Tom's Tips and Tricks
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Tom's Tips & Tricks

Tom’s Tips and Tricks
by Tom Blair
     That shaker of salt sitting on your table was once more valuable than gold. In fact salt at one time was minted into coins and was used as currency for trade. Salt production and trade among ancient peoples of the world was a factor in the development of civilization.
     Happily for us technological development over the last two centuries has changed all that. There are many types of salt available to us, below are the most common ones and their uses.
TABLE SALT: A fine-grained salt, either rock salt(mined) or sea salt(evaporated) usually containing an anti-caking agent and frequently iodine a vital nutrient.
KOSHER SALT: Coarse flaky salt used to prepare meat in accordance with Jewish dietary laws. Popular with chefs because the flakes are easily picked up with the fingers.
PICKLING SALT: The same as table salt but without any anti-caking agents which are not water soluble and cloud the brine.
GOURMET SEA SALT: Fine or coarse evaporated salts that vary in color and taste depending on origin or processing. Many of these retain trace minerals or clay lost in refined salts.
SEASONED SALT: Flavored salt with added spices such as garlic, onion or sugar.
ROCK SALT: Large crystals generally not refined enough to be food grade.
     Be adventurous the next time you purchase salt. Try an exotic sea salt in your next recipe and add a new dimension with flavor from the past.
      Tom Blair is an internationally syndicated columnist. His articles appear in publications throughout the US, Canada and Europe.
© Tom Blair 2010

Tom’s Tips and Tricks
by Tom Blair
     Are you a fire eater? Do you love those spicy foods that make you break out in a sweat? Just how hot is hot? A chemist named Wilbur Scoville worked out a system of measuring the heat in peppers in 1912.
     That burning sensation you feel when you eat food with hot peppers in it comes from a naturally occurring chemical called capsaicin. Capsaicin is colorless and odorless. It is most highly concentrated in the white membranes surrounding the seeds of the pepper. The seeds themselves have only trace amounts and the flesh of the peppers develops only a slight amount of capsaicin.
     While modern science has devised a more accurate method for measuring the amount of capsaicin in foods, the Scoville Index is still used to rate peppers relative heat values. Listed below are some popular foods and peppers and their place in the scale.
Heat index:

Pure capsaicin: 15,000,000
Habanero: 100,000
Cayenne: 30,000
Serrano: 10,000
Tabasco Sauce: 2500
Jalapeno: 2500
Bell pepper 0
     Next time hot is a little too hot, just drink a glass of ice cold milk to extinguish the fire.
     Check out the column to the right for a detailed list of peppers on the Scoville Heat Index.
      Tom Blair is an internationally syndicated columnist. His articles appear in publications throughout the US, Canada and Europe.
© Tom Blair 2010

Scoville scale
Scoville rating Type of pepper
15,000,000–16,000,000 Pure capsaicin[4]
8,600,000–9,100,000 Various capsaicinoids (e.g. homocapsaicin, homodihydrocapsaicin, nordihydrocapsaicin)
5,000,000–5,300,000 Law Enforcement Grade pepper spray,[5] FN 303 irritant ammunition
855,000–1,050,000 Bhut Jolokia (a.k.a. Ghost pepper, Naga Jolokia)[6][7]
350,000–580,000 Red Savina Habanero[8][9]
100,000–350,000 Guntur Chilli, Habanero chili,[10] Scotch Bonnet Pepper,[10] Datil pepper, Rocoto, African Birdseye, Madame Jeanette, Jamaican Hot Pepper[11]
50,000–100,000 Thai Pepper/Indian Pepper,[12] Malagueta Pepper,[12] Chiltepin Pepper, Pequin Pepper[12]
30,000–50,000 Cayenne Pepper, Ají pepper,[10] Tabasco pepper, some Chipotle peppers[citation needed], Cumari pepper (Capsicum Chinese)
10,000–23,000 Serrano Pepper, some Chipotle peppers[citation needed]
2,500–8,000 Jalapeño Pepper, Guajillo pepper, New Mexican varieties of Anaheim pepper,[13] Paprika (Hungarian wax pepper)
500–2,500 Anaheim pepper, Poblano Pepper, Rocotillo Pepper
100–500 Pimento, Peperoncini
0 No heat, Bell pepper


Tom’s Tips and Tricks
by Tom Blair

     Living in a world full of technological marvels, we are no longer amazed at the seemingly impossible. Just a few short years ago who would have believed there would be cell phones, GPS and TV in your car.
     As Maxwell Smart would say “Would you believe . . . ” a modern scientific discovery that can prevent heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes, lower cholesterol, and help you lose weight? This new discovery is available at your local grocery store, the amazing vegetable!
     Use these five easy steps to adding vegetables to your diet.
     1. Add finely diced vegetables to your favorite recipes. The vegetables will add flavor and nutrients to any meal.
     2. Check out the produce department in your grocery store. Experiment with new-to-you vegetables.
     3. Try a new recipe that is a mix of vegetables such as cole slaw or a stir fry.
    4. Snack on vegetables. A bell pepper sliced and dipped in fat-free dressing is a tasty between meal snack.
    5. Replace the hamburger in your chili recipe with a meat substitute such as Morning Star Farms Crumbles. The meat substitute (a soy protein product) will increase the vegetable content and decrease the amount of fat in the meal.
     Current scientific studies agree with what your Mother always knew, eat your vegetables.
      Tom Blair is an internationally syndicated columnist. His articles appear in publications throughout the US, Canada and Europe.
© Tom Blair 2010

Tom’s Tips and Tricks
by Tom Blair
     Eighteen quadrillion, fourteen trillion, three hundred ninety-eight billion, five hundred nine million, four hundred eighty-one thousand, nine hundred eighty-four is the number of bacteria that will grow on a foil wrapped baked potato that is left out of the oven or refrigerator for eighteen hours.
     This rapid growth of bacteria illustrates the vital need for safe food handing. The top ten food safety tips are listed below.  
1.  Always wash hands for at least twenty seconds before and after handling food.
2. Never put raw meat, poultry or seafood on the same plate or cutting board as vegetables.
3. Store raw meat, poultry or seafood on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to keep juices from dripping on other food.
4. Use a thermometer to check the internal temperature of cooked food. Always cook food to the proper temperature.
5. Always thaw food in the refrigerator, never on the countertop.
6. Refrigerate prepared foods and leftovers within two hours. Do not leave food on countertop.
7. Wash all fresh produce.
8. Reheat leftovers to 165 degrees.
9. Check the use-by or expiration date on all products.
10. Never eat food containing uncooked eggs.
     These easy to follow tips could help protect your family from food related illnesses.
      Tom Blair is an internationally syndicated columnist. His articles appear in publications throughout the US, Canada and Europe.
© Tom Blair 2009



Tom’s Tips and Tricks
by Tom Blair


     When adventuring into the culinary world, one needs to keep all their senses alert, not just the sense of taste. The old saying, you eat with your eyes first, is certainly true and the more appetizing your meal looks the better it seems to taste.
     Your eyes come into play first when choosing a Hass avocado. As they ripen, Hass avocados turn dark green, almost black in color. Next use your sense of touch, pick up the avocado, it should give a little when held in the palm of the hand and not feel hard like a baseball. If it is very soft and has wrinkles it is over ripe.
     You will need your sense of touch again when you are ready to peel and slice your avocado. Begin by holding the avocado in the palm of your hand stem side up. Using a sharp knife carefully cut into the top of the avocado until you feel your knife hit the large seed inside. Rotate the avocado around the knife until you have cut all the way around and you meet the original cut.
     Put down your knife and hold the avocado in both hands and twist the avocado gently to separate the halves. You will notice that the seed stays in one half of the avocado. Once again slice the avocado half with the seed from the stem to the bottom and twist apart. You can now remove the seed. Slice the other half in two also, and then remove the peels from the avocado quarters and slice your way to delicious avocado bliss.
     Click on the video in the column to the right to learn how to peel and slice an avocado.
      Tom Blair is an internationally syndicated columnist. His articles appear in publications throughout the US, Canada and Europe.
© Tom Blair 2009

Click Start to watch "How to peel and slice an avocado."


Tom’s Tips and Tricks
by Tom Blair

     If you were to ask, “What is the most popular fruit in the world?” Most people would guess either bananas or apples, but in fact more mangos are eaten every day than any other fruit. Americans are discovering the luscious mango in smoothies, tea, ice cream and on restaurant menus. Mangoes are readily available to consumers, but many people are still unfamiliar with how to select, store, and cut mangos.
     Mangos range from green to red to yellow, depending on country of origin and variety, yet color means little as an indicator of ripeness. What you are looking for is softness, similar to a ripe peach or avocado. A ripe mango will give a little when held in the palm and will also give off a sweet resiny scent from the stem end.
     Unripe, hard mangos should be stored at room temperature in a bowl or open container. If you wish to speed up the ripening process, place your mango in a closed paper bag with an apple or a banana. Apples and bananas give off a natural ripening gas called ethylene. If your mango is ripe but you are not ready to use it immediately, you can store it in the refrigerator for three to five days.
     To slice a ripe mango, hold it so that you can see the stem end and you can see that the shape is an ellipse. Hold the mango on the table so that the widest part is parallel to your body and slice the cheeks off the mango, starting your cut about one half inch to the side of the stem. Slice the cheeks into segments and then slice off the skin.
      Tom Blair is an internationally syndicated columnist. His articles appear in publications throughout the US, Canada and Europe.
© Tom Blair 2009

Click Start button to watch "How to slice a mango."



Tom’s Tips and Tricks
by Tom Blair


     While the chic decor of today tends toward minimalism, beauty is always in style. Garnishing or food art has reached a new plateau  in recent years. We are no longer limited to the obligatory sprig of parsley.
     Perhaps you would like to dress up a simple family meal or impress your dinner guests with your culinary skills. If so, nothing could be simpler than to whip up a beautiful tomato rose. All you need is a ripe firm tomato and a sharp paring knife.
     Begin by almost cutting a slice off of the bottom of the tomato. This slice should be about half an inch thick. When you have almost cut all the way through the bottom turn the tomato and begin peeling it as you would an apple, creating an unbroken continuous strip of peel. The width of the peel you are creating should be about one inch wide. Precise cutting is not needed here as variance in thickness and width only add to the authenticity of the finished product.
     When you have finished peeling the tomato lay out the strip of peel upside down with the base or bottom farthest from you. Roll up the peel until you have reached the end and set up your flower on the attached base. With a little adjusting of your “petals” you now have  a very lifelike tomato rose.
     With a few simple garnishing tricks you can become the food artist of the family. Click on the short video on how to make the tomato rose.
      Tom Blair is an internationally syndicated columnist. His articles appear in publications throughout the US, Canada and Europe.
© Tom Blair 2009


Click Start to watch "How to Create a Tomato Rose."





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