Monthly Archives: February 2012

Pairing Wines with Meals

Ok, so you want to have a little wine with your meal. Great, because you don’t have to be Italian, or even speak with a French accent to do that, heck, you don’t even need to be European. No, I’m not calling you a peon. Just follow me here.

The rule of thumb is red wine with red meat, and white wine with white meat. That rule doesn’t always hold true, but most of the time, it does.

Chicken Marsala goes great with a Chardonnay

But what are some nice wines you can enjoy with the perfect meal? All right, let’s say you having Chicken Marsala with some fresh roasted asparagus. A perfect matching wine would be a nice Chardonnay. Now I know that the marsala is a red wine sauce and you may be thinking that perhaps that might clash with the white wine. Not at all really, remember the chicken? It’s considered a white meat, of sorts. Chicken has light and dark meat. Dark meat is not to be confused with red meat. Now that we have that out of the way, you could also try it with Chablis, but just keep in mind that Chablis wine is drier than Chardonnay. It’s all in the taste of the individual. If you’re a wine novice, just stick with the Chardonnay.

Now, this next part might make you want to crack me over the head with your chilled salad fork, but guess what? You could also have a Pinot noir with your Chicken Marsala. Yes, yes I know what I said about white meat, red meat and the matching wine, but sometimes it’s not just about the meat, but what you do with it. Because the marsala is a red wine sauce, made with Marsala wine (a red wine), you can enjoy a nice Pinot noir with this meal without breaking any epicurean protocol.  Now put down the meat cleaver, you’re scaring me.

Let’s look at another example. Say you’re serving pasta with a nice pesto paste. Now, pesto is typically made using basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, grated hard cheese and salt. So, what is the perfect wine to go with that? Try a Carricante and savor a little taste of Sicily while you’re at it. The Carricante can range from $13 to $35 bucks a bottle, but hey, you’re having pasta with a pesto paste. I mean, how much does that cost? A little basil and pine nuts, heck, you may as well splurge on the wine, because that snappish, yet dazzling citrus flavor of the Carricante cuts right through the olive oil, and garlic, making each bite of your meal a completely new experience.

Listen folks, we could go on all day about pairing wines with every dish known to man, but I think you’re getting the general idea here. Now it’s time to venture out over the abyss and try a few things on your own. Bon appetit!

Dain, MagicKitchen.com Blogger

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10 Cookie Flavors Worth Baking

There are a lot of different kind of cookies out there… But here are ten types of cookies that are really worth baking.

Snickerdoodles

1. Snickerdoodles: In addition to having a great name, these cookies are delicious. They are generally made using butter, eggs, sugar and flour and then rolled in cinnamon sugar and baked. These are a great cookie to make for anyone with nut allergies, as no nuts are ever included.

2. Oatmeal Scotchies: Scotchies is short for butterscotch. These cookies are fantastic! Instead of being traditional oatmeal or oatmeal raisin cookies, butterscotch chips are used in place of the raisins… changing these oatmeal cookies from feeling slightly granola-like into a rich, decadent experience.

3. Chocolate-Chip Cookies: While some of you may think this is the old stand-by, there’s a good reason these cookies are often the first cookie a child learns to make… it’s because they are delicious! To try a new twist, try adding some cinnamon to your favorite recipe.

4. Peanut Butter Cookies: This is a twist on a traditional sugar cookie, using peanut butter… while not good for those with allergies, this is a great cookie to make with kids as they will have tons of fun pressing the designs into the cookies. You can even place Hershey’s kisses in the center of these cookies instead of using a design, to add some chocolate to this cookie.

5. Sugar Cookies: This cookie is another traditional cookie, and very tasty. It’s great to make with children. Sugar cookies can be decorated with colored sugars, sprinkles or icing, and even cut into fun shapes and sizes which makes for a fun activity in addition to a great snack.

Chocolate-Dipped Madelienes

6. Madeleines: Sometimes also referred to as French Butter Cookies, these cookies are light and fluffy and can have a variety of flavors added to them (lemon, orange, etc.) instead of the traditional vanilla flavor. These cookies are generally not the first recipe a beginning baker should try, but they are wonderful cookies and fun to make.

7. Whoopie Pies: Another fun one to make with the kids! Although these are generally chocolate cookies with vanilla filling, twists on this cookie can be used with both the cookies and the filling. You can try vanilla cookies with strawberry filling instead, or any number of combinations.

8. Gingerbread Cookies: Traditionally holiday cookies, these cookies can be enjoyed any time. They are spicy and sweet cookies that often go best with hot beverages, instead of the traditional cookies and milk. Gingerbread can also be great for kids, because it can be decorated with icing or sugar and cut into fun shapes as well. And of course the traditional gingerbread house can be built.

9. Meringue Cookies: Again, not a cookie for the novice baker. But these cookies are wonderful and silky smooth and can be made in a variety of flavors… anything from lemon, to peppermint, to coconut, to cardamom rose, depending on the baker’s preference.

10. Biscotti: Another cookie that goes great with hot beverages and onethat can come in a lot of different flavors. Biscotti is probably best for the cookie lover who isn’t a fan of sweet cookies.  It can come in chocolate, cinnamon, pumpkin, cranberry-pistachio… the type of flavoring is only limited by the baker’s imagination.

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Twelve Fantastic Apps for Getting and Staying Fit

Whether you want to lose weight, eat healthier or exercise more efficiently, chances are you’ll need some good weapons to help you win the bodily battle. These apps are a great start as you build the weapons that will help you win the war.

Life has a way of getting hectic, and often your diet and exercise plan is the first thing you sacrifice when you are pressed for time. Loading one or more of these apps on your smartphone means that your diet weapons are with you 24/7, helping you stay on track and focused.

Exercise Apps

1. DailyBurn

The dailyburn.com site is one of the biggest fitness communities available online, and this app is its bite-sized companion. Your personal goals and tracking information are synced to the app for on-the-go tracking and accountability.

2. Fitness Buddy

Fitness Buddy has over 1,000 exercises with a great deal of variety. Photos, illustrations and descriptions help guide you through each exercise. You can mix and match to set up 45-minute routines.

3. Daily Ab Workout

Are you ready to start building your six-pack? Every day, a different ab routine, with 20 different exercises in each routine, is available. The randomizer helps keep you from getting bored.

4. iPump Fitness Builder

This app helps you set up routines for at home or at the gym using whichever type of equipment you have on hand. Thousands of exercises are available from which to choose.

5. FitnessClass

Fitness Class gives you access to streaming classes and videos. The workouts have a lot of variety and include everything from kettle ball routines to yoga.

6. Authentic Yoga

Featuring Deepak Chopra, this app is customizable for any fitness level. It can focus on whichever goal you are working toward, whether it’s flexibility, strength or balance.

Diet Apps

1. LoseIt

This app and its accompanying website are easy to use. Without a lot of clutter, they help you quickly track calories eaten and burned.

2. SparkPeople

A pint-sized version of the popular free diet online community, this app allows you to track food consumption and exercise while on the go. It’s available for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

3. Weight Watchers

The mother of all weight-loss plans has an app that allows you to track your points wherever you are. The app requires a membership in the Weight Watchers program.

4. CarbLovers Diet

Do you want to lose weight but don’t want to cut out your carbs? This app can help you make healthy choices without giving up the foods you love.

5. Fooducate

Take this app with you on your next shopping trip. You’ll see how the foods you buy stack up nutritionally.

6. Shake a Snack

Do you need some ideas for healthy snacks? With this app, you can shake your phone to find a randomized snack between 100 and 300 calories.

Diet and exercise are both integral to an effective low fat diet plan. LowFatDietPlan.org has additional tools to help such as a BMI chart and weight loss goal calculator. Keep these tools in mind as you build your weight loss weapon arsenal.

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How to Cook the Perfect Steak

Here’s how the experts do it:

Now that’s probably how your favorite steak restaurant does it. But you probably want to cook it on the grill. That’s what we’ll be talking about today. First, you want to buy a great steak. There are three I would recommend for grilling.

1. The sirloin. It’s a nice lean cut, but sometimes that means it can be a little tough. Ask your butcher. If it’s tender, rub it with a little oil, sprinkle on some salt and pepper, and get your grill really hot. If you have two sides to your grill, it’s great to have one area smoking hot, and another area at medium.

Your steak will be about an inch thick. Cook the steak 1½-2 minutes on each side for rare; 3 minutes on each side for medium and about 4 minutes on each side for well done. If well done, or once the steak is dark on both sides, move it to the cooler part of the grill.

If the sirloin steak is a bit tough, marinate it first. There are many marinade recipes online. Once it’s been marinaded, take it out and dry it, then proceed with the grill.

For all steaks, try to under-cook them a bit, because they will continue to cook while they are resting. And you must rest them for ten minutes. That will allow the juices that want to pour out to absorb back into the meat, ensuring it stays nice and moist.

2. The T-bone and the Strip steak. These are definitely going to be tender. A technique I learned that works well for me is to and rub steak on both sides with a cut clove of garlic, then salt it on both sides. Put it in the fridge on a rack. The salt will melt and be drawn down into the meat. The surface of the meat will be nice and dry and ready for the grill. Take the steak out a half hour or so before grilling to come to room temperature. Then grill as above, but with these timings:

Your steak will be 1 1/2 inches thick or so. Give it 5 minutes on each side for medium; 1 minute less each side for rare; and 1 minute more for well done. Rest for ten minutes before serving.

3. Filet Mignon- the prince of beef. This steak is so beautifully tender that a child could cook it. I like to use the salt and garlic method on these as well. Then cook them exactly like the T-bone. Rest for ten minutes before serving. This leaner steak benefits from a flavored knob of butter placed on top just before serving. You can find many recipes unline for flavored butter for steak. Here’s the classic:

Beurre Maître d’Hôte: Combine 1/2 cup butter with 1 Tbsp. minced parsley and 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice, and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Of course, MagicKitchen.com sells Filet Mignon online. This steak is restaurant quality and if cooked using the techniques above,  utterly scrumptious.

Melody, MagicKitchen.com Blogger

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