Why do we like casseroles so much? This isn’t fine cuisine — it’s comfort food. These are often your family’s favorite dishes. Casseroles are good for your budget too. Many recipes can be made with leftovers and staples from your pantry. Even better, if you have any left, you can divide and freeze the leftovers and you’ll always have something to take to work for lunch. That plugs one of the biggest holes in many people’s budget.

Casseroles are crowd pleasers. These are easy dishes for church suppers or potlucks. Be sure to bring the recipe with you as people will be asking for it.

Here are a few of our favorite casserole recipes:

Chicken and Apples Casserole

  • 1 chicken, cut up
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 or 4 apples, peeled, cored and sliced (Granny Smith are best)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Dash of pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup apple juice, cider or brandy

Brown chicken in butter. Place a layer of sliced apples in a two-quart casserole. Add chicken, then add remaining apples. Add sugar, salt, pepper and onions to juice. Pour into pan in which chicken was browned. Stir, warm, and pour over chicken. Bake, covered, for 45 minutes at 375 degrees.

Dad’s Favorite Casserole

  • 1/2 pound noodles
  • 3 medium onions
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 2 pounds ground chuck
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon salad oil
  • 1 can cream of celery soup, combined with 1 can milk
  • 1-1/2 cups grated cheese
  • 3 eggs, beaten

Cook noodles; drain. Cook onion in skillet in butter. Season meat with salt, pepper and thyme; brown in oil, stirring to break up meat, about 10 minutes. In a three-quart casserole arrange 1/3 noodles, then half of meat mixture and half of soup mixture. Repeat, ending with noodles for the top layer. Sprinkle grated cheese over casserole. Pour beaten eggs on top of cheese. Bake for 60 minutes at 350 degrees or until hot, bubbly and brown.

Outdoor Barbecue Grills

The taste of the food prepared using the charcoal grills will be better than that prepared using gas grills. The reason is that the gas grill can not give the smoky flavor to the food which is produced by the charcoal grills. If you want to cook in a bulk the gas grill will be convenient.

The charcoal grills will be a better option for cooking less quantity of food and it is easy to transfer too. The charcoal grills are less expensive as well. There are some disadvantages for charcoal grills. In a rainy day it will be difficult to light the grills and also to keep it lit till the end of cooking. After igniting the grills one has to wait till the flames die out and the coals are hot.

The food may get burnt easily soon since it is difficult to control the heat. The charcoal has to get cooled down completely before cleaning the grills. This may take hours and one will have to wait till that. When charcoal grill is used grease, ash and charcoal will be formed. Removal of these ashes for cleaning the grill can be messy. After each use the coal has to be disposed.

Gas grills are easy to ignite. The heat of the grill can be controlled easily, so there is no need of worrying about burning of the food. The gas grills may have more than one burner which can be operated independently. This helps in simultaneous cooking of different food stuffs which require different cooking temperatures. Another main advantage is of cleaning with less toil.

The selection of gas grills can be done based on the size and shape of the grill. The main drawback of the gas grill is that the smoky flavor is not obtained in this. Comparatively the gas grill is costly. It requires more space also since it is bigger than the charcoal grills.

Points to be considered to make effective use of out door barbecue are:

  1. Check whether there is adequate fuel.
  2. Charcoal should be stored in a dry place.
  3. The cooking time and fuel used will be more when outdoor barbecue will be in cold or gusty weather.
  4. Place barbecue in a direction of the wind away from the crowd.
  5. Spray some vegetable oil over the grill before lighting it.
  6. Small pieces can be placed in skewers.
  7. All the things needed for grilling should be assembled in a tray before starting. This includes the tools, utensils and raw ingredients.
  8. If the outdoor barbecue is lit once, do not leave it unattended.

Grilling Fish

The grate must be clean.

A little bit of oil should be applied to both the fish and the grate.

Heat should be medium high to high.

Use a wide spatula (or two) instead of tongs or a fork to turn it.

Even this may not work on all grills. Some grills have a very small surface area verses open space area (grate gaps). If you really like grilling fish, your best bet is to

Get a grate with more surface area than space.

Because fish is so delicate, many people have come up with their own ways of grilling fish (so it won’t fall apart). One way is to

Leave the skin on.

But some people (like me) prefer no skin. Without the skin, fish will take on the flavors of smoke, seasonings, sauces, etc.

So, what else do we do? Another way is to

Use aluminum foil.

Using a piece of foil on the grate under the fish will keep it from falling through.

There are also what I call fish baskets available.

They are like a pan with small holes in it.

Grilling fish is much more common now than it used to be. It would probably be done more often, too, if the sticking problem were solved. The fish is already tender. And once it is cooked, it tends to flake apart very easily.

That may be the biggest obstacle of all. Sticking just makes it worse. I guess even if it didn’t stick at all, it still might be hard to turn over on the grill. So use the suggestions as you see fit. Eliminate your sticking problems, but be prepared to deal with all that tender falling-apart fish.

Types of Italian Food

When people think Italian food the first thing that comes to mind are pasta dishes. According to experts they believe that pasta came to Italy sometime during the 9th century. It was thought to have come from an Arabic recipe that combined water and flour but today Italy has perfected pasta in many different forms. In addition to spaghetti you will also find other Italian pasta dishes like ravioli, which are filled pastas. Italian food also includes dumpling-like pasta that is made from potatoes called gnocchi. Most pasta dishes, including gnocchi, are usually served in some type of sauce. The most common Italian sauce is called marinara and is made from a tomato base and includes garlic, onions, and herbs like oregano and basil. Many of the classic Italian pasta and sauce dishes will have various cheese and meats or vegetables that have been sautéed in olive oil added to the dish.

Italian food is also noted for using seafood in many of their dishes. One notable food, Calamari, is a dish that has deep-friend quid that has been garnished with parmesan cheese. It is a very popular appetizer. The fish dishes found in Italian cuisine are generally simple and reflect the seasonality of the food. It is usually cooked in olive oil, parsley, and lemon juice that will offer different variations but keeping the integrity of the original flavors. There are also many different Italian desserts. Tiramisu is one of the more popular desserts. It is a concoction of sponge cake that is flavored with marsala-wine and espresso. It is layered with a heavy custard and coated in cocoa powder. Another favorite dessert is gelato, which is a frozen dense dessert that is similar to ice cream. The difference is that gelato is more creamy and rich.

Honey vs Sugar

Both sweeteners contain glucose and fructose. However, for sugar, in the process of manufacturing, the organic acids, protein, nitrogen elements, enzymes and vitamins in the sugar cane are destroyed, whereas honey, a natural sweetener, subjects only to minimal heating. Also, honey has certain beneficial antioxidant and antimicrobial properties which are not present in table sugar.
Here are three honey nutrition facts that will make you feel good about eating honey:

  • One tablespoon of table sugar or sucrose contains 46 calories, while one tablespoon of natural sweetener honey has 64 calories. Though honey may have more calories, we actually need to use less of it since it is sweeter than table sugar. As a result, you may in fact consume even less amount of calories that you would with sugar. And in the long run even though honey is more expensive, it may be more economical than table sugar.
  • Compared to table sugar, honey has a healthier Glycemic Index (GI) which measures the negative impact of a given food on the blood-glucose level. The lower the GI rating, the slower the absorption and infusion of sugars into the bloodstream and hence a more gradual and healthier digestion process.
  • Unlike honey, table sugar lacks minerals and vitamins (hence it’s been often called empty calories), they draw upon the body’s nutrients to be metabolized into the system. When these nutrients are all used up, metabolizing of undesirable cholesterol and fatty acid is impeded, contributing to higher cholesterol and promoting obesity due to higher fatty acid on the organs and tissues. So the message is, if you are watching your weight, honey will be a smarter choice than sugar.

Eating Raw Fish

The benefits of eating raw fish dishes

The most important one being that they all taste wonderful and look brilliant on the plate, and there is a great range from which to choose. Cold smoking fish with all kinds of types of wood shavings and flavourings. The coating of fish with herbs, spices and flavoured spirits such as Fennel Liquor. The discussion could stop now. However there is one very important fact to consider as a health benefit to us all.

They are raw, and as such give us all great health benefits.

In the normal preparation and cooking process some of the vital ingredients, such as vitamins and minerals, are lost through being washed away or destroyed by heat. This happens with most forms of fresh food when cooked. Raw fish is of course not cooked, and as a results benefits us all in retaining very high proportions of the gifts of nature, such as vitamins and minerals. So we can eat really healthy food that tastes great. However, let us consider the other side of the equation.

The dangers of eating raw fish dishes

Now there is no need for anybody to become paranoid about the dangers, because they are not widespread and are easily resolved. The potential problem is parasitic infection, commonly known as worms, that naturally spreads through the food chain. If undetected parasites can cause us serious intestinal problems, which in many cases we are not aware of. The stomach problems happen as a result of the consumption of eggs, that then grow and develop in our stomachs.

The parasites themselves pass through the food chain from the smaller to the larger species. In some instances they can be visually seen in the stomach wall. However with most cases they will be not noticed because they will be in the form of very small eggs, which in the process of preparing raw fish dishes for consumption can end up in the finished dish, as well as cross contaminating working surfaces.

However, have no fear because help is at hand, in the form of temperature, either hot or cold. Any parasitic infection will be totally eliminated if the core of your fish reaches a minimum of 62 degrees celsius. So for cooked seafood there is no problem. It is of course ideal to check the temperature of cooked dishes with a digital probe, which are very quick acting and affordable. So you can rest assured that your cooked fish dishes will be totally safe if you reach the minimum temperature.

To return to raw fish dishes the problem can also be easily and simply resolved. The fish needs to be frozen. There are no doubt screams of horror taking place now across our planet. Why we are freezing fresh fish? The reason is simple, this process will totally kill all parasitic action. There are various recommendations for the length of time and the temperature to be reached. The standard that is most commonly accepted is to freeze for 120 hours at a temperature of minus 18 degrees centigrade. Other options will take a shorter period but at a lower temperature, which is not achievable in with most domestic freezing equipment. Providing that the fish, in either whole or fillet, is tightly wrapped in cling film or sealed, it will lose very little moisture and have no freezer burn.

After the freezing process you can now progress to curing, salting or pickling your fish in total confidence that there will be no potential problem. Some of the fish you buy might already be frozen. To give yourself total reassurance freeze all the versions for the 120 hour period, and then enjoy the great Raw Fruits Of The Sea.

Raw fish dishes either smoked, marinated, pickled, salted or just raw provide seafood lovers with some wonderful tastes that cannot be matched by other food types. Being aware of the dangers, and how to solve them, is the solution in itself to eating healthier and enjoying some great dishes.

Main Course Ideas

Wrapped in a parcel with hidden delights

This version will offer mystery and surprise. From your grocery supplier obtain sufficient banana leaf, if they do not have it in stock they will have supplies in a couple of days. You will need a piece 25 cm square for each of your guests. In boiling water blanch the leaf for four minutes, to soften. Place the Salmon fillet in the centre of the leaf. Now you need to add the flavouring ingredients to give the visual and flavour sensation when opening the parcel. Try an Oriental touch with thin strips of ginger, lemon grass and spring onion with a touch of soy and Thai fish sauce. Fold up the parcel and close with a wooden kebab stick, or wrap together with long strips of spring onion. Steam until cooked, the core temperature needs to reach 62 degrees Celsius. Plate the closed parcel and allow your guests to open them. The choice of items to include in the parcel gives you a licence to thrill.

Cold cured with fennel herb and liquor

Curing originated as a way of preserving fish prior to introduction of fridges. It would start with a period of covering in salt or a salt solution, to start reducing the water content, following by drying and possibly smoking or further curing with sugar and salt. Nowadays we do not need to preserve fish, since we have daily sources of supply and the means of safe storage. Curing provides a method of adding extra flavour to the fish. Additionally the salt level in the dish will be low. You will need a container to store the fillets of fish tightly packed together in two layers. Place in the first layer flesh side up and cover with a small handful of chopped fresh fennel herb per fillet. Pour over 25 ml of a fennel or aniseed based liqueur per fillet. Add the second layer flesh side down. Cover with kitchen foil, top small weights to press down, such as clean pebbles or potatoes. Remove the covering and turn over and baste the fillets twice a day for five days. Prior to serving lay the fillets on a flat tray, cover with cling film and place in the freezer compartment for around an hour, until they begin to freeze. This process will enable you to cut the fillets in very thin slices and place on a cold plate, drizzled with the basting liquid and served with a chunk of lemon. This option can also be served as a starter with a smaller using a smaller fillet.

Grilled with Tandoori spices

Skin the fillet of fish, make cuts around 0.5 cm thick on both sides, lightly coat in vegetable oil and liberally coat with Tandoori spices, pressing the spicing into cuts. Allow to stand in the fridge for a minimum of two hours. Place on a tray under a very hot grill, turning the fillets once, until cooked to a temperature of 62 degrees Celsius. Serve on a bed of chopped cucumber in yoghurt flavoured with lemon juice.

The above three options are merely a drop in the ocean, pardon the pun, with what you can do with just one cut of fish. You can also try poaching and serve it cold with a salad, used as part of a fish pie with some white fish and Prawns, in a pate, in batter, as part of a fish curry, with asparagus and basil sauce, stir-fried, baked with a herb crust, fish cakes and many more. You can then consider other types of fish. With fish main courses there need never be any menu boredom.

White, Brown, Basmati


The nutritive value of rice depends on the soil where it is grown and the polishing process. However, generally speaking, rice is mainly made of carbohydrate- starch- which constitutes 90% of the dry weight and 87% of the caloric content.

Rice also contains minerals like manganese, selenium, phosphorous, magnesium, iron and copper and vitamins like thiamine (B1), niacin (B3). It also contains dietary fibre and small amounts of essential fatty acids.

Popular white

The highly polished white rice is the most common and popular variety of rice consumed, especially where it is a staple as in Southeast Asia (including India), the Middle East, and the Far East.

Rice grain is made ready for consumption by removing the husk. It is then polished by removing the bran and the germ. This improves the taste and ‘the look’ but leads to a loss of the vitamins and fatty acids present in the whole grain. What remains is the starchy endosperm.

Starch is of two types: amylose and amylopectin.

Rice such as Basmati, high in amylose, is long grained and does not stick together. Amylose is also resistant starch- healthy fibre. It slows the digestion of starch and prevents blood sugar spikes. It is beneficial to gut bacteria which aid digestion. It also facilitates the formation of fatty acids like butyrate which are said to improve colon health.

Amylopectin is usually found in strains of short grain rice, and its presence is characterised by stickiness on cooking. This starch is highly digestible and not advisable in diabetic diets.

In general, though white rice is of many types and strains, it is mostly starch and is best eaten in limited quantities.

Basmati, the queen of fragrance

This long, slender, fragrant grain is so special that patent wars have been and are being fought over its production. The word ‘Basmati’ itself means ‘fragrant’ in Hindi.

Nutrition-wise, it is no different from any other polished white rice. Yes, it contains amylose as its starchy constituent, and that’s the reason the pulaos and biryanis that are cooked with Basmati have beautiful, separate, long grains giving off the most delectable smells. Compared to the short grained rice varieties, Basmati has the better kind of starch.

Basmati is also more expensive than other rice strains. This fact makes it prone to adulteration. Buy a trusted brand which will give you the best value for money.

Going brown

When only the inedible outer husk of the rice grain is removed, you get brown rice. This is a whole grain with ALL its nutrients – minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, and starch- intact.

There are many benefits to eating brown rice:

It has a low glycemic index, yet is nutrition dense being filled with essential vitamins, minerals, and fibre. This makes it a better choice over white rice for diabetics.

Brown rice is rich in selenium. It is also good for maintaining a healthy cholesterol profile because it contains essential fatty acids. Brown rice, thus, benefits the heart.

Brown rice is full of fibre and is slow to digest. It makes you feel fuller for a longer time, and that’s why it’s an important part of a weight-loss diet. It is also a good digestive aid, preventing constipation and colitis with its higher fibre content.

You get brown Basmati rice too. Choose a good brand and go ahead with all the dishes that you make with the white version.

Brown rice stays fresh for approximately six months. If you are slow to use up your supply, refrigerate it.

Germinated brown rice: seeds of health

This is unpolished brown rice which has been allowed to germinate. Experts recommend soaking brown rice for 4 to 20 hours in warm water (30-40 °C). It can also be soaked for longer hours in cooler water. This activates the germ in brown rice and increases the levels of essential amino acids like gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

Soaking brown rice reduces its chewiness and makes it softer and tastier to eat. Remember to discard the water from the soaked rice and cook in fresh water to avoid the smell that develops on soaking grains.

Germinated brown rice adds to the health benefits of eating brown rice.

GABA is good for preventing neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.

Investigations have pointed out that postpartum depression, mood swings, and psychosomatic health of lactating mothers are benefitted if germinated brown rice is included in their diets.

Brown rice is better that white. It’s just a matter of getting used to the chewiness.

What to eat, what to eat?

There is a whole lot of speculation, tons of advice and innumerable diet fads doing the rounds these days. All of it is supposed to boost health and well-being.

Don’t be misled by the ‘no carbs!’ chant. Carbohydrates are essential to a balanced diet. EXCESS carbohydrates are not.

Healthfulness has to be a way of life. Cannot eat this, do not eat that, must not… rules and principles have to be sustainable and integrated into one’s life. The middle path of ‘no fasting, no feasting’ is advisable because it is sustainable UNLESS there is a health reason, like diabetes for instance, that bans certain foods.

Also, not all of good health is in what you eat: regular exercise and rest are the other two companions. A positive attitude goes a long way too.

We eat because it is a pleasure. ‘No white rice,’ if not acceptable, is better replaced with ‘limited amounts a few times a week’.

The MUST-DO, however, is to adopt the organic way which shuns the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides in agriculture.

What health benefit will you really enjoy if everything is tainted with a dusting and residues of poisonous substances? This is like taking one step forward and two steps backward, with all the benefits being negated by the harm that chemicals cause from allergies to cancers.

What life are we to look forward to when we are busy ruining the very earth that sustains us by destroying the environment and upsetting ecological balances?

THINK! Go organic.

Eating Nuts

Pros of Eating Nuts

The positives that will encourage eating handful of nuts daily includes:

  • Rich in Minerals and Vitamins. Most of the nuts are loaded with essential minerals and vitamins for your good health. These include Vitamins A and B. The minerals found in nuts include copper, selenium, iron, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. As such, they are always healthy to eat. Though, the level of nutrients may vary in their different types.
  • Aids in Weight Loss. While most of the people will disagree on this point, it is a proven fact that nuts help to shed extra calories if eaten in moderation and with caution. This holds true for nuts like almonds, pistachios, and cashews. They contain a lot of fibers that help to curb your appetite significantly. As such, they control your weight as well.
  • Lower the level of Cholesterol. If you want to lower down LDL blood and total cholesterol in your body, start eating healthy nuts right away. This is primarily due to the content of unsaturated fats in them. They have lots of polyunsaturated as well as monounsaturated fats in them. Also, some raw nuts have higher levels of phytosterol that controls the risk of any cardiovascular ailment or problem.
  • Rich in Omega 3 Fatty Acids. Nuts like walnuts are known for their high content of omega 3 fats. They also have lots of ALA along with some other nutrients. Studies have shown that these nutrients collectively help to reduce oxidation or inflammation in your body. So, they are always good for your heart.
  • Reduces chances of Diabetes. Nuts affect the level of insulin and glucose neutrally. As such, they reduce the risk of diabetes. Also, for diabetic patients, they constitute a healthy eating option. Their various forms like peanut butter help to lower the risk of Type- 2 diabetes, especially in women. It is also proven by research that nuts like almonds substantially reduce the chances of postprandial glycemia.
  • Rich in Plant Proteins and Dietary Fibers. Nuts contain lots of plant proteins. It makes them a healthy alternative to meat as well. They maintain the blood vessels with their high content of amino acids. The dietary fibers in nuts are also good for your health.

Cons of Eating Nuts

There are enough reasons to include raw or dry roasted nuts in your daily routine. But there are some hazards associated with eating too many nuts. These include:

  • High-Calorie Count. Almost every nut contains lots of calories. It is not a pleasing fact for calorie and health conscious people. Though, almonds are a better choice with the lowest calorie count of 160 per ounce. To control calories, you should refrain from oil roasted nuts that are heated at high temperatures in harmful oils.
  • High in Fats. Despite their high content of unsaturated fats, nuts tend to put on this extra baggage with processing and flavors. Sometimes, nuts are treated with preservatives and unhealthy chemicals that increase the level of sodium and sugar in them.
  • High level of Oxalates. Mostly, nuts have a considerable amount of oxalates. When these oxalates accumulate in the body fluids and crystallize, they may lead to the formation of stones in kidney.
  • May lead to Acne. Most of the nuts contain some oils that are detrimental to your skin. Those with sensitive skin must eat nuts in moderation to avoid breakout of acne.