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Wednesday, June 20 2007

You probably have got thousands of recipes in your compilation but maybe not all of them are as healthy as you would like them to be. This is sort of an indignity as there is a good possibility that some of those recipes are along with your favorites.

How do you go about changing your favorite recipes into ones that are healthy for you? Even those old family favorites that have been passed down through the generations.

1. Reduce the amount of fat, sugar and salt in your recipes. You will be satisfyingly surprised just how much you can reduce the level of fat, sugar and salt in your recipes without disturbing the taste. If you have cut back too much, it is always possible to add a little bit more salt at the table. You can reduce the amount of fat by using a non-stick pan and/or an oil spray rather than spooning oil into the pan. You can also use a slotted spoon to skim off any surplus fat as the recipe cooks. Cutting down on sugar will depend on what you are cooking, but it is generally safe to try at first cutting sugar down by ¼. I disbelief you will notice the variation.

Salt is necessary in recipes for bread as otherwise the yeast won't be able to do its job. In other recipes, such as crock pots and stews, you should easily be able to reduce the salt you use by half with very little consequence on the final taste. You may even find that with an creative use of sauces, you can eliminate salt from some of your recipes entirely.
Remember that some of the ingredients you use may contain salt, sugar or fat. Read the labels and substitute as necessary. But do not just blindly add a low-fat option without checking that the manufacturer has not simply substituted sugar for fat.

2. Make Healthy Substitutions
As well as examining labels, look for ways to increase the nutrition in the food you eat. Whole wheat pasta, brown rice, whole grain cereals. All of these are easy substitutes and will likely enhance the taste of the dish you are cooking - they have less of the original product removed in the manufacturing process, which leaves more taste available for you.

3. If achievable, delete an unhealthy ingredient
Many recipes respond well to variations (you may even find alternatives listed at the end of the recipe). Substitute frosted ingredients for unfrosted ones to cut down on sugar, for instance. Be careful with adding nuts to a dish as they are high in fat (although the fat is usually considered "good" fat, so don't cut them out entirely). Let your family and guests add their own toppings such a mayonnaise and sauces. Consider substituting lower salt, fat and sugar versions of these sauces. And do not squeeze that maple syrup quite as hard the next time you eat a stack of hot cakes!

Once you start converting your recipes, you will become more artistic and will have a good idea on what is working and what is not. Keep a note pad handy so that you can remember the successes and adjust the times when the changes you made were not as successful as you would have liked.

Posted by: AT 10:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, June 18 2007

Below is a list of the 14 most important things to watch when slow smoking BBQ. All of these tips assume you have already purchased and are using the barbeque techniques in "Competition BBQ Secrets" of course. That's the best tip out of all my tips, but the advice in this list are things that BBQers seem to have the most problems with. I have learned what these problems are directly from your emails to me asking for advice...

14. Proper ventilation. Make sure your firebox has enough ventilation. This helps to keep your fire burning properly and not smoldering. You want a light blue smoke - not a billowing white smoke. If you can, open the vents on your firebox all the way and try to maintain your cooking chamber heat with the fire alone. Always leave the smokestack vent open all the way. I have noticed lately that some smokers have bad designs where the fire is well below the firebox vents. The air has to come in and then down to the fire and then up into the cooking chamber. This makes it very hard to get proper airflow. The only way to fix this is to get your drill out and drill a few 1 inch holes in the side of your firebox.

13. Indirect heat. Make sure you set up your grill or smoker for indirect heat. Some of you are using gas grills or Weber charcoal grills - make sure you set them up properly for indirect heat.

12. Know your smoker. There are hot spots and cold spots on every smoker. After it gets up to temperature, check the temperature at different spots on your grate. Place your meat accordingly. For instance, chicken is better if cooked at a slightly higher temperature.

11. Buy a quality smoker if you can afford it. You get what you pay for when it comes to smokers. You can cook some good ribs on things like a charcoal grill, but it is much easier to do on a well built smoker. Insulation is key to maintaining a consistent temperature and producing quality BBQ. Look for thick steel on traditional offset smokers. The thick steel will hold in the heat. Insulated vertical smokers like the Stumps and Big Green Egg are nice too.

10. Use a water pan. Using a water pan will help regulate the heat in your smoking chamber and will also maintain a moist environment. Put some beer in the pan for some extra flavor!

9 . Let your meat come to room temperature before cooking. You can really get some strange results if the inside of your meat is cold when you put it on the smoker. Never put frozen meats on a smoker without thawing to room temperature first. Don't let your meat sit out at room temperature too long though or you'll run the risk of bacteria contamination.

8. Don't poke holes in your meat. What happens when you poke a hole in a piece of meat that has been on the smoker a while? You can literally see the juices gushing out! Do your injections before cooking and maybe insert one temperature probe. After that, try not to poke it any more. Don't use a fork to pick up your meat. Wear gloves and use your hands or tongs. Of course, let your meat rest properly before cutting or pulling. If you don't, all the juices will pour out and your meat will be dry.

7. Buy quality meat to start with.

6. Keep your lid shut. If you're lookin', you ain't cookin'. Consistent temperatures are the key to great barbeque. Needless to say, opening the lid lets all the heat out. Open only when necessary - not when you are curious or just to take a look.

5. Learn what good BBQ is. This may be the best tip out of all of them. Most people have no idea what good, quality ribs, brisket, pork, and chicken tastes like. Sure... everybody has tasted good BBQ before, but how are you going to know that there is a whole another level if you have never tried it? I have actually had people have me try their brisket that they thought was the best in the world and it was literally as tough as shoe leather! The question is... how do you try great BBQ? One way is to go to a BBQ contest and get friendly with one of the teams and see if they will throw you a bone or two. Don't be surprised if they don't because most teams cook just enough for themselves and the judges. And they are not allowed to sell it without paying a vendors fee. Another thing you can do is participate in the "people's choice" competition. You will sample several small portions of BBQ from the teams and pick which one you like the best. But the very best way to learn what real competition BBQ tastes like is to become a certified judge. Check with your local BBQ society and get certified and then volunteer to be a judge in the next contest. All the BBQ Associations are looking for good BBQ judges and you'll be doing them a favor and yourself too. You will be trained as to what to look for in good BBQ and you will be able to taste a whole lot of great BBQ on competition day.

4. Fixing the rubbery chicken skin problem. Just prepare yourself a hot bed of coals on a standard grill and then grill your smoked chicken over high heat for about 5 minutes per side to crisp the skin.

3. Don't be afraid to experiment. There are a million different ways to barbecue. Think of all the different combinations of spices, rubs, injections, marinades, smoke flavors, times and temperatures that you can have. If you do try something else, maybe just change one thing at a time. In any kind of testing, you always have a "control" to measure against. If your new test is better, then it becomes your new control and your old control does not get used anymore. If you change more than one thing at a time, you will not know which of the two things made the improvement. Keep good notes too.

2. Give yourself plenty of time. Finishing early is no problem at all. Not finishing on time is a big problem - ever heard of somebody finishing their barbecue in the oven? If you finish early, just wrap it in foil and place it in a warm ice chest. It will stay hot and actually continue to cook in the ice chest. Some big name BBQ teams do this on purpose... they remove their briskets early and let them finish cooking in the ice chest.

1. Measure temperature AT THE GRATE. So many people use the thermometer in the lid of their smoker. This is a big mistake. Always use a digital remote thermometer with a dual probe and measure your cooking chamber temperatures at the grate right next to your meat.

For more information on slow smoking competition quality ribs, butts, chicken, and brisket, please visit Bill Anderson's web site at http://www.bbq-book.com

Posted by: AT 10:25 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, June 12 2007
The word barbecue comes from the term “barbacoa,” which denotes a process of slow cooking meat over coals. The barbecue as we know it today first became well-liked in the Southern United States. Hogs were a low maintenance and suitable food source for the Southerners. Pig slaughtering became a time for festivity, and entire neighborhoods would be invited to join in. The time-honored Southern barbecue grew out of these origins.

At the commencement of the 20th century, barbecue first started appearing in restaurants and ultimately stores supplied large amounts of pork meat. In fact, the nation’s first supermarket chain was branded as PigglyWiggly.

The distinction between grilling and BBQ:

Grilling is a high-heat cooking technique. Food is cooked straight over the coals and is usually ready in a matter of minutes. Grilling temperatures are frequently over 400 degrees. The high heat chars the food, sealing in the juices and creating a smoked, caramelized outer layer. Grilling is the oldest, most common method of cooking.

Barbecuing by dissimilarity is a long, slow, indirect, low-heat method that uses flaming logs or charcoal and wood chunks to smoke the food. BBQ temperatures are typically between 210 and 320 degrees. This low heat generates smoke that gives barbecue its only one of its kind flavor.

Barbecue ins and outs:

• The fire is ready for cooking when you cannot hold your hand over the flame for more than a few seconds.
• Throwing water on the coals after cooking your meal is the worst way to drench the fire because it can cause spatter and dangerous vapors of steam.
• Texas is home to the most barbecues in the U.S.
• Thomas Edison in reality planned the first charcoal briquette.
Posted by: AT 11:22 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Saturday, June 09 2007
Summertime crock pot recipes? This may be a question you ask yourself. But the crock pot is only used for "cold weather meals" such as stews, roasts, and other hearty stick-to-your-ribs type meals. Wrong! The crock pot has truly received a seasonal typecast and sits in many kitchen cupboards all summer long. Bring it back to your kitchen counter during the summer; there are so many benefits and fabulous light summertime meals that can be prepared in the crock pot!

Most people already know how wonderful crock pot cooking is; throw a few ingredients in a pot, turn it on, and come back four hours later to a wonderful home-cooked meal. We also know that cheaper cuts of meat turn out tender and juicy because they're cooked with moist heat over long periods of time. Crock pot cooking is perfect for the busy homemaker, the office mom, the busy dad, the work-at-home mom, anyone who has anything to do during the day and is tired by dinner time, not wanting to spend innumerable hours preparing dinner for their family. But crock pot cooking is also perfect for the summertime.

Where I live, we have moist, hot, sticky summers where the last thing I want to do is turn on my oven or fire up my stove, much less spend time standing around them preparing meals! During the summer I don't crave meals like chicken and dumplings, lasagna, beef stew, or pork roast. I want light meals with little or no preparation so I'm not standing in a hot kitchen getting even warmer and stickier. So, I use my crock pot! Out of any of the cooking devices in your kitchen, it sets off very little heat and can allow you to put everything into the slow cooker in the morning (when your kitchen is cool) and spoon it up at dinnertime (when your kitchen is not).

Sandwiches are among our favorite summertime meals, especially paired with corn on the cob and a salad. Put a 3 pound beef or pork roast in your crock pot with 1 cup of water. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. Remove roast and shred meat, replace to crock pot and add a bottle of your favorite barbeque sauce. Stir, cover and cook on high an additional 15-20 minutes. Serve on sandwich buns - a great summertime meal.

Brats are also a huge summertime meal where I live, and many techniques have been created to prepare them properly. Many simmer their brats over a low flame on their stove in beer for hours, heating up their kitchen as they do so. I use my crock pot! Place 10 brats in your crock pot, cover with 3-4 cans of beer (the cheaper the better), add one chopped onion and 4 cloves of minced garlic. Cover and cook on high 7-8 hours. Remove brats and grill over a low flame until browned. Serve in hot dog or brat buns with ketchup, mustard, minced onion, and other desired toppings.
Posted by: AT 11:28 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, June 06 2007
There has been a great deal of debate over the years about using microwave ovens to cook foods.

Several reports state that for the reason that a microwave oven cooks, it alters the makeup of the food. Supposedly destroying all the health benefits of the foods. Some studies by the Russians in the 50s have stated that eating micro waved food could lead to cancers and that carcinogens were transferred to the blood. They even banned the use of microwave ovens for many years but more recently microwaves have become an customary part of Russian households.

Studies done since 1990 across America at major universities have been fairly conclusive in their results regarding microwave cookery and that there are many benefits to using a microwave oven for cooking some foods. Here are five reasons for using your microwave oven to cook your foods with.

1. Cooking vegetables in a microwave has great benefits provided that it is done properly.
The vegetables must be spread out evenly on a microwave plate and be covered either with a proper microwave cover or a microwave safe cover. The vegetables only need to be cooked for a short period of time and they do not have to be immersed in water. This means that the vegetables will not lose vitamins and minerals into the boiling water. The vegetables will steam in their own juices and retain most of the vitamins and minerals, as well as keeping a good color and have a crunch.

2. The use of salt while cooking has long been an accepted way to enhance the flavor of food.
Using your microwave to cook your vegetable means that because the cooking time is shorter and the food does not need to be immersed in water it will retain more of its natural flavors.

3. Microwave cooking with oil is much healthier if very little oil is used.
The use of a frying pan to fry foods has long been a standard practice, but some studies have found that oils when heated at higher temperatures can release dioxins a known dangerous toxin.

4. Microwave popcorn is healthy.
We all know that eating corn as part of our diets is very healthy for us as the kernels fill us up, contain few calories and are passed through our system. Microwave popcorn can be healthy if you do not put anything on it. It does though taste very bland and is quite dry. If you do though need to liven it up a bit use a light butter spray and just give it a very light coat.

5. Fish is one the best and easiest things that can be cooked in a microwave oven.
There is no need to use extra liquid and if cooked properly the fish will come out moist and tender.
Posted by: AT 03:45 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, June 04 2007
Father's Day is just around the corner, now is the time to come up with great gift ideas for Father's Day. Sending a food gift is a way to let your special guy know he is appreciated. It can sometimes be difficult to find a worthwhile gift for dad, but one way you can be sure to make your gift recipient happy is to personalize your gift in some way. Personalized Father's Day gifts could include Father's Day steaks or BBQ. You can make specially the meal gift to include gift items that your father enjoys, such as prime rib, filet mignons, or lobster. Those are sure ways to make your gift unforgettable.

If your father has a special pastime that he enjoys, that could make a great starting point for personalized a food gift for dad. Food is always enjoyed by whoever gets a dinner gift, You can always add a chocolate cake or cheesecake. This will make your food gift a big hit.

The excellent thing about food gift baskets for your father is that they can be personalized to match your father's particular tastes and needs. You can include each item according to what you know he will above all enjoy, and with that you will give him another gift: the warmhearted reminiscence he will have of opening your thoughtful Father's Day food gift.
Posted by: AT 10:51 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, June 01 2007

When scheduling meals, for your family or friends, you should always make them "attention-grabbing". For example, you can plan a lively meal that is always enticing rather than a unexciting one. Most foods start out looking bright and colorful. You can keep them that way if you follow some wide-ranging rules in meal preparation.

To add attention to the meals you are preparing, try to use the following principles:
1) Choose foods that make good-looking color combinations. If the food itself has little color, plan to add a garnish such as parsley, lemon, or some type of fruit slices.

2) Avoid duplication of flavors in a meal. For instance, try to avoid serving tomatoes as soup, salad, and sauce all in the same meal; or apples in the form of a beverage, salad, and pie in a single meal.

3) Select flavors that blend. Some favorites that will go together are pork and apples, turkey and cranberries, and lamb and mint jelly. Serve mild (or bland) foods with highly seasoned or strong flavor foods. For example, bland spaghetti goes well with a highly seasoned sauce.

4) Keep away from recurrence of shapes in the foods served in a meal. For illustration, meatballs, new potatoes, and whole beets are all round. Meatballs, mashed potatoes, and julienned beets provide varied shapes and add interest in the same meal.

5) Distinguish the texture of foods served together. A meal is more interesting if some foods are soft and others are crispy. Cases in point, crunchy cookies are a favorite with ice cream. On a vegetable platter, a raw vegetable might be served as contrast in consistency to soft dips.

6) Use multiple preparation methods for each meal. Add a cold crisp salad to a hot oven meal made up of meat loaf, baked potatoes, tomatoes, and cherry pie. Steer clear of serving a meal in which all the foods have been fried or have been creamed.

7) Offer diversity in the temperatures of the foods served. Hot meals would be improved in this reverence by the addition of cold salad and ice cream on the cake. With the exception of hot southern weather, an all-cold meal has more appeal when served with a hot beverage such as hot chocolate, gourmet coffee, or soup.

8) In the development of meals for visitors, avoid foods or food combinations with sturdy, strange flavors. Unless you know your company’s preferences, it is best to serve foods that are liked by nearly everyone.

It takes some amount of fortitude, accuracy, and timing to prepare a remarkable meal. Your accomplishment will come easily with good planning, good utensils, and lots of practice.

Posted by: AT 10:04 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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