Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday’s Last Spoonful: Field Trip

Benii: Upper Tumon, Guam

As a change of pace, The Mixed Stew is starting a new feature. The crew will occasionally take readers on a field trip and talk about a dining destination that is interesting and worth checking out. Keeping with the Asian theme we started on Monday, we'll end this week by highlighting the and Asian fare served at Benii in Upper Tumon, Guam. We enjoyed the Korean-style BBQ short ribs (galbi or kalbi). The beef ribs are well-marinated (mostly in soy sauce) and nicely grilled to obtain a flavorful caramelization without drying out the meat. Look for a combination of sweet, tangy, and charbroiled flavors when it comes to these yummy short ribs. Side dishes are a fresh lettuce salad and a hefty portion of steamed rice. Benii also offers special Japanese Maki sushi rolls, Japanese-style curry, and Japanese-style fried chicken called karaage. We also ordered okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancake) with shaved bonito, octopus, and seaweed. Items on the menu are priced starting at $5.00. The restaurant was packed at lunchtime during for a weekday. And now, we know why.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thursday’s Side Dish: Chinese Broccoli Stir-fry

An Asian version of the green giant

This stir-fry is simpler to prepare than our broccoli and cashews dish. Chinese broccoli may not have the attractive florets of its bushy relative; however, they’re still a good serving of greens. This is also a true side dish with no call for meat. Here is our recipe:

What you will need:
1 wooden spoon
1 frying pan (or wok)
1 garlic clove, whole
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2lbs Chinese broccoli, chopped
Pinch of black pepper

Cooking and Directions:

Heat pan on medium-high heat. Add cooking oil. Throw in garlic and onions. Let them sauté for 2-3 minutes. Now, add Chinese broccoli. Sprinkle in some black pepper. Let cook for 5-8 minutes. Finally, drizzle in soy sauce and oyster sauce. Stir well. Remove whole garlic clove. Place in platter and serve immediately.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wednesday’s Helping: Broccoli

A versatile veggie powerhouse

Sturdy stalks support its florets. Bite into this green giant and in return, receive a nutritious wallop. A stir-fry is just one of the many ways to cook broccoli, which is closely related to cabbage and cauliflower. The plant species is called Brassica oleracea. The name comes from the Italian broccolo that means “the flowering top of a cabbage.” Florets are actually the flowering part of the plant. The tips and stems are edible. The most common type of broccoli is known as calabrese or simply broccoli in the United States. For selecting raw broccoli, choose green florets and avoid discolored or yellowing heads. Also look for frozen broccoli in the frozen foods aisle of most grocery stores. Broccoli has several health benefits: a source of vitamins (C, D, and A), a good source of fiber, and beta-carotene. Instead of mac and cheese, serve steamed broccoli with melted cheese and leave the carbs behind. We also suggest dipping bite-sized broccoli pieces in a veggie dip as a healthy snack.

Helpful Hint: Baby broccoli (pictured below) is actually a cross between broccoli and Chinese Kale.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuesday’s Cupful: Cashews

U-shaped nuts that help build bones

Cashew nuts (Anacardium occidentale) are actually the seeds found in the fruits (cashew apples) of cashew trees. They are native to Brazil; however, cashew nuts have spread to tropical regions around the world and are used in many cuisines. Cashew nuts need extra processing to remove the resin that coats each nut, and they are always sold shelled. Otherwise, the nuts are inedible. Look for cashew nuts that are sold in vacuum-sealed containers or packages. As expected, these nuts contain a lot of monounsaturated fats. Unlike most other nuts, cashews are a good source of magnesium, which is essential for building strong bones.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Monday’s Bread Bowl: Baby Broccoli & Cashews

An easy stir-fry gets nuttyAfter satisfying sweet cravings with apple fare, The Mixed Stew offers up a yummy and light stir-fry. Take baby broccoli and prepare it with just a few simple ingredients. It’s quick and easy.

What you will need:

1 wooden spoon
1 frying pan (or wok)
3 tablespoons cooking oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 bunches baby broccoli, cut into bite-size pieces
1lb skirt steak, sliced into bite-size pieces
3 tablespoons soy sauce
½ cup cashew nuts, whole
1 ½ teaspoon corn starch, diluted in ¼ cup water
Pinch of black pepper

Cooking and Directions:

Heat frying pan (or wok) on medium-high heat. Add oil to hot pan. Next, throw in onions. Add the beef just 30 seconds after onions and then add the garlic and cook the beef and onions. Let everything sauté for a minute or two or until the beef is brown and onions are just about translucent. Be careful not to burn garlic. Remove beef, onions, and garlic from pan and set aside. Return pan to heat (no need to rinse or clean). Place baby broccoli and cashew nuts in hot pan. Sprinkle in pepper and mix well. Allow broccoli to cook for 2-3 minutes. Then return beef, onions and garlic to pan. Add soy sauce while stirring. Finally, pour in cornstarch mixture and cook for another minute or two. Serve immediately.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday’s Last Spoonful: National Apple Harvest Festival

A tempting fruit with many applications

Loads of apples used to make apple cider on site

Every year during the first two weekends of October, thousands of people drive to Adams County, Pa., for The National Apple Harvest Festival in Arendtsville. The celebration has been organized and sponsored by the Adams County Jaycees for more than 40 years. The Mixed Stew crew attended this year’s festival and left with bags of freshly picked apples, half-gallon jugs of apple cider, and caramel apples. (Oh, and tummies filled with various apple delights, too.) General admission was $9.00 and kids (12 and under) are FREE. Senior citizens paid $8.00. Organizers provided pamphlets with a detailed map and events scheduled in the Apple Auditorium, Appleseed Stage, and several other stages on the festival grounds. The Redneck Limo and Country Cadillac tractors with trailers shuttled visitors from a nearby parking lot to and from the entrance gate.

Machines run an old-fashion cider press
A freshly cooked apple fritter with powder sugar
Crowds walk by vendors

Bring spending money to buy apple fritters, funnel cakes, apple sausage sandwiches, barbecue chicken, pulled pork, and pit beef…etc. The apple slushees were also great. There were craftsmen and vendors selling different knick-knacks and novelty gifts. There were antique engines on display as well as a wood shingle processor in full operation. Specialty food items such as apple butter, freshly made scrapple, fried pork rinds (mmmmmm), and apple cookies were also available.

Gallons of apple cider for sale

The National Apple Festival is worth a visit if you're in the region. The festival has tons of activities for children with pony rides, a petting zoo, and face painting. Everyone can watch apple cider being pressed the old-fashioned way. The highlight of this year’s trip was the bus tour of the apple orchards that surround the festival grounds. Buses stopped at one orchard and allowed each visitor to pick one apple right from the tree. Expect to learn a lot about the apple industry in Adams County and take in orchard scenery as far as the eye can see on the tour.

Apple trees in orchard

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thursday’s Side Dish: Apple Cider

More than a refreshing fruit squeeze

Have you ever tried fresh apple cider? This is the time of year to get it fresh. Don’t confuse apple cider with apple juice. Apple cider has more flavor and a brownish-opaque appearance. There are miniscule apple particles floating in apple cider. Apple juice is apple cider that has been filtered and pasteurized, which means it has a longer shelf life than apple cider. These processes also remove pectin from the apple juice. Pectin can help the body lower cholesterol levels so apple cider also has more nutritional value. A portion of the yearly apple cider supply is frozen so that it can be on store shelves all year long. People enjoy cider cold or hot. It’s also a favorite around the holidays.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wednesday’s Helping: Types of Apples

Adam and Eve’s rosy temptation

Apple trees and fruit belong to the Rosaceae family or rose family of plants. Modern apples are believed to be descendents of the malus sieversii, which still grows wild in Kazakhstan. Apple trees are deciduous. There are numerous apple varieties grown throughout the U.S. with different harvest times between late summer and late fall. Pennsylvania, Washington, and Michigan are just three of thirty-six states that have commercial growers. Apples are available all year long through strict harvesting and storage guidelines that include placing apples in temperature controlled rooms to maintain freshness. Select apples with a nice color, no bruising, a firm feel, and a nice fruity fragrance. The inside flesh will be off-white, yellow, or cream-colored. Roughly forty percent of the entire yearly apple harvest is used to produce commercial products, (by Motts, Musselman’s, etc.) such as juice, sauce, and apple butter. Here are descriptions of popular apple varieties:

Gala – a pinkish red apple with golden streaks. This apple is exceptionally good for snacking, salads (eating raw), sauces, and baking. It has a mild and sweet taste.

Golden Delicious – a sweet and yellow apple that is versatile for snacking, baking, and also freezes well.

Granny Smith – a green apple. This apple has equal taste elements of sweet and tart. Good for baking and making apple sauce.

McIntosh – a green and red apple. The McIntosh is known for its sweetness and tartness. This also makes them common in packed lunches and salads. Not recommended for baking.

Red Delicious- a bright red apple. Very sweet compared to others. Good for snacking and freezing.

Rome – a red apple. Liked for its slight tartness, the Rome apple is good for baking. Great for making apple sauce and apple cider.

Helpful Hint: Health benefits of consuming apples include prevention of several types of cancer.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tuesday's Cupful: Walnuts

A crunchy handful of Omega - 3
Walnuts have a strong earthy flavor in comparison to other nuts, such as pine nuts. Initially, they have a buttery flavor, which becomes nuttier. Walnut trees (of the Juglandaceae family) are deciduous and the English walnut is the most commonly consumed edible variety. Black walnuts are more expensive and considered higher in quality than the rest. Walnuts must mature and are harvested in December; however, they’re available for purchase all year long. The round nuts have a dense outer shell that encases the edible kernel, which is cream-colored and has lobes. Store shelled nuts in the refrigerator and avoid withered nuts since shriveling is a sign of age. Walnuts are good sources of Omega-3 or monounsaturated fats that are good for a healthy heart. These fats are essential for the production of good cholesterol and lowering levels of bad cholesterol.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday’s Bread Bowl: Apple French Toast Bake

One-shot breakfast meal with no frying pan

Apples are in season. Our recent discussion of maple syrup (or pancake syrup) had us thinking of French toast. Our version calls for multigrain or whole wheat bread. Baked French toast means less fat than traditional pan-fried French toast. We’ve also added walnuts for a crunch.

What you will need:

1 wooden spoon
1 baking dish
1 medium-sized bowl
5 eggs, beaten
8 bread slices, 1/2 inch or thicker (hardy bread and not a soft variety so that it won't disintegrate easily when absorbing liquid)
4 medium apples - peeled, cored and thinly sliced (Choose Rome, Jonagold, or Pippin for baking)
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
2 teaspoons cinnamon
¼ cup walnuts

Cooking and Directions:

Combine eggs, sugar, cinnamon, and milk in bowl. Mix well. Place four slices of bread in a baking dish. This will make the first layer of the bake. Pour half of the egg mixture on bread in baking dish. Next, place half of the apple slices over the bread to make the second layer in the baking dish. Sprinkle some walnuts on apples. Repeat the procedure with remaining bread, liquid mixture, apples and walnuts. There should be four main layers (2 bread and 2 apple) when finished. Dot with butter. Sprinkle more cinnamon on top if desired. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let stand 5 minutes before serving with syrup. Optional addition: 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday’s Last Spoonful: Pine Nuts

The 411 on a seedy character

The buttery flavor of pine nuts makes them a common ingredient many cuisines. Pine nuts are the edible cream-colored seeds of certain pine trees. They’re also called Indian nuts or pinon nuts and must be extracted from the cones. Also, there are different varieties in several regions of the world. Not every grocery store carries this ingredient. We bought pine nuts at a local organic food specialty store. Even then, the nuts were stocked in the refrigerator because their oil content means a limited shelf life. These nuts aren’t cheap. Pine nuts are rich sources of protein and fiber. Try adding crushed pine nuts to a coating for broiled fish filets or roast beef.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thursday's Side Dish: Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

Give something store-bought more zing

Store-bought pesto is one of those “go-to" sauces for an impromptu party. It originated in Italy. The name pesto comes from Latin word for “to crush.” Pesto was traditionally made in a mortar and pestle. Look for pesto in the deli cooler or in jars in the canned veggies aisle of the grocery store. Try adding minced sun-dried tomatoes to lend a premade pesto more oomph. That’s exactly what we did with a roasted red pepper pesto. Serve a semi-homemade pesto as a spread with sliced French bread, bruschetta, or even Wheat Thins. Or, add it to whole grain pasta for another dinner option.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wednesday’s Helping: Multigrain Pastas

Noodling over a healthier option Whole wheat and multigrain pastas have exploded in popularity as more nutritious alternatives to white pasta. When al dente, these pastas are usually browner and chewier, giving each biteful a little extra oomph that actually contributes to a dish's flavor. The quality and taste of these pastas has improved. They’re just as good -- some might say even better than -- as white pasta. Barilla Plus, Trader Joe’s Organic, and Nature’s Promise are just three brands of this healthier pasta. Consumer demand means that most brands are selling multigrain pasta in many different shapes and sizes, such as linguine, penne, farfalle, etc. The pastas are made with whole semolina flour instead of more refined semolina flour and that means more fiber per serving when compared with regular pasta. Barilla, for example, adds flaxseed and barley to the recipe for Barilla Plus pastas. What do you think of these pastas?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tuesday’s Cupful: Sun-dried Tomatoes

A bite of these pack a punch

Sun-dried tomatoes have a concentrated sweet and tart flavor burst that goes well in sauces, salad dressings, and dips. They should have a wrinkly, beaten-up look like little pieces of dark red leather. So one should not be surprised to find its texture dry and pliable. Sun-dried tomatoes are sold at the grocery stores in vacuum packed packages or in jars (soaking in seasoned olive oil). Making sun-dried tomatoes has also become popular since cooks can use their own prerogative when seasoning them. It’s also cheaper to make your own sun-dried tomatoes at home. Add minced sun-dried tomatoes to some cream cheese for a yummy spread. Can you think of other ways to use sun-dried tomatoes?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday's Bread Bowl: Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Tossing together a tasty dish

Take al dente pasta and toss with sun-dried tomatoes and parmesan cheese for the foundation to a fancy pasta dish. Add pine nuts for a crisp crunch that compliments the chewy texture of pasta. We also suggest using whole wheat pasta.

What you will need:

1 pair of tongs
1 large bowl
1 package whole wheat or multigrain thin spaghetti or angel hair pasta
1/3 cup pine nuts, crushed
3 oz dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
¼ cup parmesan, grated
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced or sliced really fine with a potato peeler
¼ cup fresh basil, sliced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon salt

Cooking and Directions:

Follow package’s directions for cooking pasta. Drain cooked pasta well. Let it cool to room temperature. Combine pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, basil, garlic, pepper and salt in large bowl. Add cooked pasta and mix well. Next, add parmesan and toss well with tongs. Garnish with minced fresh parsley. Serve immediately.

Optional Additions:
½ cup mushrooms, chopped
¼ cup olives, chopped
¼ cup green onions, chopped

Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday’s Last Spoonful: Collard Greens

This Mediterranean plant entices

Did you know the collard green plant (Brassica oleracea, from the Acephala Group) is native to the Mediterranean region? That's right. This vegetable common in Southern cuisine traveled across the Atlantic Ocean. Collard greens are related to broccoli and cabbage. Look out for fresh collard greens near the kale and mustard greens in the supermarket. Leaves are flat, thick, and broad. Collard greens are also sold canned and frozen. The Mixed Stew crew sends cans of collard greens to Guam for family members to enjoy. If you have access to fresh collard greens at your grocer, select leaves that have a deep green color with no discoloration and no wilting. Collard greens are a good source of fiber, beta-carotene and vitamins A and E. Add vinegar or lemon juice to cooked collard greens to off-set the bitterness. Make sure to thoroughly wash collard greens during food preparation.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thursday’s Side Dish: Collards with Smoked Turkey

A healthy option to break with tradition

Count on this hearty veggie dish to satisfy comfort food cravings on cold autumn days. Collard greens simmered with smoked meats is familiar to Southern cooks. But to attempt a healthy angle on the traditional dish, use smoked turkey wings as the flavoring component instead of smoked ham. There is little sacrifice regarding taste. Smoked turkey wings are just as good as smoked pork in this particular dish. Serve as a side dish at dinner. This is real comfort food.

What you will need:

1 large pot with lid
1 wooden spoon
1 smoked turkey wing, pulled apart
2lbs collard greens, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
4 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon vinegar

Cooking and Directions:
Wash collard greens and let drain. Heat pot on medium-high heat and pour oil in pot. Once pot is hot, toss in garlic, onions, pepper, turkey wing pieces, and salt to cook. Sautee and let onions turn translucent. Pour in water and bring to a rolling boil. Then place collard greens in boiling water. Once water returns to a boil, lower heat so that contents are at a simmer and then cover pot. After 15 minutes, add vinegar. Leave pot on medium-low heat for additional 30 minutes. Stir everything occasionally.

Helpful Hint: Here is Paula Deen’s version of this dish.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wednesday’s Helping: Rosemary

Get a whiff of this galRosemary has a strong aroma and flavor (akin to pine) that goes well when for seasoning roasted meats and poultry. The plant is native to the Mediterranean region. Rosemary looks like a mini evergreen shrub with its needle-like leaves; in fact, rosemary bushes are cut and sold as table-top (miniature Christmas trees) centerpieces during the holidays. Rosemary is member of the mint family. Health benefits include boosting the immune system and aiding in digestion. Try adding rosemary to your favorite grilling marinade or dry rub. Also, place a sprig of rosemary in a freshly brewed pot of tea for a change. We’ve also tossed a sprig of rosemary into a simmering batch of gravy. Can you think of other uses for this ingredient?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tuesday’s Cupful: Smoked Turkey

Nothing foul about smokin' this bird
Turkey is something many people only try baked at a Thanksgiving meal or as diner fare. However, smoked turkey has become increasingly popular. The Mixed Stew crew has tried smoked turkey on Thanksgiving at a friend's gathering. We’ve also seen more smoked whole turkeys (around Thanksgiving) in the grocer's freezer case next to regular turkeys. Smoked turkey legs and wings are almost always available at the supermarket near the smoked ham hocks in the meat department. Use smoked turkey as a substitute for ham or bacon in dishes such as baked beans and sandwiches. The smokey flavor adds to and compliments a turkey’s natural taste. Expect the meat to be succulent with lots of flavor. If you own a suitable smoker, try making it at home.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Monday’s Bread Bowl: Roast Turkey Wings

It's not all about the breast meat
Thanksgiving isn't too far away but The Mixed Stew is craving a taste of some turkey. The big bird has become common fare with many dieters avoiding red meats. Fresh leg and wing pieces of this fowl are sold all year long. Here is our recipe for roast turkey wings with rosemary:

What you will need:
1 large bowl
1 wooden spoon
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 baking pan
1 wire rack (baking grill)
4 whole turkey wings or equivalent in wing pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
2 sprigs of rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste

Cooking and preparation:

Place turkey parts, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper in bowl. Mix well -- hands if you have to. (Clean hands, of course!) Remove rosemary leaves from stem and sprinkle them on the turkey parts. Let the rosemary and olive oil adhere to the turkey skin. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for six to eight hours. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place grill in baking pan. Set the turkey wings on the baking grill. Put turkey parts into the oven for 40 minutes to an hour (depending on size of parts). Let turkey parts turn golden brown. You may want to wrap wings tips with foil to avoid burning. Serve with cranberry sauce.
Optional ingredient: Juice of ½ a lemon added before chilling in the fridge.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday’s Last Spoonful: Canned Salmon

Catch it out of the can
Canned salmon has its advantages over fresh salmon. The canned varieties are sockeye, king, and pink. Consumers can count on canned salmon all year long if fresh salmon is not available. There is very little compromise regarding nutritional value with canned salmon. It’s still a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. Expect to pay a premium for canned “wild salmon,” which is always noted on the can’s label. Use canned salmon if you have issues with food safety and the handling of fresh fish during cooking preparation.

Helpful Hint: If you like canned tuna, try canned salmon instead for a change that increases the amount of omega-3 intake.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Thursday’s Side Dish: Salmon Cakes

Fishy patties are the catch of the day

Salmon cakes can hit the spot in a pinch if you have a taste for seafood. Use leftover cooked salmon or canned salmon. Serve with a tartar or dill sauce.

What you will need:

1 wooden spoon
1 medium-size bowl
1 frying pan
Non-stick cooking spray or two tablespoons of olive oil
1 (14.75 oz) can salmon
½ medium onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons fresh parsley
2 tblsp mayonnaise
2 tblsp Dijon mustard
2 tblsp bread crumbs
Pinch of salt and pepper

Cooking and Directions:

Combine salmon with onion, garlic, parsley, mayonnaise, mustard, bread crumbs, and egg in bowl. Sprinkle salt and pepper. Mix well. Mold portions of mixture into small patties. Put frying pan on medium heat. Spray pan surface with cooking spray or coat with olive oil. Once the pan is hot, place patties in pan. Let them brown on each side for five minutes. Serve up and enjoy.
Optional additions: ¼ cup diced carrots
¼ cup diced celery
Helpful Hint: For crispier salmon cakes, lightly coat patties (on both sides) in all-purpose flour before frying.