Spices to Know Part 1

Herbs and spices are the kitchen staples used as flavorings. Most herbs are available fresh or dried. Drying alters flavors and aromas, so fresh herbs should be used if possible. Spices are almost always used in their dried form and can be purchased whole or ground. Some plants – dill – can be used as an herb(leaves) and a spice (its seeds).


Aleppo Pepper
Aleppo Pepper is made from bright red chilies. It has mild heat with a sharp, sweet, fruity flavor. It adds a Mediterranean flavor and fragrance to foods.

Allspice is available whole, in berries, or ground. Ground allspice is not a mixture of spices although it tastes like a blend of cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

The seeds have a strong, sweet flavor, similar to licorice. When anise seeds turn brown, they are stale and should be thrown away. Anise is used in pastries as well as fish, shellfish and vegetable dishes. Also known as aniseed.

Star anise
It has dried, star-shaped fruit of a Chinese magnolia tree. Its flavor is similar to Anise seeds but more bitter. It is used in many Chinese dishes.

Annatto Seeds
Annatto seeds have a mild, peppery flavor. It is used in rice, fish, shellfish and are crushed to make Mexican achiote paste. Annatto seeds are used in cheeses and margarine because they are commonly used as a yellow-orange food coloring.

Asafetida is also known as devil’s dung because of its garlicky flavor and its strong unpleasant aroma. The aroma is not transferred to food. It is commonly used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines.

Capers come from a bush that grows in the Mediterranean basin. Its unopened buds have been pickled and used as a condiment for thousands of years. The finest capers are the smallest, known as nonpareils. Capers are used in many sauces and are excellent with fish and game.

Probably the world’s oldest spice. It has been traced to the Stone Age, and have been found in Egyptian tombs. It is a crescent-shaped brown seed with a peppery flavor of rye. It is used in German and Austrian dishes.

One of the most expensive spices, second to saffron. Cardamom is highly aromatic and has a lemony flavor with notes of camphor. It is commonly used in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines and used to flavor coffee.

Chilies, including paprika, chili peppers, bell peppers and cayenne, are members of the capsicum plant family. Capsicum peppers come in all shapes and sizes and include sweet to extremely hot flavors.

Cayenne is sometimes labeled “red pepper”. Its flavor is extremely hot and it has a bright orange-red color.

Read Spices to Know Part 2
Read Spices to Know Part 3
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Espresso making for a good mood!

Is it yet another tough morning, when the sky is clouded, there was no sun for a week, and it’s 6 a.m. so you can’t get up from bed? Time for a cup of espresso! The smell of freshly ground coffee beans and the magical process of trying to make a perfect drink never fail to make my day. Whether you are already an espresso (cappuccino, macchiato, Americano or whatever you like) fan or not, I want to share my passion to coffemaking and experience with some espresso machines with you.
making espresso
As many other people, I started with De’Longhi EC155. It’s a very basic and simple model, but with enough experience you can make really good drinks with it. For $100 you get De’Longhi level of reliability (mine worked for 6 years no problem and still in good shape) and stainless steel boiler, though the body is plastic of course. The boiler automatically keeps required temperature and is powerful enough to make a good cappuccino, but keep in mind that it would take too much time to brew coffee for a big group of people. 2 or 3 persons is optimal. Assuming its price, EC155 is my personal best espresso maker under 200.

Then I moved on to $200 De’Longhi ECP3630 model. Can’t say a single bad thing about it, but it was too similar to EC155 for me, just in stainless steel body. And the price tag is kinda steep. But if you don’t want any more from an espresso machine in terms of functionality and fancy the looks, then this may be the one.

My latest baby is Breville BES870XL. $600 is a LOT of money for a semi-automatic espresso maker, but man, what a machine! Full stainless steel body, built-in grinder (can’t underestimate bean freshness), lots of power and control over the process. Let’s make this clear: I won’t say that you really need this kind of equipment to make a perfect cup of coffee, but it does make it easier and more fun! I had some problems with the grinder after the warranty had expired, but managed to fix it with medium efforts. Still slightly disappointing, considering the price.

My kitchen’s best stainless steel cookware sets

I love cooking. For many years now, I have been my family’s best dad and cook. I used to have a family that could not seat together and enjoy quality time. They never enjoyed what I cooked and for several years, I tried to do my best to make improvements where necessary. I knew a family that eats together, prays together and with that, it will be a happier and strongly bonded family. This is what I wanted, so I have been working towards this for a longtime.

To my surprise, I discovered that the secret to a happy and strongly bonded family is the kitchen. Both the efforts and quality time spent on whipping up a nourishing meal each day, leads to a quality time with the family. Truly, juggling a career while observing proper parenting is never easy. However, I discovered that regardless of my career, cooking for my family should be a priority. Of course I need a happy family, so I should do all that is required to make my kids and husband happy.

Apart from the cooking skills I have, I could still face rough time in the kitchen trying to prove I can give the best to my family. However, after considering my cooking ware, I discovered that I should do something immediately. My food could stick, or burn even before being ready or taste watery when I want it dry. Thanks to my friend who recommended the following best stainless steel pots and pans sets:

stainless steel cookware
All-Clad 10-piece cookware set
This All-Clad 10-piece cookware set is made specially with cooking surfaces that don’t react with food. Another good thing with this set is that it is compatible with all cooktops, it meets the optimal conduction requirement and has safe bowlers.

Tramontina 8-piece cookware set
The set comes with a variety of pots and pans. It is made with aluminum core to provide superior performance and optimal heat diffusion. The riveted handles provide extreme comfort and durability.

Calphalon Tri-Ply 8-piece cookware set
It has aluminum core well structured between steel layers to give excellent heat for browning and general control of the cooking. The set has clear tempered glass to make you see the heating food without necessarily opening the lid, and has good handles for comfort.

Cuisinart MCP-12N 12-piece cookware set
This set has a heat surround technology to distribute heat evenly. It also provides excellence-cooking performance, which don’t react with food, discolor its surface or even alter the flavors.

These stainless steel cookware sets are not pricey and so anyone can afford them.

Spices to Know Part 3

Herbs and spices are the kitchen staples used as flavorings. Most herbs are available fresh or dried. Drying alters flavors and aromas, so fresh herbs should be used if possible. Spices are almost always used in their dried form and can be purchased whole or ground. Some plants – dill – can be used as an herb(leaves) and a spice (its seeds).


Mustard seeds
Mustard seeds have a bitter, hot flavor with no aroma. They are available in black, brown, and yellow. Yellow seeds have the mildest flavor and black seeds have the strongest flavor. Mustard seeds are a standard component of pickling spices and are blended for prepared mustards.

The flavor and aroma of nutmeg are strong and sweet, and a small quantity provides a large amount of flavor. Nutmeg is used in many pastries and sweets, but is also important in meat and savory dishes. Nutmeg should be grated directly into a dish. Once grated, flavor loss is rapid.

Mace is an expensive spice. It is similar to nutmeg, but more refined. Mace is used primarily in pastry items and retains its flavor longer than any other spice.

Peppercorns vary in size, color, pungency, and flavor. This results in various climate and growing conditions.

Black and White Peppercorns
Black pepper has a warm, pungent flavor and aroma.

White pepper has less aroma than black pepper but is useful in white sauces where the appearance of black speckles is undesirable.

Green Peppercorns
Pickled green peppercorns are soft, with a fresh, sour flavor similar to capers. They are used in spiced butters and sauces or with fish.

Pink Peppercorns
Although pink peppercorns are attractive, their flavor is bitter and pinelike, with less spiciness than true pepper.

Szechuan Pepper
Also known as anise pepper and Chinese pepper, the berries are extremely hot and peppery with citrus overtones.

Poppy seeds
The tiny seeds are round and hard with a sweet, nutty flavor. They are used in breads and pastries.

Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. It takes about 250,000 flowers to produce one pound of saffron. There is no such thing as cheap saffron. A tiny pinch is enough to color and flavor a large quantity of foods. Saffron should have a honeylike taste and be a brilliant orange color. It is commonly used with fish and shellfish and rice dishes such as paella and risotto.

Sesame Seeds
Their taste is nutty and earthy, with a heavy aroma when roasted or ground into a paste. Sesame seeds are used for breads and meat dishes.

Although naturally sweet, tamarind contains %12 tartaric acid, making it very tart. It is used in jams, barbeque sauces, marinades, and is the key ingredient in Worcestershire sauce.

Turmeric is only available in dried and usually ground. It has a bright yellow color and strong flavor.

Wasabi is a bit hotter than horseradish. It has a strong aroma and a sharp flavor with herbal overtones. It is commonly served with sushi and can be used to spice up mashed potatoes or a compound butter.

Read Spices to Know Part 1
Read Spices to Know Part 2

My Aroma Rice Cooker Review

Aroma 12-Cup Sensor Logic is a great and affordable rice cooker. And if your household is anything like mine, i’m sure it will be a great addition to your kitchen. Comes in an easy to use Keep-Warm and White Rice, Brown Rice, Steam, Slow Cook, Oatmeal, Soup and Cake functions in its control panel, It’s a great multi-purpose and easy-to-use rice cooker on a very great price, and also the best Aroma rice cooker.
As the name suggest, it can yield and hold 12 cups of cooked rice from 6 cups of uncooked rice. The design is modern, egg shaped, and the control panel in the front are easy to understand and use. It also has a handle, making it easier to bring with you whenever you need it.

Aroma rice cooker is one of, if not the best rice cooker maker in the U.S, and in this model they are offering their Sensor Logic technology, which i found similar to the fuzzy logic offered by other brands. It’s able to change heating time automatically by ‘sensing’ outside temperature, elevation, and measurement errors.

With the affordable price tag, I found that the cooked rice taste is always consistent, the settings let you choose grain types, and so far it’s working well for me. The only thing i found lacking is the ability to select the texture you like. But its default setting works well with me.

What I also like is the steamer function. The white basket provided for steam use are in good size, once again the easy to use control panel makes it even easier to steam your cooking needs. It also came with Aroma only sauté-then-simmer function which creates a high heat first, then switches automatically to simmer once you add liquid. I also find the detachable power cable interesting because i cannot find it in similar product in its price range.

Three Best Cookware Sets For Your Kitchen

The right cookware can turn your meals into something really ravishing and enjoyable. Although, I prefer performance over design yet I also want to a have a cookware which is not only durable but easy to use and clean as well.

Following are some of the best cookware sets I have used.
Rachael Ray cookware
· Rachael Ray Hard Anodized Nonstick 14-Piece Cookware Set:

This is such a brilliant cookware set from Rachael Ray cookware. I have personally used it and you might as well consider using it. It is a colorful 14 pieces set with a black non-stick interior and a black exterior. It is made up of hard anodized aluminium to enhance its performance in all types of cooking situations. The handles are made up of stainless steel with bright orange rubber sleeves to make the grip comfortable and secure.

· All-Clad Stainless Steel 10-Piece Cookware Set:

This is one of my personal favorites and the bestselling stainless steel cookware set on Amazon despite the fact that is quite expensive ($555). However, price should not deter you as this cookware offers flawless performance. The aluminium core surrounded by stainless steel delivers steady heat. The set includes 2, 3 and 8 quartz sauce pans with lids as well as 8 and 10 inch high quality fry pans. It is a top performer in any cooking environment. It is very easy to clean and sturdily built making it the best cookware to have.

· Tramontina 8-piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set:

And finally on this very brief list, there is the exceptional 8-piece Stainless Steel Cookware by Tramontina. It offers a great value for its price ($135). I recommend everyone to use this high quality cookware for its durability and lifetime warranty as well. It offers superior cooking options at a very reasonable price. Its riveted handles always remain cool. The cookware heats food evenly thanks to tri-ply construction. The only downside in my opinion is that it is not a Nonstick cookware and there are few complains of food sticking and scorching.

Spices to Know Part 2

Herbs and spices are the kitchen staples used as flavorings. Most herbs are available fresh or dried. Drying alters flavors and aromas, so fresh herbs should be used if possible. Spices are almost always used in their dried form and can be purchased whole or ground. Some plants – dill – can be used as an herb(leaves) and a spice (its seeds).


Paprika is a bright red powder ground from specific varieties of red-ripened and dried chiles. Its flavor ranges from sweet to pungent and it has a strong aroma.

Chile powders
Chile powders are made from a wide variety of dried chile peppers ranging from sweet and mild to hot and pungent. Each brand is different and should be sampled before using it.

Crushed chiles
Also known as chile flakes, are blended from dried, coarsely crushed chiles. They are hot and used in sauces and meat dishes.

High quality cinnamon should be pale brown and thin, rolled up like paper into sticks known as quills. Cinnamon is usually bought ground because the quills are difficult to grind. Cinnamon is often used in pastries and sweets but can be used in lamb and spicy dishes as well.

When dried, whole cloves have hard, sharp prongs that can be pushed into other foods to provide flavor. Cloves are extremely pungent, with a sweet, astringent aroma. Cloves are used in desserts, meat dishes, preserves, and liquors.

Coriander seeds come from the cilantro plant. They have a sweet, spicy flavor and strong aroma. The leaves carry the same flavor and aroma unlike other plants. They are frequently used in Indian cuisine and pickling mixtures.

Cumin has a strong earthy flavor and usually dominates any dish in which it is included. It is used in Middle Eastern, Indian, Mexican cuisines, sausages, and a few cheeses.

Fennel seeds taste and aroma are similar to anise, though not as sweet. Whole seeds are used in Italian stews and sausages. Ground seeds can be used in breads, cakes, and cookies.

Fenugreek is seeds are pebble-shaped and transfer a pale orange color to the foods in which they are cooked. Their flavor is bittersweet, like burnt sugar.

File powder (fee-LAY)
File powder is commonly used as a thickener and flavoring in Cajun and Creole cuisines. It should be added during the last minutes of cooking because it forms srings if allowed to boil.

Galangal has a peppery, gingerlike flavor and piny aroma. Also known as glanga root, Thai ginger and Laos ginger, it is peeled and crushed for use in Thai and Indonesian cuisines. Fresh ginger can be substituted.

Fresh ginger is known as a “hand” because it resembles a group of knobby fingers. Fresh ginger should be plump and firm with smooth skin. It should keep for about a month if refrigerated. Ginger’s flavor is sweet but fiery. Dried ginger’s flavor is spicier and not as sweet as fresh ginger. It is used with chicken, beef, and curries.

Grains of Paradise
Grains of paradise have a spicy, warm and slightly bitter taste, similar to peppercorns. It is primarily used in West African and Magreb dishes.

Horseradish is usually served grated, creamed into a sauce or as part of a compound butter or mustard preparation. Heat can destroy its flavor and pungency, so it should be added near the end of cooking.

Juniper has a sweet flavor similar to pine. Its berries flavor gin and other alcoholic beverages, and are crushed into game dishes, like venison and wild boar.

Read Spices to Know Part 1
Read Spices to Know Part 3

How I Discovered The Best Kitchen Knife for My Cooking

I am that type of a person who loves cooking. I can spend a lot of money buying magazines that talk about cooking. These magazines have many different recipes that usually make my family smile. In weekends, my whole family will gather around the dining table expectantly. I enjoy the way my kids will cut the silence in excitements by asking questions like, dad what is the surprise today? Well, apart from cooking a nice meal for my family; I understand a good knife would quicken things for me. For several months, I have been using a poorly shaped knife, which by the end of cooking; I usually discover some reddish scars in my hand caused by the poorly designed knife.

knife (2)

I decided enough is enough, and began my search for a good kitchen knife. The first place I thought of was the internet, so I went for my computer and began the search, hoping to find an article titled the best kitchen knife set. At first, I never knew where to begin from, but I figured out to call a friend of mine for a suggestions, concerning a type of knife I must buy so as to enjoy the chopping and cutting of foodstuffs in my kitchen. She recommended the Wusthof Classic 3-piece starter set. She also advised me to go for the knives that are well designed to fit the curvature of the palm. She reminded me to also consider blades. Best kitchen knives will have handles that have been manufactured purposely to be safe even when dipped in dishwater. In this way, handles will not get off, so the knife will always feel comfortable in the palms.

I also had an idea that a good kitchen knife should have blades that can offer solutions for the varied cutting situations. After doing several researches, I discovered that knives are designed to suit their tasks. For instance, the large butcher knives are not effective when it comes to slicing things like bread and vegetables. For chopping and slicing vegetables, the Pure Komachi 2 santoku knife from Kershaw seems like a good choice. Recently, I went shopping and did a thorough selection from the best chef knife reviews, and am lucky to say that even though my family enjoys my food, I also enjoy the cooking than before, since I have best knives in my kitchen.