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Showing posts from 2012

Salt, Not Oil

When cooking meat, particularly beef, you can eliminate the need for cooking oil completely.

Heat the pan. Sprinkle salt evenly through the pan. Add meat to the pan, and you will hear it sizzle and crackle. The salt draws moisture from the meat, and enough fats to take the place of the cooking oil you might have used.

I've been told this does not change the flavor of the meat, although common sense dictates that it must. I must say, I have used this method for many years and never experienced overly salty meat using this method.

High-Altitude Cooking? No Pressure!

I was kindly invited to spend Christmas Day with friends up in Ft. Collins, Colo., last December, and I offered to bring a Cheesecake made with the world's bar-none best New York-style Cheesecake recipe.  The day prior, I set aside for baking.  This was one of my first attempts at baking since moving to Colorado, and while I'm keen on improvising in cooking, I'm less likely to stray from a baking recipe.  I completely forgot that adjustments needed to be made to my favorite recipe for the change in altitude.

What do you suppose my first clue might be? 

The mellow filling in the spring-form pan rose much more than usual.  I thought nothing of it, because everybody likes a mile-high slice of Cheesecake, right?  Well, clue number two was the baking time.  The cheesecake requires a very high temperature of 500 degrees for (I believe) 90 minutes.  At 30 minutes, the top crust was already golden brown.  At 45 minutes, it was black and charred.  I removed the cheesecake at this …

pHarmony for Your Body

Your body is like a barber-shop quartet.  When you are feeling at your peak, everything works in  harmony with everything else.  Sounds great, looks great, feels great.  Diet plays a major part in the orchestration of those harmonies, and when you hear those sour notes prick your ears with more frequency, you may want to check to see if you have a pH-armony problem.  I apologize up front:  This is a rather complex issue and I am giving it  a basic blog overview.  For more details, consult a registered dietician (RD) or a doctor.

For most non-space alien people, the body operates with an average blood pH of 7.35-7.45, which is slightly “alkaline.”  In this range, the body maintains stores of minerals, nutrients and raw materials to maintain its peak performance.  To keep the body in this range, an alkaline diet is helpful.

In today's world, however, many of us thrive on or fall prey to pre-packaged foods, meats, white bread, sugared drinks, alcohol, chips and candy.  All of those ar…

Why Onions Make You Cry

Here in the Atomic Kitchen, we bring the gamut of emotions. We like to make you laugh.  Today, we might make you cry.  Fair warning: you may need a box of tissues as we explain why cutting onions makes you cry.

Your tears are primarily water.  Saline. Salt water.

Onions can be divided into two categories:  Sweet and Storage.  Sweet onions have a much higher water content, and have a limited shelf life.  They have a milder reaction with your eyeballs and tear ducts because of that high water content.  We're going to address yellow, white and red onions used in cooking – the “storage onions” sometimes referred to as “dry onions,” with a relatively low water content.

You're embarking on a fantastic recipe.  You've got a sharp knife at the ready.  You peel the skin off the onion and place it on the cutting board.  Shortly after making that first slice, your eyes tear uncontrollably.  These do not feel like “Oh, the suffering of humanity!” tears.  They burn.  What is going on?


Going Curdless: Tips to Avoid Curdling

A good rule of thumb for cooking with dairy products, including cream, milk, eggs, butter, cheese and mayonnaise, is:  patience!

Sauces made with milk,  cream and cheese may curdle for several reasons:
not enough fat content.  Skim milk will curdle more than heavy cream, and low-fat creams and cheeses are more likely to curdle than their whole-fat compadres.too high heat.  Cream sauces must be cooked at low temps. Use a thermometer to ensure temperatures stay lower than 175 degrees F.too much acid.  Cream should be added last (with exceptions like lemon juice). Wine can be very acidic, and should be reduced.  any ingredients should be of medium temperature before cream is introduced, as it will separate at boiling.
How curdling occurs:
Dairy fats combine to form a rubbery mesh, which squeezes out water.

One possibility to prevent curdling is Carrageenan.  There are three kinds, and Lambda Carrageenan is best for sauces because it is water soluble. It is derived from red seaweed.  80% of th…

Love Me Tender: Natural Tenderizers

Meat derives much of its flavor from fat.  The ideal cuts have fat “marbled” in its texture.  Some cuts of meat are simply tough.  Many meat tenderizers are available on the market.  The critical ingredient in most of these is papain.  As you might guess, papain comes from papaya.  I was not able to figure that out on my own.  I though it came from the Pope.

Good news!  You can tenderize your meat without a packaged meat tenderizer or papal intercession. 

Liquify or smash ripe papaya to create a tasty marinade that will tenderize your meat using natural papain.  You can also wrap meat overnight in paw paw leaves to reap the benefits of papain.Use fresh pineapple.  It contains an enzyme, bromelain, that quickly tenderizes meat in 30-60 minutes.  It will add flavor to the meat, which may be good, or not.
Use a meat mallet to pound chicken, beef or pork.  It breaks fat tissue, increasing tenderness.   
Be sure to use fresh pineapple and papaya.  Canning and bottling destroys these enzymes…

Cooking With Beer

Beer can be a useful cooking ingredient in two ways: as a reduction for sauces, gravies, soups and baked goods, or as an add-in flavoring.  Three ways – in a glass as an accompanying beverage while cooking and during the meal.

First, what are you cooking?  Different beers work best toward distinct ends. 
"There's 32 different styles of beer and each style lends itself to something different," said Brian Marin, chef/owner of the Beer Bistro in Toronto, which uses beer as an component of nearly every dish served. 

He and other chefs recommend:
Porters and full-bodied dark beers:  red meat, game and stews. 
European and British pale ales that are light on hops:  chicken and pork. 
Sweeter stouts:  braised meats, stews, pizza dough and chocolate desserts. 
German and Czech pilsners:  cheese fondues.
Belgian fruit lambics: duck and fowl. 

American pilsners, predominantly rice driven, do not pack enough flavor for most cooks to find them useful.  But you can experiment with any …

Can A Cup O' Joe Treat Your Asthma?

Physicians have known about the beneficial effect of coffee for treating asthma and COPD symptoms since at least 1859, when its effects were documented in the Edinburgh Medical Journal. How does coffee help treat asthma, to what degree, and what side effects might be encountered?

Briefly, let's look at asthma. It is caused by a constriction of the bronchi, which can be allergy-induced, exercise-induced, environment-induced or stress-induced. Studies indicate asthma may also be exacerbated by vitamin D deficiency. Typical treatments for severe asthma include theophyllin or epinephrine – which is in the adrenaline family. The key to treating asthma is to relax the bronchial tubes to allow oxygen to pass.

Coffee helps on two levels.

First, the chemical composition of caffeine is similar to that of theophyllin. It is in a class of drugs, methylxanthines, which are very close to adenosines, which may mean nothing to anyone who doesn't weat a white coat. Caffeine binds to a…

Public Enemy #1 for Knives

The next time somebody tells you, “You're not the sharpest knife in the drawer,” you might want to reply, “Thank you! The sharpest knives aren't kept in the drawer.” I'll tell you why at the end of the blog.

The sharpest cooks have the sharpest knives. Knives are actually fragile tools that require much care. When used properly, a sharp knife is safer than a dull knife, so keep it sharp and keep it safe.

 Maintaining your chef knife and cutlery can be a challenge, but your reward is safer food handling, better looking and better tasting food, says cutlery expert Robert Ambrosi, owner of Ambrosi Cutlery, founded in 1930. Here are some ideas that will keep you cutting and chopping, and not mashing and squeezing.

Before you slice that tender corned beef this weekend for St. Patrick's Day, think about your knife. What is Public Enemy #1 for your expensive knives? It's your dishwasher. Never put your chef knife in the dishwasher. Dishwashers blunt your knives w…

The Exponential Yummying of Onions

Caramelized vegetables are a tasty preparation method, although the process is a bit more complex than it may seem on the sweet surface.  Caramelization occurs by altering the chemical properties of foods containing sugars, which includes almost all fruits and vegetables.  The end result is a heightened natural sweetness that invigorates the flavors for your main dishes, casseroles and side dishes.

Here's a mathematical equation to simplify the caramelization process:

heat + sugar = flavor change (isomerization) + color reaction (polymerization)
Caramelization is a form of browning, not to be confused with Browning, the poet, or the Browning automatic rifle, which was a favorite of Bonnie and Clyde. It entails roasting or heating for onions, leeks, shallots, carrots, potatoes, mushrooms and many other vegetables, to a temperature between 120 degrees and 212 degrees Farenheit.  The objective is to reduce the water content and initiate two chemical reactions – isomerization and poly…

Avoiding Green Eggs

I do not like green eggs and ham...  well, I'll live with the ham, but there's no need to
have green eggs.  If Sam-I-Am knew the secret of cooking perfect eggs, they would
not turn green.

Even without Seussificaton, egg yolks
do turn green.  Here is why: Yolks
contain iron.  Egg whites contain
hydrogen sulfide, and where the yolks
and whites meet, those two chemicals
react.  Given sufficient heat, as in
overcooking, the yolks will develop a
green-colored film.  Even though they
are less appetizing, the chemical
reaction does not change the flavor of
the eggs.

There's another way for eggs to turn
green.  Cooking or storing eggs in
an iron skillet or a metal pan will turn
them green as the iron ions from the
pan react with the sulfides in the eggs.

Kevin Murray, president of Tasteful Events Catering in Rochester, N.Y.,
offers a few tips to prevent green eggs. 

“I am usually cooking in volume, but it definitely depends on the surface
of the cooking pan and con…

Editorial Calendar: The Atomic Kitchen

These are some of the topics we will be tackling over the next year with "The Atomic Kitchen." Sponsorship packages are available.
Contact Kerry at (303) 482-1993 11 am - 6 pm ET

DATETOPIC02/27/12Intro; Keeping Eggs from Turning Green03/05/12Caramelizing Onions03/12/12Staying Sharp03/19/12Coffee and Asthma 03/26/12Cooking with Beer04/02/12Tenderizers 04/09/12Curdling04/16/12Why Onions Make You Cry04/23/12Acidosis 04/30/12High Altitude Baking05/07/12Salt Instead of Cooking Oil05/14/12Preservatives05/21/12Free Water (Spoilage) 05/28/12Edible Flowers06/04/12Explosive Eggs06/11/12Healing Power: Cayenne Tea for Heart Attacks06/18/12The Brown Bag06/25/12Searing Meat07/02/12Food to Avoid when breastfeeding07/09/12Dry curing07/16/12Salt as a Sweetener07/23/12Seafood & Milk07/30/12Cooking with Liquid Nitrogen08/06/12Healing Power: Vitamin D08/13/12Brining08/20/12Positive and Negative Caramel 08/27/12Vitamin C: Expediting …

Welcome to The Atomic Kitchen!

Thank for visiting "The Atomic Kitchen" blog.
I am Kerry Gleason, a professional writer and a very amateur chef.  I never got the message, "Don't play with your food," which is how I got this way. 

Our blogs will provide exciting new tips, tricks and explanations based in science that may help you to become a better cook or baker.  Whenever possible, we will contact chefs and science geeks with knives for expertise that may make your next dish the best you've ever made.
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Kerry Gleason