Growing My Own Vegetables Indoors With Hydroponics

So I’ve been kicking around the idea of growing some lettuce indoors.  I’ve been doing a lot of reading, and just trying to absorb as much as I possibly can before starting this little endeavour.  To start out with I’m going to try growing a few different types of lettuces.  I’ve contacted a local organic seed farm located and purchased 3 types to start with.  They are:
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Giada Delaurentiis, Rachael Ray and Paula Deen Cookware quality or just a name?

paula deen cookware sets

paula deen cookware sets

I was looking around the Home & Kitchen section of amazon.com the other day, and noticed that there was a “gadget set” with Giada Delaurentiis’ name on it.  I knew that Rachael Ray and Paula Deen had their own lines of cookware, but I was a little surprised to see Giada with her name on gadgets.   After thinking about it for a bit, I guess it shouldn’t really be a surprise seeing as she’s one of the more popular television personalities on Food TV, but it got me thinking, does having the name of a celebrity chef/tv personality really influence the way people buy?  Does putting one’s name on a line mean that it’s good quality, or does it mean that they just sold out?

rachael ray cookware sets

rachael ray cookware sets

Well I did a little looking into what people who have actually bought their lines, and found the results a little surprising!!  I looked at their lines in general, but took 1 product from each line that had over 100 reviews to see how they fared.  I looked at Paula Deen’s 19241 Signature Porcelain 12-Piece Cookware Set and  Rachael Ray’s Porcelain Enamel Nonstick 10-Piece Cookware Set, Orange and both of them had over a 4 star (out of 5) rating.  Many of the 5 star ratings showed great durability and even cooking which seemed to be the constant with both.  There were some 1 star and negative reviews, but that was less then 5%.
I got the over all impression that when celebrity chef or personality puts their name to a line, you can pretty much assure yourself that you’ll be getting something of quality.  Do you own any of these lines, or have you cooked with them?  Share your thoughts!

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What would you stock your kitchen with if you were given $1000 to spend?

guy holding moneyNow that the holidays are behind us, and hopefully you received everything you asked for,  I’d like to throw out a little hypothetical question out there.  Imagine you’re walking along the street, and pass by a kitchen goods store and the manager comes running out and says to you “This is your lucky day, I’m going to give you $1000 to spend in my store”.

You’ve got 2 hours to buy anything you want, knives, pots, pans, coffee machines, blender, mixer, anything you’d like,   but it has to be on things for the kitchen.  What would you get?

We’ll use the prices at Amazon Kitchen & Dining store as a guide.  Don’t get hung up on the details, just curious to see what’s on everyone’s “Wishlist” after the holidays!  Leave your comments below!

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Espresso Machines Revisited for 2012

I’m going to start this posting off by wishing everyone a Happy New year and a happy and prosperous 2012! I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted here but I’ve had a lot on my plate, literally and figuratively! Speaking of the holidays, one of my favorite gifts I got this Christmas was one of those single serve coffee makers. I’ve heard a lot about them and apparently my wife must have overheard me talking about them and surprised me with a Tassimo T65 (which amazon also calls the TAS6515UC).  Let me tell you, I’ve had it for just over a week, and I’ve been using it every day and have yet to be disappointed!!  I don’t want to over hype this thing, because I know some people are more of a connoisseur then others so please take don’t make the over reactive comments if you don’t agree! :)

The T65 sits nicely on my counter top and is always ready at the touch of a button.  If you don’t know about the Tassimo (made by Bosch) single serve coffee makers, they’re actually really easy to use and are really ingenious in how they work!  They use these little pods called T-Discs.  They’re little pre-filled  cups that have barcodes on them to tell the machine how much and what temperature the water has to be to brew that cup of coffee.  I love my espresso’s but enjoy the occasional cup of good ‘ol Black coffee, which this beauty does with ease!  Along with espresso, black coffee and tea it also makes lattes and cappuccinos, so  you can save the money and trip to ‘Starbuck’s’ and make a latte at home!

All in all a great little machine and comes highly recommended by me! =D  If you have one of these or similar, please leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!

If you want to buy one from amazon (which i find to usually be the least expensive) just click HERE

tassimo tas6515uc t65

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Spaghetti Carbonara


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Making Straciatella Gelato

stracciatella2
People all over the world are in love with ice cream, and it’s no different in Italy, where their ice cream is called Gelato.  Unlike ice cream, gelato differs slightly in that it has a slightly less butterfat content of about 4-8%, where as ice cream is 14%.  stracciatellaAlong with a lower butterfat content, gelato generally has a lower sugar content of about 16-22%, where ice cream is about 21%.  Gelato’s original flavors included banana, strawberry, chocolate, coffee, hazelnuts, and straciatella, which is basically the Italian version of chocolate-chip ice cream. Read the rest of this entry »

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Lentils with pancetta lenticchie con pancetta

CHEF MARIO BATALI

One of the most renowned Italian-American chefs has to be, by far, Chef Mario Batali.  From tv shows to cookbooks, Chef Batali has become an American icon when it comes to simple Italian cooking.  The stout, crocs wearing chef consistently puts out delicious recipe after delicious recipe.  Here is a simple, yet incredibly tasty recipe from his new book MOLTO GUSTO, which translates to “A Lot of Flavor“.  Try it, and I’m sure you’ll agree that Lentils have never tasted so good! :)

LENTILS WITH PANCETTA

Book:  Molto Gusto

Serves 6

zuppa-di-lenticchie_phixr

½ pound small lentils, preferably Castellucio

1 carrot, halved

1 onion, halved

1 celery rib, halved

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 ounces pancetta, in one piece

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Maldon or other flaky sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper

  • Put the lentils in a medium pot, add water to cover by 2 inches, and bring to a simmer.
  • Add the vegetables, mustard, and pancetta, reduce the heat, and simmer gently until the lentils are just tender, about 20 minutes.
  • Drain, reserving ¼ of the cooking liquid, and transfer to a large bowl.
  • Remove the vegetables and pancetta from the lentils; discard the vegetables.
  • Coarsely chop the pancetta and add to the lentils. Add just enough of the reserved cooking liquid to moisten the lentils, then add the oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Serve, or let stand at room temperature for 1 hour to bring out the flavors. (The lentils can be refrigerated for up to 3 days; bring to room temperature before serving.)

Buon Appetito!


Click HERE if you’d like to purchase your own copy of Molto Gusto, by Mario Batali

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Espresso Machines, making the perfect cup

how-to-make-an-espresso


Think about having a fresh, coffee-shop-quality espresso when you get up in the morning – without having to leave the house. This is what your very own espresso machine can provide, but it is important to make sure you buy the right product, and know how to use it when you get it home.

Espresso is a syrupy, traditionally Italian, speciality coffee. Coffee shop owners will tell you that making mouth-watering espresso is just like pulling the perfect pint of beer. It requires patience, practice, and is much harder than it looks. Good quality espresso machines can make it easier by controlling the temperature and the internal mechanisms more exactly.

These machines function in several different ways. If, for instance, you value authenticity, and have strong arms, a Piston-driven espresso maker could be for you. The design for this fully-manual espresso machine comes from as far back as 1938. Many are now sold for decorative value in addition to making a good cup of espresso coffee,

There are various types of semi-automatic espresso machines. In all cases the water is delivered via a pump mechanism, but the grinding, preparation and insertion of the coffee must be done by hand. These may be more difficult to find, as recently automatic or super-automatic machines are becoming more popular and cost-effective.

Automatic espresso machines are very similar to the semi-automatic version, but the temperature and amount of the water is also controlled automatically. Super-automatic espresso machines are still mostly for the high-end of the market. These basically only require you to put the coffee beans in! They may also have many extra features, such as milk frothing or filter coffee making. However, some coffee fans believe the super-automatic espresso machines produce poor quality espresso, but of course everyone’s personal taste is different.

Prices for espresso machines range from below fifty dollars to over two thousand dollars. The most expensive are pump-controlled espresso machines, which are generally only used by coffee shops. If you are purchasing one of these, clearly it is vital to find a reputable provider with experience. Thanks to the internet, home espresso machines are becoming more easily available, even from non-specialist shopping websites.

Once you have invested in the best espresso machine that suits your tastes, you will need to buy the best quality coffee beans. There is no point blaming the espresso machine if you have scrimped on this vital component! Espresso machine providers often offer their own range of coffee beans, which may be much wider than that available at your local supermarket.

An espresso machine is a perfect investment or gift for somebody really passionate about coffee. You should be willing, like the coffee shop connoisseurs, to put some time and effort into making the perfect cup. If you do this, and choose your espresso machine carefully, you could be well on your way to coffee heaven!

click HERE to see more Espresso Machines

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Italian Restaurants In Vegas, B & B Ristorante Review

b&b ristorante


If you’ve never been to Las Vegas, you would certainly be in awe of all the glitz, glamor and bright lights. Las Vegas has an abundance of just about everything, and you can find pretty much anything you could ever imagine. The culinary experience in Las Vegas is second to none. Each hotel/casino has usually no less then 5 quality restaurants in them. They range from all American BBQ and burger stands, to posh French cuisine, and seemingly every few steps. The number of Italian restaurants in Las Vegas is impressive, to say the least. Boasting over 40 Italian restaurants in Las Vegas, there’s definitely not many cities outside of Italy that can claim that many Italian Restaurants.

Recently my wife (Lisa) and I visited Las Vegas and went to Mario Batali’s B & B Ristorante, in the Venetian. The atmosphere was that of an Old Italian restaurant, back in Italy. The staff was very friendly and there were a lot of them, so you were never left feeling like you were being un-attended to. Upon opening the menu, I was blown away at the selection and delicious sounding dishes. One of our waiters came by with a few slices of bread, with some olive paste, which I might add was delicious.

With so much to choose from, I really couldn’t decide if I wanted pasta, risotto, seafood or some type of meat. We ended up ordering a caprese salad and fried calamari, like we always do when we eat at an Italian Restaurant, as an appetizer. For our entree’s, Lisa went with papardelle Bolognese. Pappardelle are similar to fettucine, only they are much broader. I ordered, goat cheese ravioli, with orange and anise fronds. The caprese was very well presented, and the taste was spot on. And the calamari was, and I can say this with out any kind of bias, the best calamari I’ve ever tasted! Now I’ve had a lot of fried calamari in my time, and they were dusted just lightly enough so that it wasn’t the main ingredient, but it had a nice crispiness to it. The goat cheese ravioli had a phenomenal taste. My only negative was that the goat cheese filling was a little to runny for my liking. Now I understand that when goat cheese is melted, it tends to become runny, but like I said, that was my only negative comment, but it by no means spoiled the dinner. My wife raved about the pappardelle, and still talks about it!

We finished off the dinner with a light dessert. Lisa had the chocolate gelato, which she said was absolutley amazing, where as I had the nocciola panna cotta. I have this habit of ordering a panna cotta whenever I see it on a menu. I’m not big into desserts, but panna cotta has great texture, and a taste that’s not overly sweet.

My review of B&B Ristorante is just 1 Italian Restaurant in Las Vegas of the many. If you haven’t been to Las Vegas, my suggestion would be to pack your bags, and get out there! The prices on Las Vegas Hotels are as low as they’ve ever been, with packages (air + hotel) starting at $187. If you’ve been there before, and are planning to go again, try out one of the many Italian Restaurants, and feel free to leave comments and reviews as to your experience!

Visit EXPEDIA for more great Las Vegas Packages

Buon Appetito!

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Giada’s Roman Style Chicken

Giada's Roman Style Chicken (pollo a la Romana)

The Colosseum, the Pantheon, Trevi fountain, the Spanish steps, are synonymous with Italy, and in particular Rome.  Roma (in Italian) is in the region of Lazio, on the Western coast in central Italy, and it renowned for its history, culture, architecture and most of all, it’s food!  Roman food has its own distinct quality with garlic, parsley, rosemary and black pepper prevalent in many of their dishes.

This recipe by Giada De Laurentiis, one of the great television cooks on food tv, is a great tribute to Roman style cooking.  In Giada’s new book Everyday Italian: 125 Simple and Delicious Recipes she makes tried and true Italian recipes and makes them so simple to make, you’ll LOVE cooking Italian!!  Her Roman Style Chicken is an example of the ease of her dishes.
A great chicken with classical taste. A true winner!!


Ingredients

  • 4 skinless chicken breast halves, with ribs
  • 2 skinless chicken thighs, with bones
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus 1 teaspoon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1 teaspoon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 3 ounces prosciutto, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Preparation

Season the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. In a heavy, large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, cook the chicken until browned on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Keeping the same pan over medium heat, add the peppers and prosciutto and cook until the peppers have browned and the prosciutto is crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, wine, and herbs. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken to the pan, add the stock, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 to 30 minutes.

If serving immediately, add the capers and the parsley. Stir to combine and serve. If making ahead of time, transfer the chicken and sauce to a storage container, cool, and refrigerate. The next day, reheat the chicken to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in the capers and the parsley and serve.

Buon Appetito!

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