Saturday, September 29, 2012

Love Cooking? With These Tips You'll Love It Even More

Is cooking becoming a boring chore? Cooking is a task that should be enjoyable, and not one that you dread. This article is packed with helpful tips and advice for improving your skills in the kitchen. When you see how easy cooking can be, you are sure to wonder why you found it so difficult to begin with!

If your family has grown bored with plain frozen corn, try something new. Try experimenting with your favorite spices, or do some research online to find fun new ways to prepare veggies. Add coconut flakes to corn for a Thai-inspired treat.

It is important to cook your meat properly, so always have a meat thermometer on hand. Each meat has minimum internal temperatures that are recommended so that it is safe to eat. All types of bacteria live on meat. Therefore, if the bacteria is not properly cooked, it can stay on the meat, and cause you to get sick.

You can make a nice wok full of stir fried rice and bits and pieces of veggies and whatnot from your fridge. Using rice that has cooled for a full day is best. If you do not have any rice already cooked and cooled, you can make it fresh and just cut back on the amount of water you add to the pot. First, use a small amount of oil to fry the meat and vegetables. Next, add the rice to the mixture and use soy sauce, ginger and garlic according to your taste preferences.

If you need to cook a roast quickly, do not remove the bone. This will speed up cooking time substantially. The bone absorbs some of the heat and distributes it inside the meat and roaster. After the roast is cooked, just slice around the bone to serve. 

This way, you'll have fresh fruit to use for cooking all year long. Additionally, you may be able to keep some fruits frozen and enjoy them during months when they are not available in stores.

Keep your wood cutting board in tip-top shape. A wood cutting board can warp or split by too much exposure to moisture, heat or dryness. Don't submerge the board in the sink when you clean it. Instead, use warm, soapy water and a sponge. Restore damaged boards by applying oil to it regularly, and be sure to use products specially designed for wood chopping boards. Always allow your board to dry completely, whether it is wet or oiled.

Get the right kind of potatoes for the recipe you select. These vegetables are defined in three ways, either mealy, waxy or all-purpose, so choose accordingly. Mealy potatoes are usually dry and crumbly, which makes them ideal for mashing. The russet potato is one of the most common of the mealy variety. An all-purpose potato that you can use in almost any dish is the Yukon Gold. Use waxy potatoes for steaming or boiling since they hold their shape well. Red and white potatoes are familiar varieties of the waxy type.

Cooking for the family can be beyond overwhelming. Luckily, you can do a number of things to make cooking simpler. When you go back into your kitchen, you can relax.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Staying Power - The Mark of a Great Chef

Hello, My name is Scott and I have been a professional Chef for the last 20 years of my life. I have worked in a variety of places from truck-stops to world-class restaurants, and one thing that I have noticed as being the common denominator for any Chef, is "Staying Power". Staying Power is something that I believe is sorely lacking for a remarkably large number of cooks/chefs, and I think that it needs to change.
What Is Staying Power?
Loosely defined, Staying Power is the ability to last at a particular job in a particular kitchen under the normal or adverse conditions for longer than 6 months. It is the ability to take the daily pressures that we, as Chefs face every day and use them to our advantage. A lot of Chefs that I have encountered do have that ability, but there are an increasingly large amount of Chefs that seem to lack in that department. These are the people who get a job, work a 2 week pay period, then leave once the cheque is in there hot little hands. Or these are the people who, for various reasons, can't handle the constant pressures put upon them and then decide to leave at the least convenient time. For instance, in the middle of a busy holiday weekend, something that seems to happen on a regular basis in a resort town, or on a ski hill.
Why Does This Happen?
That is a very good question, and I think that there is no single answer to it. Various reasons have been cited as to why a cook/chef decides to cut and run before the magic 6 month period. The most common one is money. Although that is completely understandable,and this a notoriously low paying business, it shouldn't be your reason for leaving. In most place, the longer you stay, theoretically the more money you make. This may not hold true with a lot of places, but with the good ones, Staying Power is rewarded with better pay. Theoretically.
Another reason could be working conditions. Unfortunately, there are too many restaurants around that have positively deplorable working conditions. Whether it is a dirty, broken down kitchen, or the chef is at best a complete moron with a superiority complex. In these extenuating circumstances, it is understandable to leave. Hell, I wouldn't stick around.
How about another job? Well, if the job that you are going to is going to provide you with better opportunities for advancement, then it is most certainly in your best interest to leave. But if the job doesn't offer you that, then why go? Try sticking it out, maybe the place that you are in just takes a little longer to offer that. You just never know until you stick it out.
What Do I Do About It?
Well, there is really no easy answer to this. My suggestion would be to stick it out, go along for the ride and see where things end up. If you are having issues, don't be afraid to talk to your chef/manager about your issues. If you are a professional about things, your concerns will be heard and dealt with in a professional manner. But if you go about things like you own the place and this place owes you, then your concerns will fall on deaf ears. Most restauranteurs are professional business people who are in it to make money, and most know that the work is hard and that is the reason why people are hired, but they would drop employees like a bad habit if they feel that they are being disrespected. So be a professional, always be a professional.
So in conclusion, if you want to survive as a chef for any length of time this business, you need 3 important things:
1. Good Footwear
2. A good set of quality chef knives
3. And Staying Power.
If you possess these three important things, the skills follow, then the money. without good foot wear,quality chef knives or staying power, you won't survive 6 months. Happy Cooking!
A quality chef knife is a crucial element for any chef. It can mean the difference between a good prep day or a bad prep day. Get informed, and know what you are using, check out my Chef Knife blog for some experienced information today!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Low Sodium Recipes - Baked Lemon Herb Chicken With Fresh Mushroom Stuffing Recipe

This is a very moist and flavorful baked lemon herb chicken recipe. The mushrooms help keep the stuffing moist and the flavorful green onions (scallions), celery, fresh lemon juice, lemon zest and olive oil, make this recipe very flavorful. No salt is added. A salt free lemon herb seasoning is used, so this would be a more heart healthy, chicken recipe especially good for a low sodium diet. Using fresh lemon is a low sodium tip that helps food taste more salty. If you like chicken and the flavors of fresh lemon and fresh mushrooms, you will enjoy this healthy chicken recipe.
Lemon-Herb Chicken With Fresh Mushroom Stuffing
1 whole chicken 3 to 3 1/2 pounds (broiler-fryer size)
2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/4 cup finely chopped green onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 pound (8 ounces) fresh mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon Lemon-Herb seasoning, (preferably a salt-free seasoning), divided
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest (lemon rind, yellow part only), finely grated
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, divided
1 cup soft or fresh bread crumbs
Remove giblets and neck from inside chicken. Rinse chicken inside and out with cold water, pat dry with paper towels and set aside. In large non-stick skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil over medium low heat. Add green onion and celery and gently cook until softened, then add mushrooms, and cook until tender. Stir in 2 teaspoons of salt free lemon herb seasoning, lemon zest, 2 Tablespoons of the lemon juice (1/2 of it), and the bread crumbs. Stir well to combine but don't make a mush. Turn off the heat and let stuffing cool a bit.
Place chicken on a rack in a roasting pan. Stuff with the mushroom stuffing. Don't pack it in, just lightly spoon it into the bird. Truss the chicken, (this will make a nicer presentation), but not absolutely necessary. In a small bowl, combine the remaining olive oil, lemon juice, and lemon-herb seasoning. Brush this mixture all over the chicken. Bake at 350 F for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until done. Serves 4 - 6.
Note: You can double the stuffing recipe and bake half of it or all of it in a dish, covered with foil or a lid along side the chicken for about 45 minutes, remove the cover and bake another 15 minutes or until lightly browned on top.
Pan drippings for a sauce: Skim off the excess fat. Add some water (up to a cup) or dry white wine or even add more fresh lemon juice with some water to the pan and bring the drippings to a simmer with a little more lemon-herb seasoning and perhaps some freshly ground white or black pepper. Scrape up the fond (browned bits at the bottom of the pan) and let the liquid reduce to intensify the flavors. Serve on the side.
Serving suggestions: Slice the chicken and serve with some of the stuffing and some of the sauce. Serve with rice, or pasta like orzo, with minced fresh parsley, sprinkled over all. A fresh green salad would also go well with this chicken recipe. Fresh lemon wedges, (optional), served on the side.
And now for more low sodium tips, recipes and information I invite you to sign up for our FREE Season It Newsletter when you visit Benson's Gourmet Seasonings at
Get more free information about low sodium, including a low sodium diet, low sodium cooking tips, salt free seasonings, salt substitutes and low sodium recipes. You'll learn how you can use seasonings, fresh herbs, fresh fruits & vegetables, olive oil, nuts, vinegars, wine and different cooking techniques to flavor your food without adding salt and sugar. You'll find out how to get more flavor than you ever thought possible.
From Debbie Benson owner of Benson's Gourmet Seasonings with over 30 years experience promoting salt free seasonings. Loving to cook and being salt free most of my life by choice, I have learned a lot of tips and tricks to create flavor without salt and sugar that seems to be in everything these days.

Monday, November 7, 2011

How To Make Chicken Gumbo

If you've never made gumbo before, or you'd simply like to get better at it, let me share a few tips with you. But before I teach you how to make chicken gumbo, let me explain what gumbo is, for those of you who aren't familiar with the food.
The word gumbo originates from the word for "okra" in some African languages, Bantu possibly being one of them. Although gumbo originally consisted of a large quantity of okra, now some gumbo recipes don't even call for okra.
Gumbo is basically a thick (or not so thick, depending on your preference) soup, which is poured on top of, or mixed with, rice. The success of the gumbo depends on the quality of the roux, the veggies and seasonings used, and the meat that is added to the soup.
First, make sure you prepare ingredients that need to be cooked ahead of time, such as the meat, okra, and other vegetables. Once the roux is ready, you'll need to move quickly.
Roux has a huge impact on the flavor of gumbo. Roux is simply flour and oil or fat mixed and cooked together until it turns tan or dark brown. If it's your first time making roux, combine an even ratio (one to one) of flour and oil or fat. Vegetable oils, lard, or other animal fats tend to work best.
As you become more experienced, try using a bit more flour than oil in order to create a richer taste. The tricky part about using more flour is that the mixture can burn more quickly, and burnt roux can't be used in soup.
Cook the mixture over medium to high heat (higher heat once you know how to make chicken gumbo and have more experience), and keep stirring it. Focus on stirring so that the mixture doesn't burn, and you will notice it turning tan and progressively turning darker and darker. If you intend to store the roux in the fridge for a later time, it is important to remove it from the stove before it reaches the desired darkness. Then keep stirring it till it cools off, and it will turn even darker.
When you're ready to use the roux to make gumbo, remove it from the fridge and pour off the oil that rose to the top, or simply let the mixture change to room temperature and mix it up again. But if you intend to use the roux immediately, let it darken to the shade you desire, and then mix in veggies, herbs, and spices, as the recipe directs.
Be sure to heat up liquids, such as broth or water, before adding them to the mix. Or simply add it gradually. Otherwise, the roux will have trouble mixing with the liquid, and it may separate and rise to the top.
Finally, add chicken to the mix, preferably chicken that has been well-cooked ahead of time. If you like seafood, you can also add shrimp, crab, or other meats to boost the flavor.
After all ingredients have been added, the gumbo will have to simmer for quite a while. Some recipes require one or two hours, others require even more time. Longer cooking time equates to a richer flavor, so it's well worth the time and effort!
Now that you know how to make chicken gumbo, make your way over to the kitchen and give it a whirl. The more you practice, the better you'll get at making chicken gumbo. And your family will thank you!
Still hungry? Check out this delicious chicken gumbo recipe that's quick and easy to make.

Monday, October 17, 2011

How to Make Your Own Sushi - Great Basic Sushi Recipe

The most basic sushi recipe is not only easy but it is also fun and quick to make. It consists of raw fish like tuna or salmon, sushi rice, seaweed and wasabi. Even though many restaurants pride themselves on making the best sushi or having the best sushi chefs, it should not deter you from making sushi at home. In making your own sushi, you will save money, have fun and add another craft to your list of accomplishments.
Things you will need for sushi:
2 cups of white sushi rice
¼ lb. raw blue fin tuna, salmon or any saltwater fish
Soy Sauce
Seaweed (optional)
Pickled Ginger (optional)
Things you need for sushi rice:
½ cup white rice vinegar
¼ cup of sugar
2 teaspoons of salt
Konbu Seaweed (as much as desired)
2 large boiling pots
Measuring cup
Sushi Preparation instructions:
Begin with preparing the sushi rice. Take the two cups of rice and pour it into a strainer. Run water over the rice and rinse thoroughly. After rinsing the rice, take the rice and place it into one large boiling pot. Fill the pot with the strained rice and water. The water should completely cover the rice. Soak the rice for at least 20 minutes. After 20 minutes elapses, drain the water from the pot. Place the rice back into the strainer. Rinse the pot. Run cold water over the strainer again to rinse the rice thoroughly until the water runs clear. Next, place the rice back into the same boiling pot. Take 2 ¼ cups of cold water and put the water into the pot with the rice. Heat the water and rice to a boil. Once boiling begins, reduce heat to simmer and cover the pot for 20 minutes.
While the rice is cooking, take the ½ cup of white rice vinegar, ¼ cup of sugar, and two teaspoons of salt and place into a separate boiling pot. Let the sugar and salt dissolve in the white rice vinegar first. Place the seaweed into the pot. Heat the components on medium heat for at least two minutes or until seaweed is tender. After the components are ready, remove from heat and set aside.
After the rice has cooked for 20 minutes, there should be little to no water in the pot with the rice. Remove from heat and let cool for 20 minutes. Once cooled, remove the rice from the boiling pot and place inside a large bowl. Remove the seaweed from the sugar, sale and vinegar mixture and set aside. Take the sugar, salt, and vinegar mixture and pour over the rice. Thoroughly mix all the components together thoroughly with a large spoon. Now you can begin to assemble the sushi.
Now that the rice is ready, you can begin on cutting the fish. Most traditional sushi recipes call for saltwater fish like salmon or tuna. Whole, raw blue fin tuna is best suited for this recipe. Take the tuna and slice thin slices. The slices should be no larger than two inches long and ¼ of an inch in thickness. Slice all the tuna you need and put the remaining tuna in a freezer.
Take the wasabi and place a small amount into the center of the tuna slice. You can also add a small strip of seaweed on top of the wasabi. However, this is optional.
Next, take one small spoonful of sushi rice and fill the tuna with the rice. Shape the rice and tuna so that the rice does not fall apart. Don't be afraid to press the rice into the tuna. You can also wrap the tuna slice around the rice if you'd like.
Prepare all the tuna with rice, wasabi and seaweed until you are finished with every piece of tuna. Garnish with soy sauce or pickled ginger to your liking. You may also eat the remaining rice as a side dish. Enjoy.
Important sushi health considerations:
Remember, always keep your fish frozen or on ice while not in use. Fish that remains in room temperature or humid conditions is more susceptible to parasites, bacteria and viruses. Also, sushi should be consumed in moderation. Due to its high mercury content, it is not ideal to eat sushi daily. Consume in moderation for the best health benefits.
Lewis Avalon is a sushi aficionado living in Las Vegas, Nevada. Lewis writes regularly about all things sushi related including career advice, recipes, and restaurant news. Check out Lewis' favorite Las Vegas sushi bar and watch for upcoming articles.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Szechuan Chicken Recipe

Let me introduce to you one of my favorite recipes -- Szechwan chicken -- a sharp flavoured dish. It is chicken stir-fried and covered in a dark soy-based sauce with ginger and hot peppers. The meal is very beautiful when served, and even more impressive to watch while being made. Here is a bonus hint for  you: use this to its fullest advantage by making the meal on dates or other events in which being impressive could be considered advantageous.

It is best to serve Szechuan Chicken with rice, or another mild dish to offset the spicy heat of the stir-fry. Vegetables are also a nice touch, and along with rice will serve to round out the meal to match anything you would find at an expensive restaurant. The sauce from the stir-fry can also be used to fry a number of vegetables to accompany the meal. Recycling the sauce you used with the chicken is a quick and easy way to get the most out of your preparation time!

This dish is best served with a sweet beverage, like white win, cola or other soda, or mixed drinksThe heat from the peppers mixes well with any Mexican beverage.

Overall this is a very special dish, which does require some extra time to cookbut once you are ready you'll be happy with the result... and as I said the preparation process itself is very unique and interesting by itself. So enjoy cooking it!


1 lb. boneless chicken breast, cubed
4-6 carrots, sliced into 1/4" pieces
1 can bamboo shoots
12-15 dried hot peppers
Olive oil

Sauce: (Thoroughly mix all ingredients before preparation)
6 tbsp. soy sauce + 3 tbsp. water (or 9 tbsp. of low-sodium soy sauce)
2-3 tbsp. cornstarch
Chopped fresh ginger or powdered dry ginger (to taste, usually 3 tbsp.)
3 tbsp. Sherry


1. Place the peppers and 1 tbsp. of cooking oil in a wok. 
2. Brown the peppers under medium-high heat, then remove them to a plate. 
3. Place the cubed chicken in the wok and cook until pink color disappears (2-5 min). 
4. Remove the chicken from the wok. 
5. Add 1 tbsp. of oil to the wok, and add the carrots. 
6. Stir-fry until carrots begin to soften. (If you prefer soft vegetables, you can add several tablespoons of water to the carrots and steam them for 5 min.
7. Add the bamboo shoots and stir-fry 1-2 minutes. 
8. Add the (browned) peppers, chicken, and the sauce to the wok. 
9. Stir under medium heat until the sauce thickens.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Easy Crock Pot Recipes for Chicken

There are hundreds of ways to prepare chicken. In this article you'll find recipes for; garlic chicken, mushroom chicken and lemon chicken, 3 very different flavors.
I personally always use chicken breasts, however chicken thighs can almost always be substituted if your preference is dark meat. Since chicken thighs are smaller than chicken breasts increase the number of chicken pieces in any given recipe.
I also prefer the taste of kosher chicken and so never use salt in my recipes as kosher chickens are salted during the processing period. I also always thoroughly wash the chicken and then pat dry prior to beginning the seasoning process.
Garlic Flavored Chicken
4 chicken breasts (you can use either skin on, or skin off chicken pieces)
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup dry bread crumbs
¼ cup olive oil
2 teaspoons crushed garlic
In a sauce pan, combine the garlic and oil. Heat over very low heat so that flavors mix. Combine the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese in a dish that you can roll the chicken pieces in. Generously dip the chicken in the garlic and oil mixture, then roll in the cheese and bread crumb mixture. Bake as you would normally bake chicken, about an hour at 350 degrees.
Note: if you use an oil or bread crumbs that are garlic flavored, your chicken will have additional garlic flavor.
Mushroom Flavored Chicken
4 chicken breasts
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 soup can of milk
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
Pour one can of the cream of mushroom soup into a baggie and marinate chicken several hours. Cook chicken about 35 minutes in a 350 degree oven. While chicken is cooking, prepare the sauce. Combine the salt, pepper, milk, cream of chicken soup and the other can of cream of mushroom soup. Mix well. Remove chicken from oven and pour the sauce over the chicken and bake for at least 20 more minutes or until chicken is done.
Note: You can also add cut up mushrooms to the baking pan for additional flavor.
Lemon Chicken
4 chicken breasts
1/3 cup lemon juice
½ cup butter or margarine
½ cup flour
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon minced onion
salt and pepper to taste
Lightly dust chicken with flour. Melt butter and then coat chicken with butter. Put remaining butter in baking dish. Cook for 30 minutes in a 375 degree oven. During cooking, brush chicken with butter a few times.
While the chicken is cooking, prepare the sauce. Mix together the lemon juice, onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Remove chicken from oven and baste with sauce. Cook an additional 25-30 minutes, basting with the sauce a few times during cooking.
I hope you enjoy these 3 different flavors of chicken.
Bon Appetite!!
Audrey’s mom always entertained when she was growing up. Audrey learned to prepare for large groups and has often entertained 15-30 people in her home at a time. You can find more great recipes at