Monday, January 21, 2008

A Favorite Condiment: Frank's Red Hot

I love Red Hot. It's my universal hot sauce. If something tastes bland, or not that good, I just put on some Red Hot and it's instantly improved.

I've used Red Hot on pasta, poultry, chinese food, mexican food, salads; basically, anything that needs a flavor boost.

Why do I like Red Hot better than other hot sauces? Red Hot adds some heat, but not that much; it's the overall savory and tangy flavor that tastes so good.

Red Hot is made from only five ingredients: aged cayenne peppers, vinegar, water, salt, and garlic powder. Maybe it's the aged cayenne peppers that make it taste so wonderful. Or perhaps it's the fact that even though there is some heat, your tongue doesn't feel as if it will fall off.

Red Hot boasts that it was used in the first ever buffalo wing in Buffalo, New York in 1964. That's quite an accomplishment considering buffalo wings are eaten all over the country now. As a matter of fact, the National Chicken Council estimated that during Super Bowl weekend in 2007, more than 1 billion wing portions were served! That's approximately 90 million pounds of wings!

If you have never had Red Hot, I highly recommend it. Give it a try, it'll add some pizazz to an otherwise boring meal.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Steps to Keeping your Kitchen Safe: Refrigerator Temperature

It's important to keep your refrigerator below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, (5 degrees Celsius) at all times. It's easy to check the temperature of your fridge; stick a thermometer on the middle shelf of your fridge for a few minutes and you'll see if you are above or below the 40 degree mark. If you have a newer fridge, there is probably a temperature gauge which is great. It's still not a bad idea to double check the temperature of the fridge with a thermometer to make sure it is fairly accurate.

Why is it important to keep the fridge below this temperature? If food is kept above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, it harbors the growth of bacteria. Below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, bacteria will stop multiplying. The fewer bacteria there are, the less likely anyone will get sick.

When you freeze food, bacteria growth stops completely. It won't kill the bacteria that is already on the food, but it will stop it from growing further. Freezing food at 0 degrees Fahrenheit, or -18 degrees Celsius will accomplish the goal of stopping the bacteria growth.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Did You Know? Banana Facts

Did you know that bananas are always picked green? If they were ripened on the plant, bananas would be very mushy inside.

When buying bananas, it's perfectly okay to purchase them somewhat green, but it's important to let them ripen on a counter top in your kitchen. Don't put bananas in the fridge!

The only time it is alright to keep a banana in the fridge is when the banana is already fully ripe. Placing the banana in the fridge will turn the skin black, but the flesh inside will still be fine. Placing a banana in the fridge is the best way to slow down the deterioration of a fully ripe banana.

Bananas with brown speckles are wonderful to eat; it is at this point when they are very sweet.

Bananas are available all year round and come from tropical locations.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Peppermint Bark - Fun For Kids

Christmas is over, trees are being disposed of, and decorations are being put away until next year. And then there's always the leftover candy canes. What should I do with them? Stick some in my purse and use them as breath mints? Keep a bowl out for the kids? Feed them to a horse?

No! I say, make peppermint bark! It's so simple to make, and with no eggs or other raw foods it's very safe for the kids to help with.

Peppermint Bark
Makes approximately 30 bite size pieces

12 ounces of white chocolate
3 ounces of candy canes

The first thing to do with this recipe is set up a bain-marie (double boiler). A bain-marie is used to keep things from burning. It's a method often used to melt chocolate, or make mayonnaise or hollandaise sauce.

It's very simple to make a bain-marie. Take a pot, and fill it about 1/3 full with water. Then take a bowl that will sit nicely on top of the pot without touching the water. Heat gently under a low to medium flame. Now the bain-marie is ready to use.

Take the white chocolate, and place it in the top bowl of the bain-marie. It will start to gently melt.

Stir the chocolate occasionally, until all of the chocolate is melted.

In the meanwhile, place the candy canes into a ziploc bag, seal the bag without air in it, and crush them with a rolling pin, or something else heavy.

When the chocolate is completely melted, turn the heat off, and fold in the peppermint pieces until well incorporated.

Then, on a waxed covered cookie sheet, pour out the chocolate and peppermint mixture.

Spread this mixture out carefully until it is 1/8-1/4 of an inch thick.

Let the chocolate harden, which takes approximately 20 minutes. You can also set this aside for a few hours and come back to it if need be.

Finally, break the hardened chocolate into bite size pieces.

The taste of the peppermint bark is mildly sweet and cooling.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Steps to Keeping Your Kitchen Safe: Cutting Boards

I've decided to start a little series about food hygiene and food safety in the kitchen. There are lots of myths and misinformation out there, so I'll hopefully be able to give you some facts about how to keep your kitchen safe and clean.

Today I am going to talk about cutting boards. The most important thing to remember about cutting boards is to keep raw meats away from everything else. Raw meat carries bacteria, viruses and basically every icky thing that you end up killing when you cook and heat food. Therefore, it's a really terrible idea to, for example, chop some raw beef and then chop a tomato on the same board without washing it carefully in between uses.

A common myth is that hot soapy water is enough to kill germs and bacteria. Hot soapy water is not enough!! If you have raw meat on your cutting board, you not only need to wash it with hot soapy water, but you also need to sanitize it by either running it through the dishwasher or rinsing it in a solution of one teaspoon of chlorine bleach to one quart of water.

The easiest way to keep food safe and tasting it's best is to own two cutting boards. Each side of each cutting board has a different use. It's easy to mark them either with nail polish or a permanent marker so that you can know which side is which.

One cutting board should have one side for raw meat, and the other side for cooked meat and dairy. The second cutting board should be for veggies, fruits and breads. One side should be used for savory foods such as onions, garlic and scallions, and the other side should be for sweet foods such as grapefruit or strawberries. Nobody likes strawberries with the essence of garlic!

Using simple steps to keep your cutting boards clean and separated for specific ingredients should help keep food borne illness at bay and maintain the quality of the food you eat.