Category Archives: Fun Things

Novel Ways to Keep Warm this Winter

With the arrival of winter comes colder temperatures and, as a result, we all struggle to keep warm without going broke due to high gas, oil or electric bills. Well, here are some unique, if temporary solutions to your cold weather issues, and, despite my perverted mind, none of them include the use of another human being (sorry if you’re disappointed).

chilisEat spicy (not just hot) food – Since this is a food-centric site, this solution only seemed appropriate to list first. If you’ve ever broken out in a sweat during or after the consumption of a spicy Thai dish, you understand the thinking behind this idea. Simply cook up some recipes that include curry, chilies, hot peppers, wasabi, ginger, or any other spice that induces sweating. One side note: remember to account for the workings of your gastro-intestinal system, especially post-meal.

Hot Potatoes – Well, hot, tiny potatoes…that have been nuked (microwaved) and then placed in your pockets, on your lap, or in your slippers. Think of them as inexpensive and primitive hand warmers strategically placed around your body. Fingerling or petite potatoes work best if they’re to be placed in confined spaces, like your pockets or slippers, while russets are best for your lap (just take care not to scald sensitive areas).

Warm clothes – Prior to getting dressed, place your outfit in the dryer and crank it on high for about ten minutes…heavenly! Or do the same with your favorite blanket just before settling in front of the TV, computer, or retiring to bed for the evening. You could also “cook” your clothes in the oven, but then you run the risk of “burning” them. (See “The Calzone” episode of Seinfeld, season seven, episode twenty, in which Kramer does just that- see below).

dog-hugUse your pets – You feed, house and clean up (yuck!) after them, so why not have them contribute to your warmth? While binge watching your favorite series, simply cover yourself with pets; dogs, cats, ferrets, dozens of guinea pigs, snakes…(wait, never mind, they won’t work as they’re cold blooded reptiles), or pygmy goats, it matters not. And if you’d like to be even warmer, convince your pets to cuddle UNDER the blankets with you. It makes quite a difference.

A warm bed – prior to getting in that bed. This can be achieved in any number of ways, to include a hot water bottle, a warm frying pan that’s been rubbed over the sheets, or warm bags of rice or dried beans. Who said food’s just for eating?

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Halloween’s Over…What to do With Your Orange Gourd

carved-pumkinIt’s the morning of Sunday, November 1st and as you walk out onto your front porch you are confronted with the remnants of your Halloween revelry…pumpkins (or jack-o’-lanterns, which is what a pumpkin becomes once it has been carved). You then regret the fact that the local hooligans didn’t perform a mob hit on your pumpkins and smash them to bits on a deserted cul- de-sac in the wee hours of the morning. So, rather than permit those orange gourds to rot on your porch, here are some novel ideas regarding their ultimate destination.

Pumpkins (not Jack-lanterns) can, of course, be consumed once they’ve served out their sentence as autumnal decorations. But why be boring? Why be ordinary when you can be extraordinary by avoiding the pumpkin establishment recipes such as soups, pies and breads (to include pumpkin muffins, biscuits, and scones, which are all bread-related)?

How about a nice, spicy pumpkin chili or salsa? Rather than drop a Lincoln (that’s a $5 bill in street-lingo) at the coffee franchise with the Siren logo (yes, conspiracy theories still abound), why not create your own pumpkin latte? Or how about a creamy pumpkin risotto? Or bring out your inner Italian (unless you are, authentically, Italian) with an awesome pumpkin cannelloni.destroy-pumkin

As for your kicked to the curb Jack-‘o-Lantern…sure, you could simply toss it in your compost pile or Rototill it into your garden, but where’s the fun in that? You could turn it into a piñata, fill it with adult goodies, like plastic mini-bottles of alcohol, movie or lottery tickets, some Washington’s (that’s $1 bills in street lingo), or fancy-schmancy chocolates, and then proceed to wail on it with a t-ball bat at a neighborhood pumpkin smashing party.   Or, in a less violent vein, you could use it as a planter for fall flowers, such as mums or asters. Lastly, if you live in a rural area, you could chop up Jack into bits and feed it to the local wildlife (to a deer, chopped up pumpkin is to die for, as are the seeds to our avian friends).

So, when it comes to your recycling habits, why not add pumpkins to your list when they transform from a Halloween necessity to a November annoyance overnight? We could refer to this as the greening of the orange…sorry, couldn’t resist.

carved-pumpkins

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The Rice is Right or, Variety is the Rice of Life

rice-terracesRice is as old as dirt…well, almost. Archeological evidence suggests that rice was domesticated over 10,000 years ago in the Pearl River region of China. Rice is also as abundant as bad reality television shows…well, almost. It ranks third in terms of global crop production behind sugarcane and corn. Rice is also consumed almost as much as Nicholas Sparks’ novels…well, almost. It comprises 20% of global caloric intake.

Rice also comes in many varieties in three main categories; long-grain, short-grain and specialty. That being the case it can be difficult to determine which type of rice to include in which dish. Which type is best for stir-fries, pilaf, risotto or rice pudding? Well, read on dedicated epicurean, read on.

So you say you’ve got a hankering for a curry dish, Middle Eastern cuisine or some delicious New Orleans style gumbo? Then the recently popular, Indian/Pakistani long-grain basmati rice is the choice for you due to its spicy aroma and flavor. Or are you preparing to roll your own blun…er, I mean sushi? If that’s the case, select a premium Japanese short-grain rice for this difficult task as this type is sufficiently glutinous (sticky) and some brands have a lovely nutty flavor.

MagicKitchen.com's Lemon Risotto
MagicKitchen.com’s Lemon Risotto

How about a delectable stir-fry dish, a bed for grilled or fried foods or a rice-based soup? Then choose what the Thais choose; jasmine rice. This is due to its moist, soft texture and sweet flavor and fragrance. As for the ever popular rice side dish, risotto, then there is only one real choice, and that’s the Italian short-grain Arborio rice. This is because Arborio becomes creamy and smooth when cooked properly.

Finally, if you’re cooking up some rice pudding or pilaf, then go with the Bangladeshi, specialty rice known as kalijira due to its non-glutinous and consistent nature. OK, one more; for some paella to-die-for, select bomba as this Spanish rice absorbs three times its volume in broth while still remaining firm.

So if a rice-based dish is in your future, please don’t simply grab a box of Uncle Ben’s and hope for the best. One must ensure the rice is right in order to ensure consumer satisfaction.And if it’s too hot or too much work to make your own, try one of MagicKitchen.com’s rice dishes.  Lemon Risotto, Rice Pilaf and Rice with Vegetables are all on our side dish menu!

~Steve, MagicKitchen.com Blogger

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Stock up for your vacation

Soon you’ll be enjoying summer days off. Whether you’re camping,  having a stay-cation,  or renting a cabin, the last thing you want to do is cook.  No, you want to enjoy the water,  sleep in, visit an amusement park,  enjoy nature, build a sandcastle. You want to do all the things that make you feel happy and relaxed, and cooking isn’t one of them.

That’s why you want to stock up on MagicKitchen.com meals.  Take one out of the freezer and put it into the fridge the night before. The next day, take it out and reheat it, for gorgeous gourmet meals that couldn’t be easier.  We have family size portions, or pick individual meals for people who are picky or on special diets.

Then get back to star gazing, collecting seashells, hiking, having a campfire, roasting marshmallows, flying kites, kayaking, swimming, biking and enjoying your summer!

summer-collage

 

 

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Four Fun Facts About Food

We consume it on a daily basis, some more than others, but we rarely think about the origins or ingredients of the foods we consume…we simply, well, consume. And while the intriguing food facts found below will not alter your food consumption patterns, they do provide some watercooler fodder and are, in the end, food for thought (insert well deserved groans and head shakes here).

  1. MagicKitchen.com's Chicken Noodle Soup rivals the soup nazi's!
    MagicKitchen.com’s Chicken Noodle Soup rivals the soup nazi’s!

    We love soup, especially if it’s made by the “Soup Nazi” made famous in season seven, episode six of the famous sitcom, Seinfeld. Patrons to the Soup Nazi’s kitchen endured his strict, regimented rules for waiting in line and ordering as well as his rude disposition in order to gain access to his delicious concoctions, such as wild mushroom and jambalaya.
    One wonders if people would queue up for soup created from a recently discovered 6,000 year old recipe that contained the unique ingredients of hippopotamus, sparrow, various vegetables, lentils and spices. Of course, if the Soup Nazi did create this soup and you voiced your displeasure…NO SOUP FOR YOU!

  2. We Americans put ketchup on everything from steak to eggs. However, up until the 1800s, Europeans and Americans avoided tomatoes like the plague as they too closely resembled the poisonous nightshade berries. In fact, when Conquistador, Hernan Cortez, returned to Europe with some heretofore unknown tomato plants, they were only regarded as ornamental plants.
    Finally, in the early 19th century, recipes for tomato ketchup began to appear in US magazines, but people were still fearful of eating the fruit raw and the popularity of tomato ketchup far outpaced raw tomatoes. People, apparently, were willing to eat pureed tomatoes mixed with sugar, vinegar and other spices.
  3. Have you ever wondered how SPAM got its name? (No, it does not stand for “something posing as meat”). According to Hormel, SPAM is an amalgamation of the words “spiced” and “ham”…think web + log = blog. However, shortly after its creation in the 1930s, it was known as “shoulder of pork and ham.” Yeah, “spiced ham” sounds quite a bit more palatable.Apparently, the moniker struck a chord with the members of the Monty Python comedy troop as one of their more famous skits involve a cafe patron attempting to order something without the canned meat as part of the dish…”We’ve got SPAM, eggs, SPAM, SPAM, bacon and SPAM.” It was also included in a line from their full-length feature film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. That one line then spawned a 2005 Broadway musical entitled Spamalot that won three Tony awards. Who knew SPAM was so humorous.
  4. baby-carrotsFinally, on a quick note, baby carrots originally were created from unsellable ugly, gross carrots that were simply shaved down to baby size. The new miniature versions sold so well that eventually many non-ugly, non-gross adult carrots were simply converted into the infant variety.

So there you are. Four food facts with which to amaze and edify your friends, and if you get a chance, be sure to check out the “Soup Nazi” episode of Seinfeld, as well as anything that combines Monty Python and SPAM.

 

Steve, MagicKitchen.com blogger

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Top 3 Accidental Food Inventions

“Inventing” food is a difficult concept to grasp, no?  It’s not like inventing something entirely new that didn’t exist before, such as a telephone or shoe lace.  Humans have known for centuries what we can ingest without detrimental side effects (lobster, lettuce) and those items which either kill us or make us violently ill (rhubarb leaves, parts of the puffer fish.  Yes, puffer fish).

cookies-28423__180That being the case, the only method to truly invent food is either combining items to create a new dish, or developing a new way to prepare an existing edible item or items.  So here are three food “inventions” that came about under unintentional circumstances.

  1. The chocolate cookie.  The story goes something like this…the owner of the Toll House Inn, in Whitman, MA, Ruth Graves Wakefield, ran out of the baker’s chocolate she used to make her delicious chocolate cookies.  Desperate to avoid rebellious geriatric guests, she substituted broken pieces of Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate, believing that they would melt and mix with the batter.  You can guess the rest of the tale.  The chunks did not melt, and potato-chips-448737__180viola, accidental chocolate chip cookie and the reaction of Wakefield’s guests…”Can I have some more cookies and a glass of milk please?”
  2. Potato chips.  A disgruntled patron of Moon’s Lake House, in Saratoga Springs, NY was dissatisfied with the thickness of his fried potatoes in 1853.  He had them returned to the kitchen of Chef George Crum, on more than one occasion, demanding that they be cut thinner.  Mr. Crum eventually cut them razor thin (rather than defile the customer’s food) fried them, and seasoned them with copious amount of salt.  The customer, and everyone else who sampled them, then discovered that they could simply not eat just one.
  3. frozen-popThe Popsicle.  An eleven year old boy, by the name of Frank Epperson, for reasons known only to him, was mixing powdered soda and water together in Oakland, CA in 1905.  He then left this mixture on his front porch, with his mixing stick still in the concoction, and it froze overnight.  He initially called his creation the “Epsicle,” but changed the name to Popsicle by the time he patented his invention in 1923.  The invention of the “brain freeze” soon followed.

If not for the accidental creation of these new foods, children everywhere would now have three less items to beg and plead for from their parents (although, fried dough, soft serve ice cream and Funfetti are suitable replacements).

You could say that recipes are food inventions, too. MagicKitchen.com has come up with a few, like Chicken ana Luisa, bits of ham and artichoke heart in a cream sauce inside chicken breast, or Lemon Tarte, which is like lemony cheesecake only better. Do you have any favorite food inventions?

Chicken-ana-Luisa    Lemon-tarte

Steve, MagicKitchen.com blogger

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May is National Salsa Month…Fantàstico!

peppersNo, not the dance that they futilely attempt on Dancing with the Stars, but the spicy Mexican condiment. Whether you like yours mild or eye-watering hot, or with tomatillos, salsa can be used to invigorate any number of dishes and not just for tortilla chip dipping.

mayan-147037_640Salsa is an incredibly ancient food. Evidence of its use goes back to the Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas of ancient Mexico and South America, who consumed it long before some dude named Columbus tripped over the New World in 1492. In fact, Columbus’ homies back in Europe had not yet even discovered the joys of the tomato as they were only grown in the New World and since tomatoes are one of the main ingredients in salsa, Europe was salsa free.

Since that time, salsa has been transformed into an incredible number of varieties as people across the globe experiment with different ingredients and spices. However, the most common ingredients include tomatoes, onions, garlic, cilantro and, depending on your heat tolerance, any number of peppers, which is how the salsa “heat scale” is generated.

salsa2With the growing number of Hispanic-Americans, prepared food companies jumped on the salsa bandwagon decades ago, beginning in the 1950s, and they spread their prepared salsa steadily northward from the American Southwest, until its popularity became national. However, that’s not to say that these prepared salsas are the most savory.

Some of the best salsas you will ever taste are almost always homemade. It’s in this manner that you can choose specific and fresh ingredients to control the thickness and heat level of your salsa, depending upon your personal preferences and those of your friends and family as well. You can also perfectly match your salsa to compliment any number of dishes.

If you do decide to produce your own salsa, don’t be afraid to experiment with different ingredients, such as beans, corn, different types of peppers, mango, pineapple, or mint. Also, don’t be afraid to pair it with unconventional items, such as chocolate (everything goes with chocolate), chicken or even cheese cake.

MagicKitchen.com has any number of dishes that would go great with some of your homemade salsa, or even prepared salsa. These dishes include our stuffed peppers with marinara sauce, vegetable stew, chili con carne, fresh cut corn medley, or chocolate ganache cake just to name a few. But don’t be afraid to pair your salsa with almost any dish, and not just during the month of May!

Here’s a unique salsa recipe which would go wonderfully with our vegetable stew, courtesy of Knead to Cook:

Shrimp Salsa

1.25 lbs of cocktail shrimp, peeled and deveined and then chopped
1 cup or one large handful of fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1/3 cup of finely diced red onion
1 red bell pepper, chopped into small pieces
2 medium sized tomatoes, diced
1 jalapeño, diced (seeded if you don’t want it spicy)
2 limes, juiced (must use fresh)
1 teaspoon (I love ground cumin so I added more) ground cumin
1 pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper

Directions:

Combine everything through the jalapeño. Give a good toss in your bowl. Then add the remaining ingredients tossing. Taste and adjust seasonings to your preference. Cover and refrigerate until serving.

Enjoy!

Steve, MagicKitchen.com blogger

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Cool New Kitchen Tools!

Do you have all the essential kitchen equipment to get cooking? Well, gone are the days where a sharp knife, a carrot peeler and a sandwich maker defined a complete kitchen. Modern technology has come with different tools that will make cooking feel amazing.

Having the right equipment in the kitchen is an absolute must. Your kitchen tools have impact not only on your productivity and efficiency but also on what you are serving up. Upgrade your kitchen with the best modern tools and gadgets. Juicers, Steamers and chef knives are hardly enough. These unique varieties of kitchen equipment will make cooking fun, stylish and easy!

The trio peeler    Changing knives to peel different things is passé. This three-in –one tool has three blades that easily peel hard skins, soft skins and also julienne. It’s time to get rid of that carrot peeler! See video below.

Easy Sushi Roll Maker    We all love sushi, but making it ourselves requires using those darn sushi roll mats, which are just plain difficult to use. This little machine takes the difficulty away, making perfect sushi rolls with no hassle!

Bean French press coffee maker    With this press coffee maker, you will never suffer cold coffee. The double wall locking lid will keep your coffee hotter for longer.

Foldable Tablet Stand     Hardly anyone uses cookbooks anymore, we look up new and exciting ideas on the internet and cook from there. This tablet stand keeps your tablet safe and at a good angle, then folds away for future use.

Tea swizzle   Love swizzle sticks? Make your cups interesting by stirring your way into a perfectly brewed and enjoyable cup of tea, one cup at a time.

Easy-pour kettle   Tired of burnt fingers? Bet you are! This kettle’s spout automatically opens when the kettle is lifted.

Veggie Spiralizer  Use this tool, and your veggies will never be boring again! It creates long spirals from zucchini, carrots, potatoes and just about anything.

Using these tools will change your outlook on cooking. As they say, the sharpness of a knife or the bluntness of a serving spoon is what makes the difference between a good and great kitchen!

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Summer Cocktails

Before you begin making cocktails at home, check into this cocktail-making guide. It will tell you everything you need to know to make restaurant quality cocktails at home. Now, you’re ready to make these amazingly refreshing 8 summer cocktails.

Margarita: Of course you’ll want to start with a blended Margarita, the quintessential summer drink.

Almost every recipe out there is wrong. This Margarita recipe is almost perfect, except the secret ingredient is to add a splash of orange juice. Now the secret’s out.

lines

LimeMargarita
Mojito: The classic and very refreshing drink from Cuba is easy to make.
Take 12 fresh mint leaves, drop them into a tall, heavy glass, and “Muddle” them. (Wish you’d read that ‘making cocktails’ article I  mentioned now, don’t you?) That just means squishing them around until they release their oils.Then add juice from 1 lime, 2 Tbsp of simple syrup, add 1½ oz white rum, stir, then add  about a cup of ice.
Fill the glass with cold soda water and stir. Add small sprigs of mint as a garnish.

mint

 mojito
 Carpe Diem: It’s Latin for “Seize the Day”, and this drink will definitely grab you.Thanks to Gourmet Traveler Magazine for the recipe.

cukes

 carpe-diem
 Tiki Tai: Slightly spicy, orange-flavored, and deceptively strong, this refreshing summer cocktail is exotic and fabulous.2 oz Bacardi Spiced Rum
1 oz Grand Marnier or Triple Sec
1 oz lime juice
1 oz agave nectar
1 ½ oz orange juice
2 dashes of Angostura bittersDirections: Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Shake well and pour into 2 tall glasses filled with ice. Add orange wedges. Serves 1.
 tiki-tai
 Pink Firework Lemonade2 oz Vodka
2 oz Fresh Lemon Sour
1 oz Cranberry Juice
2 Maraschino Cherries
3 oz SodaInstructionsPour all ingredients except soda into a cocktail shaker. Shake well and pour into 2 tall glasses filled with ice. Serves 2.
 pink
Watermelon Daiquiri: That old fashioned daiquiri is passé. Now watermelon makes it exciting!3 cups cubed seedless watermelon
Half of a container of frozen limeade  concentrate, thawed
2 oz light rum
2 Tbsp powdered sugar
2 cups ice cubesIn a blender combine the 3 cups fruit, the limeade concentrate, rum, and powdered sugar. Cover and blend until smooth. Pour over a glass of ice. Serves 2.
 daquiri
 White Sangria: 
3 bottles dry white Spanish wine
1 cup brandy
¾ cup simple syrup
¾ cup Triple Sec
3 Granny Smith apples, cored and thinly sliced
2 lemons, thinly sliced
3 oranges, thinly sliced
4 fresh ripe peaches or nectarines, peeled, pitted, and thinly sliced
IceIn a 2-gallon container, stir together the first four ingredients. Add apple, lemon, orange, and peach slices. Refrigerate for 2 hours; serve over ice.
 sangria
 Cool Blue Hawaiian: 3 oz light rum
2 oz blue Curaçao
1/2 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
1/4 cup  canned cream of coconut
3 cups ice cubes

Blend everything in a blender until smooth

Garnish with a a pineapple wedge or a Maraschino cherry.

 cool-blue
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