Healthiest Fast Food

When you think of healthy meal choices, fast food is not the first thing that comes to mind. Fast food items are normally high in calories, sodium, and fat content. The important thing to remember is to avoid items with cheese, bacon, or sauces. Many side orders can have as many calories as the burger itself, and it is always a good idea to skip dessert. It is not recommended to eat at fast food establishments if you are watching your weight, but some chains are significantly better than others in nutrition.

Subway – 295 average calories for 6” sandwich

Subway has been running television commercials for years touting their nutritional superiority over other fast food restaurants.  Their claims are valid. Subway 6 inch sandwiches have an average of 295 calories which is much better than the 540 calories of the McDonalds Big Mac. The average subway sandwich also has 10 grams of fat and 8 of their sandwiches have less than 6 grams. The sodium content of their sandwiches vary wildly from 500mg to over 1200mg, but that is still better than most hamburgers. If you avoid the cheese and sauces, a subway sandwich can be one of your best choices for eating fast food.

Arbys – 490 average calories for roast beef sandwich

Arbys specializes in roast beef sandwiches that normally average less than 500 calories. Adding cheddar cheese increases the calories quite a bit for their sandwiches. The Ham & Swiss melt comes in at an impressive 300 calories. The fat content is under 20 grams for most sandwiches and the sodium amount averages between 1200mg and 1600mg. Arbys is a healthier alternative to most burger restaurants, but try to avoid the curly fries. A medium size order has as many calories as the sandwich.

Schlotzskys – 540 average calories for a small sandwich

Although not as healthy as Subway, Schlotzskys sandwiches are still a good choice for the health conscious consumer. The key is to get a sandwich that does not have a sauce or mayonnaise such as the Turkey Salad. A turkey breast sandwich only has 342 calories and several more are under 400 calories. Avoid the deluxe original style which has 738 calories just for the small size. The fat content is a little high on most sandwiches, but the chicken and turkey breast both come in under 7 grams of fat each. The sodium content varies tremendously on each sandwich with the Fresh Veggie sandwich having the lowest amount at 751mg. The nutrition numbers for the wraps are surprisingly no better than the sandwiches and a few have actually more calories.

Eating at fast food restaurants on a regular basis is never a good idea, but the above 3 restaurants will help you control your waistline if you choose the right items..

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Should Restaurants be Required to Post Calorie Counts – No

Several restaurants have begun to post calorie counts on foods they serve. This may be one method to raise awareness in America that the rising obesity rates are due, in part, to high-calorie foods regularly eaten in fast-food restaurants. Most people are knowledgeable enough about food to realize that an extra-large cheeseburger with bacon and all the trimmings has more calories than a small garden salad with vinaigrette dressing. Individuals may not know the exact calorie count of every item they eat, but they do know that eating fried chicken, macaroni with cheese, creamed potatoes with gravy and two yeast rolls every day for lunch is unhealthy and has many calories.

The Federal Department of Agriculture (FDA) will require chain restaurants to begin posting calorie counts for all food sold to customers sometime in 2013. Because movie theatres complained, they will be exempt from posting calories. All businesses should band together to resist the imposed mandate by the government.

The responsibility for eating healthy lies with the individual, not the restaurants. Eating out is a choice for the majority. It is their responsibility to learn which foods have high caloric value and which ones have far fewer calories per serving. Even in restaurants and fast-food establishments that do not post the number of calories per item, the average person knows enough about food and calories to make the right choices for themselves and their families. They choose to eat certain foods higher in calories on occasion and not as a regular habit. The average American family eats the majority of their meals at home, with dining out being a treat, usually for a special occasion.

It is not, and has never been, the responsibility of a business establishment to police the habits of their customers. Requiring restaurants to post the calories of every item they sell could cause embarrassment when a person chooses to order a milkshake as an occasional treat, with calories posted as 600, while their friends order diet sodas with zero calories. People become self-conscious and are made to feel ashamed for ordering what they want.

People who are obese due to very unhealthy food choices are not going to change their habits because the local burger joint begins to post the 1,100 calories of their House burger. Seeing the high caloric value of particular food items has rarely, if ever, caused a person to switch from chili-cheese fries to a serving of green beans. People usually order foods they don’t regularly eat at home. After all, eating out is usually a rare occasion.

Seeing the calories posted in black and white may actually prompt a person to switch from fried chicken to baked chicken, but generally speaking, a person who wants fried chicken will order fried chicken.

America is swiftly sliding into a nanny state. The government feels it must intervene in every aspect of a citizen’s life. If the government truly believes its citizens are not capable of making wise decisions for themselves and their families, maybe it is time to overhaul the educational systems.

In the end, what purpose does it serve to require a restaurant to post the number of calories in one serving of fries when it actually serves the customer what amounts to two servings, but does not point this fact out to the customer? Everything is super-sized. Over the years, the amount in one serving has increased to nearly double the amount. Perhaps it would be more beneficial to post the fact that one regular cheeseburger is not one serving, but two.

It is past time for Americans to become responsible for the choices they make in life. It is the responsibility of each individual to inform himself on every issue that impacts his life. Leaving it up to an organization, business or government is giving them control over personal decisions. If restaurants are required to post calorie counts, will grocery stores soon have to list the number of calories in the meat they sell per serving for every imaginable way of preparing it? Imagine listing the number of calories per serving of chicken based on how it is cooked, if it is served with gravy or a sauce, or dipped in ranch dressing.

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What Eat at a Buffet Style Restaurant

One of the oddest things to have difficulty in deciding is which restaurant you or you and whoever you are going to go with, will go to. While it might not be one of those life altering decisions, it is something that matters to people because they are spending money to have someone prepare, cook and perhaps deliver a meal to them. You and everyone else want to enjoy the experience and look back on it as time and money well spent. The problem with that though, is you can never really be sure if the meal that is cooked for you will be as good as you hope, even if you’ve eaten at a particular restaurant and have had a particular meal. This is because restaurants have different people preparing and cooking the meals they serve. This is one reason to choose to eat at a buffet style restaurant.

Granted, the food you find at the restaurant you choose may not be exactly the same every time you go, but it doesn’t matter as much because you have more choices. If one dish isn’t to your liking, you can toss it in the trash and go help yourself to something else. This is a powerful incentive, particularly if you happen to be a fussy eater.

Another reason that you or your crowd may choose to eat at a buffet rather than traditional restaurant is because there are generally more choices of food to choose from. This becomes more important the more people you have with you, because it becomes more and more difficult to figure out which sort of restaurant to go to with some many people who have so many different tastes or even moods. Going to a buffet style restaurants increases the chances of everyone finding something they like to eat.

Another reason is if you are a big eater. Buffet style restaurants are generally cheaper than traditional restaurants and become even more so if you’re the kind of person that finds that the portions at many of the restaurants you patronize, just aren’t big enough for you. This is never a problem at a buffet restaurant of course, because they are almost always all you can eat affairs.

And finally, a reason to choose to eat at a buffet style restaurant is because most buffet style restaurants have a more casual atmosphere than do the traditional sit-down and stay there type places. This quite often leads to a more relaxed dinner which can at times be a lot more fun than when you’re eating at a place where you have to feel like you have to behave the whole time you’re there.

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Summer Solstice Menus

The summer solstice is the longest day of the year. With this pleasure comes high temperatures and sometimes uncomfortable heat. As a result, cooking in the kitchen, on a barbecue or any other method which produces more heat is preferably avoided, although there are exceptions. 

This is a time to enjoy simple food that can be prepared with the least amount of effort but which still provides all the nutrients for a healthy diet.  It is also the beginning of the time of year when the vegetable garden is starting to produce young tender vegetables and when the soft fruit is at its peak. 

Salads mean different things to different people. It doesn’t have to contain lettuce which while a useful background leaf is not very exciting to the palate.  A useful version of salad is made from diced mango, avocado, red onion and one or two other vegetables which are available. Add some olive oil, a touch of red wine vinegar with pepper and salt and you have a delicious and satisfying dish which is a useful accompaniment to other foods.  Another easy salad is halved cherry tomatoes, diced red pepper (bell pepper) and slices of red onion. Sprinkle with a home made vinaigrette made from two tablespoons of olive oil (or a lighter oil is you prefer) to one tablespoon of any flavored vinegar. Add a little made mustard to help the emulsion and add salt and pepper to taste and mix well. 

If you can grow your own cress and sprout seedlings they add substance to any cold food and look attractive too. Kits can be bought inexpensively and it only takes two or three days to have a crop and the satisfaction of growing your own food. 

With a kitchen garden or even a large pot on a balcony, there is nothing like the taste of fresh peas. They are nutritious and can be used as an informal starter for a meal, leaving everyone to shuck the peas themselves.  It can be a source of conversation and help to enhance the relaxed time of year.

Part of the secret to easy summer meals is planning in the colder months. If you can stock the freezer with prepared meat dishes, which only need heating gently or can be barbecued, life becomes much easier. 

This is a time of year when it is too easy to overdose on strawberries, raspberries, apricots and peaches. Served in a bowl for everyone to help themselves, or diced in a fruit salad, they make a healthy pudding with no cooking. 

Summer solstice food can be a simple or a complicated as your taste, but it should be easy.

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How to Make Coffee Romantic

Coffee drinkers the world over depend on their brew to help them wake up and to give them an energy boost throughout their day. Some people use coffee drinking as a way to socialize and interact with others. Coffee drinking is also a nice way to relax and unwind after a long day.

These are all well known facts, what may not be so well known is that coffee can be romantic. You may find this hard to believe, but it is true, coffee can be a rather romantic activity if gone about the right way. If you are a coffee drinker and would like to make your next coffee time with your mate more romantic, read on for more information. 


Set the mood by preparing your mate’s favorite coffee, pour some into their favorite mug (or gift them a special new one) and fix it the way they like it. Put the coffees on a tray and carry it outside to a small table. Light a couple of candles if it feels right to you and then ask your mate to join you outside. Other ways you can enhance this idea is by playing soft music in the background, put flowers in vase on the table or tray and having a blanket ready in case it gets chilly outside.

Sit together and sip your coffees and enjoy the splendor of another beautiful sunset. You might even try sharing each other’s coffees if they are fixed up differently. Sharing things can inspire feelings of being connected.


If you are both early risers, then this is an idea for you. Brew the coffee, make some sort of breakfast item if one or both of you eat breakfast. Have one flower of their favorite variety in a vase and put it on a tray (a large cutting board works in a pinch), along with the coffees and take them outside or to the nearest window with a view of the sunrise. Wake up your mate, if they are not already awake, and ask them to join you at your chosen spot. 

Sunrise is a special time of day because the world is not yet hustling and bustling yet. Everything seems to have a peaceful calm to it. You and your mate can slowly wake up with your coffee and enjoy that special quiet time together. 

Coffee picnic

This type of picnic isn’t about the food, it is about sharing some great coffee in a beautiful place. Start by choosing your destination carefully. You want a place that both you and your mate will enjoy such as a spot by a lake or in a nice park. You can even choose a spot off the beaten path if it has a scenic view. This type of picnic is really nice in Autumn when the leaves are changing colors and the air is cooler. 

Once you have your spot picked out, it is time to prepare the picnic basket with goodies. Brew your coffee and pour it into a thermos. Gather cream, sugar, spoons and napkins and put them into containers to make them ready for travel. You can pack regular coffee mugs or travel mugs, that is up to you. Next, pack some sort of cookies or other snack items. Remember, this picnic is not about food, it is about coffee. You will want to pack a blanket to spread your items out on once you arrive at your destination.


When the hustle and bustle of the day is over and it is time to relax, coffee can set the mood for romance. Slip into the kitchen to prepare everything. Start with brewing a nice light roast coffee (decaf might be a good choice for early evening consumption). Next fix your mate’s coffee the way they like it and take into the area where you will be relaxing. Dim the lights or light candles and find something on TV that will keep the mood light. You can also opt for romantic music instead of turning on the TV.

Some of the most romantic moments can take place doing the most mundane things. Cuddling together on the sofa while sipping on coffee is not particularly earth shattering, but it is comfortable and special in its own way.

Coffee shop

It is possible to turn a coffee shop trip into a romantic date. You can bring in your own special touches like a flameless candle, a pretty silk flower and dressing up just a little bit. With these small additions, you can turn that small table into a intimate setting for your date. Your mate will no doubt remember that coffee trip for a long time to come. It might even become a something special you do once a year or more often.

Who says you have to have alcohol to make time spent together romantic? All it takes is the right place, the right coffee and the right couple to create a romantic, special time. Coffee can be a very comforting beverage and you can enjoy a special moment with your sweetheart any time there is coffee.

You can enhance coffee time by sitting outside and enjoying the sunset together or by cuddling on the sofa while watching TV. The sunrise can become a special time for the two of you to enjoy your morning brew and some quiet moments together. With the help of a satisfying cup of coffee, you are halfway to creating a romantic mood. 

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Grilled Cheese Sandwich Recipe

An old recipe favorite of mine is one I use from a dear lady whom I will never forget as well.   Jane was a head librarian at an Air Force base in the Houston, Texas area.

I was a young teen mother and I would habitually burn our grilled cheese sandwiches with ‘speedy meal’ in mind.  Jane was at my home one day when I was preparing a grilled cheese for lunchtime. That afternoon, she took over with her motherly skills and asked if I minded if she were to create the ‘best grilled cheese ever eaten’?’ for me.

I gladly gave over the pan and sat down to watch the magic of her cooking wizardry and the ingredients she drew together was :



Pepper Jack Cheese

American Yellow Cheese

White bread slices

A trick Jane told me was to have a ‘hot’ pan but not too hot.

She flicked a droplet of water and if the water drizzled then dried in the skillet it was a good heat to begin.  If the droplet would dance, the pan was too hot and the flame would be turned off and placed aside for a few minutes…only to begin again.

She would quickly butter one side of a slice and then, another slice of bread.  The tricky part is to lightly slather mayonnaise on the inside of the butter slices.

She would place the 2 buttered slices both face down in the pan and then take her spatula/butter knife and with quick swipes add a dollop of the mayo to each inside of the now, sizzling buttered bread.

Then with an efficient speed she would place a slice of the pepper jack cheese and then a slice of the American yellow cheese to slices, face up.  With even more skill and speed, she would grab the other 2 slices of white bread and this time put the mayo on each of the inside and then place a sandwich topper to the grilling parts of the sandwich.

Then finally a swipe of butter to the upper tops of white bread that were face up and voila, there she would flip the sandwiches over and by this time the golden brown was perfect to the grilled side.

Now, her hand would turn the heat from medium – low to near low at this point.  She would place a cover over the fry pan for oh about

1 – Mississippi – 2 – Mississippi – 3 into 10 Mississippi and with her southern drawl that could take about, oh 15 seconds.  She would then turn the heat off; take the lid off and one quick press with the grill spatula and then a diagonal slice to half the sandwiches; the cheeses would ooze and blend to a lovely creamy gold and I handed plates as she flipped each sandwich slice onto a plate that had chips and a pickle spear. 

Add iced – tea or any beverage and I believe you’ll enjoy one of the tastiest versions of a grilled cheese sandwich; certainly a tasty version you may not have tried yet.

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Guide to Smoking Pan Sized Trout

There are quite a number of fish and meats that lend themselves well to smoking. People might often think of ham, bacon, turkey or salmon, when they think of smoked meat or fish, however there are many others that smoke quite well. One of them is trout, and it isn’t at all difficult to smoke these fish, particularly if they are pan-sized. Better still, it works as well for freshly caught trout as it does for those that have been frozen and thawed out, provided that they were frozen properly.

The fish

The size of the fish will generally be 6-12 inches in length, but it should be noted that the smaller the fish, usually the less time it will take to smoke them. The trout need to be cleaned and rinsed, with the heads removed. Many people also prefer to remove the skin from the fish as well. While this is a matter of personal preference, during the smoking stage, a skinned trout will usually end up with a more robust smoke flavoring since the smoke will be able to penetrate from the outside rather than being blocked by the skin. If the skin is left on, though, the fish should also be scaled. Once the fish is fully smoked, the skin should come off easily, however the scales can block smoke from getting to the flesh.

The smoker

Trout can be smoked in small, medium, large, homemade or smoke house smokers. Each kind of smoker normally has its own smoking traits, so this should be taken into consideration when the fish is actually put into the smoker. It is also helpful in the smoker has racks to lay the fish on. The fish can also be hung, but racks allow a person to turn the fish and to easily check to see when it is done.

The wood

For smoked trout, most people probably prefer mild but sweet smoking wood such as alder, cherry, apple or pear. The wood should either be in chips or small branches cut so they fit the smoker. Green wood can work exceptionally well, but if the wood chips are dried, they should be soaked in water for about an hour before putting them in the smoker, to increase the amount of steam and smoke for flavoring.

The brine

There can be quite a lot of variation in the brine that is used to soak the fish in prior to smoking, depending upon the desired result and personal taste. One example of a good brine solution for about 10 of these fish is:

1 gallon water
1 cup brown sugar (or 1 cup processed sugar and 3 tablespoons of molasses)
1/2 cup salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon fine ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground ginger 
1 tablespoon liquid smoke (optional) 

Mix all of the ingredients together and bring the mixture almost to a boil, stirring frequently, so the sugar is dissolved well and the ingredients are blended. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature then immerse the fish. The fish should be completely submerged in the brine so it can soak in. Let the fish remain in the brine, refrigerated, for several hours to overnight to allow the flavor to permeate the meat. 


Near the end of the soaking phase, get the smoker going so that it is producing a lot of smoke by the time the fish is ready to be put in the smoker. Place the fish on the racks, far enough apart that they aren’t touching, and smoke for one or two hours. The fish should be turned at least once during smoking and more wood may need to be added. This method of smoking also cooks the trout. When the fish is done, the bones should have pulled away from the flesh and the fish meat should be somewhat flaky without being dried out. 

Smoking pan-sized trout can be a fantastic way to prepare them. The fish is tasty and can be eaten as is, or it can be used in meals. The flavor is often more delicate than smoked salmon, and yet it isn’t at all difficult to do if a person has a smoker to work with. People who like smoked fish often think that smoked trout amounts to a special treat. 

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Foragers Guide to Finding and Picking Wild Chamomille

Chamomile is the common name for a number of species of related daisy-like plants belonging to the family Asteraceae.  The species Matricaria recutita, or German chamomile, is one of the species that is generally known as Wild chamomile.  German chamomile is often cultivated in home gardens. Another species of Wild chamomile, Matricaria discoidea, also known as pineapple weed, grows wild across North America and is a favorite plant for hikers and foragers for making tea that is consumed both for its flavor and medicinal qualities.

Where to find pineapple weed

Wild Chamomile or Pineapple Weed can be found growing all the way from central Alaska, and across North America from as far south as Arizona and as far north as Nova Scotia.  As with most weeds, it thrives in poor, compacted soil.  It can be found growing in disturbed areas along roadsides, walking paths, fence lines, in sidewalk cracks as well as in open fields.  

Identifying pineapple weed

The blooms of the wild chamomile are compact, egg-shaped and greenish yellow to golden colored. These flowers look like daisies that are missing their petals. When the flowers and leaves of the plant are crushed, they emit a light smell similar to the scent of pineapple, hence the common name of pineapple weed.The plants may grow up to 3 feet, but generally range  between 6 inches to 24 inches tall.  The leaves of the pineapple weed grow on an alternating pattern on the stem, are hairless and have a somewhat feathery appearance.  Before the appearance of the flowers, pineapple weed resembles mayweed chamomile.

When to harvest

Pineapple weed typically starts to produce blooms in May and flowering continues through August in most locations but may flower into October in warmer areas with a longer growing season.

Uses for pineapple weed

The flowers of the pineapple weed can be picked, bruised and rubbed on the skin for an effective and natural insect repellent that smells better than commercially-prepared chemical repellents.  For making a soothing, medicinal tea, the flowers can be picked and dried.  There are many known uses for this plant.  It is a nervine, or a plant that has a beneficial effect on the nervous system.  In addition, it can be used to treat problems of the digestive system.  Here is a partial list of the conditions that pineapple weed may be used to treat::

• Anxiety or nervousness
• Insomnia
• Spasms of the digestive tract
• Flatulence
• Diarrhea
• Headache
• Menstrual Cramps

Pineapple weed can also be used to help alleviate nasal congestion when the steam from boiling wild chamomile is inhaled. Externally, it can be used to soothe itchy or inflamed areas of skin and also as an insect repellent.  Wild chamomile is often added to shampoo because it gives hair a healthy shine and silky feel.


Is it not recommended that pregnant women ingest any form of chamomile as it is known to be a uterine stimulant.  Some people who are allergic to other plants in the daisy family, such as ragweed and chrysanthemums, could experience an allergic reaction if they come into contact with wild chamomile.  Some allergic reactions could be severe.

Finding wild chamomile will not be difficult if you search out the places where wildflowers and weeds naturally grow and due to its widespread presence across the US, it is bound to be growing somewhere near you.

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How to Find the best Olive Oil

As more people become aware of the health benefits of olive oil, its increasingly popularity and usage can be seen in both kitchens and grocery store shelves everywhere. However, with so many choices available for this nutritious product, it becomes more difficult to determine which are the best ones to buy, and which you should bypass. The handling of olive oil from its origin to its final destination is most important, as it is quite volatile, sensitive to both light and heat, and can quickly turn rancid due to these factors.

Following are some tips to help you buy good olive oil:

The Container

Olive oil found in clear glass, see-through containers are usually the first to be put on sale in stores, as these will not keep very long having been exposed long-term to light and perhaps heat. Good olive oils are usually found in dark bottles, especially green glass; the manufacturer knows how important it is to keep this oil as protected as possible. Opaque glass and metal tins are the best for storage when it comes to buying good olive oil.

Expiry Date

True olive oil aficionados always read the date of when the olives were harvested and stay true to certain months of the year for purchase. While olives harvested in Europe, especially the Tuscany and Umbria regions take place in the fall and winter months (September to January), olives grown in the Southern Hemisphere are generally harvested May or June, as their seasons are directly  opposite to Northern countries.

Olive oil has a shelf life of two years, so to buy a good fresh oil, check the label carefully. If the label has a “use-by” date, that means the olives were picked two years before the use-by date.

Country of Origin

While many people swear by purchasing olive oil only from Tuscany or Italy, there are however, olives grown in Turkey or Tunisia, then transported to Italy to be pressed or processed. Transportation and time alone negate the virtues of a truly good olive oil, so read labels carefully as to their country of origin and where these olives originate. Furthermore, do not be fooled by a nostalgic story woven into the back of the container, telling of generations who have harvested this great fruit, the beautiful region where it is grown, etc., as most of the time, they are marketing ploys; do your homework and research specific olive oil manufacturers and companies.

That being said, be open to countries that are also growing olives for the open market: other parts of Italy, Spain, Greece, France, and of course, the U.S.A., where California corners approximately 1% of the U.S. olive oil market.

Taste Test

The best way to find good olive oil is to sample and taste as many products as you can find, then buy that particular brand sold in a big tin container. Tasting good olive oil is like sampling fine wine. Be adventurous and taste various kinds. Obviously, the best olive oil is the “extra-virgin cold-pressed” oil. According to the International Olive Council, this kind of oil is produced by mechanical means, has both a low acid and peroxide content, along with perfect flavor, with no growth defects.

Once you have found your perfect olive oil, buy it in bulk in a big tin can. Store this in a cool dark place, and take out only small quantities at a time to be used in the kitchen. If there are no specialty olive oil shops in your vicinity, you can search the internet for websites that specifically sell quality olive oil.

Olive Oil Myths

It is popularly believed that olive oil is to be used only in cold form and not for cooking. According to Nancy Harmon Jenkins, author of several cooking-type books, it is okay to use a lower-priced olive oil for cooking purposes and save the more expensive, freshly-pressed oil for salads, dipping, etc.

On the other hand, another cooking expert, Harold McGee of the “New York Times”, who also does scientific research on cooking claims using extra-virgin olive oil for cooking is a waste of time and money; when olive oil is heated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, it loses its unique flavor, tasting just like any other vegetable oil used for cooking.

Contrary to popular belief, olive oil does not have a low-smoking point, especially when compared to other cooking oils. It has a smoking point of 400-450 degrees Fahrenheit. For ordinary cooking, it rarely gets to that temperature. As for deep-frying, oil is rarely heated any higher than 350 degrees, so it is not harmful to deep-fry with olive oil.

In addition, heating olive oil does not turn it into a “trans fat”. This is another consumer myth. Only manufacturers can turn an oil into a trans fat through industrial or commercial means, by introducing a hydrogen atom into the oil to turn it into a solid.

In conclusion, sample and find the olive oil that suits your taste buds. Buy it in bulk, in a tin container; enjoy the healthful benefits of cooking and consuming this nutritious oil.

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How to Find and Win Recipe Contests

Our love for food is such that there are entire channels devoted to nothing but teaching you to cook and reality cooking shows. For many people cooking is not just a way to feed your family, it is also an expression of your own creativity and palate. It is an art form that pays off in divine meals shared with family and friends. It can also be a way to share your abilities with others and win some prizes in the process. There are thousands of cooking contests held every year and many are open to amateur chefs and home cooks. Here are some key ways to find recipe contests and win them.

Finding contests is the easy part. They surround us all the time although we may not be aware of them unless consciously looking for something to enter. Local contests, usually sponsored by businesses in the area, are often advertised in the newspaper and at the grocery and food stores in the region. National contests are more likely to be found on product wrappers, grocery store websites, and food manufacturers’ websites. Many cooking magazines, such as Taste of Home, run contests regularly too.

Numerous contests can also be found just sitting at your computer. Search engines will locate several and there are some sites that specialize in cooking contests such as Contest Cook, Food Reference, and Cooking Contest Central. The latter is a website that has some free sections but requires a small fee for full access. In return, members not only get a huge list of contests but also a supportive community of likeminded home chefs who can help them achieve their food goals.

Once a contest has been found, the next step is to choose an original recipe (no plagiarism!), perfect it, and win the contest. This is the hard part. Start by reading the rules of the contest very carefully. Many require the use of a specific ingredient, type of cuisine, limited number of ingredients, or have other specification such as must be gluten-free, low calorie, etc. No matter how tasty the recipe, it won’t win unless it meets the contest requirements.

When choosing a recipe to use, certain aspects of the contest should be taken into consideration. Who is sponsoring the contest? Food manufacturers like to see their own products used in the recipe. If it is a grocery store putting the contest on, how do they intend to use it? Products destined for shoppers should be straightforward and have easy to follow directions using ingredients that can be located in that store. If the winning recipe will be converted to a product that can be developed for sale, make sure it is something that can be readily adjusted to use in a deli, as a frozen food, etc.

The recipe doesn`t need to be complicated. Some of the best recipes are very simple. Making it too complex can result in difficulties in reproducing it in a test kitchen and make it non-user friendly if the end goal is to share it with other cooks on the sponsors’ website, product wrapper, etc.

The recipe itself may be a family favourite or something new designed specifically for the contest. Experimenting with new flavour combinations and unusual twists can make the recipe stand out as something different. Combining different types of cuisine can also provide tasty results. The recipe should be tested on people that the cook knows will give an unbiased opinion and make valid suggestions and criticisms. It should be as perfect as possible.

Most contest receive thousands of entries, so an individual recipe needs to stand out from the crowd. The name of the recipe is actually quite important. It should be attractive and cause the reader or judge to be interested enough to want to read further. Some contests will ask for a brief description of how the recipe was developed, etc. Including a brief true story about your family and the recipe is a nice touch that appeals to many people. If the contest requires a photo of the completed recipe take the time to get a good picture. Make sure the background does not detract from the focus on the food. It sometimes takes some experimenting to get the perfect photo. There are many websites devoted to food photography tips that can suggest ways to give your recipe the edge.

For home cooks interested in entering and, of course, winning recipe contests there are many to choose from. They can be found in many places including online and at the local grocery store. To win, recipes should meet any requirements in the rules, be carefully perfected, and marketed through the accompanying name, photo, and story as much as possible. Most important though is that it taste fantastic. Bon appétit! 

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