Dining out Etiquette how to Behave Stylishly at Restaurants

Here are some tips for dining:

1. Dress sense : Dress appropriately for the dining event. This would be the first impression that you would give others at the restaurant, may it be your company or the waiters. Shirts and dark long pants or blouses and skirts of matching colours would most often do fine. You may like to have some fragrance for better impression.

2. Posture : Walk with confidence, sit with backs straightened and do not put elbows onto the table as it is often considered inappropriate in most places.

3. Ordering : To get the attention of waiters, it is always best to use eye contact. Give an affirmative nod or at most a slight raise of the finger (ie not frantic waving). When given the menu, thank the waiter. If you would take some time to decide (it depends on how large your company is and who you are dining with) tell the waiter politely that you will order later. Once ready, say the items clearly, pointing to them clearly in the menu if you wish so as to avoid confusion. You might want to ask for the dish of the day if you are undecided.

4. Table manners : Chew with your mouth closed and do not talk while chewing. Refrain from coughing or sneezing or ask to be excused if unavoidable. Do not play with food or the utensils. Fingers are usually not to be used unless given finger food.

5. Tips : Tip the waiters. It shows your generousity and appreciation of their service.

Additional tips:
Depending on where you are dining, there are some specific dining practices that apply at different places:

1. In Britain, upon finishing of the meal, utensils must be placed in the four o’clock position.

2. In America, do not leave the table without the permission of the host and do not start eating until food has been served to everyone.

3. In France, putting your utensils at the 6 o’clock position would imply that your plate can be taken away, while putting your utensils at the 4 and 8 o’clock position would imply that you have not finished the meal.

4. In Japan, wastage of food is undesirable and all food should be finished.

Following the above tips would ensure that you dine with proper etiquette. Stylishness comes from the gentlemanly and gracious presentation of the above dining guidelines.

Energy Drinks Negative Health Effects

The New Energy – Liquid Crack In A Can

So you’re low on energy and coffee doesn’t cut it anymore? A popular alternative in liquid energy comes in small, bright cans, packing a big punch. Walk into any convenience or grocery store, and you’ll see various brands of Red Bull, Adrenaline Rush, Full Throttle, and Monster Energy. They’re a new breed of energy drinks, with stiff doses of caffeine, sugar, and a mixed bag of vitamins, amino acids and herbs.
Millions around the world consume them to receive that extra energy needed to survive the day. Bar hoppers mix them with vodka to party longer and students use them to pull all-night study sessions. Even athletes are hopping on the wagon as a boost to their performance.

But now they’re being flagged by some health experts as a potential health danger. According to a study published in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology, these and other drinks can contain ingredients which stress the immune system if consumed excessively or over the long haul.

Unfounded Claims?

Red Bull, arguably the most popular energy drink worldwide, states that their formula is scientifically formulated to “provide energy, vitalize the mind, improve concentration and reaction time.”

But many nutrition professionals remain unconvinced, noting that caffeine is the primary working ingredient. In a report last month, Consumer Reports on Health criticized energy drinks for having ” ‘extras’ you don’t need.” The publication said these beverages “contain mostly sugar and caffeine, with other ingredients having little benefit or being untested.”

Red Bull contains about 80 mg of caffeine per 8 ounce can. While this is more than double that of a Coca-Cola Classic, it’s no more than your average cup of coffee. But now there’s a new breed of these super charged liquid stallions, led by a drink called “Cocaine.” Also available in an 8.4 ounce can, it contains a whopping 280 milligrams of caffeine. According to the company’s Web site, the only way to get more caffeine per ounce is with an espresso.

A September 28, 2006 CBC article quoted Jamey Kirby, the drink’s inventor, as saying “the beverage is 350 percent stronger than Red Bull. The “high” hits within five minutes, followed by an energetic, buzzed out ride fifteen minutes later, which lasts five to six hours.”

With such an extreme high, this huge wallop of legal stimulants can be intense for anyone, especially kids. Of course energy drink manufacturers deny marketing to children, but the debate remains hot. The drinks are sold legally over the counter to anyone, and critics believe they may be fostering caffeine addiction, cause hyperactivity, restlessness, and increase excretion of calcium, a valuable mineral while bones are still growing. Health experts say young people already consume unhealthy amounts of caffeine and sugar, and don’t need a product which raises that intake.

The official imported Canadian Red Bull is a caffeinated version of Thai Krating Daeng. Until late 2004, it was prohibited for sale in Canada and now must carry a warning label that says: “Caution: Contains caffeine. Not recommended for children, pregnant or breast-feeding women, caffeine sensitive persons or to be mixed with alcohol. Do not consume more than 500 ml per day.”

The danger is obvious, says the National Institutes of Health. So much caffeine on a regular basis can raise blood pressure, (sometimes to the point of palpitations), dehydrate the body, as well as increase the risk of heart disease and premature death.

Do other ingredients contribute to the kick?

Arguably, the next ingredient is no healthier. Simple sugars are a “huge” part of these drinks and help elevate the buzz quickly. These cause the nervous system to become over stimulated, making people feel more energized. But clearly, a drink with a large amount of sugar is not a good high, because the energy produces can be ephemeral and short-lived, causing a crash once the sugar works its way out of the bloodstream.

Taurine also has been mentioned as a source of energy, especially when combined with caffeine. It is thought to be a “mild inhibitory neurotransmitter”, as some studies show it helps with excitable brain states. Though taurine is an amino acid found naturally in the human body, in energy drinks it is entirely synthetic and could also have potentially negative side effects when present in high concentrations in the body.

A 2005 CBC Marketplace report stated that one can of Red Bull contains about 1000 mg of taurine, or as much as 500 glasses of red wine. This amount is packed into a tiny 8.4 ounce can. But pick up a 16 ounce can of some other brands, and you can ingest up to 3000 mg Taurine and an insane 500 mg of caffeine.

In a nutshell, these drinks contain stimulant with unclear long-term consequences, in relation to amounts and interactions within in the human body. What is known, is that they can boost the heart rate and blood pressure (sometimes to the point of palpitations), dehydrate the body, and, like other stimulants, prevent sleep. In extreme cases, they have been linked to deaths, though reports are inconclusive as to exact cause.

Alcohol and energy drinks

A November 2001 Science Daily states that college students and teens are now mixing these drinks with alcohol, producing a potentially dangerous combination. David Pearson, a researcher in the Human Performance Laboratory is quoted as saying that “mixing the stimulants contained in some energy drinks with depressants in alcohol could cause cardiopulmonary or cardiovascular failure.”

Other adverse effects include dehydration, insomnia, headaches, nervousness, nosebleeds, and vomiting. Some countries like France and Denmark are so concerned about the possible side effects; they have banned the sale of Red Bull. This wasn’t a mere knee-jerk reaction, as the action followed several reported deaths of people who mixed the drink with alcohol.

The BBC News in 2001 reported that the three healthy young people who died are thought to have drunk Red Bull shortly before their demise. Two deaths came after mixing the product with alcohol, with one collapsing of the floor of a nightclub. A third person died after drinking several cans of the energy drink following a heavy workout at the gym. But the energy drink’s manufacturers said there was no proof the deaths were linked to its product, citing regulation of its product by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In 2003, Ross Cooney, an 18-year-old college basketball player from Ireland, downed three cans of Red Bull and then played in a tournament a few hours later. He died partway through the game from what doctors called “sudden adult death syndrome.”
Red Bull denies actively marketing their product for mixture with alcohol, but on the question-and-answer page on its Web site, the company gives that practice a whole-hearted endorsement: “Can you mix Red Bull with alcohol? Yes!”

None of this takes responsibility away from the consumer, but it does show that such products have the potential to be lethal. Now, with even more powerful versions appearing on the market, these dangers will only increase.

And since energy drinks are stimulants, they can also mask alcoholic intoxication, say experts. Consumers may drink more than they would have without the caffeine, because of the alert feeling. As a result, people may be more inclined to drive while impaired. Of course much of this will be hard to prove after an accident, which is why some foresight on the part of regulators would be prudent.

To drink or not to drink?

Most of the time, the immediate dangers of energy drinks are only a concern when consumed too frequently or used at the wrong time. In today’s culture, that’s easy to achieve, since few people act in moderation. So the thought of consuming one energy drink for a quick boost, quickly translates into three or four drinks for sustained energy throughout the day.

Another thought to muse: While regulators allowing companies to sell these products, there is still little research done on long term dangers. Current regulation merely means the products do not pose any “immediate” harm.

Labels also can carry misleading or ambiguous claims, leading the consumer to believe almost anything. It also remains unknown as to how medical conditions or prescription medication will interact with energy drinks. Everyone’s body chemistry reacts differently to various products. Alcohol is a prime example of this. Some people get drunk faster or have allergic reactions, so a universal reaction to energy drinks also seems unlikely.

In the end, most nutritionists agree that there’s little health benefit to be derived from these products. Claiming that a few herbs and vitamins counter the adverse effects of high caffeine and sugar levels is either a brilliant marketing campaign, or an outright lie. Either choice is unpleasant.

Tips for going out to Eat alone

Many of us equate dining out with sharing time with friends and family over a good meal.  While the idea of going out to eat alone may sound solitary, depressing and more than a little lonely, it doesn’t have to be that way.  Eating out is often viewed as a social activity and a way to reunite and rekindle our relationships with friends and family but, let’s not forget, taking nourishment is also a basic function of survival.  We all do it, usually two or three times a day, and we can’t always make it into a special event.

If you find, either by circumstance, necessity or choice, that you are dining out alone, there are several ways to make the experience acceptable, enjoyable or even desirable.

Plan to arrive at the restaurant early.  If you arrive during the peak of the dinner rush, you may feel the wait staff resents having to seat a single person at a table, thereby minimizing their tip potential during prime time.  If you arrive when the restaurant is half empty, you are likely to find the wait staff more receptive to anyone who might fill their table.

Bring a magazine, book or your e-reader along to entertain yourself.  If you’re eating alone because you’re on a business trip and you have been traveling alone, use this time to review pertinent paperwork for your business meeting.  Many business travellers use this time alone at the restaurant table to check messages on their Blackberry.  The activity of message checking may be unobtrusive, but you should really leave the voice mail and call backs for another time after you leave the restaurant and are not likely to intrude on the dining pleasure of others in the restaurant.

Make it a habit to be a generous tipper when you dine out alone.  Your wait staff will have to make nearly as many trips back and forth to your table for just you as they do for a party of two or more.  Be a part of the population that makes a good name for solo diners by making servicing you worthwhile for the servers.

Dining out alone does not have to be a commentary on your sad and lonely existence.  Approach each experience as an opportunity to enjoy good food and your own good company without regret.  Walk into the restaurant with your head held high and politely request a table, preferably in the corner, for one.  You will almost certainly find that the restaurant staff will treat you will courtesy and maybe even a little extra attention while you enjoy your meal.

Cinco De Mayo Drink Recipes

From what I had read, one of the main drink ingredients for any drinks related to Cinco de Mayo is tequila. There’s going to be plenty of drinks that have tequila as an ingredient. The drinks served for Cinco de Mayo is no different. Here’s one example which is a common drink called a Tequila Sunrise:

There are plenty of forms and different reciples on how to make a Tequila Sunrise from what I had found.

Tequila Sunrise – Simple Form

1 Sliced Lime
Salt
Crushed Ice
4 Oz of Tequila
2 Cups Fresh Orange Juice
1 Oz Grenadine
Ice Cubes
1 Sliced Orange
Fresh Mint Springs

The instructions are to rub the rims of two tall glasses or possibly one big glass. Place the salt on a plate and press the rim of each glass into the salt to coat the rim evenly. Fill the glasses with crushed ice. Combine the tequila, orange juice, and grenadine into a pitcher with ice cubs, stir, and strain into the glasses. Finally garnish with orange slices and mint.

It’s supposed to serve two. But since I like my alchohol, the two servings would probably be one big serving for me. I remember one time I ordered a very big daiquiri that served two. It was for myself and the waitress was pretty shocked and surprised that I wanted that one. One guy with his family cheered me on.

Yes, I do love my alcohol. The thought of it makes me want to go out and get a large Tequila Sunrise for myself. And no, I’m not going to share.

Another recipe I had stumbled across is called the “Cinco de Mayo.”

The reciple is as follows:

2 1/2 Oz White Tequila
1 Oz Grenadine Syrup
1 Oz Rose’s Lime Juice

Basically, shake well with lots of ice and strain into the glass. If you want to, garnish that stuff with fresh lime wedges. I like that recipe. I got plenty of limes at my house which I can subsitute for Rose’s Lime Juice. Now all I need is the Grenadine Syrup and the White Tequila.

There’s also the “Cinco de Mayo 2” recipe.

1 1/2 Oz Tequila
1 Oz Midori Melon Liquer
1 Oz Watermelon Schnapps
1 Gold Foil Covered Chocolate Coin
4-5 Oz 7-Up Soda
1 Lemon

Once you have all these ingredients, pour the watermelon schnapps into a collins glass. Fill it halfway with ice. Stand up a gold foil covered chocolate coin in ice against the contour of the glass. Fill the rest of the glass with ice. It says that afterwards, the schnapps should be chilled. Then you have to tilt the glass and pour the tequila, carefully bring the drink to about an Oz and 1/2 with either 7-Up or Sprite doesn’t matter. Afterwards you’re supposed to float the Midori on top. If you want, garnish it with lime and serve.

All these drinks sound very tempting… And I’m tempted to go to the bar for Cinco de Mayo and drink to my heart’s content. These are drinks I had found.

But it seems that one can possibly make their own Cinco de Mayo drink recipes. From what I read with the recipes, the main ingredient seems to be tequila, a citrus fruit either for the wedges or the juice, and salt.

Choosing the right Wine to go with your Meal

It used to be that red wine was served with red meat, and white wine with fish and chicken. It was an easy rule that most people could remember, and it took the guesswork out of choosing a wine for a particular menu. However, with today’s varied cuisine, and a huge assortment of wine varieties to choose from, choosing the right wine becomes a bit more complicated. But it really doesn’t have to be.

Basically, red wines tend to be more full-bodied than whites, and so are served with meals that are richer in flavor. White wines tend to be lighter, and are typically served with lighter fare, such as fish and chicken. However, what if you have a chicken dish that is smothered with a rich, spicy, red sauce? A light white wine would get lost in the flavor of the chicken. Go ahead, go for a robust red wine to complement the spiciness of the chicken. A spicy Shiraz would be great with a dish such as this.

How about a light beef stir-fry? A red wine might be a little too heavy for a delicate beef dish such as this. Try one of the more flavorful white wines, such as a Chardonnay, which will not overpower the flavors of your dish.

Of course, the most important thing to remember when choosing a wine is your own personal taste. If you like white wine better than red, try different varieties with different meals to see what works best. The same goes for red wines, blush wines, and all other types of wines. It all comes down to what tastes good to you. Go ahead and experiment: if you try a glass of wine with a certain meal, and it just doesn’t work, save the rest of the bottle and try it with a different meal.

Keep track of which wines you really like, and which meals your favorite wines go well with. Don’t be afraid to try new wines, and don’t be afraid of breaking any "rules". Wine is meant to be enjoyed, and it should taste good to you – that’s the most important rule to remember!

Choosing the best Bowl for a Tossed Salad Salad Presentation Serving Bowls for Salads

There is little more beautiful than a glorious salad of mixed greens, with the textures and colors contrasting the perfect bowl!  Everyone’s taste in salads and styles will be different, so this guide is intended to help you find what will be distinctively yours, yet an aesthetic triumph for your presentation at the table.

The salad will have its own color theme, whether it is a multi-ingredient dinner salad, or chef’s salad, or perhaps just a garnished mixed salad.  Other possibilities would be a heavier, more monochromatic salad of pasta with vegetables or potatoes and vegetables.  Contrasting the color is a key to showing off the salad – what is your style?  Just be sure the bowl is deep enough to hold the salad, allowing for some action while lifting the salad with tongs or salad forks, larger or smaller.  Salads are textural by nature, and so the bowl can be smooth and substantial – yet not too heavy to lift, unless on a buffet table.

Solid wooden bowls are always nice, and take on a lovely patina after many uses.  The natural look of wood goes well with the leafy textures of greens.  A vinaigrette type dressing, or anything with oil in it, will add to the seasoning of the wood.  The classic Caesar or Greek salads which call for rubbing a clove of garlic around the bowl are nice in a wooden bowl, too, with the slightly porous seasoned wood retaining the flavor of the garlic.  Matching wooden utensils are also easy to find, from very formal with porcelain or silver handles to hand-carved and artistic free-style ones.

Another approach is to utilize a tempered clear glass bowl that shows the layers or can be frozen.  You can  even make your own bowl of ice, for a refreshing and totally crisp salad as well as a dramatic presentation.  The frozen ice-bowl is simply made by freezing water in a bowl, with a slightly smaller bowl resting on top of the water.  Oil is rubbed or sprayed on the bowls to facilitate easy release as a mold for the ice.  Placing a few violets or nasturtiums or other edible flowers or herbs into the water makes a delightful decoration.  The bowl is then presented on a bed of ice in a tray, to contain any defrosting while the meal is served.

Simple pottery bowls are always correct.  A tossed salad is a fairly informal side dish, so pottery makes a fitting presentation.  Textures, colors and shapes are almost endless…the looser the salad, the more allowance you can take in choosing bowls.  The creamier salads or dressings would call for a smoother bowl, especially if you are the one doing the dishes afterwards.  Deep blues, bright colors, black or white can all make a strong statement for your table.  Keep the bowl in proportion to the amount of salad, and consider having two salads for a long table with many people.  A buffet could handle a huge bowl quite dramatically.

There are lovely silver or porcelain bowls, as well the opposite, in formality, such as serving your salad in a bucket or a tight basket, which will probably need a liner.  Your imagination can kick in, here, and your guests will be delighted.  Here’s to healthy and artful eating!

What to do if you Order a Meal in a Restaurant and don’t like it

One of the many pleasures of dining out is the opportunity to try new and different foods from the everyday fare you are used to eating at home.  Whether you’re trying an unusual item on the menu or experimenting with an entirely different type of cuisine, you know you’re taking a risk when you order something out of your comfort zone.  Or the reverse may be true.  You go to your favorite restaurant and order your favorite meal, the one you’ve been dying to enjoy again ever since the last time you ordered it.  Either way, your expectations are high.

If, by chance, you order a meal in either one of these scenarios and find, when your food arrives at the table, that you are more than a little dissatisfied with what is placed in front of you, what options do you have?  Should you just grin and bear it and vow never to eat at the restaurant again or never to take a walk on the wild side and order something unusual?  Should you speak up and demand satisfaction?   

Remember that, in this situation, you are the customer.  And, while the customer may not always be right, as the cliche goes, the customer is always the customer.  Your status as a paying customer should give you some clout when it comes to getting what you want.  So, before you storm out of the restaurant, never to darken its doorway again, consider a few different approaches to the situation:

Call the waiter or waitress over to your table and explain your dissatisfaction with the food before you.  Oftentimes, they will immediately take your plate back to the kitchen to make the situation right.  Be explicit about what exactly is wrong with your food.  Is it cold?  Under or over cooked?  Dry, stale or unappetizing?  Are you plagued by foreign objects that don’t belong anywhere near your plate?  Did you simply make a mistake in your food choice and now have buyer’s remorse?  Being clear about your complaint will go a long way in helping to resolve it.

If your waiter appears to be indifferent to your plight, request to speak to the restaurant manager.  The person who runs the restaurant has a higher stake in keeping customers satisfied than a minimum wage waiter working for tips.  At this level, the solution to your dissatisfaction may end up being a free dessert or even a free meal. 

If you feel the mistake was your own by choosing something from the menu that just didn’t suit your taste buds, you may decide to simply eat your meal quietly and be done with it. 

Many restaurants have customer survey cards either in the restaurant or online for you to fill out and make suggestions and recommendations about the food or the service.  You may want to take advantage of this avenue of communication to express your feelings about the meal preparation or the choice of spices or whatever it was about the dish that you felt left it somewhat lacking in appeal.  While this is a more indirect approach, you may ultimately influence some menu changes that will keep your favorite restaurant high on the list of places where you want to eat.  

Fruit Pies Freeze well

Fruit pies will keep for about three months in the freezer and still be as fresh, or almost, as when first baked. A well stocked freezer with several fruit pies ready for thawing out and serving will come in handy during busy holidays. Too, freezing uses up the excess amount of apples from the backyard fruit that otherwise would go to waste. Well organized cooks use these to save money, save time and to save money. But the best reason for freezing fruit pies is to be prepared for  barren winter months ahead.

But the best way is to prepare the fruit pie and then freeze before baking. This makes for a fresher taking pie and more like actually baking the pie from from fruit fresh from the tree or vine. They can be prepared and frozen unbaked, or baked and then frozen.  Freezing may slightly lower the taste of the pie, and baked frozen pies may lose their bubbly look if not reheated, and if reheated, may be less juicy. That is a slight problem and one not detected by anyone other than the cook, but cooks like to present to their guests, their best efforts, at least where pies are concerned.  For compensation, a scoop of ice cream on a reheated apple, peach, or berry pie, will overcome whatever freezer flaws it has.

Pillsbury’s pastry cooks recommend the following: Pies are to be frozen only when absolutely cool, lukewarm even won’t do. For unbaked pies, “Brush the bottom crust with egg white before filling to prevent it from becoming soggy. Do not slit the top pastry. Cover pies with an inverted foil or paper plate and then wrap.” These, they say, will keep up to four months. Of course they will last longer, but after this, the flavor begins to deteriorate.

Baked pies are less hardy. Their time limit before they begin to deteriorate – taste wise – is three months. Instead of leaving them on the counter to defrost, reheat at 325 degrees F. for 45 minutes or until warm and ready to serve. For unbaked pies, cut slits in the center to allow steam to escape, and bake at 425 degrees F. for 30 to 45 minutes until the juices ooze and bubble up from the center.

Do not freeze cream pies or those with meringues, or chiffon pies, puddings and custard. Pies that are open-faced freeze well if they are well protected from damage.  Covering the whole pie with a paper plate  large enough to leave a space between the pie filling and the covering, and then wrapping or placing in freezer bags will work well. For reheating,  fifteen minutes at 325 will unthaw and leave them warm and ready to serve.

Another excellent way of utilizing fruits for pies is to prepare the filling in advance and freeze separately. Or, if one is not sure how the excess berries or fruits will be used, whether in pies, puddings, some other dessert combinations, then freeze the fruits separately. At pie baking time, unthaw and prepare the pie filling.

This will not take up too much time if crusts are likewise frozen – or store bought and kept in the freezer ready to be used. To freeze crusts, place them in a pie pan, cover as if it were a pie, and freeze. As Pillsbury’s cooks suggested, brushing on egg whites, before freezing, or before cooking, will lessen their chance of being soggy.

For the top crusts, freeze separately on large round of cardboard that have been covered with wax paper or cling and then wrapped. The cling will be useful, after the dough has thawed to lift the crust and place on the pie filling.

Candy Making 101

If you hate baking, try candy making. I started making candy a few years back. Before then I spent many hours in the kitchen making dozens of cookies for Christmas. I never enjoyed baking because many times you have to chill the dough, then you have to wait for the cookies to bake, and if you’re not careful the cookies might burn. Then I ran across a recipe for bon bons and decided to give it a try. Now I continue to collect candy recipes and try new ones every year. As for the cookies, I may make one batch for Christmas, and I usually put out about 30lbs of candy.

I found a recipe for basic fondant in an old cook book they were discarding from a library. This fondant has become the base of almost all my bon bons. After flavoring the fondant, I just dip the balls or squares in melted chocolate and place on waxed paper to harden.

Anyway, here is the versatile recipe:

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup melted butter or margarine
3 lbs powdered sugar
Assorted flavorings, nuts, coconut

Sift 2lbs. of powdered sugar into large mixing bowl. Add butter and sweetened condensed milk, mixing well. Knead in remaining 1lb powdered sugar. Divide the mixture into fourths. Flavor each fourth with desired flavoring, add food coloring if desired. Shape mixture into 1/2″ balls or press into square pan then cut into squares. Dip balls or squares in melted chocolate and let dry on waxed paper. You can also wrap the unflavored fondant around maraschino cherries and dip into the chocolate coating.

You can get creative with your flavorings. LorAnn carries many unusual flavorings such as cheesecake and creme de menthe which can make some awesome bon bons. Warning, if you choose to give these as gifts, chances are you’ll be required to make them for the rest of your life.

Step by Step Guide to Making Pie Crusts

Pie crust, while not difficult to make, takes some practice, and it requires finding the right recipe. It also takes some equipment.

Of course, you need a rolling pin. These can be made of wood, plastic, glass, marble, or various other composites. Anything that is smooth, and remains relatively cool is the best choice if you want to keep the dough from sticking, however, the wooden ones are the traditional variety that many of us are most familiar with. You also need a board or smooth surface to roll the dough out on. Once again, the smoother and cooler the better.

For a simple pie crust, made with vegetable shortening, you need all purpose flour, shortening, either from a can or in sticks, a little salt, and ice water. For a one crust pie, you will need about 1 1/3 cup of flour. A two crust pie will take 2 cups of flour. Add ½ to 1 teaspoon of salt, and ½ to ¾ cup of shortening to the flour. Cut in the shortening to incorporate it well with the flour by using a knife and fork, or pastry blender. You should have recognizable balls of shortening and flour in the dough.

Gradually add three or four tablespoons of ice water, and mix with a fork until it reaches a consistency that is neither too sticky or too dry. The dough should leave the sides of the bowl and form a ball. Ice water is important since you do not want the little balls of shortening in the dough to become completely smooth. The fact that you can see the shortening in the dough means that it will form air bubbles when baked and make a lighter, flakier, and less rubbery crust.

Turn the dough out on your board. If you are using a wooden board and rolling pin, you will need to flour both, to keep the dough from sticking. Separate the dough into two balls if you are making a two crust pie.

Unlike bread dough, which requires kneading, pie dough gets tougher the more you work with it. Take one of the balls of dough, roll it gently in a little flour, and begin rolling it out, starting at the center and rolling in all directions until you have a circle big enough to fit in your pie pan. Gently lift the dough, place it into the pan and form it gently around the inside, leaving enough dough over the rim of the pan to make your fluted edge.

If you are making a pie shell to bake, for use later, prick the bottom and the sides with a fork to allow the steam to escape and keep the dough from rising up from the pan. If it is a two crust pie, add your filling, roll out the other half of the dough and place over the top of the filling. Flute the edges once the top crust is on, and trim off the excess around the edges. Prick some holes in the top crust, or add some decorative slits to the crust.

Once you have made pie crust, making it is pretty much second nature, and while you can buy pie crust already made, many still prefer the homemade variety.