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Wednesday, May 30 2007

Sesame seeds exude a nutty, sweet aroma. India and China are the world's largest producers of sesame seeds. Making meals with sesame is thought to be one of the oldest spices known, and date back more than 40 centuries. Oils from these seeds are free of cholesterol and may be a viable source of vitamin E. Sesame seeds are a well known food. The seeds may have a medicinal properties too. For this chicken dinner you will need:

4 chicken breasts
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoons chili paste or more if desired
3 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 tablespoon rice vinegar (not seasoned)
2 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoon Fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
4 garlic clove, crushed
2 tablespoons mild Honey
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoon sesame oil
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 ounces unsalted cashew nuts
2 ounces small canned mushrooms
4 spring onions, chopped
Boiled white rice, to serve

2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoons chili paste or more if desired
3 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 tablespoon rice vinegar (not seasoned)
2 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoon Fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
4 garlic clove, crushed
2 tablespoons mild Honey
1/2 teaspoon table salt

1. Cut the chicken breast into thin strips 1-inch or cubes.

2. Mix the marinade ingredients and marinate the chicken turning to coat thoroughly and place the chicken pieces in the refrigerator for about 30-60 minutes.

3. Fry the sesame seeds in a wok or frying pan, and cook stirring frequently until lightly toasted, and set aside. Heat the vegetable oil (1 tablespoon) in a wok or frying pan, add the cashew nuts and fry until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper and set aside.

4. Drain the chicken pieces, reserving the marinade and deep fry the chicken pieces in the sesame and vegetable oils in the wok or frying pan, until lightly browned, remove from the heat and set aside. Always fry a few pieces at a time.

5. Now it’s time to add the mushrooms and cook stirring for 2 minutes. Add the spring onions and stir fry 1 minute more.

6. Place the chicken breast back into the wok with the mushrooms, and the reserved marinade, and stir for a minute. Place the mixture on a warmed serving dish and sprinkle with the sesame seeds and cashew nuts. Serve with white rice.

Posted by: AT 09:25 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, May 23 2007
In today's busy and hectic world, very few of us have the time and energy to spend hours preparing and cooking full course meals for ourselves or our family. Yet eating right and enjoying the food we eat is extremely important, not just for health reasons, but so we can enjoy and be happy.

With the internet and today's speedy transportation, getting delicious full course meals delivered right to your door has never been easier! I've been getting my meals delivered right to my door for over 2 years and I have been very happy with the convenience, the service and most importantly the wife and kids love it too!

While there are many different restaurants and companies providing this wonderful service, not all of them are created equal. I have ordered food that sounded great, and then came to my front door looking and tasting like something I could pick up at a local Subway.

This website is here to help guide those who want fresh, delicious and nutritious prepared meals delivered right to their the best service possible!
Posted by: AT 08:21 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, May 18 2007

Memorial Day Weekend is the kickoff of grilling season. Heat up your barbecue with this fast and easy meal.

Meal Menu: Grilled Catfish, Corn on the Cob, Mango Salsa, Grilled Vegetables

Serves 4

Plan: Prepare and refrigerate Mango Salsa. Prepare the vegetables and corn for grilling.

30 minutes before eating, heat the grill. 20 minutes before eating, put the corn and vegetables on the grill, 10 minutes before eating, cook the fish.

Corn on the cob, 1 per person
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. cayenne powder
2 limes, cut into wedges
Strip the husks and silk from corn on the cob, brush lightly with olive oil.
Preheat the barbecue grill.
Put the corn on the grill about 10 minutes before starting the fish.
Turn the corn frequently so that it cooks evenly on all sides. Keep warm.

1/3 lb. catfish fillet per person
olive oil
1/2 tsp. hot pepper powder
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground allspice

Prepare the barbecue for grilling.
Lightly brush olive oil on fillets. Combine the spices in a small bowl. Sprinkle spices over both sides of the catfish fillets.
10 minutes before serving, place fillets over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes.
Turn the fillet over, cook for 5 more minutes and test for doneness - use a sharp knife to open a small slash in the thickest part of the fillet.
Cook a few more minutes if not completely done. Don't over cook or the fish will dry out.
Serve with lemon slices and Mango Salsa .

Mango Salsa

1 fresh firm mango, ripe but not soft, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 jalapeno or serrano chili pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped purple or white onion
1 small red tomato, chopped in 1/2 inch dice
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1 tbsp. lemon juice
pinch of salt

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and gently combine. Let flavor marinate until dinner.

Grilled Vegetables

2 zucchinis, cut lengthwise in half
1 Maui, Walla Walla or other sweet onion, cut into 4 thick slices
1 red bell pepper, seeds and stem removed, cut into four sections
4 jalapeno chili peppers
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp. cayenne pepper powder
salt and pepper, to taste

Combine the olive oil and spices and brush over the vegetables. Grill over medium heat until done, turning and brushing with more olive oil as needed.

Posted by: AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, May 17 2007

Have you ever sat and thought about, 'what ever happened to good old fashion soup'? When you go to the grocery store and purchase a can of soup, it doesn't matter which brand; have you ever taken a good look at the label? Most, (not all) but most canned soups now days contains ingredients that are completely unnecessary for a desirable tasting soup. And in a lot of cases, even the food products within the soup are derived from previously processed foods or condensed foods and food products.

For instance_ the label on the can of soup that I am holding right now reads:

Water, Beef, Carrots, Potatoes, Frozen Peas, Celery, Modified food starch, Salt, MSG, Wheat flour, Hydrolyzed corn protein, Dehydrated onions, Caramel color, Beef extract, Onion powder, Garlic powder, Spices.

First off_ Let's talk about this MSG. What is MSG? MSG is (Monosodium Glutamate). According to the MSG Corporation, it is nothing more than a natural ingredient and food enhancer. That it is a sodium salt of glutamic acid, and one of the most common amino acids found in nature; that there is no difference between the glutamate found in natural foods than that added as MSG. You can look it up yourself, for they even have their own website now.

If this is all true, then why is it that so many people have strange or allergic reactions to it? I am one of them. Within 20 minutes of eating anything that contains MSG, I get a pounding headache that incapacitates me for at least 2 hours. There has even been several occasions where my sight went blurry for about the same amount of time. I have been tested to see if perhaps it may have been due to the food itself and not the MSG, but I can eat all of the foods separately without any problem. I am also able to eat table salt on anything I want without any problems. Something isn't making any sense here.

Now let's get on to some of the other ingredients such as Modified food starch, Hydrolyzed corn protein, and Caramel color. If potatoes are added to the soup, they will produce a thickening agent by themselves. And why use corn protein; why not just add corn? Why do you need to add coloring to soup? Do you honestly believe that our grandmothers added all this nonsense to their homemade soups and stews? It is possible that they may have added some bouillon for added flavor, and yes, there is bouillon that does not contain MSG. However, if soup and stew is done correctly, none of these added off the wall ingredients are needed. Soups and stews will flavor themselves naturally with the fresh meats and vegetables that are added. The longer it cooks and simmers, the deeper the flavor will be.

Terrie is an author at http://www.Writing.Com which is a site for Creative Writing.

Posted by: AT 09:02 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, May 16 2007
Whether it’s the Christmas holiday season or the middle of summer, the necessity of having to shop for a birthday or anniversary present is inevitable. While it’s always a thrill to find just the right gift for a friend or associate, sometimes issues such as lack of time or the difficulty of trying to find a unique gift: how many ties can you buy your brother in law, make the buying experience stressful and a hassle.

Unique gourmet gifts: salmon, lobster, crab and steak

There’s really no need to buy yet another tie because what your brother in law really wants is a unique food gift such as an assorted steak box featuring specialty cuts of premium beef. This is a gift that he can take outdoors and grill on a nice summer evening or enjoy dining indoors. If you have a seafood lover to please, you can send them anything from smoked salmon gift baskets to a crab bake, lobster bake, or lobster gram. The last two are really fun because your lobster gifts come with live lobster, a pot, lobster bib and other items for a delightful lobster dinner. Crab bakes are generally the same idea only with live crab.

Gifts for the dessert lover

With so many choices in gourmet chocolates: in boxes, themed gifts baskets and more, you can send anything from romantic, fine chocolates to elegant, hand made chocolates to a colleague. Another popular idea for the confection lover is tower gifts: chocolate tower gifts and cookie tower gifts. These gifts are delivered in the mail and can make quite a presentation. Cookie bouquets are also fun gifts and great if you weren’t planning to spend a lot.

Gifts for the food lover

If you have a gourmand, and they’re hungry to sample different kinds of wine, cheeses, chocolates, coffees, teas and such look for a good food of the month club online. These clubs tend to include interesting choices and include information for your recipient to learn more about different kinds of cheeses, for example if it’s a cheese of the month club (see ). Also, with a monthly food gift plan your recipient is not likely to forget you as there is a reminder each month
Posted by: AT 08:38 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, May 15 2007

The rehearsal dinner is a wonderful time to fellowship with your loved ones the evening before the wedding day. It’s an opportunity for the bride and groom to say “thank you!” to all those who have given of their time and energy toward the wedding day. It’s also a time when those in the wedding party can get better acquainted.

Although there is no set ‘requirement’ to hold a rehearsal dinner, there are few justifications for not holding a dinner. Everyone has to eat anyway, so why not spend the time together and enjoy each others’ company?

Inviting your guests is as easy as including an invitation card in your wedding invitation. It can even be something as simple as a postcard printed from your home computer. Some couples prefer to send out a separate invite, but if cost is a concern, it is perfectly fine to include it when mailing your wedding invitations.

The planning of the rehearsal dinner usually falls to the groom’s mother. This gives her a chance to be included in the wedding festivities. In addition, it’s a way she can show her love and affection for her son and her soon-to-be daughter-in-law.

Many couples nowadays are footing the bill for all of the costs associated with their wedding, and therefore, the rehearsal dinner would be included in their initial budget. However, if the couple tends toward traditional practices, then the groom’s parents would normally pay for the dinner. Sometimes, both sets of parents decide to host the dinner together.

On this special eve of their wedding day, the bride and groom can use this time to toast their families, loved ones and bridal party. Oft times, others will also offer toasts as well. Now and then, this is a time of teasing the bride and groom, but it is (usually) done in good taste. Depending on the time of the dinner and whether or not young children are in attendance, you might include games or other activities such as pool or a home-movie. This evening can made even more special by giving your bridesmaids and bridegrooms the gifts you and your spouse have lovingly selected for them.

The question is often asked, “Do I have to invite out-of-town guests?” These days, families are, many times, far apart and have to travel to special events. Travel may include a few nights’ stay as well. While it is not “required” for you to invite those coming in from out of town, it would be considered a pleasant gesture. If you do decide not to invite them, you could include a list of your favorite restaurants in the area so they can make easy choices in a city/town that is unfamiliar to them.

If cost is an issue, set up a potluck and barbecue in the back yard! The dinner can be informal and fun and you’ll still have the chance to say “thank you” to all of the people who helped to make your wedding day a cherished one.

Yolanda is the owner of Yolandas Wedding Favors. She sells many different types of cheap wedding favors such as, love glass coasters, two peas in a pod salt and pepper shakers and many many more. Yolandas Wedding Favors also carries many different wedding accessories and wedding party gifts such as guest books, unity candles, ring pillows, bridesmaid gifts, groomsmen gifts and many many more.

Posted by: AT 12:45 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, May 11 2007
Baked Pork Chops with Soy Sauce and Honey

Minimal preparation and no frying makes this one of the easiest ways of serving pork chops, for they are simply soaked in a light marinade and then baked until tender. Good with new potatoes tossed in parsley-butter and a green salad with sprouts.

900g-1kg pork loin chops
2 large cloves garlic
25ml soy sauce
25ml honey
50ml dry white wine
2ml ground ginger
5ml dried sage

Remove rind and most of the fat from the chops and arrange to fit in glass dish suitable for both marinating and baking. Crush garlic directly over chops and rub in with back of knife. Mix remaining ingredients, pour over chops and marinate for about 4 hours at room temperature, or all day in the fridge. Turn chops occasionally while marinating. Remove dish 1 hour before baking and bake, covered, at 160ºC for 1 hour. Remove cover, turn chops and bake uncovered for another 20 minutes or until tender and juices are slightly reduced and syrupy. Ladle a spoonful over each serving. Serves about 6.

Fruited Pork Chops

800g pork loin chops
2-3 gloves garlic
125ml pure apple juice
25ml soy sauce
25ml brown sugar
2ml dried rosemary
Thin slices orange and apple
Brown sugar, ground cinnamon and butter

Arrange chops in baking dish. Crush garlic over chops. Mix apple juice, soy sauce, sugar and rosemary and pour over. Place 1 thin slice of orange and apple on each chop. Sprinkle a little sugar and cinnamon over apple, and dot with butter. Bake, uncovered, 1t 160ºC, for 1 hour 30 minutes until tender, and liquid is slightly syrupy. Serves 4-6
Posted by: AT 12:29 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, May 09 2007

Being a mother, a parent, a student, and an employee, I do not have the time or the desire to prepare fancy meals for dinner every night of the week. With the hectic life I lead, I was finding it extremely difficult to put a meal on the table much before 9:00 or 10:00 at night. I needed to find a way to feed my family earlier and healthier and take out food was not a viable option. I finally figured out a neat little solution to my problem that seems to work fairly well. I plan and prepare all my dinner dishes a week ahead of time and freeze them.

I start by making a menu of what I would like to make for dinner for each night of the following week. Often times, I will plan this menu so that I can utilize the leftovers from one meal in a different meal. For example, I will buy a half of a ham and cut enough ham steaks off of it for one meal. Then I will take what is left of the ham and chop it into cubes and make scalloped potatoes or potato soup out of them. Another example would be hamburger. I cook an entire package of hamburger at a time. I prepare one half of the hamburger for spaghetti or goulash and the other half for something like Taco’s or Sloppy Joes. These little tricks save me a lot of time. They also tend to save me a lot of money because I buy the meat in bulk, which costs less.

If I know the following week is going to be especially hectic, I will plan meals like a big pot of soup or stew. I know that these dishes will have plenty of leftovers and I can get two nights worth of meals out of them. I also choose dishes that I know I can freeze without ruining the food. I recommend waiting to cook any pasta you will need for your meals until the night you need it. Pasta does not tend to freeze very well. You can still prepare the meat ahead of time and freeze it though.

After I have planned my menu, I make a list of what I need to prepare all of my meals and I take a trip to the grocery store. Once I have all of my ingredients, I set to work preparing the meals.

I prepare all of the meals on the same day and then I freeze them until the day I plan on having that meal for dinner. Then I take it out of the freezer that morning and let it thaw out. By dinnertime it is thawed and all I have to do is reheat and serve. I know it seems like a lot of time to spend cooking in one day but it will save you from having to do it during the week when you are exhausted and don’t feel like cooking a big meal.

Sometimes, instead of pre-cooking the food I will just prepare the ingredients for cooking. For soups or stews, I will cut up the carrots, potatoes, celery, onions etc. and put them in a freezer bag and freeze them. You can even cook the meat and freeze it after it has cooled. On the day that I want that particular meal, I just put all of the ingredients in the crock-pot and let them cook on low all day. When I am ready to eat dinner that night, my meal is ready with without having to put forth a lot of effort.

By cooking my meals ahead of time I have solved my dinnertime troubles. Now dinner is on the table no later than 6:30 and my family is much happier.

Posted by: AT 12:14 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, May 08 2007
Remember back to the first time on your own; you moved into your own place and took with you numerous hand-me-downs from your parent's house. As time passes, you replace each piece one at a time, moving ahead with your own things. However, it seems that recently there's been a lot of buzz as to why you may not want to buy a new crock pot.

I've been reading a lot of crock pot cooking forums lately and there seems to be a common thread; many people are discouraged from cooking with their new crock pots. Why is this? What has come to pass to make newer crock pots more frustrating to cook with than older crock pots? I saw so many posts claiming that people had returned their new crock pot and dug out the one from their grandmother, or went rummaging around to thrift shops and garage sales to find a "good old crock pot" for $5 or less. And yet, many of those people don't realize that there's an excellent reason why your slow cooker doesn't cook quite as slowly anymore; it's for your own safety.

The US Food and Drug Administration states that bacteria grows the fastest between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on the meat, it needs to be cooked to a minimum of 145 degrees Fahrenheit to kill most bacteria (poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit and ground meat to 160 degrees Fahrenheit). Even if your food is eventually cooked to the proper temperature, if it stays too long in the 40-140 range, it will house much more bacteria than if cooked properly.

Since the FDA also recommends that food be refrigerated at a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below, then how do we get it from 40 to 140 as quickly as possible, therefore preventing growth of bacteria? At this point, it may seem as if you should throw out every "slow" cooker you own. But hold on!

That is exactly the reason why the new slow cookers don't cook as slowly as the older models do; it's all for your health and safety. However, manufacturers have also realized that the main benefit people seek from using their crock pot is to start dinner in the morning before work, go work an 8-10 hour day, and then come home to a fully prepared meal. In realizing this, they have added bells and whistles to their models, with keep warm and buffet settings, automatic timers, and much more.

What does this mean for you? First of all, test your crock pot. If you're not sure how to test to see if your crock pot is safely cooking your food, read "Does Your Crock Pot Work?" to find out. Second, don't be scared of your new crock pot; it may take some getting used to. Third, make sure you're filling it the correct amount; if you don't have the correct amount of food in your crock pot (no less than half but no more than two-thirds full) your meal will not turn out right.

I just recently purchased a new crock pot and had the luxury of being able to closely monitor the first few meals I made in it. Yes, it does cook a lot faster than my old one. Once I got used to it and began to use my keep warm, simmer, and buffet settings, each meal turned out perfectly. Most importantly, I love knowing that cooking with my new crock pot is much safer and healthier for my family.

Natalie is a work at home mom who loves crock pot cooking and quick and easy recipes in general. To view her crock pot recipes visit, which also includes a variety of helpful hints, cooking tips, quick and easy recipes, great products, and a fun and informative newsletter.

Posted by: AT 09:32 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, May 07 2007

Summer is on the way for many of us and this usually means the barbecues get dusted off and we all get down the shops to get some matches and a sack of charcoal. However, often we have barbecues on the beach or in a park so it’s important to bring all the essentials to make sure you don’t have to run back to the house or down the local shops, it’s also important to make sure everything is in good working order. Here are a few of things which are often forgotten on the barbecue.

The barbecue – Sounds silly but it is always worth checking that the barbecue is in a decent state to use. Last year was a long time ago and any grimy stuff in it could have taken its toll. Give it a good clean a few days before you go to make sure that you don’t have any last minute mishaps.

Charcoal and something to get it going – Most of us would never forget the charcoal, but it’d easy to forget something to actually get the stuff going! Make sure you bring firelighters & plenty of matches to make sure you can get the barbecue going.

Utensils – Remember you will have to turn food regularly on a barbecue and this will need some specialist equipment, whether it be tongs, wooden spoons or a good old fashioned fork. You will also need bits and pieces for things like salad and buttering rolls so make sure you remember it all!

Torch – The nigh time creeps up on us when we have barbecues and before we know it, it is dark. Make sure you bring a torch to make sure you can see if the food is cooked and make sure you don’ leave anything behind when you leave.

Disposable bags – You will always generate a lot of rubbish when you have a barbecue so make sure you bring enough bags to pack it all away and get rid of it safely. You don’t want to have to carry rubbish around in your hands searching for bins at the end of the night.

Follow these simple tips and it should ensure you have a stress-free barbecue – Just make sure you check the weather forecast!

Posted by: AT 09:44 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Sunday, May 06 2007

A lot of us find that the main reason we go to the farmer’s market is to take our kids to the jumpy house and to get a bag of kettle corn. But as we walk through the aisles, enjoying the flavors and colors of the seasonal produce, we wonder how to include these treasures into our repetitious dinner menus.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if someone could just tell us what to make for a healthy dinner every night, and how to do it? And how about including an organized grocery list, at the same time? To be honest, it would be hard to imagine a shopping trip that didn’t include the grocery store shuffle – going up and down the aisles, only to return to fetch several forgotten items.

As if planning meals isn’t challenging enough, we have to figure out how to keep the kids occupied while preparing dinner. Send them outside to play? Park them in front of the television for some “educational programming”? What else are we supposed to do? It can be such a challenge to cook a meal with miniature cars speeding between our feet, and listening to a chorus of: “I’m telling!”

There are a variety of tools to help busy families get healthy meals on the table. Take-out menus and meal assembly facilities are two that we may be familiar with. But a third and more exciting option is now available. Online recipe subscription services address people’s biggest issue head on: Lack of Time. No time to plan healthy meals, no time to write a thorough grocery list, no time to cook elaborate meals, and perhaps worst of all, little quality time with our children. Imagine a service that solved the time dilemma and enabled us to spend more time with our families.

Real Simple magazine says that “online dinner-strategy services…manage to alleviate the stress of deciding what to make for dinner.”

How They Work:

Most of these types of services are subscription based. Some of them send their customers a weekly e-mail, complete with recipes and grocery lists. Others send you an e-mail that summarizes that week’s meals, and remind you to login to their website for the details. Subscription costs vary from $4 to $10 per month, and are usually available in 3, 6 or 12 month bundles, with price breaks for longer subscriptions. (In case you are not a numbers person that translates to 6-months worth of meal plans for less than the cost of one take out meal!)

Which One is Right for Your Family?

The one you choose will most likely be based on how easy their style, format and recipes are for you and your family to digest (pardon the pun!).

If the following options are important to you, be sure that they are addressed by the service you are considering:

• Affordable cost

• Healthy recipes

• Seasonal ingredients

• Clearly written recipes

• Recipes for Main Dishes, Sides and Vegetables for every meal

• Organized grocery lists

• Nutrition Label for each recipe

• Tips on what your children can do to help prepare each recipe

Yes, you read the last feature correctly! Believe it! There are fun and simple tasks that your kids can do in the kitchen while you cook the meal. Even if you are the type of cook who burns water, your kids CAN participate in your meal preparation. Helping you cook may even encourage your kids to expand their horizons and try something new or green every once in awhile!

Ready to look forward to meal time again? Now that you know about the knight in shining armor who can tell you: a) what to make for dinner; b) how to do it; c) what ingredients to buy; and d) what kids can do to actively participate, what are you waiting for? Get online and find the right one for your family!

Michelle Stern owns What’s Cooking, a business that offers cooking classes and gifts to children of all ages. She recently launched What’s Cooking Weekly, a healthy family meal subscription service. (

Posted by: AT 01:26 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, May 04 2007
If meatloaf is in your comfort food category then most likely you grew up with it. Comfort foods are like that. They bring back the memories of childhood and the great smells and tastes from Mom's kitchen.

In all probability my Mom's meatloaf recipe, that is comforting to me, is not the same as your Mom's.

That's what's so great about meatloaf. There's not a definitive recipe.

It's a blank canvas. One of the most versatile meat entrees there is. It can be anything you want it to be.

It's actually more of a food category than it is a food item. In the same manner that soup is a food category.

Meatloaf Basics

Great meatloaf should always be juicy but never greasy. It shouldn't fall apart when sliced. It should not be bland but it should also not be so heavily seasoned that it looses its meatiness.

Even though there's not a definitive recipe there are some basics to every meatloaf recipe.

Naturally it starts with meat. Most recipes call for ground beef but it doesn't have to be all ground beef. You can use a combination of meats including veal, lamb, pork or sausages. The meat is a basic but still versatile.

In addition to the meat you will almost always have some type of binder such as eggs and a starch such as bread or cracker crumbs. Some recipes also include vegetables.

The crumbs help to bind along with the eggs and also serve as an extender for the meat. Vegetables are also an extender and will help to keep the meatloaf moist.

To add to the versatility you can use store bought flavored croutons for the crumbs. Just pulse them in the food processor. You can also buy flavored breadcrumbs.

Vegetable variations make meatloaf even more versatile. I know a lady that cleans her refrigerator of leftovers each week with meatloaf. Her meatloaf is never the same but always good.

You will also see meatloaf recipes that have a topping put on before baking. A favorite is bacon strips. Tomato products are also popular. My Mom used catsup.

Seasoning is a matter of taste. Use whatever you like. If there were anything basic I would say just salt and pepper. Beyond that let your taste buds be your guide.

Want a Mexican meatloaf? Try chili powder and cumin. Use ground tortilla chips as the starch and a taco sauce topper.

How about Italian? Then it's oregano and basil. Garlic croutons or Italian breadcrumbs are good for the starch and of course a good Italian pasta sauce for the topper.

Do you want a meatloaf with an oriental slant? Add in a can of oriental style vegetables and use soy sauce to taste.

Do you see what I mean?

Of course you should still prepare the one that is comforting to you. But you can travel the world from your kitchen with meatloaf and all its variations.

Meatloaf truly is a versatile comfort food.

Jim Bolding is a freelance writer and the Webmaster at where you can find many meatloaf recipes

Posted by: AT 09:11 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, May 03 2007

The key to successful cooking for one is smart shopping and good food storage practices. Here are some great suggestions and a sample menu to get you started.

Vegetables and Fruit:

The down side to vegetables and fruit is that they can be very perishable. The up side is that it is the only department in the whole grocery store that you can easily buy just what you need. It is actually possible to purchase a single cherry. We don’t recommend that, but you could do it if you wanted to.

For items like cauliflower and celery that are sold by the head, try the salad bar. In fact the salad bar is a great way to get a variety of vegetables in a salad without waste.

The key idea with perishable items is to consume the most perishable items first, and work your way to the most shelf stable as the week goes along. Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are a great solution, they sell small cans of about everything and it is easy to take just what you need from a freezer bag and keep the rest for later.


Clearly it is hard to use up a whole package of herbs, but you can choose to dry them or freeze them before they get too old. Freeze them in ice cube trays then store in bags in the freezer. Tie bunches with string and hang them upside down to dry in an area with good ventilation, then store in jars. Remember that drying concentrates flavors so use less dried that you would fresh. Herbs are also great for flavoring oils like olive oil to add easy flavor to recipes. You can do the same thing with garlic. It is a nice shortcut when the olive and garlic show up for the party in your pan already married. Another good use of leftover herbs is in compound butters. Mix herbs with softened butter and chill in a log shape in wax paper in the refrigerator. Slice when firm, then store in the freezer. Compound butters are great to add to pasta, just cooked and drained and is also lovely with fish. Add compound butter to fish cooked in foil with vegetables.

Meat and Fish

The butcher is your friend. Pick the grocery store with the most helpful staff, particularly in the meat department and the deli. Many good grocery stores have butchers in the meat department that will happily resize and repackage meat for you. Sometimes you pay a tiny bit more at these stores, but that is usually more than made up for in increased quality and reduced waste. Besides a single gorgeous fillet is usually cheaper than greasy Chinese takeout. That’s another nice thing about cooking for one; you can afford to splurge.


Another great grocery store department for buying small quantities. Easily buy quarter pounds of meats and cheeses for awesome panini sandwiches for dinners, or get olives and peppers too and have tapas for one.


There are a couple of different approaches for bread. You can buy a bread machine a whip out a small loaf at your whim. Or you can buy bread and freeze it in 3 or 4 slice segments. One friend swears by his 12 grain bread; saying it lasts really well on the counter. Bread that is beginning to get stale is great used up as French toast, a Monte Cristo sandwich or whir it into breadcrumbs and store it in the freezer.


Eggs come in half dozens and keep for a pretty long time. Milk can be bought by the pint and cheese keeps well and if the packages in the dairy are too large remember you have the deli too. Cheese doesn’t freeze well, it changes the texture; becoming more crumbly. Butter can be frozen and defrosted a quarter pound at a time. Yogurt and sour cream keep longer when stored in the refrigerator upside down, keeping air away from the seal.

Baking Goods

Flour, sugar, corn meal and the like have a long shelf life. Biscuit baking mix and other item with higher fat contents, like nuts do better in the freezer. For nuts, toast the before you use them to maximize their flavor.


The freezer section is a great source on handy things when cooking for one. Keep bags of frozen vegetables to cook a cup at a time. Keep frozen rolls and thaw 1 or 2 a few hours before you plan to cook them. Grab a bag of freezer fries to bake up as an accompaniment to a steak. Frozen pierogies (little meat pies) cook up very fast and are great served with cabbage and noodles.

Some people have a hard time adjusting to cooking for one when they are used to the bustle of a family. Just think though; you get to eat what and when you want. You can watch the television, read the paper or a book, do anything you like. A friend gave me a book once titled Eat Mango Naked. That’s what I hope eating alone will be for you; an easy comfort and a pleasure.

The following is a sample menu for one from Dinners In a Flash. Please visit our website for more recipes, menus and information.

Table For One:

Sunday: Roasted Cornish Game Hen with Roasted Root Vegetables
Monday: Cheesy Grits with Ham served with Carrots
Tuesday: Salsa Shrimp Cocktail with Crispy Corn Chips
Wednesday: Fried Pierogies with Cabbage and Noodles
Thursday: Grilled Chile Relleno with Grilled Corn Tortilla Quesadilla
Friday: Salmon Patties with Buttered Broccoli and Cauliflower
Saturday: Peppered Steak with Grilled Pineapple Chunks and Coleslaw

Julie Languille

Mom, step-mom, foster mom and adoptive mom and owner of Dinners In A Flash
Easy Dinner Recipes, Menus and Meal Planning for Busy Families

Posted by: AT 09:44 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, May 02 2007

Are you planning a dinner party? Do you need to choose the right flowers for your floral table centerpiece?

Choosing the right flowers can be frustrating and expensive – or it can be simple and economical. Knowing three key secrets makes it simple for you to choose the right flowers. Then you can create a simple but beautiful floral centerpiece.

The key is to have a plan and stick with it.

Have you tried to create a table centerpiece for your dinner party without a plan? Then you know how easy it is to get off track. Read on to see what happened to Sally because she didn’t have a plan:

Sally wanted a beautiful table centerpiece. A little behind schedule, she rushed to her local flower store to buy her flowers. The selection was wide, the flowers looked so lavish and the colors just sang. She thought it would be a snap to choose her selection, hurry home and create a stunning, perfect little masterpiece for her dinner table.

But fifteen minutes later she was still wavering between the beautifully scented hyacinths, some striking pink lilies and the tall, expensive orchids. In the end she left the store with the tall expensive orchids.

Sally got home with flowers that cost her about four times what she had planned to spend. She got home late because it took her so long to decide. And she realized that the orchids she bought just weren’t right for her centerpiece, they were far too tall.

So she ended up with no flowers for her centerpiece and had to rush back to the store.

OK, I confess, I was that Sally – and more than once too. But now I’ve learned three key secrets for choosing flowers for my table centerpieces. Now I can add beauty to my dinner parties and subtract frustration and stress from my day.

Here are the three key secrets.

Less choice means less stress. Eliminate impractical choices. That means you shouldn't choose tall flowers or flowers that are scented for your table centerpiece.

Your flower arrangement should not be more than about 5 inches high. Otherwise your guests have to peer through the floral bushes to see each other across the table.

So you can eliminate tall flowers unless you can cut them down. Now you won’t be swayed by a beautiful but impractical purchase. Sally’s tall orchids were stunning, but they didn’t cut it for a sit-down dinner table arrangement.

Scented flowers are appealing, but not at the dinner table. Don’t put highly scented flowers on the dinner table because their aroma can fight with the food aromas. Some guests may even be allergic to the strong scent as well. The scented hyacinths Sally was eyeing would not be good choices for the dinner table.

Now you can eliminate a large range of flowers before you even get to the store.

Remember, less choice means less stress.

White works with everything. White tablecloths work with every color of flower.

White taper candles work with every color of flower.

White or crystal candlesticks work with any color of flower.

And white flowers go with everything.

How easy could that be?

If you do want some color in your flowers, you already know that any color will go because of your white tablecloth and your white candles.

If you want color, select your color choices BEFORE you go shopping. Don't come home with a color that is lovely but doesn't work with your scheme. Making a color plan will really help you avoid stress at the flower shop.

Decide on one or two colors in your mind BEFORE you go to the flower store. If your first color choice isn’t available when you get there, go to your second choice.

If you see some flowers you absolutely have to have, but they aren’t one of your choices, don’t change your whole plan for the dining room table centerpiece. Just buy those must-have flowers to decorate your living room. Then go back to the plan and select one of your color choices for the dining room table.

So don’t be like Sally. Put the three key flower-choosing secrets to work for you:


  1. Remember that you shouldn’t choose tall or scented flowers for the dinner table
  2. Remember that white goes with everything
  3. And if you want color in your flowers, choose one or two colors before you go to the store, then stick with your choices, no matter how tempting the other colors are


Now you have maximized your chances of choosing the right flowers, and minimized your stress while you shop.

Did you know that with just three basic centerpiece arrangements, you can cover almost every dinner party you give over a year? See how on the Table Centerpiece page at the dinner party planning site.

Joanie Williams has been giving small dinner parties for years. To get better at it she decided to gather tips and information from experts into one central, reliable website resource, for people who wanted to give great dinner parties.

She would love to hear your burning questions about planning a dinner party. Submit your question to the Got a Burning Question? page on her website.

Posted by: AT 09:31 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, May 01 2007
Most of us want to eat healthier meals. Many people believe this means you have to eat foul tasting foods, but that's not the case anymore. With so many cookbooks and tips available today, any home cook can begin preparing more healthy foods in a short amount of time. Let's take a look at how you can start eating healthier today.

The key to healthier cooking is in choosing the right foods to prepare. You can always use your favorite recipe and modify it with more healthy ingredients without giving up on the taste. Simply look at where you can take out the fats and reduce the calories.

For those of you who are not cooking inclined, you can even use restaurant foods and simply alter some of the ingredients. Add some more healthy dressings, sauces and other seasonings. Remove some of the fatty cheeses.

Cooking healthier foods doesn't mean always eating raw vegetables. Cooking healthier foods involves combining a mix of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants into your foods. It makes no difference how they are prepared.

Cut Down On Fat

Be sure to use reduced fat dairy products and always buy lean meats when cooking any kind of meat dishes. When buying hamburger you will be better off with extra lean instead of regular hamburger meat. Cooking foods like fish will give you the good dietary fats your body needs. The same can be said with eating nuts, olives and other seeds.

When cooking foods in a skillet, don't overdue it with the oil. If you must use cooking oil, try using olive oil. You can also apply oil with a brush, or use a cooking spray to help prevent you from going crazy with the oil. This keeps the fat in the oil from soaking into your food.

You will hear some cooking experts tell you to substitute other types of liquids for oil. Perhaps using water and even fruit juices to reduce the fat. Another tip to help reduce the fats in your diet is to use vinegar and salsa, instead of butter or cream on your foods.


Raw vegetables such as carrots contain vital nutrients that are necessary for your body to maintain proper health. Cooking your vegetables will not eliminate these vitamins and minerals if cooked properly. Don't boil or fry your vegetables too long. You want the vitamins and minerals to stay locked in. Try to never soak your vegetables in water. Many types of vegetables will release their minerals when soaked for too long.

Everything in life will work better when done in moderation. Healthy cooking is no different. Experiment and figure out what you want to take out of your diet and what you want to keep in. It will require a little patience and homework. Educate yourself more in this area. Learn what fats you need to eliminate from your daily cooking. Your body is the only one you'll ever have. Treat it right and it will treat you better in return.

Posted by: AT 11:31 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
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