Monday, June 30, 2014

How to Buy Fresh Fish

On an average I eat fish 3-4 times a week but have never really checked in make sure how safe my purchases of fresh fish actually are. So for those of you who love fish as much as I do, this is what I found.\

When buying fresh fish the fresher the better but how can you tell fresh from less-than-fresh?  The first thing to do is to take a deep breath.  What do you smell?  You should receive just a faint smell of the sea and nothing else.  No iodine, no ammonia, and no "fishy" overtones.  Next, look for the thermometer in the display case.  It should read 33 degrees, no more and no less.

Fresh fish is sold in a variety of forms ranging form right-from-the-water to pan-ready.  Whole fish, also called round fish, is just as complete as when it was swimming, with head, tail, gills and entrails intact.  Drawn fish is the entire fish, but it has been eviscerated, with the intestines and sometimes the gills removed.  The freshness of these two forms is easy to gauge at a glance.  Take a good look at the eyes.  They should be clear, shiny and bulging.  Dull, opaque or sunken eyes, or those with a great deal of redness, indicate fish that are over the hill or have been roughly treated. Red snapper eyes are naturally red so make sure they're also clear and bulging.  Gills should be pink or red, not brown and shaggy.  Take a sniff if you're not sure.  Any strong smell is an age giveaway.  Buy about one pound of whole fish per serving, about 3/4 pound of drawn.
Dressed fish has been scaled as well as gutted and may or may not have lost its head, tail and fins.  Its flesh should be firm, the skin shiny and moist.  Buy about 1/2 pound of dressed fish per serving.

Fillets are the two boneless (or nearly so) slabs of flesh removed from both sides of the backbone.  When they are left attached to each other, they're known as butterfly fillets.  Fillets are a little more difficult to judge for freshness.  They should be moist-looking and shiny, but only your nose knows for sure.  If think fillets look opaque instead of translucent, chances are they've been frozen and thawed.  Avoide them if you're paying high prices for fresh fish.  Allow about 1/4 pound per serving of filtered fish.

Steaks are generally cut form large, thick fish such as salmon, swordfish and tuna.  They are cross-cut form 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches thick from dressed fish and often contain small bones.  Look for the same characteristics as in fresh fillets and buy about 1/3 pound fish steak per serving.

OK, now we know how to buy fresh fish so we can all enjoy it even more.  Where did I get my information?  From a great source - Betty Crocker's Best Recipes for Fish and Shelfish.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Olive Oil Tips

I found these tips in one of my Italian cookbooks that dates 1999.  This information was good then and is still good now so I'm sharing.  These are terms you need to know when selecting olive oil.

Extra-Virgin - This is the results of the first pressing of olives, extra-virgin olive oil has the lowest acidity, as well as superior taste, color, and aroma.  It is considered the best and has a high price to match its reputation.  It's also the most delicate:  Heat breaks it down, so save it for uncooked or lightly cooked dishes.

Fino - This word actually means "fine" and this olive oil is a blend of both extra-virgin and virgin olive oils.

Virgin - This classification has a slightly higher acidity than extra-virgin, but is also a first-press oil.

Light - This olive oil should not be misinterpreted as reduced in calories or fat.  Light, here, refers to both the lighter color and fragrance achieved through a special filtration process.  Light olive oil has a higher smoke point that results form this process and makes this class of olive oil ideal for frying, baking and cooking.

Pure - Also simply called olive oil, pure olive oil is a combination of refined olive oil and virgin or extra-virgin oil.

Cold-Pressed - Olive oils that are cold-pressed are considered the finest.  The oil is extracted by pressure - no heat or chemicals are used - and thus have a naturally low level of acidity.  By law, virgin olive oils must be cold-pressed.

Smoke Point - An important characteristic of any oil, the smoke point is the stage at which heated fat begins to smoke and emit acrid odors, imparting an unpleasant flavor to foods cooked in it.  Olive oil has a relative low smoke point compared with oils like safflower or peanut, rendering the finest olive oil inferior when used for cooking at high temperatures.  For this reason, some cooks suggest having at least two olive oils in your pantry - an extra-virgin for salad dressings and floating onto soups, and a less expensive variety, such as pure or light, for sauteing and cooking at high temperatures.

Now I know why my dishes that require hot oil sometimes comes out with a strong taste.  I also know why some of my dressings don't have that delicious, delicate olive oil flavor.  I'm simply not using them correctly.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Color of Food

For years I've heard that you should eat a rainbow of food which means that I need to eat a variety of colors.  Why?  Well, according to Redbook this is the answer to my why.

Red Fruit and Veggies:
The rosy hue in the luscious produce comes from lycopoene, an anitoxidant that protects skin from sun damage and decreases the risk of heart disease and certain forms of cancer.  Red fruits and veggies are also rich in anthocyanins, powerful flavonoids that fight cancer and reduce the risk of heart attack.  Plus, they maintain memory function and keep the urinary tract healthy.

Orange and Yellow Fruit and Veggies:
Fruits and veggies in this color family are all immune-boosting powerhouse, thanks to their carotenoids, which are converted to vitamin A in the body.  Vitamin A is just as important as vitamin C, if not more so, when it comes to building a healthy immune system.  You might not think of mango and butternut squash as foods that can prevent you form getting sick, but they are.  Adding sunshine-colored foods to your diet also boosts reproductive health and gives you clearer skin.

Green Fruit and Veggies:
Doctors and dietitians agree that if you're looking to lose weight, you should load up on greens.  That's because every vegetable in the green spectrum is low in calories and high in fiber.  You get a lot of nutrition in a low-cal package that'll fill you up.  The chlorophyll in greens may help ward off cancer and has alkalizing benefits, helping to bring the body back to a healthy pH balance.  (Most of us are acidic, thanks to the processed foods we eat.)  Green foods also have high levels of certain phytochemicals that help break down carcinogens and strengthen bones and teeth.

White and Tan Fruit and Veggies:
These fruits and veggies may look bland but they've got plenty of health benefits.  They're loaded with anthoxanthins, which have been shown to help lower cholesterol and blood pressure as well as prevent heart disease.  Many of the foods in this color group also contain allicin, which may decrease the risk of stomach cancer and inhibit tumor growth.  Plus, when it comes to white and tan produce, these foods have a lot of texture which makes them interesting to cook and eat.

Blue and Purple Fruit and Veggies:
These dark beauties have hefty doses of phenolics and resveratrol, two plant nutrients that reduce the risk of cancer, stroke, and heart disease while they improve memory.  And like produce in the red color group, blue and purple fruits and veggies get cancer-fighting powers from anthocyanins, those powerful antioxidants.  While purple veggies like cabbage and eggplant might seem daunting to work into your diet, they're a lot easier to cook than you might think, and less expensive than berries.

Now I know why my plate should look like a rainbow and so do you!  

Friday, June 27, 2014

Black Bean BBQ

Leftover BBQ Pork
1-2 cans Black Beans
BBQ Sauce
Red or Green Bell Peppers
1 Tbsp. oil

Saute onions and peppers in oil until tender.  In a large sauce pan combine all ingredients and heat till hot.

Comments:  I had some leftover Boston Butt BBQ and when I spotted a couple cans of black beans in my pantry I had an idea... Black Bean BBQ.  I had enough BBQ to use 2 cans of the black beans and ended up using 1 small chopped onion and 1/2 chopped red bell pepper.  The BBQ sauce I added until I had the taste I wanted so this is a dish you make by Thinking with Your Taste Buds.  The actual dish doesn't look that appealing so I added the onion and pepper garnish.  I will say "Boy is this dish good."

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Taste Wine Like a Pro

I found this information in a copy of Food and Wine and thought I just had to share it with my readers.  I've seen people on TV swirling and sniffing their wine before being served but never really knew exactly what this told them.  Now I do, I think.

According to the article - wine tasting has its own code of conduct.  Here's what you need to know about all that swirling, swishing and spitting.

Swirl & Sniff - unleash aromas by exercising your wrist:  Set the glass on a table and with your hand on the base, give it a couple of gentle whirls.  Put your nose in the glass and take a big sniff. 

Slurp Like You Mean It - don't be afraid to make noise;  Slurping sucks air into your mouth, so aromas and flavors become more detectable. 

Spit Wine Like a Champ - Practice in the shower.  Spitting is how pros taste dozens of bottles without keeling over.  Use water to boost your skills without ruining your shirts.  Try to be a laser, not a sprayer or dribbler.

75% of what you taste is based on your sense of smell - OK

Be a Wine Super-Sleuth - While tasting a wine, ask yourself these questions:

Acidity - does the wine make you pucker?  If yes, it's high in acid.

Alcohol - does the wine warm up your mouth?  It may be high in alcohol.

Body - does the wine linger on your tongue?  If so, it's full bodied.

Tannins - does the wine dry out your mouth?  It's probably high in tannins.

Aromas & Flavor -0 does the wines smell or taste remind you of a food, a flower or anything else?  Free - associate.

Now we all know what to expect when we swirl, swish and spit our wine.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Deviled Egg Carrier

I have deviled egg plates but when it comes to transporting them, they sometimes slide around and never end up looking as good as they did when I first made them.  Years ago I came up with this idea and decided to share it with everyone.  Boil your eggs and peel but when it comes time to cut them in half don't cut down the length, cut around the middle.  I scoop out my yolk and place the white in a carton slot.  After working up my yolks I simply use a spoon to fill each white.  You can even sprinkle them with salt, pepper, paprika, whatever you like while in the tray.  When ready to place on your serving plate, use a spoon to scoop them out of the carton tray.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Eating Out - Italian

Healthy Eating - Italian

Steer away from white Italian bread and cheese-laden, creamy and excessively oily dishes; and instead, go for the pasta, tomato sauces, vegetables and beans.  Many Italian restaurants offer pasta dishes in half portions.  Try combining a half portion of pasta with a soup and salad for a filling and satisfying meal.  Also, try these:

1.  Vegetable or bean-based soups like minestrone and pasta fagioli
2.  Steamed clams or mussels
3.  Pasta with tomato-based sauces (like marinara, puttanesca, and arrobbiata); pasta with tomato-seafood sauces like red clam sauce.
4.  Broiled or grilled chicken and fish dishes.
5.  Chicken cacciatore; chicken or veal piccata and marsala (request a minimum of oil or butter be used).
6.  Seafood stews like cioppino
7.  Thin-crust pizza with lots of vegetable toppings and part-skim mozzarella cheese
8.  Poached fruits; cappuccino made with low-fat milk.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Eating Out - Indian

Healthy Eating - Indian

This is a cuisine that offers plenty of healthy dishes.  You'll find healthful legumes, chicken, fish, vegetables, and yogurt featured on the menu.  Basmati rice is also featured in Indian cuisine, though it is usually white-basmati rice.  Curry, cumin, coriander, and other flavorful seasonings add exotic and delicious flavors.  Indian cooks use ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil to prepare dishes like curries, vindaloos, and rice dishes - but some chefs have a heavier hand with the fat than others so be sure to request that your food be prepared with a minimum of added fat.  When eating Indian food you might want to try these.

1.  Vegetable and dahl (lintel or bean) soups.
2.  Chapati (a whole-wheat tortilla-like bread)
3.  Raita (a cold side dish made of cucumbers or other vegetables with yogurt sauce)
4.  Chutney (a spicy accompaniment to meals)
5.  Vegetable, chicken, or seafood biryanis (basmati rice dishes)
6.  Vegetable, seafood, and chicken curry dishes (avoid those made with large amounts of coconut or coconut milk)
7.  Chicken or Shrimp Vindallo (in a hot and spicy tomato, onion, and curry sauce)
8.  Tandoori chicken or fish (chicken marinated in yogurt and spices and baked in a clay oven)
9.  Lamb or chicken kabobs

10.  Dahls (legume dishes)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Eating Out - Greek

Healthy Eating - Greek

Roasted lamb and chicken, lemon, yogurt, and herbs like oregano and rosemary are some of the better ingredients featured in this flavorful cuisine.  On the other hand, buttery filo-crusted pies, heaps of feta cheese, and pools of olive oil can blow your fat and calorie budget in a hurry.  Choose these items most often:

1.  Bean and lentil soups; avgolemono (lemon and egg) soup; vegetable soup; fish soups.
2.  Shish kabobs made of roasted lamb or chicken and vegetables.
3.  Baked fish dishes such as Plaki (fish baked with tomatoes, onions, and garlic) and fish baked in grape leaves; baked chicken dishes (Ask they use a minimal amount of butter or oil in baked dishes.)
4.  Gyro sandwiches made with grilled chicken or lean rotisserie meat.
5.  Greek salads made with just a tablespoon or two of feta cheese and a light vinaigrette dressing
6.  Fruit compotes; marinated fruits

Friday, June 20, 2014

Eating Out - French

Healthy Eating - French

This cuisine is often heavy in eggs, butter, cheese, and creamy sauces and can be difficult for people who are trying to keep fat within reasonable limits, especially if you're planning on eating the French bread.  Many French restaurants also serve some lighter Mediterranean-style items and if you know what to look for, you can actually dine quite healthy.  Try these choices to eat healthier.  Choose:

1.  Consumme and broth-based soups.
2.  Broiled, steamed, or poached seafood and poultry (Order the sauces to be served on the side.)
3.  Seafood and poultry cooked en papillote (steamed in parchment paper).
4.  Chicken or fish Provencal (with tomato sauce);  chicken or fish cooked with tomato-wine sauces.
5.  Seafood or vegetable stews, such as bouillabaisse and ratatouille.
6.  Chicken, beef, and veal stews with wine or tomato sauces.
7.  Steamed vegetables, salads with vinaigrette dressing on the side.

8.  Poached fruits

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Eating Out - Chinese

Healthy Eating - Chinese

Authentic Chinese food is low in fat and high in nutrients.  Traditional dishes feature moderate portions of meat, seafood, poultry, or tofu stir-fried with plenty of vegetables and flavorful sauces.  Realize, though, that the Asian-style sticky white rice that accompanies these dishes ranks high on the glycemic index and should be limited.  American-style Chinese food tends to be heavier, fattier versions of the traditional cuisine, so it pays to peruse the menu.  These are some of the lighter dishes you might want to consider when eating Chinese.

1.  Broth-based soups like wonton, hot and sour, and egg drop
2.  Stir-fried combinations of seafood, poultry, lean meat, tofu, and vegetables (You might want ask for a minimum of oil to be used when prepared.
3.  Chop suey and chow mein (served without the fried noodles).
4.  Noodle dishes like seafood, chicken, or vegetable lo mein (Again ask for a minimum amount of oil to be used when prepared.)
5.  Steamed fish and vegetable dishes
6.  Steamed long-grain brown rice (if available).

7.  Foods cooked in black bean sauces, oyster sauce, hot mustard sauce, or Szechuan sauce
8.  Fortune cookies (One cookie has only 30 calories and 6 grams of carbohydrates.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Recommended Power Foods - Part 14 - Olive Oil

Recommended Power Foods - Part 14 - Olive Oil
(Information from The Power of Food - Bonnie Raffel R. D., Author)

This oil is a rich source of monounsaturated fats, the kind that keeps the HDL (good) cholesterol high and the LDL (bad) cholesterol low.  Olive oil is considered to be a healthy promoting oil, by benefiting the heart, decreasing inflammation and aiding numerous other health conditions.  Change your diet by replacing margarine and butter with olive oil on bread or toast, add to vegetables, or create vinaigrett4es and salad dressings by using olive oil.  Drizzle extra virgin olive oil on uncooked dishes where the flavor complements the food.  Select extra virgin olive oil for excellent taste.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Recommended Power Foods - Part 13 - Green Tea

Recommended Power Foods - Part 13 - Green Tea
(Information from The Power of Food - Bonnie Raffel R. D., Author)

Green tea is the least processed form of tea and provides the most antioxidant polyphenols, which are responsible for the tea's health benefits.  The polyhenols in green tea act as potent antioxidants that stimulate the immune system and slow down disease promoting compounds.  This tea is not fermented which explains the herb tasting flavor.  If your tea tastes bitter, sweeten with honey and do not add milk.  the milk binds with the polyphenols and stops their immunity benefits.  To brew tea, use spring or filtered water for the best flavor.  Distilled water will make the tea taste bitter.  Note:  Different types of tea may require different methods of preparation.  Refer to its package.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Roast Beef and Cheese

Yesterday I made a roast called Buttery Sriracha Pot Roast.  It was delicious but I did have some left over so what do I do with it?  Well, I love roast beef and cheese sandwiches with sauted onions.  My friend loves this too but he is having a problem with a couple of his teeth making it hard for him to chew sliced meat, no matter how tender.  So, I solved this problem simply by putting the leftover, along with the onions and juice, into my processor.  I pulsed just enough to chop but not ground.  Then I mixed in shredded cheese and as Emerald says "BAM."  I have roast beef and cheese with onions that can be eaten even if you do have a tooth problem.  

Add as much or as little cheese as you like or don't add cheese at all until.  Saute some bell peppers, drizzle with a little steak sauce or even BBQ sauce.  No matter how you like your sandwich, the beef is ready for anything you might like to add.

Another good thing about this is that it can be frozen for later use.  This was a great idea that I'll continue to use even after my friend gets his teeth fixed.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Recommended Power Foods - Part 12 - Peppers

Recommended Power Foods - Part 12 - Peppers
(Information from The Power of Food - Bonnie Raffel R. D., Author)

Whether peppers are red, green, or yellow-orange. they are rich in antioxidants and provide a variety of minerals and vitamins.  Health benefits include; lowering the rates of many cancers, boosts immune system, and strengthens eye health.

Bell Peppers - are also called Sweet Peppers, which are rich in vitamins A and C.  They come in a variety of colors ranging from green to brown.  Green bell peppers are not as hot, due to a recessive gene that decreases capsaicin which is responsible for the "heat" found in peppers.  The yellow, orange, or red peppers provide high concentrations of antioxidant carotenoids.  The red pepper also provides lycopene which fights against many cancers.  Pimento and paprika are made from red bell peppers. Try adding fresh chopped peppers to meat salads, add as extra topping to pizza and sandwiches, add to cooked vegetables, or enjoy eating as a raw snack.

Jalapeno - is the best known chili pepper and easy to find. This pepper can be red or green and contains compounds called capasicinoids, which provide anti-inflammatory properties and anticancer benefits.  The Chipotles (smoked Jalapeno) are available dried.  Try adding to stews and soups, removing seeds to reduce heat.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Food Travel Tips

My wonderful Nationwide agent sent me some food trips that I wanted to share with everyone, especially since it's that time of year that many of you will be making vacation plans.  Hope these help.

Eating right when you’re away from home is easier than you think. Traditional restaurants can put a big dent in your travel budget, and gas-station mini-marts and fast-food restaurants aren’t exactly known for nutritious fare. However that doesn’t mean you must abandon all your healthy-eating principles on a road trip.

Whether you’re traveling with a buddy or bringing the family along, find a balance between packed foods and restaurants. “When I travel with my family, we eat out once a day or so and pack food the rest of the time,” says Sarah Krieger, MPH, RDN, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Her family picnics at rest stops or parks “where we can eat outside in the fresh air and the kids can run around.”

Bring travel-friendly foods. “Pack things that are mostly non-perishable and that won’t get smashed or ruined,” says Elisa Zied, MS, RD, a registered dietitian and author of “Nutrition At Your Fingertips” (Penguin). Good healthy options include fruit (unsweetened dried fruit, apple sauce, oranges, apples, pears); veggies (carrot and celery sticks, pepper strips, peeled-and-sliced cucumbers); protein foods (nuts, seeds and pre-packaged individual portions of nut butters); dairy (low-fat milk boxes; hard cheeses, such as cheddar or provolone); and whole grains (cereal, crackers, low-fat granola, bread and air-popped popcorn). Keep food safety in mind. Zied notes that perishable foods should be packed on ice or eaten within two hours of preparation or removal from the refrigerator or cooler. These foods include deli or other meats such as chicken breast, turkey breast or steak; soft cheeses (e.g., muenster, mozzarella, cottage cheese); fresh cut-up fruit; and hard-boiled eggs.

Keep perishable foods in a cooler with ice in a zip-up bag, Krieger suggests. “Ice packs melt too quickly,” she says. “If traveling more than four hours or for multiple days, keep refreshing the ice each day.” You can also fill water bottles to the halfway point with water, freeze them overnight and then add fresh water to them in the morning and use them as ice packs in your cooler, Zied suggests. Make healthy choices even when you haven’t planned ahead. “The good news is that there are now a lot more options at most gas-station convenience markets and fast-food restaurants,” says Krieger. “The bad news is that if you buy a food that has been prepared (sliced apples or a fruit parfait), you pay more than if you sliced the fruit yourself.” When you’re buying snacks on the go, your best bets are nuts, hard-boiled eggs, grilled-chicken sandwiches, yogurt-and-fruit parfaits, salads and whole-grain breads.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Recommended Power Foods - Part 11 - Legumes

Recommended Power Foods - Part 11 - Legumes
(Information from The Power of Food - Bonnie Raffel R. D., Author)

The edible seeds of plants are called legumes.  This food group has the same antioxidants as found in tea, fruits, grapes, red wine, and cocoa beans.  Legumes (including soy) are very high in protein, cholesterol lowering fiber, and aids in balancing blood sugar levels.  Not only do legumes benefit the heart, but aids the digestive system because of their high fiber content.  Navy, butter, northern, soybeans, and peanuts are types of legumes available.  Add legumes to whole grains to make a complete (high quality) protein.  This includes: red beans and rice, navy beans and barley, or black beans and rice.

Black Beans - are loaded with antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins, as found in grapes and cranberries known as antioxidant superstars. Black beans are rich in protein and cholesterol lowering fiber that aids in balancing blood sugar levels.  Try adding black beans to guacamole dip, soups and stews, top your baked potato, or try combining rice and beans.

Pinto Beans - are a good source of cholesterol lowering fiber and rich in protein.  Pinto beans benefit the heart and aids in balancing blood sugar levels.  Enhance your diet by adding pinto beans to soups, stews, rice dishes, and vegetable dishes.

Red Beans and/or Kidney Beans - are rich in protein and provide antioxidants.  These beans are an excellent fiber source and assist in balancing blood sugar levels.  Try adding red/kidney beans to chili, serve with cornbread, or make a Hummus spread using red/kidney beans.

Garbanzo Beans - also known as chickpeas are a source of antioxidants and proteins.  They are rich in fiber and assist in balancing blood sugar levels and are heart healthy.  Try making Hummus, add to salads, or add to soups for variety in the diet.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Recommended Power Foods - Part 10 - Grains #12 and #13

Recommended Power Foods - Part 10 - Grains #12 and #13
(Information from The Power of Food - Bonnie Raffel R. D., Author)

#12 - Spelt and Spelt Flour - Spelt is an ancient grain related to wheat.  It provides a variety of nutrients and is rich in fiber.  The healthy benefits of spelt include, lowering cholesterol and balancing blood sugar levels.  spelt is available in its hulled, wholegrain form (spelt berries), or as a flour. 

#13 - Wheat Germ - Wheat germ is not a type of flour, but is a part of the wheat kernel.  The term "germ" refers to the reproductive part of the kernel.  Wheat germ is very high in protein and is rich in nutrients.  It contains more potassium and iron than any other food source, and contains vitamin E which is important as an antioxidant which strengthens the immune system.  Try adding wheat germ to smoothies, stir into yogurts, or add to cereals and baked potatoes.