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Food News Tips, Tricks, and Advice

Everything but Turkey for Thanksgiving

Vegetarian Quiche for Thanksgiving!
Vegetarian Quiche for Thanksgiving!
One thing many vegetarians will have to break to their family at one point or another is that they will no longer be eating turkey on Thanksgiving. People will ask you why you can’t just eat meat on this one day. They may say that they thought you still ate chicken and turkey. They may fear that you will bring Tofurkey.

Another problem vegetarians and vegans may face when it comes to a large dinner gathering is having diverse and nutritious options. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been tempted to  just go for a 100% pie and potatoes diet, but let’s be honest…even for a holiday, that’s not the healthiest. Many pre-made options are highly processed and salty. Plus, isn’t it much more fun to mix it up a bit? Don’t you want some protein in there? Time to step it up!

Fear not, my veggie friends. I’ve gathered some of the best vegetarian and vegan recipes out there, tried and tested.

Baked Tofu (Vegetarian/Vegan)

Ready for a super simple, protein packed recipe?

It’s a pretty simple process, as detailed in this Whole Foods step by step recipe. I like to coat the tofu cubes in olive oil with a brush, and then sprinkle sugar in the raw or other seasonings. Spicy, savory, sweet, it’s up to you! The tofu comes out crunchy and golden.

Roasted Chickpeas (Vegetarian/Vegan)

The chickpea, or garbanzo, is a diverse little legume. It can be made into flour, hummus, falafel…but it’s pretty great in its bean form, too, and don’t you forget it! A friend of mine gave me the idea to roast chickpeas with some spices a few years ago, and it has been a favorite ever since. I often serve it at dinner parties, and I’m complimented on how delicious it is. The recipe is also pretty basic. As a spice, I prefer to add cumin and turmeric, maybe a kick of cayenne. Or add some sriracha after roasting them. Especially tasty with some sauteed kale on the side. And healthy!

Quiche (Vegetarian)

A quiche can be so very festive and, let’s be honest, it’s like you’re getting to jump straight into the pie portion of the meal.

My sister enjoys making a broccoli and cheddar quiche for the holidays, similar to this recipe. If you want to make it a tad easier, you can pick up a pre-made crust. Whole Foods has some great gluten free and dairy free crusts, if you prefer, and you can always make this recipe vegan with a milk and butter substitute and egg replacer. I’ve prepared this vegetarian and gluten-free and vegan, and didn’t have a problem with any of the variations!

Festive Quinoa (Vegan)

Quinoa is nutritious, and this recipe is flavorful and festive.

We served this last year and I enjoyed it quite a bit. For added flair, we added cranberries with orange essence. Quite filling!

Zucchini Boats (Vegetarian/Vegan)

It’s a combination of boats and zucchini. What more could you ask for?

I follow a recipe similar to this one, but honestly, I use whatever floats my boat. Pun intended.

Brown rice, couscous, some beans, grape tomatoes, it’s all fair game! Scoop out the zucchini filling (aside from the seeds) and mix with your filling of choice. Fill the boats with the cooked mixture, and bake! Sprinkle cheese/vegan cheese of your choosing. Once again, I also like to just spot with sriracha. You’re ready to sail!

Sweet Potato & Black Beans (Vegetarian/Vegan)

I initially made a recipe similar to this one as a vegan burrito a few years back, omitting the cheese in lieu of avocado. However, this recipe also works great without wrapping everything burrito style. Sweet potatoes and black beans are an absolute winning combination!

Polenta with Eggplant (Vegetarian/Vegan)

My friend gave me a recipe book that has a recipe like this one in it, and it has become one of my favorites. I admit that I cheat and buy the Trader Joe’s polenta. I tend to omit the cheese on this as well.

Fellow vegetarians and vegans, what has been your Thanksgiving plight? Do you have any favorite meals for this time of year?

One thing I love about Thanksgiving is sharing all of the food, and the fortune of being able to try so many recipes. I’m thankful that I have these options. I also believe that everyone’s body is different, and just because a diet works for you does not mean that it is for everyone. While I am a vegetarian for ethical reasons, I initially stopped eating meat because I simply don’t enjoy eating it. However, I think it is nice to keep in mind that not everyone who is sharing your Thanksgiving with you will share these views, and they should be able to eat in peace. I have many friends and family who have diets based on personal beliefs and/or health restrictions, and Thanksgiving should be a time of sharing and giving, not judging. I think it is important to remember this because I am often asked if I am angry at others for eating meat, and I don’t think that is a kind way to approach what is said to be a kind diet.

I hope you all have a great holiday, and I would love to hear your recipe ideas!

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Tips, Tricks, and Advice

Il Supermercato – The Secret Behind Great Italian Food

An Italian antipasto platter (Media credit/Negroni Corporation USA)
An Italian antipasto platter (Media credit/Negroni Corporation USA)

My imaginations of Italy and food are of this: a stolid, determined woman toiling away in her kitchen, pinching out pasta shells with her thumb, gathering tomatoes from scraggly vines hanging off her balcony railing, basil from the spice pots cluttering her window sill. I see her trudging up a cobbled slope to argue with the macellaio about the best cut of meat, over to the salumeria to admonish the owner for yesterday’s salty parma. I see her waddling over to the panettiere to get the first batch of bread. And yes, my imaginations are real. I have eaten meals with these beginnings, and have never once been disappointed.

But let your imaginations run wild into the gutter, for there is this thing now in Italy. It’s called the supermarket.

I discovered this phenomenon only recently, on a visit to Rome, when one night I was served the most fabulous pesto I’ve ever eaten. My cousin’s wife is an excellent cook, not to mention a young beauty and working mother of three. “It’s from Genova,” she said proudly (where she is from), and then she ran and got the package to show me.

Package? No mortal and pestle?

She was not ashamed. Which left me ashamed for thinking she might be ashamed. Like I might be ashamed if I cooked with a microwave. But no, this is simply how the modern Italian woman cooks. Plus, I don’t think Italians are ever ashamed. The pesto didn’t taste like it could be from a package, and it was this, above all, that confused me.

The next day I accompanied her to my first Roman supermarket. Other than the ancient external façade, once inside it looked like any old supermarket, unmemorable, disorganized, fluorescent. Let’s put it this way. It was no EATALY. I followed her around while she threw items into her basket, our three course meals for the next few nights. Everything was pre-packaged, including the meat, including the fish. Nothing said organic or free range. The bacon was pre-cut into cubes for the pasta carbonara, the ricotta from a carton, the vongole frozen, the agnolotti vacuum packed.

I’ve eaten handmade agnolotti in Italy, and yet when I ate hers that night I could tell no difference. The chicken was succulent, though it didn’t hurt that it was rolled up with slices of prosciutto into little fingers. Nothing tasted preserved. Nothing tasted tainted. The quiet ease and grace that exudes so naturally from any Italian kitchen remained in tact. No fuss. No noises. No sighs or banging. One might think there was no effort put into it at all.

One night, in between feeding three kids, to accompany our meal she set out a loaf of warm, homemade bread, quickly telling me not to worry, she didn’t have to do anything. It was made with the Bimbi.

“Ah Bimbi,” I responded, an anticipatory gleam in my eye, for while I’d heard of this Bimbi, I’d never actually seen one. Many Italian women have them but few talk about them. Like the supermarket—that crass American invention—the Bimbi is hush hush. All I knew was that it was some big contraption that could make almost any dish. From pudding to pasta, from cake to pizza, the Bimbi did it all.

It’s hard to imagine an Italian woman throwing a bunch of ingredients into a machine and pressing start. Scooping pesto from a package. But what I’ve come to learn is that it doesn’t matter. Unlike processed food in the U.S., processed food in Italy tastes how it should taste, like food, real food, the kind of food that makes me, ironically, avoid supermarkets back home because our processed food doesn’t taste like there was ever any earth involved.

So while modern Italians are going by way of the microwave, Americans like me are moving back to untainted earth. Organic, farm raised, wild caught, unprocessed. All fine and good, but after Italy it occurred to me that I might be missing the point. Forget about the salumeriapanettiere, and macellaio; forget if it’s organic or farm raised, Italians don’t really care about any of that stuff—hence, il supermercato. They care that their food tastes good. Make your food taste good. And the more simple Italian touches you bring to your table the more it will taste good. Here’s one example, my favorite taste of Italy meal to eat at home in the U.S.:

  • Buy a bushel of basil, cut the stem ends and put in a glass of water. Keep at the ready on your kitchen counter or sill (because it looks and smells nice). When you need a leaf just pull it off, ideally, to sprinkle on some locally grown tomatoes you’ve just sliced, adding some chopped garlic, dribbles of oil and balsamic, a touch of salt.
  • On a small cutting board lay out thinly sliced prosciutto and salami. (The U.S. has just relaxed a decades-old ban on cured pork from Italy!) Add a pile of crumbles from a broken up hunk of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (what Italians call “junk food”).
  • Place a whole, wet mozzarella ball in a small plate, dribble on olive oil and crushed pepper.
  • Caesar’s olives!
  • Serve red wine from a ceramic pitcher. (When I’m in Italy, if a labeled bottle is put on the table I feel as if it’s because I’m there, the Americana. If I were not there, there’d be a simple carafe or pitcher filled with wine from a box stored in cooler somewhere.
  • Place chunks of bread or grissini directly on the table by each plate.
  • Drink wine from water glasses
  • For la dolce, mix strawberries with red wine and sugar

Buon appetito.

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Alcoholic Featured Recipes Tips, Tricks, and Advice

Wine Lovers: It’s Summertime — Let’s Explore A Brew or Two

beer

Just as beer drinkers are wise to bolster their knowledge and appreciation of fine wine, so too are wine lovers well served by opening their palates (and possibly snooty attitudes–hey, if this isn’t you, cool, but if the shoe fits… ) to embrace the attributes of great beer. And with the hot and muggy season upon us, what better time to begin the exploration?

Before you get your grape-stained cargo shorts all in a twist, no one’s saying that summertime wines aren’t marvelous. A bright, lively albariño between dips in the pool is just right, and lobster with white Burgundy is clearly one of life’s great pleasures. But after scooping divots on the back nine or powering the two-stroke around that precious carpet of green, who in their right mind is going to upend a 750ml of pinot bianco to cool off?

That’s right… no one. Beer has many qualities in common with wine but on one count at least, it stands head and shoulders above the sacred juice. Refreshment. Pure and simple restoration of body and spirit after a sweaty, grueling encounter with just about anything.

So if you’re willing to concede at least a nugget of truth in what I’m saying, let’s wrap our parched lips around some top-notch, steamy day beer options.

The simplest approach to good warm weather guzzling is to look for anything with bitter, white, wit, weisse, weizen, wheat, Kölsch, lambic, summer or seasonal on the label. “Your list is like, totally incomplete,” the beer geeks will shout; that may be my friends, but we’re trying to bring a few folks over from the grape side, so cut me some slack here.

Bitter, as in English bitters or special bitters, is a traditional ale style with a good but not overwhelming dose of hops, nicely balanced with some malty goodness and showing a touch of fruit. They’re typically on the lower side in alcohol (a plus in the summer heat), light in body and gold to copper in color. Think of them like an IPA’s little brother who can’t quite hop like the monster but who still delivers tremendous drinkability and refreshment.

White, wit and weisse (or weiss), all meaning, duh… white, are made with wheat, as in weizen or wheat (and maybe a dollop of oatmeal) and often sport a complex, citrusy spiciness, rendering them stone-cold delicious and exceptionally refreshing. White beers may come from Belgium or Germany and are increasingly beloved by American craft brewers.

Straight wheat beers are likewise a mainstay of American brewers and are perfect for summer enjoyment, though for a step up in flavor and personality turn your sights to the original European versions. What’s more, in a good beer joint you can expect to get a show to go with your order for a classic weissbier or hefeweizen.

Properly served, a very tall glass is placed over the bottle and the duo is inverted in a single, smooth motion. As the beer fills the glass the bottle is slowly raised until it leaves a marshmallowy two or three inch head, at which point the bottle is removed and either swirled wine-style or rolled back and forth on its side. This little trick gathers up all the remaining yeast (these babies are bottled sur lies) mixing it with the remaining foam, which concoction is then used to top off the glass, often followed by garnishing with a slice of lemon. Once served, dive into this gorgeous brew in all its orange, banana, and clove ester-ness for a singular beer experience.

Moving from “show” beers back to our list, Kölsch describes a golden ale produced in Cologne, Germany, and, well… anywhere outside the EU, like the U.S., that makes this soft, hoppy, kinda fruity, kinda bitter, kind of not, easy and delicious, summer sipper. And then we have the lambics.

These Belgian throwbacks are open fermented with wild yeast (something any true vinophile can appreciate) after a convoluted mashing process that leaves even beer folks scratching their heads. The result is a sour, somewhat earthy, carbonated brew that in overly simplistic terms is called “gueuze” when unflavored and “fruit lambic” when made with cherries, raspberries, cassis or peaches. Though it can be a love or hate proposition, the fruit flavors are rich and pure, and the higher acidity makes these summer quaffers a perfect match for any number of foods.

Finally, we have the summer or seasonal variants. A common bit of nomenclature among North American craft brewers, these are typically dosed with spice or fruit or a particularly interesting strain of hops. They’re made to refresh and encourage you to enjoy more than one. And most are excellent, a cut above the everyday pale ale or light lager. You may find rye ale or blueberry lager or any number of possibilities.

Now that you have some worthy options, trade in the wine stem for a beer tulip now and again. There are terrific beers out there, and if there’s one thing wine drinkers love, it’s finding the next new taste. If you’re not sure which ale or lager, which witbier or lambic to try, put together a mixed six-pack. One of the beauties of beer is that it’s generally inexpensive. You can mix and match and hold your own tasting of half a dozen possibilities for the cost of a single bottle of good wine. Exploration and economics, a summer combo that’s hard to beat!

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Tips, Tricks, and Advice

How Not to Order Pizza in Italy

pizza-mozzarella-bufalaI went to Italy for the first time in the winter of 1994 with my boyfriend of one year. We stayed with his Godparents in Rome, where his mother met us and many of his cousins lived.

While I was excited to at last get a view into this secret life of the man I loved, he was nervous, I could tell, though I wasn’t sure exactly why at the time. Now I know why. One has certain expectations when they travel to Italy. For me, it was evening strolls along the Tiber River, long intimate conversations about the state of our relationship in outdoor cafés, sumptuous meals in back alley restaurants, those that you might have read about in Eat, Pray, Love. If you read Eat, Pray, Love. None of that happened. We ate at home with the family for every meal, and when we weren’t eating at home with the family, we were out shopping with the family for the next meal to eat at home with the family.

There was one exception. Pizza. Every Friday night, young Italians get a reprieve from family and meet up with their friends for pizza. So one night, we bid goodbye to his mother and Godparents, their hands wringing and faces distorted with worry, and headed out to the streets of Rome still wet from that evening’s rain. It was like a breath of fresh air, once I got over the guilty feeling, that is, the sense that we were doing something wrong.

The restaurant was tucked somewhere in the maze of streets that make up the old center. We met three more of his cousins and their significant others, ten of us in all, snuggled into a picnic table at the back corner of the tiny, packed, locals-only place.

My boyfriend was the second oldest of the crew. The oldest, in her late twenties, peppered me with questions that I don’t remember now. She spoke frighteningly fluent English, and was very curious about my life in the States. She told me stories about their childhood summers, silly stories about my boyfriend, and there was lots of laughter, if not nervous laughter on his part, for I could be sardonic at times, direct, and no doubt he was worried that I might say something American. But his cousin was just as direct, just as sardonic, and we got along fabulously.

Until I ordered my pizza.

In America, typically, you order a couple of large pizzas for the table. I assumed that it was no different here; it was not a question of if we would share, it was a question of what we would share. As I started to make suggestions, my boyfriend quietly yet firmly suggested that I get the Pizza Margherita.

“But what are you getting?” I asked, confused.

“Napoletana,” he replied, setting down our menus.

“But I can’t eat a whole pizza by myself,” I said.

“Yes you can,” he said, sharing a furtive glace with this cousin.

“I suppose we could just take home whatever we don’t eat,” I said.

Please stop talking, his eyes begged. (You do not take home food in Italy.)

The waiter came to take our order. I’ll have mine with half mushroom and half pepperoni, I told my boyfriend to tell the waiter. They both returned blank stares, and the table went quiet. I glanced around thinking, what? In San Francisco, when my boyfriend and I had gone to North Beach Pizza, we had always shared the medium, half pepperoni, half mushroom, or half cheese, half anchovy. We ordered it however the hell we wanted it. Nobody blinked. But now the entire restaurant was blinking, it seemed, waiting for me to figure it out, for me to say the only two words one needs to say when ordering a pizza in Italy: Pizza Margherita. Yes, that’s what I’ll have, I said at last, prepossessed, as if that’s what I had intended all along.

Later that night, I rationalized my behavior to my boyfriend using the North Beach Pizza analogy. “That’s not pizza, Jackie,” was his simple response. It didn’t take long for me to accept this truism as part of my being, for my heart and soul to desire no pizza BUT the Margherita—the colors of his country’s flag and the name of its favorite queen—at which point my boyfriend, for his part, relented and married me.

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Blog Tips, Tricks, and Advice

Matt’s Food Vocabulary: Vietnamese

I told you recently that I was looking forward to posting some food vocabulary from my newfound friend Matt Miller. Enjoy.

1. Fish sauce – an amber-colored liquid extracted from the fermentation of fish with sea salt

2. Tamarind – edible, pod-like fruit which are used extensively in cuisines around the world.

3. Galangal – a rhizome of plants in the ginger family Zingiberaceae, with culinary and medicinal uses originating in Indonesia. In its raw form, galangals have a stronger taste than common ginger. They are available as a whole rhizome, cut or powdered. The whole fresh rhizome is very hard, and slicing it requires a sharp knife. A mixture of galangal and lime juice is used as a tonic in parts of Southeast Asia

4. Tumeric – Related to ginger. Turmeric grows wild in the forests of South and Southeast Asia. It is one of the key ingredients in many Asian dishes. Indian traditional medicine, called Ayurveda, has recommended turmeric in food for its potential medicinal value, an active research topic. Its use as a coloring agent is not of primary value in South Asian cuisine

5. Pho – a Vietnamese dish consisting of broth, noodles made from rice, a few herbs, and meat.[1] It is a popular street dish,[2] and the specialty of several restaurant chains.

6. Bahn mi – Vietnamese single serving baguette

Bahn mi
DIY Bahn mi. Now you can build your own.

7. Umami – Taste, described as savoriness.

8. Pad Thai – of Vietnamese origin. Pho noodles, bean sprouts, lime juice, meat and vegetables, chopped peanuts

9. Tom Kha Gai – “chicken galangal soup” is a spicy hot soup in Lao cuisine and Thai cuisine. This soup is made with coconut milk, galangal, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, and chicken, and often contains straw, shiitake, or other mushrooms, as well as coriander leaves

10. Congee – type of rice porridge or gruel popular in many Asian countries. When eaten as plain rice congee, it is most often served with side dishes. When additional ingredients, such as meat, fish, and flavorings, are added whilst preparing the congee, it is most often served as a meal on its own, especially when one is ill.

I learned that Pad Thai is of Vietnamese origin. I’d always believed it to be uniquely a Thai dish. Interesting. Did you learn anything you didn’t already know? 

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Tips, Tricks, and Advice

Publishing a First Food Blog Post

If you’ve come here for pointers on how to overcome your fears about publishing a first blog post, you may or may not be in the right place. This is, after all, just a food blog. Actually, I should mention that I’m in no way qualified to offer any kind of advice on blogging. Frankly, my chosen strategy at the time I published the first food blog post about two years ago was just to “wing it”.

 

Now, I’m not tellin’ anybody how to live, but you’ve just got to do something. Start somewhere. You can always refine and course correct, but you can’t do that until you begin.

 

So, I guess now’s as good a time as any to tell you that my best food experiences lie in eating it, preparing it and feeding it to other people.

 

That being said, I still have a lot to learn and I’m on the lookout for resources to tap for new information.

 

My friend and I had visited the Red Rocks Amphitheater recently and stopped into a bar down in Morrison, Colorado to have a few drinks. Matthew Miller was my very kind, attentive bartender. We got to talking and it didn’t take me long to figure out that the man knew about food.

 

Bingo! Like a lion on the hindquarter of a gazelle, I (without much convincing) convinced Matt to contribute to Blast’s food blog as the resident vocabulary master of sorts. Seriously, I needed someone to help me learn. There’s a part of me asking myself what the hell I’m doing taking on a food blog when I don’t even know what a demi glace really is. The vocabulary lessons from Matt are something that I’ll be sharing with you all within the next week or so. Queue: excitement.

 

Meanwhile, if you’re curious, I’m 27 years young and I live just outside of Denver, Colorado.  I’ve kept a series of personal journals with limited audiences for the last 10 years. For me, it’s easy to write great stories about the hilarious adventures and encounters that seem to frequent my life. Aside from a short stint with a blog I began to post the recipes I was making a couple of years ago, this is a bit new to me.

 

While I do love eating it, preparing it and feeding it to the ones I love, nearly all the writing I’ve done about food thus far involves escapades that are almost always involves receiving it through a window after 2AM.

 

Despite my limited food experience, I don’t have any plans to narrow focus of this blog. My plan is to grow beyond my current scope of knowledge, comfort and exposure with regards to food. We’ll keep posting recipes. We’ll be cooking recipes. We’ll be makin’ drinks (and drinkin’ drinks). I’m sure my day job will also influence some of my writing as I’m constantly exposed to food, beverage and hospitality from a business perspective. We’re going to do whatever feels good and right. How about that?

 

Now, let’s eat.

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Tips, Tricks, and Advice

Turning up the Heat on an American Pastime

content_marketing_opi_photo449312-20-2012When recalling the fond imagery of our American pastimes, many think of baseball, July 4 fireworks and muscle cars. There is one primary essential linked to these cultural passions of ours: grilling. But outdoor grilling isn’t just reserved for the Fourth of July and Father’s Day. Sports fans are tailgating with their grills, car shows are now synonymous with grilling, and with the advent of television cooking networks and iconic grill chefs like Bobby Flay, grilling has become a household standard in preparing fine cuisine that extends beyond the traditional burgers and hot dogs that manifested the grilling realm of our parent’s generation.  Selecting a fine, quality multifunctional grill is as detrimental to a family’s home life as it is selecting those new kitchen appliances. Investing in a good grill, such as the ones offered by American Outdoor Grills, will preserve your family’s advancement and preservation of this coveted pastime, while bringing the family unit together in a fun, outdoor activity.

Choosing the Right Grill for You

There are many things to consider when selecting the right grill for you and your family. According to Consumer Reports, grills are usually priced according to four factors: quality, size, convenience and features. As the grill is a vital source to good eating and family fun, quality should never be downgraded to save a few dollars. Nor should the convenience or features. Size however is something that should always be carefully considered when buying a grill, as choosing the right size will not only make grilling for efficient, but it will save you money so you can invest in a better quality product. Also, convenience factors can be additional considerations to help the consumer save money. For example, if your family members don’t tailgate at the stadium or transport the grill on camping trips, a good purchase choice would be an in-ground grill designed to stay on your family’s property. These grills are lower in cost than their portable cousins, and if you never travel with your grill, why spend money on a convenience factor that is a mute point? Also, big doesn’t necessarily mean better. If you often host social events or have lots of parties, than choosing a large 36-inch grill would be ideal, as it would provide ultimate efficiency in food preparation, as well as guest accommodation. However, if the grill is intended for a lifetime of enjoyment by your small, immediate family (and the occasional odd guest) selecting a 24-inch grill will save on your wallet by providing you with a product that won’t be a waste of space.

Grilling with the Kids

Engaging your children in grilling is a great way to not only spend time with them, but it enables the child to learn about cuisine, it builds confidence, and allows them to take pride in eating something they prepared themselves. In an article by Detroit’s Examiner, the author discusses how introducing the art of grilling to your child is beneficial. It puts your kids to work and helps enable their ability to follow instruction. Also, by mixing, basting and skewering their own dinner, your kids will be more apt to eat what they make, thus deviating their diets from the “three P’s” of peanut butter, pizza and pasta. With careful supervision, having your child step up to “man the grill” will make them feel accomplished and have a developed sense of achievement that will inspire them to excel in other areas of their development. As children (especially boys) don’t view the kitchen environment too favorably, getting them outdoors and in front of the grill can lead to instilling a passion for food preparation that may too initiate interest inside the kitchen. Get your child a matching apron like the one dad has, or better yet, pick up a cute little chef’s hat to make your child feel like he/she is more connected to the art of grilling.

Choose Wisely

The grill is the heart of your family. Whether you use it strictly at home, or carry it to the stadium or to the campsite, it is the center of your family’s bonding in the great outdoors. It can even be a vital part of raising your child to value and respect the art of grilling. Never skimp on quality, as you always get what you pay for. Choosing quality, while not over-spending on features you don’t need, will ensure a smart buy. Happy grilling!

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Tips, Tricks, and Advice

Wine pairing basics

(ARA) — You’ve been picking up a bottle of wine along with all the rest of your groceries for years. But have you been doing it right? Ever wondered why certain wines taste so good with certain foods? You’re not alone. The answers are as simple and complex as the varietals you choose with your meal.

Let’s get right down to the meat. No, really, should we be drinking reds with our thick steak and why? It’s all about the tannins – a wine’s pucker power so to speak, which is derived from the grapes’ skins, stems and seeds. Tannins in red wine are powerful, and frankly overpowering for something as light and flaky as a white fish, says Chef Lucia Miltenberger, culinary instructor at The Art Institute of Colorado. “Tannins love a nice marbled ribeye,” she says.

Just when things are getting juicy, it’s time for a chemistry lesson. “Food changes wines in very predictable, scientifically proven ways, and that can be for better or for worse,” says Chef Jane Nickles, culinary academic director at The Art Institute of Austin, a branch of The Art Institute of Houston.

Take acidic foods like salad dressing, ceviche or anything vinegary. If you pair them with an acidic wine like a sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio or a riesling, it will make the wine less acidic – and that’s a good thing. If you’re serving sweeter foods, don’t serve a dry wine like a cabernet sauvignon, merlot or chardonnay, since the sweeter food will make your wine taste less sweet.

Chef Larry Canepa, culinary instructor at The Art Institute of Phoenix, says it’s really all about the sauce. “If you’re serving a heavy white sauce like an alfredo, choose a crisp white wine with some acidity to balance out the richness and fat of the dairy-based sauce,” he says. Conversely, if you’re serving an acidic tomato sauce, balance it out with a tannic red wine.

Another rule of thumb Canepa uses is to pair the dish with a wine from the same region. “If you’re cooking up northern Italian fare, pick out a wine from that region in Italy,” he says.

And if you’re just starting to delve into wines, Miltenberger recommends some balanced whites and reds that both newcomers and wine connoisseurs can enjoy. “If you haven’t had a lot of wine, you could be turned off by the dryness, so a nice balanced riesling or a Vouvray from the Loire Valley in France are a good start. For reds, try an Oregon Pinot Noir or a Beaujolais or Rose d’Anjou from France.” Not only will your palate be happy, but so will your pocketbook. Miltenberger says most of these wines retail for $10 to $15.

With that kind of price point, Canepa’s philosophy is on target, “Wine is not a luxury or an indulgence, it’s an ingredient.” And Nickles sums it up, “The bottom line is simple, food and wine go well together. You can serve any food with any wine and have a better meal.”

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Tips, Tricks, and Advice

Ten secrets for Memorial Day grilling perfection

(ARA) – From the way the charcoal briquettes are arranged to finding that perfect set of tongs, every home grilling expert has his or her secrets. For many, grilling goes beyond just a practical warm-weather cooking method and it becomes more of an art form.

But to become a true grilling great, it’s important to compare your tips with other experts. Because she wants everyone to have the perfect grilling experience this summer, Elizabeth Karmel, author of “Taming the Flame” and executive chef at New York’s Hill Country Barbecue Market and Hill Country Chicken, is sharing some of her grilling secrets.

In partnership with Weber Sauces & Seasonings, Karmel shares 10 of her secrets for grilling success:

1. Oil the food, not the grates. If you wipe oil on your grates, you are essentially gluing your food to them. The oil burns quickly on the hot cooking grates and becomes sticky, “gluing” uncoated food to the grates. When you oil the food, it keeps the juices inside the food, promotes caramelization and prevents sticking.

2. “Stop-and-go” tongs. Prevent cross contamination (raw meat with cooked meat) by using red duct tape on raw food tongs and green duct tape on the cooked food tongs.

3. Swollen Belly Syndrome. Avoid a burger that looks like a hockey puck with a swollen belly by making a small depression in the middle of the uncooked burger before you grill. This indentation will prevent the burgers from swelling up and rounding out while cooking.

4. The juicy details. Using juice as a marinade can add a blast of fresh and juicy flavor. Weber Just Add Juice is the first and only marinade mix formulated to blend spices with a variety of juices.

5. Steakhouse look. Crosshatch marks on steak are easier to achieve than they look. Just before turning the steak, rotate it a quarter turn to the right and grill for about two minutes. Rotate another quarter turn for two more minutes.

6. Patience prevents stickage. Raw meat naturally sticks to the grate when you first put it on. Be patient and walk away for a few minutes. It naturally releases itself.

7. Plastic bag trick. Combine juice with your favorite Weber Just Add Juice marinade mix and place it in a resealable plastic bag. Add food, close the bag and massage it through the bag. It locks the flavor in and makes it much easier to store in your refrigerator.

8. Tongs as a juicer. If you want to get all the juice out of citrus quickly and easily, try this: Cut a piece of citrus in half and place it on the back half of chef’s tongs. Hold on to both the front and back of the tongs, and squeeze into a bowl. The leverage and strength of the steel turns tongs into a great juicer.

9. Visual clues for checking doneness. It’s not always possible to use a meat thermometer. Look for visual clues to check doneness. For example: Ribs are done when the meat has shrunk back from the bones and the bones are dry. If the chicken juice is clear, then you know it’s done. Salmon is done when the translucent strips in the fish turn opaque. Shrimp is done when it turns pink and curls up.

10. Finish it steakhouse style. Bring your food up a notch by using a finishing element such as extra virgin olive oil, a compound butter, the new Weber all-natural BBQ Sauce made with real molasses, fresh herbs or flavored vinaigrette.

Karmel and the Weber Sauces and Seasonings brand hope that by revealing their grilling secrets, Americans will be inspired to share their flavor findings in a new nationwide “Grilling Secrets” Facebook contest. To share your secrets and learn from others, visit www.facebook.com/WeberSeasonings.