Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

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I love using my crock pot or slow cooker as it’s usually called in the UK. Mine is a very basic model. It doesn’t have a temperature range. It is either on or off. That doesn’t stop it being really useful and capable of producing the most delicious meals.

One of my favourite recipes is a version of the famous French dish, Chicken with forty cloves of garlic. Yes, I said forty. That is not a misprint! The secret of this dish is that it should be cooked long and slow in an enclosed pot and no peeking until it is ready! A perfect dish for the slow cooker.

Ingredients to serve four

1 large chicken jointed into eight pieces
Freshly ground black pepper
4 heads of fresh garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4-6 sprigs fresh thyme OR 2 large sprigs fresh rosemary (I prefer thyme, but the rosemary is good too!)
French baguette crostini

1. Switch on slow cooker so it heats up.
2. Melt butter and olive oil together
3. Season chicken with pepper and then brown in the oil and butter mixture
3. Place unpeeled heads of garlic, chicken pieces and sprigs of herbs in slow cooker.

Leave to cook for 4 hours without opening pot.

When ready to serve place two pieces of chicken, a head of garlic and two crostini on each plate. The garlic will be sweet and melting and should be squeezed out onto the crisp baguette.

Serve with a green salad or steamed green veg.

To make French baguette crostini

Slice baguette thinly on a diagonal to make long slices. Brush the slices with olive oil and bake in a hot oven until crisp. Gas mark 4 180C or 350F for 15 minutes is about right.

Reference:
1. Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic Recipe : Ina Garten : Food Network
2. 40 Cloves and a Chicken Recipe : Alton Brown : Food Network

Category: Health

Chicken Vermouth

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Chicken is such a popular, versatile main dish that recipes abound from around the world.  One of our favorite recipes is Chicken Vermouth, a mouth-watering dish that is extremely easy to make. The recipe below calls for the chicken to be served with homemade mashed potatoes. We thicken the Vermouth gravy and spoon over both the chicken and mashed potatoes.  My daughters have used this recipe for their families and found that even their pickiest eaters ask for seconds.

Chicken Vermouth

 1 small yellow onion, chopped

4 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless

2 tbs. butter

½ tsp salt

½ tsp. pepper

1 diced tomato

½ cup Cooking Vermouth

¼-cup water

1 tbs. cornstarch

4 medium sized potatoes, pared, cubed

2 tbs. butter

1. Spray bottom of large skillet with cooking spray. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and the chopped onion. Sauté over medium heat until onion starts to turn golden.

2. Add the chicken breasts to the skillet and cook thoroughly over medium heat . Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

3. While chicken is cooking,  boil potatoes in a large pot until tender. Drain. Add butter and mash or whip with mixer.

4. Once chicken is cooked completely, remove from skillet to a  platter.  Add the remaining tablespoon of butter to the onions in the skillet. Add diced tomatoes, cooking over medium heat for five minutes.

5. Slowly add the Cooking Vermouth to the onion- tomato mixture. Cover with a lid and let it simmer for five minutes. Return the chicken to the skillet , cover and let simmer for another five minutes so the Vermouth flavor can be absorbed.

6. Place chicken on platter. Add water and cornstarch to the Vermouth gravy, stirring until smooth. Once the gravy has thickened, it is ready to be served over the chicken and mashed potatoes.

Reference:
1. Chicken Fricassee With Vermouth Recipe – NYT Cooking
2. Sautéed Chicken with Herbs and Vermouth Recipe – Michael …

Category: Health

Cheeseball Recipe

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During years past, when the women of my family were planning the Thanksgiving and Christmas meals and everyone was getting dish assignments, I was given cheeseball duty because it’s the easiest dish to make. Back in the day I was not the world’s greatest cook. Far from it! So, every holiday season during my late teens and early 20’s I whipped up our family cheeseball.

My Nanny (grandmother) always highly praised my oh-so-delicious cheeseball. Bless her!

Now that I’ve FINALLY progressed beyond the cheeseball stage, I was very proud last year to bestow the honor upon my youngest daughter, Vivian. At age eight she was already at the cheeseball stage, far advanced over her mother. My oldest daughter was already moved to meringue duty.

Seeing the cheeseball every Thanksgiving and Christmas reminds me of times spent sitting at the kitchen table, mixing the soft cheeses and watching the pros take care of the rest. And now, when I am working as the pro, I smile when I see my youngest daughter working the cheeseball duty.

The recipe is so simple, please feel free to mix up a cheeseball for your family this holiday season!

The Family Cheeseball

Ingredients:

1 pkg cream cheese, softened

1 jar Old English Cheese

Worchestershire Sauce

Garlic Salt

Chopped Pecans

Parsley Flakes

Mix the Old English and cream cheese together with a few dashes of Worchestershire sauce and garlic salt in a large mixing bowl. I find this is most easily done with clean hands. Just get in there and mix those cheeses. After mixing completely, set the bowl in the fridge to cool and allow the cheeses to firm. After at least an hour, spread parsley flakes and chopped pecans onto a large plate. Take out your bowl of cheeses. Wash your hands again. Reach in there and grab that mess of mixed up cheese and get it all in your hands. Ball it all up and smooth the outside. Roll your gigantic ball of tasty goodness around on the plate, coating it with parsley and pecans.

Set the cheeseball onto a pretty plate and put it back into the fridge for at least another hour to firm.

Best served with Ritz crackers.

Reference:
1. Easy Cheese Ball II Recipe – Allrecipes.com
2. Cheese Balls – Kraft Recipes

Category: Health

Cheap Red Wine Economical Merlot Cabernet

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My 13 glorious years of restaurant work did count for something. During my career, I had the pleasure of working in some of Des Moines’ finest eating establishments. I started off in November 1993 at the downtown Marriott Hotel. My employment began at the Pitcher’s Lounge. From there, I worked upstairs at Allie’s Restaurant. Later on, I moved onto the Embassy Suite Hotel and waiting tables at Scott’s Landing. After that, I enjoyed my time in three, Diamond Dave’s Taco Company stores, Ryan’s Steakhouse and Garfield’s. I also opened two Johnny’s Italian Steakhouses in Des Moines (Iowa) and Moline (Illinois).

During my employment, I learned one thing. Customers loved drinking wine! I learned so much about a wine’s texture, pairing with food and drinkability. I shared that with my customers. Even, I embraced tasting wine myself. But, I did take home one thing from being a restaurant server. Good wines are also cheap!

The best wines aren’t the most expensive. Red wines are extremely cheap. The hard part is finding the right one for you. I don’t like spending a lot of money on a good red. I have no time for a $250 bottle of Moet or a $300 bottle of Opus One. Ruffinos are out of my budget at $50 each. My wine won’t cost twice as much as two dinners. If your feelings are the same as mine, here are some inexpensive to delight that palate and pocketbook.

BLACKSTONE MERLOT ($35.00)

For the under $50 crowd, a Blackstone Merlot has a “status” to it. Blackstone doesn’t have the stigma of a “cheap, red wine”. This brand is found in HY-VEE and Target Food Stores. It is also found in upscale, fine-dining restaurants, like Allie’s and Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse. Match this merlot with a filet mignon or a New York Strip! It has a robust, cherry oak flavor perfect for enticing a steak’s natural flavors.

R.H. Phillips Shiraz ($22.00)

The southern continent of Australia created this brand. This wine is served in Johnny’s Italian and Rock River Grill and Tavern. HY-VEE food store has Phillip as well. The shiraz is laden with a dry red. Spicy pastas and tomato-based sauces go terrific with it!

COPPER’S CREEK AND RAVENSWOOD CABERNET AND MERLOT ($13-$18)

These are cheap wines by the price; but by the flavor. Copper’s Creek and Ravenswood are specialities at attracting first-time, wine tasters. You won’t customers experiencing “buyer’s remorse” after purchasing it. The wines are less than $20 a bottle each! The cabernet has a dry, peppery taste. The merlot has a cherry, but very “oaky” flavor a sip. Ground steak, ribeyes, porterhouses or beef dishes are good choices for these brands.

You just got a lesson in “What to buy as far as the best, cheap red wine?” Have fun dining out or eating in!

Reference:
1. Best $15-and-Under Red Wines | Food & Wine
2. Cheap Red Wine – Cheapism.com

Category: Health

Bitter Twisted Beer Review

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When asked about the great drinks of Scotland, great single malts come readily to mind. That being said, Scotland’s beers are gaining momentum amongst the world’s great drinks which is really only fitting. After all, Scottish and Scotch ales have long been one of the world’s classic beer styles. These days Scotland’s breweries produce traditional ales along with other styles from around the world, many with some interesting twist or another.

Harviestoun Brewing fits into the latter category, producing a variety of beers both bottled and in cask. Harviestoun was founded in 1984 by former Ford employee Ken Brooker with his friend Eric Harris. Ken and Eric installed their brewery in a 200 year old building in a farm in central Scotland. 5 years later they installed a 10 barrel plant acquired from Aberdeen’s Devanha brewery. In 2003 Bitter & Twisted won CAMRA’s Champion Beer of Britain for the second year in a row.

Bitter & Twisted falls into the category of a pale ale. When you see an English pale ale on the shelf, there are certain elements you can typically expect in that beer. Usually you’ll find a golden to deep copper ale with decent bitterness and supporting maltiness. Finish will typically be medium dry. Bitter & Twisted is a pale, slightly hazy golden colored ale. Head is dense and white with decent retention.

Taking an initial sniff, Bitter & Twisted’s aroma is zesty and citrussy up front. In fact, aroma is somewhat lemony like those lemon flavoured hard candies. Finish is only slightly hoppy, giving the faint aroma of English grassiness. Unfortunately, as pleasant as the aroma is it lacks the malt character you‘d like to see in a beer of this type.

On the tongue Bitter & Twisted is a medium bodied ale that, at first blush, holds slightly more promise than offered by its aroma. Here at least lemon zestiness is supported by a hint of caramel maltiness, even if only slightly. Malt and lemon move forward into an earthy hop presence. Finish is crisp and slightly bitter.

Overall, Bitter & Twisted sits right on the verge. It sits on the verge of being a delicious, flavourful, character ale. The flavors are there. While most English ales show restraint and refinement, this product borders on timid. The flavors and aromas are good, they just don’t leap from the glass. Bitter & Twisted is a fairly straightforward product. It might be a worthwhile product for mainstream lager lovers looking for a starting point to explore imported and other craft brewed beers. Give it a 7 out of 10.

Reference:
1. Bitter & Twisted | Harviestoun Brewery Ltd. | BeerAdvocate
2. Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted (Bottle) – RateBeer

Category: Health

Best Faygo Soda Pop Flavors and what Makes them the best

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Living in Michigan, I know all about Faygo soda pop. Faygo is what makes up half the pop in my refrigerator. I grew up drinking it, and now my family drinks it every week. Faygo is seriously the retro kind of pop. Its flavors preserve the original soda pops that could once be bought at diners many years ago. They aren’t the regular flavors that most pop comes in. Faygo goes to depths so unique that once you drink one, you won’t want to drink anything else.

It is cheap, it is different, it is delicious. Celebrating 102 years on the market, it takes pop to a whole new level by challenging the normal and using flavors that other pop brands have never dreamed of using. There are 5 specific flavors of Faygo that I have bought time and time again, and I truly believe that these are the cream of the crop.

5. Jazzin’ Blues Berry Soda – I have truly not tasted a soda quite like this before. It tastes like the blue berry you’re probably thinking of, but I love the carbonated taste it has. It blends the berry fruit taste with the taste of Sprite. It’s just a cool kind of pop to drink anytime of the year. I love it and my children love it because its different from the regular Coke or Sprite. I’m not calling it healthy, but since when is any pop healthy? It’s a delicious drink to have, and it will always remain a staple in my refrigerator.

4. Red Pop – Is it strawberry? Is it cherry? I don’t think I’ll never know. All I know is that this is the pop for me. I love its berry taste, and I love its color. It stains my teeth but I could care less. What I love about Faygo is its fruitiness that every Faygo pop has, and this one doesn’t let me down.

3. Black Cherry – I have tasted black cherry flavored pop before (it was a store brand), and in no way did it compare to the sweet taste of the Faygo kind. I’ve always wanted to drink cherry pop. I remember drinking cherry pop at my local diner when I was a kid. Black Cherry makes me reminiscent of those memories because it tastes so much like it. What exactly is Black Cherry? I’m not exactly sure what it is. All I know is I love it, and I’ll always drink it regardless.

2. Rock & Rye – Faygo is the only brand pop I know that has this flavor. This is like the Dr. Pepper of pop in that it blends all those flavors into one pop, and it tastes like a slice of heaven. I love the beet red color the pop has, I love the colors on the label, and I love drinking this pop. Of course, it doesn’t taste like rocks, and it doesn’t taste like rye (whatever that is), but it’s a taste that you’ll want to experience again, no doubt.

1. Cream Soda – The King of Faygo pop is by far Cream Soda. Cream Soda is just about the only Faygo pop I drink on a regular basis. It’s always at my house, and I’m always pouring it into a glass. The creamy, carbonated goodness that this pop possesses is like no other. I honestly can’t name one other pop that’s better than it. The vanilla taste is why I love it. What else can I say?

I love Faygo pop. There are so many kinds that I seriously love more than life, and it will remain an institution in my house. Orange, Peach, Root Beer, Mango – Faygo has them all, and to be honest, I love them all. But these five – these are the best by far. If you’re out grocery shopping and in the pop aisle looking at all those kinds of Faygo pop standing before you, keep these 5 in mind. I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.

Reference:
1. Faygo
2. Faygo Flavors, Ranked From best to worst. Read on Jalopnik Detroit

Category: Health

Beer Reviews Lagunitas new Dogtown Pale Ale

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My first introduction to American craft brewed ales was on a family trip to Portland, Oregon. As I travelled from one brewery to the next, I found a lot of great local beer. Some of the beers I enjoyed while in Portland were the first to lure me away from the UK beers I had always been a fan of. Since then I’ve begun noticing a similar scene developing in California. From Stone Brewing in southern California to Anchor Brewing in San Francisco, more and more great craft brews are coming the Golden State.

Here in Alberta I’ve been seeing a lot of Lagunitas Brewing on the shelves. They, along with Anchor Brewing seem to be California’s biggest contribution to the shelves of my favorite beer stores. As I review their line-up, I notice how Lagunitas’ beers are named with a certain irreverence. It’s an irreverence that seems to be shared with breweries across the state. With names like Gnarlywine and Lagunitas Maximus, the brewers seem to like having a bit of fun with their beer.

So, when I went to the liquor store to pick up a six pack of Lagunitas Pale Ale I found myself looking forward to seeing how that irreverence translated into the beer itself. Slightly hazy golden colored ale with copper highlights. Light carbonation supports a fluffy white head with decent retention. Hops are up front in the aroma, showing fragrances of citrus and grapefruit with hints of grassiness. Hops are supported by what smells like hard candy. There’s also the scent of fruit esters giving the beer a nice juiciness.

Lagunitas Pale Ale starts off with spritzy carbonation. This moves into a citric juiciness in the center. Finish is dry, assertively bitter, and lingering. The ale is also light on flavors of malt with pronounced bitterness being the only offering on the palate. All in all Lagunitas Pale Ale is a fine offering but it doesn’t offer much more than Big Hops. If this beer had some malt or other flavors to support the hops and give the beer backbone, I might enjoy it more.

A little depth of flavor might elevate Lagunitas Pale Ale closer to an 8 out of 10 instead of the 7.31 out of 10 I’m willing to give it. That being said, I would recommend Lagunitas Pale Ale for hopheads who prefer the citrussy hop profile of American pale ales over the earthy profile of the British models. The beer’s assertive hop profile would make it a good match for cream soups, pasta, fish and chips, or any dish where you want an ale’s bitterness to cut through a meal’s fattiness or creaminess.

Reference:
1. New Dogtown Pale Ale | Lagunitas Brewing Company | BeerAdvocate
2. Lagunitas New DogTown Pale Ale – RateBeer

Category: Health

Are Fast Food Restaurants like Mcdonalds and Burger King on the way out

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Let me ask you this: Do YOU go to McDonald’s and Burger King as much as you used to? I’d venture to guess your answer is ‘no’. While McDonald’s and Burger King are growing into an over-seas market, their North American revenues have tapered. Popular movies like Super Size Me and books like Fast Food Nation have done a tremendous job at turning consumer attention over to the horrible health risks associated with fast food indulgence. What used to be viewed as a quick and tasty means of filling your appetite is increasingly being viewed as a quick and easy means to ballooning your waistline. Frequent fast food eating is now plainly exposed as a serious health risk.

This means that Burger King and McDonald’s are constantly being put to the test. What may loom as the most frightening development, at least in the minds of Burger King and McDonald’s CEOs, is the media’s increasing attention to the issues that surround fast food consumption. Internet and television news shows, radio programs, and every form of publication have begun a strong campaign to draw consumer attention to health food alternatives, to the staggering health risk statistics associated with fast food consumption, and to a powerful portrayal of the stories of real people whose unhealthy eating habits led to serious health complications. All together, the media is drawing a gruesome picture of the consequences of our high calorie, questionable quality diets. Among the nation’s most influential suppliers of fast-food, McDonald’s and Burger King are most often targeted as the main facilitators for these diets.

As media forces slowly make our society more health-conscious, Burger King and McDonald’s are faced with either the option to shape up or ship out. Thanks in large part to the principals of capitalism and our free-market economy, consumer demand will continue to shape the future of the fast food industry. As the market for healthy food grows and grows and GROWS, large corporations like Burger King and McDonald’s will either have to introduce a wide array of healthy menu options or make room for an even wider array of up-start companies just fumbling over each other to meet the consumer demand for food that not only tastes good but is actually good for you.

Reference:
1. Burger King
2. McDonald's Vs. Burger King: Comparing Business Models …

Category: Health

Advantages of Ordering from an a La Carte Menu

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Individual menus were handed out for the first time in 19th century France, when European aristocracy started to dine out in French restaurants. By the 1920s, it had become a universal practice. This menu was called the “carte,” or map. Today, to order “a la carte” is to order individual items off the menu.

The primary advantage of ordering a la carte is choice. When ordering a la carte, you can choose exactly what you want for each part of your meal, without restriction. All fixed price menus limit you to a few narrow choices, and some give you no choice at all.

With an a la carte menu, you can mix and match all menu items to your preference. If you want to double up on some parts of a meal and avoid others, you can do that. If you want to have one appetizer now and a different appetizer later as your main course, you can do that too.

If you don’t order something, you don’t have to pay for it. You only have to pay for the items you order. If you don’t want a full meal, this can make dining out much cheaper than it might otherwise be.

An a la carte menu has no minimum and no maximum order. If you only want a salad, or dessert and a coffee, the a la carte menu will let you do that. If you want to skip the appetizer and only order a main course, you can do that too. Ordering from an a la carte menu does not require you to order according to someone else’s definition of what a meal should be.

Restaurants are sometimes willing to make substitutions to some dishes when they are ordered a la carte. These substitutions may enable a diabetic or someone with a food allergy to eat out, when they might otherwise be unable to do so safely.

A la carte menus work well as sampling menus, especially when a few friends get together and plan their selections. Each person can order a different item, with everyone around the table able to sample it without having to buy full portions of each item to be consumed individually. This is a good way of discovering which items appeal to your taste.

Finally, even when a favorite item has been rotated off the seasonal menu, you may be able to order it anyway when you order it a la carte. Just speak to the waiter and ask if it would be possible for the kitchen to make that item. Some cannot do it, because they have not stocked up on those ingredients; but many high-end restaurants, as well as local places where you are a regular, will be willing and able to do it. However, in this case, you are technically ordering “off” the carte!

Reference:
1. À la carte
2. Menu · Definition | Ares Fung – Academia.edu

Category: Health

Candy Dipping Tips

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A little box lined with crinkly tissue paper, and every type of chocolate you can think of snuggled inside little golden foils – what could be more divine? Chocolate-vanilla, creamsicle orange, coffee cream, lemon coconut, tangy raspberry, strawberry cream – all dipped in a luscious and glossy coat of white, dark, or milk chocolate.

Hand crafted with care and perfection, wouldn’t you like to learn? The magic of candy dipping is an art taught with only a small amount of steps. Learn these steps well, and you’ll be on your way to making a variety of creative and beautiful candies in no time.

So, what tools do you need to use? A “candy dipper” is an actual name for a kitchen hand tool. It is usually a long wooden dowel with a thin round metal wire coming out of it. At the end of the wire is a shape, usually a round, spiral, oval, or fork shape. This is the part that holds the candy in place as you dip it into the chocolate coating.

Usually, these tools can run you quite the bit of money – but they can last a lifetime. If you do a lot of candy making and you would like to make the investment, I would suggest getting yourself one good candy dipper that you are comfortable with. If you need a candy dipper but don’t want to spend the money, a dinner or lobster fork works just as good. There are also cheaper tools on the market which are made of plastic – these work decently, as well.

The first thing that I would suggest that you do when candy making is to purchase a good tasting chocolate. A rule of thumb that I try to follow is to try a piece of the chocolate you are going to use for dipping. Taste it – would you eat it the way it is? The next factor is quality. It may taste good, but is it going to melt and set without problems? Good brands of chocolate to use are almost always European brands – such as Valrhona or Lindt. These two chocolates have never let me down – they melt and temper well, have a great velvety texture, and set with a luscious shiny gloss.

A good practice to get into is to freeze whichever candies you are going to dip. Freezing your candies makes them hard and they won’t end up melting into your dipping chocolate, leaving pieces of candy filling and truffle remnants. You can dip gummy candies, hard candies, pretzels, or you can make your very own truffle filling to dip in the chocolate – there is an endless array of recipes out there!

The first step is to melt your chocolate. This can be achieved over a double boiler or in the microwave. Grab your candy dipper or fork and take hold of the candy gently onto the end. Dip it into your tempered chocolate and carefully shake off the excess chocolate drippings. Set them onto a tray lined with parchment or waxed paper and let them cool.

If you wish, take your dipper or fork and drizzle a bit of your melted chocolate on top of the candies in the pattern you prefer. You could also melt a small amount of different chocolate and drizzle over the candies. Try getting some icing sugar, cocoa, or colored sugar and sprinkling overtop. If you have some icing handy, you could pipe some freeform designs or flowers on top. Candies make a great gift, and with Valentines Day coming up, what better way to show you care than by spending a little bit of time creating something special for your honey.

Reference:
1. Chocolate Dipping Tips ~ Dip it in Chocolate
2. How to Dip Truffles in Chocolate – Candy – About.com

Category: Eating