Tag: cooking

Stop Making These 8 Common Grilling Mistakes

Cooking food over an open fire imparts all sorts of flavor. Grilling tends to be quicker, less messy and more convenient than cooking in the kitchen – particularly during the dog days of summer.

Outdoor grills are everywhere, including nearly every backyard across the country. The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association says $1.47 billion in grill sales were made in 2016. That grills are so commonplace doesn’t mean that everyone grilling is employing the right techniques. Becoming the ultimate grillmaster involves understanding the subtleties of grilling and avoiding common mistakes so food can look and taste that much better.

1. Not prepping the food:

The French culinary term for preparing to cook is “mise en place.” This is especially important when grilling, as cooks must deal with faster cooking times than they would otherwise encounter when cooking meals in the stove.

2. Dirty grill:

Make sure the grill is cleaned before and after each use. Grease can quickly build up on a grill, leading to flare-ups that can cause foods to char. Frequent cleaning also helps grillmasters avoid a tiresome cleaning process at the start of the season.

3. Forgetting to preheat:

Preheating the grill ensures that foods will cook quickly and as evenly as possible. Otherwise, meats can lose moisture and even stick to cooler grates. Reader’s Digest suggests preheating to between 350 F and 450 F depending on the food.

4. Overreliance on lighter fluid:

The chemical taste of lighter fluid can transfer to foods even when the fluid is used sparingly. Consider using a chimney starter when grilling with charcoal. And avoid repeated pyrotechnics with fluid, or worse, gasoline.

5. Too much direct heat:

Food should not char on the outside before the inside has a chance to cook. A two-zone fire, according to food experts at Serious Eats, enables grillmasters to cook over high heat to sear and then move the food to a lower temperature to continue to cook evenly.

6. Playing with food:

Grilling does not require much intervention. Repeatedly flipping and squeezing meat and poultry can cause flavorful juices to leak out. Then you’re left with dried-out food. Resist any urges to prod and poke food. And minimize how many times you lift the grill cover to take a peek, as that can cause temperatures to fluctuate. Use a thermometer to determine when food is done. And don’t forget that meat will still cook a bit after it’s taken off the grill.

7. Improper seasoning:

Basting food with sugar-laden sauces and marinades too early can cause flare-ups and burning. Quick rubs can help lock in flavor, and then reserve the sauce for the last few minutes of grilling, says cookbook author Dave Martin.

8. Digging in too soon:

Give meats a chance to rest for between five and 10 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute through the food. This improves flavor and tenderness.

 
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Fourth of July Barbecue Essentials

The 4th of July is fast approaching and revelers across the nation are preparing to toast their independence with family and friends. For many Americans, backyard barbecues are synonymous with the Fourth of July, a day that, in the United States of America, commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.

Precious few Americans can say they have not been present at a 4th of July barbecue or witnessed a fireworks display honoring America’s official declaration of independence from Great Britain. Hosting a July 4th barbecue for the first time may have some hosts anxious about throwing a summer soirée to remember, but fun is sure to be had if hosts remember to include the following backyard barbecue essentials this Independence Day.

Food

No Fourth of July barbecue is complete without food, so hosts should be sure to stock up on popular barbecue fare like hot dogs and hamburgers. Though such foods likely won’t be mistaken for gourmet fare anytime soon, Fourth of July revelers often embrace the tradition of grilling up some hot dogs and hamburgers even if they tend to avoid such foods throughout the rest of the year. Hosts should not feel pressured to provide gourmet fare on July 4th, but it is a thoughtful gesture to ask guests in advance if they have any food allergies or need to avoid certain foods for other reasons.

Beverages

It goes without saying that guests will need refreshing beverages at parties held in early July, but be sure to stock up on a variety of beverages so guests are not forced to consume drinks they don’t want. Be sure to have plenty of water available to guests, and provide sodas, iced tea and lemonade as well. Offer alcoholic beverages to adult guests, but don’t go overboard stocking up on alcohol, as that might encourage guests to overindulge.

Games

Backyard barbecues are most fun when guests are entertained, so plan to have some games available for guests of all ages. Encourage guests to bring a change of clothes or swimsuits if games will involve water or something that might soil their clothing. If you have a pool, purchase some pool games so swimmers can do more than just wade in the water or take a few laps. Plan a Wiffle® ball game for kids and dig some horseshoe pits or buy a ring toss set so adults can engage in some friendly competition as well.

Safety

Though no one wants to think of a 4th of July celebration taking a turn for the worst, hosts must prepare for emergencies. Restock the first-aid kit if necessary and keep a constant eye on guests, especially children, to ensure everyone is having a safe and happy time. Program a list of local taxi companies into your phone so you can easily call for transportation should any guests have too much to drink during the festivities. Hosts should abstain from alcohol so they can serve as designated driver should the need arise at the end of the night.

Backyard barbecues are a staple of July 4th, and there’s no reason your summer soirée can’t be one to remember for years to come.

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Maple Pecan Scone Recipe

Scones make an ideal companion to a morning cup of coffee or tea. Simple and delicious, this recipe for “Maple Pecan Scones” from Linda Collister’s “Quick Breads” (Ryland, Peters & Small) is ideal for scone lovers who want something quick to make in the morning.

Maple Pecan Scones

Serves 6

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

A good pinch of salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes

1 cup pecan pieces

1 extra-large egg

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

About 3 tablespoons milk

1 greased baking sheet

Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Add the butter and rub it in with the tips of your fingers until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Mix in the pecans.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg with maple syrup and 1 tablespoon of the milk. Stir into the flour mixture with a round-bladed knife to make a soft, coarse-looking dough. If the dough is dry and crumbly and won’t stick together, stir in more milk 1 tablespoon at a time. If the dough is very wet and sticky, work in another tablespoon of flour.

Tip out the dough onto a work surface lightly dusted with flour and gently work it with your hands for a few seconds so it looks smoother. Put the dough ball onto the prepared baking sheet. Dip your fingers in flour and pat out the dough to a round about 11/4 inches thick and 7 inches across. Using a knife, cut the round into 6 wedges, but do not separate the dough before baking.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes until light golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and leave until the wedges are cool enough to separate. Serve warm the same day. The cooled scones can be wrapped tightly and frozen for up to 1 month.

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A Family Meal that Packs a Light, Flavorful Punch

Many people aspire to eat light meals that satisfy hunger pangs without creating feelings of fullness. Some may assume light meals must be lacking flavor, but the following recipe for “Silken Chicken” from Madhur Jaffrey’s “Quick & Easy Indian Cooking” (Chronicle Books) is light and packs that familiar flavorful punch that endears Indian cuisine to millions of people across the globe.

Silken Chicken

Serves 2 to 4

For marinating the chicken:

4 boned, skinned chicken breast halves (about 11/4 pounds)

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 teaspoon homemade garam masala (see below)

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground roasted cumin seeds (see below)

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed to a pulp

1/2 teaspoon peeled, finely grated fresh ginger

For sprinkling over the chicken:

Salt as needed

Freshly ground black pepper

A little homemade garam masala

A little ground roasted cumin seed

A little cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon dried mint flakes

Generous squeezes of fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to its highest temperature and arrange a shelf in the top third of the oven.

Cut 3 diagonal slits across the top of each piece of chicken breast, being careful not to cut all the way through and also not to go to the edge. Prick the chicken pieces with the sharp point of a small knife. Put them in a single layer in a large baking dish and rub both sides with the salt and lemon juice. Leave for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the cream with the garam masala, cayenne, cumin seeds, paprika, garlic, and ginger in a bowl. Stir this mixture well and pour it over the chicken. Rub it into the meat and leave for 10 minutes.

Lift the chicken pieces up (most of the marinade will cling to them) and place them down in a single layer in a shallow baking pan lined with aluminum foil. On top of each, sprinkle a little salt, black pepper, garam masala, ground roasted cumin seed, cayenne, dried mint, and lemon juice. Put into the top third of the oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until the chicken is just white all the way through. Serve immediately, minted side up.

Garam Masala

1 tablespoon cardamom seeds

1 2-inch cinnamon stick

1/3 of one nutmeg

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 teaspoon black cumin seeds

1 teaspoon whole cloves

Place ingredients into a clean coffee or spice grinder and ground to a powder.

To make ground roasted cumin seeds:

Put 4 to 5 tablespoons of the whole seeds into a small cast-iron frying pan and set over medium heat. Stir the seeds and roast them over dry heat until they turn a few shades darker and emit a wonderful roasted aroma. Wait for them to cool slightly and then grind them in a clean coffee or spice grinder. Store in a tightly closed jar.

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Master Magical Marinades

Grilled foods boast inviting flavors that put many diners on the lookout for second helpings. Quite often the magic behind grilled meals lies in the marinade used to give foods that flavorful kick.

Marinades can be used to enhance the flavor of meats, vegetables and poultry. While marinades add flavor, they also may be responsible for some other benefits in grilled foods.

Marinades add flavor

Defined as a savory acidic sauce in which food is soaked to enrich its flavor, marinades help break down fiber and tenderize certain foods. The base of many marinades include vinegar, lemon juice or wine, and marinades can be enhanced with spices, oil and herbs.

It’s important not to let foods sit in marinades for too long, as any alcohol, acid or salt in the mixture can chemically “cook” the food in a process known as “denaturing.” Adhere to timing recommendations when using store-bought marinades, and keep such guidelines in mind when using homemade marinades as well. Many may tell you to let foods sit no longer than four hours. Marinades with citrus juices may require even less time for flavor to penetrate.

The timing of marinade use also will depend on the foods being marinated. Delicate items, such as seafood, may change with regard to texture or color in a matter of minutes.

It’s important to always marinate foods in the refrigerator. Food left sitting out on a counter – even when it’s in a marinade – invites the growth of bacteria. If a recipe calls for marinating at room temperature, continue to marinate in the refrigerator, but extend the length of time you marinate. This helps to prevent foodborne illnesses.

When marinating, use plastic or glass containers so the marinade does not cause a chemical reaction, which may occur if you marinate foods in metal containers. Discard all marinades for raw meats and poultry when the time comes to cook the foods, as leftover marinades may contain bacteria that makes them unsafe to reuse on other foods.

The nutritional benefits of marinating

In addition to flavor, marinades may improve the nutritional value of grilled foods. In 2008, researchers at Kansas State University discovered that marinating meat in antioxidant-rich spice blends can reduce the risk of forming heterocyclic amines, or HCAs, by more than 80 percent. HCAs are harmful, cancer-causing compounds that form when food chars over an open flame at high temperatures. Marinades must be rich in spices to have any HCA-busting properties.

Marinades are a secret weapon in the creation of tasty, tender and healthy foods. They come in quite handy when grilling, and add an extra dose of flavor when cooking over high heat.

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Give Boring Lunches a Big Boost

Lunch might not be the most exciting meal of the day, and conventional wisdom might not suggest it’s the most important meal. But that does not mean lunch has to be boring.

For those who tend to lean on sandwiches for their midday meals, straying from the sandwich norm can provide some variety and flavor. The following recipe for “Warm Tandoori Chicken Wraps” from Vicki Liley’s “Asian Wraps & Rolls” (Periplus) can make for a unique lunch for the whole family or even serve as an easily prepared dinner.

Warm Tandoori Chicken Wraps

Makes 6 wraps

1/3 cup plain tandoori paste

2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup plain yogurt

Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

12 chicken tenderloin fillets or 3 skinless, boneless chicken breast fillets

2 carrots, peeled

1 English (hothouse) cucumber, halved and seeded

6 pieces naan

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

Leaves from 6 fresh mint sprigs, plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint

In a small bowl, combine tandoori paste, 2 tablespoons yogurt, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Put chicken in a baking dish. Pour tandoori mixture over and stir until chicken is coated. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Light a fire in a charcoal grill or heat a grill pan. Brush grill or pan lightly with oil. Cook chicken for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, or until juices run clear when pierced with a skewer. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. Cut each tenderloin into 2 long strips (if using chicken breast fillets, slice each fillet into 4 long strips).

Using a vegetable peeler, cut carrot and cucumber into thin ribbons. To heat naan, follow instructions on packet. In a small bowl, stir 1/2 cup yogurt, garlic and chopped mint together.

Place naan on a work surface. Divide chicken, cucumber, carrot, and mint leaves among naan. Drizzle with yogurt mixture. Wrap the naan around filling and serve immediately.

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How to Make School Lunch Healthier

The benefits of a healthy diet are clear and well documented. In addition to providing the nutrients a growing body needs, consuming a balanced diet helps children maintain a healthy weight. Obesity continues to be a growing problem among school-aged children and can contribute to the onset of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, and many other adverse medical conditions.

Children attending school will eat at least one meal away from home each day. A healthy lunch provides sound nutrition to give students energy to do well in school and for the rest of the day. Children who do not eat well at lunch may have difficulty concentrating, while others may feel sluggish or tired.

As part of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, the United States National School Lunch Program was revised to guarantee healthy, nutritionally sound choices, as established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, for lunch. America’s school menus were altered to be healthier than ever, including more fruits and vegetables while limiting calories. Despite some controversy through the years, including some students saying the smaller portions and food choices aren’t always satisfying, states suffering from high child obesity rates have seen marked improvements.

Canada is one of the few leading industrialized countries that does not have a national nutrition strategy to implement healthy school lunches. It’s estimated that only 10 to 15 percent of Canadian children have access to school meals. These meals are not provided by a well-funded national program, but by a patchwork of individual volunteer efforts, some provincial government funding and corporate donations.

Whether students purchase lunch from school or bring lunch from home, there are ways to guarantee a more diverse offering and better nutrition. Here are some guidelines to follow.

* Offer nutrient-dense foods. Foods should contribute to the daily recommended amounts of protein, iron, calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin C. Provide a selection of foods, such as lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, that will give children the nutrients they need. Nutrient-dense foods also help kids feel fuller, longer.

* Limit fat intake. Avoid foods that do not get their fat from polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Saturated fats can lead to obesity and clogged arteries. The American Heart Association recommends kids get no more than 25 to 35 percent of their calories from fat. Fish, nuts and olives are healthy fat sources.

* Let kids choose some of their food. Allow kids to pick some of the healthy foods they will be eating. Giving kids a say in their diets will make them more likely to enjoy their lunches and cut back on snack foods. Eating meals regularly will keep energy levels up during school and make kids less likely to reach for unhealthy snacks to fill hunger gaps.

* Make small changes that add up. Switching from white bread to whole grain breads, and opting for low-fat dairy products instead of full-fat dairy products can make a world of difference. Kids may not notice a change in texture or flavor, and many of kids’ favorite foods, such as chicken nuggets, pizza and macaroni and cheese, can be made with healthier ingredients.

* Remember, beverages count, too. Giving children a healthy lunch and then packing a sugar-filled, high-calorie drink negates your efforts. Calories from beverages can quickly add up. Water is always the best option for a healthy drink. Low-fat milk and real fruit juice consumed in moderation also make healthy alternatives to sugary beverages.

Offering healthy school lunches is an important step to raising healthy kids. New guidelines and offerings make it easier for kids to get the nutrition they need for their growing bodies.

Weekly Meal Plans May Save Money

Meal plans provide a clever way to save money on food. Knowing the meals that will be made and which ingredients need to be purchased for these recipes eliminates floundering and impulse purchases at the supermarket.

Knowing exactly what to buy and when also can eliminate food waste and spoilage. According to research from the University of Pennsylvania, people who can avoid impulse spending can save up to 23 percent on their grocery bills.

Planning meals in advance can also provide a host of health benefits. When meals are planned in advance, shoppers have more control over the ingredients they choose and can tailor them to specific dietary needs or healthy eating plans.

Fortunately, time-pressed individuals have a number of resources at their disposal to help them plan and shop for meals. A quick online search for weekly meal plans will yield many results, including recipes and complementary shopping lists. People also can download apps that help with meal planning to their smartphones. Such apps include Yummly, Pepperplate and MealBoard, among others.

Another way for individuals to plan meals more effectively is to take a few moments on the weekend to think about which meals to make during the week ahead. Compare the necessary ingredients against those you may already have in your pantry. The rest can be purchased and saved for subsequent meals. Buying a week’s worth of groceries in one shopping trip is more efficient and can help to conserve fuel.

When planning meals, try to use the most perishable items first. For example, prepare to use seafood, some dairy items and fresh vegetables early in the week, and more durable foods, such as frozen, boxed or canned goods, later in the week.

When buying foots at the store, buy proteins in bulk and subdivide them into smaller packages to save money. Properly repackage foods so they will not spoil or become freezer burned, leading to waste. Other budget-conscious shopping tips include trying store brands, building meal plans around items that are on sale that week and making use of coupons or coupon apps.

Post a weekly meal plan on or near the refrigerator so items can be thawed and ingredients prepared as needed. Building meals around slow cooker recipes also can help those who like to prep foods in the morning and then come home to completely cooked meals. On busy nights, arrange for fast meals, such as sandwiches or one-pot creations.

By planning meals in advance, home cooks never have to stand in front of the pantry wondering what to make.

How Families Can Cut Screen Time

No matter where you look, screens are everywhere. The proliferation of easily portable tablets and smartphones means many people, adults and children alike, are never too far from the nearest screen. While that accessibility has dramatically changed the way many people live their lives, excessive exposure to screen time can produce a host of unwanted side effects.

Steven Gortmaker, a professor of the practice of health sociology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, has studied the negative effects of excessive screen time on children since the 1980s. According to Gortmaker, such effects include higher rates of obesity among kids who watch too much television and difficulty sleeping among youngsters with access to small screens, such as the screens of smartphones. In addition, a 2012 study published in the journal Psychiatry Research linked screen time with impaired cognitive function in young males.

But adults are not immune to the effects of excessive screen time, either. Spending significant time being sedentary and staring at screens can increase adults’ risk for cardiovascular disease. An Australian study published in the December 2012 issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that, compared with persons who watch no television, those who spend a lifetime average of six hours per day watching television can expect to live 4.8 fewer years.

So what can families do to cut back on their screen time? While it likely won’t be easy to put down smartphones and tablets and turn off laptops and televisions, the following are a handful of ways for families to spend less time staring at screens.


· Remove televisions from bedrooms. Parents may find it impossible to gauge, much less control, how much time their kids spend watching television when youngsters have TV’s in their bedrooms. Though this will likely be met with considerable resistance, remove televisions from bedrooms in your home. Set a positive example for kids by removing your own bedroom television as well. Come kids’ bedtimes, make sure all devices, including smartphones and tablets, are left in common areas of the home rather than bedrooms so kids are not tempted to watch videos instead of falling asleep.

· Institute a “no screens” rule during meals. Many parents grew up in households that did not allow televisions to be on during meals, and while the times might have changed with respect to the technology, similar rules can still prevail today. A “no screens” rule during meals gives parents and their kids time to catch up, bond and foster stronger relationships.

· Do not use the television for background noise. Turn the television off when it’s serving as just background noise. If you need background noise, turn on some music instead.

· Log screen time. Logging screen time for each member of the family can provide an estimate of just how much time the whole family spends staring at screens. Encourage each member of the family to spend as much time being physically active as he or she spends staring at screens. Set goals for each member of the family to reduce their screen time, even rewarding those who reach their goals.

Reducing screen time can improve overall health and help family members reconnect with one another. FP165050

Master Magical Marinades

Grilled foods boast inviting flavors that put many diners on the lookout for second helpings. Quite often the magic behind grilled meals lies in the marinade used to give foods that flavorful kick.

Marinades can be used to enhance the flavor of meats, vegetables and poultry. While marinades add flavor, they also may be responsible for some other benefits in grilled foods.

Marinades add flavor

Defined as a savory acidic sauce in which food is soaked to enrich its flavor, marinades help break down fiber and tenderize certain foods. The base of many marinades include vinegar, lemon juice or wine, and marinades can be enhanced with spices, oil and herbs.

It’s important not to let foods sit in marinades for too long, as any alcohol, acid or salt in the mixture can chemically “cook” the food in a process known as “denaturing.” Adhere to timing recommendations when using store-bought marinades, and keep such guidelines in mind when using homemade marinades as well. Many may tell you to let foods sit no longer than four hours. Marinades with citrus juices may require even less time for flavor to penetrate.

The timing of marinade use also will depend on the foods being marinated. Delicate items, such as seafood, may change with regard to texture or color in a matter of minutes.

It’s important to always marinate foods in the refrigerator. Food left sitting out on a counter – even when it’s in a marinade – invites the growth of bacteria. If a recipe calls for marinating at room temperature, continue to marinate in the refrigerator, but extend the length of time you marinate. This helps to prevent foodborne illnesses.

When marinating, use plastic or glass containers so the marinade does not cause a chemical reaction, which may occur if you marinate foods in metal containers. Discard all marinades for raw meats and poultry when the time comes to cook the foods, as leftover marinades may contain bacteria that makes them unsafe to reuse on other foods.

The nutritional benefits of marinating

In addition to flavor, marinades may improve the nutritional value of grilled foods. In 2008, researchers at Kansas State University discovered that marinating meat in antioxidant-rich spice blends can reduce the risk of forming heterocyclic amines, or HCAs, by more than 80 percent. HCAs are harmful, cancer-causing compounds that form when food chars over an open flame at high temperatures. Marinades must be rich in spices to have any HCA-busting properties.

Marinades are a secret weapon in the creation of tasty, tender and healthy foods. They come in quite handy when grilling, and add an extra dose of flavor when cooking over high heat. TF167209