Cooking Tricks that Grandma Doesn’t Even Know

I am not the perfect cook, by no means. I can say that I love to cook. It means a lot for someone to appreciate my food, because it is a passion of mine. If they don’t like something I WANT them to tell me, because I will thrive to make it to their liking. It is that important to me. Anyways, over the years I have found some cooking secrets that may be of use to you.

If you are like me, you love pasta. Hey I guess that is the Italian in me, who knows. The heartburn that comes with it is another story. When I do cook pastas, it is on a rare occasion because there are family members that don’t like it. Lasagna happens to be my favorite dish. When I make spaghetti sauce I use the same recipe for lasagna or any red sauce Italian dish, such as manicotti. Okay, my half Italian Mother showed me a secret to getting rid of that acid in the sauce. While simmering the sauce add about 1-2 teaspoons of white sugar. Yes, it works. It lessons the acid and does make the pasta taste wonderful.

Do you like corn on the cob? Oh my goodness I can eat that stuff all day long. I love corn on the cob especially with bar-b-que dishes. Awhile back, when I was living with my sister in law, she had a visitor that showed me one of the best cooking secrets that I have ever known. First of all, canned veggies are good. Frozen veggies are better. Fresh is the bomb!!! Okay, well if you are stuck with canned corn you can make it taste fresh. Yes, get this, add about 1/4 cup of milk to 2 cans of canned corn, while it is cooking, and it tastes just like fresh corn on the cob. The next step after that is to toss the cobs into an oil-less air fryer and let them cook for another 10-15 minutes at 300 degrees.

How can you accidentally make a big dish taste the best? I don’t know, wait I do now. During the holidays, it can be hectic cooking for large crowds. Especially when this is the first time you made a turkey. All the hustle and stress of making sure you know what you are doing, can lead to the best and juiciest turkey ever. Well my lovely sister in law accidentally cooked her turkey upside down. Yes, she had it breast down, but wait. Think about it! The dark meat is the juiciest, right? Well, if it is upside down all that yummy juice will drain to the dry breast meat, right? It is the best turkey in the world. This Thanksgiving, remember this secret! You will not regret it!

I love to bake. I am not much on eating a lot of cakes or cookies, but I like brownies and so do my kids. I cheat with brownies though. I use boxed brownies. Well, for a long time I wondered why my brownies were so fluffy. They didn’t taste like brownies, but like cake. One day my sister in law caught me with that handy little mixer, just mixing away at those brownies. Big mistake! Next time I will read the directions. When it says mix well with fork, that is what it means. Hey, my brownies taste like brownies, now.

I love Mexican food and so does my family. My Mom taught me how to make homemade enchiladas. If you have a large family, you know as well as I do that there is a lot of steps to take to make an enchilada. You dip the shell in the sauce, add meat, add cheese, roll, put in casserole dish and repeat. Well, I am here to make your life a whole lot easier!! My handy sister in law suggested making it into a layered casserole, like lasagna. Wow, what a concept! So now we have enchilada casserole and I cut preparation time in half. I simply spray the casserole with cooking spray, dip my shells in the sauce and layer the shells, add meat, add cheese and repeat. Same great taste, new and easy way to prepare!

Another favorite Mexican food is fajitas. Oh and I love beef tips and rice. Then there is Chinese stir fry as well. That was a mouth full, ha ha. Well let me let you in on another secret. Usually when preparing these dishes, you have to julienne (slice longways) or chunk the meat, correct? To get the most tender cut is to cut against the grain. In other words, there are stripes in the meat that goes a certain direction. Instead of cutting in the same direction, flip the meat and cut in the opposite direction. This will cause the meat to come apart easier and is much easier to chew or cut.

These are a few secrets that have either made my life easier or my food taste better! Hope you can use them!

Tips for Cooking Without Salt

Going Low-sodium is Simple

The dreaded news was delivered: Your doctor says you have to restrict your salt intake. This life-changing prescription could be made for a number of reasons, including treatment for obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart ailments and hypertension. The good news is you don’t have to suffer bland food. Sure, you may have to give up some prepared foods. The recommended daily sodium intake is 2,400 milligrams, and you could easily blow half that allowance on one serving of canned soup. If your physician says to cut your salt intake by half, you’ll have to make serious adjustments. But that’s all they are. Adjustments, not sacrifices.

To get you started on getting used to enjoying food without salt, I highly recommend you either buy or get from the library The No-Salt Cookbook by David C. Anderson and Thomas D. Anderson. The father and son team created an extremely useful and easy-to-digest book stuffed with excellent recipes and handy information. They explain why you’ll have to give up most fast food: One Burger King Whopper has 1,020mg sodium, a Big Mac has 1,010mg and a Wendy’s Ultimate Chicken Grill sandwich has 1,050mg. The duo also warns against dining out at Asian restaurants with a lot of soy sauce in their recipes, because soy sauce has 1,319mg sodium per tablespoon.

So home cooking, they say, is the key to going low sodium and loving it. But you don’t just have to take the Andersons’ advice. Many fine dining chefs know how to deftly flavor food without salt. One of this country’s leaders in low- and no-salt cooking is Drew Rosen, executive chef at The Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa in Aventura, Fla. People from all over the world go there to improve their health, lose weight and eat Chef Rosen’s incredible cuisine. He has several techniques any home cook could employ. “First, using the best and freshest ingredients is No. 1,” he says. “Also, use a combination of fresh herbs and dry spices. And think about using some type of acid, like vinegars or citrus.”

Part of the problem with many people thinking they can’t enjoy food without salt is due to their palates being overwhelmed with sodium, Chef Rosen says. “They’re so used to salt they can’t taste food for its natural flavors. But very quickly the palate adapts to a low-sodium diet, and people can taste what the food actually tastes like.” The process of shedding a salt dependency takes anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks, but once you break the habit you’ll discover subtle flavors salt was masking.

Gilles Foucard, a French-trained chef from Columbia, S.C., says he has “never been a heavy salt person.” The Paris native says he was shocked when he came to America and saw people salting their food before tasting it. “It would never occur to me to add seasoning without tasting,” he says, adding that “salt should be cooked with the meal, not added on later.” Foucard relies more on freshly ground black pepper, and herbs such as thyme, rosemary, chives and chervil. “Chervil looks like parsley and has a unique flavor. It’s great in a nice walnut tomato salad with shallots and vinaigrette.” Chef Rosen says salads are very easily adaptable to low sodium diets because the fresh produce in them is so flavorful.

Cooking methods such as braising, which slows eases out the full robustness of natural flavors in meats and vegetables, is also one of Rosen’s favorite tools. If a home cook wants to still use prepared products in their recipes, there are many useful ingredients on store shelves and available for purchase on-line. Following is a list of products from Chef Rosen and The No-Salt Cookbook.

  • Annie’s Naturals vinaigrettes
  • Arrowhead Mills cereals
  • Asher’s Chocolates
  • Ass Kickin’ chili seasoning
  • Atkins shakes
  • B&G Unsalted Pickles
  • Barbara’s Bakery cereals
  • Barbara’s Bakery fat free bars
  • Barbara’s Bakery Instant Mashed Potatoes
  • Bearito popcorn
  • Bearito tortilla chips
  • Bernard Beef Soup and Gravy Base
  • Bernard Chicken Soup and Gravy Base
  • Bernard Cream of Chicken Soup and Gravy Base
  • Bernard Cream of Mushroom Soup and Gravy Base
  • Bernard Low Sodium Barbecue Sauce
  • Bernard Low Sodium Cheese SauceMix
  • Bernard Low Sodium Spaghetti Sauce Mix
  • Bernard Sugar Free Biscuit Mix
  • Bionaturae fruit juice nectars
  • Bob’s Red Mill cereals
  • Calorie Control gelatins
  • Calorie Control icing mixes
  • Cascadian Farm fruit spreads
  • Cascadian Farm potatoes
  • Cascadian Farm vegetables
  • Ceres fruit juices
  • Chatfield’s Cocoa Powder
  • Clif Bars
  • Consorzio salad dressings
  • Eden Foods beans
  • Edy’s sorbet
  • Featherweight Baking Powder
  • Featherweight Low Sodium Pickles
  • Food For Life breads
  • Garden of Eatin chips
  • Georgie’s Chewy Bonbons
  • Green Mountain Gringo salsas
  • Hain Pure Food rice cakes
  • Hain Pure Foods Eggless Mayonnaise
  • Health Valley fat-free and low-fat crackers
  • Health Valley soups
  • Horizon Neufchatel Spreadable Cheese
  • Horizon yogurt
  • Joseph’s Chocolate Walnut Cookies
  • Joseph’s Cookies
  • Kashi cereals
  • Kozy Shack pudding
  • Longhorn Low-Salt Mesquite Seasoning
  • Luna Bars
  • Lundberg Farms rice beverages
  • Lundberg Farms rice blends
  • Mrs. Dash seasonings
  • Muir Glen canned tomatoes
  • OldeCape Cod Orange Barbecue and Grilling Sauce
  • Parmalat milk
  • Perfect Addition stocks
  • Pritikin salad dressings
  • Rice Dream beverages
  • Sorbee cookies
  • Stonyfield Farm yogurt
  • Sweet ‘n Low Banana Cake
  • Mix Sweet ‘n Low Chocolate Wafers
  • Sweet ‘n Low Peanut Butter Wafers
  • Toufayan pita bread
  • Walnut Acres salsas
  • Wasa Crispbread
  • Westbrae canned beans
  • Westbrae Dijon Mustard
  • Westbrae Ketchup (also low in sugar)
  • Westbrae Mustard
  • WestSoy beverages
  • Whole Soy yogurt
  • Wild Thymes Spicy Island Barbecue Sauce
  • Mango Compote

Healthy Cooking: Getting Rid of Bad Cholesterol in 3 Ways

Lowering cholesterol levels in the body requires discipline and determination in changing one’s eating lifestyle. Cholesterol levels are increased when one eats fried foods, processed meats, chocolates, soft drinks and foods rich in sugar in large amount.

1. Get Rid of Bad Lifestyle Habits

People who have bad lifestyle habits are the common victims of excessive high cholesterol levels. The usual bad vices that one should get rid of are smoking and drinking, not only to people who suffer from high cholesterol levels but to everyone who wants to maintain their healthy body.

2. Cooking Meals with Less Cholesterol Content

* Check the labels at the side of the box of cereals and microwavable pre-packed foods to make sure that they don’t have high caloric and fat content.

* The initial step to lower blood cholesterol is being aware of the foods you take.

*Fast food chains and restaurants offer huge meals that contain high cholesterol so avoid eating out a lot.

3. Learn How to Read Food Labels

Food labels are made up of two portions: the upper portion taps about the elements that one should limit like cholesterol, carbohydrates, sodium, protein and fat. The lower portion indicates the elements that one needs like iron, vitamins and many more.

Most food labels can be quite misleading at times and you may think that you’re eating a healthy food but then it still has fat, cholesterol and caloric content in lower levels. The list below that came from the Food and Drugs Authority is some of the examples that we can find in the packaging of the food we eat:

• Calorie-free

This doesn’t mean that the food doesn’t contain calories: the caloric content is just reduced at lower levels compared to other brands.

• Low-sodium

The product per serving has less than 140 mg of salt.

• Low-calorie

The product per serving contains less than 40 calories.

• Low-cholesterol

The product has only 2 grams of fat and contains less than 20 mg of cholesterol per serving.

Spend Less Time Cooking and More Time Enjoying the 4th This Year

The 4th of July is one of the most celebrated holidays in America. As a nation, we commemorate our independence, our beginnings, our patriotism, and for some, our futures. We enjoy barbecues, community events and spending time without family and friends – which is ultimately most important. However, preparing for the barbecues and events takes precious time away from the moments with our loved ones.

Wouldn’t you like to have more time making memories than dinner? Here are a few time-saving tips and quick and easy recipe ideas that can be prepared ahead of time, getting you out of the kitchen and in on the fun.

Grilling is a must on the 4th, but what we put on the grill isn’t always healthy. Hot dogs and hamburgers are convenient to most and are certainly a favorite. But, chicken can be prepared in the same basic time frame if you plan ahead and is much better for you. Simply marinate the chicken the night before your party, saving your preparation and cooking time.

Low-fat dressings, such as Italian, Caesar and Dried Tomato Basil are excellent marinades for chicken. By marinating the meat overnight, the meat soaks up not only the flavor but the juices, leaving your meat moist and tasty.

Corn on the cob is another favorite that can be prepared ahead. Rub the corn with butter or margarine, sprinkle on a little Cajun seasoning, or just salt and pepper if you prefer, wrap in foil and pop it in the refrigerator. It’ll be ready for the grill when you are and can be cooked at the same time as your meat.

Do you like onions? How about a blooming grilled Vidalia? Take a large Vidalia onion, cut it four ways from the top but not through to the bottom. Gently spread the onion open so that it stays intact but resembles a budding flower. Place the onion on a square of foil large enough to completely wrap the onion, sprinkle the onion with a touch of garlic salt and drizzle with melted butter or your favorite meat marinade. Wrap it up and put it on the grill for about 20 minutes. This dish can also be placed in the fridge overnight. Whether you prepare it ahead or put it on the grill right way, it’s delicious!

For dessert, whip up some instant raspberry pudding and top it with blueberries and a dollop of whipped cream. Or, how about some blueberry Jell-O® topped with whipped cream and a strawberry? Both are not only quick and easy, tasty treats but help you show off your patriotism in a flash.