Cooking and Gadgets

ImageAlthough accustomed to a table full of eaters, eating alone at home is no problem for me. Cooking for one, however, is. My usual repertoire for solitary meals includes either heating up leftovers or making sunny-side up eggs and toast. The meals with leftovers vary, of course, but the eggs and toast is a bit of a never-boring treasure. Now there are people I know who cook fairly extensively for themselves, but I am not one of them.

My own mother was known to sit down to a fully set table and enjoy a first course of homemade soup followed by a meat, potato and vegetable main course, all topped off with a cup of brewed coffee and possibly a cookie or piece of cake, once again homemade. Not me. That much effort without the pleasure of watching someone else relish what I made, or at the least, having them eat it with no complaints is just not worth the trouble.

On one recent solo evening though, the meal I made both cracked me up and delighted me. On a lark, I spent a couple of hours baking Ina Garten’s Honey White Bread. (Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten, Honey White Bread, p. 57). As the contessa claimed, it was an easy recipe to follow, and the bread was delicious.

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From the Huffington Post

charcoal-grill.jpgThe flame war between charcoal grill purists and gas grill hotheads burns brighter than the debate between Mac and PC users. You should read some of the slop slung on the barbecue message boards. On second thought, don't. Let me try to sort it out for you with a few inflammatory thoughts.

Grills are used mostly for three types of cooking:

1) High heat direct radiation cooking when the food is placed directly above the heat source for things like steaks.

2) Indirect heat convection roasting for things like whole chickens and roasts when the heat source is off to the side and the food cooks by warm air circulating around it.

3) Indirect heat smoke roasting for things like ribs when the warm air is heavy with flavorful hardwood smoke.

Let's see how each fuel performs at these tasks and all the other factors.

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superfoodI love breakfast, but I also find it the easiest meal to skip. I get bored with traditional breakfast foods like eggs and cereal and pancakes day after day. Sometimes I eat leftovers from the previous night's dinner for breakfast but more frequently I just skip it entirely. I know skipping breakfast is not a good idea and so I'm always looking for tasty breakfast solutions, especially ones that take little time to prepare.

My latest weekday breakfast is what I am calling superfood cereal. It's based on a Canadian cereal I tried at the Winter Fancy Food Show called "Holy Crap." It's made from chia, hemp, buckwheat and some dried fruit and it soaks in milk for 15 minutes before you eat it. It tastes a lot like tapioca pudding with a bit of crunch from the buckwheat, though not quite as sweet as pudding. What's most amazing about it is how little it takes to satisfy. Just a few tablespoons of cereal and a quarter cup of milk and I swear for hours I am not even the slightest bit hungry.

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From the LA Times

perfectsteak.jpgAh, the first warm days of summer, when some mysterious force compels even the most hapless cooks to start a fire and burn some meat. Walking around my neighborhood last weekend, the smell of flaming beef fat was everywhere.

It made me wonder: Really, how hard can it be to grill a good steak?

You shouldn't even need a recipe. Take a good piece of meat (bright red color, nice flecks of white fat inside the muscle, not just around it, at least an inch thick), season it simply (salt and pepper, that's it) and put it on the grill over a moderately hot fire (not too hot or it's "Towering Inferno" time — when you can hold your hand about 5 or 6 inches over the grill for four or five seconds, that's right).

Beyond that, it's all detail. But, as in anything, those details are exactly what make the difference between good and great. Fortunately with a steak dinner, they're really pretty simple, even if they can be a bit geeky.

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applecorerGrowing up in New England, fall usually meant a trip to a nearby orchard to pick a bushel or two of locally grown apples. Most orchards sold more than just apples, they also had jugs of fresh Apple Cider (the official beverage of my home state, New Hampshire) which, until recently, was nearly impossible to find in California. The have plenty of apple drinks labeled “cider” but because most cider is pasteurized, which is quite different in taste and texture than unpasteurized cider.

Pasteurization is a result of health and safety concerns, primarily due to E. coli outbreaks from unpasteurized apple cider, and now all apple cider sold in the United States, other than sales directly to consumers by producers - such as juice bars, farmers’ markets, and roadside farm stands, must be pasteurized.

If good sanitation practices are followed, the risk from unpasteurized cider is negligible, so I prefer to seek out unpasteurized cider at my local farmer’s market. I use it quickly as it has a limited shelf-life, although it can be frozen for use throughout the year.

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