Cooking Basics to Help You Relax and Enjoy

Cooking is and should be enjoyable. With today’s economy people are eating at home more and learning ways to create their favorite meals and save money.

Cutting back on your food budget and saving time in the kitchen are both possible. Cooking shows on TV are a great inspiration and recipes for any type of food can be found on the Internet. The added benefit for you and your family is healthier eating. You will be amazed at how much less fat and sugar you consume when eating homemade.

Owning a few basic pieces of cookware and adding to them as finances allow and skills improve will create excellent meals. The following is a list of kitchen basics that are a good start and very versatile. When you have the right equipment, cooking becomes less challenging and more fun. An experience enjoyed by the whole family.

Pots and Pans

  • 10″ Cast Iron Fry Pan
  • 12″ Non Stick Sauté Pan with lid. Sauté pans have straight sides as opposed to the sloping sides of fry pans.
  • Sauce Pan with lid – 1 and 3 quart Stainless Steel
  • Cast Iron Dutch Oven – 6 or 8 quart with lid
  • Large Stock Pot
  • Large Clay Baker for Turkey, Chicken and Roast Beef
  • Baking sheets – 1 cookie sheet and 1 jelly roll pan with turned up edges.
  • Cake Pans – 1 8″ square, 2 round, 1 13″x19″ rectangular baking pan
  • Cooling Rack
  • Casserole Dishes – 2 or 3 ranging in size from 1 1/2 quart to 3 quart

Cutlery

  • Chef’s Knife – great all-purpose knife for all kinds of chopping and slicing
  • Bread Knife – serrated edge knife
  • Paring Knife – a shorter knife of 3 to 5 inches

Kitchen Tools

  • Digital Instant Thermometer – essential for grilling and oven roasting
  • Tongs – short and long
  • Whisk – 1 small and 1 large
  • Turners – 1 or 2
  • Measuring cups for both dry and wet ingredients
  • Measuring Spoons
  • Pastry Blender – this U shaped device is used for cutting butter into flour

When it comes to herbs and spices remember less is more for the novice cook. Always start out with a small amount, whether it is pepper, garlic, or cinnamon. You can always correct the seasoning right before serving or next time you make the recipe. But, you don’t want to ruin your meal with an overly seasoned dish.

When preparing recipes, remember that most recipes are not an exact science. Take chances, experiment, try new foods and substitute. Just because the recipe calls for beef doesn’t mean you can’t use chicken. If you don’t have fresh tomatoes use canned. The regular grocery store has hundreds of items that can make your meals special and healthier.

If you have questions while cooking, hop on-line, there is a plethora of knowledge and recipes available all over the web. Begin right at home by asking friends what they would do in a certain situation. Most cooks love what they are doing and are more …

Old-Fashioned Pineapple Pound Cake Dessert

If you enjoy old-fashioned pineapple pound cake, I think you will appreciate this recipe from my grandmother. This is a really delicious dessert cake that I like to make and serve during the summer months.

If desired, you can make the recipe using the topping listed below, or you can completely omit it and leave the cake plain.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

1/2 lb. butter, softened

2 3/4 cups granulated sugar

6 large eggs

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 cup milk

3/4 cup canned un-drained crushed pineapples with juice

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 cup crushed pineapples, drained

Tip: Do not substitute margarine for the butter.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the shortening, butter and granulated sugar. Slowly add in the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour with the baking powder and then add it to the creamed mixture, 1 large spoonful at a time, alternately with the milk. Stir in the vanilla extract and crushed pineapples with the juice, blend all ingredients well.

Lightly spray a 10″ round tube pan with nonstick cooking spray. Pour the pound cake batter into the prepared baking pan and place in a cold oven. Turn the heat on to 325 degrees and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly touched.

To make the pineapple topping: In a large bowl, combine the confectioner’s sugar, 1/4 cup softened butter and the 1 cup of drained crushed pineapples. Pour this mixture over your hot cake and then let it cool.…

Cheesy Tater Tot Casserole

Casseroles are a popular choice for dinner because they are generally quick and easy to make. Below is a recipe for tater tot casserole. This is an easy recipe that moms or dads can make after a hectic day at work. You can make this a leaner dish by substituting the ground beef for ground chicken or ground turkey. It also calls for cream of celery soup. You can also put two cans of cheese soup or any of your other favorite creamed soups.

Ingredients

2 lb ground beef

1 10.5 oz can of cream of celery soup (some brands may say 10 3/4 oz but it's okay)

1 10.5 oz can of cheese soup

2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp onion powder

1 8 ounce package of cheddar cheese

1 14.5 ounce can of green beans

Non stick cooking spray

1 regular package of tater tots

9×13 baking dish

Technique

Preheat oven to 450 degrees or according the directions on the package of tater tots.

1) Place ground beef in a skillet along with 1 tsp of garlic powder and 1 tsp onion powder for flavor. Brown hamburger and drain. (Juices will run clear when hamburger is cooked)

2) Place ground beef in a mixing bowl along with the cheese soup, cream of celery soup, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, can of green beans and 1/4 package of cheddar cheese. Mix well.

3) Spray baking dish. Take mixture and place in dish. Spread evenly.

4) Add tater tots to the top of mixture. Spray tater tots lightly with cooking spray to achieve a crisp taste.

5) Bake in oven 18-22 minutes or until tater tots are golden brown.

6) Remove from oven and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Put back in the oven and bake 5 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

After you remove this from the oven, let it sit about 5 minutes before serving. This is a great dish to take to a family gathering or a pot luck. If served for dinner, it is best served with a side salad. …

Jiggly Wiggly Edible Hands – A Spooktacular Halloween Treat!

Jiggly Wiggly Hands make a really fun and creepy treat that your little group of ghouls and goblins will gobble up. Try this recipe out for the upcoming Halloween festivities.

This Halloween snack is easy to make and more fun to eat. But also, the jello treat you are about to make is a great idea for an edible decoration if you are planning on having a Halloween party.

What you’ll need:

– 2 1/2 cups of boiling water

– 4 packages* of any flavored gelatin

– 2 disposable gloves (clean!)

– cooking spray

– prepared drink mix or carbonated beverage

* each package serves four

First of all, stir the boiling water into the flavored gelatin. Use a medium-sized bowl and stir for around 2 minutes until the gelatin is dissolved. Then, refrigerate the mixture for around 10 minutes to cool.

While you are letting the gelatin cool, soak the 2 disposable gloves in warm water and make sure you rinse it well. You will need to squeeze out all the excess water to make the gloves dry out faster.

Next, take the gloves and spray the insides with the cooking spray. The reason you need to do this is so the gloves will be easier to remove from the gelatin, so make sure you are thorough when you spray the gloves. Then, slowly pour the gelatin into the gloves. Using a funnel to do this is very helpful. Once the gloves are filled, tie the opening with a twistie or use a rubber band. Place the filled gloves on a cookie or baking sheet. You will need to refrigerate the gloves for at least 4 hours or until the gelatin is set.

Once the gelatin has been refrigerated long enough, you simply cut the gloves away and presto! you have 2 Jiggly Wiggly Hands!

Now, you can use your hands as a decoration for your party that can be eaten later, or place the hands in a bowl of the chilled drink mix or soda and serve! Your guests will think you are the coolest and the kids will want to eat the hands immediately! Have fun!…

Where to Eat on Koh Samui

When you first imagine Koh Samui you would be forgiven for thinking that a tropical island in Thailand would be somewhat limited in terms of the dining options on offer. Sure there will be some decent traditional Thai food and not much else, but that could not be further from the truth. Samui now boasts a multitude of top class restaurants featuring cuisine from across the globe as well as more than just "decent" Thai food. While the majority of restaurants tend to be in and around Chaweng Beach it would be a mistake not to make the effort to explore farther afield as there are some fantastic restaurants spread all across the island. The following are just a selection of what Samui has to offer, and you would be well advised to try at least one of them during your stay – you certainly will not regret it!

Time for Romance

On The Rocks at Sila Evason Hideaway

Dining on the Rocks, the signature restaurant of the Sila Evason Hideaway & Spa, boasts uninterrupted 270 degree views of the surrounding sea and exceeding islands. With tables for two spread over no less than eight different areas, there are never more than a handful of tables in any one section. The most romantic spot however must be the single table which sits alone on its own private deck which is so popular with couples it is often booked days in advance. The menu is innovative and not only reflects a fusion of Asian and Western styles, but also offers some unusual contrasts which can best be described as "New Asian Cuisine" with a wine selection especially chosen to accompany every dish. Try the "Experiences" 10 course set dinner to get a real taste of what this restaurant it all about.

Tempting Thai

Chef Chom's at Tongsai Bay Cottages

This is one restaurant that can really claim to offer "Royal Thai Cuisine", as Chef Chom herself comes from a family who used to cook in the palace of the late Princess Vibhavadee Rangsit. Equally delicious is the more home style Thai cooking, which features the award winning "Tongsai Thai Salad with Seafood".

The restaurant itself sits on a low hill and is extremely spacious and airy, with seating both inside and out, and naturally offers some great views of the bay below. After being somewhat off the beat track at Choeng Mon Beach, it is well worth the effort to make the trip at least once during your stay.

Gourmet Dining

Betelnut

Betelnut has now been around long enough to be classed as a Samui institution, offering casual yet elegant dining in an intimate setting. Operations are overseen by experienced chef Jeffrey Lord, who's innovative, creative and spontaneous dishes are a unique fusion of Thai, Californian, European and Japanese styles. Although the menu is small, it offers a wide range of flavors and textures. For serious food lovers, Jeffrey can design special tasting menus with advance notice. Among the dishes on …

Factors Responsible for the Growth of the Instant Drink Market in India

India is a predominantly agricultural economy and produces a large variety of agriculture produce for consumption such as vegetables, fruits, spices, etc. Traditionally, the home cooked food has been held to be the most hygienic and this perspective remains largely unchanged till date. With the growth of population and economy and with people in cities becoming busier in their occupations, there has been a gradual shift in the patterns of consumables. The initiation of the bottled and packaged milk was perhaps first such daily consumable popular commodity which was processed in industry before being delivered to the homes of the people. Emergence of the packaged Indian food, with due value additions and standard levels of hygiene regulations, has been a pointer to the coming of age of the Agro processing industry.

The instant drink market which was earlier dominated by the soft drinks has transitioned to being more agro and dairy-centric in nature. There are the ready-to-drink (bitter gourd) products available in the market along with the ones which need to be made (granular instant coffee). The main factors which have led to the emergence of the instant drink in India are the following:

1. Agro-processing technology: With an existing strength in the sound agricultural base, it was the availability of technology which paved the way for the value addition to the raw commodities and making them ready to eat.

2. Development of quick delivery distribution channels: The dairy- based products are perishable and have a particular shelf life. These have to be consumed within a particular time period to the target market. This requires investments in the delivery channels as well as in developing the storage facilities.

3. Changing Lifestyles: In the cities, there have been more marked changes in the lifestyles where both men and women lead busy lives, often having little time for home cooking or preparations. The changes in the lifestyles often leave little time for preparing even the traditional drinks.

4. Quality products: Industry standards and regulations ensure that these products do conform to acceptable standards of hygiene. Quality-control is strictly enforced in the manufacturing facilities of these products. With assured quality, the products have become more acceptable to the person which has led to the growth in their demand.

5. Advertising: Advertising also has played a major part in popularizing these products. When the people see that the traditional Indian food can be prepared in such a short span of time using these methods, there is a definite urge to try these products once. Even if the households can cook the food traditional way, there is a tendency to make use of the instant drink and food occasionally. So, as these products are available, there are greater choices for the people and the real good ones among these create a need and consequent good demand for themselves in no time.

Greater acceptability: These products are more acceptable to the people now. The ones which deliver on taste and quality find ready acceptance and become …

Stocking a Healthy Pantry: What is on Your Shelves?

I love to cook and am addicted to cooking shows. Many cooking shows emhasize the well-stocked pantry, but only a few emphasize the healthy pantry, a pantry stocked with low-salt, low-fat foods. Although the contents of my pantry varies with the season, I always have healthy foods on hand. I keep these foods in mind when planning meals. The foods are grouped in categories and I have labeled the shelves. What is in my pantry?

VEGETABLES

Canned dipped tomatoes (no salt)

Canned tomato sauce (no salt)

Canned corn (no salt)

Canned artichokes, packed in water

Roasted red peppers

Water chestnuts (sliced)

Green chilies (chopped)

Dehydrated onions

FRUITS

Canned peaches (lite or sweetened with Splenda)

Canned pears (lite or sweetened with Splenda)

Mandarin oranges

Unsweetened apple sauce

Dried apples

Dried cranberries

Dried cherries

GRAINS

Basmati rice

Brown rice

Wild rice

Wheat pasta (spaghetti, angel hair, spirals)

Oatmeal (regular and steel-cut)

Corn meal

Shredded wheat

Wheat flakes

NUTS AND SEEDS

Walnuts (whole and pieces)

Almonds (sliced ​​and slivered)

Unsalted peanuts

Reduced fat peanut butter

Sesame seeds

Celery seeds

Caraway seeds

STAPLES

Wheat and white flour (combined)

Gravy flour

Sugar (2 pounds or less)

Honey

Splenda

Splenda Blend for Baking

Calorie-free brown sugar

Cocoa powder

Baking powder

Baking soda

Cornstarch

Sodium-free bullion cubes (chicken and beef)

Dried buttermilk

Sugar-free strawberry, apricot and orange jam

FISH

Canned tuna (packed in water)

Canned crab (packed in water)

Canned salmon

VINEGARS AND OILS

Rice wine vinegar

Cider vinegar

Red wine vinegar

Balsamic vinegar (small bottle)

Extra light olive oil

Canola oil

Cooking spray (olive oil or corn oil)

SEASONS

Low sodium salt

Pepper: coarse ground, lemon and seasoned

Italian seasonings: dried basil, thyme, oregano

Baking seasonings: ground cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger

Onion powder

Garlic powder

Vanilla, almond, and orange extracts

ONCE IN A WHILE FOODS

Low-sodium celery soup

Low-sodium logo soup

Marinara or spaghetti sauce (lowest salt I can find)

Sugar free mousse mix (chocolate and vanilla)

Angel food cake mix

Corn muffin mix

Yellow cake mix

Having a healthy pantry helps me to prepare healthy meals. To make meals even healthier I buy seasonal fruits and vegetables. I have told you what is in my pantry. What is in yours? If you have not stocked your pantry with healthy foods I hope you will do it today. Eating healthy foods will help you to have a healthy life.

Copyright 2006 by Harriet Hodgson …

Improving the Safety of Barbecue Grills

One of the great joys of warm weather is the opportunity to cook outside on a barbeque grill. Grill safety, however, is sometimes an after thought often resulting in accidents. Improving the safety of barbeque grills should be a priority of any outdoor cook.

Whether cooking on a gas or charcoal grill, there is something fundamentally satisfying about open air cooking. That feeling of joy can turn to pain and despair if a grill accident results in someone being hurt. We have to remember that a lit grill is a hazardous instrument if safety is ignored.

The list below outlines rules that should be followed to improve the safety of barbeque grills.

  1. You must have a clean grill! Clean with an oiled paper towel or cloth.
  2. For a charcoal grill use a chimney starter.
  3. Be sure the vents are open.
  4. Use a grill basket for whole fish, fish steaks or fillets.
  5. Use basting brushes made of natural materials, avoid synthetics.
  6. Use long handles tongs and spatulas.
  7. Keep a spray bottle near by to put down flare ups.
  8. When checking meat to determine if done use an instant read thermometer.
  9. Clean the grate with a wire brush.
  10. Keep the grill away from the house.
  11. Open the lid before lighting a gas grill.
  12. Store propane outside, not in direct sunlight.
  13. Never add lighter fluid to a lit fire.
  14. Never use a grill that is not steady.
  15. Never use cooking sprays around a lit grill.
  16. Use cooking gloves to prevent burns.
  17. Be mindful of children and pets.
  18. Start cooking with a hot surface. Preheating the grill will prevent your food from sticking.

Just always remember to consider "Safety First" then fun! …

Cookies, Anyone?

I answered the quiet knock at my door, wondering who could be there. As an American attending a Spanish language school in Guadalajara, Mexico, I was very new to my neighborhood. A shy smile greeted me, and a 5-year-old little boy said softly, “My mother sent this over for you. She wanted you to try some special Mexican food.” The plate he thrust into my hands contained what I recognized as chiles rellenos, mild chilies stuffed with cheese and fried in a foamy egg batter. They’re delicious! Instead of simply acknowledging my appreciation for his mother’s kind gesture, I followed the local custom of saying, “Thank you, I’ll return the plate later.” I had learned that the one who receives the food should return the plate filled with a similar gift. Inwardly, I congratulated myself on how well I was learning about the culture.

Now, which was good practice then, I wondered what would be the best food to return to my neighbors. It should be something the whole family could enjoy, and it would be nice to give them something typically American as a special treat. As my brain ran through a list of possibilities, it stopped on chocolate chip cookies. What could be better? They would make an especially nice gift because at that time chocolate chips weren’t available in the stores in our area of the city. I had just driven up to the border the week prior to renew my visa and shopped for some staples in a large grocery store while there, so I was well stocked with baking supplies.

As I mixed the dough, I decided to add some nuts and raisins. Okay, so they wouldn’t be typical chocolate chip cookies after all, but my neighbors would enjoy the taste. I had read in a magazine that adding some instant coffee to cookie dough bumps up the flavor, so included a teaspoon of that too.

My sparsely furnished home didn’t have a stove with an oven, but that wasn’t going to ruin my plan. I knew that some cookies could be baked in an electric skillet, so decided to give it a try. I plugged in the skillet and placed a coffee can lid in the center to serve as a trivet. While it heated I looked for a pan that would fit in the limited space the skillet provided. The only one I could find that wasn’t too large was a 9-inch cake pan. That’ll work, I thought. There was just one little problem-the cake pan could only accommodate four cookies at a time. I wasn’t about to give up now. It would just take more batches to use up all of the sweet, spicy dough. When I started my little cooking operation I had no idea that each batch took more than 30 minutes to cook due to the reduced heat. The old electric skillet I had at the time just didn’t match a nice hot oven. Finally, after working in the …

Best Slow Cooker – Programmable Slow Cooker With Meat Thermometer

Of the best 6 quart programmable slow cookers on the market, one of them has a unique feature that makes it the best slow cooker for many families.

The special unique feature the Hamilton Beach 33967 Set ‘n Forget 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker, that makes it the best slow cooker in this category, is the meat thermometer.

If your family would like to regularly enjoy a moist slow cooker roast, tender turkey breast, pork tenderloin, or slow cooker chicken, the meat thermometer probe gives you peace of mind and worry-free results. When you use your Hamilton Beach programmable slow cooker with meat thermometer to help you make dinner, the meat portion of your meal will always be cooked to perfection when you are ready to serve. If you are concerned a programmable slow cooker might be hard to use, you may be pleasantly surprised.

Cooking with the Meat Thermometer Probe

You simply insert the meat thermometer probe into the middle or thickest part of the meat, through a tiny hole in the lid. Select high or low and set the temperature. The probe monitors the cooking process until the meat has reached the set temperature. Once the desired internal temperature is reached, as per the food safety guidelines, the meat is cooked and the unit automatically switches to warm mode. Warm mode will keep your meal warm until you are ready to start serving.

If you cook chicken or turkey breast, pork chops or large pieces of meat regularly, the meat thermometer probe will be a frequently used feature, as it will ensure the meat is perfectly cooked every time. No need for you to calculate or guess how long it will take to cook, and therefore, there is no risk of under or over cooking the meat. Ingenious! In my opinion, the meat thermometer has got to be one of the best reasons to own this particular model.

To use the program cooking mode, just put your meal together in the cooker, select the cooking time, choose the heat setting, and then you can literally walk away. Which is exactly why it is called Set ‘n Forget. Once the cooking time has finished, it will automatically switch to warm mode.

Hamilton Beach 33967 – More Special Features

This Hamilton Beach crock pot has some additional special features, for example, power-interrupt protection, a clip-on spoon, a clip-tight gasket lid and side handles which make it easy and safe to carry or move. I really like the clip-tight gasket lid which is designed to prevent spilling your pot luck dinner in the car on the way to the party. The gasket also prevents the lid from developing a steam pressure rattle; instead, your slow cooker will just quietly simmer away on the counter top.

A Hamilton Beach Slow Cooker is a Real Time Saver!

This good looking, generously proportioned, oval Hamilton Beach 6 quart slow cooker easily takes up to a 7 pound roast of meat, a turkey breast or whole …