Archive for the category ‘Cooking’

Bread Machines – Yes

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Bread machines come in a range of brands and models with the most basic device returning a standard sized loaf, made from various types of flours with a couple of different crusting options, and the more elaborate devices producing larger loaves, a greater range of settings for sweet and savoury loaves, as well as dough making facilities and even jam making. Of course, the cost of more elaborate models reflects the greater functionality.

The bread maker gives the cook great control over what ingredients are used. This is perhaps one of the best features of the device and what makes it most worthwhile. It enables cooks to tweet the ingredients and proportions in a way that would not be possible buying off the shelf bread-products.

Whether you are health conscious and want the most healthy ingredients, or simply want to create a loaf to your own individual taste, the bread maker presents one way of achieving this. It would often not be possible to purchase products that met your own individual requirements; however, the bread maker allows you to create exactly what you want. This is priceless!

Beyond the scope for creating your own bread products, the bread maker is also an invaluable investment because it can also save money. Cooking bread in the oven in the traditional way requires more energy than the device made specifically for the purpose. The oven can often be an expensive way of cooking, especially for individual loaves or small batches. If it is used to assist dough to rise the cost of running the oven also increases.

Of course, the cost of a bread maker probably cannot match the cheapest loaves that can be purchased in shops and if the primary purpose of the bread maker is to produce bread as cheaply as possible, the bread maker may not be the best choice. The more elaborate models will certainly offer more functionality than is needed and if these functions are not used, the device may be a “waste.”

When it comes to the more elaborate bread machine functions – like jam making – the bread maker really comes into its own. Whether you are using home grown fruits, or fruits purchased cheaply in bulk, both jams and marmalades can be made well below cost of purchasing even the cheapest preserves in the shops. Over time even the additional outlay for the device can be recuperated.

The one downside of bread machines is that the models change very quickly and when a part wears out, it is not always possible to fix it because your model is no longer supported by the manufacturer. But while manufacturers do not stock spare parts that would fix your device cheaply, it is often possible to find spare parts, such as paddles, from ebay stores at a very good price that means you can get a bread maker fixed, preserving its life.

Bread makers offer great scope for cooking creativity – enabling you to make speciality products cheaply that you cannot buy; it is cheaper to run than a conventional oven for cooking; and more elaborate functions like jam making truly make the bread machine a winner. Fixing it can be done cheaply, leading to it being a worthwhile investment.

Choosing a Stand Mixer

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A hand mixer is a wonderfully convenient, easy to use and easy to store small kitchen appliance. However, if you plan to do a considerable amount of baking, you may need to add a stand mixer to your kitchen appliance collection.

Stand mixers can handle a heavier dough than a hand mixer. Stand mixers also give you the advantage of having both hands free while the mixing process is going on. Once you decide you need a stand mixer, the next step is choosing the one that is best for you.

One aspect of the mixer design that you will need to decide on is whether you want a lift or tilt design. A tilt design simply means that the bowl remains stationary while the top tilts back to lift the beaters out of the bowl. The tilt design offers easier access to the bowl which is helpful when you’re adding ingredients, but the lift style is a space saver. One of the more appealing features of the bowl-lift design is that it fits under a cabinet and does not have to be moved forward in order to use it.

Generally, mixer bowl sizes range from 2 to 7 quarts with 4 or 5 quarts being the most frequently chosen options. It is recommended that a mixer provide at least six speed options in order to accommodate a variety of mixing requirements. Most mixers come with mix, whip and knead attachments.  There are numerous other attachments available depending on the mixer you select.

Metal gears are more durable than nylon gears in a stationary mixer.  However, the metal gears do make more noise than the nylon gears. Another consideration when choosing a stand mixer is the weight of the mixer.  The heavier the mixer, the less movement you will have when it is in use.  This could be a concern for you if you plan to frequently use the mixer for heavy duty tasks. On the other hand, if you plan to store your mixer in a cabinet or on a shelf, you will want to consider the weight of the mixer in regard to how easy or difficult it will be to move it from its storage place to the kitchen counter.

Some stand mixers have an overload reset button. If you plan to frequently knead heavy dough, this may be an option to consider. The safe shut off feature will keep your mixer from over-heating when performing heavy duty tasks.

If you plan to leave your mixer on the counter, you may be concerned about its outward appearance.  You have numerous colors to select from if you want to match it to your kitchen décor. However, the actual function of the mixer, the size of the bowl, the price of the mixer and the specific features it offers should be your most important concerns.  Choosing the stand mixer that fits your cooking style is what matters most.

Best Websites for Barbecue or Grilling Tips

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Summer is almost here again and millions of Americans will again experience the pleasure of grilling outdoors. Almost 3 out of 4 Americans owns an outdoor grill. The average American spends 5 hours per week grilling outdoors. With so many Americans spending so much time cooking outdoors, many outdoor cooks will be looking for good barbecue tips on the Internet. This article discusses 4 excellent websites for obtaining barbecue tips online.

Best websites for barbecue tips: kingsford.com

Charcoal manufacturer Kingsford maintains an excellent website called Kingsford University, which provides a wealth of useful information for grilling over charcoal. The Kingsford University website features several videos providing basic barbecuing tips, as well as advice on how to grill beef, pork, chicken, and fish. The website also provides tips on how to prepare and maintain a charcoal grill as well as a number of valuable safety tips. Kingsford University offers good tips for cooking over charcoal in an easy to use format.

Best websites for barbecue tips: weber.com

Leading grill manufacturer Weber’s website is also an excellent source of tips for grilling on both charcoal and gas grills. Weber.com features a grilling guide which provides detailed information for grilling beef, pork, poultry, vegetables, fruits, fish and seafood, game, and lamb. These grilling guides contain charts with cooking times and temperatures for each type of food to be grilled. Weber.com also provides a good explanation of the differences between direct and indirect methods of cooking and a guide to when to use direct heat and when to use indirect heat. Weber also provides useful tips on selecting and using herbs and spices in your outdoor cooking. Weber.com is a well organized site providing a number of basic useful tips for grilling outdoors. 

Best websites for barbecue tips: smoking-meat.com

Jeff Phillips of Tulsa, Oklahoma created smoking-meat.com to spread his knowledge about smoking meats. Smoking-meat.com focuses solely on slow cooking meat over smoke. The website contains over 300 pages of information on smoking meats. The website includes advice and tips for selecting and using different types of equipment such as wood smokers (which use chunks of wood for fuel), charcoal smokers, electric smokers, and gas smokers. Additionally, smoking-meat.com contains numerous recipes and tips for smoking pork, chicken, turkey, and beef. Smoking-meat.com is a well organized and easy to use website which contains a wealth of information for any outdoor chef who enjoys preparing smoked meat.

Best websites for barbecue tips: barbecuen.com

Barbecuen.com is the creation of Houston, Texas barbeque expert Charlie McMurrey. Barbecuen.com offers comprehensive advice to outdoor chefs of all abilities and experience levels. The website offers tips and advice for using a variety of equipment such as gas grills, charcoal grills, and smokers. It also provides numerous tips and recipes for grilling all types of beef, pork, poultry, and seafood. While barbecuen.com contains a huge amount of information, the site is not as well organized as the other top websites and the number of ads found on each page can be frustrating for users. The sheer volume of quality information makes barbecuen.com a recommended website in spite of the formatting problems.

The internet offers outdoor cooks a wealth of information and tips for grilling and barbecuing. Try using these 4 sites and you should quickly be on your way to becoming a better outdoor chef.

Best way to Cook Mushrooms

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Mushrooms are delicious cooked in a variety of different ways but the danger is that, because they are so delicate, it is very easy to spoil them in the process. We must be very careful how we firstly prepare them for cooking, in the method by which we choose to cook them and also in the length of time for which we cook them in order to eat them at their very best. This article is designed to hopefully serve as a guide to each of these processes.

There are a great many varieties of mushrooms available for us to buy or even grow ourselves at home very easily.

The most common by far in Western culture and cooking is the “Agaricus Bosporus.” This is the mushroom which most of us think of when we think of mushrooms. It is actually cultivated at four different stages of its growth, giving many of us perhaps the impression that on each occasion we are purchasing a different variety of mushroom. Picked in the early stages of their growth, they are known as button mushrooms, later as closed cup mushrooms, later still as open cup mushrooms and ultimately as large flat mushrooms, at which stage they can be as much as four or five inches in diameter.

The golden rule when intending eating or cooking with any type of mushroom is that we never wash it. Mushrooms have the physical properties of sponges and will quickly soak up the water in which they are washed, spoiling their texture and impairing their flavour. Instead, purchase a small mushroom cleaning brush or wipe them carefully with some dry kitchen towel.

If the mushrooms are particularly dirty, this towel may be slightly dampened.

It is perfectly possible to eat mushrooms raw, of course, either as part of a salad or on their own. I like them particularly sprinkled with a little malt vinegar and salt and eaten as they are. If cooking with them, however, there are three ways in which I regularly do so.

Mushroom sauce is delicious poured over poached chicken.

Finely chop about six to eight small button mushrooms and one clove of garlic. Add a mere teaspoonful of sunflower oil to a non-stick saucepan, bring it up to a medium heat and saute the mushrooms and garlic in it for about a minute.

Add one cup of cheap white wine, bring it up to a simmer and reduce by half. Add half a cup of full or double cream and bring back up to a simmer then serve immediately.

Closed or open cup mushrooms are superb in a Chinese style stir fry with such as chicken or beef and onion. Remember not to overcook the mushrooms, however. In this preparation, they should be halved down through the centre, stalk and all, and the last ingredient to be added to the wok.

The large flat mushrooms, I like to cook under a hot grill. Remove any remaining stalk and very importantly, place the mushrooms open side up on a rack under the grill for the first part of the cooking process. This is because escaping water will gather in the cup but will be drained away when we turn them over.

Cook the mushrooms for up to two minutes each side, depending upon their size, and serve perhaps as part of a breakfast with sausage, bacon and egg.

These are but a few suggestions for quickly cooking with mushrooms and I hope very much that you find them appealing and will try them out for yourself.

Best ways to cook a pork loin

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Whether it be a pork loin, tenderloin or a chop – the key to a juicy and tasty piece of pork starts with a flavorful brine. Brining is simply a salty water solution – that hydrates the cells in the muscle tissues of the meat via osmosis. Brining is also a form of preservation, but this recipe only requires a 4-hour soak.

It is best to prep a day in advance.

1 gallon water
12 cloves garlic, smashed
3/4 cup kosher salt
1 cup light brown sugar
1 ea. Spanish onion, rough chopped
1 ea. navel orange, cut in 1/2
1 bunch sage
1 sprig rosemary
3 T toasted coriander seeds
1 T crushed red pepper flakes

First, toast the coriander seeds in a dry saute pan over medium heat, constantly moving the pan. Do not burn! Turn off the heat and take the seeds out of the pan as soon as they are toasted. You will hear some slightly popping in the pan. This is a good indication that they are done. Also, you will certainly smell it.

Then, simply combine all the ingredients in a sauce pot, bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium/low, and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Strain the mixture into another receptacle, and allow to come to room temp. It is absolutely imperative that this mixture is then chilled thoroughly.

Soak the pork in this COLD brine, approximately 4 hours for pork chops. A whole pork loin would require about 6-8 hours, and pork tenderloin about 2-3 hours.
Remove from the brine, and rinse the pork under cold running water. Discard the brine. Pat the pork dry with single-use paper towels and allow it to air-dry, uncovered in the refrigerator overnight.

Now, the best way to cook pork – undoubtedly – is in a charcoal grill. Always use an “All-Natural” hardwood charcoal. A favorite is “Cowboy Charcoal.” There are no fillers, chemicals or petroleum in this brand, and using all-natural hardwood charcoal yields much less ash and minimal clean-up.

Preheat your charcoal grill. Have the grill insert clean and well oiled. Avoid using non-stick spray or pan-release. Not only is it extremely dangerous to spray into a hot grill, but many of these aerosol products actually contain flour, or some sort of starch – believe it or not – and will end caking on your grill.

Use an old dish rag. Roll it up tight into a cylinder shape and tie it up with either butchers twine, or a couple of elastic bands. Using tongs, always, dip the rolled-up rag into canola or vegetable oil and rub the grill rack liberally.

Take the pork out of the refrigerator 30-minutes before cooking, and lightly oil all sides of the pork. No need to season the meat with salt, since there was plenty of it in the brine. However, you could give the pepper mill a few good cracks over it if you like.

Lay the pork onto the preheated grill, and do not touch touch it! Wait at least a minute before you go poking around, and don’t turn the pork until it releases itself from the grill. If not, you’ll just tear the meat and it will be nearly impossible to get a nice char on it.
Rotate it 45-degrees every few minutes. This will ensure a nice, even browning on the meat.

When it is well-colored, turn the pork over. Cook until the meat registers 140F, internal temperature. Anything more than that will be way over-cooked. Wait about 7 minutes before cutting into the chops, or 15 minutes for a whole loin. Enjoy!

Breadmaker errors to avoid

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If you have ever owned a breadmaker, you will know that it’s wonderful to wake up to fresh bread in the morning. However, not everyone does. The reasons may be many, though once you know the basics of your machine, you really can avoid them. That soggy loaf that woke you this morning may make you think that the breadmaker is not working correctly. However, in this case, blame the user. Read on to find out the common mistakes made by breadmaker owners.

The soggy loaf in the morning

With breadmakers getting more sophisticated, the timer function will allow people to make bread so that it’s ready for the morning breakfast. This is a great feature, though if you use it wrongly or oversleep, beware. The timer setting needs to be set so that the bread finishes at the time you are there to take it out of the pan. If you are not and the bread is allowed to sit for any length of time, this horrid soggy crust is a result of condensation within the breadmaker. It’s not the breadmaker’s fault you set it too early or got up too late. Be prepared to get up in time and set the timer correctly and your bread will be perfect.

Measurements

People tend to stick to the instructions when they have a new breadmaker, but get a little lazy about quantities after a while. Make the bread with too much liquid and the load sinks. Similarly, if the wrong amount of salt is added or less yeast than advised, it’s hit or miss whether the loaf will rise correctly. The measurements are vital, but you need also to understand how different temperatures affect whether the loaf rises or not. If it’s hot weather, allow for this by using cooler water. 

If you find that you follow instructions very carefully and still get a loaf which hasn’t got a really good brown crust, add sugar, but note how much you added because the next time could give different results if you are unaware of exact ingredients added.

The ingredients used

It is surprising what a difference it makes to use different flours. In fact, when using a breadmaker with a cheap flour the bread which was produced was light and fluffy and great quality. However, when a stronger flour was introduced to make a “healthy” loaf, what happened was that the loaf was heavy and hard to digest. Try different flours until you find the one which gives the desired taste. Recipes in breadmaker recipe books may tell you the type of flour to use, but manufacturer’s products vary considerably, so one flour may make a better loaf than another.

The amount of water that is used is vital to the finished loaf. If you are careless with measurement and put in too much, the resulting loaf may just be soggy in the middle, whereas not enough water will produce a loaf which may taste dry and the loaf will not rise to its maximum.

The design of the breadmaker

Sometimes you can blame the design of the breadmaker for not producing a wonderful crust. With a breadmaker that has a transparent top, there is a way to get around this problem. Often these are the breadmakers that create condensation and thus the crust is disappointing, especially if you leave the loaf in the pan for a while after it has cooked. The way around this is to line the glass in the lid with aluminum foil as this helps to brown the bread.

If you find that the design of the breadmaker is such that mixing is not regular and the loaf comes out with a floury coating, open the breadmaker after the mixing stage and mix in any flour from the edges of the pan that have not been mixed in properly. In a case like this, it may be an idea to check that the dough paddles are functioning as they should. Perhaps you are using flour which is too heavy and this may affect the efficiency of the paddles.

The instructions on the order to add things

The reason that breadmaker manufacturers are so fussy about the order that ingredients are added is because they know how to best make bread in their machine. For example, with some breadmakers, you are asked to add the yeast and sugar before all other ingredients. On another machine, these are added last. Be very careful to follow the instructions on the order as it could make or break the way the loaf comes out. The reason for the differences is the difference in design and function of the breadmaker and the instructions are written to take account of this. Never take for granted that one machine works just like another. There were reasons that the manufacturers provided this valuable information.

Strange tastes

One thing that you may experience is that whole wheatgerm loaves have a strange taste. You may want to experiment with wheatgerm because you think it a healthier way to make break. However, bear in mind that unlike white flour, you do need to keep whole grain flour and wheatgerm refrigerated to avoid a strange taste. Other things that may affect the taste are different kinds of butter used as an addition. Make sure that the butter is completely fresh.

These are common problems with a breadmaker, although the biggest problem is that you will find you eat more bread than normal because the freshly baked bread is so delicious. If you run up against any of these problems, do check for errors on your part, rather than faults with the machine, since it is perhaps user error that caused the bread to sink or to lose its wonderful crust.