The Uses for Different Edible Mushrooms

mushroomsThere are hundreds of different kinds of mushrooms all over the world. Not all of them are edible, but the ones that are all have different uses in cooking. We couldn’t possibly tell you about every edible mushroom out there, but we can give you a jumping-off point of what to do with some of the most common mushrooms you can find and how to prepare them.

Portobello Mushrooms

You’ve probably heard of this mushroom. It’s possibly one of the most common types of mushroom. These are the ones you most often find in the grocery story. The young button-like mushroom can be used in salads and egg dishes – breakfast omelet, anyone? An aged Portobello mushroom becomes darker in color and has a meatier texture. In this form, they can be used as a meat substitute. They can be grilled or baked in the oven for your vegetarian friends.

Shiitake Mushrooms

Continue reading "The Uses for Different Edible Mushrooms"

How to Spice Things Up in the Kitchen

spicesSpices and herbs in cooking should be used to enhance the flavor of food. Therefore you'll want to pick spice flavors that complement each other. The key to spicing things up is that less is more. Avoid adding too much all at once. Instead, add a little at a time and add more to taste. Here’s a good way to start using some common spices, and when to add them to your cooking.

Basil

This is a popular Italian seasoning. Use in pesto, on white meat, or with fruits and vegetables – tomato and basil are a classic. The key is to add it at the end. Basil has a lot of flavor which is released quickly in cooking, so add it towards the end of your cooking to avoid cooking off all of the flavor.

Cayenne Pepper

This is no joke so really use this sparingly because it gives off a lot of heat. This is definitely a spice that you want to start out with a little and slowly add more to taste. Cayenne pepper works well with all types of meat, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Add it to vinegar-based sauces or combined with lemon in marinades.

Dill

This is an herb that goes very well with salmon. It also goes well in stews and even yogurt. Pair it up with vegetables like cucumber and carrots.

Cilantro

There is a slightly citrusy taste to cilantro. That means it goes well in salsas and guacamole. Put it with lemon and lime in different marinades.

Coriander Seeds

Add these seeds to soups and fish. It also goes well on smoked meats like turkey. Use this with spices like cumin. They blend well together.

Rosemary

There is a woodsy flavor to this herb which works well with roasted meats like pork, chicken, or even on salmon. If you want a more subtle taste, then add it to sauces and marinades. It blends well with mushrooms, tomatoes, and spinach.

Sage

There is a slight peppery flavor to sage, so this goes well with sweet fruits and vegetables like apples and squash. But it can also help kick things like sausage up a notch. This can be added to slow cooking things like stews and sauces, and added from the start without worry about it losing its flavor. It’s a powerful spice and will hold up to long cooking times.

Thyme

This seasoning goes well with parsley and bay seasoning. So don’t be afraid to use it in recipes that require those two seasonings to give it a little extra kick. Try it out in bean dishes, vegetable dishes, or with eggs.

Turmeric

This colorful spice is most often used in curries. It can also be added to stir fries and rice to enhance their flavor.

Parsley

This is most often added to pasta dishes. Don’t be afraid to sprinkle it over chicken or fish. Add a little parsley for not only color but also flavor at the end of cooking mashed potatoes.

It’s important to taste your food throughout cooking to determine if it needs more of something. But remember that you’re not trying to mask flavors with spices and herbs - you are most definitely looking to enhance the flavors. Don’t start adding every spice in your spice cupboard just because you think it’s going to make it taste better.

How to Flavor with Vanilla

vanilla beanWhen it comes to baking, vanilla is a very important ingredient. But did you know that there are multiple forms of vanilla? There’s extract, beans, and paste. There’s even things like vanilla syrups and vanilla sugars, and many more ways to get that tasty vanilla into your baked goods.

Let’s talk about the most popular choices – extract, beans, and paste. Learn the differences between these three and how to best use them in your baking.

Extract

This is probably the most common form of vanilla. This actually takes the bean, mashes it up, and infuses it with a mixture of alcohol and water. This is the most readily available to people and most affordable. It’s simple to measure out and use in your baking.

Beans

Vanilla beans are the perfect use of the vanilla. They're much pricier and harder to work with, but you might find the flavor they produce to be well worth it. These waxy, dark brown pods are filled with flecks of brown which give such a hearty and satisfying flavor. You’ll wonder why you haven’t been using them all along.

You want to find beans that are plump and smooth with a slight shine and that are highly fragrant. Avoid dry beans. Using them in light fluffy desserts like white cake, cupcakes, or muffins gives such an intense vanilla flavor that you might never want to go back to using another form of vanilla again. Be warned, though; it will leave specks of brown in the food. To some this is great, but if you want a pure white cake then this isn’t going to be the way to get it.

Paste

This is kind of the best of both worlds when it comes to choosing between beans and extract. With the ease of use that the extract has but with the bolder flavor of the bean, this could be a great option for you. Vanilla paste is just the scooped-out pod of the vanilla bean in a nice convenient jar. So you are getting all of the flavor of the bean without all of the hassle. It will still provide those flecks of color in your baking like the actual bean does.

Most recipes do call for actual vanilla extract but if you do decide to substitute the bean or paste for the extract, you can. One bean actually equals about three teaspoons of vanilla extract. For vanilla paste, consult the jar to see how much to use in your recipes. It usually shows the conversions between vanilla extract and the paste. When in doubt, gradually add to your baking, tasting after each addition to help you determine the right amount of vanilla flavor.

The next time you bake, try something new. You might find that you really like the end result much better if you use beans or paste instead of the more common extract.

What Is Mindful Eating and How Can You Apply It to the Way You Eat?

mindful eatingEating is something that we all have to do, and eating the right foods is very important. Not only do you feel better physically when you eat the right foods, but you'll also feel better mentally. In order to have a healthy diet and give yourself the nutrients you need, while also eating the right amounts of food, you must be mindful of what you're putting into your body.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is being aware of what you are doing, whether this is your performance at work, consciously trying to live a healthier lifestyle or watching what you're eating. Being mindful of day-to-day things can help you to focus better, stress out less and become a better person overall. It might take a little bit of time to get used to thinking more about the decisions you make in the kitchen and at restaurants, but it will pay off and you'll feel much better for it.

How can you be mindful when you eat?

Mindful when eating has a lot of different elements to it. One of these particular aspects involves thinking about the type of foods and drinks you are putting into your body. In order to feel better and live better, you shouldn't consume foods which are high in stodgy carbs or sugars and bad fats. Consciously trying to avoid these types of foods will help you on your way to a healthier lifestyle.

As well as the type of foods you eat, you should also be mindful of the quantities of food you eat. Many of us struggle with weight issues and other health problems not necessarily because of what we're eating, but how much we are eating. Brown rice and other whole wheat carbs aren't bad for your body, but when consumed in large quantities, they can cause issues. Likewise, fruits like figs and bananas are great for giving your body the nutrients it needs, but too much of it can create problems for you.

How can being mindful of what you eat help you?

You'll find that being more mindful of what you eat, when you eat and how much you eat can help you in many ways. You will feel more in control of yourself, particularly your weight and how you feel from day to day. You'll wake up feeling better, and you'll feel generally good about yourself after making the right choices when it comes to food and drink.

Mindful Eating ecover SingleMindful eating is not another fad diet - it is a healthy eating lifestyle you can live with for the rest of your life. I talk about it a lot more in detail in my new guide Mindful Eating - Eat Mindfully for Better Emotional and Physical Health. You can read more about it here.