30 September 2008

Couscous with Broccoli

2 medium plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
¼ cup green onions, roughly chopped
¼ cup raisins
¼ tsp dried basil
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tablesp olive oil
2 cups water
2 ½ cups broccoli florets
1 ¾ cups couscous

  • In a mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes with the green onions, raisins, basil, cumin, pepper and olive oil. Set aside.
  • Place the water and broccoli florets in a large saucepan and add the tomato mixture to the saucepan, then stir in the couscous. Cover and remove from the heat. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  • Fluff lightly with a fork before serving.
  • Makes 6 serving.

Chicken Broccoli Soup

2 10-3/4 oz Cans condensed cream of chicken soup
2 cups Milk
1-1/2 cups cut broccoli
1 cup Cubed cooked chicken
1/2 cup Finely shredded carrot
1 tsp Dijon-style mustard

1/2 tsp Dried basil, crushed
1/2 cup Shredded cheddar cheese

  • In large saucepan stir together soup, milk, broccoli, chicken, carrot, mustard, and basil. Bring mixture to boiling then reduce heat.
  • Meanwhile, prepare dumplings. Spoon batter in 4 or 5 mounds onto bubbling mixture in saucepan. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer 10-12 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into a dumpling comes out clean. Sprinkle dumplings with cheese.
  • Dumplings: In a small bowl, combine 2/3 cup all purpose flour and 1 tsp. baking powder. Add 1/4 cup milk and 2 Tbsp cooking oil. Stir just until moistened.
  • Makes 4 serving.

Broccoli Cheese Quesadillas

2 c. Shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 c. Finely chopped fresh broccoli
2 tbsp. Picante sauce or salsa
4 Corn or flour tortillas (6 to 7 inch)
2 tsp. Butter, divided

  • Combine cheese, broccoli, and picante sauce in small bowl; mix well.
  • Spoon 1/4 of the cheese mixture onto 1 side of each tortilla; fold tortilla over filling.
  • Melt 1/2 tsp. butter in 10 inch nonstick skillet over medium heat.
  • Add 2 quesadillas
  • Cook about 3 minutes on each side or until tortillas are golden brown and cheese is melted.
  • Repeat with remaining butter and quesadillas. Cool completely.
  • Makes 4 servings.

Spinach Calzones

1 tsp yeast
1 tablesp oney
1 cup warm water
1tsp salt
2-3 cups flour

2 lb ricotta cheese
3 minced garlic cloves
1/2 cup minced onions
1 lb fresh spinach (10 oz pkg of frozen spinach, thawed, works fine)
3 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoon butter
1 dash nutmeg


Filling :
  • If using fresh spinach, wash, stem and finely chop, steam it quickly on medium high heat, adding no additional water. When wilted and deep green, remove to a bowl with a slotted spoon. (if using frozen - thaw and squeeze out as much moisture as you can).
  • Saute onion and garlic in butter till translucent and soft.
  • Combine all ingredients, mix well, salt and pepper to taste.
Dough :
  • Soften together yeast, water and honey.
  • Add salt and flour to make a soft dough. Knead 10 minutes, or till smooth and elastic, adding flour if necessary to keep from being sticky.
  • Cover and let rise till doubled (about 1 hour - less if using rapid rise yeast).
  • Punch down. Divide into six sections and roll out in rounds 1/4 inch thick.
  • Fill with 1/2-3/4 cup filling, placing filling on one half of the circle, leaving a 1/2 inch rim.
  • Moisten the rim with a little water, fold the empty side over, and crimp the edges.
  • Prick here and there with a fork to allow steam to escape.
  • Bake on an oiled tray (I use a baking stone) in a preheated 450 oven for 15-20 minutes or till crisp and lightly browned.
  • Brush each pastry with a little butter as it comes from the oven. Makes 6 serving.

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Manicotti

1 pound manicotti
1 pound spinach leaves
2 cups low-fat ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs

salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper
nutmeg to taste
3 cups favorite tomato sauce

  • Cook the manicotti according to the directions on the package.
  • Heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Wash the spinach and add it to the skillet with just the water that clings to the spinach leaves. Toss the spinach until it is wilted and remove from heat.
  • Transfer the spinach to a food processor and puree. Add the ricotta cheese, egg and Parmesan cheese and puree again. Transfer the spinach mixture to a mixing bowl, add the bread crumbs and generously season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  • Using a spoon, fill the manicotti with the spinach mixture.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Spread 1/2 cup of tomato sauce on the bottom of a large baking dish. Add the filled manicotti in a single layer and cover with the remaining tomato sauce. Cover the entire dish with foil.
  • Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the edges of the dish are bubbly, about 10 more minutes

Spinach Pie

2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 cup red bell pepper, sliced
1 lb. ricotta cheese
9 ounces frozen spinach, drained
4 eggs

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Heat oil in a heavy nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Sauté mushrooms and peppers 5-7 minutes, or until softened. Cool.
  • Blend all ingredients together and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Pour into a buttered 13x9 inch pan. Bake 40 minutes.
  • This recipe serves 4 people. Due to the nature of this recipe, it adjusts the number of servings in multiples of 4 only.

Spinach Squares

1/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup milk
1 tsp baking soda
1 package frozen spinach, thawed, drained and chopped
8 ounces monterey jack cheese, cubed
3 eggs
1 cup flour

  • Combine eggs, milk, flour, and baking powder. Beat well.
  • Add spinach and cheese; mix well.
  • Pour melted butter into a pan.
  • Pour spinach mixture over butter and combine. Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes.
  • Cool it before cutting into squares

09 September 2008

Finding The Affordable Kitchen Counters

Laminate countertops have an undeserved reputation as the stuff you settle for if you can't spend the $100+ per linear foot for solid surfacing and natural stone. At just $15 to $30 per linear foot, good quality laminates are easier on your budget, but they have much more going for them than price. They also withstand years of use and abuse, and can turn a rundown kitchen into a showplace.

Laminate counters are formed from layers of decorative and kraft papers saturated with melamine resin and bonded together under pressure. You can also enhance the standard designs by customizing your project with a contrasting edge treatment.

The most crucial concerns with laminates are picking the right color and design for your kitchen and, because each counter is custom-built, making sure the countertop is assembled and installed correctly.

  • There are plenty of laminates to choose from. Consider Wilsonart and Formica, which produce 75% of the laminates sold in the US offers 230 different colors and patterns, and Formica stocks 96 solid colors along with dozens of patterns.
  • Formica takes the process a step further. Its selection system is based on matching counters with popular cabinet colors, because cabinets take up most of the visual space in a kitchen. The system suggests bold colors for the daring and neutral ones for more conservative homeowners and those who plan to sell their home in the next few years.
Finishes that work
Most of the colors are available in a variety of sheens. Glossy, shiny finishes make a kitchen sparkle. But remember! It's difficult to keep them clean. Stick with a tough, easy-to-clean matte finish for a working, family kitchen.

The counter
  1. Try using a neutral color or pattern for the counter and applying a bright accent color on the backsplash.
  2. Consider butting the counter against the wall and tiling up to the cabinets, using a tile that picks up one of the counter colors or a contrasting color. Another option is to install matching or contrasting laminate up the wall as the backsplash.
  3. Use the edge treatment as an accent area by adding a contrasting edge strip or even a different material.
  4. Determine if the samples go with your cabinets, floors and appliances. Leave them in place on your current counter for a day or two to see how they look under different lighting conditions.
Spotting Quality
The easiest and cheapest ways to buy a laminate counter is to pick one off the rack at a home center. The backsplash, counter and rounded front are all formed from one piece of laminate. Ready-made countertops cost the least (about $20 per linear foot), and selection is usually limited to white, off white and one or two wood grains.

You'll also have to cut the finished counter to the dimensions of your kitchen, creating an nfinished edge that must be covered with a matching strip of laminate if exposed.

There is another option is to buy the countertop through the kitchen department of a home center or from a kitchen dealer or designer. Your order will then be sent to a fabricator. Or you can seek out at a cabinet shop that makes its own tops. You're best off having the pro come to your house to measure.

Most fabricators deliver the finished countertops and offer installation. Whether you choose this option or not, you should carefully inspect the finished countertop before installation.
  1. Be sure the laminate is bonded to medium-density fiberboard. Because of its limited expansion and contraction, MDF won't crack or buckle the laminate.
  2. Check for a small section of MDF spanning the seams beneath the counter where two pieces of fiberboard come together. This piece adds strength.
  3. Check that the laminate is fully bonded to the substrate. Bonding is easy to spot on the edges. A hollow sound means there's incomplete adhesion.
  4. Look for rounded corners, including those in cutouts for the sink and cooktop. Corners are stress points, rounded ones are less likely to cause cracks in the laminate.
  5. Make sure the supporting cabinets are level so the countertop is, too.
  6. Avoiding scouring pads and cleansers, which will harm the surface.
  7. Always use a cutting board for chopping and slicing, and place hot pots and pans on trivets instead of directly onto the counter.

3 Things You Should Consider When Buying Kitchen Countertop

Kitchen countertops come in from stainless steel to soapstone, laminates to ceramics as many materials, finishes, and colors. Which one is fit for my kitchen? First, there are three factors you should weigh: cleaning, maintenance, and durability.

Scratches, burns and stains can be sanded out of solid surface counters. While ceramic tile needs regrouting every few years, Soapstone can withstand both hot and cold without cracking. Every countertop material has its aesthetic and practical benefits. Weigh them carefully against your space and budget.

This sea green rock has a reputation for strength and durability and was used on many of London's fine, historic buildings. Kirkstone tiles are widely used for flooring and tilling in showers or bathrooms as well as for kitchen counters and backsplashes. You can also use kirkstone in garden. It often used as pool surrounds or as pavers because it is durable and withstands all kinds of weather.

Kirkstone, found in the hills of the English Lake District, was originally cut from the hillside by hand, loaded onto wooden sleds and dragged down the slopes to pack horses who carried it along wild mountain tracks to the coast for shipping to Britain's major ports. Today, only a handful of quarries survive, but advances in industrial technology have created diamond-tipped machine tools that enable manufacturers to cut and shape the stone in new ways and increased its potential uses dramatically.

The key to Kirkstone's toughness is its unique geology, successive, dense layers of volcanic dust and ash that give the stone its beautiful natural markings. Almost as hard as granite, Kirkstone makes an excellent kitchen work surface.
Iit must be treated with care. Acidic spills, like citrus, red wine or cola, should be wiped up immediately to avoid surface dulling, and a wooden chopping block should be used to save the surface of the stone. Otherwise, cleaning with a damp cloth is all that the stone requires from day to day.

The Kirkstone countertop cost approximately $90 a square foot installed, in the same ballpark as granite and marble.

Set Budget for Kitchen Remodeling

I want this kitchen! This is truly may dream kitchen!. Now it's time for a reality check: the budget. Sure, it's not as fun as contemplating countertop choices, but giving careful consideration to budgeting can keep a project from turning into a financial nightmare.


It spends about $82,000 according to Remodeling Magazine's 2005 for kitchen remodeling. But, it not an exact number, you may spend more or less depending on a several factors.
  1. Conduct a thorough and honest examination of your finances to reveal how much you can afford to spend. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) offers a worksheet that makes this easy to do. With that number in hand ask yourself, "How long do I plan to stay in my home?"
  2. If a person is going to stay in a home for five years or less then the improvements should be viewed as improvements on investment. If you're going to be there for a longer period of time, you want to look at what's going to make you and your family the most comfortable.
  3. No matter how long you plan to stay, give careful consideration to what the remodel will do to the value of your house, and then compare it with others in the neighborhood.
How you spend your money is a matter of personal discretion. To keep costs down, evaluate how important extra goodies, such as interior fittings on cabinets and intricate crown moldings, are to the overall look and function of a kitchen. A cost-saving alternative may exist, or you may be able to do without the item entirely.
Also, when budgeting, don't forget a line item for labor costs, which usually end up around a third of a project's total budget.

Always leave a little wiggle room in the budget for the unexpected. There are all sorts of budget-busting surprises lurking behind the walls and floors of homes especially if it's an older residence. Last minute changes, known as change orders, cost time and bust budgets, too. You might elect to upgrade your choice of countertop halfway through the project. Though you can't predict the unknown, you can prepare for it financially. Set 10% of whatever number has been budgeted for labor costs.

There are many ways to foot the bill for a kitchen remodel. Home equity loan is one of the most popular because it's tax deductible. Other options include refinancing, no-equity loans, FHA loans, personal loans, loans from retirement plans or borrowing against a life insurance policy. Make sure to shop around for the best rate.

Once the project begins, track actual spending on a computer spreadsheet or a simple piece of paper, and compare it often to budgeted amounts.

Basics Rule for Kitchen Remodeling

Review your critical budget and design basics before you get started on a kitchen remodel or building project. The key to any kitchen is the way the sink, stove and refrigerator flow together. How about the size? Kitchen size is only as important as it relates to the use. If you need large space to cook, or lots of worker and family member of course you need a large size kitchen. Good work flow, lighting and storage are the key components to good kitchen design.

  • The three types of lighting are: general lighting, task lighting and accent or ambient lighting.
  • The goal is to balance general and task lighting in a way that illuminates the room without creating harsh shadows, and use accents to set mood and tone.
The three basic principles to follow related to storage are:
  • Put unused space to work
  • Everything in its place, proper containers for proper storage
  • Strore according to frequency of use, seasonal and specialty items should be kept out of the way, eveything else should be easy to reach
  • Kitchen remodeling is one of the most popular home improvement projects, delivering an average return on investment of 70%.
  • The four material costs are cabinets, counters, appliances and floors.
  • Designers charge anywhere from $50-$150+ per hour, and sometimes take a percentage of your budget.
  • In-store designers are paid by retailers.
  • Cabinets are the foundation of the kitchen, giving it shape and helping to determine the overall style.
  • The three basic cabinet types are stock, semi-custom and custom.
  • Stock cabinets are manufactured in bulk in a variety of standard sizes and colors. They're a good basic choice and available in almost every home improvement store.
  • Semi-custom cabinets use better quality materials, are available in a much wider variety and styles, are made to order and fit more precisely than stock cabinets.
  • Custom cabinets are generally made onsite by a carpenter to exact specifications, made from the highest quality materials in many styles and cost more than stock or semi-custom cabinets.
A good rule of thumb for kitchen remodel budgeting is to allocate:
  • 45-50% of your budget for cabinets
  • 20-30% for appliances
  • 20-25% for countertops
  • 10-20% for flooring
  • 10-15% for lighting.
Outdoor Kitchens
  • With features such as gas grills, pizza ovens, prep sinks, refrigerators, and even dishwashers, outdoor kitchens rival their sheltered counterparts.
  • A good, basic setup might include a 17,000 BTU grill, an under-counter refrigerator and cabinets. For a mostly do-it-yourself installation, the total cost can be about $2000.

05 September 2008

Health Benefits of Coffee

Coffee drinkers often are concern that their delicious java is too much of a good thing that it must be bad for you. It has been shown to coffee is generally safe with moderate consumption and that surprisingly, coffee is actually good for your health. Several studies have linked coffee with reduced risks of Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes, gallstones, cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis.

Coffee beans contain anti-oxidants and other substances that provide these health benefits. Additionally these anti-oxidants can be found in either regular or decaf coffee.

Coffee for Diabetes
  • The anti-oxidants found in coffee may help to regulate blood sugar.
    If a woman drinks about 3 cups of coffee a day, she can reduce her risk of type 2 diabetes by 20 to 30%.
  • The coffee anti-oxidants that are believed to be responsible are chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid.
  • Coffee is also thought to help promote the delivery of insulin to the tissues. When this happens efficiently the insulin resistance is less likely, which is a major risk factor for diabetes.

Coffee for Gallstones
Certain compounds in coffee appear to help prevent bile from crystallizing which causes gallstones.

Coffee for Parkinson’s Disease
Caffeine may cut the risk of Parkinson’s disease by increasing the supplies of the brain chemical dopamine in men.

Coffee for Heart

  • Drinking one to two cups of coffee a day protects the heart.
  • Four to five cups of coffee in the morning contribute to elevated blood pressure and higher levels of stress hormones that endure into the evening.
  • Moderate to heavy caffeine intake will cause the body to react in a stressful manner.
    Unfiltered coffee will also increase the level of cholesterol which leads to heart disease. If you use a coffee press or a metallic filter you are at an increase risk than if you use a paper filter.
  • Caffeine caused blood vessels to constrict, which can trigger the blood pressure to increase. If caffeine remains in the body for a longer period of time, the greater potential for harm.

Coffee for Cancer

  • Coffee was not carcinogenic; a comprehensive review published in 1997 by the American Institute of Cancer Research.
  • The findings indicated that coffee may help to prevent cancer of the colon. The risk of colon cancer was lowered by 24% for those that drank four cups of coffee a day among people observed in various studies spanning several years.
  • Coffee has source of antioxidants in the American diet. Antioxidants have been linked to various health benefits, including protection from cancer. Experts say that drinking one to two cups of coffee a day does appear to provide a health boost because of these antioxidants.

Antioxidants in Coffee

A recent Pennsylvania study found that coffee offers the number one source of antioxidants in the U.S. diet. The study researched tea, coffee, cocoa and other foods.

They concluded that the average adult consumes 1,299 mg antioxidants daily from coffee. The second largest source but at a distance was tea at 294 mg. The next highest source was bananas at 76 mg, dry beans at 72 mg and corn at 48 mg.

Because Americans drink so much coffee, they get more of their antioxidants from coffee than from any other dietary source,” says Joe Vinson, a professor of chemistry at The University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. “Nothing else comes close,” according to Vinson.

This does not mean that we should stop eating fruits and vegetable which have a much higher nutritional value due to their higher content of vitamins, minerals and fiber. The sad fact is that the American consumer does not eat enough of fruits and vegetables so coffee is the largest source of antioxidants.

While tea has been receiving popularity in health circles this study proves that coffee is far superior in antioxidants which are thought to help battle cancer and provide other health benefits.

Coffee! Good Cup For Your Health

3 cups of coffee a day curbs memory loss
According to a French study published in the August 2007 issue of the journal Neurology, women aged 65 and older who drink at least three cups of coffee or tea a day are less likely to suffer memory loss, the psychostimulant appeared to have a positive effect on the brain.
The study also found the positive effects of coffee appeared to heighten with age. Women over 80 who drank three or more cups of coffee daily were found to be 70 per cent less likely to experience memory loss over those who didn't drink coffee.
Ritchie and her team observed the caffeine intake and cognitive skills of 7,000 participants over the course of four years.

4+ cups of coffee daily cuts risk of gout in men over 40
About one in 30 Canadians suffer from gout, a painful arthritic condition triggered by an excess of uric acid in the joints. People diagnosed with gout often struggle with swollen toes, ankles, feet, hands and wrists.
But new research suggests people who have not yet suffered from gout may cut the risk of developing it by consuming large amounts of coffee. Men who drink six or more cups of coffee a day are 59 per cent less likely to develop gout over those who never drink coffee.
The risk was reduced by 40 percent in men who drank between four and five cups of coffee daily. A strong antioxidant (phenol chlorogenic acid) may in part be responsible. The study's authors also noted that it was too early for men to immediately bump up their coffee intake. The 12-year study included 45,869 men with no history of gout.

A cup of coffee, a morning run helps keep skin cancer at bay
A morning cup of coffee followed by a workout is already part of their morning schedule. This routine may help fight skin cancer. Researchers at New Jersey's Rutgers University said their study found that caffeine and exercise combined appear to kill precancerous cells that have been damaged by the sun's UVB rays. Exercise and caffeine can decrease tissue fat, thereby reducing the risk of cancer.

Coffee intake lowering the diabetes risk
Women who incorporate at least six cups of coffee into their daily diets are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Women who drank more than six cups of coffee a day were 22 per cent less likely than those who didn't drink any coffee to be diagnosed with diabetes.
Among people who drank six or more cups of decaffeinated coffee daily, the risk was lowered by 33 per cent. Researchers said minerals and nutrients in the coffee bean may aid with the processing of carbohydrates. The beans' antioxidants may also help protect cells in the pancreas, where insulin is produced.

Antioxidants lower risk of cardiovascular disease in women over 55
Potent antioxidants in coffee can help curb inflammation and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease in women. They found that including coffee in a diet appeared to help inhibit inflammation, thereby lowering risks of cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases, including arthritis. The authors said a daily intake of between one and three coffees confirmed that the beverage offered a protective advantage.

Coffee overdose can lead to vomiting, diarrhea
These recent studies suggest those hooked on the bean needn't shun caffeine. However, before guzzling a pot, you may want to consider the many possible side-effects that Health Canada warns could result from a coffee overdose.
In people with sensitivities to caffeine, overdosing can lead to :
• Insomnia
• Muscle tremors
• Nausea
• Irritability
• Higher risk of bone fractures
• Mood swings
• Sleep disturbances

In more serious cases, overdosing symptoms include :
• Nausea
• Irregular heartbeat
• Diarrhea
• Vomiting
• Light flashes
• Breathing difficulties
• Convulsions

When Coffee Bad For You?

There is research findings that have linked drinking three or more cups of coffee a day with increased heart risk. Coffee can raise the level of an amino acid, called homocysteine, which might harm the arteries. The caffeine in coffee may also raise blood pressure.

Drinking or eating a large amount of caffeine can also speed bone loss and might reduce birth weight and raise the risk of miscarriage. Women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant are advised to not drink more than two cups of coffee a day. The same is also true for postmenopausal women to guard their bones.

Caffeine has also been known to precipitate heart burn, rapid heartbeat, and anxiety.
Caffeine is found in many types of food and beverages so a careful monitoring of your caffeine content being consumed is important. Coffee does have one of the highest doses of caffeine.

Let’s Make A Simple Kitchen Makeovers!

Ktchen renovations are the most expensive home improvement projects, but it's possible to give a tired kitchen new life without breaking the bank. But wait! You can do something easy that can make a big change to your beloved kitchen. You can follow this few guide to simple and affordable upgrades.

  1. Change hardware
    Replacing knobs, pulls, and hinges costs as little as a few dollars per door.
  2. Paint
    A coat of paint can brighten up old cabinets and cheer up the whole room. And for the metal cabinets, you can sent itto an autobody shop for durable refinishing. It about $30 to $80 per linear foot for pro painting job.
  3. Reface
    Refacing can make cabinets look brand new. First, doors and drawer fronts are removed and all exterior surfaces are covered with a veneer of prefinished wood in whatever species and finish you prefer. Then new doors and drawer fronts are made to match. Make sure to hire a reputable company, and only after you've seen examples of its work. It abour approximately $125 to $325 per linear foot.
  4. Change doors
    Decorative filler panel options include glass (clear, etched, tinted, patterned, stained) and metal (stainless steel or punched or patterned tin). Simply use a router to cut away the existing panel and rout a lip on the back of the door to hold the new panel. It’s about $100 to $250 per door for replacement panels typically cost from.
  5. Add moldings
    Wood moldings and trim add character to plain cabinet fronts. If your old cabinets don't go to the ceiling, adding a crown molding or soffit around the top will make a room look more elegant. Cost: about $15 per linear foot.
  6. Upgrade interiors
    Slide-out shelves, tilt-trays, lazy Susans, drawer dividers, and full-extension drawer glides can be retrofitted to your old boxes. Cost: $1,000 to $2,500 for a full kitchen.
  1. Reface
    Some refrigerators and dishwashers are designed with frames to hold face panels. Replacement panels cost from $100 to $800, depending on the size of the appliance and the material. Even if the appliance doesn't have a frame, panel kitscan be custom-ordered for just about any make and model of appliance, in a variety of materials. Cost: $150 to $1,000 per appliance.
  2. Paint
    If you have a high-end appliance or an antique that's lost its luster, metal surfaces can be painted by an appliance refinisher or an autobody shop for about $100 (for an oven door or dishwasher panel) to $300 (for a whole fridge). Porcelain stoves can be reporcelainized by an appliance or bathtub refinisher for about $100 for a single oven door and roughly $1,200 for an entire range.
  1. Resurface
    Refinish an existing wood floor and stain it a different color or add stenciled borders ($550 to $700 for refinishing a 200-square-foot kitchen. Stone flooring can be professionally polished to bring back its original luster.
  2. Cover
    If the floor is round and flat, you may be able to cover linoleum or wood with a coat of flooring primer and paint, or a layer of stick-down vinyl tiles or sheet flooring. Cost: about $200 for paint, $500 for vinyl.
  1. Resurface
    Stripping an old laminate countertop off the plywood deck is fairly simple. Installing new laminate costs about $30 to $40 per linear foot. Ceramic tiles can also be installed over existing plywood. And if your solid surface or stone countertop is showing its age, the surface can be professionally polished to remove the marks.
  2. Add moldings
    Add molding around the front edge to dress up a laminate countertop, for about $5 per linear foot.
  3. Replace just a section
    If you don't want to rip out the whole countertop, consider recessing a different material, such as a chopping block, into part of an existing counter.
  4. Add a backsplash
    If you're not replacing countertops, you can change the backsplash. You can use laminates, ceramic or glass tile, beadboard, even metal ceiling squares.

03 September 2008

Decaf Coffee

Caffeine is a to the central nervous system. An average regular coffee cup contains about 75mg of caffeine. In order to qualify as decaffeinated, coffee beans have to be 97.5 % caffeine free.

To make decaf coffee the producers use specific solvents like :
  • Carbon Dioxide
    High pressure CO2 is used to decaffeinate green coffee beans. Its pores open using steam. Liquid CO2 forces the caffeine molecules out and the beans are dried.
  • Methyl Chloride
    This is the decaffeinated methods of choice by coffee aficionados for its flavor retention. The green beans also get a facial and then are rinsed repeatedly till the caffeine runs down the drain. The beans are resteamed to get rid of the Methyl Chloride residue and then dried.
  • Ethyl Acetate
    Green beans are soaked, treated with ethyl acetate. The caffeine gloms on into the ethyl acetate and then the beans are steamed to lose thglommage and then rehydrated.
  • Swiss Water Decaf
    Beans are soaked in hot water, removing its chemical integrity and caffeine, then a charcoal filter streams the water, catches the caffeine and the remaining water is added back to the beans, to rehydrate with its flavors and chemical compounds.
Process changes the chemistry of the green bean to change its structure to brown. Even with the chemical processes the beans are safe and FDA approved. Some decaf coffee even taste like the real thing, but you have to search high and low for a good one.

Instant Coffee Production

  • The coffee bean be roasted to bring out flavour and aroma.
  • When the bean temperature reaches and exceeds 165 °C the roasting begins, accompanied by a popping sound similar to that produced by popcorn.
  • It takes about 10-15 minutes to complete roasting with about 25-75% efficiency.
  • Continuous fluidized bed roasting only takes between thirty seconds and four minutes, it also operates at lower temperatures which allows greater retention of the coffee bean aroma and flavor.
  • Reduces the beans to a size of anything between 0.5 and 1.1 mm in order to allow the coffee to be put in solution with water for the drying stage.
  • Sets of scored rollers specially designed to cut rather than crush the bean are used.

  • The coffee roasted and ground must be put into solution with water.
    The water is added in 5-10 percolation columns at temperatures of between 155 to 180 °C, this concentrates the coffee solution to about 15-30% coffee by mass.
This step is a very important! There are two different methods used in plants all over the world, freeze and spray drying, each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Freeze Drying
The basic principle of freeze drying is remove the water by sublimation.
It’s more expensive than other methods of drying, but results in a higher quality product.

The Freeze Drying Process

  1. Agglomerated wet coffee granules are frozen. Freezing too fast leads to large ice crystals and a very porous product and can also affect the colour of the coffee granules.
  2. Frozen coffee is placed in the drying chamber, often on metal trays.
  3. A vacuum is created within the chamber. The strength of the vacuum is critical in the speed of the drying and therefore the quality of the product. Care must be taken to produce a vacuum of suitable strength.
  4. The drying chamber is warmed, most commonly by radiation but conduction is used in some plants and convection has been proposed in some small pilot plants. A possible problem with convection is uneven drying rates within the chamber, which would give an inferior product.
  5. Condensation - the previously frozen water in the coffee granules expands to 10⁷ its volume, the removal of this water vapour from the chamber is vitally important, making the condenser the most critical and expensive components in a freeze drying plant.
  6. The freeze dried granules are removed from the chamber and packaged.

Spray Drying

  • This method of drying is preferred coz its cost effectiveness, short drying time, usefulness when dealing with such a heat-sensitive product, and the fine, rounded particles it produces.
  • The particles it produces are too fine to be used effectively by the consumer; they must first be either steam-fused in towers similar to spray dryers or by belt agglomeration to produce particles of suitable size.

Spray drying produces spherical particles of size roughly equal to 300 µm with a density of 0.22 g/cm³ (ref 2). To achieve this, nozzle atomisation is used. Various ways of nozzle atomization can be used each having its own advantages and disadvantages. High speed rotating wheels operating at speeds of about 20,000 rpm are able to process up to 60,000 pounds (27 t) of solution per hour (ref 3). The use of spray wheels requires that the drying towers have a wide radius to avoid the atomised droplets collecting onto the drying chamber walls.

Typical Spray Drying Characteristics :

  1. Completed in 5-30 seconds (dependent on factors such as heat, size of particle, and diameter of chamber).
  2. Moisture content change, IN = 75-85% OUT = 3-3.5%
  3. Air Temperatures, IN = 270 °C OUT = 110 °C

Decaffeinated Instant Coffee

The decaffeination of instant coffee happens before the critical roasting process which will determine the coffee's flavour and aroma characteristics.

There are two modern decaffeination methods, solvent extraction and water extraction.

Solvent Decaffeination

The most commonly used solvents are :
  • Trichloroethylene
  • Methylene chloride
  • Similar chlorinated hydrocarbon.
  • Supercritical carbon dioxide
The method for introducing this moisture does not matter, the most importance is the water content of the bean, and typically between 18% and 55% is sufficient. The moisture is required to soften the cellular structure of the bean.

Basic steps of solvent decaffeination :
  1. Steaming of coffee beans for 30 minutes at 110 °C.
  2. Increase of coffee bean moisture content to <40%.>
  3. Beans flow through extractor columns with solvent at temperatures between 50 °C to 120 °C. Caffeine is removed from beans.
  4. Decaffeinated beans are "steam stripped" of solvent for 90 minutes.
  5. Decaffeinated beans are removed from extractors and dried. Caffeine rich solvent is recycled to be used in step 2.
Water Decaffeination

The advantages are :
  1. Higher extraction rates
  2. Caffeine recovery produces a purer product
  3. Less heat treatment of the coffee bean
  4. No direct solvent contact with the bean

This method takes about 8 hours, considerably longer than solvent decaffeination; however it does seem to produce a better quality end product.
The solid content of the water extract of green beans doubles (from 15% to 30%) as caffeine is taken up. During the 8 hour process about 98% of the caffeine is removed, which is comparable with the solvent extraction method. The decaffeinated beans, now 58% moisture by weight, are washed and dried.

Instant Coffee

There are people who drink instant coffee and mostly in England. Of course, it's a quick way to make a single cup of coffee.

Instant coffee is a beverage derived from brewed coffe beans. Through various manufacturing processes the coffee is dehydrated into the form of powder or granules. These can be rehydrated with hot water to provide a drink similar to but different than conventional coffee. At least one brand of instant coffee is also available in concentrated liquid form.

Instant coffee was invented in the early 1901s by a Japanese scientist working in Chicago, Sartori Kato. It began to be marketed commercially in the 1938 by Nescafe. Its simplicity, cost and long shelf life made it a popular product during world war.
After the conventional roasting and grinding of the coffee bean the coffee is then extracted. The extraction method is basically coffee mixed with water making a concentrate.

  • Quick service (instant coffee dissolves instantly in hot water)
  • You can regulate the strength of the coffee.
  • Less weight and volume than beans or ground coffee to prepare the same amount of drink.
  • Long shelf life
  • Coffee beans, and especially ground coffee, lose flavour as the essential oils evaporate over time.
Although it has a long shelf life, instant coffee quickly spoils if it is not kept dry. Instant coffee differs in make-up and taste to ground coffee. In particular, the percentage of caffeine in instant coffee is less, and bitter flavor components are more evident. The lowest quality coffee beans are often used in the production of instant coffee (the best beans are usually kept to be sold whole) and sometimes other unwanted residues from the harvest are used in the production process.

Then there are 2 drying methods for the extracted concentrate. Freeze drying and spray drying.

Freeze Drying
Freeze drying is the removal of water by sublimation. The coffee is frozen, is put on a metal drying rack and a vacuum is created in the chamber of the drying rack. The coffee is then warmed using radiation or conduction. Condensation occurs and the frozen granules expand and the water vapor is removed. The final step, granules are packaged.

Spray Drying
Spray Drying is a cheaper method for instant coffee producers. However, the coffee particles may be too small for the general consumer. Nozzle atomizers spray water and high speed rotating wheels are used to process the beans.