Category Archives: Healthy Cooking

Choclate Recipe

Chocolate Crunch

I am sure there are very few people in this world who would not agree that peanut butter and chocolate are a match made in heaven. The following recipe is for a delicious snack sized sweet that in my experience is like catnip for pregnant women (please be aware though that some doctors recommend avoiding peanut products whilst pregnant). My family calls this recipe ‘Homemade Reece’s Pieces’.

Ingredients:

1/2cup smooth peanut butter

1/4 cup golden syrup

1/2 cup crisp rice cereal

112 grams dairy milk cooking chocolate (more chocolate may be required depending on how many little fingers find their way into the bowl. I generally at an extra 50grams or so to account for this.)

Method:

1.   Mix peanut butter and golden syrup together in a small bowl until well combined.

2.   Add the rice cereal and mix again being careful not to completely smash the cereal.

3.   Shape into a log (3cm diameter and about 20cm long) and wrap in cling wrap, or using a very heavy duty piping set (the mixture is very thick) place dollops of the mix onto a lined tray.

4.   Place the mix in the fridge to chill. (After chilling, cut the log into approx 6mm slices.)

5.   Melt the chocolate and dip the peanut butter pieces in it allowing the excess chocolate to drip away. Place on waxed paper to harden and then store in the fridge.

I have learned the hard way not to let people know when I am going to make this recipe as they are lining up at the kitchen  door before I’ve even started. Whenever I make these sweets I barely have time to let the chocolate set before I’m unceremoniously shoved aside by my family in their haste to enjoy the treat.  I hope you enjoy these as much as we do.

Reference:
1. 16 Best Chocolate Recipes – Cooking Light
2. Chocolate Dessert Recipes – Allrecipes.com

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Try this recipe for the most mouthwatering, no kidding around, and seriously great chocolate chip oatmeal cookie. This recipe will satisfy any sweet craving. They are chocked full of good and oh so easy to bake.

For soft and chewy cookies: preheat oven to 305 degrees

For crispy cookies: preheat oven to 350 degrees

For bar cookies: preheat oven to 325

Ingredients:

Two and ¼ cups of all purpose flour

Two and ½ cups of oatmeal (quick cooking oats)

One teaspoon baking soda

One teaspoon salt

Two stick of cold butter (one cup) cut up into smaller pieces

Three and one quarter cups white sugar

One cup firmly packed brown sugar

One egg and one egg yolk

One cup of chopped walnuts (optional)

One and one half teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Mix dry ingredients; flour, salt, baking soda, and sift together.

Blend the white and brown sugar in mixing bowl until it has sand like consistency. Mix in cold butter and mix until butter in blended. Do not over mix! This will make the cookies tougher.  The butter dough should be thick not creamy.

Add eggs and vanilla extract and mix.

Add dry ingredients and mix. Do not over mix, cookie dough should be thick.

Add chocolate chips, oats, and nuts, hand mix dough with spatula.

Drop cookies onto ungreased cookie sheet, one inch apart.  

For soft and chewy cookies: bake at 305 degrees for 22 minutes.

For crispy cookies: bake at 350 degrees for 9 minutes.

For a cookie bar grease 13x 9 pan add dough, bake 325 degrees for 25 minutes.

These chocolate chip oatmeal cookies are packed with flavor. These cookies are simply delicious when baked soft and chewy, or crispy and crunchy. Why not try both! These delicious cookies will soon be a family favorite!

Reference:
1. Chewy Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies Recipe – Allrecipes.com
2. Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies Recipe | King Arthur Flour

Best Ways to Thaw Meat

Freezing meat is a great way to preserve food until it is time to prepare it for eating. Meat should be completely thawed before it is cooked. Cooking meat while partially frozen can takes longer but can destroy a meal. When proteins cook, the heat needs to pass through the food as evenly as possible. This ensures meat cooks properly. Here are the three best ways to thaw meat. Choose which way to use based upon how much time is needed before cooking must ensue. Thaw meat by microwave, running under cool water, or in the refrigerator.

The quickest way to thaw frozen meat is in a microwave. Most microwaves have two buttons for defrosting. Typically, there is a function for the type of meat by weight and one for quick time defrost. Defrosting by weight is the best way to thaw frozen meat in a microwave. Take care not to over defrost in the microwave, or the meat will quickly be too cooked. Sometimes, the thinner parts of meat like the edges of chicken breasts will over cook. It is not only the size, shape, and cut of the meat that may cause uneven cooking but it can be the microwave strength. It is a good idea to round down the weight number printed on the meat’s outer package. Quick defrost works well on small items that just need to be thawed quickly or on items where the weight is unknown. This feature allows you to better monitor the thawing process. 

Another quick way to thaw meat is by running it under the faucet. As cold water runs along the meat’s surface, a heat exchange is taking place. The cold water is warming up the frozen meat. This works well on thinner cuts of meat because the center of the meat is closer to the surface where water is making its heat exchange. As the meat thaws out, the water will no longer be necessary. Do not begin this process then leave meat on the counter.

It is unsanitary to let meat thaw on the counter. Room temperature falls between forty and one hundred and forty degrees Fahrenheit, the danger zone for microbial growth. Bacteria multiply rapidly meat should remain cool to inhibit unwanted bacteria from successfully multiplying. This is why large items may need combinations of thawing techniques applied. Thanksgiving turkeys are too often too large to defrost in a microwave.

Generally, Thanksgiving turkeys are put in the refrigerator a night or two in advance. This is done so that the bird thaws out enough to cook. Sometimes, though the bird is still frozen. In this case, it can be run under water or put in a large bowl or dish with water to help thaw it the rest of the way through. This is an example of how thawing methods may be combined.

Thawing meat through any means is important in creating soft, tender, tasty protein dishes. Thawing must be done properly to ensure growth of bacteria does not reach an unhealthy level. The three best ways to thaw frozen meat are in a microwave, in cold water, and in a refrigerator.

Reference:
1. The Best Way to Quickly & Safely Thaw Frozen Meat — Tips from …
2. How to Quickly Thaw Meat – Real Simple

Characteristics of a Good Bartender

To effectively establish the parameters of a good bartender, one must look at the subject from 2 perspectives; the customer and the bar owner/manager. The attributes that hold importance to one in most cases are not the same for the other. It is the bartender that finds the middle ground that will ultimately be deemed, by his customers, peers and employers, a good bartender.

The bartender’s importance and stature varies geographically. In Florida, for instance, the bartender is the best guy in the bar to know. Everyone in Florida is a “bartender”, much like everyone in Hollywood is an “actor”. Waiters and waitresses will tell you they are only waiting tables until they can “get a bar gig”. In some states in the Midwest, however, the bartender, and hospitality people in general, are looked upon as uneducated and lower class. Still, as a customer in a bar, you will want to know and have the respect of the bartender.

As a customer, you want prompt service, a clean area in which to drink, and a drink made properly so that the taste is neither overpowering nor weak. Those parameters are also what the manager expects. Some have said that a god bartender will give a customer a free drink or two. The manager would disagree. Maybe one expects only a few seconds before the bartender pours another. That is unrealistic unless you are drinking in a small bar with few customers. A good bartender gives as much attention as his business allows, pours drinks to recipe standards to ensure the proper taste, and keeps a clean bar. The good bartender also asks his manager to comp drinks to good customers because a good manager will always comp a few to loyal guests or big tippers. It is not the bartender’s right to, without permission, give away a drink. One cannot expect a gas station attendant to give away a gallon of gas, yet bartenders and owners are expected to give away liquor, which in many cases, is as expensive as gasoline.

So, before you rate your bartender, know the rating system. Understand the bar you are in. If you get your drink timely, it is tasty, and the bartender is friendly, then leave a big tip and you will get ongoing great service. If you walk into a busy bar or nightclub, tip extra big on your first round, look the bartender in the eye, and say thank you. You will get great service the rest of the night. If you are not happy with your bartender or service, by all means, tell the manager. Trust me, they want to know. And, you may even get a free drink.

Reference:
1. Top 10 Qualities of a Great Bartender | Advertising Schools
2. Characteristics of a Bartender | Chron.com

Cassava Recipe

Cassava, ‘kamoteng kahoy’ in Tagalog, is generally considered a snack food among people who were born and raised in the Philippines. We just have to put the root crop in a pot of water and let it boil for 30 minutes or so until the cassava is soft and ready to serve in butter and caramel-form of sugar. Cassava can also be pulverized into flour and cooked into other staple forms of food. However, in this recipe, you will not need to grate down cassava into flour form as you can buy it already grated and in packs from the nearest Asian or Caribbean stores to your place.

Ingredients:
Batter:
2 packs of grated cassava (about 2 lbs in total weight)
1 can of coconut milk, 13.5 oz or regular size
½ can of evaporated milk, 6 oz
2 whole eggs
1 stick of butter, melted
6 tablespoons of grated cheddar cheese
½ cup of condensed milk, 6 oz
14 tablespoons of sugar (more or less 1 cup)

Topping:
1 can of coconut milk, 13.5 oz or regular size
2 tablespoons of sugar
½ cup of condensed milk, 6 oz
2 tablespoons of flour
2 tablespoons of grated cheddar cheese
1 jar of coconut strings (or ‘macapuno’ as known in the Philippines), 12 oz

Procedures:
Preparing the batter:
1. Combine the grated cassava, butter, condensed milk, evaporated milk, cheese, sugar, and eggs in a large mixing bowl and mix altogether thoroughly.
2. Add into mixture the coconut milk and mix it again.
3. Pre-heat the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
4. Grease the baking pan then pour into it the batter that you have just prepared. Put it in oven and bake it for 1 hour.

Preparing the topping:
1. Get a small saucepan and set your stove fire into low.
2. Mix the sugar and flour in a small bowl and pour the mixture into your now heated small saucepan.
3. Pour in next the condensed milk. Stir the mixture thoroughly.
4. Add the cheese into the mixture as you give it constant stirring.
5. Pour the coconut milk and stir constantly for 10 minutes.
6. Turn off the fire when the mixture thickens. Set the topping aside in the meantime.

Setting the cake:
1. Carefully set the coconut strings (‘macapuno’) on your cake.
2. Pour and spread the topping evenly over the coconut strings.
3. Broil the Cassava cake for at least 10 minutes. Change the position of the pan to make sure the heat will spread at all sides of the cake and you will not have burnt cake portions. When broiling is over, you can slice and serve the cake either warm or cold together with your favorite beverages.

This cake makes a sweet tasting and nice looking gift to bring with you during family gatherings. Enjoy!

Reference:
1. Cassava Cake Recipe – Allrecipes.com
2. Cassava Cake Recipe – Panlasang Pinoy

Chicken Gumbo

Gumbos are commonly considered to be southern cuisine and to be Cajun in particular.  They do make a mean and oh so wonderful gumbo but they aren’t the only ones that make gumbo.  We make it here in the north east too, particularly when it is winter and cold and you want something hearty on the menu to warm you body and soul; and it is very good.  Gumbo is any hearty, spicy and lightly thickened soup that contains meat, vegetables and a variety of herbs and spices that have been sautéed before the broth is added.  Chicken gumbo is one familiar to most of us but it is also made with fish, shell fish, pork, sausage and other meats.  Gumbo is made all over the United States and everyone seems to have their own favorite recipe.  It is soup and in this case, chicken soup.

Chicken soup of any kind is as famous for its medicinal purposes as it is delicious to eat and is wonderful to help ward off and even cure cold and flu symptoms or just perk you up when you are feeling down.  There is Chicken and rice, Chicken and noodle, Chicken Broccoli, Creamed Chicken, (wonderful on toast when food just doesn’t set well on your stomach) and there is Chicken with Barley, Chicken vegetable and the ever popular Chicken stew, with or without dumplings but I think my all time favorite is Chicken Gumbo.  It has some zip and zest to it and truly tantalizes the tongue.  It is delicious and nutritious and I think you will like it too.  Here is how to make it.

Chicken Gumbo:

In a soup pot over medium high heat in

1/4 cup olive oil

Sautee

4 cloves garlic minced

2/3 cup chopped yellow onion

1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper

1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper

1 large firm tomato diced

3 stalks celery with leaves chopped

As soon as the onion starts to turn transparent reduce

heat to medium low

Add

2-3 chicken breasts cubed (about 2 pounds)

2 cups sliced okra

1/2 cup chopped kale

1 carrot grated

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Stir and toss lightly for 3-5 minutes

Add

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/8 tsp. ground ginger

Pinch of rosemary

Pinch of Thyme

Pinch of marjoram

8 cups chicken stock (broth)

3 cups water

Stir to mix and allow to come to full boil over med. high heat. 

Reduce heat to simmer. 

Cover and allow to simmer slowly for 45 to 50 minutes. At about half time you

may want to add more salt, pepper and spices to taste.  When done remove from heat and allow to set 5-7 minutes before serving. Stir and serve in warm bowls with crusty bread and a pear and cottage cheese salad on a bed of crisp lettuce and other salad greens.  Garnish salad with a light sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar.  And for dessert tonight let’s have Lemon Meringue pie.  Oh my, I can hardly wait for dinner.

(NOTE: If okra is not in season I have added cut Romano beans (the flat Italian green bean) and about 2 Tbsp. Tomato paste or Roux for thickener.  To make your own Roux take 2 Tbsp. clarified butter and mix it with 2 Tbsp. flour over low heat until it is smooth and creamy and slightly thickened.  You do not have to add a thickener if you are using okra unless you want a really thick, stew-like gumbo.  Okra has its own thickening properties.)

Reference:
1. Half-Hour Chicken Gumbo Recipe | Martha Stewart
2. Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo with White Rice Recipe …

Cheesecake

Cheesecake is a heavenly creamy, sinfully rich dessert that seems more the consistency of pie than cake and is always a favorite during the holidays. The dessert can be served any time of the year, though, and is often requested for special occasions. It is a quite simple and quick recipe to prepare.

The crust of a cheese is a graham cracker crust and can be purchased ready made. However, it only takes about ten minutes to prepare your own graham cracker crust.

GRAHAM CRACKER CRUST

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 Cups graham cracker crumbs

6 Tablespoons butter

1/4 Cup sugar

DIRECTIONS:

* Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.

* Melt the butter in a small saucepan.

* In a small mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Stir to mix well.

* Add the butter and blend all ingredients together with your hand. Press the pie crust into a pie pan.

* Bake the crust at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Cool before proceeding with the cheesecake mixture.

For pie recipes, you can add nutmeg, cinnamon, or all-spice to the graham cracker crumbs to add flavor to the crust.

CHEESECAKE

INGREDIENTS:

1 eight ounce package Philadelphia Cream Cheese

1 fourteen ounce can Eagle Brand Condensed Sweet Milk

1/3 Cup fresh lemon juice (or use ReaLemon bottled juice)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 Cup graham cracker crumbs

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 Tablespoon butter

DIRECTIONS:

* Allow cream cheese to stand in package at room temperature until softened. This usually takes approximately one hour.

* In a medium mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until it is light and fluffy.

* Beat in the sweetened condensed milk.

* Add lemon juice and vanilla extract. Stir until the ingredients are well mixed.

* Pour into the pie crust

* To garnish, melt the tablespoon of butter in a small saucepan.

* Combine the graham cracker crumbs and sugar in a shallow bowl and stir.

* Slowly add drops of the melted butter and mix with a fork just until graham cracker crumbs are lightly moistened. Sprinkle the mixture with fingers across the top of the cheesecake.

* Chill several hours prior to serving.

If desired, you can use cherry or strawberry pie filling for a topping. Apple pie filling is also good with cheesecake. Some prefer a topping and others do not. During the holidays or any time when entertaining guests, I serve the desserts buffet style. Therefore, I provide the topping in a small serving dish beside the cheesecake and allow each individual to make the choice whether to use topping or have their cheesecake plain.

Reference:
1. Cheesecake
2. Cheesecake Recipe : Food Network Kitchen : Food Network

Caribbean Food

Caribbean
food is known for being especially interesting and diverse. It’s also known as being especially tasty. While much of the food you might find in the Caribbean is similar to what you would find in the US or in other parts of the western world, there still are quite a few unique dishes that you are likely to see in the Caribbean.

Take for example the Santa Fe pepper soup. Santa Fe pepper soup is a soup that was originally made in Columbia. This soup is made using chicken on the bone, cobs of corn, potatoes, and other vegetables such as sabaneras, which are natively grown in the Caribbean
islands. This soup can often be found in different versions such as a Cuban stew version.

Another good example of a food typically only eaten in the Caribbean is callaloo. Callaloo is a soup from Trinidad. This soup is often made with okra, as well as taro and amaranth. Callaloo might contain meat as well and is often seasoned with things like onions, coconut milk, garlic and chili peppers. Callaloo is often eaten alongside salt fish.

One of the most popular Caribbean foods that has made its way out of the Caribbean to many locations in the world, such as the United States, is Caribbean jerk. Jerk is a way of preparing meat with spices such that it becomes rather spicy and hot. Jerk uses allspice and it also uses scotch bonnet peppers. You can often find foods with a Jamaican or Caribbean jerk sauce even in the United States.

Another popular food typically only eaten in the Caribbean is peardrax. This is a soft drink that at one time was popular in the United Kingdom. Today, this pear flavored soft drink is made by the Pepsi cola company in Trinidad and is very closely identified with that nation.

Picadillo is a food often eaten in the Caribbean, but you may also find it in Latin America. Picadillo consists of tomatoes mixed with ground beef. Picadillo usually has other regional items including things like potatoes or olives. Picadillo is often served as a finger food.

If you are looking for a new culinary adventure, why not give some of these foods typically only eaten in the Caribbean a try today. You might just find that you have a new favorite delicacy. You can find many of these foods in the ethnic areas of larger metropolitan cities. On the other hand, if you’re looking for an excuse to take a Caribbean cruise, why not blame it on wanting to try the food?

Reference:
1. Caribbean cuisine
2. Top 10 foods to try in the Caribbean | BBC Good Food

Caramelizing Onions

Caramelizing Onions is a wonderful way to bring out the natural sweetness that is locked inside these lovely vegetables. Any type of onion can be caramelized, but depending on the sugar content different onions will achieve caramelization faster. Once caramelized, onions are a great addition to soups, sandwiches, steaks, pizza or as a garnish to other vegetables.

To caramelize an onion we will use the following:
1 Medium Onion
3 TBLS Olive Oil or Butter
A pinch Salt
A pinch Black Pepper (optional)
A pinch Sugar, white or brown (optional)
A large skillet or saucepan

1. To start cut the top off of the onion. Cut the onion in half vertically from top to bottom and peel each half.

2. Place the onion flat side down on a clean, flat cutting board. Slice the onion into half-rings, not worrying about the size. The main difference in the thickness of the slices is that thinner slices will cook faster.

3. Place the skillet or saucepan on the stove over medium-high heat and add the olive oil or butter. Olive oil will be better because butter tends to burn. If you prefer the taste that butter lends to the onions simply add a little olive oil or vegetable oil to the pan first to prevent the butter from burning. It is best to use a skillet or saucepan rather than a narrower pot because they allow faster evaporation of liquid.

4. You will want to add the onions after the oil begins to ripple in the pan. Stir the onions to ensure and even coating.

5. If you add the salt to the pan now it will help bring out the flavor of the onions and will speed up the caramelization process by drawing moisture out of the onions which will then be able to evaporate. You can also add a pinch of pepper and sugar if wanted at this time. The sugar will simply add some additional sweetness to the onions.

6. Continue to stir the onions. After one to two minutes the onions should begin to turn darker in color and might begin to stick to the bottom of the pan. Both of these are OK, and this is what should be happening.

7. As you continue stirring the onions should become darker in color. If the onions begin sticking to much you can add a little wine, broth, or water to the pan to loosen them up. By “deglazing” the onions this way you can add additional flavor from the wine or broth without worrying about the water which will evaporate right away.

8. Continue cooking and deglazing as needed until the onions reach the desired texture, consistency, color, and flavor you need for you dish.

Now that you are finished use your caramelized onions in a soup, on a sandwich, over meats, in a gravy, or as garnish to other vegetables. Of course depending on how much you actually need more or less onion can be used.

If you have extra you can store the caramelized onions in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week or a few months in the freezer.

Reference:
1. How To Caramelize Onions — Cooking Lessons from The Kitchn …
2. How to Caramelize Onions, Caramelized Onions Recipe …

Caramelized Onions

In fear of burning your caramelized onions? Well there is a way of caramelizing them which reduces this risk.

First, in order to make caramelized onions it’s best to use the large standard yellow ones. This type of onion is best suited because it contains the greatest amount of sugar which is essential for the whole caramelizing process; the benefit is you don’t have to add additional sugar to the recipe and therefore there are fewer calories in it. Of course if you are using any other type of onion then a teaspoonful of sugar should be added during the cooking.

In essence the process of caramelizing onions is simple; but you do have to constantly monitor them in case they start to stick. Remember also that the amount of the finished product is reduced by two thirds of its original quantity.

CARAMELIZED ONIONS the burn- free way:

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons of good quality cooking oil.

1 medium sized yellow onion cut in half then cut again in half rings.

A good pinch of salt; this is important as it draws out the moisture and thereby accelerates the caramelizing process.

Method:

Start by heating up the frying pan or skillet to a medium high temperature with the oil.

Toss in the onions together with the salt and coat the onions thoroughly with the oil. Keep moving the onions around as they cook; you will notice that they will soon start to change color changing from pale golden to eventually to a dark rich brown.

Keep on monitoring them, all the time tossing and stirring them around the pan; if you find the onions starting to stick to the bottom of the pan, as is sometimes the case, then don’t panic; just pour a small amount of liquid, it can be stock, water or even a drop of wine into the pan to loosen them. The liquid will act as a deglazing agent and will quickly evaporate as you loosen the onions from the base of the pan and so preventing them from burning.

Continue with this process of deglazing, tossing and stirring and keeping the onions from sticking until eventually the onions are soft, brown and juicy.

Ideas for using caramelized onions:

To take plain old cheese on toast to a new dimension, spread a generous dollop of the caramelized onions onto the bread just before piling on the grated cheese; finish by toasting under the grill.

Fill some small ready made pastry cases with some caramelized onions, don’t overfill; next pipe some soft cream cheese right around the edge. These are ideal for a buffet.

Spread a pizza base with some caramelized red onions (remember red onions need that teaspoon of sugar during the cooking process); top the onions with about twelve ring of soft goats cheese (120 grams); bake in the oven and finally top the cooked pizza with a sprinkling of rosemary.

Reference:
1. How To Caramelize Onions — Cooking Lessons from The Kitchn …
2. How To Caramelize Onions, Step By Step – Allrecipes Dish