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One of the tricks I find most useful for hosting stress-free dinner parties is to make some of the recipes ahead. I find that too many last minute jobs can overwhelm me, so I plan ahead to eliminate as many as possible.

Why Do Make-Ahead Recipes Work So Well To Reduce Your Dinner Party Stress?

Why Do Make-Ahead Recipes Work So Well To Reduce Your Dinner Party Stress?One of the tricks I find most useful for hosting stress-free dinner parties is to make some of the recipes ahead. I find that too many last minute jobs can overwhelm me, so I plan ahead to eliminate as many as possible. The more dishes you can prepare a day or some hours before guests ring your doorbell, the more you reduce your stress. Here are some reasons: You avoid a last minute crisis if preparation takes longer than you thought it would. If you like to cook, youll have the leisure to enjoy what youre doing instead of feeling frantic about a deadline You have time to clean up after you cook. If there is a disaster, say you burn something, you have plenty of time to come up with an alternate plan. If you have prepared the dessert ahead, you dont need to leave the table for a long stretch just when the conversation is getting really interesting. Put your imagination to work for you! Try to imagine your way through the last minute jobs you will have to get dinner on the table, and reduce them to a minimum you feel comfortable with. It helps to think about what all those last minute jobs are: setting out the ice water pitcher, lighting the candles, putting items in serving dishes and getting the guests to the table. By the way, many of these are jobs that your guests can do. What is your level of tolerance for last minute jobs? Now ask yourself what your level of tolerance is for last minute jobs? If it is low, then you should think about finding some recipes that absolutely minimize any last minute work. This is especially true if you are an inexperienced cook. Some of the recipes I rely on are make-ahead, and some are just items that I can bring home from the store and put out in nice serving dishes. Some cooks even make everything ahead. If you love stews, lasagna and casseroles, then you could do that too. But I often prefer serving a delicious roast of lamb or beef or chicken as the special item on the menu. Luckily these dishes are ones you can put in the oven and leave to themselves while you do other things. If you can add potatoes and vegetables to the roast while it cooks you have almost all of the advantages of make-ahead. Once you pop them in the oven beside the roast you can pretty well ignore them until they are cooked. So I tend to focus on finding appetizers, salads, side dishes and desserts that I can make ahead, or set out straight from the store, or vegetables I can cook alongside a roast. Then I can concentrate on the last minute items like slicing a roast, making gravy, and getting things on the table. Probably the most important category for me is appetizers. I find it too stressful to be fussing at cooking something while the doorbell is ringing. If you are hosting by yourself you may find the same. So I try to have a repertoire of make-ahead or buy-ahead appetizer recipes that work for me. Often I serve more than one, since some of my guests like to stick to very light appetizers, and others enjoy heartier ones. You can build your repertoire of make ahead recipes for your home dinner parties. I suggest you start with appetizers. If you want to see some of my favorites, just go to my Make-Ahead Appetizers page on my website. Enjoy minimizing your hosting stress and watching your guests eyes light up at the sight of your tasty, well presented appetizers.

Famous Names In Barbecue

Famous Names In Barbecue

They are grilling celebrities in their own right. You've seen them on TV and you see their cookbooks lined along the shelves of your local bookstore. They may have different backgrounds and a variety of cooking styles, but just like you, they all share the same passion and that is for grilling and barbecues.Bobby Flay is one of the most successful chefs who specialize in grilling and barbecues. In 1991, Flay's restaurant, Mesa Grill opened and was dubbed as the Best Restaurant by New York magazine. In 1993, Chef Bobby Flay was voted as James Beard Foundation's Rising Star Chef of the Year. It was during the same year that his other restaurant, Bolo opened. Bobby Flay's love affair with the grill can be best experienced through his TV shows, BBQ with Bobby Flay, Hot Off the Grill with Bobby Flay, and Boy Meets Grills, as well as his cookbooks Boy Meets Grill, and its sequel, Boy Gets Grill.Larry Gerber a.k.a. The BarBeQue Man. Dubbed as the BarBeQue Man or simply Que, Larry Gerber has become the face and voice of virtually anything related to grilling and barbecues. His company, Barbeque Man, does endorsements and promotions of various barbecue-related products, events, and issues. Apart from being a personal chef, he also writes for different national culinary publications, hosts a TV show called Culinary Adventures, and can be heard on many radio stations in the upper Midwest as he talks about the fine art of barbecuing and grilling.Mike Mills is often referred to as The Legend in the world of grilling and barbecuing because of his family's treasured barbecue sauce. Between 1989 and 1994, his team, the Apple City BBQ team won hundreds of awards and accolades in various barbecue competitions. They even hold the record for being four-time World Champions and for being three-time Grand World Champions, which no other team has ever bee able to beat so far. Today, Mike Mills owns 17th Street Bar & Grill in Murphysboro, IL and has published a book entitled, Peace, Love, and Barbecue: Recipes, Secrets, Tall Tales, and Outright Lies from the Legends of Barbecue in 2005.Steve Raichlen is a journalist, cooking teacher, award winning author and PBS TV host. His best-selling Barbecue Bible cookbook series (more than 2 million copies in print) and Barbecue University TV show on PBS has changed the American barbecue for the better. In August, 2003, Raichlen defeated Iron Chef Roksbura Michiba in a bbq battle on Japanese television. Some other fmouus quotes about Raichlen include: Oprah called him the Gladiator of Grilling and Howard Stern hailed him as the Michael Jordan of Barbecue.Now, aren't you just inspired to get out there and cook the most amazing barbecue recipes yourself? Not a problem get your grill ready, hit your local meat shop or grocery store and logon to InsaneChickens BBQ Sauce Catalog and get their delicious recipes ranging from barbecue to vegetarian recipes. And of course, check out their wide range of sauces and marinades to further make your grilling dishes insanely bold and daring.

North America Gets Cheesy with Raclette Grills

North America Gets Cheesy with Raclette Grills

Yes, the fondue pot of the 70s was pretty cheesy, but in this century, nothing is more cheesy than raclette. In recent years fondue pots have experienced a resurgence in popularity, and with them has come the raclette grill. Though not traditionally well known in the US and Canada, raclette is suddenly experiencing a boom in popularity. Raclette is a semi-soft, relatively mild, easily melted cheese from Switzerland. The term also refers to the cooking method of melting cheese at a tabletop grill and serving with a variety of accompaniments. Legend has it that the original method for melting the raclette cheese began when Swiss herdsmen settled down for the night in their camps. They placed a hunk of cheese near their campfire and as it melted, scraped it off onto a slice of bread. Today, this same meal is mimicked but with much greater variety of foods, and with electric raclette grills that are much more convenient. Though the melting method has changed over the years, this simple and entertaining meal has remained just as enjoyable for entertaining evenings with friends and family.There are several kinds of raclette grills that you can choose from. Traditional raclette grills hold a half- or quarter-round of raclette cheese on an angle, with a heating element melting the surface of the cheese, which drips onto a plate of dried meats and other accompaniments. Today, the most common raclette sets include a cheese-melting element with a grill for cooking meats at the table. They provide up to 8 people with individual cheese pans and feature non-stick, dishwasher safe surfaces for convenience and easy cleanup. Perfect for entertaining! Portable raclette using fondue-type burners are also available for camping and picnicking. A raclette grill can provide not only a delicious, hot-off-the-grill meal, but also provide a lot of fun for family and friends. For optimum enjoyment, serve traditional raclette with a Fendant or other light-bodied dry white wine. If you are grilling meats, serve a wine appropriate for the meats. A traditional Swiss raclette meal uses raclette cheese with the following accompaniments:- baguette bread- small cooked potatoes- small gherkins- pickled onions- charcuterie meats such as salami or proscuittoYou can also get very creative with a raclette meal. A departure from tradition but an adventure in taste could include: Raw meat for grilling and dipping into sauces:- Italian sausage cut into 1/4 slices - Chicken tenderloins cut into 1 pieces- Beef tenderloin cut into 1/2 cubes- Shrimp and ScallopsThinly sliced cheeses: - Brie- Camembert- Oka- Cheddar- CambezolaVegetables, blanched to al-dente, such as:- Mushrooms- Broccoli- Cauliflower- AsparagusHere are two excellent recipes for dipping sauces for your meats and vegetables:Pimento Sauce3/4 cups mayonnaise1/4 cup sour cream2 tablespoons tomato sauce1/2 cup canned pimentos or 1 red bell pepper, roasted with skin removedSalt and pepper, to tasteBlend all ingredients in a blender. Season to taste. Serve chilled. Cucumber Garlic Sauce1/2 cup mayonnaise1/2 cup plain yogurt1/2 cup sour cream2 gloves of garlic, finely chopped1/2 teaspoon salt1/4 cucumber, peeled and finely chopped1 tablespoon of finely chopped chives or green onion1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley1 tablespoon granulated sugarfresh ground pepperMix well all ingredients. Serve chilled.

Whats So Great About Slow Cooking Anyway?

Whats So Great About Slow Cooking Anyway?

As I walked through the grocery store aisles a few weeks ago, I noticed the increase in prepackaged slow cooker meals. Ive been using my slow cooker and reaping the rewards for years, so it was no real surprise to me when others started proclaiming the benefits of cooking with a crock pot. Why did it take the rest of the country so long to catch up? With this increase in popularity, Ive recently been asked by a few newbies Whats so great about slow cooking anyway?Thats an easy question to answer even if all youve ever done is make chicken stew with your slow cooker. Its just so dang simple and the food tastes better when cooked slowly and evenly in a crock pot.Im a work at home mom. I operate a Family Child Care and also have a busy online business, both of which keep me going all day long. That on top of my daughters activities and the in and out nature of my husbands business, were usually searching for time to sit down and eat, especially eating together as a family. Theres where the slow cooker comes in handy. I have tons of slow cooker recipes, and can find just about anything to cook that my kids and picky husband will like to eat.Since I work at home, having the kitchen stay a comfortable temperature is a must, as I spend quite a bit of time there preparing meals and snacks for my day care kids. I use my crock pot year round, and love its usefulness during the warm weather months when I can fix the beginnings of the meal in the morning when Ive got other stuff out on the counter anyway, put it all in the pot, and then clean up the whole mess when Im done. The crock pot requires very little clean up itself, so there you have yet another major reason for why slow cooking is so great.For those of you who work away from home, consider this scenario: As the day goes along, the slow cooker is busy fixing your meal for you, and when you walk through the door at the end of another grueling day at work, your dinner is waiting. All you need to do, depending on the recipe youve selected, is prepare a side dish or salad, add some bread, set the table, and call the family in to eat. Simple, simple, simple; and very satisfying to come home to. Here is a favorite slow cooker recipe that you can try with your family. Im sure youll all love it. Country-Style Crock Pot Chicken 6 carrots, sliced 6 celery stalks, sliced 8 chicken pieces 1 can (10-3/4 oz) cream of chicken soup, undiluted 1 envelope dry onion soup mix 1/3 c or chicken broth 2 tsp cornstarchSlice vegetables place in crock pot. Place chicken on vegetables. Spread undiluted soup over chicken. Sprinkle dry onion soup mix. Do not add any water. Cook on High 4 hours, or until chicken is done. Stir often. 10 minutes before serving, mix broth and cornstarch. Pour over chicken, stir well. Serves 4.

Secret To Cooking Vegetables

Vegetables are essential to the human diet. We get a great deal of our daily vitamin content from vegetables. We need to make sure that how we cook them does not drain vitamin contents and benefits of consumption.Cooking vegetables can be tricky. Over cooking can make vegetables bland and soggy. My belief is that vegetables should not be boiled. Boling not only rob us of vitamin content, it is the main culprit in turning vegetables to a lifeless, tasteless form.If we cannot boil, how do we proceed?First option, steaming vegetables is always a good choice. This will leave vegetables full of life. They will be crisp and colorful. It will also not deplete the vegetables of their vitamin content.By rule of thumb, vegetables will only need a few minutes in the steam.For those who do not have official vegetable steamers, an easy steamer can be fashioned out a of pot, a metal colander, and a pot lid. Place a small amount of water in the bottom of a given pot. Fit the metal colander into the pot. Start to boil the water. You will begin the see the steam rise. Place your vegetables into the metal colander and place the pot lid over the metal colander and pot. This collection of kitchen items will allow you to steam vegetables as good as any fancy store bought steamer.Another good option is to cook your vegetables in a wok. The secret to the wok is that it cooks quickly at a very high temperature. Vegetables retain their flavors, textures, and colors with small amount of nutrient loss.My favorite wok recipe for vegetables is to cook broccoli, carrots, bok choy, and snow peas in a very light garlic sauce. The vegetables remain crisp and the garlic adds just the right amount of flavoring. This combination can be served with any cut of meat.I hope you will see that secret to cooking vegetables is not to over cook. Vegetables need to remain crisp, full of color. As you learn different tricks to bringing your vegetables to life, these will become the most requested dishes on your dinner table.

Olive Oil, An Ancient Gift For Health.

Scientists are always looking to plants to find medicinal and therapeutic secrets. Discoveries of natural compounds within the olive tree and olives, provide promising health and medical benefits. Organic olive oil has significant health related properties that have spanned centuries and cultures in the Mediterranean.The Mediterranean olive dates back 6000 years and was native to Iran, Syria and Palestine (Asia Minor). From there it spread to the Mediterranean basin. It is one of the earliest known cultivated trees. According to the Bible, an olive leaf was that which a dove brought back to Noah, as an indication the great flood waters were abating.The olive tree thrives best in a sunny position and climate. A rocky subsoil suits it well. The trunk is knotty, hard, and gnarled, the bark smooth and ash colored. Olive wood is valuable for its durability and is crafted into many items such as gourmet cooking utensils. The olive tree experiences slow growth, but it lives very long. It is reported that the olive trees on Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, are over 2000 years old. It is commonly believed the Bible passage of the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine, refers to the olive tree. Olive leaves are silver grey-green, and possesses the health qualities of olive leaf extract which is pressed from them. Extracted from olive leaves is a bitter substance named oleuropein. In the 1960s researchers reported that oleuropein lowered blood pressure in animals, this caused immediate medicinal interest in the olive leaf. There are new studies that indicate olive leaf extract may be a natural preventative against the common cold and flu.The olive is believed to be a source of wealth for the Minoan Kingdom. Egyptians tombs dating back as far as 2000 BC have been proved to contain olives. The Greeks spread the usage of olives to the Romans who, in turn, spread it across their vast empire. The use of olive oil has been advocated by many religions and cultures. The early Greek Kings were anointed with olive oil. It was also used to anoint winning Olympic athletes. Across many cultures, olive oil is recognized for healthy benefits for both the inner and outward body.Some research indicates extra-virgin olive oil is the most digestible of the edible fats. Olive oil also it helps to assimilate vitamins A, D and K in the human body. Benefits of consuming olive oil include slowing down the aging process and helps liver, bile, and intestinal functions. "Olive oil" is valued for its culinary attributes and organoleptic virtues, these being: flavor, bouquet or aroma, and color. Various grades of olive oil are derived from the time of pressing. Earlier pressings are regarded as better quality. Cold pressed olive oil is a pressing process requiring no heat or chemicals, which destroy vital nutrients. This olive oil is generally the best to use for cooking and healthy cuisine.Olive oil has been extensively used in cooking and forms an integral part of the basic Mediterranean diet. It is a healthier substitute to butter. Strong and pungent flavored olive oils are great for frying fish or other items having a strong flavor. Extra virgin olive oil goes well with salads. A late harvest mission variety olive oil, which is mellow, can be used for baking cakes. Gourmet olive oil is a healthier and tastier substitute to other fatty cooking oils. The health benefits of cold pressed olive oil already have federal agency approval. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized marketing ads that say organic olive oil helps reduce the risk of coronary disease and disorders.Given below is a simple recipe for olive oil bread dipping sauce.Bread Dipping SauceServings : 2 - 4Preparation time : 10 minutesIngredients: cup virgin olive oil1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced (Italian parsley is best)1 tablespoon fresh basil, minced teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced1 teaspoon oregano1 teaspoon thyme1 teaspoon black pepper teaspoon red pepper flakes, crushed well1/8 teaspoon fresh lemon juiceSalt, to tasteMethod:Heat the olive oil in a pan. Add the garlic and saut till it changes color. Add all the other ingredients and cook for about 2 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Serve as a bread dip.

Summary

One of the tricks I find most useful for hosting stress-free dinner parties is to make some of the recipes ahead. I find that too many last minute jobs can overwhelm me, so I plan ahead to eliminate as many as possible.