Thursday, July 31, 2008

Barbeque Dry Rub Recipes

This time of year, everyone enjoys having a barbeque as often as possible. Get the steaks, ribs, chicken and corn as fresh as possible, and head for the grill.

There are as many different barbeque recipes as their are cooks that like to grill. One of the requests that I keep getting is for barbeque dry rub recipes. Using a dry rub is one method that gives your meat succulent flavor. Memphis, Tennessee is famous for it's fabulous barbeque restaurants that traditionally use a dry rub, rather than a "wet" sauce when they smoke meats. And it is really easy to make. Here's a dry rub recipe to enjoy:

4 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoons cayenne


Mix ingredients together. Store in an airtight container. Spread evenly on prepared ribs, or meat of your choice, that have been patted dry and let sit until the rub appears moist.

Don't be afraid to adjust the seasonings above to your taste.

Chocolate Fig Cake Recipe

Chocolate fig cake is also known as pudding in Great Britain, where the recipe originated. This moist, dense cake is quite rich and also quite tasty. We enjoyed it at a restaurant called "The Muffin Man" while we were visiting London recently, and I was lucky to find a very authentic recipe for it at a rather nice website called Online Free Recipes. The owner of the site has graciously given me permission to re-print the recipe.
Chocolate Fig Pudding Cake

1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup ground semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup ground almonds
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup milk
1 cup diced, dried black figs

In food processor or large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla extract. Add cocoa powder, ground chocolate and almonds; mix until light and fluffy.

In separate, medium-size mixing bowl, sift together flour, salt, cream of tartar and baking soda. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk to chocolate mixture. Blend slowly until smooth. Fold in figs. Pour batter into greased 1 1/2-quart pudding mold.
Place on rack in large, deep steamer pot or roasting pan with 1 inch boiling water.
Steam at moderate heat on top of stove for 1 1/2 hours, checking water level every half hour.
Unmold. Serve warm, dusted with confectioners' sugar or topped with whipped cream.

NOTE: This may be made several days in advance and refrigerated. Reheat in steamer before serving. Makes approximately 8 slices.
I hope you enjoy this as much as we did!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Fresh Tuna Steak Recipes

Although consumption of canned tuna accounts for more Americans eating tuna than any other type of fish, canned tuna just doesn't compare to the wonderfully firm, dense and meaty flavor and texture of fresh tuna. Both canned and fresh tuna are available throughout the year; however, December is the when you can get fresh Hawaiian tuna.

Tuna is found in the warm water areas all around the world, including the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans as well as the Mediterranean Sea. Fresh tuna, smoked and pickled tuna, has been enjoyed by coastal populations throughout history, and has been consumed since ancient times.

Tuna fish are a nutrient-dense food, and an excellent source of high quality protein. Tuna are rich in a many different important nutrients including the minerals selenium, magnesium, and potassium; the B vitamins niacin, B1 and B6; and perhaps most important, the beneficial omega-3 essential fatty acids.

Essential fatty acids are so named because they are essential for our health but cannot be made by the body; they must therefore be obtained from foods. Cold-water fish like tuna and salmon are a rich source of the omega-3 essential fats, a form of essential fatty acids in which the standard American diet is sorely deficient. (The other form of essential fatty acids, the omega-6s, are plentiful in a variety of commonly consumed oils such as corn and safflower oil. In fact, the omega-6s are so plentiful in the typical American diet that too much omega-6 is consumed in proportion to omega-3s--an imbalance that promotes inflammation, thus contributing to virtually every chronic disease in which inflammation is a key component.)

Enjoying tuna or salmon just two times a week may help raise omega-3 levels at least as effectively as taking a daily fish oil supplement. Now I don't know about you, but I would
rather enjoy a delicious meal that includes a serving of omega-3-rich fish twice a week than swallow a capsule of fish oil every day, especially as gastrointestinal upset, burping and a fishy aftertaste are common side effects of taking fish oil capsules.

Omega-3 fatty acids provide a broad array of cardiovascular benefits, and many other health benefits. In fact, a number of recent studies have shown that eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids just 2 - 3 times a week helps:
  • lower cholesterol
  • prevent and control high blood pressure
  • protect against heart arrhythmia
  • protect against heart attack
  • protect against deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism
  • prevent obesity and improve insulin response
  • reduce inflammation
  • protect against childhood asthma
  • protect against sunburn
  • reduce hostility
  • improve mood, reduce depression
  • lower risk of leukemia, multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkins type lymphoma
  • protect against kidney cancer and colon cancer
  • reduce risk of macular degeneration
  • prevent mental decline and Alzheimer's Disease
Now, if you weren't sold on eating fish a couple of times a week before, after reading this list you must be ready to add it to your weekly menus! Click here for fresh tuna steak recipes, fresh salmon recipes, and canned salmon recipes.

Enjoy good food and good health when you eat fish a few times each week. Don't overlook the fresh sockeye salmon from Alaska that is available for the next few weeks. Bon apetit!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Grilled Vegetables Recipe

One way to add more healthy vegetables to your family's diet is by serving tasty grilled vegetables. Grilled vegetables can add many different colors to the dinner plate, and are a rustic treat.

Even if you don't have access to a grill, you can still prepare vegetables on an electric grill such as the Cuisinart Grill or a George Foreman grill, or you can roast veggies in the oven.

How to prepare grilled vegetables:

  1. Select a nice variety of fresh, ripe vegetables. I recommend any of the following: green peppers, yellow peppers, red peppers, onions, eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, or potatoes. Use your imagination, and don't be afraid to experiment.
  2. Cut peppers in half and remove seeds and stems; slice onions, eggplant, zucchini, squash, and tomatoes into 1/2 inch slices; and slice potatoes into approximately 1/4 inch slices.
  3. Brush all vegetables with olive oil
  4. Grill over hot coals, or roast in a preheated 400 degree oven until tender.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Easy Fixes for Cake Decorating Mistakes

Here are the most common cake decorating mistakes and easy ways to rectify them.

Anyone who has ever frosted a cake knows there are times when the icing will pull apart the top of the cake and cake crumbs get will into the frosting. To stop this from occurring, you should start with a crumb coat. This is the same icing that you are using to frost the cake, but it has been thinned down a bit. That way you will cover any part of the cake that might crumb with a thin layer of icing, and it will give you a base over which you will put a regular coat of icing. Take care that you do not make the icing too thin. It should be thinned down just enough to cover the cake without tearing it and picking up crumbs.

After you apply the crumb coat to the cake, you need to let it set about 2 hours or more before you apply the rest of the icing. In fact it should rest in the refrigerator, and can be kept there overnight before you need to add more icing. It is okay if you see crumbs in the crumb coat, they will be stuck in this first layer of icing and will not effect the next layer of icing. The cold will set the icing and it will be a cinch to ice after that.

There can be a problem with fillings spilling out the sides of the cake. There are ways to stop this from happening when your cake decorating involves a filled middle.

1. Bake your cake the day before you are planning to fill it. This will make the cake firmer and will give it time to settle. A freshly baked cake will be unstable and will not hold fillings as well as when they are settled.

2. You can also use icing to make a dam to stop the filling from spilling out. Once the dam has been made, you can frost the whole cake with a crumb coating. The cake should be set in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours, or overnight, this will firm up the icing and will keep the filling from oozing out the sides. The dams made of icing will firm up and keep the filling in.

If you are a busy person and don't have time to bake and decorate a cake all at once, you can bake the cake and freeze it until you need to decorate it. A cake can be kept in the freezer a couple of weeks before it needs to be used. You must prepare the cake for freezing by wrapping three layers of strong cling wrap around the cake, followed by one layer of aluminum foil just prior to freezing. If you do not follow this procedure, your cake will dry out and crumble. You will also need to make sure the cake is completely thawed before attempting to ice it.

Allow the cake to defrost slowly, at room temperature, until it has completely defrosted. Icing a cake before it has thawed will make the icing sweat and become mushy, this will ruin your cake decorating, and all your hard work will be for nothing.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Fast and Easy Lunches

Everyone is trying to save money these days. Let's face it, with the costs of food and gas increasing, we are all trying to find ways to economize. Every time I open the Internet, I see another article with the top 10 (5 or 3 - take your pick) ways to save money. In every case, they tell you to stop buying Starbucks coffee (make your own at home), and start carrying your lunch to work, rather than eat out at restaurants.

I actually prefer to make my own food, but I know that cooking is not a top priority in the lives of many other people. Quite a few people out there have never learned to cook or really don't enjoy cooking. These individuals and their families often exist on fast food, convenience foods and boxed mixes rather than taking the effort to prepare healthy meals.

I have one friend who actually buys those apples that are already cored and sliced for her kids, and another friend who buys those potatoes that are already mashed. These conveniences come at a premium, though. Preparing your own food can be fun, more tasty, and cost much less.

The same holds true for lunches. You don't have to open can of soup or box of macaroni and cheese or some other pre-packaged or prepared product. You can put some creative effort into making a quick, easy, and delicious lunch.

First of all, not all great brown bag lunches require cooking in order to prepare. Although some of them may require the use of the microwave and some of them will need to be cooked or at least prepared before hand and reheated. The choices are virtually limitless once you understand the creative concept. And you may also find that many of these ideas are so simple you will wonder why on earth you have never thought of them.

  • Lettuce wraps. These make delightfully delicious lunch treats and the filling can be prepared ahead of time, which leaves only reheating the filling, if necessary, and wrapping when you're ready to eat. Left-overs are great for lettuce wraps. Plan ahead to prepare extra for lunches the next day. This is also a fun lunch to share with your little ones, and helps to add more veggies to their diet. Some people choose to go with a teriyaki inspired filling; my family likes taco inspired fillings for our lettuce rolls. You are perfectly free to come up with a favorite filling of your very own.
  • Try sandwiches with different breads. Believe it or not, I had a difficult time getting my husband to try wraps, but now they are his lunch-time staple with various fillings. Other great ideas include hollowing out crusty rolls and filling them with roast beef and cheddar, or other fillings that your family likes. You can heat this in your oven for a few minutes for a nice sandwich treat. The cooking part is very minimal, and not even required, so you do not have to have in depth knowledge of anything to prepare or enjoy these simple treats. Other bread ideas include croissants with ham and cheese or chicken salad, pitas with any filling (another great favorite in our household), and paninis (this works really well if you have a George Foreman grill or a panini press).
  • Plan ahead for leftovers that make great lunch treats. For example, leftover roast beef, chicken or turkey make wonderful sandwiches. Leftover taco filings make nice taco salad the next day - and, you don't need those big tortilla bowls, use crushed tortilla chips to add some crunch to your salad.

This is by no means the definitive guide to cooking quick and easy lunches, but it is good food for thought. My hope is that this will get your own creative juices flowing so that you can prepare wonderful lunches for your family without the need for too much cooking in the process. Have some fun with your lunches.