Monday, December 30, 2013

Think With Your Taste Buds - Chicken - Free!

 
Think With Your Taste Buds - Chicken
 
 
 

Lillian and I have talked this over, given it much thought and decided that we will not publish our cookbook Think With Your Taste Buds - Chicken.  Instead, we are working up a new site where all of the recipes from our book will be posted.  This will allow you to take advantage of these wonderful dishes at no cost. 

The site is in the works but you won't have to wait until all recipes have been moved.  We will move the 1st 5 over and post.  More will be added daily as time permits. 

Hope you will all check out these delicious dishes and give them a try.  As with all of our books in the past, you'll find my comments, Lillian's comments and now and then comments from one of our food testers.

We'll let you know when the 1st posting takes place.

Martha and Lillian

Monday, December 23, 2013

I Didn't Know That - Artichokes


I've never been a big artichoke fan, probably because I never ate it as a child which also means that I was never taught how to cook these pretty green 'cones.'  Now that I'm older I've decided to give them a try so I did a bit of research to learn some of the dos and don'ts that I might need to know.  Here is what I found.

I know that the few times I've handled artichoke that they really can prick your fingers when you snip off the ends.  There is a logical solution to this... simply wear rubber gloves.

I learned that you don't cook artichokes in aluminum or iron pots.  They will actually turn the pot gray.

Apparently artichokes have a tendency to become discolored.  This can be prevented by standing the artichoke in cold water with a tablespoon of vinegar about an hour before cooking.  Or you can dip the trimmed base in lemon juice.

Now for storage.  You can prevent your artichokes from wilting for up to five days by wrapping them, unwashed, in a damp towel and store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

OK, I've learned this much.  So far I've made a dip using artichokes, in the jar, mayo and Parmesan cheese.  This was really good.  I've also made an artichoke with rice dish that is baked over chicken.  That one is really delicious!  I've heard artichoke and crab makes a good dip/spread so that will be next on my list to make.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

I Didn't Know That - Salads


I use a lettuce keeper but always find that most heads of lettuce won't fit unless I remove the core.  I used to cut out the core with a knife but cutting lettuce make it 'bleed' and turn brown.  Then someone told me the trick to removing the core without using the knife.  You simply hit the core end once against the counter top sharply.  The core will then twist right out.  No more brown spots.

A lot of times when I make a salad the greens at the bottom of the bowl seem to get soggy.  I know this is due to my not letting my washed greens dry but it seems like I'm always in a hurry and want to get the salad underway.  Here is a trick that takes care of this little problem.  I turn a saucer upside down in the bottom of my salad bowl.  The excess liquid drains off ad runs under the saucer leaving my salad fresh and crisp.

Did you know that wen you store your lettuce it won't 'rust' as quickly if you line the bottom of the vegetable compartment with paper towel?  The paper absorbs the excess moisture and helps keep all of your veggies and fruits fresher for a longer period of time.  You can also do this using sponges instead of paper towels.

Now for your dressings.  If you use the dry envelopes of your favorite salad-dressing mix instead of bottled, you know that you're supposed to wait a while after making for the flavors to come out.  I have  trick for you.  Add a tablespoon of boiling water to the packet, mix, cover and let cool.  The flavor is released immediately.  Then add the remaining ingredients and you have fresh salad dressing without the wait.

If you like oil and vinegar dressings try this.  Combine all ingredients in a screw top jar.  Add 1 ice cube and shake.  Discard the ice cube and your dressing will come out extra smooth and very well mixed.

Friday, December 20, 2013

I Didn't Know That - Soup Tips


There have been times that I've bought mushrooms just to find that I don't need as many as I bought.  This is what I found that can be done so I'm not throwing my money away.  Using my blender I puree them in a little liquid such as beef, chicken stock or just water.  I pour that into an inexpensive, plastic ice tray and freeze.  When they are frozen I store the cubes in a plastic bag.  These work great for soups, stews and sauces.

For left over veggies I keep a container in the freezer and just keep adding them until it's full.  When it's soup time I thaw the whole container and add the veggies to my soup pot.

And when you cook a beef roast, save the juices.  Pour them into your ice trays and freeze.  When frozen place them in a plastic bag and you have instant beef stock when needed. 

Did you know that when you can prevent milk from curdling when making cream soups like tomato by adding the soup to the milk and not the milk to the soup.  I tried this the last time I made tomato soup from a can and it worked!



And one more - if you add minced clams to chowder at the very last moment it will keep hem from getting mushy and tasteless.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

I Didn't Know - Greasy or Fried Foods


·      

     How they affect you: Food high in saturated fat, like steak (certain cuts, like rib-eye, are fattier than others), French fries, and ice cream, is difficult for the body to digest and can make you feel uncomfortably full and increase the chances of acid reflux, according to Palinski-Wade.

     If you already suffer from heartburn, fatty food can make it even worse by relaxing the valve that seals off the stomach from the sphincter. The loose valve can cause stomach acid to rise into the esophagus and result in a really unpleasant case of heartburn, says Karen Ansel, nutritionist and dietitian.

     What you can do: If you’re jonesing for a steak, burger, or other high-fat meal tonight, remember not to combine it with alcohol, which can further irritate your GI tract, says Palinski-Wade. Whenever possible, cook meals in plant-based fats, such as olive oil, which is easier to break down than saturated fat, like butter.

     What happens when you eat fatty and greasy foods:

     The digestion of fat begins in the mouth where the food you chew is mixed with a small amount of lingual lipase that is found in your saliva. Lingual lipase is a digestive enzymes that breaks fatty acids apart from triglycerides.

     Once you swallow your food, digestion continues in the stomach. A small amount of lipase is also secreted in the stomach to continue the digestion of fat, but most fat digestion takes place in the small intestine.

     Your liver produces bile, which is stored in the gall bladder until it's triggered by eating foods that contain fat. Bile is released into the small intestine where it works like a detergent to emulsify the fats into smaller droplets. This makes it easier for pancreatic lipase to get to the triglycerides.

     The bile and lipase break fats down into smaller pieces that are absorbed into the blood stream. The bile, which contains cholesterol, is either re-absorbed into the blood or bound by soluble fiber in the intestine and eliminated in the stool. Eating foods with lots of soluble fiber helps keep your cholesterol levels healthy by grabbing more of the cholesterol from the bile and eliminating it from your body.

     A healthy digestive system will absorb about 95 percent of the dietary fat that you eat. People with malabsorption disorders like celic sprue, pancreatic lipase deficiency and bile salt deficiency usually can't absorb fats properly. 

     Fats and Oils contain nine calories per gram. Your body takes the extra fatty acids and stores them as adipose tissue, which is better known as body fat. Adipose tissue can be broken down and turned into glucose when you need more calories -- that's why counting calories is important if you want to lose weight.

     Both high-fat and fried food can overwhelm the stomach, resulting in acid reflux and heartburn. "The body can only handle so much at one time," says Jessica Anderson, RD, a diabetes educator with the Texas A&M Health Science Center Coastal Bend Health Education Center, in Corpus Christi.

High-fat food also can result in pale-colored stool, a phenomenon called steatorrhea, which is essentially excess fat in the feces. A lot of people with irritable bowel syndrome need to stay away from foods high in fat, she says, including butter and cream because they can cause digestive problems.

Monday, December 2, 2013

I Didn't Know - Fresh Fruit and Veggies


·

How they affect you: Conventional wisdom says that reaching for nature’s bounty in the produce aisle is the best way to stay healthy. And while fresh produce should always be included in a healthy diet, digesting raw fruit and vegetables can be difficult for people with sensitive GI systems. Raw produce has high amounts of insoluble fiber, which move quickly through the intestinal tract and can result in loose stool, diarrhea, gas and bloating.

What you can do: Cook your veggies and, whenever possible, your fruit. “Cooking helps to break down some fiber in produce, allowing it to be digested more easily, limiting gas and bloating that can occur when eating raw produce,” says Palinski-Wade.

Below are the suggestions I found on a site called Summer Tomato.  Go to that site and you'll be able to learn the benefits of these suggestions.  I found the author's comments not only helpful but also quite interesting.

1. Chew thoroughly

2. Take smaller bites

3. Don’t get too full

4. Eat balanced meals

5. Increase vegetable and fiber intake gradually

6. Experiment with probiotics

7. Soak your beans

8. Eliminate wheat

9. Eliminate dairy

10. Avoid fake sugars

11. Reduce fresh and dried fruit intake

12. Use medication

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dos and Don'ts if You've Been in an Accident



With the winter months coming many of us get the ice, snow and rain to deal with when traveling.  Along with these come a greater chance for road accidents.  Hopefully none of us will be involved in one but just in case I thought I would share some words of wisdom from my Nationwide Agent Tim.

Remember these important driver “don’ts.” When you aren’t able to avoid an accident, the next best thing is to make sure you handle the situation the right way. So if you find yourself in the middle of a fender bender or something potentially more serious, here are six practices you should definitely avoid:

Leaving the involved vehicles on the road. With traffic attempting to move around the accident scene, your first priority is to pull your vehicle off to the side of the road at a safe distance from traffic. Then turn on your hazard lights before exiting your car, and approach the other driver in a non-threatening manner. “If one or more vehicles are disabled, don’t try to move them,” says Bill Windsor, associate vice president of consumer safety for Nationwide. “If the hazard lights are operating, turn them on. Use flares too if you have them. Then stay a very safe distance away from the traffic.”

Losing your cool. Even if the other driver was clearly at fault, do not make accusations or otherwise invite confrontation. “Instead, ask if the other person is OK to help defuse any tension,” Windsor says. “Take deep breaths if you feel anger building.”

Not contacting the police immediately. You must contact police, no matter how minor the situation. “Average citizens should not act as judges with regard to the severity of an incident,” Windsor says. “That’s for police to determine. In addition, you need an official police report to document what exactly happened.”

Not contacting Nationwide (your own insurance company). Your insurance agent should always be called after you’ve exchanged the following information with the other driver: name, address, phone number, insurance company name/policy number, license plate number/state, name of the vehicle owner and car year/make/model/color. The Nationwide app makes it easy (see below). Also, record details about the incident, such as the location, the time of the crash and a summary of how it happened. Take pictures of the damage done to your vehicle.

Accepting cash to “keep it quiet.” Some drivers—if they’re at fault and face possible legal and/or insurance issues because of their record—might offer what looks like a sufficient amount of cash to “fix the problem without contacting police or insurance companies.” This is a bad idea. “Even if it doesn’t look like it will cost that much to fix your vehicle,” Windsor says, “you have no way of knowing how expensive it may actually get. There’s also damage that you can’t see. Contacting police and Nationwide is absolutely essential.”

Being unprepared. Never get in a car without a fully-charged cellphone, a first-aid kit and emergency contact information.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

I Didn't Know - Spicy Foods



How it affects you: Whether we’re talking hot curry or spicy Buffalo chicken wings, foods that give your taste buds a run for their money can also trigger heartburn, particularly if you eat them close to bedtime.

What you can do: "Cooling foods, specifically dairy, can help to calm the burn associated with spicy food in some people," says Palinski-Wade. "Since milk itself can be hard on digestion, reach instead for high-quality dairy rich in protein, like cottage cheese or a Greek yogurt that contains GI-friendly probiotics to aid digestion."
I've always heard of people drinking milk after and while eating spicy foods but never knew why.

How does it work:  The spices in most of the hot foods that we eat are oily, and, like your elementary school science teacher taught you, oil and water don't mix. In this case, the water just rolls over the oily spices. A chemical called capsaicin in the peppers binds to your taste buds and feels like they are burning the heck out of your mouth. Water may feel like it is diluting it but only momentarily, and sugary juices make it worse by opening up your taste buds and allowing more capsaicin in. Milk products, on the other hand, binds to capsaicin more tightly than capsaicin binds to your taste buds. When you drink the milk or eat a dairy product the capsaicin is attached and goes down with it.

Friday, November 22, 2013

I Didn't Know - Processed Foods



·     How they affect you: Beyond upping the risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease and leading to weight gain, refined carbohydrates, like white bread, soda, and potato chips, move quickly through the digestive tract and can result in bloating, cramping, and other GI issues.

What you can do: If you can’t totally cut out processed foods from your diet, eat them in combination with foods that digest slowly, like lean protein – think chicken breast without the skin – and healthy fat – like an avocado or natural peanut butter, says Palinski-Wade. On top of that, keep portions in check, so those refined carbs don’t outweigh the good food you’re combining them with.

What are processed foods?

Processed foods have been altered from their natural state, either for safety reasons or for convenience. The methods used include canning, freezing, refrigeration, dehydration and aseptic processing.

Good Processed Foods

We tend to think of them as bad, like most high-fat, high-calorie snack foods or even those prepackaged meals you fix in a skillet, but it turns out that some of these foods are not bad for your health at all. For example, milk is considered a processed food because it's pasteurized to kill bacteria and homogenized to keep fats from separating.

Breakfast cereal can be good for you if it's made with 100-percent whole grain and fortified with additional nutrients, but many breakfast cereals are low in fiber and contain too much sugar. Read the nutrition label on the package, it will help you decide if the breakfast cereal is good or not.

Freezing vegetables preserves most vitamins and minerals and makes them convenient to store, cook and eat all year around. Fruit and vegetable juice is also an example of a healthy processed food -- usually. In fact, some orange juice is fortified with calcium to make it even more nutritious. Oatmeal, unbreaded frozen fish fillets, canned salmon, frozen berries and 100-percent whole grain bread are also examples of processed foods that are good for you.

Bad Processed Foods

Processed foods made with trans-fats, saturated fats, and large amounts of sodium and sugar aren't good for you. These processed foods should be avoided, or at least eaten sparingly:

  • Canned foods with large amounts of sodium or fat.
  • Pasta meals made with refined white flour instead of whole grains.
  • Packaged high-calorie snack foods such as chips and candies.
  • Frozen fish sticks and frozen dinners that are high in sodium.
  • Packaged cakes and cookies.
  • Boxed meal mixes that are high in fat and sodium.
  • Sugary breakfast cereals.
  • Processed meats.

Why processed meats? Some studies suggest that eating processed meats may increase your risk of colorectal, kidney and stomach cancer. And some people worry about hotdogs and brain tumors. Processed meats include hot dogs, bologna, sausage, ham and other packaged lunch meats. These meats are frequently high in calories, saturated fats and sodium.

Choosing Processed Foods

Be sure to look for products that are made with more whole grains, less sodium and have fewer calories. They should also be low in saturated fat and free of trans-fats (be sure to read the label, sometimes foods that claim to be trans-fat free still contain partially hydrogenated oils). Make sure you pay attention to serving size, too, and balance out the processed foods with more fresh foods. If you choose a convenient meal in a skillet, add a garden salad, fresh vegetables, and some whole grain bread to make the meal healthier. You can also the nutritional value of ramen noodles by adding fresh vegetables.

 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I Didn't Know - Chocolate


I'm not a chocolate lover but do enjoy Hot Cocoa if flavored with Hazelnuts or Almond... go figure.  In the cold months I like to have a hot cup before going to bed.  Always wondered why I was up and down at night due to a full bladder.  I found my answer.

How it affects you: Your sweet tooth may affect more than just your waistline. Caffeine contained in chocolate may trigger heartburn and IBS symptoms in people prone to digestive disorders. What’s more, like coffee, chocolate is also a diuretic, which can result in loose stool or diarrhea.

What you can do: If you need to satisfy that craving, choose dark chocolate. “It contains polyphenols that can slow GI function and increase water absorption to prevent diarrhea,” says Palinski-Wade. “Cocoa, which is found in higher amounts in dark chocolate than milk chocolate, is also a good source of fiber, which promotes healthy digestion.”
Then when I thought I might have to give up my winter drinking of flavored hot chocolate I found this:
 
1. According to a study conducted at Cornell University, the antioxidant concentration in hot cocoa is almost twice as strong as red wine. Cocoa's concentration was two to three times stronger than that of green tea and four to five times stronger than that of black tea.
2. Professor Chang Yong Lee, the leader of the Cornell study, added that the "hot" in "hot chocolate" is important as well. More antioxidants are released when it's heated up.
3. A cup of hot cocoa contains 611 milligrams of the phenolic compound gallic acid equivalents (GAE) and 564 milligrams of the flavonoid epicatechin equivalents (ECE). The antioxidant gallic acid is used to treat internal hemorrhages, albuminuria (the presence of albumin in the urine, which can indicate kidney disease) and diabetes.
4. Although a regular bar of chocolate has strong antioxidant activity, the health benefits may be outweighed because of the saturated fats present — cocoa generally has much less fat per serving compared to the 8 grams of fat in a standard chocolate bar.
5. The flavonoid help your body process nitric oxide, which is why hot cocoa can improve blood flow, help lower your blood pressure and improve heart health.
6. The flavonoids in hot chocolate also help prevent platelets in your blood from mingling together and forming clots.
7. According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, drinking hot chocolate can help you think better too. The flavonoids increase the blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Since dementia is caused by a reduced flow of blood to the brain, researchers think it could be treated with cocoa.
Now comes the tricky part. Commercial instant hot cocoa mixes are often more of an artificial monstrosity that may eradicate any good the cocoa may have to offer. One of the most popular mixes, for example, lists cocoa fifth on the list of ingredients, beneath the higher-level ingredients of sugar, corn syrup and a medley of vegetable oils.
 
 

Monday, November 18, 2013

I Didn't Know - Artificial Sweeteners


As I age I find that different foods have started causing a few problems with my digestive system, so I did some research.  This will be posted in parts so I won't overwhelm everyone with so much information.  I'm calling these posts "I Didn't Know."
 
How it affects you: If you like to cut calories by adding artificial sweetener rather than real sugar to your coffee, you may be affecting your digestion and increasing inflammation in your body. “In general, sweeteners which are partially digested (sugar alcohols) have the biggest impact on the GI system and can lead to bloat, gas, and diarrhea,” according nutritionist and dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade. 

What you can do: Experiment with the multitude of artificial sweeteners that are on the market and determine which affects you the least, suggests Palinski-Wade, who recommends using natural sweeteners, such as agave nectar. “This is not calorie-free, but because it is sweeter than sugar, less is needed, helping to reduce carbohydrates and calories,” says Palinski-Wade.

Friday, November 15, 2013

In The Pantry - Part 5 (final)


Rice - Another very important product to have in your healthy kitchen.  With many varieties available such as pearl, brown, white, long or short grains, try different varieties in different recipes.  Rice is a good source of nutrients and carbohydrates.  Store in a cool, dry location.  Also inspect your rice before using it.  (Rice is another must have for me.  I have never tried the pearl and am not crazy about the brown but I have found one that I can't get enough of in white or brown and that is Basmati.  It has a nutty flavor that adds to any dish.)

Seeds - try to increase the amount of seeds used in your cooking.  Most seeds do contain oils, but are a good source of protein.  Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are a good choice.  Buy raw and unsalted seeds to allow the most options in cooking and snacking.  (This is something I've just started getting into.  I've found a Sunflower Bread that one of my local grocery stores makes and I simply love it.  It has whole kernel sunflower seeds throughout the whole loaf of bread.  It has become my favorite bread next to seeded rye.)

Sesame Tahini - made of ground, hulled sesame seeds, tahini is a paste that is common in Middle Eastern dishes.  Try tahini as a sandwich spread and use for dipping as an appetizer with fresh vegetables.  Tahini has a large amount of oil, so use sparingly.  Store covered in the refrigerator.  (This is a new one to me.  I like sesame so this may be something I'll have to try.)

Tamari - can be used as a salt substitute, but is also high in sodium.  Tamari is made from fermented soybeans.  Many commercial brands are produced by chemical processing and should be avoided.  Naturally fermented tamari can be found in health food and ethnic shops.  (Another new one for me that I'll have to research more before using due to the sodium.)

Vinegars - A good quality red wine vinegar, rice wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar will allow you to produce enticing and creative tastes and flavors.  Also important is apple cider vinegar and distilled white vinegar for both cooking and pickling.  The best choice of vinegars are quality brands that offer great flavors without being overly harsh and acidic.  The impact hat a vinegar may have on a dish is great, most often times being able to heighten existing flavors found in your other ingredients.  Used in salads, dressings, to deglaze pans, in pickling and to marinate vegetables, fish and chicken, vinegars have many important roles in the kitchen.  Store in glass container, away from heat and light. (I keep all of these vinegars on hand and use them frequently.  I've found that they do enhance the spices and herbs you are using in cooking.  When I saute chicken with garlic and herbs I'll add a little balsamic vinegar to highlight the taste.)

Wheat Germ - the heart of wheat, rich in vitamin E, B vitamins, protein, iron, potassium and zinc.  Adds nice, interesting flavors to salads, breakfast cereals and works well in sauces and with cooked vegetables.  Store in sealed container in cool, dry location.  (I've heard of people sprinkling this over just about everything they eat but haven't tried it myself - yet.  Think I'll give it a try.)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

In The Pantry - Part 4


Oats - an important and versatile product for today's healthy kitchens.  Oats are high in nutrients and are a great form of fiber.  Avoid the instant form of oats, instead use old fashioned or quick oats.  Store in cool, dry location.  (I love oats for breakfast and the Old Fashioned are my favorite.  I cook them about 1/2 the time the instructions call for giving them a wonderful texture.  I do have to add a little sugar and butter, actually more than I probably should, but I could eat oat meal every day.  I also prefer the Old Fashioned for my cookies to give them the extra chew.)

Oils - One of the biggest goals of health focused cooking, is to reduce the amount of fat we ingest.  Oils are a fat and should be used sparingly.  In order to get the most benefit out of your oils, use monounsaturated oils, such as olive, canola or peanut.  Monounsaturated oils appear to be the most positive of all oils and fats.  Although the calories are basically the same, monounsaturated oils help enhance the levels of the good, high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and control the bad, low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol found in your body.  What's more, monounsaturated oils have wonderful flavors and aromas.  Olive oils are available from mild to pungent and can really enhance the flavors in your dishes.  Peanut oil is ideal for any recipe that calls for high temperature cooking.  Most importantly, is that goal and focus to cut back and limit the amounts of fats and oils ingested.  Avoid cottonseed and coconut oils, as they are high in saturated fats.  These oils are often times found in hydrogenated oils and fats which you also want to avoid.  Hydrogenation is when a liquid oil is processed with an additional hydrogen molecule and the resulting product is turned into a solid fat.  Research has indicated that consuming hydrogenated products might be the biggest concern when discussing consumption of any type of fat or oil.  Anything labeled vegetable oil may contain one or both of these oils, and avoid all fats and oils that have been hydrogenated.  (I normally use olive oil for cooking and canola in my baking.  I'll also use canola oil for frying, which I seldom do.  I've always heard these were the best but never really understood why.  Now I do.)

Pasta - universally loved by young and old alike, pasta is one of the most versatile and limitless sources for menu ideas.  Have many varieties on hand, vermicelli, rotini, fettuccine, rigatoni and try a new kind weekly.  Try whole wheat and other flavored varieties, like spinach or tomato.  Store in a dry, cool location.  Pre-cooking pasta will store in your refrigerator, for up to 5 days in a tightly sealed container.  (I don't think I could live without pasta!  I love all shapes and sizes.  The one think I have trouble doing is switching to the whole wheat and flavored style.  I'm doing better with the whole wheat but not so well with the spinach and tomato.  It's pretty but it just doesn't seem 'normal.'  Maybe one day.)

Pepper - is the most common of all spices known.  Have a combination of white and black pepper for grinding over your foods.  You can also use peppercorns in your dishes to add flavor.  Store pepper in a cool, dry location.  (I have always used black pepper for seasoning until one day I found myself out.  I had a bottle of white pepper and used that instead.  I couldn't believe the difference between the 2.  The white pepper seemed to be a bit hotter but also a different taste.  I now use it in my stews and soups instead of the black.)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

In the Pantry Part 3


Herbs - A must for any healthy focused cook and kitchen.  Herbs are the basis for many new cooking ideas in reducing fats, sodium and the amount of processed foods in our diets.  The mild to powerful flavors of herbs offer unlimited potential to alter and enhance any dish.  Start your own garden or planter, as herbs are very hardy and you will have no trouble growing an abundant quality and variety.  (Herbs are something I can't live without.  Unfortunately I buy them, use them but due to the size of their container I end up having to throw them away before I've used the whole container due to their expiration date.  Fresh are better but again I never use the whole package.  So I've started freezing my fresh bought and even some of my seldom used dried.  Don't know if I'm supposed to do this but it seems to work.)

Honey - is a great substitute for white sugar.  although honey has only trace amounts of vitamins and minerals, because of the potent sweetness of honey, you can often times use less.  Store in a covered container, in a cool, dry location.  If honey crystallizes, place container in hot water for 5-10 minutes.  (I'm not one who uses that much honey but might give it a try as a substitute in my tea.)

Lecithin - Combine liquid lecithin with olive oil and use to lightly oil your bread, cake or casserole dishes.  lecithin is also found in commercial salad dressings to hold emulsified products together and prevent separation.  (Never tried this one.  I normally use non-stick spray on my baking and casserole dishes.  I did look this one up on the internet and it has its ups and downs.  It apparently is good for the body yet can have some side effects.)

Molasses - can be used in place of sugar or honey.  Although black strap molasses is rich in minerals, you must use it cautiously, as the potent, almost overpowering taste can drastically change your recipe's overall flavor.  Can be found in most supermarkets and health food stores.  Store in a cool, dry place.  (This is something that I found out the hard way that you DO have to be careful with due to its flavor.)

Mustard - Used whole, ground or mixed with other ingredients to form a paste, mustard is the second most common spice used in America.  Only pepper is more used.  Mustard uses are broad and limited only by your creativity.  Used in salads, with meats, pickled brine and in many main entrees, you can find it in many dishes created in America.  Mustard has been used since before Roman times and had many culinary and medicinal properties.  The vast variety of prepared mustards allows you to experiment with different flavors and textures.  Prepared mustards should be stored in the refrigerator.  Dry and mustard seeds should be stored in a cool, dry location.  (I love cooking with mustards of all kinds.  I especially enjoy whole grain mustards.  One of my favorite ways to cook pork is to rub it down with mustard before cooking.)
Nuts - Choose unsalted, dry roasted nuts versus ones that have been deep fried and salted.  by using a variety of nuts you can achieve different textures and flavors while creating healthy, exciting dishes.  All nuts contain some form of fat, so use in moderation.  Most nuts stay freshest when frozen.  (I freeze all of my nuts.  I'll buy them whenever possible on sale and stick them into the freezer.  They taste just as fresh as if they just came off the tree.)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

In the Pantry Part 2


Capers - The pickled floral buds from the shrub found in the Mediterranean region.  This product has been used in cooking for more than 2,000 years.  A distinctive, salty and sour taste, its flavors work well with fish, meats and vegetables.  Use sparingly as capers distinctive flavors can be overpowered.  (I like capers but in small doses.  I didn't know what they were made from nor where they came from.)

Cheeses - Use only natural cheeses whenever possible.  Try to avoid cheese that is labeled "cheese product, cheese food or processed cheese" as these products have little in common with the rich tasting and pleasing texture of real cheese.  The nutritional value of proceed cheese is also very poor.  Try to utilize the wonderful domestic and imported cheeses available today.  When using rich tasting cheeses, you can use less which represents less calories and saturated fats. Also remember that the softer cheeses, tend to have a higher fat content.  Look for hard types of cheese, such as Italian parmesan or Romano cheese.  Greek feta cheese that has a tart yet rich flavor is very versatile in salads.  American cheddar, Swiss and jack cheese possess wonderful flavors and textures and offer intriguing options for most dishes.  When buying cheese, avoid buying boxed, pre-grated or pre-canned varieties.  Opt for bulk cheese and grate the cheese immediately before using for ultimate flavors.  (I've found that there are more of the cheese products, cheese foods and processed cheese than there are the natural type, especially when buying slices.  I do love to cook with cheese and will buy it when on sale, freeze it and use it in cooking after thawing.  And I do buy only natural cheese.)

Dried Fruits - Select fruits that are naturally dried, without the use of preservatives. Many dried fruits contain sulfites, so choose your products carefully.  Experiment with creative ideas to incorporate more dried fruit into your recipes.  These morsels are loaded with nutrition and are delicious.  (Dried foods are great in breads and pies too and a lot more handy to keep on hand.)

Dried Legumes - Best known as beans and peas, legumes are the seed of many vegetables and are high in protein, minerals and offer a great opportunity for added variety and flavor in many dishes.  (These I always keep on hand - all types)

Flour - Avoid using "bleached flour" as most of the nutritional value has been stripped from the grain.  although some nutrients have been added back to the flour, the processing removes far more than the trace amounts of vitamins and minerals that are added to the finished product.  Use whole grain flour such as whole wheat, rye, oat and rice flours.  The nutritive and fiber values of whole grain flour are worth the extra pennies you may pay.  When choosing the right flour for your recipes remember: pastry flour is made from soft spring wheat, which has little gluten and creates crumbly, flaky texture.  Bread flour, is made from hard winter wheat and is high in gluten, which gives dough the elasticity for yeast breads.  Store flour tightly covered in the refrigerator.  (I use a lot of flour and unbleached is what I always buy.  What I didn't know was the differences in the spring wheat and winter wheat.  I also didn't know about storing it in the refrigerator.  I've always kept mine in an air tight container.)

Monday, November 11, 2013

In The Pantry - Part 1



I found this in a cookbook dating 2000 called Fit & Fast Foods and feel that it is still good today.
This was actually an education for me as I wasn't aware of a lot of this information.

Agar-Agar - this is a gelatin made from sea algae and is available in most health food stores and oriental shops.  Unlike animal based gelatins, agar-agar has a variety of nutrients and minerals. (This is one I've not tried.  I frequently eat at a Greek owned restaurant and have noticed that their soups have a gelatin thickness that I really like.  I don't know if this is what they use but I plan to try it myself.)

Baking Powder - this product needs to be stored in a cool and dry place to keep its leavening action alive.  You should choose a brand that is made without aluminum compounds.  Although all research is not in, there are indications that when aluminum is ingested, it accumulates in the brain and may be linked to loss of memory and brain deterioration.  (This is what I found of on the use of baking powder with aluminum. "Nothing that I read confirmed its dangers but I think I'll buy that without.  If you’ve ever experienced a bitter, “tinny” flavor when biting into a muffin, that’s because of the baking powder used—and often the overuse of it.")

Baking Soda - is a leavening agent that reacts to acids, like vinegars, citrus juice and buttermilk in a recipe.  Sore it in a cool, dry place.  (Never realized this.)

Bran - choose wheat and oat brans.  Both are very beneficial for their fiber and for nutrients that are often discarded during normal milling processes. (Did know this one.)

Brewers Yeast - this yeast has no value as a leavening agent but has significant levels of B vitamins.  Brewers yeast can be added to many types of foods and you may want to experiment with different types of brewers yeast, as some varieties are stronger in flavor than others.  Store in a cool, dry location.  (Have not tried this one yet.)

Bulgar - Raw wheat berries are parboiled, then dried and cracked.  Bulur has a variety of uses and is best known for its use in Middle-Eastern foods such as tabouli.  This nutty, rich tasting grain is a great substitute for side dishes of rice or potatoes.  Store in tightly covered containers in a cool, dry location.  (Another one that I've not tried but would like to.)

Butter - When you choose to put a spread on your toast, choose a homemade "butter blend", of 2 parts butter, whipped together with one part olive oil.  The whipping action will create a lite and airy spread that will help cut down on the amount you use and combination of butter with the monounsaturated olive oil, will help control the amount of saturated fats you ingest.  Use this spread sparingly, as your overall focus needs to be on reducing the amount of saturated fats in your diet.  Cut back altogether on the amount of butter you ingest, but when you decide to eat a spread, use a small amount of "butter blend".  (This is something you can now find in the grocery stores but I think I would feel a lot better making my own and knowing exactly what was in it.)

Friday, November 8, 2013

Pasta


I found this in a vintage Betty Crocker Cookbook and decided to share.

These are some of the most popular dried varieties of pasta:

Acini De Pepe (or Dot Shape):  Peppercorn-size pieces of cut spaghetti.
Capellini  (or Angel Hair):  The thinnest of the long spaghettis.
Conchigle:  Medium to small shapes with or without groves
Couscous:  The tiniest form of pasta made from granular semolina.
Egg Noodles:  Flat or curly, short pasta strips usually made with eggs or egg yolks.
Elbow Macaroni:  Short, curved, tubular-shaped pasta.
Farfalle (or Bow-Ties):  Shaped like bow-ties.  Miniature bow-ties are known as tripolini.
Fettuccine:  Long, flat noodles, usually 1/4 inch wide.
Fusilli:  Long or short spring-shaped pasta.
Japanese Curly Noodles:  Wavy, thin, long noodles in thin "bricks."
Lasagna:  Flat noodle about 2" wide with either ruffled or straight edges.
Linguine:  Long, flat, thin noodle usually 1/8" wide.
Manicotti (or Cannelloni):  Large 4" hollow pasta tubes that are usually stuffed and baked.
Novelty Shapes:  Seasonal or other pasta shapes, such as trees, rabbits, hearts, etc. sometimes flavored
Penne:  Narrow, short, diagonal-cut pasta about 1 1/4" long, smooth or with groves.
Ramen:  Quick-cooking, deep-fried noodles used dry or cooked.
Ravioli:  Filled pillow-shaped pasta usually stuffed with cheese or spinach.
Rice Noodles:  Translucent, thin strands made from rice flour and water.
Rigatoni:  Short-cut, wide tubular pasta about 1" long with groves.
Rosamarina (or Orzo):  Resembles rice but is slightly larger and longer.
Rotini:  Short-cut corkscrew-shaped pasta.  Wider version is called rotelle.
Spaghetti:  Long, thin, solid strands.
Tortellini:  Filled, slightly irregularly shaped little rings.
Wagon Wheels:  Small, round pasta resembling a wheel with spokes.
Ziti:  Short-cut 2" tubular noodle with smooth surface.

You can refrigerate or freeze leftover pasta for a future meal.  Store in tightly sealed containers or plastic bags in the refrigerator up to five days, or freeze up to two months.  To reheat pasta, choose one of these three quick and easy methods:
* Place pasta in rapidly boiling water for up to 2 minutes.  Drain and serve immediately.
* Place pasta in colander and pour boiling water over it until heated through.  Drain and serve immediately.
*  Place pasta in microwavable dish or container.  Cover and microwave on High for 1-3 minutes per 2 cups or until heated through.  Serve immediately.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cabbage Cauliflower Slaw


Most of us have a favorite recipe for slaw that we simply love.  I love mine so much that whenever I eat slaw at someone's home, at a restaurant, or any other place, I compare it to mine.  It is simple... cabbage, green onion, carrots now and then but just a little, equal amounts of sugar and vinegar and just enough mayo to coat.  Well, I decided to add something.  I had some leftover cauliflower from the soup I made a few days ago so I decided to chop some of it up and try it in my slaw.  I ended up with equal amounts of cabbage and cauliflower so I could make sure the taste of both came through.  This was delicious!  So if you like cauliflower, give this one a try.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Styrofoam Recycled, Sort of



What do you do with all those little Styrofoam 'peanuts' that come packed into cartons so often?  Besides their obvious shipping re-use, why not use them as drainage the next time you're planting house greenery or those herbs you decided to grow inside this winter.  These 'peanuts' are extremely lightweight, yet tough, so they'll hold up under the dirt and provide drainage.  It also makes the pot a lot lighter than rocks used for drainage.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Sell By; Use By; Best By - What they really mean




I had a friend/neighbor ask me about a box of cereal that had a sell by date of October 30 and it was not October 31.  She wanted to know if she should pitch it or not.  This is what I found through my research. 

Did you ever throw out a dozen eggs just because the carton said they were a week past the expiration date? Have you tossed a box of uneaten onion soup mix for the same reason? Chucked an outdated can of corn?

Then, like almost 90 percent of Americans, you have thrown away your food unnecessarily—and your money, too. According to a new study from the Natural Resources Defense Council and Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic, most expiration dates are meaningless and confusing for consumers. Worst of all, they cause us to get rid of food that would be perfectly acceptable to eat—and which would not cause us any harm.

“There is a lot of confusion around expiration dates, and we think they are a significant contributor to the needless wasting of food,” says Dana Gunders, staff scientist in the food and agricultural program of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC.) She estimates that most households throw out between $275 and $400 worth of food every year. And it’s not just a problem in the United States.
“A study in the U.K. found that about 20 percent of food thrown out in households is because of this confusion or misinterpretation of the expiration date,” she says. The report urges the food industry and the government to create a clearer, user-friendlier food-dating system to help consumers. Their recommendations include eliminating expiration dates altogether.

In the meantime, how can you safeguard your family’s health while at the same time avoid throwing out perfectly good food? Here are some things to consider:

1. Contamination versus spoilage: There is a difference between the two. Yes, some foods will go bad if they are left uneaten for too long. But the likelihood is very low that an egg that is kept in the refrigerator for five weeks past its expiration date will be contaminated. If the food is well past the date stamped on it, Gunders says, before throwing it away, at least open it, sniff it, and taste it. If all of those things seem right, then go ahead and eat it. Exceptions: meat, poultry, and prepackaged perishable foods like sandwiches and salads. These are health risks.
But know that most foods won’t make you sick because they were on the shelf too long. “When you hear about outbreaks of E.Coli or salmonella, that’s usually because of a pathogen that got on the food early in production. That’s a different situation than milk that goes through a natural process of decay. Your milk will smell or taste bad long before it will make you sick,” Gunders adds.

2. Temperature matters more than dates: After shopping, take your food home promptly and put it away immediately. “The temperature of food is more relevant than its age,” Gunders says. “If you leave something in a hot car for a few hours, it allows the growth of bacteria and then it becomes unsafe to eat.”

Know the definitions of labels:
  • “Sell by”: When you see that date stamped on your food, it’s intended to help the store know when to remove it from the shelves, so that the manufacturer can measure how quickly their products leave the shelves. “When the product says ‘sell by,’ I want to say you can almost ignore that. It’s meant for the grocery store,” Gunders says. “It absolutely does not mean that the product is unsafe and nine out of 10 people are throwing product away based on that date.” The Harvard/NRDC report recommends that the date somehow be hidden from consumers because it doesn’t help us to eat fresher food.
  • “Use by” and “Best by”: These dates are put on products by their manufacturers but surprisingly, they are not warnings about when the food will go “bad;” rather, they are a suggestion of when the food is at its peak quality. But Gunders says,  “According to our experts, 80 percent of the dates you see on products are guesses” about when the food will taste best. “It’s just a suggestion for the product’s peak quality, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t good after that date. There is no legal guidance involved in coming up with this date,” she says. “If everyone understood that these dates are just guesses, everyone would be taking them with a much larger grain of salt,” she added.
Gunders says you should be vigilant about following the freshness dates on prepackaged, ready-to-eat foods, such as a sandwich or salad with meat on it. If these foods hang around too long, they can become covered with a bacteria called listeria which actually multiplies in the refrigerator.