Thursday, March 31, 2011

5 Exotic Must-Have Spices Every Cook Should Have in the Kitchen

5 Exotic Must-Have Spices Every Cook Should Have in the Kitchen
Everyone has the ordinary spices like cinnamon, sage, thyme, paprika, nutmeg and bay leaves, but there are so many more possibilities that are much more exotic. These more exotic spices can also dramatically change the flavor of your food and make you think you are eating a totally different dish. You can change the flavor of many of your ordinary foods by doing nothing more than using different spices.

  1. Star Anise
Star anise is a spice that has a flavor close to anise and actually contains anethole, the ingredient that gives anise its flavor. It is less expensive than anise and as a result is gaining popularity in the West as a substitute for anise in baking and the production of liquor. It also enhances the flavor of meat and can also be used sparingly as a substitute for cinnamon is some hot beverages.
2. Arrowroot
Although this ingredient is neither spice nor herb, it is an ingredient that might make many cooks happy. Arrowroot is often used as a thickener in sauces and doesn't turn them cloudy like many other thickeners.
3. Cardamon
Cardamon has a very strong and unique taste whose fragrance is highly aromatic. In addition, black caramon has a smokier aroma that some people equate to the aroma of mint. It is a very common ingredient in both Indian cooking and Nordic baking. Green cardamon is one of the most expensive spices by weight, but there is very little necessary to impart the necessary flavor. It is best to store cardamon in pod form because it will quickly lose its flavor once you expose the seeds.
4. Turmeric
Most of the time turmeric is in the form of root powder, but there are some regions that use the leaves form wrapping and cooking food. In most cases this occurs in regions where turmeric is locally grown because cooks use freshly picked turmeric which gives the food a very distinct flavor.
In regions other than South Asia turmeric is frequently used to provide food with a rich yellow color similar to that of custard. Some of the uses include beverages, baked products, dairy products, ice cream, yogurt, yellow cakes, orange juice, biscuits and many more. You will also find it in most commercial curry powders.
5. Lemon Grass
Lemon Grass is a very common ingredient in Thai cooking and is known to impart a lemony taste. It is also believe to have a variety of health benefits with it is used with other Thai spices such as garlic, fresh chillies and coriander.
Give a few of these seasonings a try and don't be afraid to mix and match, especially when it comes to blending them with flavors you already know and love. Enjoy!
About the author: This post was written by Miranda S, a full time surgical technologist with a passion for cooking. She loves mixing new spices to create unique flavor blends.

Easter Eggs

It's  common knowledge that Easter is a Christian celebration of Christ's rising, but this holiday also has pagan origins. Where did the colored eggs, cute little bunnies, baby chicks, leg of  lamb dinners, and lilies come from? They are all symbols of rebirth and the lamb was a traditional religious sacrifice.

Easter falls in the spring, the yearly time of renewal, when the earth renews itself after a long, cold winter. The word Easter comes to us from the Norsemen's Eostur, Eastar, Ostara, andOstar, and the pagan goddess Eostre, all of which involve the season of the growing sun and new birth. The Easter Bunny arose originally as a symbol of fertility, due to the rapid reproduction habits of the hare and rabbit.

The ancient Egyptians, Persians, Phoenicians, and Hindus all believed the world began with an enormous egg, thus the egg as a symbol of new life has been around for eons. The particulars may vary, but most cultures around the world use the egg as a symbol of new life and rebirth. 
A notation in the household accounts of Edward I of England showed an expenditure of eighteen pence for 450 eggs to be gold-leafed and colored for Easter gifts. The first book to mention Easter eggs by name was written five hundred years ago. Yet, a North African tribe that had become Christian much earlier in time had a custom of coloring eggs at Easter.
 Long hard winters often meant little food, and a fresh egg for Easter was quite a prize. Later, Christians abstained from eating meat during the Lenten season prior to Easter. Easter was the first chance to enjoy eggs and meat after the long abstinence.

Some European children go from house to house begging for Easter eggs. Called pace-egging, it comes from the old word for Easter,Pasch. Many old cultures also attributed the egg with great healing powers. It is interesting to note that eggs play almost no part in the Easter celebrations of Mexico, South America, and Native American Indian cultures. Egg-rolling contests are a symbolic re-enactment of the rolling away of the stone from Christ's tomb. The decoration of small leaf-barren branches as Easter egg trees has become a popular custom in the United States since the 1990s.
Different cultures have developed their own ways of decorating Easter eggs. Crimson eggs, to honor the blood of Christ, are exchanged in Greece. In parts of Germany and Austria green eggs are used on Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday). Slavic peoples decorate their eggs in special patterns of gold and silver.

Austrian artists design patterns by fastening ferns and tiny plants around the eggs, which are then boiled. The plants are then removed revealing a striking white pattern. The Poles and Ukrainians decorate eggs with simple designs and colors. A number of eggs are made in the distinctive manner called pysanki (to design, to write).

Pysanki eggs are a masterpiece of skill and workmanship. Melted beeswax is applied to the fresh white egg. It is then dipped in successive baths of dye. After each dip wax is painted over the area where the preceding color is to remain. Eventually a complex pattern of lines and colors emerges into a work of art.

In Germany and other countries eggs used for cooking where not broken, but the contents were removed by piercing the end of each egg with a needle and blowing the contents into a bowl. The hollow eggs were dyed and hung from shrubs and trees during the Easter Week. The Armenians would decorate hollow eggs with pictures of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and other religious designs.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Traditional Ester Recipes

Besides Figolli, my favourite is surely Hot Cross Buns!

The tradition allegedly is derived from ancient Anglo-Saxons who baked small wheat cakes in honor of the springtime goddess, Eostre. After converting to Christianity, the church substituted the cakes with sweetbreads blessed by the church.

Countries around the world serve sweet cakes in the same vein, such as Czech babobkaand Polish baba. The Greeks and Portugese serve round, flat loaves marked with a cross and decorated with Easter eggs. Syrian and Jordanian Christians have honey pastries. 
Hot Cross Buns are a traditional favorite for Good Friday, Easter, and throughout the Lent season, but they are enjoyable year-round. Yeasty rolls are filled with currants or raisins and nuts, then topped with a cross of icing. In spite of the raisins and icing, these are not sweet rolls. The hazelnuts are optional.


  • 3-3/4 to 4-1/4 cups  flour
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cooking oil
  • 1/3 cup  sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup currants or raisins
  • 1 slightly beaten egg white
  • 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon hazelnut liqueur or milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • Milk


In a large mixing bowl combine 1-1/2 cups of the flour, the yeast and cinnamon In a small saucepan heat and stir 3/4 cup milk, the oil, granulated sugar, and salt until warm (120 degrees F to 130 degrees F). Add to flour mixture along with whole eggs. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping bowl. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. 

Using a spoon, stir in currants or raisins , and as much of the remaining flour as you can mix in with a wooden spoon. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough (3 to 5 minutes total). Shape into a ball. Place dough in a greased bowl; turn once to grease surface. Cover and let rise until nearly double (about 1-1/2 hours). 

Punch dough down. Turn out onto a floured surface. Cover and let rest 10 minutes. Divide dough into 20 portions; shape each portion into a smooth ball. Place balls 1-1/2 inches apart on a greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise until nearly double (30 to 45 minutes). With a sharp knife, make a shallow crisscross slash across each bun. Brush with egg white. Bake in a 375-degree F oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly. 

In a mixing bowl combine sifted powdered sugar,liqueur or milk, and vanilla. Stir in milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until it reaches drizzling consistency. Drizzle bunswith icing. Serve warm. 

Yield: 20 buns

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chicken Pita

Real Simple has loads of great recipes. This is one I like as I make it the day before and take it to work for my lunch. The Greek touch is also appealing to me!


  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken meat
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 cup  Greek yogurt
  • 1 cucumber, seeded and grated
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 clove garlic, mashed
  • 4 flat breads or pocketless pitas, warmed
  • 1 small romaine heart
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, cut in quarters


  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with the cayenne, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Cook until cooked through, 6 to 7 minutes per side. Cut into bite-size pieces.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix together the yogurt, cucumber, mint, garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.
  3. Top the flat breads with the romaine, chicken, tomatoes, and tzatziki.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Featured Foodie

Pernilla's Something Swedish

Welcome to Pernilla's Something Swedish! I left my beautiful country, Sweden in 2005 to live in the U.S. together with the love of my life, my wonderful husband..

My gourmet candy is made with only the finest ingredients that I select from Sweden, Belgium, Germany, France & the USA. I say YES to Organic! Using some of my family's old recipes & adding my own touch to them makes it tasty out of this world! My gourmet candy is made to order & shipped the same day. When you crave something unique, beautiful & wonderful tasting, you will find it here! :)
My candy is made in a kitchen where nuts & soy products exist.

I am a proud participating member of Sampler Village

Having My Mother and My Grandmother as professional Cooks and Bakers, I was quick to follow in their foot steps.
Among many things I am an Artist, and My Biggest Passion in life is to Design and Create Healthy, Heavenly and Beautiful Gourmet Chocolate/Candy and foods. Using Organic products from carefully selected Countries and Distributors is something that I do as much as I possibly can. New Creations are in my mind 24/7 and soon they will all be in My ArtFire Studio and Etsy Shop. I just hope there will be enough room for it all. :)
My New Lines: Sugar Free! Gluten Free! There will be something Heavenly Good for Everyone in My Studio/Shop. :)
I have been having My Shop at Etsy for over 1 year, and have over 700 Possitive Feed backs! :)

Monday, March 21, 2011

5 Must have Kitchen Accessories for 2011

5 Must-Have Kitchen Accessories for 2011

Whether you are building, remodeling, or just looking to better equip your already existing kitchen, you’ll no doubt want to know of the latest and greatest kitchen accessories.  For whatever purpose, from technical to safety to decorative, 2011 dishes up a wide array of embellishments for what is probably the most important room in your home.  Want to ensure your kitchen is decked out in the best of modern convenience?  Scoop up the items from this list of five must-have kitchen accessories for 2011:

1.      Microfiber Wondercloths.  These amazing cloths are good for cleaning spills, dirt or grime off of any type of surface, and with no chemicals!  Simply dampen the Wondercloths with water, then dust, wipe down spills, or rub out any type of filth with a few swipes.  The magic microfiber is not only effective for virtually any type of mess, but absorbs seven times its weight in moisture and dirt!

2.      Bamboo cutting boards.  These come in a variety of sizes, styles and price-points, and are easy to find.  The use of bamboo for kitchen chopping boards is getting to be very popular these days because bamboo absorbs very little moisture and actually has a natural antibacterial quality, so you can keep the soap away from your food prep area. 

3.      Flame-retardant, commercial-grade oven mitts.  Save your skin from painful burns by investing in these upgraded, quilted mitts.  They extend up over most of the forearm for extra safety and are perfect for indoor baking and outdoor grilling.  What’s more, their heavy-duty construction means they’ll be a staple in your kitchen for many years, as opposed to the flimsy terrycloth versions.

4.      Bookgem Book Holder.  Keep your workstation clear when you use this handy contraption to hold your paper books, iPad, Kindle, smartphone, eBook, or any other of a variety of modern-day devices and tablet computers.  Not only does it free up your counter space, but it protects your gadgets from moisture and food as well!

5.      Lodge Logic pre-seasoned cast-iron meat rack/trivet.  This simple accessory is perfect for raising meats, pies, roasts and other foods off the bottom of the cooking pan in order to prevent scorching and/or to separate drippings.  Pre-seasoned and ready for immediate use, the eight-inch round rack fits conveniently into most cast-iron skillets and Dutch ovens, and its cast-iron construction ensures even heat distribution and cooking.

There you have it: a list of must-have kitchen accessories sure to top-off even the most well-appointed kitchen.  So stock up on one, or grab all five.  Once you have these items in your repertoire, you’ll wonder what you ever did without them!
About the Author: Angela Q. is a certified ultrasound technician by day and an aspiring cook and part-time blogger by night. She loves experimenting with new dishes and enjoys testing all sorts of kitchen gadgets!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Featured Foodie

Nicoles homemade treats.

Hello! I wish I could provide you with scratch & sniff! 

I take great pride and care in my work and hope you enjoy tasting my treats as much as I like making them!

Many hours have been spent trying to get my treats "just right!" It is safe to say that some of my first attempts were very interesting!

My treats are prepared in small batches, to preserve the taste and quality of the product, and to ensure that there is no waste. It takes me about 5-7 days to produce your order. I PROMISE - they will be worth the wait! (contact me if you need your order sooner) 

I make only all natural, preservative free products, and use as many organic ingredients as possible. My products may not have the shelf life of store bought products, no worries! They won't last very long!

✿ Nicole's Homemade Treats is an LLC operating out of New York State. All my products are prepared in my fully licensed kitchen.

✿ Licensing Information: NYS Dept. of Agriculture #31AAAA

✿ Images, recipes & content © 2010 Nicole's Homemade Treats.

✿ PLEASE read my policies and if you have any further questions just send me a note!

✿ Allergy alert! My treats are prepared on equipment that has contact with wheat, soy, nuts and dairy. If you have sensitivities to any of these, please contact me.

✿ All my chocolate comes from Callebut, considered one of the world's finest Belgian chocolates. It is Kosher Dairy certified, gluten free/Celiac Safe and is manufactured and packaged in facilities that DO NOT allow exposure to Peanuts, Wheat/Gluten, Eggs, Tree Nuts, Sesame, Fish, or Crustacean.

✿ The packaging products I use are considered "green" because they are made using recycled products, or come from ecologically conscious companies.

✿ I am really conscious about who I purchase my products from - the majority come from local companies, farms, and shops, however if that is not possible I buy from companies that are known to be eco-friendly/green themselves.

Visit me here:



Shop #2:


Proud Member of:
-EEAT (Etsy Edible Arts Team)
-Etsy Homefront team
-FAM (Fabulous Artistic Moms of Etsy)
-The Slow Food Movement

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ravioli with a twist

How about a ravioli and pesto gratin? This recipe calls for fresh or frozen ravioli - or you can make them yourself.
I found this recipe on Real Simple - check out their site!


  • 16 to 18 ounces fresh or frozen cheese ravioli
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup pesto
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Heat oven to 400° F. Cook the ravioli according to the package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together cream and pesto. Mix in the ravioli.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a shallow 2-quart baking dish and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Bake until golden brown and bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes.

The gratin can be refrigerated (unbaked) for up to 2 days. Add 5 minutes to the baking time

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pear Pancakes

Pancakes cooked in the oven! 
I found this recipe from Real Simple and thought I would share it. 


  • 2  pears
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup a flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup  milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbs unsalted butter, melted
  • salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbs sugar


  1. Heat oven to 400ยบ F.
  2. Lightly coat a 9-inch pie plate with vegetable cooking spray. Peel, core, and cut into eighths and arrange them in the pie plate.
  3. Combine 1/2 cup minus 2 tablespoons sugar, flour, eggs, whole milk, vanilla, unsalted butter, and a pinch of salt in a blender. Pulse until smooth, about 30 seconds.
  4. Pour over the pears. Place in the oven and bake until springy to the touch, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Heat broiler. Sprinkle the pancake with ground cinnamon and the 2 tablespoons sugar. Broil until browned, about 1 minute. Serve warm.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Egg and Caper Sauce

This is the perfect sauce to go with fish. Easy to make and adds a delicate touch to your dish. Thanks to Saveur for this recipe.


1 1⁄2 tbsp. butter
1 1⁄2 tbsp. flour
1 cup Fish Stock*
1⁄2 cup heavy cream
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp. capers, rinsed and coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
1. Melt butter in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour and cook, stirring constantly, until bubbling but not browned, about 2 minutes.
2. Gradually whisk in stock, then cream. Bring to a simmer, cook for 30 seconds, then remove from heat and set aside to cool for 5 minutes. (Sauce will thicken as it rests.)
3. Stir in eggs and capers. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm over lowest heat until ready to serve

*Fish Stock

Ask your fish shop for the bones and heads of medium-size fish—anything trimmed or fileted that day. The secret to this rich stock is roasting the vegetables and fish before putting them into the stockpot.
2 onions
4 carrots
4 stalks celery
2 tbsp. butter
Bones and heads of 4 medium-size fish
1 bottle dry white wine
6 whole peppercorns
1 large bouquet garni (4 sprigs parsley, 2 sprigs thyme, and a bay leaf, tied with kitchen twine or placed in cheesecloth)
1. Coarsely chop onions, carrots, and celery. Preheat oven to 350°. Melt butter in a roasting pan, then add vegetables and fish trimmings. Roast for 30 minutes.
2. Transfer to a large pot, add wine, peppercorns, bouquet garni, and salt to taste. Add 4 quarts water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook 2–3 hours. The stock should reduce by half.
3. Strain, discarding all solids. Then strain several more times though a coffee filter or cheesecloth. You should end up with 8 cups of richly flavored stock, ready to use. It will also keep, frozen, for up to 6 months

Friday, March 4, 2011

Potato gratin with a kick!

This is just yummy!!!
Thanks to real simple for this recipe. check out their website for more delicious recipes


  • Some butter for the baking dish at room temperature
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup horseradish ( the grated kind you buy in the jar. It's not the fresh root you grate at home. Nor is it the creamy pre-made sauce you can buy at the store. )
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 3 lbs  potatoes (russet are the best) peeled and thinly sliced


  1. Heat oven to 375° F. Butter a shallow 3-quart baking dish. In a large bowl, combine the cream, horseradish, nutmeg, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the potatoes and toss to coat.
  2. Transfer the potato mixture to the prepared baking dish, pressing gently to submerge the potatoes. Cover the dish with foil, place on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the potatoes are tender and the top is golden, 50 to 65 minutes.

Useful Kitchen Tips

I have been reading Bertolli's site this week. So much useful information - so go take a look!
here are some great kitchen tips:

  • To keep your kitchen towels absorbent, don’t dry them with a dryer sheet. What’s in the sheet that keeps clothes soft will make them less effective. Hang towels to dry instead.
  • Try this trick to remove fish, garlic, onion and other strong cooking odors from your hands: cut a lemon in half and rub over your skin.
  • "Whipping cream" and "heavy cream" are nearly the same thing, except some whipping cream contains emulsifiers that help it retain its shape after beating.
  • When filling pots for boiling, use cold water. Hot water can pick up sediments and minerals as it goes through your pipes, which can affect the taste of your food.
  • Cheesecloth is great for bunching herbs and spices for soups, but paper towels are a great stand-in for storage. To keep hard cheeses like Parmigiano Reggiano fresh, wrap them tightly in a paper towel, then in plastic cling wrap.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Perfect Pasta

Who, but the Italians, can give tips for perfect pasta?!
Here is some useful information i got from Bertolli

  • Pasta in Italy is served al dente, or “to the tooth.” To see if it's cooked perfectly, pull a piece from the boiling water, break it in half and look at its middle. If you still see traces of white (the uncooked flour), it needs a little more time.
  • Use the right pasta for the job. Pair short pasta shapes like rigatoni, penne and fusilli with chunkier sauces featuring meat or vegetables. The ridges and holes will hold the sauce better than longer strands of spaghetti.
  • Long strands of pasta work best with certain sauces. Pair longer cuts of pasta like spaghetti, fettuccini and linguini with smooth sauces like alfredo,aglio olio (garlic and oil) or carbonara.
  • Adding oil to separate pasta after it's cooked will cause the sauce to slide right off. Instead, follow box instructions and use as much water as is suggested. The high water-to-pasta ratio keeps pasta moving.
Use every opportunity to add seasoning — even when you're cooking pasta. Salt your water to help flavor bland pasta
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All the recipes here have either been sent to me, adapted by me or found on the web. If I know the source I always give credit to the author/website. If you know of a source I may have missed please let me know.