How to Prepare Lemonade right

Preparing great tasting lemonade can be really easy. All you need are three ingredients; lemon juice, sugar, and water. Using fresh lemons is the best way to make lemonade, although you can also use bottled lemon juice in a pinch.

To make a delicious lemonade, use equal amounts of each ingredient. For example, if you are using one cup of lemon juice, use one cup of sugar and one cup of water. Most people really like this, but if you decide you like your lemonade on the tart side, use less sugar.

Before you squeeze the lemons, roll them on the counter, pressing slightly with your hand. This breaks up the membranes inside, and allows you to get more juice from each lemon. Juice the lemons, then mix the lemon juice, water, and sugar.

You may choose to completely dissolve the sugar by heating the sugar and water, and boiling until all the sugar is dissolved. Let this cool, then add it to the lemon juice. Chill, or add ice, and enjoy.

You can also flavor your lemonade by adding other fruit. Strawberries, raspberries, and watermelon all add a wonderful flavor. Puree the fruit in a blender, then add it to the lemonade.

A cool treat in the summer is a lemonade smoothie. Put one cup of lemonade and one cup of ice in the blender and blend. (This is so cool and refreshing you may want to start out with a bigger batch, rather than having to go back and make more.)

Enjoy!

Reference:
1. Best Lemonade Ever Recipe – Allrecipes.com
2. How To Make Lemonade from Scratch — Cooking Lessons from …

Its all in the Head

Pouring the perfect beer is a touch that comes only with plenty of practice and a basic understanding of how this foamy, frothy barley beverage travels as it pours into a frosty glass.  Really, the key to the perfect pint of beer is all in the tip of the glass.  If the receiving glass is not positioned properly, your perfect beer may finish not so perfect. The end result being a glass of beer three quarters full of foam.  The perfect beer should have an inch, at the most, of foam on the top of the glass.

The glass.

First of all, the perfect poured beer starts with a nice cold, frosted mug or glass.  The best way to achieve the superior frostiness necessary for the perfect beer, is to leave the glasses (empty, of course) in a freezer, snow bank, or icy creek for at least a few hours, and best overnight. Leave mugs chilling until you are ready to begin pouring your favorite beer.  

The tip.

Now, for the important part… Whether pouring from a can, bottle, or beer tap, always remember the key to pouring a perfect beer is all in how the bubbly barley brew hits the glass.  Beer should be poured into a tipped glass, wherever it comes from.  Unless, of course, it is a mouth it is being poured into. 

With a frosty glass in one hand and the beer source in the other, the pour should be started with the glass tipped to almost a forty-five degree angle, level to the ground or counter. The beer should pour into the glass in a steady, even flow and glass turned to an upwards position, as it fills. 

When to stop.

To achieve that perfectly poured beer status, the mug or glass must be finished off being perfectly filled, an art that comes only with practice.  Generally, by stopping a pour just past the three parts mark of the glass and topped up from there, the glass of beer should be left with just the right amount of foam.  When pouring for customers, a good rule of thumb is that it never hurts to slightly over pour.  A customer will prefer to see a full mug of cold beer, than a glass that looks like someone already took a big swig. Any excess can always be wiped away with a clean bar rag.

Once you have poured your icy cold bevie into your frosty mug comes the most important part of all, sitting down to enjoy the perfect beer that you just poured.  So, grab some friends, some frosty mugs and have a cold one.  Then Cheers, to the perfect beer.   

Reference:
1. It's All in Your Head
2. Amazon.com: It's All in Your Head: True Stories of Imaginary Illness …

A lesson in the filter method of coffee brewing

My personal arsenal of coffee making contraptions. Most of which reside on the kitchen counter. These include the auto-drip, the espresso, the percolator, the French press, and the moka pot. This is not to mention the bag of beans from the local home-town roaster, the coffee grinder, and the can of off-the-shelf grounds.

Each one serves its own purpose, and there is one basic fact to understand about the coffee making process, regardless of the equipment: coffee is ground to increase the surface area from which to extract the oils. So the finer the grind, the stronger the end-result. From that, each one does the job in a different way with vastly differing results.

Automatic drip

I use my automatic drip most often. This is the work horse of my kitchen before I head off for work. It offers me a decent cup as I get ready in the morning and during my commute. No fuss, no muss, and it delivers just the quality I expect from my can of Folgers.

Moka pot

On those mornings I ride my motorcycle to work, I don’t need more than just the one cup in the kitchen. For this I turn to my moka pot, a cool little stove-top pot that infuses hot water UP through the grounds, using steam as the force, to deliver one very small cup of espresso. It works fine with the off-the-shelf grounds. I mix the thick brew with some hot water from the teapot and, voila: Cafe Americano. Strong, robust, a quick kick, and off I go.

French press

For those mornings (or afternoons) when I really want to savor a great cup of coffee, I reach for the French press. It takes more effort and more precision, but the results are spectacular. Worthy of that morning “porch swing moment.” I would never allow the grocery-store grounds to sully my press. Coarse, fresh roasted grounds and nearly-boiling water. Steep for four minutes, plunge, pour, and sip gingerly. Luxuriate.

Coffee over the campfire

Best yet? A pot of percolated coffee on the camp stove in the national park, miles from anywhere on the way to nowhere.

Last but least, the espresso maker. Noisy, difficult, tough to master, harder to clean. Used only when pressed into service by a guest, because they think it might be cool.

Reference:
1.
2.

How to Order Wine Online

Trust is of importance in all forms of commerce, but when it comes to buying goods online, it is of critical importance. Will my credit card be ripped off? Will the goods arrive on time? Will the goods ordered be the ones that arrive? These are all concerns that we have when ordering from an online retailer.

However, for most of us, trust is also something that we rely upon when ordering wine. When we are being honest with ourselves (and not trying to show off to our date), few of us honestly know the most appropriate wine pairing at a restaurant and thus rely on a recommendation from a Sommelier. Even in a Supermarket, we may know a grape and a few of the more commercial brands, but how often have you relied upon a special offer (and how often discovered when you arrived home that it was reduced because it was corked or past its best….who says that all wine improves with age?!) Of course, at least when you can buy at a store, there is a chance that at least for the specials, they may offer you a tasting or if it is truly bad, you can return it easily. Why would anyone buy online?

Choice and price are probably the most common answers. For many of us, local supermarkets or wine stores offer only commercial brands which can be bought in large quantity, online stores may offer a much broader range including the much vaunted ’boutique’ wines and international wines. Price is often a good reason to buy online, but in the case of wine, may not be the principal reason. Those seeking the best prices are probably more likely to head to their local supermarket.

So if it is choice you are seeking, what should you look for? If you are ordering directly from a vineyard (or online cellar door), then just take the usual precautions when ordering online. However, if you are looking for a range of wines, then you need to find a trustworthy retailer.

Just as you might trust the sommelier at a restaurant you visit often, try to find a retailer that describes the wine in terms you understand and doesn’t just push whatever is surplus that week! The retailer should provide an independent view on the wine and provide an unpretentious analysis. Perhaps a weekly newsletter will summarise new arrivals making comments as to their quality and to their value. There is no great benefit in being told that a wine that costs $200 per bottle has been rated 95 by Robert Parker, there is a far greater benefit in being told that a wine that costs $9.99 is currently drinking like a bottle three times its price and is best drunk fresh and soon!

It is also always good to look for a wine on their lists that you know and like (or for that matter dislike) and compare their thoughts to your own. It’s unlikely that only one person is writing opinions on the website, but if you share some feelings in common on one or two wines, it’s definitely a good start.

Another worthwhile exercise is to send them an email, asking a few questions. Perhaps ask about a vineyard that they don’t stock or an older vintage. Ask what happens if you order a case and find that the wine is not to your taste whilst drinking the first bottle? See how quickly they respond and whether the tone of the response is courteous and meaningful. You may well be building a relationship with this retailer.

Finally, make sure that they are not taking advantage of tax. This is often the case when you are buying internationally. For example, a retailer in Australia sending wine abroad should deduct the local taxes from your bill. This can go some way towards paying your insurance and shipment costs.

So buying wine online can be a pleasant experience. In these days when mass market retailers rarely pay for staff with decent knowledge, it is refreshing to know that online, you can find someone you can trust!

Reference:
1. Wine.com – Wine, Wine Gifts and Wine Clubs from the #1 Online …
2. Amazon.com: Wine

Italian Chicken Cutlet Recipe

I have only tried this recipe once but it was absolutely delicious. My whole family loved it, and it’s rather easy to cook. Your family will enjoy it too, especially if you love Italian foods. It’s oh so scrumptious. This is great with any side dishes. Have fun with it, do something creative. Make it interesting for your young children. I do this all the time, let them help me decorate it with something, like  fresh herbs or something. They will love it.

2 whole chicken breasts, skinned, boned, halved
1/4 c. flour
3/4 c. dry bread crumbs
1 tsp. dried oregano leaves
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp. water
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1/4 tsp. dried basil leaves
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 c. oil
4 slices (4 oz.) Mozzarella cheese
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese

Place 1 chicken breast half, boned side up, between 2 pieces of plastic wrap or waxed paper. Working from center, gently pound chicken with rolling pin or flat side of meat mallet until about 1/4 inch thick. Repeat with remaining chicken pieces, making 4 cutlets. Coat chicken cutlets with flour. In shallow dish, combine bread crumbs, oregano and salt. In another shallow dish, combine egg and water. Dip each cutlet in egg mixture; coat with crumb mixture. In small saucepan, combine tomato sauce, basil and garlic powder. Cook over low heat until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat until it ripples. Add cutlets; cook until crisp and golden brown on one side, 6 to 8 minutes. Turn; cook other side about 2 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Top each cutlet with cheese slice. Cover skillet to melt cheese, about 1 minute. Place cutlet on serving plate. Serve with sauce and Parmesan cheese. 4 servings.

Reference:
1. Italian Nonna Chicken Cutlets Recipe | MUNCHIES
2. Come To My House: Italian Chicken Cutlet – YouTube

Is Coffee a Comforting Drink

It is a good question whether coffee is a comforting drink or just a habit. The best way to decide is by examining some good evidence of how coffee is a comforting drink.

Social

Some people spend quality time together drinking coffee and sharing interesting conversations. Some people meet at a coffee shop and strike up lasting friendships. Many people offer coffee to guests in their home (even hosts that do not actually drink coffee themselves). In some parts of the world, the phrase “go out for coffee” is the signal for hanging out with friends and having a good time. There is a reason, after all, that cafes and coffeehouses still exist. These are the places where folks gather to drink coffee and socialize. 

Long winter days and nights

If you could add up all of the coffee makers that are going throughout the winter months, the number might shock you. Sure lots of people enjoy hot cocoa and hot herbal tea, but even some of those people will partake of a hot cup of coffee at some point during the winter. Coffee seems to make the cold, harsh weather just a little more tolerable. Many people will stay home and drink coffee and have quality time with loved ones when it is too nasty outside to go anywhere.

Bonding over mugs

Believe it not, some people sit down and resolve disputes over a pot of coffee. Think about it: have you ever heard of people jumping up and beating each other up after drinking coffee? The overwhelming answer would probably be a no. To put it simply, sometimes enemies can become friends while talking over a good cup of coffee. That sounds rather dramatic, but it can happen more often than you think. It is easier to bond or at least be civil to each other when you share a common interest like coffee.

When times are tough

This is the prime example of how coffee is a comforting drink: during rough times in life. An unfortunate example is during the death of a loved one, there is almost always a pot of coffee brewing in the grieving homes. The reason for this could simply be because no one knows what to say or do for each other to ease the pain. Another example is that during stressful times like financial issues or troubles at work, people often will sit down with a cup of coffee and try to work out a solution. Somehow having that cup of coffee makes things just a wee bit less stressful.

Coffee can truly be a mentally and physically comforting beverage. The mental aspect could be from memories of mom/dad or grandma and grandpa drinking coffee and telling stories of days gone by. It could be because people feel they are more focused after having a cup of coffee. Physical comfort could be the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, the rich flavor or just the feeling of the warm mug in your hands. There are many people that would disagree that coffee is comforting, but true coffee drinkers can tell you otherwise. If you ask some coffee drinkers what made them start drinking it, they will have a fond memory or good story to tell you about it.

Reference:
1. Do You Find Coffee To Be a Soothing, Comforting Elixir? | Serious …
2. Comforting Coffee recipe – Drinksmixer

Thoughts on Food and Beverages

One of my most vivid recollections of Greece is set in the port of Piraeus. I haven’t checked the recent guidebooks of Rick Steves or the Lonely Planet, but in the mid-1960s Fielding and Fodor were ecstatic about a tavern and grocery store named Vasellina’s.

It was then a small and simple restaurant in a noncommercial area, but it was famous for its cuisine. The “lunch” I consumed lasted close to two hours. There was no menu – strictly table d’hote. My trip notes, now yellowed with age, still bring to my palate recollections of long ago.

Cleanse and prepare the taste buds with raw clams writhing under a shower of squeezed lemon. Wash down with retsina. Cold pink fish salad, great stout chunks of aromatic Roquefort, nibbles of smoked anchovies; shut the eyes and try not to think about what went into the surprisingly tasty head cheese.

While I am washing my gullet with more retsina, other courses arrive in leisurely succession. Greek olives, tomato and green pepper salad, shrimp, carrots, and pickles snuggling in a piquant sauce, octopus (will always taste like rubber bands and buttons), a dozen deep fried, breaded small fish called “marides,” and dolmades.

More wine, even if retsina makes me think I have been licking telephone poles. I pause for a breath or two, before diving into the scallop-sized, deep fried balls of langouste or tiny lobster, sausages, a cross-breed of Turkish borek and tamales, and exquisitely cooked mullet. A stretch and a concealed belch while the dour waiter is bringing hot, lemony soup and replenishing the wine carafe for the third or fourth time.

Then it’s time for stewed chicken. Top it all off with alternate bites of watermelon and cantaloupe and finally we are presented with a bill demanding about three dollars per person. No, that’s not an error. The year was 1968.

Despite the fame of the restaurant, we were the only patrons during the first four courses of our meal. Then in sailed Camille, an untidy, loud-mouthed grandmother, who managed to “fill” the restaurant all by herself. She had come from a ship plying from New York to Beirut with a stop in Piraeus.

She drew us into her circle of one, and we cringed in embarrassment as she began bossing the waiter around. “None of that furniture polish you call wine, I’ll take beer!” Her most charming maneuver was half masticating a wad of octopus and then plucking it from her maw to hurl to the two cats near our table.

Through her full-mouthed babblings, we learned that she was a writer of travel books, newspaper articles, etc. Born in England but sounding pretty much American, and dividing her time between Karachi and Beirut. Currently she was writing The Round the World Adventures of a Grandmother, for which James Michener had supposedly written a foreword.

Somewhere just before the lemon soup, she lurched upright and tacked toward the ladies’ loo. The catarrhal hackings we heard made us fear that she was losing all she had eaten thus far, but she reappeared in fine spirits and made the waiter wrap up everything she hadn’t eaten so she could take it back to the ship. As we were leaving, she wrote down our names, implored us to look her up in Beirut, told us what nice people we were, all with three or four watermelon seeds adhering to one of her chins or dewlaps.

We never got back to Beirut to take her up on her promised hospitality. I had assumed she must be long dead at this writing, but the wonders The most recent copyright date I found was 1998-thirty years after our meeting at Vasellina’s, an establishment that according to Google no longer exists.

Reference:
1.
2.

Tips for Throwing a Party

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This holds especially true when serving food at a formal buffet or a potluck supper. Whether setting a buffet table from your own kitchen or arranging dishes for a potluck supper, appearance can change a culinary mistake into a masterpiece.

Space permitting, the buffet table should be placed in the center of the room. However, if space is limited, the table may be along the side of the room.

A long buffet table, in the center of a room, provides access from all sides and will accommodate the largest group of guests in a timely fashion. If not, with the table along an outer edge, space should be made for the servers to replenish from behind.

Once the placement of the main buffet table is determined, cover the table with a cloth. Ideally, the cloth will extend to the floor on all sides presented to your guests.

The buffet table should then be set in the following order going around the table, if possible, or from one end to the other.

1) Dinner plates and/or bowls
2) Rice, Noodles or starch based dishes
3) Main dishes, meats, casseroles, hearty soups, etc.
4) Hot and/or cold vegetables
5) Salads
6) Breads
7) Relishes, condiments, dressings, etc.
8) Eating utensils
9) Napkins

Beverages, cups or glasses and additional napkins should be placed on a serving table remote from the main buffet table. If possible, it is ideal to set beverages on each dining table.

If dessert will be served plan to prepare yet another serving table in much the same fashion as the buffet table was prepared. Additional use of levels, layers and decorative items will fill the space not utilized for desserts if serving a single sheet cake or similar large item. Dessert plates, napkins and utensils should be placed at one end.

The secret to a fabulous display is never to place all the food on one level surface. It gives the appearance of bringing livestock to a trough.

Prior to bringing out the food, the buffet table should be prepared. Create all of your levels, steps, heights and valleys. Large books, empty baking dishes turned upside down, and sturdy but shallow boxes are appropriate. Allow sufficient space so dishes won’t easily be knocked off and then cover the created surfaces with additional fabric or table cloths.

Indicate where food platters or bowls can be placed by setting empty dishes of comparable size or chargers to hold the actual dish.

Use decorative items, suited to your theme, to further raise some dishes above the others. I find that plant stands are ideal for serving trays on a buffet table. Tiered plates, cake pedestals, even flowerpots turned upside down, can also be used to raise the food above the flat surface of the buffet table. The possibilities are endless.

Once you have created a multitude of levels for the food, use unexpected items to fill in the spaces between the serving plates. It will, of course, depend on your theme. Try to use a variety of sizes and textures when creating an attractive stage for the food.

Create an appealing display.

Lighting is important. If possible, use a variety of candles, twinkle lights or lamps to brighten the buffet table. Consider placing twinkling light strands under clouds of tulle or lace down the center of a long table. Create warmth and light using like colored candles of different shapes and sizes. Using small decorative lamps or oil-based lanterns can create a very romantic ambiance.

Remember, an enjoyable meal is not completely dependent upon the quality, taste or variety of the food. This is especially important when you do not control the food, as in the case of a potluck.

If a multitude of guests are bringing food for a potluck, it is best to have the food collected in a kitchen or ancillary room for organization prior to being placed on the buffet or serving tables. In any case, sort the dishes according to the sections of the buffet table and place a serving utensil with each dish. If dealing with more food than expected in any given category, plan on replacing dishes when they are emptied.

By setting an organized but exciting and interesting buffet table, your guests will find that serving themselves is more of an adventure in discovery than a chore.

Reference:
1.
2.

How to Make Spinach Gnocchi

Gnocchi is a traditional Italian dish of delightfully puffy little dumplings, most often made of potato and semolina. This dish goes back so far, it’s origins are lost in history. The word is thought to derive from “nocca” (knuckle), or perhaps come from “nocchio,” like Pinocchio, or a knot in wood. Useful as a side dish, or expanded to an entree, gnocchi is versatile and easy to make. This recipe uses spinach for a novel color and added nutritional value. Some serving suggestions have been included below.

Spinach Gnocchi

1 lb. whole milk ricotta cheese (low fat is not advised for this recipe)

1 lb fresh spinach

1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

2 large eggs

1 to 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Layer the inside of a colander with paper towels and lay the ricotta in it to drain excess moisture. Wash the spinach, pat or spin dry and chop finely.  Squeeze as much excess moisture out of the spinach as possible. In a large bowl, fluff the spinach with a fork, then add the lemon juice, ricotta, eggs, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Add 1 cup of flour to the bowl and mix by hand. Only use the remaining flour if the dough is too sticky to work. 

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Divid the dough into smaller pieces about the size of a lemon. By hand, lightly roll the dough into cylinders about the width of your little finger, stretching outward as you go. Cut the cylinders into 1 inch pieces, allow them to roll over your finger to shape. Mark a small depression in the pieces with the tines of a fork. 

Bring 6 quarts of salted water to boil in a stock pot. Add the gnocchi and stir to prevent sticking. Be careful not to overfill the pot, or it can be difficult to separate the gnocchi. As gnocchi cooks, it floats to the surface. Allow the floating gnocchi to cook about 1 more minute and remove with a slotted spoon. 

Serving suggestions:

Saute spinach gnocchi briefly in extra virgin olive oil. Toss with fresh grated parmesan cheese and serve.

Spinach gnocchi makes an excellent salad with sliced mushrooms, zucchini, roasted red peppers and chopped tomatoes. Drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil, basil and balsamic vinegar.

Smother the spinach gnocchi in your favorite spaghetti sauce and serve as an alternative to regular pasta. 

Reference:
1. Spinach Gnocchi Recipe – EatingWell
2. Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi : Recipes : Cooking Channel

Spinach more than Popeyes Elixir

If you are familiar with Popeye the sailor man, then you are also familiar with his love for spinach. At first, he is just another ordinary sailor. However, once he downs a can of spinach, he gains almost super human strength. Although eating a can of spinach (Spinacia oleracea) will not give you extraordinary powers, it does have several nutritional benefits.

Source of Iron

Spinach is a low calorie source of iron. Iron is a mineral that the body needs. It helps the red blood cells transport oxygen to the rest of the body’s cells.  Iron aids in energy production, immune health, and cell diffusion.  It is especially important for menstruating women, growing children, and adolescents to get enough iron. Spinach contains 2.7 milligrams of iron per 100 grams.

Antioxidants

Spinach contains vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin C, beta-carotene, manganese, and selenium. These antioxidants help to reduce free radical in the body. Free radicals have been shown to cause damage to cells that can lead to cancer. Antioxidants interact with these free radicals and help to stabilize them.  Foods like spinach, which are high in antioxidants, can help to prevent conditions like osteoporosis, atherosclerosis, and heart disease.

Cancer Fighter

Because spinach is loaded with antioxidants, it can also help to prevent certain cancers. It contains a carotenoid that works to protect the body against prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, stomach cancer, and skin cancer.

Improved Brain Function

You can fight the effects of aging with spinach. The beta-carotene found in spinach helps to fight age related macular degeneration, improve memory, and it helps to keep the nervous system healthy.

Lowers Blood Pressure

Spinach contains magnesium which works to lower blood pressure and regulate blood sugar levels.  Cooked spinach contains about 157 mg of magnesium, and raw spinach contains 24 mg. Spinach also contains 167 mg of potassium. Potassium is an electrolyte that helps to balance the sodium in a person’s system.

Anti-inflammatory

Excessive inflammation in the body can lead to cancer, arthritis,osteoporosis,asthma, and migraine headaches. Spinach is also packed full of anti-inflammatory agents. Those anti-inflammatory agents are beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin K.

Increase Fiber

Spinach is loaded full of fiber. Fiber helps to keep the digestive system healthy. Because it takes longer to digest, fiber rich foods like spinach can help one feel fuller longer and help to regulate blood sugar levels. The fiber found in spinach gives bulk to stool. This makes it softer and easier to pass.

Spinach may not be able to give you the strength of Popeye, but it is a super food. It is packed full of vitamins and minerals. Best of all, spinach is affordable, available all year, and low in calories.

Reference:
1.
2.