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Title:   Baking Center  

Description:  Seasonal treats and classic recipes for special days and every day.  

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Title:  1 dough, 5 great cookies  

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Use our Best-Ever Cookie Dough recipe to make any or all of the following cookies.

Best-ever basic cookie dough

Ingredients

1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons margarine or butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Directions
Cream sugar and margarine together.  Add egg and vanilla extract. Beat mixture, scraping down sides of bowl. Stir together flour, salt, and baking soda in bowl.  Spoon dry mixture into creamed mixture. Beat at high speed 30 seconds or until dough comes together.

1. Peanut butter-chocolate chip sandwich cookies

  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • Prepare Best-Ever Basic Cookie Dough as directed.
  • Beat in 1/2 cup peanut butter chips and 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips.
  • Lightly spray cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Drop cookies by rounded tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheets.
  • Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges.
  • Let set 1 minute.
  • Remove to wire rack to cool completely.
  • Beat 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter, 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons vegetable oil, and 3/4 cup powdered sugar in electric mixer until light and creamy.
  • Fold in 1/2 cup finely chopped milk chocolate or 1/2 cup semisweet mini-chips.
  • Spread 1-1/2 tablespoons peanut butter mixture on half the cookies.
  • Top with remaining cookies.
  • Makes 18 sandwich cookies.

2. Old-fashioned oatmeal cookies

  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • Prepare Best-Ever Basic Cookie Dough as directed.
  • Beat in 1 cup rolled oats, 3/4 cup raisins, and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts.
  • Lightly spray cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Drop cookies by rounded tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheets.
  • Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges.
  • Let set 1 minute.
  • Remove to wire rack to cool.
  • Makes 40 cookies.

3. Maple-walnut cookies

  • Preheat oven to 375° F.
  • Prepare Best-Ever Basic Cookie Dough as directed.
  • Beat in 1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon maple extract and 1 cup chopped walnuts.
  • Lightly spray cookie sheets with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Drop cookies by rounded tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheets.
  • Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges.
  • Let set 1 minute.
  • Remove to wire rack to cool.
  • For maple frosting, beat 2 cups powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 1/4 cup maple syrup, and 1/2 teaspoon maple extract in electric mixer until light and creamy.
  • Spread 1 rounded teaspoon maple frosting on top of each cookie covering the size of a quarter.
  • Top with walnut half.
  • Set aside to firm up.
  • Makes 36 cookies.

4. Cranberry-walnut cookies

  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • Prepare Best-Ever Basic Cookie Dough as directed.
  • Beat in 1 cup rolled oats, 3/4 cup dried sweetened cranberries, 3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, and 3/4 cup white chocolate chips.
  • Lightly spray cookie sheets with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Drop cookies by rounded tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheets.
  • Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned around edges.
  • Let set 1 minute.
  • Remove to wire rack to cool.
  • Makes 40 cookies.

5. Molasses-ginger spice cookies

  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • Prepare Best-Ever Basic Cookie Dough as directed but add 1-1/4 teaspoons cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger with the flour.
  • Beat in 2 tablespoons molasses.
  • Stir in 1 cup chopped crystallized ginger and 3/4 cup golden raisins.
  • Lightly spray cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Drop cookies by rounded tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheets and shape into balls.
  • Sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar.
  • Bake for 10 minutes, or until lightly browned around the edges.
  • Let set 12 minutes.
  • Remove to wire rack to cool.
  • Makes 40 cookies.

You can never have too many great cookie recipes, and this versatile brown sugar cookie dough fills the bill. Use it to make delicious treats for your next gathering.

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Title:  Cake mix and how to frost  

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Cake mix basics

Cake mixes have come a long way since first introduced during the 1920s. Early on, they were rejected by homemakers, because they didn’t produce reliable results and weren’t considered “homemade.” Today, cake mixes are well-loved and more common than “scratch” cakes. Look for mixes in traditional 18.25 ounce (2 layer) and 9 ounce (1 layer) packages. The “best if used by” date stamped on the box indicates freshness. Most mixes keep about 1 year if stored in a cool, dry place. Not only do they make delicious cakes- they also work well for other baked products.

A fun and inexpensive family activity is to have each child select a cake mix in her favorite flavor at your local Walmart. At home, she’ll or he’ll enjoy helping you bake; and he or she will feel a sense of accomplishment as the family enjoys the special dessert.

Frost a cake like a pro

  1. Place cake on serving plate. To be sure you’ll keep the plate frosting-free, tuck strips of wax paper between the cake and the edges of the plate.
  2. Frost the cake.
  3. Use a flexible metal pastry spatula to create decorative swirls or a smooth finish. If embellishing or writing a message on cake frosting, first use a toothpick to draw your design, then pipe the frosting or decorating gel over the lines. Remove the strips of wax paper.

Cake mix is versatile and fun to use. Keep your family’s favorite flavors on hand in your pantry so you are ready to bake on a moment’s notice. You’ll be able to whip up great desserts in no time or deliver a last minute batch of cookies for a school or church event.

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Here are 13 secrets that will have you baking like the pros.

1. Check your oven

Use an inexpensive oven thermometer to check the temperature of your oven. It’s not uncommon for ovens to run 25 to 50 degrees too hot or too cool. Once you have an accurate temperature reading, adjust your oven control accordingly.

2. Choose quality ingredients

For the best flavor rely on fresh, top-quality ingredients. For example, choose real butter, fresh lemon juice and real extracts (versus imitation).

3. Buy “eggsactly” the right size

Recipe developers commonly use large eggs as the standard for recipes. So do the same when making baked goods and save the medium and jumbo eggs for omelets.

4. Replace seasonings and spices

The fresher the spices, the fresher the flavor. Dried herbs and seasoning blends last one to three years, while ground spices last two to three years.

5. Measure accurately

Spoon flour into a dry measuring cup or spoon until it’s overflowing. Then level it off with a straight edge. Pack brown sugar into a cup or spoon; then level it off. For liquid ingredients, use a glass or clear plastic measure. Pour the desired amount, watching at eye level.

6. Measure sticky ingredients mess-free

Spray a liquid measuring cup with nonstick cooking spray before measuring sticky ingredients like honey and molasses. It will release easily and entirely.

7. Keep two sets of measuring spoons on hand

Designate one set for dry ingredients and one set for liquid. That way, the dry ingredients won’t stick in the wet spoons.

8. Choose the best baking pan for the job

Shiny, light colored baking pans reflect heat, making them a good choice when baking cookies or biscuits. Darker pans absorb heat in the oven, so they’re a better pick for pies and breads.

9. Line cookie sheets for easy cleanup.

Disposable parchment paper or reusable silicone liners make cleanup a snap. If you’re baking bars and brownies, line the pan with foil so you can lift out baked bars with ease.

10. Avoid overcrowding the oven

When baking several items at one time, leave at least two inches of space between the baking pans and between the pans and the sides of the oven.

11. Remove cakes from pans with ease

To make sure cakes release from pans easily, line the bottom of the pan with a piece of waxed paper or parchment paper. Use the bottom of the pan as a guide for tracing and cutting the paper.

12. Make a disposable pastry-decorating bag

Fill a resealable plastic bag with frosting, snip off a corner to use.

13. Shop the Walmart Bake Center
Visit the Bake Center in your local Walmart to find the best products for baking and entertaining. From chocolate to nuts, it’s home to all the ingredients you’ll need.

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  1. Mixing bowls
    Whether you use plastic or stainless steel, a good set of mixing bowls is necessary for preparing everything from cakes and pies to cookies and pastries.
  2. Measuring cups and spoons
    Why risk ruining your tasty treats? Don’t wing it — measure everything according to the recipe for perfect results every time.
  3. Electric stand or hand mixer
    Stirring ingredients on your own can be time-consuming (and painful after a while). Use an electric mixer to evenly blend both dry and liquid components.
  4. Spatula
    flip and spread batter with a flexible, durable spatula. This versatile utensil can also be used as a scoop.
  5. Whisk
    Nobody likes to bite into a lumpy, uneven dessert! Smooth, aerate, blend and whip liquid ingredients with a sturdy whisk.
  6. Rolling pin
    A rolling pin is used to shape and flatten dough. Don’t make pie crusts or Christmas cookies without using one.
  7. Cookie cutters
    Kids love making holiday cookies with festive cookie cutters. Just roll dough onto a flat surface and let the fun begin!
  8. Baking pans
    Nonstick pans help your treats stay intact and looking pretty — with just a little nudge, they’ll pop right out of the pan.
  9. Cooling rack
    To avoid burn marks after baking, don’t set hot pans on your countertop. Cool your tasty creations on a sturdy cooling rack.
  10. Decorating set
    Dress up your delicacies with seasonal colors and shapes. Use a decorating set to add final touches to your sweet treats.

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Welcome to Cooking 101. Here are some culinary terms and techniques that will have you cooking like a pro in no time. If you already know your way around the kitchen, scan the list for a quick review.

Baste

Spoon on or brush food with melted butter or other liquids as it cooks. Basting adds flavor and color to foods.

Chop

Hold large knife with one hand; rest the other hand on the top for control. Chop in large, uniform pieces using quick, heavy, rocking motions.

Coat

Dip or roll foods such as chicken or fish in seasoned breadcrumbs or flour. The food may be dipped in a liquid, such as beaten eggs or milk, before it is coated with the dry mixture.

Deglaze

Cook like a TV Chef with this easy technique for creating a pan sauce. Remove sauteed meat and excess fat from a pan after cooking and add a small amount of liquid to the pan — usually wine or stock. The resulting mixture is the base for a sauce to go with the meat.

Julienne

Cut foods into matchstick-thin strips for a restaurant-style side dish or garnish. Start by slicing off the bottom of the food to keep it from rocking as you cut; then cut food into 1/8-inch slices. Cut across the strips to create long, thin pieces in the desired length.

Mince

Cut food, such as herbs, into very small pieces using the same motion as chopping.

Pan fry

Use this easy technique to cook pieces of meat, seafood or large pieces of vegetables in a hot pan, turning only once or twice.

Puree

Finely mash food to a smooth, thick consistency. Popular purees include sweet potato and raspberry.

Roast

Oven-cook food in an uncovered pan for a well-browned exterior and a moist interior.

Saute

Cook food in a small amount of oil or other fat in a skillet or saute pan over direct heat for a fast, healthy meal.

Sear

Brown meat quickly over very high heat either in a skillet under a broiler or in a very hot oven to seal in the juices.

Simmer

Heat a liquid just below the boiling point so that small bubbles are visible on the surface.

Whisk

Use a whisk, a must-have kitchen utensil, to whip (incorporate air into) ingredients such as cream, eggs and sauces.

The more you know about cooking, the easier and more fun it is to create great meals in your kitchen. Be sure to use these terms and techniques as the foundation for a whole new cooking adventure.

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Here are 13 secrets that will have you baking like the pros.

1. Check your oven

Use an inexpensive oven thermometer to check the temperature of your oven. It’s not uncommon for ovens to run 25 to 50 degrees too hot or too cool. Once you have an accurate temperature reading, adjust your oven control accordingly.

2. Choose quality ingredients

For the best flavor rely on fresh, top-quality ingredients. For example, choose real butter, fresh lemon juice and real extracts (versus imitation).

3. Buy “eggsactly” the right size

Recipe developers commonly use large eggs as the standard for recipes. So do the same when making baked goods and save the medium and jumbo eggs for omelets.

4. Replace seasonings and spices

The fresher the spices, the fresher the flavor. Dried herbs and seasoning blends last one to three years, while ground spices last two to three years.

5. Measure accurately

Spoon flour into a dry measuring cup or spoon until it’s overflowing. Then level it off with a straight edge. Pack brown sugar into a cup or spoon; then level it off. For liquid ingredients, use a glass or clear plastic measure. Pour the desired amount, watching at eye level.

6. Measure sticky ingredients mess-free

Spray a liquid measuring cup with nonstick cooking spray before measuring sticky ingredients like honey and molasses. It will release easily and entirely.

7. Keep two sets of measuring spoons on hand

Designate one set for dry ingredients and one set for liquid. That way, the dry ingredients won’t stick in the wet spoons.

8. Choose the best baking pan for the job

Shiny, light colored baking pans reflect heat, making them a good choice when baking cookies or biscuits. Darker pans absorb heat in the oven, so they’re a better pick for pies and breads.

9. Line cookie sheets for easy cleanup.

Disposable parchment paper or reusable silicone liners make cleanup a snap. If you’re baking bars and brownies, line the pan with foil so you can lift out baked bars with ease.

10. Avoid overcrowding the oven

When baking several items at one time, leave at least two inches of space between the baking pans and between the pans and the sides of the oven.

11. Remove cakes from pans with ease

To make sure cakes release from pans easily, line the bottom of the pan with a piece of waxed paper or parchment paper. Use the bottom of the pan as a guide for tracing and cutting the paper.

12. Make a disposable pastry-decorating bag

Fill a resealable plastic bag with frosting, snip off a corner to use.

13. Shop the Walmart Bake Center
Visit the Bake Center in your local Walmart to find the best products for baking and entertaining. From chocolate to nuts, it’s home to all the ingredients you’ll need.

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Cake mix basics

Cake mixes have come a long way since first introduced during the 1920s. Early on, they were rejected by homemakers, because they didn’t produce reliable results and weren’t considered “homemade.” Today, cake mixes are well-loved and more common than “scratch” cakes. Look for mixes in traditional 18.25 ounce (2 layer) and 9 ounce (1 layer) packages. The “best if used by” date stamped on the box indicates freshness. Most mixes keep about 1 year if stored in a cool, dry place. Not only do they make delicious cakes- they also work well for other baked products.

A fun and inexpensive family activity is to have each child select a cake mix in her favorite flavor at your local Walmart. At home, she’ll or he’ll enjoy helping you bake; and he or she will feel a sense of accomplishment as the family enjoys the special dessert.

Frost a cake like a pro

  1. Place cake on serving plate. To be sure you’ll keep the plate frosting-free, tuck strips of wax paper between the cake and the edges of the plate.
  2. Frost the cake.
  3. Use a flexible metal pastry spatula to create decorative swirls or a smooth finish. If embellishing or writing a message on cake frosting, first use a toothpick to draw your design, then pipe the frosting or decorating gel over the lines. Remove the strips of wax paper.

Cake mix is versatile and fun to use. Keep your family’s favorite flavors on hand in your pantry so you are ready to bake on a moment’s notice. You’ll be able to whip up great desserts in no time or deliver a last minute batch of cookies for a school or church event.

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  1. Mixing bowls
    Whether you use plastic or stainless steel, a good set of mixing bowls is necessary for preparing everything from cakes and pies to cookies and pastries.
  2. Measuring cups and spoons
    Why risk ruining your tasty treats? Don’t wing it — measure everything according to the recipe for perfect results every time.
  3. Electric stand or hand mixer
    Stirring ingredients on your own can be time-consuming (and painful after a while). Use an electric mixer to evenly blend both dry and liquid components.
  4. Spatula
    flip and spread batter with a flexible, durable spatula. This versatile utensil can also be used as a scoop.
  5. Whisk
    Nobody likes to bite into a lumpy, uneven dessert! Smooth, aerate, blend and whip liquid ingredients with a sturdy whisk.
  6. Rolling pin
    A rolling pin is used to shape and flatten dough. Don’t make pie crusts or Christmas cookies without using one.
  7. Cookie cutters
    Kids love making holiday cookies with festive cookie cutters. Just roll dough onto a flat surface and let the fun begin!
  8. Baking pans
    Nonstick pans help your treats stay intact and looking pretty — with just a little nudge, they’ll pop right out of the pan.
  9. Cooling rack
    To avoid burn marks after baking, don’t set hot pans on your countertop. Cool your tasty creations on a sturdy cooling rack.
  10. Decorating set
    Dress up your delicacies with seasonal colors and shapes. Use a decorating set to add final touches to your sweet treats.

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Welcome to Cooking 101. Here are some culinary terms and techniques that will have you cooking like a pro in no time. If you already know your way around the kitchen, scan the list for a quick review.

Baste

Spoon on or brush food with melted butter or other liquids as it cooks. Basting adds flavor and color to foods.

Chop

Hold large knife with one hand; rest the other hand on the top for control. Chop in large, uniform pieces using quick, heavy, rocking motions.

Coat

Dip or roll foods such as chicken or fish in seasoned breadcrumbs or flour. The food may be dipped in a liquid, such as beaten eggs or milk, before it is coated with the dry mixture.

Deglaze

Cook like a TV Chef with this easy technique for creating a pan sauce. Remove sauteed meat and excess fat from a pan after cooking and add a small amount of liquid to the pan — usually wine or stock. The resulting mixture is the base for a sauce to go with the meat.

Julienne

Cut foods into matchstick-thin strips for a restaurant-style side dish or garnish. Start by slicing off the bottom of the food to keep it from rocking as you cut; then cut food into 1/8-inch slices. Cut across the strips to create long, thin pieces in the desired length.

Mince

Cut food, such as herbs, into very small pieces using the same motion as chopping.

Pan fry

Use this easy technique to cook pieces of meat, seafood or large pieces of vegetables in a hot pan, turning only once or twice.

Puree

Finely mash food to a smooth, thick consistency. Popular purees include sweet potato and raspberry.

Roast

Oven-cook food in an uncovered pan for a well-browned exterior and a moist interior.

Saute

Cook food in a small amount of oil or other fat in a skillet or saute pan over direct heat for a fast, healthy meal.

Sear

Brown meat quickly over very high heat either in a skillet under a broiler or in a very hot oven to seal in the juices.

Simmer

Heat a liquid just below the boiling point so that small bubbles are visible on the surface.

Whisk

Use a whisk, a must-have kitchen utensil, to whip (incorporate air into) ingredients such as cream, eggs and sauces.

The more you know about cooking, the easier and more fun it is to create great meals in your kitchen. Be sure to use these terms and techniques as the foundation for a whole new cooking adventure.

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Even if you don’t often bake, your goodies can rival those from the corner bakery. The following tips and tricks are the keys to sweet success.

1. Unless recipe directions state otherwise, always preheat the oven before beginning to bake. If using a glass pan for bar cookies or quick breads, reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees.

2. Plan for easy cleanup from the start. Spray muffin pans and cookie sheets with nonstick baking spray that contains flour instead of greasing or flouring by hand. These sprays are formulated to reach every nook and cranny of even the most intricate bakeware.

3. To avoid eggshells in your batter, use a separate bowl for cracking eggs, then check for shell pieces before adding the eggs to your mixture.

4. When you have more than one pan in the oven, turn pans at least once to ensure even cooking. Allow space between pans for uniform results.

And remember, a full oven may require a few extra minutes of cooking time.

5. Freeze bar treats and cookies wrapped in layers of waxed paper and stored in a heavy duty zipper top freezer bag. Add icing or glaze after removing from the freezer.

6. Has that baking powder been in the cupboard since the last year? Test it to determine if it’s still good. Simply mix 2 teaspoons with 1 cup of hot water. If the mixture bubbles immediately, it’s good. If bubbling takes a little while or doesn’t happen at all, the baking powder’s leavening ability has been lost and the product needs to be replaced.

7. Measure ingredients accurately for best results. Dry ingredients should only be sifted when specified in a recipe. Otherwise, stir lightly and don’t pack or press. A trick of the trade for mess-free measuring is to store flour and sugar in wide mouthed airtight containers so that when you level off the excess it falls back into the bin, not all over the counter. Use marked glass or plastic cups for measuring liquids. Spray cups with nonstick cooking spray before measuring sticky ingredients such as honey or molasses for easy release and cleanup.

8. A shortcut to melting ingredients is to use the microwave. If melting butter, heat on high– about 45 seconds for 2 tablespoons, 1-1/2 minutes for a half-cup. When melting chocolate squares or chips, heat on medium- about 1-1/2 minutes for each ounce; stir until smooth.

9. When rolling cookie dough, spray nonstick cooking spray on your hands, the rolling surface, the rolling pin and the dough. Also, spray the cookie cutters so dough releases easily. Then, stagger dough on baking sheets instead of aligning in rows. You’ll fit more on each sheet without cookies spreading into one another as they bake.

Whether you are baking cookies, cakes or pies, these tips and tricks will save time and deliver delicious results. Happy baking!

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Cake mix basics

Cake mixes have come a long way since first introduced during the 1920s. Early on, they were rejected by homemakers, because they didn’t produce reliable results and weren’t considered “homemade.” Today, cake mixes are well-loved and more common than “scratch” cakes. Look for mixes in traditional 18.25 ounce (2 layer) and 9 ounce (1 layer) packages. The “best if used by” date stamped on the box indicates freshness. Most mixes keep about 1 year if stored in a cool, dry place. Not only do they make delicious cakes- they also work well for other baked products.

A fun and inexpensive family activity is to have each child select a cake mix in her favorite flavor at your local Walmart. At home, she’ll or he’ll enjoy helping you bake; and he or she will feel a sense of accomplishment as the family enjoys the special dessert.

Frost a cake like a pro

  1. Place cake on serving plate. To be sure you’ll keep the plate frosting-free, tuck strips of wax paper between the cake and the edges of the plate.
  2. Frost the cake.
  3. Use a flexible metal pastry spatula to create decorative swirls or a smooth finish. If embellishing or writing a message on cake frosting, first use a toothpick to draw your design, then pipe the frosting or decorating gel over the lines. Remove the strips of wax paper.

Cake mix is versatile and fun to use. Keep your family’s favorite flavors on hand in your pantry so you are ready to bake on a moment’s notice. You’ll be able to whip up great desserts in no time or deliver a last minute batch of cookies for a school or church event.

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  1. Mixing bowls
    Whether you use plastic or stainless steel, a good set of mixing bowls is necessary for preparing everything from cakes and pies to cookies and pastries.
  2. Measuring cups and spoons
    Why risk ruining your tasty treats? Don’t wing it — measure everything according to the recipe for perfect results every time.
  3. Electric stand or hand mixer
    Stirring ingredients on your own can be time-consuming (and painful after a while). Use an electric mixer to evenly blend both dry and liquid components.
  4. Spatula
    flip and spread batter with a flexible, durable spatula. This versatile utensil can also be used as a scoop.
  5. Whisk
    Nobody likes to bite into a lumpy, uneven dessert! Smooth, aerate, blend and whip liquid ingredients with a sturdy whisk.
  6. Rolling pin
    A rolling pin is used to shape and flatten dough. Don’t make pie crusts or Christmas cookies without using one.
  7. Cookie cutters
    Kids love making holiday cookies with festive cookie cutters. Just roll dough onto a flat surface and let the fun begin!
  8. Baking pans
    Nonstick pans help your treats stay intact and looking pretty — with just a little nudge, they’ll pop right out of the pan.
  9. Cooling rack
    To avoid burn marks after baking, don’t set hot pans on your countertop. Cool your tasty creations on a sturdy cooling rack.
  10. Decorating set
    Dress up your delicacies with seasonal colors and shapes. Use a decorating set to add final touches to your sweet treats.

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Welcome to Cooking 101. Here are some culinary terms and techniques that will have you cooking like a pro in no time. If you already know your way around the kitchen, scan the list for a quick review.

Baste

Spoon on or brush food with melted butter or other liquids as it cooks. Basting adds flavor and color to foods.

Chop

Hold large knife with one hand; rest the other hand on the top for control. Chop in large, uniform pieces using quick, heavy, rocking motions.

Coat

Dip or roll foods such as chicken or fish in seasoned breadcrumbs or flour. The food may be dipped in a liquid, such as beaten eggs or milk, before it is coated with the dry mixture.

Deglaze

Cook like a TV Chef with this easy technique for creating a pan sauce. Remove sauteed meat and excess fat from a pan after cooking and add a small amount of liquid to the pan — usually wine or stock. The resulting mixture is the base for a sauce to go with the meat.

Julienne

Cut foods into matchstick-thin strips for a restaurant-style side dish or garnish. Start by slicing off the bottom of the food to keep it from rocking as you cut; then cut food into 1/8-inch slices. Cut across the strips to create long, thin pieces in the desired length.

Mince

Cut food, such as herbs, into very small pieces using the same motion as chopping.

Pan fry

Use this easy technique to cook pieces of meat, seafood or large pieces of vegetables in a hot pan, turning only once or twice.

Puree

Finely mash food to a smooth, thick consistency. Popular purees include sweet potato and raspberry.

Roast

Oven-cook food in an uncovered pan for a well-browned exterior and a moist interior.

Saute

Cook food in a small amount of oil or other fat in a skillet or saute pan over direct heat for a fast, healthy meal.

Sear

Brown meat quickly over very high heat either in a skillet under a broiler or in a very hot oven to seal in the juices.

Simmer

Heat a liquid just below the boiling point so that small bubbles are visible on the surface.

Whisk

Use a whisk, a must-have kitchen utensil, to whip (incorporate air into) ingredients such as cream, eggs and sauces.

The more you know about cooking, the easier and more fun it is to create great meals in your kitchen. Be sure to use these terms and techniques as the foundation for a whole new cooking adventure.

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Oh, how sweets can satisfy a craving. Unfortunately, too many cakes, pies, muffins, cupcakes and cookies can cause weight gain. The good news is that it’s possible to enjoy the occasional baked treat without ruining a week’s worth of healthy eating. It’s all in how you prepare that treat.

Swapping ingredients

Baking healthier sweets means replacing high-fat butter, shortening and sour cream with more nutritious ingredients. Food experts suggest the following substitutions to make your baked goods healthier:

  • Boost the fiber in pancakes, muffins and quick breads by adding ground flax seed
  • Add healthy whole grains to your diet by substituting 1/3 cup of bran or whole-wheat flour for 2/3 cup of all-purpose flour
  • Reduce sugar by 1/4 to 1/3 in baked goods and desserts. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 cup, use 2/3 cup. Add cinnamon, vanilla or almond extract to create sweetness. Tip: Do not eliminate all sugar in yeast breads because sugar works with the yeast to make the bread rise.
  • Replace half of a recipe’s high-fat ingredients, such as butter, margarine, sour cream, heavy cream, chocolate, oil and shortening with mashed ripe bananas or puréed prunes
  • Instead of using one whole egg, try 1/4 cup fat-free, cholesterol-free egg substitute, or two egg whites
  • Swap one cup of oil for one cup of unsweetened applesauce
  • Trade one tablespoon of margarine with three tablespoons of ground flax seed
  • Substitute one cup of sour cream with one cup of plain yogurt
  • Exchange one ounce of chocolate with three tablespoons of cocoa
  • Replace one cup of heavy cream with one cup of evaporated skim milk

If you make a few of these simple substitutions, you can have your healthy cake and eat it, too!

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Certainly, reducing the amount of fat, cholesterol and sodium in the foods you eat can help reduce your risk of heart disease. But that’s just part of it. Eating great-tasting foods that promote heart health is just as important — and a whole lot more fun!

Basics of heart-healthy eating

A heart-healthy diet is actually pretty easy to follow. Basically, heart-healthy eating means less fat, less sodium, fewer calories and more fiber. Read the nutrition labels on foods and use the following guidelines:

  • Select foods that are low in saturated and trans fats. Focus on lean meat, seafood and dairy products.
  • Keep total fat low — between 20% and 35% of your total calories — and get most of the fat in your diet from heart-healthy oils, such as olive oil.
  • Foods from plant sources — vegetables, fruits, grains and some oils — do not contain cholesterol. The bulk of your diet should come from these foods.
  • Eat foods high in heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, nuts and flaxseed.
  • Eat foods low in sodium. That includes most fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or non-fat dairy products and moderate amounts of lean meat.

The heart-healthy pantry / refrigerator

Stock up on these foods and you’ll find it much easier to stick to your heart-healthy eating plan:
Heart-Healthy Oils

Instead of saturated fats like butter that are solid at room temperature, use monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil or canola oil; and polyunsaturated fats that come from nuts, seeds and nut oils. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can help reduce your total blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the “bad” kind). Olive oil and nut oils, such as walnut oil, also provide great flavor.

Grocery list:

  • Olive oil
  • Nut oils
  • Sesame seeds
  • Unsalted nuts

Whole grains

Whole Grains Pastas and breads made with whole grains are high in nutrients that promote heart health and help regulate blood pressure. They’re also high in fiber, and studies show that increasing the amount of fiber in your diet may also reduce heart-disease risk.

Grocery list:

  • Oatmeal
  • 100% whole-wheat bread
  • Brown rice
  • Unsalted nuts
  • Baked whole-grain crackers
  • High-fiber, low-sugar cold cereal
  • Barley
  • Popcorn
  • Wild rice

Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables contain fiber and phytochemicals — valuable plant-based nutrients — that may lower cholesterol and blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Plan to stock up on a variety of fresh, frozen and canned fruit and veggies. Select low-sodium canned vegetables and canned fruits packed in juice. Keep bowls of fresh fruit such as apples, bananas, pears and oranges on the counter. Stock up on frozen berries and cut up raw veggies for snacks.

Grocery list:

  • A variety of fresh, frozen and canned fruit and vegetables

Legumes: Beans, peas and lentils

Legumes are great high-fiber sources of lean protein that are cholesterol-free and low in fat. Studies have shown that soybeans in particular seem to be especially beneficial to the heart.

Grocery list:

  • Edamame
  • Tofu
  • Dried or canned lentils
  • Peas
  • Black beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Chili beans
  • Garbanzos

Red wine / grape juice / grapes

The heart-healthy benefits of red wine include reducing the risk of blood clots, reducing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and maintaining healthy blood pressure – but many researchers believe grapes and grape juice offer the same health benefits.

Grocery list:

  • Red wine
  • Purple grapes
  • Purple grape juice

Nuts and seeds

Nuts contain heart-healthy oils that experts believe may reduce the risk of blood clots and lower LDL cholesterol as well as improve the health of arteries. Nuts also provide Omega 3 fatty acids — healthy fatty acids that seem to prevent abnormal heart rhythms that may lead to a heart attack. Just be sure to eat plain, unsalted nuts. Flaxseeds are also a good source of Omega-3s.

Grocery list:

  • Flaxseed
  • Roasted, unsalted walnuts
  • Pecans
  • Almonds
  • Other nuts

Fish

Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring and sardines are also excellent sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, which may reduce cholesterol and inflammation that can lead to heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fish a week.

Grocery list:

  • Salmon
  • Herring
  • Sardines
  • Tuna
  • Sardines

There are plenty of wonderful foods to enjoy, whether you are trying to reduce your risk of heart disease or just want to eat a healthier diet in general. You don’t have to sacrifice flavor and variety to experience the wonderful benefits of heart-healthy foods!

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If you’ve ever eaten granola — whether as a breakfast cereal or a crunchy addition to a yogurt parfait — you’ve tasted the goodness of whole grains. Granola typically consists of oats, nuts and dried fruits. Oats are a whole grain, and grains are the seeds of grasses that are cultivated for food.

Why whole grains?

All grains are low in fat and rich in complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. But whole grains are better sources of fiber and key nutrients like selenium, potassium and magnesium than refined grains. The reason? A grain’s fiber is housed in its bran and germ — and refined grains, like white rice or white flour, lose their bran and germ during the milling process.

Whole grains are good for you, and organic whole grains are even better. That’s because organic food is produced without pesticides, hormones and antibiotics. Before a food can be labeled organic, a government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer meets U.S. Department of Agriculture standards. Companies that handle or process organic food also must be certified.

The benefits of fiber

A diet high in fiber — such as whole grains — has many health benefits:

  • May lower blood cholesterol levels
  • Can slow the absorption of sugar, improving blood sugar levels
  • May reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • Can help with weight loss by helping you feel fuller longer

Getting more whole grains

In addition to oats, other whole grains include barley, brown rice, wild rice, buckwheat, bulgur (cracked wheat) and millet. Many whole-grain foods come ready to serve, including cereals, breads and pasta products. But you can boost the amount of organic whole grains in your diet by trying these suggestions:

  • Vary your breakfast menu by serving oatmeal, bran flakes and shredded wheat
  • Make sandwiches with whole-grain breads and rolls
  • Expand your selection of side dishes with whole-grain foods like brown rice, wild rice and bulgur
  • Use wild rice or barley in soups, stews and casseroles
  • Add extra body to ground meat or poultry with cooked brown rice or whole-grain breadcrumbs
  • Use rolled oats or crushed bran cereal instead of dry breadcrumbs in dishes like meatloaf

It’s not hard to raise the level of fiber-rich whole grains in your diet. A whole-grain tortilla here, a side dish of wild rice there, and pretty soon you’re eating better than you ever have before.

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Have you been diagnosed with celiac disease? If so, your first reaction may have been, “Oh, no — I’ll never be able to enjoy food again.” That’s because celiac disease is basically an allergy to gluten — a protein that is seemingly everywhere. Gluten is commonly found in rye, barley and wheat — and wheat is an ingredient in many food products besides the obvious breads and pastas.

Celiac disease is a genetic disorder that damages the small intestine and can lead to malnutrition. Other complications of celiac disease can include reduced bone density, anemia, infertility and neurological problems.

There is no cure for celiac disease, so eliminating gluten from your diet is the only way to manage the disorder. But living gluten-free doesn’t have to mean a life of boring, tasteless meals.

Focus on the positive

OK — wheat, barley and rye are off limits, but there’s still a world of great foods to choose from: fruits, vegetables, meats and most dairy products.

And no, you don’t have to give up breads and pastas — just make sure they’re made from grains that do not contain gluten. You have plenty to choose from: corn, buckwheat, millet, quinoa and oats, to name a few.

The beauty of a gluten-free diet is that you’ll consume a variety of tasty, nutrient-rich whole grains — foods that everybody should be eating more of because they provide fiber and B vitamins.

Foods to enjoy

As you shop the grocery aisles, it’s important to read food labels thoroughly to make sure that the food contains no gluten. It’s equally important to keep in mind all the great foods you can still enjoy:

  • Meat products — unprocessed meat, fish, chicken, bacon, ham off the bone and meats that are frozen or canned (without sauces)
  • Dairy products — eggs, whole milk, lowfat milk, evaporated and condensed milk, fresh cream, processed or block cheese and some custards and soymilks
  • Fruits and vegetables — fresh, canned or frozen (without sauces); fruit juices; nuts and peanut butter
  • Cereal and baking products — corn flour, soya flour, rice flour, buckwheat, millet, corn- or rice-based breakfast cereals that contain no malt extract
  • Breads, cakes and biscuits — most rice crackers, corn cakes, rice crisp breads, corn tortillas and corn taco shells
  • Pasta and noodles — gluten-free pasta, rice noodles, rice or bean vermicelli
  • Condiments — tomato paste, tahini (ground sesame seeds), jams, honey, maple syrup, cocoa, vinegars (except malt), some sauces and salad dressings
  • Snacks — corn chips, popcorn and plain chocolate
  • Drinks — tea, coffee, mineral water, wine, spirits and liqueurs

A gluten-free diet may seem challenging at first, but you’ll soon discover new tastes and textures in the many grains that you can safely eat. You will also be mixing and matching those new flavors with your favorite meat and dairy products to make delicious meals.

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Looking for easy ways to add flavor to food without adding extra calories, fat and sodium? Look no further! These tips for low-calorie, low-fat, flavor-boosting techniques make eating healthy a pleasure.

Healthy flavor boosters

Use these tips and tricks to increase flavor:

  • Use fresh herbs instead of salt. Add fresh herbs near the end of cooking time to protect the herbs’ delicate oils and give a burst of intense flavor.
  • Substitute sharp cheeses for mild. Sharp cheeses pack a bigger flavor wallop, so you don’t need as much.
  • Put extra virgin olive oil in a spray bottle. Steam vegetables, then spritz them with a small amount of olive oil instead of cooking them in oil or butter.
  • Toasting nuts intensifies their flavor, so you can cut back on the amount you use. But don’t cut back too much! Nuts are a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
  • Substitute fat-free or reduced-fat dairy products for full-fat varieties. Instead of using heavy whipping cream in cream sauces, use evaporated skim milk or low-fat milk.
  • Use extra-ripe fruit to make smoothies so you won’t need to add extra sugar.
  • Instead of sour cream, use fat-free plain yogurt or fat-free sour cream; you’ll get the same creamy texture and tangy flavor without the fat.
  • Use sweet spices, such as cinnamon, and cut back on sugar when making sauces or dishes such as sweet potato casserole.
  • Use marinades or spice rubs. Both add flavor without fat. Marinades — usually made with an acidic food such as vinegar, tomato juice or citrus juice — also tenderize meat, so you can use leaner cuts of meat. Rubs are mixtures of herbs, spices and sugar that are rubbed on a food before grilling. They’re beautifully simple but add bold flavor without fat.

Healthy cooking methods

Healthy cooking methods are those that produce great flavor with minimal use of fat or sugar. Here’s a guide to some of the most popular methods:

Roasting

Roasting means to oven-cook. You need only a tiny bit of oil. Baste roasted meats with broth, fruit juice or other seasoned liquid for added flavor. Roasting also works well for vegetables, especially hearty root vegetables such as turnips, carrots, parsnips, potatoes and sweet potatoes.

Poaching

Poaching means gently cooking a food in a covered pan of simmering flavored liquid — such as broth or fruit or vegetable juices — which adds flavor to the food. Poaching works well for seafood, poultry and fruit and doesn’t require added fat.

Grilling

Grilling adds a rich, smoky flavor to food, and the fat drains away from the food as it cooks. Using different types of wood chips when grilling adds more flavor. Most people think of grilling meat or seafood, but grilled vegetables and fruit are also delicious.

Broiling

Broiling means cooking a food directly under the heat source, such as the oven broiler. It’s a fast way to cook meat, fish and poultry, and any fat drains away from the food into the bottom of the pan.

Steaming

Steaming means cooking a food on a rack or in a steamer basket over simmering water in a covered pan. Steaming preserves a food’s natural flavor, texture, color, and nutrients and is a fat-free cooking method.

Oven-“frying”

Oven-“frying” is a great way to get the crispy texture of fried foods without the fat and calories. Simply dip meat or vegetables in beaten egg substitute or a mixture of milk or buttermilk and beaten egg white; then dip in a seasoned crumb mixture. Bake on baking sheet coated with nonstick spray.

Try these simple-to-use, healthy cooking techniques — you’re sure to find a favorite one that you’ll use again and again. It’s great to know that you can enjoy your favorite foods and do something good for your health at the same time!

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Have you been diagnosed with celiac disease? If so, your first reaction may have been, “Oh, no — I’ll never be able to enjoy food again.” That’s because celiac disease is basically an allergy to gluten — a protein that is seemingly everywhere. Gluten is commonly found in rye, barley and wheat — and wheat is an ingredient in many food products besides the obvious breads and pastas.

Celiac disease is a genetic disorder that damages the small intestine and can lead to malnutrition. Other complications of celiac disease can include reduced bone density, anemia, infertility and neurological problems.

There is no cure for celiac disease, so eliminating gluten from your diet is the only way to manage the disorder. But living gluten-free doesn’t have to mean a life of boring, tasteless meals.

Focus on the positive

OK — wheat, barley and rye are off limits, but there’s still a world of great foods to choose from: fruits, vegetables, meats and most dairy products.

And no, you don’t have to give up breads and pastas — just make sure they’re made from grains that do not contain gluten. You have plenty to choose from: corn, buckwheat, millet, quinoa and oats, to name a few.

The beauty of a gluten-free diet is that you’ll consume a variety of tasty, nutrient-rich whole grains — foods that everybody should be eating more of because they provide fiber and B vitamins.

Foods to enjoy

As you shop the grocery aisles, it’s important to read food labels thoroughly to make sure that the food contains no gluten. It’s equally important to keep in mind all the great foods you can still enjoy:

  • Meat products — unprocessed meat, fish, chicken, bacon, ham off the bone and meats that are frozen or canned (without sauces)
  • Dairy products — eggs, whole milk, lowfat milk, evaporated and condensed milk, fresh cream, processed or block cheese and some custards and soymilks
  • Fruits and vegetables — fresh, canned or frozen (without sauces); fruit juices; nuts and peanut butter
  • Cereal and baking products — corn flour, soya flour, rice flour, buckwheat, millet, corn- or rice-based breakfast cereals that contain no malt extract
  • Breads, cakes and biscuits — most rice crackers, corn cakes, rice crisp breads, corn tortillas and corn taco shells
  • Pasta and noodles — gluten-free pasta, rice noodles, rice or bean vermicelli
  • Condiments — tomato paste, tahini (ground sesame seeds), jams, honey, maple syrup, cocoa, vinegars (except malt), some sauces and salad dressings
  • Snacks — corn chips, popcorn and plain chocolate
  • Drinks — tea, coffee, mineral water, wine, spirits and liqueurs

A gluten-free diet may seem challenging at first, but you’ll soon discover new tastes and textures in the many grains that you can safely eat. You will also be mixing and matching those new flavors with your favorite meat and dairy products to make delicious meals.

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Oh, how sweets can satisfy a craving. Unfortunately, too many cakes, pies, muffins, cupcakes and cookies can cause weight gain. The good news is that it’s possible to enjoy the occasional baked treat without ruining a week’s worth of healthy eating. It’s all in how you prepare that treat.

Swapping ingredients

Baking healthier sweets means replacing high-fat butter, shortening and sour cream with more nutritious ingredients. Food experts suggest the following substitutions to make your baked goods healthier:

  • Boost the fiber in pancakes, muffins and quick breads by adding ground flax seed
  • Add healthy whole grains to your diet by substituting 1/3 cup of bran or whole-wheat flour for 2/3 cup of all-purpose flour
  • Reduce sugar by 1/4 to 1/3 in baked goods and desserts. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 cup, use 2/3 cup. Add cinnamon, vanilla or almond extract to create sweetness. Tip: Do not eliminate all sugar in yeast breads because sugar works with the yeast to make the bread rise.
  • Replace half of a recipe’s high-fat ingredients, such as butter, margarine, sour cream, heavy cream, chocolate, oil and shortening with mashed ripe bananas or puréed prunes
  • Instead of using one whole egg, try 1/4 cup fat-free, cholesterol-free egg substitute, or two egg whites
  • Swap one cup of oil for one cup of unsweetened applesauce
  • Trade one tablespoon of margarine with three tablespoons of ground flax seed
  • Substitute one cup of sour cream with one cup of plain yogurt
  • Exchange one ounce of chocolate with three tablespoons of cocoa
  • Replace one cup of heavy cream with one cup of evaporated skim milk

If you make a few of these simple substitutions, you can have your healthy cake and eat it, too!

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What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. It's found in some of our most common pantry staples, such as bread, pastas, cereals and desserts. Because gluten is used for binding and thickening ingredients as well as giving texture, it can also be found in foods you may not think of, such as soy sauce, salad dressings and condiments.

Why eat gluten-free?

Most people who eat gluten-free have celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that results in damage to the lining of the stomach when foods with gluten are eaten. Others can be sensitive to gluten, and when they eat foods that contain it, they develop gastrointestinal issues such as chronic abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating and constipation. Others simply prefer a gluten-free diet by choice. Your medical professional can provide more information on celiac disease, gluten-related sensitivities and gluten-free diets.

How do I know food products are gluten-free?

Always check the label. Read the ingredient list as well as the "contains" statement carefully. Some products are designated "gluten-free." Today, you can find a wide selection of these products, so there is no need to feel like you're living—or eating—without your favorite foods.

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Every season, the produce department bins are filled with a variety of crisp, juicy apples. There’s nothing quite like the crunch of an apple eaten out of hand or the aroma of baked cinnamon apples fresh from the oven. Apples taste great, please the eye with their red and gold beauty, and provide healthy benefits that give us the “apples” in our cheeks.

Apple nutrition

It’s true what your mother told you: Studies show that an apple a day really can help keep the doctor away by reducing your risk of disease. Apples are a nutritional gift wrapped in an edible package. They are fat-free, sodium-free, cholesterol-free, low-calorie and an excellent source of fiber. One medium apple is only 60 to 80 calories, depending on the variety.

Extra health benefits

Experts say that an apple’s phytochemicals (nutrients that come from plants) may play an important role in fighting disease. Apples are high in a phytochemical called quercetin that may reduce your risk for asthma, lung cancer and heart disease. Be sure to eat the peel! About two-thirds of the fiber is found in the peel.

A weighty subject

Eating apples and other high-fiber fruit may help you lose weight. Apples are low in calories but high in fiber, which slows down the rate at which apples’ natural sugar is released into your bloodstream.

More satisfaction

The fiber in apples helps you stay full longer and keeps your blood sugar levels steady. Think of it this way: You can eat one apple or two teaspoons of butter for about the same amount of calories. Which one do you think will give you the most satisfaction? And which one gives you the most health benefits?

Best uses

Here’s a guide to the best ways to use some of the most popular apples in America (not all of these apples are available in all geographic locations).

  • Snacking: Braeburn, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, McIntosh, Red Delicious
  • Salads: Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Red Delicious
  • Pies: Golden Delicious, Granny Smith
  • Sauces: Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith
  • Baking: Golden Delicious, Granny Smith

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Oh, how sweets can satisfy a craving. Unfortunately, too many cakes, pies, muffins, cupcakes and cookies can cause weight gain. The good news is that it’s possible to enjoy the occasional baked treat without ruining a week’s worth of healthy eating. It’s all in how you prepare that treat.

Swapping ingredients

Baking healthier sweets means replacing high-fat butter, shortening and sour cream with more nutritious ingredients. Food experts suggest the following substitutions to make your baked goods healthier:

  • Boost the fiber in pancakes, muffins and quick breads by adding ground flax seed
  • Add healthy whole grains to your diet by substituting 1/3 cup of bran or whole-wheat flour for 2/3 cup of all-purpose flour
  • Reduce sugar by 1/4 to 1/3 in baked goods and desserts. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 cup, use 2/3 cup. Add cinnamon, vanilla or almond extract to create sweetness. Tip: Do not eliminate all sugar in yeast breads because sugar works with the yeast to make the bread rise.
  • Replace half of a recipe’s high-fat ingredients, such as butter, margarine, sour cream, heavy cream, chocolate, oil and shortening with mashed ripe bananas or puréed prunes
  • Instead of using one whole egg, try 1/4 cup fat-free, cholesterol-free egg substitute, or two egg whites
  • Swap one cup of oil for one cup of unsweetened applesauce
  • Trade one tablespoon of margarine with three tablespoons of ground flax seed
  • Substitute one cup of sour cream with one cup of plain yogurt
  • Exchange one ounce of chocolate with three tablespoons of cocoa
  • Replace one cup of heavy cream with one cup of evaporated skim milk

If you make a few of these simple substitutions, you can have your healthy cake and eat it, too!

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Have you been diagnosed with celiac disease? If so, your first reaction may have been, “Oh, no — I’ll never be able to enjoy food again.” That’s because celiac disease is basically an allergy to gluten — a protein that is seemingly everywhere. Gluten is commonly found in rye, barley and wheat — and wheat is an ingredient in many food products besides the obvious breads and pastas.

Celiac disease is a genetic disorder that damages the small intestine and can lead to malnutrition. Other complications of celiac disease can include reduced bone density, anemia, infertility and neurological problems.

There is no cure for celiac disease, so eliminating gluten from your diet is the only way to manage the disorder. But living gluten-free doesn’t have to mean a life of boring, tasteless meals.

Focus on the positive

OK — wheat, barley and rye are off limits, but there’s still a world of great foods to choose from: fruits, vegetables, meats and most dairy products.

And no, you don’t have to give up breads and pastas — just make sure they’re made from grains that do not contain gluten. You have plenty to choose from: corn, buckwheat, millet, quinoa and oats, to name a few.

The beauty of a gluten-free diet is that you’ll consume a variety of tasty, nutrient-rich whole grains — foods that everybody should be eating more of because they provide fiber and B vitamins.

Foods to enjoy

As you shop the grocery aisles, it’s important to read food labels thoroughly to make sure that the food contains no gluten. It’s equally important to keep in mind all the great foods you can still enjoy:

  • Meat products — unprocessed meat, fish, chicken, bacon, ham off the bone and meats that are frozen or canned (without sauces)
  • Dairy products — eggs, whole milk, lowfat milk, evaporated and condensed milk, fresh cream, processed or block cheese and some custards and soymilks
  • Fruits and vegetables — fresh, canned or frozen (without sauces); fruit juices; nuts and peanut butter
  • Cereal and baking products — corn flour, soya flour, rice flour, buckwheat, millet, corn- or rice-based breakfast cereals that contain no malt extract
  • Breads, cakes and biscuits — most rice crackers, corn cakes, rice crisp breads, corn tortillas and corn taco shells
  • Pasta and noodles — gluten-free pasta, rice noodles, rice or bean vermicelli
  • Condiments — tomato paste, tahini (ground sesame seeds), jams, honey, maple syrup, cocoa, vinegars (except malt), some sauces and salad dressings
  • Snacks — corn chips, popcorn and plain chocolate
  • Drinks — tea, coffee, mineral water, wine, spirits and liqueurs

A gluten-free diet may seem challenging at first, but you’ll soon discover new tastes and textures in the many grains that you can safely eat. You will also be mixing and matching those new flavors with your favorite meat and dairy products to make delicious meals.

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Certainly, reducing the amount of fat, cholesterol and sodium in the foods you eat can help reduce your risk of heart disease. But that’s just part of it. Eating great-tasting foods that promote heart health is just as important — and a whole lot more fun!

Basics of heart-healthy eating

A heart-healthy diet is actually pretty easy to follow. Basically, heart-healthy eating means less fat, less sodium, fewer calories and more fiber. Read the nutrition labels on foods and use the following guidelines:

  • Select foods that are low in saturated and trans fats. Focus on lean meat, seafood and dairy products.
  • Keep total fat low — between 20% and 35% of your total calories — and get most of the fat in your diet from heart-healthy oils, such as olive oil.
  • Foods from plant sources — vegetables, fruits, grains and some oils — do not contain cholesterol. The bulk of your diet should come from these foods.
  • Eat foods high in heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, nuts and flaxseed.
  • Eat foods low in sodium. That includes most fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or non-fat dairy products and moderate amounts of lean meat.

The heart-healthy pantry / refrigerator

Stock up on these foods and you’ll find it much easier to stick to your heart-healthy eating plan:
Heart-Healthy Oils

Instead of saturated fats like butter that are solid at room temperature, use monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil or canola oil; and polyunsaturated fats that come from nuts, seeds and nut oils. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can help reduce your total blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the “bad” kind). Olive oil and nut oils, such as walnut oil, also provide great flavor.

Grocery list:

  • Olive oil
  • Nut oils
  • Sesame seeds
  • Unsalted nuts

Whole grains

Whole Grains Pastas and breads made with whole grains are high in nutrients that promote heart health and help regulate blood pressure. They’re also high in fiber, and studies show that increasing the amount of fiber in your diet may also reduce heart-disease risk.

Grocery list:

  • Oatmeal
  • 100% whole-wheat bread
  • Brown rice
  • Unsalted nuts
  • Baked whole-grain crackers
  • High-fiber, low-sugar cold cereal
  • Barley
  • Popcorn
  • Wild rice

Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables contain fiber and phytochemicals — valuable plant-based nutrients — that may lower cholesterol and blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Plan to stock up on a variety of fresh, frozen and canned fruit and veggies. Select low-sodium canned vegetables and canned fruits packed in juice. Keep bowls of fresh fruit such as apples, bananas, pears and oranges on the counter. Stock up on frozen berries and cut up raw veggies for snacks.

Grocery list:

  • A variety of fresh, frozen and canned fruit and vegetables

Legumes: Beans, peas and lentils

Legumes are great high-fiber sources of lean protein that are cholesterol-free and low in fat. Studies have shown that soybeans in particular seem to be especially beneficial to the heart.

Grocery list:

  • Edamame
  • Tofu
  • Dried or canned lentils
  • Peas
  • Black beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Chili beans
  • Garbanzos

Red wine / grape juice / grapes

The heart-healthy benefits of red wine include reducing the risk of blood clots, reducing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and maintaining healthy blood pressure – but many researchers believe grapes and grape juice offer the same health benefits.

Grocery list:

  • Red wine
  • Purple grapes
  • Purple grape juice

Nuts and seeds

Nuts contain heart-healthy oils that experts believe may reduce the risk of blood clots and lower LDL cholesterol as well as improve the health of arteries. Nuts also provide Omega 3 fatty acids — healthy fatty acids that seem to prevent abnormal heart rhythms that may lead to a heart attack. Just be sure to eat plain, unsalted nuts. Flaxseeds are also a good source of Omega-3s.

Grocery list:

  • Flaxseed
  • Roasted, unsalted walnuts
  • Pecans
  • Almonds
  • Other nuts

Fish

Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring and sardines are also excellent sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, which may reduce cholesterol and inflammation that can lead to heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fish a week.

Grocery list:

  • Salmon
  • Herring
  • Sardines
  • Tuna
  • Sardines

There are plenty of wonderful foods to enjoy, whether you are trying to reduce your risk of heart disease or just want to eat a healthier diet in general. You don’t have to sacrifice flavor and variety to experience the wonderful benefits of heart-healthy foods!

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You don't need to know the muffin man to enjoy fabulous muffins! Muffins are quick and easy to make and can be enjoyed any time of day — with meals or on their own. Here’s how to make the perfect muffin every time:

Preparing muffin pans

  • Grease muffin cups or use muffin cup liners.
  • To create those perfectly rounded muffin tops you see in bakeries, grease only the bottoms and halfway up the sides of the muffin cup.
  • Do not grease any muffin cup that will not be used. The grease will burn onto the pan. Instead, fill empty cups with 2 to 3 tablespoons of water to keep the pan from warping.

Preparing the batter

  • Start with ingredients at room temperature.
  • To make fluffier muffins, substitute buttermilk or yogurt for the milk in the recipe and add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to the dry ingredients for each cup of buttermilk or yogurt used.
  • Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl using a whisk and then make a well in the center using the back of a wooden spoon. Whisk the wet ingredients together in a separate bowl, pour into the well of the dry ingredients and gently mix together.
  • Do not overmix the batter; overmixing produces a tough texture. To combine the wet and dry ingredients, use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon and gently stir just until the dry ingredients are moist. Do not try to smooth out the batter; it should have some lumps.
  • For uniform muffins, use a measuring cup or ice-cream scoop to fill the muffin cups.
  • Do not fill muffin cups more than three-quarters full.

Ways to add extra nutrition

  • Add dried or fresh fruit or heart-healthy nuts after mixing the wet and dry ingredients. Just give the batter one more gentle stir after the addition.
  • Replace half the regular flour with whole-wheat pastry flour.

Baking

  • Muffins are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Set muffin pan on wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes before removing muffins from cups.
  • To remove warm muffins from the pan, run a dinner knife around the edges, then under the bottom and tilt it out of the pan.

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  1. Mixing bowls
    Whether you use plastic or stainless steel, a good set of mixing bowls is necessary for preparing everything from cakes and pies to cookies and pastries.
  2. Measuring cups and spoons
    Why risk ruining your tasty treats? Don’t wing it — measure everything according to the recipe for perfect results every time.
  3. Electric stand or hand mixer
    Stirring ingredients on your own can be time-consuming (and painful after a while). Use an electric mixer to evenly blend both dry and liquid components.
  4. Spatula
    flip and spread batter with a flexible, durable spatula. This versatile utensil can also be used as a scoop.
  5. Whisk
    Nobody likes to bite into a lumpy, uneven dessert! Smooth, aerate, blend and whip liquid ingredients with a sturdy whisk.
  6. Rolling pin
    A rolling pin is used to shape and flatten dough. Don’t make pie crusts or Christmas cookies without using one.
  7. Cookie cutters
    Kids love making holiday cookies with festive cookie cutters. Just roll dough onto a flat surface and let the fun begin!
  8. Baking pans
    Nonstick pans help your treats stay intact and looking pretty — with just a little nudge, they’ll pop right out of the pan.
  9. Cooling rack
    To avoid burn marks after baking, don’t set hot pans on your countertop. Cool your tasty creations on a sturdy cooling rack.
  10. Decorating set
    Dress up your delicacies with seasonal colors and shapes. Use a decorating set to add final touches to your sweet treats.

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Cake mix basics

Cake mixes have come a long way since first introduced during the 1920s. Early on, they were rejected by homemakers, because they didn’t produce reliable results and weren’t considered “homemade.” Today, cake mixes are well-loved and more common than “scratch” cakes. Look for mixes in traditional 18.25 ounce (2 layer) and 9 ounce (1 layer) packages. The “best if used by” date stamped on the box indicates freshness. Most mixes keep about 1 year if stored in a cool, dry place. Not only do they make delicious cakes- they also work well for other baked products.

A fun and inexpensive family activity is to have each child select a cake mix in her favorite flavor at your local Walmart. At home, she’ll or he’ll enjoy helping you bake; and he or she will feel a sense of accomplishment as the family enjoys the special dessert.

Frost a cake like a pro

  1. Place cake on serving plate. To be sure you’ll keep the plate frosting-free, tuck strips of wax paper between the cake and the edges of the plate.
  2. Frost the cake.
  3. Use a flexible metal pastry spatula to create decorative swirls or a smooth finish. If embellishing or writing a message on cake frosting, first use a toothpick to draw your design, then pipe the frosting or decorating gel over the lines. Remove the strips of wax paper.

Cake mix is versatile and fun to use. Keep your family’s favorite flavors on hand in your pantry so you are ready to bake on a moment’s notice. You’ll be able to whip up great desserts in no time or deliver a last minute batch of cookies for a school or church event.

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Even if you don’t often bake, your goodies can rival those from the corner bakery. The following tips and tricks are the keys to sweet success.

1. Unless recipe directions state otherwise, always preheat the oven before beginning to bake. If using a glass pan for bar cookies or quick breads, reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees.

2. Plan for easy cleanup from the start. Spray muffin pans and cookie sheets with nonstick baking spray that contains flour instead of greasing or flouring by hand. These sprays are formulated to reach every nook and cranny of even the most intricate bakeware.

3. To avoid eggshells in your batter, use a separate bowl for cracking eggs, then check for shell pieces before adding the eggs to your mixture.

4. When you have more than one pan in the oven, turn pans at least once to ensure even cooking. Allow space between pans for uniform results.

And remember, a full oven may require a few extra minutes of cooking time.

5. Freeze bar treats and cookies wrapped in layers of waxed paper and stored in a heavy duty zipper top freezer bag. Add icing or glaze after removing from the freezer.

6. Has that baking powder been in the cupboard since the last year? Test it to determine if it’s still good. Simply mix 2 teaspoons with 1 cup of hot water. If the mixture bubbles immediately, it’s good. If bubbling takes a little while or doesn’t happen at all, the baking powder’s leavening ability has been lost and the product needs to be replaced.

7. Measure ingredients accurately for best results. Dry ingredients should only be sifted when specified in a recipe. Otherwise, stir lightly and don’t pack or press. A trick of the trade for mess-free measuring is to store flour and sugar in wide mouthed airtight containers so that when you level off the excess it falls back into the bin, not all over the counter. Use marked glass or plastic cups for measuring liquids. Spray cups with nonstick cooking spray before measuring sticky ingredients such as honey or molasses for easy release and cleanup.

8. A shortcut to melting ingredients is to use the microwave. If melting butter, heat on high– about 45 seconds for 2 tablespoons, 1-1/2 minutes for a half-cup. When melting chocolate squares or chips, heat on medium- about 1-1/2 minutes for each ounce; stir until smooth.

9. When rolling cookie dough, spray nonstick cooking spray on your hands, the rolling surface, the rolling pin and the dough. Also, spray the cookie cutters so dough releases easily. Then, stagger dough on baking sheets instead of aligning in rows. You’ll fit more on each sheet without cookies spreading into one another as they bake.

Whether you are baking cookies, cakes or pies, these tips and tricks will save time and deliver delicious results. Happy baking!

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You don't need to know the muffin man to enjoy fabulous muffins! Muffins are quick and easy to make and can be enjoyed any time of day — with meals or on their own. Here’s how to make the perfect muffin every time:

Preparing muffin pans

  • Grease muffin cups or use muffin cup liners.
  • To create those perfectly rounded muffin tops you see in bakeries, grease only the bottoms and halfway up the sides of the muffin cup.
  • Do not grease any muffin cup that will not be used. The grease will burn onto the pan. Instead, fill empty cups with 2 to 3 tablespoons of water to keep the pan from warping.

Preparing the batter

  • Start with ingredients at room temperature.
  • To make fluffier muffins, substitute buttermilk or yogurt for the milk in the recipe and add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to the dry ingredients for each cup of buttermilk or yogurt used.
  • Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl using a whisk and then make a well in the center using the back of a wooden spoon. Whisk the wet ingredients together in a separate bowl, pour into the well of the dry ingredients and gently mix together.
  • Do not overmix the batter; overmixing produces a tough texture. To combine the wet and dry ingredients, use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon and gently stir just until the dry ingredients are moist. Do not try to smooth out the batter; it should have some lumps.
  • For uniform muffins, use a measuring cup or ice-cream scoop to fill the muffin cups.
  • Do not fill muffin cups more than three-quarters full.

Ways to add extra nutrition

  • Add dried or fresh fruit or heart-healthy nuts after mixing the wet and dry ingredients. Just give the batter one more gentle stir after the addition.
  • Replace half the regular flour with whole-wheat pastry flour.

Baking

  • Muffins are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Set muffin pan on wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes before removing muffins from cups.
  • To remove warm muffins from the pan, run a dinner knife around the edges, then under the bottom and tilt it out of the pan.

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Even if you don’t often bake, your goodies can rival those from the corner bakery. The following tips and tricks are the keys to sweet success.

1. Unless recipe directions state otherwise, always preheat the oven before beginning to bake. If using a glass pan for bar cookies or quick breads, reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees.

2. Plan for easy cleanup from the start. Spray muffin pans and cookie sheets with nonstick baking spray that contains flour instead of greasing or flouring by hand. These sprays are formulated to reach every nook and cranny of even the most intricate bakeware.

3. To avoid eggshells in your batter, use a separate bowl for cracking eggs, then check for shell pieces before adding the eggs to your mixture.

4. When you have more than one pan in the oven, turn pans at least once to ensure even cooking. Allow space between pans for uniform results.

And remember, a full oven may require a few extra minutes of cooking time.

5. Freeze bar treats and cookies wrapped in layers of waxed paper and stored in a heavy duty zipper top freezer bag. Add icing or glaze after removing from the freezer.

6. Has that baking powder been in the cupboard since the last year? Test it to determine if it’s still good. Simply mix 2 teaspoons with 1 cup of hot water. If the mixture bubbles immediately, it’s good. If bubbling takes a little while or doesn’t happen at all, the baking powder’s leavening ability has been lost and the product needs to be replaced.

7. Measure ingredients accurately for best results. Dry ingredients should only be sifted when specified in a recipe. Otherwise, stir lightly and don’t pack or press. A trick of the trade for mess-free measuring is to store flour and sugar in wide mouthed airtight containers so that when you level off the excess it falls back into the bin, not all over the counter. Use marked glass or plastic cups for measuring liquids. Spray cups with nonstick cooking spray before measuring sticky ingredients such as honey or molasses for easy release and cleanup.

8. A shortcut to melting ingredients is to use the microwave. If melting butter, heat on high– about 45 seconds for 2 tablespoons, 1-1/2 minutes for a half-cup. When melting chocolate squares or chips, heat on medium- about 1-1/2 minutes for each ounce; stir until smooth.

9. When rolling cookie dough, spray nonstick cooking spray on your hands, the rolling surface, the rolling pin and the dough. Also, spray the cookie cutters so dough releases easily. Then, stagger dough on baking sheets instead of aligning in rows. You’ll fit more on each sheet without cookies spreading into one another as they bake.

Whether you are baking cookies, cakes or pies, these tips and tricks will save time and deliver delicious results. Happy baking!

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Cake mix basics

Cake mixes have come a long way since first introduced during the 1920s. Early on, they were rejected by homemakers, because they didn’t produce reliable results and weren’t considered “homemade.” Today, cake mixes are well-loved and more common than “scratch” cakes. Look for mixes in traditional 18.25 ounce (2 layer) and 9 ounce (1 layer) packages. The “best if used by” date stamped on the box indicates freshness. Most mixes keep about 1 year if stored in a cool, dry place. Not only do they make delicious cakes- they also work well for other baked products.

A fun and inexpensive family activity is to have each child select a cake mix in her favorite flavor at your local Walmart. At home, she’ll or he’ll enjoy helping you bake; and he or she will feel a sense of accomplishment as the family enjoys the special dessert.

Frost a cake like a pro

  1. Place cake on serving plate. To be sure you’ll keep the plate frosting-free, tuck strips of wax paper between the cake and the edges of the plate.
  2. Frost the cake.
  3. Use a flexible metal pastry spatula to create decorative swirls or a smooth finish. If embellishing or writing a message on cake frosting, first use a toothpick to draw your design, then pipe the frosting or decorating gel over the lines. Remove the strips of wax paper.

Cake mix is versatile and fun to use. Keep your family’s favorite flavors on hand in your pantry so you are ready to bake on a moment’s notice. You’ll be able to whip up great desserts in no time or deliver a last minute batch of cookies for a school or church event.

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  1. Mixing bowls
    Whether you use plastic or stainless steel, a good set of mixing bowls is necessary for preparing everything from cakes and pies to cookies and pastries.
  2. Measuring cups and spoons
    Why risk ruining your tasty treats? Don’t wing it — measure everything according to the recipe for perfect results every time.
  3. Electric stand or hand mixer
    Stirring ingredients on your own can be time-consuming (and painful after a while). Use an electric mixer to evenly blend both dry and liquid components.
  4. Spatula
    flip and spread batter with a flexible, durable spatula. This versatile utensil can also be used as a scoop.
  5. Whisk
    Nobody likes to bite into a lumpy, uneven dessert! Smooth, aerate, blend and whip liquid ingredients with a sturdy whisk.
  6. Rolling pin
    A rolling pin is used to shape and flatten dough. Don’t make pie crusts or Christmas cookies without using one.
  7. Cookie cutters
    Kids love making holiday cookies with festive cookie cutters. Just roll dough onto a flat surface and let the fun begin!
  8. Baking pans
    Nonstick pans help your treats stay intact and looking pretty — with just a little nudge, they’ll pop right out of the pan.
  9. Cooling rack
    To avoid burn marks after baking, don’t set hot pans on your countertop. Cool your tasty creations on a sturdy cooling rack.
  10. Decorating set
    Dress up your delicacies with seasonal colors and shapes. Use a decorating set to add final touches to your sweet treats.

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Welcome to Cooking 101. Here are some culinary terms and techniques that will have you cooking like a pro in no time. If you already know your way around the kitchen, scan the list for a quick review.

Baste

Spoon on or brush food with melted butter or other liquids as it cooks. Basting adds flavor and color to foods.

Chop

Hold large knife with one hand; rest the other hand on the top for control. Chop in large, uniform pieces using quick, heavy, rocking motions.

Coat

Dip or roll foods such as chicken or fish in seasoned breadcrumbs or flour. The food may be dipped in a liquid, such as beaten eggs or milk, before it is coated with the dry mixture.

Deglaze

Cook like a TV Chef with this easy technique for creating a pan sauce. Remove sauteed meat and excess fat from a pan after cooking and add a small amount of liquid to the pan — usually wine or stock. The resulting mixture is the base for a sauce to go with the meat.

Julienne

Cut foods into matchstick-thin strips for a restaurant-style side dish or garnish. Start by slicing off the bottom of the food to keep it from rocking as you cut; then cut food into 1/8-inch slices. Cut across the strips to create long, thin pieces in the desired length.

Mince

Cut food, such as herbs, into very small pieces using the same motion as chopping.

Pan fry

Use this easy technique to cook pieces of meat, seafood or large pieces of vegetables in a hot pan, turning only once or twice.

Puree

Finely mash food to a smooth, thick consistency. Popular purees include sweet potato and raspberry.

Roast

Oven-cook food in an uncovered pan for a well-browned exterior and a moist interior.

Saute

Cook food in a small amount of oil or other fat in a skillet or saute pan over direct heat for a fast, healthy meal.

Sear

Brown meat quickly over very high heat either in a skillet under a broiler or in a very hot oven to seal in the juices.

Simmer

Heat a liquid just below the boiling point so that small bubbles are visible on the surface.

Whisk

Use a whisk, a must-have kitchen utensil, to whip (incorporate air into) ingredients such as cream, eggs and sauces.

The more you know about cooking, the easier and more fun it is to create great meals in your kitchen. Be sure to use these terms and techniques as the foundation for a whole new cooking adventure.

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Oh, how sweets can satisfy a craving. Unfortunately, too many cakes, pies, muffins, cupcakes and cookies can cause weight gain. The good news is that it’s possible to enjoy the occasional baked treat without ruining a week’s worth of healthy eating. It’s all in how you prepare that treat.

Swapping ingredients

Baking healthier sweets means replacing high-fat butter, shortening and sour cream with more nutritious ingredients. Food experts suggest the following substitutions to make your baked goods healthier:

  • Boost the fiber in pancakes, muffins and quick breads by adding ground flax seed
  • Add healthy whole grains to your diet by substituting 1/3 cup of bran or whole-wheat flour for 2/3 cup of all-purpose flour
  • Reduce sugar by 1/4 to 1/3 in baked goods and desserts. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 cup, use 2/3 cup. Add cinnamon, vanilla or almond extract to create sweetness. Tip: Do not eliminate all sugar in yeast breads because sugar works with the yeast to make the bread rise.
  • Replace half of a recipe’s high-fat ingredients, such as butter, margarine, sour cream, heavy cream, chocolate, oil and shortening with mashed ripe bananas or puréed prunes
  • Instead of using one whole egg, try 1/4 cup fat-free, cholesterol-free egg substitute, or two egg whites
  • Swap one cup of oil for one cup of unsweetened applesauce
  • Trade one tablespoon of margarine with three tablespoons of ground flax seed
  • Substitute one cup of sour cream with one cup of plain yogurt
  • Exchange one ounce of chocolate with three tablespoons of cocoa
  • Replace one cup of heavy cream with one cup of evaporated skim milk

If you make a few of these simple substitutions, you can have your healthy cake and eat it, too!

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Certainly, reducing the amount of fat, cholesterol and sodium in the foods you eat can help reduce your risk of heart disease. But that’s just part of it. Eating great-tasting foods that promote heart health is just as important — and a whole lot more fun!

Basics of heart-healthy eating

A heart-healthy diet is actually pretty easy to follow. Basically, heart-healthy eating means less fat, less sodium, fewer calories and more fiber. Read the nutrition labels on foods and use the following guidelines:

  • Select foods that are low in saturated and trans fats. Focus on lean meat, seafood and dairy products.
  • Keep total fat low — between 20% and 35% of your total calories — and get most of the fat in your diet from heart-healthy oils, such as olive oil.
  • Foods from plant sources — vegetables, fruits, grains and some oils — do not contain cholesterol. The bulk of your diet should come from these foods.
  • Eat foods high in heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, nuts and flaxseed.
  • Eat foods low in sodium. That includes most fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or non-fat dairy products and moderate amounts of lean meat.

The heart-healthy pantry / refrigerator

Stock up on these foods and you’ll find it much easier to stick to your heart-healthy eating plan:
Heart-Healthy Oils

Instead of saturated fats like butter that are solid at room temperature, use monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil or canola oil; and polyunsaturated fats that come from nuts, seeds and nut oils. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can help reduce your total blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the “bad” kind). Olive oil and nut oils, such as walnut oil, also provide great flavor.

Grocery list:

  • Olive oil
  • Nut oils
  • Sesame seeds
  • Unsalted nuts

Whole grains

Whole Grains Pastas and breads made with whole grains are high in nutrients that promote heart health and help regulate blood pressure. They’re also high in fiber, and studies show that increasing the amount of fiber in your diet may also reduce heart-disease risk.

Grocery list:

  • Oatmeal
  • 100% whole-wheat bread
  • Brown rice
  • Unsalted nuts
  • Baked whole-grain crackers
  • High-fiber, low-sugar cold cereal
  • Barley
  • Popcorn
  • Wild rice

Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables contain fiber and phytochemicals — valuable plant-based nutrients — that may lower cholesterol and blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Plan to stock up on a variety of fresh, frozen and canned fruit and veggies. Select low-sodium canned vegetables and canned fruits packed in juice. Keep bowls of fresh fruit such as apples, bananas, pears and oranges on the counter. Stock up on frozen berries and cut up raw veggies for snacks.

Grocery list:

  • A variety of fresh, frozen and canned fruit and vegetables

Legumes: Beans, peas and lentils

Legumes are great high-fiber sources of lean protein that are cholesterol-free and low in fat. Studies have shown that soybeans in particular seem to be especially beneficial to the heart.

Grocery list:

  • Edamame
  • Tofu
  • Dried or canned lentils
  • Peas
  • Black beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Chili beans
  • Garbanzos

Red wine / grape juice / grapes

The heart-healthy benefits of red wine include reducing the risk of blood clots, reducing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and maintaining healthy blood pressure – but many researchers believe grapes and grape juice offer the same health benefits.

Grocery list:

  • Red wine
  • Purple grapes
  • Purple grape juice

Nuts and seeds

Nuts contain heart-healthy oils that experts believe may reduce the risk of blood clots and lower LDL cholesterol as well as improve the health of arteries. Nuts also provide Omega 3 fatty acids — healthy fatty acids that seem to prevent abnormal heart rhythms that may lead to a heart attack. Just be sure to eat plain, unsalted nuts. Flaxseeds are also a good source of Omega-3s.

Grocery list:

  • Flaxseed
  • Roasted, unsalted walnuts
  • Pecans
  • Almonds
  • Other nuts

Fish

Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring and sardines are also excellent sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, which may reduce cholesterol and inflammation that can lead to heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fish a week.

Grocery list:

  • Salmon
  • Herring
  • Sardines
  • Tuna
  • Sardines

There are plenty of wonderful foods to enjoy, whether you are trying to reduce your risk of heart disease or just want to eat a healthier diet in general. You don’t have to sacrifice flavor and variety to experience the wonderful benefits of heart-healthy foods!

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Have you been diagnosed with celiac disease? If so, your first reaction may have been, “Oh, no — I’ll never be able to enjoy food again.” That’s because celiac disease is basically an allergy to gluten — a protein that is seemingly everywhere. Gluten is commonly found in rye, barley and wheat — and wheat is an ingredient in many food products besides the obvious breads and pastas.

Celiac disease is a genetic disorder that damages the small intestine and can lead to malnutrition. Other complications of celiac disease can include reduced bone density, anemia, infertility and neurological problems.

There is no cure for celiac disease, so eliminating gluten from your diet is the only way to manage the disorder. But living gluten-free doesn’t have to mean a life of boring, tasteless meals.

Focus on the positive

OK — wheat, barley and rye are off limits, but there’s still a world of great foods to choose from: fruits, vegetables, meats and most dairy products.

And no, you don’t have to give up breads and pastas — just make sure they’re made from grains that do not contain gluten. You have plenty to choose from: corn, buckwheat, millet, quinoa and oats, to name a few.

The beauty of a gluten-free diet is that you’ll consume a variety of tasty, nutrient-rich whole grains — foods that everybody should be eating more of because they provide fiber and B vitamins.

Foods to enjoy

As you shop the grocery aisles, it’s important to read food labels thoroughly to make sure that the food contains no gluten. It’s equally important to keep in mind all the great foods you can still enjoy:

  • Meat products — unprocessed meat, fish, chicken, bacon, ham off the bone and meats that are frozen or canned (without sauces)
  • Dairy products — eggs, whole milk, lowfat milk, evaporated and condensed milk, fresh cream, processed or block cheese and some custards and soymilks
  • Fruits and vegetables — fresh, canned or frozen (without sauces); fruit juices; nuts and peanut butter
  • Cereal and baking products — corn flour, soya flour, rice flour, buckwheat, millet, corn- or rice-based breakfast cereals that contain no malt extract
  • Breads, cakes and biscuits — most rice crackers, corn cakes, rice crisp breads, corn tortillas and corn taco shells
  • Pasta and noodles — gluten-free pasta, rice noodles, rice or bean vermicelli
  • Condiments — tomato paste, tahini (ground sesame seeds), jams, honey, maple syrup, cocoa, vinegars (except malt), some sauces and salad dressings
  • Snacks — corn chips, popcorn and plain chocolate
  • Drinks — tea, coffee, mineral water, wine, spirits and liqueurs

A gluten-free diet may seem challenging at first, but you’ll soon discover new tastes and textures in the many grains that you can safely eat. You will also be mixing and matching those new flavors with your favorite meat and dairy products to make delicious meals.

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Every season, the produce department bins are filled with a variety of crisp, juicy apples. There’s nothing quite like the crunch of an apple eaten out of hand or the aroma of baked cinnamon apples fresh from the oven. Apples taste great, please the eye with their red and gold beauty, and provide healthy benefits that give us the “apples” in our cheeks.

Apple nutrition

It’s true what your mother told you: Studies show that an apple a day really can help keep the doctor away by reducing your risk of disease. Apples are a nutritional gift wrapped in an edible package. They are fat-free, sodium-free, cholesterol-free, low-calorie and an excellent source of fiber. One medium apple is only 60 to 80 calories, depending on the variety.

Extra health benefits

Experts say that an apple’s phytochemicals (nutrients that come from plants) may play an important role in fighting disease. Apples are high in a phytochemical called quercetin that may reduce your risk for asthma, lung cancer and heart disease. Be sure to eat the peel! About two-thirds of the fiber is found in the peel.

A weighty subject

Eating apples and other high-fiber fruit may help you lose weight. Apples are low in calories but high in fiber, which slows down the rate at which apples’ natural sugar is released into your bloodstream.

More satisfaction

The fiber in apples helps you stay full longer and keeps your blood sugar levels steady. Think of it this way: You can eat one apple or two teaspoons of butter for about the same amount of calories. Which one do you think will give you the most satisfaction? And which one gives you the most health benefits?

Best uses

Here’s a guide to the best ways to use some of the most popular apples in America (not all of these apples are available in all geographic locations).

  • Snacking: Braeburn, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, McIntosh, Red Delicious
  • Salads: Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Red Delicious
  • Pies: Golden Delicious, Granny Smith
  • Sauces: Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith
  • Baking: Golden Delicious, Granny Smith

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  1. Mixing bowls
    Whether you use plastic or stainless steel, a good set of mixing bowls is necessary for preparing everything from cakes and pies to cookies and pastries.
  2. Measuring cups and spoons
    Why risk ruining your tasty treats? Don’t wing it — measure everything according to the recipe for perfect results every time.
  3. Electric stand or hand mixer
    Stirring ingredients on your own can be time-consuming (and painful after a while). Use an electric mixer to evenly blend both dry and liquid components.
  4. Spatula
    flip and spread batter with a flexible, durable spatula. This versatile utensil can also be used as a scoop.
  5. Whisk
    Nobody likes to bite into a lumpy, uneven dessert! Smooth, aerate, blend and whip liquid ingredients with a sturdy whisk.
  6. Rolling pin
    A rolling pin is used to shape and flatten dough. Don’t make pie crusts or Christmas cookies without using one.
  7. Cookie cutters
    Kids love making holiday cookies with festive cookie cutters. Just roll dough onto a flat surface and let the fun begin!
  8. Baking pans
    Nonstick pans help your treats stay intact and looking pretty — with just a little nudge, they’ll pop right out of the pan.
  9. Cooling rack
    To avoid burn marks after baking, don’t set hot pans on your countertop. Cool your tasty creations on a sturdy cooling rack.
  10. Decorating set
    Dress up your delicacies with seasonal colors and shapes. Use a decorating set to add final touches to your sweet treats.

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Cake mix basics

Cake mixes have come a long way since first introduced during the 1920s. Early on, they were rejected by homemakers, because they didn’t produce reliable results and weren’t considered “homemade.” Today, cake mixes are well-loved and more common than “scratch” cakes. Look for mixes in traditional 18.25 ounce (2 layer) and 9 ounce (1 layer) packages. The “best if used by” date stamped on the box indicates freshness. Most mixes keep about 1 year if stored in a cool, dry place. Not only do they make delicious cakes- they also work well for other baked products.

A fun and inexpensive family activity is to have each child select a cake mix in her favorite flavor at your local Walmart. At home, she’ll or he’ll enjoy helping you bake; and he or she will feel a sense of accomplishment as the family enjoys the special dessert.

Frost a cake like a pro

  1. Place cake on serving plate. To be sure you’ll keep the plate frosting-free, tuck strips of wax paper between the cake and the edges of the plate.
  2. Frost the cake.
  3. Use a flexible metal pastry spatula to create decorative swirls or a smooth finish. If embellishing or writing a message on cake frosting, first use a toothpick to draw your design, then pipe the frosting or decorating gel over the lines. Remove the strips of wax paper.

Cake mix is versatile and fun to use. Keep your family’s favorite flavors on hand in your pantry so you are ready to bake on a moment’s notice. You’ll be able to whip up great desserts in no time or deliver a last minute batch of cookies for a school or church event.

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Here are 13 secrets that will have you baking like the pros.

1. Check your oven

Use an inexpensive oven thermometer to check the temperature of your oven. It’s not uncommon for ovens to run 25 to 50 degrees too hot or too cool. Once you have an accurate temperature reading, adjust your oven control accordingly.

2. Choose quality ingredients

For the best flavor rely on fresh, top-quality ingredients. For example, choose real butter, fresh lemon juice and real extracts (versus imitation).

3. Buy “eggsactly” the right size

Recipe developers commonly use large eggs as the standard for recipes. So do the same when making baked goods and save the medium and jumbo eggs for omelets.

4. Replace seasonings and spices

The fresher the spices, the fresher the flavor. Dried herbs and seasoning blends last one to three years, while ground spices last two to three years.

5. Measure accurately

Spoon flour into a dry measuring cup or spoon until it’s overflowing. Then level it off with a straight edge. Pack brown sugar into a cup or spoon; then level it off. For liquid ingredients, use a glass or clear plastic measure. Pour the desired amount, watching at eye level.

6. Measure sticky ingredients mess-free

Spray a liquid measuring cup with nonstick cooking spray before measuring sticky ingredients like honey and molasses. It will release easily and entirely.

7. Keep two sets of measuring spoons on hand

Designate one set for dry ingredients and one set for liquid. That way, the dry ingredients won’t stick in the wet spoons.

8. Choose the best baking pan for the job

Shiny, light colored baking pans reflect heat, making them a good choice when baking cookies or biscuits. Darker pans absorb heat in the oven, so they’re a better pick for pies and breads.

9. Line cookie sheets for easy cleanup.

Disposable parchment paper or reusable silicone liners make cleanup a snap. If you’re baking bars and brownies, line the pan with foil so you can lift out baked bars with ease.

10. Avoid overcrowding the oven

When baking several items at one time, leave at least two inches of space between the baking pans and between the pans and the sides of the oven.

11. Remove cakes from pans with ease

To make sure cakes release from pans easily, line the bottom of the pan with a piece of waxed paper or parchment paper. Use the bottom of the pan as a guide for tracing and cutting the paper.

12. Make a disposable pastry-decorating bag

Fill a resealable plastic bag with frosting, snip off a corner to use.

13. Shop the Walmart Bake Center
Visit the Bake Center in your local Walmart to find the best products for baking and entertaining. From chocolate to nuts, it’s home to all the ingredients you’ll need.

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  1. Mixing bowls
    Whether you use plastic or stainless steel, a good set of mixing bowls is necessary for preparing everything from cakes and pies to cookies and pastries.
  2. Measuring cups and spoons
    Why risk ruining your tasty treats? Don’t wing it — measure everything according to the recipe for perfect results every time.
  3. Electric stand or hand mixer
    Stirring ingredients on your own can be time-consuming (and painful after a while). Use an electric mixer to evenly blend both dry and liquid components.
  4. Spatula
    flip and spread batter with a flexible, durable spatula. This versatile utensil can also be used as a scoop.
  5. Whisk
    Nobody likes to bite into a lumpy, uneven dessert! Smooth, aerate, blend and whip liquid ingredients with a sturdy whisk.
  6. Rolling pin
    A rolling pin is used to shape and flatten dough. Don’t make pie crusts or Christmas cookies without using one.
  7. Cookie cutters
    Kids love making holiday cookies with festive cookie cutters. Just roll dough onto a flat surface and let the fun begin!
  8. Baking pans
    Nonstick pans help your treats stay intact and looking pretty — with just a little nudge, they’ll pop right out of the pan.
  9. Cooling rack
    To avoid burn marks after baking, don’t set hot pans on your countertop. Cool your tasty creations on a sturdy cooling rack.
  10. Decorating set
    Dress up your delicacies with seasonal colors and shapes. Use a decorating set to add final touches to your sweet treats.

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Welcome to Cooking 101. Here are some culinary terms and techniques that will have you cooking like a pro in no time. If you already know your way around the kitchen, scan the list for a quick review.

Baste

Spoon on or brush food with melted butter or other liquids as it cooks. Basting adds flavor and color to foods.

Chop

Hold large knife with one hand; rest the other hand on the top for control. Chop in large, uniform pieces using quick, heavy, rocking motions.

Coat

Dip or roll foods such as chicken or fish in seasoned breadcrumbs or flour. The food may be dipped in a liquid, such as beaten eggs or milk, before it is coated with the dry mixture.

Deglaze

Cook like a TV Chef with this easy technique for creating a pan sauce. Remove sauteed meat and excess fat from a pan after cooking and add a small amount of liquid to the pan — usually wine or stock. The resulting mixture is the base for a sauce to go with the meat.

Julienne

Cut foods into matchstick-thin strips for a restaurant-style side dish or garnish. Start by slicing off the bottom of the food to keep it from rocking as you cut; then cut food into 1/8-inch slices. Cut across the strips to create long, thin pieces in the desired length.

Mince

Cut food, such as herbs, into very small pieces using the same motion as chopping.

Pan fry

Use this easy technique to cook pieces of meat, seafood or large pieces of vegetables in a hot pan, turning only once or twice.

Puree

Finely mash food to a smooth, thick consistency. Popular purees include sweet potato and raspberry.

Roast

Oven-cook food in an uncovered pan for a well-browned exterior and a moist interior.

Saute

Cook food in a small amount of oil or other fat in a skillet or saute pan over direct heat for a fast, healthy meal.

Sear

Brown meat quickly over very high heat either in a skillet under a broiler or in a very hot oven to seal in the juices.

Simmer

Heat a liquid just below the boiling point so that small bubbles are visible on the surface.

Whisk

Use a whisk, a must-have kitchen utensil, to whip (incorporate air into) ingredients such as cream, eggs and sauces.

The more you know about cooking, the easier and more fun it is to create great meals in your kitchen. Be sure to use these terms and techniques as the foundation for a whole new cooking adventure.

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Even if you don’t often bake, your goodies can rival those from the corner bakery. The following tips and tricks are the keys to sweet success.

1. Unless recipe directions state otherwise, always preheat the oven before beginning to bake. If using a glass pan for bar cookies or quick breads, reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees.

2. Plan for easy cleanup from the start. Spray muffin pans and cookie sheets with nonstick baking spray that contains flour instead of greasing or flouring by hand. These sprays are formulated to reach every nook and cranny of even the most intricate bakeware.

3. To avoid eggshells in your batter, use a separate bowl for cracking eggs, then check for shell pieces before adding the eggs to your mixture.

4. When you have more than one pan in the oven, turn pans at least once to ensure even cooking. Allow space between pans for uniform results.

And remember, a full oven may require a few extra minutes of cooking time.

5. Freeze bar treats and cookies wrapped in layers of waxed paper and stored in a heavy duty zipper top freezer bag. Add icing or glaze after removing from the freezer.

6. Has that baking powder been in the cupboard since the last year? Test it to determine if it’s still good. Simply mix 2 teaspoons with 1 cup of hot water. If the mixture bubbles immediately, it’s good. If bubbling takes a little while or doesn’t happen at all, the baking powder’s leavening ability has been lost and the product needs to be replaced.

7. Measure ingredients accurately for best results. Dry ingredients should only be sifted when specified in a recipe. Otherwise, stir lightly and don’t pack or press. A trick of the trade for mess-free measuring is to store flour and sugar in wide mouthed airtight containers so that when you level off the excess it falls back into the bin, not all over the counter. Use marked glass or plastic cups for measuring liquids. Spray cups with nonstick cooking spray before measuring sticky ingredients such as honey or molasses for easy release and cleanup.

8. A shortcut to melting ingredients is to use the microwave. If melting butter, heat on high– about 45 seconds for 2 tablespoons, 1-1/2 minutes for a half-cup. When melting chocolate squares or chips, heat on medium- about 1-1/2 minutes for each ounce; stir until smooth.

9. When rolling cookie dough, spray nonstick cooking spray on your hands, the rolling surface, the rolling pin and the dough. Also, spray the cookie cutters so dough releases easily. Then, stagger dough on baking sheets instead of aligning in rows. You’ll fit more on each sheet without cookies spreading into one another as they bake.

Whether you are baking cookies, cakes or pies, these tips and tricks will save time and deliver delicious results. Happy baking!

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Cake mix basics

Cake mixes have come a long way since first introduced during the 1920s. Early on, they were rejected by homemakers, because they didn’t produce reliable results and weren’t considered “homemade.” Today, cake mixes are well-loved and more common than “scratch” cakes. Look for mixes in traditional 18.25 ounce (2 layer) and 9 ounce (1 layer) packages. The “best if used by” date stamped on the box indicates freshness. Most mixes keep about 1 year if stored in a cool, dry place. Not only do they make delicious cakes- they also work well for other baked products.

A fun and inexpensive family activity is to have each child select a cake mix in her favorite flavor at your local Walmart. At home, she’ll or he’ll enjoy helping you bake; and he or she will feel a sense of accomplishment as the family enjoys the special dessert.

Frost a cake like a pro

  1. Place cake on serving plate. To be sure you’ll keep the plate frosting-free, tuck strips of wax paper between the cake and the edges of the plate.
  2. Frost the cake.
  3. Use a flexible metal pastry spatula to create decorative swirls or a smooth finish. If embellishing or writing a message on cake frosting, first use a toothpick to draw your design, then pipe the frosting or decorating gel over the lines. Remove the strips of wax paper.

Cake mix is versatile and fun to use. Keep your family’s favorite flavors on hand in your pantry so you are ready to bake on a moment’s notice. You’ll be able to whip up great desserts in no time or deliver a last minute batch of cookies for a school or church event.

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  1. Mixing bowls
    Whether you use plastic or stainless steel, a good set of mixing bowls is necessary for preparing everything from cakes and pies to cookies and pastries.
  2. Measuring cups and spoons
    Why risk ruining your tasty treats? Don’t wing it — measure everything according to the recipe for perfect results every time.
  3. Electric stand or hand mixer
    Stirring ingredients on your own can be time-consuming (and painful after a while). Use an electric mixer to evenly blend both dry and liquid components.
  4. Spatula
    flip and spread batter with a flexible, durable spatula. This versatile utensil can also be used as a scoop.
  5. Whisk
    Nobody likes to bite into a lumpy, uneven dessert! Smooth, aerate, blend and whip liquid ingredients with a sturdy whisk.
  6. Rolling pin
    A rolling pin is used to shape and flatten dough. Don’t make pie crusts or Christmas cookies without using one.
  7. Cookie cutters
    Kids love making holiday cookies with festive cookie cutters. Just roll dough onto a flat surface and let the fun begin!
  8. Baking pans
    Nonstick pans help your treats stay intact and looking pretty — with just a little nudge, they’ll pop right out of the pan.
  9. Cooling rack
    To avoid burn marks after baking, don’t set hot pans on your countertop. Cool your tasty creations on a sturdy cooling rack.
  10. Decorating set
    Dress up your delicacies with seasonal colors and shapes. Use a decorating set to add final touches to your sweet treats.

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Welcome to Cooking 101. Here are some culinary terms and techniques that will have you cooking like a pro in no time. If you already know your way around the kitchen, scan the list for a quick review.

Baste

Spoon on or brush food with melted butter or other liquids as it cooks. Basting adds flavor and color to foods.

Chop

Hold large knife with one hand; rest the other hand on the top for control. Chop in large, uniform pieces using quick, heavy, rocking motions.

Coat

Dip or roll foods such as chicken or fish in seasoned breadcrumbs or flour. The food may be dipped in a liquid, such as beaten eggs or milk, before it is coated with the dry mixture.

Deglaze

Cook like a TV Chef with this easy technique for creating a pan sauce. Remove sauteed meat and excess fat from a pan after cooking and add a small amount of liquid to the pan — usually wine or stock. The resulting mixture is the base for a sauce to go with the meat.

Julienne

Cut foods into matchstick-thin strips for a restaurant-style side dish or garnish. Start by slicing off the bottom of the food to keep it from rocking as you cut; then cut food into 1/8-inch slices. Cut across the strips to create long, thin pieces in the desired length.

Mince

Cut food, such as herbs, into very small pieces using the same motion as chopping.

Pan fry

Use this easy technique to cook pieces of meat, seafood or large pieces of vegetables in a hot pan, turning only once or twice.

Puree

Finely mash food to a smooth, thick consistency. Popular purees include sweet potato and raspberry.

Roast

Oven-cook food in an uncovered pan for a well-browned exterior and a moist interior.

Saute

Cook food in a small amount of oil or other fat in a skillet or saute pan over direct heat for a fast, healthy meal.

Sear

Brown meat quickly over very high heat either in a skillet under a broiler or in a very hot oven to seal in the juices.

Simmer

Heat a liquid just below the boiling point so that small bubbles are visible on the surface.

Whisk

Use a whisk, a must-have kitchen utensil, to whip (incorporate air into) ingredients such as cream, eggs and sauces.

The more you know about cooking, the easier and more fun it is to create great meals in your kitchen. Be sure to use these terms and techniques as the foundation for a whole new cooking adventure.

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You don't need to know the muffin man to enjoy fabulous muffins! Muffins are quick and easy to make and can be enjoyed any time of day — with meals or on their own. Here’s how to make the perfect muffin every time:

Preparing muffin pans

  • Grease muffin cups or use muffin cup liners.
  • To create those perfectly rounded muffin tops you see in bakeries, grease only the bottoms and halfway up the sides of the muffin cup.
  • Do not grease any muffin cup that will not be used. The grease will burn onto the pan. Instead, fill empty cups with 2 to 3 tablespoons of water to keep the pan from warping.

Preparing the batter

  • Start with ingredients at room temperature.
  • To make fluffier muffins, substitute buttermilk or yogurt for the milk in the recipe and add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to the dry ingredients for each cup of buttermilk or yogurt used.
  • Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl using a whisk and then make a well in the center using the back of a wooden spoon. Whisk the wet ingredients together in a separate bowl, pour into the well of the dry ingredients and gently mix together.
  • Do not overmix the batter; overmixing produces a tough texture. To combine the wet and dry ingredients, use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon and gently stir just until the dry ingredients are moist. Do not try to smooth out the batter; it should have some lumps.
  • For uniform muffins, use a measuring cup or ice-cream scoop to fill the muffin cups.
  • Do not fill muffin cups more than three-quarters full.

Ways to add extra nutrition

  • Add dried or fresh fruit or heart-healthy nuts after mixing the wet and dry ingredients. Just give the batter one more gentle stir after the addition.
  • Replace half the regular flour with whole-wheat pastry flour.

Baking

  • Muffins are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Set muffin pan on wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes before removing muffins from cups.
  • To remove warm muffins from the pan, run a dinner knife around the edges, then under the bottom and tilt it out of the pan.

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Title:  Your ultimate baking kit: 10 must-have items  

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  1. Mixing bowls
    Whether you use plastic or stainless steel, a good set of mixing bowls is necessary for preparing everything from cakes and pies to cookies and pastries.
  2. Measuring cups and spoons
    Why risk ruining your tasty treats? Don’t wing it — measure everything according to the recipe for perfect results every time.
  3. Electric stand or hand mixer
    Stirring ingredients on your own can be time-consuming (and painful after a while). Use an electric mixer to evenly blend both dry and liquid components.
  4. Spatula
    flip and spread batter with a flexible, durable spatula. This versatile utensil can also be used as a scoop.
  5. Whisk
    Nobody likes to bite into a lumpy, uneven dessert! Smooth, aerate, blend and whip liquid ingredients with a sturdy whisk.
  6. Rolling pin
    A rolling pin is used to shape and flatten dough. Don’t make pie crusts or Christmas cookies without using one.
  7. Cookie cutters
    Kids love making holiday cookies with festive cookie cutters. Just roll dough onto a flat surface and let the fun begin!
  8. Baking pans
    Nonstick pans help your treats stay intact and looking pretty — with just a little nudge, they’ll pop right out of the pan.
  9. Cooling rack
    To avoid burn marks after baking, don’t set hot pans on your countertop. Cool your tasty creations on a sturdy cooling rack.
  10. Decorating set
    Dress up your delicacies with seasonal colors and shapes. Use a decorating set to add final touches to your sweet treats.

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Title:  Baking primer  

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Even if you don’t often bake, your goodies can rival those from the corner bakery. The following tips and tricks are the keys to sweet success.

1. Unless recipe directions state otherwise, always preheat the oven before beginning to bake. If using a glass pan for bar cookies or quick breads, reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees.

2. Plan for easy cleanup from the start. Spray muffin pans and cookie sheets with nonstick baking spray that contains flour instead of greasing or flouring by hand. These sprays are formulated to reach every nook and cranny of even the most intricate bakeware.

3. To avoid eggshells in your batter, use a separate bowl for cracking eggs, then check for shell pieces before adding the eggs to your mixture.

4. When you have more than one pan in the oven, turn pans at least once to ensure even cooking. Allow space between pans for uniform results.

And remember, a full oven may require a few extra minutes of cooking time.

5. Freeze bar treats and cookies wrapped in layers of waxed paper and stored in a heavy duty zipper top freezer bag. Add icing or glaze after removing from the freezer.

6. Has that baking powder been in the cupboard since the last year? Test it to determine if it’s still good. Simply mix 2 teaspoons with 1 cup of hot water. If the mixture bubbles immediately, it’s good. If bubbling takes a little while or doesn’t happen at all, the baking powder’s leavening ability has been lost and the product needs to be replaced.

7. Measure ingredients accurately for best results. Dry ingredients should only be sifted when specified in a recipe. Otherwise, stir lightly and don’t pack or press. A trick of the trade for mess-free measuring is to store flour and sugar in wide mouthed airtight containers so that when you level off the excess it falls back into the bin, not all over the counter. Use marked glass or plastic cups for measuring liquids. Spray cups with nonstick cooking spray before measuring sticky ingredients such as honey or molasses for easy release and cleanup.

8. A shortcut to melting ingredients is to use the microwave. If melting butter, heat on high– about 45 seconds for 2 tablespoons, 1-1/2 minutes for a half-cup. When melting chocolate squares or chips, heat on medium- about 1-1/2 minutes for each ounce; stir until smooth.

9. When rolling cookie dough, spray nonstick cooking spray on your hands, the rolling surface, the rolling pin and the dough. Also, spray the cookie cutters so dough releases easily. Then, stagger dough on baking sheets instead of aligning in rows. You’ll fit more on each sheet without cookies spreading into one another as they bake.

Whether you are baking cookies, cakes or pies, these tips and tricks will save time and deliver delicious results. Happy baking!

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Title:  Baking made healthy  

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Oh, how sweets can satisfy a craving. Unfortunately, too many cakes, pies, muffins, cupcakes and cookies can cause weight gain. The good news is that it’s possible to enjoy the occasional baked treat without ruining a week’s worth of healthy eating. It’s all in how you prepare that treat.

Swapping ingredients

Baking healthier sweets means replacing high-fat butter, shortening and sour cream with more nutritious ingredients. Food experts suggest the following substitutions to make your baked goods healthier:

  • Boost the fiber in pancakes, muffins and quick breads by adding ground flax seed
  • Add healthy whole grains to your diet by substituting 1/3 cup of bran or whole-wheat flour for 2/3 cup of all-purpose flour
  • Reduce sugar by 1/4 to 1/3 in baked goods and desserts. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 cup, use 2/3 cup. Add cinnamon, vanilla or almond extract to create sweetness. Tip: Do not eliminate all sugar in yeast breads because sugar works with the yeast to make the bread rise.
  • Replace half of a recipe’s high-fat ingredients, such as butter, margarine, sour cream, heavy cream, chocolate, oil and shortening with mashed ripe bananas or puréed prunes
  • Instead of using one whole egg, try 1/4 cup fat-free, cholesterol-free egg substitute, or two egg whites
  • Swap one cup of oil for one cup of unsweetened applesauce
  • Trade one tablespoon of margarine with three tablespoons of ground flax seed
  • Substitute one cup of sour cream with one cup of plain yogurt
  • Exchange one ounce of chocolate with three tablespoons of cocoa
  • Replace one cup of heavy cream with one cup of evaporated skim milk

If you make a few of these simple substitutions, you can have your healthy cake and eat it, too!

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