Dress up your Appetizers

Elegance, when it comes to appetizers, it is all about great tasting appetizers, with  an appealing appearance. It is a visual effect. An ordinary appetizer becomes elegant by the way it is presented. It’s all about the bling.

For example cherry tomatoes stuffed with a cheese filling is a fairly common appetizer. However, you can give a boost by doing a zig-zag cut on the tomato instead of a straight cut and you can add a single parsley leaf to top it off. Now it is more than your great little cherry tomato appetizer.

Deviled eggs are a staple when it comes to appetizers. They can be made with traditional mayonnaise, sour cream and even Greek yogurt. The key to stepping them up to an elegant  egg is again, in the presentation. Use a piping bag with a fluted tip to make the design of the egg yolk fun. The platter on which the eggs are served can be dressed up with lettuce leaves and sprouts.

Spiced nuts are favorite, but do you really want to dig into that dish that everyone has been using? How about some great cupcake holders. You can get them in gold or silver foil. You can even make ones yourself out of paper doilies.

These crab napoleons are elegant, because of the color and presentation. The paprika that is splashed on the top brings color to the pastry and adds that extra touch. It is all about dressing up the appetizer.

Add some unique color to any appetizers. This can be done in a number of ways. You simple add a thin slice of carrot, mango or any colored vegetable or fruit. Don’t be afraid to step away from the tradition recipe and top it off with something unique, Recently a hostess topped an appetizer with a chip of apple peel. It added texture, color and flavor. Brilliant. One chef colored the horseradish red.

The good news is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You have serve all the traditional appetizers you love with a little extra “fluff”. Think color, flavor, appearance and serving method.

Smoked salmon on crackers is an excellent appetizer.  Smoked salmon on a cracker with a dab of cream fraiche and a couple of chives crossed on top is an excellent, elegant appetizer.

If you need ideas to find more elegant appetizers why not visit an expert. Martha Stewart certainly knows how to throw a party. Her website gives simple, clear directions on many elegant appetizers. These mushroom polenta diamonds are an excellent example.

Don’t be afraid. Step out of your comfort zone and be artistic with appetizers.

The best Fruits Found at Farmers Markets in the Spring

Spring brings rebirth, rejuvenation, and refreshing fruits that are missed during winter.  As white and gray landscapes give way to green and blue ones, trees bloom with the vibrant colors of their fruit, vines hang heavy with juicy goodness, and plants thrust their berries up for picking.  This is the time of year fruit salads and desserts are born, when meats are grilled again and sweet fruits are grilled alongside.  Farmers’ markets, in their brilliant colors, offers the glory of fresh, ripe fruit perfect for creating any dish the taste buds can imagine and the nutrition that bodies require.

Apricot

Apricots should be plump, firm and a uniform golden orange color.  They are a stone fruit that can be stored in the refrigerator for three to five days.  They are rich in natural sugars, vitamins A and C, riboflavin and niacin, as well as being a good source of calcium, potassium and iron.  Additionally, the betacarotene in the apricot helps prevent heart disease.  Apricots are often dried, cooked into pastries or with meats such as lamb, or eaten as jam.  An added benefit of this fruit is its seed, which is a nut and has a high content of the vitamin Laetrile (B17) which has shown in studies to be very effective at preventing cancer and shrinking tumors.

Cantaloupe

A late spring and summer fruit, fresh cantaloupe can be found at the farmers’ market (depending on your location) around June.  Cantaloupe is most often paired with other melons in a melon salad.  They are rich in vitamins C and A, and like all fruit that is rich in vitamin A, also rich in beta-carotenes and other anti-oxidants.  Cantaloupe is also a good source of potassium and the dietary carotenoid, zeaxanthin, which is thought to protect the eyes from aging and age-related macular degeneration.

Cherry

Another late spring fruit, cherries have a very short growing season and in some parts of the country, they are the first tree fruit to ripen.  There are two important culivars, the sweet (wild) cherry and the tart (sour) cherry.  Cherries contain anthocyanins which are powerful anti-oxidants and have been found in studies to have anti-inflammatory properties.  They are also high in other anti-oxidants such as beta-carotene, vitamins A and C, the minerals potassium, iron, zinc, copper and manganese, and melatonin which soothes brain neurons alleviating neurosis, insomnia and headaches.

Grape

Some grape cultivars peak in June, though the majority are harvested in the summer.  Grapes are called the “queen of the fruit” and are a storehouse of essential nutrients.  They contain an important phytochemical compound, resveratrol, which has been shown to reduce the risk of several cancers, coronary heart disease, Alzheimer’s, degenerative nerve disease, fungal and viral infections.  Grapes also contain a number of anti-oxidants, such as anthocyanins in red grapes and catechins in white/green grapes.  They are a rich source of several minerals, including potassium, iron, copper, and manganese, as well as several vitamins – vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and B-complex vitamins.

Honeydew Melon

Melons are a favorite spring and summer fruit, ripe with the juiciness that refreshes in the heat.  Honeydews should be nearly spherical with a waxy skin and should feel heavy for their size.  This fruit is an excellent source of potassium and vitamin C.  In fact, one serving provides nearly half the vitamin C intake for one day.

Kumquat

It may be a citrus fruit, or not, depending on who you talk to.  The kumquat is about the size of an olive and looks like a citrus fruit, but the peel can be eaten (unlike citrus fruits) and is actually the sweet part of the fruit.  Kumquats are great served in a fruit punch, jam or eaten whole right off the tree.  They have lots of health benefits.  One serving of kumquat can provide 17% of the daily recommended intake of fiber and 73% of vitamin C.  They are rich in betacarotenes, anti-oxidants, the B-complex vitamins, and minerals such as potassium, iron, manganese, calcium and zinc.

Lime

The lime is a small green citrus fruit, slightly less tart than a lemon.  Limes are used for a number of cooking methods.  Key Limes, named for the Florida Keys where they are is native, are used in making key lime pie.  Limes can be used in place of salt to season seafood, chicken and pork, and limes are used for flavoring in water, tea, and a number of alcoholic beverages.  Limes are high in dietary fiber, vitamin C, calcium and iron.

Lychee

The lychee, or litchi, is a tropical fruit with a somewhat hard outer shell.  The inner pulp is the sweet part of the fruit.  Lychees are most often eaten out of the shell.  Several restaurants, bars and chefs, however, have developed drinks and dishes using fresh lychees.  This fruit, like citrus fruit, is very high in vitamin C.  It is also high in B-complex vitamins which help the body metabolize carbohydrates, protein and fat.  Lychee fruit are also a good source of potassium and copper, both essential vitamins for the cardiovascular system.

Mango

The mango is one of a new category of fruit called “super fruit”.  It is rich in potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B-6, beta-carotenes, alpha-carotenes and copper.  Recent studies suggest that the anti-oxidant properties of mangoes can protect against colon, breast, leukemia and prostate cancers.  Vitamin A is essential for good vision and is an anti-oxidant when found in conjunction with beta-carotene and alpha-carotene.  Vitamin C helps protect against infections and harmful oxygen-free radicals.  Vitamin B-6 is required for certain hormone production in the brain and to control homocystiene levels in the blood which may otherwise be harmful.  Mangoes can be eaten raw, in fruit salad, in smoothies and other beverages, or as a relish with a number of meats, especially chicken, pork, and fish.

Orange

Oranges could be considered another super fruit.  They contain an impressive amount of vitamins and minerals.  Oranges are high in vitamin C and vitamin, potassium and calcium.  They also contain high levels of dietary fiber, phytochemicals, and anti-oxidants, as well as B-complex vitamins.  Because of their high level of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants, oranges are known to be helpful in the reduction of the risk of cancers, heart disease, obesity and chronic diseases like arthritis.  Oranges are often ingested as orange juice, as well as eaten raw, or cooked as seasoning, garnishes or relishes for a variety of meats.

Pineapple

The pineapple fruit is actually many smaller fruits that have fused together around a central core.  It belongs to the bromeliad family. Pineapple pairs very well with ham and is popular during holidays when ham is served.  It also makes an excellent addition to fruit salad, is great in juice, and is often a mixer in alcoholic beverages.  Pineapple is another excellent fruit to add to any diet.  It contains dietary fiber, vitamin A, beta-carotene, vitamin C, B-complex vitamins, copper, manganese and potassium.  It has also been shown to have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and anti-clotting properties.

Rhubarb

Rhubarb is probably best known for making rhubarb pie.  The stalks of the plant are the part used for cooking as there is not actually a fruit in the traditional sense.  Rhubarb can also be eaten raw with lots of sugar or honey to counterbalance its tartness or cooked into jams and sauces.  Rhubarb is botanically a vegetable but in 1947 a US court classified it as a fruit because of its uses in pies, jams and sauces.  Rhubarb has a high content of vitamn A and dietary fiber.  It has been found to reduce the risk of cancer, lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol.

Strawberry

The strawberry has many cultivars that range from very sweet to acidic.  Most varieties purchased at stores or farmers’ markets are the sweet kind that can be used in a number of dishes, though popularly in fruit salad, smoothies, ice cream, and pastries.  Strawberries are a nutrient-rich fruit that contain many essential phyto-chemicals which help fight cancer, aging, inflammation, and neurological disease.  They are rich in vitamin A, beta-carotene and other anti-oxidants, vitamin E, B-complex vitamins, and several minerals such as manganese, copper, iron, iodine, and potassium.

Spring brings with it a large variety of juicy, delicious fruit to pick up at the farmers’ market.  Fresh fruit, fruit juices, and fruit salad mark the coming of spring and the beginning of longer days, warmer temperatures and summer just behind.  As spring gives way to summer, more fresh fruit will come into season, such as watermelons and blueberries, more wonderful fruit to add a refreshing touch to every meal.

Reasons to Eat Stew in the Winter

People tend to eat different types of food depending on the season. Salads and other cold meals are refreshing in summertime. In the winter months, people look forward to a hot meal in the evenings to warm up after a long day at work. For a number of reasons, stew is a great winter meal. Some of those reasons include the following.

Warm and comforting

The most obvious reason that stew is a great winter meal is simply that it is warm and comforting on a cold winter’€™s night. There is the added benefit that, whether cooked in a slow cooker, on the stove, or in the oven, the house is given extra warmth in the process. Perhaps more importantly, people tend to lack serotonin levels in the cold winter months because of the shorter days, and, as a result, crave more carbohydrates. Root vegetables are packed with carbohydrates and can therefore make you feel instantly better. 

Easy to prepare

After getting in from work on a cold night, the last thing that must people want is to prepare something complicated. A stew is quick to prepare and, even better, it can be cooked in a slow cooker during the day so that it is ready to eat once you get in from work. If there isn’€™t time to prepare the ingredients for a stew before going to work in the morning, they can be quickly put together after work and then left to cook in the oven or on the hob while you do some housework or have a warm bath.

Root vegetables are in season

Although there are a range of stews that you can make, they are particularly comforting when made with root vegetables, which tend to be in season during the winter months and tend to keep longer than other types of vegetables. Potatoes, both sweet and the ordinary version, parsnips, suede, beets, turnips and carrots all go very well in a stew and add a lot of substance to a meal, particularly when paired with dumplings, crusty bread or even rice. You can choose to eat meat or fish stews, or with just vegetables if that suits your palate.

Nutritious

Although there tends to be a lot of emphasis put on the nutritional value of green vegetables, root vegetables can be very nutritious themselves. A serving of sweet potato, for example, provides a daily allowance of Vitamin A, as well as being low in fat. Parsnips contain good amounts of vitamin C and potassium and beets are a good source of manganese and folate. Added to that, most root vegetables are an excellent source of dietary fiber and carbohydrates, which help keep you fuller for longer.

Cook in bulk and freeze

Stews are not only easy to prepare, they also freeze beautifully. If you prepare a large pot of stew each time, you should be able to put at least one portion aside to eat at a later date. Then, on those evenings when you just want something hot in a very short space of time, you can heat it up it and have a ready-made, nutritious meal. Even better, because you can add in whatever food you have available, the taste will be slightly different each time and so you are unlikely to become bored with it.

No matter what your taste, you can almost certainly find a type of stew that you enjoy. Go for something that you find online, or simply make up your own once you have mastered the basics.

Tips for Selling Vegetables at Farmers Markets in the UK

In the UK farmer’s markets are becoming increasingly popular; this is mainly due to the changing economic climate that has led to the loss of many smaller farms. In a report in April 2011it was reported that in England and Wales alone between eight and ten farmers were being forced out of business as dairy, egg and poultry farmers are being forced by big supermarket groups into selling their produce at less than it cost to produce it. Consequently many smaller farmers are turning to farmer’s markets to resolve their financial crisis. However, despite the name, it is not only farmers who sell at farmer’s markets; the markets are also an ideal place for people with large gardens or allotments to sell their excess vegetables.

But just what is a farmer’s market?

A farmer’s market is simply location (often held weekly or monthly) where local farmers and avid gardeners and producers of food made from local ingredients) can sell their produce and products straight to the general public. There are around 450 farmers markets in the UK and they all have to follow certain rules. Firstly everyone must sell their on produce and the stall-holder must be either the person who has grown or produced the products, or be a family member who has been directly involved in the production. Also all produce must be local – ideally grown, reared or created within 30 miles of the market location. Buyers have the right to ask questions about any product that they are considering buying and the stall-holder should be able to answer any questions about the products and production.

There are several tips that need to be followed by anyone who is thinking about selling at a farmer’s market to ensure good sales.

1. Firstly remember to make good use of signs and labels. Always label all produce with the price – customers don’t like to ask the price and may just walk past your stall if no prices are displayed. However good use of signs is not restricted to the price; make signs that tell the customer what the goods weigh, how they can be cooked, where the produce are grown and if they are organic etc. Another good idea is to produce some simple handouts that give a description of your farm, allotment, garden etc, ideas for uses of vegetables and a few recipes for more unusual vegetables.

2. Be realistic with your pricing.

Most customers realise that better food is worth paying more for. Superior, organic or rare produce are certainly worth charging more for. Although the majority of customers who shop at farmer’s markets expect slightly higher prices than the supermarket they still expect value for money. Therefore if you have a glut of a certain vegetable (or have some small or less superior items) give your customers a bargain but make sure to promote these goods in a prime location with large signs.

3. When you have a more unusual vegetable give samples or recipes of how to use them. Customer’s can be very unsure about buying goods they know nothing about. Do also make sure that you have eaten the product yourself so that you are able to answer any question that the customer may ask you.

4. Make sure that you grow plenty of seasonal vegetables and make the most of the gluts that you will have at certain times of the year. In the UK people have become accustomed to being able to buy products all year that are flown in from all around the world; however there is nothing better than eating good local produce that is in season, so make the best use of this produce and promote it well when in season.

5. Make your stall look attractive and restock constantly. Always display your produce in the smallest container that it fits into. As you start the day with a large amount of products start by displaying them in larger boxes, baskets etc, as the stock reduces during the day reduce the size of the container the dwindling stocks fit into.  

6. Make sure that you have plenty of bags available and have them on display for the customer to see, In today’s ecologically aware society you will find that many customers will prefer to have their products but into their own bags or baskets, but you must always have bags available for people who don’t have their own.

7. As well as having a good display and perfect produce the customer likes pleasant and helpful sellers. So be cheerful and helpful, don’t just lounge around but keep active when not selling by picking up any litter and tidying your stall; and always be willing and able to help and advise your customers.

By following these simple rules you will enjoy your selling experience whilst also making a nice little profit on your vegetables.

Making your Appetizers look Elegant and Appetizing

There are many ways to give an elegant touch to your party appetizers. They can be very simple and understated or expensive and unique but they will all draw attention to the foods you have so lovingly prepared for your party or special event. 

Trays and Other Containers

An elegant silver tray will make your appetizers more formal and appealing. Flat baskets of Italian breads will look warm and inviting. A copper chafing dish with meatballs or egg rolls will keep them warm and appetizing.  A Mexican sombrero brim can be filled with tortilla chips to go with the seven layer dip and homemade salsa you have chosen. Use containers that match the theme and colors of the event for impact and impression.

Garnish

Sometimes just a simple garnish alongside the foods will draw oohs and aahhs from your guests. A Christmas salmon tray would be complete with a cream cheese Santa Claus. Fruit kabobs for a baby shower would look just right with a watermelon baby carriage centerpiece. Sometimes just a dusting of chopped red and green pepper or parsley flakes will make your foods come alive.  

Method of Service

Instead of just setting appetizers on a flat table, create elevations for more interest and easier access. Use crates or boxes of varying heights, cover with linens and set trays on top.  Hire a gloved waiter to pass easy-to-serve foods as well as wines and other drinks. If you wish to serve meats with tiny pocket rolls and condiments, consider displaying large pieces of tenderloin, prime rib or New York strip that can be carved in front of the guests by a uniformed chef or cook and then served. If you have several different types of appetizers, consider spreading them around your home or party area in different stations where guests can mingle and sample at their leisure.

Decorations

Surround your appetizers on a buffet table with delightful and interesting accents. Candelabra, fresh flowers, ice carvings and seasonal centerpieces are just a few that can be used for extra impact. Add votive candles all around the foods for evening functions.  Use different shaped tables for a more elegant but eclectic look. Linens and table skirting will also add color and texture.

There are so many ways to elegantly serve appetizers at your event – the methods you choose will depend on your food selections, your budget and personal preferences. Choose the ones that will suit the theme and tone of your event in the best way possible. 

Restaurant Recommendations for Liverpool

Traveling to Liverpool England this year? If so check out one or all ten of the best restaurants for your dining fare.

The Brasserie at Formby Hall is located at Southport Old Road, Formby on 135 acres of superb parkland. This is England’s Golf Coast, and you can partake of a few rounds during your visit. Why not create your meal by sampling the “Charred quail with chili, Lime & oregano, fine bean & plum tomato salad.”

If this is not to your liking you may choose the most exquisite Thai cuisine in England at the Chaophraya Liverpool, located at Liverpool One, 5-6 Kenyon Steps, Liverpool. Enjoy either lunch or dinner in this relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

Going to downtown Liverpool? Simply Heathcotes Liverpool, is the place to enjoy traditional British dishes like grilled Welsh goat’s cheese salad, or seared fillet of sea bream with pearl barley & tarragon, red peppers & garlic for the main dish. Simply Heathcotes works with local farmers. They bring the freshest local meats, cheeses and produce to you. Children are also welcome within this stunning glass and granite landmark building.

If Italian is more to your liking you must see Il Forno Italian Restaurant Liverpool, located at 132 Duke Street, East Village. Be entertained by a Fire Breathing Mask pizza oven, or enjoy pasta and an evening special of Salmone Affumicato (Smoked Scottish salmon with beetroot).

Sapporo Teppanyaki Liverpool, located at 34 Duke Street, East Village, in the center of Chinatown, is a Japanese delight, and known as one of Liverpool, England’s best restaurants. In traditional Japanese style, you can enjoy theatre style seating while watching your chef cook chicken or lamb. A Sushi bar and a more traditional seating option are also available.

Perhaps you want an intimate dining experience for a business deal. If so check out The Brasserie at Malmaison, located at the Princes Dock, in Liverpool. Known to locals as the “Mal”, you will find the best Lancashire and Cheshire produce used here. Two private rooms are available seating 10, one of which boasts a “chef cam” where you can view your meal being prepared.

Searching for something a little less formal but still in the top 10? Make your way to 25-27 Castle Street, to the Olive Press Pizzeria Bar & Grill. Located in the middle of the financial district, this is the perfect place for that quick business lunch. Totally Italian, you can get pizza and various kinds of specialty dishes. When the business day is done take the family, as toddlers eat free, not to mention they offer a cooking class for kids.

Would you like a relaxed and unique Thai experience brought to you by the same owners of Chaophraya? Then you must visit Yee Rah Bar & Grill located at Liverpool One, 14 Paradise Street, Liverpool. From traditional Thai to outstanding international dishes, Yee Rah combines the best.

Looking for Liverpool nightlife and poker? Look no further than 110 Brasserie located at Circus Casino, Queen Square,. While you choose from a variety of casino games like Three Card Poker, Blackjack or the Electronic Roulette table; you can partake of dishes like tempura battered shrimp, English steaks, or soups of the day to mention a few.

Last but not least is the Fraiche – Birkenhead. Located at 11 Rose Mount, Oxton, Birkenhead, if you are hungry for a 15 course French meal.

There you have it, the best restaurants in Liverpool. Don’t delay, fly, set sail; however, you travel, be on your way and check out the top of the line dining destinations today.

Foods to help you Sleep

What we eat does indeed affect how we feel, and it just so happens that certain properties of foods combined with their often psychological associations of comfort and warmth can work to enhance relaxation. The fact that you can actually eat to relax and reduce anxiety is a wonder, but which foods can do this?

Foods containing the amino acid tryptophan are excellent choices as they, especially when paired with calcium or magnesium, produce melatonin and serotonin – two powerful neurotransmitters that cause the brain to relax and encourage sleep and a restful mood. Complex carbohydrates like oats and magnesium are also elements that can encourage repose.

Here are some foods that have been proven to enhance feelings of calmness. In addition, not only will these foods help you to relax, but will also ensure you’re not deficient in any of the essential and restorative nutrients they contain.

Turkey

Turkey is often, at least in western contexts, associated with holidays, comfort foods and a heart fulfilling and satisfying meal. It is often the centerpiece for thanksgiving or Christmas tables or even Sunday roast dinners in England. However, it also contains good amounts of tryptophan. So that healthy turkey stir-fry or turkey soup can be an excellent comfort food that actually produces feelings of composure and comfort.

Dark chocolate

Yes, for lovers of chocolate who want to relax, opt for dark chocolate as opposed to the high sugar content of standard milk chocolate bars, which can have the opposite effect and work to excite instead of unwind. Dark chocolate also happens to contain tryptophan, and when paired with milk, (which also contains the amino acid) you’ve got yourself a double-winning combination! Especially since warm milk has long-time been a traditional source of comfort, which has been used for eons to help one relax and nod off to sleep. Why not make a dark hot chocolate? Slightly sweet, warm and comforting to help you repose from the frustrations of the day.

Soup

Soup is a suitably soothing option for many reasons. First, it has the psychological associations of warmth and comfort, something eaten to get better if sick or on a cold wintry day. Secondly, it’s fulfilling and satisfying, mainly due to the large water content. However, it can be much more than all of these benefits and be a powerhouse of nutritious nutrients that can help you unwind. Consider adding tryptophan-rich foods, such as turkey, but also consider adding magnesium-rich foods like spinach. Magnesium is excellent because it works to relax tired nerves and muscles, a deficiency of which can cause tension, cramps and just general overall feelings of fatigue. You can make a creamed spinach and turkey soup, where the cream will contain some added vitamin D and calcium as well as tryptophan – which all work in harmony to enhance feelings of restfulness.

Oats

Complex low-energy releasing carbohydrates, such as oats can, when paired with milk manufactures serotonin, which produces feelings of restfulness. Besides, the many other benefits of oats, like its lowering-cholesterol properties and suitability for people with diabetes, it has the potential to heal feelings of hunger and contribute to feelings of well-being. Why not gain maximum benefits and a pair a bowl of oats with milk and sprinklings of dark chocolate for a harmonizing relaxation-inducing meal?

Are the most Expensive Restaurants in the World Worth their Pricetags – No

Just like everything else in this superficial world we live in going out to eat is a status symbol. Going out to a fancy restaurant is just as important as BEING SEEN in a fancy restaurant. It’s quite similar to being seen in a high end retail store like Coach or Louis Vuitton. People will go in to these stores with no intention of buying their overpriced accessories. They look around, touch the merchandise, then hope someone they know sees them. After that they go to Wal-mart and get the handbag or footwear that they need.

I have been to just about every restaurant type imaginable. Along with fast food and chain restaurants, I’ve been to steak houses where the steak cost more than my monthly car payment. I’ve been to Italian restaurants in which the total check made my eyes leave their sockets. Of course who can forget the tourist traps we all go to when we’re on vacation. We figure we’re on vacation so who cares if we spend 20 bucks for a hamburger.

In these trying economic times, people are staying home more than ever. Restaurants are suffering. They are doing whatever they can to bring in customers. I get more coupons and special offers from eateries than I do junk mail these days. My wife and I take advantage of these deals and use whatever they send us when we go out for dinner…it’s silly not to.

Why go to an expensive restaurant and give them an entire week’s paycheck when I can go to TGI Fridays and have a quality meal for a fraction of the price? In my opinion, there isn’t much difference in the quality of food. Essentially, you’re paying for the ambiance and decor of the restaurant. Also mixed in to the prices are what I like to call a, “right to be there” fee. It’s almost like a cover charge. For those who are all about status, it’s worth it to them.

Wealthy people can certainly afford a high end restaurant. A 50 dollar steak to them is like a McDonald’s hamburger to the rest of us. This isn’t class envy of jealousy on my part, this is just about practicality. There are far more people who struggle and live week to week than there are millionaires. Those who cannot afford upscale places but go anyway are playing a dangerous game of chicken. Is being seen at a restaurant you can’t afford more important than making sure your essential bills are paid? Sadly, for some people the answer is yes.

I understand the food is prepared differently and the overall quality of service is better at high end eateries but when you boil everything down, steak is still steak…pasta is still pasta…seafood is still seafood. Living above our means in this economy is foolish, especially when middle of the road restaurants  make it worth your while with their myriad of offers and discounts. I can take my family out for a wonderful, yummy dinner and spend no more than $40. What would $40 get you in a trendy mid-town Manhattan night spot? You’d probably need $40 just to give the Maitre D to get a table. Living within one´s means, or failure to do so, is one of the reasons that cause the economic meltdown of 2008. We all enjoy going out to eat every now and treating ourselves to a good meal. There are plenty of affordable places to go. Leave the expensive restaurants to those who can afford them.

Winter one Pot Meals

There is nothing more comforting on a cold winter day than a hot and filling meal. Cooking main dish and vegetables in one pot saves you time, fuel, washing up and fuss. Stews and casseroles are the one-pot dishes that most cooks know, however, stew is not the be all and end all of one-pot dishes, and there are so many imaginative meals that you can cook using the one-pot method. Filling one-pot meals do not even have to be calorie laden; some recipes make meals that are less than 400 calories per person.

Slow cookers are excellent for cooking one-pot meals and save fuel. They also have the advantage that once you prepare the food you can leave it to cook quite safely. Using a slow cooker is an ideal way to cook when you are very busy, for example, during the run up to Christmas. You can be busy and still serve the family a nourishing, warming and filling meal.

Here is one recipe filling enough for the coldest winter day

Cowboy’s Chow

A little butter and a little flavourless oil

2lb plain sausages, that is without herbs

1 small or ½ large onion finely chopped

Small can plum tomatoes

1tsp tomato puree

can baked beans (15oz)

Tsp dried thyme or equivalent fresh thyme

Salt and pepper

2 tsp cornflour or cornstarch to thicken

Worcester sauce or a little Tabasco to taste

Heat butter and oil in a frying pan or skillet pan and quickly brown the sausages. Drain the fat from the sausages and place them in a slow cooker with the other ingredients. Cook on high setting for between 2 and 3 hours or 4-6 hours on the low setting. 30 minutes before serving blend the cornflour, or cornstarch, with a tiny amount of water and stir into the chow.

This is an excellent winter meal suitable for the whole family, and kids love it. You could serve with crusty fresh bread or rolls. You could also serve it with sauté potatoes, French Fries, English chips, or potato wedges.

You could always make an old-fashioned stew, which is tasty and warming but one-pot meals can be so much more versatile. Home style Pot Roast with Vegetables and Gravy is a great way to cook a whole meal in one pot and use a variety of seasonal winter vegetables. On the same web page, South Western style Beef and Potato Bake is a different take on the British favourite Cottage Pie and again provides a complete meal in one pot.

A slow cooker is so useful for cooking one-pot meals and there are many wonderful slow cooker recipes on the Internet. Slow cookers use very little fuel, and once you place your prepared ingredients into the pot, require little attention. Slow cookers also enable you to use the cheaper cuts of meat, which require slow, gentle cooking to make them tasty. Slow cookers concentrates flavours making one –pot dishes even more satisfying.

There some excellent, imaginative slow cooker recipes on the Internet, try Italian Vegetable Bake, (for American cooks, courgette is zucchini, and aubergine is eggplant) a tasty, colourful dish, just the thing to bring sunshine to a winter day.

Vegetarians will find some excellent one-pot recipes on the Internet. You could alter some of these recipes to make them suitable for cooking in a slow cooker.

There is nothing more comforting or satisfying than soup on a cold winter day. Main course soups or chowders with chunky meat and/or vegetables are the ultimate one-pot meal. Just serve with crusty bread, croutons, toasted slices of baguette, or other soup accompaniments.

Traditional dishes such as macaroni cheese, stews and casseroles make super satisfying one-pot meals. However, there is much more to one-pot meals than traditional favourites. A browse through some internet recipes will reveal imaginative, satisfying and tasty one-pot meals to delight your family’s taste buds all winter long and comfort you on the coldest winter day.

Restaurant Reviews Rodeo Grill Beach Rotana Hotel Abu Dhabi Uae

The Rodeo Grill is one of a number of restaurants open to the public within the Beach Rotana Hotel in Abu Dhabi. As in most of the United Arab Emirates, alcohol is not served outside hotels, so its clientele – in keeping with its neighbouring establishments, tends toward tourists and foreign business people. The Rodeo is an American-style steak house serving grills and seafood, with the slightest of non-committal nods in the direction of vegetarians.

The décor is American-inspired, with a variety of seating to accommodate all tastes (including armchairs, more traditional tables and booths). In keeping with most hotel establishments, the staff speak excellent English and service tends to be attentive (even slightly intrusive) but impeccable. The menu is mercifully brief, concentrating mainly on steaks, which are served with two different types of sauces (including Béarnaise, mushroom and green peppercorn) and two sides from a lengthy list of alternatives.

Prices, like most hotel establishments in the Emirates, are eye-wateringly expensive, with appetisers around GBP £15/USD $25, main courses at £30/$50 and deserts at £10/$15. The restaurant serves a wide variety of alcoholic drinks, with well known wine labels across a range of budgets and bottled American and European lagers. We ordered two bottles of beer and a large sparkling water, which was served and deposited in an ice bucket to keep it cold.

Weary from our long-haul flight from the UK, and not wanting to overdo it before going to bed, we decided to skip the appetisers, and both of us ordered the 300g ribeye – one medium and the other rare. These were to be accompanied by market vegetables, chunky fries, gratin potatoes and a mixed salad (i.e. two sides each).

A few minutes after placing our order we were served a “carousel” of fresh bread – six individual buns of different bread baked together to make one loaf. It was warm and delicious and quickly devoured. While we were busy scoffing the bread, we were each delivered an “amuse bouche” of a soft salmon concoction dressed with salad leaves and a reduced balsamic vinegar dressing. It was an unexpected and successful surprise.

The main courses arrived fairly quickly and were garnished with some satisfyingly chunky (if a little oily) fried onion rings and a baked tomato. The rare ribeye was tender, flavourful and cooked to perfection– the lack of blood on the plate testament to the fact that it had been hung and aged properly. It was almost a travesty to assault it with the Béarnaise sauce, but even that was well balanced, complementing the meat rather than dominating it.

We declined puddings in favour of coffee, which was served with a pair of round chocolate balls, which looked very much like truffles. However, I was mildly surprised when I bit in to one and found that the dark chocolate contained a centre of lemon sorbet. A chilly, but enjoyable shock that also served as an effective palate cleanser and full stop to a well constructed meal.

Once you get past the expense of eating in the Emirates, and start comparing offerings not on expense, but on culinary merit, it’s easier to recommend the Rodeo Grill as a great option for the incorrigible carnivore. The service and food are top notch, but the restaurant itself lacks a little ambience and atmosphere despite (or perhaps because of) the themed décor -which seems an odd contrast to the white-robed Emirati’s sipping coffee and tea in the hotel atrium, just beyond its entrance.