Tag Archives: cooking

Best Cookbooks for New Cooks?

What’s best depends on what you want to do and learn. Do you want to know why a recipe works so that you can learn to improvise your own or do you just want dependable instructions for your favorite dishes?

sci of good cooking

If you want to know the “how and why”, The Science of Good Cooking by Cook’s Illustrated is an excellent choice and one of my favorites. There are 400 recipes and each describes not just what to do, but why doing it that way works best.

The 400 recipes are used to teach 50 basic concepts beginning with “Gentle heat prevents overcooking” to “Cocoa powder delivers big flavor”. In between you learn that salty marinades work best, fat makes eggs tender, how to “bloom” spices to increase their flavor, and why you should put vodka in your pie dough.

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Best Hot Chocolate Recipes?

It looks like a lot of the U.S. is in for some chilly weather on Sunday. Here’s just the thing to warm you up!

French Hot Chocolate


This one is thick and not very sweet. (I love it, my other taster who prefers sweeter hot chocolate thought it was too bitter without lots of whipped cream.)

1 4-oz. bar of bittersweet chocolate (not semi-sweet)
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon powdered sugar
whipped cream

Break up the chocolate bar into small pieces. Set aside.

Heat milk, heavy cream, and powdered sugar in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. When the milk mixture starts to bubble, remove it from the heat and whisk in chocolate pieces until they are melted and the drink is thick and smooth.

Pour into small cups (it’s very rich, you don’t need much) and top with whipped cream. Serves 2.

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Herbs to Grow for Cooking and Health?

Here are herbs that you can use to liven up your cooking. Some people claim that they have health benefits too. Even if you don’t have a garden, you can grow herbs in a planter on a deck, patio or balcony. Some will even do well inside on your windowsill.

Health: It’s supposed to reduce flatulence and improve the appetite. (I have to admit, that warm, spicy flavor is appetizing!)
Cooking: Use to season soups, stews, and sauces.

Tomato Basil Soup
Salami, Oven-Roasted Tomato, Mozzarella, and Basil Omelette
Basil Pesto
Summer Chicken and Basil Stew

If you’re trying to grow your herbs in a small space – a planter or container garden – look for “Spicy Globe Basil”. It’s a more compact plant. Pick the leaves early, before it blooms, for the best flavor.

Health: They’re low in calories and high in Vitamin A, C, and K.
Cooking: They provide a light onion flavor. Chop them up and add to salads or scrambled eggs. Use as a garnish on potatoes or other vegetables.

Sauteed Chicken Breasts in Creamy Chive Sauce
Sour Cream and Chive Mashed Potatoes
Chrispy Herbed Shrimp with Chive Aioli

This is a grass-like perennial. You can grow it on your windowsill and just snip off some when you need it. Trim them back to soil level to keep fresh sprouts coming.

Health: It improves mood and sweetens your breath (which will improve the mood of those around you!) Traditionally, rosemary has symbolized remembrance and love. In Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, Ophelia says, “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.” Perhaps because of this tradition, people believe that it will help improve memory.
Cooking: It compliments chicken, beef, pork, and fish. It also works well with some vegetables.

Garlic Rosemary Chicken
Olive Oil Braised Vegetables
Ginger Rosemary Lemon Drop Cocktails
Make rosemary infused oil. Wash some rosemary sprigs and pat dry with towels. Let them sit out and finish air drying for a day. Drop the sprigs into a bottle of olive oil. Let it sit in a cool dark place (a cabinet or the pantry) for at least several days. The longer it sits, the more intense the flavor. Use in sauteing or in salad dressings. If you need the flavored oil RIGHT NOW!, heat a cup of olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add a few sprigs of rosemary – around 5 or so. Heat for about five minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Transfer to a bottle or cruet. Keep refrigerated when not using. Keeps about a month.

It will grow in a little pot, indoors or out. I see them at Christmas time in the grocery, trimmed to look like little Christmas trees. There’s usually at least a few on clearance after the holiday. If you see one, grab it because it goes well with winter comfort foods.

Health: Relieves throat inflammation. According to WebMD, “Sage is used for digestive problems, including loss of appetite, gas (flatulence), stomach pain (gastritis), diarrhea, bloating, and heartburn. It is also used for reducing overproduction of perspiration and saliva; and for depression, memory loss, and Alzheimer’s disease. Women use sage for painful menstrual periods, to correct excessive milk flow during nursing, and to reduce hot flashes during menopause. Sage is applied directly to the skin for cold sores; gum disease (gingivitis); sore mouth, throat or tongue; and swollen, painful nasal passages.” Wow. I’m impressed, all that and it flavors sausage too!
Cooking: It’s used in stuffing for chicken or turkey, sausage, cooking with pork, or in omelets.

Butter and Sage Sauce to serve over pasta
Pork Roast Stuffed with Apples and Sage (It also has thyme in it.)
Steamed Vegetables With Sage

Sage needs lots of sun, so it’s best to grow it outside. It can also become very bushy, so if you want to grow it in a container, look for a dwarf sage that will only grow 10 inches high. If your sage blooms, cut back only to beneath where it budded, not to the woody part of the stem. If you cut back too far, it may not come back.

Health: Thyme oil is an antiseptic and may help bad breath. It’s also rich in Vitamin A and C. Drink a tea made of it for use as a diuretic (increases urine flow).
Cooking: Rub chopped leaves over roasts before cooking.

Slow Baked Salmon and Lemon Thyme
Garlic Thyme Bread
Potato Gratin with Leeks and Thyme

Thyme needs full sun and likes to be slightly dry, so don’t over-water and make sure that the pot or planter it’s in drains well. Plant some outside to attract honey bees.

Health: It has Vitamins A, C, E, and K and fiber and is a potential anti-oxidant.
Cooking: Use it to make marinara or pizza sauce – or add flavor to sauce from a jar. If you’re cooking anything that has tomatoes in it, chances are it will be good with a little oregano in there too.

Meatball Vegetable Soup
Pizza Margherita (Also uses fresh basil.)
Grilled Chicken with Lemon and Oregano

It needs sun (at least 6 hours a day) and will grow in a pot but will need its space – it can be a foot tall. Pinch off leaves regularly so it will continue to sprout new ones and so it won’t take over your window/patio/garden.

A couple of articles you may want to check out:
Chow: How to Grow Herbs Indoors
Burpee Seeds: Growing Herbs for Drying

10 Best Video Cooking Channels?

Hilah Cooking – Nice basic recipes, easy to listen to and easy to follow along. If you don’t know how to cook, start here. The videos will make you feel like you’re hanging out with a friend while she teaches you some great recipes. She also a blog.

Food Wishes – Video instructions, plus blog, for making lots of tasty dishes. Do I really need to say anything other than “Loaded Baked Potato Dip”?

Wantanmien – Chinese cooking. The videos are narrated in Cantonese but have English subtitles.

Maangchi – Lots of traditional Korean food cooking videos. I wish I had known about this channel when I was watching the Korean drama Let’s Eat. I would have been checking after every episode to see if I could find the recipes for some of the dishes they had. Fortunately I found it in time for Let’s Eat 2! And something that I’ve seen in more dramas than I can count, seaweed soup, a traditional birthday fare.

Epic Meal Time – I nominate this channel to be “the one with the most recipes that will kill you, but you will die happy.” For example, the Couch Potato…or Potato Couch.

Ochikeron – A variety of Japanese recipes, including some very impressive bento box lunches, with instructions in English.

Sorted Food – Four tasty looking British guys share their recipes. Four British guys share their tasty looking recipes.

Cooking With Dog – Japanese dishes with step-by-step descriptions “provided by” a cute French poodle named Francis.

How To Cook That – Ann Reardon demonstrates how to make spectacular and unusual looking desserts. She also has a blog where she writes out the recipes she shows in the videos.

Manjula’s Kitchen – Indian Vegetarian dishes, including some that are gluten-free. You can find her blog here.