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All About Peppers

All About Peppers

Where did peppers come from?

One of the most common genuses of peppers, known as the capsicum, is thought to have been in existence millions of years ago in present-day Bolivia, according to the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Information and Resources. But, the first known cultivation of peppers happened in Mexico and Central, as well as South America 10,000 years ago. The probable spread of these crops from Bolivia to these areas is attributed to birds. The capsicums existed mainly in the Americas until about 1600. Christopher Columbus’ voyages were helpful in spreading capsicum peppers throughout the world.

The original peppers were tiny and round, unlike most of today’s peppers which are long and larger.

What can I do with peppers?

Most commonly, peppers have been used to spice up generally boring foods like rice or corn. Through the years though, people have come up with a whole slew of uses for peppers from making pepper jelly, to using ornamental peppers for garlands. Here’s a list of the most interesting as well as some of the more common uses for peppers:

Pickled Peppers
Pepper Jelly – Dried Apricot Jalapeno Jelly
Roasted Peppers
Adding Peppers to pasta dishes
Hot Sauce
Pepper Garlands/Decorations
Using peppers in stirfry
Pepper vinegar
Pepper spray (animal deterrent for plants)

What different types of peppers are there?

There all sorts of classifications for peppers. There is the scientific classification method that uses the genus and species name: The most commonly known and cultivated genus of peppers is the capsicum, whereas the five most common species of peppers (all within the capsicum category) include: chinense, frutescens, pubescens, annum, and baccatum. All of these types of peppers are also labelled chillies.

There is the usage method which categories various peppers into hot, sweet, or ornamental. And then, there is the location-classified method that is what gives some peppers its actual name.

Here’s a basic list of some of the varieties of the mentioned species of peppers you might see in your local grocery stores:

Bell pepper
Anaheim pepper
Fresno
Poblano
Habanero
Cubanelle
Chipotle
Jalapeno
Serrano
Mariachi

Aside from the different colored bell peppers used in stirfry, many of these other peppers are considered hot peppers.

How can you tell how hot a pepper is?

The range of spiciness for peppers is measured in scoville units. Wilbur Scoville developed a scale to help determine this very issue and measure pepper pungency in 1912. The higher the number of scoville units, the hotter the pepper. Here’s a basic Scoville Scale. that shows habaneros trumping chipotles and jalapenos as the most commonly known hottest pepper.

Health Effects

Regular pepper consumption is thought to have both good and bad effects on one’s health. One of the most clear effects of eating peppers is what it does for congestion. Eating peppers, especially those hot ones, will help clear up your nasal passages in no times (as will most spicy foods!)

According to a University study, consuming peppers regularly can help the body control its amount of insulin, which would be very beneficial for diabetics. Other studies show though that pepper digestion can increase the risks of stomach cancer, but the definite answer remains unclear. Research has also been linking peppers to helping stop the spread of prostrate cancer in some men.

Pepper Recipes (see Recipe4Living.com for the following:)
Pepper Sauce
Basic Salsa
Salsa Cruda
Crowd Pleasing Chili
Roast Beef and Red Pepper Sandwiches
Impossibly Easy Roasted Red Peppers and Feta Cheese Pie
Tangy Lemon Pepper Shrimp
Stuffed Peppers
Pepper Herb Grilling Rub

Sources:
Chicago Botanic Gardens
The Scoville Scale
TheChilliKing.com

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Beef Chili Recipes Chili Recipes

Healthy Salad Dressings Made Easy

Healthy Salad Dressings Made Easy

With warmer weather looming on the horizon in Northern America, many women and men start to simplify and streamline their diets. Gone are the heavy chili dinners and beef stews that fill our bellies in the dead of winter. Enter the salad: cool, fresh, crisp bursts of flavor – but not necessarily a significant caloric savings over a meat and potatoes dinner. The culprit: creamy, oil based dressings. The solution: for most, it’s to take their dressing on the side.

Traditional commerically prepared salad dressings are an easy way to turn a healthy salad into a calorie-dense, fat-laden disaster. Bottled dressings can have anywhere from 8 to 20 grams of fat per serving.

Take your dressing on the side? Never! At least, there’s never a need when you make your own healthy salad dressings.

Of course, you can buy decent commercial low-fat dressings, or even organic dressings but, more often than not, they are loaded with unhealthy elements like sugar and heavy amounts of heart-unhealthy sodium.

It’s hard, however, to beat a homemade dressing!

The key to making delicious healthy dressings at home is to reduce the oils and other fats, and bump up the ingredients that add texture and flavor.

The oil in any salad dressing serves several functions, including providing a “cling” or “binding” factor, so your acidic and other flavorings (such as vinegar and herbs) don’t end up in a puddle at the bottom of the bowl.

Oil also serves to soften and balance the acids so that they’re more pleasing to the pallate.

When thinking of healthier dressings, most people eschew creamy dressings in favor of lighter vinaigrettes. But classic vinaigrettes often use a 3-to-1 or 4-to-1 ratio of fat to acid (for example: olive oil and red wine vinegar). Such a ratio can yield at least 10 grams of fat per tablespoon! And who uses just one tablespoon?

So what constitutes a healthy salad dressing?

Let’s look at oil.

When choosing oils for your dressing, think carefully about flavors. Extra-virgin olive oil is almost always an excellent healthful and flavorful choice. But so are nut oils such as almond, macadamia and hazelnut. Each contributes complex yet subtle flavors that can complement a salad. Olive and nut oils also are rich in healthy monounsaturated fats.

You can reduce the amount of oil, however, in any dressing by approximately 40 percent if the other ingredients that balance the dressing are not too acidic.

A common complaint when reducing the oil content of a dressing recipe is that one often misses the thick texture that oil adds to your recipes. Try adding Dijon mustard as an emulsifier to make up for the reduced oil. Like oil, mustard is thick enough to bind the other ingredients and adds a tangy flavor.

In creamy dressings, the emulsifier often is sour cream or mayonnaise (and sometimes oil, too). Providing a healthy option for these ingredients is an easy fix.

Nonfat yogurt, reduced-fat sour cream, and reduced-fat mayonnaise all make good substitutes. They each have good flavor and produce dressings that hold together and coat vegetables quite well.

Or try buttermilk. Buttermilk is always either nonfat or reduced-fat. Its thick texture and mild, tangy flavor makes it a useful ingredient.

With a little bit of ingenuity and creativity, it is possible to make healthy salad dressings without sacrificing good nutrition by cutting calories, fat and chemicals.

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10 Great Tips On Cooking Meals

10 Great Tips On Cooking Meals

If you are as busy as most people you are always looking for ways to feed your family in convenient, fast, yet not-too-expensive ways. Try the following suggestions:

1. Cooking several meals for the week at one time. It may take a few hours of your time up front but will pay off in the long run when you come home each evening and have a meal ready to eat in a short amount of time. Try cooking a roast and using part of it as a main meal and then using some for sandwiches, beef stroganoff or as part of a stir-fry. Fry several pounds of hamburger and make a casserole, taco meat and chili to freeze for use later in the week.

2. After you return home from the grocery store clean all the fruits and vegetables you can. When it’s time for a meal all you will have to do is cook them or add them to a salad or soup.

3. Get ideas from the cooking shows on T.V. There are great shows that show you how to make a healthy meal in a short time.

4. Develop a revolving recipe file. If you get bogged down by the idea of having to plan 30 meals a month the recipe file is for you. Let family members choose some of their favorites and put the recipes in a monthly file. Flip to day five or fifteen and there is the meal just waiting to be cooked.

5. Enlist the help of the members of your family. As soon as the kids are old enough divide up the cooking responsibilities. Let everyone take turns with specific tasks or the whole meal. Pair these meals with fruit and veggies that have already been washed and cut-up and you are ready for dinner.

6. Share the cooking with friends or neighbors. I’ve known people who cook four or five of the same meal and then trade with four or five other people. This works best when people share the same basic ideas on what they like and don’t like. It’s a great idea though for a very easy week of evening meals.

7. Save coupons for those convenience things at the grocery store. They have entire entrees and dinners either fresh or frozen. Sometimes they are rather pricy but with the coupons they are good to have on hand for an evening when everyone is running in different directions and time is of the essence.

8. It’s O.K. to eat out from time to time. Clip coupons for these occasions and if you have kids keep a look-out for the places that have special prices for children. Some of the fast-food restaurants are trying to offer item choices that are a little more healthy.

9. Many larger cities have businesses that prepare food for the evening meal. They seem expensive at first but are so convenient and available for one person or entire families. There are many menu choices and meals cooked for special diets. When you calculate the groceries you buy and the times you eat out each week, this may work for you.

10. Combine several of the above ideas into a plan that is best for you.

It is possible with a little planning to cook meals that are quick and easy without spending hours in the kitchen every day.

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Keeping Fit With A Few Simple Ideas

Keeping Fit With A Few Simple Ideas

Whether you can prepare Beef Wellington that could knock the socks off of a queen or you are one of the unlucky few who can barely boil water, you can benefit from the tips outlined here. Use this guide to take your cooking to a whole new level of excellence.

If you are going to bake cookies, make sure that the dough is chilled thoroughly before it goes on to the baking pan. By doing it this way, the leavening ingredients can take effect before the butter flattens out, which in turn, can make your cookies lose their flavor.

When cooking your next large pot of spaghetti, add a drop of oil to the boiling water. This will keep the pasta from sticking together and improve the taste. Your boiling time will remain the same and there is no extra work added by using this method.

When it comes to cooking, try to manage your time by cooking multiple meals at one time. This is important because not only will it save you money by having a pre-cooked meal but it will also save you from having to spend the time cooking it later on in the week.

Try frozen grapes as an easy and refreshing snack. Like a healthy miniature popsicle, grapes taste great when frozen. As an added bonus you can stock up when they are on sale and they will keep for a long time in your freezer without going bad. Just remove them from the stem, rinse them, pat dry, and place in a freezer-safe container.

Use either a steaming or a stir-frying technique to cook your vegetables. These two methods help the vegetables retain both their color and their nutrients, providing your family with a healthier side dish that also looks attractive. Your children, in particular, are more likely to eat their vegetables if they look nice.

Soup is for all seasons! When we usually think of soup, we think of a hot bowl of chicken noodle when we are sick or a piping hot bowl of chili on a cold winter night. But don’t forget about soup in the summer, too. There are a lot of easy recipes for refreshing cold soups like gazpacho and fruit soups to enjoy during warm months.

Cooking tip ““ sweet treat for smelly fingers! Cleaning fish or shrimp is a messy task and leaves a distinctive smell on your hand for at least a day. There is an effective way of removing the smell. Squish a few fresh strawberries between your fingers for a couple of minutes and rinse your hand with soapy water. The smell will disappear instantly!

The most difficult and time consuming thing about cooking is doing all of the prep work. You can buy pre-prepped vegetables or prep your ingredients the day before to cut down on the time you are in the kitchen. This is very helpful if you need to get dinner out in a hurry.

Now that you are armed with the cooking know-how to wow your family, friends and guests, you are prepared to make some knock-out dishes. Enjoy your time in the kitchen, and use the tips in this article to guide you towards the very best in fine dining and everyday cooking.

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Some Top Secret Tips From Professional Chefs 5

Some Top Secret Tips From Professional Chefs

While some people prefer to indulge in delicious, savory dishes, there are millions more who derive far more pleasure from learning how to prepare those perfect appetizers, desserts, and main courses. With the information in this article, you can get a head start on your path to becoming the next best chef!

Try frozen grapes as an easy and refreshing snack. Like a healthy miniature popsicle, grapes taste great when frozen. As an added bonus you can stock up when they are on sale and they will keep for a long time in your freezer without going bad. Just remove them from the stem, rinse them, pat dry, and place in a freezer-safe container.

Soup is for all seasons! When we usually think of soup, we think of a hot bowl of chicken noodle when we are sick or a piping hot bowl of chili on a cold winter night. But don’t forget about soup in the summer, too. There are a lot of easy recipes for refreshing cold soups like gazpacho and fruit soups to enjoy during warm months.

For the best texture and mouth-feel, always slice meats against the grain. This method cuts through the muscle fibers and results in a more tender texture, whereas meat sliced with the grain can be chewy or overly tough. Beef or pork roasts, steaks, loins and chops tend to benefit most from this treatment, although it’s a good method for cutting turkey and chicken, as well.

If you are unsure of your boiling potatoes are done it would help if you stuck them with a knife. If the potato comes out of the water stuck on the knife then it means that they are not ready yet, but if they slide off easily then they are done.

Instead of rinsing fresh mushrooms under water, wipe them with a damp paper towel or a mushroom brush. Mushrooms already contain a high water content, and their porous flesh will absorb even more if you run them under the faucet. Wiping them gently removes the dirt while preventing sogginess or sliminess.

If you accidentally add too much salt to a soup or sauce, you can reduce the saltiness by placing a whole peeled potato in the pot for a while. The potato will absorb some of the salt and make the soup more palatable. Just remember to remove the potato before serving the dish.

It’s important to taste meatloaf or meatballs each time that you make them, so that you know you’ve got the seasonings right. Make a tiny patty and fry it up before you make your main meal, so that you are able to taste your end product and make adjustments as necessary.

Now that you have added some useful and creative cooking tips to your arsenal, you should be able to start pursuing your dream of playing chef. Whether you want to make a living from cooking or simply want to serve delicious meals to your family, remember these tips for culinary glory.

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Excellent Menu for a Great Fourth Outdoors

Excellent Menu for a Great Fourth Outdoors

The Fourth of July is America’s Independence Day. It is a special day in the minds and hearts of patriotic citizens of this country and there are many ways we celebrate that patriotism. If you are looking for a little something extra to add to your Independence Day menu try some of the ideas below. Remember that the red, white, and blue of the American flag can be excellent color additions to your fabulous fourth menu and make it definitely firework worthy.

It is fairly safe to say that for most of the country the weather on the fourth of July is going to be a little bit on the warm side. While there are exceptions to every rule this is the general rule of thumb. For this reason you should prepare your menu according to that and avoid foods that are going to melt quickly or will not look as appealing in warm weather. You should also take proper precautions for storage and keeping things from spoiling by leaving them out in the elements too long. Store as much of the food as possible until it is time to serve.

This may somewhat limit your offerings but opens the door to other offerings. Rather than have chilled pies for dessert choose cake that can be stored at room temperature. There are sure to be a few chilled recipes or dishes that are best served and/or stored chilled. Be sure to have plenty of cold gel packs or ice on hand and plenty of ice chests and other appropriate containers, especially if you are going to be camping or cooking out away from home, on hand to take care of at least the amount of food you are contributing that needs cold storage.

If you are going to be camping out or enjoying the great outdoors on the fourth consider foods that can be prepared with a Dutch oven. There are many great recipes and these foods can pretty well cook for the prescribed length of time and served immediately if you plan properly. These ovens are quite useful and can prepare everything from cakes and muffins to stews, chili, and roast beef with vegetables. In other words, a Dutch oven opens doors that may not be widely available to the average camper on a cookout.

Foil packet meals are also excellent choices for your Fourth of July cookouts. These leave little mess, little fuss, and more often than not taste great. Dishes such as Hobo Stew and Creek Bank Potatoes are very popular and quite savory for the average cook out. They are also rather simple to prepare with few ingredients. This makes them an excellent choice for cooking on a grill or even in a Dutch oven if you have one at your disposal, which I highly recommend not only for Fourth of July meal preparations but also any time you are cooking in the great outdoors. You might find that you love it so much you don’t want to do without it.

Another great tip when cooking away from home on the Fourth of July is to keep things simple. You do not want to lug around stacks of condiments, dishes, bowls, trays, etc. Keep things as simple as possible and try to use dishes that require few ingredients yet still taste great. The more simple things are when dining in the great outdoors the more you can appreciate the simplicity of being in the great outdoors.

Don’t forget the appeal of simple hamburgers, hot dogs, and brats as great Fourth of July meal ideas. These foods are easy to prepare, easy to clean up, and go great with chips. No muss, no fuss, remember? The less time you spend on meal preparations, the more time you have available to get around to enjoying your time in our great countryside. I can’t think of many better ways to celebrate our independence as a nation than by enjoying it.

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Tex Mex Food Surprises

Tex Mex Food Surprises

The evolution of North Mexican cuisine in Texas is the cocktail of Texas and Mexican style giving birth to Tex Mex food, which is a highly spiced and vibrantly styled cuisine. History points out that Tex Mex food dates back to 1940’s when Spanish and Mexican recipes combined with Anglo fare. Today it is a 20th Century phenomenon for Americans. The first Tex Mex restaurant surfaced in the southwest region, which had a dense Mexican population. The gourmet Tex Mex began in 1970’s and appealed to the young generation. Diana Kennedy brought this common food to a trendy fare in her book Cuisines of Mexico in 1972. Robb Walsh has also commented in The Tex Mex Cookbook.

Tex Mex Cuisine

Main characteristic of Tex Mex food is heavy use of meat, especially beef, beans and spices. Some inventions are nachos, crispy tacos, crispy chalupas, chilli con queso, chilli con carne, chilly gravy and fajitas. Serving tortilla chips, hot sauce or salsa is an appetizer in original Tex Mex style. Along with these Mexican dishes some Texas specialty like ribs and chili are served in Texas restaurants.

What is Tex Mex?

It may be described as native foreign food, ‘native’ because it does not exist elsewhere. To distinguish between Tex Mex and Mexican food we can only say that Mexican food has more variety and is regional but the whole of U.S. is following this form and style of Tex Mex food, an amalgamation of Northern Mexico peasant food with Texas and cowboy fare.

In olden days, Texans went to Mexican restaurants and ate where the mixed plate was served. The Americanized Mexican food came to be known as Tex Mex, which stood as an insult to Texas Mexican restaurant owners. The insult launched the success story. It evoked images of cantinas, cowboys and Wild West. Dozens of Tex Mex restaurants sprang up in Paris, spread to Europe and to Bangkok, Buenos Aries and Abu Dhabi. Tortilla chips, margaritas and chili con carne are world famous.

Tex Mex is a combo of American Indian and Spanish cuisines and cultural differences of Mexican American in South and West Texas. Corn is widely used in American Indian cuisine in the form of Corn tortillas, which are usually bought from stores these days. Many make flour tortillas, which are easier to cook. It is the basis of many popular dishes – enchiladas, tacos, chilaquiles, chalupas, quesadillas, tostadas, botanas and many more. Strangely. most Texas – Mexican dishes and equipment acquire names from Aztec language.

Another staple eaten daily is frijoles or beans of various kinds – kidney beans, tepary beans, black beans, pinto beans etc. They may be served combined with other food like ‘frijoles con chorizo’ and ‘frijoles con quielites’ to name a few.

Numerous dishes are prepared from meats. Traditional ones are from pork called ‘chicharrones’. Preparation from goats is known as ‘cabrito’ and ‘machitos’, while dishes prepared from cattle include fajitas. Another traditional dish of west Texas is ‘morcilla’ made from pig blood. Various soups and pickled meat dish are common.

Although traditional food reveals strong cultural ties between Mexican American in West and South Texas, they also showed cultural difference. Fajitas are common folk cuisine in South Texas but not in West Texas. Mexicans in South Texas like ‘tripitas’ though it is not popular in West Texas. Morcilla is common in West but not in South Texas.

In spite of these differences in folk levels Tex Mex food is popular all over the world.

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Comfort Food Trends Bring Us Back to our Roots

Comfort Food Trends Bring Us Back to our Roots

Comfort food. It even sounds warm and welcoming – like cuddling up by the fire on a cold winter day. Comfort food trends have seen a real resurgence in recent years and our desire for comfort food seems to be holding strong. So what is comfort food? Generally it’s the food we have good memories about, the food we think of when we hear the word homemade, and that reminds us of simpler times.
The list of favorite comfort foods can be different for each of us. While homemade macaroni and cheese and meatloaf with mashed potatoes have been staples for many of us, for some of us comfort food may include a delicious cheesy lasagna, or yummy sweet potato pie. We all tend to love the food that takes us back to our roots – the foods we grew up with.
Some Of Our Top Comfort Food Choices Were Found To Be:
Soup
Meatloaf
Pasta sauces
Pot pies
Mashed potatoes
Pizza
Potato salad
Macaroni and cheese
Biscuits and scones
Chili
Beef stew
Fruit pies
Chocolate chip cookies
Why the increased desire for comfort foods? It seems to be a combination of things. People are busier and more stressed than ever. The last few years have also resulted in many of us feeling less safe in the world. We want to feel warm and safe again, the way we did when we were young and the world seemed simpler.
Comfort food trend watchers say that we are craving the foods we grew up with. People want to enjoy their homes and entertain at home. We’re expressing an interest in cooking everything from easy party food recipes to BBQ to slow cooked roasts with all the trimmings.
We also want to experience different tastes, sometimes tastes from around the world, sometimes the familiar foods we love, with twist or an extra bit of pizzazz. So we have things like garlic mashed potatoes, 4 cheese macaroni and cheese and thin crust gourmet pizzas.
We’re also a population that is becoming more aware of health and making healthy food choices. With aging baby boomers creating a bulge in our populations, healthy lifestyle trends are front and center. We want fewer calories but all the taste, healthier eating with the comforts of our favorite foods. So where does this leave us? How do we combine comfort food trends with healthier lifestyle trends?
As much as we love our comfort foods many of us now look for ways to turn them into healthier choices, with a lower fat content and fewer calories. We tweak those great recipes from the past so we maintain (or sometimes even improve) the taste but forgo some of the fat, unhealthy carbs and sugar content. And while most of us are still eating our favorite comfort foods, maybe it’s just a little less often. We might decide to share that piece of amazing cheesecake so we get the taste but not the pounds.
We’re going back to our roots – but with a nod to healthy food choices and a few wonderful, tasty twists along the way.

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Kabobs-Another Word For Dinner On A Stick

Kabobs-Another Word For Dinner On A Stick

Cookout season is just around the corner and everyone is anxiously awaiting the smoky aroma that wafts throughout the neighborhood when families fire up their barbeque grills. Hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks and chicken – we all enjoy the traditional favorites of grilling, but how about spicing up your barbeque lineup with some fun and delicious Kabobs? Nothing is more convenient or festive than kabobs.

You can select from chunks of marinated beef or chicken with some yummy fresh veggies or fruit nicely seared over the coals. However you ‘stick it’, kabobs are a great choice for both family and entertaining.

Here’s a couple of delicious kabob recipes to try out this summer:

Steak and Veggie Kabobs

½ cup dry white wine
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ tsp salt
½ c vegetable oil or olive oil
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp chili sauce
1 tbsp vinegar
½ tsp dried whole oregano
½ tsp dried whole thyme
2 lbs boneless sirloin steak cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
½ lb fresh mushroom caps
2 large green peppers, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
1 pint cherry tomatoes
4 small yellow squash, cut into 1 inch thick pieces

Combine the first 9 ingredients. Add meat; cover and marinate at least 2 hours in the refrigerator, turning meat occasionally. Remove meat from marinade, reserving marinade. Alternate meat and veggies on skewers. Grill over medium coals 10-15 minutes or until desired degree of doneness, basting with marinade. Serves 5.

Marinated Lamb Kabobs

2 lbs boneless lamb
1 onion, diced
1/3 c diced green pepper
1/2 c dry red wine
1/4 c olive oil
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp sage
1/8 tsp dry mustard
1/8 tsp dried whole oregano

Remove fell (the tissue like covering) from lamb, if necessary; cut meat into 1 inch cubes and set aside. Combine the remaining 8 ingredients in a 13 x 9 inch baking dish. Add lamb; cover and marinate overnight in refrigerator. Remove meat from marinade, reserve liquid. Cook marinade in small saucepan until heated. Place meat on skewers. Grill about 6 inches from medium coals for 15 minutes or until done, turning and basting often with marinade. Serves 6.

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Fill Thier Bellies With Really Great Food (2)

Fill Thier Bellies With Really Great Food

Cooking is a wonderful art to learn. Whether it is purely for nutritional purposes or for the joy of creating a meal from scratch for your family and friends, the relaxation that can be associated with this skill is immense. But if you were never taught the basics of cooking, and finding your way around a kitchen is not your forte, here are a few handy hints you need to know.

When you need to package cupcakes individually for bake sales, table decorations, or party favors place each cupcake in a clear plastic punch cup, then wrap the cup–from the bottom–with clear or colored cellophane. Use a twist tie, a piece of twine, or ribbon to secure the wrapping at the top.

Don’t use prepared seasoning mixes when you cook, especially if you have high blood pressure. These mixes often have a high sodium content. Instead, use fresh herbs and spices, or make sure you choose a low-salt mix. For more flavor, try adding lemon or lime zest or a few chili peppers to your meal.

Soup is for all seasons! When we usually think of soup, we think of a hot bowl of chicken noodle when we are sick or a piping hot bowl of chili on a cold winter night. But don’t forget about soup in the summer, too. There are a lot of easy recipes for refreshing cold soups like gazpacho and fruit soups to enjoy during warm months.

If you have a family, you will want to implement a process for cleaning up after you cook your meal. This is very important as you will want to conserve the excess food that you do not eat for future servings. Post meal cleanup is just as important as pre-meal preparation.

A good way to save leftover sauces is to store and freeze them in ice cube trays. Then you can reheat them in a sauté pan whenever you need a quick sauce, in just the portion size that you need. This is great for making easy meals during the week.

Have you ever looked for a specific recipe only to come up short? This is why it’s a good thing to have a recipe box or book to hold all those valuable, family favorites. You can categorize them by appetizer, pasta, soups, meats, casseroles, etc. The categories are endless and should be done in a way you will easily be able to find them. You don’t want to lose Grandma’s famous chocolate chip recipe, right?

Buying pasta sauce that already has vegetables, seasonings, meat, or cheese in it is a great way to save time and money when cooking. There’s a great variety to choose from, and you won’t have to chop up peppers and mushrooms or brown the beef. It’s all in one jar–just heat it up, and serve over your favorite pasta!

There is no longer a need to hold onto any fear of the kitchen. By following these ideas and learning the basics of cooking, you will be rewarded. With a little time and practice you will be whipping up gourmet meals to impress your friends in no time at all.