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Cooking is more than just cooking

There are a variety of reasons I love it, and several shortcuts I’ve picked up with time. One of the most interesting things I’ve learned—cooking is a lot like writing. There’s the KISS principle: “Keep it simple, stupid.” If I don’t have a lot of time, I can’t plan anything fancy. And oftentimes, simple taste better, anyway. So I’ve practiced a few simple meals that we rotate through the week. I’m learning when to be “artistic,” and when to just get it done: just as I shouldn’t launch into a huge philosophical blog post 30 minutes before my deadline, I shouldn’t start a big batch of croissants when I need to have dinner ready in an hour. You have to pay attention to your “deadline,” and plan accordingly. Some of our favorite simple meals:

This is shared from The American Conservative: Why home cooking is more fun than you think

  • Breakfast for dinner. During the week, this often means omelets or quiche (it’s really easy to make!) with potatoes or a salad, and bacon. Shakshuka is good, too. On Friday nights or the weekend, we’ll splurge a bit: bacon buttermilk pancakes (husband’s favorite), blueberry coffee cake, and other sweet treats.
  • A simple spread that people can mix-and-match, with things like bread, cheese, olives, grapes or apples, dried fruit, and various charcuterie. If I have time, I’ll mix up some hummus, and slice up cucumbers and carrots to go with. Everyone can sample their favorites and mix the various flavors they enjoy. I like to keep containers of pesto and fig jam in the fridge, for the bread and cheese—but a good olive oil and balsamic are fantastic on their own.
  • Mix up a huge bowl of pasta, rice, or garbanzo bean salad on Sunday. Add in Mediterranean flavors (cherry tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, kale or spinach, and feta). Season with things like olive oil and balsamic vinegar, pesto, salt and pepper. We keep it refrigerated and pull out bowlfuls for packed lunches, or for dinner. It’s easy to pair with chicken and a salad.
  • We love paninis. They’re so simple, and people can make what they like. Pair with oven-roasted potatoes and/or a salad. My favorites are prosciutto with fig jam, sliced pears, and white cheddar, and smoked turkey with Gouda and stone-ground mustard.
  • Make slow cooker soups, or chilled blender soups. In both cases, you get to dump a bunch of random ingredients into a container that does all the work for you. There are tons of easy stew recipes available online, as well as chili recipes, and they’re both easy to freeze for future meals. Chilled soups are easy, and wonderful in the summer. Try gazpacho or a chilled cucumber(really good with croissant sandwiches).

Sometimes, I try to get too fancy, or to experiment with too many different cuisines. I’ll attempt a time-intensive dish with too many steps, or get halfway through a recipe only to realize I don’t have all the ingredients. So here are some thoughts.

  • Save new or complicated recipes for the weekend. This is my opportunity to try new things without running out of time—because there’s nothing more miserable than realizing you’ve made a disaster and a mess, and it’s 9 p.m., and you have nothing in the cupboard but trail mix and canned tuna.
  • Choose one style of cuisine to be your staple, and stick to it. Not everyone would agree with me on this, but I’m finding it just makes sense. I used to try to plan one night a week for Mexican food, one for Thai or Vietnamese, one for Italian, etc. And it was fun—but that’s a lot of spices and ingredients to have on-hand all the time. Nowadays, I’m sticking to a more Mediterranean style, and keep a lot of the accompanying herbs, spices, and ingredients on hand. About one night a week, I’ll make Mexican, Thai, etc. This just eliminates stress over having tons of random ingredients in the fridge, and not knowing what to do with them all.
  • Cook seasonally. This may sound counterintuitive—it seems it would be harder, and add cooking complications. But it’s actually helpful, because it limits my options. This summer, I’ve made a lot of tomato and peach dishes, chilled soups, burgers and grilled chicken, refrigerated pickles, ratatouille, cobblers and pies. I feel like I’ve started to master some of these summer dishes. But now, autumn is coming, and I can’t wait to cook with some of the season’s staples: squash, apples, broccoli, brussels, cauliflower, pears, potatoes, pumpkins, etc. I’ll have several months to work with each of these ingredients, to get to know their textures and tastes better.

These are just things I’m learning, things that make home cooking enjoyable and interesting from day to day. It’s a creative challenge, something that takes both artistry and practicality. Cooking doesn’t make me feel abused or annoyed or frustrated, as a woman—it’s one of the greatest joys of my weekly life. After a long day of writing and staring at a computer screen, there’s something cathartic about chopping vegetables. It gives me the opportunity to experiment with tastes, textures, and flavors. I can make things that remind me of home, of my heritage—things like peach pie, baked beans, chicken and noodles. It gives me the opportunity to learn the traditions of the people around me, to learn how to make dishes that are important to them. People who discount cooking because it takes time forget the joy that can come from doing something creative and communal with our days: something that requires energy and service and love.

3 Best Coffee Grinders Ever

I cannot begin to talk about the best coffee grinders without thinking of my Baratza Forte BG (Brew Grinder). Don’t get me wrong I’m not one who loves to brag… I’m not a sales man either trying to convince anyone to buy a product for my own gain…But this machine (Baratza Forte) is a beautiful one!

Let me explain…

Just the simple and easy experience of using Baratza Forte BG is a pleasure in itself. This machine has a belt driven motor yes, but it is indeed a beast! It has super-great control of quantity both by time and weight. As if that is not enough…

The range of burr control is splendid too. It gives me a uniform grind for all drips from espresso to the finest course grind. The best part of it is…

The included tools; first, they are metallic. It makes me feel like I’m assured of a nice coffee for life! Secondly, with the tools, it makes it easier for me to remove burrs. With this machine I do not even see sense in using a Baratza Portafilter holder. Perhaps your opinion will be different…

Well I do feel that using a portafilter holder will not allow the weight scale to function as I would love. So I just pour the grinds straight to the portafilter for to eliminate clumping and also for an even distribution…Thumps up for this!

Obviously,

Every good thing must have some fallbacks…Baratza Forte BG is no exception. However the weaknesses I have experienced with it are just minor and do not affect the quality of the coffee. For example:

The display is not as superb because you cannot check the numbers from any angle, just straight. The other thing is that you have to ensure that when you adjust the fineness you also adjust the time. That way the results will be fantastic. Honestly…

Baratza Forte BG is a little bit pricey; I got mine at $919. However, it is cheaper that to buy two high quality grinders, one for espresso machines and the other for French or drip. The other two best coffee grinders that are of high quality and cheaper than Baratza Forte are:

Manual Coffee Grinder: Selling under $19.95 but also good. It gives you uniform grinds, you can also switch from espresso to finer course grind and it’s of good size. The other good thing about it is that it is made of stainless steel so if well maintained you can use it for years.

Then with it you have a benefit of a travel pouch for your hiking and travelling purposes. The other good coffee grinder that I would suggest is…

Esthetique Manual Coffee Grinder Mill Ceramic Burr Glass Storage Portable Coffee Bean Ground Maker: My friend got this at $22.99 only. It will give you a great experience too. It has a good small size making it portable, a beautiful design and it is very easy to use it.

My Top Secret On How To Select The Best Cookware Sets For The Home

Picking Good Cookware SetsWith numerous brands hitting the already clogged market today, I can assure you buying one is an event capable of giving you stomach ulcers free of charge. With cookware set materials ranging from stainless steel, copper, aluminum, cast iron, and clad style, be sure selecting the best will not be a Christmas party, neither will it be a walk in the park. Now I know what’s in your mind; how do I select the best? I believe you know I am the kindest person in town (chill, I am blushing!). I never cease to share with you my kitchen secrets that have made me the celebrated success story I am today.

Therefore, below is my top guarded secret on the things to consider when choosing the best cookware sets for the home

Cookware Longevity

I love kitchenware that can assure me of a life-long service. When possible, I purchase a cookware set that I believe will serve the children of my children’s children. When you go shopping, have the durability concept in mind. As an experienced cookware enthusiast, I advise you to go for those made of stainless steel, you will forever have yourself to thank.

Heat conductivity

Do you set cooking goals everyday as I do? Do you have to beat deadlines every time you cook? Are you too hungry to wait for food that take forever to cook? Well, the next time you buy a cookware set, ensure you get one crafted with a material specially made to offer excellent and even heat distribution. If you came for my advice before buying one, my number one recommendation would be those encapsulated with a copper base. Copper is an outstanding conductor of heat that will always guarantee lightning speed cooking.

Budget

well, you cannot buy anything without setting a budget, right? Generally, when it comes to kitchen equipment, my rule of the thumb is to buy the best that I can afford. Expensive and cheap are just a socially constructed concepts. They will never determine the end result of your meals, only expertise and creativity will. All I can tell you is to set a flexible budget, and go for the best cookware set for your home!

Finally, don’t be in a hurry, take all the time you need in the market. Ensure you choose the best cookware set. What will be the end result? You will be rewarded with years of diligent service and an astounding cooking experience.

Best Cookware Under $100

best pots and pans

About a month ago, for my birthday my aunt gave me a “Le Creuset Cast-Iron Grill”. Around my family, she is known for buying expensive, not useful trinkets so when I saw it, my instinct was to re-gift it, A few days later I had lunch with some friends but I really didn´t want to go through the mess of preparing a super fancy meal. So i opened the “Le Creuset Grill” and decided to give it a try, and it was just fantastic. All you have to do is put it on top of the stove and voila, it´s ready to begin cooking.

Fancy Rib-eye Cooking

The rib-eye´s I cooked had grill marks identical to a professional grill, and it traps the heat hence, they were seared to perfection. The best part was that I just had to kind of rinse it and it looked brand new. Cooking is a passion for me, hence every new cooking tool I can add to the kitchen gets me excited, even more if they are easy to use and high quality items. I also own the Rachel Ray Cucina Porcelain Enamel nonstick Cookware set which name sounds like a hassle, but honestly it´s great if you hate doing the dishes as much as I do. Truth be told, if you buy this you won´t need any more tools in your kitchen.

Cookware That Make Cooking A Joy

You have your saucepans, a stock pot, skillets, a turner and a spoon. Perfect for making every meal you can find. Nowadays, everything seems so expensive, and if it isn´t honestly it´s low quality, so when I find cookware this good I can´t help but share it with the world. It´s really inexpensive, the cookware has 12 pieces and it´s about $94 and will probably last you for the years to come.

Invest In A Grill

The grill, works as good as a professional grill, and yet it´s so easy to use. Great quality professional grills go for about 500 dollars and “Le Creuset-Iron Grill” only goes for 100 bucks. Both are worth every penny.

The Best Choice for Pots and Pans

High-quality cookware has always been the heart of all serious cooks. You require a variety of pans and pots to make time in the kitchen easy and enjoyable. Expensive does not always mean the best as some companies sell their brand rather than quality. This does not tend to mean that cheap cookware have better quality compared to the expensive ones. As they say, sometimes cheap tends to be expensive.

When choosing your pots and pans, it is always prudent to choose those made of materials that suit your cooking technique. Here, I just want to talk about what has worked well for me. The best pots and pans are those that serve their purpose with ease.

The 10-piece, Calphalon Classic stainless steel pot and pans is one cookware set that I would be proud of when recommending it to anyone who seeks my advice.

With these pots and pans, you get value for your money. These whole set of the most used cookware in the kitchen cost only about $200. It has no useless piece to itself. It is an economical or should I say affordable set.

It is made of stainless steel which is not light weight or thin for its purpose. Stainless steel is non-reactive with food neither does it scratch and peel. This makes the whole set of cookware safe for general cooking. The cookware set (pots, pans, and lids) can withstand the high temperatures inside the oven. The handles including those for the lids, never get hot thus making it safe in your hands. This makes them the best pots and pans you can easily think of.

Though they may stick and brown, the pots and pans in the set are very easy to clean; just soak and scrub and the silvery shine is back. This my recommended set of pots and pans to those who are just starting out in life.

Nonstick Cookware
My other favorite cookware happens to be the non-stick type. These non-stick pots and pans have become popular these days by the fact that food never sticks in them. This makes your washing quite easy.

Though some people may prefer whole sets of non-stick cookware, I only boast of my Anolon Advanced non-stick frying pan. Most non-stick pots and pans should be used with wooden or silicone utensils to avoid scratching of the non-stick coating. These would damage the pan or pot by affecting its functionality. My Anolon Advanced non stick pan is hard anodized, which makes it less susceptible to scratches.

What do you think? Leave a comment if you have other recommendations.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup Recipe

1 Tbsp. Butter

4 Large Red Bell Peppers

1 Large Sweet Onion, chopped

3-4 Cloves Garlic, minced

4 oz. Dry White Wine

1 1/2 cups Heavy Cream

Salt and White Pepper to taste

Optional: Cayenne Pepper to taste

Preparation:

Roast the red peppers over a grill or stove burner until black on all sides. Place into a plastic bag and let them sweat for 15-20 minutes. Using the back of a knife, scrape the skins off of the peppers and remove the seeds and stem. In a large soup pot, sweat chopped onion, garlic, and peppers in a little butter. When the vegetables are soft, seaon with salt and pepper, then add in the white wine. Reduce the wine until almost dry, then add in the cream. Simmer for 5 minutes, then puree with a stick blender until smooth. Check for seasonings.

Tip: Squeeze in a touch of lemon or lime juice to perk up the flavors just before serving.

Why I decided to buy a bread machine

After reading more reviews of the top bread machines, I was more than convinced that I should buy one of these appliances. For starters, I was tired of the taste of store-bought bread, and I wanted to control the ingredients that I use in my bread. I also wanted to save some money because bread has become quite expensive, especially gluten-free products. Bread machines can also do more than just make bread, and there’s the dough setting that I could use for mixing, kneading and fermenting the dough without becoming messy. I could then use the dough for various purposes, either to make pie, pizza, croissants or cake.

A bread machine also has a cake setting, which I could use for making cakes. This is great because the bread maker now replaces my oven, stand mixer and hand mixer. Replacing these appliances means that I can now save more money. I also live in a small apartment and there’s not a lot of room in my kitchen. This means that my bread machine takes up little space since I don’t have to buy many different appliances. I also realized that there’s a bread machine that could also make jam.

I have Japanese neighbors and so I could now use a versatile machine to prepare for them Japanese foods such as brioche, udon, steamed bread and mocha. Once I read more bread maker reviews, I bought a good appliance that has continued to serve me well. I now enjoy waking up to the smell of freshly baked bread, and it’s the best tasting loaf of bread too. I learnt that when my bread had finished baking, I should cool it immediately so that the optimal color and texture is maintained. I also resist the temptation of slicing the bread immediately it has baked so that I can keep it moist inside but not spongy.

More: Bread maker tips and troubleshooting – Red Star Yeast

Is an Espresso Machine Good for You?

Espresso machines produce highly concentrated ,dark and rich brew that are mostly found at the coffee shops. The coffee beans must be finely ground and packed to produce strong coffee which some people prefer to take as shots. Espresso machines can also be used to make milk-based beverages such as lattes and cappuccinos, where milk is heated separately using the machine’s frothing tube which blow steam into the milk whipping it to froth.

Drinking Espresso

Manufacturers have gone to greater lengths in designing and building exceptional espresso makers for home use and also for commercial purposes. Basically, there are two espresso machines which are steam driven espresso machines and pump driven espresso machines. Steam-driven espresso machines worked on steam pressure where steam pressure is used to pump water through the coffee grounds to produce espresso.

I don’t recommend steam-driven espresso machines because they can’t produce enough pressure or temperatures required to produce true espresso,they are just in a position to make very strong cup of coffee.However steam-driven espresso machines are considerably cheaper than pump-driven machines therefore they can be used on the entry level if you are on an extremely tight budget. On the other hand i recommend pump-driven espresso machines which use electric pump that pumps water through the coffee grounds.These machines therefore can produce true espresso.

There are two types of pump-driven machines; Super-automatic espresso machines and semi-automatic espresso machines.The difference between these two units depends on which one better suits yours needs.Semi-automatic espresso machines are perfect for best-quality espresso though it might take a little more time and effort off your schedule. Whereas if you just want a quick cup of great tasting espresso then the super-automatic machine will suit you well since there is no extra effort applied.This machine is suitable for the people on the go or those people who prefer convenience over control.

Overall, I recommend the semi-automatic espresso machine which is all about fine tuning, precise great taste,temperature and body espresso shots that you love especially if you are a “hands on” espresso expert who doesn’t mind a little more effort to ensure high-quality espresso then this is the best option for you.

more reading – history of espresso machine

My search for the best kitchen knife

I have recently taken up a part time catering course at my local adult college. I love cooking and preparing meals for my kids. I even encourage them to help me in preparing the vegetables and making the family stews. Now that they are that little bit older, I have a little extra time to myself and so therefore I thought that enrolling in a cookery course would be a fabulous idea to learn more recipes and how to prepare food correctly.

Within the first week, we were all told to purchase a good kitchen knife, so that we could practice what we learn in class at home. I do have kitchen knives but they are getting on a bit now. So I looked on the Internet and began to read up on what the culinary professionals and kitchen websites recommended as the best kitchen knives to buy. This was my starting point as it gave me the brands to look for. They included, Victorinox, Global and Wusthof. My aim was to buy one of the best kitchen knives available, but at a reasonable price.

I then looked on Amazon to compare prices and customer reviews. The Victorinox kitchen knife I found was an 8 inch chef’s knife that was priced just under $40, this had fantastic customer reviews and was rated as a best seller. The Global knife that I found was also 8 inches but this was priced much higher at $100, but again had wonderful customer feedback. The final knife I found was the 6 inch Gourmet Chef’s knife priced at just under $70. This also came highly recommended.

To be honest after having read all of the top 10 knives reviews and recommendations I felt that any of these kitchen knives could perform the job that I needed them to do. Therefore I decided to choose the cheapest and bought the Victorinox chef’s knife.

I’ve been using this knife for several weeks now and it does the job perfectly. It’s incredibly versatile when in the kitchen. My advice to you is to find out what kitchen knives are available, choose those knives that are recommended by professionals and then shop around for the best price. I’m glad I did.

Smart Electric Rice Cookers

No matter if you eat white or brown rice, long or short grain, it is not easy to get it right when cooked traditionally in a pot. Thanks to the electric rice cooker, cooking rice is a piece of cake – set it at the right settings and leave it to cook. Not only can it cook rice, you can easily cook porridge, stew and oatmeal in a pot.

Electric rice cookers these days are smart that it can determine and adjust the cooking time and temperature for cooking the fluffiest rice. They are able to do so with sensors that have the ability to detect the amount of rice and water in the pot.

There are many best rated rice cooker reviews but here are some tips to make your decision easier:

  1. Budget

The first thing you should do is figure out how much you’re willing to spend on your rice cooker. Regardless of its price, the best rice cooker should be able to cook your rice to perfection. Just remember that the more expensive the appliance is, the more extensive the extra super powers it has. Personally, I think you should not buy an electric rice cooker just because of its extra functions but not ever use them to your advantage.

  1. Capacity/Size

Rice will taste better when you cook in a cooker at its intended capacity. If you are only cooking for yourself and maybe your partner, a 3-cup electric rice cooker will be more than enough to cook for a meal. A 10-cup cooker will only be ideal only if you frequently cook for your extended family or you’re in the catering business.

Also, look for an electric rice cooker that has a steaming tray to cook your vegetable. As the water boils off to cook the rice, the released steam will cook the vegetables. Not only is this a healthy way to cook your rice but it also saves energy and time.

  1. Material

Do consider the material of the cooking pot when choosing your cooker. A non-stick aluminum or stainless steel is preferred by most people since it’s easy to clean. Some people prefer pots that are made from charcoal or clay which are natural materials that have non-stick properties. However, some of these pans do produce rice with a slight burnt taste thanks to these natural materials – some people do enjoy this difference in taste.

  1. Bells & Whistles

As I mentioned earlier, pricier models have features that would elevate the user’s experience when using the electric rice cooker. Things like measuring lines inside the cooking pot and see-through lid will allow you to easily measure the water used and monitor the cooking process. If your cooker has a warming function, it would be great to keep your rice warm until you’re ready to eat your meal.

  1. Multi-tasking Abilities

I believe that if you’re already paying so much for an appliance, it should work more than its main intended use. Other than rice, your electric rice cooker should be able to cook congee, oatmeal and crock pot style meals.

Related Posts:
Small rice cookers for small families
Top recommended brand – Zojirushi rice cookers
More rice cooker brands

Slow Cooker Red Roast Pulled Pork Recipe

Comfort food is always welcomed in the winter time when staying in is a choice. Here’s Mardi Michel’s slow cooker red roast pulled pork recipe from JamieOliver.com

Slow Cooker Red Roast Pulled Pork

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1kg pork shoulder, bone in
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable or peanut oil

For the sauce:

  • 1 large shallot
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • 1 teaspoons Chinese five spice powder
  • ½ cup (120mls) pomegranate juice
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 60ml (¼ cup) plum jam

Method

Season the pork with salt and pepper, then heat the oil a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork and sear until it’s nicely browned all over.

Remove the pork from the skillet and place in slow cooker. Increase the heat under the skillet to high and add about half of the pomegranate juice, scraping any browned bits leftover from the pork with a wooden spoon and stirring in.

Meanwhile, roughly chop the shallot and garlic and grate the ginger.

Once the liquid has reduced slightly, add the veg and spices and reduce the heat to low. Add the sugar, soy sauce and plum jam, gently stirring to combine.

Add the remaining pomegranate juice then gently pour the marinade over the pork in the slow cooker. Turn the pork a couple of times to make sure the marinade is evenly distributed around the meat, then set your temperature to “low” and cook, undisturbed, for 8-10 hours.

Very carefully remove the pork from the slow cooker with tongs, and let the marinade drain back into the cooker for a few seconds.

Skim off any fat that has collected on top of the marinade and carefully strain it into a small saucepan over a medium-high heat.

Using two forks, gently pull the pork apart, then transfer onto a serving board or a bowl and pour over the slightly reduced marinade.

Serve on buns with Asian-style slaw (dressing recipe here) or on plain white rice with sautéed greens.

French Onion Soup Recipe

2 ½ pounds yellow onions, halved, and sliced ¼-inch thick (8 cups)

¼ pound unsalted butter

1 bay leaf

½ cup medium-dry sherry

½ cup brandy or Cognac

1 ½ cups good dry white wine

4 cups beef stock

4 cups veal stock

1 tablespoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

Freshly Grated Parmesan

In a large stockpot on medium-high heat, sauté the onions with the butter and bay leaf for 20 minutes, until the onions turn a rich golden brown color. Deglaze the pan with the sherry and brandy and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Add the white wine and simmer uncovered for 15 more minutes. Add the beef and veal stocks plus salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaf, taste for salt and pepper, and serve hot with grated Parmesan.

Good Cookware Set Make All the Difference

Are you tired of using an old set of cookware that even don’t heat evenly? Are you thinking of buying a new set of cookware? If yes, then you must think about Calphalon cookware set. But before purchasing one, you should read the best cookware set reviews. They will help you to make a better choice.

Though Calphalon Cookware were initially designed for use at home, the technology behind it is simply innovative. Cooking with this set is simply an unforgettable experience and you will be able to maintain the high quality and durability that most of the chefs demand in a professional cookware. (Go to the official website)

The company has equipped all their latest cookwares with two new shining surfaces which help you to bring out the expert chef. Its completely new and revolutionary non sticky surface will not allow the food items to stick on it and releases the meal without any trouble. These cookwares are the best for cooking delicious omelette and sauces.

Have you ever tried to cook salmon or even tuna on a traditional cookware? Simply impossible, you see. However, this specific set of cookware offer unique and additionally textured Sear non sticky area which does not allow the fish to stick to pan while at the same time keep the taste of the fillet intact.

Each of its surface is particularly meant for different cooking purposes. Now it is very easy to cook multi flavored moist braised meat, mouth watering salmon dishes along with delicious veggies. Another benefit of Calphalon cookware is that it takes very little or simply no oil, fat or butter to cook food. It comes with life time warranty and is absolutely dishwasher safe. Its grip remains surprisingly cool even on the hot stove and will give you the feeling of a professional chef. It is the right time to upgrade your conventional pots and pans to the best quality and cook delicious food for your family.