Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tuesday's Cup: Ginger Root

These fingers pack a punch
Ginger root looks like a potato with appendages. Yes, like fingers in some cases. Its soothing scent and distinct flavor border on the citrus side. If you have had ginger ale or ginger snap cookies, you know what we’re talking about. But did you know ginger has healing properties too? Ginger can relieve morning sickness and motion sickness. It also aids in digestion. Many Asian and Pacific island dishes call for the ingredient. Arroz caldo wouldn’t be the same without ginger. Want a new spin on a beverage? Try spicing up your favorite tea or cocktail with a fresh-cut slice of ginger.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday’s Bread Bowl: Arroz Caldo

Mixing it up – island style
This is not any ordinary chicken and rice porridge. Filipinos eat arroz caldo for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The magical ingredients are ginger and toasted garlic. Top it off with sliced green onions. Finally, squeeze in some fresh calamansi lemon juice. Back home on the U.S. Territory of Guam, arroz caldo is regular fare at the popular weekend flea market. On the East Coast where we’re based, many Filipino markets sell packets of instant arroz caldo mix. They’re pretty good, but there is nothing quite like fresh-made batches of the porridge sold out of a mobile food truck at the outdoor market on Guam where it’s served up hot and yummy.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday’s Last Spoonful: Viva Vinaigrettes

Sexy sweet, simply sour, or both
Vinaigrettes are the “un-salad dressing” in our book. How about using vinaigrettes to season and marinade chicken, pork spareribs, or turkey for grilling? Keep in mind the varying degrees of acidity in regular white versus others, such as apple cider, palm, or rice vinegars. Vinaigrettes are also healthier alternatives to fat-laden cream dressings in alternative salads. Our bean salad recipe in the previous post calls for a very simple vinaigrette. Is there a special spice you would use to season your vinaigrette?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thursday’s Side Dish: Bean Salad Bonanza

Kicking lettuce to the curb
No, we’re not saying get rid of lettuce all together. But, bean salads are a welcome break from the monotony of traditional leafy green mixes. Taste the difference with a blend of garbanzo, black-eyed peas, and butter beans. These can be canned or frozen. Add chopped bell pepper, onions, and green peas to sweeten and spice things up. For our particular mix, we used canned garbanzos and frozen black-eyed peas, butter beans, and green peas. A simple dressing can be made with ½ cup salad oil, ¼ cup water, ½ cup vinegar, 1 teaspoon paprika, a little Splenda, and a pinch of salt. Let the bean salad sit for at least one hour in the fridge to thoroughly marinate before serving. Kidney and black beans are also popular salad beans. Other alternative (non-bean) additions: corn, tofu, chopped apple, or chopped white radish.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wednesday’s Helping: Bonkers For Beans

You got a have 'em
I have been known to substitute beans for potatoes or bread at a meal to cut the carbs. Beans are a rich source of fiber and proteins. People have been eating them for centuries. Dry beans are mature varieties of green beans or legumes (plants that have pods). Cooked beans will thicken any broth. Nelly and I like pinto and navy beans for a home-cooked stew or soup. Kidney and garbanzo beans may be found in salads. Baked beans and bean salads are great side dishes for parties and BBQs. For a change of pace, Nelly will open a can of black bean soup, heat it up and top it with sour cream, scallions and jalapeno. Mmmmmmm ... What's your favorite bean?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tuesday’s Cup: Field Trip

The Mixed Stew is on a field trip today. We will be back tomorrow with Wednesday’s Helping. In the meantime, Nelly offers up a link to one of her favorite sites for healthy eating tips.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday's Bread Bowl: Oxtails And Beans

Bean Stew, get it while it’s hot

This is not soup. A steamy bowl of bean stew means comfort food (with added fiber). Oxtails make it rustic. It’s definitely a hearty family dinner. Enjoy.

What you will need:

1 large stock pot with lid
1 long wooden spoon
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves chopped fine
1 large yellow onion chopped fine
1 lb package pinto beans
1lb large head bok choy or napa cabbage, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 cup carrots, cut into large 1/2-inch chunks
2 lbs beef oxtails
5 cups water
Pinch of salt and pepper

Cooking and directions
Start pot off on medium high heat with vegetable oil. When hot, add chopped garlic and onion. Sauté them until they are almost translucent. Place oxtail pieces in pot and let them sit for a few minutes until browning occurs. Add water and pinto beans. Sprinkle in salt and pepper to taste. Bring pot to a rapid boil and reduce heat to medium or medium low. Cover pot. Let the meat and beans simmer for at least one hour. Stir the pot occasionally. After an hour, add carrots. Leave on low heat for another 45 minutes to an hour so that the large cubes and beans can cook. Throw in the bok choy (or cabbage) during the last 30 minutes of cooking. The oxtails will be tender. Serve it up hot and yummy.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday’s Last Spoonful: Soy Sauce Sample

Soy sauces, a tasteful zing
Soy sauce comes in many varieties. It’s essential in most Asian or Pacific Islander kitchens. A little soy sauce is the easiest way to season a stir-fry. This product (like Miso) of soybeans comes in a rich brown appearance. A simple rule: It has a stronger flavor with a darker color and a light flavor with a lighter color. Also, a little goes a long way since soy sauces (in general) have a high salt content. Chinese soy sauces (Lee Kum Kee and Pearl River Bridge) tend to be milder and less acidic than Japanese soy sauces (Kikkoman and Yamasa). We’ve also tried a good Filipino soy sauce (Silver Swan) that has more of an earthy flavor. We've even tried a sweet soy from Thailand (Kwong Hung Seng) that puts a twist in stir-frys. Some varieties come blended with other flavors such as Ponzu or Calamansi citrus. Use soy sauce in BBQ marinades and salad vinaigrettes. Cook’s Illustrated compares different soy sauces here.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thursday’s Side Dish: Gyoza Temptations

Go, go, gyozas -- Asian-style dumplings

The Japanese word gyoza (gee-OH-zah) means fried dumpling. Koreans call it mandu (man-doo) while the Chinese call it jiaozi (gee ow ze). The outside wrapping is made of the same ingredients found in pasta. The stuffing can have pork, chicken, beef, or shrimp. OK, there are dumplings made of just veggies too. Scallions, cabbage, and sliced leeks often make up the vegetables inside. They can be pan-fried, steamed, or boiled. They are sold as “pot-stickers” at Trader Joe’s and Costco. Many of the pre-made frozen varieties are fine for serving at home or parties. They’re called “pot-stickers” because the dumplings will sometimes stick to the bottom of the pan. Put enough cooking oil in a pan to just cover the bottom for skillet frying. Add dumplings to a pan that has been on medium to medium-high heat and after a few minutes, turn them over once to reveal an almost crispy-brown skin. Repeat a few times. A simple dipping sauce can be made with honey, a little soy sauce, a little sesame oil, and minced scallions. (If you're daring, add pepper flakes.) Follow the preparation directions on the package and serve them up at your next party. Another idea: Add them to your favorite brand of canned broth for a tasty soup.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wednesday’s Helping: Sushi Selections

This is how to roll if you don’t like it raw
Sushi is now a mainstay at most supermarkets. Check near the deli or in the pre-packed, cold-foods aisle. Sushi isn’t just raw fish. Try the California roll or the veggie roll if you’ve never had it. Don't worry. There are other options for those fearing raw fish. Novices may try the Futomaki roll (means fat roll in Japanese) or its Korean version gim-bahp, which has fried crab, scrambled egg, mushroom, carrot, and pickled radish. It’s a sushi roll on steroids. There is also the spider roll with soft-shell crab tempura. It sometimes is prepared with a spicy sauce and a slice of avocado. I recommend the Philly roll with smoked salmon and cream cheese.

And if you're worried about the carb content, Nelly has found brown rice sushi at Harris Teeter and The Fresh Market. The brown rice means more fiber and fewer carbohydrates per serving. We hardly noticed a difference in flavor. Sushi tastes best if bought on the same day that it’s prepared. Pay attention to the expiration date listed on the package. And make sure the rice looks fresh and not dried out or hard.

Here is a primer on sushi.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tuesday's cup: Mysterious Miso

Japanese Miso is a savory winner
Miso soup is practically a standard in Japanese restaurants. The broth can appear nearly clear, translucent, or a muddy brown. A bowl will have pieces of seaweed, scallions, and even tofu. The flavor (depending on the amount of miso paste used) can run from very subtle to very strong. Miso paste is made of fermented barley, rice, and soybeans. It dates back to times of the Samurai who consumed it for its high nutritional value. There are many varieties available in Japan. There are brands of instant miso soup available at most Asian or specialty markets. We suggest a brand with no msg, such as Miko Brand. Do you like miso soup?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Monday’s Bread Bowl: Real Ramen

Salty pork ramen, an authentic dish

This special Japanese ramen soup is a delicacy. Just the broth alone has a richness and taste that makes it 10 times more flavorful than the instant ramen at the supermarket. It’s carefully prepared at Santoka Ramen inside Mitsuwa Market Place in Edgewater, N.J. Bowls may come with all ingredients delicately mixed together or else the dish may be ordered "deconstructed" with an accompanying side dish of seaweed, pickled radish, and melt-in-your-mouth pork slices. Eat these separately or mix it in the piping-hot bowl yourself. The fresh noodles are also cooked to a perfect consistency so it's almost al dente and not near mush. This is authentic Japanese fast food. Here is more info on Santoka Ramen at Mitsuwa in N.J.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday’s Last Spoonful: Ramen Noodles

Getting thrifty with an old college friend
Remember that quick-fix meal when the cash was running low during finals week in college? Well, ramen noodles aren’t just for soup. Crush the dry blocks of instant ramen found at your neighborhood grocery into pieces and add to coleslaw or any salad instead of croutons. Some folks from the South are familiar with dry ramen noodles in cole slaw. We first ran into the combo in Savannah, Ga. Conversely, hot instant ramen soup may be made heartier by adding sliced leftovers: steak, baked or grilled chicken breast, and steamed shrimp. Chopped mushrooms, julienned carrots, and green onions will also make fine additions. Cooked ramen noodles sometimes are served with a poached egg in Japan.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Thursday’s Side Dish: Cool Coleslaw

Try to lighten up and hold the mayo
Coleslaw runs the risk of soaking in too much mayonnaise-based liquid. We suggest using a light salad dressing (instead of high-fat mayo) to lighten things up. Throw in cilantro to give it an original taste. Feeling frisky? Top it off with sunflower seeds or flax seeds. Another healthy and very simple coleslaw dressing can be made using black pepper, a pinch of celery seed, sugar or Splenda, and apple cider vinegar. Cut the calories with alternatives to mayo-based sauces. This is a recipe for another atypical coleslaw.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wednesday’s Helping: Ground Poultry

Fowl scores as healthy option

Have you noticed that ground turkey and ground chicken have become increasingly popular? And not just as a substitute for burgers. We recommend mixing ground turkey or chicken into your usual meatloaf recipe. Yes, add it to beef in your meatloaf mix to cut the volume of red meat and yet keep a hefty flavor. Turkey tacos will go in no time at the dinner table. And Nelly offers this: Instead of ground beef and tomato sauce over spaghetti noodles, try serving a stir-fried batch of ground chicken mixed with diced garlic, chopped scallions, and a very light touch of soy sauce over spaghetti noodles. What are your thoughts on ground fowl? This site offers a nutritional comparison between ground fowl and ground beef.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tuesday’s Cup: Cilantro Cravings

Summon creativity when it comes to cilantro
Cilantro (aka Chinese parsley) is used in Asian and Hispanic cooking. It might be mistaken for regular parsley so pay attention when reaching among the bunches of herbs at the market. Add fresh, minced cilantro to your favorite brand of salsa before a party. We add it to chicken stew. Try chopping a handful to top off a salad, tuna sandwich, or a bowl of chili. Also, try it in a marinade for meat or poultry. Cilantro has a pungent flavor when compared with regular parsley. Did you know that cilantro is a member of the carrot family? Check it out here!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Monday's Bread Bowl: Chicken Stew

Chicken satisfies hungry appetites

Here’s our recipe for chicken stew. It just might beat out our beef recipe in a taste test. It’s also easier on wallets. That’s definitely a plus nowadays. Enjoy!

What you will need:

1 large stock pot with lid
1 long wooden spoon
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves chopped fine
1 large yellow onion chopped fine
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 can stewed tomatoes
½ cup chopped eggplant
1 cup carrots, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 cup potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
6 chicken thighs (may be cut into large chunks)
5 cups water
1 tablespoon flour
Pinch of salt and pepper

Cooking and directions

Start pot off on medium high heat with vegetable oil. Add chopped garlic and onion. Sauté them in heated oil until they are almost translucent. Place chicken thighs in pot and let them sit for a few minutes until browning occurs. Turn over once. Add water and canned tomatoes. Sprinkle in salt and pepper to taste. Bring pot to a rapid boil and reduce heat to medium or medium low. Cover pot. Let the chicken braise for at least 45 minutes. Stir the pot occasionally. Next, add cilantro, eggplant, carrots, and potato cubes. Leave on low heat for another 30 minutes so that veggies can cook. When the vegetables are tender, stir in flour to thicken the sauce. Serve it up hot and yummy.

Helpful hint: Feel free to vary the veggies. Prefer white button mushrooms? Try those (whole or halved) instead of eggplant. Do you like a little kick? Try adding a dash of Tabasco to the pot! Nelly reminds, nothing ventured, nothing gained!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Friday’s Last Spoonful: Garlic Butter

A simple threesome
Garlic butter is a versatile combination of elements. The three basic ingredients are minced garlic, butter, and salt (just a pinch). Here, we added some oregano. Garlic bread is the first thing that may come to many minds. Garlic bread goes well with a salad for lunch. Place some garlic butter on a flame-broiled steak to give it that extra yum. Try it on baked sweet potatoes, which are a good source of fiber.

Helpful hint: A reader has asked about storing garlic. Most authorities recommend that garlic be kept in a cool, dry place.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Thursday’s Side Dish: Mango Tango

When sweet meets tangy
Mangoes taste delicious and are an excellent source of fiber. Look for a pleasant smell, a red or yellow skin color, and softness when selecting a ripe fruit. Mangoes are known as “the king of fruit” all over the world. We’ve grilled ripe mangoes for a great summertime dessert. Broiling works, too. Squeeze a little lemon juice on each piece before cooking. Natural sugars will caramelize during the cooking process.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Wednesday’s Helping: Healthy Bites

Top it off with veggies
This puts a twist into an ordinary meal. Add a little crunch to every spoonful of stew with fresh veggies. Chop cucumbers and carrots into small pieces for topping off bowls of stew. Fresh bean sprouts or chopped broccoli also might be to your liking. We like doing the same for a hearty dish of spaghetti. Add healthy bites to any hearty dish.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tuesday’s Cup: Garlic Crush

Garlic wins over tastebuds
Garlic is in the same family as the onion. Chopping this ingredient doesn’t bring on tears like its larger relative. Old folklore has it warding off vampires. Smash it under a butcher knife to make it easier to unpeel and cut. A garlic press is another solution for handling this pungent ingredient.
Did you know that Gilroy, Calif., is home to the largest garlic festival in the United States?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Monday's Bread Bowl: A Classic

A word on an old favorite
It was so easy for your mom to just open a can of Dinty Moore beef stew and heat it up when we were kids. And now it comes in easy- to- microwave containers and packaging. The brand, made by Hormel Foods, has been around since 1935 . I like it in a pinch (with crushed crackers) for a fast lunch at the office. If you can’t make our recipe, we recommend this old standby.