Wrapping It Up

Prior to this class, I believed blogs were just a way to update people on your life and what you’ve been doing. This knowledge mainly comes from friends having travel or study abroad blogs. Celebrities also commonly have blogs on what they’ve been up to because they have such a strong following and interest in their lives.

Each week I wanted to see how I could make my blog more applicable and interesting than just a travel or update blog. After a while, people don’t care about you. People want to learn how to improve themselves or make something about them. I started transforming my blogs from my personal experiences to more of a guide and advice column. This way, people could apply the information to themselves.

Throughout the process of blogging, I found it was very easy to sound like you are writing a paper or research article. I wanted to change that so I began adding a lot of voice to my writing to make it sound like a conversation between friends. I believe this not only made it more interesting but more likely for people to want to read.

From blogging I learned it is important to not only talk about the things that interest you, but things that interest others. Sure, you can have a belief but it is more interesting to create a debate or other options to consider for your readers. A wide range of blog posts is also important. For example one day post a giveaway post, the next an advice post, and another day a post about a holiday.

Now that I have began blogging, I would like to learn how to create a following and what keeps readers interested. Some people live by blogs, others read occasionally, and others do not read them at all. I would like to find out how to get people to read and follow blogs.

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Wine Wine Wine!

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Source: http://www.winemind.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/wine-tasting.jpg

We’re going to go off topic a little bit today, but only a little. Although food and cooking is an important aspect of my blog, we can’t forget another important aspect that often accompanies a good meal; wine. In the past few years, wine has become increasingly popular. The number of wineries has increased and wine tours have become a hit! Wine tours are a great way for people to try wine for the first time and find out what you like. Millennials have especially become more fond of wine and how to pair it with food. Both wine and food can take on a totally different taste when paired with different things. Therefore, wine can be a terrific addition to a lunch or dinner to elevate it to new levels.

In the past, whatever wine your guest brought would be the one served at the table. Now, choosing wine is seen as an art. People are looking to buy the perfect bottle of wine to accompany their food. If you’re new to this, check out the chart below to help you out.

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Source: http://winefolly.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/wine-and-food-pairing-chart.png

If you do participate in a wine tour or are merely hanging out with a crowd of wine connoisseurs, there are a couple words you might want to know! Not only will these words help you understand and fit in, but they will also help you identify wines you might enjoy.

  1. Acidity: If you enjoy wines that are crisp and sharp in taste, you prefer wine that is more acidic. These types of wines often leave a wet feeling in your mouth, similar to that of taking a bit of an apple. These types of wines are light in taste.
  2. Body: Body is all about how big of an impression the wine left on your mouth. There are 3 common levels of body; light, medium, and full-bodied. Body is derived from a couple factors. The variety, location, and alcohol level will affect the body of the wine. When measuring body, think about how long the taste stays in your mouth, if it tastes the same from the moment you sip to the moment you swallow, and if it tasted light or big. The higher you rate the wine on those scales, the bigger bodied it is.
  3. Tannins: Tannins add a level of bitterness and dryness to wine. Although these aspects sound negative, tannins actually add balance, complexity, and structure to the wine. When you drink wine with higher levels of tannins, it will leave your mouth feeling dry.
  4. Fruit: Grapes are often not the only type of fruit present in your wine. You will catch a smell and taste of many different others types of fruit used to create the wine. Red wines will often have berries in them like raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, and plums. White wines will have flavors from peaches, apples, and white grapes.
Source: http://winefolly.com/review/wine-characteristics/

If you want to find more information on wine, wine tours, etc., check out this website!

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The Ultimate Tool for Success: A Sharp Knife

A sharp knife is the ultimate key to success in the kitchen. Not only will a sharp knife make beautiful cuts, but it will save you time in the process! We’ve all been there…spending excess time prepping and cutting food because the knife isn’t working properly. But it isn’t that it is not working properly, but because it is not sharp! Sharp knives will cut a basket of veggies in no time, slide through tough cuts of meat, and mince garlic to the finest particles you’ve ever seen!

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Source: http://cdn.cheftalk.com/b/ba/1000x500px-ba7f47ca_ZwillingsChef.jpg

The knife that will do almost every job is the chef’s knife. These types of knives are lightweight, sharp, and super versatile. Most chef knives range from about 8-10 inches long, making them suitable for a variety of tasks. The blade on these knives are a bit curved to aid with chopping, slicing, dicing, and mincing. If you’re looking for that one knife to do it all, this is the one!

Now there are a couple aspects to consider when buying a chef’s knife.

  • Style
  • Design
  • Craftsmanship
  • Materials

For style, each knife will be a little different. Some types of chef knives are built for more specific uses while others are good for everything. Styles range from thin and delicate to thick and heavy. It’s up to you and your cooking style to decide which knife style is best for you.

Design is also another important aspect. Design ranges from how the knife is built, how it feels in your hand, and how it cuts on the cutting board. It’s best to feel, hold, and practice using the knife before you buy it to make sure the design fits with you.

Craftsmanship is all about the quality of the knife. You can certainly go out and buy a cheaper chef’s knife, but the craftsmanship will not be there and it will only work decently. The best craftsmanship comes from the build of the knife and how it is made. Always look for quality, flowing products.

Last but not least is materials. Soft or hard steel blades are always an option, both with their positives and negatives. Don’t forget the material of the handle. All are important when thinking about durability, sharpness, cleanliness, etc.

Here are a couple you can check out!

Affordable

Top Rated

Extremely Sharp

For Vegetarians

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Source: http://f.tqn.com/y/culinaryarts/1/S/v/7/-/-/knife-anat.jpg

Remember, one of the most important aspects about owning a sharp knife is safety. Sharp knives are actually safer than dull knives. Sharper knives are safer because you need less pressure to cut through food. With dull knives, you need to press harder in order to make an impact and therefore could puncture the skin further. But of course, exercising proper knife safety techniques is necessary no matter what type of knife you own

How to throw the perfect 4th of July BBQ!

We all love a good bbq! Throw in some fireworks and warm weather and it gets even better! However, the 4th of July can become overwhelming, busy, and rumbustious without a few helpful tips! Read on further for some advice that will ensure your 4th of July is a hit!

Whether the kids are spilling their juice or the adults are throwing around their cocktails, a setting that is easy to clean up is a must! Stop by the local dollar store or party city and grab a patriotic plastic table cloth that will wipe clean in an instant. Nobody wants to spend their time cleaning up a busy crowd. Not to mention, these types of table clothes can be found so cheap that you don’t even need to waste your time cleaning them…you can just throw them away!

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Source: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/f0/ed/f7/f0edf7e7767181144b56b79bf02a354e.jpg

Invest in some paper or plastic cups, plates, bowls, and utensils! After a long day of food, drinks, sun, and fireworks you are not going to feel like doing the dishes. To feel better about using all that paper and plastic, make sure to find some that are recyclable. Have a bin readily available for guests to throw away their items when they’re done! This ensures that guests can do their part in cleaning up!

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Source: http://www.parties2order.com/images/products/caribbean-blue542.jpg

It is more than likely that you will have more guests than you expect at your backyard bash. People are always bringing friends and families to tag a long. This can put added stress on you if you are the one providing the food. Don’t let yourself become frantic that you may not have enough food for everyone. Instead, invite everyone to provide their favorite side dish, dessert, or beverage to help contribute! Not only does this cut down on your food prepping and cooking, but it also saves money.

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Source: http://photos1.meetupstatic.com/photos/event/9/6/b/6/event_236558582.jpeg

Last but not least, think about what other entertainment you might want to have. There is nothing worse than having everyone gathered around the picnic table or grill at once. To avoid this, provide your guests with other things to do. Try setting up a corn-hole board game or volleyball net. Another important aspect is music! Music is great at cutting out awkward silence or getting people dancing.

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Source: http://backyardbabble.com/images/cornhole-game-family.jpg

 

The Struggle of Cooking on a College Budget

Most college students are content with surviving off of boxed macaroni and cheese; top ramen; spaghetti; and peanut butter and jellies. I however, am not. I enjoy food with flavor, depth, and character. My taste buds are always yearning for something more. Boxed and packaged foods that college students typically rely on only consist of the ingredients that come enclosed with it. This option makes it the cheapest way to go. When it comes to making your own food, many more ingredients are needed to complete the recipe. This can make cooking more expensive when more items are needed. Not to mention, higher quality meals will need quality ingredients. Most college students will buy the cheapest brand or item possible. However, the cheaper varieties will definitely be noticeable in the final result.

Let’s take boxed macaroni and cheese and compare it with a homemade macaroni and cheese for example. A box of macaroni and cheese can be found for only .99 a box. In order to achieve this price, artificial and cheaper ingredients are used. This makes the product quality low with an inherent artificial taste making the macaroni and cheese a lackluster choice. Of course this a great choice if you’re on a college student’s budget, but it’s not the choice you want to make.

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Source: http://www.iheartthemart.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Kraft-mac-n-cheese-Wags1.png

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Source: http://www.star2.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/doc6k67vywxgg4igqljizg.jpg

However, the homemade macaroni and cheese is a whole different story. Here is the ingredient list for my favorite homemade macaroni and cheese recipe.

  • 8 oz. dry macaroni (1 2/3 cups, measured in a 2 cup glass liquid measure. Note that this measure will only work for macaroni and probably not a larger pasta shape. Weighing is recommended.)
  • Cheese Sauce:
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole* milk (3%) *recommend whole milk here, if you can
  • 7 oz./200 g. a really good, really aged cheddar, broken or chopped into small chunks (I used British Coastal Cheddar)
  • 2 1/2 – 3 oz. of another variety orange or white old, sharp cheddar, grated (I used MacLaren’s Imperial Sharp Cold Pack Cheddar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (little less if using table salt)
  • 1/4 tsp. (regular) chili powder
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
  • Topping:
  • 1/2 oz. additional old cheddar, grated
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. chipotle chili powder

 

For the cheese alone it will cost $10 to make the homemade macaroni and cheese. The recommended brand, MacLaren’s Imperial, costs $5.49 for a little over 8oz. My recipe calls for 10.5oz of cheese.

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Source: http://cdn.travidia.com/fsi-ad/8570664-500

Milk, butter, and seasonings are also not cheap. But let me tell you, this macaroni and cheese blows Kraft macaroni and cheese out of the water! If there is anything I can tell you it is this: high quality, aged cheese makes all the difference. In fact, this dish is so rich and flavor that you do not need as much to feel satiated. After all, look at the difference between the final outcome of Kraft macaroni and cheese versus the homemade version.

Homemade:

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Source: http://www.seasonsandsuppers.ca/perfect-creamymacaroni-and-cheese/

Kraft:

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Source: http://images.parents.mdpcdn.com/sites/parents.com/files/styles/width_360/public/images/wordpress/48129/macandcheese.jpg

Overall, it can be difficult to pursue a passion for cooking on a college budget. Often times this means only being able to cook a few good meals every once in a while instead of every day. Enjoying those few good meals once in a while can actually be worth it though. You really learn to savor and appreciate a good meal when you have them less frequently.

The Ultimate Guide to Grilling

With the arrival of summer, I’ve found myself excited to get back to firing up the grill on warm afternoons! Grilling is the perfect alternative on hot days when you don’t want to turn on your stove or oven in your house. However, I have found that many people are intimidated of grilling. Since many of us only grill in the summers, this is perfectly understandable. With this guide, I hope to show you that grilling is in fact super easy and extremely rewarding!

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One thing I find most people are unsure of is what temperature to grill at. I have found that for most grilling, you get the best results from grilling at a high heat. Grilling at high heat for a short period of time creates perfectly tender meat. There are a few exceptions though. Thicker cuts of meat should be cooked at a medium-high temperature to ensure the inside of the meat cooks before the outside does to avoid burning.

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But before you even put your meat on the grill grates, you must prep it! A good marinade is the ultimate method for flavorful meat. Meat can be marinated anywhere from an hour to a couple days. However, once you have hit a day or two, the meat can get mushy. A good average to aim for is 6-12 hours. A marinade needs to consists of 3 things.

  1. Acid. Acid will help break down the tough meat fibers to ensure your meat is tender by the end. Acid can come from lemon juice, lime juice, beer, wine, vinegar, etc.
  2. Oil. Oil will help bind all the marinade ingredients together as well as make sure the acid does not overwhelm the meat. Oil will also ensure that the meat does not stick to the grill. Common oils to use are olive oil, sesame oil, and vegetable oil.
  3. Seasonings. Herbs, salts, sugars, etc are what will build the flavor you like. Garlic, salt, and pepper are found in almost every marinade recipe. When combining seasonings, think about what genre of food you are making. For more Spanish or Mexican flavors think cumin, cayenne, paprika, oregano. For more of an Italian feel think parsley, basil, garlic.

Here are a few good links for marinade recipes!

The Best Grilled Chicken Marinade Recipe

http://www.foodandwine.com/blogs/2015/06/06/9-marinades-grilled-steak

Next is the grilling process! Remember, bring your meat to room temperature before grilling to ensure consistent and even cooking. Different cuts of meat will require different cooking times. My best advice is to experiment with your grill and your favorite cuts of meat to see what times work best. Each grill is different as so is every cut of meat. For a quick guide, use this as a reference!

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After you have successfully cooked your meat, check the temperature to make sure it is cooked thoroughly. Here is another quick guide to help you out with that.

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Lastly, do not dig into your meat until it has had a few minutes to rest. Allowing your meat to rest for a couple minutes lets the juices settle in and redistribute. Otherwise, once you cut into the meat the juices will run out.

Bon Appetite!

Who I Admire

There are a lot of different types of cooks out there. You will find those who are just trying to make a tasty meal, those who are trying to make a quick and easy meal, and those who are trying to make an authentic meal. I would like to focus on someone who likes to bring authenticity to their cooking. Italian food is one of my favorites, so it is no surprise that I am very fond of Giada De Laurentiis. Giada brings classic Italian ingredients, techniques, and recipes to her cooking. Giada has her own show on the food network if you’d like to check her out.

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Giada often brings her mother, who is from Italy, onto her show to lend a hand in showing authentic Italian ways. Another key aspect of Giada that I find important is how much she stresses good quality and authentic ingredients. Without the classic ingredients, your food will not taste anything like something you would get from Italy. Giada’s core purpose is to show the world how to cook authentic Italian food. So often people are misled by what authentic Italian food is. Many people think of lots of cheese as the key component in Italian cooking. Yes, cheese is important. However, good quality cheese is the most important. Giada does a great job at explaining where to buy the best cheese, how to buy the best cheese, and what cheese is best for what dish.

Giada hopes to bring a little bit of her history and family into people’s lives as they cook. Giada grew up cooking with her family, as food and cooking is big in the Italian culture. Giada says, “Food brings people together on many different levels. It’s nourishment of the soul and body; it’s truly love.” This can come from either cooking with your family or preparing a large meal for them and enjoying along side them. In her show, Giada is featured having dinner parties and going to Italy. In these episodes, she is sure to give helpful tips as well as give a first hand look into what an Italian family, kitchen, and dinner is like.

Over all, I admire Giada’s desire to bring authenticity to cooking. Culture is very important in cooking as I have already mentioned. Maintaining an authentic culture is what gives you the best result when cooking. Using the same ingredients and methods will result in the same raving reviews you hear from people who have traveled from Italy. However, it is okay to create your own ways of doing things or finding substitutes to make something easier or cheaper. But the main point I am trying to make is that there is a reason things are authentic and have been the same for many centuries.

To get more information on Giada, her recipes, and background, visit her website: http://www.giadadelaurentiis.com/

On more advice about cooking authentic Italian food, go here: http://memoriediangelina.com/2011/02/13/on-authenticity-part-iii-making-authentic-italian-food-at-home/#.V1ZKoeRpss4

 

 

Top 10 Ways To Cook Chicken

According to the USDA, Americans consume about 90 pounds of chicken per person annually. So it’s safe to say chicken can get pretty boring once in a while. To fix this, I’ve listed 10 ways to cook chicken to make it more exciting!

Roasted

“The almost universal appeal of roasted chicken stems from its power to comfort. The ideal roasted chicken recipe will leave your chicken golden brown and gleaming, tender and juicy. The crackle of chicken as it roasts and the wondrous aroma that perfumes the kitchen provoke a feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment.” -Martha Stewart

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Fried

A trick for perfectly crispy fried chicken is to fry the chicken not once, but twice.

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Smoked

“Smoked chicken is big, bold, and assertive, but the skin, although it is packed with flavor, is not crispy.This method will produce a delicate, moist bird if you don’t overcook it, so there is no need to even consider brining it.” -Meathead Goldwyn

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Stewed

This traditional stewed chicken dish begins with a browned, cut up chicken, that is slow cooked in a roux based gravy.

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Breaded

Chicken is breaded with flavorful crumbs, herbs, and Parmesan cheese, then baked for a quick and easy chicken dish.

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Stuffed

Stuff chicken breasts with your favorite fillings for a wonderful chicken breast. Some filling examples include cheese, ham, ricotta, spinach, and many more.

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Baked

“Whether it’s part of spicy fajitas or it stand alone next to corn on the cob at your next summer barbecue, baked chicken is easy and pleasing with our must-make recipes that incorporate mouth-watering seasonings like garlic, cayenne, paprika and parmesan.” -Betty Crocker

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Stir Fried

“A stir-fry is a great way to incorporate more vegetables and less meat into your family’s diet. This meal is full of bright color and texture from the vegetables and flavor from the stir-fry sauce.” -McCormick

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Poached

When done well, poached chicken breast is unsurpassed in its tender texture, juiciness, and clean flavor. This method can be served with simple yet flavorful preparations.

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Seared

Seared chicken provides the best opportunity to create rich and flavorful pan sauces from the brown bits that stick to the bottom of the pan. When the chicken is done cooking, simply deglaze the pan with wine or chicken stock and scrape the brown bits off the pan. Let the liquid simmer down into a thicker sauce and voila!

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First blog post

Cooking has been a part of daily life since the creation of humans. The food that we cook nourishes our bodies and excites our taste buds. Throughout time, cooking techniques, demands, and trends have changed. However, some things have always stayed the same. Cooking has always been a way to bring people together, try something new, and feed our bodies.

Although the origins of cooking are unknown, historians have a few explanations as to how and why it began. It is believed that humans did not actually begin cooking their food until they learned how to use fire for light and warmth. Prior to fire, humans would eat raw meat and vegetables. Once fire was discovered, humans realized that cooking raw meat over a fire increased its taste, texture, and digestive qualities. Roasting meat over a fire was the only culinary technique utilized until the Palaeolithic Period. Eventually other techniques were discovered that improved the quality of food. These techniques included steaming food by wrapping it in wet leaves and placing it over a hot fire and toasting wild grains on flat rocks with tools like shells and skulls. No more cooking techniques were employed until the creation of pottery. Culinary techniques improved exponentially with the introduction of earthenware, settled communities, domesticated livestock, and the cultivation of edible plants. Throughout time, humans have created ways to make food taste better and last longer. Some of these techniques that are still used today include roasting, boiling, stewing, braising, pickling, frying, oven, smoking, salting, air-drying, and chilling.

Another aspect to realize is that food is not just about taste. Food is important to many religions, and cultures. Every religion utilizes foods in its practices. Some religions believe in fasting, some include wine and bread in their rituals, while some abstain from certain food groups. Food is a way of defining a religion and their beliefs. Culture is also an important part of food and cooking. Every culture uses different foods and cooking techniques based upon what is available in their region. Mexico uses a lot of potato, corn, and hot peppers in their cooking because it is what grows best in their hot weather region. Japan on the other hand uses a lot of greens, rice, and other vegetables that grow in a very wet climate. America is seen as a melting pot of cultures and food because of the amount of immigrants and cultures that have come together. Not to mention, America has found ways to grow many different types of food year round. This has enabled different foods and cooking practices to thrive.

Overall, the evolution of cooking and melting of cultures has made food an important part of our lives. We use food to bring people together and enjoy life. After all, who doesn’t enjoy attending an event where food is provided?

https://allthatcooking.com/history-of-cooking/

http://ideas.ted.com/what-americans-can-learn-from-other-food-cultures/

http://www.diet.com/g/religion-and-dietary-practices