Home Appliances – They Don’t Make Them Like They Used to Anymore

Since I love to preach about and pride myself in being able to put my nose for the bargain to good use, I wouldn’t say I’m a brand conscious person, particularly when it comes to household appliances. I mean it’s kind of counter-productive if you’re going to be spending the whole morning navigating the open-air markets for the best deals you can get in fresh ingredients and then go back home to prepare that food using appliances and tools which are only expensive as a result of the name brand they carry.

That said however, there are some brands which I tend to gravitate more towards than others, but that’s only because of the quality they offer. Still, the price factor comes into play because it is after all about how well they perform in doing their intended job and how long they last and perform well. I recently had to replace a blender that had died and in all honestly it had served me really well over the years, in which case I replaced it with a more modern juicer, but the jury is still out because modern day appliances just don’t seem to be built like those of the good old days.

Things don’t seem to last that long anymore and the new juicer is more than holding its own so far, but I don’t know — the materials used just doesn’t seem like something I’d use to knock an intruder over the head with. It’s not all the way flimsy, but in comparison to say the blender my parents had in our kitchen growing up and even the blender which I had that had reached the end of its life cycle, this new juicer and actually all the others I had a feel for in the store before buying just doesn’t feel like it’s made out of durable materials.

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On top of that it’s getting harder and harder to find a repairman who can actually fix appliances that break these days. The general consensus seems to be one of replacing over repairing, the worst of which case is when the entire appliance needs replacing and not just the problem area identified.

The struggle is real and in a sense always leads one back to some of the trusted brands which are emerging in modern times since some of the old-school names in home appliance production seem to be falling victim to the times as well. So with appliances such as kettles, if you spot what is something like a very distinctive Russell Hobbs kettle, go for that original one and spend those few extra pounds as opposed to going for a cheaper version bearing a different name which you barely recognise.

A few extra pounds spent now will spare you having to make the decision between feeling up the repairman to see if it’s at all possible to repair a faulty appliance and concluding that you have to replace the whole thing.

Generally though and going beyond just home appliances, it just seems like consumer goods producers aren’t building things to last anymore.

Flavours of the World on a Budget

Well I definitely wanted to travel a lot more than I did a lot sooner in my life, but either way, I can honestly say that I was rather privileged growing up under the tutelage of a parents who made it happen in terms of exploring the length and breadth of this beautiful world of ours. One of the most outstanding features which define any destination however is its food, particularly that food which is unique to the place or which is prepared in a way that is unique to that location.

I’m talking here from your basic fries on which some people add vinegar in addition to salt, while others don’t and perhaps even eat them with rice, right up to dishes such as koshary, which is rather unique to North Africa.

A few short years ago however it was a bit of struggle to try and recreate many of these delicious flavours of the different parts of the world. I mean even if the restaurant owner was kind enough to write down the recipe for their favourite foreign customers who will perhaps never return to their establishment, some of the ingredients proved hard to find and still prove hard to find to this day. Shipping them across the world works out to be quite expensive and by the time they arrive they’re either not as fresh as you’d like or you’re not even in the mood for that specific dish you were previously craving anymore.

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Some of these unique flavours of the world one experiences are just too hearty to put away on the “once-in-a-lifetime-culinary-experience” shelf, so a plan needs to be made in order for one to keep enjoying them. Fortunately there is a plan and it’s called ingredient substitution.

Ingredient substitution involves a whole lot of experimentation, but it takes you through a journey of culinary delight along which you learn so much about your own cooking skills and about what can be achieved with a little creativity and ingredient chopping and changing.

Many people in this part of the world find apple pie revolting, for example, but I reckon that’s just because they don’t quite have the proper ingredients to make something like that come out the way it was originally intended to come out. You’d want to use original apple pie spice for example in order to get the authentic taste of this good old American favourite, but since this dessert isn’t that popular round here, you’d have a hard time finding apple spice.

That’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about however, that being ingredient substitution used to recreate the flavour almost as is, if not all the way as it is. If you don’t have apple pie spice for example, a tablespoon of it can be recreated with a mixture of two teaspoons of ground cinnamon, one teaspoon of ground nutmeg and just a pinch of ground allspice.

In many instances you even come up with a richer and more delicious flavour than the original, but as mentioned, there will be a lot of experimentation involved to recreate the various flavours of the world on a budget.

Saving Burnt Food from Going to Complete Waste

When you’re cooking for yourself and perhaps when you’re experimenting as well it really isn’t too much of an issue, but when you’ve somehow conspired to burn some food when you’re cooking for an entire family of seven, it’s that much more painful to have to throw it all away and let it go to complete waste. I’m not saying I force-feed my babies burnt food, but depending on the degree to which you’ve burnt the food you can iterate through some steps to try and save it from going to complete waste.

As careful as you may be and as experienced a cook as you likely are, it happens to the best of us and could just be a matter of getting distracted, putting the heat up too high or perhaps just trying to do too many things at once in the kitchen and elsewhere in the house. Perhaps you’ve left the shell of your pie to bake a bit too long, some of the food you’re pan-frying has burnt and stuck to the bottom of the pan or maybe the steak you’re cooking isn’t cooking evenly all the way through and is burnt on the outside while remaining raw on the inside. Either way, here are a couple effective ways to save it all from going to complete waste:

Stopping the burning dead in its tracks

Well I never went all the way to become the professional chef that I had ambitions of becoming, but I did get some good exposure to that world of professional food preparation. One of the many lessons I learned from the restaurant industry is that of stopping the burning of food dead its tracks. There’s a specific point — almost a single instant when you can smell the food just starting to burn, but it hasn’t quite burnt all the way through. In this case take it off the heat source, out of the pot or pan you’re cooking it in, transfer it to different container and pop it right into the freezer.

This stops the burning process which usually carries on even after you’ve removed the food from its heat source.

What if the food is burnt proper?

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If the food has actually burned then the degree to which it’s burnt is what determines just how much of it you can actually save and in fact if you can save it at all. For food which clearly tastes burnt but is only really burnt at the bottom of the pan, do not stir. Simply transfer it into another pan leaving the burnt bit behind and then add a peeled potato to reheat the food on low heat. 15 minutes or so is all it should take for the burnt taste to disappear, after which time you should remove the potato.

For a BBQ steak that’s scorched on the outside but raw on the inside, wrap it in foil and then grill it in the oven until it cooks in the middle, after which time you can cut off the burnt bits.

Why You and Your Family Should be Eating Fish More Often

If this was a one-line post and I didn’t have to go any further than explaining why you and yours need to be eating more fish, it would be as simple as saying that fish is very healthy. There are indeed some reasons for eating fish more often beyond its health benefits and since fish does indeed make for one of my favourite ingredients to cook with, I’ll be happy to get into it all.

“Clean” source of protein

As far as getting your recommended dietary portion of proteins, it seldom gets “cleaner” than fish as a good source. Depending on the type of fish you’ll be cooking of course, fish is almost as pure as protein can get in its natural form and this is largely due to the fact that fish as they occur in nature are often on the move and so build up lean muscle tissue while their constant need to be on the move has them eating all the time for their energy. That’s why fish pretty much doesn’t have any fat to speak of, with even something like a fried fish dish making for a very healthy source of protein.

So something like deep sea hake will do well for your family’s source of the closest thing to pure protein as you can get, without going the supplements route.

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Very healthy

Pilchards in particular come to mind as another variety of fish which is extremely healthy, very rich in Omega-3 fatty acids which aid in the development and functionality of the brain amongst other things. Canned pilchards often don’t taste too good however and this is often the case no matter how they’ve been canned (precooked and canned in tomato sauce, etc).

So if you can get them fresh or as fresh as you can then a good fish curry with white rice and an island coconut salad will do.

Going back to the health-factor however — you only have to look at counties such as Japan where fish is major part of their diet in that part of the world and if you were to go there now you wouldn’t find too many obese people. Fish is filling and healthy, making for a great main for any meal.

Many ways to prepare fish

This is one of the biggest reasons why I personally love fish and why I think you and your family should be eating it more often. There are about a million ways to cook just one variety of fish and in each case the dish can come out tasting completely different from the next dish which features the exact same fish variety.

Season your hake with fresh lemon and garlic on one occasion for example and then on the next occasion you could season the same hake with fish spice and you’ll have two dishes of the same fish variety which taste completely different. You can also use sake if you want a healthy alternative to vinegar.

Even something like frying over microwaving, boiling or smoking will have the same fish dish tasting completely different, more so if it’s served with different sides.

The Health Nut’s Guide to Healthy Eating-Out Choices

Health nuts almost never eat-out for fear of what the fast food industry is generally associated with, which is unhealthy junk food. For the most part they’re right because fast food has this way of luring you in and making you feel like you’re not doing something too bad by indulging in what are actually very unhealthy eating choices and so you find yourself making all sorts of “making up” promises to yourself, like perhaps resolving to put in a double shift next time you hit the gym.

How your body reacts to something like some bad food which you’ve eaten is the perfect indicator for how long the contents of the food you eat last in your body. I mean think about what is the rather unpleasant experience of diarrhoea — how long do you experience the discomfort of having to run to the toilet every few minutes or hours? The same applies to experiencing the effects of having had some food poisoning or in fact just a reaction to some food which you might have an intolerance for or which you’re allergic to. Symptoms such as blackheads developing in your ears or acne breaking out on your face are the real indicators of how long food remains in your system since the likes of experiencing diarrhoea or reacting by vomiting are ways for your body to get rid of toxic food constituents as soon as it can.

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So a moment on the lips is indeed very close to making for a lifetime on the hips, but even if you are a health nut, this doesn’t mean you can’t indulge every so often.

What being a health nut also means is that you don’t have to be afraid of perhaps eating out at a restaurant or other “fast food” joint where the food is prepared for you. More and more “fast food” outlets are taking this fast food thing quite literally and only really referring to the food they offer as “fast” because it’s prepared quickly.

So you can maintain a healthy diet while eating out, but be prepared to fight off the natural urges and the rather leading suggestions of the likes of serving waiters and the advertised special of the day.

You need to go with a set plan — there are certain foods you must be okay with eating when you leave the house and you should stick to your guns when you arrive at the restaurant or other food outlet at which you want to get your quick fill.

Unfortunately as far as restaurant menus go, the healthier options seem to be a bit more expensive, so you might want to listen to what the waiter is trying to up-sell you on, but often what is put up as the “manager’s special” or any other form of special of the day normally isn’t healthy. If you also demonstrate the intention to become a regular customer of a specific restaurant (or even if you aren’t) it doesn’t hurt to ask for the food to be prepared in a special way just for you, like perhaps replacing fries with a salad in a certain dish or something like replacing the fizzy drink with yoghurt.

Safely Carrying Out a Food Allergy Elimination Test

If you or anyone in your family experiences symptoms such as itchy ears when taking the first bite of your food, chances are you might be carrying some food allergies. Food allergies are often detected very early on in one’s life, but they can be developed over time, mostly due to an unbalanced diet which is severely deficient in one form of nutrient or one which contains too much of a certain food which comes with an excess of a certain nutrient or a selection of nutrients.

A visit to the specialist to officially test for food allergies can be a bit expensive since it likely falls under “non-essential” medical care, but ultimately that should be the aim. You should go for an official allergy test so that you can be sure of which foods are causing your body to react.

That said, while you’re perhaps putting the money together to be able to go to a food allergy specialist, there’s a way to safely carry out a food allergy elimination test, but it’s something which should perhaps only be tried by those whose reactions to certain foods are of a milder nature.

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For months on end one of my cousins would feel really, really sick after enjoying a full English breakfast, but it took a while to realise that it was indeed something in the full breakfast which was causing this allergy. It was indeed the egg, which she had somehow developed an allergy to and the symptoms were rather severe at times, including painful heels, double-vision in one eye, vertigo and constantly having a feeling of wanting to throw-up whenever she woke up in the morning.

Eggs as the culprit were narrowed-down on when she’d eaten more than one egg on a particular occasion when she’d been really hungry over breakfast and that’s when the symptoms were aggravated. All she did was eliminate eggs from her diet completely and the symptoms disappeared.

So to do a safe food allergy elimination test one must focus on the most common food items which are known to cause allergies, even if they’d previously not caused any reactions. Eggs definitely form one of these food groups, so too the likes of peanut butter, anything with gluten (which is just about everything these days), different types of nuts like almonds and even peanuts, cow’s milk and even something like artificial flavourings.

It doesn’t end there however because even sugar can cause allergies, particularly white sugar, but mostly when you react to white sugar you’ll most definitely react to brown sugar as well, which sort of gets worse because you might react to sweetener as well.

So while you’re eliminating the potential allergy-causing foods you should proceed to replace them with more natural whole foods, like perhaps replacing white sugar with honey as a natural and healthier sweetener. While you’re at it, keep a box of anti-allergy tablets handy for possible breakouts caused by a food you’re sill eating that might be the cause of the allergy, but yeah, often just eliminating known allergy-causing foods one by one does the trick to find out just what it is you’re allergic to.

Navigating an All-You-Can-Eat Buffet

As much as I actually enjoy the process of preparing meals for my family, particularly the daily dinner, sometimes the mood calls for the lot of us to go out and enjoy dinner prepared by someone else, with the favourite alternative being that of an all-you-can-eat-buffet. This is not because of the “all-you-can-eat” factor, but rather just because of the variety on offer, which means everyone can enjoy dinner together and yet we’re each helping ourselves to different foods — to each of our favourite foods.

It also makes for a nice change enjoying some food which was prepared by someone else, on more of a personal level, but what inevitably happens is that you tend to criticise the cooking a bit and iterate through the various considerations of just how you could have perhaps prepared a certain food better or in fact you find yourself wondering just what recipe they used to prepare a certain food in a certain way.

Some of the pitfalls of frequenting a buffet every now and again tend to show up along the way however, such as getting food which is not all that fresh, having to eat or leave on your plate some overcooked food or food which doesn’t quite taste the way your eyes suggested it would. There’s also the small matter of getting overwhelmed by all the choices and it happens even to those who regularly visit all-you-can-eat buffets. With all those choices you can find yourself overbalancing certain food types and ultimately not getting a healthy and nutritious helping of your dinner, or you might fill up a bit too much on a certain food type to find that you don’t have any space left to get a good chunk of that dessert you were keeping a keen eye on.

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The trick to navigating your way through an all-you-eat-buffet resides in exercising a little patience. Wait until the top-pickings have indeed been picked off by other diners as this normally means you can benefit from what a lot of buffets unfortunately do, which is put the older food at the top so that it can be consumed first, with the fresher food lying in wait underneath.

If it comes to it you can even just help yourself to the deeper-lying food in the case of self-serving buffets, but not all buffets implement this practice of serving older food first. It is however somewhat of an industry standard which permeates even the restaurant industry, so it’s very likely that it occurs.

In addition to playing the waiting game to get your fill, always fill your plate up with less food than you think you’ll be satisfied with. You can always go back for seconds if you want, otherwise you run the risk of falling “victim” to what buffets are all about — creating the illusion that you’re going to fill up on more food than you usually do whereas you end up walking away not having eaten much because you’re overwhelmed by so many different choices.

The three-bites rule must come into effect, which simply states that you should put on your plate a portion of a certain food which amounts to three bites max.

A Million Ways to Prepare Rice

Rice is perhaps one of the easiest foods to cook and is probably something we all learned how to cook back when we were eager to learn how to cook like mum. I mean I can bet you that even if you’re trying out a new brand of rice or even a new variety, chances are you only read the cooking instructions to reaffirm what you already know.

It’s very difficult to mess things up with rice and you perhaps only have to overcook it once in your life to learn. Even for those who prefer not to de-starch their rice it’s really hard to mess things up.

If however you do overcook it or that and the “excess” starch makes it appear to be more like a samp or porridge, you can always roll it up into rice balls or press it into small cups as part of a refreshing “presentation,” much like how they do in restaurants when you order a rice dish like curry and rice or even grilled fish with rice.

Otherwise if your desire to prepare the rice in your rice dishes is strictly by design, there are many different ways of doing so.

Fry it

It took me quite a while to master what is otherwise the very simple dish of fried rice, which is served with a range of salads, meats and paste sauces. Fried rice is a popular dish in Indian Ocean islands such as Mauritius and is quite a healthy dish given what the rice is usually paired with. But yeah, I guess you can fry what most of us would refer to as “normal” rice — that rice with the medium sized grains which you find everywhere, but obviously you’d have to boil it first in the manner you usually cook rice and then fry (preferably in a tiny splash of olive oil) in little chunks in a shallow pan while stirring all the way through.

Otherwise use long grain fine rice if you don’t want to first boil the rice and then fry it as some extra cooking work, since long grain rice cooks much easier and quicker and so it can be cooked almost exclusively through frying.

Season it

This is something they particularly love doing in South America, which is adding seasoning to the rice. Seasoning gives rice a nice flavour to it if you’re not content with boiling it in salt water to give it some taste and the great thing is that you select any seasoning of which the flavour you’d love to dominate the taste of your dish.

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Butter it up

This particularly makes minced meat dishes taste that much more special, even in the case of the minced meat baked into a meatloaf or something like that. Simply add a spoonful of butter to your rice when it’s simmering and getting rid of the remaining moisture. The butter should turn the rice all the way yellow, but this yellow hue would be much deeper than that of seasoned rice.

These are just a few of the many ways you can prepare rice and don’t be afraid to experiment.