Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday's Last Spoonful: Pumpkin Seeds

A healthy snack when you need a munchie

The Mixed Stew Crew tends to forget about this nutritious food item when we need a snack fix. Roasted pumpkin seeds (aka pepitas) have a nutty and slightly buttery flavor that makes them a hit. Seeds look flat, dark green, or yellowish-white. The Pilgrims and other British Colonists discovered how Native American Indians prized the pumpkin and its seeds as a food source. Today, it’s a popular Mexican food ingredient, too. Pumpkin seeds are loaded with nutrients, such as manganese, iron, and copper. They’re also a good source of fiber. We suggest having a handful of roasted pumpkin seeds instead of M&Ms or potato chips. Look for them year-around but they’re freshest and more widely available during the fall season of pumpkins.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thursday’s Side Dish: Pumpkin Pie Milk Shake

A rich and creamy seasonal treat

We’ve taken our pumpkin coconut pudding and added a portion to milk and pumpkin ice cream for a yummy trio that’s a rich and sweet milk shake. This creamy dessert beverage is just right for the Halloween and Thanksgiving festivities of the season. Remember that it contains real pumpkin in every sip.

What you will need:

1 blender
1 ½ cups milk
1 ½ cups pumpkin ice cream
¾ cup pumpkin coconut pudding
Whipped topping

Directions and Preparation:

Combine milk, ice cream, and pudding in blender. Whip for 20-30 seconds until frothy. Serve immediately with cap of whipped topping.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wednesday's Helping: Pumpkin Seed Oil

A slick oil that’s a delicacy

This oil caught our eye on a recent visit to the grocery store. Pumpkin seed oil is considered a delicacy in several countries, such as Austria and Croatia where its use is comparable to how Italians use olive oil. An 8.5 oz canister of Roland’s brand name oil costs $10.99. The oil has a light to dark green color with hints of red when light passes through it. Expect a nutty flavor with this oil. Producers of the oil use the seeds of Styrian pumpkins. The seeds are lightly roasted and then cold-pressed. It takes the seeds of about 30 pumpkins to make one liter of oil. Cooks may substitute this oil for sesame seed oil or sunflower oil in salad dressings, marinades, or stir it into dips. We do not recommend using this oil for deep frying since it has a lower burning point temperature compared to better frying oils.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tuesday’s Cupful: JIFFY Muffin Mix

A magical box that's a thrifty bet

You may have walked by a shelf or display loaded with these neat little muffin mixes. The simple red, white, and blue boxes say, “America ‘s Favorite.” JIFFY has been in the milling business for over a century in Chelsea, Mich. Cooks just have to add an egg and milk to make any flavor of their muffin mixes. Look for unique flavors, such as oatmeal, chocolate, and bran with dates. JIFFY corn muffin mix makes for a dense, satisfying, and sweet pumpkin coconut pudding. But perhaps the best thing about JIFFY muffin mixes is the cost. These mixes are usually a bargain with an average price around one buck or less per box. Can you think of any other recipes that can use this food item?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday’s Bread Bowl: Pumpkin Coconut Pudding

A dessert that will warm your tummy

A serving of this dessert will quench those sweet pumpkin cravings that may come with the fall season. Let the pleasant smell of pumpkin, pumpkin spice, and cinnamon permeate throughout the house. The coconut milk in this recipe adds an unexpected richness in each bite. Here is our recipe:

What you will need:

1 crock pot
1 wooden spoon
1 medium-sized bowl
Non-stick cooking spray
1 (13.5 oz) can coconut milk
1 (29 oz) can pumpkin
¾ cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 (8.5 oz) pack of JIFFY corn muffin mix
2 eggs, beaten
½ teaspoon salt

Cooking and Directions:

Combine coconut milk, pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, sugar, butter, muffin mix, eggs, vanilla extract, and salt in bowl. Mix well until smooth. There should be no lumps in the batter. Coat inside of crock pot with non-stick cooking spray. Pour batter into crock pot and set on low. Let ingredients cook for 6-7 hours. Serve with whipped topping or vanilla ice cream.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday's Last Spoonful: Food Surfing

Time to grab more waves

Food Surfing will feature fun food links from around the Blogosphere and Internet. These recommended links may give you other interesting ideas for making your life taste better.

Yes, we found a site featuring a recipe for deep fried ding dongs…woohoo! The kids might love this recipe adventure if you dare to make it. We suggest serving them with a scoop of your favorite ice cream.

This site has several fun Halloween recipes, such as the Googly Eyes and Ghost on a Stick. They’re sure to get a laugh or fright from your ghosts, goblins, witches, and spidermen.

If you’re looking for new pumpkin carving ideas and designs this Halloween season, here’s a really cool site for ideas and suggestions. Trick or treat!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thursday's Side Dish: Braised Jamaican Cabbage

A Caribbean alternative to slaw

Cooking cabbage this way can really spice up a week’s menu. Thyme, hot pepper, and garlic powder work to bring out more of the main ingredient’s natural flavors. Be careful not to overcook the cabbage. Here is the recipe:

What you will need:

1 wooden spoon
1 cabbage head, quartered
1 medium-sized sauce pan with lid
2 tablespoons butter
1 habanero pepper, sliced
1 teaspoon dried thyme or 2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ cup water

Cooking and Directions:

Place sauce pan on medium-high heat. Add butter and let it melt. Next, add garlic powder and onion powder. Stir well. Pour in cabbage pieces and cover. Add water, habanero pepper, thyme, and salt. Lower heat to medium low and cover sauce pan with lid. Let cabbage cook until tender and then it’s ready to serve.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wednesday’s Helping: Habanero vs. Scotch Bonnett Peppers

Two hot tamales

The Mixed Stew admits to getting both these peppers confused with each other. The fact is that scotch bonnet peppers are just closely related to habanero peppers. Look for the similarities in flavor and hotness.

Habanero translates into from Havana. The habanero chile pepper spread from Cuba to the Yucatan Peninsula and then throughout Central America. Demand for this pepper means that over 1500 tons of these small peppers get harvested each year in Mexico. The heat of the habanero ranges between 200,000 and 300,000 Scoville units. Colors include orange, red, pink, and white. This pepper is extremely popular in Mexican, Latin American, and Tex Mex cuisines.

The Scotch Bonnet pepper looks more wrinkly and rounder than a habanero. They’re also known as Bonney peppers and Scotty Bons. Jamaicans prefer using this pepper in their special Jerk seasoning. This pepper is also prevalent in Guyanese, Haitian, and other Caribbean cuisines. The heat of a Scotch bonnet ranges between 100,000 and 300,000 Scoville units. Look for yellow, green, red, and orange varieties. These peppers are named for their resemblance in shape to the Tam o’ Shanter, which is a Scottish hat that’s usually made of wool with a pom-pon in the center.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tuesday’s Cupful: Garlic Powder

Keep this substance at the ready
This ingredient really comes in handy if you don’t want to handle or mishandle fresh garlic, which can be pungent with the scent remaining on well-washed hands. Garlic powder is simply dried garlic that’s been finely chopped or pulverized into a powder form. This food item also has slight and subtle flavor differences compared to the fresh ingredient. Garlic powder tends to be more concentrated and sweeter than freshly chopped garlic. Furthermore, do not confuse garlic powder with garlic salt. Some chefs swear by garlic powder and may prefer to use it. The Mixed Stew crew recommends that you keep at least a small amount in the pantry since garlic can go rancid. Garlic powder has a long shelf life.

Helpful Hint: A shortcut to make garlic bread is to spread butter (or margarine) on sliced bread or French bread and then sprinkling some garlic powder on the butter before toasting the bread.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday's Bread Bowl: Cheesy Cabbage Casserole

A warm hug from a veggie

The Mixed Stew crew picked up a really nice looking cabbage head during a recent visit to the local farm stand. We were inspired by this leafy green to come up with this cheesy cabbage casserole that’s a great alternative to au gratin potatoes. Chopped celery and sliced habanero provide a flavor contrast to the cabbage and melted cheese. Here is our recipe:

What you will need:

1 wooden spoon
1 medium-sized sauce pan
1 medium sized microwave safe bowl with lid
Non-stick cooking spray
1 (8 X 8) inch baking pan
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
1 tablespoon flour
¼ cup bread crumbs
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1 celery stalk, chopped small
1 teaspoon paprika
1 habanero, sliced
3 cups cabbage, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Cooking and Directions:

Place cabbage in bowl and loosely cover with lid. Next, microwave for 3 to 5 minutes, so that the cabbage can cook or steam. Remove bowl from microwave and set aside. The cabbage should continue to steam until tender. Heat up sauce pan on medium-high heat. Add butter, habanero, garlic powder, paprika, and celery. Stir well while the celery sweats. Gradually sprinkle flour into sauce pan while stirring. A paste or slurry should form. Now, pour in all of the milk to make thick white sauce. Stir 1/2 of cheddar cheese into sauce pan and remove from heat and set aside. Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Coat sides and bottom of baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Proceed to build alternating layers of steamed cabbage and white sauce in baking pan. Pour remaining shredded cheese and bread crumbs on top, which should make the final top layer. Finally, place baking pan in oven for 45 minutes. The inside should be bubbly with a golden brown top crust. Let casserole rest for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday's Last Spoonful: Field Trip

Jesse Wong’s Asean Bistro: Columbia, Md.

Take a trip to the Orient with a meal at Jesse Wong's Asean Bistro. The elegant ambience with tables covered in white linen makes it the right place for that first date or romantic dinner. Guests are treated to the piano player after 6 p.m. who is joined by a live band after 7:30 p.m. The Asian fusion cuisine comes well-priced in reasonable portions and tasteful presentations. Entrees that we recommend include: Soft-Shell Crabs ($ 16.95), Chef’s Hot Crispy Beef ($ 12.95), Malacca Noodles ($ 9.95), and Burmese Lemongrass Pork Chop ($ 14.00). Look for the firey presentation of the soft-shell crabs, the caramelized crispy beef and the huge serving of pork chops with a light but tasty battered coating. The malacca noodles never disappoint with just the right amount of seasoning and serving of crunchy noodles. Adult patrons can order beer, wine, or mixed drinks. If you just want appetizers, we like the Shrimp Toast ($ 5.50), Crab Rangoon ($ 4.95), and Bacon Roll ($ 5.95). Drop by Jesse Wong’s Asean Bistro.

Jesse Wong's Asean Bistro
8775 Centre Park Drive, Columbia, MD 21045
Tel: (410) 772-5300 - Fax: (410) 772-5304

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thursday's Side Dish: Instant Thai Tea

Tea that can really take you away

Thai tea can be really refreshing—especially when served iced. Thai tea has an auburn color and unique flavor that’s difficult to duplicate. First timers are usually delighted by the sweetness and smooth creaminess. But beware: It's VERY sweet. The beverage is usually capped off with a generous amount of evaporated milk. We found these NARA brand instant Thai tea beverage packets at H Mart, our local branch of an Asian supermarket. Each package costs $3.99 and comes with 12 (1.23 oz) packets that make 12 individual servings of sweet Thai tea. They’re very convenient since all the ingredients are already mixed to make the perfect cup of Thai tea. You just have to add hot water.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wednesday's Helping: Lemongrass

A lemony stick
There’s a pungent lemon citrus flavor and scent to this bushy herb (aka citronella) that works well in sauces, stir-frys, and beverages. The plant is scientifically called Cymbopogon citrates and is native of to East India. It’s a particularly hearty herb, which thrives in hot and humid climates. The long and flat leaves that grow in stalks may remind you sword grass. Citral is the common chemical in lemongrass and lemon peel that accounts for the lemony taste and aroma. Remember to make lemongrass more palatable by slicing it very thin; otherwise, this ingredient should be used like bay leaves. Look for lemongrass in South Asian and Caribbean cuisines.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tuesday’s Cupful: Fish Sauce

A beautiful stinker

Be really careful when using Asian fish sauce aka patis (Filipino), nam pla (Thai), and nước mắm (Vietnamese). This dark caramel-colored sauce is very pungent and fishy in flavor since it’s made with fermented anchovies or other small fish. A little goes a long way with a high salt content. Makers of this condiment allow fish to soak in water, sugar, and salt for 1 to 2 years in large concrete tanks. Fish sauce is believed to have originated in Ancient China where it predates and eventually led to making soy sauce. Soy sauce gradually eclipsed fish sauce in the evolution of Chinese cooking. Today, each Asian country has a different variation; however, it’s mostly used in Southeast Asian Cuisines. Look for bottles of fish sauce in your favorite Asian gourmet supermarket or the international foods aisle of Safeway. We suggest that you substitute fish sauce for soy sauce in your favorite stir-fry recipes or Asian-style marinades. Just be ready for the pungent smell that your roommates might find downright offensive. Thais use this tasty sauce as a table condiment or mix it with hot chili peppers and lime juice to make a dipping sauce.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Monday’s Bread Bowl: Pork with Lemongrass

A hot Vietnamese entree

The spicy flavors of grilled pork, fish sauce, sugar, and lemon grass combines for this Asian entrée. Vietnamese tend to eat this meal with steamed rice or rice vermicelli. The grilled pork ends up with a slight smoky taste and an unmistakable fish sauce taste. Here is our recipe:

What you will need:

1 fry-pan
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 medium-sized bowl
1lb pork, sliced thin
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
1 shallot, chopped small
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 hot chili, seeded and sliced lengthwise
1 or 2 lemongrass stalks, mashed then chopped
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped

Cooking and Preparation:
Place pork, shallots, garlic, lemongrass, sugar, and fish sauce in bowl. Toss well. Let meat marinade in bowl for 1 hour.

Heat pan on medium-high heat. Once hot, add oil. Place meat in pan. Let meat brown on one side for 5-7 minutes and then turn to brown the other side for same amount of time. Remove pan from heat and serve immediately. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday’s Last Spoonful: Food Surfing

Surf’s up for more chow

Food Surfing will feature fun food links from around the Blogosphere and Internet. These recommended links may give you other interesting ideas for making your life taste better.

USA Today recently pinpointed 51 great burger joints across the country. Take a look and see if yours is listed!

Forget the deep-fried oreos or twinkies. Did you happen to sample a deep-fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich at the state fair? They were the new and intriguing food item of the Maryland State Fair. Yum!

Do you cook out of a kitchen that’s short on space? This foodie makes world class dishes from a kitchen that’s a real hole in the wall. Check out what he’s dishing out on his nifty food blog.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Thursday’s Side Dish: Sweet Ricotta Cheese Snack

A divine low-carb dessert

The Mixed Stew crew stumbled across this sweet treat snack while working on slimming down. The nutty crunch, hits of sweet chocolate, and creamy ricotta cheese really do in a pinch to satisfy the hunger pangs of long work days. The portion is also just right without overdoing it. We get downright folksy with our portion recommendations: Combine a handful of walnuts (can substitute almonds), ½ cup ricotta cheese, a smaller handful of semisweet chocolate chips, and 1 teaspoon or packet of Splenda. Mix well and serve immediately.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wednesday’s Helping: Sweetened Condensed Milk and Evaporated Milk

Canned milk ain't half bad

While growing up, our parents made homemade custard with these ingredients. Canned sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk were both popular among American households for their long-shelf lives. Historically, it was once considered risky to consume fresh milk. People preferred canned milk and stockpiled it in their pantries. Unsweetened condensed milk is actually the same as evaporated milk. These types of canned milk have been processed to remove at least 60 percent of the water. The process caramelizes some of sugars, so consumers end up with a milk concentrate that’s darker in color and thicker than regular cow’s milk. Makers of sweetened condensed milk add sugar to the milk and the higher sugar content translates into a syrup-like consistency. The advent of modern pasteurization of fresh milk has led to the decline of everyday use for both evaporated milk and sweetened-condensed milk. Chefs may use both types of canned milk for baking and making desserts.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tuesday’s Cupful: History of Tres Leches Cake

A mysterious story behind a sweet treat

This cake has gradually grown in popularity at Mexican restaurants across the country. The Mixed Stew crew likes eating a serving with a fresh cup of coffee to end the meal. Whole milk or half and half, evaporated milk, and condensed milk always flavor a dense yellow sponge cake in almost every recipe variation. The traditional whipped cream topping or icing serves as a smooth and creamy finish to this rich cake. Some sources claim that the “three milk cake” originated in Mexico while other sources identify Nicaragua as its birthplace. Nestle Mexico has confirmed that they have (in the past) printed a Tres Leches Cake recipe on the labels of their canned milk products. An urban legend reports that Nestle distributed this recipe way back in 1875; however, Nestle Mexico has only been in existence since the 1940s. Meanwhile, historians have discovered a Mexican cookbook from the 19th century that has a recipe for wine-soaked bread cake with alternating layers of milk custard. Today, each country in Latin America has added one or two ingredients to the basic recipe, which makes a unique Tres Leches Cake. Caribbean recipes even call for rum.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Monday's Bread Bowl: Tres Leches Cake

Milk, milk and more milk

Take a short cut with this easy Tres Leches cake that requires no actual mixing of batter or baking. We developed this simple recipe after sampling several restaurants’ renditions. Hostess brand shortcake does the job in a pinch and makes all the difference. Here is our recipe:

What you will need:

1 casserole dish

Plastic wrap

1 wooden spoon

1 medium-sized bowl

2 (4.5 oz) packages of Hostess brand shortcake

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk

1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk

1 cup whole milk

Caramel or chocolate syrup

1 teaspoon cinnamon or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Canned whipped topping

Preparation and Directions:

Combine evaporated milk, whole milk, cinnamon (or vanilla extract) and sweetened condensed milk in bowl. Mix well. Place shortcakes in casserole dish and pour milk mixture over tops and sides. Cover casserole dish with plastic wrap and place in fridge overnight. Serve with whipped topping and a dash of cinnamon or a drizzle of caramel or chocolate syrup.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Friday’s Last Spoonful: Other places for Old Bay

A sprinkle or a dash of Chesapeake flavor

This seasoning mix gets high marks for a taste that’s uniquely characteristic of Old Bay. We suggest adding Old Bay to deviled eggs (instead of regular paprika), tuna salad, or even a bag of potato chips. If you’re making seafood based soup or stew, a tablespoon of Old Bay can add a lot of kick and flavor to every spoonful. The Mixed Stew crew also likes making a simple dipping sauce that combines mayonnaise and a pinch of Old Bay seasoning. By the way, our local Giant supermarket sells a rotisserie chicken called Chesapeake Chicken. Yes, it's seasoned with Old Bay! Can you think of other uses for Old Bay?