"tricks" news and stories
Instead of just knocking back a few cold ones and chatting with friends (not that there's anything wrong with that), why not use these new tricks to impress your friends, and maybe make a few new ones. I think it's always great when someone brings something new to the table, so this weekend you can bring something new to the bar!
I enjoy grocery shopping and spend more time in Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Shop Rite and my local produce store than is probably necessary. However, I know that lots of folks don't see grocery shopping as pleasurable endeavor in the same way that I do. For those of you, the folks at Unclutterer have put together a series of helpful tips on how to get in and out of the grocery store quickly and effectively.
They start by recommending that you make a weekly meal plan, so that you know what you'll be eating for a series of days. That way you can create a list and shop accordingly. They also suggest that you try to shop during off-peak hours so that you can move through the aisles and check-out stands in a more timely fashion.
I know that there are expert grocery shoppers among you out there. What are you secret tricks to keeping your kitchen stocked with a minimum of time and frustration?
When it comes to slow cookers, I'm not much of a recipe follower. I tend to throw things in and hope for the best. I think that nine times out of ten my experiments turn out really well. There are have been some notable disasters (but we don't need to go into them now). I do have a few valuable lessons to share that I've learned through this process of trial and error. The first is that if you are making a soup or stew and you're going to be adding water, always bring your water to a boil on the stove first before adding it. By doing this the contents of the cooker will come up to temperature more quickly and your food won't sit in the warm danger zone as long. The second is that if you really want your onions to soften, make sure to saute them first on the stove. The caramelization they'll pick up with also improve the flavor of the dish (however, if you're running short on time, it is okay to toss them in raw). The last thing I recommend is seeing if you can't get an older slow cooker at a rummage or garage sale. The older models cook at slightly lower temperatures, which will prevent your food from boiling. Some of the newer cookers bring your food up to a rollicking boil even on the low setting, which is not want you want.
If you are a slow cooker fan I'd love to hear your favorite recipes and any tips you've picked up along the way.
In the past, I have disagreed with some of the food-related lists that MSN has put forth and their latest addition is no exception. They put together a list of 15 tips to stay on a diet at fast food restaurants, most of which suggest things like choosing a smaller portion size or sharing desserts, fries, etc. with a friend. And one of their most important tips is to "limit your visits to fast-food restaurants to no more than twice a week," which is still quite a few visits, to say nothing of the fact that it assumes that you already visit three or more times per week.
It's not that their tips are bad, just overly obvious or repetitive. For example, if you're eating at a fast food restaurant every other day, it's pretty safe to say that your diet has a lot of room for improvement. The tips can be streamlined into a much shorter list:
It is difficult to tell when a steak is done simply by looking at it unless you like your meat very, very rare or very, very well-done. The cooking times given in recipes, if given at all, tend to be vague because the temperatures that our grills and stoves work at can vary so widely. For example, a dial set to "medium heat" on one stove might actually produce as large a flame as "high heat" in another kitchen. Cutting meat open once at the end of cooking isn't a big deal, but if you need to keep checking the interior of the meat, you can lose a lot of the cooking juices. The best way to check if the meat is done is by using a meat thermometer (125F for rare, 135F for medium, and 155F for well-done, according to Real Simple), but you can also use your hand as a reference and determine the doneness from the firmness of the meat.
I labeled a diagram of a hand, above, to identify the reference points. Simply press the labeled spots on your hand. They correspond with the following levels of doneness:
Rare meat should feel soft and offer little resistance to pressure.
Medium meat should feel firm, but with a little bit of give to it. The less give, the more well-done the piece will be.
Well done meat should also feel firm, but will have only minimal give to it.