Since Americans in the South began roasting pigs publicly, Barbecues have been a staple of North American living. For many, grilling becomes a routine mealtime activity, while for the most devoted grillers, summer is ruled by massive barbecue parties. But grillers do not have to choose between boring repetition and outrageous get-togethers: every barbecue can and should be an exciting family event. Here are 5 ways to make your routine evening barbecue a more unique experience:
1) Who said you have to stick to meat? Much can be done with bread and fruits over an open flame. To make this into a fun activity with your kids, use cookie cutters to make the bread and fruit into shapes. You can decide on themes like “animals” and “letters” or ask that each shape be different from the others! Then, let your kids decide which toppings they would like to put on. Add cheese, onion and various spices to bread and cinnamon and honey to fruit.
2) Try foil-wrapped surprise meals. Place different combinations of chicken, fish and vegetables with sauces and spices in foil packets. These cook in less than 20 minutes and lead to no-mess, lip-smacking results. Children will love the surprise element and can easily switch packets. You can even ask your family for combo suggestions before the barbecue, or draw ingredient names out of a hat to create new meal ideas.
3) A little variety goes a long way. If you tend to stick to the same old beef burgers and pork wieners, why not try grilled pizza or salmon steaks? Similarly, try to mix it up with condiments and seasoning. Sick of ketchup? Try salsa instead. Look online where you’ll find hundreds of easy recipes for barbecue rubs. These give your food that extra pizzazz and prevent the mess and drip that comes with barbecue sauces.
4) Barbecues don’t have to be rushed. In fact, barbecue devotees will tell you that today’s quick broiling is an insult to the term, which should represent a process of slow cooking on low heat. You can find many slow cooker recipes online, and the wait is a great opportunity to pass some quality time with your family and friends. Entertaining backyard activities include creating an outdoor canvas to paint on or playing backyard bowling with household items.
5) Mom said not to play with your food, but there’s always an exception! Barbecue games are great fun and tasty at the same time. In the game Glutton, each player gets a certain amount of mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese or any other side dish. Various kitchen utensils are put in a box and the players blindly pick a few. On the go, they begin to eat their dish with the items that they took out. The first to finish his or her food wins the prize!
Finally, don’t fret! Far too many people get lost in the details of planning the perfect barbecue party and forget to enjoy the social atmosphere and delicious food. So kick back, bask in the relaxing sun and prepare for a summer of unforgettable barbecues!
Organic food is food that is free from all genetically modified organisms, produced without artificial pesticides and fertilizers and derived from an animal reared without the routine use of antibiotics, growth promoters or other drugs. Once only available in small stores or farmers' markets, organic foods are becoming much more widely available
Organic foods have been shown to improve your immune system, help you sleep better, shed the excess weight more easily, and improve your blood work just to name a few. Organic food can boast intense, realistic flavors, and a higher vitamin and mineral content.
And though logically it makes sense to consume a diet based on organic foods, some worry about the cost. But with careful planning and preparation, going organic is actually quite affordable. And, the peace of mind knowing you and your family are consuming foods that haven’t been treated with pesticides or genetically altered is worth the extra money spent.
The pesticides used by conventional farmers can have many negative influences on your health, including neurotoxicity, disruption of your endocrine system, carcinogenicity and immune system suppression. Pesticide exposure may also affect male reproductive function and has been linked to miscarriages in women. Additionally, conventional produce tends to have fewer nutrients than organic produce. On average, conventional produce has only 83 percent of the nutrients of organic produce. Studies have found significantly higher levels of nutrients such as vitamin C, iron, magnesium and phosphorus, and significantly less nitrates (a toxin) in organic crops.
So it’s a smart idea to buy and eat organic produce and free-range organic foods as much as possible for maximum health benefits. In addition, the knowledge that you’re supporting the organic foods industry that is dedicated to protecting the environment by steering clear of harmful pesticides and chemicals that can result in the loss of topsoil, toxic runoff and resulting water pollution, soil contamination and poisoning and the death of insects, birds, critters and beneficial soil organisms should help you feel even better.
There’s no doubt that having the right tools for the job makes any task easier, and there’s no better place to illustrate this than in the kitchen, where having the right cooking utensils can be the difference between creating good meals and great meals.
Many cooks think about major appliances such as the stove and refrigerator when planning to equip their kitchens, but to be a success in the kitchen, you need to have a good selection of cooking utensils in addition to the bigger items. And don’t forget, cooking utensils means more than just spoons; there’s a host of small cooking utensils ranging from cutting devices, juicers, graters and more.
Think about what you do in a kitchen and about how different cooking utensils come into play for each task:
• Washing and drying fresh produce – always easy to accomplish with a strainer and salad spinner. A vegetable peeler is also an important addition to your cooking utensils closet.
• Slicing, chopping and dicing all kinds of food and garnishes – a food processor makes short work of vegetables, but mandolins, knives and graters are also helpful cooking utensils to have on hand.
• Measuring – cooking and baking can be a form of art and recipes should be followed as precisely as possible so measuring dishes, cups (both wet and dry measures) and measuring spoons are invaluable cooking utensils.
• Weighing – depending on what you like to cook, you may want to add a food scale to your shopping list of cooking utensils. Such a tool can be excellent for portioning meat and other products that have cooking times affected by weight.
• Temperature – as important as measures are temperatures, which can affect the success of your kitchen endeavors. An oven or meat thermometer is key to having properly cooked meat that is safe to eat, and should be included in your pantry of cooking utensils.
• Mixing – no kitchen would be complete without a cadre of mixing bowls in its cooking utensils cupboard. Having a selection of bowls in assorted sizes is essential to fast, efficient cooking.
• Manipulating, poking, prodding, lifting and stirring – perhaps what most often comes to mind when you think of cooking utensils are implements used to move food: spoons, forks, knives, spatulas, wire whisks, pastry blenders, tongs, salad lifters, slotted spoons, wooden spoons, serving spoons and more.
By imagining the tasks you do every day in the kitchen, you will get a better idea of the cooking utensils you should consider purchasing. Think about every stage of the food preparation process, from storage and cleaning, to cooking and presenting.
Other useful cooking utensils: pastry brush, kitchen shears, rolling pin, salt shaker, pepper mill, cutting board, ramekins, flour sifter, rotary beater, ladles, juicer and a can opener. Cooking utensils come in a range of prices, quality and materials such as wood, metal, rubber and silicone. Regardless of how much you pay, always make sure any cooking utensils that have multiple pieces, fit together securely.
When it comes to barbecuing, there are two main schools of thought for the techniques that you can use.
The first of these techniques – and the most popular method for those who grill in their back yards – is the style where the food is cooked directly over the source of heat. This way, the food is rapidly cooked on a hot grill suspended directly over the charcoals, the wood, or the gas burners. Rarely is the lid ever closed. Any foods, including the most tender cuts, hamburgers, steaks, kabobs of all kinds, chicken, and even vegetables are quickly seared and cooked to perfection using this technique. If sauces are desired, they can be added before hand, during the cooking process, or even after the food comes off the grill. These choices will all create different and enjoyable tastes and flavors.
The second barbecue cooking technique uses heat indirectly. This is more appropriate when you’re cooking much larger or whole cuts of meat, such as especially thick steaks, roasts, a whole hog, or a pork shoulder. When you’re cooking using this method, the food is cooked away from the actual source of heat. This usually requires a water pan of some kind in order to maintain the moisture level of the food. The temperatures generally sit in around 250ºF. During this cooking method, the lid of the barbecue remains closed most of the time, and the length of the cooking is much longer than in the first method. When you’re using an indirect barbecue cooker, there is usually an additional fire box that allows you to combine charcoal and wooden logs for burning. This allows the heat and the smoke to rise through the cooking chamber where the meat is, so that it is heated perfectly. The rule of thumb of this technique is a low temperature for a long time.
No matter which method you use, it’s important not to cook your meat too quickly. If the internal temperature of your meat rises too quickly as you cook it, the water and the fat within it will be expelled before the collagen is able to melt. This means that your cut will be dry and tough. However, you cannot cook too slowly or you will risk a bacterial contamination. Though there is a fine line for barbecuing properly, it’s important to find that line and stick to it.
If you’re already dealing with a cut of meat that is tough, such as a brisket or a pork roast, consider cooking slowly as the collagen adds flavor to the meat. If you buy a less tough, more expensive cut, you can cook at a higher temperature for a shorter period of time. This is why ribs and steaks take such a short time to cook, while pork shoulders or beef brisket can run up to 20 hours.
As a final note, it’s important to have fun while you barbecue! Your pleasure will come through in your cooking as it will leave you motivated, and willing to try new and interesting things.
Because cooking takes so many nutrients and vitamins OUT of food, you automatically start feeding your body what it needs when you stop cooking food and start eating uncooked, nutrient-rich foods. A raw carrot has exponentially more nutrition than a cooked carrot.
Cooking also alters the chemistry of foods, often making them harder to digest. Why do we have so many digestive problems in this country? Because we’re putting foods into our bodies in a form that we weren't designed to absorb. High fiber, high water content fresh produce abolishes constipation of the bowels, cells and circulatory system. Obstructions are cleared and blood flow increases to each and every cell in the body. Enhanced blood flow is significant for two reasons: as mentioned above, blood delivers nutrients and oxygen to living cells, and carries away their toxic metabolites.
Obesity is endemic in this country. The diet industry is more profitable than the oil companies. Why? Because the way we eat and prepare our food practically guarantees that we’ll overeat. Psychologists tell us that we overeat because our souls are hungry. But in reality, our bodies are hungry, even though we may feel full. When you start giving your body the nutrients it craves, overeating will cease.
Eating raw foods is a boost to your metabolism as well. It takes a little more energy to digest raw foods, but it’s a healthy process. Rather than spending energy to rid itself of toxins produced by cooking food, the body uses its energy to feed every cell, sending vitamins, fluids, enzymes and oxygen to make your body the efficient machine it was intended to be.
You’ll naturally stop overeating, because your body and brain will no longer be starving for the nutrients they need. A starving brain will trigger the thoughts that make you overeat. The brain and the rest of your body don’t need quantity; they need quality.
Rushing to Eat
People’s lives have become so busy and rushing around, that we no longer eat the way we should. In some places, there is a McDonald’s on every major corner, if not some other fast food restaurant. Watching TV, you see a commercial for some kind of food place almost every time commercials are on, urging you to eat there because it’s good and you can get it fast and cheap. With so many distractions and obligations, families have these days, how do you eat healthy in a fast food world? It’s not an easy thing to do but is possible with planning and knowing what to look for. This isn't to say fast food can’t be consumed occasionally, but it should be less often than people are doing it now. Not to mention that our food is so processed that it takes five minutes to cook and has high carbohydrates among other things that are not digested quickly. This is leading to obesity in the population.
The Truth About Whole Grain
Because food is so processed these days to make it faster to cook, as well as more convenient for the way our lives have become, it is actually not as good for you as it once was. Recently the food administration even changed the food pyramid to coincide with how we eat these days and food is made. They are suggesting more whole grains than ever before, as well as vegetables. This may sound like what has been told to children for years, but even whole grains are deceiving on packaging these days. With all the new diets out there for low carb, no carb, low fat, no fat, etc., foods are coming out that say whole grain but are just as processed as its white counterpart. They are made with enriched wheat. This process takes out all the nutrients and other things that take time to digest for a healthy life. Reading the ingredient is a good way to find the real whole grain product. They are now more expensive than the over processed product because manufacturers could make the enriched version cheaper and faster. To eat healthy you have to read the labels of everything you consume.
Healthy Choices at Fast Food Eateries
The truth is that you really can’t eat healthy at any fast food restaurant. They aren't designed for those trying or needing to watch what they put in their mouth. But you can make better decisions. Don’t’ eat the bread if you can stand not too. It’s along the lines of the South Beach Diet but that’s where lots of your weight gaining properties are. Don’t get anything fried, this includes French fries, onion rings, or even fried chicken. Get a diet pop, tea, or water. Avoid the desert and the salad, both have sugar in them and I don’t just mean in the toppings. Watch “Super Size Me” for a real eye opener. The show is on McDonald’s but you can bet that all fast food restaurants are basically the same. Limit how often you eat fast food to once per week, if that fast. Get a wrap at Subway instead of a toasted sub. Less bread and just as filling with all the fixings you want. When you get pizza, get vegetables on it so you aren't just eating bread, sauce, cheese, and pepperoni. Remember just how bad fast food is for you, your waistline, and your cholesterol. Even if you are fifteen, you should be thinking about how it will affect you later in life. Starting early will make it easier on your body as you age.
Eating at Home
The best thing to do is find a way to cook meals most nights of the week. This can take planning and team work. Have at least one non-meat dish every week. It doesn't have to be fish or seafood either. Don’t use fast cooking rich to go with your meals. Those are again loaded with carbohydrates, which take your body longer to break down and will make you hungry sooner than you should be. Plan weekly meals so that you can cook casseroles and other easy to reheat dishes early in the week for days you will not have time to cook. Utilize your crock-pot and get a recipe book for it. You can make just about anything in a crock pot these days and have a good meal when you get home. Have salad a few times a week with dinner, but watch how much dressing you put on it. Have desert, but make it Jell-O. Indulge once in a while to though and it won’t feel like you are depriving yourself of anything.
Living for a year in Siberia was bound to results in a few laughs. There was no funnier time than my effort to celebrate Thanksgiving.
As an American male, my idea of cooking was dropping by the local Chinese restaurant on my way home from work. We are talking about a person who considers cooking rice a culinary challenge of the highest order. This lack of skill came to the forefront while spending a year teaching at a university in the Siberian city of Chita.
Experiencing the Russian culture was one of my primary reasons for moving to Siberia. Experiencing the American culture was apparently one of the prime reasons the University hired me. These conflicting view points resulted in every Russian and American holiday being celebrated, even if it wouldn't have been otherwise.
As the end of November approached, I started getting questions about Thanksgiving. My Russian peers and students were particularly interested in the concept of Thanksgiving dinner. In turn, I started asking seemingly innocent food related questions and was pleased to learn most of the necessary food items were not available in the local market. This included turkeys, cranberries and so on. Then I made my mistake.
Since the ingredients weren't available, I began to mouth off about the injustice of missing Thanksgiving dinner. Oh, how I could cook a turkey. To bad everyone would miss out on it. The moral trifecta of justice, fate and karma rose up to put me in my place.
The uncle of someone’s brother was flying in from Moscow. If I created a list, he would buy everything and bring it on the flight.
I was in deep, deep trouble.
Reverting to the times of my youthful indiscretions, I immediately did what anyone in my situation would. I emailed my mother for help. The first response was, “Very funny. You’re going to cook?” After explaining the situation, I received a very long list of instructions written at a third grade level. “This is a knife” and so on…
Well, the magic day came and everything went shockingly well. The turkey tasted like turkey. The stuffing tasted like stuffing. Heck, the cranberries even came out red. Then it was time for the gravy.
In Siberia, you do not buy ingredients in pre-packaged bags. Instead, you buy everything in a clear plastic bag with no label. In theory, you should arrange everything at home so you know what it is when it comes time to cook. Thus did the flour adventures again.
Cooking instructions were read. Turkey juices went into the pan. Instructions were read. Flour went into the pan. Instructions were read. Constant stirring was undertaken. Instructions were read. Water was added.
Feeling cocky, I then did a tasting sample and nearly choked. The gravy was incredibly salty and exceedingly chunky. I added more water, but there was no change. For the next 20 minutes, I kept adding water and stirring. The gravy just kept getting chunkier, tasted horrible and actually began to smoke!
After a while, one of my female students came into the kitchen to find out what was going on. She blanched as she tasted the gravy. We went through the instructions and I made a passing reference to my suspicion the flour might be bad.
She took one look at the flour and started laughing. Hysterically. She was laughing so hard she couldn’t tell me the reason in English and my Russian was pretty bad. She recovered after a few minutes and gave me the English translation.
I had grabbed the stuff used to paste over holes in the wall, not the flour. Put another way, I was making turkey drywall.
No wonder it was so chunky!
After the crowd left, I repaired a door knob hole in my bathroom. Thanksgiving lasted for months!
Experts say there are two basic categories of foods that can be considered "keeping it off super foods" because they fill your tummy without piling on the calories: fruits and vegetables. And the nutrient that gives fruits and vegetables that ‘staying power?’ Fiber. So, if fruits and vegetables are the "keeping-it-off superfood groups," fiber may well be the "keeping-it-off super-nutrient." Protein is another super-nutrient. It's becoming more scientifically accepted that protein may help to curb appetite. Protein also offers staying power, and can slightly boost your metabolism in the process. But it’s imperative that you choose your proteins wisely, because like all other foods, if you’re eating more than your body needs, it’ll show up on the scale as a gain, instead of a loss.
The following superfoods are smart, low-calorie choices that will benefit your weight loss efforts:
Green Tea - Researchers suspect that the catechins (helpful phytochemicals) in green tea may trigger weight loss by stimulating the body to burn calories and mildly decrease body fat. So indulge in either a hot cup or a nice tall iced glass of green tea.
Broth or tomato-based soup – Soups can help reduce hunger before meals and increase your feeling of fullness.
Low-calorie green salads - Having a low-calorie salad – which is not defined as one that’s loaded with croutons, high fat dressings, and cheese - as a first course can help you feel full, thereby reducing how much you eat with your main course. Wisely choose your ingredients, and its high fiber content can be the key to helping you fight cravings later in the day.
Yogurt – Including dairy products as part of your healthy diet may promote your weight loss efforts. Choosing a light yogurt may help you fight off hunger pangs due to its combination of protein and carbohydrate.
Beans – A great combination of fiber and protein, beans help you feel full longer, which means they may work to curb your between-meal appetite.
Water – Water is your body’s lifeblood, and you should be drinking it through your day. It’s a great no-calorie beverage, and you can get it by drinking unsweetened tea, flavored unsweetened mineral water, regular water with lime or lemon, or even in your cucumber. In addition to helping flush toxins from the body, it can also help you feel full. So when those hunger pangs strike, try drinking a glass of water before grabbing that snack.
High-Fiber, Whole-Grain Cereal - Whole grains in general help boost fiber and the nutritional value of your meal. One of the easiest ways to give your daily diet a whole-grain boost is to have a bowl of higher-fiber whole-grain cereal as breakfast or a snack.
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