Thursday, April 30, 2009

How to serve a perfect pasta

By Andrea

Choose your pasta first. There are mainly two kinds of pasta: ribbed and ribless. Ribbed (= rigata in Italian, hence rigatoni) has the advantage of retaining the sauce, but the downside is that it won't cook evenly because of its structure.

Pasta needs boiling water and a saucepan, even the worst cook in the world knows that. But how much water? Well, a lot, consider 1 liter for every 100g. That would be 4 liters for 400g. Pasta needs to swim.

When the water is boiling add some salt. Don't add it before, as it will slow down the boiling process. Again, there's a rule of thumb to follow: 10g of salt every liter of water. A little less if you're going to use salty sauces.

You're probably thinking this is the part where you add oil to the water. Wrong and useless: if in the end the pasta comes out of the water all stuck together in one piece, next time use more water and buy some, at least decent quality of pasta.

Wait for 30 seconds for the salt to dissolve and pour the pasta. If you're using spaghetti, use your hands to push them down instead of breaking them. Make sure you don't touch the boiling water!

Pasta is at room temperature so it will make the boiling stop. This is a very delicate stage: you have to be quick in bringing back the boil, by covering the pan and turning up the heat. When the water is bubbling again, let the steam go out and turn down the heat, but keep it lively.

Stir the pasta a couple of times while it's cooking so it won't stick to the bottom of the pan. For how long should it cook? A great underestimated reference is the packet itself: there you'll find the number of minutes necessary to get pasta al dente (dente means tooth). Al dente means not too soft nor too raw.

Al dente is the ideal result, and for more than one reason: it's easier to digest than overcooked pasta; pasta keeps cooking until it's cold, so if it's too soft right out of the stove, by the time you're half way eating it, it will be a starchy blob; and last but not least, this is how most of Italians eat it. Once you have a clear idea of what al dente means, still follow the packet instructions, but always taste it before taking it off the heat.

When it's time, have the colander ready in the sink, and drain the pasta. Get rid of all the water (in some cases you might still need a little bit of it. Add the pasta to the sauce, if it's in another pan, and let it go for 2-3 minutes, until everything is well mixed.

If you're preparing a cold pasta dish (like pasta salad) or you're eating it later at work, you can stop the cooking with cold water, after it's drained.

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Pure Acai Berry

By Pete Roberts

Pure acai berry products are come in a variety of forms. You can usually find these acai berry products in capsules, or powder forms. The most popular form is acai berry juice. Acai berry products are one of natures greatest supplements to hit the market in the last few years.

Acai berry tastes like blueberry's with and the palate can detects a hint of dark chocolate or cinnamon. The powder usually mixes well with yogurt or smoothies. Acai powder or juice will mix well with other dark juices such as grape, blueberry or pamegranate and could be used in recipes. When mixed with other juices it make a real refreshing flavor or beverage.

Pure acai berry products have one of the highest ORAC values available for most known berrys. It is much higher than blueberrys or pomegranates. What you will not find in pure acai berry products are added sugars or fillers. If your acai berry product has added sugars or fillers that may be the reason it is such a good deal. Some products contain a form of sugar called guarana it is also a filler and may not be 100% organic.

Pure acai berry products have many benefits and are loaded with protein, fiber, potassium and A and C vitamins. The other amazing property this berry has it it also has essential fatty acids Omegas 3, 6 and 9 these good fats are vital for the overall health of our body. Acai berry products is the number one antioxidant that contains omegas 3, 6 and 9. No other berry contains all these nutrients.

If you are looking for pure acai berry products or if you are on an acai berry diet consider products that do not contain sugar. If your diabetic or need to avoid sugar due to inflammation you need pure acai berry products not ones that are loaded with sugar or fillers. You need a product that is kosher and certified Brazilian acai berry and it should be processed and refined at the source not in some lab in China. The best acai berry products are 100% organic and USDA certified.

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Organic Garden Pest Control: 5 Tips to Keep Your Garden Bug Free

By Amelia Lathyrus

Every garden has its fair share of annoying drawbacks, one being various kinds of pests. And dont think for one minute that organic gardens are without them!

What is different in an organic garden as opposed to a conventional garden is the way you fight these pests. In our organic garden we want to fight them in an environmentally safe way, and not use strong chemicals that will cause harm to plants, good insects, your soil, and to you and your family. And they will often accumulate and also trickle down into the ground water.

Tips 1 for Your Organic Garden Pest Control: Handpicking For bugs big enough to be seen and picked, this is by far the most easy and least costly way. Enjoy your garden in the early morning and in the evening, and while doing that scrutinize your plants and remove all the little fellows you can see that are doing harm to your plants. Drown them in soapy water or just squeeze them.

Organic Garden Pest Control 2: Spray homemade remedies on your plants The simplest one is this: Add 1 dl of natural soap to 1 liter of water. Pour into a spray bottle and spray your plants. Note that you must spray on the whole plant, as the bug will suffocate when covered with the soapy water. Repeat frequently to kill of the bugs that hatch in the next few days.

This works well with aphids, and sometimes with spider mites, but not always.

A mixture of 2-3 garlic cloves, 3-4 large chili peppers and 2 tablespoons of some vegetable oil, blended well in your blender, then strained and added to 1 liter of water plus 1 tablespoon of natural soap (or dishwashing soap) makes a stronger homemade solution for fighting bugs. When spraying this on your plants, avoid spraying during mid day or in really hot weather, because that may harm the leaves on your plants by burning them.

This scares away most animal pests in your garden, even mice and moles if you spray near their holes. There is one major back draw with both of these remedies though: They will get rid of the good insects as well, which leads us to

Tips 3 for Your Organic Garden Pest Control: Introducing the good bugs This is professionaly called biological pest control. There are several bugs that do the job, the ladybug for one is a really good worker eating aphids with a healthy appetite. Others that are also good at this are the lacewing and the praying mantis. They can be cajoled to move into your garden by growing plants that attract them, or bought in egg sacks or live from a company specialised in this area. Using biological pest control is totally environmentally friendly, as you use the good bugs to establish an ecological balance between them and the ones you that harm your crop.

Tips 4 for Your Organic Garden Pest Control: Growing plants that deter the pests Lavender, wormwood, marigolds, onions and garlic are all good plants to choose for scaring off some of the pests in your organic garden. Lavender are wonderful as border plants and as companions to roses or other flowering bushes. Wormwood is actually good for the same purposes, and of course in your herbal garden. When you plant onions amongst your carrots, you will scare off the carrot root fly!

Make sure your plants grow in healthy soil, rich in nutrients, in order to keep them vigorous and strong. By doing that your plants will be able to flourish even if they are attacked by one pest or another.

Tips 5 for Your Organic Garden Pest Control: How to get rid of ants, fleas and other crawling insects An environmentally friendly way to get rid of small insects like ants is spreading a thin layer of Diatomaceous earth on the ground. This mineral dust pierces the exoskeleton of these small but annoying creatures, leaving them to dry out. You need to repeat the process after watering or heavy rain.

Extra tip for hollyhocks! Hollyhocks often suffer from fungus attacks causing the leaves to become all reddish brown and then fall off. The plant itself usually survives, but it looks terrible with the naked stem and the flowers at the top. But here is a remedy for this nuisance:

Fill a kettle with horsetail, add water to cover and boil for at least 10 minutes. Then filter, dilute 5 to 10 times with water, pour into spray bottle and spray your plants all over, including under the leaves.

I wish you good luck in keeping a heatlhy and beautiful garden!

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Do you want to cook great meat dishes? Here are 8 incredibly important tips

By Stephen Kember

The 8 most important things needing to be considered when cooking meats outdoors are set out below, they are in no order of priority as they are all important in their own way.

1. Get your butcher's advice on which meat to buy; he or she will know best; say what you're planning and be open to be guided. Buy your meat at least a couple of days before you want to cook it.

Fresh in, freshly cut, red meat is not yet ready for cooking. Steaks need time to age. Aging arises when naturally occurring enzymes beak down the protein in the meat helping to build flavor & tenderize. When you get your meat home put it in the fridge for 24-48 hours. Always try to select meat with some fat on the outside, or with veins of fat going through the meat as this is where the juicy flavor come from.

2. Your steak should be dried and salted before cooking.

The drier you make the steak the less water vapor that will be generated at the outset of cooking. This will help build a crust on the steak so as to give it it's characteristic flavor; which is helped further if you salt your steak after drying.

3. Only cook steaks on a hot grill

Preheat the grill to a high temperature-so that it's almost smoking; then drop the temperature to medium before placing the meat on the grill. To test the temperature, hold your hand over the grill, if you can keep it there for 3-4 seconds, this is medium. If your grill is too hot your steaks may char; burnt outside & rare inside; always cut of charred bits of meat as this is now considered to be unhealthy.

4. Avoid cooking partially unfrozen steaks

Thaw meat thoroughly in the refrigerator; this helps to retain its texture & flavor. Steaks & chops will thaw in 1 day, larger roasts will take up to 2 days. Remove steaks from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking and ensure they are at room temperature before starting grilling; this lessens the shock of the meat hitting the hot grill affecting flavor & texture. To thaw meat quickly use cold water; never use a microwave oven or the meat will lose it's juices and become chewy.

5. Meat Cooking Temperatures

As we all love our, meat particularly our steaks, cooked differently there is no right or wrong temperature for cooked meat. Remember that meat with bone in takes longer to cook than meat without. As a general guideline the following target temperatures can be used, dependent on how you like your meat cooked.

For Steak and Lamb

Rare 120-130F. 6-7 minutes. Center of steak still cold when served;

Medium Rare 130-135F. 8-9 minutes Cooked on outside, deep pink inside;

Medium 140-150F, 10-12 minutes. Served uniformly pink throughout the center

Medium to Well done 155-165F. Almost totally cooked through with slight pink in the center

Well done 170F. 13-15 minutes Completely cooked through Has to be cooked slowly


Medium 140F to 155F Meat is slightly pink in center

Well-Done 160F to 185F Meat is uniformly brown


Medium 145F to 155F

All poultry:

Cook to 165F with juices running clear in the thickest part of the bird

Once the required cooking temperature of the meat is reached remove it from the heat and let it stand for 10-15 minutes. The time required varies with size, the larger the meat the longer the time. During resting time, the meat continues to cook increasing in temperature 5 to 20 degrees after its been removed from the heat source. During this time the meat's juices settle and it becomes much more tasty.

6. Testing the temperature of your meat

Meat can be checked for how well its cooked by pressing on it with your finger. Rare meat feels soft; medium meat is springy; well-done meat feels very firm. But much the better and by far the most accurate method is to make use of an instant-read thermometer, which should be inserted into the thickest part of the meat, away from the bone.

7. Don't repeatedly turn your steaks

To evenly cook your steaks and to get to see those lovely grill strips across each steak, turn the steaks only once using tongs, never a fork as this punctures the meat allowing juices to escape.

8. Take your time to steadily brown your meats when cooking stews.

The Maillard reaction is an important when cooking stews as it helps your meat to taste great. When cooking a stew start by browning the meat on a skillet so facilitating the Maillard reaction to occur. This reaction happens when meat is cooked to a temperature of over 115C, at which point the meats natural amino acids inter react creating a melange of complex wonderful flavors.

So why is this important in stews? Well for the simple reason that if you cook your meats in a stew without first browning the meat then you're reliant on the heat of the water to do all the cooking. But this will mean that the highest temperature the meat will reach will be 100C; [the boiling point of water] meaning the Maillard reaction cannot occur! Meaning your meat won't be as tasty as it might otherwise be.

So how should you go about browning the meat? First cut your meat into cubes, then season it; then heat a little oil in a heavy frying pan; then gently brown the meat on all sides over a medium heat. Do this in small batches avoiding an over filled pan. Don't turn up the heat or to try to go more quickly, just go steady; the difference in the flavor will be well worth the effort.

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Delectable Recipes That Contain Fresh Mangoes

By Chris Channing

Mangoes are a type of fruit that are prevalent in eastern countries. They are characterized by a fruity, sweet taste that has a wonderful texture. Chefs include mangoes in a variety of dishes to be used in both everyday situations and in world-class cuisine.

Mango is used in sauces and salsas due to the fruity flavor that it can bring to the food it is put in. A sauce for noodles or chicken is a good idea, where mango juice and chunks can be added to other sauces such as a light salad dressing to make for a whole new taste with a normal dish. Making a salsa is also a great project, as mangoes can bring out a fruity flavor that tastes swell.

Even if you are working with cheap steaks that you got from the store for next to nothing, you can spice them up with a bit of mango. Mango can be used to make a marinade that may be sealed with beef or pork and left to set in proper conditions. Upon cooking, the flavors of the marinade will stay in and allow you to serve guests a slightly mango-tasting dish that was quite inexpensive to make.

For a bit of fun, try using your mangoes in the juicer and making new types of juice. You could mix a mango with other types of fruits that are similar to it, such as oranges, and make for a light taste that is easy to drink. Mixing fruits such as kiwi and mango can also help create an entirely new taste that your guests will no doubt enjoy, so long as they appreciate fruit juice.

Cakes are a great method of putting mango into a recipe and showing friends and family how sweet a mango can be. Drop some mango juice into the batter of your cake, preferably a light white cake, and cook as normal. You will be pleasantly surprised when you test the cake and find a light taste of mango in the fluffy cake really does the trick. Consider mango frosting to top it as well.

You don't always have to get creative with your ideas on using mangoes. You may use mangoes in a simple fruit salad and still get the same enjoyment from the fruit. You could also spice up the fruit salad with extra toppings, such as whipped cream. Your fruit salad may contain other fruits as well, such as grapefruit, grapes, pears, and other types of fruit commonly found at the store.

Closing Comments

Eating healthy is easier than what you would think- all you need is a good supply of healthy fruits such as the mango at your side. Put the mango into health recipes and experiment with your results. You will soon see that mangoes go with just about anything you can think of!

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