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Italian Cuisine Diverse And Delicious

(category: Cooking, Word count: 294)
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Italy, a nation of 58 million people, is a patchwork quilt of 20 distinct regions subdivided into 103 provinces. All Italian cooking relies on olive oil, grains and fresh, seasonal produce, but each region has its own preferences and specialties.

Northern Italy, which boasts the country's highest standard of living and the richest diet, also produces one-third of Italy's best wines. Its eight regions lean toward risotto, polenta and gnocchi, and hearty soups and fish chowders are a feature of the region. The North's real claim to fame, though, is as a paradise for cheese lovers. Parmigiano, Gorgonzola and Asiago cheeses, accompanied by salamis and sausages made from goat, goose and even chamois, make a simple meal divine.

Central Italy, in contrast, tends to favor artichokes, peas and black and white truffles. These six central regions prefer pasta and lamb over the rice and beef associated with the North. One of the best-known regional dishes is porchetta, a whole, roasted pig stuffed with fresh garlic, fennel, rock salt and peppercorns.

Historically, the six regions that comprise Southern Italy were known as the Garden of the Greeks and Romans. Later, during the Middle Ages, the Arabs established a pasta industry in Sicily. Varieties of pasta have since proliferated, from "short" pasta generically known as macaroni to the "long" types such as spaghetti and vermicelli.

No other sector of Italy boasts such a splendid heritage of sweets and ices. Many desserts bespeak the Arab and Greek influences in Sicily, with its almond pastes, candied fruits, ricotta, honey, raisins and nuts.

The South also accounts for 75 percent of the produce raised organically in Italy. With almost 2.5 million acres cultivated without chemicals, Italy is a leader in organic farming.

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How To Choose The Perfect Bread Maker

(category: Cooking, Word count: 521)
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Bread makers are extremely popular. The average person can make delicious, homemade bread quite easily with a bread maker. Even with the ease of a bread machine, you must still use caution when adding the ingredients, even if you use a mix. You can make a variety of shapes and sizes of loaf with a bread machine. Many people use a bread machine to simply mix the ingredients then bake the loaf in a traditional oven. Sizes range from one pound to two pounds or more, and you will most likely choose between a square or round loaf pan.

Some bread makers will have a preheat cycle to heat the ingredients before baking. If you want your bread to rise properly, choose a bread maker that does not heat before time to bake the bread. Bread makers will generally have separate settings for different types of bread. There may be settings for wheat or French bread, and you will be able to choose the doneness of the bread such as a light, medium, or dark setting. There will also normally be a regular or rapid bake cycle. It is desirable to have a window in the top or side of the bread machine to allow you to see the progress of your bread while it is baking.

There are a variety of options from which to choose in bread makers, so you may first want to consider how much space you have to store your new machine. Bread makers come in a variety of sizes, so choose one that you can store easily. You should choose the capacity of the bread maker based upon how big your family is and how much bread they eat. You can choose a bread maker with a delay timer which will allow you to place the mix in the bread maker before you leave home each day and the bread will be ready when you return. If you want your bread maker to prepare the dough but not cook it, you will need to find a bread maker with this feature. Choose a bread maker that will alert you when it is time to add additional ingredients such as fruit or nuts. You will also want a "keep warm" feature in case you are gone when the bread is finished. Look for crust control features and special setting for fruits, nuts, cheese, and vegetables.

Study the warranty very carefully to make sure you will be able to get service and replacement parts if necessary. Keep in mind that if your family consumes a small amount of bread now, once you purchase your new bread maker that consumption is likely to increase dramatically. Choose a slightly larger size that you anticipate needing. Remember that the keep warm feature is great, but if you leave the loaf in the bread maker for an extended period of time it may become soggy and flat. A bread maker is a wonderful addition to your home. Nothing compares to the smell of freshly baked bread from your very own kitchen.

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Get To Know Your Cookware

(category: Cooking, Word count: 588)
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Selecting the cookware for your kitchen implies a few certain points you should consider: budget, cooking and eating habits, your family size, etc. One of the most essential points in choosing cookware is the material it is made of. Often, such an important detail is simply overlooked or is considered to be minor. In fact, proper understanding of differences between cookware materials will assist you in making the best choice and further on, will help maintain your cookware in a good shape.

Stainless steel cookware is very common thank to its moderate price and a number of qualities, such as good tensile strength, excellent corrosion resistance and non-reaction with alkaline or acidic materials. Using stainless steel cookware allows using less oil and it better preserves the nutritious value of food. The drawback is that stainless steel does not conduct heat well, so the cookware requires a thick aluminum or copper core in the bottom and, sometimes, the sides to conduct heat more evenly and make the cookware more responsive to heat. Stainless steel cookware care is quite simple as it can be washed in a dishwasher and scraped with nylon pads. Special stainless steel cleaners will help bring the shine back.

Non-stick cookware is a blessing when cooking and reheating sticky kinds of food. This coated surface also means you will need less oil or fat while frying on it. But you have to be careful while using and washing non-stick cookware. Avoid scratches on the surface or it'll lose its properties. Use only wooden, plastic, or coated utensils when cooking. Wash in hot soapy water but never in a dishwasher.

Cast iron is comparatively inexpensive, conducts heat evenly and once heated, keeps it for a long time. Such cookware is good for deep-frying and slow cooking. The main problem is that it rusts, stains and becomes pitted when exposed to air, moisture and certain foods. Do not wash cast-iron cookware in soapy water, instead try wiping clean with a paper towel. To prevent rusting, remove any excess moisture from the surface and coat with oil before storing.

Aluminum cookware is quite cheap compared to other materials. It's very lightweight yet strong. It is a good conductor of heat and does not easily distort when exposed to high temperatures. The obvious drawback is its reaction to acidic and alkaline foods leading to corrosion and spoiling the taste of the food cooked. That's why it is often coated with stainless steel or anodized coating to protect the food. It doesn't require any special care, usual washing in a soapy water is enough. However, if the surface has anodized coating, you better avoid washing the cookware in a dishwasher and be careful not to scratch the finish.

Lined copper cookware is quite expensive, though has a number of advantages. It conducts and responses to heat very well, cools down quickly when removed from the heat, preventing food from burning and becoming overdone. Copper cookware is a good choice for many cooking methods. The main problem is that copper interacts with everything it comes in contact with. Moisture in the air causes it to form a film on it that is poisonous and salty food causes a chemical reaction that can make food have a metallic taste. For that reason copper cookware is lined with tin, silver or stainless steel to enhance its qualities. Care includes delicate washing with soapy water and regular polishing with special copper polish to keep its bright copper shine.

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Baking Flexibility

(category: Cooking, Word count: 724)
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Everywhere you look, there is a lot of emphasis on cutting the fat out of our daily diets, but who wants to cut out the fat if it means cutting out the flavor? When it comes to baking, there is a way to cut down on your fat intake without changing the ingredients in your favorite recipes. If you switch to nonstick silicone bakeware, you can cut down on your fat intake with minimal effort. Because the bakeware is nonstick, you never have to use butter, shortening, or grease on your pans or sheets to ensure easy food removal.

The first silicone items made exclusively for baking were small silicone mats that fit nicely on your cookie sheet and allowed you to bake cookies with out greasing the cookie sheet or worrying about the bottoms getting burned. These little mats were a huge success and stores were hard pressed to keep them in stock.

As the popularity of these mats grew, manufacturers decide to explore the idea of making more bakeware from silicone. They began making spoons, spatulas, and whisks that could withstand high heats and could be used with nonstick cookware with no fear of ruining the coating. Silicone utensils were the perfect choice for candy making or any other project that required a boiling and sticky liquid to be stirred.

Kitchen supply manufacturers also introduced silicone potholders and oven gloves. Because they can withstand heats up to 500 degrees, they are the perfect insurance that you won't get burned when you pull a hot dish from your oven. They don't conduct heat the way that a cloth potholder does and they are much sturdier and easy to keep clean than traditional potholders. Home canners fell in love with silicone baker's mitts because they could actually reach into a pot of boiling water to remove a hot jar of food once it was done processing. As an added bonus these durable potholders do double duty as lid grippers making opening jars a snap.

Once silicone hit kitchens in the form of baking mats, utensils, and pot holders, kitchen experts began to see the potential of this material in everyday baking. Suddenly almost any type of bakeware that could traditionally be found in stainless steel, aluminum, glass, or stoneware was being offered in brightly colored silicone. Stores began selling muffin tins, bread loaf pans, cake pans, and pie pans. The most popular pieces tend to be the specialty designed cake pans that allow you to make cakes shaped like everything from roses to pumpkins. They even have mini cake pans that make individual, fancy shaped cakes.

The popularity of silicone bakeware skyrocketed as cooks began to see the benefits of using this material in their kitchens. Foods pop out of silicone pans with amazing ease. You never need to grease, flour, or even use cooking spray on a silicone pan and that adds up to lots of calories and fat grams saved with each meal. Because silicone is very flexible, it is easy to bend and twist it so that cakes and breads pop out easily. You never have to force baked goods out of the pan, so they retain there shape and you don't see a lot of split and broken cakes.

Silicone is a bakers dream when it comes to making evenly cooked delicacies. The material distributes heat evenly, so you never end up with a cake that is burned around the edges and still not cooked in the middle. It also cools down quickly ensuring that you foods will not continue cooking and possibly drying out once you remove them from the oven.

Because silicone is nonstick, cleanup is a breeze. A little soap and water and any crumb left on your bakeware disappears. It is nonporous, so it never retains any odors from the foods you cook. Completely versatile it goes from oven to table to freezer and can even be thrown in the dishwasher. Once you are done cleaning it, storage is a snap. With its flexibility, you can twist it, bend it, fold it or mash it up so it can fit in the smallest of drawers or cupboards.

If you haven't tried silicone bakeware, add a piece or two to your kitchen. You will be surprised at its quality and flexibility.

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How To Smoke A Turkey

(category: Cooking, Word count: 182)
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For those who long for the wonderful taste of smoked turkey but forgo the luxury because of how much it costs in stores, take heart! It's surprising just how easy and economical it is to make your own smoked turkey at home. Not only will you enjoy this tempting morsel, but just think how much you'll impress your friends and family.

you don't need a smoker; any covered grill will give the same effect. Simply place the turkey breast on the cool side of the grill and use soaked wood chips.

It's important to allow yourself plenty of time to smoke the turkey until it is completely cooked. Smoking time depends on the size of the turkey, the distance from the heat, temperature of the coals, as well as the outside air temperature. You can roughly estimate about 20 to 30 minutes per pound of turkey, but it's important to use a meat thermometer to be sure your turkey is thoroughly cooked. The turkey is done when the food thermometer, placed in the inner thigh, reaches 180

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Trouble Free Cooking

(category: Cooking, Word count: 562)
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Believe it or not, trouble free cooking is a common desire around the world. Even those among us who love cooking and eating almost equally will be the first to confess that being able to cook without the worry of creating a mess, spilling, or burning would be a blessing. Truthfully speaking there really is no such thing as trouble free cooking though there are things you can do that will take a good deal of trouble out of your cooking.

Most of the tips here will be beneficial to novice or beginners in the culinary arts however, there are some great refresher tips for those who are more experienced when it comes to cooking as well. Hopefully you will learn some things through the next few paragraphs or at least remember some things you had forgotten.

First of all, cleaning as you go will take a lot of the trouble out of what comes after the cooking. When asked the least favorite thing about cooking a wide margin of women proclaim without a second of hesitation that the clean up by far is the worst thing about cooking. To make things easier, clean as you go. Keep a sink of hot sudsy water ready to go the entire time you are cooking and wipe up any spills that occur immediately to avoid sticky messes that are much more difficult to clean afterwards. You should also note that if you transfer your food to serving dishes and immediately wash your pots and pans they will be much easier to clean than if the food is allowed to sit in them while your family dines.

My best friend is constantly burning her dinners. The reason? She believes in high or low when it comes to cooking and there is nothing in between. Very few meals should be cooked on high truth be told. You are much better off to begin the food preparation at a medium or medium high temperature and to adjust accordingly.

Make sure your oven is preheated. The temperature of the oven does indeed make a difference in the cooking process. While there are those that believe preheating is a simple waste of electricity it is what is required in order to achieve the optimal results when cooking. Most modern electric ovens will signal when the proper temperature has been achieved.

Select recipes that fall within your comfort zone in order to avoid making mistakes or becoming too stressed about the cooking process. Once you've decided on your recipe read it through a couple of times in order to be certain that you not only understand all the steps involved but also have all the necessary ingredients before beginning.

Wash your hands thoroughly and wash your hands often. Remember the sink of sudsy water I mentioned above? You'll want to use it quite frequently in order to wash any surface, cutting board, plate, or utensil that has come into contact with raw meat in order to avoid cross contamination. The same holds true for your hands.

While to some degree these tips may seem a bit simplistic, when it comes to trouble free cooking there really is no such thing. The more you do to make the cooking process seem as effortless as possible the more trouble free your cooking will really be.

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It S The Details That Make A Difference

(category: Cooking, Word count: 216)
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When hosting at home, whatever the occasion, the end result should leave your guests feeling as though they have had a memorable evening, while not exhausting the host. A carefully chosen menu and some advance attention to detail can mean a satisfying experience for you as well as your guests.

When choosing the menu, be sure to consider your budget while determining the cost of your ingredients. To avoid confusion the night of the event, prepare as much as you can well in advance. Discuss logistics-will you be serving buffet style or will each guest be served individually while seated? Whether serving buffet or sit-down be sure to keep table size limited to eight or 10 as this is optimum for interesting conversation.

The ambiance can be heightened by adding thoughtful details. Place votive candles throughout the house and keep them unscented, except for the bathroom. If possible, change lightbulbs to a low-wattage, soft-pink bulb. The hue is very flattering to everyone's complexion. Play music during cocktails and after dinner as the meal should stand alone. Flower arrangements are best kept simple as your guests are the main attraction.

As guests arrive and to avoid "first drink" congestion at the bar, have trays of wine or S.Pellegrino

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Grill Your Steak The Right Way

(category: Cooking, Word count: 553)
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No matter what you preference in a steak, maintaining good moisture should always be your goal. When searching for a good cut of beef, look for a cut with good consistent marbling. Fat equals flavor so very low fat content in meat will tend to dry it out and have much less flavor. You should not have to coat a great piece of meat with sauce just to get flavor, in fact you should avoid using a sauce at all. You want to see visible grains of fat running through the meat but not large pieces of fat. If you do see larger pieces simply trim them off. As you cook your steak the fat will melt and naturally tenderize the meat.

After removing the meat from refrigeration seasoning the meat with generous amounts of salt and pepper.

Many other herb and spice combinations can be added to your taste just be sure you have plenty of salt and pepper in addition to any other seasonings. Allow the meat to come to room temperature before grilling.

When grilling your steak first make sure that you have your grill nice and hot. This will give the outside a nice crust and will also help seal in its natural juices. If you fire flares up at any point, move the meat off the flame. While you want a hot grill, you do not want direct flame on the meat for any extended time period. The worst mistake that most grillers make is to continually flip the meat time and time again. Continually flipping the meat does nothing but cause the meat to dry out. Flipping the steak over and over does not make you a grill master, doing it right, does. In the end you will flip your steak 3 times which will mean you have cooked both sides twice for 3 minutes on each side. For cross-hatch marks on your meat simply turn it 45 degrees when flipping. Total cooking time should be roughly 12 minutes. This will achieve a medium rare steak depending on how hot your grill is. Because every grill it different you will need to experiment to get the desired results.

There is no exact way to tell when the steak is done. Without cutting the meat open and risking the release of its juices, the best way is to either press the meat to judge its tenderness or use a meat thermometer. If you choose not to press the meat, you can use you hand as a guide. For instance if you take you index finger and touch the fleshy part of your palm right under your thumb, that is what rare should feel like. Conversely if you touch you pinky to that same part of your palm that is the consistency of well done. So from finger to the next starting with your index finger and ending with the pinky it would be: rare, medium-rare, medium and well done.

Herb rub:

1 tablespoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper

2 teaspoons mustard powder

2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon onion

Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a bowl. Brush the steak lightly with olive oil and rub in herb rub.

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Is It Frosting Or Is It Icing

(category: Cooking, Word count: 417)
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Home cooks most generally use the term frosting and icing interchangeably. This can cause confusion.

In order to reduce that confusion I like to make a distinction between the two on my website.

Frosting

Frosting is a fluffy, thick concoction that will hold its shape. You can pipe decorations with it like you see on cakes.

Even though it holds a shape it stays soft and keeps its creamy texture.

There are as many variations of frosting recipes, as there are cookie recipes. One of the most popular is butter cream.

Even within the butter cream category there is no one definitive recipe.

It seems that every country that can get its hands on butter has its opinion of what butter cream frosting should be. Some are made with eggs and butter. Some varieties you have to cook sugar to a softball stage.

There are others that use shortening or a combination of shortening and butter. Still others don't use butter or shortening at all but another substance such as peanut butter.

A simple butter cream is just butter, sugar, flavoring and a liquid beaten and beaten until it is light and fluffy. It can be flavored with most any flavoring and colored any color during the beating stage.

After beating, other ingredients such as dried fruit, nuts or melted chocolate can be folded in.

Icing

Icing is normally much thinner than frosting and in this state will not hold shapes. Because it's more liquid it flows easily and thins out filling in nooks and crannies.

What differentiates icing from frosting is that as icing dries it becomes smooth and will harden when completely dry. This makes it perfect glue for cookie construction projects, such as a gingerbread house.

For the cookie decorator that's not handy with a piping bag icing is the ideal cookie decorating medium.

Just like frosting there are hundreds and hundreds of icing recipes and recipe variations. An icing recipe can be as simple as powdered sugar mixed with a liquid to more complicated meringue varieties.

One of the better known meringue variations is Royal Icing. Depending on the amount of liquid used Royal Icing can be piped and will hold shapes like frosting but it will harden as it dries.

So is it icing? Or is it frosting?

In my humble opinion it boils down to one thing. If it stays soft (within reason) it's frosting. If, when it dries, it hardens then it's icing.

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