Category Archives: Diet & Food

ExtenZe Side Effects

ExtenZe is a formula that is all natural and it’s supposed to be effective and safe. After all, when you’re not getting a prescription, you expend that they will give you those results, right? And you expect that it will give you other benefits, because of course herbal ingredients have to be that way, right? Of course, that has been proven wrong more than once. There’s the fact that realistically speaking, there are plenty of “natural” supplements that have been proven to be in some cases just as dangerous as prescription options.

Some of ExtenZe’s ingredients are fine, unless of course you’re a woman. Obviously, a male enhancement product is going to use testosterone building ingredients. So obviously, that would be detrimental for women. But that’s why they call it “male enhancement.” But the risks aren’t just to women. There are also side effects that can hit men. For example, some men may experience heart attacks, stroke, and renal failure due to one ingredient known as yohimbine.

It naturally has some sources of caffeine. So one might experience side effects such as those often expected with caffeine such as nausea, irregular heartbeat, dizziness, headaches, etc. Of course, those only happen if you happen to be sensitive to caffeine in the first place. But for those who are, it’s still something to consider. All in all, it will still cause a certain number of side effects, some more serious than others, some comparable in some ways to ingredients like ephedra.

But luckily, this is not the only way to go. There are other options available. For example, you can achieve greater male enhancement results without the side effects. Frankly, ExtenZe doesn’t even really have the mix to show results in the first place. But there’s a product known as Orexis that does. Orexis has all the benefits without the side effects for real male enhancement benefits.

Baking Tips and Advice

I recently started a job as a kitchenhand at a dining hall. Since I’ve been working there, Ive learned ALOT about baking. Everything we make needs to be made in bulk due to the amount of poeple we serve each day. We make sheet cakes and cut them into slices, plate them, and then serve them.

When I first started getting into the baking portion of my job, I found it difficult to cut nice-looking pieces of cake. The frosting would stick to the knife along with cake crumbs and it ended up making the cake look messy. One day, we popped the cake [without the frosting] into the freezer for about an hour [after it cooled] just to see if it would help reduce the crumb-frosting mess when it was being cut. And it worked. You just need to have a bowl of HOT water handy to dip the knife into after a few slices to clean it up. This helped me so much; it was quicker and easier then just cutting a plain cake.

Another handy tip I learned, this one not from work but from my mother who worked in a 5 star restaurant for a while, is how to keep chocolate chips/raisins/nuts etc from sinking to the bottom of a cake/muffin/loaf/bread. You simply just roll whatever youre adding into the cake/muffin/loaf/bread in flour or cocoa powder [depending on your recipe. It helps keep the additional ingrediants from sinking to the bottom and helps your baked goods have more of an evenly- distributed flavour.

Making Bread from Grains

I have not found a bread that wasn’t made from grains, but there certainly is a variety to choose from.

However, one of my favorites has been – and probably always will be – finely ground spelt flour. It is termed the ancient grain for a reason, and one of the ones least likely cause allergies, so I am told. This is of great appeal when many people are developing (or have already had) wheat allergies, for whatever reason.

I almost always use organic spelt, organic whole wheat, and a little organic unbleached flour to give my bread a better texture. I never, ever use margarine as I do not consider it a food product; however, I use extra virgin olive oil and/or a little real butter for the fat. I use sea salt and organic sugars: There are many of those to choose from, and some can normally be found in your grocery store, as can organic maple syrup (also found in some grocery stores).

I first stir together flour and quick rise yeast (I never measure), while my water, oil/fat, salt, and sugar are warming. When butter is melted and salt dissolved, I stir in enough cold water to make the water lukewarm. I mix it in with the flour/yest mix, then add two or three fresh farm eggs. (You can add more, and they enhance the quality, as well as the color, of your bread.) I then stir in as much flour as is needed; then knead, knead, knead. I have yet to see a bread machine that can produce bread than matches the bread produced by a real woman.

With quick rise yeast, it only needs to rise about 20 mins. in a warm kitchen; then for maximum texture, I let it rise again for 15-20 mins. I then roll it or form buns; let it rise again approx. 20-25 mins.; bake at 350-375 for approximately 25 mins.

I make cinnamon bread and buns (with REAL butter, remember) with the best cinnamon (I like Watkins or imported cinnamon from the health food store, when possible), as well as cheese breads, and peanut butter bread (ok, even raisins for those who like raisins).

I find homemade bread is a wonderful “thank you” to neighbors who have done me a kindness, and many of my friends who are professionals also appreciate this “touch of home,” when they do not often eat as well as they would like to, or find time for lunch!

To make the best breads, you can add fresh wheat germ, ground flax, whole oats, nutritional yeast (also at health food stores), and/or bran if you wish. I have even added a little skim milk powder for the protein, and bread with any of the above additions packs a little extra energy punch.

So, making bread from WHOLE grains is ideal; you retain the chromium (also good for your blood sugar) and minerals while delighting your family, friends, and neighbors with the most wholesome scents as they emanate from your kitchen.

How to Freeze Pie Crusts

There are a number of different pastries that you might use for a pie, sweet pastry for desserts and savoury pastry for meat pies for example.  In addition you could use shortcrust or flaky (puff) pastry in either situation.  All of these pastries will freeze and keep well whether they have been cooked or not.  In fact you can purchase very good frozen pastry in stores, and generally, I would recommend making your own shortcrust pastry, since it is simple to do, but buy pre-made flaky (sometimes known as puff) pastry unless you have a lot of time and want to put the effort into layering and folding the pastry a number of times.

Pastry is made from fat (butter, lard or a mx of the two), flour, water and seasoning.  It is the fat element than you need to be most careful with when freezing.  The ingredients are combined by hand until a dough is formed which is just slightly sticky to the touch and has been worked until the bowl is left clean.  You can freeze the pastry from any point forward, and it will keep well.  It is sometimes best to shape the pastry into a pie crust before, and I would suggest the following rules of thumb.

Assuming you are starting with fresh pastry, either homemade or shop bought, the first thing you need to decide is whether or not you will want to cook the pastry from frozen or whether you are going to defrost the pastry.  If you are going to cook from frozen then you should roll and shape the pastry before freezing.  If you are going to defrost the pastry before use, then you may roll and shape before freezing or you might decide to roll the pastry after it has been defrosted. This same process needs to be considered with regarding to freezing the pastry as raw or cooked.  If freezing cooked pastry, then it too should be rolled and shaped before freezing, in fact you may wish to freeze it in it’s own baking tin.  If freezing raw pastry, then you can decide when to roll the pastry to best suit your needs.

To freeze a pie crust if you have cooked the pastry first, let it cool down to room temperature before freezing. 

When you have the pastry ready to freeze, wrap it in clingfilm.  This should be done in appropriate portion sizes or as individual pie crusts if pre-shaped.  The pastry can be placed in the quick freeze compartment of your freezer until frozen.  Then transferred to the normal freezer compartment. I wouldn’t keep frozen pastry more than about six months, although I believe it can be kept frozen for longer.

A Starters Guide to Baking Classic French Pastries

French pastries can seem daunting and complicated, but there are only a few basic recipes that you need to make some classic French pastries. Almost every French pastry has two main components; a cream, and a paste or dough. There are only a few different creams and pastes/doughs that you need to be able to make to create a huge range of seemingly complicated French pastries.

There are three creams to know before you start making classic French Pastries. One of the most common creams is Creme Chantilly: whipped cream sweetened with sugar and flavoured with either vanilla or kirsch. Creme Chantilly is used in Gateaux St. Honor, and can also be mixed with other creams. Pastry cream is one of the most versatile creams, and is extremely common. It is the most common filling of choux (cream puffs), claires, mille-feuilles (sometimes called a Napoleon,) a jalousie, some tarts, and can be used as a filling for danishes and pain au raisins (the french version of a cinnamon bun.) Another common cream is Almond cream, though it is mostly used in filling tart shells. There are other creams, but they are not as common, such as chocolate cream, lemon cream, and buttercream (which is common in America, but not used as often as one would think in French pastries,) however, these creams are not used nearly as often, are not as versatile, and will not be as useful to a beginner making French pastries.

French pastry doughs and pastes seem complicated, but after a little practice you will find that they are relatively easy, and at worst, time consuming.

Pate choux (choux paste) is what makes cream puffs, claires, and part of the Gteau St. Honor. Recipes for choux paste are usually fairly close, but, like anything else, you need to find the perfect on that works for you (and your flour type.) The methods for different choux reicpes are all the same: Water (or water and milk,) the fat, and salt and sugar (if required by the recipe and use) are brought to a boil. All of the flour is poured into the water/fat and mixed with a wooden spoon until all of the flour has been absorbed. The more you cook the paste at this point, the more eggs you can add later, which will result in a nicer product. The paste in transfered to a mixer bowl, and mixed on a med-low speed until you can hold the bottom of the mixer bowl (this will avoid cooking the eggs.) Once the paste has cooled, add the eggs one or two at a time, making sure to mix completely before adding any more eggs. Once all of the eggs have been incorporated, pipe the paste (or drop using spoons) onto a parchment papered baking sheet. Choux paste can be baked at a few different temperatures, I find 375F works the best with the recipes that I use. Steam is what makes the choux rise, so it may benefit from placing a baking dish in the bottom of the oven and filling it part-way with water.

Sweet dough (or paste) is used for tart shells. There are lots of different recipes and different methods for making this dough, my preferred recipe involves mixing all of the ingredients together at one time. Sweet dough (or any type of pie dough) needs to be wrapped and refrigerated to rest for at least 30 minutes before you can roll it out, and then rested again after being pressed into the tart form and docked (poking holes in the bottom of the shell using a fork. This helps eliminate air bubbles and results in a more even shell.) You are almost always going to blind bake the tart shells, so line the shell with parchment paper and fill with uncooked rice, beans, etc. Some kitchen stores sell pie weights (heavy little balls used for blind baking) but it’s usually just more convenient, and cheaper, to take a visit to your pantry. The biggest problem people have is overworking their sweet dough, which makes it tough, so resting the dough, and knowing how much you need to roll out is important.

Pate feuilletee is another classic French pastry staple. Puff dough is alternating layers of fat and dough. It does take a long time to make, because the fat must be folded into the dough, which must then be rolled out and folded over at least three times, with lots of resting time. Depending on the fat that is used and the recipe, the amounts of folds (or turns), and the amount of resting time may vary greatly. One recipe in my collection takes nine and a half hours from start to finish. Puff dough is used to make some tart bases, but most commonly for the mille-feuille.

There are many ways to combine these six recipes that will impress any dinner guest. Choux cream puffs or claires can either be filled with a flavoured whipped cream and fruit, or pastry cream. Sweet dough can be used to make tarts filled with pastry cream, or a variety of other creams (such as lemon, chocolate, etc), or filled with almond cream and fruit before finishing baking. Pate feuilletee can be used much the same as sweet dough, though it is usually only filled with almond cream and fruit. The most basic pate feuilletee recipe is probably the apple tart tatin, which involves only apples, a basic baking caramel, and the puff dough.

Like anything else, with practice comes perfection. So good luck and happy baking!

Comparing Sugar and Sugar Substitutes in Baking

SUGAR, PURE AND NATURAL.

I am a great believer in using pure, natural ingredients where possible. I am a fan of home cooking, and don’t like using pre-prepared packs or ingredients.

Sugar comes from sugar cane or sugar beet, and in many different forms – granulated, syrup, unrefined muscovado etc. Some are more processed than others, and you can choose which type you like according to your taste.

Most sugar substitutes are just chemicals, and who knows what harm they are doing to our bodies? I think that chemicals should only be used as medicines, and to help with food preservation etc. I don’t think that people should routinely eat chemicals just because they can’t say ‘no’ to real sugar. If you don’t like the calories that sugar brings, then cut down, or cut out, the amount you eat.

Sugar substitutes like saccharine don’t behave the same way as sugar does in baking. More than any other type of cooking, baking is a science. The mix of ingredients is crucial and the balance of components is what makes the formula work. This is why you can’t mess about with baking recipes too much – especially bread ones.

Some sugar substitutes are made from processed ingredients, like fruit, to extract the fructose. This is a natural ingredient because it is not man-made, but it is highly processed. If you want natures own sweetener (and don’t want to chew on a sugar cane!) try honey. This comes in a variety of subtle flavours depending on what nectar the bees have been collecting and can be used set or runny. Be careful when using it in baking – as explained before, it will react differently in the mixture to grains of sugar,as it is a semi-liquid. It won’t set hard like sugar does, and your cakes may come out stickier – but perhaps you’ll like it that way?

My advice is to experiment with other NATURAL sugar substitutes, but to stay away from saccharine and other chemical concoctions.

Herbs and Spices to always have in your Pantry

Don’t turn your nose up at dried herbs and spices. First off, you’ll deprive yourself of any-time access to the world’s greatest aromas. Secondly, you’ll lose dozens of opportunities to improve everyday dishes because you can’t harvest or purchase fresh herbs that are obscure, out-of-season or too expensive. The more you use dried herbs and spices, the more knowledgeable and intuitive you’ll become about them.

Parsley

Dried parsley brings a clean and savory flavor to hearty dishes such as sauces, gravies, soups, stews and main dish meats. Sprinkle some on mashed potatoes or home fries for a simple preview of what parsley can do. Believe it or not, parsley also does wonders for Spaghettios.

Bay Leaf

Add a dried bay leaf to just about any soup, stew or chili pot for improved aroma and to balance sweet and salty flavors. You’ll be glad you did. Tell the folks eating the soup, stew or chili that it’s good luck to be the person who finds the bay leaf in their bowl.

Garlic Powder and Onion Powder

Neither of these quite replaces the fresh version for Italian, Mexican or Asian cuisines. However, a pinch of either or both will do wonders for classic roast beef or poultry gravies that would be overpowered by the real thing. If you have onion-phobic kids, onion powder is a great way to invisibly flavor up dishes like meat loaf, omelets and soups.

Basil and Oregano

Use dried basil or oregano together or separately to up the “zing” factor in bottled or homemade spaghetti sauce and other Italian dishes, including pizza. Oregano is also great in chili.

Dill Weed and Caraway Seeds

Bring a little of “La Vie Bohème” to your kitchen with these Eastern European favorites. Dried dill weed deserves to be more widely used in soups and stews, to which it imparts a delicate and sweet anise flavor. Caraway seeds are more strongly flavored but give undeniable Bohemian appeal to goulashes and cabbage dishes.

Hungarian Paprika and Spanish Paprika

Paprika brings a mild taste of bell pepper to whatever it flavors. Hungarian Paprika is the sweeter of the two and is the key ingredients in any Hungarian “paprikash” dish. Spanish paprika is less sweet and pleasantly earthy, and is a great addition to chili and rice and beans. Many soups and stews benefit from a pinch of Hungarian paprika, as do dishes as diverse as meatloaf, fried potatoes, vinaigrette dressings, omelets and rice pilafs.

Cilantro and Cumin

Both of these herbs are strongly associated with Asian and Mexican cuisines. Dried cilantro’s slightly astringent quality also makes it useful for lightening up a soup or stew that seems a little too rich, heavy or salty.

Tarragon

The queen of French herbs will make a simple roast chicken ”suprême” and your chicken marsala something special. A little dried tarragon goes a long way. Its distinctive aroma of pine and fresh hay is especially wonderful on a cold winter day.

Mixed Seasonings

Curry powder is indispensable for Indian cuisine. If you’re new to curry, sample it by adding just a pinch to chicken or lentil soup.  Because it is a patois of so many spices, its flavor is quite complex.

Poultry seasoning is a quick and easy way to bring comforting and familiar earthy flavor to turkey and poultry stuffing.

Spicy Cajun or Creole seasonings are great for gumbos, Jambalaya and more. Try sprinkling some into cooked corn or collard greens for a change from the ordinary.

Poppy Seeds, Sesame Seeds and Pine Nuts

Bakers know what to do with these when making breads and cookies, and non-bakers can sprinkle them on a toasted bagel for an instant ‘everything’ bagel. Pasta lovers can sprinkle poppy seeds on lightly buttered egg noodles, or sesame seeds or pine nuts on spaghetti tossed with olive oil. Sesame seeds or pine nuts are also great on cooked spinach, and poppy seeds spike raw spinach salads nicely.

Ground Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Cloves

Baking, especially around the holidays, just wouldn’t be the same without these sweet, homey favorites. Cooks can make use of them, too. Try stirring a tiny pinch of cinnamon into canned vegetable soup to make it even more warming on a winter day. A pinch of nutmeg enhances the sweetness of cooked leaf vegetables like collards, Brussels Sprouts and cabbage.

Many would-be gourmet cooks hesitate to stock a pantry with inexpensive dried herbs and spices because cookbooks and TV chefs say that “fresh is best”. This is true, but fresh is not always possible or convenient. A full stock of dried herbs and spices is the perfect way to amp up your culinary efforts frugally and with ease. And the tantalizing aroma that wafts out of the spice cabinet each time you open the door is one of the kitchen’s free and simple pleasures.

How to Stock the Pantry when Preparing for Holiday Houseguests

One of the most important features of the holiday season is to spend time together with friends and family. These days, this often involves traveling or having house-guests, since many live far away from each other. To really enjoy the time with your house-guests, without stressing about what is missing in the house, it is best to prepare beforehand. Have your pantry well stocked before the guests arrive, and you can relax more. What things should you make sure to have at hand?

Drinks

A variety of drinks is necessary. Alcoholic beverages play their part, but many like drinks without alcohol as well. Since these items do not expire quickly, whatever is left over after the holidays can be utilized at a later occasion. Fruit juices, sodas, drink-mixers. Think about what kind of food you are planning to serve, and get the appropriate wines. Or, simply get a supply of white and red wines, including the ones that are served with dessert. You will need whiskey and other after-dinner liquors, if you do not know what your guests like include a couple of different ones for choice.

Cans

While we all like eating food with fresh ingredients, having a stock of cans at home can really save your day. Vegetables, tomatoes, beans, tuna – all of these can be used to make a quick meal, any time of the day. Make sure you have a few things that vegetarians will eat, many people have stopped eating meat and fish.

Pasta and Rice

Stock up on pasta and rice, again these do not expire so it is better to have too much than not enough. Get a few different kinds of pasta, the whole meal will change depending on which one you cook. There are also ready-made bread mixes you can keep in your pantry, just mix with water and you will have fresh bread. Great to use on the days when all the shops are closed. A couple of bags of ready-made risotto could give a nice back-up for a meal.

Breakfast Items

People like different things in the morning. Unless you know your guests well, get a few things to choose from. Some different kinds of tea and coffee, including decaffeinated alternatives. Biscuits and cakes, cornflakes or other cereals. Having a stock of long-term milk is also good, in case you run out of fresh milk.

Having house-guests is great fun. But unless you are well prepared, you could get stressed. Feeding a lot of people takes effort. By making a list and stocking up your pantry before they arrive, you can welcome them with more confidence.

Best Bakers Helpers

When it comes to cookbooks for people who love to bake there are literally hundreds to choose from. While many basic cookbooks such as The Betty Crocker Cookbook have chapters dedicated to baking, it is not the main focus of the cookbook. If you want something that is all baking, there are some excellent choices available.

Rosie’€™s Bakery All Butter Cream Filled Sugar Packed by Judy Rosenberg

As the name of the cookbook implies, this is not the cookbook for diet baking. It is about real old fashioned baking with fresh natural ingredients and the calories that come along with that. The brownies in this cookbook are a personal favorite and if you have never baked a brownie from scratch, you have no idea what you are missing. One bite of these luscious brownies will have you swearing off boxed brownies forever, there really is no comparison. This cookbook is jam packed with great recipes however is does have a flaw, it doesn’t offer much in the way of pictures so you need to be confident in your cooking abilities to get the most from it. If you want to sample some of the delectable treats in this cookbook, Rosie’s Bakeries are a small chain in the Boston area.

Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook by Griffith and Cheryl Day

This is a relatively new cookbook from the owners of the bakery of the same name in Savannah, Georgia. So many customers have loved the treats that they ate here and wanted to be able to duplicate them at home that the owners have come out with a cookbook that highlights the most popular items that they sell.  Whether it is the Drunk Blondies or the great rustic breads and biscones, there are some old southern favorites along with plenty more to keep you baking in your kitchen for quite some time.

Bake Sale Cookbook by Sandra Lee

Known for her semi-homemade recipes, Sandra Lee has brought her magic to bake sale items. She is not hesitant to use the convenience of mixes for the base in most of her baked goods but they are brought to a whole new level with additional ingredients that will have you confidently claiming them as your own. For the busy homemaker who wants to bake something special but has time restrictions, this cookbook is a life saver.

Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

If you are the type of baker who is always looking for an updated version of your old favorites, this is the perfect cookbook for you. The authors have taken favorite comfort food recipes and added surprise ingredients. While not all of them may work for you, if you are adventurous, you should find enough unique combinations in this cookbook to keep you baking for a while. Some of the favorites are an updated root beer cake as well as red velvet.

Rose Levy Beranbaum has created a library of cookbooks for the avid baker. Whether you are looking for the ultimate cake, the perfect pie or bread and even Christmas Cookies, Rose has a cookbook that will fit the bill.

These are just some of the cookbooks that a baker may want to have in their arsenal. There are many more old favorites and new favorites as well that offer great recipes and challenges to the baker on your list.

101 Investing in Wine

Investing in wine can prove lucrative if you know what wines are a gem and how to locate them. You can sit on a bottle and when the time is ripe you can auction it off to the highest bidder. It won’t be hard to find a buyer. There are many auction sites on line such as Wine Commune. Decide what your budget will be. You may decide to start off with a bottle or two. If you select the right wine you can expect to make a hefty return – more than triple the price paid. The amazing part about investing in wine is you can use it as a short term investment or long term. Even with the unstable world economy, wine has not taken the same hits as other investments. Wine investment returns have done well in comparison to traditional investments. What wines are the best for investments? well first I can tell you never invest in a California wines. California wines are made for drinking and would never be an investment in the real wine market. If you have some money to invest, French wines are and I predict will continue to be a treasured investment. French wines are the largest produced and they range from your high end that are treasured to your everyday drinking wines that rarely leave the French Province. Red Bordeaux comes in at the top and then you have your Champagne, Rhone and also Italian wines. A prime example would be if you purchased a bottle of 1982 Lafite Rothschild Paullac. The bottle now could yield you anywhere from $1800.00, which would be a steal. 1997 Lafite Rothschild your could purchase presently for around $500.00, but it’s the vintage counts.

First start by taking a crash course in 101 Wines to invest. It’s learning how to build a impressive portfolio that can yield high returns. There are many places you can purchase your investment and also pay to store it until you are ready for it. Remember storing wine is not simple. There was a time when people had nature cellars where the wine could be shield from sunlight and kept in a damp place. Storing is crucial for the aging of the wine. You need to select a wine that will surely improve with age. Although there are many wines that are so exquisite that just the thought of owning them would be enough, however remember even the best bottle of wine will not last more than forty or fifty years. Wines such as these have surpassed the enjoyment of drinking but are still considered investments for the actual bottle and these wines would be too expensive to even contemplate purchasing as an investment for the average person.

So first consider if the wine will be stable over a period of time and what the period of maturity is for the wine. Search for reputable companies to purchase the wine from. A desirable portfolio would be stocked with Bordeaux; Lafite Rothschild, Latour, Margaux, Mouton Rothschild and a bottle of Petrus. Find out what the best vintages were for that prized bottle of wine. An example Lafite vintages 1982, 1990, 2000, 2003 and 2005. Excellent vintage years and each one would be an excellent investments over a period of time. Around now you could possibly fine the 2005, vintage for around $275 to $400.00. If you held on to that bottle for a some years you would make a much better return than having the money sitting in a bank. Now for building your portfolio, think in terms as buying one or two bottles over a period of time. Keep your eye open and stay alert for the vintage is what dictates the wine will have a high return. Also be cautious fraud is even a reality in the wine investment business.

Okay so now you tracked down your investment and you have it properly stored. Be certain it’s insured. Although you may be tempted to pop the cork and take a sip, remember it’s an investment, so take your hand away from the cookie jar until the time is right.