. Prick each several times with a fork to allow steam to escape while baking and to prevent the skins from bursting. If a soft skin is desired, rub with cooking oil before baking. Place potatoes on a baking sheet allowing room between potatoes for heat circulation or stand them upright in a muffin tin. (If potatoes are wrapped in aluminum foil and baked, they will have more of a steamed texture.) A medium-size (6 oz.) potato will bake in 40 to 45 minutes in a 425F (220C) oven or in about 90 minutes at 350F (175C). When baking several potatoes, keep in mind that a dozen will cook in the same amount of time as a single potato. To reduce cooking time, slice potatoes in half lengthwise, coat cut side with cooking oil and place cut-side-down on a baking sheet. Half of a medium potato will be fork-tender in 25 to 30 minutes when cooked in a 375F (190C) oven. To check for doneness, hold potato with a hot pad and pinch with fingers or pierce with a fork. To serve, use a small knife to cut a cross on top and push on sides and ends gently to fluff. Baked in Microwave - Choose 4 medium (6 oz. each) slender potatoes of similar size. Scrub clean then pierce each potato with a fork 10 to 12 times. Cover bottom of microwave oven with a double thickness of paper towels. Arrange potatoes in a 'spoke-fashion' with the smaller ends toward the center and at least 1 inch apart. Cook on 'high' (100% power) in a 700-watt microwave oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Rearrange and turn over after first 5 minutes. Remove from microwave and wrap each individually in aluminum foil. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes or until uniformly soft when pinched between fingers. When cooking a single potato, microwave on 'high' for 2 minutes, turn over, cook for another 2 minutes and check for doneness. Add 2 to 3 minutes cooking time for each additional potato. Boiled on Stovetop - Scrub, peel and quarter potatoes. Place potatoes in a saucepan and add enough water to cover; add 1/2 teaspoon of salt for each quart of water. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are fork-tender (approximately 15 to 20 minutes). Remove from heat and drain. Return to low heat and shake pan until potatoes are dry. Be careful not to overcook potatoes or they may become watery. One or two slices of onion may be added to water while boiling potatoes to add flavor. Boiled in Microwave - Scrub, peel and quarter 4 medium (6 oz. each) potatoes; place in a shallow microwave-safe baking dish. Add 1/4 cup of water and cover. Cook on 'high' (100% power) in a 700-watt microwave oven for 10 minutes. Stir after first 5 minutes to rearrange pieces and to move the ones in the center to the outside edges of the baking dish; continue to cook for remaining 5 minutes. Remove baking dish from the microwave and let stand for 3 minutes (covered) or until potatoes reach desired doneness. French Fried - Scrub and peel potatoes. Cut into 1/4-inch thick slices with a knife or crinkle cutter, then cut slices into 1/4-inch thick strips. Place potato strips in a bowl of cool water. Add a small amount of salt to the water to prevent discoloration. Soak up to 1 hour to remove some of the starch and maintain crispness. Heat 4 to 6 inches of cooking oil to 375F (190C) in a deep-fryer or heavy saucepan. (Important: Do not overfill fryer or saucepan with oil.) Drain potatoes from water and pat dry with paper towels. Place a handful of potato strips in a wire basket and slowly immerse in the hot oil. Cook until golden brown and tender (approximately 5 minutes). Shake basket occasionally while frying to prevent potato strips from sticking together. Drain on several layers of paper towels. Continue to cook small batches until all strips are fried. Sprinkle lightly with salt to prevent fries from becoming soggy and keep warn in a 300F (150C) oven until served. Grilled - Scrub potatoes of similar size and coat skin with cooking oil or soft butter. Place each potato in the center of a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil (cut into approximately 6x9-inch pieces). Season each lightly with salt and pepper. Bring the longer sides of foil together, then fold the edges several times to seal, allowing space for steam. Fold up short edges of foil and pinch together to seal. Place foil-wrapped potatoes on a grill approximately 4 inches above medium-hot coals. Cook for 45 to 60 minutes or until tender, turning several times. Cooking time may need to be adjusted according to potato size and heat of the coals. Hash Browned or Home Fried - Prepare steamed or boiled potatoes; drain. Dice or slice into 1/4- to 3/8-inch thick pieces. Place in a large mixing bowl and gently stir in optional ingredients such as chopped onion or diced cooked ham, if desired. Lightly season with salt and pepper; set aside. Generously grease a large skillet (preferably with a 'non-stick' finish) with several tablespoons of cooking oil, shortening or strained bacon fat. Place skillet over medium-high heat and add seasoned potatoes; toss gently to coat all pieces. Lightly toss potatoes frequently during cooking (do not flatten with a spatula). Cook until potatoes are golden brown (approximately 10 to 15 minutes). Additional fat may be needed during cooking to prevent sticking. Season cooked potatoes to taste with additional salt and pepper before serving. Mashed - Prepare peeled and diced potatoes by the boiling or steaming method; drain well. Mash potatoes using a potato masher, electric mixer or ricer until no lumps remain. For each pound of potatoes, gradually add 1/4 to 1/2 cup warm milk and 2 tablespoons of butter or margarine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Beat potatoes with a wooden spoon, whisk or electric mixer until light and fluffy (additional milk may be added to bring potatoes to desired consistency.) Do not over beat or the starch will break down and potatoes will become gummy. If potatoes are not to be served immediately, spoon into an oven-proof casserole or baking dish, dot with additional butter, cover and keep warm in a preheated 250F (120C) oven. Pan Roasted - Partially boil or steam peeled potatoes, cooking for only 10 minutes until potatoes are barely tender; drain. Arrange potatoes in a baking dish and generously coat with melted butter or margarine. Bake (uncovered) in a 400F (200C) oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until fork-tender. Frequently turn and baste potatoes with additional butter as they cook. Potatoes may be seasoned with salt, pepper, parsley or other herbs before serving. Riced - Boil or steam peeled potatoes; drain. Force potatoes through a potato ricer or food mill. Add melted butter or margarine to riced potatoes and serve immediately. Riced potatoes may be used to prepare mashed potatoes (see 'Mashed Potatoes' technique above). Steamed - Scrub and peel potatoes. Use a steamer or wire rack on the bottom of a large saucepan. Add enough water to just reach the bottom of the rack and bring to a boil over high heat. Add potatoes, cover tightly and cook until fork-tender. Cooking time will be approximately the same as when boiling potatoes. (Note: New potatoes are particularly good steamed. After gently scrubbing potatoes clean, peel a thin strip from around the center of each potato to prevent the skins from bursting while steaming. Cooking time will be approximately 15 minutes - be careful not to overcook.) One Potato, Two Potato... The potato is a relatively inexpensive vegetable, low in calories, a good source of fiber (especially the peel) and a virtual 'storehouses' of vitamins and minerals. It is very versatile and adapts well to many methods of cooking. It is not complicated to learn how to purchase, store and select the proper type of potato for a particular cooking technique. There is a wide variety of ways that potatoes may be prepared and an endless number of main-dish, soup, salad, baked good and side-dish potato recipes. Since there are really no steadfast rules (just guidelines), try experimenting to find out which variety and cooking technique you personally prefer. Copyright ©2005 Janice Faulk Duplantis

         
     
         
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