Way to start off with the obvious, huh? It’s true though. Chefs all over the country are firing up their grills now that the warmer months have arrived. “A grill is always a grill, whether you rock a two-foot kettle charcoal number of a gas-fueled beast with more knobs than an airplane cockpit,” said Boston Phoenix writer, Cassandra Landry, in her article, “Six Local Chefs Serve Up Quick Summer Recipe Tips.” Customers enjoy the grill, especially when the weather is nice and there is outdoor seating. There are also customers who simply enjoy the taste of foods that have been cooked on the grill. So if you’re a novice chef eager to learn more, check out Forbes’ “Summer Grilling Tips From Top Chefs” to help get you started.
Food on a Stick
Food on a stick has moved ahead in the world—we aren’t only seeing skewered chicken or shrimp kabobs; restaurants and bakeries are getting creative. One of the biggest trends is the cake pop. The word “pop” makes you think of something like a Popsicle or a lollipop, which is where the idea stems from. It’s literally cake on a stick.
“The cake pop is a mixture of a lollipop and a delicious cake, which creates a classy dessert for everyone to enjoy,” said Lianne Khatcherian in the blog, “Cake Pops: Delicious Dessert Trend.” And as a side note, cake pops can provide great portion control and will also help your customers not ingest as many calories (unless of course you make them otherwise). However, while cake pops seem to be a huge trend, you can do all kinds of things with different foods on sticks. The big idea here is to be creative. In the blog “12 New Ways To Use Toothpicks & Fun with Finger Food,” while they provide many other uses for toothpicks, the end of the blog has neat pictures with different ways people have put food on sticks. They make for great appetizers, side dishes and desserts.
Grain salads aren’t anything new, but according to Bon Appetit, they are a summer menu trend for 2012. “This summer, we’re loving whole grains. Not just for the nutritional boost they bring to the table,” the site said, “but for the backbone they give these bright, toss-together salads.” When it comes to grain salad recipes, they vary. There are all different kinds. Do a quick Google search on “grain salads” and each result will be different. Some include grains with lettuce, while others add grains in with fruit or nuts.
Want to try a grain salad out and have some fun? Check out Fine Cooking’s Create Your Own Grain Salad. It’s kind of like a virtual version of a “make your own salad” restaurant, only with grains. You pick and choose your ingredients, and then it provides you with a recipe to try it yourself! So if you’re looking for ways to change up your restaurant’s salad menu, grain salads may be the way to go.
One of the ways chefs can get creative is taking advantage of what’s in-season and creating menus specifically from those items. Fruits & Veggies More Matters lists over 65 foods that are in-season this summer (as well as fall, winter and spring too), with some of those being casaba melon, champagne grapes, chayote squash, endive, edamame, honeydew melons, peas, sapote, watermelon and zucchini. There are all kinds of items you can add in for summer you wouldn’t be able to use in the other months. Get in touch with your distributor or a local farmers market to see what different items you can get in your restaurant.
Stumped for ideas? Well first off, going back to the second idea in this blog, could you put any of the items on a stick? There’s more than that though, check out some of these recipe ideas in Food Network’s article “In Season Now, Taste of Summer.”
Move over ice cream, frozen yogurt and custard, there are many other items that are perfect for the warm weather and provide diversity in a menu. We’ll only go over two, but do your research, you’ll find tons of ideas. First, there’s frozen Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt isn’t anything new, but seems to have gained in popularity lately over the last few years. “Greek yogurt has much lower lactose than regular yogurt,” said Rajan Jolly in the article “The Health Benefits of Greek Yogurt and Frozen Yogurt.” Also, the article said, “…the removal of whey removes a lot of sugar and in effect, calories, while increasing the amount of protein which is almost double due to it becoming denser as compared to the same volume of regular yogurt.” While many say they can’t tell a difference in taste, Greek yogurt does have its differences from regular yogurt, and can be a good way to change up a menu.
For the second idea, there’s frozen kefir. Kefir isn’t something glaringly popular (many probably haven’t even heard of it), but it definitely has a distinct tart taste that sets it apart from frozen yogurt. “It contains beneficial yeast as well as friendly ‘probiotic’ bacteria found in yogurt,” explained Kefir.net. They continue to say it is loaded with valuable vitamins and minerals, along with easily digestible complete proteins. And, as an added bonus to fit the needs for lactose-free customers, “for the lactose intolerant, kefir’s abundance or beneficial yeast and bacteria provide lactase, an enzyme which consumes most of the lactose left after culturing process.” So adding either of these, or any unique frozen dessert item, will be intriguing and can add some variety to the menu.
Most people cook, to some extent, on a daily basis and everyone was instructed from some source whether it was a cooking show or their grandmother. Along the way, many kitchen mistakes have been passed from person to person. Some were thought to be useful or time-saving ideas, while others have simply become habits over the years. So how do you know what’s wrong and what’s right when making your next meal? Here are just a few tips on common missteps you may be taking every day in your kitchen and how they can be solved .
Blunder #1: Putting oil in your pasta water
Why it’s wrong: When you first started cooking, chances are one of your first dishes was pasta of some sort. More than likely you were told to add a little oil to the water to prevent the pasta from sticking together. Makes sense right? Wrong! Adding oil to your pasta water actually doesn’t do any good for the pasta itself. At best the oil will float on top of the water (remember how oil and water don’t mix?) and at worst it will coat the pasta and prevent any sauce from being absorbed.
How to fix it: Instead of using oil, you can prevent your pasta from sticking by doing one simple thing…stirring regularly. It’s also a smart move to use a pot that is large enough for the amount of pasta.
Blunder #2: Don’t overcrowd
Why it’s wrong: You’ve done it before. You, your family, etc. are starving and you want to just throw everything in the pan and get it cooked up fast. What’s so wrong about getting your stomach full faster? Well, overcrowding your pan does a few bad things. First, the more food you have in the pan, the lower your pan temperature goes. This can lead to undercooking some pieces while others get burnt and ends up actually making your cooking take longer. Second, it can actually change the flavor of what you’re cooking (especially if different elements are being cooked together).
How to fix it: Cook your food in batches. While it may seem like it takes longer, your pan will actually stay at the desired temperature ensuring that all ingredients are done to the correct degree and preventing re-cooking or burning.
Tool for the job: Grab a Vollrath Nonstick CeramiGuard II Finish Pan. Remembering to not overcrowd the pan plus cooking on a non-stick surface will help make sure your food is cooked evenly and isn’t burnt on the bottom.
Blunder #3: Don’t turn food too often
Why it’s wrong: It’s tempting to turn your food to prevent it from burning and to ensure that both sides get cooked equally. However, the more you move the food the less time it’s actually getting to cook. While it doesn’t seem like much time for the food item to be away from the pan, because food is cooked by laying on the hot pan, when it is moved the food has to reheat itself to bring it back up to the correct cooking temperature.
How to fix it: There is one simple tool that can prevent frivolous flipping, a meat thermometer. This tool will allow you to check the temperature on the food to know when it should be flipped. It’s also helpful to know the general rules on how hot to cook your food and how long on each side. Go here for a nice guide.
Tool for the job: Instead of turning your meat repeatedly to see if it’s done, it much safer to use a meat thermometer like the Cooper Atkins Dial Meat Thermometer to check the meat’s temperature. This will help you keep from overcooking and keep your steaks (and other items) juicy and delicious.
Blunder #4: Not tasting your food
as you go
Why it’s wrong: You’ve followed the recipe and put in exactly what was instructed. Of course, it should taste great and be seasoned perfectly. In a perfect world, this would be true. However, in the real world, everybody’s taste preferences are different. By simply going by instruction you could end up with food that is totally bland or way over seasoned.
How to fix it: The easiest way to fix this is to taste and then season as you go. While it may seem like common sense, you have to season a little, taste and adjust. By doing this you’ll not only make a dish that works with your tastes, you may also create your own version of a great recipe. It’s also smart to follow seasoning guidelines about fresh and dried herbs. Sounds easy enough, but if you substitute one for the other it could increase/decrease the desired taste outcome. If you happen to accidently over-season a dish, there are also ways to fix these by using this handy guide.
Blunder #5: Not using an appropriately sharp knife
Why it’s wrong: It’s often thought that by using a duller knife you’ll be less likely to cut yourself. In fact, the exact opposite is true. By using a knife with a sharp blade you will have to use less pressure to cut food and the blade will be less likely to slip through what you’re cutting. Sharp knives will also ensure better, cleaner cuts to food, making more consistent, visually pleasing incisions.
How to fix it: It may be tempting to go out and buy new, expensive knives to fix this mistake, but it isn’t always necessary. Just because a blade is pricey doesn’t necessarily mean it will work well. The best advice is to buy a sharpening tool to keep up on your knife’s blade. Taking care of your knife is also important. Make sure to use either wood or plastic cutting boards, wash and dry the blade right after use and store them in their own area.
Tool for the job: Purchase a Mundial 7 Piece Knife Set to make sure you have every cutlery tool you will need to cook just like a professional. It even includes a sharpening steel so you can always ensure that your cutlery is up to snuff and your food will be sliced, chopped and diced with ease.
Now that you have these handy tips, try them out in your own kitchen and see if things go a bit more smoothly (no more cutting yourself due to a dull knife) and your food taste just a little better (undoubtedly your steaks will be juicier). You might also want to pass these tricks of the trade on (maybe to that person who taught them to you) to help start new kitchen habits.
Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season. Here is a cookie recipe from All Recipes perfect for all your holiday events. Don’t forget to use the blog on Central’s cooking tips with information for making the best cookies.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Ready In: 20 minutes
Servings: 24 (2 dozen)
- 1 cup butter flavored shortening
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons Mexican vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups milk chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.
- In a large bowl, cream together the butter flavored shortening, brown sugar and white sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition, then stir in the vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; gradually stir into the creamed mixture. Finally, fold in the chocolate chips. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheets.
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until light brown. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
Footnotes, Editors Note
Mexican vanilla extract can be found in Mexican grocery stores. If you can’t find it, feel free to substitute regular vanilla extract.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 241 | Total Fat: 13.7g | Cholesterol: 22mg