The Blueprints to Cooking

Photo By PeopleImages

Once you have been cooking for a while, you can really get comfortable playing around with recipes and even start making up your own. It’s exciting when you go in the kitchen, and you don’t have to follow any directions, and you get to be as creative as you want. Most of this creativity usually stems from not having any food in the kitchen and trying to make do with what you have. There have definitely been times when I’ve avoided going to the grocery store, so I made pasta out of what I had. It ended up being one of my favorites that I’ve made regularly.

Making up your own dishes and recipes a lot easier when you understand ingredients and what works best with them. That being said, some of the most random combinations go so well together. I have a beef rub seasoning that I bought that black cherry flavor, and it really weirded me out in the beginning but ends up making a great rub on tri-tip. This has got to be one of the weird accommodations, but cherry and beef just go together for some reason. So don’t let basic conventions stop you from trying to make your own excellent flavor profile that will end up with a dish that is the best. Check out this article on how to make your own recipes and maybe you can apply it to your next crazy combination.

Starting with no recipe can be a really great way to get your creative juices flowing in the kitchen and can make for a really great end result. Not always having a recipe is a blessing, and everyone should give it a try when they go into the kitchen. You can change the cooking techniques and the spices you have, and every time you cook, it will be extra fun and exciting. Not only is this a great way to really understand the flavor profile of ingredients, but it can be a creative outlet. Take a look at this article with the best food combinations and hopefully it inspires you to try some of your own.

Don’t worry about those dishes that come out a little questionable. No one is going to remembers those when you have a significant breakthrough in the kitchen. A kitchen is a place that you should be able to let go of rules and be creative and experiment with new and exciting too. Being inspired by a dish and making further changes can help tailor the recipe to you and put your own signature twist on it. Let me know what great combinations you come up with and let me know and Twitter with a photo and your trial recipe.

Air Fried…. Hmmm

Photo By PerfectLoop

I recently got an air fryer; although I am a person who doesn’t like these modern kitchen appliances, I think it has become one of my favorite kitchen items. Air fryers are a great way to save money and make healthier options with a reduction of deep-fried food. Air frying cannot replace frying entirely, but it’s an excellent alternative for specific dishes. It’s also a quicker process than heating up the entire oven and waiting for the preheating to be done.

Air frying saves money in one significant way it’s a smaller area that gets heated, and it doesn’t require any sort of preheating time. If you turn on the oven, you have to have the time that it takes to preheat and heating the entire space while you’re cooking your dish. It’s probably the same energy use as a small toaster oven. If you got a convection toaster oven, you’d probably get similar results. The one thing that’s nice about mine versus a convection oven is that the fan is on the top, so it blows hot air directly down on the field versus from the side like a standard convection oven.  I haven’t tried baking in the air fryer, so I couldn’t tell you if that would replace the over in whole.

It’s important to know when an air fryer will be more effective at getting similar results as fried. I’ve tried putting potatoes, eggrolls, chicken wings, and vegetables in the air fryer and got some of the products to as if I had fried them. The chicken wings were less greasy and felt a lot healthier than when I deep fry them—the same thing with the eggrolls. I felt like less oil was getting stuck inside, and they ended up being a lot lighter. I did try doing fried chicken in the air fryer, but I didn’t get a good result, and I felt like the coating was just peeling away from the chicken very quickly. The best way to know what dishes come out best in the air fryer is to try them out, try a sample and if it doesn’t work out, then stick to the deep frying. Check out this link to some great air fried recipes.

The air fryer is definitely a healthier alternative because you don’t have as much fat and oil in the food as if you were to deep fry. If you don’t eat a lot of fried food and it’s a treat, you might want to just stick to the traditional ways you get that extra crispy result that you’re used to. Suppose you’re in the market of buying a toaster oven. In that case, I will probably push you towards buying an air fryer but by no means am I saying that you need to start saving up to go buy an air fryer. Here’s a link to some great air fryers, and they are tested and raked to see which one is best for your needs. Catch up with me on Twitter and let me know what great air fryer recipes you’ve tried and how you think they held up to the original.

Regional Foods

Photo by Golubovy

I talked about how food around the world differs and the influences of culture and religion on those dishes. I thought it was pertinent to mention that food just around the United States is vastly different. We have dishes that identify with specific areas such as New England chowder, Maine lobster, New Orleans gumbo, and Tex-Mex. You can basically go on a culinary tour just by taking a road trip with the states that neighbor you. I want to talk to you a bit about how these areas influence the dishes and create a unique flavor profile.

The main things that create different dishes from region to region are the availability of certain ingredients. Coastal states will usually have many more dishes that have seafood, and it will be the predominant meat in most of the dishes. Dishes in areas with lots of flat land and cattle country will tend to have a lot more beef and other meat-based dishes. Produce is also highly affected by the site in which the dish originated. We see a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables in dishes in California, Oregon, and Florida. That being said, it is primarily dependent on what is available seasonally within those locations. Take a look at this article that talks about farm to table and seasonal ingredients.

People also bring a significant influence on the food that is found in these regions. Parts of California and Texas can have a heavy Mexican impact due to them sharing a border with Mexico. There is a hybrid of American Mexican food found in these areas that is like no other. People bring a significant influence because we can meld cultures through food and experimenting with different ingredients. If you want to learn more about cultures and how they can melt, look at this article; it brings up some exciting points.

Hopefully, this is inspired you to look at the foods in your town and see how they have been influenced by different cuisines. It is a great way to experience the culture and the people. Hence, it’s certainly important to go in brace yourself in these areas. Let me know what your favorites are, and hopefully, you find a new dish that becomes your absolute favorite. Let me know on Twitter what interesting dishes you discover.

Cooking With Fats and Oils

Photo by Africa Studio

One thing that everyone needs to keep in mind when cooking is what fat you’re using and when it is appropriate. By this, I mean certain oils, butter, and fats can be used in various ways to get the best results when cooking a dish. I’m going to go over a few tips and tricks that can help you navigate the multitude of options out there. Some are better for a specific application, while others are better for others.

One of the most popular oils available right now is olive oil, and people tend to use that for everything they do in the kitchen. Olive oil has a very shallow smoke point, so it can’t get very hot before the oil smokes. Virgin and extra-virgin olive oil have an even lower smoke point which makes them not ideal for cooking. Avocado oil is excellent for cooking because it has a very high smoke point. It still has similar health benefits as olive oil. I also think that avocado oil brings less flavor to dressings, so if you’re making a mayo when you want it to taste like mayo, I will stick with the avocado over the olive oil.  If you are going to make mayo, check out this fool proof recipe.

Butter is also a great way to start a dish, but I tend to go and clarify my butter first if I’m bringing the temperature higher. Clarified butter is just butter that has the milk solids removed, and this can be done by warming up and melting the butter and then just skimming out the milk solids. This will give you the same great buttery taste but not burn on the pan. This is a deal when making pancakes or waffles because we’ve all seen those overly brown edges that we get on pancakes. 

Another great way to add flavor to a dish is using some sort of meat fat as the base of your dish. This is great if you have it available, but it does come with extra health concerns because usually, it is not the healthiest form of fats. I always have a little bit of bacon grease on the side that I can use when needed. If you’re looking for the healthiest option, check out this article. This does add an extra layer of flavor, but it can also be a concern if you’re cooking a vegetarian dish. It’s usually easier to stick with clarified butter or avocado oil, as mentioned earlier.

That’s its oil can be a complicated aspect of cooking. Hopefully, knowing a few of the basics will help you navigate this vast market. There’s also quite a bit of research you can do online. Here’s a link to an article that has a more in-depth explanation. Hopefully, this will be bringing you one step closer to cooking your own fresh meals. Let me know on Twitter how your cooking experience goes and what fat you used to start the dish.

Cast Iron Cooking

Photo by Rixipix

Today I want to talk to you about one of my favorite kitchen tools: a cast-iron skillet. Now I own multiple cast-iron pans and a couple of Dutch ovens, and I love all of them, and I use all of them very frequently. Cast iron is a great way to cook because you can get the heat boiling, and if you season your pan correctly, it will be a virtually nonstick surface. Currently, I have cast-iron that is a lodge which I highly recommend. I think they’re an excellent vessel for a great price.

When I get a new cast iron skillet, I strip off the manufacturer seasoning with some steel wool. Then I will spread some avocado oil and bake it at really high heat to get that seasoning. Here’s a link to some directions that you can use if you want to season a new cast iron skillet or re-season when you’ve had it for a while. When you clean up your cast-iron skillet after using it, you want to make sure that you don’t use any sort of detergent or abrasive cleaner? The best method I’ve seen is to use a simple brush and some salt, and it takes off all the primary food particles while keeping that good nonstick coating.

You can cook virtually anything in a cast iron; it’s a great way, especially if you don’t have a barbecue grill; it’s a great way to get a good sear on meats. I will cook vegetables for fajitas and burritos in my cast-iron skillet; it’s just a very versatile tool. I also recommend you get a Dutch oven style which is about 6 to 8 inches deep, and it’s a great thing to use when you’re frying. I know many people go out and purchase little fryers that or made especially for that purpose, but I have a lack of storage space in my kitchen. I like to have things that are multitaskers, and I can cut down on kitchen clutter. So, when you go to use your cast iron skillet, you want just to let it heat up on high heat and then put a little bit of oil in there and almost bring it to that smoke point. After you see a slight bit of smoke coming off the fat, you can add whatever food you are if your searing meats or trying to get a char on some vegetables will happen pretty quickly. After the foods in there for a few minutes, I will turn the heat down to medium-high and cook the remaining way.

Hopefully, you already have a cast-iron skillet, and you can use it more, but if not, take a look at this link that has some of the best-cast iron skillets ranked. Cast-iron cookware is just a great multitasker in the kitchen, and again it cuts down on the clutter. They’re a versatile tool that will last you more than a lifetime if you take care of it, and it’s one of the first things you should invest in when you’re buying things for your kitchen. Share some of your favorite cast-iron recipes with me on Twitter, and if you have any questions on how to use your cookware, reach out to me as well.

Healthy Cooking

Photo By Lisovskaya

There’s a rumor out there that if you make healthy food, it doesn’t taste good, and it won’t satisfy your cravings. I’m here to let you know that’s not true, and you can make some delicious healthy dishes that will help you stay healthy. I struggle to keep to a specific diet in my life just because there’s so much good food around us. It’s incredibly tempting to just stop by at the fast-food restaurant or the Mexican joint down the street when we are on our way home from work. If we have food that we know can taste just as good made it home, we can save money and save our health.

The first thing is I think everyone sleeps on salads, but they are such a healthy and tasty alternative to heavy entrées. Yes, salads can be the main dish and sometimes I prefer to be that way. No, I’m not saying that I don’t add a bunch of substance to my salads to make them a meal, but they end up being one of my favorite things to make and. I often do a southwest-style salad where I’ll do an avocado dressing, lettuce, black beans, roasted corn, some diced jalapeños, and I will add a little bit of some baked tortilla strips on top. Depending on the day, I can add chicken, steak, shrimp, or fish as an excellent protein source and a little bit more food to fill you up. I also love making an Asian-style salad, and I find these fried wonton strips at the grocery store add a perfect little crunch to any salad. If you need more inspiration, look at this website with so many great salad recipes.

Yes, I get it; sometimes you want a hot meal when you get home, and the salad it’s just not going to cut it. Take a look at this link; it has some great recipes with some healthy options that are incredibly easy to make. One of my favorite healthy dishes to make is chicken fried rice. For this, I used boneless skinless chicken breast, and I use brown rice instead of white. The trick here is to make the rice the day before, and I will actually put it in the fridge uncovered and then use it to make fried rice the next day. I also add a couple of extra eggs so that I get more egg to rice ratio. You can also add a ton of vegetables so that you’re getting a well-balanced meal.

Overall, with a little bit of planning and a little bit of flexibility, you can add healthy food to your diet very easily. Being healthy is more than just taking a look at the calories but it is having a well-balanced diet and still getting that great enjoyment from your food. Hopefully, I have inspired you all to look at those healthy recipe links. Once you find those perfect recipes and give them a try, hit me up on Twitter and let me know how it goes. Everyone keep it cooking!

Pasta! Pasta! Pasta!

Photo by Jiri Hera

Have you ever wanted to make your perfect pasta from scratch? Well, I got inspired this last week and gave it a good old college try. Saying It didn’t go well would be an understatement. I ended up with soggy broken noodles that were either too thick or too thin. The whole process did teach me a lot, though, and I attempted to try it again, and I think it was a much more successful attempt. In the end, the only way that we can gain skills is to practice practice practice, and that’s what I plan to do with pasta for the next few months. I’m going to have to make small batches because I don’t want to eat that much pasta, though.

The first real issue that I had was that the dough was tough, and I don’t think it was the right consistency. This could be based on my location. I live in Nevada, which is a very dry climate, and it could just be that my flour was drier, or it could be that my eggs were smaller. Now, this both could’ve been slightly alleviated if I had used weight measurements instead of volume. I think weight measurements are way more accurate, especially when it comes to eggs considering eggs can be pretty diversely sized. The second time I attempted the recipe, I found a different recipe that used weight measurements and dusted off my handy-dandy kitchen scale. The next thing was I was pretty inconsistent in the rolling. I had some very thick spots and some that were thinner. I miss judged how much the pasta would swell when put in the boiling water, which made some of my pasta pieces way too thick to be good fettuccine. This could be made more accessible by using a pasta roller which I did not have and don’t want to invest in. On my second attempt, I was just more careful and thorough about making sure that it was rolled out to an even depth. Then I cooked off a test strip to make sure it was just right.  This made me more confident in finishing off the rest of the dough, and it ended up with a much neater consistent result.

Overall, making pasta was a kind of relaxing and fun activity, and I hope to continue to do it in the future to gain better skills. I also want to try making pasta with additional ingredients added to them, such as spinach or tomato, to add a little variety to the flavor. Eventually, I’m going to invest in one of those pasta rollers because can I just say it’s an exhausting time ruling it out by hand. I recommend this article; it has photos, which helps the pasta process go a lot smoother. Hopefully, all of you are inspired to grab some eggs, flour, and salt and start making your fresh pasta.

Indian cuisine

Photo By Lisovskaya

Last week, I did a blog post about international cuisine and how it plays such a crucial part in our culinary experience. I figured my own culture deserved its blog post, so I wanted to get a little bit into Indian cuisine and some of the things I love. Growing up, food was a significant portion of every important event in my life; from holidays to birthdays, it all revolved around the meal. Since joint families are prevalent in Indian cultures, I was able to experience the cooking from my grandparents, aunts, and my mother, which allowed me to experience away variety of Indian cuisine.

Now, although my specific religion would traditionally be a vegetarian-based diet, my dad, who was a big proponent of eating everything, introduced us to all sorts of different Indian dishes as well. One thing to keep in mind when cooking Indian food is that many spices and ingredients are the same; it’s just a different method for preparing them that changes a dish completely. You can’t talk about Indian cuisine without talking about the variety of spices and the different aromas and flavors that they bring to the plate. One of the most versatile spaces is a gram masala which is a blend of multiple spices. Although this is a blend available in most grocery stores, it can also be made home with a mix of your herbs. Blending your own is very common in an Indian household, and it will vary from region and family, giving it its unique flavor. Some of the essential spices include chili powder, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, and cloves. That list can go on for days and can get quite substantive so take a look at this link that breaks down a few of the most popular spices and flavor profiles.

As I said earlier, cooking Indian dishes just depends on the cooking method. A dish can have the same ingredients but be roasted in the oven or pan-fried on the stove, and it will just end up being completely different. When it comes to cooking methods, dishes are primarily made on the stove and add a medium to low heat where they can simmer and bring out the spices’ flavors. Indian cooking is quite forgiving for first-time chefs; it can be something that can be saved if you think you messed it up. One of my favorite dishes is Aloo Gobi which is cauliflower and potatoes in a potent spiced seasoning. It is a simple dish but is the definition of comfort food for me.

Hopefully, this is inspired you guys to cook some of those fantastic Indian dishes that are available; here’s a link to some great recipes if you want to give them a try. If you’re looking for any of those Indian spices, most of them are found in the local grocery stores or check out and see if you have a local Indian market in your area. At the very least, if I inspired you to go out to an Indian restaurant and try some dishes, you never have let me know on Twitter what your thoughts are. Let’s all keep it cooking.

Eating with our senses…

Photo By Paparacy

One of the first things I learned when I started taking culinary classes where the people eat with all of their senses. This means that we have to look at how dishes are presented visually, the aroma, their texture, and lastly, you have to take a look at how they taste. If you understand all of these aspects, then you can create a more cohesive dish and end up with a better result. So, I wanted to go over some of the elements of these different senses so that you can get those restaurant-quality meals at home.

The first thing that people usually sense when they’re eating is the aroma. How many times have you come home and smell onions sweating on the stove or garlic roasting in a pan? It’s a great way to build the flavor profile without even tasting the dish. In specific cuisines such as Thai, many people can see if there is a bright balance in spices and flavors just by the smell; that’s why it is so important to pay attention to your food’s aroma.

Next is the visual aspect of food; it is said that people eat as much with their eyes as they do with their mouth. I’m one of those who fall privy to the dessert cart that they were all around the restaurant because they know that I’m going to have to eat it as soon as I see that chocolate cake. Balancing colors and shapes on the plates can help you get an appealing dish and add a whole other level to your culinary experience.

The next thing you want to pay attention to is the texture of the meal you were preparing. Do you want to have various surfaces that can go together and enhance the dish and the flavors? Having that crisp slate crunch or the sauciness of your pasta can elevate the dining experience.

Lastly and inevitably most important, the taste of the food is critical in having a successful dish. The only advice I have to give is tasted flavor; you can always add more, and you can never take it out. This goes with everything from salt to spices; you want to start slowing and add more until you’re comfortable with each ingredient’s flavor profiles.

Hopefully, this is inspired you to play those gourmet meals and focus on all of your senses when it comes to your next cooking experience. There are so many different aspects of the dish that you have to pay attention to and making them all work together is the most important. There’s also a significant amount of resources available take a look at this article that goes further into detail on the different ways people enjoy their meals. Like always, try to keep it cooking and hit me up on Twitter if you have any questions on taste or texture, or aromas.

Let’s see these dietary restriction…

One of the things that people have to consider when cooking for others is the dietary restrictions of that individual. These nutritional restrictions can stem from religious, social, or health concerns. It’s nice to have a brief overview of a few of the broad, more popular limits that we see today, so your next meal plan can go quick and easy. Let’s face it, and if we are unfamiliar with these, we can be pretty confused when someone brings up a specific restriction. Hopefully, you can do a dinner party with even the most restrictive of dinner guests at the end of this.

One of the most popular ones we see is being a vegetarian; there are different types of vegetarian some will eat eggs, milk, and cheese, and others will not. This is something that I would talk to with my dinner guest just so that I can get a better understanding before I set a menu.  Here is the link to some of the different types of vegetarians, and their specific names.

Next, vegans, they don’t eat anything containing an animal product. This includes dairy, meat, and eggs; this can make the planning of meals difficult, but there are so many vegan options in your local grocery store that it shouldn’t even phase you.

Gluten-free options have also become very popular in grocery stores; from flours to premade bread, it’s pretty easy to plan a gluten-free. People tend to have a gluten-free diet when they have health concerns related to Celica’s disease or some sort of gluten intolerance.

Kosher is another important one that seems very common; it is related to the Jewish religion. Kosher items are very easily found in grocery stores; many things are already kosher, and they’ll have a small kosher stamp on the bottom right corner that will allow you to know if the item is kosher friendly.

Lastly, I wanted to talk a bit about allergy; this is something I ask anyone before I start cooking for them; that way, I can make sure everyone stays safe. These allergies can range from certain fruits, nuts, meats, and gluten that we mentioned earlier.

Hopefully, with this bit of rundown next time you get someone with a dietary restriction, you know what they’re talking about and how to deal with it with your menu. Also remember cross-contamination is also a significant factor, so try to keep your kitchen clean and separate. When it comes to allergies, I tend just not to keep those items in the kitchen anywhere near where I’m cooking if someone has a specific allergy. I can’t wait to see what great dishes you guys come up with next, hit me up on Twitter and share your beautiful recipes and photos of those meals you are making.