How To Change Any Recipe To Work In A Slow Cooker

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For many people, active lifestyles mean using a slow cooker to have satisfying dinners. This does not, however, have to result in limited options. There are more choices for delicious meals than many people realize. Learning to convert recipes to slow cooker fare will create numerous options for tasty and convenient dining.

Selecting the Meat

Converting a recipe for use in a slow cooker often means reconsidering the cut of meat. If a recipe calls for chicken breasts, for example, consider dark meat poultry alternatives instead. Cuts that have lots of fat and connective tissue to break down over time will get tender without getting mushy in a slow cooker. Also consider a brisket or pork shoulder for recipes in which those would be applicable substitutions.

For the best results, the meat should also be browned before going into the slow cooker. Browning is one of the most important steps in getting the best flavor from the meat. It also renders the fat properly, resulting in a better texture and lack of greasiness in the cooker.

Seasoning and Flavoring

Powerful seasonings and flavors will not develop the same way as on a stove top, so care should be taken not to be too aggressive. Be especially sparing with potent spices such as cayenne. To get the most rich and complex flavor from wine in a recipe, reduce it somewhat before adding it to the cooker.

Amounts of Liquid

For larger cuts, a little more liquid is necessary to get the meat cooking. The additional liquids create steam in the slow cooker’s pot, and that helps to break down the meat. With smaller cuts, less liquid is required. Too much liquid can result in an overly watery meal. The lid remains on a slow cooker for extended periods, and that keeps the liquids accumulating in the pot. If the end result does have too much liquid, some of it can be transferred to a sauce pan and reduced on the stove before returning to the larger pot for serving.

These guidelines can make it simple to convert family favorites to slow cooker recipes. Stews and braised dishes often translate effortlessly. Convenience and delicious flavor are easily in reach.

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The Basic Ingredients You Should Stock Up on For Baking

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We all know someone who makes those magically wonderful desserts that just seem to melt in your mouth upon tasting them. While beginning cooks sometimes think that there must be some sort of magic involved, it’s really much more simple. Becoming a wonderful baker is more than simply having artistic flair or an uncanny ability. It’s simply about precision, patience and maintaining several basic baking ingredients in your kitchen.

The experts here at the Italian Home Kitchen Blog know that you’re probably not making cannolis every chance you get. Yet, we know that you need some basic pantry essential on hand that will allow you to create delicious treats whenever you like. To succeed in making wonderful treats, you need basic baking ingredients on hand that will allow creation of many different types of tasty sweets and desserts.

Here are basic baking ingredients that every well-stocked pantry should have:
• Unbleached all-purpose white flour
• Rolled oats
• Stone-ground cornmeal
• Salt
• Baking power
• Baking soda
• Granulated white sugar
• Confectioner’s sugar
• Brown sugar
• Honey
• Canned pumpkin puree
• Bar baking chocolate
• Cocoa powder
• Shredded unsweetened coconut
• Vanilla extract
• In-season ripe fruit
• Dried fruit

Some of those ingredients are no-brainers. After all, you can’t bake without flour, but rolled oats, for example, adds texture to cookies, while the different types of sugar have their own specific uses in baking. Plain white sugar, for example, is ideal for blending with wet ingredients. Baking powder and baking soda are essential for light and airy creations, white pure vanilla extract adds wonderful flavor to all sorts of breads and cookies.

As you become more savvy with your creations, you’ll want to add the following ingredients to your basic list to create even more tempting treats:
• Whole wheat and other alternative flours such as rye and gluten-free
• Coconut oil
• Alternative liquid sweeteners such as molasses and agave
• Alternative granulated sweeteners
• Raw sugar
• Corn syrup
• Cornstarch
• Vanilla beans
• Condensed milk and evaporated milk
• Ripe bananas

Check back often with Italian Home Cooking for more tips that will make you a savvy cook.

The Best Italian Cheeses For Cooking

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As you may already know, Italy is home to some of the best foods in the world. If you are looking for the best cheeses to use on your favorite meal, then Italy is the best place to look. Some of the most popular cheeses in Italy include; Parmesan, Fontina, Asiago and Gorgonzola. These Italian cheeses are world-renowned and can improve your experience in a remarkable way.

Asiago Cheese

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There are three different kinds of Asiago cheeses. You have Asiago Pressato, which is fresh, sweet and smooth, Asiago d’allevo, which has been aged, and has a bolder taste and the stravecchio, which has a more powerful taste from the aging process of up to 2 years. Most Asiago cheeses come with a stamp that reads, “Product of the mountain”. This means that they are produced in Veneto or Trentino, at an altitude of more than 1,800 feet.

Fontina Cheese

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Fontina cheese is used in making Fondue and has its origin in Switzerland, France and Italy. It comes with an intense, nutty flavor that will improve your cooking experience in a unique way. This one is also produced from cow’s milk and has been around for hundreds of years.

Gorgonzola Cheese

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Gorgonzola is one of the best Italian cheeses there is. It is produced in cold and damp conditions, giving it a unique flavor from the rest. There are two types of Gorgonzola cheeses; gorgonzola piccante and Gorgonzola dolce. Piccante has a slightly spicy flavor while dolce has milder one. The origin of this cheese remains a mystery — but some believe the name comes from the town it was created in.

Parmesan Cheese

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Just like wine, Parmesan, also known as Parmigiano Reggiano, gets better as it ages. It is made from cow milk and comes with a unique, sweet flavor. You can either eat this cheese as it is or use it on many different types of pasta in Italy.

Next time you are buying Italian cheeses, make sure it has a DOP label. DOP stands for Denominazione di Origine Protetta, which basically means that the product was produced and packaged in Italy. There is a huge different between cheeses made in Italy and those from other parts of the world, so you want to be careful when making a purchase.

A Successful Guide To Cooking With Wine

166223496Most people don’t realize there’s a science to cooking with wine. It you adhere to the right formulas, your cooked dish can be enhanced by the wine. If you fail to watch certain specific steps, you could end up with a dish that was ruined by the addition of wine.

Which Cooking Wines To Use

It is not imperative to use cooking wine; a good quality wine can also be added to dishes. In fact, if using a cooking wine, which has added salt, reduce the salt you would normally add to the dish to compensate. Do not waste a premium wine in a cooked dish, instead, always serve it with the meal. Never use a wine you don’t enjoy drinking for cooking.  The cooking process will only highlight the negative qualities you already dislike and destroy the dish’s flavor. If you would drink it, it’s OK to cook with it.

What Cookware To Use

If you’re planning to add wine to a dish as you cook it, do not use cast iron or aluminum cookware. Use enamel cookware so the flavors in the wine do not react to the materials that make up the cookware.  If you’re learning to use cooking wine in food, follow the pairing suggestions listed below.

Wine Pairing Suggestions

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•Full-bodied, Young Red Wine – use with red meat dishes and red sauces
• Earthy, Full-bodied Red Wine – use with soups containing root vegetables and beef stock
• Dry White Wine – use with cream sauces and seafood, poultry, pork and veal dishes
• Dry, Crisp White Wine – use with bouillabaisse and seafood soups
• Sweet White Wine – use with sweet desserts
• Sherry – use with consommé, vegetable soups and poultry
• Regional wines should be paired with regional foods

How to Cook with Wine

Cooking with wine is a process; do not rush it by adding wine and then bringing the mixture to a boil.  Never boil wine, instead bring the mixture to a simmer and cook it for at least 10 minutes so the wine flavors can mix with the other ingredients.  Wine takes time to impart its enhancing flavors, so don’t rush the dish or add the wine too late in its preparation and don’t forget to enjoy your meal!

Not Just Another Ordinary Grain: Polenta

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Many homeowners think that their kitchen has it all. However, what they are not aware of is that there is a wide variety of delicious foods available that they might not have even heard of. Polenta is one of these delicious dishes. It is a whole grain cornmeal that is packed with numerous different types of nutrients and vitamins.

What Is It?

Polenta can be understood simply as cooked cornmeal. While it was once a solution to affordable food, it has quickly risen up the culinary chain. It is now on its way to gourmet menus and cookbooks, and has captured the attention of numerous chefs. Preparing polenta on your own can be very simply and delicious. In order to make it, all that you have to do is grind the dried corn in water or broth in order to create a warm and creamy mixture. It has a nutty flavor, combined with classic corn, and it can be mixed with a wide variety of other foods as well. You can add just about anything to it to add some delicious flair.

Creating The Best Polenta

Cornmeal is typically available in a wide variety of different types and textures. In order to get the best results, however, it is recommended for you to choose cornmeal that is white or yellow, as blue cornmeal is usually much coarser. Cooking the polenta can be very easy. A ratio of cooking a standard batch is usually one cup of cornmeal for every four cups of liquid. This can be changed once you get more used to cooking the food, and know what type of consistency you want. One cup of the cornmeal will typically produce three cups of polenta. A cup of polenta by itself has only one hundred and fifty calories, three grams of protein, three grams of fiber, one gram of fat, and no cholesterol at all.

This delicious dish can be introduced as a side piece to a main meal, or prepared as a snack, and it even can be created into a breakfast creation! With how simple it is to make, it is not surprising that more and more people are beginning to add polenta to their cooking repertoire.

There Are So many Different Ways To Prepare Polenta, The Possibilities Are Endless:

Preparing A Meal For A Large Gathering

Hispanic outdoor garden party upstateCooking is a necessary life skill you should learn, regardless of whether you are cooking for yourself or for a large family. There are many rewards you receive from cooking, which include better health, improved social skills and saving money. The following information contains a variety of tips to help improve your cooking skills.

No matter what you are cooking, fresh ingredients are always much better than dried or frozen ingredients. Use fresh ingredients as much as you can, because they add better flavor to your dish and tend to be a lot cheaper.

You can prepare a lot prior to cooking to streamline your cooking process. Look at your recipe and decide which steps you can do in advance without worry of food spoilage. It is often possible to prepare your ingredients as much as 24 hours ahead of time. By doing this, your cooking task will be quick and easy – even for very complex recipes.

They will soak up a ton of water, just like a sponge. You should wet a cloth and wipe the mushrooms off, rather than soaking them.

If you are going to be making chicken stock, it is best to go big or not at all. Make sure that you prepare a large amount of stock so that you will have more than enough to store and use for future kitchen adventures. A rich chicken stock makes a savory base for soups, stews and other dishes. Let your stock come to room temperature before you freeze it.

A super healthy, and tasty, veggie dish is simply sauteed veggies in some chicken broth. The chicken broth will add a dimension of flavor, and let you cut down on how much oil you use. You will thoroughly enjoy this way of preparing your vegetables.

To prepare pumpkins for baking, cut the standing pumpkin in half through the center. Place the two halves on baking sheets. Spray a bit of water on each baking sheet, and then put both into an oven pre-heated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake them for about an hour.

Having the ability to cook is very beneficial. As these tips have shown you, cooking can improve many aspects of your life regardless of whether you prefer haute cuisine, soul food, or down-home favorites. Picking up food at the 7-11 or McDonald’s can certainly save you time, but there’s nothing quite like a meal you’ve cooked yourself.

Tips That Make Cooking (Almost) As Enjoyable As Eating

105940144Have you ever caught yourself wondering how a restaurant prepares a particular meal? Maybe you’ve fantasized about being able to cook that well at home. The following hints will teach you how to create your favorite dishes as well as some new one. Cooking is an enjoyable hobby for many people.

A cool, dark storage area will preserve your herbs freshness for the longest period of time. Common kitchen conditions, such as heat, light, and humidity, will destroy the flavor of herbs and spices. Most spices will retain their flavor for about a year. Though if you have whole spices, you will notice the flavors are strong for 3-5 years. Store your spices correctly to make them last.

To add oil to food already cooking in a skillet, carefully pour it along the sides of the hot pan so that it has a chance to heat through before touching the food. Having the oil at the right temperature when you cook with it will make the flavors pop.

There is a trick to save your hard work and be able to use it instantly. In a medium sized bowl, mix together 1 tblsp water and 2 tblsp corn starch. Stir the mixture into a warm thin sauce to thicken it. Be sure to slowly add the starch solution to your sauce until you achieve the desired thickness.

Meat can easily be sliced into thin strips if it is partially frozen. This is helpful for Asian dishes you may try that call for thin strips of meat. The tissues of partially-frozen meat do not tear and stretch as much; this makes cleaner slices possible. However, so they are evenly cooked, you want to make certain the meat strips are thawed before cooking.

Becoming a home chef has never been easier or more fun! Let your imagination run wild and make all your meals delicious experiments with new recipes. The variety of meals you can cook is completely unlimited, given the vast array of ingredients to use and the number of cultural traditions to draw on.