Tag: food

Baking Shortcuts for Time-Pressed Entertainers

‘Tis the season for baking cookies, cakes and other treats. However, during the holiday rush, it’s easy to get side-tracked or tired, and perhaps even a little bit overwhelmed by all the things to do in such a short period of time. Holiday baking doesn’t have to add to seasonal stress. With these tips and shortcuts, there will be plenty of sweet treats for the family.

Stick with tested recipes

Although holiday bakers may want to branch out a bit with their culinary creativity, recipes that have previously been prepared with great success can take some of the work out of holiday baking. Preparing recipes you recall preparing in the past is much easier than trying something new. If you’d like, add sparkle to old standards, such as decorating oatmeal or chocolate chip cookies with colored sprinkles.

Cookies are fast-baking

Did you know that cookies were originally made to test oven temperatures? Culinary historians say that cookies were first made to test if an oven was hot enough to bake other goods. Today, cookies can be whipped up in mere minutes. Make a batch of dough and then freeze or refrigerate it, thawing it when the time comes to bake. Also, think about baking one day and decorating the next if pressed for time.

Embrace colored candy melts

Icing can be tricky to master. Simply heating colored candy melts and pouring over cakes or painting onto cookies can add festive appeal to desserts. Candy melts even come in many different colors and can be combined to achieve the tint desired.

Keep ingredients in top form

Don’t let poorly performing ingredients or a lack of supplies be your undoing. Butter can be softened quickly in the microwave when needed for recipes. Eggs can be brought to room temperature by allowing them to sit in a bowl of warm water. Ensure that brown sugar stays soft by putting a piece of sliced bread in the container. Don’t forget to stock up on other baking staples, such as vanilla and almond extracts, baking powder/soda, molasses, and confectioner’s sugar.

Don’t bake from scratch

Not all recipes need to be made from scratch. Boxed cake mixes can be embellished and turned into delicious desserts without much fuss. Substitute melted butter for oil, buttermilk for water, and add an extra egg for a rich cake. Mix in chocolate chips or nuts or experiment with garnishes for a festive look.

Parchment paper is key

Line cookie sheets or cake pans with parchment paper for easy dessert release and quick cleanup. Parchment paper and even foil can help lift cakes or cookie bars out of pans so they look neat and do not stick.

Holiday baking can be made much easier by employing a few tricks of the trade.

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Various Ways You Can Put Pumpkins to Use

Few items signal the fall harvest season more than the bright, orange pumpkins that dot fields and liven up displays outside of homes and businesses. Come fall, many pumpkins are turned into grinning jack-o-lanterns just in time for Halloween. But there are many other uses for pumpkins as well.

Pumpkins are believed to have originated in North America. Early Native Americans relied on pumpkins as a source of food that helped them survive long winters. Pumpkins could be roasted, baked, boiled, and dried, and they were eaten and used as medicine. Pumpkin blossoms were added to stews. The shells of the pumpkins could be dried and used as eating and storage vessels.

While pumpkins may now be symbolic of Halloween, the following are a handful of additional ways this versatile fruit can be put to use.

Beauty regimen

Pumpkins contain a number of essential vitamins and minerals that can help replenish the skin. Pumpkin purée can be mixed with honey, aloe vera gel, olive oil, and a bit of cornmeal to create an exfoliating mask for the face or body. Pumpkin also can be used to rejuvenate dry or tired skin from cold weather.

Honey, pumpkin and yogurt can be mixed together and used to condition hair. Let the mixture sit for 15 to 20 minutes, and then wash it out and shampoo.

Foods and beverages

Pumpkin purée is the basis for many tasty, pumpkin-infused treats. Purée can be used in pies, cakes, muffins, breads, and many additional foods. Pumpkin purée also may be found in certain beverages, such as smoothies and shakes. A bit of spiced purée may appear as flavoring in teas and coffees.

Roasted pumpkin seeds make a healthy treat. Foodies suggest using the seeds from “sugar pumpkins” or the ones best for making pies. Boil the seeds for a few minutes before draining. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray and put the seeds in a single layer. Bake at 400 F for 20 minutes. Allow to cool and serve.

Pumpkin wines and beers are popular as well. There are many recipes for developing sweet, fermented beverages, which tend to be especially popular in the fall.

The “guts” of the pumpkin can be simmered along with aromatics and other vegetables to create a vegetable stock perfect for soups and broths.

Decorations

Pumpkins can also add to one’s home décor during the fall. Pumpkins can be carved for Halloween displays, hollowed-out to hold tealights or simply left on tables and used as centerpieces. Larger pumpkins may be used as natural flower pots for mums or other seasonal floral displays. As the Native Americans once did, pumpkins can be hollowed-out and used as bowls to serve favorite soups and dips.

Use a hollowed, small pumpkin as a natural aromatic candle holder. Cut holes in the sides to vent the exhaust. Rub aromatic spices, such as cloves, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, and vanilla bean, on the inside of the pumpkin. Insert a beeswax candle in the bottom of the pumpkin and let it send inviting aromas into the air.

Pumpkins are a versatile fruit that can serve many purposes beyond just jack-o-lanterns and pies.

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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How to Organize the Pantry

Since the advent of supermarkets and warehouse stores, many food shoppers have embraced buying in bulk. Buying in bulk can help shoppers save money and avoid last-minute trips to the grocery store in search of missing ingredients, but all those extra items also necessitate more careful pantry planning.

People already short on space may need to reorganize their pantries to make room for items purchased in bulk. Purging a pantry of expired items and developing an organizational strategy that works may take a little time. But once a system is in place, cooking and meal planning should become a lot easier.

1. Declutter

It’s difficult to get organized if you’re holding on to items you no longer use. Therefore, go through the pantry and find any expired foods and half-eaten items that have gravitated to the back of the cabinet or closet. After you go through everything, you will likely find that you have much more room than you once thought.

2. Empty the rest

Before placing items back in the pantry, take inventory of what you have. Getting them out in the open will enable you to see exactly what’s there and get an idea of what you purchase the most. This will help you set up food zones or purchase containers that will fit your pantry better. If you have unspoiled foods that you are unlikely eat, donate them to a food bank. Now that the pantry is empty, take this opportunity to clean and adjust the shelves.

3. Downsize from bulky packaging

Bulky packages may not fit in your pantry. Invest in plastic or glass containers with lids that will keep foods visible, neat and fresh.

4. Establish food zones

Establishing food zones is a great way to organize a pantry and make meal time more efficient. Group breakfast foods together and store pastas and sauces near each other. Use a basket for baking items, including smaller spices or things like baking powder that can get lost in large cabinets. Then all you have to do is reach in and find something easily.

5. Keep a running inventory

Routinely look in the pantry to determine what you need. This prevents overspending on items you already have and also ensures your pantry won’t grow cluttered with repeat items.

Organizing pantries may take a little time, but a little organization can open up a lot of space and make it easier to prepare meals each day.

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Improve Quality Of Life in 2017

Legend states that on April 2, 1513, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León was the first European to discover modern-day Florida when he traveled on a quest for the mythical “Fountain of Youth.” While modern science has proven that there is no mystical fountain or body of water that can reverse or slow down the aging process, there are many steps people can take to age well and prolong their lives.

Eating the right foods is one way to age well. According to Ralph Felder, M.D., Ph.D., coauthor of “The Bonus Years Diet,” reversing the aging process internally is more difficult than outward cosmetic changes. But the right foods can go a long way toward increasing both life expectancy and quality of life. Those who want to employ diet to increase their life expectancy may want to start adding more of the following foods to their breakfast, lunch and dinner plates.

· Broccoli, grapes and salad: According to Health magazine, researchers have found that compounds in these three foods boast extra life-extending benefits.

· Berries: In addition to their abundance of antioxidants, berries have other benefits. A 2012 study from Harvard University found that at least one serving of blueberries or two servings of strawberries each week may reduce the risk of cognitive decline in older adults.

· Fruits and vegetables: Produce is good for the body because it’s low in calories and high in fiber, vitamins and other nutrients. Numerous studies have indicated that diets plentiful in fruits and vegetables help people maintain a healthy weight and protect against cardiovascular disease.

· Whole grains: Whole grains pack a lot of nutrition into a low-calorie food. Whole grains help protect against type 2 diabetes, and researchers at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center found study participants whose diets included plenty of whole grains and fruit cut their heart disease risk by almost half compared to those whose diets favored meat and fatty foods.

· Red wine: A glass a day for women and no more than two glasses daily for men can be beneficial. Moderate consumption of red wine has been shown to slow age-related declines in cardiovascular function, according to the American Heart Association.

· Fiber: Increase your fiber intake for a longer life. Research from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition finds that the more fiber you include in your diet, the lower your risk of coronary heart disease. The daily recommendation is 25 to 35 grams.

While there may be no such thing as the fountain of youth, a healthy diet can help men and women prolong their lives.

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How Bulk Cooking Can Make Meals Easier

Healthy family meals can get lost in the shuffle of busy schedules. Convenience may win out when parents are short on time, and it’s hard not to be enticed by the ease of fast food or the lure of frozen foods. While these options are certainly fine on occasion, there is a more nutritious solution for time-crunched families.


Planning is a big part of enjoying a homecooked meal, and cooking in bulk can help families enjoy more homecooked meals. By thinking ahead about meals, you can more easily enjoy homecooked dinners than if you were to wait until the last minute to think about what’s for dinner.

If bulk cooking is a foreign concept, the following are some resources to help you along.

veg1· Get started by browsing cookbooks, online recipes or speaking with friends and family members about their favorite meals, especially those that may be popular with younger eaters. Concentrate on a specific meal each day. Dinner is the meal many families hope to share, as breakfast and lunch are often eaten outside of the home. Make a list of the ingredients that go into your family’s favorite meals, selecting recipes that use many of the same ingredients.

· Wait until you have a free schedule and ample time to go to the store to shop for all of your supplies. Have a list on hand and check off each item as you find it. Cooking in bulk also means you can buy in bulk. Very often bulk-size foods are discounted, saving you both time and money. Shop for the staples that are needed for most meals, including fresh herbs, cheese, spices, oil, and whatever flavorings your family finds most appealing. Large bags of rice and potatoes also are handy to have available.

· Take advantage of warehouse club membership fees or manufacturer or store coupon deals on multiple buy specials. Buying jumbo-sized packages of food makes more sense when you intend to cook in bulk.

· Clean out the refrigerator and freezer, as you will need plenty of room to store your ingredients, and later, your prepared meals. Figure out when you will be doing the cooking so you know what will need to be refrigerated or frozen once you return from the supermarket.

· Establish a dedicated cooking day. Many bulk cookers cook on the weekend. You may be able to have a spouse or friend take the children for the day so there will be no interruptions.veg2

· Gather all items that need to be chopped or sliced and set them aside. Leave ample time to chop or slice, which can take a lot of time. Use all of your available cooking resources, such as the grill, stovetop, oven, and slow cooker, at once. Then just drop the ingredients in as necessary.

· Have plenty of freezer-safe storage containers on hand. Divvy up the meals into containers and label clearly. Now each day of the week you have a fast meal that can be heated up in no time. Fresh bread and a salad may be the only other components you need.


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