Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wednesday’s Helping: Salmon

Healthy bites from this fish's pink flesh
Salmon has a mild seafood flavor and flaky texture (when cooked). Additionally, its much sought after red caviar (salmon fish eggs) is second only to black caviar as a delicacy. Smoked salmon is cured, which means it’s ready to eat without employing traditional cooking methods. We suggest having smoked salmon with salad greens. Dress the salad greens with your favorite vinaigrette. Raw salmon is enjoyed in Japan in sashimi and sushi rolls.

Salmon are anadromous, which means that they spend different parts of their lifecycle in fresh water and ocean water. Salmon hatch in either rivers or fresh water tributaries. That goes for all species, including, Atlantic, Pink, and Sockeye. Young salmon spend the first year (or more) growing strong and then migrate to ocean waters. When a salmon reaches the age of six or seven, it will migrate back to the same fresh-water habitat where it was born to spawn and die. The Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean are home to different varieties of the fish.

There are a two good health benefits from eating salmon. This fish is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids that are good for a healthy heart. If you’re tired of red meat, salmon is a fine alternative source of protein.

The natural supply of salmon does not meet consumers’ demand. Farm-raised salmon has become an industry that stocks most supermarkets and gives buyers a lower-priced option. Supermarkets label wild salmon as such and sell it at a higher price.

Fresh salmon has an odor like the ocean and not like smelly fish. The flesh should have suppleness and should bounce back if touched. If you’re looking at a whole fish, check for clear eyes (no cloudiness or sunken in eyes) and red gills. Select a whole salmon with shiny and slippery skin and a firm body.

So go on, get moving and give your body a real treat with a serving of salmon.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tuesday’s Cupful: Maple Syrups

A tree's sweet extract and the alternatives

The syrup poured on pancakes (French toast, and waffles) might be maple syrup or manufactured sweet syrups. Maple syrup possesses a strong sweetness with a slight woodsy flavor that is different from honey. Still, consumers have options:

Maple Syrup

It’s the natural sweetener that’s obtained from tapping any of three varieties of maple trees: sugar, red, and black. Vermont is the maple syrup capital of the United States. European colonists learned how to make maple syrup from Native Americans. The tree sap must be harvested (in the spring months) and then boiled to remove excess liquid. The result is the all-natural sweet syrup. Bottles labeled “Maple Syrup” must contain 100% pure maple syrup. It takes 40 gallons of maple tree sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup so expect to spend a little more for genuine maple syrup.

Maple-flavored syrups

These are made with high-fructose corn syrup. Different flavor agents are added to create a maple-syrup like taste and feel. Bottles are labeled pancake syrup, waffle syrup, and table syrup. They are also cheaper to produce (than real maple syrup) and cost less at the cash register.

Sugar-Free Maple Syrups

There are now many producers of this diabetic-friendly sweet syrup. Most use an artificial sweetener, such as Splenda. These are definitely worth trying if you need to watch your sugar intake. The flavors have improved in more recent versions.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Monday’s Bread Bowl: Maple Syrup-Glazed Salmon

A sweet seafood sensation

After a week of hearty pork selections, we’re feeling sluggish. Therefore, The Mixed Stew has opted to lighten up this week with salmon. Mix maple syrup with just a dash of cider vinegar and baste salmon filets with liquid blend. Season fish with a little sea salt and pepper then bake in preheated 450 degree oven for about 20 minutes for a tasty and healthy entrée. Simple ingredients combine for a sweet and savory main course. The syrup forms a sweet caramelized seal that locks in the salmon’s natural juices. Just make sure to spray the baking pan with cooking spray. If you want a little spice, add pepper flakes or a sprinkling of chili powder. The Mayo Clinic offers a recipe of its version of the dish here. Serve with fresh steamed green beans or corn -- whichever you prefer.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday Last Spoonful: Avocadoes

A fatty fruit that is fortifying

Did you know that an avocado is also called an alligator pear? Hass avocadoes and Fuerte avocadoes are the two most common varieties. They are native to Central and South America where they have been cultivated for many centuries. Hass avocadoes have an alligator-like skin and peel easily when ripe. Fuerte avocadoes are larger than Hass, have a smooth skin, and do not peel so easily. Mom has avocado trees outside our childhood home in Guam, proving the avocado's global appeal. Avocadoes are a fruit and may be classified as berries. They are a rich source of fiber and monounsaturated fats. The flesh of ripe avocadoes has a smooth texture and a light green/ yellow color. The flavor is buttery and earthy. Can you think of different uses for this fruit?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thursday’s Side Dish: Chipotle and Avocado

Get a grip of this sandwich

We told you about the Bacon and Marmalade sandwich. Here’s another gourmet sandwich. Take pork (from our Chipotle and Pork Stew), pull it apart, and lay it out on a hearty roll. Add slices of ripe avocado and julienned yellow onion. Dress with cheddar cheese and some mayonnaise. The spicy pork and creamy avocado work well together as far as flavors and texture and just might intrigue your taste buds with every bite. Balducci’s has served a version of this sandwich at its gourmet deli.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wednesday’s Helping: Gung-ho for Guacamole

A smashing avocado dip

It’s the creamy green condiment, which is originally from Mexico. Mashed avocadoes, minced onions, minced garlic, minced cilantro, salt, and diced hot peppers round out the ingredients for our simple rendition of this Mexican dip. It’s usually served with tortilla chips or as a garnish for burritos, tacos, enchiladas, and other Mexican favorites. If you want a chunkier dip, add diced tomatoes or diced tomatillos. Also, add a sprinkle of cumin or chili powder to make a spicier guacamole. Some fancier Mexican restaurants, such as Mama' Mexico on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, have servers prepare guacamole tableside.

Helpful Hint: Squeeze some lemon or lime juice into the guacamole to help keep the avocadoes from turning brown from oxidation.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tuesday’s Cupful: Choosing Chipotle

A pepper made even more smokin' hot

What is chipotle? It’s a dried and smoked Jalapeno pepper. Evidence suggests that chipotles originated in Mexico and predate the Aztecs. Smoking the jalapeno was a way to preserve them. Chipotles are sold in three forms: whole, ground into a powder, and canned in adobo sauce (The sauce is made of tomatoes, garlic, salt, vinegar, and other spices). They are liked for their rich smoked flavor that goes well with the heat of the jalapeno. Remember that peppers (generally) have several health benefits. The chipotle has become a popular ingredient in restaurants across the country. And don’t forget that there is the Chipotle Mexican grill.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday’s Bread Bowl: Chipotle and Pork Stew

A hearty and hot combo to welcome fall

Tender pork pieces simmered with smoked chipotle peppers combine a meaty flavor with an earthy spiciness that rolls right from the tongue to the back of the throat. We’ve been cooking Chipotle and Pork Stew for several years. Canned chipotle peppers (in adobo sauce) may be found in the International Foods aisle of most major supermarkets in the Latino foods section. Here is the recipe:

What you will need:

1 wooden spoon
1 pot with lid
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
1 medium-sized onion, chopped
1 can chipotle peppers packed in adobo sauce (7 oz)
2 cups water
2 lbs pork pieces, cut into 1 to 1 and 1/2-inch cubes
Pinch of salt and pepper

Cooking and Directions:

Heat pot on medium-high heat. Add oil to heated pot. Next, add garlic and onions. Sautee onions and garlic until onions turn translucent. Add pork pieces and allow them to sear on all sides for several minutes. Pour in water and ½ can of chipotle. Once liquid starts bubbling, lower heat to simmer and cover pot to cook for 50 minutes. Pork will be tender when done. Serve with bread, tortillas, or steamed rice.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday’s Last Spoonful: Alternative Meatball Dishes

Variations on a meaty theme

The Mixed Stew has been buried in meatballs this week. What's the deal? (**See below.) Spaghetti and meatballs is the old standby for eating meatballs. What about trying something new? We like making Thai-style meatballs to change things up. Peanut butter, coconut milk, and soy sauce are the main ingredients needed for the sweet and spicy sauce. Another idea: Make minestrone soup and add meatballs for chunkier and heartier mouthfuls in every spoonful. Do you like any different dishes with meatballs? What follows is our recipe for Thai-style meatballs.

Make and bake meatballs or buy a bag of your favorite meatballs and follow directions for heating them up.

Thai-style Meatball Sauce

What you will need:

1 saucepan with lid
1 wooden spoon
½ large onion, chopped fine
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
1 can coconut milk (13.5 fl OZ)
1 cup water
1/3 cup soy sauce
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup sugar
Pinch of salt and pepper
2 tablespoon sriracha chili sauce
cilantro, minced (optional topping)
peanuts, crushed (optional topping)

Cooking and Directions:

Heat pan on medium-high heat. Add vegetable oil to hot pan. Next, sauté onions and garlic until onions turn translucent. Add water, salt, pepper, and soy sauce to pan. Bring to a boil. Now, add coconut milk, peanut butter, chili sauce, and sugar. Cover and mix well. Leave on stove at a low simmer for 10 minutes. Then it's ready to serve over meatballs. Sprinkle minced cilantro and crushed peanuts on top for an eye-pleasing-presentation at the table. Serve with vermicelli noodles, soba noodles, or steamed rice.

**Fun Fact: Don’t miss the opening of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, an animated movie in theaters this weekend!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Thursday's Side Dish: Dill Veggie Dip

Dunk into a cool creamy blend

Take fresh dill and mix it with mayonnaise, sour cream, garlic salt, parsley, and minced onion for a refreshing accompaniment to broccoli, carrot, celery, and bell pepper sticks. The smooth texture of a creamy dip with dill flavor goes well with cool and crisp veggies. Less is more with just a few simple ingredients. Just make sure to serve this dip after at least one hour of chilling in the refrigerator. If you’re feeling frisky, add some paprika or chili powder.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wednesday’s Helping: Baked Meatballs

Aim for juicy and healthy bites

We suggest baking homemade meatballs instead of pan frying since it reduces fat. Let the baked meatballs cool to room temperature and then freeze them for use later in fixing spaghetti, Swedish meatballs, or soup. Here is our recipe:

What you will need:

1 big wooden spoon
1 large bowl
1 large baking sheet
Pam cooking spray
2 lbs ground beef
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, minced
1 beaten egg
½ cup milk
½ cup bread crumbs
Pinch of salt and pepper

Cooking and Preparation:

Combine ground beef, garlic, onion, bread crumbs, parsley, salt, and pepper in large bowl. Mix well. Next, add beaten egg and milk and mix again. Take a handful of the seasoned meat and form into balls roughly one-inch in diameter. Spray baking sheet with Pam cooking spray. Place meatballs on baking sheet. Be sure to space them out. Preheat oven at 325 degrees. Place the meatballs in the oven for 50 minutes or until done in the center. Meatballs are done when a toothpick comes out clean after piercing one

Helpful hint: Add a tablespoon of oregano or Italian seasoning to make Italian-style meatballs.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tuesday’s Cupful: Dill

An herb to refresh the palate

Dill (Anethum graveolens) belongs to the parsley family. Look for green leaves that look like delicate feather plumes. Meanwhile, dill seed can be found in the seasonings or spice aisle at the supermarket. This herb and its seeds are known for their minty and slightly bitter flavor and dill tea is believed to be a remedy for insomnia. Dill seed and dill weed are also used in pickling. The seeds have a stronger flavor with a more pungent aroma. We suggest using dill weed to enhance the flavor of steamed salmon, shrimp scampi, or veggie dip. Sprinkle dill seed on tuna or egg salad to give them a flavorful twist. Can you think of other uses for dill?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday’s Bread Bowl: Swedish Meatballs

Bring a taste of Sweden home

The slight minty flavor of dill combines with the rich texture of sour cream in this dish. Thank the Scandinavian region for producing such an elegant interpretation of ground beef and gravy. Serve Swedish meatballs on top of spaghetti noodles or with mashed potatoes. IKEA (Yes, the furniture store has a public cafeteria) serves it with lingonberry jam; however, we think that any good raspberry jam makes a fine substitute.

What you will need:

1 large frying pan with lid
1 wooden spoon
1 bag frozen meatballs (Armour, Simek, Mamma Lucia, or other favorite)
3 tablespoons butter
½ cup milk
½ cup water
1 can beef broth
¼ cup yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Pinch of salt and pepper
1 16 oz container sour cream
2 teaspoons dried dill or 4-6 fresh stems, finely chopped
2 teaspoons dried parsley or 3-4 fresh stems, finely chopped

Cooking Directions:

Heat frying pan on medium-high for a few minutes. Add butter to heated pan. Next, throw in onions and garlic. Let the onions turn translucent and be careful not to burn the garlic. Pour in whole bag of frozen meatballs and lower heat to medium. Cook for at least 10-15 minutes so meatballs can sear a bit. Add canned broth, milk and water. Bring to a boil. Sprinkle in salt and pepper to taste. Now, cover and let pan simmer for 25 minutes. Next, add the whole container of sour cream and mix well. Make sure to turn meat balls every so often. Throw in dill while mixing. Finally, cover and let it simmer for another 5-10 minutes. Toss parsley on top and give a final stir before removing from heat. Garnish with a little more dill. Serve and enjoy.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday’s Last Spoonful: Bread Slices

White and wheat have some company

Biting into a good sandwich has a lot to do with the type of sliced bread on each side. Luckily, consumers no longer find a limited variety available at supermarkets and bakery chains. These alternatives to wheat and white also tend to pack a healthy dose of fiber. Listed below are a few of the other types of bread available.

Multigrain Bread: The difference from other breads is clear once sliced. Multigrain breads have whole grains (oats, barley, rye, and even millet) added to the dough. Light multigrain breads tend to have split grains and are softer. Heavy multigrain breads tend to be denser and have large whole grains throughout.

Pumpernickel: This bread is characterized by its brown/ dark brown color. Bakers will add molasses or cocoa powder, which produces the color and also a light sweet taste. Caraway seeds are also added to give the bread another flavor component and firmer texture.

Sourdough: Its unique flavor sets sourdough bread apart from other breads. Sourdough bread rises without any added yeast (yeast packets). Bakers use the wild yeast and bacteria agents that occur naturally and can grow naturally in a “sourdough starter” (a mix of flour, sugar, and water that must ferment for a few days). A sour flavor comes from the lactic acid produced by the wild yeast and bacterial agents.

Rye: This firmer and denser bread contains only rye instead of wheat flour or a combination of both. Color can range from light brown to dark brown. The amount of bran in the rye flour determines the color and flavor. Corned beef and pastrami sandwiches are usually served with rye bread.

What is your favorite bread?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thursday’s Side Dish: Toasted Bread Pizza

An easy do-it-yourself for kids

Sliced bread turned into pizza? Yes, it’s easy to make by using ingredients found in the deli section of your favorite supermarket. Less is more with this snack. Julienned slices of ham and bits of cooked bacon will do in a pinch or buy pepperoni to bring it close to the Italian original. The convenient ingredient here is the left-over spaghetti or pasta sauce (like Prego or Ragu) that makes for a good pizza tomato sauce. We also suggest using cheese singles for each individual bread pizza. Place the cheese between the meat and the sauce with the sauce being the first layer on the bread. If you want to fancy things up a bit, add some grated cheese, sliced olives, or sliced white onions. Heat each one in a toaster oven at 250 degrees for 5 to 8 minutes.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wednesday’s Helping: Bacon and Marmalade

An extra-fancy toasted sandwich

The Mixed Stew highlighted a kids' favorite yesterday and now would like to talk about a more grownup treat. Bacon and marmalade on toast raises the bar in sandwich enjoyment. The combination of sweet and tangy marmalade with crispy smoked bacon makes for a tasty experience. This is a sandwich that’s way beyond elementary school recess. Do you happen to be in the Big Apple? Adults may pamper themselves by eating this sandwich (on pumpernickel) at Prune in NYC’s East Village. Otherwise, buy all the ingredients and make a late-night snack. Just don’t forget to toast the bread. We suggest a firm variety of bread as opposed to regular soft white or wheat. Oh, and if marmalade just isn't your thing, Nelly suggests substituting apricot preserves.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tuesday’s Cupful: Marshmallow Crème

Gooey and sweet make the grade

The kids are headed back to school and enticing lunches or snacks are in order. Marshmallow crème has the gooeyness and sweetness that kids like. This spread reminds us that it’s OK to tweak a childhood favorite. Use marshmallow crème with peanut butter instead of the usual jelly to make a peanut butter and marshmallow crème sandwich. Marshmallow crème is made mainly from corn syrup, sugar, and egg whites. It has been around since the early 20th century. The Durkee-Mower company is the original producer of Marshmallow Fluff. They still make it today. Meanwhile, Solo Marshmallow Crème and Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Crème are later additions to the food market. Try spreading marshmallow crème on top of brownie squares or cupcakes. Can you think of other uses for marshmallow crème?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Monday's Bread Bowl: Labor Day History

Happy Labor Day! The Mixed Stew crew is observing the holiday. Here is a site about Labor Day.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Friday’s Last Spoonful: Cooking Dogs

Heating 'em up -- a matter of preference

What is the best way to cook a hot dog? There are many who think that a grilled one is king. Grilling adds a smoke flavor and sears the outside with grill marks. It’s also convenient for outdoor parties. Don’t leave wieners over the flame for too long -- hot dogs may burn easily on the grill. Other hot dog lovers boil their wieners. There’s no trick in boiling wieners and no real danger of overcooking. There is no open-flame charring and overwhelming a boiled wiener’s flavor. If pan-frying, be sure to have a splatter guard on hand. We suggest using a cast-iron skillet for pan frying. Finally, deep fry a hot dog (like at Rutt's Hut in Clifton, N.J. and as seen on PBS’ A Hot Dog Program) only if you dare for a sinfully delicious taste with every bite. But we don't recommend this last method if you want to eat healthy.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Thursday’s Side Dish: Watergate Salad

Dessert on the side? Why not?

Pistachio flavored whipped cream and marshmallows are the central ingredients of Watergate Salad. It’s a dish that is off-the-wall. The unusual combination of ingredients works as a side salad for hot dogs, for example. This dish has other names: Hawaiian Surprise, Pistachio Delight, Pistachio Salad and Picnic Passion. Kraft sent out the recipe Pistachio Pineapple Delight (in 1975) and an unnamed editor ran the recipe in her column as Watergate Salad. Nobody seems to have been able to establish an official link between the recipe and the Watergate Hotel, which is often believed to have played a role in the recipe's name. Marshmallows, shredded coconut, cut pineapples, and nuts (we used hazelnuts but pecans or walnuts work fine too), are the ingredients dressed in the sweet pistachio dish dressing. It’s almost a knock-out dessert, which is how I sometimes prefer to enjoy it. We recommend adding this side dish to your repertoire because it will throw party guests for a loop (in a good way).

What you will need:

1 large bowl
1 large wooden spoon
Plastic wrap
1 cup JET-PUFFED Miniature Marshmallows
1 pkg. (3.4 oz.) JELL-O Pistachio Flavor Instant Pudding
1 can (20 oz.) can of Crushed Pineapple, drained
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts (or walnuts, or pecans)
1 and 1/2 cups thawed COOL WHIP whipped topping

Preperation and Directions:

Combine marshmallows, dry pudding mix, pineapple, coconut, and nuts in large bowl.
Stir in COOL WHIP. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wednesday’s Helping: Sweet Potato Sticks

Fiber helps these fries help you

Sweet potato fries are a hot change-up. We’ve enjoyed them at local fairs and at a few local restaurants. Yams and sweet potatoes can be easily confused with each other. The plants are not related and yams are starchier. Sweet potatoes have fewer carbs per serving over yams and regular potatoes. They also have several health benefits: regulating blood-sugar levels, maintaining fiber regularity, and beta-carotene source. Additionally, baking these fries in the oven means less fat when compared to deep-fried fries. Prepare a batch to enjoy with burgers.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tuesday's Cupful: Big on Bratwurst

Germany’s link is hot, too

Try branching out beyond wieners with bratwurst -- a thick, juicy sausage with flavorful hints of marjoram and celery seed. Bratwurst comes from two German words: Brat means finely chopped and wurst means sausage. This sausage is heavily seasoned and often served on a bun with mustard. Wisconsin is the Bratwurst capital of the United States. Milwaukee is where brats were first sold at baseball games. Nuremberg-style bratwurst is the most popular variation (one-inch girth with brownish-pink cooked flesh) of bratwurst sold at major supermarkets around the country. It’s made of beef and pork. Folks serious about bratwurst will grill them and then simmer these sausages in beer and sliced onions.