Cooking Utensils: the Truth Behind the Hype

Using the most suitable cooking utensils can make the difference between a wonderfully planned gastronomic banquet and an awkwardly made excuse-for-food. Or so the celebrity chefs who are sponsored by the major kitchenware companies would have us believe. The question we novice chefs have to ask is, ‘Do the correct tools genuinely make all the difference?’ ‘Does the way you chop, slice, dice and dish out your meat and two veg physically affect the flavour?’

Okay, granted, if you lack the appropriate utensils, it may be tricky to drain your pasta without picking up a couple of third degree burns, and you might find those curly radishes to top your salad bowl difficult to pull off, but is there really an optimal shape and size for food intended for the human mouth? To get a short answer to this question, we need to take a look at Chinese cuisine.

Chinese recipes emphasize the importance of presentation. Eating is a sensory experience. If the food looks, smells and even sounds good (think of sizzling woks wheeled to your table in a good restaurant) we’re salivating even before the first morsel gets anywhere near our mouths. Chinese chefs have long understood that your senses are connected. Your senses all lead to the same place – your brain. And it’s your brain that makes the final assessment. As innumerable sponsored-up-to-their-eyeballs master chefs will fall over each other to inform you, the way you prepare your veggies and present your dishes will have an enormous affect on the way your meal will taste The other definitive feature of Chinese cooking is the way the vegetables and meat are cut. There are strict rules concerning the size and shape of the food on the plate. Each dish should be easy to handle – it should invite you to pick it up… but then again you’ll have to use chopsticks.

Cooking utensils, it would seem, really can transform a mundane meal into a feast… if you know how to use them. Owning the appropriate set of knives to chop and cut, nip and tuck, is one thing; owning the skills to use them is another. However, to develop your technique, you need to own the utensils in the first place. You have to start somewhere, and leafing through a kitchenware brochure at the behest of some celebrity chef or other is as good a place to start as any – the best place to start is from the recipe. After all, the recipe is what you are interested in, and what you and your family is going to end up eating.

What makes a cook into a master chef? The salient factor is their ability to shower their creations with loving care and attention, as anyone who has read an Isabelle Allende novel will testify. Once you have your tools and skills, the possibilities for experimentation and gastronomic exploration are boundless. And you can bet there is a specially designed set of cooking utensils to cope with any culinary creation you might dream up. For the majority of us, one appliance can be adapted to manage a diverse range kitchen tasks, but for the experts there is a specific tool for each and every kitchen task.

This apparently trivial distinction between the two ways of thinking about cooking can have a profound affect on your meals. Take an onion, for example. According to the experts, it should be sliced a particular way to enhance the flavour, although, as we have learnt from the Chinese, the visual result is at least as big a factor in determining how the food will taste. Viewed in this way, slicing the onion ‘after the book’ becomes as important as, say, the amount of oil you add to the pan. It would seem that using the right kitchen utensil in the chef’s domain is imperative. In short, prepping your ingredients by following someone’s mealtime master plan can transform the appearance and flavour of the final dish. Get this right and you are no longer a cook. You are a chef

Selecting The Best Utensil

Selecting the right set of cooking utensils is dependent on the content of each individual recipe. Suggestions for cooking utensils are very often presented within the cooking book or online recipe page and, traditionally, they are accompanied by clear instructions to enable you to choose the right utensil for the right job. Cooking utensils, it would seem, do have a central role to play. Your family is certain to enjoy the excellence of your cooking if it is prepared with skill and loving care, but if not, they may reach for an entirely different set of utensils.

There are many companies that produce fine cooking utensils, but on balance, it is better to start from the recipe book and build up a collection of what you need as needs arise before you start leafing through the pages of glossy catalogues.

Some Things Your Car Insurance Company Won’t Tell You

1. How to determine the value of “total loss.”

Most companies will tell you that they use at least three methods or schemes to determine the actual a totaled vehicle’s value including value books, computer-generated quotes from dealers, and local market research. In this case, you will probably think that local area is your current neighborhood, but it is not specifically defined by the insurer. If, in any case, the company cannot find an auto replacement in your neighborhood, so they have to find it not from your “local area,” your totaled car’s value is certainly affected. For example, if you currently live in New York, replacing your totaled vehicle in suburbs will be cheaper than in the city. Insurance company will, of course, use quotes from suburbs area as the most-reasonably-priced estimates. The main purpose in totaling a vehicle is to allow the consumer (the insured person) to purchase the same car that is totaled in an accident within the local market. Since they use three different schemes to figure out real value of a totaled car, a consumer may end up with a cheaper car than the totaled one. It is impossible to be sure what value you will get when your company does not tell you how they determine it.

Fortunately, you can do some smart methods to help yourself and your company to do the value determination. First, you have to produce valid proof that your car was in good conditions when the accident occurred; car in good condition has better value than a wreck. Bring a copy of maintenance records including oil changes and inspection by an authorized mechanic. The records will tell your company that your auto was regularly maintained, meaning it was actually in great shape (in terms of appearance and performance) when the accident occurred. Moreover, you probably had special features installed such as multimedia system, anti-theft system, anti-lock brakes, rear view camera, or 5-harness seat belt. The car insurance company may charge you more because of some special upgrades, so make sure that your insurer includes that in the evaluation.

Another good thing is to find at least three dealers and get quotes on replacement from them; make sure all dealers in your local area or at least within short driving distance from your home. Present the quotes to your insurer and ask your insurer to provide a list of some car dealers who probably can provide a car for the price listed in the quotes. If you are not satisfied with the company’s value determination or you get less than you expect, you can choose to do mediation. So, meaning you present the case to third party (neutral) to get help to settle the dispute, or arbitration, or you can even request a formal inquiry to the court.

2. If you want to cancel your policy, do it officially

Most companies say that consumers can cancel their policies at any date, but you need to notify the insurer concerning the exact date you want to end the coverage. The statement is clear enough; in other words, it says consumers have to notify their companies when they want to cancel their policies. However, consumers often think that when they ignore the last bill before renewal, the company will automatically end the policy. Too bad, this is not how it is done. People can forget and deliberately miss a bill, and the company totally understands that. After this first missed bill, your insurer is going to send you one more bill for premium payment; if you don’t pay the bill, you will be cancelled for non-payment, and the record will hurt your credit score.

What you should do when you want to cancel auto insurance policy is to let the company know that you are canceling. Please make sure that you provide a specific date; it helps you avoid being totally uninsured for a certain period, time, term. The cancellation request will be sent to you, and all you have to do is to put your signature. It is recommended that you carefully check the document before signing it. Some companies may require you to provide valid proof that you indeed have another coverage before they can approve the cancellation. If you’ve financed your car, the dealer needs the updated policy information because valid proof of insurance is required in the purchase contracts.

Credit history still matters

The use of credit information to determine approval and premium rate is still common, despite the fact that some states already started to ban such practice. Some (if not most) companies use the credit history to generate risk score. They believe that it strongly linked or correlated to the likelihood of the consumer reporting a claim. More likelihood of filing a claim is exactly the same with high-risk driver that usually also pays more expensive premium fee compared to “safe-driver” or “the preferred class.” The preferred consumers are those with stable credit card history as it suggests financial stability, meaning they are not likely to miss a payment. People of this category are safer consumers to insure compared to people with shaky credit history. Auto insurance companies do not like consumer who pays sporadically or changes accounts quite frequently.

There are some credit card issuers who offer free credit score checking, but in most cases, you need to pay for the service. Unlike credit score, risk score for insurance-related matters will not be available for you, but both probably indicate the same thing which is financial stability. If you are currently in the market to purchase auto insurance, and it turns out that you have quite unusual activity on your credit history within only certain time frame, you can wait until one month to allow the credit activity to go back to its usual condition. If you cannot keep the credit score stable, prepare yourself to pay more expensive premium fee.

3. Budgeting by installments is not always efficient.

Installments can pay almost all items, and consumers think that it is indeed the best way to budget the expense. When it comes to auto insurance, you can ask the company to divide the annual premium into a monthly basis, quarterly, or on six month. Please put in mind that dividing the annual premium will cost you “fractional premium.” You can consider this additional service fee to arrange the installment. It can be as cheap as $10 per payment; the more you break it down, the most fractional premium to pay.

Most companies will probably offer you to pay in installments since it makes more money for them. When you apply for insurance, it is wise to ask whether there is any additional charge for installments option, and then you can compare the difference. If the fractional premium is not very expensive, then perhaps it is worth it. Another big difference between upfront payment and installments is that certain companies will immediately cancel your coverage if you miss one payment; even worse, they can do it without notification. It is best to pay up front if you can; the entire process will be easier, and you can indeed save few dollars.

Every vehicle model and type has certain premium rate

Of course, you all know that sport cars need more expensive insurance policies than a van, but insurance companies will not tell you the exact numbers. In general, it is true that attractive, sporty, luxurious car with turbocharged engine will go very quickly on the road, and it increases the risk of accidents, but this is not always true considering the discounts for safety features, security features, mileage (especially when you drive it less), etc. Auto insurance companies have a specific system to know the premium for all car models you can buy, based on the system rating by ISO (Insurance Service Office). Every type of car is rated from 3 to 27; higher number means a higher premium. Insurance Service Office says that it will not release the rating system for publication because its clients are insurance companies.

You will not get the rating system from your insurer; you may not even find it anywhere at all. The best thing you can do when you want to purchase a new auto is to ask the insurance how much insurance premium you need to pay for a new car that you want to purchase. If you keep a good relationship with an independent agent, he/she should be able at least to predict the price based on raw calculation.

4. Filing claim increases your premium.

People are always interested to see insurance companies reduce premium fee to attract potential customers. It is indeed one of the best things customers get from the competition in the market, but your insurer can increase the price right away after you file your first claim. The industry standard is to increase premium fee up to 40% of the base rate after first-at-fault accident. With the help of an online car insurance calculator you get a base rate of $500, your premium increases by $200. Some companies have different rules, but there is always a big chance your premium will go up after the first-at-fault claim. Some insurers offer “first-accident forgiveness,” meaning your first actual claim will not affect the premium at all, but the variable and requirement for eligibility can be different from company to company. You should ask your insurer if such discount is available and how to qualify for it.

Email Marketing – The Pros And Cons of Marketing With Email

Many small businesses are considering jumping into the world of email marketing. Email marketing has many different advantages, but it also has a few drawbacks that you need to keep in mind. The truth is that when utilized in the correct fashion it can be an extremely powerful and cost effective way of promoting your business and producing more sales. Once you learn about the pros and cons of email, you will be able to begin your own campaigns and get started down the path towards increased success and profitability.

The Advantages of Email Marketing

There are several key benefits to running an email marketing campaign. One of the most important is how cost efficient is can be. There is no other form of direct marketing that is as cheap as email marketing is. A 2005 study by the Winterberry Group found that for every dollar spent on email marketing, $15.50 was earned in return. There is much relevant data pointing to email marketing having a superior ROI than telemarketing, direct mail campaigns, radio or billboard advertisements and more.

Another advantage that email has is that you can quickly get your message across, and you can reach your customers and prospects in a place where they are comfortable communicating. If you have an idea for a new sale or promotion for the upcoming weekend, you can inform all of your customers about that immediately. With print advertising, traditional direct mail or anything else, the turnaround time could be days or possibly even a week or more.

One of the real strengths to running an email campaign is how effectively you can track the results that it produces. You will be able to see every click that is made to your website as a result of the email, and you will be able to see statistics such as how many people read the message, how many times they read it, if they ended up making a purchase and on down the line.

There is no other form of marketing or advertising that produces such an array of in-depth statistics. It’s an invaluable way to track your marketing efforts, and make the most out of every dollar you put into promotion.

Finally, another important advantage to email marketing that you will want to remember is that it’s the perfect way to convert prospects over a long period of time. No matter how great your products or services may be, not every person will be immediately ready to make a purchase or investment. Email marketing is the perfect tool to continue chipping away at those prospects over the long haul. By developing a relationship with each prospect and providing them with useful information, you will gain their trust and stay at the forefront of their mind.

The Disadvantages of Email Marketing

The largest disadvantage of email marketing is that so many people today are fed up with spam. All of our accounts are flooded with wasted emails everyday, and it’s a worldwide plague of the largest scale. Because of this, many people are wary about opening up emails from businesses, or about trusting anything they see in their inbox.

You can help combat this problem by being as transparent as possible. This means making it easy for people to see who is sending your message and what it’s about. It also means ensuring that all of your email addresses are used with permission, and you never purchase a list or steal addresses from another website.

Another disadvantage with email marketing is that far too many small business owners or managers know how to make a campaign work for them. Perhaps they try using gimmicks or copying an email that somebody else sent out. However, a much more effective strategy is sticking within your own identity, playing to your strengths and providing your prospects and customers with exactly what they are looking for.

Making Email Marketing Work for You

The bottom line is that the benefits of email marketing far outweigh the disadvantages. It’s all about learning how to run your own campaigns in the right way, and for maximum success there will be some trial and error as you traverse that path. By not utilizing email campaigns you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to help your business become more efficient and more profitable.

Learn to Speak Spanish Through Online Programs

The Spanish language is becoming increasingly more important to speak and understand. More than 420 million people speak Spanish, including those who speak it as a second or third language. Approximately 17 million of those are in the United States, making speaking Spanish more than just a passing fad. Fortunately, there are many online resources geared towards helping people learn how to speak Spanish.

Learn Conversational Spanish

The website, studyspanish.com, provides people with the opportunity to learn conversational Spanish. Although this program will not help you achieve fluency, by reading the lessons and repeating sounds and phrases with the audio attachments, you can be well on your way to carrying on a conversation. Sample beginning lessons are available online, and students can add to their knowledge with the purchase of CDs.

Courses, Tutors and Games in Spanish

Websites like 123teachme.com provide grammar, vocabulary, verb conjugations and sounds, like the other websites, but they also incorporated games and quizzes. These games and quizzes use vocabulary and phrases to test students knowledge and memory. People using this site can also work with Spanish tutors, people who know the language fluently, to get one-on-one help and accelerate the learning process.

Use Videos on Google and YouTube

Videos are available on YouTube and Google, and allow Spanish students to hear how the words are said, including accents and emphasis, but also see how they're said. Some of these videos use visual aids, displaying words and their pronunciation, like a book and audio tape would do, while others use people. The videos are for the beginning and advanced learners, depending upon the individuals needs and desires.

Learn Practical Spanish

Websites like e-spanol.hu/en outline the basics of Spanish, including grammar, vocabulary and expressions. This website provides games, quizzes, tests, word practices, audio videos and transcripts for students to test their knowledge and maximize they're Spanish skills.

Master Words and Phrases

For the beginning and advanced Spanish speakers, or students who simply want a larger vocabulary, websites like learn-spanish.co.il/ are ideal. This website lectures specific words and phrases that can make your Spanish more descriptive and detailed, including words relating to travel, color, shapes, sports, animals, food and clothing. However, this website does not include an audio, but only a simple visual of the words.