Cook Books and Learning to Cook

Reading Tips: Learn from Cook books

Reading cookbooks can give you a glimpse of a community, a region, history, or trends. Ideas about the culture value of recipes.

There are many ways to get to know an area, whether it be a city, a region, or another country. Many people choose the route of becoming ‘armchair travelers’-reading guidebooks to the area, memoirs of others that have gone. Me, I read a cookbook. How can you really know an area unless you know what the inhabitants eat?

The state dish of Virginia, my home state, is peanut soup. Not something your likely to find out without browsing through Junior League cookbooks, or other Virginia-oriented cookbooks, especially now, as regional dishes are starting to fade away under the influence of nouvelle cuisine.

Junior League cookbooks can be a real find, and are worth hunting about for whether on a trip or just browsing through ebay. They tell you exactly what the people of the area are eating-as a result, one finds modified back-of-the-box recipes alongside traditional regional favorites like cheesecake.

For a more national approach, hardly anything beats Craig Claiborne’s collection of recipes from the New York Times. Broken down by region, with each recipe crediting the donor and her (usually her) homestate, it’s a wonderful look at the myriad dishes that America loves from burgers to fondue.

Amish and Shaker cookbooks provide a kind of living history, telling us how our ancestors may have eaten, and how we can do so still. The food is plain and simple, as is appropriate, but delicious. (And well-suited to picky children, in many cases.)

Speaking of picky children, many children’s series have cookbooks as well. Little House on the Prairie, the Boxcar Children, Anne of Green Gables, all have accompanying cookbooks that allow the reader/cook to taste what the characters do.

For adults, a new genre of mystery has come about that incorporates recipes into the plot of the book. Diane Mott Davidson’s Goldy Schultz series is a real winner in that category.

For those looking at areas a bit further from home-Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking can help you bring a Continental flair to your cookery, and make you really appreciate those quiches and soups (not to mention madeleines) that have made French cooking famous.

The Best of … series is also a great place to look for travel-minded cooks. Gorgeous color photographs of a region accompany recipes for regional specialties. The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook should answer any Chinese cooking question, and enable the cook to feel as though he or she is really offering authentic cuisine.

The Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan is the quintessential book on that favorite cuisine-a must for any culinary library. Culinaria Germany offers not only beautiful photographs, but a geographical breakdown, listing (along with recipes, natch) regional favorites and contributions.

My Mexico: A Culinary Odyssey has 300 recipes alongside history and cultural notes-you’ll be able to move beyond burritos and tacos with this volume.

So take a look the next time you’re at the bookstore or library-if you have a child that’s struggling with history (or if you are yourself), historical cookbooks can help put a sweet edge on the lessons.

Geography becomes fun as well as educational when accompanied by foods that may well become new favorites. And, as well, dinners made dull by routine may benefit from a little international flair.

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How to Have a Fondue Party

How to have a fondue party

What the exactly is fondue? How to host an old fashioned fondue party.

What, exactly, is fondue? Fondue seems to be one of those things that is regional. Some places have never even heard of fondue, while others have entire restaurants devoted to it. A fondue is simply a pot of some sort of dipping sauce, whether it be chocolate, cheese or some other tasty concoction.

The sauce is kept warm and melted by a Sterno can underneath the pot, or in an electric fondue pot. Fondue pots come with skewers, usually of metal with wooden handles, which you use to dip your food into the fondue. And what’s great is you don’t even need to learn to cook, everyone is doing their own.

Fondue was once extremely popular back in the days of hostess parties and June Cleaver and these days you really have to look for it, unless you happen to live in one of those communities in California, Charlotte, Nashville or Atlanta where fondue is still all the rage.

There is a chain restaurant or two around that center themselves around the fondue if you can find one in your area. You can help revive the fondue trend by throwing your very own fondue party, that is, if you can find a fondue pot!

I recently picked up an entire fondue set in mint condition at a garage sale for $1.50. If you can’t find a new set, search thrift stores and garage sales, you’re bound to find one somewhere. Don’t worry if you can’t find one with skewers, these can be purchased at your local grocery store.

The type of fondue you make is only limited by your imagination. If you can melt it, you can make it into a fondue. Cheese, chocolate, cream sauces, there is a fondue recipe for you. The morsels you dip into the fondue are even more endless.

You can dip fruit like strawberries, apples, bananas, blackberries, pear wedges and oranges into chocolate or cheese. Vegetables like carrots, celery, zucchini, raw or cooked, can be dipped into cheese sauces or creamy herb sauces.

Fondues can include any type of meat or vegetables and you can use meat to dip into the sauces as well. There are thousands of fondue recipes and you can serve more than one at your party.

For a totally fondue party, have separate courses of fondue. You can have a veggie dip for an appetizer, including vegetables and cubes of bread for dipping. A great appetizer is a soup or stew fondue with bread for dipping. Next, move on to your main course of fondue which could include cooked potatoes, meat, cooked zucchini or carrots, etc.

And for dessert, this is the perfect time to roll out the chocolate and strawberries. Just be sure to take the skewers and wash them in between courses. If you have more than one fondue set, great! If not, you can always wash it up between courses.

Another fun idea for a fondue party is for you to provide the dipping sauce, and have your guests each bring their favorite morsels to dip. A bottle of wine to go with your wonderful fondue and you are set for a delicious evening of dipping fun!

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25 Uses for Baking Soda

25 uses for baking soda

Read this informative article to find out how you can use baking soda in more ways than you could imagine!

1. Safely Clean Eye Glasses

Run some water over both lens of your glasses. Then, sprinkle some baking soda over one side of the lens. Wet your fingertips and gently rub the soda all over the lens on both sides. Rinse your glasses and dry them with a soft cloth.

2. Create a Natural Deodorant

Pour some baking soda into a powder box. Then use a powder puff to dab the dry soda under your armpits!

3. Remove Crayon Marks Instantly!

Dip a clean, damp sponge into a bowl of baking soda. Use the sponge to instantly remove crayon marks off of walls, floors, and furniture.

4. Whiten Your Teeth

Simply dip your wet tooth brush into a box of baking soda. Then, brush your teeth as normal. The soda will whiten your teeth and freshen your breath at the same time!

5. Create an Auto Air Freshener

Fill up the ashtrays in your car, truck, or van with plain old baking soda. The soda will help to freshen the air and eliminate odors!

6. Dry Clean Your Pet

Sprinkle some baking soda on your dog or cat’s fur. Then, brush the soda through the fur thoroughly. It will clean and freshen your pet in between baths!

7. Use to Deodorize the Litter Box

Sprinkle an even layer in your cat’s litter box every time you clean it. It will help to remove smells and odors.

8. Use as an Affordable Carpet Deodorizer

Sprinkle baking soda evenly across a carpet. Allow the soda to sit undisturbed for several hours. Then, vacuum it up and the room will smell odor free!

9. Heal Sunburn, Poison Ivy and Chicken Pox

Pour a half cup of baking soda into a bathtub of warm water. Soak the affected areas for a half hour.

Soda will relieve pain, itching, and redness.

10. Relieve a Bee Sting

Mix up a thick paste of baking soda and tap water. Place it on the bee sting area and cover it with

a cloth and tape. This will relieve the swelling and pain.

11. Clean a Corroded Battery

Mix up a paste of baking soda and tap water. Then, use the paste and an old toothbrush to clean off corrosion on a battery.

12. Clean Your Coffeemaker

Thoroughly mix a couple teaspoons of soda in with the water in your coffeemaker reservoir. Run the solution through, then run another reservoir full of plain water through.

13. Make a Cheap Face Wash

Wet your face with cool tap water. Then, wet your fingertips, then dip them in baking soda. Gently rub across your face. The soda will exfoliate your pores and clean your skin.

14. Clean Your Refrigerator

Mix a half cup of baking soda in a gallon of warm water. Use the solution and a soft cloth to wash the interior of your refrigerator. It cleans the interior easily!

15. Use as a Natural Bug Repellent

Place a line of baking soda around your walls to help repel ants and other crawling insects.

16. A Great Laundry Additive

Add a half cup of baking soda to every load of laundry. It will whiten and remove smelly odors!

17. Ditch the Store Bought Foot Powder

Instead of using foot powder, sprinkle inexpensive baking soda on your feet and in your shoes!

18. Make a Denture Soak

Pour a teaspoon of soda into your denture cup. Add warm water and stir, then soak your dentures;

brush as usual. Your dentures will be whiter and cleaner!

19. Keep Coolers Smelling Fresh

Before you store coolers in the winter, place an open box of baking soda inside each one. The soda will remove stale odors!

20. Use as a Sink Cleanser

Dip a wet sponge in baking soda, then scrub your kitchen and bathroom sinks; rinse well. Stains will be removed, and the sinks will shine!

21. Use as a Microwave Cleanser

Dip a wet sponge in baking soda and scrub out the inside of your microwave! Dried food will come off easily!

22. Wash a Kiddy Pool

Use baking soda and a scratcher to clean the inside of your kid’s pool. It will remove grass stains, mold, et cetera.

23. Inexpensive Toilet Cleaner

Sprinkle a half of cup of baking soda into your toilet bowls. Swish it around with a brush, then let it stand overnight. The bowl will be clean and fresh!

24. Deodorize Pet Accidents

Mop up the accident, then sprinkle baking soda on and rub it in. Allow it to dry, then vacuum it up. The soda will deodorize the area!

25. Use as a Comb and Brush Cleaner

Place a quarter cup of soda in a sink with hot water. Add the combs and brushes, and swirl them around. Let them soak, then clean and rinse as usual.

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How to make a perfect cheesecake

How to make a perfect cheesecake

Here are tips for the perfect cheesecake. Cheesecakes are one of the most popular recipes to make at home, yet some people have problems getting them to turn out right.

Cheesecake is a one of America’s most popular recipes. Considering the high cost of cheesecake in stores and restaurants, and the endless variety of cheesecakes you can make, why not get started at home?

Many people are afraid cheesecakes are hard to make, or avoid them because of recurrent problems when making them. However, with these quick tips you should be on your way to a perfect cheesecake!

Make it Creamy! One of the main keys to a good cheesecake is getting it creamy instead of lumpy. Yet when you sit down to make a cheesecake, the batter is often very lumpy and hard to manage. What to do?

There are two keys to avoiding lumps – first, make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature. Cold ingredients don’t mix as well as room temperature ones. Secondly, make sure that you’ve mixed the cheeses and eggs together before you move on to any of the liquid ingredients or creams. If the eggs and cheese are creamy, then you can mix in the liquid ingredients with more confidence and get a better texture.

Be careful with the egg whites. If your recipe calls for beaten egg whites, then be careful when you mix them in. You should try to keep them from losing too much of their volume.

Mix it correctly. Your home mixer is not usually the best way to mix cheesecake ingredients. The most common complaint about home cheesecakes is the cracking – and one of the main culprits for this problem is excess air that is incorporated into the mix by beaters. The best way is with the paddle attachments of a home mixer. I’ve also been successful mixing by hand.

Cook it slowly. The number one way to get a cracked cheesecake is to misunderstand it’s thermodynamics! Cheesecakes do not like temperature swings. If you heat it up to fast or cool it down too fast you’re going to get cracks.

Generally a cheesecake is cooked at a somewhat low temperature (check you recipe). You might be tempted to cheat on this, but the result will likely be cracking. The same goes for cooling. If you get anxious and go from oven to fidge, you’re likely to get cracking again. Try to cool it down slowly.

Know when it’s done. Since cheesecakes don’t have baking soda or yeast, they don’t rise it’s a bit tough to figure out when they are ready to come out of the oven. Two indicators that will help you are the “finish” of the top and the consistency. A cheesecake will usually be soft when it’s done, but it should NOT be “wobbly” near the center. Also, as a cheesecake nears completion the surface finish turns from shiny to dull.

Experiment! Don’t be afraid to experiment with your cheesecake when it comes to the crust or additional elements. Many cookies and crackers can make good cheesecake crusts when crushed and firmed up with a bit of melted butter.

Lighten up! Homemade food is just that – homemade. I once had a friend who took pictures for food catalogs. He was an Austrian trained pastry chef with a very good degree in pastry making. Without exception he build fake pastries for the catalog. “You just can’t bake a perfect looking pastry,” he explained. So consider it’s little imperfections as proof of your loving care in it’s creation and enjoy your cheesecake even if it’s less than perfect!

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