Steps to Becoming a Wine Connoisseur

April 18th, 2014

Sommelier_F.I.S.A.R. If you have never met one of those famous expert wine connoisseurs, you should thank your stars. They can make you feel positively pedestrian on matters wine. It’s not just the way they ‘taste’ wine – with a tilt of the head and swirling sound in the mouth like it’s something you need to go to wine school to even begin comprehending. It’s not even how they expound on the distinct, yet subtle, taste of each wine.

It’s the thought that there is no way on this side of eternity you could ever get to be anything like that.

Relax. Becoming a wine connoisseur is not difficult or complicated. Just takes some focus and determination.  In fact, it is possible to be an expert in wines in less than a year. For instance, to become a wine expert accredited by the Court of Masters – one of the top wine accreditation programs in the US – all you need to do is pass a series of tests. They don’t care for schools or anything like that.

So how do you become a wine connoisseur? There are three steps to getting there. First is knowing the basics. Second is what you can, and should, learn all by yourself. And then there is what you need help with.

The Basics of Wine

The first basic point about wines is that it is an acquired taste. Even the most celebrated wine connoisseurs began with ‘normal wines’ and worked their way up the ladder. So, your first step will be to start with whatever wine tastes right for you, no matter how ‘normal’ it is.

Second is that, in spite of wine being an acquired taste, broad types of wines – white or red – are matched with specific types of meals, pegged on the type of meat.  Red wine goes with red meat, white wine with white meats. Beyond that, creativity in choice is acceptable.  For instance, the precise white or red wine that you choose to go with any of MagicKitchen.com’s main courses is entirely up to you.

Finally, there is tasting wine versus drinking wine. You ‘taste’ by swishing it in your mouth, not by actually drinking it.

What to Do On Your Own To Become a Wine Connoisseur

wineryThere are things that you have to do on your own before you can become a wine connoisseur. The most important are:

  • After getting used to a favorite wine, however modest it may be, the next step is to sample as many different types of wines as possible. That is how you soon get to discover that you can, in fact, detect the different flavors.
  • Research. Browse the internet, read up wine guides and blogs. Subscribe to wine websites or newsletters – or a wine magazine. Check out wine stores for bottles of wine with write-ups near them, award citations and high magazine ratings. That’s how to get familiar with the types and terminologies of the craft. For instance, a glance at the how to guide on matching food to wine at bbcgoodfood.com will show you that Cabernet Sauvignon is the perfect wine for beef roasts  and stews, such as MagicKitchen.com’s famous main course of beef sirloin with peppercorn sauce. And that if you don’t want to stick to a quality white wine, like Chardonnay, you can try a red wine, like a Merlot, with a chicken meal.
  • Test your knowledge and expertise in wine. You can do that by buying wines that match the taste of the food you’re serving. Or by deliberately trying wines from different countries. Or visiting choice restaurants just to sample different wines.

How to get other people to make you a wine connoisseur

French_taste_of_winesTo really become a wine connoisseur, your own research is not enough. You need to pick other people’s brains too, particularly those who know their stuff well. Some tips:

  • Talk to staff in wine shops and ask for recommendations and tips. Shop attendants are often very well informed.
  • Attend wine tasting events. There are usually such events every so often in local wine schools, restaurants and wineries.
  • Visit a winery and let the staff take you through the wine making process. Few sources are typically as informed about wine as winemakers. Freely ask whatever question comes to mind – they have already heard every ‘ignorant’ question you could possibly come up with.
  • If you have the time, make it all simple by attending a wine school. There is no faster way to learn about wine than that.

Getting Rid of Belly Fat

April 11th, 2014

belly-2473_640Getting Rid of Belly Fat

Belly fat.  There must be a way of getting rid of it. Or, at least, reducing it to where it used to be when it wasn’t so like that. Like not so good in jeans. But you already know what they say: exercise. And Diet. That’s the secret to taming belly fat, says everybody.

Except that it is difficult and doesn’t seem to work out at home as well as it does on TV.

Why is belly fat such a hard nut to crack? As the people whose business is making and delivering sumptuous meals right at your doorstep, we should know something about that. The diet part of it, especially.

Belly Fat Is About the Food, Yes

Food is the first reason why it’s so hard to get rid of belly fat.  The flab is often the result of eating certain kinds of foods, particularly sugary snacks, hydrogenated oils and enriched flours. Transfats is what nutritionist call them, and they are in such delicacies as margarine, cookies, crackers and pasta.

Does that make some kinds of food ‘bad food’? No. It’s more like ‘food that is extra good’ for people whose lifestyles do not require lots of physical strain. Think of it this way: the human body, like that of other animals, knows that it is only sensible to store extra food in the system when the going is good just in case the going gets tough. Certain foods happen to have easier fat to store. In a fairer world, those would be called the best food. But if the food just keeps coming, the body keeps storing. Then there is too much fat and the food storage becomes a health hazard.

And then it’s not about the Food

But belly fat is not just about food. A person whose lifestyle or work requires extreme physical strain is less likely to have belly fat, ‘bad’ eating habits notwithstanding.  That’s in fact the logic of exercise as a belly fat control measure. If you burn most of the fat that enters your body, there will be little to store in your belly.

Hormones also get into the mix, particularly for women.   After menopause, the drop in estrogen relieves the body of the physical demands of childbearing, which means the body can relax and store fat in places that might have been unwise during a pregnancy. Like the belly. Other hormonal imbalances in this period may increase the feeling of hunger, leading to higher uptake of food.

Then there is sleep. Not getting enough sleep decreases the level of leptin, a natural appetite suppressant while increasing ghrelin, an appetite stimulant that makes you eat more.

And finally, stress makes you fat, not thin. It increases cortisol, the ‘stress hormone,’ in your system, which triggers your body to store fat in a hurry. There’s belly logic here too: if the body is stressed, things can’t be so good out there, and when things are bad, people starve, so why not store food before it gets real nasty out there?

How to Keep Belly Fat at Bay

Because belly fat is a result of food and non-food reasons, any successful regime to reduce or prevent its occurrence must also combine food and non-food measures.

Good sleeping habits – 7 hours a day is the recommended rate – will help. As will anything that will reduce stress. Like an active social life, relaxation and regular exercise.

But not all exercises affect the belly. It is therefore advisable to seek professional advice on the proper exercise regime if belly fat is the target area. A good place to begin would be to sample the workout videos of MagicKitchen.com’s health advisers Lance and Mary.

date-meals1Then, of course, good eating will make all the difference to your belly fat containment plan. Here’s the rule book:

  • Eat food with ‘good’ fat: The nutritionist term is monounsaturated fats. These are fats that are easily burned by the body and help burn the other ‘not so good’ fat. Common examples are nuts, olive oil, avocado, green tea and whole grains.
  • Eat correct portions of ‘normal’ food: A diet of 2000 calorie per day is the scientifically set standards of the food that a normal human body requires in a day. Simply sticking to the right portion ensures your body has no extra fat to store in your belly. At MagicKitchen.com, we have an entire line of Portion Controlled Meal Packs for exactly that purpose.

Energy Drinks, How Healthy Are They?

April 4th, 2014

energy-drinkNo, there is no chance that anyone is going to ban Red Bull, Rock Star, Monster or any other properly made and packaged energy drink. Why not? Because energy drinks are perfectly legal, widely used and generally safe. About half of young adults in the US take the drinks more or less regularly. Also, no government anywhere or doctors association has recommended such a drastic intrusion into a citizen’s right to drink packaged energy.

But, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, emergency hospital visits associated with energy drinks complications are increasing. Fast. Between 2007 and 2011, for instance, they doubled.

And the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children and adolescents should never take energy drinks. Actually most doctors caution anyone against taking more than the occasional energy drink – and, if they could, would probably ban the use of energy drink in combination with alcohol, other stimulant or medication.

So, what’s with energy drinks?

It’s The Caffeine Not the Energy Drink

The thing about energy drinks is that they are, in fact, made more of concentrated caffeine than anything else. That is the same stuff that is in coffee, tea, cola soda and chocolates. Some energy drinks substitute or complement caffeine with guarana and ginseng, but both are stimulants that are not much different, health-wise, from caffeine.

There is nothing wrong with caffeine, of course. It is a stimulant that people have used for ages and it does boost energy. It increases the heart rate and blood pressure, which heightens concentration and alertness. If you need not to sleep for whatever reason, a mug or two of good coffee or a can of energy drink should do the trick.

The catch is that caffeine is addictive. Plus, energy drinks have as much as five times the concentration of caffeine as your average soda. They are also not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), because they are sold as ‘dietary supplements’ rather than beverages. The result is that, despite what you see on the can’s label, you really don’t know how much caffeine you are taking and what else is in the mix.

What Energy Drinks Do To Your Body

Bottom line is that energy drinks do what any excessive coffee or any other stimulant would do to your body. It pushes your heart rate and blood pressure up, which is fine most of the times but can be dangerous, especially if you already have some medical conditions or you are on medication. Or you are simply not sober. Some medical conditions, like heart defects are not detected early, if ever, and lots of medications react badly to a high dose of stimulants.

Alcohol, on the other hand, is a depressant while energy drinks are stimulants. A combination of the two plays tricks with your mind. You are still as drunk as the amount of alcohol you have taken, which means your physical reaction rate, mental alertness, and clarity of judgment are impaired. But you ‘feel’ better, alert, in control, not as high as the bill suggests. The effect is that you could get a very nasty surprise if you tried to drive, cross a busy street or even walk upstairs. Or you could land yourself in something worse than a nasty surprise.

What to do then? It’s fine to take the occasional energy drink. It’s just tough- we love coffee, after all, and it tastes good. But do not use it habitually. Or when you are drinking alcohol or while you are on any medication. Do not take it while exercising because exertion is already causing havoc on your heart rate and blood pressure. Also, don’t shock your body by gulping down an energy drink or taking more than a couple of cans in one seating.

As with all other things, take in moderation.

Sources:

http://www.scai.org/SecondsCount/Disease/detail.aspx?cid=135410fb-a293-43e0-82c6-ec0bcc47125f

http://www.brown.edu/Student_Services/Health_Services/Health_Education/alcohol,_tobacco,_&_other_drugs/energy_drinks.php

Guest Post by Jonah Njonge

MagicKitchen.com Menu for the Perfect Date

March 28th, 2014

So you’re serious about someone. Serious enough to want to eat in front of them, and have them into your home. That’s pretty serious. Are you worried that your cooking skills aren’t up to it? Maybe you don’t want to come to dinner sweaty and smelling of garlic. So let MagicKitchen.com put together the perfect date menu. Reheat, serve and enjoy the night!

Here are five killer dinners that you and your date will love:

  1. Chicken Parmigiana, Rosemary Potatoes, Buttered Carrots and Tiramisu for dessert.
    Why? Italy is the land of love! Italian meals are great first date meals.
  2. Shrimp Fettucine Alfredo, Verdura Artisan Flatbread and Panna Cotta for dessert.
    More Italian dishes, and seafood!
  3. Osso Bucco, Magic Mashed Potatoes, French Bread and U-Bake Apple-Raisin Strudel  for dessert.
    What man doesn’t like perfectly cooked meat? If your date is a woman, if you know she’s a meat-lover, perfect.
  4. Seared Salmon Filet, Creamy Spinach, Herb Focaccia and Chocolate Ganache Cake  for dessert.
    This is simply elegant, and will impress the heck out of your date!
  5. Beef Sirloin with Peppercorn Sauce, Rice with Mixed Vegetables, Eggplant Parmigiana and Dutch Apple Pie for dessert.
    The sauce screams sophistication, the flavors are mild but delicious, you can’t go wrong with this meal.
  6. Crab Cakes, Rice Pilaf, French Green Beans with Mushrooms and Cream Sauce  and Gourmet Cupcakes Assortment 2 for dessert.
    This is a wow! Easy and delicious crab cakes, a decadent side dish, and 2 Meyer Lemon, 2 Red Velvet & 2 Caramel Blast Cupcakes to choose from.

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Meal Suggestion 6

Quick and safe ways to defrost frozen food.

March 21st, 2014

Most of the time, you’ll put your frozen food in the fridge overnight or all day, and let it defrost that way. But sometimes you don’t have that kind of time. (Like when I need to get at MagicKitchen.com’s Sirloin in Peppercorn Sauce and just can’t wait! Here are a few safe ways to defrost food a little faster.

1. Put the food into a ziplock bag with all the air pressed out, and put it into a bowl of cold water. You can use a clothespin to make sure that no water gets into the bag(Clip it to the edge of the bowl), and just change the water now and then (every 30 minutes) to make sure it stays cold. This works surprisingly quickly, a small portion could be done in an hour.

2. Microwave- difficult, because parts of the food may start to cook while others remain frozen. I like to give it a minute , then let it thaw normally, giving it another minute in a half hour or so. This speeds up the process without cooking the food. In this method, the food never defrosts in the microwave, it just gets a head start. But if you go for the full defrost, you have to cook and eat (or just eat if it’s cooked) the food immediately. Otherwise bacteria could grow. Bad stuff.

3.  Under running cool water- this method will work quite quickly (More quickly than the cool water in a bowl method). Set the food in the sink under a slow stream of cold water, again in a zip-lock bag with all the air pressed out.  Monitor the food to be sure  you put it in the fridge once it’s thawed.

In any method you use, food shouldn’t be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours, so keep a close eye on it!  Here’s a wonderful episode of Good Eats where Alton Brown explains all!

 

Learn How Frozen Meals Offer Excellent Nutrition

March 14th, 2014

Some people wonder if a frozen meal could have as much nutrition as one made at home. The answer is yes, and here are the reasons why.

1. MagicKitchen.com’s frozen meals are flash frozen immediately after cooking and packaging, so that as many nutrients are retained as possible, and to make sure that the food is as fresh and flavorful as it can be.

2.  If frozen meals are healthy when they are fresh, they will be just as good purchased frozen as they are fresh. In some cases, they may actually be better, because if you keep meal ingredients in your fridge for a long time, they lose some of their nutritional value.

3. Blind taste tests have put frozen and fresh meals on a par, with the frozen meals actually coming out on top quite often (http://www.thegrocer.co.uk/fmcg/blind-taste-tests-put-frozen-and-fresh-on-a-par/204663.article)

4. Buying the right frozen meals gives you correct portion size, like our portion controlled meals.

5. Here are some guidelines for buying healthy frozen meals.

So go ahead and order up some frozen goodness!

Shrimp Burrito

Shrimp Burrito

Bean Soup

Bean Soup

Mushroom Ravioli

Mushroom Ravioli

 

How to make Butternut Squash Crostini

March 7th, 2014

Today I am going to show you how to make a delicious appetizer. This is a great appetizer to serve because it is so simple to put together, you only need five ingredients and it is a really beautiful and vibrant bite to serve your guests while you are preparing the main meal. (Or reheating your MagicKitchen.com prepared meal).

List of Ingredients

1 lb. butternut squash

Sprinkle of salt

½ c  water

1 baguette, cut into ¾ inch slices, toasted if you like

7 oz  whole milk ricotta

¼ c of balsamic glaze

½ c toasted and chopped hazelnuts

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The first thing that you need to do is to prepare your butternut squash so start by cutting off both ends of the butternut and once the ends are off, you just want to cut through the length of the butternut, then you are going to take a melon-baller or spoon to scrape out the seeds.

Put the butternut on a sheet tray, sprinkle the tops with some salt and bake them in a 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes until the squash is nice and tender.

After the butternut is cooled, you can scoop out the flesh and put it in the bowl of a food processor. Now add a half cup of water to start and a pinch of salt, you are going to purée this until it is nice and smooth. If your butternut squash purée is a little bit too thick you can add a little bit more water to thin it out.

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Now you’re ready to assemble everything, Take a spoonful of the butternut squash pure, spread that on the piece of baguette, then take a spoonful of whole milk ricotta, add that on top, then finally add a drizzle of balsamic glaze.

Balsamic glaze is basically a reduction of balsamic vinegar, it is a bit acidic and it is much thicker and sweeter than balsamic vinegar, it is a really great ingredient to have on hand.

Then you are going to finish this with some toasted and chopped hazelnuts. The taste is absolutely delicious; there are so many flavors and rich textures in here. This is a great appetizer to serve with some nice orange juice or a tropical blend of banana and orange, your guests will surely appreciate this.

 

Chef Linda Rosario is a food blogger from Chef Needs, one of the trusted suppliers of unique bar stools. She also loves to paint and dreams of having her own art gallery. Aside from painting and drawing, Linda has a heart for cooking and food.

Why New Parents Love Our Delicious Pre-prepared Meals

February 28th, 2014

 

Chicken Artichoke

Chicken Artichoke

It’s another top ten list! The top ten reasons Why New Parents Love Our Delicious Pre-prepared Meals.

10. They are so easy to prepare! Most of them just get popped into the microwave for a few minutes, and dinner’s on the table.

9. No dishes! You can actually eat out of the tray they’re delivered in, or use a plate that goes into the dishwasher. No pots and pans!

8. Scrumptious Meals!

7. Delivered right to their door, so no shopping- more time to play or sleep!

6. The meals are healthy, made with top-quality fresh produce and ingredients.

5.  Our Guarantee-If anything you receive from MagicKitchen.com arrives spoiled or damaged it will be replaced at our expense. Any meals you try that do not meet your satisfaction will either be credited or replaced in your next order.

4. Our Meal Programs have no minimums and no contract, and delivery is free (For regular orders placed every 30 days or less and at $100 or more), so meals can be delivered every month!

dutch-apple-pie

Dutch Apple Pie

3.  Parents get regular meals, stay healthier.

2.  Desserts! Fabulous Desserts!

And the number one reason? They make great gifts, so people often buy the meals for new parents!

Melody, MagicKitchen.com blogger

Meal Ideas for Couples without Children

February 21st, 2014
Shrimp Fettucini Alfredo for two

Shrimp Fettucini Alfredo for two

You could be a senior couple whose children have left the nest, or a younger couple who happens to be childless. Either way, it’s hard sometimes to come up with meal ideas that don’t leave leftovers. Here are some recipes and tips just for you!

  1. Of course the number one recommendation is to order frozen meals online from MagicKitchen.com. With the large and ever-changing menu, you’re sure to find meals you’ll agree on! Like us on Facebook!
  2. Here are some gourmet recipes for two: Food Network Meals for Two.
  3. On quiet weekends, you might enjoy these breakfast recipes for two.
  4. Trying to stay healthy? Here are some healthy recipes for two.
  5. Here are some different  healthy recipes for two.
  6. If you love to travel and want great recipes for two, bookmark this blog about food and travel.
  7. Enjoy this list of tips for planning healthy meals for one or two.
  8. Looking for vegetarian recipes? Look no further than this site with vegetarian recipes for one or two.
  9. Here’s a blog with Vegan recipes for two.
  10. Are you on Facebook? Get daily updates on recipes for two.

I hope you’ve enjoyed investigating these sites- happy cooking!

Melody- MagicKitchen.com blogger

 

 

Meals for the Elderly

February 14th, 2014

Here is a topic that we begin to think about in our 50′s or 60′s. Our parents are getting older, they often aren’t eating right, and we’re justifiably concerned. Perhaps we’ve lost a parent, and the other is adjusting to living alone and doesn’t cook. Whatever the circumstances,  it’s important for elderly people to eat well. Proper nutrition helps them stay alert, keeps their bones healthy, gives them energy and helps keep their immune system strong.

Here are ten great ideas for helping to keep your elderly parents eating right.

  1.  Go through cooking magazines or cookbooks with them. What pictures or descriptions make them pay attention? Make a list of the kinds of meals they’re interested in, and either bring in the ingredients with some recipes, or make the meals and freeze them for your parent.
  2. Get them on a senior meal program at MagicKitchen.com.
  3. Sometimes a dimming of vision makes the meals they have look “blah”. Try adding pops of color with red bell peppers, carrots or snow peas.
  4. If they have a restricted diet, that may confuse them and make them feel they don’t know what to eat. MagicKitchen.com’s MK Special Menu contains meals for restricted diets and the meals are well-liked and easy to serve.
  5. Try to eat with your lone parent as often as possible. Eating alone is no fun, and preparing and cleaning up for one seems to have no point. You know the feeling, if your spouse and children go away for a few days, how often do you cook a whole meal for yourself?
  6. Changing taste buds caused by medication or age can make foods taste bland. Try spicing the meals up- not with hot chiles, as likely your parent won’t like that, but with some fresh herbs or spices. Mint goes well with many foods, and can give a burst of freshness to a meal.
  7. If they love milkshakes, make them a delicious smoothie, and put in some healthy  additions like a little protein powder, banana, yogurt, raw honey, flax seeds, chia seeds (grind them up in the coffee grinder first),  or berries.
  8. Small portions with high nutrition. Older people don’t need high calories anymore, and don’t have large appetites. Give them small portions made with healthy ingredients.
  9. Small, frequent snacks. Keep such things as cheese, fruit, dried fruit, nuts, whole grain crackers, olives and lean lunch meats.
  10. Wine can be an appetite stimulant, a glass of wine before a meal may help get those taste buds fired up.


I hope these tips and the video have helped give you a few ideas on how to help out with meals for the elderly!

Melody

MagicKitchen.com blogger