Cooking Mama Lite, Olive Garden Demos, Spam iCan and More

It’s the end of the year Holiday Season and whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, or Kwanzaa the one thing you will be doing is eating. I’m not talking about some little meal you fix for yourself because you’re on a diet and you ate a big lunch earlier. No, I’m talking about a full fledged, no holds barred, use all the dished, borrow some chairs, “I wish I had a bigger kitchen” type sit down, say grace, and past the corn dinner with multiple desserts including Aunt Mildred’s Killer Rum-Raisin Cake (heavy on the rum).

Food, I mean the good stuff, is a huge part of any holiday gathering regardless of what the occasion. Of course, this isn’t Star Trek or Hogwarts so food does not magically appear before us when we sit down to dine (unless you are rich enough to not have to deal with such trifling concerns) which means someone had to fix it.

Now, I’m a man who is unafraid of a kitchen and the workings therein. In fact, I fancy myself as being somewhat adept at cooking. My culinary creations likely won’t win prizes, but they are consumable, by humans. I can also proudly state that no one has ever died from eating anything I’ve prepared, and most folks have actually enjoyed my collations.

What I like most about cooking is the preparations; the chopping, slicing, dicing, peeling, seeding, boning, filleting, pureeing, and pretty much anything that happens before you actually cook the food.

The cooking part is fun, but that’s a lot of waiting, which can get boring. What makes cooking more fun is doing it with good pots and pans, preferably of the triple-clad stainless steel variety like those made by All Clad, Cuisinart, and others. I can’t afford a set of triple-ply stainless steel pots, so I bought the next level down, single ply stainless pots with a heavy, heat distributing base. (Check out the Cuisinart 14-Piece Chef's Classic Cookware Set) I tell you now, if you are currently cooking with anything less and get a chance to cook with stainless steel, you’ll never go back to your old pots. And if you are cooking with non-stick or bare aluminum pots, get rid of them. A cheap set of stainless steel or cast iron pots is healthier for you according to some people. Stainless steel does not react with food. Since stainless steel does not have a coating like the non-stick pots have, you won’t get any strange plastic bits in your food as the coating wears out. And a decent stainless steel cookware set will save you money as it takes less energy to cook with them than it does the cheaper pots and pans.

Anyway, if you don’t feel as comfortable in the kitchen as I claim to be maybe all you need is a little practice. But who has the time to whip up taste tempting dish after taste tempting dish, not to mention all money spent on the ingredients?

What you need is to experience the action of food prep without the food. What you need is a little bit of fun thrown in to keep things interesting. What you need is Cooking Mama Lite.

First let me emphasize that cooking is NOT the only thing that girls can become accomplished at. And there are plenty of straight guys who like to cook. In fact, I’ve noticed that some, if not most women are attracted to men who can cook. So it was a little depressing to find that most iPhone cooking games cater to girls only. While understand that there are likely more girls than guys who want to play a cooking game, I see no reason why we need to perpetuate stereotypes by hawking cooking games only to girls.

OK, I’m done. On with Cooking Mama Lite.

Cooking Mama is a game that appeared on other platforms and seems ideally suits for the iPhone/iPod Touch. Here you go through each step in preparing a dish, in the lite version it’s hamburger stewed in tomato sauce (yum!). What’s cool is that you get to do food prep (the part I like). Chop the ingredients, sauté, kneed, mix, then cook while paying close attention to timing and the sequence of combining the ingredients to make the dish. The better you are at each step the better the dish will turn out.

I like that the game makes use of the iPhone’s motion sensors as well as its touch screen. You shake to sprinkle seasonings, roll it around to coat you pan with butter, tap the screen to chop veggies, and so on.

There’s a full, paid version (of course) that features more recipes and challenges.

Cooking Mama Lite is a great way to get cooking without actually cooking anything.

Once you feel a bit more poised with your fake pots and pans then maybe you’d like to give your real ones a try. May I suggest you try The Olive Garden Step-by-Step Cooking Demonstrations?

I have to warn you up front that there are only five episodes of this podcast on the iTunes Store, but I think they are worth watching.

Chef Paolo Lafata (a real chef) shows us how to make 5 slammin’ Italian dishes. It’s great fun to watch a master chef do his thing and to see the results.

The only problem with this podcast is that it doesn’t give you a list of ingredients. For that you need to go to the Olive Garden website where you can print out the entire recipe.

Watching Chef Lafata makes these meals starts me thinking that it may not be so tough to make a dish that people will talk about (favorably). That is, until you try to do it.

Anyway, the Olive Garden Cooking Demonstration podcast is a good way to get cooking.

Maybe your culinary skillz aren’t up to authentic Italian cooking. Maybe you need to start off with something a bit easier to work with than fresh chicken or beef. Maybe you want something that’s both light on your wallet and fun to cook with, and is extremely versatile, something at home in a stew as it is on a grilled sandwich.

Hmmm. Whatever could this new food be?

It’s not tofu (yuk!) and it’s not shrimp (the food of the sea). It’s SPAM®! Even better, there’s an iPhone app devoted to the Miracle Meat in a Can.

SPAM® iCan is a fun and free app that take some of the mystery out of Hormel’s famous mystery canned meat. The app has SPAM® facts, SPAM® games, and SPAM® recipes.

For instance, do you know where the name, SPAM®, came from? I can tell you it isn’t an acronym for “something posing as meat”. According to the app SPAM® stands for “Shoulder of Pork and Ham”.

I personally don’t believe this explanation because you really have to gyrate your brain to get that to work as a reasonable acronym. I think SPAM® stands for “Spare Ham”, as in ham bits and pieces, which is a bit easier to swallow acronymically speaking.

Anyway, SPAM® iCan is a fun app and the recipes look tempting. I’ve bought a can of SPAM® and I intend to make one of the dishes they include in the app, maybe the SPAM® Penne. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Check out SPAM® iCan.

OK, that’s going to be a wrap for this week.

Check out more free stuff for the iTunes Store below (with direct links).

Bon apetite and ciao!