Category : Food and Drink – Other

The best Kinds of Tomatoes to use for Making Tomato Sauce

Walk through your local grocery store’s produce section and you will likely find a multitude of tomato varieties. Beefsteak, plum, roma, cherry, grape, and campari are just a few of the many that can be found, not to mention the abundance of the nightshade fruit during the summer. One dilemma that often poses a challenge to home cooks is deciding which tomato to use for a specific dish. Even more intimidating, attempting to make homemade tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes can appear daunting when faced with several tomato varietals. Although there are many options available, there are only a few tomatoes worth using to create a memorable meal.

Before explaining the strengths and weaknesses of certain tomato varietals, it is important to note that the type of tomato used is actually less important than how it is used. Careful preparation and an understanding of how tomatoes cook is essential to creating a great sauce. Once common mistake made when attempting tomato sauce is to use the entire tomato. When cooked, the skin of the tomato will give the sauce a bitter and unpleasant taste. Therefore, the tomatoes should be blanched and the skins removed. Next, some tomato varieties have a high water content and many seeds that will require longer cooking, and any extra cooking time will alter the fresh taste of the tomatoes. In order to avoid this, the tomatoes should be cut, drained and seeded after blanching.

Concerning the type of tomatoes used, a few suitable varieties found in most produce sections include plum, roma and beefsteak tomatoes. Beefsteak tomatoes, large and oblong-shaped, are one type of tomato that can be used in homemade sauces. When using beefsteak tomatoes, it is crucial to remove extra water and seeds that would dilute the sauce. Plum tomatoes are small and longer than they are round, and their small size makes for a high flavor concentration. Plum tomatoes and others like them are very suitable for sauces, and are often called “pasta” tomatoes.

Third, roma tomatoes are a type of plum tomato which perform well in tomato sauces. Roma tomatoes contain few seeds and lack the mealy texture of many others. Roma tomatoes are often preferred over other types because of their Italian origin.

When choosing a tomato to make a homemade sauce, it is important to remember that tomatoes should be firm, lack bruises and appear vibrant in color. It is not wise to cook with tomatoes that are not yet fully ripe or have discolorations. The manner in which the tomatoes are prepared plays a major role in the outcome of the sauce, and the type of sauce desired will determine how to prepare them. For pomodoro or thinner sauces, not all of the seed areas need to be removed. However, for thicker sauces, only the “meat” portion of the tomatoes should be used. Additionally, the other ingredients used will undoubtedly have an impact on the flavor of the tomatoes. Using fresh tomatoes in a homemade sauce is well worth the effort, as long as the tomato is allowed to lead the other flavors and is not overpowered by additions such as salt or garlic.


Handy Freezer Foods

In today’s world, the majority live very busy lives. And although there is advancement in the high tech age and better communication, it seems like there isn’t sufficient hours within a day in order to complete tasks. With the long commute to and from work, kid’s school and extra curriculum activities, and in between all those activities, each household has to deal with daily nutrition. Therefore, it’s imperative that the right food supplies are available so as to ensure a smooth and efficient running of the kitchen.

Not only is it important to stock the pantry, but, it’s also makes good sense to keep the right food supplies on hand in the freezer. This important habit saves on precious time and money. Foods in the pantry and refrigerator have shorter shelf lives; however, the ones in the freezer will naturally last longer and can be retrieved when needed for an extended time. Some of the recommended foods to have on hand in the freezer are:

Fruits

Fruits are picked and packed at their ripest. Moreover, they are cheaper than their fresh and canned counterparts. Because they are packed at their ripest they retain their beneficial vitamins and minerals. One great rule of thumb is to purchase supplies when there is a glut on the market Wash and pack them securely; then, place in the freezer. Fruits like blueberries, strawberries and other berries are excellent choices to have on hand in the freezer. They are great for smoothies and homemade pies. Instead of tossing those wilted bananas, peel them and place them in ziplock bags.

Vegetables

Vegetables are also excellent to have on hand in the freezer. Try to shop seasonal for the fresh ones and save on prices. All you need to do is to blanch these veggies, remove the excess liquid and store them securely in the freezer. Blanching means to cook quickly and then stop the cooking process by placing in a cool or icy bathe. This process ensures veggies to retain their bright hues and crispiness. Like frozen fruits, veggie prices are competitive compared to the canned and the fresh ones. Some of the popular veggies to purchase are green peas, spinach, broccoli, pumpkin, carrots and a variety of others.

A frozen pumpkin puree can be defrost and then add to a creamy macaroni and cheese dish or even a sweet pie. Frozen veggies on a whole a great for soups, salads, and stir-fries.

When purchasing both frozen fruits and vegetables, make sure to examine for freshness. You do so by shaking the packet or bag to see that they are loose which indicates freshness.

Lean protein

Another important food item to have on hand is protein. This can come in the form of seafood, chicken, turkey, and/or chopped meat. It’s a great idea to have on hand dark and white poultry. These are handy to make a succulent bake chicken or turkey dish along with a medley of root vegetables. A one pot meal can be had by cooking a hearty chicken or turkey soup by utilizing fresh and frozen vegetables.

Secure omega fatty acids by cooking a quick and healthy seafood dish. Defrost shrimp and make a tasty stir fry meal by adding veggies and serve over a bed of rice. Defrost, season and pan sear a great piece of snapper or sea bass after brushing with orange juice, honey and mustard. When defrosting seafood, it’s a good idea to move excess liquid on a paper towel.

Chopped meat, whether beef or pork, is another good idea to have in the freezer. Any one of these can be added to a homemade tomato sauce. Brown beef or pork and set aside. Stir fry diced onions in olive oil. Add garlic and fresh/canned tomatoes along with parsley/basil. Proceed to add browned meat and simmer. Bear in mind that meatballs could be substituted and added to sauce.

Breakfast foods

When you are swamped for extra time in the morning hours and there is no time to prepare a pancake batter from scratch, it is a perfect idea to grab a wholewheat frozen waffle or pancake from the freezer. All that is needed is the toaster. A splash of honey or a quick defrosting of a few berries in the microwave oven to spread on top. 


Foods that Make you Feel Bloated

When you eat, it’s because you’re feeling hungry – or at least that’s what most people do. Once you’ve eaten, you want to feel satisfied, without feeling bloated. Your clothes feel tight, your stomach seems to grow in a matter of minutes, and you feel lethargic, as if everything is just too much trouble.

The meal you’ve just eaten hasn’t boosted your energy, it’s sapped it. In addition, you may be making embarrassing sounds from either or both ends. While eating too much at mealtimes can leave you with that bloated feeling, there are certain foods that can also be responsible.

Fatty foods

Deep fried foods, and foods high in fat such as processed meats and pies, take longer to digest than either proteins or carbohydrates. Therefore the food remains in the stomach for longer, which causes that feeling of bloatedness and the ‘at least 6 months pregnant’ look. Too much fat is bad news for your skin and your figure, so limit the amount of fatty foods you eat to reduce bloating.

Some fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are major components of a healthy diet – everyone knows that. However, some vegetables can add to that bloated feeling. Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, apricots and prunes are the usual subjects. Their special combination of sugars and starches is responsible for that bloating sensation. While you don’t need to avoid these foods completely, it may be wise to ensure that you don’t eat more than one of these bloat-inducers at any meal.

Salty foods

While salty foods may not have as many bloating effects as other foods, they do cause the body to retain fluid, which contributes to bloating. Avoid foods with high salt content such as nuts, crisps, processed foods and fast foods.  In addition, don’t add extra salt at the table, and get into the habit of checking labels for salt content. More than 75% of salt intake comes from processed foods. Aim to consume no more than 1 teaspoon of salt each day.

Chewing gum and boiled sweets

This is a surprising one, but the fact is, when you chew a lot or suck a lot, you swallow more than you do with normal eating. This means you’re taking in more air, which can contribute to that bloated feeling. If you’re an habitual gum chewer or sweet sucker, you need to bear this in mind.

Dairy products

Many people are lactose intolerant without even realizing it. These people are short on the enzyme lactase, which is needed by the body to break down milk sugar from dairy products. If you’ve avoided the usual suspects and still suffer from bloating, it could be down to lactose intolerance. Try eliminating dairy products for a few days and see if that cures the problem. These days, it’s possible to buy lactose reduced dairy products, so you don’t need to deprive yourself of dairy completely.

While these foods are know causes of bloating, everyone is individual, and something that causes bloating in some people may not affect others. If you suffer from long term bloating, consult your doctor, in order to rule out any underlying medical causes such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other digestive disorders.


Five Indispensable Kitchen Tools

It doesn’t matter how good a cook you are, there are certain things you need to help you to create those culinary masterpieces. Notice the title of the article is ‘5 indispensible kitchen tools,’ not ‘5 indispensible kitchen gadgets.’

The difference between the two is this – you need tools, whereas you want gadgets. Or perhaps clever advertising has convinced you of the need for a specific kitchen gadget. Here – in no particular order, as they say on the best reality shows – are five indispensible kitchen tools.

Knives

Just as you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs, you can’t cook very much without cutting things up, so a good set of knives is a must in any kitchen. Buy the best you can afford, and don’t be tempted to order online to save a few dollars. Your knives should be so comfortable to use they’re almost an extension of your arm. Handle the knives before you buy, and if they don’t feel right, move on to the next set.

Store your knives in a wooden knife block or on a wall-mounted magnetic rack. If they’re rattling around a drawer with other kitchen utensils, the blades could get damaged. And don’t use your knives on marble worktops, as this will also damage the blades. Use a proper chopping board made from wood or polypropylene. Care for your knives and they’ll serve you well for many years. 

Balloon whisks

Food processors are all well and good, but when it comes to smooth sauces, batters and gravies or fluffy scrambled eggs, you can’t beat a balloon whisk. (Pun intended!) Ideally, buy a set of at least three whisks of different sizes. A small whisk, which will fit into cups and small bowls is ideal for whisking up hot chocolate or small amounts of salad dressing. Use larger whisks if you’re making scrambled eggs for six, or an omelet to feed an army.

Grater

Every kitchen needs at least one grater. A grater isn’t only for cheese – although it’s very useful for that toasted cheese sandwich. There are lots of different models around, but the most useful types are those with coarse and medium grating surfaces, with an integral bowl or tray to catch the grated goodies.

The finer grater is good for grating garlic for garlic mayonnaise, and ginger for Indian and Chinese cookery. It will also double up as a zester for citrus fruits, but be careful not to incorporate any white pith, as this could impart a bitter flavour to your food.

A useful Spanish kitchen technique is to grate rather than chop tomatoes for use in soups, stews and sauces. Start from the rounded end of the tomato and use the coarse grating surface. As you work away, the skin will peel back, making a shield for your fingers and ensuring that every last bit of the tomato is used. It’s  great to watch, and it helps to bring out the intense flavour of the tomato.

Vegetable peeler

Okay, you could use a knife for this, but a sturdy peeler with a swivelling blade gives so much more control. You’ll be peeling all sorts of things, from delicate pears for poached pears in red wine, to thick-skinned turnips for winter soups. Choose a sturdy, rubber-handled peeler, rather than a flimsy metal model. It’s easier to handle when your hands are wet, and the extra weight gives more pressure to the blade. 

A swivel blade gives you much more control, meaning less waste and a neater job.  Some peelers have interchangeable blades, which are great for different peeling jobs, or creating attractive garnishes.

Skillet

A non-stick, heavy-based skillet is a real kitchen essential. Whether you want to cook the perfect steak, sear a fresh salmon fillet, or cook up a great curry, a skillet is probably the most indispensible tool in the kitchen. If you had no more pans to your name, you could rustle up a wide range of meals with just a skillet.

Buy the best you can afford, and if possible, get one with a see-through lid. Then you have more cooking options available to you, as you can fry fish and different cuts of meat, or cook curries and one-pot meals without the risk of evaporation.

All cooks will have their own ideas about which are the most indispensible tools in the kitchen. However, the items mentioned above will be used on an almost daily basis, so they earn their places in the list.

Sources:

http://www.deliaonline.com/equipment/knives-scissors-and-graters.html

http://www.cooksillustrated.com/images/document/howto/MJ07_KitchenTools.pdf