CategoryCooking Tips

Summer Time Is Yogurt Time, How to Make the Best Yogurt Right at Home

In many parts of the country, it’s getting hot and reaching the 90’s. Why not make some yogurt (link to yogurt cornerstone article) as it is a perfect superfood for summer? It’s cooling, soothing, nutritious, and light – the reason some people also call it ‘comfort food’. And takes about 10 minutes hands-on time to make!

And why is it a superfood? Because it improves digestion, boosts immunity, strengthens bones and teeth, improves cardiovascular strength and can help you lose weight. It also makes an amazing dessert – of so many kinds!

If you like yogurt but buy it from the store, you are missing out on most of it benefits mentioned above. The store-bought yogurt is not as nutritious as home made because it has unhealthy artificial additives to improve shelf life and almost all the good stuff is processed out during the different processes of commercial preparation.

Why depend on the store bought when you can quickly and easily make your own much healthy version? All you need is milk, yogurt culture (leftover from previous batch) and MEC’s clay pots. MEC pots are 100% non-toxic, all-natural and healthy that do not leach like metals or ceramics, AND they cook with far-infrared heat so nutritional cells are damaged.

Once you have all three, this is what you need to do:

  1. Heat the milk till small bubbles form on the surface. Turn stove off, open lid and let it cool down (for about 30 minutes if ½ gallon of milk), till you can put your little finger and hold it there for 5 secs. [… 5 minutes hands-on]
  2. Add yogurt culture. Stir thoroughly. [… 3 minutes hands-on]
  3. Set in the oven with the lid on and oven light on. [2 minutes hands-on]

Let it incubate for 6-8 hours and the yogurt is ready!

The longer it stays in a pure clay pot the thicker it becomes. This is because the walls of (the unglazed) MEC clay pot are semi-porous and let just the excess water evaporate. As no additives or thickeners are used, this yogurt is the healthiest and most nutritious.


How to Make Aubergines in Oil

Aubergines, also known as eggplant, are a fantastic source of dietary fibre. They contain vitamins such as B1 and B6 as well as potassium. They are also high in magnesium and manganese which is healthy for the body.

A dish that can help you eat more aubergine is Melanzane Sott’Olio which translates to aubergines in oil. This is a delicious snack that can be put on crackers, in sandwiches or simply be eaten alone.

Melanzane Sott’Olio does take a few days for all the flavours to infuse into the aubergine. The traditional snack has got a mixture of herbs that make the tanginess come through. Even the oil will taste amazing on a slice of bread.

For the spices you will need to chop two cloves of garlic, shred one small bunch of fresh parsley, finely chop one red chilli for a bit of a bite, add one teaspoon of dried oregano and a few leaves of shredded mint.

Firstly, you will need to remove the water from the vegetable so that the oil within the jar doesn’t get compromised over a long period of time. To remove the water from the eggplant, sprinkle salt over the sliced pieces of eggplant.

Once you start seeing a layer of water forming on the top of the slices, you can strain and slice them into thin pieces. They are now ready to put into the jar. Make sure that you pack the aubergines in the jar tightly but not to a point that no oil can be added into the jar.

You can either add the spices to the oil before pouring it over the aubergine if you know how much oil will fit, or you can add the spices after the oil has been poured in. You will have to shake the jar slightly to mix all the flavours.

You can use sunflower oil if you prefer a bit of a tang to the dish. Salt does not need to be added again as the aubergine already has salt infused in it.

Leave the jar to rest for at least two weeks to properly infuse all the spices and herbs into the aubergines. You will have a better flavour that can really be enjoyed.

The best and yummiest ways to serve these pickled eggplants is on some crackers, a slice of bread or toast or as a side dish with the starter dishes at any lunch.


Making a Delicious Vegetarian Parmigiana

Being a vegetarian is a personal preference and you won’t believe how many delicious recipes are out there that can really make your taste buds tingle. Parmigiana is a baked dish that can be made with chicken, plain mozzarella or aubergines.

Before starting with the cooking process, it is important to remove the water from the aubergine slices. You can do this by adding a layer of eggplant and a layer of salt. This should rest for about an hour before you can finally squeeze the water out.

A traditional Parmigiana does not have many spices besides salt. The flavours come from the protein food, the cheese and the tomato sauce.

  1. Whilst you are eliminating the water from the aubergines, start making the tomato sauce.
  2. Chop half an onion finely and let it fry in sunflower oil until transparent.
  3. Process two cans of blanched and chopped tomatoes using a food mill directly into the pot.
  4. Add salt and white pepper. Basil is optional but has to be removed once ready.
  5. Slice mozzarella so that you have enough to cover a full layer in the dish. Grate 250g of Parmesan or as much as you prefer. If you prefer a cheesy dish then the more, the merrier.
  6. Another optional ingredient you can add to the Parmigiana is Ricotta cheese. Use 500g of the cheese and mix it with egg, salt and black pepper. This mixture will become quite sticky and you might need to put some elbow grease in the spreading of it without displacing the rest of the layered ingredients.
  7. Layer the baking dish starting with the tomato sauce, aubergine slices, mozzarella slices and then parmesan cheese. Continue layering until you have finished the ingredients or run out of space in the dish.
  8. Add extra Parmesan to the top of the dish before putting it in the oven for 25 minutes at 220°C.
  9. You might want to consider greasing the baking dish if the tomato sauce does not have sufficient sunflower oil. The cooking oil will be the element that prevents the entire dish from sticking.

Some things should be considered when cooking this traditional Italian dish:

  • Use a glass dish. If anything sticks, it will be easier to take it off the glass surface as opposed to steel or foil.
  • A lot of the ingredients are based on what you have and what you prefer. Some chefs prefer to overdo the cheese whilst others would rather limit the amount they use.
  • If you are not a fan of aubergines you can always use mushrooms or baby marrows.


A Dirt-Simple Method to Master the Perfect Steak

Man has been cooking meat ever since he harnessed Fire. Most of the time he’s gotten it wrong. While the technique I’m going to teach you can also be misapplied to large root vegetables, you’ll do no favors to any potatoes, carrots, rutabagas or Brussels Sprouts that have been rudely subjected to this brutal treatment.

You’ll need a few essentials:

A 2 inch thick (or thicker if you please) boneless Ribeye steak

3 tablespoons Avocado oil

Garlic salt and freshly ground black pepper

Tongs

A Dutch oven large enough in which to lay that steak flat

Paper towels

Aluminum foil

A remote instant reading thermometer, like a ThermoWorks® DOT® remote reading thermometer.

An oven (of course, Grasshopper)

Let’s begin.

Wash and scrub that steak under cool water to remove any excess fat and small bone chips left from cutting. Using tongs, flop that piece of meat into a suitable foil lined oven-safe pan. Blot off any water puddles, and then dust the steak on all sides with the garlic salt and pepper.

Insert the thermometer’s probe from the side into the center of the steak.

Place that panned steak in an oven preheated to 300°F.

Leave that steak alone until the thermometer reports 110°F.

Preheat the oil in a Dutch oven until just below smoking.

Remove the steak to a paper towel-lined serving plate. Remove the thermometer’s probe and thoroughly dry the steak, rubbing it fiercely to remove any surface moisture.

Again, using tongs, flop that steak into the preheated Dutch oven. Let it sizzle undisturbed for 3 minutes. Then flip the steak over and let it sizzle another 3 minutes.

Remove your masterpiece to a serving plate, cover with foil and let that browned beauty rest for 5-10 minutes.

Uncover and serve the most delicious hunk of meat this side of Heaven!

Notes:

Let’s say that you don’t want to part with what it’ll cost for a thick piece of flavorful, juicy, succulent Ribeye. You’d rather try this method with something less exotic. Like chuck steak! But all the chuck steaks you can find are ‘way too thin.

Here’s a suggestion: buy a chuck roast! Then slab that puppy as you desire.

But, Whoah, Big Fella! Chuck steaks are notorious for being tough, gristly, and in general a bear to cook right. Not to worry! We’ve got you covered!

Chuck steaks are nicely flavorful, when done right. Here’s how to do it right.

Wash that slab of marbled chuck steak, dry it, and place it on a cutting board. Give it a good sprinkle of garlic salt and pepper. Then, using a multiple blade tenderizing tool, punch holes all over that beast. When you’re done, rub some more salt and pepper into the cuts. Turn the steak over and repeat the coat-and-punch operation.

Then proceed to cook that bad boy just as if it were a Ribeye!

Another thing:

I stress using tongs instead of a fork or any other pointy instruments to handle that steak. That’s because as the steak cooks, it develops a film on its surface that seals in the juices. Puncturing that film with a fork lets those tenderizing liquids drain out, leaving a slab of shoe leather behind. When you finally sear that baby in the Dutch oven, the juices are locked into the meat!

Top 5 Tips For Hassle-Free Winter Grilling

Most people would pack up their grill when the cold weather starts to set in. Contrary to popular belief, grilling is not only for the summer time – it can be enjoyed year round. Some would even say that winter is a great time for a barbecue because nothing will warm you up better than a sizzling piece of grilled steak!

Here are 5 useful winter grilling tips to try for some nice cold weather barbecue:

Find a good spot to grill

When you grill during winter, you not only need to fight the cold, but the winds, too. On the day you are grilling, identify the direction that the wind blows most often and find a good spot that would protect you from it while you’re cooking, ideally near your house or a structure. Another good spot would be near where your supplies are (like your kitchen) to lessen the number of steps you have to take from there to your grill.

Have extra fuel

It’s important to remember that you will use up more gas or propane when the weather is cold, so be sure to have some extra – you don’t want to run out of fuel in the middle of grilling!

Adjust heating and cooking times

It’s always a good thing to warm up your grill before cooking, but during winter, give your grill a little more time to do so. Some of the parts may be frozen so warm it up in advance. When it comes to cooking, adjusting your time is ideal as well. What would normally cook quickly in warm weather will take longer in the cold. Experts say that a good rule of thumb would be to have an additional 20 minutes cooking time for each pound below 45F.

Choose what to grill wisely

Unless you want to be out in the cold grilling for a significant amount of time, choose food that generally have a quicker cooking time. Smaller or thinner cuts of meat such as chicken breasts, pork loins, thin steaks and kebabs. To keep your cooked food warm while you finish grilling the rest, store cooked food in a cast iron pan – just take them off the grill a few minutes early as they would continue to cook a little more while inside the pan.

Protect yourself

While your grill is good to go, you should be, too! Protect yourself from the harsh elements by wearing the appropriate clothing – a comfy coat, scarf, hat and boots would do. Consider investing in fingerless gloves or mittens to maintain dexterity while grilling.


The 5 Most Popular Beef Cuts For Grilling And How To Grill Them Right

You haven’t tasted the best of grilled meat if you haven’t had beef. Whether it’s a burger, a porterhouse steak or ribs, the juiciness of the meat comes when cooked over hot coals. Each cut of beef requires a different treatment on the grill. So if you’re new to the barbecue game, here are some of the most popular beef cuts for grilling and how to cook them right:

Rib-eye

Often referred to as the “king of the grill”, rib-eye comes from the center of the rib. Experts recommend buying rib-eye that’s at least 1.5 inches thick. This popular cut is best cooked when seared for 2-3 minutes over high heat then transferred to indirect heat. Continue cooking, lid down, to desired doneness. It should register at 125F for rare, 135F for medium rare and 145F for medium when using a meat thermometer.

Skirt Steak

Skirt is often called “the butcher’s cut”. For a classic taste, prepare the cut for the grill by brushing it with olive oil then seasoning it with salt and pepper. To achieve a juicy, rare interior, cook over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes per side. Cook longer if you prefer your skirt steak more done.

Porterhouse

Porterhouse comes from the same muscle as T-bone but it contains more filet. Before throwing it on the grill, wrap it with paper towels to remove moisture from the surface. Sear over high heat for 2-3 minutes per side then move it to a cooler part of the grill. Continue cooking to desired doneness. A thick porterhouse cut usually takes at least 20 minutes to cook on the grill.

Sirloin

Sirloin is a value cut that gives off a premium taste. At least 1.5 inches in thickness is ideal for marinating. Marinate sirloin for at least half an hour for better taste. When ready, cook on a pre-heated grill for 5 minutes, flipping once halfway through.

Tenderloin

Tenderloin is the perfect choice if you’re feeding a crowd or hosting a party. It’s been said that this popular cut is tasty whether it’s fresh off the grill, just warm or even cold. Use paper towels to remove moisture from the surface before grilling. It is best cooked in indirect heat, until it registers 122F in a meat thermometer, about 45 minutes. It is important to let tenderloin rest for 10 to 15 minutes once cooked.


Make Yogurt At Home Thicker & Creamier (No Additives)

How to make yogurt at home? But not just any yogurt, how to make delicious, thick and creamy yogurt right in your kitchen? This question can tempt your taste buds any time but the process of making it might seem daunting, a lot of times. Some of the common problems are yogurt turning out watery, runny or too sour or yogurt not setting at all! This makes most people turn to the store-bought yogurt which tastes good for sure, but with consequences.

The Additives in Store Bought Yogurt

The store-bought yogurt gets its taste and texture from a number of additives and artificial sugars which may be good to the taste but are a lot less nutritious and even bad for health sometimes. The commonly used additives for thickening are gelatin (glue made from animal bones), pectin (a bio-polymer acid, lab-made ingredient), powdered milk etc. And it is usually loaded with unhealthy sugars and artificial sweeteners that can make things really bad for people who have type 2 diabetes. While real and all-natural yogurt is actually supposed to help with many health issues, this one with the additives does just the opposite.

So, if one wants to take advantage of all the essential nutrients the yogurt can offer, it’s important that it is made at home using the natural method, which is actually quite simple if you know this secret:

The Natural Method of Making Yogurt at Home

The secret to making the thickest and creamy yogurt is making it at home in a pure clay pot! Pure-clay pots are made from the highest quality natural clay (primary clay) that has no contaminants and is made by hands without using ANY additives. These pots are Non-toxic – will make sure nothing leaches into your yogurt and contaminate it, and semi-porous – allow excess water to evaporate making the yogurt thick and creamy, naturally and WITHOUT any additives.

Once you have the pot, the rest is easy:

  1. Heat the milk to just before boiling point (till small bubbles form on the surface). Turn stove off, and open lid and let it cool down for 30 mins or so, till you can put your little finger and hold it there for 5 secs. Now the milk is ready for the culture.
  2. Add yogurt culture.
  3. Set in the oven with the lid on and oven light on.
  4. Let it incubate for 6-8 hours and the yogurt is ready.

The whole process takes less than 10 minutes hands-on time and the yogurt left in the pot gets thicker and creamier within few hours after fermenting. Also, no additives or sugars are needed and there is no nutritional loss (because the heat from the walls of the pot is gentle on the food’s nutritional cells). By using this natural method, you will get healthy, delicious and creamy yogurt every time!


Food Storage Tips for Preventing a Food-Borne Illness

Respect bacteria that live on your food

Why some foods require careful handling. Animal-sourced products (dairy, meats) and many liquids, baked goods, and other items at room temperature are great surfaces for growing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. With no extreme heat or cold to slow down cellular division, these micro-organisms thrive, and some are harmful for humans.

Sources of a food-borne illness. Food poisoning is any food-bourne illness, caused by harmful microbial contaminants in raw foods and their juices. You may not have symptoms, but many people experience vomiting, abdominal cramps, or nausea within hours or days after ingesting the same contaminated food. Most people recover completely, but in some cases effects linger or lead to further illness. Individuals with a weakened immune system – such as diabetics, older adults, and children under 5 are at increased risk. Use care when preparing and storing foods for yourself and others.

Examples of risks related to the immune system. For diabetics, any unexpected illness may disrupt blood glucose levels. Try to prevent unnecessary influences when possible. Same goes for older adults – quality of food is paramount. Regardless of age and health status, stale and improperly-stored food is simply less tasty and may pose health risks.

Simple habits to improve health

Minimize risks while shopping. To preserve the best flavour and safety while shopping, pick up refrigerated and frozen items last, and put them away first when you get home. Keep cold items separated from warmer items in your cart. Avoid bruised fruits and vegetables. Bacteria thrive on moist nutrient-rich surfaces.

Focus on date and temperature. Discard any perishable food that is past the “Best By” date marked on its package. Ensure your fridge temperature is 4 °C (40 °F) or below, and freezer is -18 °C (0 °F) or colder. While you’re at the fridge, ensure vulnerable moist and meaty/dairy foods don’t contaminate other fridge contents by storing each item in a container. Clean containers with hot soapy water before re-use.

Taste and nutritional quality changes over time. As food at room temperature is consumed for energy by micro-organisms, the remaining food product is changed. It may be left brittle and moist. This process of consumption and waste production often causes a change in taste and smell.

Concern yourself with safety over appearance. Smells, bruising, and taste are not reliable signs of food safety. Adhere to recommended storage methods and times posted by reputable health agencies, and don’t rely on colloquial rules of thumb not based on food facts. Store vulnerable items in the back of the fridge where it’s coldest, not in the door, and place items that may drip (such as meats and sliced fruit) at the bottom, where contaminated liquids can’t drip onto other food.

Be aware of different viewpoints. Outside the U.S. and Canada, milk is pasteurized with a higher-temperature process, so milk lasts longer, and without refrigeration. Milk storage times are much shorter in the U.S. and Canada.

Here are a few important tips to handle foods safely:

  • Meats: maximum two hours out of the fridge, including time coming home from the store and cooling off after cooking
  • Milk: return to fridge quickly after use; discard served contents (don’t pour warm material from a serving container back into the original, colder container); store in coolest part of fridge (ie. not the door) between 0 and 4 °C
  • Cooking: find correct cooking temperatures for different types of meats and recipes in a quality cookbook, and wash hands 20 seconds with warm soapy water after handling meats, eggs, and any uncooked mixes that contain them
  • Surfaces: clean counters and cutting boards with sanitizing kitchen cleaner before and after contact with food; use one cutting board and knife for produce, and another for meats
  • Handy information: Consult the Government of Canada’s handy chart of recommended storage times; it will encourage you to understand the need for safe food handling, and lists storage recommendations for many items
  • Example: the current recommended safe storage time for raw beef and pork in the fridge is 2-4 days, and for opened milk is 3 days


5 Ways To Woo Your Summer With Mangoes

Summer is here, and it brought along mangoes. Easily the king of fruits, mangoes are a cherished must-have for the season. Be it in raw green or ripe orange form, this fruit has its own unbeatable charm when it comes to both savoury as well as sweet recipes. To beat the heat, here are some traditional, yet simple ways in which you may relish the delicious fruit this summer.

1. Raw mango pickle

This is a dish that needs a bit of work, and needs preparations ahead of summer, but once you get it right, it is an absolute gem.

Quick Guide: Chop raw (green) mangoes, add your blend of favourite spices, oil, and salt, dry in the sun for several days until the skin is shrivelled. Have with or between meals.

2. Raw mango sherbet

It is also widely known as “Aam Panna” in Indian languages and is a chemical-free indigenous way of quenching your thirst.

Quick Guide: Roast the raw mangoes directly over a flame, peel the burned skin, mash the flesh, dilute with water, add sugar and salt as per taste. Serve with ice.

3. Raw mango chutney

Another innovation of the Indian subcontinent, this one is prepared as an after-meal dessert substitute. It takes a while to get the right texture, but tastes heaven afterwards.

Quick Guide: Peel and chop raw mangoes, cook in low flame with spices and oil, add sugar (loads of it), stir until a thick consistency is achieved, cool and serve.

4. Mango lentil soup

Fastest and easiest of all, this one cools down the body temperature, and acts as a great accompaniment to rice.

Quick Guide: Chop raw mangoes and boil them. Cook the lentils (split red lentils are the best choice) as per regular procedure. Mix the boiled raw mangoes in the end. Balance the salt and the water for a runny consistency and less tangy flavour.

5. Mango ice-cream

A break from traditional raw mango preparations, this one is for the “quick-fix dessert” people. All you need is ripe mangoes and vanilla ice-cream for the perfect dessert.

Quick Guide: Peel and chop ripe mangoes into tiny pieces. Mix them in a bowl with some good quality vanilla ice-cream. Call your gang over!

Indeed, mangoes can be so versatile that we at times do not realize how many recipes have been thought of and are still being thought of that include this great fruit. Pick your favourite this season and fill your summer with glee.


Making Butter With Your Food Processor

The basic design consists of a base that house the motor bowl that fits around the shaft and disks that perform the desired tasks. Most all modern units have safety features built-in to make sure all the attachments are in the proper alignment. Although most of today’s food processors are powered by electric and some still function by manually operating the cutting blades.

Food processors are an appliance that can perform many functions and take the drudgery out of the preparation process. They can also be one of the most expensive additions to your countertop appliances. Consider your counter-space and ease of cleaning when searching for the right model for your cooking and preparation needs.

If you already have one and haven’t used it for a while, try making your own butter and buttermilk.

Here is a way you can make your own butter in roughly two minutes.

Step 1

Warm one pint of heavy cream and a 1/4 tsp of salt to room temperature.

Step 2

Prepare the food processor and wash and dry the bowl and blades before you begin.

Step 3

Place the heavy cream in the bowl of the processor. Now is the time to add ingredients if you want your butter fancy such as garlic, parsley or spices to suit your taste.

Warning: Do not overfill your bowl or it will spill out during churning.

Step 4

Turn the processor to churn the heavy cream at low-speed. Watch the cream solids separate and congeal to butter. It should take no longer than two or three minutes. the cream will go through stages usually indicated by changes in the sound coming from the food processor bowl. First it turns very creamy and looks like ice-cream. The churning noise will become rougher and cream will abruptly turn solid when the butter separates from the buttermilk. Stop the processor and if it taste like butter, you’re done. If it still tastes like cream run it another one to two minutes.

Step 5

Drain the buttermilk, the liquid that remains after the butter congeals is fresh buttermilk that may be used in many recipes that calls for it.

Step 6

Squeeze any remaining buttermilk from the butter. Wash hands thoroughly. Fold a large piece of cheese cloth in half and place the butter in the middle and fold sides up into a bag. While holding the closed end of the bag with one hand, knead and squeeze the butter to force out any remaining buttermilk. This step is very important. If you don’t remove as much of the buttermilk as you can the butter may turn rancid in a day or two.

Step 7

Place the butter into a container, a bowl or square mold will do. Press it down with a large spoon or spatula. This may cause more liquid to come out of the butter. Drain the liquid before storing.

Step 8

Cool in the refrigerator. The butter will be immediately ready to use, but with dairy products it must be refrigerated when not in use.