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 :

Mayonnaise

Butter

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. 

Smoking

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.

Cautions

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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How to Find Chives Growing in the Wild

Many people are familiar with using chives to flavor a variety of dishes, including salads and casseroles. However, not so many people realize that they don’t need to buy or grow their own chives;“ they are readily available in the wild. In order to find wild chives, it is merely necessary to follow the tips in this article.

Where to look for wild chives

Wild chives, or Allium schoenoprasum, are a member of the lily family and can be found in most US states, except for the most Southern states, as well as Europe and Asia. They are most commonly found in meadows, near streams and on the shores of lakes. This is because they like a damp environment. 

Wild chives appear in the spring, when they are one of the first patches of greenery to appear. The leaves are easily spotted because they look very similar to the type of chives grown in home gardens and grow in clumps in just the same way.

What they look like

According to Montana Plant Life, the leaves are alternate, with the uppermost leaf sheathing the stem for about a third of its length. They are cylindrical and hollow, ranging from 1-7 mm in thickness. Rarely as long as the stem of the flower, they are grass-green in color and can therefore be easily seen, even before the flower has appeared. The flower head consists of up to 30 bell-shaped petals of a lilac color, which can vary from pale to dark. The fact that they are much taller than the leaves means that they stand out during flowering season, which is from May to August. When the flower dies, seeds are left behind in capsules, usually 3-6 per flower. 

How to tell them apart from similar plants

Wild chives are easily confused with wild garlic and mountain death camas. It is easy to differentiate between chives and garlic because the wild chive leaves clearly smell oniony, whereas the leaves of wild garlic don’™t. The same goes for the leaves of mountain death camas, but particular care must be taken to ensure that they are avoided at all costs. This is because all parts of mountain death camas are poisonous; they contain the alkaloid zygadenine, which is said to be more poisonous than strychnine. The consumption of two bulbs can be fatal, but eating any part of the plant can lead to symptoms of poisoning. If in any doubt, don’™t eat.

Wild chives are flavorful, just as much as their commercial equivalent, and can add some zing to an otherwise boring meal. If you ensure that you know what you are looking for, there is no reason why you can’™t make the most of the fruits of nature for free. 

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How to use Starbucks via

Over the past couple of years, Starbucks has spent quite some time perfecting their new line of instant, ready-brew coffees.  Once they felt that the product had been perfected they released the much-awaited Via line of instant coffee.  They have made many different varieties to their original product, and continue to come out with more choices. Some of these options include Iced Via, bean-specific Via (Tribute, French Roast, etc), and even flavored Via (vanilla, mocha, cinnamon dolce, caramel).

Sometimes when you make Starbucks’ Via by following the directions provided on the box, the results are less than great.  That’s when experimentation with simple things found in your own home can make it everything you’ve ever wanted in an instant coffee. Here are a couple ways to spruce up that bitter or boring cup of joe.

First, decide what temperature you want your beverage. The fantastic thing about all of the different Via choices is that you can make them both hot and cold, whether the packet says Iced Via or not. This is very important to know when picking out your Via; so disregard what the packaging says about adding hot or cold water to certain Via types, make your decision based on the type of ready brew you purchased.

One of the most delicious tricks is using the Starbucks Iced Via product. This particular item comes “lightly sweetened” for the convenience of just adding the packet to a bottle of water and shaking to mix its’ contents. It is a very appealing idea, however, this really isn’t the best way to enjoy it (it’s really quite bitter). Instead, try using a hot cup of water. This allows the coffee and sugar particles to dissolve better and thus delivers the taste as it was most likely intended. You can add milk or cream if desired as well.

Finally, you don’t have to use only water! If you are desiring a regular coffee taste and consistency, then use water. However, if you would rather enjoy a latte-styled beverage, you should use milk. The latte-style is a thicker consistency and tastes more like an espresso beverage you would order at an actual Starbucks store.  So let’s say you have a packet of the original stuff  (Columbia Via in the orange box) and you want a quick cold drink, but you don’t want a bitter, straight-up coffee taste. The quickest, most delicious way would be to simply add a packet of Via to a frosty cold glass of chocolate milk.  Give it all a nice stir and: Ta-Daa! An instant, gourmet-tasting, mocha beverage without the gourmet price and wait time!  You can even add a whipped cream topping to top it off! It’s also just as great using the same idea, but for a hot beverage. Simply take a packet of hot chocolate and prepare as directed on the package, then add your Via for an at-home take on a delicious Starbucks classic.

Now that you have some basic ideas on how to play around with the many varieties of Starbucks Via ready brew coffee, you can start making your own concoctions. Remember that the directions on the box of Via regarding the temperature of liquids is not a rule that must be followed, more like a suggestion. Also, the addition of whipped cream toppings, powdered condiments like cinnamon or nutmeg, and your favorite syrup can flavor your instant coffee to make the drink even more enjoyable. Fancy coffee-shop beverages have never been so easy to make in the comfort of your own home.

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Healthy Food Options at Starbucks

Using the phrase “healthy fast food” may seem like an oxymoron; however, there are healthy options available for patrons at many fast-food establishments. One of America’s most popular get-in and get-out eateries is Starbucks. Not only does Starbucks serve up one of the best cups of java, this coffee chain also serves various food items. For the health conscious, finding healthy food options at Starbucks is simple – one just needs to know what to look for. Before making a choice, healthy eaters want to look at several factors like calories, fat, and fiber content.

Bakery

One of the top food sections Starbucks provides is their bakery items. From fritters to muffins, there are many choices available to diners. But which are the healthiest? Three of Starbucks top bakery items weigh in at less than 200 calories – Birthday Cake Mini Doughnut, Double Fudge Mini Doughnut, and Petite Vanilla Bean Scone. One must also notice the common keywords in these items; “mini” and “petite”. While these items are under 200 calories, they also have 6, 7, and 5 grams of fat, respectively, and no fiber. For calorie counting sake, these items may seem like a good choice; however, they are small items, offer very little in the way of healthy eating, and they are less filling.

For fiber content, diners will want to reach for the Apple Bran Muffin, Reduced-Fat Very Berry Coffee Cake, or the Multigrain Bagel. The muffin contains 350 calories, 9 grams of fat, and 7 grams of fiber. The coffee cake has 350 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 4 grams of fiber while the bagel has 320 calories, 5 grams of fat, and 4 grams of fiber. When making an ultimate healthy choice in the bakery department, the Multigrain Bagel wins out. Although it has less fiber, it also has less calories and fat grams.

Bistro Boxes

In July 2011, Starbucks released a line of convenient food options for people on-the-go. The company dubs the meals as “delicious and balanced nutrition in a convenient grab-and-go format with wholesome ingredients.” But how well does that statement hold water?

The first meals offered provide 4 entrée choices and 4 snack sizes. The entrees include Chipotle Chicken Wraps, Sesame Noodles, Chicken Lettuce Wraps, and Salumi & Cheese. The snack-size meals include Tuna Salad, Protein meal, Chicken & Hummus, and Cheese & Fruit.

One may first think that the Tuna Salad meal would have the highest fat content; surprisingly, it is the Cheese & Fruit snack-size meal with the highest at 28 grams of fat. This meal also contains 480 calories, 39 grams of carbs, 6 grams of fiber, and 18 grams of protein. The Tuna Salad weighs in at 380 calories, 21 fat grams, 24 grams of carbs, 5 grams of fiber, and 23 grams of protein. But which Bistro Box is the healthiest? The Chicken & Hummus meal not only is the lowest in calories (270) but it’s also the lowest in fat grams (8) and contains 6 grams of fiber.

Hot breakfast

Starbucks offers various hot breakfast choices at participating stores. Healthy diners can’t go wrong with the Brown Sugar Topping for Starbucks Perfect Oatmeal or the Dried Fruit Topping for Starbucks Perfect Oatmeal. The Brown Sugar Topping choice has fewer calories (50) than the Dried Fruit Topping (100); however, the Dried Fruit Topping version has 2 grams of fiber where the Brown Sugar Topping has none. Both varieties have 0 grams of fat. Unfortunately, the Nut Medley Topping for Starbucks Perfect Oatmeal has 9 grams of fat and the plain Starbucks Perfect Oatmeal has even more calories (140) and 2.5 grams of fat, but it does have 4 grams of fiber.

If you are looking for a more filling hot breakfast, the Reduced-Fat Turkey Bacon with Egg Whites on English Muffin is one of the healthier options with 320 calories, 7 fat grams, and 3 grams of fiber. The Egg White, Spinach & Feta Wrap only has 280 calories and a whopping 6 grams of fiber; however, it also is a bit higher in fat grams (10).

Sandwiches, Panini, and wraps

There are a handful of sandwich choices at Starbucks with some better than others. The lowest in fat grams is the Chicken Santa Fe Panini at 11 grams of fat. It also has 400 calories and 2 grams of fiber. The next choice has 12 grams of fat and 4 grams of fiber but only 350 calories – the Roasted Vegetable Panini. The one choice to avoid by health conscious eaters is the Egg Salad Sandwich. This baby weighs in at 490 calories, 3 grams of fiber, and a whopping 22 fat grams.

Snacks on the go

Finally, there is a nice snack item that is low in calories (only 90), has 2 grams of fiber, and 0 fat – the Deluxe Fruit Blend salad. Don’t be fooled by the parfaits either. The Greek Yogurt Honey Parfait not only has 300 calories, it is loaded with 12 fat grams.

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Recipe for Delicious Apple Cider Donuts

Fall recipes evoke such a wide range of scents, scenes and tastes of home. Apple cider donuts are just such a treat. Think of crisp fall air, the crunch of scarlet leaves beneath your feet, cinnamon and cider. This recipe features an easy cider reduction that intensifies the apple flavor that could otherwise be overshadowed by the spices and frying. The end result is well worth the extra step.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups apple cider (unfiltered is best)
3 1/2 cups unbleached flour (plus more for the work surface)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp sea salt
4 Tbl (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk, buttermilk or half and half
vegetable oil or shortening for frying

Pour the apple cider into a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer and reduce liquid to about 1/3, or 1/4 cup plus about 2 – 3 tablespoons. Set aside to cool.

Sift the flour, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt together and set aside. Cream the butter with the brown and granulated sugars. Beat the eggs and add to the creamed mixture. Combine the milk with 1/4 cup of the apple cider and add to the creamed mixture. Stir until just combined. Add the flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time and beat well until the dough comes together in a slightly sticky, thick texture. 

Line two baking pans with parchment paper, spray with cooking spray and dust generously with flour. Turn out the dough onto one pan and sprinkle with more flour. Using your hands, press the dough evenly to about 1/2 inch thick. Dust with more flour if needed. Allow the dough to rest in the freezer for about 20 minutes, or until well chilled. 

Working quickly with a donut cutter, press donut shapes and transfer them to the other pan. Re-roll the scraps and continue pressing out shapes. The final small amount can be cut and rolled for extra donut holes. Place the donuts in the refrigerator to chill for about 20 minutes.

Fill a deep sided pan with oil or shortening to a depth sufficient to allow the donuts to float, about three inches. Ready a large plate with paper towels to drain the donuts. Bring the oil to medium high temperature, or 350*F. If no candy thermometer is available, the oil is ready when a drop or two of water instantly sizzles. Add the donuts a few at a time, being careful to avoid splashing. Work in small batches so not to crowd the pan and inhibit browning. Fry until the bottom is golden, about 1 minute. Turn the donuts over and continue frying for about 1 more minute or until golden brown. Carefully remove the donuts and drain on the paper towels. Dredge the donuts in the glaze or cinnamon sugar while still warm. Best served still hot and fresh. 

Apple cider glaze: Whisk 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar and the rest of the cider reduction. If needed, add water a few drops at a time until the desired consistency is met.

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How to Find out if You’re a Restaurantaholic

Do you hate the chore of cooking? When you cook your favorite food, does it taste like garbage? After eating your own cooking, do you still feel empty or unsatisfied? If you answered, “yes” to the above questions, then, like me, you could be a restaurantaholic. Restaurantholism isn’t always easy to recognize, and could become an addition or a financial burden.
I first knew I had a problem when I began selecting restaurants to complement my moods. For example, if I’m in the mood for fun, I enjoy a get together with some friends for a pizza or some wings. If I’m in a romantic mood, I like a quiet candlelit dinner with soft music. I usually go to a Chinese buffet or smorgasbord when I feel confused, or have a lot on my mind. When I’m not sure what mood I’m in, I stick to the basics and go visit old friends like Sonny or the Colonel. For a pat on the back for a job well done, my favorite reward is a piece of pie or hot fudge sundae.
Financially Restaurantholism can be a problem! Many times, I crave a thick juicy steak when the budget only calls for a burger. Imagine how dreadful it is to eat a taco from fast food restaurant when it’s a sit down dinner at my local upscale Mexican restaurant I’m yearning for. I often find myself in a better mood than I can afford; however, if my mood it too good for mediocrity, there’s always the Visa or Master Card. I rely on the charge method when I’m out of control, as a last resort. The bill can be a shock at the end of the month, which puts me into a frenzy that can only be resolved by doughnuts.
Restaurantholism becomes a real problem when I can’t think of excuse to dine out. Sometimes it takes three to four hours to think of something to reward myself for. Another problem, do I want to eat alone or with a friend? It’s so hard finding someone that’s on the same mood food level I am. Such decisions make Restaurantholism frustrating. The financial frenzy mentioned earlier can be depressing. During frenzy, I put the side effect of a six-pack of doughnuts out of my mind, to worry about later, for example the next morning while dressing. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to find a good restaurant while in a good mood and having to worry about counting calories at the same time.
Something has to be done about the serious social illness of Restaurantholism. I would like to form a support group where people with my problem could get together. It would give us a chance to discuss our frustrations, and work out our problems. We could call it Restaurantaholic’s Anonymous; perhaps we could all meet for dinnersounds like fun to me.

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