Save Time in the Kitchen - Cook Pasta the Way Restaurant Chefs Do

Have you ever wondered how a restaurant can get a dish of pasta to your table in about four minutes when you know it takes ten minutes just to cook the pasta? Does the water on their stoves boil at a higher temperature than the water on yours? Do they know a trick that you don't? As a matter of fact, they do.

They parboil, or partially pre-cook their pasta; so when an order comes in to the kitchen, a cook can turn out a dish of perfectly 'al dente' pasta in a minute or two. Pre-cooking is a worthwhile technique for home cooks, because it enables them to pull together a great sit-down meal in practically no time, no matter how busy their day may have been.

It's also a great method to use when you plan to serve pasta for a crowd. I once catered a party for fifty, where I had a "pasta bar." With the assistance of one helper, and two propane burners, I served fifty portions of freshly cooked pasta (al dente) without holding anyone up in the buffet line.

To parboil pasta at home, bring a large pot of salted water (at least six quarts) to the boil. Add one pound of pasta and stir until the pasta wilts (in the case of spaghetti or linguine) and becomes submerged. When the water returns to a full, rolling boil, cook the pasta for exactly two minutes, then drain, shock in ice water, and drain again. Note: Strand pasta like spaghetti or linguine will be brittle, so handle them with care.

Place the pasta in a container large enough to hold it, then add enough olive oil to just coat each strand. Cover and refrigerate until needed. Parboiled pasta will keep, refrigerated, for four to six hours.

Note: Coating pasta with olive oil flies in the face of conventional wisdom that says, "Never coat pasta with olive oil. The sauce won't adhere to the pasta." Well, conventional wisdom aside, sauce sticks to parboiled pasta like glue. What else can I say?

When it's time to cook dinner, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, add the pasta (You'll note that the pasta has softened over the time you've had it refrigerated. This is perfectly fine.), cook for one or two minutes, then drain in a colander. Be sure to taste after a minute or so. The pasta cooks quickly. Serve as you would any pasta that you had cooked for eight to ten minutes.

Again, this is a great, worthwhile technique to use at home, because you can parboil the pasta at a time of day when you're not juggling three or four other tasks, like preparing a sauce, or a salad. And when it's time to prepare the rest of dinner, you'll feel more confident in the outcome, because you can focus more of your attention on the other parts of the meal.

Try this technique once, and you could be hooked. You may not be serving fifty or sixty people per night, but you'll be cooking just like a chef in a neighborhood Italian restaurant.

Skip Lombardi is the author of two cookbooks: "La Cucina dei Poveri: Recipes from my Sicilian Grandparents," and "Almost Italian: Recipes from America's Little Italys." He has been a Broadway musician, high-school math teacher, software engineer, and a fledgeling blogger. But he has never let any of those pursuits get in the way of his passion for cooking and eating. Visit his Web site to learn more about his cookbooks.


Food - Do You Know Your Pasta?

Have you ever noticed that when you go out to eat at an Italian restaurant, or even to your favorite grocery store, the choices of pasta is nearly limitless? There is every kind of different shape and size of pasta that you can imagine. Truly, it can be overwhelming at times trying to figure it all out. What are all these different kinds of pasta for? How can you determine what is what? Let's take a closer look at all the various kinds of pasta and what they are used for.

Spaghetti. This is an easy one. It's one food that we all know and love. Spaghetti comes in a box, or a bag, in long thin strands. You cook it in boiling water and mix it into your favorite spaghetti sauce recipe.

Ravioli. Here is another pretty easy one for everybody. Ravioli is a small, square shaped pasta that is stuffed with several different fillings like meat, cheese, mushrooms, sausage, etc. Ravioli can be topped with tomato sauce and can even come toasted.

Macaroni. One of the all-time favorites! Macaroni is a small, hollow tube pasta. It is used mainly in cooking macaroni and cheese.

Cannelloni. Cannelloni is also a hollow tube pasta, but it is much larger than macaroni. Cannelloni is stuffed with different meat sauce mixtures and also will have various cheeses baked in the middle.

Linguine and Fettuccine. These pastas are know as ribbon noodles due to the fact they are long, stringy and flat. They can come in many different lengths. These noodles are a delicious food with creamy sauces mixed onto them such as Alfredo sauce.

Tortellini. Tortellini is yet another type of stuffed pasta. They come in half circle pieces that are folded over and stuffed with meat, cheese, sausage, or other ingredients. You can also pour your favorite sauce over the top of this delicious food.

Vermicelli. Vermicelli is a very fine, thin string of pasta. It is also known as "angel hair" pasta. It can be used with a creamy sauce of your choice, or used with other items such as crab, or shrimp. Many times vermicelli is formed together to form a type of nest that will hold the crab, or shrimp on top of it.

Conghiglie. This pasta is shaped like small shells. There are many different sizes of conghiglie. From tiny pasta shells that are good for using in soups, to larger sizes that can be stuffed. This type of pasta is a favorite food in pasta salads.

Farfalle. Farfalle is a pasta that is bow shaped and also used mainly in different pasta salads.

Fusilli. Fusilli is a thin spiral shaped pasta that is good in pasta salads. It is also good with different styles of sauces.

Lasagna. Lasagna is perhaps the best of all the different pastas. These are long, wide strips of pasta that are layered with fillings between them. These fillings can include meat, sausage, cheese, mushrooms and about anything else you can think of. More cheese is piled on top and then baked in the oven.

This list should help you the next time you see a pasta that you're unfamiliar with. No matter what shape or size, pasta is a favorite on everyone's list of great tasting foods!

The Ideal Herbs and Spices for Pasta Sauces

You simply cannot resist the aroma which comes from the kitchen when pasta is cooked. The amazing aroma and flavor of these Italian dishes come from the herbs and spices used for their making. If you like preparing your own sauce, instead of getting a ready-made one from the store, you will certainly benefit from learning about the great aromatic ingredients, which make a traditionally delicious dish simply outstanding.

Tomato Sauces

This is the true classic, when it comes to pasta sauce. It has great aroma and flavor of its own, especially when fresh ripe tomatoes are used for its making. Still, the herbs and spices will add greatly to the dish.

There are three main types of herbs which are virtually mandatory for this dish. The first one is basil. It has fresh and slightly peppery flavor. The next one is oregano. It adds a warm and slightly bitter flavor. The third one is garlic. While the first two are added to the tomato paste after it has started cooking, garlic, which can be finely chopped or pounded, is added beforehand to the oil. Thyme and bay leaf can also be added to the tomato paste to make it more aromatic.

When you serve the ready pasta dish, you can sprinkle fresh parsley on top. This is optional since not everyone likes the flavor and the taste of this herb. In general, it is one of the traditional and most widely used ingredients in Italian dishes.

Meat

If you cook spaghetti Bolognese, you can readily add all of the above-mentioned pasta herbs and spices plus several other ones which are traditionally used for flavoring meat. Cumin is a great spice to use in small amounts. It is aromatic and a bit spicy. Ground black pepper will also add both rich aroma and spicy flavor to the dish. Generally, this spice goes excellently with all types of meats. Rosemary is another great choice as it has a slightly woody aroma with lemon and pine notes. Just make sure that you use a little bit of it.

White Sauces

When you make white pasta sauce with cream, butter and some parmesan, you can use a great variety of herbs and spices. Bay leaf is a great choice for its subtle aroma. Marjoram is the less strong alternative to cumin. You can readily combine it with ground black pepper. You should definitely consider using sage for its slightly lemon-like taste and scent. Freshly chopped parsley sprinkled on top of the dish will make it absolutely perfect. This herb is a superb addition which you will totally love.


How to Cook Spaghetti Squash and Grow It Too!

If you've never heard of Spaghetti Squash, you may be visualizing a heaping plate of pasta with slices of yellow squash mixed in and sprinkled with a generous portion of parmesan cheese. That would be incorrect although we can all agree it sounds delicious! Spaghetti Squash is a vegetable that grows in noodle form and, therefore, lends itself as an excellent substitute for traditional pasta. It holds its own as a side dish, but fills the pasta substitute role for those limiting carbohydrates or gluten.

So let's find out more about growing Spaghetti Squash, and how to cook it. Gardeners are a generous bunch, and you might end up with a squash and not know what to do with it.

For vegetable gardeners, squash is popular as an easy and fast-growing crop. The Spaghetti Squash variety is no different.

A squash garden requires 8-10 hours of full sun. Once the danger of frost has passed, the seeds can be planted directly into the soil. Seedlings emerge a mere 15 days later. Deer do not bother squash plants, but insect activity will need to be monitored.

A ripe gourd is yellow and shaped like a small watermelon. Spaghetti Squash gourds are ready for harvest 70-95 days after seed planting. They can be eaten immediately or stored in a cool place for enjoyment through the fall and winter.

It has a naturally buttery taste so excessive seasoning is not required. It's a good source of Vitamins A, C, Calcium, Iron, Folate, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and dietary fiber.

Cooking Spaghetti Squash begins with removing the noodles from the gourd. First, the gourd must be baked or microwaved. Then the noodles are separated from the gourd shell by scraping with a fork. The resulting pile of squash noodles is the starting place for many nutritious recipes.

Of course, there are a few more steps necessary to take a large yellow gourd to a pile of spaghetti, but I couldn't include everything here. Once your spaghetti noodles are ready, add ingredients like bacon (what doesn't taste better with bacon?), sausage, cheeses like feta or Parmesan, spinach or onion to make a healthy and tasty dish.

My favorite way of preparing Spaghetti Squash is sautéing in a mixture of olive oil and butter. Soften some diced onions in the oil first; then add the squash. In 10 minutes or so, the dish is ready for the table!

Your family and friends will be very impressed with this wonderful vegetable dish especially if you have grown it yourself.


Penne With Garlicky Lamb Sauce

Keeping pasta sauce simple allows the flavors of a few tasty ingredients to stand out. This garlicky lamb sauce is balanced with rich tomatoes and a touch of sweetness from port wine. To bring out the depth of these simple ingredients, it's key to let the sauce have time to develop. Time here is as important to the sauce as what goes in it.

If you're not a fan of lamb, this recipe can easily be prepared with ground beef. And if you don't eat red meat at all, try ground turkey or chicken. The sauce won't be as rich as one made with lamb or beef, but the great flavors overall will be there. Tip: If you do go with poultry, use thigh meat instead of breast. It's naturally juicier.

A note about the preparation: Normally, I would brown the meat with the onion and garlic, then add the tomatoes, liquid, and spices. But this time, I wanted the juices of the lamb to cook down along with the other ingredients to concentrate the rich flavors together. That's why I didn't brown it first, and also why I cooked the sauce uncovered for the first hour. There's enough liquid initially to allow for evaporation, which helps deepen the concentration.

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 large, sweet onion (such as Vidalia or Spanish), chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 lb ground lamb
1 28-oz can good-quality stewed tomatoes with juice
1/2 cup port (or semi-sweet red wine)
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 tsp dried red chile flakes
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
6-7 oz small penne noodles (sold as mini-penne)
Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating at the table
Preparation

Heat a large, heavy pot over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook until beginning to soften, 4 minutes.
Add the lamb, tomatoes with juice, port, tomato paste, and chile flakes and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low and cook uncovered 1 hour. Cover and cook 30 minutes longer, stirring in the basil 10 minutes before the sauce is done.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling, salted water 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and stir into the lamb mixture.
To serve, divide the pasta and sauce among 4 to 5 pasta bowls and pass the cheese at the table for grating.

Baked Rotini With Mushrooms and Creamy Mozzarella Sauce

If you like mac and cheese, give this hardy version a try with rotini, meaty mushrooms, and plenty of fresh mozzarella to make it rich, earthy, and satisfying. Using half-and-half provides the right balance between thinner milk and heavy cream, still adding creaminess to the dish without as much fat.

Two cups of half-and-half may seem like a hefty quantity for the amount of pasta and mushrooms, but as the dish bakes, the cheesy cream sauce absorbs into the other ingredients. Don't be surprised if you see it bubbling up around the pasta before settling back down into the dish.

Letting the pasta rest about five minutes after baking allows any sauce left in the bottom of the dish to continue to absorb into the pasta and mushrooms. The result is delicious.

Serves 4

Ingredients

8 oz dry rotini
1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for oiling dish
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
12 oz crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 cups half-and-half
2 large fresh mozzarella balls (about 8 oz), sliced into small chunks
1/2 cup shredded provolone
1 tsp dried oregano
chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cook the rotini in boiling, salted water until al dente, 7-8 minutes. Drain.
Heat a large, deep skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the garlic and shallot and sauté 2 minutes.
Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the mushrooms are soft and most of the juices have been absorbed, 7-8 minutes.
Add the drained pasta to the skillet and toss with the mushroom mixture.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the half-and-half and bring to a light simmer.
Reduce the heat to low and add the mozzarella chunks a few at a time. Cook, stirring frequently, until melted, 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper.
Lightly oil an 11 X 7-inch baking dish.
Add the mozzarella sauce to the skillet with the pasta-mushroom mixture and stir well to combine. Turn the mixture into the prepared dish and scatter provolone on top. Sprinkle with dried oregano.
Bake uncovered 35-40 minutes, until the top begins to brown and most of the sauce has been absorbed. Remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes.


Fresh Tomato and Zucchini Squash Pasta With Capers: A Family Recipe

As soon as spring arrives, Minnesotans rush outside to see if their plants survived the winter and to start their vegetable gardens. Many Minnesotans plant zucchini and tomatoes. These vegetables are grown in backyard and container gardens. We have to keep our eyes on the tomato plants, however, because the squirrels will pick green tomatoes and eat them before they ripen.

As the days get warmer and summer comes, people look for ways to fix the produce they have grown. Get on an elevator and someone will ask, "Need any zucchini? I have lots." Minnesotans make zucchini bread, muffins, chocolate cake, soup, salads, and even pizza.

Why serve this vegetable? For one thing, it's extremely low in calories. It is a source of potassium, vitamins A and C. You don't have to peel it and can leave the skin on. Large ones can be "woody" so choose squash that are small or medium-sized. Avoid squash that are dented, flabby, or pitted. Wash the zucchini under cold running water just before cooking.

I really like this ordinary looking vegetable and stir fry it with onions and peppers, or serve it as a side dish with fresh corn. One day I decided to shred the squash and add it to spaghetti. Since I had some locally grown tomatoes, I added them to the spaghetti as well. My husband, who is not a zucchini lover, like my original recipe so much he asked me to make it again.

This recipe may be easily doubled. Serve the pasta with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, not cheese in a carton.

INGREDIENTS

6 ounces (half a box) of spaghetti with extra fiber
1 1/2 cups chopped Roma tomatoes (more if you wish)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small zucchini, shredded
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 teaspoon salt (may be omitted)
2 tablespoons capers
1/2 cup pasta water (approximate)
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn

METHOD

Cook the spaghetti according to package directions. While it is cooking, prepare the vegetable sauce. Chop the tomatoes and transfer to a bowl. Shred the zucchini and set aside. Pour olive oil into a large skillet. Add the tomatoes, zucchini, seasonings, and capers. Take a half cup of water out of the pasta pot. Drain the pasta and add to vegetables in skillet. Moisten with pasta water and cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Sprinkle basil leaves over pasta and toss well. Serve immediately with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Makes 4 generous servings.

Pasta With Prosciutto and Spring Vegetables

Although this recipe is called pasta with "spring" vegetables, you can make the dish year-round with good-quality frozen artichoke hearts and peas. If you prefer fresh peas and don't want to shell green ones, substitute crisp snap peas.

And if you want to use fresh artichokes, try to find baby ones in late spring. They're easier to work with than fully mature artichokes and the small hearts cook more quickly. Sear them in olive oil about 10 minutes before adding the other vegetables, then proceed with the recipe.

The rest of the fresh ingredients are available in most markets regardless of the season, although asparagus is sometimes not very appealing if the stalks are thick and rubbery. If you can't find good fresh asparagus in fall or winter, omit it and use slices of zucchini instead. Leeks are available year-round too, and they're a favorite in Italian dishes. Use them instead of the shallots in this recipe, if you prefer.

4 servings

Ingredients

8 oz whole-wheat spaghetti
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
6 oz artichoke hearts (fresh or frozen), coarsely chopped
4 oz asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces (thick ends removed)
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 tsp crushed fennel seed
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into 1-inch strips
1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley
Parmigiano-Reggiano (or other hard Italian cheese), for grating
Preparation

Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain.
Heat a large, deep skillet over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the shallots, garlic, artichoke hearts, and asparagus. Sauté 3 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and peas and season with fennel seed, salt, and pepper. Cook until the tomatoes begin to break down but still have texture, 3-4 minutes.
Add the prosciutto and parsley and stir well to combine. Cook 1 minute longer.
Add the drained pasta to the sauce and toss to combine.

How to Cook and Store the Best Fresh Pasta

So you've learned your grandmother's fresh pasta recipe, or you've found a great handmade noodle store that will do the job for you. That's great news! Now what? It's not as if you can simply dig in out of the container as though it were take-out.

The beauty of the best fresh pasta is that you can use it to make a gourmet meal in a very small amount of time. Once it's made, all the work has been done for you. But if you want your dinner to be perfect, you need to treat these noodles well.

Remember that they are a work of art! It takes great care and a delicate hand to make them, so you need to respect the tradition and love that went into their making. Then, you need to store them and cook them properly. This is very easy, as long as you know what you're doing. Here are a few tips about storage and preparation to make sure that your meal is beautiful every time.

Storing Handmade Fresh Pasta

If you've made it yourself and you've already cut it, then you can either choose to refrigerate it for later use, or you can cook it right away. If you aren't going to be cooking your noodles immediately after having made them, then you will want to give them 1 to 2 minutes of drying time on a baking sheet.

Next, give them a generous dusting with flour so that when you store them together, they won't stick and form a solid clump. Gather them together into small bunches and either fold them in half or wrap them into small nests. Allow them to dry for an additional thirty minutes and then wrap them up and place them into the refrigerator. Fresh pasta will remain good for up to 2 days in the fridge. If you think that it will take you longer to consume the noodles, freeze them for up to 2 weeks.

Cooking Handmade Fresh Pasta

If you can cook dry noodles, then you can cook fresh pasta. The reason is that freshly made noodles are far easier and faster to prepare! Use a large pot of water and bring it to a boil. For about 4 nests, you'll need around 8 cups of water. That may seem like a lot, but it is good to have a lot more water than pasta. This helps to ensure that the noodles will be able to move freely in the water instead of cooking to each other.

Once they're in, bring the water back to a boil, and after a minute and a half (yes, that's all!) of gentle simmering, you're all set! Drain the water off in a strainer and serve right away with your favorite sauce. Don't overcook it or you won't be happy with the texture it produces. Al dente should be your goal. If you aren't sure, just take a noodle out of the pot, let it cool for a couple of seconds, and take a bite!

The Secret to a Perfect Pasta Recipe

A Guide to Matching Up Different Pastas and Sauces

"The principles that bring pasta and sauce together cannot be ignored by anyone who wants to achieve the full and harmonious expression of flavor of which Italian cooking is capable." The key to matching shape to sauce is in the shape itself. Here is a list of several popular pasta shapes and the combination of sauces they are best suited to.

• Spaghetti
Spaghetti is one of the most favorite pastas among all. It is long, thin and cylindrical pasta of Italian origin which goes perfect with tomato-based marinara and bolognese sauces. It also works best with light to medium density sauces like sauce made from egg, prosciutto and cream. To make your spaghetti pasta recipe more luscious, coat the pasta with your favorite tomato sauce and keep it aside for some time before serving.

• Penne and Ziti
Medium length tubes with ridges, cut diagonally at both ends are known as Penne pasta. The ridges on these shapes provide great hold on sauces. And therefore, Penne pastas are served with medium to heavy sauces and sliced veggies. It also tastes best when served with Arrabiata sauce and beef ragu.

• Pappardelle
Pappardelle which is pronounced as papa-dell-lay is egg-based pasta which is thick flat ribbon in shape. To make this pasta recipe more delicious, serve it with a range of sauces. In winter you can cook it with a lamb or sausage ragu. In spring it will taste amazing when served with a seafood sauce.

• Conchiglie
Pronounced as con-keel-yay, it resembles a seashell shape. They can be served with meat or tomato sauces, or can be used in salads. Smaller shells are great in soups and the very large shells can be stuffed and baked in a tomato, or creamy, sauce.

• Farfalle
These fanciful bow-ties or butterflies shaped pasta are excellent in light to medium sauces or salads.To add a juicy flavor to the pasta recipe, mix farfalle pasta with vegetables, soups and crushed cheese.

• Fettucine
A longer and thicker spaghetti-like noodle is best suited with thick cream based sauces.

• Vermicelli
Vermicelli is angel hair shaped pasta. If you love to enjoy making this dish, then pair it with tomato or olive oil based sauce to make the best pasta recipe.

• Gnocchi
Gnocchi are minute dumplings which are usually made of potato. It tastes perfect when combined with rich, creamy sauces such as pesto genovese as well as with lighter sauces such as tomato and chunky sauces made from small peas and beans.

• Fusilli
Foo-zee-lee is corkscrew-shaped pasta which comes in various sizes and with different names. The twists and curls of this particular pasta shape hold the sauce and hence they are paired with thick creamy sauces such as Alfredo or meat sauces.

• Ravioli and Tortellini
Both of these pastas look like little pillows when stuffed with broth, cheese, meat or cream sauce.
The way these pasta shapes interact with sauces can really make a big difference to finish a perfect dish of succulent pasta. Hence, keep in mind the above guidelines from our expert which will help you to cook the best pasta recipe like an Italian. Enjoy a feast of perfect pasta with family and friends at any point of time!

The Ideal Herbs and Spices for Pasta Sauces

You simply cannot resist the aroma which comes from the kitchen when pasta is cooked. The amazing aroma and flavor of these Italian dishes come from the herbs and spices used for their making. If you like preparing your own sauce, instead of getting a ready-made one from the store, you will certainly benefit from learning about the great aromatic ingredients, which make a traditionally delicious dish simply outstanding.

Tomato Sauces

This is the true classic, when it comes to pasta sauce. It has great aroma and flavor of its own, especially when fresh ripe tomatoes are used for its making. Still, the herbs and spices will add greatly to the dish.

There are three main types of herbs which are virtually mandatory for this dish. The first one is basil. It has fresh and slightly peppery flavor. The next one is oregano. It adds a warm and slightly bitter flavor. The third one is garlic. While the first two are added to the tomato paste after it has started cooking, garlic, which can be finely chopped or pounded, is added beforehand to the oil. Thyme and bay leaf can also be added to the tomato paste to make it more aromatic.

When you serve the ready pasta dish, you can sprinkle fresh parsley on top. This is optional since not everyone likes the flavor and the taste of this herb. In general, it is one of the traditional and most widely used ingredients in Italian dishes.

Meat

If you cook spaghetti Bolognese, you can readily add all of the above-mentioned pasta herbs and spices plus several other ones which are traditionally used for flavoring meat. Cumin is a great spice to use in small amounts. It is aromatic and a bit spicy. Ground black pepper will also add both rich aroma and spicy flavor to the dish. Generally, this spice goes excellently with all types of meats. Rosemary is another great choice as it has a slightly woody aroma with lemon and pine notes. Just make sure that you use a little bit of it.

White Sauces

When you make white pasta sauce with cream, butter and some parmesan, you can use a great variety of herbs and spices. Bay leaf is a great choice for its subtle aroma. Marjoram is the less strong alternative to cumin. You can readily combine it with ground black pepper. You should definitely consider using sage for its slightly lemon-like taste and scent. Freshly chopped parsley sprinkled on top of the dish will make it absolutely perfect. This herb is a superb addition which you will totally love.

Seafood

The classic herb for Italian dishes, basil, is great for pasta with seafood. You will definitely benefit from adding bay leaf as well. It is traditionally used in fish and seafood marinades to provide unique aroma. Chives are great especially when combined with a little bit of lemon juice. If you want somewhat more exotic bitter-sweet taste, you can add anise.

You are now ready for cooking the most delicious pasta sauces with fabulous herbs and spices.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash and Grow It Too!

If you've never heard of Spaghetti Squash, you may be visualizing a heaping plate of pasta with slices of yellow squash mixed in and sprinkled with a generous portion of parmesan cheese. That would be incorrect although we can all agree it sounds delicious! Spaghetti Squash is a vegetable that grows in noodle form and, therefore, lends itself as an excellent substitute for traditional pasta. It holds its own as a side dish, but fills the pasta substitute role for those limiting carbohydrates or gluten.

So let's find out more about growing Spaghetti Squash, and how to cook it. Gardeners are a generous bunch, and you might end up with a squash and not know what to do with it.

For vegetable gardeners, squash is popular as an easy and fast-growing crop. The Spaghetti Squash variety is no different.

A squash garden requires 8-10 hours of full sun. Once the danger of frost has passed, the seeds can be planted directly into the soil. Seedlings emerge a mere 15 days later. Deer do not bother squash plants, but insect activity will need to be monitored.

A ripe gourd is yellow and shaped like a small watermelon. Spaghetti Squash gourds are ready for harvest 70-95 days after seed planting. They can be eaten immediately or stored in a cool place for enjoyment through the fall and winter.

It has a naturally buttery taste so excessive seasoning is not required. It's a good source of Vitamins A, C, Calcium, Iron, Folate, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and dietary fiber.

Cooking Spaghetti Squash begins with removing the noodles from the gourd. First, the gourd must be baked or microwaved. Then the noodles are separated from the gourd shell by scraping with a fork. The resulting pile of squash noodles is the starting place for many nutritious recipes.

Of course, there are a few more steps necessary to take a large yellow gourd to a pile of spaghetti, but I couldn't include everything here. Once your spaghetti noodles are ready, add ingredients like bacon (what doesn't taste better with bacon?), sausage, cheeses like feta or Parmesan, spinach or onion to make a healthy and tasty dish.

My favorite way of preparing Spaghetti Squash is sautéing in a mixture of olive oil and butter. Soften some diced onions in the oil first; then add the squash. In 10 minutes or so, the dish is ready for the table!

Your family and friends will be very impressed with this wonderful vegetable dish especially if you have grown it yourself.

Penne With Garlicky Lamb Sauce

These two recipes contain both pasta and canned tuna, but the results are as different as summer and winter. The tuna pomodoro is tomato sauce served on top of whole-wheat spaghetti, while the second recipe is a baked mac and cheese with broccoli and tuna.

Tuna Pomodoro

This dish is light, delicious, and filling, and I think it is the best pantry pasta ever. In a recipe with such few ingredients, it will be apparent if you try substitutions like tuna in water instead of tuna in oil. I know from personal experience that it will not taste the same.

8 oz. whole-wheat angel hair pasta
salt
2 tablespoons of olive oil (optional)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
one 14.5 can of Hunt's Diced Tomatoes in Sauce, undrained
one 5 oz. can of tuna in oil
dried basil, to taste
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and add the spaghetti. Cook according to package directions and drain well.
In the meantime, heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. (If you'd like, you can save the oil from the tuna when you drain it from the can, and use 2 tablespoons of that oil.)
Add the minced garlic and crushed red pepper, and saute for a quick minute.
Add the canned tomatoes with the juices to the pot, turn the heat down to medium, and let simmer for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the drained tuna and cook until warmed through, about 2 minutes. Add several generous dashes of dried basil. Stir to incorporate the ingredients. Serve with whole wheat spaghetti.
Tuna Mac and Cheese

For weeks, I had a hankering for tuna. Then the weather turned cold and I wanted broccoli soup. Since I make mac and cheese regularly, testing and developing recipes for my website, I thought I'd combine all these things together. The cheese sauce for this macaroni is made from canned soup.

1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
one can tuna, drained (I used 5 ounces, but you can use more if you want)
half of a 12 oz bag of frozen broccoli
one 10.5 oz can cheddar cheese or broccoli cheese soup
2 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, grated or shredded
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook macaroni according to package directions. Place the broccoli in a colander and pour the hot water and pasta over the vegetables as you drain off the water.
Add the drained pasta and broccoli back to the pot. Mix the canned soup, mustard, tuna, cheese, salt, pepper, and milk. Stir to combine. Pour the mixture into a greased casserole dish. Bake for 15 minutes, top with the rest of the cheese, and bake for another 5 minutes.

Baked Rotini With Mushrooms and Creamy Mozzarella Sauce

If you like mac and cheese, give this hardy version a try with rotini, meaty mushrooms, and plenty of fresh mozzarella to make it rich, earthy, and satisfying. Using half-and-half provides the right balance between thinner milk and heavy cream, still adding creaminess to the dish without as much fat.

Two cups of half-and-half may seem like a hefty quantity for the amount of pasta and mushrooms, but as the dish bakes, the cheesy cream sauce absorbs into the other ingredients. Don't be surprised if you see it bubbling up around the pasta before settling back down into the dish.

Letting the pasta rest about five minutes after baking allows any sauce left in the bottom of the dish to continue to absorb into the pasta and mushrooms. The result is delicious.

Serves 4

Ingredients

8 oz dry rotini
1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for oiling dish
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
12 oz crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 cups half-and-half
2 large fresh mozzarella balls (about 8 oz), sliced into small chunks
1/2 cup shredded provolone
1 tsp dried oregano
chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cook the rotini in boiling, salted water until al dente, 7-8 minutes. Drain.
Heat a large, deep skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the garlic and shallot and sauté 2 minutes.
Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the mushrooms are soft and most of the juices have been absorbed, 7-8 minutes.
Add the drained pasta to the skillet and toss with the mushroom mixture.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the half-and-half and bring to a light simmer.
Reduce the heat to low and add the mozzarella chunks a few at a time. Cook, stirring frequently, until melted, 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper.
Lightly oil an 11 X 7-inch baking dish.
Add the mozzarella sauce to the skillet with the pasta-mushroom mixture and stir well to combine. Turn the mixture into the prepared dish and scatter provolone on top. Sprinkle with dried oregano.
Bake uncovered 35-40 minutes, until the top begins to brown and most of the sauce has been absorbed. Remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes.

Fresh Tomato and Zucchini Squash Pasta With Capers: A Family Recipe

As soon as spring arrives, Minnesotans rush outside to see if their plants survived the winter and to start their vegetable gardens. Many Minnesotans plant zucchini and tomatoes. These vegetables are grown in backyard and container gardens. We have to keep our eyes on the tomato plants, however, because the squirrels will pick green tomatoes and eat them before they ripen.

As the days get warmer and summer comes, people look for ways to fix the produce they have grown. Get on an elevator and someone will ask, "Need any zucchini? I have lots." Minnesotans make zucchini bread, muffins, chocolate cake, soup, salads, and even pizza.

Why serve this vegetable? For one thing, it's extremely low in calories. It is a source of potassium, vitamins A and C. You don't have to peel it and can leave the skin on. Large ones can be "woody" so choose squash that are small or medium-sized. Avoid squash that are dented, flabby, or pitted. Wash the zucchini under cold running water just before cooking.

I really like this ordinary looking vegetable and stir fry it with onions and peppers, or serve it as a side dish with fresh corn. One day I decided to shred the squash and add it to spaghetti. Since I had some locally grown tomatoes, I added them to the spaghetti as well. My husband, who is not a zucchini lover, like my original recipe so much he asked me to make it again.

This recipe may be easily doubled. Serve the pasta with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, not cheese in a carton.

INGREDIENTS

6 ounces (half a box) of spaghetti with extra fiber
1 1/2 cups chopped Roma tomatoes (more if you wish)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small zucchini, shredded
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 teaspoon salt (may be omitted)
2 tablespoons capers
1/2 cup pasta water (approximate)
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn

METHOD

Cook the spaghetti according to package directions. While it is cooking, prepare the vegetable sauce. Chop the tomatoes and transfer to a bowl. Shred the zucchini and set aside. Pour olive oil into a large skillet. Add the tomatoes, zucchini, seasonings, and capers. Take a half cup of water out of the pasta pot. Drain the pasta and add to vegetables in skillet. Moisten with pasta water and cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Sprinkle basil leaves over pasta and toss well. Serve immediately with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Makes 4 generous servings.


Butternut-Mushroom Lasagna With Pepperjack Bechamel

Béchamel is a simple white sauce with a roux base (flour and butter), whisked with milk, half-and-half, or light cream. Flavor enhancers often include ground nutmeg, a little lemon zest, fresh or dried herbs, or cheese, as in this recipe.

Shredded pepperjack may not be a common cheese to use in béchamel, but it does add a flavorful, peppery zip to the mild, creamy sauce and layers this vegetarian lasagna with silky texture and a rich, cheesy taste.

Roasting the butternut squash, mushrooms, and scallions before mixing them in the filling brings out their deep, earthy flavors-and it's a simple process that doesn't take much time. Toss them with a little oil, salt, and pepper on a baking sheet and roast for about 15 minutes. That's all there is to it.

Tip: To cut the squash into 1/4-inch half-moon slices, first cut the long end from the bulb base, then peel; cut in half lengthwise, then cut crosswise into slices; remove seeds if using the bulb end.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

For the Lasagna

1 large butternut squash, 2-1/2 to 3 lbs, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch half-moon slices
8 oz button mushrooms, thinly sliced
5 scallions, white and green parts separated; green parts chopped and set aside
olive oil, for drizzling and oiling baking dish
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 15-oz container part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
12 lasagna noodles
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Italian dried herb mixture, for garnish
For the Béchamel

3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp flour
1 pint half-and-half
3/4 cup grated pepperjack cheese
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
Preparation

For the Lasagna

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line a large, shallow baking pan with parchment paper.
Place the sliced butternut squash, mushrooms, and white parts of the scallions on the pan and drizzle with oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss or stir to coat. Roast 15 minutes, stirring halfway through.
Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 350° F. Let the vegetables cool 10 minutes, then place the scallions on a cutting board and chop.
In a large bowl, combine the squash, mushrooms, white and reserved green parts of the scallion, ricotta, Parmesan, and lemon zest. Stir gently to combine, trying not to break up the squash into small pieces.
Meanwhile, cook the lasagna noodles in salted, boiling water 8-9 minutes, until al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water.
For the Béchamel

Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat. Whisk in the flour a little at a time and continue whisking until incorporated, 3 minutes.
Increase the heat to medium-high and gradually whisk in the half-and-half, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Stir in the pepperjack cheese until melted. Season with salt and pepper and reduce the heat to low.
Cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce is slightly thickened (should coat the back of a spoon), 6-7 minutes. Remove from the heat and cover.
To Assemble and Bake

Lightly oil a 13 X 9-inch baking dish and place 4 lasagna noodles in the bottom, slightly overlapping. Spread half the butternut mixture over the noodles.
Spoon 1/3 of the béchamel overtop, smoothing as much as possible. Repeat the layer with 4 more noodles, the remainder of the butternut mixture, and 1/3 of the sauce.
Finish the dish with 4 noodles and spread the remaining sauce on top. Scatter the grated Parmesan cheese over all and sprinkle with dried herbs.
Bake uncovered until bubbly and beginning to brown on top, 35-40 minutes.
Let rest 10 minutes before slicing.

Is A Chocolate Fountain Or A Champagne Fountain Right For My Event?

When most people throw an event, they want their party to have something different, which sets it apart from other events. What actually sets a party apart from other parties can be many different things, including a new and original theme, a brilliant colour scheme or a unique choice of entertainment. The thing that sets an event apart from other events can even be something as simple as an interesting centrepiece, such as an ice sculpture, a chocolate fountain or a champagne fountain. Many people worry about whether a chocolate fountain or a champagne fountain would be right for their event, but the truth of the matter is that they are actually a great accompaniment to a whole range of different event.

A lot of prom or graduation committees choose to have food-based fountains as the centrepieces at the events which they are planning because they are both fun and functional, as well as being an inexpensive option. Chocolate or champagne fountains allow people to be fed or watered whilst they are also mingling with their friends. Fountains are also a great alternative to buffet dessert foods. Because the fountain will produce a constant, moving stream of chocolate for a finite amount of time the fountain will hold the attention of guests for longer and will look more tempting than the half-picked over buffet tables which often occur at these types of events. A chocolate or champagne (or non-alcoholic punch) fountain will fit well with the young, funky and flirty guests who are likely to be attending a prom or graduation event.

Although a luxurious chocolate fountain is still an option for business events, many corporate event organisers choose to have champagne fountains instead, rather than chocolate ones. Champagne fountains have the same wow factor as chocolate ones do, but business clients often feel more comfortable around champagne fountains. At some corporate events, where people are networking with one another, they may be afraid to use a chocolate fountain as they are may be worried about eating a potentially messy foodstuff in front of business colleagues who they are trying to impress. However, they are likely to see a Champagne fountain as a classy and opulent addition to an event, and will be happy to use it in front of other guests without worrying about mess. If a networking event begins with a champagne fountain, the alcohol consumed may also act as a social lubricant to help to get people talking to one another.

Is Chocolate Good for You?

Good news all! So chocolate is officially a superfood.

Chocolate contains high levels of antioxidants, polyphenols, theobromine, and flavanols.

Chocolate's health benefits have recently been linked to;

- Lowering blood pressure

- Reduced risk of heart failure

- Reducing the potential for insulin resistance, and therefore diabetes

- Sun protection

- Stress reduction

- Boosting blood flow to the brain - potentially increasing short term performance and alertness

- Relief from diarrhea

- Easing Cough symptoms

Various University studies have been done, particularly across Europe and the United States, in to the health benefits of chocolate, many with surprisingly positive results. However, you have to question who is funding much of this research? It wouldn't be large corporations such as chocolate manufacturers by any chance? One batch of research alone was from the Hershey Centre for Health and Nutrition. In no way biased then, right?

It is also worth noting, that the majority of these studies are based on short term effects and not long term research.

So before you reach for the Dairy Milk, let's weigh up the evidence...

Dark chocolate is anti-inflammatory. So it makes sense that it has helped in the reduction of heart related problems such as stroke. However, the other ingredients that our chocolate is normally presented to us with may not be so positive. Standard chocolate bars are loaded with fats, milk, sugars, emulsifiers and other artificial ingredients.

The theobromine found in chocolate has been found to reduce the action of the vagus nerve, which is linked to frequent or persistent coughing. However, increased vagus nerve activity has been found to reduce epilepsy. Indeed high levels of theobromine can induce epileptic fits. And dark chocolate contains over three times the amount of theobromine of milk chocolate - so does not suit everyone.

Interestingly, it is the theobromine in chocolate that makes it so toxic to dogs.

Theobromine can be our friend and our foe. It can help with insulin sensitivity, asthma, blood vessel dilation and vascular performance. However, there is some evidence that over consumption of theobromine in pregnancy can have negative effects on the development of the fetus.

Theobromine has similar effects on the body to caffeine, so can be addictive.

Chocolate is also high in oxalic acid which can inhibit calcium absorption and general mineralization of the body. Furthermore, it can assist in the production of kidney stones. So should be avoided if you have ever suffered with kidney stones.

It also contains vasoactive amines, which can dilate brain vessels, stimulating headaches and migraines, so should be avoided if you are a sufferer.

In it's favour, chocolate is rich in magnesium. It would seem that most "chocoholics" are actually lacking magnesium. If you do suffer from chocolate cravings, it may be worth trialling a chocolate detox and boosting your magnesium levels with other magnesium rich snacks such as avocados, cashews, seeds, almonds or eggs.

I can't really go much further talking about chocolate without discussing the other C word most women think of - calories! My personal opinion is that our thoughts around our everyday diets shouldn't be about calories per se, they should be about the nutrients. However, that doesn't mean we should ignore them entirely. And chocolate can be highly calorific compared to it's nutritional value. So less is definitely more. Just 4 squares of chocolate a day can add up to 76,000 calories to your annual intake!

So if you still want to enjoy your chocolate. My recommendations would be;

- Try not to let it become a habit - more of an occasional treat

- The greater benefit is from the cocoa levels in dark chocolate so opt for really dark chocolate (70% is a good marker)

- Avoid highly processed brands as the high levels of heating destroy some of the potential benefits

- Look out for the other nasty ingredients in the bars, it's these ingredients that can really affect the calorific value of the bar

- Try raw

Just before I go, I thought I would leave you with one of my favourite recipes Chocolate Muffins, without flour or added sugar.

Harvesting And Processing Chocolate

The essence of our chocolate is derived from cocoa pods, which are grown on cocoa trees. There are three types of cocoa that are grown and processed: Criollo, Forastero and lastly Trinitario. This depends on whereabouts the trees are grown. These are usually grown in humid, tropical areas of the world such as South East Asia, the Caribbean and parts of Africa too. A cocoa pod is the length of a regular ruler and is a deep golden colour. Within the pod are cocoa beans which are wrapped in a pale pulp.

Harvesting the cocoa pods is labour intensive and requires a lot of effort on the part of the worker to complete the process. When they are ripe and ready, pods are cut down and collected from the trees using long machete like blades. They are then split open to reveal the beans inside and it is the beans which are the important part. They are removed from the pod and taken on to the location where fermentation takes place.

The fermentation process differs depending on the country, but most commonly used is the piling technique, whereby the beans are left in the pulp and laid on leaves to ferment in the hot sun for a few days at a time. In other places, such as the Caribbean, they use boxes with holes for drainage to ferment the beans.

Once this process has been completed, the beans need to be properly dried out, as the moisture from the pulp is still retained at this point. Once dried, the beans are placed in large sacks and sent to processing plants in parts of the world where chocolate manufacturers take on the next phase of development.

In these plants, the beans are cleaned and separated from their shells. They are then roasted at extreme heat, and it is this process which creates a darker look and the chocolate smell. They are then ground in what is essentially a modern-day mill and this crushes the beans into a liquid that is what we may deem as a gooey chocolate-type liquid.

The last phase is to press the cocoa material and this is to release cocoa butter and this is then used to create the final product.

The cocoa that comes from the beans is a completely different product from the end creamy bar of chocolate and is actually very bitter to taste, and this is why the process of fermenting and processing the beans has to be adhered to.

Superfood Spotlight: Cacao

Cacao. Cocoa. Chocolate. Its scientific name, Theobroma Cacao, as dubbed by Carolus Linnaeus, means 'food of the gods' in Latin. Whatever you want to call one of the world's favorite foods, it is indisputably delicious. However, depending on the form in which you consume it, it may or may not be nutritious. Most of the planet's chocolate consumption is comprised of roasted, heavily processed beans brewed into artificial confections mixed with preservatives, sugar and milk, severely limiting its nutritional value. Many of the beneficial vitamins and minerals are destroyed during this process. On the other hand, cacao, when consumed raw, is one of the healthiest foods you can put in your body. The common misconception that raw cacao is too bitter to be tasty is founded on nothing but ignorance. After trying a properly concocted raw cacao dish, your mindset on chocolate will be indelibly altered.

A Brief History

Cacao has a storied history that few foods can compete with. Cultivated as early as 1800 BC, the cacao bean has its roots deep in the jungles of South America. The Olmecs were the first to consume it and domesticate the tree. They also considered it to hold divine properties, using it in sacrificial rituals. The Mayans were so fond of it that they used it as currency. It was most commonly consumed in beverage form, mixed with water, herbs and spices. The most famous ancient usage of cacao was by the Aztecs, particularly by emperor Monteczuma II, who supposedly drank 50 cups of it daily out of a golden goblet. He also apparently always downed a goblet before attending to his harem. He is quoted as having these high praises for it,

"The divine drink, which builds up resistance and fights fatigue. A cup of this precious drink permits a man to walk for a whole day without food."

Once the Spaniards arrived, they brought it back to Europe, shared it only with Portugal, and drank it like the Aztecs did for the better part of a hundred years in the 15th and 16th centuries. It took the rest of Europe a considerable time to realize the value of the mysterious bean, with one English pirate ship reportedly mistaking a shipload of them for sheep droppings and burning the whole lot.

When Cacao finally caught on in the rest of Europe, it embarked on a long journey of transformation and bastardization. It spread through France, Italy and England in the 1600s, eventually making its way to America in the 1700s. in 1828, A Dutchman by the name of Coenraad Van Houten invented a machine that extracted the powder, allowing it to be made into a confection, and in the process, changing the face of chocolate forever. The English made the first chocolate bar in 1847, and then in 1879, two Swiss men, Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle collaborated to invent milk chocolate, marking the unceremonious abandonment of the traditional, healthy, liquid preparation method used in South America for two thousand years. A hundred and thirty years later, your average chocolate bar bares very little resemblance to the cacao brews of Mesoamerica and has a fraction of the nutritional value.

The World Market

Over 3,500,000 tons of cacao is produced annually. Approximately 70% of that comes from West Africa, with the Ivory Coast and Ghana ranking first and third in global production. Our beloved Indonesia places 2nd on that list, accounting for just under 20% as recently as 2010! Unfortunately, it is estimated that less than 1% of global production is organic. Hopefully we can change help change that from our organic friendly island of the gods, Bali. It would only be fitting that the revitalization of the organic production of the food of the gods began on the island of the gods. Cacao only grows in the tropics, within 10 degrees of the equator, and is traded as a commodity on two global exchanges, one in London and one in NYC. Arguably the most endearing aspect of cacao production is that a huge amount of it takes place on small family farms, making it conducive to a more balanced income distribution that is so desperately needed by many of the poor countries that produce it.

Nutritional Value

Cacao is ripe with vitamins, minerals and many other beneficial phytonutrients. Chock-full of anti-oxidants such as flavanoids, which have been found to field anti-allergic and anti-cancer properties, cacao has the potential to help cure a plethora of health issues. It is high in sulfur and magnesium, two of the most essential minerals for good health. It improves blood vessel function and blood flow, which some doctors believe might lead to improved cognitive function. This quality has lead many to speculate that it could play a role in limiting the negative symptoms displayed by sufferers of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.

While it does contain trace amounts of caffeine, its more prevalent stimulant is theobromine, an alkaloid similar to caffeine yet lacking the physically addictive properties. Theobromine has been shown to reduce asthmatic symptoms, relax and smooth out muscles and lower blood pressure. Cacao also contains enzyme inhibitors that may facilitate youthening & rejuvenation.

Asides from the positive physical health affects cacao has, it can also aid in the improvement of mental and emotional health. Phenylethylamine, a chemical created by the brain and released when we are attracted, excited, or in love, is present in healthy amounts. Anandamide, a chemical released when we feel good, is another constituent of cacao. There are also more enzyme inhibitors that decrease the body's ability to break down anandamide, which means that positive feelings will last longer when you eat cacao. Lastly, it is loaded with tryptophan, a chemical that is required to synthesize serotonin, a chemical that makes us feel happy. Basically, cacao makes you feel great. A healthy dose of cacao in your diet has been shown to have incredible long term benefits on both physical and mental health. Be careful though, raw cacao is very powerful and has an intense effect on the central nervous system, so consuming too much at one time can lead to similar reactions produced by caffeine; hyperactivity followed by drowsiness.

Choosing a Bakery for Your Custom Needs

A cake, chocolate or pastries can really add to a special occasion. If you are ordering something sweet for a special occasion, you have a lot of things to consider. You need to consider how much you need to order, what type of dessert you want to order and where you want to order it from. It is a process, but you want to go about this process carefully so that you can come away with a dessert that you would be proud to have served at your special event.

The first thing you want to do is decide what type of dessert you would like to serve. If you want a cake, chocolates, pastries or anything of the sort you need to decide what you would like and then hone in on the restaurants that provide this type of item. Most bakeries can make any of these items, but just because they can doesn't mean that is who you want to go to. You want to buy from the bakery that specializes in and is known for the specific dessert that you want to serve.

How do you find those bakeries? The best way to find bakeries is through word of mouth. Ask your friends, your family members, neighbors and even coworkers what bakery they used for their special event. You can get a lot of great feedback about which bakeries have provided great services and those who have not been nearly as helpful. If you have enjoyed the food that was served at an event that you attended, it is a great idea to inquire about who provided the item that you enjoyed as you know that you will like what they serve.

After you have received several recommendations, your next order of business is to contact the providers and ask to meet with them. Let them know that you want to sample their foods and what exactly it is that you are looking for. Most bakeries will allow you to sample their items for free and while you are meeting with them you can inquire about cost, and turn around time, and whether or not they can provide the type of service that you are looking for.

Once you have sampled at all of the bakeries and have found your favorites, you can look at cost. If all things are equal between a couple of the bakeries, you might as well go with the one that is more affordable. Generally, when you taste test at several bakeries, you'll find that there is one or two favorites so you just need to ensure that they are able to provide what you need on the date that you need it and also consider your budget and whether or not it falls within what you can afford. When you go about finding the bakery of your choice like this, you'll find that it really is simple to hone in on the right bakery for your specific needs.

Chocolate Fountain Hire for an Event or Party

Chocolate is a great treat enjoyed by many. Not only is it tasty, but it is also know to have various ingredients that are good for the body, like flavonoids and theobromine which help destroy bad bacteria in the body. It has been proven to release endorphins which help with happiness, and has been found to have anti oxidants and vitamins in it for a healthier immune system.

Overall, there are many benefits of chocolate. However, one must moderate their intake and consumption. Natural cocoa is where a lot of the benefits are found. Unfortunately, cocoa in its natural form is quite bitter and unsweet. This is often mixed with a lot of sugar to give it a much sweeter taste. The sugars are what can be harmful if consumed too much, causing decay of the teeth. Many manufacturers also add artificial flavourings which aren't great for the body, so you should always check the ingredients before you consume too much.

A happy middle ground is to find chocolate that is high in cocoa, and only has a small amount of sugar. Callebeaut is known to be one of the highest grades of chocolate. Chefs and dessert experts across the world often use this product in their recipes as it has limited sugar, but naturally has a nice tasting flavour.

Chocolate can be enjoyed in many ways, from a bar format, to a flavouring on ice cream or a milkshake. One of the most exciting ways it can be enjoyed is through fondue. This is the process of melting chocolate in a liquid form and dipping fruit or other tasty treats into the fondue. This can be done by breaking up a block into smaller pieces and melting in a microwave for about 2 minutes.

One fun way to enjoy fondue is through a chocolate fountain which is a relatively new concept that has arrived on the market. A chocolate fountain is a machine that melts chocolate into a liquid form, which is collected and flows down in layers off metal tiers like a waterfall. These are a great idea for a party, and one of these fountains can be hired relatively cheaply. They are the best way to serve chocolate fondue to large crowds, and the fountains can stand at 1.2m tall, allowing up to 12kg of chocolate to be placed in them.

Overall, chocolate is a delicious treat, whether you are having just a piece, or indulging in a chocolate fountain.

Specialty Food At Your Front Door

Who doesn't like good food? The sight of scrumptious, colorful and lip-smacking meals can make even the most skeptical mouths water. So what if it is the waffles of Netherland that you crave or chocolate from Russia or maybe you feel like having the calm and soothing teas from China. You have the means and the channels necessary to get the exact same food or products that you crave. The world has become smaller and that means you get to order your favorite brand of food and drink from around the world and watch it being delivered to your house, whichever country you may be in.

Upholding the Online Tradition

Shopping for merchandise online allows you the freedom to look for and order things that you will not get in your neighborhood shops. These may be a specialized kind of typical products that are available only in their originating countries and you might have tasted them during one of your visits there or been gifted the same by someone. Whatever the reason if you have fallen in love with it and yearn to have some more but don;t know who to turn to, then there are many online sites that will allow you order it directly from that country itself. Then all you need to be doing is waiting for it to be shipped right to your front door.

Whats Your Preference?

The wonderful part of ordering from such specialty shops is that you get to choose from a variety of international foods. And why stop there? You can browse for organic merchandise, health products and even beauty items that are available in some remote part of the world, but which you got to experience for yourself. These online shops allow you to carry on the tradition of getting souvenirs from around the world for you or your loved ones. Whats not to love about international gifts, especially if they are rare and not easily available in your own country? You never have to worry about customs, extra duty to be paid or adding that extra burden to your luggage. You do not have to wait to go back a particular country again to enjoy its products.

All Currencies Accepted

The best part about shopping at such an online store is that you do not have to worry about the kind of currency you are paying with. As these sites deal with many countries they have the power to process innumerable currencies available for all their guests whichever part of the globe they might be residing in. Whether it is for yourself or as exclusive presents for your loved ones, you have the opportunity to shop for whatever you want.

What Is The Difference Between Commercial Chocolate And Homemade Chocolate in Factories?

Chocolates are natural food products offering the consumer wonderful taste sensations and aromas no other product can provide. It is attractively presented and skillfully crafted so the flavor of the chocolate is complemented by natural and fresh ingredients.

Some chocolate factories in the Middle East produce chocolate in a commercial way and others deliver to you their own homemade chocolate. How does the production happen in these two types of factories?

1- Cocoa Beans VS Cocoa butter

Chocolate is a processed, typically sweetened food, produced from the seed of the tropical Theobroma cacao tree. Therefore, cocoa beans (or cacao beans), from which fine chocolate is produced, grow in the tropical climates of Africa, South America and parts of Asia and are harvested twice a year to produce the raw products that makes chocolate. On the other hand, there is also the cocoa butter substitute that replaces the real cocoa beans and helps in the production. Which one gives you the best chocolate? Without any doubt: the natural cocoa beans. Some factories use the cocoa butter substitutes instead of cocoa beans for a simple reason; to elevate its melting point that makes it loose it natural attribute.

2- Natural VS artificial ingredients

The difference between homemade chocolate and commercial chocolate is in the ingredients used. Homemade chocolate is made with natural and high quality ingredients with no artificial preservatives, therefore it stays fresh. As for the commercial, it is made with artificial ingredients and preservatives to keep a low cost and of course, it won't stay fresh too long.

3- Production cost

A chocolate factory can keep a lower cost of production with the use of old, antique machinery and technology. Homemade chocolate factories don't need to lower their costs to higher their profits but rely on handing over the best quality and maintain high level of hygiene using high-end machinery and new technologies to meet the ISO Certification standards.

4- Chocolate filling ingredients

This 4th difference relates to the 2nd one - the natural ingredients. We separated them to differentiate between the production of chocolate itself and the fillings that represent the flavors. Commercial chocolate is filled with artificial flavors using syrup or chemically made pistachio, almonds and other fillings, but homemade chocolate, as you guessed, uses natural pistachio, coconuts and other fillings to create a sweet taste.

5- All the above

The 5th and last difference we will mention in this article is somehow a conclusion to all that has been said before. To give you the best chocolate, a factory must follow all the criteria above and produce their product from A to Z, which means starting by making their own chocolate paste and continue with all the procedure until the end-product which is not the case of commercial chocolate, who get their paste from an external provider, probably without knowing if artificial ingredients were used instead of natural ones.

After reviewing with you 5 differences between commercial and homemade chocolate, it's up to you to choose what kind of chocolate you would aim for from now on. Don't be fooled by the heavenly tasty commercial chocolate, real ingredients, better quality and high level of hygiene are more important than taste, which directly implies to a better taste.

"We measure life not in years, but in the sweetness of everyday happenings; of sweet memories, sweet people, sweet dreams and sweet chocolate."- Crystal Chocolatier Factory

Crystal Chocolatier is a chocolate factory established in 1998, providing a wide variety of unwrapped chocolate; from milk, white and dark chocolate with fillings to mixture of chocolate and dip in chocolate.

Today, Crystal Chocolatier factory caters for individuals through a chocolate shop in Lebanon and makes a journey around the world to give you the chance to taste our chocolate wherever you are. We distribute chocolate in UAE, Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries.

Our chocolate production follows the Belgium and Swiss process, and uses natural ingredients from chocolate paste to end-product chocolate. Our factory is equipped with the latest high end machinery and technologies to maintain the highest level of hygiene and meet the ISO Certification standards.

The Top 5 Most Popular Cookies

As grocery lists across the U.S. get filled each and everyday, cookies always sneak their way into the grocery cart, and list somehow. After all how could we survive without cookies. As kids, it was a must in my home and neighborhood. From the good old home-made cookie to great brand names like Nabisco. Nabisco has been baking goodness into cookies since 1898. The location of that goodness is East Hanover, NJ.

The Nabisco company parted ways with Kraft Foods in 2012 and now the art of cookie making and baking the very best in cookies belongs to Mondelez International. This company was known as National Dairy Products since 1923 and they are established in Deerfield, Illinois. So many people ask why would Kraft part with Nabisco? After all this is one of the more noticed brands in grocery stores all across the U.S. The main reason is, it was an attempt to split into two companies for Kraft. Plus having been purchased by Phillip Morris, the parent company of Kraft for $14.9 million in the year 2000. The upside of this business venture was huge. But all the loyal Nabisco fans can rest assured that the company was only moved for those purposes in 2012 and nothing else. There won't be a Twinkie situation here!

So having given you the history of the Nabisco company along with the movement and shifts within the Kraft Foods network, now we can move along into the tops 5 cookies on the planet. Gourmet cookies aside of course. We will keep these to mass- produced cookies. Here is my list of the top five:

The Oreo (most will not disagree!)
Chips A-Hoy
The Fig Newton
Nutter Butter
Fudge Stripes (Keebler)
In my book 4 of the top 5 are made by Nabisco products or Mondelez International. Keebler cookies have long been favorites as well and have an extensive collection of cookies, but I think most people will agree that The Oreo is the top cookie. Milk and cookies are a strong household bonding tradition for many families mine included. So if you have not yet started a Milk and cookies tradition in your home, get going and try some of the top 5 cookies in this article today.

What Are The Differences Between White, Milk And Dark Chocolate?

All we need is love and they say that love keeps us healthy. It is known that chocolate and love have a close relation. Both chocolate and love are sweet and healthy. But the question is, are all kind of chocolate healthy? And what are the differences between milk, white and dark chocolate?

Let's start with the different ingredients that form each type of chocolate.

Chocolate is made from cocoa beans which is harvested, then ground up and liquefied to become liquor. The liquor is then processed into cocoa solids and cocoa butter. It is the cocoa solids that give the bitter taste of chocolate. The different combinations of the cocoa solids and cocoa butter with other ingredients give the multiple types. Dark chocolate has the highest percentage of cocoa solids and cocoa butter of all types. The other added ingredients are sugar and cocoa bean powder. Milk chocolate contains milk powder, sugar, and a small percentage of cocoa solids and cocoa butter. It is the addition of milk powder and the lowering of cocoa in milk chocolate that gives it a creamier and sweeter taste. As for white chocolate, it doesn't contain cocoa solids at all, only sugar, milk, and also a small quantity of cocoa butter.

Dark chocolate contains a minimum of 70% cocoa versus a maximum of 35% in white chocolate. Dark chocolate melts easier than white at room temperature.

What are the health benefits of each type?

Studies showed that eating dark chocolate is beneficial for the health. It contains high level of antioxidants which help eliminate toxins that can cause diseases. Dark chocolate is rich in epicatechin and Gallic acids which protect the heart from heart attacks. It also acts as an anticancer, brain stimulator, cough preventer and antidiarrheal effects. For people who are seeking to lose weight, white chocolate is the wrong choice, for its richness in calories. On the other hand, it contains a bit of calcium. It is the least nutritious of the 3 types due to the total absence of cocoa solids. As for milk chocolate, its nutritional profile is higher than white chocolate as a reason of the small presence of cocoa in it, but is still not very high to be considered as having very positive effects on the health.

We all know that chocolate, in general, is tasty, very tasty, but even the tastiest and healthiest one should be consumed wisely and in the right amount. White, milk and dark chocolate, are all bad if you abuse their intake. Eat wisely, stay healthy, you don't want to gain weight or become addicted to them.

Crystal Chocolatier makes a journey around the world to give you the chance to taste our chocolate wherever you are. We distribute chocolate in UAE, Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries.

Our chocolate production follows the Belgium and Swiss process, and uses natural ingredients from chocolate paste to end-product chocolate. Our factory meet the ISO Certification standards.

Avoiding a Chocolate Meltdown

In chocolate terms it's like searching for the Holy Grail. Finding the secret to producing great chocolate that won't melt is the question that's on many of the sweet lips of the world's chocolate manufacturers across the globe. But now the search for that long awaited Holy Grail of the Chocolate world could be coming to an end and melted chocolate could become a problem that's buried into the annals of chocolate history across the globe as 10 years of meticulous chocolate research and development is coming to fruition. In recent days, two of the world's largest chocolate manufacturers are claiming that they are nearing the launch of new 'heat resistant chocolate'. The problem of sticky fingers and chocolaty pockets and lunch boxes could soon be a thing of the past!

Mondelez International, the maker of Cadbury's chocolate, told Reuters in an interview that 'the chocolate can withstand 40 degrees and not turn to liquid'. Company Spokesman Mr MacDougall told Reuters 'the chocolate product we will be introducing in the near future is able to endure temperatures as high as 104F and not melt. This heat-resistant chocolate is particularly intended for places that have hot and humid climates such as India, Brazil and Africa, where food products end up falling victim to the scorching heat of the sun.'

The natural melting point for chocolate is between 86F and 93.2F, lower than human body temperature, so this will be a revolution in the world of chocolate. But will it affect the chocolate's taste?

Cadburys weren't letting people in on the finer details about taste or the magic ingredients but according to company sources, the chocolate will be continue to live up to the high standards associated with the leading manufacturer. It will initially be launched in the Middle East and Africa with Eastern Europe following close behind.

So, how will this affect the chocolate industry across the globe? Whilst it's unlikely to have real impact in cooler climates, the non-melting chocolate could be a gamer-changer in hotter countries across the world. If it takes off then the days of melted chocolate bars in pockets, cars and kids lunch boxes could soon be a thing of the past!

No-Bake Biscuit And Banana Pyramid Cake

If you would like to start baking, the best way is the easy way. To become a baker or a cake enthusiast, I would first recommend to develop a few necessary basic skills. How to prepare the ingredients, how to mix them well or just simply to get more familiar with equipment and ingredients.

I would like to share this dead simple no-bake cake recipe. You do not need to have any baking skills to make this cake.

This unbaked cake's ingredients are biscuits, bananas, creamy cheese filler and chocolate glaze. Let's call it No-bake biscuit banana pyramid cake. Looks interesting and trendy, is fun to make and the best part is, that you can create it with your children and have a great family time together.

The most important part is the creamy filler. The filler itself is a healthy virtually fat-free alternative to other similar rich fillings. The main ingredient here is a quark. Sometimes people could get confused, because quark is like cottage cheese or ricotta. Sometimes they call it curd. It is quite common in German-speaking countries or central Europe.

The rest of the cake ingredients are very common and well-known. You will need butter, sugar, sweet tea biscuits, melted chocolate and one or two bananas. You can have some difficulties when rolling together the biscuit layers. This is when the pyramid is build from layered field of tea biscuits, but do not worry! If in doubts, take a look at our movie tutorial for more detailed explanation.

Here is the list of all ingredients

2 or 3 packets of sweet crackers or tea biscuits

2 quarks

125 g butter

2 bananas

7 tablespoons of icing sugar

Method

1) Mix quark, butter and icing sugar in a bowl.

2) Spread biscuits on the tin foil in 3 rows to match the length of two bananas. Create a layer of biscuits 3 biscuits high and roughly 9 biscuits wide.

3) Spread the filling on one layer of biscuits.

4) Place the second layer of biscuits on the filling.

5) Then spread the rest of filling on the second layer of biscuits. Leave some cream for the finishing of the cake. You will need it to cover the sides of the pyramid before you will add the chocolate glaze.

6) Now comes the fun part. Place 2 bananas on the second layer. Using the tinfoil fold the biscuits in the pyramid shape.

7) Once your pyramid is build, spread the rest of filling on the sides of the biscuit pyramid. Let it chill in the fridge at least for one hour.

8) Melt the dark chocolate and cover the surface of your newly build biscuit pyramid. Let it cool.

Have fun and enjoy!

The Top 5 Most Essential Grilling Tools That Every Beginner Needs

Along the way, you will want to add a few more accessories of your choice to achieve your desired barbecue dishes but a few reliable grilling tools will help you get started. Of course, these tools are not only for cooking, but also for your protection while in front of the grill.

So if you have a new grill, here are the top 5 grilling tools that you'll need to get started:

1. Grill gloves

When it comes to grilling, safety should be your top priority as you will be exposed to extreme heat and sometimes open flames. To protect your hands, purchase a good pair of heat-resistant grill gloves - one that has a flexible grip and is comfortable to wear so that it doesn't get in the way of your cooking.

2. Long-handled tongs

A good quality pair of tongs is one of the most important grilling accessories that you should have especially if you're a beginner. When choosing tongs, it is ideal that you opt for the long-handled variety to keep your hands at a safe distance from the grill while cooking. Also go for tongs that has an easy grip so that you can hold small or large as well as delicate or hard food pieces without problems.

3. Spatula

Flipping your food is part of grilling, that's why you will need a reliable spatula that will do its job without damaging even the most delicate types of food. There are numerous new models of spatula out in the market today - some with a knife on the side and some that doubles as a beer opener. These are not recommended as they will only get in the way of turning your food so go with a simple yet durable spatula.

4. Silicone brush

Another important step in the grilling process is adding flavor to your food while it's on the grill, that's why experts recommend beginners to invest in a good quality silicone brush to add sauces or marinades on your food while cooking. Unlike regular grill brushes, silicone brushes won't leave behind bristles on your food. They're also ideal because silicone is heat-resistant and can withstand extreme heat for long periods of time.

5. Food Thermometer

As a beginner, it is important to learn how long various kinds of food cook on the grill. This is hard to tell especially at first, that's why experts recommend a good food thermometer to help guide you. While many use an instant read thermometer which is quite on the expensive side, beginners can start with a reliable digital one which is also a good choice. Just be sure to for a model that is accurate and reads quickly. This way, you won't have to worry about undercooked or overcooked food on the grill.

Grilling on a Budget: 5 Effective Ways to Save Money While Grilling

You'll have to shell out money for expensive meat cuts, repeatedly visit the grocery or market for ingredients, regularly buy charcoal and so on. But the truth is, there are many ways how you can work around this. There are certain tips you can follow if you're grilling on a budget, so that you can enjoy a backyard barbecue dinner more often whether you're cooking for yourself or for a crowd!

Here are 5 effective ways how you can save money while grilling:

1. Go easy on the meat

You don't have to have steak each time you grill. But if you must, go for less expensive meat cuts such as skirt steak or flank steak. Opt for legs and thighs if you're grilling chicken - they're cheaper and more flavorful. You can also save more money on meat if you serve grilled kebabs that are vegetable-heavy. This way, you can stretch a small amount of meat on a main grilled dish.

2. Serve grilled fruits or vegetables

Fresh fruits and vegetables make for a refreshing alternative if you've been serving meat-heavy grilled main dishes. They're less expensive, cook quicker on the grill than meat and they add nutrition to your meals. Make a grilled vegetable salad, a veggie burger or grilled corn with herb sauce then follow it up with a nice bowl of grilled fresh fruit- whatever recipe you choose, you can't go wrong with these healthy yet delicious ingredients!

3. Add bread to your menu

Like fruits and vegetables, grilled bread is also a good option to serve when you're grilling on a budget. Bread is very filling, plus you can just spread it with a sauce of your choice, add a few pieces of meat or vegetables, throw it on the grill and you're good to go!

4. Make your own dressings and sauces

It will save you more money when you make homemade dressings, rubs, marinades or sauces for your grilled dishes compared to getting the store-bought variety, especially when you're serving a crowd. Start with ingredients that are already available in your pantry like ketchup or tomato sauce, then add a few herbs or spices of our choice.

5. Get creative

It's not very ideal to eat or serve the same dishes at a barbecue, but it could also get expensive if you try new and complicated recipes. What you can do is to stick to classic barbecue dishes like burgers and hotdogs then add your own twist - this way, you can stay within your budget and at the same time serve something "new" to your guests. For example, instead of just the classic burger, add small pieces of bacon, cheese and onions to the raw meat before it hits the grill. Or you can try to marinate your hotdogs in a tangy herb sauce instead of the usual barbecue sauce. Get creative!

With these easy-to-follow grilling on a budget tips, you won't have to worry about firing up your grill as much as you can - you can now enjoy budget-friendly yet delicious barbecue dishes everyday!

Grilling 101: 5 Common Grilling Mistakes That Beginners Should Avoid

There are plenty of things to consider and many common mistakes to avoid to achieve, say, a perfectly grilled steak. As a beginner, it's important to learn what these grilling mistakes are and how to avoid them. This way, you'll be on the right path to becoming a grilling pro in no time!

Here are 5 of the most common grilling mistakes that beginners should avoid:

1. Using poor tools

One of the most common misconceptions about grilling is that you need fancy, expensive tools and equipment to achieve delicious and perfectly-cooked grilled dishes. Because of this, many grillers make the mistake of using either unnecessary or poor tools. Save your money - the truth is that you only need a few simple yet reliable tools to get the work done like a durable pair of tongs, a spatula, heat-resistant gloves, a food thermometer and a some clean towels. Always opt for the long-handled variety of the tongs and spatula for arm and hand protection.

2. No preparation time

Did you know that the number 1 rule of any good cook is "mis en place" which means everything in place? This means that everything should be prepared accordingly before the cooking process begins. The same goes for grilling. Many grillers make the mistake of prepping other ingredients while there's food on the grill which results to burnt or unevenly cooked dishes. It is highly important that all your ingredients are ready once you light up your grill - meat should be thawed and marinated, fruits and vegetables should be chopped, sliced or peeled and sauces should be mixed.

3. Not using a food thermometer

One of the most common grilling mistakes is foregoing the food thermometer which often leads to either an overcooked or undercooked grilled dish. You don't want to be raw or burnt food to your guests, so be sure to invest in a good thermometer for easier reading of food internal temperatures. Don't worry, once you get the hang of grilling, you'll know when the food is ready just by looking at it. In the meantime, get yourself a good quality food thermometer.

4. Using too much sauce too soon

Plenty of grillers make the mistake of slathering the meat with sauce while it's cooking on the grill. Most glazes, marinades and sauces contain sugar which burns easily. Because of this, your steak will be burnt on the outside but still raw on the inside. If you want your food to cook evenly, add the just the right amount of sauce towards the end of the grilling process, about 10 minutes before your food is ready.

5. Keeping a dirty grill

Keeping a dirty grill is probably the most common grilling mistake. Not cleaning your grill regularly is not only unhygienic but also increases the risk of health hazards. Grease builds up easily in your grill just after a few uses which is the number one cause of flare-ups. Food will also stick easier to dirty grates which could result to uneven cooking. Clean your grill after every use if you can to avoid hazards.

Avoid these common grilling mistakes as early as now for a better grilling experience and for delicious, perfectly-cooked grilled dishes.

Grilling 101: The Best Types of Fish to Grill

If you are in the mood for something lighter and want to take a break from heavy barbecue dishes, what you need to do is to start grilling fish. However, not all types are made for the intensity of the grill. More delicate types such as cod, flounder and tilapia are best cooked indoors as they will likely just break apart and fall through the grates when cooked in open flame. On the other hand, firmer and more hearty types of fish cook best when grilled, so be sure to know which ones taste best with a smoky flavor!

Here are some of the best types of fish for grilling:

Tuna

Tuna just might be the most versatile of all fish that sometimes it is referred to as the "steak of the seafood world". With a distinct flavor, it has a thick and hearty flesh that can fare well on intense heat. Marinate or simply sprinkle with salt and pepper, brush with olive oil then cook over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes per side or until flaky. A perfectly-cooked tuna will have a raw center and lightly browned on the outside. It will be dry and tough when overcooked.

Salmon

Salmon is a favorite in most households whether it is cooked indoors or outdoors. Its thick meat is heavy enough to fulfill any appetite but also light enough because it is low in calories. The strong flavor of salmon is made even better with a smoky flavor, so cut it up into 1-inch thick fillets, sprinkle with a seasoning of your choice, and cook on the grill over high heat skin side down. Grill for 4 minutes per side or to desired doneness.

Snapper

The red snapper is a mild and hearty white fish popular among grillers because of its flavorful meat. It is best cooked on the grill whole - just make slits on each side of the snapper, brush with olive oil then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook it over high heat for at least 6 minutes until golden brown. Flip once then cook for another 6-8 minutes until cooked through.

Mahi Mahi

Also called the dolphin fish, mahi mahi is a good choice for grilling because of its firm meat and delicate flavor. Slice it into fillets, marinate or sprinkle with salt and pepper then place rounded-side down on the grill. Cook over medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes or until distinct grill marks appear.

Swordfish

The swordfish is yet another popular choice for barbecues with some experts saying that it may possibly be the best type of fish for grilling. The swordfish is firm, meaty and has a mild flavor which makes for a great grilled dish whether seasoned simply or slathered with a strong-flavored marinade. When seasoned, brush the swordfish with olive oil then cook over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes per side or until lightly browned.

What are you waiting for? Take out your grill and make delicious barbecue dishes with these hearty fish!


The Glaze Craze: 3 Delicious Barbecue Glaze and Sauce Recipes for Your Grilled Meat

You don't need fancy ingredients to make a delicious barbecue glaze. The truth is that you can experiment with ingredients that you already have in your kitchen and still make the best sauce to flavor your grilled meat.

Here are 3 must-try glaze and sauce recipes for your barbecue that you will absolutely love:

Honey-Mustard Spicy Glaze

What you need:

1 small onion, minced
1 1/2 cups honey
1 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 tbsps. olive oil
1 tsp. Cajun seasoning
1/2 tsp. salt
Black pepper to taste
In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat before adding onions. Sauté until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in honey, mustard, red pepper flakes and vinegar, then season with Cajun seasoning, salt and black pepper. Simmer for 5-6 minutes and stir occasionally to blend ingredients well. Use as a glaze or dipping sauce for any kind of grilled meat.

Peach Barbecue Glaze

What you need:

2 cups peach preserve
3 tbsps. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsps. soy sauce
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. finely chopped garlic
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Combine peach preserve, olive oil, soy sauce and Dijon mustard in a medium bowl. Add garlic then season with salt and ground black pepper. Mix well until ingredients are well-blended. Use as a glaze and brush on meat during the last 5-6 minutes of grilling.

Caramel and Lime Meat Glaze

What you need:

2/3 cup hoisin sauce
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup chili garlic sauce
3 tbsps. lime juice
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
2-inch fresh ginger, sliced into 5 pieces
To make the caramel, bring granulated sugar and water to a boil over high heat in a saucepan. When the sugar has dissolved, reduce the heat to low. When the mixture begins to turn dark tan around the edges of the saucepan, remove from heat, stir, then add rice wine vinegar. Bring the pan back to the stove and heat mixture over medium-low heat. Stir until clumps of caramel have dissolved. Add hoisin sauce, chili garlic sauce, lime juice, soy sauce, sesame oil and ginger pieces. Stir constantly until well-blended and the mixture has reduced by 1/3 in volume. The glaze can be used on any type of meat for grilling.


3 Fun and Unique Grill Recipes to Try For Your Summer Barbecue

So for your upcoming backyard barbecue, prepare these fun and unique grill recipes that everyone will surely enjoy:

Cheesy Grilled Spaghetti Sandwich

What you need:

2 cups cold cooked spaghetti
1 cup spaghetti sauce
8 slices mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 hoagie rolls
Garlic powder to taste
Combine melted butter and garlic powder in a small bowl. In a bigger bowl, mix pasta and spaghetti sauce. Set aside. Cut a small slice of the crust off from the top and bottom of each hoagie roll then split the rolls. Brush the cut sides of the bread with butter-garlic mixture then line the insides with slices of mozzarella cheese. Top with a generous amount of spaghetti. Close the rolls to form a sandwich. Cook in a pre-heated grill over medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes per side or until bread is lightly browned and cheese has melted completely.

Veggie-Mushroom Grilled Burger

What you need:

6 large Portobello mushrooms, without stems
1 small yellow squash, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch rounds
1 zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 cups balsamic vinaigrette
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
6 hamburger buns, split in half
Combine the mushrooms, squash, eggplant and zucchini in a shallow bowl. Pour balsamic vinaigrette over the vegetables and toss to coat evenly. Refrigerate for 4 hours up to 24 hours. When ready, drain the vegetables and discard excess marinade. Arrange the vegetables in a pre-heated grill pan and cook over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes per side or until lightly browned. Before removing from heat, sprinkle mushrooms with crumbled blue cheese and let the cheese melt slightly. Divide squash, eggplant and zucchini slices among all the bottom hamburger buns then top with mushrooms cheese side up. Close the burger with the top halves of the buns (use a toothpick to hold the burger in place if necessary). Serve warm.

Easy Grilled Pizza Wraps

What you need:

8 10-inch flour tortillas
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup pizza sauce
1/4 cup pepperoni slices
1 small white onion, cut into rings
1/2 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 tbsps. margarine, softened
Pre-heat a large grill pan over medium-low heat. Brush 1 side of each tortilla with margarine and place them margarine-side down on the pan. Spread 1 tbsp. of the pizza sauce onto half of each tortilla. Divide and arrange the cheese, pepperoni, onion and bell pepper among the tortillas and fold the clean side of the tortilla over the filling to form a wrap. Grill for 6-8 minutes per side or until lightly browned and cheese is completely melted.