Chapter One: Basic Nutrients
All Divas know that sensible, healthy eating requires a good balance of food. A diet that contains carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals, plus plenty of fiber and water, will ensure that the body continues to function correctly.
This includes all sugars, starches and fiber. They are referred to as simple carbohydrates because they have a simple structure that can be broken down by the body easily.
Complex carbohydrates are found in whole grains like oats, corn, barley and in fresh fruits and veggies. Their complex structure takes more time to break down and gives a more steady supply of energy to the bloodstream.
Fiber cannot be digested, but it is still very important in the diet because it provides bulk to assist the passage of the food through the intestines.
Protein is necessary for body growth and repair. Any excess is used to provide the body with energy.
Proteins have a complex structure composed of amino acids and essential amino acids which are the building structures of life. They can be both animal and vegetable although animal amino acids have a higher biological value.
Oils and fats are present in the diet as the most concentrated form of energy. They are available as visible fats, such as butter, margarine, oils, and fat on meat, but also s invisible fat in cheese, cookies, cakes, chips, and nuts.
Bad fats are the saturated fatty acids found in animal fats such as butter and cheese and in animal products such as sausages, bacon, pork, lamb, hamburgers, eggs, and whole milk.
Good fats (unsaturated…poly and mono) are believed to reduce cholesterol levels; these are available in corn oil, olive oil, soy, and sunflower oils, and nut oils.
Vitamins help to regulate important body processes. Apart from vitamin D, all the vitamins must be supplied in the diet because the body is unable to create them.
Chapter Two: Getting Started Baking in The Kitchen
All Divas should have these essential items before they begin their journey through the land of baked goods. (One of my favorite places to be)
Measuring cups, mixing bowls, a wooden spoon, a few baking pans and a rolling pin are all the items you need to begin baking. You can gradually add other tools to these basics.
- Measuring: For success baking, it is essential to have accurate measuring scales or cups and a set of measuring spoons. Electronic or balance scales are more accurate than measuring cups. It is important to bear in mind that spoon measures are always level unless otherwise stated in the recipe.
- Mixing, Beating, and Blending Bowls: You will need a selection of bowls of various sizes. It is good to have the right bowl for the right job….glass, metal, or plastic.
- Spoons: Wooden spoons in a variety of sizes are essential for beating ingredients together.
- Spatulas: Plastic or silicone spatulas are ideal for scraping out bowls with the minimum of waste. Also used for folding in flour.
- Whisks and Mixers: A hand-held electric mixer is sufficient for cakes while a freestanding mixer is useful for those who like to bake in larger quantities.
- Food Processors: They are great for rubbing fat into flour quickly and efficiently
- Bakeware: It is advisable to invest in a few good quality baking pans. They last an extremely long time, if cared for properly, and are less likely to twist or buckle in the oven and cause sticking or burning.
Pans and sheets that Divas need:
- Cookie Sheet
- 7”/18 cm shallow cake pan
- 8”/20 cm shallow cake pan
- 9:/23 cm shallow cake pan
- 8”/20cm deep loose-bottom pan
- 8”/20 cm square cake pan
- 8” x 4” x 2”/20 x 10 x 5 cm loaf pan
- 9” x 5” x 3”/23 x 13 x 8 cm loaf pan
- 12 hole muffin pan
- Jelly roll pan
- 8”/20 cm tart pan
Muffins: A set of 12 mini-muffin pans or a regular muffin pan will be useful for making small cakes, tarts, and muffins, and for individual pies. 2 sets of 12 make for more efficient baking.
Quiche pans: Quiche pans, or tart pans, are very useful for sweet and savory dishes. Always use steel pans, because those made from porcelain or glass do not allow the food to cook properly.
Loose-bottom pans are the best because they allow you to remove the pan easily before serving. An 8”/20 cm quiche pan is the most useful size, but if you have a large family or cook for six or more people, a 12”/30 cm pan would be helpful.
Pie plates: Pie plates need to be quite deep with a good rim so that the pastry will be supported. They come in a number of sizes, usually oval or round, and can be glazed ceramic or glass.
Some are made from enamel and tend to be oblong in shape. Larger ones need to be used with a pie funnel to support the pastry in the center.
Wire rack: A wire rack is particularly useful if you intend to bake bread and cakes. A rack allows the steam to escape from the baked items and prevents them from becoming too soggy.
As soon as a cake is baked, turn it out of the pan onto an oven mitt-protected hand and then place it, bottom down, on the wire rack. This way the attractive crust on the top is maintained.
Flour strainer or sieve: A flour sifter makes it easier to sift flour onto pastry boards, dough, and rolling pins because it controls the amount of flour you use. Sifting flour is important, not only to make sure there are no lumps but also to introduce air.
A stainless steel strainer is best, of a medium size. A very small strainer is useful for sprinkling confectioners’ sugar over cakes and desserts, or you could use a tea strainer.
Mixing bowls: These bowls are available in stainless steel, copper, glass, plastic, and glazed ceramic. The choice is up to you. A large plastic bowl with a rubber base is particularly good, because the rubber base keeps the bowl steady when mixing.
A metal bowl is good for whisking egg whites because it keeps cool and the surface can be kept absolutely smooth and clean. You will need a variety of sizes for different tasks, such as beating eggs and whipping cream.
A selection of small bowls is ideal for assembling your prepared ingredients before starting to cook
Pastry boards: Traditionally a large board made from wood was used to knead dough. It was also traditional to have a piece of marble on which to roll out pastry because it allows the pastry to be moved around easily.
Rolling pins: In order to roll pastry well you need a heavy, smooth rolling pin. Make sure the pin is of adequate length and has a smooth finish.
Pins can be bought in a variety of materials: wood is traditional but you can buy metal, glass, and ceramic, which are cooler.
Pastry brushes: These brushes are useful for all kinds of jobs in the kitchen, such as brushing excess flour from the pastry and for glazing with egg or milk.
They are also used for greasing pans and brushing oil on meat and poultry before and during cooking. They are available in all sizes and in various materials.
Paint brushes are often used these days because they have a broad, flat brush, which covers the surface well. It is a good idea to have a very small one and a larger one for different tasks.
Pie weights: You can buy ceramic and aluminum “beans,” which have good weight and will last forever.
Cookie and baking sheets: A good, heavyweight cookie sheet is a must. It is not worth buying a cheap sheet because it will buckle in the oven and possibly spill the contents.
Large cookie sheets should have only one upturned edge so that you can slip a large or delicate item on and off easily. Make sure the sheets are not too big for the oven-leave a gap all around in order for the air to circulate properly.
Cake pans: You need to decide what types of cake you are interested in making because there are so many shapes and sizes of pan available.
- Wheat Flour: Most commonly used flour for baking.
- All-Purpose Flour: Has the bran and wheat germ removed and is then fortified with vitamins. Soft, all-purpose flour is made from wheat with a low gluten content. Ideal for cakes, cookies, pies, and doughs. It is also used for most bread and yeast cooking.
- Self-Rising Flour: all-purpose white flour with baking powder added to raise the dough.
- Whole Wheat Flour: It has been milled from the whole of the wheat grain. It is a strong flour for bread.
Other flours such as brown flour, malted flour, corn flour, and buckwheat, rye, rice, and chestnut flours are also sometimes used in recipes.
Most sugar is produced from either sugar cane or sugar beet. Each one has its own particular qualities.
- Unrefined Sugar: Made from sugar cane and have a higher mineral, and vitamin content than refined sugar.
- Granulated Sugar: It’s used to achieve a crunchy texture in some cooking and cakes made by the rub-in method.
- Superfine Sugar: A fine crystal of sugar and is the most used in baking.
- Golden Granulated Sugar: Superfine and golden confectioners’ sugar are unrefined forms of the refined sugars.
- Molasses Sugar: A dark, fine-granulated sugar. It is used for fruit cakes as well as other recipes. Store it in a tightly sealed container at room temperature or in the refrigerator.
- Raw Brown Sugar: A large, coarse-grained brown sugar. Made from either refined or unrefined sugar.
- Light and Dark Brown Sugar: They are usually refined white sugar tossed in molasses or syrup.
- Confectioners’’ Sugar/Powdered Sugar: Fine and powdery and dissolves quickly. Used in pastry, frostings, fillings, and cookies.
- Butter: Produces the best flavor in baking. Best to use unsalted butter and at room temperature.
- Lard: It is made from pork fat or scalded vegetable oil.
- Margarine: Others prefer the flavor of margarine. Block or soft is used in baking. Stay away from low-fat margarine as they contain a high percentage of water.
- Shortening/White Vegetable Fat: These are the best for pastry making. A mix with butter improves the bland flavor.
- Size and storage is very important in baking. Put in refrigerator and bring to room temperature when using.
- Baking Powder: A mixture of tartar and baking soda, when in contact with moisture, releases gas to make the food rise.
- Baking Soda: Releases food-rising gas when in contact with acid. Always add other ingredients before added liquid.
- Yeast: Single-cell organism that transforms flour sugar to food-rising gas
Chapter Three: Kitchen Hygiene
Here is how every Diva keeps her kitchen clean and hygienic while cooking :
Keep food for as short a time as possible before cooking or serving, and make sure that it is stored at a safe temperature. A refrigerator should operate at below 41°F/5°C.
Cover all food in the refrigerator with plastic wrap so that one food will not contaminate another. Be especially careful of any meat products, which might leak blood onto other foods.
Check expiration dates on food packaging before cooking. Thaw all frozen food thoroughly before cooking. Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator instead of at room temperature.
- Carefully wash any foods that need cleaning and dry well with paper towel.
- Wash your own hands frequently when preparing food and use a separate hand towel not a dish towel.
- Keep counters clean and use different cutting boards for cooked and uncooked foods, particularly meats. Wash them well and then rinse with diluted bleach between each use.
- Wash knives and other kitchen utensils in hot water and soap between each use. Keep dish cloths clean and make sure that you change them often.
- Keep trash cans covered and empty them frequently, disinfecting regularly.
- Make sure food is cooked thoroughly and is served piping hot as soon as indicated.
- When cooked food needs to be kept, make sure it is cooled quickly, covered, and placed in the refrigerator as soon as possible. Food left at room temperature will breed harmful bacteria.
- Only reheat food once; if it is not then used up, throw it away; It is safer than risking illness. However, never reheat a marinade, especially one used for marinating meat.
Chapter Four: Commonly Used Kitchen Terms
Listed below are some commonly used kitchen terms that all Divas should know.
This means baking pastry shells without a filling so that the pastry is well cooked and crisp. The pie/quiche dish is lined with pie/pastry dough.
The dish is then covered by parchment paper or foil and weighed down with baking beans. The dough will cook without bubbling up. Remove paper and beans to cook a while longer so it dries thoroughly.
This refers to mixing food to add air and make it lighter. A fork, a mixer or a wooden spoon are ideal for this. It is used for eggs, custards, cakes, and sauces. It removes any lumps and makes the consistency smooth.
You can use a mixer for this as it’s easier on the wrist!
This refers to combining ingredients together, usually with a spoon. It also refers to mixing/pureeing in a blender to remove lumps.
This means to pinch the pastry with a finger and thumb along the edges to ensure the pie is sealed.
This is one step on from cutting. The food is divided into small pieces by more than one cut by slicing in one direction and then slicing in another.
Hold the tip of the blade down with one hand and move the handle of the knife up and down with your other hand as you chop into the herb, or vegetable, moving from left to right and back again so that you work all over the food.
Rough chopping produces approximately 1″ pieces whereas fine chopping produces much smaller pieces. An even size ensures the food cooks evenly.
This technique is used for crushing herbs, garlic, and making crumbs. For herbs and garlic, press down on the flat side of a knife. For crumbs, simply put food in a large plastic bag, seal and crush with a rolling pin.
Cutting is using a knife to prepare meat, fruit, and vegetables. Always use sharp knives to avoid cutting yourself.
Dredging means sprinkling dough with flour or other powder before rolling it out. Don’t forget to dust the rolling pin and board so the dough won’t stick.
This refers to the process of adding flour or another powder into a mixture with a gentle movement. Use a metal spoon or plastic spatula to cut through the mixture in a figure-eight movement. This allows the flour to combine without losing the air in the mixture.
A glaze is a finish given to pastry and bread before baking. It is usually milk or a beaten egg or sometimes a water and sugar mixture.
Grinding reduces foods to a powder or very small particles for use in recipes. A mortar and pestle is suitable for this. It also means chopping food, such as lean beef, pork, lamb, chicken, or turkey, very finely.
A hand or electric meat grinder or food processor are suitable for this.
This technique is used in bread making. The dough is kneaded to develop the gluten in the flour so that it will hold its shape when risen. The dough is pounded on a lightly floured board until it is smooth and elastic.
Kneading involves a technique that uses the heel of the hand to pull and stretch the dough. It can also be done in a free-standing mixer with a dough hook.
This is soaking food in a marinade to tenderize it and add flavor. It is used for meat, poultry, and game. The meat is covered with a mixture of oil, wine, or vinegar, and flavorings such garlic and herbs. The food marinates from a few hours to a few days depending on the food.
This usually refers to potatoes and other root vegetables. Cooked vegetables are mashed, using a fork, a potato masher, or an electric mixer. This makes them smooth and light. Other flavors and butter, milk or cream can be incorporated at the same time.
This is the term for knocking the air out of the bread dough after its first rising and then gently kneading for 1 minute. The dough is then gently shaped before a second rising or “proving” in a warm place.
This is a method of making cakes, pastry, and bread where the fat is rubbed into the flour using the tips of the fingers, lifting the flour high out of the bowl so that the air will be trapped in the mixture. This makes the mixture lighter.
A method of making light cuts on the surface of food to help it cook more quickly, to reduce fat, and to make food look more attractive.
This is the same as straining but refers to dry ingredients, for example sugar and flour, to remove lumps and to add air to the mixture.
This is a method of rubbing cooked food through a strainer to form a puree. It can also refer to straining food after cooking to remove the cooking water.
This is beating raw meat with a rolling pin or a meat mallet to soften the fibers and make the meat nice and tender before frying or broiling.
This is the technique used for poultry and game whereby the bird is pulled into shape and then held with skewers or by string to maintain its shape during cooking.
This is a means of adding air to a mixture, usually using a hand-held mixer on high speed.
This is another method used to add air, but it is usually used for a lighter mixture, for example egg whites or cream. A wire whisk or electric mixer are perfect for this.
Chapter Five: Cooking Methods
Below are listed some cooking methods that every Diva should know:
This is the term used for cooking food in the oven by dry heat. It is also the process for preparing baked goods.
The cooking juices and fat are spooned over the food to keep it moist, to add flavor and to improve the appearance of the finished dish.
There are 2 reasons you would blanch your vegetables. The first is to immerse food in boiling water for a few seconds and then into cold water in order to remove their skins.
The other is to prepare the vegetables for freezing by immersing the vegetables in boiling water for a short period, and then into cold water to stop the cooking process.
This is cooking food in a liquid at 2 12°F/100°C, the absolute boiling point. Foods cooked in this way are eggs, vegetables, rice, fish, meat, and pasta.
A long, slow, moist method of cooking used for cuts of meat, poultry, and game that are too tough to roast. The food is browned in oil and then cooked with vegetables in a casserole with a close-fitting lid. The dish can then be cooked in a low oven.
A very quick and easy method of cooking. The food is cooked by radiant heat, which makes sure that the outside of the food is well cooked and browned while the inside remains moist.
A variety of tender meats and vegetables can be used but must be of good quality. Cooking on the barbecue is the outdoor equivalent of broiling and is suitable for all the above foods although it produces a smokier flavor.
Another, more modern name for braising, taken from the name of the cooking vessel-an ovenproof casserole dish with a tight-fitting lid. Casseroling also includes stews, in which the pieces of food are often cut into small pieces and more liquid is used.
The process of cooking food in hot fat. There are three main ways to fry food: pan-frying or sautéing, shallow-fat frying, and deep-fat frying. These have a wonderful flavor and give a delicious color.
- Pan frying: A more modern method of cooking. It is devised to cook food quickly and easily in a healthier way that uses very little fat.
- The food is added to the hot skillet, either with or without a little hot fat, and cooked on one side; the heat quickly seals the food and keeps it moist and tender.
- It is then turned over and cooked on the other side until cooked through. Pan fried food should be served immediately for the best flavor.
- Shallow-fat frying: This method is used for coated foods like meats with flour or breadcrumbs. A good vegetable oil such as corn oil in a shallow skillet. The thicker the food the more oil you will need to prevent the food from sticking.
- Use a high temperature to seal the food and it won’t absorb too much oil. Turn food and cook. Remove from skillet with a metal spatula or slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Best served while still hot.
- Deep-fat frying: This cooks the food while totally immersed in hot oil. You need an oil that can be heated to a high temperature without smoking.
- Foods deep-fried need a protective coating like breadcrumbs or batter. You need a deep, heavy pan and a wire basket to lift the food out.
- Caution: It is a dangerous method of coking because a very high temperature is needed and many fires in the home are caused by deep-fat pans catching fire. A better method is to have an electric deep-fryer, which is temperature controlled so it is safer and easier to use.
Nowadays, the expression “to griddle” refers to a ridged grill pan similar to a skillet. It has a ridge surface, which gives the food brown stripes. It produces very appetizing food and is a healthy way of cooking because the food needs only a light brushing of oil.
A gentle method of cooking food in a liquid at simmering point (see below). Poaching is suitable for small pieces of fish, chicken including whole chickens, eggs and fruit.
This is a method of cooking food in the oven, like baking, but it is usually used for meat, poultry, and vegetables.
Roasting often requires added fat to protect the food and moisten it while it is cooked at a relatively high temperature.
Roasted meats are cooked in a fairly shallow roasting pan to allow the air to circulate and the surface of the meat to brown. Large, tender cuts of meat and tender poultry and game are suitable for roasting.
This method is similar to frying, but sautéing usually means “moving” the food at the same time. Suitable for a variety of vegetables.
A little oil in a skillet or sauté pan, with the vegetables that are finely chopped need to be kept moving so they don’t burn. Now also known as stir-frying.
A method of cooking in liquid like boiling. Boiling liquid has large bubbles and the surface is very agitated, but liquid at simmering point has just a gentle stream of small bubbles hardly breaking the surface.
This technique involves cooking food in the steam of boiling water. It is an economical and healthy method of cooking because more than one food can be steamed and there is no immersion in water that will strip nutrients from the food.
Bamboo steamers are now very popular and inexpensive. They can be used for fish, poultry, and vegetables. Another type of steamer is the small, folding metal steamer. It is small and so easy to store and will fit inside any pan.
Leave vegetables in until they are tender. Steaming is also used for desserts because steaming produces a lighter, softer dessert than one that is baked.
This long, slow method of cooking is very like braising. That is to say, cooking in a liquid.
It is used for tougher cuts of meat, older chickens, and game and is usually cut up into small pieces and cooked in a large quantity of liquid that needs to be reduced before serving with the meat.
Stir-frying means sautéing a variety of foods together at a high temperature. In order to achieve this, you need to prepare the meat or fish and the vegetables in advance. Once it starts to cook it takes very little until it’s finished.
Make sure all the pieces are the same size so that they will cook evenly. If you do not have a wok, a large skillet will suffice. Heat a little oil in the pan and make sure it is really hot before cooking. Cook a small amount at a time so the foods will fry and not steam.
The best foods cooked this way are thin strips of beef or pork, strips of chicken breast portions, shrimp, scallops, slices of salmon, flounder, or monk fish.
Use plenty of vegetables that are popular in Chinese cooking, such as beansprouts, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, cabbage, mushrooms, bell peppers, scallions and more. Noodles are often added toward the end of the cooking time.
Chapter Six: Measurements & Equivalents
Every Diva should be able to convert easily. Here’s a list of conversions for you to keep on hand!
|1/16 teaspoon||a dash||.25 ml|
|⅛ teaspoon or less||a pinch||.5 ml|
|¼ teaspoon||15 drops||1 ml|
|½ teaspoon||30 drops||2 ml|
|1 teaspoon||⅓ tablespoon||⅙ ounce||5 ml|
|3 teaspoons||1 tablespoon||½ ounce||14 grams|
|1 tablespoon||3 teaspoons||½ ounce||14 grams|
|2 tablespoons||⅛ cup||1 ounce||28 grams|
|4 tablespoons||¼ cup||2 ounces||56.7 grams|
|5 tablespoons pus 1 teaspoon||⅓ cup||2.6 ounces||75.6 grams|
|8 tablespoons||½ cup||4 ounces||¼ pound||113 grams|
|10 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons||⅔ cup||5.2 ounces||151 grams|
|12 tablespoons||¾ cup||6 ounces||⅓ pound||170 grams|
|16 tablespoons||1 cup||8 ounces||½ pound||225 grams|
|32 tablespoons||2 cups||16 ounces||1 pound||454 grams|
|64 tablespoons||4 cups or 1 quart||32 ounces||2 pounds||907 grams|
Liquid or Volume Measurements
|measure||1 ½ or 1.5 fluid ounces||3 tablespoons||45 ml|
|1 cup||8 fluid ounces||½ pint||16 tablespoons||237 ml|
|2 cups||16 fluid ounces||1 pint||32 tablespoons||474 ml|
|4 cups||32 fluid ounces||1 quart||64 tablespoons||946 l|
|2 pints||32 fluid ounces||1 quart||4 cups||946 l|
|4 quarts||128 fluid ounces||1 gallon||16 cups||3 ¾ l|
|8 quarts||256 fluid ounces or one peck||2 gallons||32 cups||7 ½ l|
|4 pecks||one bushel|
|dash||less than ¼ teaspoon|