Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday's Last Spoonful: Cream of Rice

Getting a nitty gritty version of the white grain
Need a comfort food breakfast and tired of oatmeal? B & G’s Cream of Rice makes for a solid alternative to grits, oatmeal, and dry boxed cereals. It’s actually coarse ground rice flour or granulated rice. Cream of Rice has been around since 1893. For breakfast, follow the preparation instructions and serve immediately. The hot cereal can be sweetened with Splenda, honey, or maple syrup. Add crushed granola, raisins, or your favorite diced fruit. Feeling frisky? Sprinkle bowls of Cream of Rice with a little cocoa powder for a wholesome chocolate fix. Several savory dishes call for this ingredient. Cooks can make the base for a savory porridge and rice cakes with cooked Cream of Rice. Remember that this warm cereal is a gluten free food item. Yes, that's right. There are non-glutinous types of rice, such as basmati. So this is a version of rice to indulge in.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thursday's Side Dish: Cream of Rice Soup

Warm up with a bowl of this delight
Need a break from chicken noodle when it comes to soup? Cream of Rice may have the answer. The Mixed Stew made this simple and tasty soup with garlic, turmeric, and cilantro. Add pieces of leftover chicken or cooked shrimp to make it heartier. It’s very similar to Filipino arroz caldo. Garnish with sliced green onion, bits of toasted garlic, or crunchy pork rinds. Here is our recipe:

What you will need:

1 medium-sized saucepan with lid
1 wooden spoon
2 tablespoon cooking oil
1 garlic clove, chopped
½ yellow onion, chopped
1 cup cream of rice
2 cups water
1 (14 oz) can chicken broth
¼ cup fresh cilantro, sliced
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ cup cooked chicken or shrimp
Pinch of salt and pepper

Cooking and Directions:

Heat saucepan on medium-high heat. Add cooking oil. Throw in onion, garlic, and turmeric. Let onion turn translucent. Next, add water and broth. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and mix in cream of rice while stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Now, pour in fresh cilantro. The soup will thicken (15 to 20 minutes) as cream of rice cooks. Finally, add chicken or shrimp. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wednesday's Helping: Toasted Rice

Heating grains up a bit
The Mixed Stew has noticed a pattern of toasting rice in a little oil or even toasting cream of rice for certain dishes, such as our arroz con pollo. What gives? Well, the toasting process adds more flavor to the grainy rice flavor and the oil coating also reduces the rice's ability to absorb too much moisture. The trick is to avoid burning the rice fixings by constantly stirring slowly while it is on the heat. But do not stir too vigorously or you will change the texture even more. In fact, for our arroz con pollo, you must not over stir. It takes less than five minutes using a cast-iron skillet of frying pan. The cream of rice or rice grains will obtain a brown tint. The toasting process gives regular rice or cream of rice more of a nutty and earthy flavor.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesday's Cupful: Flavoring and Coloring

How to paint it red or yellow

Wondering why certain dishes have more pronounced color? Certain spices are known for adding color and flavor. We’ve already discussed annatto, which we’ve added to our arroz con pollo. Saffron and turmeric also add color and flavor to dishes. Here is a short primer on these two other coloring spices:

Saffron – This is the most expensive spice because it takes about one acre of the purple crocus flower to produce about 1lb of saffron. The spice is actually the flower’s stigma. Each flower produces three threads. Thus, harvesting saffron is very labor intensive. Look for reddish-yellow saffron threads. Grocery stores sell saffron in jars of whole threads or in powder form. Cooks whole saffron in warm water to release natural oils. Saffron may also be toasted. This helps cooks get the most spice flavor from the threads. Saffron-seasoned dishes can have a yellow appearance. The spice is used in many Mediterranean, Spanish, or Indian dishes. The health benefits of saffron include containing antioxidants and treatment of fever and flu symptoms.

Turmeric – This is a cheaper substitute for saffron and is related to the ginger plant. The root of the plant is boiled and then processed into a powder that can dye a dish anywhere from light yellow to orange. Indian curries and spicy dishes call for turmeric. A little turmeric goes a long way in terms of coloring a dish. Turmeric has a bittersweet and slightly peppery taste that can enhance the flavor of a recipe. Look for turmeric powder at major supermarkets. Turmeric is a proven anti-inflammatory agent and may also help treat rheumatoid arthritis.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday's Bread Bowl: Arroz Con Pollo

Latin dish brings sexy back to chicken and rice

This dish has a lot of sizzle, flavor, and textures for a one-pot dish. Arroz con pollo originated in Spain but there are many variations in Latin American and Carrbbean cuisine. It’s the national dish of Puerto Rico. We borrowed elements from two online sites: and The Mixed Stew crew aimed for a simple way to come up with the intense flavors familiar to fans of arroz con pollo. We didn't want to use a marinade for the chicken as some cooks do because the complex flavors of the rice mixture was enough for us. Here’s our version:

What you will need:

Wide sauteuse pan or skillet with a lid that can be used for both frying and braising
Large wooden spoon
Slotted spoon or slotted metal spatula
Chef’s knife
Cutting board
Measuring cup
Measuring spoons
Glass baking pan or large metal bowl for dredging chicken in dry mix
Medium sized bowl for sauce mixture


¼ cup olive oil
2 1/3 to 3 lbs of chicken thighs and drumsticks (separated pieces, not whole quarters) with skin on
½ cup of flour
Coarse ground salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Paprika to taste
Chili powder to taste


2 cups Jasmine rice
2 small-medium dry Spanish chorizo
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water with 1 tablespoon annatto/achiote powder stirred in
1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained of juice
Pinch of dry Mexican oregano
Pinch of salt
1 bay leaf
8-10 pimento-stuffed, green olives, cut in half

Cooking and Directions:

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large skillet or sauteuse pan on medium-high heat. Put the flour in a glass baking dish or wide bowl, mix in the coarse salt, freshly ground pepper, paprika, and chili powder. Pat the chicken pieces dry with a paper towel and then dredge lightly in the flour mixture and put in the pan to brown, skin side first. Cook a few minutes (4-6) on each side, just enough so that the chicken has browned nicely. Use a slotted spoon or spatula to remove from pan and set aside on a rack.

Remove pan from heat and let it cool for a bit but do not clean it. Take the chorizos and remove any tough skin wrapping from the sausages. Then, dice dry chorizo meat. Go back to pan where chicken was browned and remove all but a tablespoon or two of the olive oil from the pan. Put pan back on medium-high heat and cook chorizo for about 2-3 minutes. Remove chorizo bits from hot pan. With the oil from the chorizo added to what olive oil remained in the pan, add the rice to brown. Stir at first to coat the rice with the olive oil in the pan. But do not stir too vigorously or you will prevent it from browning. Allow the rice to cook up to 90 seconds in the oil. But be careful not to burn. Once the rice has a nice coating of oil and has "toasted" a bit in the pot, add the onion and garlic. Now stir frequently until the onions are just about translucent. Mix chorizo bits with contents of pan.

Place the chicken pieces, skin side up on top of the rice mixture. In the medium size bowl, combine the stock, water and annato, diced tomatoes, oregano, bay leaf and pimento-stuffed green olives. Add salt to taste. Pour the mixture into the pot carefully. Bring pan to simmer and then set heat on low. Cover pan and cook for 35-45 minutes. Remove from heat. Let covered pan sit for 10-15 minutes after removing from heat before serving.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday's Last Spoonful: Chinese New Year

Welcome to the Year of the Tiger

The Lunar New Year is cause for celebration and good eats in China. Chinese New Year is the most important holiday on the traditional Chinese calendar and festivities occur over the course of the first 15 days of the calendar’s first month. This year, the Lunar New Year began February 14, 2010. Chinese New Year's Eve is known as chú xī. It literally means "Year-pass Eve". The old Chinese calendar predates the common International calendar, which is based on the Gregorian calendar. The year 2010 is the Year of the Metal Tiger or more formally Geng Yin. In the Year of the Tiger, expect an eventful year with fluctuations and big change that can bring good fortune. People born during the year of the tiger are passionate, driven, intense, and like being the center of attention. Past Years of the Tiger include 1986 and 1998.

The New Year’s Eve dinner involves a small family reunion. Traditional dishes carry symbolism. For example, different noodle dishes represent long life or longevity. Fish dishes symbolize hopes for surplus or abundance (from the idea of an abundant catch at sea). Finally, a specific vegetarian dish known as Luóhàn zhāi or Buddha’s Delight with special fat-choy algae (hair-like in appearance) is a mainstay on all New Year’s Eve dinner tables and it symbolizes cleansing (all vegetarian ingredients) for the new year.

The celebration may include a traditional Chinese dragon dance. The dragon dancing and loud drum beats are believed to ward off evil. Meanwhile, The Lantern Festival on February 28, 2010 (the last day of festivities) has gradually lost much of its significance over time. The lanterns used to stand for luck or good fortune.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thursday's Side Dish: Rice Noodles

Stirring up an easy Asian dish

Chinese New Year means it's time for noodles. (More on that tomorrow). This dish, however, can be offered on any occasion. Serve up stir-fried rice noodles at your next potluck or party. The key is sautéing pieces of pork (or chicken) with onion, garlic, and a little bit of hoisin sauce before adding the softened noodles. Make a big batch and guests can eat multiple servings. Here is our recipe:

What you will need:

1 large frying pan
1 wooden spoon
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 lb pork or chicken, chopped into bite size pieces
2 carrots, julienned
1-2 cups collard greens, cut into bite size pieces (or pieces of bok choy or savoy cabbage)
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
½ cup water
1 package rice noodles (rice vermicelli), softened by soaking in warm water for 5-10 minutes

Toppings: 2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
Sliced green onion

Cooking and directions:

Heat up frying pan on medium-high heat. Add cooking oil. Next, sauté onion and garlic until onion turns translucent. Be careful not to burn garlic. Add pork (or chicken) and let it brown. Add hoisin, water, and soy sauce. Stir well. Add veggies and leave everything alone for 2-3 minutes to give the veggies time to cook. (Don't overcook them though.) Finally, stir in softened rice noodles. The noodles will absorb the liquid and flavors in the pot. Remove pan from heat and plate noodle dish. Serve garnished with sliced egg and sliced green onion if desired. Sprinkle chopped fresh cilantro on top if you like.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wednesday's Helping: Rice Wraps and Noodles

Small white grains transformed
Fresh spring rolls call for special edible rice paper wraps. They’re made from a mix of rice flour, tapioca flour, salt, and water. The tapioca flour creates the glutinous and smooth texture needed to make flat sheets. There’s also a hint of sweetness from the tapioca. The flat sheets are dried and cut into round circles that are sold in vacuum-packed packages. The cook must dip the each dried sheet into warm water to make it soft and ready for wrapping fresh ingredients.

Meanwhile, rice noodles are made from rice flour and water. Sometimes tapioca flour or cornstarch is added to make the rice noodles more glutinous. Rice noodles are sold dried and vacuum-packed. A cook must soak the dried noodles in water for 8-10 minutes before cooking and preparing any recipe calling for rice noodles. These noodles are used in many Asian stir-fry dishes. If you are allergic to wheat, rice noodles are an alternative to more popular Western-style pastas.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesday's Cupful: Hoisin Sauce

Just one flavorful accent from the Chinese
This sauce is a sweet cousin of soy sauce and black bean paste. Hoisin sauce (aka Peking sauce or Peking duck sauce) is mainly made from fermented soybean, vinegar, garlic and chili pepper. A sweetener, such as honey or molasses, is also added. Some variations contain sweet potato. Look for a thick consistency and dark color. The flavor can be appealing or disagreeable when someone tries it for the first time. It has a very salty and mildly sweet taste. Use hoisin sauce frugally since it does possess a pungent flavor and aroma. This Asian sauce can be found in the international foods aisle of major supermarkets. Also, check Asian food marts for hoisin sauce. The Mixed Stew suggest adding a little bit of water to any amount of hoisin before flavoring stir-fries, marinades, or barbecue sauces with this tasty sauce.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday's Bread Bowl: Vietnamese Summer Rolls

Wrap up veggies and shrimp

What? A summer roll in the middle of winter? Why not? Besides, the Lunar New Year is here (Kung hei fat choi!) so give this Asian delight a shot. They’re actually hand-held salad servings. Take Asian rice wrappers and stuff them with fresh veggies, yummy herbs, and steamed shrimp. Serve them with your favorite Asian dipping sauce for a unique and healthy appetizer or lunch. Here is our recipe:

What you will need:
1 large cutting board
8 rice paper wrappers (**We use the kind with the goldfish logo.)
8 leaves romaine lettuce or boston lettuce
1 medium sized bowl filled half way with water
24 cooked shrimps (at room temperature)
2 medium-sized cucumbers, cut into long, thin slices
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
4 oz rice vermicelli, soaked in hot water for 5 minutes until softened
Fresh Thai basil, cilantro, or mint (You may use just one or all of these herbs combined)
**Please make sure to use correct rice paper wrappers, which are not the same as eggroll wrappers or wonton wrappers. You will find rice paper wrappers at H Mart or most any Asian grocery store.

Cooking and Directions:
Dip a sheet of rice paper wrapper into water in bowl very quickly, no longer than a second or two (or they will get too soggy) and lay flat on a dry cutting board. Place one lettuce leaf on top of rice paper wrapper. Now, before we continue, remember this: A little goes a long way. Delicately stack fresh veggies, vermicelli, and herbs on top of lettuce. Don't pile on because the wrap is very delicate. Again, be careful not to overstuff or else the roll may split. Take 2-4 shrimp and place on top of stack. Next, tuck in the sides as if you are going to roll a burrito or egg-roll and then, roll egg-roll style. Serve with Hoisin sauce, peanut sauce, or sweet chili sauce.

Helpful Hint: These can also be served without meat for vegetarians. Just substitute meat with julienned bamboo shoots or mushrooms. If using meat, stuff each roll with two to three julienned strips of grilled pork or grilled chicken.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday's Last Spoonful: Chocolate Mole

Dishing it up, chocolate style
Craving chocolate in a savory meat dish? Try the sauce that’s known as mole. We bought a convenient bottled mole produced by Dona Maria in the international foods aisle of Safeway. Mole sauce is commonly known as the savory Mexican gravy that calls for chocolate; however, there are actually several kinds of mole sauce (depending on the region of Mexico). And, some versions of mole don’t even call for chocolate. All mole sauces call for veggies, nuts, and chile peppers. The chocolate used in mole is neither sweet nor like the rich dark chocolate bars found in regular grocery stores. Mexican chocolate is scented with cinnamon and isn't sweet. The pop of heat and the deep chocolate flavor combine for a richness that adds a new dimension to a poultry entree.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thursday’s Side Dish: Taboo Chocolate

Go whole hog for this blended bar
OK, so everyone knows about the peanut butter and chocolate combination, but someone came up with an even more decadent combination that we find ourselves chuckling and licking our lips over. Got chocolate? Got bacon? Got chocolate AND bacon? The Mixed Stew spotted these special chocolate bars at Whole Foods. They’re from a company called Vosges Haut Chocolat. Believe us. At $2.50 for a 14 gram bar, these are designer chocolate confections. Give these for Valentine’s Day to that special someone in your life if you dare. Vosges spikes fine chocolate with real bacon (as opposed to crunchy artificial bacon bits) in a whole line of bars and novelty gift items. The saltiness of bacon compliments and enhances the yummy flavor of chocolate in these sweet treats.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wednesday’s Helping: Dark Chocolate’s Health Benefits

Eat it and be aware
Got chocolate? If not, you might benefit from trying some. Studies have shown that eating dark chocolate has its health benefits. It stems from chocolate being the product of a plant. Plant cells have flavonoids, which are chemical agents that are broken down by the human body and that helps release antioxidants. Antioxidants help people maintain a healthy heart and cardiovascular system. Generally, antioxidants also help prevent cell damage. Dark chocolate contains eight times the amount of antioxidants found in strawberries. Ever wonder why chocolate is considered an aphrodisiac? The consumption of chocolate stimulates endorphin production and creates a pleasurable emotion. Chocolate also contains serotonin, which is an anti-depressant. Go for dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate or milder types of chocolate.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tuesday’s Cupful: Types of Chocolate

Shades of sweetness to suit every desire
Different types of chocolate are available for hardcore chocolate lovers. The Mixed Stew crew has cravings for dark chocolate. After all, it is a healthy treat. (More on that tomorrow.) Here’s a brief description of the different kinds of chocolate:

Milk Chocolate - In the U.S., milk chocolate contains 10% chocolate liquor along with cocoa solids, 3.7% milk fats, and 12% milk solids. Meanwhile, European milk chocolate must contain at least 25% chocolate liquor. European milk chocolate makers usually use condensed milk while British and U.S. manufacturers are inclined to use a milk and sugar mixture. Generally, European milk chocolate tends to be of higher quality in flavor, taste, and smoothness. Milk chocolate is the type of chocolate commonly used in candy bars and desserts. Beware: It melts easily in one’s hand.

Dark Chocolate - This is also called plain chocolate. This is chocolate without any dairy or milk ingredients added. Any chocolate labeled “dark chocolate” in the U.S. must contain at least 15% chocolate liquor while European dark chocolate must have at least 35% chocolate liquor. The U.S. Government calls this “sweet chocolate.” Sweet dark chocolate is a more specific class with more sugar under dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is known for its dry and chalky texture and has the most chocolate content and flavor.

White Chocolate – It’s actually not chocolate at all; however, this creamy and smooth confection does contain cocoa butter (a product of the cocoa bean). The slight chocolate flavor of cocoa butter is enhanced by adding other ingredients, such as sugar, vanilla, and milk. White chocolate is known for its creamier and smoother texture and flavor. It’s often paired with other chocolates in decorating desserts for visual impact. Also, look for white chocolate lattes and specialty coffee mochas.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Monday’s Bread Bowl: Champorado

A rice porridge that sweetens the day
With Valentine's Day approaching fast, The Mixed Stew is fixated on chocolate. To start off the week, we can't think of a better dish than champorado, or chocolate rice porridge. On a cold winter day or when it's just gloomy outside (or when you have more than two feet of snow to dig to clear walkways and cars), porridge seems like a natural choice. And for anyone with a sweet tooth, a porridge with chocolate is the way to go. And we're not talking about cold, rice pudding. Champorado (rice chocolate porridge) is popular in Mexico and the Philippines. Serve it for breakfast or any other time. It’s basically rice pudding flavored with chocolate or cocoa powder. Here is our recipe:

What you will need:

1 wooden spoon
1 medium-sized saucepan with lid
2 cups sticky rice
3 cups water
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder or solid dark baking chocolate
½ cup granulated sugar or Splenda

Optional: 1/4 cup crushed almonds or hazelnuts

Cooking and Directions:

Combine water and rice in covered saucepan. Place pan on medium-high heat. Watch carefully and bring to a boil and lower heat to slow simmer. Let it simmer on low for 15 minutes. Next, add whole can of evaporated milk. Stir well. Again, bring everything to a slow simmer. Leave pot covered for another 10 minutes. Finally, add cocoa powder and sugar. Remove saucepan from heat and stir well. Let it rest for another 10 minutes. Serve hot. Top with chocolate shavings, whipped cream topping, or condensed milk. Want to make it healthier? Mix in about a tablespoon of flaxseed during simmering process!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Friday’s Last Spoonful: Cockles

Cool things come in small packages
These typically small clams can be distinguished from other clams because of their rounder and symmetrical shells that have obvious ridge. They also look heart shaped when viewed from the end. They primarily come from saltwater habitats and can be found from the California to the Bering Sea. There are more than 200 species of cockles in the family of Cardiidae. They’re flavor is not atypical from other clams. Cockles are popular in the United Kingdom where they’re sold freshly cooked (boiled) and seasoned white pepper and malt vinegar. Also, look for cockles in Asian cuisine.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Thursday’s Side Dish: Stuffed Clams

Nothing stuffy about these hors d'oeuvres

The Mixed Stew spotted Matlaw’s frozen stuffed clams at H Mart labeled as a new item (at $4.99); however, Walmart also carries them. These may be the way to go for anyone that needs fancy hors d'oeuvres or appetizers in a pinch for a crowd or an impromptu dinner party. Follow the cooking instructions and prepare to bake them. Put a touch of your favorite shredded cheese on top before placing in the oven, or once the clams are done, sprinkle some chopped fresh parsley or chives on top. Want to push the flavor enhancement a little further? Sprinkle some Old Bay seasoning or dress with a slice of jalapeno pepper if you want a little bit more of a kick on your stuffed clams. Oh, and have some lemon wedges available in case guests want to spritz some lemon juice to wake up the flavors.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wednesday’s Helping: Clams

It's what's inside that counts
The savory flesh inside the hard shells keeps seafood lovers wanting more when it comes to clams. These mollusks burrow into the bed of the ocean floor or freshwater environment that they inhabit. Clams have two shells of equal size that are attached by a hinge-joint and ligament that open and close. There are several different varieties from the small littleneck to giant clams. Clams are consumed raw, steamed, boiled, fried, baked, stewed and grilled. The cooking method usually depends on the size of the clams. Clams are in season between May and September on the U.S. East Coast. That’s when oysters are out of season. Select fresh clams that are plump, smell fresh, and seem robust for their size. Avoid clams that smell like ammonia. Look for an aroma to match the strong and sweet flavor of the sea. Some people consider clams to be a delicacy. Clams are sold fresh and in the shell, shelled and canned or frozen. What is your favorite clam dish?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tuesday’s Cupful: Clam Juice

Seafood flavor in a bottle
We’ve seen it in the supermarket next to the canned clams and canned tuna. Clam juice is made from the strained liquid of freshly shucked clams. It is a fine substitute for fish broth and may add flavor to different seafood dishes. Look for a briny consistency and opaque appearance. An 8 oz. bottle of clam juice goes for $2.39. The smell and cost of making fish broth makes clam juice a useful product for seafood chefs. Use bottled clam juice to flavor a seafood bisque or enhance a clam chowder.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Monday’s Bread Bowl: New England Clam Chowder

What was once considered a poor man's feast
A hot, creamy, and seafood chowder is right for warming up during the cold winter weather. Sautéed onions, chopped celery, and bits of salt pork (ham or bacon) combine to create a yummy flavor base. Historically, clams were easy to find and collect. Clam chowders can be traced back to early Colonial settlers in the United States. Chowders were made from anything that could be caught at sea, butchered, or grown in the garden. Chowders were a “poor man’s” dish of stewed ingredients. There are many variations that include potato chowder, corn chowder, and seafood chowder. Old clam chowder recipes usually included ship biscuits and salt pork drippings. Two main types of clam chowder have emerged on the East Coast of the United States. New England clam chowders are white and dairy based while Manhattan clam chowder is tomato based. For New England clam chowder, recipes call for milk or cream. We suggest adding a dash of Old Bay seasoning to make it spicier. Top bowls of this chowder with sliced chives, shredded cheese, or Italian parsley. Serve with crushed saltines or butter crackers.