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Monday, October 27, 2008

Educational Baby Toys

Wooden toys are considered as of significance part of baby’s world since primitive times. But though today’s children got changed or are different from those of centuries, still many of their most desired baby toys can be found more or less much similar to those that have been around for thousands of years ago. If you look back in our historic ages, children & adults were used to play with weapons, horses & chariots but as a matter of fact in those ancient time toys discovered by archaeologist were made out from wood.

Wooden toys were always a main attraction for babies from centuries. In the 17th century, German toy manufacturers started crafting an array of wooden toys to sell mainly to children. Salesman would travel around the European to capture the market by wooden toys through advance orders for particular occasions. The art of crafting different kind of dolls & toys were becoming more popular for almost children all over Europe.

Over the next century, toy manufacturers now became more meticulous in their work, their praiseworthy wooden creation for especially designed for babies were getting populated the entire town. Wooden miniatures like toy rooms, theaters as well as wooden toy army were one of the favorites in children. Wooden toys influence more to babies because of their traditional & sharp features with bright and pleasing colors. Main wooden toys which had catch attention of baby’s were wooden train with wooden track, puzzle, animal shaped stuff, and black jack in a box.

A new turn of introducing new materials of plastic for the manufacturing industry was set up by the end of World War II. With the large scale production of toys on a massive scale, toy manufacturers started opting more on plastic. The output made by such production was cheap & affordable to all along with quality material. Thus, steadily production of wooden toys especially made for babies declined.

Things have changed now, as wooden toys comes out to be the odd one if found on shelves of customary toy stores. Wooden toymakers although on a vague way but still the attraction & demand of these childhood classics has kept them in business. Wooden toys online business helps you to get from mini appliances to little unique gifts and games.

Wooden baby toys are distinctively easy which persuade a child to use their imaginations. Wooden baby toys hold great educational importance because of its minimalism. Like say varied kind of wooden toys made for baby develops their mind. Wooden puzzles push up the mechanism of the baby. Wooden toys like bike or pedal car tends to increase the physical ability of a children. Other wooden play sets abet in development of social, cultural, emotional & other moral values.

Let’s see the distinguish features between plastic toys & wooden toys. Generally plastic toys are found to be less expensive than wooden toys. Plastic toys are considered safer as compared to wooden toys which can easily catch combustion or can hurt your baby if thrown or falling wooden toys. But a wooden toy does not contain noxious PVC like plastic toys do. And with no doubt, its durability can be checked right from ancient times.

In today’s world, you can find wooden toys with lots of creativity. For child’s educational advantage, it’s more reliable to opt for wooden toys for babies which last long. Many different wooden baby toys like miniature appliances of novelty gifts cheers small kiddies. To stress your mental power of baby wooden chess & checkers and puzzle, for physical games like ring toss can be found at ease.
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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fun Cooking For Your Beloved Child

Some kids like to help you cook in the kitchen but they don't understand the ingredients, especially the herbs. At first, a kid learning to cook is all about learning to follow directions and doing each step in order. They're figuring out how to be organized and hopefully how to clean up after themselves. Along the way they also pick up what words like "sift" and "simmer" mean.

Plus they learn skills like how to drain noodles through a colander or how to knead bread dough.
It seems like one of the last things they learn is how the ingredients all work together and when they can deviate from the recipe a little. An excellent way for your kids to experiment is with herbs. For more details please go to Herbs can make a dish go from so-so to wonderful and if your chef learns about them when they're young, there's no telling what great meals they'll cook for you through the years.

Here are some ideas for getting your kids to play with herbs:

1. Fresh mint is a wonderful herb for kids because it smells so good and there are many different things they can do with it. They can simply put a few sprigs in a glass of water, iced tea, or lemonade for a hint of mint taste. They can chop it up small and put it in their yogurt or ice cream, or include it in muffin batter. Probably the funniest for kids is to make mint ice cubes. They just put small leaves of mint into the ice cube tray, add water, and freeze.
Take your children to a plant nursery in spring and let them smell all the different kinds of mint. It's a really easy herb to grow - but plant it in a pot because otherwise it will spread through your garden like crazy.

2. Your kids can make herb butter. Put 2 sticks of butter out in a bowl at room temperature to soften. Then add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, cut up parsley, and some minced garlic cloves. Let the kids mash it all together and then stick it in the fridge. It can be cut into squares and served with warm bread or hot pasta.
The kids can experiment with other herbs in the butter if they smell like they go together and don't have too strong a smell. You can also login on to Rosemary probably wouldn't be a good candidate as it has a very strong smell.

3. A good place for rosemary is in bread dough, along with sage and parsley. Adding herbs to the bread dough and then kneading it is a fun hands-on experience for kids, and they really get the full effect of the herbs when the bread is baking because the smells are intensified. Ask your kids to tell you which of the herbs they smell from the baking bread.
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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sugar Is Only There For the Flavor - The Sweetening Power

Do you love sugar but have to cut back? Does your low sugar diet preclude your favorite desserts and make your food taste bland? If so, not to worry, there are ways to bake even your favorite desserts using less sugar, with or without sugar substitutes? It just requires some experimentation and a working knowledge of what sugar actually does in a recipe. Once you understand what the role of sugar is in your baking and cooking, you can make appropriate adjustments and substitutes.

In most types of cooking, sugar is only there for the flavor - the sweetening power. You can easily reduce the amount of sugar that you use in fruit compote, for instance, and you'll probably find that the fruit flavors are far more intense. Natural sugars like fructose in fruit and lactose in milk a lot of nutritional value along with the crabs and calories. Using natural sweeteners like apple juice is one way to add sweetness while cutting back on granulated sugar. Sugar substitutes are another way to add sweetness to drinks and food without adding calories or carbohydrates.

However, baking with sugar is a different story. Granulated sugar does more than sweeten baked goods. It can affect volume, moisture texture and color of the finished cakes, cookies, pies and candy. Substituting other ingredients for sugar in baked goods can cause your baked goods to fail - or at least come out far differently than you expect. If you are using sugar substitutes in baking, or trying to cut back on sugar in your baked goods, here are some tips to help you out.

• Sugar substitutes work best in cold recipes, or added at the end of cooking time. Heat can destroy the sweetness of most sugar substitutes and leave an unpleasant aftertaste.
• Try using sugar substitutes half and half with sugar in your baked substitutes.
• Use spices and other flavor enhancers to bring out the flavor of dishes when you reduce sugar. Lemon and orange zest brings out fruit flavors. Vanilla and nut flavorings make baked goods smell buttery and sweet, which enhances the sweetness of your recipes. Cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and allspice all enhance sweetness in recipes.
• When you cut sugar in chocolate recipes, substitute strong, cold coffee for some of the liquid to enhance the chocolate flavor without adding additional sweetness.
• Top reduced sugar baked goods with fruit or fruit spread to put the flavors right up front so that they are tasted immediately.
• Sprinkle reduced sugar cakes with cinnamon and sugar substitute for the same effect.

Texture and Volume
• Sugar helps cookie dough to spread during baking. Without sugar, the cookies may not spread properly. When baking cookies using sugar substitutes, flatten each cookie slightly before baking just as you would peanut butter cookies.
• Intensify sweetness in a dish with fruit juice. Reduce the juice to 1/3 of its original volume by boiling it over high heat for extra sweetness.
• Muffins and cupcakes cooked with lower sugar may not rise as high or achieve the round-domed top that we expect. Bake them in mini-muffin tins rather than regular size to allow them to rise higher.
• Add ½ teaspoon of baking soda to a recipe to make baked goods with reduced sugar rise in a shorter baking period.
• To increase volume, use whipped egg whites in recipes that call for eggs. Start with eggs warmed to room temperature.

Appearance of Baked Goods
• Spray the top crust of a fruit pie with cooking spray and sprinkle with a tiny amount of sugar before baking. You can reduce the amount of sugar in the filling because each bite of crust puts the sweetness up front - and your pie will brown nicely as a bonus.
• Cakes and breads made with reduced sugar or sugar substitutes don't brown because there is less sugar to caramelize during baking. Try adding a tablespoon or two of molasses to the recipe to deepen the color and add moisture.
• Sprinkle cinnamon or nutmeg on top of breads, cakes or muffins to give the impression of browning.
• In fruit dishes, add a small amount of dark brown sugar to give the finished product a deep, rich, buttery brown color.

Texture and Moisture
• For moister baked goods, use mashed or pureed fruits in place of some of the sugar and butter. You can use applesauce, but ripe bananas, sweet potatoes and carrots are more flavorful and add more tenderness and moisture. (Tip: Why puree? Buy baby food jars of pureed fruits and veggies to use in baked goods. They have no added sugar or salt.)
• When using a sugar substitute, cooking times are considerably shorter. Pull cookies and brownies out of the oven before they look done. They'll continue to cook while they cool.

Enjoy It...
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Sunday, October 19, 2008

The best standby on the food front: delicious pasta salad recipe

Has this ever happened to you? You’ve been invited to a party and realize you don’t have a meal to bring. Not only that, but the party starts in an hour. What should you do?

You have four options:

Don’t go, and miss out on a really fun time. Show up empty-handed and explain red-faced that you forgot. Grab a casserole dish and head to the deli. Order your food and have them put it right into your casserole dish. Yes, I’ve done this. It’s expensive but it works.

If you get asked for the recipe, just wink and say “It’s Grandma’s secret recipe.”

Whip up a big batch of pasta salad for only a few dollars, and have plenty left over to eat for lunch during the week. You will save money and look good showing up at the party with a great dish.

Pasta salad is truly one of the easiest meals to prepare. All you need are noodles and salad dressing. You can use pretty much any salad dressing on the market – the standards like Italian, Ranch, or, if you’re ambitious, your favorite homemade dressing.

Now for the fun part. Cook the noodles, following package directions and then drain. Pour the dressing on while the noodles are warm so they will absorb that entire good oily flavor.

Look around your kitchen to see if you have any of the following ingredients:

Fresh veggies – carrots, broccoli, green onions
Frozen vegetables – frozen peas are wonderful in pasta salad
Cubed or shredded cheese
Garbanzo beans (also known as Chick Peas)
Black Olives

Toss in whatever you can find. It’s an ‘everything goes’ type of recipe. Bring more dressing with you in case you need to add it later, and voila! You’re done.

If you’re feeling fancy, you can bring some cherry tomatoes, parmesan cheese, bacon bits or sunflower seeds as toppings. It’s all good.

The next time you are invited to a party, don’t panic. Just grab these instructions and whip up a meal in minutes.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Its Time for home made delicious and spicy soups.

Home-made soups are so good for you - all that nourishing stock
and chock-a-block full of vitamins and minerals.

But ... who on earth could face boiling bones for hours on end
during the scorching Spanish summer weather, not to mention
preparing the soup once the stock is made? I don´t think it
would tickle anybody´s fancy to then have to tuck into a
piping-hot soup!

For this reason, the Spanish came up with their wonderful,
ice-cold soup - gazpacho - beautifully colorful, packed with
goodness, cheap and simple to prepare, no cooking and ... most
important of all, an absolute delight to drink.

Traditional gazpacho originates from romantic Andalucia - that
large, exotic southerly region of Spain which is home to such
extensive Arabic influence.

The chilled, raw soup was originally made by pounding bread and
garlic with tomatoes, cucumber and peppers but, nowadays, your
electric blender renders this effortless! Olive oil endows it
with a smooth, creamy consistency and vinegar adds a refreshing
tang - just what you need when life gets too hot to handle!

The spicy soup should be served in true Spanish style with small
bowls of accompaniments - finely chopped peppers, cucumber,
onion ... even hard-boiled eggs and croutons, if you feel up to
it! Guests will then sprinkle what appeals to them on the soup.

Traditional gazpacho is tomato-based, with most Spanish families
having developed their own, unique recipes. However, nowadays,
you will also find gazpacho recipes that have nothing to do
with tomatoes - white, almond-based gazpachos, fruit-based
gazpachos, etc.

Do you suffer from insomnia? Could be that drinking gazpacho is
the answer, for in Pedro Almodovar´s 1987 film "Mujeres Al Borde
De Un Ataque De Nervios", various characters help themselves to
the soup and promptly fall asleep!

However, don´t fall asleep just yet as you haven´t read over the

Ingrediants for 4 servings:

- 4 ripe tomatoes
- 1 onion
- ½ red pepper
- ½ green pepper
- ½ cucumber
- 3 cloves garlic
- 50 g bread
- 3 dessertspoons vinegar
- 8 dessertspoons olive oil
- Water
- Salt/pepper
- ¼ chilli pepper (optional)


- 2 hard-boiled eggs
- ½ finely chopped onion
- ½ finely chopped red pepper
- ½ finely chopped green pepper
- ½ finely chopped cucumber


1. Break up bread and soak in water for 30 minutes.

2. Skin tomatoes, remove seeds and stalks from peppers.

3. Peel cucumber, onion and garlic.

4. Chop onion, garlic, tomatoes, peppers and cucumber.

5. Place in electric blender.

6. Squeeze out excess water from bread and add to blender.

7. Add oil and vinegar.

8. Blend well.

9. If necessary, add sufficient water for soup-like consistency.

10. Pour into a bowl with ice cubes.

11. Fridge for a couple of hours.

12. Serve in bowls, with garnishings in separate dishes.

Gazpacho is best enjoyed sitting in the shade, looking out onto
an azure sea, blue sky and golden sun and sands!
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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cooking brisket in the oven

Cooking brisket in the oven is a time consuming process, but also a very rewarding one. When your family and friends take their first bite of your delicious brisket, they will most definitely be asking you for the recipe. This article will make you a brisket cooking pro!
Did you know that at one time, brisket was considered a very poor quality meat? History has it, that two brothers from Germany, back in the 1950's decided to smoke up some leftover brisket they had. They left the brisket inside their smokehouse for an entire weekend. When they returned to work they sliced up the meat and served it to their customers. The meat was so flavorful and tender that it quickly became a hit.

I remember the first time I had the pleasure of eating beef brisket. It was at this fabulous little Barbecue Restaurant in Croton-On-Hudson, NY called Memphis Maes.
New York isn't known for its BBQ, so my wife and I were a bit skeptical. But after we took our first bite of the "Texas BBQ Beef Brisket", we became believers! My wife then looked at me and said, "You have to make this!" Not wanting to let the lovely wife down, I took it upon me to try and recreate the BBQ brisket at home. I don't own a smoker, so I needed to improvise and cook the brisket in the oven.
Believe it or not, the oven makes a pretty darn good BBQ brisket. Many BBQ enthusiasts will tell you that a smoker is the only way to cook brisket, but I can tell you from experience this is simply not the case.

The secret to a good beef brisket is to cook it nice and slow at around 225 degrees for several hours. So if you are looking for a quick and easy meal tonight, cooking brisket in the oven is not the way to go.
You will have to prepare this particular recipe one day in advance and you will need to plan some extra time to cook the brisket as it takes several hours to finish cooking.

Lets Talk About Dry Rubs
There are a variety of different dry rub recipes you can use for your beef brisket. One such recipe is listed below. Don't be shy with your dry rub. You want to really coat the brisket well. Its not called a rub for nothing, so really rub those spices into the meat with your hands. After the rub has been applied put the brisket in the fridge and let it marinade over night.

- 1/4 Cup Paprika
- 1/4 Cup Light Brown Sugar
- 2 Tbs Chili Powder
- 2 Tbs Kosher Salt
- 2 Tbs Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
- 1 1/3 Tbs Granulated Garlic
- 1 1/3 Tbs Granulated Onion
- 2 Tsp Ground Cumin

We need some type of liquid to slowly braise the brisket in the oven. Braising is an excellent way to cook brisket in the oven because it keeps the brisket moist and very tender.
What I do is mix some good quality store bought barbecue sauce with a little beef broth to thin it a bit. I like to use a smoke flavored barbecue sauce. To give it a little more smoky flavor, I also add a few drops of liquid smoke. This makes a very tasty braising liquid.

Before we start cooking, lets do a little preparation.
Remove the brisket from the fridge and leave it on the counter for 30 minutes or so to allow it to come to room temperature.
Get yourself a baking dish with a tight fitting lid big enough to hold your brisket.
Mix equal parts of barbecue sauce and beef broth. I like to make enough so that the brisket is at least half submerged. Pour this mixture into your baking dish.
Pre-heat your oven to 225 Degrees.
Heat up a large pan over medium heat and add enough oil to cover the pan. Add the brisket to the pan and brown on all sides until it forms a nice crust.
Place the browned brisket into the baking dish with the braising liquid. Put the lid on and place it in the pre-heated oven.
About half way through the cooking process, flip the brisket over so that the other side has time to cook in the braising liquid.
The brisket is done when it is fork tender and has an internal temperature of around 185-200 degrees F. The amount of time it takes to cook a brisket in the oven really depends on the weight of the brisket. Figure 1 1/2 to 2 hours per pound of meat.
There you have it. My recipe for cooking brisket in the oven.
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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Benefits of Parsley

When it comes to herbs, traditions have changed, varieties have increased, but through it all, Parsley has just stayed Parsley, flat or curly leaf, nothing major and no need for change. Use it as an herb or use it as a garnish, it does not matter people still love it.

Often used fresh or dried, fresh is more popular and has very easy access when purchasing it or growing it. Storing it is simple, just wrap it in a damp paper towel and place it in a baggie and store it in the fridge. Parsley is used for all kinds of sauces and salads. Parsley can pretty much be added to anything and is used often to color pesto's but it is very frequently used as a garnish.

Throughout history, parsley has been used for cooking as well as for medicinal purposes but has also been used for a lot more.
Early Greeks used Parsley to make crowns for the Olympian winners. Hebrew tradition uses Parsley as part of Passover as a symbol of spring and rebirth.

Parsley tracks all the way back to Hippocrates who used it for medicinal purposes for cure alls and as an antidote for poisons. He also used it for ridding kidney and bladder stones. Many of these prior claims have been validated through modern science and it is true that Parsley is rich in vitamin A and C and is also shown to clear toxins from the body and reduces inflammation.
Parsley has three times the amount of Vitamin C than oranges do!

Back in much earlier times, any ailments that was thought to be caused from a lack of Vitamin C was treated with Parsley such as for bad gums and loose teeth, and for brightening what were considered dim eyes. The Greeks almost feared Parsley because it was associated with Archemorus, who too was an ancient Greek. 

Ancient tales tell that Archemorus was left as a baby on a parsley leaf by his nurse and was eaten by a serpent. For this reason the Greeks were terrified of Parsley which sounds kind of silly now but it took a while for them to get over that.
Parsley was also used to regulate menstrual cycles because parsley contains apiol which mimics estrogen, the female sex hormone. Parsley was also used to ward off Malaria and is told to have been very successful in doing so and it aided with water retention as well.

Although these are old wives tales as some might call them when you consider them for just a minute they really do make a lot of sense. Some of these old remedies still are used in part today such as the use of Parsley for kidney stones, as a diuretic, for rheumatoid arthritis, as a stimulant, for menstrual regulation, to settle the stomach, and as an appetite stimulant.

You can purchase Parsley juice at herbal stores and it can be very healthy for you although it might not taste the greatest it can be mixed with other juices to enhance the flavor. Dried Parsley really has the least amount of nutritional value to it.
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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Crock Recipe Full of Beef, Enjoy It

The crock pot is the busy person’s best friend and right hand man (woman,) always working with you, never against you, and couldn’t care less about what the weather’s doing outside.
The beauty of the crock pot is that it can be stocked in the morning and left to its own devices all day. No babysitting required. And by the time you drag your sore body home at the end of a hectic day, your crock pot will greet you with a ready-to-serve home-cooked meal!
If you’re curious to test the servitude of your crock pot, here’s a quick (prep time wise) and easy recipe for barbecue beef. Remove the roast from your trusty crock pot and discard the juices. Shred the meat using a fork and return it to the crock pot.
Add the barbecue sauce and cook on high for another 30-60 minutes, or the amount of time it takes to change into something comfortable and check a day’s worth of emails.

Crock Full of Beef

4lb roast of beef

2 tbsp cooking oil

1 large onion, peeled and sliced

1/2 cup water

5 cloves of garlic, peeled

1tsp salt

1tsp ground black pepper

2 cups of your favorite barbecue sauce

Add cooking oil to frying pan over medium-high heat. Brown the meat on all sides. Remove from heat.
To stock your pot, add 1/2 of the sliced onion to the bottom of the pot. Place the browned roast on top of the onion. Add the water, garlic cloves, salt and pepper and the remaining onion.
Cover and set timer according to the length of your work day for a minimum 4-6 hours or maximum 8-10 hours. The longer you work, the better your roast will be!
Fast forward 6-10 hours ...
Welcome home! Supper’s almost ready!

Remove the roast from your trusty crock pot and discard the juices. Shred the meat using a fork and return it to the crock pot.

Add the barbecue sauce and cook on high for another 30-60 minutes, or the amount of time it takes to change into something comfortable and check a day’s worth of emails.
Once the last email is answered, you will have yourself one happy crock full of tasty beef!
Serve it over rice or pasta, or make a gourmet sloppy joe and serve it up on a fresh bun.
For an easy all-purpose barbecue sauce, which tastes great with beef, pork or chicken, here’s one of my favorites from “Barbecue Secrets Revealed”.
The sauce can be made ahead of time and stored either in the refrigerator or freezer in an airtight container.

Amazing All Purpose Barbecue Sauce

1 cup Catsup

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

2 dashes Bottled hot pepper sauce

1 cup Water

1/4 cup Vinegar

1 tbsp Brown sugar

1 tsp Salt

1 tsp Celery seed

1 tbsp Minced onions

Combine ingredients in slow-cooking pot. Cover and cook over low heat 2 to 3 hours.
Makes 2 to 2 1/4 cups sauce.

Happy crockin'!
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Friday, October 10, 2008

Affordable Gourmet-style Recipes

Looking for recipe ideas that are easy to follow, inexpensive and relatively guilt-free too? Try incorporating an American household favorite -- canned tuna!

For something a little different that promises to please guests and family, Bumble Bee provides some delightful, recipe ideas made with canned tuna’s new gold label Prime Fillet. Keep this gourmet quality solid white albacore tuna ready in the pantry for parties, unexpected guests or family get-togethers. Then, whip up an affordable gourmet-style meal that will have your guests convinced you’ve prepared something truly elaborate and extravagant. As an added bonus, they will enjoy canapés or entrées that are delectable, but without those serious calories.

Specially developed by two of California’s leading chefs, here are recipes that demonstrate how canned tuna is no ordinary ingredient.

** Mediterranean-Style Rigatoni Pasta with Prime Fillet Albacore

Recipe by Chef de Cuisine Fabrice Poigin, Bertrand at Mister A’s, San Diego
This simple and flavorful pasta dish with a Mediterranean flair is ideal whether sitting down to dinner with the family or celebrating with guests. Chef Fabrice suggests complementing this with a glass of 2001 Spottswood Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. Serves 4.


1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
4 ounces unsalted butter
1 large sweet onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 red bell peppers, deseeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 vine ripe tomato, diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
A sprig of rosemary
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 small jar of Spanish olives (green olives stuffed with pimientos), drained
2 6-ounce cans of Bumble Bee Prime Fillet Solid White Albacore, drained
1/2 pound rigatoni pasta
1 tablespoon thinly sliced chives
Dry aged parmesan, grated
Pinch of crushed red hot pepper flakes (optional)

Directions:: Bring water to boil in a large pot according to package directions in preparation for cooking the rigatoni pasta. Heat 2/3 of the olive oil and 4 ounces of unsalted butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until nearly hot but not smoking. Add diced onions and cook for approximately 5 minutes until soft. Add diced red bell peppers, reducing to low-medium heat and cook until peppers are soft. Add diced tomato, minced garlic and 1/3 teaspoon of rosemary sprig leaves. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Cover and cook over low heat for another 10 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of dry white wine and simmer for 5 minutes. Then, add drained whole olives and Bumble Bee Prime Fillet tuna in solid pieces to sautéed mixture. Cover and cook until tuna is heated through (approximately 3 to 5 minutes).

Cook the rigatoni pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water according to the package directions or until al dente. Drain the pasta in a colander, leaving behind a little moisture. Toss the pasta, tuna sauce and water, then place in a serving dish or on individual plates. Drizzle remaining olive oil over the top and garnish with thinly sliced chives and grated dry aged parmesan. Top with a pinch of crushed red hot pepper flakes, if you prefer a little more bite.

** Delicate, Festive Albacore Tuna Canape

Recipe by Chef de Cuisine Fabrice Poigin, Bertrand at Mister A’s, San Diego

An easy-to-follow, elegant-style canapé for entertaining guests or just treating yourself to a unique way of serving up albacore tuna! Serves 6 to 8.


1 6-ounce can of Bumble Bee Prime Fillet Solid White Albacore, drained
2 finely diced shallots
1 tablespoon chives, thinly sliced
1 soup spoon crème fraiche
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Sourdough bread (optional)
3 ounces of comté cheese or aged white cheddar, sliced thinly
Extra crème fraiche for garnish (optional)
1/2 ounce domestic caviar (optional)
Chervil sprigs (optional)

Directions:: Mix together Prime Fillet tuna, shallots, chives, crème fraiche, and salt and pepper. Spoon mixture onto toasted triangles of sourdough bread or into Chinese ceramic serving spoons. Top each serving mixture with a slice of cheese and place in a pre-heated oven (300 degrees) until cheese begins to melt -- approximately 3 minutes. Remove toasties or Chinese spoons from the oven and top individually with a dot of crème fraiche, and then a dot of caviar (optional). Finish with a sprig of chervil to garnish.

** Prime Fillet Albacore Tuna and Potato Casserole

Recipe by Chef Gerald Hirigoyen, owner and executive chef, Piperade and Fringale Restaurants, San Francisco

Recognized in Food & Wine magazine’s 2003 Top Ten Best New Wine Lists, Chef Gerald suggests complementing this entrée with a glass of 2001 Turnbull Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. Serves 4.


1/2 cup olive oil
2 large onions, thinly sliced
4 medium Anaheim chilies, seeded and thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
8 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered
1 cup dry white wine
3 cups vegetable stock or canned vegetable broth
6 to 8 saffron threads
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 mild dried chili pepper
4 6-ounce cans of Bumble Bee Prime Fillet Solid White Albacore, drained
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Pinch of piment d’Espelette (Basque chili pepper) or mild cayenne powder

Directions:: Warm 1/2 cup olive oil in a large casserole over high heat. Add onions, Anaheim chilies, bay leaves, and garlic and sauté for 10 minutes. Add the potatoes, wine, vegetable stock, and saffron. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to medium. Add salt, pepper, and dried chili pepper, and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Add the tuna and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, or until warmed through. Stir only occasionally to avoid breaking apart the fish. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Discard the bay leaves before serving. Serve in shallow soup bowls, and sprinkle with the parsley and piment d’Espelette.
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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Make School Lunches Fun and Nutritious

As the beginning of the school year nears, parents once again face the challenge of preparing healthy lunches and snacks that their kids will actually eat. After all, you can send your child to school with a well-balanced lunch a home-ec teacher would be proud of, but if he trades his carrot sticks for a cupcake, all your efforts go down the drain.

What parents need are ways to make healthy food fun for kids to eat. And since September is not only back-to-school month, but also “5 a Day” month (in honor of the FDA recommendation that everyone eat five servings of fruits and vegetables every day), what better time to incorporate these foods into your family’s diet.

Every parent knows that some foods are more popular with kids than others. For example, most kids like bananas, but may not be so sure about papaya. While you want your child to try new tastes, their lunch box probably isn’t the place for that. Keeping kids’ taste buds in mind, here are some tips from the Produce Marketing Association for fun, healthy ways to help your kids get their 5 a Day.

For the lunch box:

* Instead of PB&J for lunch, how about PB&B -- peanut butter and banana. This delicious combination is sure to be a hit with kids.

* Peanut butter can also be used to stuff celery, or try celery stuffed with low fat cheese.

* Apples are easy to pack and eat -- simply toss one in the lunch box. Alternatively, pack a container of applesauce.

* Capture your kids’ imagination (and their appetites) with unique and interesting fruits. For example, star fruit, with its astral shape, is fascinating to kids.

* Kids might turn up their noses at raw carrot sticks served on their own, but a little ranch-flavored dip can make all the difference. The dip is available in easy-to-pack single serving containers. Encourage your child to try dipping other vegetables such as celery, broccoli and cauliflower for variety.

Any of the ideas above can also work as a healthy after school snack, but you have a lot of other options as well. Kids love smoothies, especially when they get to pick the ingredients. All you need is some yogurt, your favorite fruit, some ice and a blender for a tasty snack that packs a nutritional punch.

Here’s another recipe the kids will go for: Fruition Pizza. They’ll get a kick out of the unconventional ingredients. It’s so easy, the kids can practically put it together themselves.

Fruiteroni Pizza

1 12-inch pre-baked thin pizza crust or 12-inch regular pizza crust

1/2 cup pasta sauce or pizza sauce

1-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella or jack cheese

1 large (or 2 small) fresh California peaches, thinly sliced

2 ounces sliced pepperoni

diced green peppers (options)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread pizza base with sauce. Sprinkle with cheese. Top with fruit slices and pepperoni, then sprinkle with green pepper. Bake on cookie sheet at 425 degrees for 15 minutes or until sauce is bubbling and crust is browned. Cut into wedges.

And remember, it’s not just kids who need their 5 a Day. Mom and Dad should be setting a good example by eating their fruits and vegetables. A survey conducted by the American Dietetic Association found that parents have more potential to influence their children’s eating habits than anyone else. These findings underscore the importance of a parent’s involvement in helping their children make good dietary choices, because children’s eating behaviors are influenced by family-related factors such as the number of meals eaten together.
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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Which type of coffee machine will suit your business?

a) Traditional Espresso Machines

These machines incorporate the art and theatricality of coffee making, and therefore good barista training is essential to ensure a detailed knowledge of great coffee production. A barista is an expert at making espresso and a master of a variety of espresso based beverages. Once these skills have been mastered, a good barista can produce hundreds of drinks per day.
Prices can vary from around £800 to £6000, but remember, you get what you pay for, so make sure that the machine you choose is new and fully warranted, including full barista training and a good support service. The great thing about traditional machines is that there are no major moving parts so less to go wrong.

b) Bean to Cup Machines

A bean to cup machine does exactly what it says! The fresh coffee beans are placed inside the machine and on the press of a button the machine automatically grinds the beans and pours both coffee and milk into your cup. The machine automatically heats and froths the milk to produce the perfect latte/cappuccino etc. The milk is usually kept in a fridge or milk chiller next to the machine; a pipe from the machine connects into the fridge and when the drink selection button is pressed the machine draws the milk from the fridge and sucks it into the machine steams, heats it and drops it into the cup.

These various coffee machines are designed to produce anything from 50 cups per day to over 500 per day. The cost of these can vary from under £1000 to well over £10000, so it is important you make the correct choice.

c) Pod System

Similar to traditional, but you would usually only have 1 or 2 group versions and you wouldn’t need a grinder because you would use what are called pods. The advantages are that they are easy to use, producing good quality drink and nice aromas. The time taken to make the coffee is approximately the same as a traditional machine. The disadvantages are that they are more expensive per cup due to packaging cost. Typically a good quality pod will cost 20p per cup to produce. These machines will suit any small site and tend to be cheaper than the other machines, costing around £395 upwards.

d) Filter System and Bulk Brew System

These systems are for simply using filter coffee. A 2 jug filter makes great coffee for about 5 to 7 minutes, however if it’s left to stew for a while, as filter coffee usually is, the quality quickly deteriorates due to constant warming. Typically there can be waste, and so while the cup price is around 10p per cup, with waste, this could work out to be nearer 20p per cup. It can be used if there is a high demand for coffee over a short space of time such as serving 120 wedding guests after the dinner. A filter machine is always a back up to a traditional or bean to cup machine for use at very busy times or in case of a machine breakdown.

Bulk brew systems are large scale filter systems used in locations such as banqueting facilities, hotels and sporting events. There are hundreds of different coffee machine systems available depending on how many litres of coffee need to be served and in what time scale.
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Monday, October 6, 2008

Cookware what you need and what you don’t !

Cookware is always a rather contentious subject. I have seen chefs turn up to even the simplest of cooking jobs carrying more than it would take to maintain your average oil tanker (though maybe this is not the best use for your cookware), when all that was really needed was a knife and something to sharpen it with.

So what are the real”cookware essentials”, the things that you really can’t do without? Well surprisingly you actually need only a very small amount of things to get you going. Probably considerably less than you have already.
All the cookware you actually need is a good knife, a means of sharpening it, a chopping board and a couple of pans. You may prefer a bit more cookware but you can cook with just that.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m as partial to a kitchen full of mixers, blenders, electrical appliances and assorted useful, and otherwise, gadgets as the next person.

But although good quality cheap cookware ( yes it is possible )like grinders and blenders give you a lot more scope there are plenty of things that you can cook without them, but a good knife, or three, is absolutely essential.
The first and most essential piece of cookware you need is a cook’s knife, that’s as large as you feel comfortable with, an 8 inch knife with a blade that curves slightly to allow a rocking motion is a good start, then a smaller knife, about 4 inches, for cutting small vegetables and a carving knife.

If you buy one about 10 inches long it can also double as a bread knife. Although there is no point buying extra knifes just to line the pockets of the large kitchen equipment manufacturers. A set can actually be quite good value and give you more for a similar amount of money. But check carefully what is in the set first.
If you cannot find a set with what you think will be useful to you, don’t buy it. Many sets come with extras like a case or wooden knife block but try to see past the free gifts. It’s much better to have a few good knives in your drawer than a fancy polished beech wood block with fifteen designer knives, fourteen of which you never use, and one that is not the right shape for your hand and gives you blisters.

I have a small, not very expensive set of French Sabatier’s that are comfortable but not as posh looking as some of the more fashionable makes like the Japanese global which I find too light which makes chopping a lot of veg for example much harder work.
If you learn how to use them properly then steel or grinding stone is a good way to keep your knives sharp otherwise there are a good choice of proprietary sharpeners that keep the knife at the right angle while you pull it through the sharpener. Pans also need to be good quality, nothing over the top, no need to spend a fortune. Just make sure they are of a good solid construction.

This promotes good even heat distribution and helps to prevent things burning. Stainless steel is a good option. A good work on the other hand should be made of thin light steel and cost very little, but always check that it has a good well-fixed wooden handle. The best place to buy this most useful of pans is (perhaps unsurprisingly) usually the local Chinese supermarket. A good chopping board is another necessity though two are better than one as this helps to prevent cross contamination if you designate one for uncooked meats/fish etc. and another for things like fruit and salads.

No matter how much you think you will always be careful and wash them between uses this is the best single way to prevent contamination between foods. Mixers can be useful if you intend doing a lot of baking. But unless you make bread on a regular basis (always a good idea), then buying a simple, good quality hand held mixer rather than a heavy standalone version could save you a couple of hundred dollars in as well as a lot of space on your worktop.

A blender is always useful for soups and the occasional smoothie, and a grinder will give you a lot more options in your use of nuts etc. and will also provide a constant supply of fresh coffee for the more manic cook. A good way to combine the functions of all three is to buy a food processor.

A good quality machine such as a Moulinex or Robot coupe will save space and allow you to buy a much better processor than if you bought their items separately. There is an almost unending list of kitchen equipment that you could buy (if in doubt walk into your local cookery shop and ask the owner what he thinks you need!), but make sure you get the essential good quality cookware right and it will make your cooking easier and more enjoyable.
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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Coconut Ginger Ice Cream Recipe.

I made this dessert for my final class in culinary school. We had to prepare a dessert with a four course meal, that we had to complete before we were able to move on. We had to select out of a hat, the items we were to prepare, and do so in a slotted time period to be graded. We knew that we had to make a dessert, and were allowed to bring any items into class that we wanted to use within reason. I decided to bring in rock salt, coconut milk, and shredded coconut. We always had fresh ginger, nutmeg and sugar at our disposal, so I knew that I would have that at my disposal for any dish. I very much believe that my instructors loved my coconut dessert dish, due to they ate every last bite, and I made a perfect score.
This is a great recipe, and it is very fun to make, and probably the easiest to make, too. I am glad that I am able to share this recipe with you!

Ingredients you will need:

1 Can of coconut milk (or) 16 ounces

1/4 Teaspoon of fresh ginger

1/2 Cup of shredded coconut

1/8 Teaspoon of nutmeg

1/4 Cup of sugar - you can go much less on the sugar if you like. Adjust it to your taste. If you want to totally remove it that is an option too. You can use a sugar substitute, but follow the directions on the box.

2 Cups of rock salt

4-5 Cups of cubed or crushed ice.

4 small ramekins

2 Large zip lock bags

1 mixing bowl

You are now ready to make your ice cream. You will add in a mixing bowl the 16 ounces of coconut milk. It is always best to shake the can of coconut milk before you open it, to get the built up coconut milk fat solids incorporated back into the liquid. You will then cut off a piece of ginger and peel it, and then cut it, and make a paste, and add it to the milk. Add your nutmeg, and sugar, and give it a good mix. You will need to taste it to make sure it has the flavor component you want. If you want to add more nutmeg, or ginger now would be the time to do so.

If you are a diabetic you could use a sugar substitute, or no sugar at all. I have not tried it without the sugar, so I would be interested in any feedback on this matter. I do believe that it would work though.

You will now need to get ready for the fun to start. You can roast of your coconut before or after. Just get a small saute pan, and add your coconut to a pan over med to med high heat and toss until golden brown. Remove from pan and save for topping your finished ice cream later.

Add your milk ice cream mixture to the first zip lock bag and make sure it is sealed very well. If you have a rubber band to go around to keep it from flapping around this is a good thing. In your second bag you are going to add half of the rock salt, and half of the ice to the bag. Next ad your 1st zip lock bag with the milk mixture, and then the rest of the ice, and rock salt. You will then let the kids take over if they are helping you out.

This is best done outside in an area that is not going to matter if things get a little out of hand. You will need to shake vigorously for around 5-10 minutes, or until the milk starts turning into a frozen solid. You will then remove from the bag of ice, and rock salt. Mix very gently with cold water, and pat dry. Immediately put the semi-frozen mixture into the ramekins, and put into the freezer for about 5-10 minutes. Pull from freezer and add your roasted coconut to the top and dig in.

I love this recipe, and it is so fun to make. It is also one of the best desserts I have ever eaten as well.
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