Tricks to Get Kids to Eat Love Spicy Food

7 Tricks to Get Kids to Eat Sriracha—and Love Spicy Food photo

So thank God for Sriracha. Turns out, the bright red hot sauce in the squeezable bottle was the perfect way to get my wary kids to embrace, even learn to love, a little heat. Three years after the General Tso’s incident, spicy is no longer the enemy, and Edie and Lucy sometimes even ask me to turn up the heat. Here’s how I brought them around:

Step One: No Sriracha
Wait. Isn’t this supposed to be a Sriracha Strategy? Yes. But you have to prime them first. Spend some time introducing aromatic, no-heat spices like garlic, cumin, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, and turmeric. Get their palates ramped up. They are going to be less surprised about a touch of heat if variation and hyper-flavor are the norm.

Step Two: Mum’s the Word
When Lucy was 3 and Edie was 2, they scarfed down some homemade duck confit, but then, mid-chew, Lucy asked what they were eating. When I told her, she burst into tears, spit out the remnants, and initiated a two-year-long duck boycott. From then on, I learned to serve them fairly sophisticated food under the generic names “meat” and “soup.” My girls would never eat pâté if I told them it was liver. But, not knowing, they’ll heap chicken-liver pâté onto their little slices of toasted baguette and stuff it all in their mouths.

So it goes with Sriracha. Children don’t need to know that you’re trying to introduce something new, or that kids their age in Asia eat spicy food all the time. They just need to enjoy eating, and we need to leave the hairy details in the kitchen.

Step Three: Stealth Mode
Don’t empty the whole Sriracha bottle onto their eggs as your first move! Instead, be a ninja. First, add a drop or two to the egg wash of their chicken fingers, the dipping sauce of their dumplings, the ketchup on their burgers. The squeeze bottle is genius for controlling the flow, so give them just the faintest taste. If they ask you, “Is it spicy?,” you can, without any ethical dilemma, say no. And while I just told you, in Step Two, to omit the truth on occasion, it’s pretty nice as well not to have to lie to your own children.

Step Four: Ramp It Up
Once they’ve got a taste for the mild, you are free to go a little wild. Smear a little on their bacon-and-egg sandwich, slick it across the surface of their ramen, squirt it on their chicken wings. You are going for a little more robust heat here, and while you’re no longer masking, you don’t want to freak them out with a glob of hot sauce, so don’t slather—just stir, rub, mix it in. If they protest, you can say, “Oh, you ate this in your dumplings” or “You loved it on the egg rolls last night!” If they’ve eaten it before and liked it, they have little grounds for protest.

Step Five: Acknowledge Jekyll & Hyde
I knew I had something going when Edie stopped asking, “Is this spicy?,” and instead held up her spoon and asked, “Good spicy or bad spicy?” Not all heat is created equal. Eating a ghost pepper on YouTube—so your face turns red and puffy and you sweat like a wrestler and beg for milk—is “bad spicy.” Eating a squirt of Sriracha on your taco is “good spicy.” Kids soon understand that “spicy” can mean lots of things—mild, medium, or stupid—and they can adjust to what suits them over time.

Step Six: Court Danger
There comes a point—for my kids it was at nearly 6 years old—when things that could blow you up, set you on fire, or break your bones become terribly attractive. That’s when Sriracha gets sexy. It’s something grown-ups eat, something only tough kids can handle.

So I laid out a table of mild to hot things: paprika, jalapeños, serranos, habaneros, Sriracha, various other hot sauces—and glasses of milk. We tried them one by one, little chunks of pepper, or dots of sauce on our fingers. They nibbled and licked. They laughed and made ugly faces. They loved the drama and surprise: judging what tasted good and what was too spicy; the shock of eating something too spicy and having to chug down the milk. That’s when heat became cool. And so did they.

Step Seven: Embrace the Heat
Hand over the bottle, and let them serve themselves. It could take weeks. It could take days. It could take years—and maybe, for some kids, never. Even now, my girls aren’t exactly fighting over the Sriracha bottle. But just the other week Edie accidentally ate a spot of wasabi on her sushi. She swished it around her mouth, and said to her sister, “Oh, that’s not so hot.” Then, for the first time ever, she grabbed a little dollop of the green stuff on her chop sticks, and swished it around in her soy sauce. She dunked her sushi, just like she had seen me do it countless times. Then she popped it in her mouth and smiled.

History of Onigiri in Japan

hidaka
copyright : iromegane

One of the best snack you can get in Japan is onigiri (おにぎり/rice ball). There are konbini (コ ンビニ) every corner and you an pick one or two from a hundred (it´s really a lot! ) of choice of stuffing. Good thing about this snack is much healthier than other things such as crisps, doughnuts, chocolate bars or a slice of pizza.For Japanese people, onigiri is like hotdogs for New Yorkers or sandwiches for English people. The function is exactly the same, which you can munch it without interrupting what you are doing.

Onigiri are made for many occasions. School excursion, sports day, picnic, hanami (picnic under the cherry blossoms), at the beach or a hiking. It´s easy to carry since the rice and the side dish are all in one. Also it gives you enough energy to carry on the rest of the day. Whoever invented this, he or she was genius.

nigiri

 

This is the very first onigiri excavated in Japan and is thought to be from about 2,000 years ago. It´s completely carbonised but the archaeologists have found the finger marks, which came from by squeezing the rice.  Japanese people have been eating rice for a long time.

 

tonjiki

Onigiri became onigiri as we eat now during Heian period (794-1185/1192) and it was called tonjiki (頓食). It´s possible that the English translation, rice ball comes from this tonjiki because it had a round egg shape.

Tonjiki was served to shimozukae (下仕え) who worked at the court to do small jobs.

onigiri-1

In the middle of Edo period, to be more exact, during Genroku period (元禄時代, 1688-1704), processed seaweed as we know now became accessible to common people and people began to wrap the rice ball with nori (海苔/ seaweed). It was the time when the cling wrap wasn´t invented at all, so wrapping onigiri with a sheet of seaweed must´ve been a revolution. Thanks to nori, we can eat onigiri without having the sticky hands.

 

In Edo era, onigiri was considered as a carrying food. If you look at Hiroshige Ando´s wood block print, the famous “Tokaido Gojusan tsugi (東海道五十三次/ 53 Stations of Tokaido)“, you can see the travellers eating onigiri happily.

onigiri shape

By the way, onigiri is also called omusubi (おむすび) or nigirimeshi (握り飯) depending on the regions. Different way of calling it can be a dialect. In fact, onigiri is the most common name for rice balls in Japan but around Kanto-Tokaido area, omusubi is more common, although in Tokyo and Kanagawa prefecture, people say onigiri. However, the different names also come from the shape.

Omusubi is squeezed in a mountain shape (triangle) as a symbol of the God in order to receive the power of the God. In this theory, only the one in the triangle shape is omusubi. However, the word onigiri comes from nigirimeshi. Nigiru (握る) means squeeze.

Onigiri has been and is a Japanese soul food and recently it´s becoming more common in many Western countries. If not, ask your Japanese neighbours or classmates. I´m sure they will be happy to make you some. Not only that but that will be a good excuse to make more Japanese friends. Enjoy your onigiri!

Lemon cod with basil bean mash

Lemon cod with basil bean mash

Ingredients

  • 2 small bunches cherry tomatoes, on the vine
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • chunks skinless cod or other white fish fillet
  • zest 1 lemon, plus juice of ½
  • 240g pack frozen soya beans
  • 1 garlic clove
  • bunch basil, leaves and stalks separated
  • 100ml chicken or vegetable stock

 

Method

  1. Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Put the tomatoes onto a baking tray, rub with a little oil and some seasoning, then roast for 5 mins until the skins are starting to split. Add the fish to the tray, top with most of the lemon zest and some more seasoning, then drizzle with a little more oil. Roast for 8-10 mins until the fish flakes easily.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the beans in a pan of boiling water for 3 mins until just tender. Drain, then tip into a food processor with the rest of the oil, garlic, basil stalks, lemon juice and stock, then pulse to a thick, slightly rough purée. Season to taste.
  3. Divide the tomatoes and mash between two plates, top with the cod, then scatter with basil leaves and the remaining lemon zest to serve.

Cooking with Your Child to Make Spaghetti & meatballs with hidden veg sauce

IngredientsCooking with kids: Spaghetti & meatballs with hidden veg sauce

For the meatballs

  • 300g good quality pork sausages (about 4 large or 8 chipolatas)
  • 500g lean beef mince
  • 1 small onion, coarsely grated
  • 1 carrot, finely grated
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 50g Parmesan, finely grated, plus extra to serve
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

For the tomato sauce

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 courgette, coarsely grated
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • pinch caster sugar
  • splash red wine vinegar
  • 2x 400g tins chopped tomatoes

Method

  1. Children: Squeeze all the sausage meat out of the sausage skins into a large bowl and add the mince. Tip all the rest of the meatball ingredients, except the olive oil, into the bowl and season with black pepper then squish everything together through your hands until completely mixed. Keep an eye on younger children to make sure they don’t taste any of the raw mix.
  2. Children: Roll the meatball mix into walnut-sized balls and place them on a plate – this is a job children as young as 2 can help with and a great job to help teach older children basic division.
  3. Grown ups: While the children are rolling the meatballs make the sauce. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the courgette and garlic and cook for 5 mins until soft and mushy. Stir in the tomato puree, sugar and vinegar leave for 1 min then tip in the tomatoes and simmer for 5 mins. If your children like courgettes then you can leave the sauce chunky. But if, like mine, they hate courgettes then blitz the sauce with a hand blender – either way continue to simmer sauce gently while you cook the meatballs. If your child is confident with heat, from 7+ they can cook the sauce with supervision.
  4. Grown ups: Heat the oil in a large frying pan and, working in batches, brown the meatballs on all sides then pop them into the sauce – continue to simmer the sauce for 15 mins, stirring very gently until the meatballs are cooked through. Serve with cooked spaghetti, extra grated Parmesan and a few torn basil leaves your child has picked and torn.

Myth and Fact of Fruits

1) Myth: There is no difference between dried fruit or fresh fruit.

Fact: Dried fruit and fresh fruit both have health-promoting qualities. Dried fruit has moisture removed, and both nutrients and calories are therefore concentrated. Fresh fruit abounds in minerals and vitamin C, a heat-sensitive vitamin, which is often reduced or lost in dried fruit during processing. Fresh fruit contains water, which can help hydrate your body. Dried fruit are good source of fiber, vitamins and minerals and can be preserved longer than fresh fruit, so you can eat it when the fresh fruit is not in season. Dried fruits are denser than fresh fruit, so they have more calories, so control the portion size if you are on a weight reduction plan. Buy plain dried fruits rather than coated with sugar or added preservatives which in turn will degrade the nutritional value. In order to utilise the maximum benefits of fruit, the fruit you choose, whether fresh or dried, should contain the least chemicals and the most nutrients.

2) Myth: Strawberries should be washed and then stored.

Fact: You have heard that berries are cleaner if you wash them first. It’s better to keep them dry and only wash before using. Strawberries have pores so moisture will create bruising or mold. Unwashed strawberries will typically stay fresh for three to seven days after purchase.

3) Myth: Diabetic patients should not consume fruits.

Fact: Having fruits is a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth and get the extra nutrition you’re looking for. Fruits are loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber just like vegetables. Fruit contains carbohydrate so you need to count it as part of your meal plan; portion size of the fruit has to be controlled.

4) Myth: Because fruits are low in calories, you can have as many as you like.

Fact: Fruits contain simple sugars and also fair amount of calories. Some fruits are low in calories but still need to be consumed in moderation. Excessive calories always leads to weight gain.

5) Myth: Eating too many fruits can cause diabetes.

Fact: Diabetes is the inability of your pancreas to produce sufficient insulin. It is not determined by the amount of fruits you eat.

6) Myth: Eating fruits at bed time is bad.

Fact: Fruits can be a healthy bedtime snack if you don’t go overboard with them. Reaching for a nutritious piece of fruit is a better than having a higher-calorie snack, but it’s best to keep your serving sizes under control.

7) Myth: Drinking fruit juice is as good as whole fruit.

Fact: Fruit has more fiber, fewer calories, and more phytonutrients than juice. There are certain things lacking in fruit juice that exist in the whole fruit, namely fruit skin, which is loaded with antioxidants like flavonoids, and fruit pulp, which is the main source of fruit fiber. In addition, a fruit juice may contain added sugar, colour, or preservatives, which are not healthy .You are better off eating a piece of fruit than drinking a glass of juice.

8) Myth: Fruit bars are equivalents to whole fruits.

Fact: Fruit bars are processed with added sugar and have more calories, compared to fresh fruits. Fruit bars do not have fibre of a whole fruit .So having whole fruits is always better.

9) Myth: Some fruits are healthier than others.

Fact: Each fruit has its own health benefits. Fruits are packed with nutrients and are delicious. The best way to make sure you get the full range of all these beneficial compounds is to eat a variety of fruit rather than just a particular one.

How to Make the Most of Your Culinary School Education

It doesn’t matter what subject you study in college; by the time your senior year rolls around there will be a ton of pressure to find a high paying job. After all, if you don’t know how to make a career with your education, then you will probably be stuck with a lot of expensive student loans to pay off and no way of paying them. If you apply to culinary school, you expect to find a high paying job in the food industry, preferably as a chef. But if you don’t know how to capitalize on that education, you could get stuck for years as a prep cook. Here is how to make the most of your culinary school education.

Don’t Be Discouraged by the Stress

No matter who you are, you are going to get in heated arguments while you are in the kitchen with a good number of your colleagues. It’s just the way of the kitchen. There is often a lot of pressure and high stakes, and the better the caliber of the food, the higher the expectations for perfection will be. While you shouldn’t be discouraged by the stress of the kitchen, you also shouldn’t just ignore it. You should always be working your hardest to increase efficiency in every way possible.

Take a Semester to Travel

With some professions it’s best if you find a job directly out of college, but when it comes to cooking, you could really benefit from taking a semester to travel. You will either want to try to travel abroad while you’re studying culinary arts at a major university like UC Davis. Or you will need to wait until you graduate and then find a way to travel abroad. Just don’t forget to cook whenever you’re exploring a new place.

Collaborate with Others

People who earn their college degrees from programs like NEC Online are missing out on one very important aspect of education that is so important in the culinary arts – collaborating with others. When you learn how to collaborate with different people in the culinary field, you will expand your horizons and grow your exposure. So you want to collaborate with other people as much as you possibly can.

Take Advantage of the Facilities

When you are still studying, you want to take advantage of the facilities as much as possible. If you don’t start studying soufflé until much later in the semester, you can choose to start experimenting on your own when the kitchen is available. So long as you respect the facilities and always keep them clean, you should be able to expand upon your repertoire very quickly when you practice on your own.

Be Adventurous with Your Diet

You can’t expect to have a very refined palate if you aren’t experimental with your diet. You need to try as many different types of food as you can so that you can understand what people get out of various different flavors. Only then will you be able to really bring nuance to your own recipes.

Cold-pressed juice: 5 essentials

Cold-pressed juice is the latest trend in pre-packed healthy drink options. It is made from fruit and vegetables that have been crushed at a pressure high enough to separate pulp from juice and to leave pathogens inactive and so prevent fermentation; it is currently being touted as the most natural juice product on the market.

gekas

Image Credit

Cold-pressed v pasteurised

The process of pasteurisation destroys all bacteria present in the fruit, both good and bad, through the use of heat, and denatures all proteins, including enzymes. The cold-pressed process doesn’t use heat, just pressure, so the extracted juices retain healthy enzymes and vitamins. The only down-side is that they do have a shorter shelf life of two to four days compared with other juices. They also tend to be more expensive, but it is claimed that they are more nutrient rich and therefore more nutritious.

How many calories?

Juices obviously contain a higher density of calories than are found in the original fruit and veg, including a surprisingly high level of sugar, and this applies to cold-pressed juices too. Therefore, customers need to consider cold-pressed juices as part of their daily nutrient intake rather than as an extra treat. Try to include them as part of a balanced diet rather than grabbing a bottle to replace water when you are thirsty.

Check out the ingredients

Chemicals are commonly added to pasteurised juice to prevent bacterial growth during the packaging stage. This does not happen with cold-pressing so these products have a reputation for being more natural. However, while in storage or in shops the juices do need to be kept in commercial bottle coolers, such as those available at https://www.fridgefreezerdirect.co.uk/commercial-bottle-coolers/double-door-under-counter-bottle-coolers.

Cleansing

Nutritionally packed juices such as cold-pressed give your digestive system a holiday while still providing plenty of energy. Juice cleansing is therefore commonly included in a detox diet as the freshly squeezed fruit and vegetables provide essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals that can support a fast ranging from a few days to several weeks.

Helps you stick to that five-a-day

For most people, drinking juices is the most effective way of maintaining a daily intake of five portions of fruit and veg; it is so quick and easy. Do remember though, that juices provide very little dietary fibre and this should be supplemented as part of a balanced diet.

Culinary from Tokyo to Kyoto

some people eat to live. And some live to eat. If that sounds more like you, this tour is an invitation to immerse yourself in one of the world’s great cuisines. Blessed by the bounty of the surrounding sea, a fierce local pride in the food they cultivate, and a passion and dedication – bordering on obsessive – to food, Japanese eat better than probably anyone else in the world. Tokyo with its size and cosmopolitan nature is one of the top restaurant cities in the world.
From its distinct seasons and diverse geography and fauna, Japan is a gourmet paradise. We intend to show you the broad range of regional dishes. You’ll meet local providers and chefs along the way. But we have to warn you…despite the often refined and small portions associated with Japanese cuisine, if you’re a food enthusiast like us you’re likely to gain weight on this trip! Which is why we will do a fair bit of walking and sightseeing along the way. So bring comfortable walking shoes, an open mind, and an appetite and enjoy with us.
This trip is 8 days and 7 nights.

What we eat

Just a few examples of the special cuisines and foods that we will sample:
Kaiseki – A Kyoto cultural gem, it is an elaborate, multi-course, meticulously prepared and exquisitely presented – a meal to remember for a lifetime.
Okonomiyaki – almost a cross between a pancake and pizza, made of batter and cabbage and topped with seafood, vegetables, or pork, a specialty of Osaka and western Japan but with numerous regions creating their own versions.
Monjayaki – best not to describe what this looks like, just know that it tastes great, is great fun to eat, and you’re unlikely to find it outside of Japan!
Noodles – Udon/Ramen/Soba – each of these wildly popular and delicious noodle types has distinct and unique flavors varying from region to region, season to season and home to home.
Tofu – a simple preparation of soybeans – transformed into traditional dishes from miso soup to Yodufu, a Kyoto specialty.
Chanko Nabe – A surprisingly tasty and healthy stew with chicken, fish, tofu and vegetables which is a staple of Sumo wrestlers.

Japanese Culinary Schools

The art of cooking is no longer restricted to homemakers and restaurant cooks. The culinary industry has grown immensely and has gained a very high status as regards to its acceptability as a respectable profession. Hence, various schools have been set up to provide certified education on various types of cuisines of the world over. Out of the numerous cuisine types, the Japanese cuisine tends to evoke a curiosity as regards to its making.

The most famous Japanese dish is the Sushi, which has been a favorite with almost all classes of individuals. Apart from sushi, the other famous Japanese food items are Domburimono, Tempura, Sukiyaki, Shabu-Shabu, and many more. Japanese food is considered very simple, healthy, and delicious. Japanese Chefs believe that Japanese cuisine is regional and generous in variety. Japanese cooking is very meticulous and a lot of care is taken while presenting it. Rice often forms the most important ingredient in Japanese cooking. Despite the popularity of certain Japanese dishes, many cuisines are not known to the world outside Japan. Hence, special Japanese schools have been set up to teach the future generations the special and exotic dishes offered by their land. Japanese are known to be very ritualistic. Hence, the individuals consume certain foods only after following a customary practice.

Some of the well-known Japanese culinary schools are California Sushi academy, TSUJI Culinary Institute in Osaka, ISES Japan, and Le Cordon Bleu are some of the renowned Japanese culinary schools. These schools provide all essential training of cooking Japanese food.

Many websites offer online courses on Japanese cuisines, which can be availed by individuals from any part of the world. Interested candidates need to follow the rules and regulations of the particular institute for which they are applying. However, they are advised to carry out a thorough background check before relying on any information provided by the websites.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/429652

Italian Cooking Classes

The Awaiting Table in Leece Italy has week long classes that go for 1895 EURO, which includes lodging at a bed and breakfast. Talk about getting immersed in a cuisine. Or, they have one day classes for 350 EURO. The day class covers lunch and dinner and trips to multiple markets, coffee, all wines and handmade liqueurs. Dinner is served in the old wine cellar!

International Cooking School of Italian Food and Wine has a week long basic Italian cooking courses in Bologna, Italy. Taste of Emilia-Romagna course includes some cooking instruction but also includes tours of the region to artisan cheese, balsamic vinegars and prosciutto. Prices include logging. They have other courses and tours including one at an October Truffle Festival with a private truffle hunt.

Of course going to Italy might be a  bit much to learn authentic Italian cooking, an alternative is Anna Teresa Callen Italian Cooking School, it is in Manhattan. None other than Mario Batali recommends her. The cookbook author has been teaching people for over two decades.

Whether you want to take a trip to Italy to learn to cook or do it near homeFeature Articles, there are many options available for you. Including many cooking vacations in Italy that include meals and lodging at a bed and breakfast.

Cucina Della Rosa Cooking School is outside Chicago and owned by Mary Rose Hoover. Hoover has a number of cooking classes each month with an emphasis on Italian cuisine.

Kids Culinary – Culinary for Kids

From Canoes to Kid’s Culinary? – A Brief History of Kids Summer Camps

Summer camps started as outdoor encampments in the 1880s where urban children, often scout troops could get away from the noise, overcrowding and smog of early towns, cities and “get back to nature”. Parents who had been raised on farms and in rural settings felt strongly that their children should have exposure to every summer to natural settings and healthy outdoor activities. And so was born the “summer camp” an oasis of swimming, boating, hiking and campfires.

But as the need for such “man-made wildernesses” receded, more and more summer programs began to incorporate educational or skilled based curriculums such as college-credit courses in debate, math, history or journalism. Others created intensive systems for foreign language studies, or college prep such as SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) boot camps.

But one of the most popular of these enrichment courses has been culinary for kids. Cooking programs at kids’ culinary camps are fun ways for children and teenagers to learn math skills, self esteem and discipline and basic chemistry and physics.

Culinary for kids can also be a great way for a child who is experiencing some learning problems, get inspired and motivated about learning again. And it is an excellent way for the more advanced student to maintain their focus and interest in classical subjects taught in an alternative setting.

Five Factors in a Good Kids’ Culinary Camp

Kids’ Culinary Camp Factor 1

– The Type of Camp. Not all Kids’ culinary camps are the same. Some are full blown residential facilities with intensive culinary for kids programs taught by certified chefs while other can be more traditional camps with some basic “cooking” classes thrown in. Others may be like “after school” programs hosted by local cookware retailers or culinary companies.

Kids’ Culinary Camp Factor 2

– Costs. In tough times, parents are aware of costs more than ever. A good rule of thumb is that all things being equal, the closer a summer program is to your home, the cheaper the price. The main reason for this is travel expenses. So to keep costs under control, investigate camps that are only a few hours drive time from you.

Kids’ Culinary Camp Factor 3

– Size matters. If your kid is shy and retiring, you may want to consider placing them in a smaller or less formal culinary for kids program. While on the other hand a more outgoing child won’t get lost in the crowd of a larger or regimented environment.

Kids’ Culinary Camp Factor 4

– Programs & activities. Look carefully at the culinary curriculum. It is comprised of just basic food preparation and simple meal making or is a full on culinary training experience? Is the cooking program mixed with outside activities and tours or is a “chef-in-training” system where students remain primarily indoors?

Kids’ Culinary Camp Factor 5

– Special needs. Does the program cater to specific personal needs of their campers such as weight loss menus, kosher foods, vegetarian/vegan or other special diets? Do they have staff to help with English as a-second-language students or ones with physical disabilities?

Once you understand all the factors that go into making a good kids’ culinary summer campHealth Fitness Articles, you as a parent can make decision that will ensure that your aspiring chef has the best culinary for kids experience possible.

Cooking with kids

cooking with kidsCooking is a fantastic activity to do with your children: they can learn and practice a whole range of skills and it gives them an understanding of food and where it all comes from. But even more important than that, it’s one of the most fun, therapeutic and bonding activities you can do.

So, if you’ve got a spare hour or two and are wondering how to entertain your toddlers or how to keep your children occupied in the school holidays, dip into this section to get some ideas, tips and simple recipes…

Basic skills for under fives

Being able to cook is a great skill to have. And whilst it can sometimes feel like a chore to adults, it’s an exciting and fun activity for children. Start by teaching your child these basic cooking skills, and with a little patience, you could soon having a budding chef in the family.

  1. Buttering a slice of bread
  2. Cracking eggs by tapping the centre of the egg over the rim of a small bowl, and then using thumbs to pull the two halves apart
  3. Decorating fairy cakes or biscuits – spreading on the icing butter or just adding the sprinkles and toppings
  4. Kneading and rolling out dough using a rolling pin
  5. Cutting shapes out using cookie cutters
  6. Using a sieve – by holding it over a larger bowl and gently shaking
  7. Cutting soft fruit or vegetables, such as a banana, with a non sharp knife
  8. Grating cheese – especially good if you’ve got a rotary grater
  9. Crushing biscuits for bases or non cook chocolate recipes – in a plastic bag with a rolling pin
  10. Rubbing in butter and flour for crumble.
  11. Crushing garlic in a garlic press
  12. Greasing and lining cake tins
  13. Mashing bananas with the back of a fork for banana bread/cake
  14. Mashing potato with a potato masher
  15. Peeling vegetables with a vegetable peeler

Tips on cooking with your children

Choose your recipes carefully

If your children are really young then choose something like easy biscuit recipes or a fresh fruit salad. Nothing that takes too long or is too involved. As children get older, they can concentrate for longer and you can move onto more complicated dishes and eventually entire meals.

Plan ahead

Make sure you have all the ingredients before you embark on a session in the kitchen. If you have the time, you can make a whole day out of a cooking activity. Involve your children in choosing a recipe, shopping for the ingredients, making the food and finally eating it. It’s amazing how children are more likely to eat foods that they have been involved in making.

Allow plenty of time

Don’t think you can do anything quickly when you’ve got an under-aged helper in the kitchen. Things tend to take a long time and so don’t squeeze a cooking session in between a toddler group and a doctor’s appointment. You won’t be doing your stress levels any favours.

Expect mess

You’re going to have to expect some mess even with the neatest of children but once you’re in that “messy frame of mind” it’s easier to turn a blind eye to that layer of goo developing on your kitchen flour. You can always have a good clear up later … after you’ve had a cup of tea with one of those delicious, newly-made biscuits.

Unless you have a full change of clothes handy, don’t forget aprons for everyone!

So what animal is a sausage from Mum?

You might take it for granted that eggs are laid by chickens and that sugar, cocoa, rice and flour all come from plants but your children may be amazed to learn just where their food comes from, and how it is produced.

A trip to a local farmers market, farm shop or better still a farm where you can pick your own fruit and vegetables will also open their eyes to the variety of foods available in the UK. Use our Local Food page to find out where you can get locally produced food.

As they get older

Once your children are old enough to open the fridge and cupboard doors and hold a knife safely, you could encourage them to start preparing food for themselves (or even for you!). Just have a bit of confidence in them, try and ignore the mess, and let them try out some simple recipes which require little or no cooking. When they have finished their culinary creation, encourage them to help clear up too! Obviously, younger children will need some supervision and help, if using knives or the oven/microwave.

A five year old could be provided with sliced bread, a flat knife, a choice of spreads or toppings and make you a sandwich (wouldn’t that be nice on Mother’s Day!). Or you could give them some different fruit juices to mix and make a ‘cocktail’.

Once they have mastered sandwich making, why not encourage them to help make their packed lunches for school? They could choose some of the ideas from our lunch box page. They might surprise you and choose something completely different to the normal lunch that you would make them.

Try getting them to make a fruit and yogurt layer pudding. Give the children a variety of whole fruits and some different fruit yogurts. Older children could prepare and chop the fruits themselves, while younger children will need help and supervision or you could give them prepared fresh or tinned (drained) fruit instead. Let the children layer the fruits and yogurts in a glass or clear plastic bowl, so that they can make a pattern and see the layers. Experiment with different ingredients such as crushed biscuits, meringue or sponge cake at the bottom of the pudding. Decorate with sprinkles or crushed chocolate flake.

They could progress onto an easy no-cook cheesecake. A safer option is to melt the butter or margarine (for the base) in the microwave for a few seconds, rather than in a pan on the hob.

…and older

When you feel you can trust older children and teenagers to use the oven safely, they can have a go at making their own dinner. Let them impress their friends by inviting them round for a home cooked tea, such as pizza, burgers or a chilli.

If their friends survive the experience, let your kids try cooking a meal for the whole family once a week… so you can have an evening off!

Hopefully, by this stage, you will know that you have succeeded in producing a self-reliant young person, who will be able to fend for themselves when they leave home!

 

The 10 best foods for babies

There are lots of healthy, baby-friendly foods out there, but some stand out from the pack. These culinary superheroes are loaded with essential nutrients, reasonably priced, easy to prepare, and delicious. Here are 10 of our absolute favorites.

Blueberries

The deep, brilliant blue of these berries comes from flavonoids called anthocyanins, which are good for your baby’s eyes, brain, and even urinary tract, says Stephen Gass, coauthor of Mix and Mash: Adventures in the Kitchen for Baby and You.

Serving idea: Gass suggests this easy blueberry soup: Combine 1/4 cup of blueberries with a tablespoon of water in a bowl, microwave for 30 seconds, mash, and let cool. Then swirl some plain yogurt on top.

Yogurt

Yogurt is a great food to introduce when your baby is about 6 months old. Yogurt boosts the immune system and supports brain and heart health. “It’s a good source of calcium and vitamin D, and it also contributes to the development of healthy bones and teeth,” says Nancy Hudson, registered dietitian and professor emerita in the nutrition department at the University of California at Davis.

Look for brands that have the most live cultures, which regulate the good bacteria in your baby’s digestive tract. Plain yogurt is best because it has no added sugars.

Serving idea: Yogurt is fine on its own, but Hudson suggests mixing yogurt with applesauce, mashed avocado, or dry infant cereal. (For a special treat, bits of mandarin orange or banana taste good too.)

Squash

Squash is an excellent source of vitamins A and C, is naturally sweet, and has a pleasing, creamy texture.

Serving idea: Sprinkle parmesan cheese and a little chili seasoning on half a squash, roast it, and scoop out a serving for your baby, suggests pediatrician Susanna Block, owner of World Baby Foods, a line of ethnic baby food. “Cooked squash with a little cilantro, mild chiles, and garbanzo beans is another great combination,” she says.

Lentils

Loaded with protein and fiber, lentils pack a powerful nutritional punch. They’re also one of the cheapest healthy foods you can buy.

Serving idea: Combine cooked lentils with mixed vegetables, rice, and seasonings of your choice.” Try basil and oregano,” suggests dietitian Karin Hosenfeld of North Dallas Nutrition. “Or toss in a bay leaf, which works really well with lentils.” (Remove the bay leaf before serving.)

Dark leafy greens

Leafy greens boast high amounts of iron and folate. Spinach is perhaps the best known of this group, but there are many other varieties, including kale, chard, and collard greens.

Serving idea: Steam and puree a batch of greens, then mix with iron-fortified cereal to give your baby a double dose of iron. Experiment with the proportions to see what your baby likes. Hosenfeld suggests starting with two parts veggie to one part cereal.

Broccoli

Brimming with folate, fiber, and calcium, broccoli is also known for its cancer-fighting properties, says dietitian Kate Geagan, author of Go Green, Get Lean. And thanks to its sulfur compounds, it has a unique flavor that can help expand your baby’s tastes.

Serving idea: Steam until soft, cut into pea-size pieces, then chill. “Steaming takes the bite out of broccoli,” says Hosenfeld. “And chilled broccoli is sometimes better accepted by babies.”

Avocados

“Avocados are a rich source of unsaturated fats,” says nutritionist Leanne Cooper, author of What Do I Feed My Baby: A Step-by-Step Guide to Solids. “In fact, the fat composition is somewhat similar to that of breast milk.”

Concerned about your baby eating fatty food? Don’t be. “Unsaturated fat is the good kind of fat, and babies need it for brain development,” says pediatrician Ari Brown, coauthor of Baby 411: Clear Answers and Smart Advice for Your Baby’s First Year.

Serving idea: Try combining mashed avocado with other foods, such as cream cheese, apples, or canned fish, suggests Cooper. And when it’s playgroup time, ditch the crackers and take an avocado along instead. “Avocados can travel in your bag at room temperature and you can offer them in slivers or spread on toast fingers,” she says.

Meat

Many of us don’t think of meat as a typical baby food, but it’s one of Brown’s top choices. “Meat is a great source of zinc and iron,” she explains.

Serving idea: Cook stew! “Stew is the ideal baby food – easy to make, easy to chew, and endless in its variety,” says Matthew Amster-Burton, author of Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater. Experiment with adding different veggies and seasonings, such as ginger and parsley.

And the best part? Tough, cheap meats (like chuck) work best, says Amster-Burton, whose own family dines on stew almost weekly. Just be sure to cook the stew long enough for the meat to turn scrumptious and soft so it shreds into tiny pieces.

Prunes

Prunes have lots of fiber and can help relieve constipation – which, notes Brown, your baby may experience after you introduce solids.

Serving idea: Puree prunes and serve them straight or mixed with other foods, such as cereal or applesauce, for a naturally sweet treat. If your baby is badly constipated, Brown advises adding a teaspoon or two of prune juice to formula or expressed breast milk.

Mandarin oranges

High in vitamin C and antioxidants, mandarin oranges are a supreme finger food. “Babies really love the flavor,” says Hosenfeld.

Serving idea: This is a particularly easy one to prepare – just cut the segments into bite-size pieces and serve. You can buy mandarin oranges fresh or canned, but make sure the canned version is packed in water – not syrup, which contains added sugar.

The Biggest Burger

http://enriquesantos.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/390-hamburger-0904.jpg

It took a crane to flip a 2,014-pound bacon-cheeseburger cooked over the weekend at a Minnesota resort, winning the record for world’s biggest burger. “What I saw today was a feat of remarkable teamwork that resulted in a world record burger that actually tastes really good,” said Philip Robertson, a representative from the Guinness World Records, according to the Duluth News Tribune. Robertson was on hand Sunday at the Black Bear Casino Resort in Carlton, Minn., to confirm the record. The previous record for biggest burger was a comparatively dainty 881 pounds. The burger measured 10 feet in diameter and was topped with 60 pounds of bacon, 50 pounds of lettuce, 50 pounds of sliced onions, 40 pounds of pickles and 40 pounds of cheese, according to the newspaper. It was cooked in a specially-made outdoor oven, and took about four hours. The bun took seven hours to bake. The behemoth burger was sliced up and served free to guests.

Italian Use of Beans – Fagioli

Italian beans dish

Most households in Italy reserve a meal or two for beans just as they include specific days for meat, pasta or fish. Beans play an essential role in Italian cookery and, consequently, they are grown throughout the country. From Sicily in the south to Piedmont and Veneto in the north, various regions produce different kinds of beans, all of which are enjoyed by the Italian culture. The subsequent article discusses some popular beans beloved by Italians as well as tips about their nutritional values and preparation.

One of the world’s most valuable and important foods, beans contain a wealth of fiber both soluble and insoluble. A diet rich in fiber is a great preventative of coronary heart disease and colon cancer. Beans can provide a reduction in serum cholesterol levels and are also thought to prevent diabetes in at-risk individuals. Additionally, these little gems of the culinary world contain more protein than any other vegetable; some beans even rival chicken or meat in protein content. In other words, they are good for optimal health and should be included in one’s diet.

on a white plate isolatedBroad beans and salami sliced with clipping path

Popular Italian Beans

The region of Tuscany is famous for its bean production; cannellini, white kidney beans, is perhaps its most popular bean and these are simply referred to as fagioli. Other popular Tuscan white beans include soranini, toscanello, corona and schiaccioni. While many cooks will substitute one white bean for another, each strain provides its own individual shape and tecture to a given dish. Of course, white beans are cultivated in other areas of the country, but Tuscany seems to be their rightful home.

Borlotti at Italian Market

Borlotti is a beloved bean of northern Italy. Borlotti is also considered to be the healthiest due to its high iron concentration. This bean in particular is a popular meat substitute. These red, tan and brown speckled beans turn a dark brown on the outside and a yellow on the inside when cooked. They add a delightful creamy consistency to any recipe.

Fresh or dried fava beans are a staple of Abruzzo, Puglia, Campania as well as Sicily. A staple of southern Italian cuisine, fava beans are hardy and widely available. Purchasing beans that are already skinned and split is the preferred method for ease of preparation. Buying whole beans in their protective skins means calls for hours of soaking as well as a tinge of bitterness when they are cooked.

Lentils, or lenticchie, are eaten all across Italy. With their nutty taste, lentils are ideally small and brown. The most select lentils are grown in Umbria, Abruzzo and Sicily. Although lentils do not demand soaking previous to cooking, they are best when soaked for about an hour. With all beans, keep in mind that the fresher the bean, the better it will taste when used in your favorite recipes.

Cooking With Beans

The best Italian cooks realize that beans need to be tender without being soft in order to get the best texture and flavor

Veal Saltimbocca

with Green Beans

from them. With the exception of a few types of beans, like lentils, most should be soaked at least eight hours or longer. However, refrain from soaking them longer than twenty-four hours as they are likely to ferment. Some Italians add a bit of baking soda during the soaking which seems to help the beans remain intact during cooking. Be sure to discard the water the beans soak in before cooking with them.

Also, when cooking beans, be generous with water – a good rule of thumb is six cups for every cup of beans. One cup of dry beans will yield two cups of cooked beans. This water rule will differ when it comes to soup recipes. Try adding a bit of olive oil to the water the beans cook in it will add flavor and keep them from sticking to each other. Cooking times will vary, of course, but generally Borlotti takes about an hour, chickpeas require about an hour and a half of cook time and lentils may be ready after a half hour.

Some of the most beloved Italian dishes that call for beans include: Venetian sweet-and-sour beans, Genoa-styleminestrone, Tuscan bean soup, lentil soup, pasta with red bean sauce, Calabrian fava beans and pasta, lentil stew with sausage and penne with chickpeas. Beans are used in spreads, soups, sauces and main courses. Not only good, they are good for you.

<- Four Italian or Roman beans

A guide to using spices in Mexican cooking

 Chicken with caramelized onions and nutmeg
© Karen Hursh Graber, 2014

As we settle into the crisp autumn months and adapt cooking techniques and ingredients to the change of seasons, it seems like a good time to look at the use of spices in the Mexican kitchen. Besides providing great depth of flavor, spices have both a warming and anti-inflammatory effect on the body, making them tasty and healthy additions to fall dishes.

In Mexico, the regional specialties prepared for late October and early November’s Day of the Dead offerings — from Puebla’s moles to the escabeche and chilmole of the Yucatan — rely on spices for their distinctive flavors. And spices also play a significant role in sweets for the upcoming holiday season.

But what exactly are spices and how are they different from herbs? The variety of fresh herbs used in Mexican cooking has been explored in some depth in this column (“A Culinary Guide to Mexican Herbs, Part One” and “Part Two”) and it turns out that some plants yield both an herb and a spice.

Culinary herbs are generally the leafy portions of a plant, and can be used either dried or fresh, though fresh is usually preferable. Cilantro and parsley, among countless others, are included in this category.

Spices, on the other hand, come from any other part of the plant and are usually used dried. They can be berries, like allspice and peppercorns; roots such as ginger; flower buds, like cloves; seeds, such as nutmeg; or flower stamens, in the case of saffron.

The very generous plants that give us both include cilantro, whose leafy greens are an indispensable herbal ingredient in Mexican food and whose seeds, called coriander (semilla de cilantro in Spanish) are a global favorite. And in the misty mountains of east central Mexico, where allspice trees flourish, cooks use the fragrant leaves as an herb, and the dried berry as a spice.

The lure of spices was an important impetus for the Age of Exploration, which brought the Spanish across the ocean, eventually to Mexico and onward to the Phillippines. These spices were so highly prized that European monarchs financed exploratory voyages to find an alternate route to the East, the source of many of them.

The king and queen of Spain gave Columbus a letter of introduction to “the Great Khan” and, while he never found China, his expeditions yielded chiles, which eventually found their way around the world and are highly appreciated in many cuisines.

Cinnamon, cloves and other Eastern spices would have to continue coming from the East rather than the American continents, but Diego Chanca, a Spanish physician who traveled on one of Columbus’ voyages, was delighted to discover a tree that yielded a spice tasting like a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. This was allspice, native to Latin America and the West Indies. The resemblance of the dried allspice berry to peppercorns gave it the rather confusing name of pimienta, the Spanish word for pepper.

Most of the spices, however, originated in the East, and the combination of these spices and indigenous herbs and chiles became a foundation for flavoring characteristic Mexican dishes. Many of the ingredients generally thought of as Mexican were brought to the New World from elsewhere, and it is difficult to imagine modern Mexican cuisine without cilantro, the herb brought by the Spaniards that gives us coriander; or cumin, a spice that originated in the Eastern Mediterranean region.

When we look at Mexican cookbooks through the ages, especially the historical ones lovingly reproduced by Mexico’s National Counsel for Culture and the Arts (CONACULTA) it is evident that the Mexican use of these onetime exotic spices began during the Colonial period. The 1780 cookbook of Fray Geronimo de San Pelayo remains one of my favorites, and his recipe for torta de arroz, or baked rice and picadillo, is well flavored with both herbs, such as parsley and mint, and a variety of fragrant spices, including saffron, cumin and ginger.

In Mexican cooking, several spices are used in both savory and sweet dishes. Anise and cinnamon seem to find their way into everything from moles to cookies, and even vanilla, usually considered a flavoring for sweets, is also used in shrimp and vegetable dishes.

When using spices, it is best to grind them, rather than using the pre-ground ones that come in a jar. The flavor is far superior and this method gives you the chance to control quantities. Most pre-ground spices will become stale long before you get to the bottom of that bottle. Any coffee or spice grinder will work, but dedicate it only to spices, or you may end up with some oddly flavored coffee.

Now that international cuisine has become so popular in Mexico, there are many spices sold today that were not easy to find even 25 years ago. Asian, Indian and Middle Eastern spices are now widely available, as chefs and home cooks explore these cuisines and incorporate them into menus.

The spices listed here, however, are those most frequently found in traditional Mexican cooking, along with some suggestions for using them. True herbs, those used for their green leaves, are not listed here, even if often sold in dried form, which is far inferior to fresh. English names for the spices are followed by botanical and Spanish names.

Allspice: Pimento dioica (pimienta gorda or pimienta de Tabasco)
Found in abundance in the Sierra Norte region of Puebla, allspice is used extensively in adobo and pipian as well as desserts. It is usually sold as a dried berry, resembling a peppercorn, from which it gets its name in Spanish. Add it to stews, soups, cakes and cookies.

Anise: Pimpinella anism (anís) and star anise: Illisium verum (anís estrella)
The seed of an herb in the parsley family, anise is distinguished by its licorice-like flavor and aroma, and is used in dessert cakes and especially cookies. It is a characteristic flavor in pan de muertos, Day of the Dead bread. The star anise is the small, dried fruit of an evergreen native to Asia. It is used in moles, especially mole poblano, and as a stomach remedy. In Mexico, a tea made from star anise is often given to colicky babies.

Annatto: Bixa orellana (achiote)
The seeds of a subtropical tree native to the Yucatan, annatto is used chiefly for its coloring, giving food a bright, reddish orange hue. Its scent is slightly sweet and peppery and its flavor subtle. Achiote is sold either as whole seeds or ground. Use it ground in Yucatecan dishes such as cochinita pibil, and mix it with other ground spices to make a rub for grilled meat, poultry or fish

Bay laurel: Laurus nobilis (laurel)
The dried leaves of the evergreen laurel tree, these Mediterranean natives are widely cultivated in Mexico, where they are harvested early in the day and dried in the shade to protect them from direct sunlight, which would draw out the essential oil. Use dried bay leaves in soups, stews and sauces. Avoid cooking with the fresh leaves, since they have a distinct menthol flavor that dissipates when dried and simmered, and store them in the freezer for a longer shelf life.

Capsicum peppers: Capsicum frutescens (chile)
Mexican chiles are just some of the many members of the capsicum family, which includes paprika, red pepper and cayenne. They cross the sometimes hazy line from fresh produce to spice when they are dried. If using whole, dried chiles, lightly toast and soak them first to soften, after which they need to be pureed in a blender with other ingredients. Ground versions, such as ancho or chipotle powder, are good in meat rubs.

Cinnamon: Cinnamomum zeylanicum (canela)
This cinnamon, sometimes called “true cinnamon” or Ceylon cinnamon, is the one most often used in Mexico, as opposed to cassia (Cinnamomum cassia) also known as “false cinnamon.” While cassia is sold and used as cinnamon in the United States, Mexican cooks prefer true cinnamon. Both are the dried inner bark of evergreen trees and are used in the same way for flavoring. In Mexican cuisine, use cinnamon everywhere from café de olla, or sweet spiced coffee, to moles and desserts. It is equally at home in both sweet and savory dishes

Clove: Syzygium aromaticum (clavo de olor)
Its Spanish name, which translates as “aromatic nails,” is quite apropos because of its distinct shape, which does resemble a carpentry nail. The clove is actually the dried flower bud of an evergreen tree native to Indonesia. It is considered the most important of the flower spices, rich in essential oils and used throughout the world for its strong flavor. In Mexico, it is an essential ingredient in pipian. Add a clove when making stock, and in baking.

Coriander: Coriandrum sativum (semilla de cilantro)
A star in Mexican cooking, this plant was used in the ancient world as early as 1550 BC in Egypt. Its leaves are the herb cilantro and its seeds the spice coriander. While use of the leaves is more widespread in Mexico, the seeds are ground and used in chorizo. Use coriander with cumin to intensify the spice flavor of Latin American dishes.

Cumin: Cuminum cyminum (comino)
A member of the parsley family, cumin is a small plant whose tiny, seed-like fruit is used as a spice. Especially popular in Latin American and Indian cuisines, cumin is a signature flavor in many Mexican dishes. As with other spices, it is best freshly ground. Use it in red enchilada sauce, moles and pipians.

Ginger: Zingiber officianale (jengibre)
The rhizomes, or underground stems, of a south Asian flowering plant, ginger can be used fresh or dried. Powdered, dried ginger is used in baking. Try adding it to Mexican piggy cookies (cochinitos) to replicate the flavor of gingerbread. In Mexico, ginger tea is used as a digestive.

Nutmeg: Myristica fragrans (nuez moscada)
The nutmeg tree of the East Indian archipelago produces two spices — the oily seed that is the spice called nutmeg, and the membrane that surrounds it, known as mace, a much less common spice. Nutmeg is often found in Mexican style hot chocolate and, on the savory side, is good in a sauce for chicken, as found in Marge Poore’s book 1,000 Mexican Recipes. Add nutmeg to sweet breads and muffins that call for cinnamon and allspice. Grinding nutmeg on a grater, such as a Microplane, is far superior to using pre-ground nutmeg.

Pepper: Piper nigrum (pimienta)
Often called the world’s most important spice, peppercorns are the small, round berries of a climbing vine native to southwestern India. Use whole peppercorns in making stock and ground pepper to season the outside of meat, poultry and fish. Invest in a decent pepper grinder and throw away the pre-ground stuff in the tin. Whole peppercorns are an essential ingredient in Mexican pickled chiles.

Saffron: Crocus sativus (azafran)
The dried stigma of a crocus flower, saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. Both the English and Spanish words for the spice come from the Arabic za’faran, meaning yellow. Saffron does indeed impart a bright, yellow orange color, as well as a distinctive flavor, to food. In Mexico, it is highly appreciated in rice dishes, a very traditional Spanish way of using it. Add it to garbanzo bean stew and to Mexican yellow rice. To use less of this pricy ingredient, try steeping it in hot water overnight to get bigger flavor from a small amount.

Sesame: Sesamum indicum (ajonjolí)
Said to be the oldest condiment known to man, sesame was cultivated in the Tigris and Euphrates valleys as early as 1600 BC. In Mexico, sesame is important in both cooking and agriculture, and is crucial in many moles and pipians. It is the traditional garnish for mole poblano, in addition to being ground in the sauce itself. The candy called pepitoria is made with sesame seeds, and they also adorn an array of sweet rolls. In the mountain region of western Veracruz state, the seeds are used — along with pumpkin seeds and chiles — to make tlatonile, a savory paste something like mole paste, which can be diluted to make a sauce, or added as a flavoring to soups and stews.

Vanilla: Vanilla planifolia (vainilla)
This Mexican native, originally cultivated by the Totonac people of eastern Mexico, is the cured pod of a flowering vine in the orchid family. For several centuries, Mexico remained the only vanilla producing country, until European botanists developed a method for pollination that did not depend upon the Mexican bees and hummingbirds that were crucial for its pollination in eastern Mexico’s misty, semitropical highlands. Use vanilla extract in baking and in poaching shellfish, especially shrimp and crawfish, as done in the Papantla region of Veracruz. Use the seeds scraped from the pod in chicken and vegetable dishes and in flan. It is worth it to buy pure vanilla extract and avoid the artificial version, a poor substitute.

The following recipes present a small cross section of Mexican dishes that are distinctly spice flavored with either one or a combination of spices.

Make your Healthy Food with Warm Chorizo & Chickpea Salad

Ingredients

  • 280g pack cooking chorizo, sliced
  • 1 large red onion, finely sliced
  • 2 red peppers, deseeded and cut into strips
  • 400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 12 semi-dried tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 100g bag rocket, to serve

Warm chorizo & chickpea salad

Method

  1. In a large frying pan, dry-fry the chorizo until golden for about 10 mins, then use a slotted spoon to scoop it from the pan and set aside.
  2. Add the onion and peppers to the pan and soften in the chorizo fat for 10 mins. Stir in the chickpeas and tomatoes, warming through.
  3. Pour in the red wine vinegar and season. Serve in bowls with handfuls of rocket on top.

History of Pizza

There are not many nations that can say their national dish has become an international phenomenon. Italy has two such dishes, pasta and, of course, pizza. Both are famous all over the world, both have made the history of Italian food.

In America pizza usually falls into two categories: thick and cheesy Chicago style or thin and more traditional New York pizza. In Italy pizza also falls into two distinct categories: Italian pizza and the rest of the world. It might seem silly considering the basic ingredients, but one taste of a true Italian pizza and that’s it. You will never feel the same about this simple and delicious food again.

Pizza in its most basic form as a seasoned flatbread has a long history in the Mediterranean. Several cultures including the Greeks and Phoenicians ate a flatbread made from flour and water. The dough would be cooked by placing on a hot stone and then seasoned with herbs. The Greeks called this early pizza plankuntos and it was basically used as an edible plate when eating stews or thick broth. It was not yet what we would call pizza today but it was very much like modern focaccia. These early pizzas were eaten from Rome to Egypt to Babylon and were praised by the ancient historians Herodotus and Cato the Elder.

Pizza Origins

The word “pizza” is thought to have come from the Latin word pinsa, meaning flatbread (although there is much debate about the origin of the word).

A legend suggests that Roman soldiers gained a taste for Jewish Matzoth while stationed in Roman occupied Palestine and developed a similar food after returning home. However a recent archeological discovery has found a preserved Bronze Age pizza in the Veneto region. By the Middle Ages, these early pizzas started to take on a more modern look and taste. The peasantry of the time used what few ingredients they could get their hands on to produce the modern pizza dough and topped it with olive oil and herbs. The introduction of the Indian Water Buffalo gave pizza another dimension with the production of mozzarella cheese. Even today, the use of fresh mozzarella di buffalo in Italian pizza cannot be substituted. While other cheeses have made their way onto pizza (usually in conjunction with fresh mozzarella), no Italian Pizzeria would ever use the dried shredded type used on so many American pizzas.


A pizza napoletana verace (elfQrin/wikimedia)

The introduction of tomatoes to Italian cuisine in the 18th and early 19th centuries finally gave us the true modern Italian pizza. Even though tomatoes reached Italy by the 1530’s it was widely thought that they were poisonous and were grown only for decoration. However the innovative (and probably starving) peasants of Naples started using the supposedly deadly fruit in many of their foods, including their early pizzas. Since that fateful day the world of Italian cuisine would never be the same, however it took some time for the rest of society to accept this crude peasant food. Once members of the local aristocracy tried pizza they couldn’t get enough of it, which by this time was being sold on the streets of Naples for every meal. As pizza popularity increased, street vendors gave way to actual shops where people could order a custom pizza with many different toppings. By 1830 the “Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba” of Naples had become the first true pizzeria and this venerable institution is still producing masterpieces.

The popular pizza Margherita owes its name to Italy’s Queen Margherita who in 1889 visited the Pizzeria Brandi in Naples. The Pizzaiolo (pizza maker) on duty that day, Rafaele Esposito created a pizza for the Queen that contained the three colors of the new Italian flag. The red of tomato, white of the mozzarella and fresh green basil, was a hit with the Queen and the rest of the world. Neapolitan style pizza had now spread throughout Italy and each region started designing their own versions based on the Italian culinary rule of fresh, local ingredients.

Neapolitan style pizza is not only special for its relevance in the history of the dish, but also because, since 2010, it holds a STG qualification granted by the EU. STG means that Neapolitan pizza, or Pizza Verace Napoletana, as it is known (original neapolitan pizza), is a specialità tradizionale garantita (guaranteed traditional specialty): its ingredients are controlled and regulated by law, just as its shape, the way the dough is prepared and cut, and where it can be consumed. Yes, that’s right: to be so, a pizza verace napoletana must be consumed in the same premises where it has been baked, which means take out pizzas loose their STG qualification. The STG qualification is a guarantee for the consumer that the product roots its origins in the culinary tradition of a certain area and, even more important, that it has been made following regulations apt to keep it authentic.


Pizza Verace Napoletana is characterized by a crust thicker than the rest of the pizza, known as
cornicioni (Bauaro/flickr)

Italian Traditional Pizza

Pizza Margherita may have set the standard, but there are numerous popular varieties of pizza made in Italy today.

Pizza from a Pizzeria is the recognized round shape, made to order and always cooked in a wood fired oven. Regional varieties are always worth trying such as pizza Marinara, a traditional Neapolitan pizza that has oregano, anchovies and lots of garlic. Pizza Capricciosa: a topping of mushrooms, prosciutto, artichoke hearts, olives and ½ a boiled egg! Pizza Pugliese makes use of local capers and olives, while pizza Veronese has mushrooms and tender prosciutto crudo. Pizzas from Sicily can have numerous toppings ranging from green olives, seafood, hard-boiled eggs and peas.

Besides regional styles there are several varieties that are popular throughout Italy. Quattro Formaggi uses a four cheese combination of fresh mozzarella and three local cheeses such as gorgonzola, ricotta and parmigiano-reggiano, or stronger cheeses such as fontina or taleggio, depending on the areas of Italy. Italian tuna packed in olive oil is also a popular topping along with other marine products like anchovies, shellfish and shrimp.

Quattro Stagioni is a pizza similar to the Capricciosa that represents the four seasons and makes a good sampler pizza with sections of artichokes, salami or prosciutto cotto, mushrooms, and tomatoes. In Liguria you may find pizza topped with basil pesto and no tomato sauce. Of course there are hundreds more to discover and all of them are delicious!

New Trends in Pizza

Pizza al taglio, also known as pizza rustica, is sold everywhere in Italy, usually by weight and often piled with marinated mushrooms, onions or artichokes. This style of pizza is cooked on a sheet pan at street stalls and makes a good quick lunch.

Focaccia is typical of Liguria and is characterized by a base usually thicker than that of pizza, topped with olive oil and rosmary. More toppings can be added, olive, caramelized onions and cheese being among the more common.

Sfincione is a thick Sicilian sheet pizza that uses tomato sauce, anchovies (usually anchovy paste) breadcrumbs and caciocavallo (or another local variety) cheese.

Italian calzone (no surprise here!) is smaller than its American cousin and is often filled with either meats or fresh vegetables (a favorite is spinach) and mozzarella. A newer trend that is gaining popularity is the emergence of sweet pizzas and traditional Italian pizzerias are trying to accommodate this trend by using unique ingredients. These dessert pizzas often have flavor combinations such as Nutella, honey, fruit jam, yogurt, even mustard and liquor.

One thing to keep in mind when ordering pizza in an Italian pizzeria is that the product is personal size. Each person at a table should order their own individual pizza – one bite will explain why. In certain areas outside Italy, there are a few piazzioli who keep to their homeland traditions as best as they can with the ingredients they have, but it really isn’t the same. In the end there is no going back once you try a real Italian pizza, no delivery or frozen product will ever stimulate your taste buds the way a real pizza will.

The Biggest Sausage at Potenza in the Southern Italian region of Basilicata

big sausage Italy

This small village in the southern province of Potenza is trying to become the latest Italian town to enter the Guinness Book of Records by producing what it hopes will be the world’s longest sausage.

According to the Rotonda town official responsible for tourism, Giuseppe Bonafine, butchers are already at work producing some 60-70 meters of sausage a day. By Saturday, the sausage should measure 450 meters, thus beating the record of 413 meters held by a town in the Sardinian province of Sassari.

Methods of Cooking in Italy

http://i.ebayimg.com/00/s/MTIwMFg5MDA=/$T2eC16h,!wsE9suw0PlbBQ5i7QDTOg~~60_35.JPGThe nation of Italy is responsible for many revolutions in the culinary world. Even in dishes that aren’t considered “Italian,” you’ll find cooking techniques perfected by Italians. Don’t be intimidated by the fancy names. You can skip the spaghetti — learning some of the popular methods of cooking from Italy will help you navigate your menu much easier the next time you dine al fresco.

Al Forno

“Al forno” is the Italian way to say “in the oven,” and although the wood-burning brick oven is what’s traditionally associated with this technique, any oven will do. Pizzas and pastas are the dishes usually made with this cooking style.

Alla Bolognese

“Alla Bolognese” is a cooking style originating in the Bologna region, where a meat sauce with a vegetable and tomato base is cooked for several hours. The traditional version is a combination of beef and pancetta, with tomato paste, onions, carrots and celery. A meat broth and red wine are added, and the sauce is finished with a little cream or milk.

Alla Caprese

Olive oil, basil, tomato and fresh mozzarella are the ingredients you’ll find in a dish described as “alla Caprese.” The style originated in Capri, Italy. You’ll find the basic application of these ingredients as a stand-alone salad or as part of an entrée like pasta or chicken.

Alla Genovese

When you see an item described as “alla Genovese,” it’s prepared in the cooking style of Genoa, Italy. Key ingredients are oil, basil and garlic. Typical applications for the blend of herbs and oil are pesto, breads and pastas.

Al Mattone

“Mattone” is Italian for “brick,” and the “al Mattone” cooking technique uses one to apply pressure to an item when it’s being grilled or sautéed. Dishes like chicken under a brick, or pressed paninis that are cooked on a grill, are prepared using this method.

15 Ways To Enjoy Japanese Strawberries

Strawberries are one of the country’s largest crops. In fact, the Japanese produce more high quality dessert strawberries than any other country.

Dozens of unique regional varieties of Japanese strawberry are grown year-round both outdoors and in greenhouses.

There are plenty of ways to experience strawberries in Japan:

1. Strawberry Season

The best and cheapest time to enjoy Japanese strawberries is in season. Strawberries grown outdoors are in season from May ~ June.

Japan also has a massive crop of greenhouse strawberries that enjoy a long season from December ~ April. The two seasons put together mean that strawberries are in season for half the year.

2. Luxury Strawberries

Japanese strawberries are carefully graded by type, region, color, shape, size and imperfections. The best become luxury strawberries sold at Japanese department stores. These can easily cost 1000 yen ($10) per berry.

Strawberries tend to be considered a romantic gift. Many varieties of Japanese strawberries have romantic sounding names such as “First scent of love” (Hatsukoi no kaori).

3. Strawberry Picking

Strawberry picking is offered by farmers all over Japan in strawberry season (both the outdoor and greenhouse season). It’s usually all-you-can-eat by the half-hour. The best strategy is to look for the highest quality strawberries and eat slowly. It’s quite possible to fill up on strawberries in 5 minutes.

4. Candied Strawberries

Candied strawberries are a Japanese festival food.

5. Ichigo Daifuku

Daifuku with an entire strawberry inside. A seasonal dessert for Spring.

6. Strawberry Sandwich

Strawberry Sandwiches are commonly found at Japanese convenience stores. They are also served at cafes.

7. Strawberry Chocolate

The Japanese are unusually fond of strawberry chocolate. Classics include Strawberry Pocky and Apollo, a brand of cone shaped strawberry chocolate.

8. Strawberry Ramune

Ramune is a classic Japanese soft drink that dates back to 1876. These days, it mostly makes appearances at festivals. Strawberry is a common Ramune flavor.

9. Strawberry Crepes

It’s difficult to throw a rock in Tokyo without hitting a crepe truck. Crepes are everywhere in Japan. Strawberry is a top ingredient.

10. Cute Strawberries

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It’s little secret that the Japanese have a wonderful sense of the cute aesthetic. Strawberries are often involved.

11. Tochiotome Strawberries

Tochiotome is a variety of strawberry from Tochigi prefecture. Perhaps the most common Japanese strawberry.

12. Moikko

Moikko, literally: “one more”, are a roundish strawberry from Miyagi prefecture.

13. Benihoppe

Benihoppe, or “red cheeks”, are a popular cultivar from Shizuoka prefecture.

14. Amaou

Unusually large strawberries from Fukuoka prefecture.

15. Aiberi

Aiberi (“love berry”) are vaguely heart shaped strawberries from Aichi prefecture. Amongst the most expensive varieties.

Coffee and Chocolate Concentrates

Coffee Concentrate

http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnvar/20150225/177933Prenzel’s Coffee Concentrate is a coffee flavoured  Grain Spirit with the depth and flavour of freshly roasted coffee beans. You will find Prenzel Coffee Concentrate perfect to enhance your cheesecakes, flans, mousses, tiramisu, icings and specialty cakes. It is also an extremely popular flavour in chocolate and truffle recipes.

Irish Coffee

According to San Franciscan history, this legendary drink was created in 1952 at the Buena Vista, the now landmark restaurant and bar. Apparently the owner  read about a hot coffee and whiskey beverage that was tasted in Ireland and is now known as Irish Coffee. Prenzel Irish Coffee Concentrate has a whisky and coffee aroma and is based on wood-aged whisky and natural coffee extracts.

Clear Chocolate and Dark Chocolate Concentrates

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Prenzel Chocolate Concentrates are made from a blend of Chocolate Extracts, providing enhanced flavour to desserts such as cheesecakes, trifles, tiramisu, truffles and Ice cream. It is also ideal for muffins, fudges, cakes and slices and gourmet chocolates.

Japan Spices and Seasonings

Japanese cuisine uses the following five basic flavours; salt, sugar, vinegar, soya sauce and miso. However, as with any other cuisine there is also a range of herbs, spices and other ingredients used to enhance the flavours present in the dish.

Spices

Beni-shouga

Beni-shougaBeni-shouga is red, salt-pickled ginger used to add flavour to okonomiyaki (a Japanese style tortilla), itame-gohan (fried rice mixed with other ingredients) and yakisoba (stir-fried noodles). The red colour is derived from red perilla or shiso.

 

Shouga

ShougaRoot ginger is used ground in Japanese cuisine and mixed with soya to marinate pork prior to sautéing it, as the flavours of pork and ginger complement one another well. It is also served on top of a pyramid of daikon (Japanese white radish) to put in the tempura dipping sauce. Shouga is also used in okayu (rice porridge) which is eaten particularly in the winter due to its warming properties, and drunk in an infusion with honey as a medicine to alleviate high body temperatures.

Gari

GariCommonly known for its role in accompanying sushi, this is the thinly sliced root ginger which is pickled in vinegar and naturally turns red if it is fresh when it is pickled. Gari is used as a palette refresher between pieces of sushi but its original role in accompanying sushi was the result of its use as an antibacterial agent which helped raw fish to be eaten safely when there were no refrigeration techniques. It can also be chopped up and mixed in with sushi rice for chirashi-zushi.

Hashouga

HashougaTogether with the typical root ginger which originates in China and is used in many different cuisines, Japanese cuisine uses this young ginger shoot, which looks similar to a spring onion with a white bulb graduating to green leaves. It can be eaten raw, or pickled in vinegar, the white bulb turning pink when pickled.

 

Myouga

MyougaOne of the most distinctive flavours in Japanese cuisine, this very attractive bud is also used as a decoration. If blanched in salted, boiling water and then placed in vinegar it becomes an attractive red colour. It can then be used as a garnish or as a sushi topping. However, it is also used as a raw ingredient for tempura, as sunomono (food pickled in vinegar), as a spice in sauces or with cold soba or somen noodles in the summer when it is in season.

 

Wasabi

WasabiThe root of a plant in the cabbage family which is similar to horseradish but with more of a pungent aroma. The natural, unprocessed form of wasabi is made by grinding the root on shark skin, the natural spice and fragrance being brought out to the full when it is then mashed with the back of a knife. Wasabi is sold in various forms in the United Kingdom; powdered, frozen and as a paste. Frozen wasabi solely consists of the wasabi root, but the powdered and paste wasabi contains horse radish amongst other ingredients. Its main use in Japanese cuisine is as an accompaniment to sushi and sashimi. However, at Matsuri restaurants we mix it with double cream and soya sauce to make a delicious dip for teppan-yaki dishes.

Seasonings

Yuzu

YuzuKiyuzu (literally “Yellow yuzu”) is a yellow citrus fruit originating in China which is ripe throughout autumn and winter. The fruit is at its best when it is yellow but can also be used when it is green (and unripe), however, it does not have such a strong aroma in its green state.

This fruit is valued for the strong flavour of its rind (and it is usually only the rind which is used as the juice has little flavour). It is utilised in soya sauce as a dressing, in nabe (Japanese stew), or for sushi, sashimi and fish dishes (where the fish is marinated in a yuzu and soya sauce mix and grilled). Yuzu is also used to give an extra dimension of flavour to pepper, soya sauce, miso and vinegar. It has recently become so popular that it is now the main flavour in a wide range of sweets.

10 Essential Ingredients for Japanese Cooking

1. Japanese Rice

This may be self evident, but it is essential that you use Japanese rice in Japanese cooking. Some will attempt to cook using Jasmin rice or Thai rice, but it just doesn’t work. Japanese rice is totally scentless and is sticky enough to hold together which is essential for dishes such as sushi. There are many different brands, but I recommend Japanese rice that is made in the USA. The taste is the same as good Japanese rice, but cheaper than other brands. My personal favourites are Akita Komachi and Koshi Hikari which are also made in California and are identical to their Japanese counterparts since the same seeds are used.

Sometimes in my recipes such as Sticky Chicken Rice I use mochikome which is sticky Japanese rice.

2. Japanese Soy Sauce

There are several countries which produce soy sauce so it may not be immediately evident that you are not buying Japanese soy sauce. My favourite brand and the one that you’re most likely to find at western supermarkets is Kikoman. Sometimes you may find two types – Koikuchi (black, deep colour) and Usukuchi (lighter colour but saltier). It doesn’t really matter which one you use but in all my recipes here I used koikuchi.

 

3. Saké

Saké (Japanese alcohol) is often used in Japanese cooking much like white wine is used in western cooking. You can actually substitute white wine if you have no ne, but make sure it isn’t a sweet white. Any brand is fine.

 

 

 

4. Mirin

Mirin is is an essential condiment used in Japanese cuisine, consisting of around 50% sugar. It is a kind of rice wine similar to Saké, but with a lower alcohol content. It is used to sweeten dishes (but less than sugar), reduce the smell of certain fish dishes and give vegetables and other food a shiny appearance.

 

 

5. Fish stock powder (hon dashi)

I use this in almost every meal I make here. Normally the stock is made from swordfish, but it doesn’t have a fishy taste at all – it is used as chicken stock would be in western food, but is far more common. It is hard to describe exactly what it tastes like or what it does to the dish, but if you imagine the fantastic taste of miso soup, this is created from miso, water and fish stock alone! My latest recipe using fish stock is the super popular dish Oyako Don.

6. Japanese mayonnaise

Japanese are very fussy about mayonnaise. They cannot understand the popularity of western egg mayonnaise since their mayonnaise is so different in flavour. My favourite brand is Aji no Moto but it is not available in Australia. Perhaps you can find it in your country, but if not, Kewpie is a good alternative. I use it a lot for curries, salad, pasta, sauces and Japan’s favourite dish, Ebi mayo!

 

 

7. Rice vinegar

Make sure you use Japanese rice vinegar in all the recipes features on this site, not any other type of vinegar even Chinese rice vinegar which is readily available in the west.  It is used for dressings and sauce. Harusame salad is a delicious and refreshing salad using rice vinegar.

 

 

8. Ponzu

Ponzu is a citrus based sauce used in many delicious Japanese sauces, in dishes such as Japanese hotpot, Chijimi (Korean pancakes) and hamburgers.

 

 

 

 

9. Potato starch (kata kuri ko)

This is used when you want to make sauce a little thicker and stickier like flour may be used in western cooking. It is often used when frying to make the sauce stick to the meat, (as in this Chinese and pepper stirfry) or in deep frying to make the meat super crisy. It creates more crisp than flour would.

 

 

10. Pan ko

These are bread crumbs, but softer and fluffier than western alternatives. They are used to make deep fried dishes light and crispy. If you can’t get hold of it, you can just shred white bread into tiny pieces and use it in the same way. Japanese hamburgers are always made with panko and milk.

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Salad

 

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Ingredients:

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch chunks
  • Juice and zest of 2 limes
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • ½ of one chipotle in adobo sauce, finely chopped (optional)
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • ½ cup corn
  • 1 (15 oz.) can of black beans, rinsed and drained
  • ¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped

Equipment and supplies:

  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Knife for chopping (ask an adult for help)
  • Medium saucepan
  • Large bowl
  • Whisk

Direction:

  1. Place potatoes into a medium saucepan and cover with cold water.
  2. Bring to a boil and cook until just tender, about 6 minutes. Do not overcook.
  3. Drain and allow to cool.
  4. While potatoes are cooking, make dressing. In a large bowl, whisk together lime juice, zest, salt, pepper, honey, canola oil, and chipotle.
  5. Add cooled potatoes, scallions, corn, beans, and cilantro. Toss gently.
  6. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate.

English-Muffin Egg Pizzas

Ingredients

  1. 4 English muffins
  2. olive oil
  3. tomato slices
  4. 2 hard-cooked eggs, sliced
  5. grated mozzarella
  6. oregano
  7. kosher salt

Directions

egg-pizzas

  1. Make Hard-Cooked Eggs.
  2. Toast 8 English-muffin halves and place on a cookie sheet.
  3. Drizzle each with olive oil, then layer on tomato slices, hard-cooked egg slices (1/2 an egg each), and a little grated mozzarella. Sprinkle with oregano and kosher salt.
  4. Broil 5 minutes or until the cheese melts.

 

Berry Tasty Muffin for Breakfast

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 c. flour
  • 1 c. oatmeal
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 c. blueberries, washed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c. milk
  • ¼ c. vegetable oil
  • nonstick cooking spray

Equipment and supplies:

  • oven (you’ll need help from your adult assistant)
  • mixing spoon
  • 2 large bowls
  • fork
  • muffin/cupcake tin
  • paper muffin/cupcake liners
  • wire rack for cooling muffins
  • measuring cups and spoons

Direction :

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, oatmeal, sugar, salt, and baking powder.
  3. Mix in blueberries.
  4. In another bowl, break the egg and use a fork to beat it just a little bit. Then add the milk and vegetable oil, and mix.
  5. Add egg mixture to the dry ingredients in the large bowl.
  6. Using a mixing spoon, mix about 25 or 30 times. Don’t mix too much! Your muffin mixture should be lumpy, not smooth.
  7. Line a muffin tin with paper liners or lightly spray with nonstick spray. Spoon in the muffin mix. Fill each muffin cup about 2/3 of the way up.
  8. Bake for about 20 minutes.
  9. When muffins are finished baking, remove from muffin tin and cool them on a wire rack.
  10. Enjoy your berry tasty muffins!

Garlic Roasted Japanese Eggplant

INGREDIENTS
Serves 4

  • 4-6 Japanese eggplants
  • Sea salt
  • ⅛ cup olive oil
  • 1 heaping Tablespoon crushed garlic
  • Juice from 1 lemon
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Trim the ends from the eggplants and slice in half the long way. Carefully score the flesh with short diagonal cuts then generously sprinkle with sea salt. Allow the eggplant to sit for 20 minutes, until some liquid is drawn out.
  2. Use a paper towel to wipe the moisture from the eggplants. Line the eggplant on a baking sheet, flesh side up.
  3. In a small cup combine the remaining ingredients.
  4. Generously coat the tops of the eggplant with the garlic mixture.
  5. Roast at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Let it get really mushy and creamy on the inside while the skins crisp slightly.
NUTRITION
Calories: 196     Fat: 8     Carbohydrates: 31     Sodium: 114     Fiber: 19     Protein: 5

How to cook Pizza at Home

Pizza dough (same as bread dough):

  1. Prepare the dough by mixing together (with the aid of a bread a machine or a mixer)
  2. 1 and ½ cup of warm water
  3. 1 and ½ tea spoon of salt
  4. 1 and ½ tea spoon of yeast
  5. 3 cups of flour

Wait about 6 hours to rise and you have your pizza dough.

 

How to achieve the perfect pizza crust

Since I assume most of us do not have a wood firebrick oven in the house, I will say the next best thing is the use of a pizza stone in a normal oven. I have had my pizza stone for over 10 years and I use it to make nice crusty breads, as well (bread does not cook well in a bread machine).

The pizza stone will retain heat from the oven and  cook the pizza fast without the need for fattening oils so, when baking your pizza, you will not need a greased pan: just put the dough on the pizza stone! The pizza stone also helps distributing the heat evenly on the pizza and, because it is made in terracotta, which is a porous material, it helps drying the moist off the crust, leaving it nice and crispy.  The crust will come out dry and ‘crusty.’

I had my pizza stone specially made to fit my oven and it is larger and thicker then the one commercially available, so it really makes almost a wood-oven class pizza!

Here comes the tomato sauce

Ok, use either good canned tomatoes (just tomatoes, not any preprepared sauces), or fresh tomatoes if they are available. You can even mix them together, if you want: just put them in a food processor and chop them. Add to them a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil and you are ready to go!

Put the mozzarella in the food processor so you will be able to spread it over the pizza.

Let’s roll and bake it

Now use the rolling pin to make a thin layer of pizza crust. What I now suggest to do sounds a little strange but it helps a lot: put the raw pizza (the pizza crust that you just rolled out) by itself in the oven for just 1 minute (reason: if the crust is too soft, it is very difficult to add tomatoes and toppings without ruining it). After 1 minute, remove the pizza dough and apply the tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh basil. Place the pizza in the oven for about 5 / 6 minutes, until all the mozzarella is nicely melted. Take it out of the oven and serve.

What is nice about this pizza is the unexpected, authentic Italian taste it delivers.  Also, there are no added fats or additives to it( like powder garlic, so popular in the Italian American food tradition, but never used in Italy – so you are not allowed to use it!). Anyway, after you practice with a few pizzas I might even give you  the permission to try it with different toppings 🙂

Always remember that the oven must be at the highest temperature.

pizza ready to eat

Toppings

Some of my preferred toppings include rughetta (arugola) and mozzarella with cherry tomatoes, radicchio and goat cheese, radicchio and green cheese or gorgonzola, red pizza with anchovies and mozzarella.

 

The World's Largest Pizza Ever in South Africa

According the keepers of human history over at the Guinness World Records, the largest circular pizza ever baked weighed was made in Norwood, South Africa by Norwood Hypermarket on December 8, 1990. It weighed 26,883 pounds.

The data is a bit sketchy, but here are relevant numbers: The pizza measured 122 feet, 8 inches in diameter, weighed 26,883 pounds, and contained 9,920 pounds of flour, 3,960 pounds of cheese, 1 763 pounds of mushrooms, 1,984 pounds of tomato puree, and 1,984 pounds of chopped tomatoes.

Onigiri (rice balls)

INGREDIENTS

4 cups of cooked white or brown rice Nori

FILLINGS:

Grilled and salted salmon
Umeboshi
Kobu
Tsukudani

While it is hard to get the hang of at first, you will find that the traditional triangular shape is a natural fit for your hands. Alternately, you can buy an onigiri press at your local Asian grocery store, which makes perfectly formed onigiri.

Ideally, this is to be made with fresh, hot rice. However, I find that just-cooked rice is too hot to handle. I like to stand by the sink and wet my hands with cool running water, then dipping my hands in a dish of kosher salt. This keeps the rice from sticking to my hands, and lends a nice flavor to the rice. Ladle a scoop of the hot rice onto one cupped hand, and gently press to form a ball. To fill the onigiri, press a thumb into the ball, and fill with your choice of filling. Add a little rice to fill the hole, or, simply form the onigiri around the filling. Press the onigiri into a 3” x 3” triangle. The texture should be firm, but not hard. With your very first onigiri, you’ll get accustomed to the amount of pressure needed.

Place the completed onigiri into a lunch box or on a serving plate. Rinse your hands, and then repeat. To serve, cut nori into convenient sized rectangles, and have each diner wrap his/her own onigiri with one or two pieces of nori. This nori not only adds a nice flavor and texture, it keeps the diner’s hands clean and un-sticky. You’ll find it better to place the nori on the onigiri immediately before eating, as I prefer the almost crispy texture to the soggy kind.

In the sidebar, you’ll find the most common fillings, but feel free to improvise. If it tastes good with rice and is salty, it would make a good filling for onigiri.

Makes about 4 onigiri

World's Largest Cupcake

The World’s Largest Cupcake record now belongs to Georgetown Cupcake at Georgetown Cupcake’s national headquarters in Sterling, Virginia, though the picture here is from the previous world record holder.. On November 2, 2011, the bakery created a cupcake weighing 2,594 lbs, according to Guinness World Records. If Georgetown Cupcake sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the star of the TLC show, DC Cupcakes. Photo courtesy of TLC.

Chocolate sweetheart Parfait

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Ingredients:

  • ½ teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1½ cups low-fat or fat free Greek yogurt
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
  • ¼ cup shaved dark chocolate or chocolate chips

Equipment and supplies:

  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Medium mixing bowl
  • Whisk or fork
  • Tall glasses, preferably clear

What to do:

  1. In medium bowl, whisk together cocoa powder and vanilla.
  2. Add honey and yogurt and stir until they’re well combined with cocoa mixture. It will turn light brown.
  3. Spoon 2 tablespoons of yogurt mixture into the bottom of four clear glasses.
  4. Top with some raspberries and repeat until all of the yogurt and raspberries are used up.
  5. Sprinkle each parfait with chocolate shavings.
  6. Serve or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Japanese Fruit Pie Recipes

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Ingredients Nutrition

6 US
  • 12 cup margarine, melted
  • 2 whole eggs, beaten
  • 34 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 12 cup raisins, seedless
  • 12 cup pecans, chopped
  • 12 cup coconut, flaked
  • 1 whole 9 inch pie shell

Directions

  1. Stir ingredients together in order given.
  2. Pour into formed 9″ pie shell.
  3. Bake at 325 for 40 minutes.
  4. To double the recipe, double all ingredients except margarine. NOTES : To double recipe, double all ingredients except butter.
  5. Do not use less than the amount listed for one pie, though.

Longest Sausage in the World Made in Italy

The 594-metre long sausage took ten cooks from Penne, a small town in the centre of the country, three hours to craft.

Made in Italy: Longest sausage in the world

More than half a tonne of meat – weighing exactly 1,300 lbs – was used to stuff the skin for the longest-ever sausage, which was produced in the main street.

It was officially measured at 597.8m and was declared to have easily beaten the previous Romanian record-holder, whose sausage was only 392m in length, according to the Guinness Book of Records.The giant sausage was cut up into 7,000 ordinary-sized bangers, stuffed in sandwiches and sold to the spectators to raise money for local charity Caritas.

Head chef Alberto Della Pelle said: ‘We are very proud to have created a new world record with such delicious food.’

Italy’s getting something of a reputation for smashing culinary world records – in 2008 the town of Mottola, Puglia, produced in the world’s largest flat bread focaccia pizza, covering 297 square metres.

And, in 2004, Mottola made the world’s longest sandwich, which spanned 634.5 metres in length.

The Difference Between a Fruit and a Vegetable

A peach is a fruit, whoever you are, and a carrot is definitely a vegetable. But in the Venn diagram relating these two produce categories, there’s a sizeable region of overlap. It results from the fact that “fruit” and “vegetable” are defined differently depending on whether you’re a gardener or a chef.

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Dead center of the overlapping region sits the tomato. So, why is it a fruit, and why is it a vegetable?

Botanically speaking, a fruit is a seed-bearing structure that develops from the ovary of a flowering plant, whereas vegetables are all other plant parts, such as roots, leaves and stems. By those standards, seedy outgrowths such as apples, squash and, yes, tomatoes are all fruits, while roots such as beets, potatoes and turnips, leaves such as spinach, kale and lettuce, and stems such as celery and broccoli are all vegetables.

The outlook is quite different in culinary terms, however. A lot of foods that are (botanically speaking) fruits, but which are savory rather than sweet, are typically considered vegetables by chefs. This includes such botanical fruits as eggplants, bell peppers and tomatoes.

The fruit vs. vegetable debate can sometimes reach such a fever pitch that the law must step in.  In the 1893 United States Supreme Court case Nix. v. Hedden, the court rule unanimously that an imported tomato should be taxed as a vegetable, rather than as a (less taxed) fruit. The court acknowledged that a tomato is a botanical fruit, but went with what they called the “ordinary” definitions of fruit and vegetable — the ones used in the kitchen.

Courgetti Bolognese

Courgetti BologneseIngredients
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 500g turkey mince (thigh or breast)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 150g pack button mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
  • 2 chicken stock cubes
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 large courgettes
  • grated pecorino or Parmesan, to serve
  • handful basil leaves

Method

  1. Heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a large saucepan and add the turkey mince. Fry until browned, then scoop into a bowl and set aside.
  2. Add the onion to the pan and cook on a low heat for 8-10 mins until tender. Then add the garlic, stirring for 1 min or so, followed by the carrot and the mushrooms, stirring for about 3 mins, until softened. Tip the turkey mince back into the pan, add the tomato purée, give everything a quick stir and tip in the chopped tomatoes. Fill 1 can with water and pour into the pan. Crumble over the chicken stock cubes and bring to the boil. Once boiling, lower the heat and simmer for about 1 hr, until the sauce has thickened and the veg is tender.
  3. When the Bolognese is nearly ready, stir through the soy sauce and some seasoning. Spiralize your courgettes on the large noodle attachment. Heat a large frying pan with the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil and add your courgetti. Cook until slightly softened, for 2-3 mins. Season with salt and serve topped with the turkey Bolognese, grated pecorino and basil leaves.

The Power of Five of Japanese Culinary Traditional

The number five is considered important in Japanese culture, and this extends to its food traditions as well. They form the basis of concepts that have been in place for centuries. I believe that following the guidelines of the “Power of Five” listed below can do more for improving your health and cooking skills than following recipes or diets.

Even though many young Japanese don’t know the origin of these rules, nor can even recite them, the habit is ingrained in the culture to such an extent that it just comes naturally. If a set meal is ordered at a restaurant and something is missing, for instance, people often fill in the gaps by ordering the missing link. And if you watch a group of kids shout out orders at a casual izakaya, drinking and partying all evening, you’ll find the meal will somehow, in its winding way, follow the guidelines as well.

Five Senses

Water basin in gold, © Kirk Vuillemot, 2008Food should be enjoyed with all five of the senses: taste and smell are obvious, but sight figures predominately in Japanese cuisine. In fact, it can be considered just as important as taste. The artful arrangement of food on appropriate and beautiful tableware adds so much to the enjoyment of the meal that it cannot be stressed enough. No matter how delicious your perfectly simmered halibut may be, the result can be ruined with a white round dish (wrong shape) that shows the drippings (wrong color.)

Touch is also important, not only for the texture of the food itself, which should be varied, but also for tableware, as it is customary to hold vessels and utensils in one’s hands. Freshly cut bamboo chopsticks feel wonderfully cool to the touch, while smooth lacquerware feels warm. A rustic and sturdy stoneware serving dish might not be moved by the diner, but the suggestion of touch is still present. A feather-light hand-thrown porcelain rice bowl might cost ten times as much as a similar-looking factory-made one, but the enjoyment of touch adds so much that professional chefs and serious home cooks always opt for the pricier option.

Hearing, while being a bit more esoteric, also figures into the experience. My only comment would be that generally speaking, the more expensive a restaurant, the quieter. A boisterous izakaya has a much different feel than a quietly serious sushi establishment or a famous ryotei. This might strike a Western visitor as odd, as if the diners are not having fun. However, to properly appreciate the experience and give due respect to the chef, a quiet atmosphere is appreciated, so that you really appreciate the marvelous experience, and perhaps can even hear the water of the garden stream, the buzz of cicadas, or the wind in the neighboring pines.

Five Colors

The prevalence of the five colors – white, black, red, green and yellow – has been a tradition since Buddhism arrived from China in the 6th century. It can be seen in temple architecture, pottery and artwork. The Japanese believe that it is best to include the five colors in every meal. While I don’t always do this, I find that following the five colors rule boosts the nutritional value, as well as the visual enjoyment of the meal. Today’s bento, for instance, includes white rice with black sesame seeds, a red umeboshi, a slice of sweet yellow omelette, and green beans with black sesame sauce. Being mindful of this practice will help you serve balanced meals with the proper vitamins and minerals. My aunt used to say that you should eat 20 different kinds of food a day. I’ve also read that this practice also helps the Japanese stay slim.

Whenever I make a monochrome meal, I find it strange and somehow lacking. One of my favorite dishes is genmai rice with tororo, with miso soup on the side; basically, different shades of white and brown. Adding shredded nori to the rice, yellow pickles and a green salad with cherry tomatoes would improve the meal greatly, but I have to admit that I don’t always do so.

The Fifth Taste

Salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and… umami. Recently, much fuss has been made over umami, touted as the fifth taste. In fact, I liked the concept so much that, when starting this website, it was my first choice for a domain name. Umami comes from the Japanese word umai, meaning delicious, and can be described as savory (hence, the name I chose: Savory Japan). It can be accomplished by adding a little butter to a soy sauce based dish, or sprinkling a little parmesean cheese into a miso sauce. Umami is imparted by amino acids called glutamates, found in meat, fish, dairy and vegetables (in forms such as olive oil). Dashi, that all-important konbu and katsuo stock that serves as a basis for so much of Japanese cuisine, is loaded with glutamates, and infuses everything it touches with a savory deliciousness. Discovered fairly recently, in the early part of the 20th century, umami is now a worldwide phenomenon, inspiring chefs the world over. In fact, there are even cookbooks celebrating umami, as well as an Umami society.

Five Ways

The preparation of the dishes is also important, and here, there are also five methods: raw, simmered, fried, steamed and roasted or grilled. Kaiseki cuisine makes use of these various ways of preparation, which add up to a complete experience.

Kaiseki meals usually start with the most delicate and subtle of flavors and textures, such as a few slices of raw sashimi. This is followed by soup or simmered vegetables in broth. The flavors and textures then get progressively more substantial; perhaps some crispy tempura, followed by grilled fish or meat. The meal then winds down with rice, soup and pickles. Dessert is sometimes served as well, and is always light; a perfect slice of melon, or perhaps a refreshing cold tofu custard.

This progression of flavors and preparation methods is surprisingly similar throughout the world, especially at fine dining establishments. Of course, the home cook rarely goes to so much trouble for daily meals. And on some winter days, one-pot meals really hit the spot. But a typical weekday meal at my house is salad, grilled fish, steamed, boiled or blanched vegetables, miso soup, rice and pickles. So, four out of the five ways are standard at the typical Japanese meal.

Five Attitudes
More esoteric are the five attitudes in the partaking of food. These come from the Buddhist faith, and are often posted at restaurants that serve vegetarian temple cuisine. While most modern Japanese cannot recite them, they provide the foundation for the Japanese attitude towards food by cultivating a spirit of gratitude. The following Five Phrases from the book Good Food from a Japanese Temple by Soei Yoneda, former Abbess of the Sanko-in Temple, are uttered in Zen temples before the partaking of food:

World’s longest sandwich set Guinness World Record by UAE Red Crescent and Kraft Food

The UAE Red Crescent and Kraft Foods are getting ready to make the world’s longest sandwich and enter it in the Guinness Book of World Records replacing the current title-holder sandwich of 2,000 metres long. The sandwich will be created on 7 October 2012.

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“The longest sandwich in the world will use more than half a ton of cream cheese and 10,000 bread nuggets, 625 kgs of tomatoes, 250 kgs of cucumber and olive. Over 100 employees of Kraft Foods will work for more than four hours to make 10,000 sandwiches, which will encircle the Outlet Mall,” sources aware of the preparations told Emirates 24|7.

While it takes four hours to make 10,000 sandwiches, it will take another five hours for workers in select labour camps to eat the cream cheese sandwiches. The UAE Red Crescent has already identified the labour camps where the record making sandwiches will be distributed.

Kraft Foods and UAE Red Crescent will attempt to create history on October 7, at the Outlet Mall between 12-2 pm. As per the Guinness Book of World Records, the biggest sandwich ever made in the world weighed 3,178 kgs.
According to the Guinness Book of Records, the largest sandwitch was made in March 2005 by Wild Woodys Chill and Grill, in Michigan USA.

The Lung Association, Brockville, Canada made an omelet that weighed 2.95 tonnes at the Brockville Memorial Centre, Ontario, Canada on May 11, 2002.

The longest line of pizzas measured 476.7m and was achieved by Tamburino Restaurant (UK) at the Quedam Shopping Centre, Yeovil, UK, on 29 June 2008. The line consisted of 2,129 pizzas. The record attempt started at 6am and it took 10 hours to complete. All the pizzas were made from scratch including mixing the dough, making the bases and adding the toppings.

Using 1,000kg of ostrich meat and 700kg of chicken, a team of chefs in Iran created a 1,500m ostrich sandwich-setting the world record for the longest ostrich sandwich. Displayed at the International Food and Health Festival in Tehran, the 1,000 kgs mega meal took about five tonnes of different ingredients, including chicken meat and sauce as well as ostrich. More than 1,000 cooks laboured from early morning in Tehran’s Mellat Park to assemble the meat monster and it took two days to prepare the 1.4 tons of ostrich meat, chicken, mayonnaise, mushrooms, onions, garlic, spices and bread to make the 1.5km sandwich, which was eaten in minutes.

How to help kids and teens eat more fruit and vegies

Eating more fruit and vegies every day can sometimes be a struggle. However, research shows that we’re more likely to do so if they’re available and ready to eat.
Children may need to try new fruits and vegies up to 10 times before they accept them. So stay patient and keep offering them. It can also help to prepare and serve them in different and creative ways.

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Some ideas to try:

  • Involve the whole family in choosing and preparing fruit and vegies.
  • Select fruit and vegies that are in season – they taste better and are usually cheaper.
  • Keep a bowl of fresh fruit in the home.
  • Be creative in how you prepare and serve fruit and vegetables – such as raw, sliced, grated, microwaved, mashed or baked; serve different coloured fruit and vegies or use different serving plates or bowls.
  • Include fruit and vegies in every meal. For example, add chopped, grated or pureed vegetables to pasta sauces, meat burgers, frittatas, stir-fries and soups, and add fruit to breakfast cereal.
  • Snack on fruit and vegies. Try corn on the cob; jacket potato topped with reduced fat cheese; plain popcorn (unbuttered and without sugar or salt coating); chopped vegies with salsa, hummus or yoghurt dips; stewed fruit; fruit crumble; frozen fruit; or muffins and cakes made with fruit or vegies.
  • Try different fruits or vegies on your toast – banana, mushrooms or tomatoes.
  • Add chopped or pureed fruit to plain yoghurts.
  • Make a fruit smoothie with fresh, frozen or canned (in natural or unsweetened juice) fruit; blend it with reduced fat milk and yoghurt.
  • Chop up some fruit or vegie sticks for the lunchbox.
  • In summer, freeze fruit on a skewer (or mix with yoghurt before freezing) for a refreshing snack.
  • Make fruit-based desserts (such as fruit crumble or baked, poached or stewed fruit) and serve with reduced fat custard.
  • Have fresh fruit available at all times as a convenient snack – keep the fruit bowl full and have diced fruit in a container in the fridge.

Italian Traditional Holiday Cakes "Pandoro: Italian Christmas Cake"

This is a  very traditional cake eaten all over Italy. Tall and fluffy, pandoro needs to rise almost a dozen times, before being baked and covered in sifted powdered sugar. They are sold commercially almost everywhere– especially around the winter holidays: Christmas, New Year’s Eve and the Befana.

We can kindly take you back to the Austrian Asburgico Empire  with the story of pandoro: it would have been the pastry makers of the Royal House of Vienna to prepare l’antenato of pandoro (pan:bread. Oro: gold). They named it “the bread of Vienna,” and it was born as a variant of French brioche dough.

Others argue that pandoro was native to the Republic of Veneto, and more precisely to Venice, and that it had been created much earlier than the 19th century: according to this specific version of the story, the pan de oro had been baked for the first time in the Renaissance, for the wealthy family of the Serenissima. The cake was entirely covered with thin gold leaves, made from gold coins.

Another theory, seemingly more appropriate, is the one wanting pandoro as an evolution of the Veronese nadalin, a traditional, star shaped cake. Nadalin is somehow heavier and more dense in texture, but has similarities in flavor with pandoro.

Pandoro is widely available in stores, but if you are a keen baker, you may like to try to make it yourself. Be aware, though, that you have to follow the recipe scrupulously and be very careful with the raising times of the dough.

 

Ingredients:

  • 650g Flour (23oz)
  • 250g butter (8.82oz)
  • 200g sugar (7.05oz)
  • 8 eggs
  • 30g beer yeast (1.06oz)
  • 12 cup of whipping cream (not whipped)
  • lemon rind grated
  • 1 package of powdered vanilla 0.5g (1.76 oz)
  • 50g of powdered sugar

Preparation:

Place in bowl 75g (2.65 oz) of flour with 10g (0.35oz) of sugar and the crumbled yeast, then add one egg yolk and blend into the mix. If the dough is too solid add a little warm water. Combine the ingredients well, and place the bowl in a warm place. (18-20°C 64°-68°F) to let it rise for about 2 hours.

After the two hours have passed, add 160g (5.64oz) of flour, 25g (0.88oz) of softened butter, 90g (3.17oz) of sugar and 3 more egg yolks to the dough.  Blend to perfection and place in a warm place to rise for another 2 hours.

After that,  add another 375g of flour, 40g of softened butter, 75g () of sugar, 1 whole egg, and 3 yolks. Work the dough again and blend in the ingredients then place to rise again for 2 hours.

Now, put the dough on a counter or flat surface and knead incorporating the 12 cup of liquid whipping cream, the grated lemon peel, and a dash of powdered vanilla. Now weigh the dough and calculate for every Kilo-(2.2 lbs) 150g of butter. With the rolling pin, roll out the dough and make a square (not too wide!) and place the right amount of diced out butter in the middle. Fold up the dough and  roll out with you rolling pin. Once it is large enough, fold the dough on itself three times, roll out again and fold in three twice more. Once this is done, let the dough rest for 30 minutes.

In the meantime,  butter up 2 deep baking pans (without hole in center) and dust with sugar. Place the dough on a flat surface, and work lightly for a few minutes with your hands rolling it and dusting it with flour. Make two balls, and put them in the two prepared baking dishes. The dough should fill half the baking pan. Place them in a warm place to rise or until the dough reaches the level of the baking pan.

When ready, place them in a hot oven 190°C (374°F) for about 40 minutes. After about 20 minutes lower the oven temperature to allow the inside to cook without colorizing the outside too quickly.

As soon as they are cooked, take them out of the oven and place them on paper towels to allow them to cool, dust in powdered sugar!

10 Suggestions to make a good coffee with a Bialetti like coffeemaker

MOLD IS THE BIGGEST ENEMY: Just about a month ago I was at a friend’s house discussing coffee pots. She had an espresso, an American, a Russian and a Bialetti. She was complaining about the Bialetti: the coffee tasted too bad. I knew immediately what was the problem, having encountered it many times before that. I opened the coffee pot and immediately noticed several white fluffy spots, some of them even looking like soft cotton. It was mold, the most common issue with this machine. It does not happen in Italy, first because we use the machine every day, second because everybody knows that you need to have the machine completely dry before closing it, if the machine is still wet and you seal it, mold grows inside. The remedy is pretty simple: just wash it then put water and boil it like you were making coffee and then throw away the water. Also, if you haven’t used the machine for a long time it is always better to make a coffee or two to throw away first. After that the machine is ready to brew again like new.

 So remember: make sure the coffee machine is dry before you close it !!

Normally you should just rinse the machine with water and your hands, no soap and no sponge (much less an abrasive one) should be used for everyday cleaning.

So these are the suggestions:

1- When the pot is new make one or two coffee with cheap throw away coffee to season the machine

2- Always make sure the coffee pot is dry before closing it to store it, to prevent mold

3- If mold is present clean and make coffee to throw away

4-  Do not press too much the ground coffee and cook over slow heat

5-  Make a throw away coffee (or tow) if you haven’t used the machine for a long time

6- Turn off the heat just before the coffee fills up (do not let it boil, it will burn the coffee)

7- Use the best espresso coffee (like Lavazza, Illi, Segafredo)

8- Stir the coffee before serving it, since the coffee on top would end up being very strong and that on the bottom much weaker if you don’t do it.

9- The coffeemaker is one of the few things that doesn’t require too much cleaning: the blacker the jug is, the better the coffee!

10- If you want to make a nice cream, take out a bit of coffee when it starts to come out from the hole in the jug part of the coffeemaker. Put it in a cup with about 2 teaspoons of sugar for every cup of coffee. Stir swiftly for about a minute. Then share the cream into the different cups and add the rest of the coffee.

World's Largest Meatball

No spaghetti needed. The Columbus Italian Club is currently the record holder of the World’s Largest Meatball. On October 8, 2011, the Club prepared the giant meatball during the St. John’s Italian Festival in Columbus, Ohio. The meat was handled by only seven members of the club, which included Fred Muccio, Mike DiCarlo, Jim Vergalitto, Bill Maselli, Rick Willimott, Chuck Nance and Joe Gigliotti. The final product, created in the Mr. Meatball kitchen owned by Paul Gulatta, weighed 1,110 lbs and was over 4 ft in diameter. According to Guinness World Records, the meat was constantly monitored while it was cooked to assure it was safe to eat. Photo courtesy of Guinness World Records via

Goma Dofu (sesame ‘tofu’)

INGREDIENTS

1 ½ cup white sesame seeds
1 cup water
¼ cup katakuriko or kuzu
Wasabi
Soy sauce

Seasame tofu

Puree sesame seeds and water in a blender for 5 minutes, or until is it a fine liquid. Strain in a fine sieve or 3 layers of cheesecloth. It is important to remove all the husks in order to have a silky smooth result. Wash the blender and return the sesame milk (now 1 2/3 cups) and add the starch and blend to make sure there are no lumps whatsoever.

Pour the mixture into a heavy saucepan and bring to a medium high heat, stirring with a sturdy wooden spoon. Continue stirring vigorously as the mixture starts to thicken. After 10 minutes, or when elastic bubbles start to form, take the pan off the heat and continue to stir for a few more minutes. Pour into a square mold that is dipped in water (to keep it from sticking) and force cool in a pan of cold water.

When solidified, unmold and keep in water until ready to serve. Slice into squares, top with a dab of wasabi, and serve on small individual dishes with soy sauce. It is shown here with sliced cucumber and thin sheets of kuzu mochi.Serves 4

Lemon Pepper Shrimp Scampi

Lemon Pepper Shrimp Scampi Recipe

Ingredients

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
7 teaspoons unsalted butter, divided
1 1/2 pounds peeled and deveined jumbo shrimp
2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

1. Cook orzo according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain. Place orzo in a medium bowl. Stir in parsley and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cover and keep warm.

2. While orzo cooks, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle shrimp with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add half of shrimp to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until almost done. Transfer shrimp to a plate. Melt 1 teaspoon butter in pan. Add remaining shrimp to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until almost done. Transfer to plate.

3. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in pan. Add garlic to pan; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in shrimp, juice, and pepper; cook 1 minute or until shrimp are done.

Chile Powder: Packed with Flavor

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For years I, like most people, bought my chile powder pre-mixed at the store. But I was never really happy with it because most such commercial powders contain things like cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and even sugar. It wasn’t that I didn’t want cumin in my chili, I did, but I preferred to control the amount. I also preferred fresh onions and garlic to powdered so I started my own chile powder. This recipe is fairly mild (I can always kick up the heat with some cayenne) and has a nice smoky flavor from the Chipotle chilies.* (Larger image.) Makes 1/4 – 1/2 cup.

 

Ingredients
  • 2 Ancho chiles
  • 3 Pasillo chiles
  • 2 Chipotle chiles
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
Preparation

1. Stem chiles and break them up into small pieces.

2. Process them in one or two batches in a spice mill, coffee grinder, or small food processor.

*Note 1: The actual level of heat and quantity will vary from batch to batch because of differences in the peppers.

Note 2: The names of these chiles all refer to the dried forms. A chipotle is a dried jalapeno, an ancho is a dried poblano, and a pasillo is a dried chile negro.

Let's Breakfast With Fabulous French Toast

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Ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • ¼ c. milk
  • dash of vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp. margarine
  • 2 pieces of bread

 

Utensils:

  • medium-size bowl
  • mixing spoon
  • frying pan
  • stove (you’ll need help from your adult assistant)
  • spatula
  • serving plate
  • measuring cups and spoons

Directions:

  1. Crack the egg into a medium-size bowl and beat well. Then mix in the milk and vanilla extract.
  2. Put the margarine in a frying pan. Heat the pan on the stovetop on medium heat. It’s hot enough when the margarine starts to bubble.
  3. Dunk each piece of bread in the egg mixture. Make sure the bread is totally covered.
  4. Cook the bread in the frying pan on low heat until the underside is light brown (about 5 minutes).
  5. Use a spatula to flip the bread over, and cook again for another 5 minutes.
  6. Use the spatula to transfer the French toast to a plate.

Make New Menu for Kids with "Tiny Pizzas"

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Ingredients:

  • 1 standard-sized bagel, cut in half
  • tomato sauce
  • shredded mozzarella cheese
  • toppings like diced green pepper, chopped onion, or chopped tomato (whatever you like)
  • seasonings like oregano, basil, and pepper

Utensils:

  • oven (you’ll need help from your adult assistant)
  • knife (you’ll need help from your adult assistant)
  • baking sheet

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325° F.
  2. Spread tomato sauce on each bagel half.
  3. Sprinkle the shredded cheese all over the tomato sauce on each half.
  4. Add your favorite toppings.
  5. Put a light sprinkling of seasonings on each half.
  6. Put your bagel halves on the baking sheet.
  7. Bake in the oven on low heat for about 5 to 8 minutes. You’ll know they’re done when the cheese is bubbly.
  8. Let cool for a minute, then enjoy your tiny pizzas!

Fruit Concentrates

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Apple Concentrate

Modelled on calvados (apple brandy) Prenzel Apple Concentrate is distilled from apples to maintain the distinctive flavour of the fruit, it offers a suberb base flavour and is currently used in many kitchens. Its unique flavours are especially popular for use in cakes and desserts

Cassis (Blackcurrant) Concentrate

Cassis is a French liqueur popular with cafe society – particularly when added to champagne to create the famous Kir Royale.  It has a wonderful flavour that combines well with both sweet and savoury applications. Prenzel’s Cassis Concentrate is a rich and fruity blackcurrant concentrate made from succulent New Zealand Blackcurrants.

Clear Orange Concentrate

Clear Orange Culinary Concentrate is colourless and has a neutral grain spirit base and derives its flavour from a blend of citrus oils from around the world. Clear Orange Concentrate can easily be substituted for Cointreau in recipes, and is very popular in baking and desert dishes. Clear Orange can also be used in sauces to compliment many game dishes including duck and venison.

Grand Orange Concentrate

Prenzel Grand Orange concentrate is orange/brown in colour and can be used in many food applications. It is particularly popular in specialty cake and dessert making. Prenzel’s Grand Orange concentrate has a flavour profile similar to the French Grand Marnier® liqueur.

Coconut Concentrate

Prenzel Coconut Concentrate is blended using a grain neutral spirit base with natural coconut extracts. It offers a superb base flavour for use in cakes and desserts.

Kiwifruit Concentrate

Prenzel’s Kiwifruit Concentrate captures the unique flavours of kiwifruit and creates a culinary concentrate that is both economic and easy to use. Kiwifruit Concentrate is an excellent ingredient to add flavour to: confectionery, especially truffles, fudge and chocolates; ice-cream and sorbets; muffins, biscuits/cookies; and desserts such as cheesecakes, trifles and tiramisu.

Lemon Concentrate

Prenzel’s Lemon Concentrate is crafted using a blend of lemon juice and lemon peel creating a zesty and aromatic flavour; a must have ingredient for muffins, slices and cakes and especially for use in icing.

Lime Concentrate

Prenzel’s Lime Concentrate is derived from 100% natural lime oil extracted from the peel. It has a vibrant and aromatic flavour. Use in classic citrus based sauces to help lift the flavour.

Mango Concentrate

Prenzel’s Mango Concentrate derived from a natural mango flavour suspended in a 60% grain neutral spirit base. Great for desserts such as cheesecakes, ice creams, gelatos or sorbets.

Peach Concentrate

Prenzel Peach Concentrate is blended using natural Peach flavours to maintain the sweet flavour of the fruit. Peach concentrate offers a superb base flavour for sauces, cakes and gourmet ice-creams.

Raspberry Concentrate

Preznel Raspberry Concentrate is blended using natural Raspberry distillates. Its unique tastes offers a superb base flavour for sauces, cakes and other dessert.

Strawberry Concentrate

Prenzel Strawberry Concentrate is blended using natural Strawberry extracts to create a concentrate that is both delicious and delightfully aromatic.

Keep fresh

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J uice cleanse, juice fast, or juice detox—whatever you call it, drinking freshly extracted fruit and vegetable juices is back in style, and not just for models and movie stars. Juicing proponents claim that a juice cleanse—as either a meal substitution or supplement—is a good way to slim down quickly, get clearer skin, boost energy, reduce aches and pains, improve digestion and metabolism, strengthen immunity, and even put yourself in a better mood. But juicing skeptics do exist: Nutritionists and doctors say the body is perfectly good at detoxing itself, and that subsisting on juice for too long can both deplete the body of important nutrients and disrupt metabolism. At the very least, a well-made juice is a delicious way to stay hydrated while getting some vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. And if you budget for the calories, you can enjoy all the benefits of juicing without skipping solid foods.

There are differences between a juice, a shake, and a smoothie. Smoothies and shakes, typically made in a blender, usually spotlight fruit (rather than vegetables) and are often mixed with add-ins—nut butters, yogurt, milk, or milk substitutes—making them thick and frothy. Juices, by contrast, are the liquids extracted from fruits and vegetables obtained usually with a juicer (a.k.a. juice extractor). Juices are generally the best way to go if you’re looking to increase consumption of vegetables and their nutrients. They also often contain less sugar and fewer calories than a shake or smoothie.

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Most of the well-known juice cleanse brands—BluePrint, LoveGrace, Cooler Cleanse, and Evolution Fresh, among them—aren’t exactly budget-friendly. For example, six days’ worth of the BluePrint Cleanse’s proprietary juices costs $390 (not including delivery). The long-term cost of making juices at home can actually be significantly cheaper than buying pre-made juices. Homemade juices are also better-tasting and more nutritious than most you’ll find at grocery stores. In fact, many store-bought juices are heat-treated and/or contain preservatives and other additives, contributing to lackluster flavor and a poor nutritional profile. The best thing about juicing at home is that you can make your juice just the way you like it. Read on for our best tips to juice smart—with the frequency, ingredients, costs, and flavors all tailored to what works for you.

 

  • Choose the Right Juicer for You

Some recipes, like the Energy Shake, made with fruit and kale, can actually be made with a blender. High-powered blenders like the Vitamix and Blendtec can even process harder vegetables like carrots. But to mimic the smooth texture of pulp-free juices and to minimize prep work (peeling, deseeding, chopping), use an electric juice extractor that can process it all—stems, skins, and seeds included. Juicers can cost anywhere from under $50 to several hundred or even thousands of dollars, but for all but the most hard-core juicers, a relatively inexpensive centrifugal juicer is more than adequate. Just look for a mouth big enough to fit whole or large chunks of fruits and vegetables.

  • Choose Produce for Flavor

An all-fruit juice can be too sugary, while a vegetables-only version—especially all greens—can be thick or bitter. Still want an all-vegetable blend? Add veggies with a high water content (celery and cucumbers) or natural sugar (beets and carrots). For an all-fruit juice, use citrus to tone down the sweetness. Or better yet, juice fruits and vegetables together—like pineapple and spinach—to achieve a balance of flavors while incorporating phytonutrients and other beneficial compounds.

  • Season Your Juice

Give your juice a kick of flavor with aromatics (ginger, cayenne, garlic), tender herbs (parsley, mint, basil), and citrus (lemon and lime). They’ll add a dose of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories; they can also aid digestion and even suppress appetite.

  • Watch Out for Pesticides

Going organic for juicing is worth considering, especially if you’re using fresh produce like apples, celery, and spinach that tend to be treated with a lot of pesticides. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen Plus and Clean Fifteen or ask your local farmers’ market vendor if pesticides are used.

  • Keep an Eye on Calories

Even in their liquid states, fruits and vegetables have calories. Keep portion size in mind, especially if you’re juicing to lose weight. If you’re supplementing your regular diet, budget for those extra calories.

  • Swap Meals with Care

The whole point of a juice cleanse, for a lot of people, is skipping solid meals in favor of juice. But nutritionists don’t recommend making a habit of swapping juices for whole foods. Instead, try to eat salads, steamed vegetables, and fruits as well, so you can reap the health benefits of juice without depriving yourself or feeling hungry.

Japanese Culinary Tours and Travel

  • Tokyo-style sushi
  • Private market tours (including Tsukiji Fish Market) with local chefs & experts
  • Foodie honeymoons
  • Depachika food halls
  • Kaiseki cuisine
  • Izakaya, tachinomiya & street food
  • Michelin-starred restaurants
  • Sake tasting
  • Cooking classes
  • And more!

Sushi

Sushi Yoshitake Tokyo Japan

If you want to experience the best sushi in the world, it’s worth splurging at one of Tokyo’s many sushi temples – or even flying to the northern island of Hokkaido for some of Japan’s best seafood.

Modern sushi’s roots are based in Tokyo, and for the quintessential sushi experience we can reserve you counter seats for a special dinner at one of Tokyo’s best sushi restaurants.

But even if your budget doesn’t allow for extravagance, you’ll find delicious sushi at neighborhood sushi-ya, depachika food halls (more about these below), and sometimes even at kaiten-zushi (“conveyor belt”) shops.

Private Market Tours

Kyoto Nishiki Market Pickles Tsukemono Japan

Visiting a Japanese market with a local expert is the best way to immerse yourself in Japan’s culinary culture.

Whether you want to visit Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market, Kyoto’s colorful Nishiki Market, a depachika food hall – or even a neighborhood grocery store – a private market tour is the best way to get beneath the surface.

And of course your guide will have expert insights on what to sample, and where to eat afterwards!

Japan’s most well-known market is Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market. This is a must-visit destination for foodies, photographers and market lovers.

Whether you plan to visit for the early-morning tuna auctions – or later in the morning for a stroll and a sushi breakfast – we can help you create the perfect experience.

Foodie Honeymoons in Japan

hakata ramen fukuoka kyushu japan

An increasing number of newlyweds are choosing Japan for their honeymoon, and we love arranging honeymoons in Japan!

Japan attracts couples who are seeking unique experiences, and love immersing themselves in new cultures.

And Japanese cuisine is a major draw: if you’re looking for the foodiest honeymoon imaginable, Japan is the place.

Kaiseki Cuisine

Kaiseki japanese food ryokan kurashiki

Kaiseki is Japanese cuisine in its most refined form.

A kaiseki meal consists of course upon course of masterfully-prepared dishes featuring seasonal and local specialties.

A stay at a luxury ryokan usually includes a kaiseki dinner – often served in your room, or in a private dining room overlooking a small Japanese garden.

Even if you’re not staying in a ryokan during your Japan trip, restaurants specializing in kaiseki cuisine abound, particularly in cities such as Kyoto and Tokyo.

Izakaya, Tachinomiya & Street Food

japanese food takoyaki octopus balls osaka japan

Japan is not all haute cuisine, and some of the best meals you will have will also be some of the most casual.

There’s nothing quite like the izakaya experience.

An izakaya is a neighborhood establishment where people go equally for the food and the drink.

It’s often translated into English as Japanese-style pub, tavern or gastropub – they’re lively places where you go to have a drink with friends or coworkers, while eating delicious Japanese-style tapas.

vegetables at an izakaya in Japan

Izakayas exist in every city of Japan. In addition to being the perfect place to sample a wide variety of Japanese dishes – from seafood to fried foods, tofu to vegetables – eating and drinking at an izakaya is also a great way to mingle with locals.

Izakaya are usually casual, but for an even more casual drinks-focused experience, head to a tachinomiya.

Tachinomiya (tachi means stand, nomi means drink) are “stand bars,” where you can really rub shoulders with locals.

These casual bars can be found throughout Japan, and are a great place to strike up a conversation with locals over reasonably-priced drinks and unpretentious Japanese bar food.

shochu kyushu nagasaki japan

Japan is not generally known for its street food, but in some Japanese cities – such as Osaka and Fukuoka – you’ll find street vendors selling delicious local specialties such as takoyaki and Hakata ramen, respectively.

And during Japanese matsuri (festivals), colorful food stalls line the streets.

While you can experience izakaya, tachinomiya and Japan’s street food without a guide, having a local culinary guide can heighten the experience.

Not only can your private guide take you to hard-to-find “hidden” establishments, he or she will also be able to interpret, as most such establishments lack English menus or English speakers.

Michelin-starred Restaurants

Maru Izakaya Aoyama Tokyo Japan

The Michelin Guide is controversial in Japan.

While many in Japan embrace it, many chefs and critics denounce it as a foreign standard being imposed on Japanese cuisine.

No matter your stance, one thing is certain: Japan is home to more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other country in the world (including France).

And when Japanese critics and Michelin inspectors agree on a restaurant, you can usually be assured of a transformative culinary experience.

Sake Tasting & Breweries

sake bottles tokyo japan

Most people don’t realize how complex and delicious nihonshu (sake) really is.

Going on a private sake tour with a local sake expert is the best way to learn about different varieties of sake, through tastings and explanations.

In many parts of Japan you can also visit a sake brewery. During a sake brewery tour you’ll have the opportunity to see where and how sake is made, and the chance to ask all the questions you might have about this incredible beverage.

Private Maiko Dinner

Geisha and maiko (apprentice geisha) are highly misunderstood outside of Japan.

The chance to enjoy private dinner with a geisha or maiko, along with an expert interpreter, is a rare opportunity to get a glimpse into this world which is largely hidden behind closed doors.

Japanese Cooking Lessons

gyoza dumplings japanese food japan

Taking a private Japanese cooking class is a great way to learn more about Japanese ingredients, while adding some recipes to your repertoire.

You can learn highly authentic dishes, or a mix of authentic and slightly-adapted dishes, to ensure you can re-create the recipes using ingredients available to you in your home country.

Author : Anthony Bourdain