Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday’s Last Spoonful: Field Trip

Opie’s Soft Serve & Snowballs: Catonsville, Md.

April's warmer weather and sun may have everyone craving frozen sweets. On Guam, there is Mt Lam Lam and in Catonsville, Md., there is Opie's. Everyone in town eagerly awaits the arrival of Spring in Catonsville because it means that Opie’s Soft Serve & Snowballs opens for its season of selling ice cream and shaved ice. There’s always more than a few people lined up trying to decide what to order. Families sit and eat their freshly made treats at the handful of picnic tables in front and behind Opie’s. The soft serve is rich. The snowballs come in many different flavors. The Mixed Stew Crew especially likes the snowcream option of combining snow balls with soft serve ice cream. The combo recalls the similar treats, like the Neapolitan from Mt. Lam Lam. We’ve already ordered an egg custard and vanilla soft serve snowcream more than once in past two weeks at Opie's. Guests may also order ice cream sundaes with a long list of toppings to choose from. The most expensive items on the menu are the banana split and the Brownie Sundae, which cost $ 4.50. Stop by and enjoy a frozen treat at Opie’s if you find yourself in the area.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thursday’s Side Dish: Strawberry Delight

A new arrangement on a reliable dessert salad

Do you get cravings for strawberry cheesecake but don’t have the time to make it? The Mixed Stew Crew offers up this yummy variation of Watergate Salad. We tweaked the traditional recipe by replacing pistachio-flavored pudding with cheesecake-flavored pudding. We also used strawberry bits in addition to pineapple. The finished product has the same great tastes and flavors of real strawberry cheesecake. It’s one of those easy treats that can be whipped up quickly. Here is the recipe:

What you will need:

1 large bowl
1 large wooden spoon
Plastic Wrap
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1 pkg. (3.4 oz.) JELL-O Cheesecake Flavor Instant Pudding
1 (20 oz) can crushed pineapple, drained
5-6 strawberries, chopped
1 cup shredded coconut
½ cup chopped hazelnuts (walnuts, or pecans)
1 ½ cups thawed whipped cream topping

Preperation and Directions:

Combine marshmallows, dry pudding mix, strawberries, pineapple, coconut, and nuts in large bowl. Stir in whipped cream. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wednesday’s Helping: Strawberries

The heart-shaped fruit that is a turn-on

Nature has an attractive natural beauty when it comes to these sweet hearts. Mature strawberries have an attractive deep red color, intense juiciness, and a lot of sweet and tangy flavor. Look for red flesh, yellow seeds that make dimples on the outer skin, and the leafy green cap and stem that almost resembles a crown. And yes, the shape of strawberries resembles a valentine. There are more than 600 known varieties that may vary in texture, size, and sweet flavor. Smaller ripe strawberries tend to have the strongest flavor. Ripe strawberries also have a distinct and pleasant fragrance.

The ancient Romans grew and domesticated strawberries, which had been taken from the wild. The modern strawberry is derived from the product of an inadvertent cross breeding process between American varieties and European varieties. The process has also taken a few centuries. The fruit was mostly enjoyed by rich until the mid 1800s when railroads could carry them across great distances.

Select berries that are plump, firm, and lack mold. Avoid strawberries that have discoloration. Remember that fresh strawberries are very perishable, so keep them chilled. Consume them within a few days to a week of purchasing them at the grocery store.

Eating strawberries has several health benefits. Studies have shown that they are a proven anti-cancer agent. Strawberries also contain phenol, which helps the body absorb oxygen and promote a healthier cardiovascular system.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tuesday’s Cupful: Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries

A sexy aphrodisiac to enjoy
This is a combination that can’t go wrong. Dipping ripe strawberries into melted chocolate, which hardens once chilled, makes an all-natural sweet treat for your taste buds. It’s almost like sensory overload. We used Dolci Frutta chocolate dip that’s found in the produce section of most grocery stores. Just follow the easy microwave directions on the label. Chocolate-dipped strawberries can be a good starter for a party or a great dessert with a glass of wine. Even better, they’re very simple to prepare and good for you. Just make sure to make enough for seconds.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Monday’s Bread Bowl: Grilled Strawberry-N-Neufchatel

Red, white, and heated up for flavor

Some sandwiches are in a class of their own. We’ve wanted to bring you this post after The Mixed Stew Crew saw a menu item with strawberries and cheese at a local sandwich shop. So we decided to experiment and come up with our own version. Ripe strawberries and creamy Neufchatel cheese can be a match made in heaven for some. Sweet honey and a pinch of ground cinnamon provide yummy flavor notes to this fancy sandwich treat. Here is our version:

What you will need:

1 small bowl
1 butter knife
2 sandwich bread slices
2-4 strawberries, thinly sliced
¼ cup, Neufchatel cream cheese
2 teaspoons honey
Pinch of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon butter
1 frying pan

Cooking and Directions:

Combine cream cheese with honey and ground cinnamon in small bowl. Mix well. Spread cream cheese mixture on one side of each bread slice. Next, arrange sliced strawberries on one bread slice so that the cream cheese is covered with strawberries. You may pile on as little or as much strawberries. Place other bread slice on top of the layer of strawberries with the cream cheese side facing down to make a sandwich. Heat frying pan on medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Place butter in frying pan to melt and coat the bottom. Gently place sandwich in the frying pan. Let sandwich grill on one side (2-5 minutes) until desired browning is achieved. Flip entire sandwich over. Again, let the sandwich grill on second side until your desired browning is reached. Remove grilled sandwich from pan. Serve immediately.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday's Last Spoonful: Versatile Mustard

Getting wild with marinade
Need an alternative to those bottled barbecue sauces? The Mixed Stew crew suggests using mustard in the marinade to change things up for everyone’s taste buds. Try the blend on some chicken drumsticks the next time you take out the grill. Place the seasoned chicken in the refrigerator overnight for stronger flavors. We like combining mustard with chopped yellow onions and soy sauce to make a sauce with zing. Take flavors in a different direction by combining mustard with your favorite herbs, such as rosemary and thyme. Another simple idea is to combine mustard, garlic powder, and onion powder. We haven't tried mixing it with cider vinegar, but that might be our next experiment.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thursday's Side Dish: Ham-N-Cheese Omelet

Diner fare that is anything but routine
There’s just something about a ham and cheese omelet that makes it in a class by itself for breakfast. Lightly whisked whole eggs provide a soft and fluffy foundation to two main ingredients that really work well together. Cooks don’t even need fancy specialty ham or fancy cheeses to make it a tasty morning breakfast. Here is a quick recipe:

What you will need:

1 spatula
1 frying pan
Non-stick cooking spray
3 whole eggs
1 metal fork
1 small bowl
1/3 cup cooked ham, chopped
¼ cup cheese, shredded (any of your favorite variety)
Pinch of salt and pepper

Cooking and Directions:

Beat eggs until frothy with fork in small bowl. Set aside. Heat frying pan on medium for 3-5 minutes. Spray pan with non-stick cooking spray. Next, pour beaten eggs into pan and let it cook and set for 2 minutes. Flip over and let the egg wrap cook on the other side. Position chopped ham and shredded cheese on egg. Gently fold egg wrap into half-moon shape with the ham and cheese remaining inside. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper to taste right before plating. Garnish with fresh minced parsley and serve hot.

Helpful Hint:
The possible additions are endless: chopped onion, bell pepper, sliced mushrooms, and chives are just some options. Why not make it for a brunch party? Lightly sautee veggies you will add to the omelet beforehand. Have the additions on the side for guests to sprinkle on top once served.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wednesday's Helping: Ham

Hot for a platter of this pink pork

Roasted ham was always prepared on special occasions in our house. Ham (in the U.S.) or gammon in the U.K. and other foreign countries is simply cured pork — usually from the leg portion of the pig or boar. It’s also the uncured rump cut of pork that’s from the haunch of the pork leg.

Hams come with different labels: fresh, cured, and smoked-cured. The flesh of fresh ham ranges from beige to light pink and always needs to be cooked. Meanwhile, some cured hams are sold ready-to-eat or have cooking instructions on the label. There are different curing processes for every different kind of ham. Curing involves the salting and addition of preservatives to the pork meat. Ham may be cured by soaking in a brine solution or by dry-rubbing. Some hams are smoked and aged up to a year in smokehouses. Cured hams have a pink to rose color.

George Hormel produced and sold the first canned ham in the U.S. in 1926. Country ham was first advertised in U.S. newspapers in 1944, and it now refers to the style of curing-style that was originally done in Virginia and several other Southern states. Country ham is commonly used in a familiar snack in the South: biscuits and ham. Spiral-cut cooked hams were invented in 1957 and are best served cold since the baking process can dry out the pre-sliced ham. Eventually, ham steaks appeared — these are just packed slices of ham. Look for ham sold in grocery stores in several different forms: canned, frozen, chilled, and dry packed.

In Europe, there is a special ham that comes from the black-footed pig . It’s called Jamón ibérico, pata negra, or Iberico ham. It’s very rarely found outside Spain and regions of Portugal. Lovers of this most expensive ham eat it thinly sliced and there are different grades of this gourmet ham.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tuesday's Cupful: Mustard

From yellow to Dijon, paint it healthy

We love squeezing some of this condiment on hamburgers or hotdogs. More than 700 million pounds of mustard are consumed worldwide in a year. Americans eat the most mustard compared to residents of other countries. Look for yellow mustard on many restaurant tables across the United States. The pungent, sour, and tangy flavors make mustard a stark contrast to the sweetness of tomato ketchup on many sandwiches. Did you know in some parts of the country, a burger can only be served with mustard and mayonnaise -- never with ketchup? (Ever been to a Sonic Burger?)

Mustard seeds are mentioned in the Bible, and Ancient Romans used a primitive mustard paste in their cooking. The plant originated in the Middle East and is a relative of cabbage and broccoli. Mustard belongs to the Brassica family of plants. The leaves are commonly used to make greens in America’s Southern cuisine.

It’s the seeds of the mustard plant that are used to make the mustard condiment. Yellow, white, brown, and black mustard seeds are cultivated around the world. The seed color used dictates the heat or spiciness of mustard. Black mustard seeds have the strongest flavor while white and yellow possess milder flavors. A common gourmet variety, Dijon mustard has a spiciness to it. There are numerous condiment varieties available from hot and spicy to sweet and mild. Meanwhile, mustard sauces may contain whole seeds, cracked, or ground seeds.

Whole mustard seed or ground mustard powder can be found in the spice aisle of many supermarkets. Mustard powder can be used in dry rubs. Otherwise, combine mustard powder (ground mustard seeds) with water, wine, or vinegar to make homemade mustard sauces. Also, look for various types of jarred or bottled mustards next to the bottled tomato ketchup. Mustard is a great source of omega-3s, which help maintain cholesterol levels and help with blood clotting.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Monday’s Bread Bowl: Mustard Glazed Ham

A meaty presentation with a sweet touch
Succulent only begins to describe this dish. It’s a feast for the senses when one prepares a regular shoulder ham with a sweet, tangy, and tasty mustard glaze. The flavors of the glaze enhance the ham’s smoky flavors. The Mixed Stew crew really enjoys making and eating baked ham for special occasions. Adding pineapple chunks ensures an appetizing presentation. Here is our favorite rendition of mustard glazed ham:

What you will need:

1 large baking pan
1 wire rack to raise the ham off the bottom of the pan
aluminum foil
1 (8-10lb) ham
½ cup mustard (generic yellow mustard is fine)
¾ cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons honey
1 sharp knife
Pinch of black pepper
1 (20 oz) can pineapple chunks in juice
Several toothpicks

Cooking and Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place rack inside baking pan. With the fat and skin side up, ham should be placed on rack inside pan. Drain juice from can of pineapple into bottom of pan. Cover ham in pan with foil and seal well. Based on roast’s size, bake at 20 minutes per pound. Remove ham from oven 1 hour before cooking time is complete to dress with glaze. Score the skin and top surface of roast with knife. Top and glaze ham with mustard, brown sugar, and honey. Don't worry about mixing the ingredients beforehand just pour and/or pat them on one at a time. Our ham cook has just added the ingredients in layers and pulled off an excellent roast. Skewer pineapple chunks onto several toothpicks and poke into the outside surface of the ham. Try to have the pineapple chunks in contact with the ham’s glazed surface but also wedged where the cuts have been made for scoring. Let extra pineapple chunks fall to the bottom of the baking pan. Return uncovered ham to hot oven until done. Take ham out of oven and let meat rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday’s Last Spoonful: Carrot Cake

This dessert deserves an honorable mention
There is something about carrots. Maybe it's the allure created from childhood cartoons with rabbits, but we just can't seem to get enough of them -- even in our dessert. Carrot cake –based on the ingredients-- actually resembles a quick bread or tea bread. Think zucchini bread or banana bread. Cooks add grated carrot to the batter and bake until the carrots are tender and the cake rises. The carrot’s taste adds a flavor that is a unique experience for cake lovers. Carrot cake is often served frosted with cream cheese icing. Some recipes call for nuts, raisins, or pineapple chunks. There are cake recipes dating back to the Middle Ages that contain carrots because of its natural sweetening properties. Do you like carrot cake?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thursday's Side Dish: Cottage Cheese, Granola, and Fruit

A high-protein breakfast treat without meat
Sausage, eggs, and toast or the usual sugary boxed cereal can get to be too routine. What else is there for breakfast? Make a yummy and healthy change with cottage cheese, granola, and fresh fruit. The crunch of granola combines with the creamy texture and flavor of cottage cheese. Add your favorite fresh fruits to naturally sweeten things up. We used chopped strawberries to do just that. It’s a wonderful trinity for the taste buds. There are additional options -- for example, instead of fresh fruit, try craisins, chopped dried apricots or drained, canned fruits. Protein and calcium from cottage cheese is a bonus when combined with the high fiber of granola.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wednesday's Helping: Carrots

More than Bug’s Bunny’s orange treat
Did you know that carrots also come in red, white, purple, and yellow? Look for a sweet, refreshing, and almost minty taste in ripe carrots. The colorful and edible root grows entirely underground. The plant has feathery green stems and leaves that grow above ground. It’s known scientifically as Daucus carota and is related to cumin, fennel, caraway, and parsnips. There are more than 100 varieties of this vegetable, which can range in length between several inches and three feet. The plant originated in Asia and the Middle East region. The vegetable gained popularity in 17th Century Europe and spread to the American Colonies in the 1800s. On today’s U.S. market, carrots are available all year long from farms in California. The ideal growing season elsewhere in the United States is May through July. Carrots possess the highest amount of Vitamin A among vegetables and this helps promote good eyesight. Other compounds in carrots help fight cardiovascular disease.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tuesday’s Cupful: Cottage Cheese

A crumbly friend in the dairy case
This cream-colored cheese can be used as a substitute for fancier ricotta cheese. Cottage cheese has a soft texture and very mild flavor, which makes it a good addition to salads and other dishes. There’s also a slight sour taste to cottage cheese. The production process only requires draining excess liquid from the curds and whey. Look for a crumbly appearance since not all of the whey is removed. It can have a dry or wet consistency. Textures range from small to large chunks. Also, cottage cheese tends to have a shorter shelf life compared to most other cheeses. Cottage cheese is a great source of protein and calcium.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Monday’s Bread Bowl: Roasted Za’atar Carrots with Cottage Cheese

Spring into season with this orange veggie dish

This carrot dish caught our eyes with its refreshing round of flavors. Cottage cheese adds creaminess and a nice flavor contrast with the roasted carrots, which are cooked until sweet and tender. We’ve also dressed this dish with olive oil and za’atar spice mix. We used dry oregano, cumin, and sesame seeds to make our version of this popular Mediterranean spice rub. The end product is an alternative to regular salads or creamed veggies. Here is our recipe:

What you will need:

1 medium-sized bowl
1 baking dish
1 wooden spoon
10 carrots, cut on the diagonal ¼ inch thick
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons za’atar
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
½ cup cottage cheese,
Pinch of salt and pepper

Cooking and Directions:

Preheat oven at 400 degrees. Combine cut carrots, olive oil, za’atar, pepper, and salt in bowl. Toss well to make sure carrots are nicely coated. Scrape seasoned carrot mix onto baking dish. Place everything in preheated oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let carrots cool. Return cooked carrots to bowl. Add fresh parsley and cottage cheese. Again, toss everything well. You may want to lightly dress with more olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday’s Last Spoonful: Spring Cookout

Kicking off the season with a grilling session

Have you experienced a significant change in weather? The Mixed Stew Crew celebrated the Easter holiday with a fun outdoor cookout. We included all the favorites: chicken drumsticks in a mustard marinade, beef short-ribs in a Korean Kalbi marinade, and pork spareribs in a Guam-style marinade. It took a little more effort than planned to get the charcoal ready. Of course, we also a selection of ice-cold beverages and peanuts available for shooting the breeze while waiting for the grill to get hot. And of course, island music, a la Guam's Sirenas and Hawaii's Iz, played in the background. Below are photos from the cookout. We hope everyone is enjoying spring!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Thursday’s Side Dish: Lemonaise

Spike the flavor of an old favorite

The Mixed Stew spotted this gourmet food item at Whole Foods supermarket. Lemonaise by the Ojai Cook is marketed as a zesty alternative to regular mayonnaise. Use this lemon spiked mayonnaise in salads and sauces. We decided to make our own version of the specialty mayonnaise. We used light mayonnaise to be kind on our waistlines. You may want to add heat with a pinch of cayenne pepper powder or curry powder. Lemonaise can also make a difference in sandwiches. Here is our rendition:

What you will need:

1 wooden spoon

1 cup light mayonnaise
½ teaspoon grated lemon rind
Juice of ½ lemon
½ teaspoon paprika
Optional Ingredients:
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon curry powder


Combine mayonnaise, lemon rind, juice, and paprika in bowl. Mix well. Add one or both optional ingredients if you wish. It’s ready for serving or adding to recipes. Make sure to keep lemonaise refrigerated if there is any portion left over.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wednesday's Helping: Lemon

This fruit is nothing to get sour about

There’s nothing like a cold glass of lemonade as a refreshing beverage; however, lemons and their juice have many other uses in the kitchen and throughout the house. Their flavors can be described as tart, a cross between limes and tangerines. These oval-shaped fruits, that have yellow skin when ripe, are scientifically known as Citrus limon. Also, the inside flesh is segmented. Historians believe that the plant originated in India and China. Arabs brought the fruit to Spain in the 11th Century. The Crusaders found lemons in Palestine and later spread the fruit to many other European countries. The lemon was thought to be on board when Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas during the 15th Century. Lemons are in season from May through August in our region. Cooks may use the juice of lemons for seasoning, pickling, and flavoring dishes. Lemon juice also has astringent qualities, which means that it may be used for cleaning around the house. Lemons are a good source of vitamin C, which helps strengthen the immune system. Select lemons that are fully yellow and feel heavy for their size. Avoid ones with bruising, soft areas, or blotches. Fresh lemons are available all year long in supermarkets due to modern production and distribution techniques.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tuesday’s Cupful: Parsley

Curly or straight, it's a good thing
This herb is more than just a garnish. Plain parsley is a milder relative of cilantro or Chinese parsley. The name comes from the Greek word for rock celery. It’s scientifically known as Petroselinum crispum. Look for two common varieties: (English) curly leafed and (Italian) flat-leafed. Curly leafed tends to be less fragrant and less bitter than Italian-flat leafed. The plant is native to the Mediterranean region. We recommend using fresh parsley over dried parsley for optimum flavor. Select fresh parsley with a deep green color and crisp leaves. Avoid wilted and discolored bunches. Parsley is a good source of folic acid, which helps in building cells and cell division.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Monday’s Bread Bowl: Chicken in Lemon and Garlic

A tapas treat that’s really a feast
The combination of pungent garlic and tart flavor of lemon give this dish so much tasty zing. The Mixed Stew likes this one for its simplicity. There’s not much to preparing this tapas dish. Fresh ingredients do most of the work along with pan searing. We’ve tweaked this recipe from the cookbook tapas by Susanna Tee. Here’s the recipe:

What you will need:
1 frying pan or skillet
1 wooden spoon
2 large skinless, boneless chicken thighs, sliced into thin strips
2 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts, sliced into thin strips
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 tablespoons olive oil
finely pared rind of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon
4 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
Pinch of salt and pepper

Cooking and Preparation:
Heat frying pan on medium heat for several minutes. Pour in olive oil. Add onion and cook until they turn translucent. Then add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add chicken. Cook gently for 5-10 minutes, stirring from time to time, until ingredients are lightly browned and the chicken is tender. Pour in lemon juice and lemon rind. The liquid will bubble and you should proceed to deglaze the pan by scraping and stirring all the bits on the bottom. Remove pan from heat, stir in parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with more parsley. Serve immediately with crusty bread for mopping up lemon and garlic juices.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Friday’s Last Spoonful: American Cheese Loaf

Velveeta is the brand name
What exactly is this product? It was invented in 1918 by Emil Frey in Monroe, N.Y. The Velveeta Cheese Company was formed in 1923, and it was bought by Kraft Foods in 1927. The product is labeled as a “Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product.” More simply, it’s a form of processed cheese. Initially, the loaf has a soft and rubbery texture. Several cheeses are added; however, look for a strong cheddar flavor. Cooks may choose to use Velveeta over regular cheeses since it ensures a smooth melting consistency. Look for this food item in macaroni and cheese, au gratin potatoes, or cheese dip recipes. And, we note that there are generic varieties in the market. Generic may sometimes be substantially cheaper than the brand name product. But you'll have to decide what you prefer as far as flavor.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Thursday’s Side Dish: Baked Potato

A spud favorite to rave about

There’s just something so convenient and easy about what can be a filling delight. A baked potato can be a side or main dish for any meal. Make a potluck and party simpler by only serving baked potatoes. Wrap individual potatoes in foil and load up a baking pan or cookie sheet. Bake for an hour at 350 degrees. Tater lovers will enjoy breaking open a freshly baked potato and seeing the steam rise. Have butter, sour cream, sliced green onions, bacon bits, sliced chives, garlic powder, and shredded cheeses on the side for piling on top. Want an extra nutritious addition? Have some blanched broccoli bits available too. Feeling like a spicier twist? Try jalapeno slices or salsa. The list of toppings may seem endless.

Helpful Hint: Make it a more substantial meal by opening a can of Hormel chili to include as a topping. Also, if you're looking for a quick-hit meal for one, wrap a damp paper towel around a potato and place on a dish and microwave for about 2-5 minutes, depending on the size of the spud, for a shortcut to baked potato.