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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Deep Fat Frying Tips

With health consciousness at such a high point these days, many people do not deep fry foods. But sometimes some fried food is just what you want! If you're going to consume the calories, make sure that the food is perfectly fried with these tips.

Deep fat frying is a dry heat cooking method. I know that sounds strange, but it's considered dry because no water is used, unlike poaching, microwaving, or simmering. Here's how to do it:

  • To start, choose your cooking oil carefully. Oils with high 'smoke points', in other words, those which do not break down at deep frying temperatures, are best. Peanut oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, and canola oil are some good choices.
  • Choose a deep, very heavy skillet to fry with. Add oil to the cold pan, leaving a headspace, or space at the top of the pan, of at least two inches. This allows a safety margin when the oil bubbles up as the food is added.
  • Make sure that the food you're going to fry is dry. Letting it sit on paper towels, or coating it in flour or bread crumbs is a good way to ensure this. Let the coated food sit on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes so the coating dries and sets.
  • Begin heating the oil over medium high heat. If you have a deep fat frying thermometer, use it! The best temperature is 350 to 375 degrees F. If you don't have a thermometer, the oil is ready when a 1" cube of white bread dropped into the oil browns in 60 seconds; that oil temperature will be about 365 degrees F.
  • Don't overcrowd the pan! Carefully add the food, leaving lots of space around each piece so the food will cook evenly. If you add too much food at once, the oil temperature will drop and the food will absorb fat instead of instantly searing.
  • Watch the food carefully as it cooks, regulating the heat if necessary to keep that oil temperature between 350 and 375 degrees F. When the food is browned according to the time in the recipe, it's done. Remove it with a slotted spoon or a heavy stainless steel sieve with a long handle. Drop it onto paper towels to drain.
  • Fried foods can be kept warm in a 200 degrees F. oven until all the food is fried.
  • Oil and water DO NOT MIX!! Keep water away from the hot oil. If you pour water on the oil, the mixture will explode. If the oil smokes or catches fire, cover it with a pan lid or cookie sheet. You can use baking soda to put out any grease fires, but be careful that you don't spread the flames around.
  • I always keep a fire extinguisher in my kitchen, just in case. Learn how to use it NOW, before you may need it.
  • Don't reuse the cooking oil. Some sources say you can strain it and reuse it, but the oil has already begun to break down from the heat, and undesirable compounds like trans fats have formed. Let the oil cool completely, then discard safely.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Tips to the art of grilling

Grilling is an art, no doubt of that, and getting the food right is a matter of practice and technique. So, if you are having trouble getting your grilled foods to turn out just right, follow these grilling tips and tricks to ensure the best flavor for your grilled foods:

grilled food

If you follow a few simple tips and tricks, you can transform your grilled food into works of art.

1. Charcoal readily absorbs and holds moisture, so store it in a dry place.

2. To make cooking go faster, partially cook food in the microwave or on the range, and then immediately finish cooking the food on the grill. You'll get that barbecue flavor in less time.

3. Soak wooden skewers and toothpicks in water for at least 20 minutes before using them on a hot grill. The absorbed water will prevent the wood from burning.

4. The easiest way to clean a soiled grill is to scrub it with a stiff, wire brush while it's still warm.

5. While cooking, keep the fop and bottom grill vents open. Close them when cooking is finished to extinguish the coals.

6. Use tongs or a spatula to turn meat. Piercing it with a fork causes precious juices to escape.

How Hot Is It?
Your recipe says to heat the charcoal grill to 375°F. Like most cooks, you probably guess and then hope for the best. But there is a pretty reliable way to gauge the temperature of the coals without resorting to ripping the thermometer off the deck railing.

A quick and easy way to estimate the temperature of the coals is to hold the palm of your hand about four inches above the coals. Count the seconds you can hold your hand there before the heat forces you to pull it away. Then use the handy chart below to determine the temperature.­

­ ­
SecondsCoal Temperature
2 375°F or more
3 350° to 375°
4 300° to 350°
5 200° to 300°

Use the following as a guide to approximate cooking times. You can also determine how well cooked your meat is with a good meat thermometer. Medium-rare beef will register 150°F on a meat thermometer; poultry, 180°; pork, 160°; lamb, 160°.

MeatThickness/WeightApprox Cooking Time (over med heat)
Chicken Boneless skinless breasts5 minutes per side
Cut-up broiler/fryer
45 to 60 minutes
Fish fillets6 ounces3 to 5 minutes per side
Fish steaks1 inch5 minutes per side
Hamburgers 1/2 inch14 to 16 minutes
Pork baby back ribs 31/2 to 4 pounds30 to 45 minutes
Pork loin chops 3/4 inch10 to 12 minutes
Porterhouse/T-bone steak 3/4 inch14 to 17 minutes
Ribeye steak
3/4 inch6 to 8 minutes
10 minutes
Shrimp Medium
2 to 3 minutes per side
Sirloin steak3/4 inch13 to 16 minutes

Brush vegetables lightly with vegetable oil and/or an oil-based salad dressing or marinade of your choice; season with sprinklings of chopped fresh or dried herbs, salt or pepper. Place large cuts directly on grill; grill smaller cuts in a grid basket.

VegetablePreparation for Grilling Grilling Time
Bell or chili peppersWhole or halved, stemmed and seeded 10 to 20 minutes
Corn on the cobUnhusked; remove silk; Soak in cold water 30 minutes
20 to 30 minutes
Eggplant Cut into 1-inch thick rounds 20 minutes
Mushrooms Stems removed 10 minutes
Onions Peel; cut into halves, wedges, or rounds; insert wooden picks to prevent separating. 20 to 30 minutes
Potatoes Cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds
10 to 12 minutes
Summer squashCut into halves or thick slices 5 to 10 minutes
Tomatoes Cut into halves or thick slices 5 to 10 minutes

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mother's Day lunch tabletop

Mother's Day is the perfect occasion for a dreamy, springlike table. Choose a light and simple colour scheme - whites, creams and soft neutral shades work well together, and will make the tabletop look fresh and pretty. Keep the background clean and understated. Use a plain white cloth, or leave the table bare; then add decoration in the form of scalloped white plates and feminine glassware.

Fresh flowers Flowers bring a tabletop to life, and often the simpler the arrangement, the better. A jug of seasonal flowers makes any table more inviting and 'dressed up'. If the flowers and scented, remove them before you sit down to eat, and keep displays low so guests can talk across the table.

Choose your own cutlery Help-yourself elements on a table create an easy atmosphere at a relaxed family lunch. Instead of laying out the cutlery/flatware at each place setting, stash it in a decorative jug or bowl, or pile it on napkins at the end of the table so that guests can help themselves to whatever they need.

Single blooms If you have any snapped-off flowerheads, use them as decoration. Just a single bloom wired to the bottom of a glass will make a perfect finishing touch.

Unique place holders Rather than sticking to standard place cards, think of innovative ways to indicate where guests should sit, such as a pretty ribbon and ornamental wired butterfly tied to the back of the chair with the guest's name on it.

Mother's Day lunch essentials

Feminine details
No matter the food you are serving for Mother's Day lunch, make the table girly. This occasion provides the perfect excuse for indulging in frills and femininity. Florals, butterflies and bows would all work here, so dust down your granny's scallop-edged china, bring out some shapely glassware and, above all, think pretty.
Simple background To prevent the overall effect from becoming too sweet, keep the background simple. Use a plain white cloth or leave the table bare or topped with a simple runner.

Neutral colour palette Keep the colour scheme light and bright. Whites, pale pastels and soft neutrals work well together and will not only make the tabletop look fresh and inviting, but provide the perfect backdrop for the decorative dinnerware and flowers.

Eating Local in Alberta

Do you want to join the eating local movement happening across Alberta but are wondering where to go to buy local food. Here are some options:

Farmers' Markets are one of the best ways to find local products. On our website you can find the markets in your region and find more information about the vendors who sell at those markets.

You can also go straight to the farm. For a great listing of information on local farms around the province go to the Alberta farm fresh Producers Association. Search by product type, order a free guide, or whatever it is you need to find local farms in Alberta, you can find them here!

Or eat out! Dine alberta has a list of restaurants across the province that serve local fare.

Finally, you can also visit Chomp around Alberta. Here you will find a link to each of the above sites, plus more - your one stop shop for eating local in Alberta.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mexican Tortilla Chicken Soup

Tired of plain old Chicken Soup? Try this one. Adding the avocado is a must! We also add a little grated cheese and crushed tortilla chips.

Yield: 2 quarts


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium white onions, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
  • 3 ripe medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 quart chicken stock, recipe follows
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Canola oil, for pan-frying
  • 8 corn tortillas, cut into 1/8-inch-thick strips
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 2 avocados, halved, pitted, peeled, and diced
  • 1 cup shredded Jack cheese, optional
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
  • 1 lime, cut in wedges, for serving


Place a stockpot over medium heat and coat with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onions, garlic, jalapenos, and tomatoes; cook, stirring for 15 minutes until the vegetables are cooked down and pulpy. Pour in the stock, season with salt and pepper, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 1-inch of canola oil in a skillet over medium-high flame. When the oil begins to smoke, add the tortilla strips in batches and fry until they are crisp on all sides. Remove to a paper towel-lined platter and sprinkle with salt while they are still hot.

Ladle the hot soup into 4 soup bowls and put a pile of shredded chicken on top of each. Top with the diced avocado and fried tortilla strips (and cheese if using). Garnish with cilantro and serve with lime wedges.

Chicken Stock:

1 whole free-range chicken (about 3 1/2 pounds), rinsed, giblets discarded

2 carrots, cut in large chunks

3 celery stalks, cut in large chunks

2 large white onions, quartered

1 head of garlic, halved

1 turnip, halved

1/4 bunch fresh thyme leaves

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Place the chicken and vegetables in a large stockpot over medium heat. Pour in only enough cold water to cover (about 3 quarts); too much will make the broth taste weak. Toss in the thyme, bay leaves, and peppercorns, and allow it to slowly come to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and gently simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, partially covered, until the chicken is done. As it cooks, skim any impurities that rise to the surface; add a little more water if necessary to keep the chicken covered while simmering.

Carefully remove the chicken to a cutting board. When its cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones; hand-shred the meat into a storage container.

Carefully strain the stock through a fine sieve into another pot to remove the vegetable solids. Use the stock immediately or if you plan on storing it, place the pot in a sink full of ice water and stir to cool down the stock. Cover and refrigerate for up to one week or freeze.