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2.04.2012

Cake Decorating Tips

Did you know that the first cakes baked in America where small loaves of sweet bread? Look how far we have come. Home bakers should not be intimidated by the elaborate cakes being made today. You do not need to be a pastry chef to make beautiful cakes, you just need the know-how and practice. Of course the right tools will go a long way in your cake decorating endeavors. Here are a few tips you might like to try.


Every cake worth merit starts with a smooth icing. The cake needs to cool completely before they are iced and decorated. To keep crumbs from ending up in your icing and ruining the look of your cake, start with a thin base coat of frosting that is not quite as stiff as the regular layer will be. Once this coat is on, set the cake in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. This will set the icing and any crumbs will be caught in this first layer. Now you can spread a regular layer of icing without worrying about crumbs.

Use an icing spatula to apply and smooth the second coat of icing. Once the icing is on the cake, start smoothing on the sides by running the spatula around the perimeter of the cake. One trick for smoothing the frosting is to dip the metal icing spatula in cold water, this will aid in smoothing the frosting. To smooth the top, dip the spatula in cold water and holding it horizontally over the top of the cake. Start at the point farthest from you, holding the spatula in both hands, skim the top of the icing by bringing the spatula straight toward you.

Simple Designs

Some cake decorators say learning to smooth the icing is the hardest part of cake decorating. Practice will make you a pro in not time. Once you have it down, show it off, even a cake without many decorations that is clean and smooth will make an perfectly elegant offering.

Instead of icing, cake tops can be dusted with powdered sugar. You can choose to use a stencil for a more decorated appearance, or just the powdered sugar for a clean look.

Edible decorations are a beautiful yet simple cake decorating technique. The use of sprinkles, candy, nuts, and coconut pressed into the icing before it sets, will make your cake stand out.

To apply a textured look for your cake decorating, use a small cardboard comb, available in baking supply stores.

Piping is achieved by using a pastry bag fitted with a metal tip that is held on by a coupler. This is your most important tool for cake decorating. You can make lines, words, shells, flowers, and many other designs on the top or sides of the cake. Fill the bag with no more than 1 cup of icing at a time, twist the top of the bag and keep steady pressure when piping the design. Use your other hand to guide the tip. It is wise to find out everything you can about piping before you begin.

Fondant a smooth white paste, is used in complicated cake decorating. Fondant is kneaded and rolled to cover cakes with a sleek smooth layer of icing. It is also used to make designs that are 3-D. It is less tasty than buttercream, but the cake will look sleek and elegant.

9.09.2010

Kitchen Trends: Adding Spice to your Kitchen

Veering away from its utilitarian roots, the function of today’s kitchen has broadened to become a social gathering space for friends and a homework space for kids. Fall is a good time to spice up your kitchen’s comfort level and transform it into the nucleus of your home.

“Most people are nesting at home, surrounding themselves with things that bring convenience and comfort to their living space,” says Billy Beson of William Beson Interior Design, Ltd. in Minneapolis, “including the kitchen, where the sky is the limit with today’s design options.”

According to the National Association of Remodeling Industry, kitchens rank third as a home remodeling project. In fact, the return for homeowners at resale, on minor home-improvements projects, is 88 percent of their renovation dollar, according to “Remodeling.”

“Repeatedly, homeowners comment that our natural quartz countertops are the crown jewel of their kitchen, and that they love the look and color,” says Lisa Bien-Sinz director of marketing of CAMBRIA, the only quartz countertops producer in the United States. “We’re seeing customers remodel their kitchens and incorporate one of today’s hottest trends -- quartz.”

In order to spice up your kitchen and create a comfortable yet attractive space, consider these trends:

* Color: Bold to natural hues – Adding color changes the look and feel of a room. Selecting a colorful countertop is a practical and decorative option for sprucing up a kitchen. When deciding on a color palette for your kitchen, Beson suggests choosing five adjectives that describe how you want the space to feel. “These five adjectives can be your barometer in finalizing your color choice,” said Beson. “For example if you want your kitchen to be cool, light, airy and open, then stay natural and avoid dark woods, black countertops and lots of pattern.”

* Countertops: Natural and no maintenance – Quartz is leading the trend in natural countertops. This natural stone is available in a dazzling array of color. As you expand functional space in the kitchen, a quartz countertop is a smart choice, especially for an island, because it is non-porous, it is especially suitable for food preparation, durable enough to withstand active kids, yet so attractive it makes for a gorgeous centerpiece.

* Backsplash: Colorful tiles add a unique statement – Spark your creativity and accent your kitchen walls with a customized backsplash. Mix-and-match colorful tiles into a one-of-a-kind design. This accent will add character to the wall behind your sink, and life to your kitchen.

* Food Safety in the Kitchen: A safe surface for the entire family – While sweet aromas can lure anyone into the kitchen, bacteria, mold and mildew invisibly lurk in the food preparation space no matter what’s cooking. Gourmet chefs and food-safety conscious parents often have to scrub the countertops before and after serving a delicious fare, but no more.

Today, ideal surfaces for kitchens are non-porous countertops, such as CAMBRIA. Unlike granite, CAMBRIA is non-porous resulting in extremely low moisture absorption, reducing the potential for bacterial growth. In fact, The National Sanitation Foundation (NSF, International) has certified CAMBRIA Quality Quartz Surfaces for both Splash Zone and Food Zone preparation.

7 Bad Eating Habits You Should Change Immediately

People are obsessed with dieting and weight loss! Don't believe
me? Just tune-in to any source of advertising...you're instantly
bombarded with the latest diet schemes and "Hollywood" food
fads.

Here in America, we have built a thriving industry trying to
control our weight and treat the consequences of over-indulgence.
The cost of weight loss and obesity related health care
treatments is staggering...Americans alone spend around $114
billion every year! And even with all this interest in losing
weight, we continue to pack on the pounds like never before...

- A whopping 64 percent of U.S. adults are either overweight or
obese...up about eight percent from earlier estimates.

- Among children and teens ages 6-19, 15 percent or almost nine
million are overweight...triple the rate in 1980!

- Nearly one-third of all adults are now classified as obese.

For Americans, modern life may be getting TOO easy. Our cushy
lifestyle means we expend less energy and consequently need fewer
calories to sustain our normal body weight.

Think about it for a moment...

Entertainment no longer requires energy expenditure. In fact,
it's usually quite the opposite. We now entertain ourselves in
the comfort of our own home while watching TV and munching on our
favorite snack. Whether it's television, computers, remote
controls, or automobiles, we are moving less and burning fewer
calories. Common activities that were once a part of our normal
routine have disappeared...activities like climbing stairs,
pushing a lawn mower or walking to get somewhere.

And please do not misunderstand me...I appreciate comfortable
living just as much as the next person. But, here is the
problem...

With all of our modern day conveniences and "cushy" style of
living we have not adjusted our caloric intake to compensate for
our decreased caloric expenditure. We consume more calorie rich
and nutrient deficient foods than ever before. Consider a few of
the following examples comparing what we eat "today" vs the
1970's (U.S. Department of Agriculture survey):

- We are currently eating more grain products, but almost all of
them are refined grains (white bread, etc.). Grain consumption
has jumped 45 percent since the 1970's, from 138 pounds of grains
per person per year to 200 pounds! Only 2 percent of the wheat
flour is consumed as whole wheat.

- Our consumption of fruits and vegetables has increased, but
only because French fries and potato chips are included as
vegetables. Potato products account for almost a third of our
"produce" choices.

- We're drinking less milk, but we've more than doubled our
cheese intake. Cheese now outranks meat as the number one source
of saturated fat in our diets.

- We've cut back on red meat, but have more than made up for the
loss by increasing our intake of chicken (battered and fried), so
that overall, we're eating 13 pounds more meat today than we did
back in the 1970's.

- We're drinking three times more carbonated soft drinks than
milk, compared to the 1970's, when milk consumption was twice
that of pop.

- We use 25 percent less butter, but pour twice as much vegetable
oil on our food and salads, so our total added fat intake has
increased 32 percent.

- Sugar consumption has been another cause of our expanding
waistlines. Sugar intake is simply off the charts. People are
consuming roughly twice the amount of sugar they need each day,
about 20 teaspoons on a 2000 calorie/day diet. The added sugar is
found mostly in junk foods, such as pop, cake, and cookies. In
1978, the government found that sugars constituted only 11
percent of the average person's calories. Now, this number has
ballooned to 16 percent for the average American adult and as
much as 20 percent for American teenagers!

Unfortunately, it would seem that the days of wholesome and
nutritious family dinners are being replaced by fast food and
eating on-the-run. We have gradually come to accept that it's
"OK" to sacrifice healthy foods for the sake of convenience and
that larger serving portions equate to better value.

It's time recognize that we are consuming too many calories and
time to start doing something about it! Each of us can decide
TODAY that healthy eating and exercise habits WILL become a
normal part of our life!

We can begin by exploring our values, thoughts and habits...
slowly and deliberately weed-out the unhealthy habits and
activities and start living a more productive and rewarding life.
And remember, it has taken a long time to develop bad habits, so
be patient as you work toward your goal!

The information contained in this article is for educational purposes
only and is not intended to medically diagnose, treat or cure any
disease. Consult a health care practitioner before beginning any
health care program.

9.05.2010

Olive Oil, An Ancient Gift For Health

Scientists are always looking to plants to find medicinal and therapeutic secrets. Discoveries of natural compounds within the olive tree and olives, provide promising health and medical benefits. Organic olive oil has significant health related properties that have spanned centuries and cultures in the Mediterranean.

The Mediterranean olive dates back 6000 years and was native to Iran, Syria and Palestine (Asia Minor). From there it spread to the Mediterranean basin. It is one of the earliest known cultivated trees. According to the Bible, an olive leaf was that which a dove brought back to Noah, as an indication the great flood waters were abating.

The olive tree thrives best in a sunny position and climate. A rocky subsoil suits it well. The trunk is knotty, hard, and gnarled, the bark smooth and ash colored. Olive wood is valuable for its durability and is crafted into many items such as gourmet cooking utensils. The olive tree experiences slow growth, but it lives very long. It is reported that the olive trees on Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, are over 2000 years old. It is commonly believed the Bible passage of "the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine," refers to the olive tree. Olive leaves are silver grey-green, and possesses the health qualities of "olive leaf extract" which is pressed from them. Extracted from olive leaves is a bitter substance named oleuropein. In the 1960's researchers reported that oleuropein lowered blood pressure in animals, this caused immediate medicinal interest in the olive leaf. There are new studies that indicate olive leaf extract may be a natural preventative against the common cold and flu.

The olive is believed to be a source of wealth for the Minoan Kingdom. Egyptians tombs dating back as far as 2000 BC have been proved to contain olives. The Greeks spread the usage of olives to the Romans who, in turn, spread it across their vast empire. The use of olive oil has been advocated by many religions and cultures. The early Greek Kings were anointed with olive oil. It was also used to anoint winning Olympic athletes. Across many cultures, olive oil is recognized for healthy benefits for both the inner and outward body.

Some research indicates extra-virgin olive oil is the most digestible of the edible fats. Olive oil also it helps to assimilate vitamins A, D and K in the human body. Benefits of consuming olive oil include slowing down the aging process and helps liver, bile, and intestinal functions. Olive oil is valued for its culinary attributes and organoleptic virtues, these being: flavor, bouquet or aroma, and color. Various grades of olive oil are derived from the time of pressing. Earlier pressings are regarded as better quality. Cold pressed olive oil is a pressing process requiring no heat or chemicals, which destroy vital nutrients. This olive oil is generally the best to use for cooking and healthy cuisine.

Olive oil has been extensively used in cooking and forms an integral part of the basic Mediterranean diet. It is a healthier substitute to butter. Strong and pungent flavored olive oils are great for frying fish or other items having a strong flavor. Extra virgin olive oil goes well with salads. A late harvest mission variety olive oil, which is mellow, can be used for baking cakes. Gourmet olive oil is a healthier and tastier substitute to other fatty cooking oils. The health benefits of cold pressed olive oil already have federal agency approval. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized marketing ads that say organic olive oil helps reduce the risk of coronary disease and disorders.

Given below is a simple recipe for olive oil bread dipping sauce.

Bread Dipping Sauce

Servings : 2 - 4 Preparation time : 10 minutes

Ingredients:

½ cup virgin olive oil 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced (Italian parsley is best) 1 tablespoon fresh basil, minced ½ teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced 1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced 1 teaspoon oregano 1 teaspoon thyme 1 teaspoon black pepper ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, crushed well 1/8 teaspoon fresh lemon juice Salt, to taste

Method:

Heat the olive oil in a pan. Add the garlic and sauté till it changes color. Add all the other ingredients and cook for about 2 - 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Serve as a bread dip.


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