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Don’t Break These Mexican Food Cooking Rules

Posted by on Feb 19, 2016 in Blog, Food & Cooking | Comments Off on Don’t Break These Mexican Food Cooking Rules

If you’ve ever had a bad Mexican meal, it is likely simply because the meal wasn’t cooked properly. There are certain rules that must be followed to cook the perfect authentic Mexican meal. Show Caution With Hot Sauce If you are used to adding hot sauce to food to give it extra zing, always taste a Mexican dish before attempting to do this. Hot sauce can easily overpower Mexican dishes that are often already very powerful. If you are craving a spicy dish, it is better to order a recipe that is made to be spicy in the first place than to try to modify it yourself. Limit The Cheese Mexican dishes are often associated, by Westerners, as being full of cheese. However, the act of filling Mexican food with cheeses is a relatively new practice and most authentic dishes are not stuffed with cheese. If you’d like to add more flavor to an authentic Mexican dish, try adding more onions and cilantro. When you do add cheese, add only a small amount of traditional cheese such as cotija, panela or Oaxaca. Don’t Rely Only On White Meats Authentic Mexican dishes frequently use dark meats because they add a lot of flavor to the dish. Also, dark meats are more complex and stay moist for longer. Use The Right Tortilla Know when to use flour or corn tortillas. In most cases, you can use either. However, quesadillas need to have the flexibility of flour tortillas. Corn tortillas are more useful if you need more structure so that your dish does not fall apart. Also, a taco is only as good as its tortilla, so make sure that the tortilla is fresh and do not buy a brand that is too cheap. Prepare The Tortilla Properly If you’ve ever had a tortilla that cracked, this is likely because you did not heat it up. Corn tortillas will crack if they are not made pliable by briefly heating them. The tortilla should be heated in a skillet that is already warm so that it does not stick. It should not be warmed in a microwave because this will cause the tortilla to crack. Prepare The Meat Properly The meats and sauces need time to intermingle to produce the perfect flavor, so Mexican foods are ideal for slow cooking. Add The Right Amount Of Water To The Rice Mexican food relies a lot on rice. To make the rice as fluffy and delicious as possible, do not skimp on water or it will be to dry and hard. However, do not add too much either because the rice will be very gummy.   With a little attention to technique, you can enjoy delicious Mexican food (read more...

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Five Fun Ice Ideas to Talk to Your Caterer About

Posted by on Feb 8, 2016 in Blog, Food & Cooking | Comments Off on Five Fun Ice Ideas to Talk to Your Caterer About

No party or get-together is complete without ice, and your caterer may have some interesting ideas to incorporate ice in your party or event theme that your guests have never seen before. There are some clever and creative ways to make use of this inexpensive and versatile staple; consider these five fun ice ideas for your next party. 1. Make adult slushies for your party. Make pitchers of adult slushies for your event by buying crushed ice, paper cups, flavored syrup, and your favorite spirits. Combine the syrup and liquor to taste and drizzle over cups of ice for guests. Have catering staff set up a slushy station for a fun focal point at your next party. Some great flavors for your adults-only slushies include these: Refreshing raspberry liqueur Rich Irish cream Coffee-flavored brandy or liqueur Orange-infused Blue Curacao Pretty green melon liqueur Fruity schnapps, such as blueberry, cherry, or green apple   2. Freeze fruits for your highballs. If you are making your own ice, consider filling Bundt pans or other freezer-proof serving dishes with cut up fruit and water. These make excellent and inexpensive fruit rings for punch bowls. Your caterer may have access to shaped or distinctive molds to make impressive ice rings that suit your party theme, too. 3. Use seltzer for bubbles in your ice. Make your ice have a little bit of sparkle by using carbonated water or seltzer. You can make your own carbonated water with a rented soda machine and tank of CO2. Some caterers may already have these implements to create cool, carbonated beverages. 4. Create a frosty focal point. Use blocks of ice to create a cool structure in the middle of an outdoor party. Many crafty caterers may be able to create (or order) an alluring and one-of-a-kind ice sculpture for your event. 5. Set up a refreshing bar. Fill catering pans with ice and use these to arrange your liquor and mixers for your bar. Have one area for your garnishes, fruits, and bottled drinks, and nest spirits in ice on display for your guests. This keeps everything cold while looking very modern and contemporary. Look around for ice vendors in your area and try some of these inexpensive party ideas. Plan ahead and know where you will store ice prior to your event, or ask caterers about bringing these features to your gathering. Coordinate with a caterer like Grand Street Cafe and find out what other frosty features they can provide at your next...

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Experimenting With Food? Make A Unique Family Dessert With Dry Ice

Posted by on Dec 24, 2015 in Blog, Food & Cooking | Comments Off on Experimenting With Food? Make A Unique Family Dessert With Dry Ice

For the unadventurous home cook, the idea of using dry ice for home food preparation is likely to be met with disbelief, but for those cooks who love to try new recipes and techniques, it can seem like a chance to do a really awesome science experiment with an edible reward at the end. If you are someone who enjoys experimenting with unique ingredients, recipes and preparation methods, then dry ice could well become the next frontier to explore in your kitchen adventures. Safe Handling Practices Because dry ice actually is a common name for frozen carbon dioxide, it can reach temperatures that are much colder than regular ice and requires some special handling guidelines to prevent painful skin damage. When using dry ice, always remember:   to wear protective gloves and never allow the dry ice to come into direct contact with bare skin to not ingest dry ice, even though it is not poison, ingesting something that cold could cause serious damage to your digestive system and body to not allow children to use dry ice without close adult supervision to use dry ice only in well ventilated rooms so that the gases released as it melts can dissipate harmlessly to leave the lid ajar on containers when using dry ice to prevent an expansion that might cause the container to explode Making Dessert Pancakes Using Dry Ice Now that you know how to handle dry ice safely, here is a really unique way to use it in the preparation of your next family dessert. Imagine a dessert made of layer after layer of flash frozen ice cream shaped like pancakes with chocolate, strawberry or caramel sauce for syrup? If this sounds delicious, you will be happy to know it is very easy to make. You will need the following ingredients and equipment: dry ice in block form cookie sheet cutting board, preferably a thick wooden one protective gloves and dish towels ice cream in your choice of flavors sturdy zip-close plastic bags, one for each flavor of ice cream flavorless cooking spray kitchen shears, spoons and a spatula chilled dessert plates or bowls sauces and toppings of your choice To assemble the surface on which you will make your ice cream pancakes, place the cutting board on the kitchen counter and then cover it with the folded kitchen towel. Place the block of dry ice on top of the kitchen towel. Spray the cookie sheet with cooking spray and then place it on top of the dry ice. Wait a few minutes for the metal surface of the cookie sheet to get very cold (resisting the urge to touch it, of course). Scoop some of each flavor of ice cream into the plastic bags, keeping the flavors separate. Close the bags and then massage them briefly in your hands until they are softened. Using kitchen shears, clip one corner of the bag off to form an opening to squeeze the soft ice cream onto the cookie sheet in the shape of pancakes. Allow it to harden, then remove the ice cream pancake and place it in a chilled dessert bowl, repeating the process until you have enough servings for your family. Decorate with sauces and toppings and watch your family smile at the unique presentation of your...

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What to Ask before You Purchase a Commercial Ice Maker

Posted by on Nov 12, 2015 in Blog, Food & Cooking | Comments Off on What to Ask before You Purchase a Commercial Ice Maker

If you own or manage a bar or restaurant, you know how critical ice can be. Run out of ice and most of your drinks are blah and unappetizing. However, you don’t want to make a lot more ice than you can use in a day since the bottom of the ice bin will develop an off taste after a while. The ideal ice maker is one that will allow you to vary your capacity depending on the shift and the day of the week while operating without a lot of maintenance or downtime. To make sure that you get the appliance that will work best for you, it’s important that you ask the right questions before you purchase or lease an ice maker for your establishment. Four questions to ask before buying an ice maker 1. What style ice cubes would you like? Unlike home ice makers, where the ice is generally the same size and shape, there are a myriad of choices of ice styles when it comes to commercial ice machines. For instance, with commercial ice machines, you can opt for full dice (the large, full-sized ice cubes), half dice (the half-moon sized ice cubes) or nugget ice (the pellet or shaved-style ice). 2. Do you need a filter? The answer to this is most likely yes. Not only will a water filter help the ice taste sweeter with a filter, but you’ll avoid serving milky ice cubes, which (though perfectly safe) can be off-putting to your guests. 3. What size storage bin do I need? Usually storage bins are sold separately from the ice maker itself. However, this is still an essential piece of equipment. Without a bin, you have no place to keep the ice while it’s waiting to be served in a drink. A good rule of thumb is to buy a bin that will hold 24 hours worth of ice product with a little extra room for scooping. 4. How can I be environmentally conscious about making ice? The best way to conserve on water and fuel for your ice maker is to carefully match your system to your ice needs. Making more ice than you can use in a day wastes both water and electricity. You can also save by making sure to shut off the system when your restaurant is going to be closed for more than a day, such as over a holiday weekend or between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Buying a commercial ice machine doesn’t have to be confusing. Simply ask about ice cube styles, filters, storage bins, and capacity to find the ice maker that will work best for your place of business. Get in touch with a representative from an establishment like Shealy-Hodges Corporation to get...

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3 Tips For Making Better Mexican Food At Home

Posted by on Sep 29, 2015 in Blog, Food & Cooking | Comments Off on 3 Tips For Making Better Mexican Food At Home

Do you ever feel like the Mexican food you make at home falls flat? Because combining grilled meats, warm tortillas, and shredded cheese looks easy, most people figure that creating Mexican masterpieces in their own kitchens will be a snap. However, making a few simple mistakes could leave you with a greasy, unappetizing mess. Here are three tips for making better Mexican food at home: 1: Shop For Fresh Ingredients Don’t fall for that bottled salsa. Instead, do your best to gather together fresh, never frozen ingredients. Make your own salsa, grill your own chicken, and chop up some fresh cilantro. These days, you can even find fresh ingredients that are packaged for novice Mexican food chefs. For example, you can buy fresh, uncooked tortillas that are already pressed into thin sheets. By simply tossing them into a hot, non-stick skillet, you can create fluffy, warm tortillas in a few minutes. If you are worried about wasting ingredients, you shouldn’t be. Most Mexican dishes use common ingredients, which means that you can use them in different ways for another Mexican meal a few days later. 2: Use Fatty Toppings Sparingly Since cheese, sour cream, and guacamole taste great, most people make the mistake of piling them all over burritos, tacos, or even tortilla soup. Unfortunately, in addition to adding boatloads of calories to your fresh Mexican cuisine, you might also be adding a lot of grease to your dish—which can be unappetizing. Instead, focus on making the meal taste great—without relying on extra toppings. Pack meats with flavor by rubbing them in Mexican spices, such as ground cumin. If you are preparing a meal for someone else, offer toppings on the side, not directly on the guest’s plate. That way, they can pick and choose the flavors and consistency of their own meal. 3: Don’t Be Afraid of a Little Heat When you cook Mexican food, don’t be afraid of cooking with spicy ingredients, such as peppers. Heat adds another dimension to taste, which will keep people coming back for more. When you use peppers, start small and add chopped peppers gradually. To take the edge off of the punch, consider roasting peppers over an open flame. After placing the pepper in a sealed plastic bag to steam, the burned skin will easily peel away. The roasting mellows out the flavor, while adding another element to your dish. By knowing a few Mexican food cooking tips, you might be able to whip up tasty meals for your family and friends anytime you like.  If you’d prefer to have someone else do the cooking for a change, visit a local restaurant such as Lares...

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3 Things You Can Add To Your Muffins To Make Them Extra Healthy

Posted by on Aug 5, 2015 in Blog, Food & Cooking | Comments Off on 3 Things You Can Add To Your Muffins To Make Them Extra Healthy

If you like baking muffins, you might find yourself looking for ingredients to spice them up. Maybe you’re looking for a change of pace from blueberries, chocolate chips and corn. If you are, then you should take the time to use ingredients that are really good for you. There are some really fantastic ingredients that you can add that taste great and will turn your morning muffin into a healthy breakfast. Here are 3 really healthy ingredients you can add to your muffins. Chia Seeds Chia seeds are indigenous to Mexico. They have become very popular because they are rich in omega fatty acids. In addition to omega fatty acids, they are also a great source of B-complex vitamins and zinc. You can mix them into the muffin batter, or sprinkle them on top after the batter is poured into the cups, creating a crunchy topping. You can usually find organic chia seeds for sale at local organic food markets. Acai  Berries Acai berries have been getting a lot of attention due to their anti-oxidant levels. They are also packed with amino acids, which is fantastic because amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Because muffins tend not to have much, if any protein, this is a great way to boost your morning muffin into a protein rich breakfast. You can get dried acai berries and mix them in as if they were blueberries. Walnuts Walnuts are an amazing source of omega fatty acids. They have been called the best nut for your heart. They also provide fat and protein. This is important because if you’re eating a muffin for breakfast you want fat and protein, not just carbs. A great way to add walnuts to your muffins is to create a healthy streusel. Crush walnuts and combine them in a bowl with brown sugar and coconut oil (instead of butter) and spoon it over your muffins when they are halfway done cooking. You’ll end up with a super crunchy muffin with loads of anti-oxidants and healthy fats. Fresh Cranberries If you haven’t made cranberry muffins, then you should definitely do so. They are a great mixture of sweet and tangy. Cranberries are loaded with anti-oxidants, specifically vitamin C. They are also excellent at preventing urinary tract problems as well as kidney stones. However, you shouldn’t use dried cranberries because they contain sugar. Instead, use fresh cranberries; purchase a bag of fresh cranberries, wash them and soak them in water. If you’ve never handled fresh cranberries they might seem too hard. Don’t worry; they soften up in the muffin during the bake. The sourness of the cranberry provides an excellent counterpoint to the sweetness of the...

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Why You Should Switch To Grade B Maple Syrup

Posted by on Jun 23, 2015 in Blog, Food & Cooking | Comments Off on Why You Should Switch To Grade B Maple Syrup

Grade B maple syrup will change the way you eat pancakes and waffles for the rest of your life! If you are used to cheap table syrups and generic maple syrup, you won’t believe how good Grade B maple syrup is. This article gives reasons why Grade B maple syrup is so great. What is Grade B? Grade B syrup is collected from maples tree later in the season. This is why it is so dark in color. These trees are commonly located in Vermont and Canada. You would probably have to be a maple syrup expert to tell the difference in the flavor of these two sources. Perhaps the most distinct flavor in maple syrup is the caramel aftertaste. This makes it extremely delicious on pancakes, crepes and waffles. However, this also makes grade B syrup ideal for many cooking and baking recipes as a sugar substitute. Pure Maple, Nothing More Unlike most table syrups that are common at restaurants and in grocery stores, Grade B syrup is much runnier. This is because it is all natural with no preservatives. No thickening agents added. No sugar. No high fructose corn syrup. No artificial colors. No artificial flavors. No chemicals. Grade B maple syrup is the real deal, it does not need any sweetening or refinement. Even though grade B maple does not have any added sugar, it is actually much sweeter than other table syrups. This is because it is much more concentrated. It is not watered down or thickened. Most syrup manufacturers refine their product so that it can have a longer shelf life. However, adding all the chemicals and preservatives weakens the flavor of the syrup. Because of this, table syrup has added sugar and artificial flavors in order to replicate (or resurrect) the flavor of pure maple. Since there are no preservatives, you need to keep maple syrup refrigerated after opening. So, you might want to microwave it real quick before serving it with hot items at breakfast. Pure maple syrup is more expensive than processed table syrup, but it is also much healthier. It is a great source of zinc, manganese, amino acids and vitamin B6. It is healthier and tastier! It is easy to see why so many people switch over to pure maple syrup. Grade B maple syrup is the top of its class, and once you switch, you will never want to go back to the...

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3 Tips For Accommodating Vegetarian Guests At Your Wedding

Posted by on May 20, 2015 in Blog, Food & Cooking | Comments Off on 3 Tips For Accommodating Vegetarian Guests At Your Wedding

Planning the perfect menu for your wedding can be challenging enough, and it can be even tougher if some of your guests live a vegetarian lifestyle. However, it’s easier than you probably think to accommodate your non-meat-eating friends. Follow these tips, and you can ensure that everyone at your wedding is able to enjoy their meal. 1. Consider a Buffet-Style Catering Option There are a few benefits to choosing a buffet-style catering option for your wedding. Many find that buffet styles are more affordable and easier, but another benefit is that it makes it easier for you to accommodate your vegetarian guests. With a buffet, your vegetarian guests can load up their plates with side dishes, breads and other foods, rather than meats. Just make sure that there are plenty of filling side dish options, such as rice, potatoes and pasta, so that your guests don’t leave hungry. 2. Serve Pasta Pasta is always a good option at weddings, and it can be an even better choice if there will be vegetarian guests present. Then, you can offer a meat-free option, such as a delicious spaghetti or cheese ravioli with tomato sauce, or a tasty fettuccine with Alfredo sauce. You might find that even the meat-eaters at your wedding will choose one of your pasta options, and you can always offer meatballs, grilled chicken or Italian sausage links on the side for those who want a little bit of meat with their meal. 3. Find Out Beforehand On your invitation, ask that your guests RSVP with any special diet information. If you know ahead of time who will need special accommodations, it will be easier for you to work with your caterer and ensure that there is a good option for your vegetarian guests. This is also a good way to find out about other dietary concerns, such as allergies, so that your caterer can be ready for them. You might already be stressed about the idea of choosing a wedding caterer for your wedding, and if you know that some of your guests will not eat meat, you might be even more worried. Luckily, however, there is no reason to really stress yourself out about this aspect of wedding planning. If you follow these three tips and work with the right wedding catering company, it will be easier than you think to ensure that all of your guests have something great to eat while at your...

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Chilling Out: Keeping Produce Fresh With Ammonia Refrigeration Systems

Posted by on Apr 1, 2015 in Blog, Food & Cooking | 0 comments

When you specialize in food service or commercial food distribution, one of the most important aspects of your business is ensuring that you are keeping all of the fresh foods at the proper temperature. Commercial refrigeration systems are the best way to do this, and in many environments, ammonia refrigeration is a popular option. If you’ve never used an ammonia refrigeration system, you may not be familiar with how it works or how to use it safely. Here’s a look at the basics of ammonia refrigeration to help you determine if it is a good fit for your business. An Overview of Ammonia Refrigeration Ammonia refrigeration systems are constructed using three separate components to build a vapor compression cycle. The system will include a condenser, an evaporator and a compressor. The ammonia gas passes through the compressor where it becomes a liquid. That liquid is then forced through the condenser, which cools it. From there, it is routed through the evaporator, which converts it back into a gas. That gas will then absorb and disperse any residual heat. Things to Watch Out For with Ammonia Refrigeration Any vibration in the system, corrosion of the pipes or mechanical damage in the cooling structure can lead to leaks. An ammonia leak can be a serious concern, because ammonia is a hazardous substance. It can become explosive when mixed with air. As a result, you’ll want to inspect the pipes often for any potential signs of wear or corrosion. You should also monitor the valves, because any debris in the system can become stuck in the valves. This will plug the valve and slow the ammonia flow. Over time, this can not only cause the system to operate inefficiently, but it could cause a pressure buildup that leads to an ammonia leak. Ensuring Overall Safety of Ammonia Refrigeration When you decide to install an ammonia refrigeration system, make sure you place all of the core cooling components in an outbuilding so that they are detached from the main structure. This can help protect your main building in the event of an ammonia leak in the compressor or condenser. If the structure of your building makes this impossible, try to place it in a room with an exterior door and several exterior walls. If possible, line the walls with a fire-resistant material. Add air vents to the roof and into the walls around the room where you install the condenser and other components. Place some exhaust vents near the ceiling to vend the ammonia out of the room. Since ammonia is lighter than air, the ammonia will drift out those vents. Add some fresh air vents near the floor to draw air into the room. With an understanding of how the system works and the hazards associated with it, you can implement an ammonia refrigeration structure that will help you keep all of your fresh foods cold and safe for use or transport. Talk with a commercial refrigeration specialist to help you determine if it is a good fit for your...

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Save Money On Pork Chops And Chicken With Some Basic Knife Skills

Posted by on Feb 26, 2015 in Blog, Food & Cooking | 0 comments

Purchasing meat can prove to be one of the more expensive tasks when grocery shopping. This is particularly true if you’re following recipes that call for boneless pork chops or boneless skinless chicken breasts. Unless you catch a sale, these and other specialty meat items can carry a hefty price tag.  But with a bit of know how and some cautious knife skills, you can get similar meat for a far lower price. Create Boneless Chops from a Pork Loin Check the butcher shop area of your grocery store for deals on large boneless pork loins. You can often find good deals because not many people need that amount of meat or want to deal with breaking it down into smaller sizes. To cut down the pork loin, you need a cutting board, a sharp knife and decent enough knife skills that you aren’t in danger of lopping off a finger. There are a few different cuts you can get out of a pork loin and you can also do all of them if you want some variety. The easiest cut is to make boneless chops. Hold the loin firm with one hand and begin making even slices through the meat to create pork chops. Try to keep the chops even at about an inch or two in thickness. If your knife is sharp, it should pass easily through the meat to create the chops. You can take the chops a step further by doing a butterfly cut, which makes it easier to evenly fry the chop and makes it perfect for stuffing. Lay a chop out flat and use your knife to make a shallow horizontal cut that goes from one side to about half an inch from the other side. Deepen the cut a bit until there’s only just enough of a connection between the two sides to hold them together. Use Bone-In, Skin-On Chicken Thighs for Your Poultry Needs Chicken thighs don’t have the diet industry public relations that follow boneless skinless chicken breasts around. But the thighs are packed with flavor, remain tender in most cooking applications, and are most importantly among the cheapest cuts of chicken if you opt for bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs.  What if you don’t want to use the bone or skin? It’s very easy to remove these items using a sharp paring knife. The skin should hang somewhat loose on the thigh. Simply slide your knife under the skin and use careful sawing motions to finish separating the skin from the thigh. To remove the bone, flip the thigh over to the opposite side from where you just removed the skin. There’s only one bone and it’s very easy to find. Grab the part of the bone that sticks out furthest from the thigh — it will look a bit like a nub. Hold onto that nub and use your knife to gently trace along the bone that’s embedded into the chicken. Work to carefully free the bone from the meat without losing too much of the meat with it. Set aside the unused skin and bone to make homemade chicken stock, which can further save you money at the grocery store. (For more information on meats, contact Custom Quality Meats or another...

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