Archive for June, 2010
It would certainly be a stretch to say Americans have refined palettes. The vast majority are more than willing to consume fast food, prepackaged meals and artificial ingredients. And while these foods may be convenient, they certainly aren’t the tastiest or healthiest of choices. Many people assume that having a “refined palette” is analogous to being snooty and only dining out at ritzy restaurants, which certainly isn’t the case; it is simply the appreciation of good food and quality ingredients.
You would find few people who would argue that a Big Mac is superior to a prime sirloin burger, but not all food discrepancies are this blatant. If you are looking to improve your cuisine, you don’t have to blow your budget on Kobe beef, lobster tails and caviar—simply using high quality, fresh ingredients is enough. And remember: the small changes count to. Something as simple as trading out your pepper shaker for a Cilio pepper mill and freshly cracking whole peppercorns can make a huge difference.
We have discussed the importance of using an espresso decalcifier frequently in this blog, but we’ve never gone over the actual process. Well, today is the day. Begin by removing the water filter from your machine. Add a single portion of the decalcifier into the water tank. If you are using an automatic setting, add the amount of water your manufacturer indicates to dilute the decalcifier. For those without the setting, use the empty bottle of decalcifier to add an equal amount of water.
Your job is pretty easy if you have the automatic setting; simply turn on the machine and catch the liquid in a large container. Even if you don’t have the setting, it’s still simple enough; just start the machine and be sure to catch the dispensed liquid. Be sure to not let the decalcifier sit in the machine for an extended period of time, as this could cause unwanted corrosion. For both methods: finish by rinsing the water tank and machine with tap water. That’s it.
For most coffee connoisseurs, an espresso coffee maker and electric coffee grinder are indispensible kitchen accessories and I’m no different. In my house, there is constantly a pot of coffee brewing. Before I even wake up in the morning, the first pot of coffee is being brewed, so all I have to do is roll out of bed. But during the summertime, the last thing I want to do is drink a piping hot cup of coffee when the temperatures in the 90s.
To that end, during the summer I add one extra accessory to my repertoire of coffee countertop accessories: a blender. Since going without coffee simply isn’t an option, instead I create an assortment of blended drinks to satiate my caffeine cravings. And while I certainly enjoy a standard espresso, blended coffee drinks are in a league of their own. I love to experiment with different flavor profiles to see what I can create—from nuts and chocolate, to mint and vanilla.
According to a new government report, adults should consume less than one teaspoon of salt per day—and in many cases, that number is even lower. However, just 1 in 18 people live up to this stringent standard. Litanies of health risks are associated with high sodium intake, including high blood pressure and heart disease. For most American families, the salt mill is a mainstay in the kitchen, so here are a few tips to help reduce your sodium intake:
~Experiment with new spices: Many people use excessive amounts of salt when other spices would actually work better with the dish. Try out new spices in cuisine and also be sure to utilize fresh herbs, which add an extra depth of flavor.
~Avoid seasoning blends: Most seasoning blends are packed with salt in order to cut costs. If you do utilize seasoning blends, be sure to look for low- or no-sodium options.
~Buy low-sodium products: Whether you’re buying chicken stock, soy sauce or peanut butter, always opt for the low sodium option; not only will this cutback on your sodium intake, it also allows you to adjust sodium levels to your liking. Remember: You can always put more salt in, but you can’t take it out.
If you’re a coffee addict like me, going without your daily caffeine fix is out of the question. During the summertime however, few people want to sip a piping hot beverage when the temperature outside is skyrocketing. Buying an iced coffee beverage from a local coffeehouse is certainly an option, but that gets pricey pretty quick—not to mention the fact that those frozen goodies are laden with saturated fats, sugar and artificial sweeteners. Here is a quick-and-easy iced espresso latte recipe that I borrowed from the Mayo Clinic. It tastes amazing and won’t ruin your beach body.’
Start by brewing two cups of espresso in your Solis espresso machine. Pour the espresso into a pitcher and add 2 Tbsp. of brown sugar, 1 ½ cups of fat free milk and 2 Tbsp. of sugar free syrup (the recipe calls for almond, but I like hazelnut. And, of course, you can experiment on your own). Add some ice and chill until cold. You can serve yours however you like; I top mine with some fat free whipped cream.
For many people the summer symbolizes a time of leisure, when you can spend long evenings chatting with friends beside a bonfire, enjoying outdoor barbecues and spending time by the lake. I certainly enjoy these pastimes, but I hardly consider summer a time for leisure. For a stay-at-home mom, summer certainly isn’t the offseason. In fact, by the time August rolls around I’m more than ready for the kids to start school so I can enjoy a nice respite from the constant fracas that ensues when they are home for three months on end.
There are, of course, a few perks that the summer season brings. For starters, I am able to turn off my alarm clock and set back the timer on my automatic espresso machine, as my kids enjoy sleeping in as much as I do. And although I enjoy having my free time while the children are in school, I take pleasure in taking them to the zoo, going to the park and going on other daytrips I would never embark on with children.
Some parents experience the effects of empty nest syndrome when their children leave the home—but not my husband and me. We were literally counting down the days until our children left so that we could sell our home and retire to the Maldives.While this may sound like a selfish and coldhearted approach to parenting, you have to understand that we have 11 children and have already help raise numerous grandchildren.
Despite the fact that we are halfway around the globe, our children still call us regularly for advice. Just the other day one of our sons moved into a new apartment and called us frantic because his laundry machine was emitting an off-putting odor and he wasn’t able to work up a lather in the shower. I had to chuckle a little bit due to the melodrama he injected into the situation and calmly explained it was just hard water. Of course, I also recommended he pick up some descaler, as his household appliances will inevitably have mineral buildup.
Ever since my children were old enough to talk I’ve tried to instill in them the desire to maintain an active, healthy lifestyle. Many of their friends live on fast food and spend hours on end playing video games and watching TV, rarely venturing outside to see the light of day. I’ve learned that it’s crucial to encourage healthy habits without being overbearing; otherwise, you run the risk of promoting rebellion.
When my children were little, I encouraged them to assist me in the kitchen—whether they were helping me measure out ingredients for recipes or using the pepper mill to season a dish. I also made sure to make time for some hands-on activity during the day, no matter how busy our schedules were. Making a concerted effort to educate your children on a healthy lifestyle and incorporate the habits into their daily lives will pay huge dividends in the end. Now that my kids have reached adolescence, I’ve noticed that they live healthier than most of their friends—but I do see them splurging now and again, of course.
The coming of summer invokes a profusion of different images. For some it’s baseball games and backyard barbecues, for others a day spent at the lake and a picnic. Odd as it may sound, the one thing I think of during summertime is garage sales. I live in a densely populated suburb, and at this time each year, every corner in town has a plethora of signs advertising moving, sidewalk and estate sales.
Some people may scoff at the idea of scouring through others people’s belongings looking for something to take home, but at most of the sales I go to there is a surfeit of items that have never even been used. Of course, I’m not opposed to buying something old and sprucing it up a bit. Just last weekend I purchased an antique espresso machine at a sale down the street. The machine looked in disrepair, so the gal practically gave it away; after I took it home and whipped out my espresso decalcifier, however, it was like new in no time.
Now that you have a thorough understanding of the roasting systems and the flavors of the different beans, blended coffees will likely make more sense. Producers blend coffee for two reasons. The one that is the main benefit to the customer is the creation of unique flavor profiles. By combining beans from differing regions and varying acidities, coffee makers can offer their customers a unique and high-quality product.
The other blends—and these are the ones to stay away from—are created to save money. For example, a manufacturer will mix some mild, dark roasted Arabica beans with some light Robusta in order to cut costs while still being able to market Arabicas. Be sure to have an eye out for these subpar blends when looking for something new to put in your cappuccino makers. And avoid flavored coffees, which are usually low-quality beans infused with low-quality flavoring.