Archive for July, 2012

Need to jazz up your cooking? Go from simple cook to chef extraordinaire with just a few pinches of herbs or spices.

Common Types

Spices are pungent or aromatic seasonings derived from seeds, stems, bark, roots, fruit, or buds of plants. Herbs come from the leaves. Herbs and spices, readily available in grocery stores and other places, include three well-known categories: 1) sweet spices for baking and desserts such as allspice, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and others, 2) mild flavored varieties for meats, vegetables, and salads, i.e. basil, marjoram, oregano, parsley, sage, or thyme, and 3) hot, strong, or spicy selections from black pepper, cayenne, curry, garlic, mustard, and turmeric.

Cooking Tips

The following tips will bring out optimum flavors in your dishes.

  • Add stronger spices toward the end of cooking for dishes that need to simmer such as stews and soup. For short-term cooking, add toward the beginning.
  • Add mild spices toward the end of cooking for best results.
  • Use whole spices for longer cooking recipes like soups and stews because they take longer to release flavors.
  • For maximum taste from leafy spices, rub in palm of hand or use a pestle before adding to food.
  • Use only one and one-half the amount of spices called for when you double recipes.
  •  Add spices to salad dressing, dips, fruit dishes, or other uncooked foods several hours before serving so that flavors can blend.
  • Keep pepper-types (chili, cayenne, paprika, etc.) refrigerated for freshness.
  • Use equivalent substitutions of one teaspoon dried herb for one tablespoon fresh.

Shelf Life

Many cooks keep herbs and spices long after flavor has deteriorated. Smell and color are good indicators of potency. When purchased, label immediately with the current date so you will have no doubt about age. For best results, store in airtight containers in a cool, dark place. The following shelf-life guidelines help assure freshness.

  • Ground spices:          two to three years
  • Whole spices:            three to four years
  • Herbs:                      one to three years
  • Extracts:                   four years

Use dry measuring implements and avoid dipping utensil into the container. Seasonings exposed to moisture will cake and cause loss of flavor.

For greater zest in your dishes, keep these suggestions in mind as you choose, store, and use herbs and spices. Then, sit back and enjoy the praises and accolades from family and friends for your tasty cuisines.

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It almost seems un-American not to cook out on July 4th. Families throughout the nation celebrate this annual event with grills blazing, whether at a community event, a favorite park, or in their own backyard.

This happy time can result in unpleasant food poisoning unless foods are handled carefully. Follow these tips adapted from articles by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) to keep foods safe.

  • Wash, Wash, Wash. Sure, you know to wash your hands before eating. But extend that washing to many times in food preparation to prevent cross contamination, especially when handling uncooked meats. Wash any surfaces and utensils that come in contact with raw meats. That includes those tongs used to transfer raw portions to the grill and back to serving dishes or plates.
  • Check Temperatures. Looks can deceive when it comes to doneness. Use a meat thermometer to make sure meat cooks to a safe temperature. Hamburger should show an internal reading of 160oF before serving to family and guests.
  • Hold Foods at Safe Temperatures. Even in optimum conditions, prepared foods should not stay out more than two hours. With a July heat-wave, that time drops to one hour or less. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold until serving time, either in your refrigerator and warming oven at home or in separate insulated containers when away from home.
  • Store Leftovers Appropriately. Place foods in airtight, shallow containers. Put uncooked meats in the lower part of the refrigerator and store other foods above.

Follow these guides to assure a food-safe and festive holiday. God bless America!

To see AND articles about keeping food safe, check the following sites.



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