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Category Archive for: ‘Cooking Tools & Techniques’
My Favorite 12 Food Blogs

Of the thousands of food blogs written, these are a dozen of  the 50 or so I follow on a daily or weekly basis in no particular order of importance to me:

1. The Homesick Texan  http://homesicktexan.blogspot.com/ – Great recipes, well written stories, with good pictures.  Not all healthy food, but more like what we all want.

2. The Stonesoup delicious, healthy meals in minutes http://thestonesoup.com/blog/  Very nice design.  Easy to navigate.  Great recipes with fantastic pictures.

3. Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook – Finding the forgotten feast – http://honest-food.net/ – Nicely designed, different point of view.  Great wild game recipes. Even vegetarian recipes.

4. [No Recipes] make good dishes better – http://norecipes.com/ – Beautiful, large, close-up pictures. Yes, they have recipes, great ones that are easy to find and catagorized by type of cuisine.

5. david lebovitz living the sweet life in Paris – http://www.davidlebovitz.com/ – My current favorite design layout for a food blog.  Great pictures with nice, if not always complete, recipes and amazing photographs of David’s life in Paris and his travels.

6. Deliciously OrganicSimple Dishes, Vibrant Flavors Everyone Will Lovehttp://deliciouslyorganic.net/ – Great design, pictures and of course, organic recipes.

7. Cooking For EngineersHave an analytical mind? Like to cook? This is the site to read! – http://www.cookingforengineers.com/ – The design is what you’d expect from an engineer, but the recipes are very well explained with good pictures and great descriptions.  Good stories and explanations of techniques like sous vide and equipment.

8. The Pioneer Woman CooksPlowing through life in the country….one calf nut at a time. – http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/ – The pioneer woman not only cooks, she confesses, photographs, gardens, homeschools and entertains.  She freak’n does everything – I hate her.  Actually I’m jealous of her. I don’t read everything she writes, God only knows how she has the time to do everything, then write about it.  Her pictures are the best.  She has great stories with very complete recipes and interesting topics.  I don’t want to look at her picture because I’m happy with the image I have of her with a blue suit and red cape with a yellow/red S on the chest.

9. foodgawker – http://foodgawker.com/ – Not so much a blog as a photo gallery of great recipe pictures and links to their site on the web.  Great place to just Gawk or browse food beautiful food.

10. Smitten KitchenFearless cooking from a tiny kitchen in New York City. – http://smittenkitchen.com/ – Nicely designed with great pictures of health innovative food.  Think food outside the box.

11. Zoe Bakes eat dessert first – http://zoebakes.com/ – Nothing but baking recipes. Great recipes with lots and lots of great pictures on how to do it.  Nice blog.

12.  Big Red Kitchena regular gathering of distinguished guests – http://www.bigredkitchen.com/ – Simple, to the point, great recipes with beautiful food pictures that will make your mouth water.  Unusual, across the board, recipe ideas to liven up your menu.

There are many, many more great food blogs out there.  If you find one you like please let me know – jughandle

 

Pumpkin Carving

Pumpkins.  What ever you may think about the Halloween holiday, it remains one of the most interesting holidays of the year.  Not only do we have parties, we dress up, exchange food and generally do things we wouldn’t think of doing any other time of the year.

I’ve always enjoyed carving the pumpkin, but my problem is that I’m a remodeler and not a designer.  I can easily add to or improve someone else’s original idea, but given a blank pumpkin, I’d be clueless.  So assuming that we all aren’t Brad Copeland (one of the world’s best designers) I’m providing some ideas.  I’d love it if you’d send me some pictures of your results.  – Jughandle

  

 

Pumpkin Ideas

 

Such a Buzz

Follow up

This is a follow up to yesterday’s post “Turbo Tea”.  There have been several questions I’d like to answer:

  • What kind did I get – I got two kinds so I could see what the difference is between them.
  • I got a $11 – 1 oz  – “The Republic of Tea” brand, Supposed to be ceremonial quality Tencha which I’m drinking today
  • I got a $32 – 1.06 oz Do Matcha Brand tea, Green label Organic  – which is what I had yesterday
  • tools – I didn’t get the whisk or the strainer but I used a metal whisk I had at home (you’ll need it)
  • I didn’t sift the powder, but I bet it would help dissolve it in the water
  • Could I tell a difference?
  • Yes, the expensive stuff has a more subtle interesting flavor – not quite as “dry” tasting, maybe a little sweeter?
  • The good stuff didn’t have the dry after taste that the cheaper one had.
  • I really hate to say it, but the DoMatcha Organic at $32 was way better than the Republic of Tea Ceremonial at $11
  • Maybe it is like “they” say, you get what you pay for, especially in Matcha Tea.
  

BuZZ

Yesterday I got the most amazing tea buzz from the Matcha.  It might have been a caffeine buzz from drinking the Lapsang first, but my increased energy level lasted almost all day, plus I was mellow and in control at the same time.  I’ll let you know if there is a difference between the affects from the cheaper one today.  FYI about caffeine.  Matcha tea  caffeine is on the same level as black tea, which is the strongest of the teas, but only about 1/2 as much caffeine as coffee and the affect is spread out over 6-8 hours because of the tannin in tea.

Conclusions

You really need to do your own experiments to determine which flavors you enjoy more.  I’m doing the Matcha because of the HUGE health benefits.  The flavor of Matcha isn’t what you’d call normal beverage flavor, but you can mix it in other things and I don’t think you’d ever taste the tea.  Consider that I like strange and different things, like peaty single malt scotch, etc., I enjoy the grassy flavor of green tea. 

Both of these tins are supposed to last 30 days.  If I stick to the good stuff, that would be a buck a day.  I’ve spent more to get less, so that isn’t terrible.  I like the energy boost, but I’m very sensitive to chemicals and my reaction might be more than someone else’s.  As I write this line I’m finishing the last of my first cup of the cheaper Matcha and I must admit, the flavor doesn’t compare favorably to the better tea.  I’ll be using the cheaper tea for coloring in mixed drinks and foods.   The experiment continues – Jug

Matcha Tea

Matcha Tea has been Acquired

I don’t think I’ll need a razor blade and a hundred dollar bill to consume this Matcha tea, but it looks like a green version of the stuff the “older guys” warned me about.  My first cup of Matcha – Green Tea is ready to be enjoyed as I write this post.  Generally my day starts with a pot of my favorite black tea, Lapsang Souchong  which is a very strong flavor, possibly tainting this review a little.

Matcha Tea Price

Yes, Matcha tea is expensive.  I just paid over $30 for 1 ounce of the good stuff.  I’ll let you know if the cheaper Matcha tea is a better deal when I do the math.  I only used 1/4 heaping tsp in my first 8 oz cup of tea.

Differences in Quality

My research has found at least two (2) different catagories of Matcha Tea with variations on those.

Ceremonial Grade and Culinary Grade matcha are the main Grades determined by the quality of the appearance, processing method and ingredients.

Within these grades inspectors look for, color, quality and texture density of the product.  Next the makeup of the powder is determined; e.g. was it made from stems or leaves or a combination?  Finally the coarseness of the powder is considered, the finer the better.

Once the quality of the product itself is judged, the handling of the product is considered.  Has it been exposed to oxygen for any length of time?  What method was used to grind it and how was it treated prior to processing.

Ceremonial Grade Matcha is the finest and therefore the most expensive grade.  It should not be mixed with anything else but enjoyed on its own.

Culinary Grade had five (5) levels within the grade.  It is a less expensive product making it more affordable to being used daily or mixed with other ingredients.

For a more complete description and explanation of Matcha and its grades, please visit “Epic Matcha” on line.

The Ceremony

As with many of life’s guilty pleasures, half the fun is the ceremony.  The cigar has it’s ceremonial clipping, smelling and lighting.  Wine has the ceremony of viewing the label, smelling the cork, decanting the bottle, “nosing” the wine while swirling the glass and looking for it’s “legs“.  The older guys tell me about a ceremony involving a white powder chopped with a razor blade and snorted with a rolled 100 dollar bill, but I digress.

The Matcha Tea ceremony is no less involved.

 

First Impressions

I think I was expecting a very strong green tea flavor.  You know, something that may be an acquired taste, but that isn’t the case.  I taste a somewhat grassy subtle undertone on the front of my tongue with that familiar green tea full mouth taste.  Reviews say that Matcha tea is naturally sweet. That may be so, but the sweetness isn’t sweet like sugar, it is more like the sweetness of coffee with just a little cream in it.  The flavor I detect is really more the lack of bitterness more than sweet.

Finish Notes

As the Matcha tea cools off, I detect a stronger “grassy” flavor.  I’ve just noticed that even though I used a whisk to mix the tea there is still at least 1/2 of the 1/4 teaspoon on the bottom of my cup undissolved.  Note to self – stir Matcha tea for longer than 15 sec in the future or use the stick blender.  I do notice that unlike some tea that tastes like tea in water, Matcha tea has the full body of a beverage that stands alone and doesn’t taste watered or dissolved in water.

Final Impression

I LIKE it.  I may even love it considering that the health benefits of Matcha tea are said to be equivalent to 170 + cups of regular tea.  I’ll give you more in-put over time, but for now, I’ve stashed my tea in its air tight can and put it in the refrigerator. – Jughandle out

 

Things NOT to put in the Freezer

This is a short FYI on what things you shouldn’t freeze.  As always I explore ideas that I have little knowledge of or would like to be more well informed about.

Dairy

You can freeze:

  • hard cheeses – to give them additional life, but usually they last pretty long anyway.

Don’t freeze:

  • eggs in their shells- they lose their consistency and can crack.  If you want to freeze eggs break them into a freezer bag and scrabble them.
  • milk or cream – they can separate

Spices

Apparently some dry spices with change flavor and get bitter if they are frozen.
Don’t freeze:
  •  pepper corns
  • cloves
  • garlic
  • green pepper
  • imitation vanilla
  • onions
  • paprika
  • celery
  • sage
  • salt

Fresh Vegetables and Fruit

Most vegetables and fruits have a high content of water that will break down the cell walls when frozen and get mushy and brown when defrosted.
Don’t freeze:
  • fresh lettuce
  • fresh spinach
  • fresh cabbage
  • any leafy vegetable
  • potatoes – they get grainy and soft
You Can freeze:
  • cooked vegetables

Canned foods

Never freeze canned food in the can.  It breaks the seal and can contaminate the food
Fish and Meat

I can’t find any fish or meat products that can’t be frozen but be aware that freezing does NOT kill harmful bacteria, it only slows the growth.  So never refreeze fish or meat that has defrosted or has been frozen before.  You can cook it, then freeze it again.  The cooking process kills the bacteria and gives you a fresh start if cooked properly.

Do freeze:

raw fish over night before eating as sashimi or sushi, because the freezing kills the parasites in the flesh.

Other Stuff

Don’t freeze:

  • Fried foods, especially deep fried foods, they will taste stale
  • Gravies and sauces with wheat in them will tend to separate
  • Cooked pasta will get very mushy
  • Crumb toppings on casseroles will get soggy.  Wait to add the crumbs until you are ready to reheat to serve
  • Soft cake frostings will get tacky and might separate
  • Artificial sweeteners (why would you want to eat them any how) will lose their effectiveness when frozen.
Remember when you do freeze stuff, to wrap them well, removing as much air as possible and to cool them before you freeze them.  A full freezer is more economical to operate. Label your food packages. Happy eating Fat Farmers – Jughandle

 

Matcha Green Tea – Super Tea?

Matcha is a fine ground, powdered, high quality green tea and not the same as tea powder or green tea powder.  Matcha is also used to flavour and dye foods such as mochi and soba noodles, green tea ice cream and a variety of wagashi.  Blends of matcha are given poetic names called chamei (“tea names”) either by the producing plantation, shop or creator of the blend, or by the grand master of a particular tea tradition. When a blend is named by the grand master of some tea ceremony lineage, it becomes known as the master’s konomi, or favoured blend. – from Wikipedia


Production

Matcha is made from shade-grown tea leaves.  Several weeks before harvest, tea bushes are covered to prevent exposure to direct sunlight.  This slows down growth, turns the leaves a darker shade of green and causes the production of amino acids that make the resulting tea sweeter. Then only the finest tea buds are picked. After harvesting, if the leaves are rolled out before drying as usual, the result will be gyokuro (jade dew) tea. If the leaves are laid out flat to dry, they will crumble somewhat and become known as tencha. Tencha can then be de-veined, de-stemmed, and stone ground to the fine, bright green, talc-like powder which is known as matcha.

It can take up to one hour to grind 1 ounce of matcha.

Note that only ground tencha qualifies as matcha, and other powdered green teas, such as powdered sencha, are known as konacha.

The highest grades of matcha have more intense sweetness and deeper flavour than the standard or coarser grades of tea harvested later in the year.
The most famous matcha-producing regions are Uji in Kyoto, Nishio in Aichi, Shizuoka, and northern Kyushu.

Grades

Matcha is generally expensive compared to other forms of tea, although its price depends on its quality. Grades of matcha are defined by many factors.

  • Location on the tea bush –  Where leaves destined for tencha are picked on the tea bush is vital.  The very top would have developing leaves that are soft and supple. This gives a finer texture to higher grades. More developed leaves are harder, giving lower grades a sandy texture. The better flavor is a result of the plant sending all its nutrients to the growing leaves.
  • Treatment before processing =  Tencha leaves are traditionally dried outside in the shade and are never exposed to direct sunlight.  Modern drying has mostly moved indoors. Quality matcha is vibrantly green also as a result of this treatment.
  • Stone grinding –  Stone grinding is an art form in itself. Without the right equipment and technique, matcha can become “burnt” and suffer degraded quality.
  • Oxidation – Oxidation is also a factor in determining grade. Matcha exposed to oxygen can easily become compromised. Oxidized matcha has a distinctive hay-like smell and a dull brownish green color.

Health Benefits

The health benefits of green tea and matcha are widely acclaimed. Consequently, matcha and green tea can be found in health food products ranging from cereal to energy bars. In 2003, researchers from the University of Colorado found that the concentration of the antioxidant EGCG available from drinking matcha is up to 137 times greater than the amount of EGCG available from other commercially available green teas.  Matcha is said to boost metabolism and not just because of the caffeine which is 1/2 the amount found in coffee.  It is known to also help reduce cholesterol levels when consumed regularly.   The aforementioned health benefits of matcha green tea can largely be attributed to the fact that the whole tea leaf is ingested, as opposed to just the steeped water in the case of ‘bagged’ green teas. This means that it delivers a much higher potency of catechins, chlorophyll, and antioxidants. Matcha contains more antioxidants than blueberries, gojiberries, pomegranates, orange juice, and spinach.

There is evidence from clinical studies that suggests that theanine, when consumed by drinking Japanese green teas, may help to reduce or moderate mental stress responses.

Research has also shown that the EGCGs which are a group of antioxidants called catechins, speed up the metabolism, helping the body burn stored body fat.  Not to mention it significantly delays the onset of cancer as well as reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. 1  All antioxidants inhibit the aging process by restoring cell tissue and reducing inflammation.

As far as caffeine goes, Green tea contains tannin witch slows the absorption of caffeine into the blood releasing it over the course of 6-8 hours, unlike coffee.

Better to be deprived of food for three days than tea for one – Ancient Chinese Proverb

Matcha tea is now available from the Farm Store here.  Don’t worry, the price through the Farm Store is no higher than any other price from Amazon.com – Jughandle

 

 

De-Boning a Whole Chicken

De-Boneing and stuffing a whole chicken is from  Anna Maria Volpi   at www.annamariavolpi.com

Learn How To De-Bone A Whole Chicken

De-Boneing and stuffing a whole chicken has become a tradition for my family for Thanksgiving.
Before stuffing the chicken we must remove the bones.  Most chefs slice the chicken open to access the bones, then sew it back as with the video later in this blog.  The technique I’m going to describe here via Anna Maria Volpi different and most spectacular.  Her technique is a little more elaborate.
The bones are removed from the opening in the bottom of the chicken, without cutting or breaking the outer skin.  The result is the original chicken’s shape!
She learned this technique from her butcher father.  It is not easy, but worth doing for a special occasion.
The best result is obtained by using a chicken, about 5 – 6 lbs.

Widen The Neck

Widen the neck opening until you find the junction of the wing and the rib cage. Cut the ligaments with a sharp knife to separate the wings.
Using your fingers and a knife separate the wishbone.  After freeing the wishbone,

Cut The Cartilage Holding The Breastbone

Cut the cartilage that holds it to the breastbone.  Insert the hand in the neck opening, and separate the meat from the bones all around the rib cage and backbone.  Turn the chicken over as necessary.  Use a knife to cut the white cartilage from the skin.

Separate The Rib Cage

Separate with a knife the rib cage from the skin and the breast meat where necessary.

Remove The Wing Bones

Free the wing bones and remove them.  Now all the the bones of the rib cage and the backbone are fully separated from the skin and can be removed from the bottom opening.

Separate The Skin From The Legs

Cut the skin around the end of the legs to separate it.  From the bottom opening scrape the meat from the thighbones and remove them.

You Are Ready To Stuff The Bird

The chicken is now completely boned and ready to be stuffed.
Thank you Anna Maria for such great information – jughandle

The following is a great video on the normal way to de-bone a chicken

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