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Tips For Organizing Last Minute Meals

If you've had a bad day all day long and traffic coming home was a disaster too, when you finally do get home the first thing you hear is "What's for dinner?" You're drained from your day and that's the last thing you want to hear. These days' funds are tight and calling for a pizza may simply not be possible. Now you've got a hungry husband and clamoring kids to feed, and quick!

You go to the kitchen and while you want to just cry, you search the cabinets for something easy to fix and that can be on the table fast. Here's where a little creativity is a very handy thing to have. A little meat of practically any kind, pasta and some kind of sauce is all you need. A little fruit is a kicker. With this in mind, the next time you go to the grocery store you can pick up a few simple things to keep in the back of the cabinet for next time.

Make a meal from ground beef and beef flavored quick cooking rice to fill a family of four. The pasta sides in a packet and a couple of pieces of chicken will make a meal in a few short minutes. A box mix of macaroni and cheese can be turned into a cheesy tuna casserole and any pasta noodles along with a jar of meat flavored pasta sauce will turn into a fast supper for the family.

Now these ideas will pull you out in a pinch but they may not be the healthiest choices to make. If it's possible, add fruits and vegetables when ever you can. Frozen or canned fruits and vegetables aren't as good as fresh ones, but they are better than none at all. Of course you want to provide your family with the best possible dinner, but in a pinch practically anything will do.

So, the next time you hit the super market, be sure to pick up a few of these time savers for the next disaster day you have. Unfortunately these days happen to all of us and the best you can hope for is to be prepared. Some of these ideas are so easy that even a teenager or your husband can do it!

You can even make kitchen clean up go much faster by cleaning while you're cooking. Instead of watching a pot until it boils, set the table. Instead of standing around waiting for something in the oven, wash the pots and pans that are dirty so far. Make crock pot casseroles whenever possible so you'll have fewer dishes to do when dinner is over. Slow cooker recipes are great because of the time saving factor. Incorporate your family's help after dinner so you can get out of the kitchen faster. Even the youngest family members can help you out.

So try to be prepared for a last minute meal by keeping something in the back of the cabinet just for that purpose. Encourage your family to help when ever possible, and make the very best of the time you spend in the kitchen by multi-tasking to get it all over with as quickly as possible. Sticking to this plan will allow you enough time to soak in a nice warm bubble bath before you hit the bed!

 


Bread: A Staple in Your Kitchen

Bread is a staple food in almost every country. Although different countries prepare it differently and may have different names for it, bread is a universal food that everyone enjoys. In America, white bread is the most popular but that is changing with growing awareness of the health benefits of multigrain breads. Thanks to the diversity of American citizens, many varieties are available for purchase in bakeries, markets and grocery stores.

The most common kind of bread found in grocery stores is sliced bread. But fortunately this type of bread can also be split into varieties. There is simple white, wheat, whole wheat, potato, oat and multiple kinds of bread with varying grains baked in. Sliced bread would fit into the yeast bread category.

Alongside sliced bread in the store, you can find many other varieties of yeast type breads. For sandwiches, burgers or hot dogs, there are buns to fit each one. Bagels and English muffins are among the miscellaneous types of bread at grocery stores.

Some people prefer to have bread baked fresh for them and in that case they would visit a local bakery. By visiting a bakery, you will have a larger selection of breads that may not be available at a larger chain store. Often times you can find pastries and other baked good alongside bread at a bakery.

The bread offered for sale at a bakery may be unsliced and unpackaged. If you are able to buy your bread at a bakery instead of a grocery store, you won't regret paying a bit more for the quality. If not, sometimes grocery stores will also offer fresh baked bread from their own bakery. Alternately, try baking your own bread to save time and money.

Besides yeast breads, you are probably familiar with quick breads. Quick breads can be any kind of bread that does not have yeast in the list of ingredients, such as fruit breads. Quick breads are easy to make and can make for simple breakfast or are a great addition to a brunch. If you have some bananas that are turning brown, do not throw them away, they will work great to make a loaf or two of banana bread.

Though loaf bread is great and saves time, sometimes you will want individual servings of bread. In that case you can use a tried and true yeast bread recipe to make dinner rolls or even sweet rolls such as cinnamon buns.

Other individual sized treats in the bread category include biscuits, muffins or buns. Most quick bread recipes can be modified to make muffins, just remember to modify the bake time. Homemade buns are also a great thing to bake at home. Many people find that they prefer the taste of homemade breads.

If you are interested in trying new breads, visit an international bakery if you can. You may think you have tried every kind of bread there is, but remember there is more to bread than yeast and quick breads. There are always more recipes being created every day, so make it your duty to try a new kind of bread every day.

 


Top Tips For Turkey Day in America

Next to the Fourth of July, the holiday that is quintessentially American is Thanksgiving. Observed annually on the fourth Thursday of November, the day commemorates one of the great legends of American society, a harvest feast at which the colonizers known as Pilgrims invited their Native American neighbors to a feast at which they thanked God for their survival. The centerpiece of this contemporary feast has become the bird that Benjamin Franklin proposed as the national symbol: the turkey.

Of course, old Ben wasn't referring to the toms and hens that grace Thanksgiving tables today. Turkey back then was a wild bird and required the same kind of preparation that other game did. These days, cooks preparing for Thanksgiving need hunt no farther than their local supermarkets for a turkey that has been cultivated domestically for large breasts and meaty thighs and legs.

A contemporary turkey hunt for most home cooks starts with deciding what kind of turkey to buy - fresh, frozen, natural, free-range, kosher, self-basting, with or without a pop-up thermometer. The next decision is the cooking method: roasting, grilling, barbecue, crock pot, covered, uncovered, stuffed or unstuffed, breast up or down, traditionally seasoned or spicy Cajun fried turkey. Baby boomer cooks can remember when there weren't nearly as many choices in turkeys. In fact, it was once a major rite of passage for a homemaker to produce a well-roasted Thanksgiving turkey that wasn't too dry, especially the white meat. There were no self-basting turkeys back then, and certainly none with a pop-up thermometer to tell the cook when the turkey was done.

Purists among home chefs still prefer fresh turkey without additives such as the water and oil pumped into a self-basting turkey. Some will concede that the pop-up thermometer is a helpful gadget, but still not an infallible test of a completely done turkey.

So what kind of turkey should a home cook get for Thanksgiving? The choice is pretty much up to the cook's preference. Some cooks insist that frozen turkeys lose their flavor because freezing causes a loss of moisture. Others will say they've eaten frozen turkey for years and never noticed a difference.

For most experienced cooks, a major factor in choosing a turkey boils down to how much time is needed for preparation. In other words, if buying a turkey the day before Thanksgiving, go for fresh turkey unless you plan to serve turkey popsicles at your feast. That's because frozen turkeys must thaw in the refrigerator for safety, and that process can take several days. Turkeys also take several hours to roast depending on their size. If you are really one of those people who don't have the time, consider slow cooker recipes to make your turkey.

Beyond prep time, the other biggest factor for a flavorful bird is the turkey's age. Succinctly, younger turkeys will have better taste. Turkeys for frying should be no older than four months, while roasters can be 5 months to one year old. It really doesn't matter whether the turkey is a hen (female) or a tom (male). Either one will taste delicious if it's properly prepared - especially when topped with turkey gravy and accompanied by a mound of mashed potatoes and a dab of cranberry sauce.

 


The Basics Of Two Essential Cooking Techniques - Sauting and Cooking Pasta Correctly

While you may chuckle at the thought of not knowing how to boil water, some people will tell you how they ruined their favorite pan when it boiled dry! Basic cooking skills are something that everyone should know, even if they have never set foot in the kitchen. From making a grilled cheese sandwich to creating a five-course meal, you really have to start somewhere! Below, you will find some information on basic cooking skills that can get you started in the kitchen.

Sizzling Saut

Literally meaning "to jump" in French, this basic technique requires the use of oil or fat to keep vegetables or meat from sticking to a hot pan. Meat is best prepared by cutting into small pieces and trimming the fat off since you will be using oil or butter anyway. Prepare vegetables such as onions and bell peppers the same way by dicing, chopping, or mincing.

Start by placing the pan over high heat and melting a piece of butter. You'll know if it's ready when the butter starts to foam a bit and turn slightly brown. Add the meat first so that the released flavor will infuse with the rest of the dish. Keep everything moving and add the vegetables in next. This is a great way to make steak toppings or soup bases.

Cooking Perfect Pasta

With more to it than just boiling water in a pot, how the pasta is cooked will be the deciding factor to any pasta dish. All your efforts towards making the perfect sauce and side dish will be undermined with soggy, sticky pasta. With this in mind, there are a few tips to get you going in the right direction.

Don't make the common mistake of using a pan that is several sizes too small. You can't cook an entire bag of pasta in something that is meant to hold a couple of quarts of liquid. A good rule of thumb is to use four to six quarts of water for every pound of pasta. And before you put it in, add a teaspoon of salt to the water.

To keep the pasta from becoming one sticky mess, add a tablespoon of oil to the pan. You can omit this if you watch it closely and stir continuously. However, it is still advisable to do so because a bonus to adding oil is that it keeps the water from boiling over.

Bring the water to a full rolling boil. Add your pasta and stir continuously for the first two minutes. This will give some of the starch a chance to boil off and you'll be much less likely to wind up with a clump of noodles stuck together. Cook for the recommended time, but stir every minute to two minutes while cooking.

Don't wait until the final minute to check if it's done. Variations in pan thickness, water volume, and stove intensity will produce different results. The time is just a rough estimate meant to serve as a guide. Check the pasta by taking a piece and biting it. Or you can just try to cut a strand by using the spoon.

You are looking for a doneness that is "al dente". This is how Italians call pasta that is done but still firm. Drain it an place it under running water to stop the cooking process. If you will be serving later, toss it with some butter or oil to stop the strands from sticking together.

 


Fast And Easy Meal Preparation

Whether it's because you've had a hard day working at home or because you've been delayed at the office, there are days when you need to fix a meal fast and you are too exhausted to even decide what to cook. Your family is waiting to be fed, and ordering a take-out dinner is not an option. You need to be able to somehow prepare dinner - right now.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if you knew exactly what to fix for a quick meal in this situation? Rather than frantically going through your kitchen cabinets looking for something you can prepare fast, you would know precisely what to reach for. This is easy to do if you follow the tips and ideas in this article. All you need is a little creativity and a well-supplied kitchen. Meat of any kind, accompanied with pasta and any ready-made sauce is all you need for a super quick meal, for instance. Add some vegetables or fruit and you'll have a satisfying, nutritional supper. The important thing is to keep your kitchen well stocked with simple food items that are easy and fast to fix.

Quick cooking flavored rice is something you should always have in your kitchen; coupled with hamburger, it makes an easy meal. Boxes of pasta side dishes are also very useful; heat one up and serve with a couple of pieces of chicken. Adding a couple of cans of drained tuna to ready-to-serve macaroni-and-cheese will give you a tasty casserole supper in a few short minutes. If you keep supplies of your family's favorite pasta and pasta sauce in your kitchen, you'll always have a fast dinner option available.

Now these ideas will pull you out in a pinch but they may not be the healthiest choices to make. If it's possible, add fruits and vegetables when ever you can. Frozen or canned fruits and vegetables aren't as good as fresh ones, but they are better than none at all. Of course you want to provide your family with the best possible dinner, but in a pinch practically anything will do.

So, the next time you hit the super market, be sure to pick up a few of these time savers for the next disaster day you have. Unfortunately these days happen to all of us and the best you can hope for is to be prepared. Some of these ideas are so easy that even a teenager or your husband can do it!

Organize the time you spend in the kitchen to make cleaning up less time-consuming. Clean while you cook (wash dishes as you wait for a pot to boil, or set the table as you heat a casserole in your oven) and ask family members to help you out. You can reduce the number of pots and pans to clean by using a crock pot to cook your meals. Choose among the many easy and time saving slow cooker recipes available online.

So try to be prepared for a last minute meal by keeping something in the back of the cabinet just for that purpose. Encourage your family to help when ever possible, and make the very best of the time you spend in the kitchen by multi-tasking to get it all over with as quickly as possible. Sticking to this plan will allow you enough time to soak in a nice warm bubble bath before you hit the bed!

 


Kosher Food Plays a Major Role in Jewish Faith and Culture

Similar to the practices of Muslims and Hindus, kosher is very much important to the Jewish faith. Stemming from their deeply-rooted beliefs about food - its preparation and consumption - this practice of "keeping kosher" is their way of expressing their devotion to God.

You can find a store that caters to the kosher requirements of Jews in virtually every city. Not limited to butchers and fish mongers, you can also find delis and grocery stores selling kosher ingredients and serving cooked food.

With much more to it than merely buying food from certain sources, those looking for kosher foods know how to search for the rabbinic seal - a symbol guaranteeing that the food has been prepared under the supervision of a rabbi. For a true adherence to the laws of kosher, everything; from the equipment, to the methods of slaughtering animals, to the workers who prepared the food must follow stringent requirements set forth by the Kashrut. Every country has a rabbinic association that ensures the adherence to the rules. They are the ones who check if the shops claiming to sell kosher food are really selling the real thing.

Because Jews have differing theological schools and religious traditions, the Kashrut accounts for this fact by having different degrees. Often, food shops offer essentially the same kosher foods with different packages and different rabbinic seals signifying the difference in the said degrees. Prices are different for these foods simply because some pass more stringent rules than others.

You might have encountered the term "kosher-style". Although adhering to similar laws such as not using forbidden animals and not mixing dairy with meat, kosher-style is less stringent and not really considered kosher in the strictest sense of the word by purists and devout Jews. These are more fitting for individuals who are not practicing Jews.

Jewish Holy Scripture, the Torah, forbids Jews from eating non-kosher food. Special attention is given to kosher meat, which can come only from certain animals and prepared only in a certain way called the "shechitah keshera." The shochet, or Jewish butcher, is a key person in the community's ability to keep kosher. (Remember Lazar Wolf, the butcher, from the musical "Fiddler on the Roof"?). According to Torah law, any Jew can perform a butcher's tasks according to the prescribed ritual. In reality, however, the custom has become that only a man who has been approved by a supervising rabbi is considered a kosher butcher. What's more, a kosher meat shop is only kosher if the butcher is an observant Jew. Non-Jews, also known as Gentiles, cannot qualify as kosher butchers.

These laws were explicitly contained in the Torah. What is practiced today came from the interpretation of countless rabbis through the centuries. This period encompassed the time when food was scarce and preservation was virtually nonexistent. This led to some practices that seem dated by today's standards. But no matter how old the practice is, keeping kosher is all about eating soundly. Appeasing the will of god by taking care of one's body cannot be argued - no matter what your religion is.

 




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