Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tuesday's Cupful: Cardamom

A little character with loads of punch

This ingredient has stood the test of time as the second most expensive spice in the world behind saffron, according to many reports. Cardamom possesses a slight lemon and minty taste. The bushy plant originated in the Middle East and belongs to the ginger family. Cardamom producers must harvest loads of the plants’ seeds and seed pods. A bag of cardamom contains many whole seeds inside many seed pods. Look for green, black, and brown varieties. The green (Ellettaria) variety exists as the most popular and the most sought after for their superior flavor quality. A little goes a long way when adding cardamom to any recipe. Many East Indian and Arab Cuisines dishes call for this food item. We suggest adding some cardamom to batches of freshly brewed coffee or homemade ice cream for a flavor twist that’s different from the usual chocolate or vanilla.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Monday's Bread Bowl: Cardamom Milk Pudding

A different kind of dessert

Sample this light and fragrant pudding instead of fattier ice cream or egg custards. The pungent but pleasant flavor or cardamom compliments the soothing and smooth texture of thickened milk.
Here is our recipe:

What you will need:

1 wooden spoon
2 cups low-fat milk
1 saucepan with lid
1 tablespoon corn starch, dissolved in ¾ cup water
1 small bowl
1 wire whisk
Plastic wrap
1 medium-sized bowl
1 tablespoon cardamom, crushed
½ cup sugar
Pinch of salt


2 tablespoons, crushed nuts
Shredded coconut
½ cup sliced fruit (strawberries, raspberries, or mango)
Sprinkle of cinnamon

Cooking and Directions:

Bring saucepan containing mixture of milk, cardamom, and salt on medium-low heat to a slow boil. This may take 5 to 8 minutes. Then combine and stir cornstarch, sugar, and water in small bowl. Next, gradually stir and whisk cornstarch mixture into milk. Stir constantly to avoid lumps from forming. Remove from heat and cover with lid for 10 to 15 minutes. Once milk pudding has cooled, transfer to medium-sized bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in fridge for at least 3 hours and then serve. Sprinkle with crushed nuts or top with sliced fruit.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday's Last Spoonful: Food Surfing

Another wave of good reads

Food Surfing will feature fun food links from around the Blogosphere, including leads to hardcover helpers. These recommended links may give you other interesting ideas for making your life taste better.

The Mixed Stew crew likes hunting through cookbooks for a good recipe or three. We recommend The Food of Japan for food lovers who crave one or more sushi rolls.

The Silver Spoon Pasta is a fun encyclopedia about spaghetti noodles, the elbows in macaroni, and bow ties with smoked pancetta. Look out for this book to help distinguish between the different types of traditional pasta.

Would you like to learn about America’s habit for wasting its food? Jonathan Bloom tells the story in American Wasteland.

Note: If you order via the links above, The Mixed Stew creators will get a tiny referral fee.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thursday's Side Dish: Corn and Black Bean Salsa

A sweet salsa without tomatoes

This is a cool and refreshing break from tomato based salsas. Whole kernel corn and black beans make for a sweet salsa with a crisp crunch in every dip. Here’s our recipe:

What you will need:

1 wooden spoon
1 medium-sized bowl
1 cup corn, whole kernel
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained
½ red onion, chopped small
1 garlic clove, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 teaspoon salt


1 tablespoon cilantro, minced

Directions and Preparation:

Combine black beans, onion, garlic, jalapeno, salt, and corn in bowl. Mix well. Serve immediately or chill for at least 3 hours for flavors to mature.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wednesday's Helping: Canned Black Beans

Authentic Tex-Mex to round out a meal

We like having a can or two of black beans in our pantry for a more traditional Tex-Mex pinch for quickly made meals. Black beans have a milder and earthy flavor compared to other beans. Add a can to make yummy Huevos Rancheros for breakfast, quesadillas for lunch, and they’re also a tasty side dish for many savory dinners, such as baked chicken, grilled salmon, or well-seasoned roast beef. Also, canned black beans make for an inexpensive way to stretch meals. Remember that black beans contain a lot of protein and fiber. What’s another yummy way to use canned black beans?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tuesday's Cupful: Background on Quesadillas

All about these turnovers

The Mixed Stew crew likes quesadillas for the simplicity in preparation. A good, solid fry pan or grill, one or two tortillas, cheese, and a few filling ingredients can really make a tasty and satisfying Mexican entrée. There’s no fuss with this flat delight. Cooks need to fold a quesadilla if making them with one tortilla (Fold over like an omelet). Food historians believe that it evolved from the simple fried turnover. Meanwhile, the name “quesadilla” comes from queso, which is the Spanish for cheese. Flat slices or wedges stuffed with melted cheese make the simplest variation the quesadilla, but you can stuff the tortillas with as little or much cheese, meat, and diced veggies. Can you think of non-traditional filling ingredients for quesadillas?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Monday's Bread Bowl: Leftover Quesadillas

Making what's old, new

We suggest keeping canned corn or canned black beans in the pantry for this quick meal. You can also make simply vegetarian versions. Here’s our recipe:

What you will need:

1 cutting board
1 cast-iron or regular fry-pan
Non-stick cooking spray
1 spatula
1 package flour tortillas
1 cup chopped (can be leftover) chicken, pork¸ or beef
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
½ cup sliced green onion
1 cup whole kernel corn, drained
1 cup canned black beans, drained

Optional Toppings:

Sour Cream

Cooking and Directions:

Lay out all the ingredients. Heat up pan on medium-high heat. Spray pan with non-stick cooking spray. Place one tortilla in pan. Next, spread ingredients on top of tortilla. Be careful not to pile on too thick. Let tortilla cook and brown for 3 to 5 minutes. Then cover with a second tortilla to close quesadilla. Flip quesadilla with spatula. Let new side cook and brown for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and serve immediately with sour cream, salsa, and guacamole.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday's Last Spoonful: Stuffed Mushrooms

The Mixed Stew crew is taking a short hiatus. Meanwhile, we’re serving reruns of Spring oldies and goodies. We’ll be back with new recipes and ideas on May 23. Cheers!

Post from May 7, 2010

An appetizing idea that is tops

They make the perfect finger food and snack. The Mixed Stew likes stuffing mushrooms with chopped zucchini and chopped bell pepper. The earthy flavor and chewy texture of baked mushrooms are tasty palettes for a rich filling that also includes diced parsley, chorizo, and a top crust of breadcrumbs and grated parmesan cheese. If you need to spice it up even more, we suggest using jalapeno peppers instead of bell peppers. Here is our recipe:

What you will need:

1 medium-sized bowl
1 wooden spoon
½ cup to 1 cup bell pepper (or jalapeno pepper), chopped small
2 cups zucchini, chopped small
½ cup chorizo, chopped small
4 tablespoons breadcrumbs
¼ cup parsley, minced
1 tsp garlic powder
grated parmesan to sprinkle on top
12 mushroom caps
1 baking pan
1 small saute pan
Non-stick cooking spray
Pinch of salt

Cooking and Directions:

Preheat oven at 425 degrees. In small pan, warm up a tablespoon of olive oil on medium high heat and when hot, quickly saute peppers, chorizo, and zucchini until the peppers soften to al dente. Remove pan from heat. Combine chopped peppers, zucchini, parsley, breadcrumbs, garlic powder, and salt in bowl. Mix well. Spray baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Carefully fill mushroom caps with mixture. Arrange stuffed caps on greased baking pan. Top mushroom caps with a dusting of parmesan cheese. Place everything in preheated oven for 8-12 minutes. Remove mushrooms from oven and let them rest for a few minutes before serving.
Helpful Hint: You may substitute cooked shrimp or artificial crab for chorizo.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thursday's Side Dish: Nachos

The Mixed Stew crew is taking a short hiatus. Meanwhile, we’re serving reruns of Spring oldies and goodies. We’ll be back with new recipes and ideas on May 23. Cheers!

Post from November 9, 2009

Jalapenos, melted cheese create the foundation

Did you know that someone is actually credited with inventing nachos? Ignacio Anaya called it Nachos Espaciales when he served it at a Mexican restaurant in 1943. It was made with tortilla chips covered in melted cheese and jalapeno peppers. Nachos have gone on to become an American favorite as an appetizer, party dish, whole meal, and snack. Our Mixed Stew recipe doesn’t cut any corners. It has the works and a healthy portion of refried beans. So eat up!

What you will need:

1 rectangle baking pan
1 bag restaurant-style tortilla chips
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
½ cup Jalapeno peppers, sliced
1 (16 oz) can refried beans
½ cup green onions, sliced (or 1 small yellow onion, chopped fine)
1 cup cooked taco meat or chili

Optional Toppings:
1 (16 oz) container sour cream
1 large tomato, diced
Salsa, on the side

Cooking and directions:

Preheat oven at 375 degrees. Line bottom of baking pan with tortilla chips. Next, layer beans, meat, onions, and jalapeno peppers on top of chips. Finally, sprinkle shredded cheddar to cover everything. Place baking pan in oven for 15 to 20 minutes or wait for the cheese to melt to your desired taste. Remove from oven and serve with optional toppings and additional chips.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wednesday’s Helping: Gruyere

The Mixed Stew crew is taking a short hiatus. Meanwhile, we’re serving reruns of Spring oldies and goodies. We’ll be back with new recipes and ideas on May 23. Cheers!

Post from January 20, 2010

Say 'Gruyere' for an extra special cheese

We've heard of Swiss, cheddar and Brie, but Gruyere? What's that? Servings of this cheese rock for several different reasons. Gruyere belongs to the Swiss family of cheeses and the cheese is named after the town of Gruyères, Switzerland. Only a certain type of Swiss cheese can be labeled Gruyere cheese. Real Swiss Gruyere has no holes. Meanwhile, look for air pockets or small holes in French Gruyere cheese. The flavor is sweet and slightly salty. The flavor goes from nutty and creamy while young to sharper and more complex with age. Gruyere is a good melting cheese that adds a savory component to different dishes. The state of Wisconsin produces Gruyere in the United Sates. Look for Gruyere in the specialty cheese section of your supermarket deli -- near Gouda, Gorgonzola and Brie. It's not cheap. These days, the real stuff can run up to $20 a pound. What are your favorite dishes that call for Gruyere cheese?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tuesday's Cupful: Flavoring and Coloring

The Mixed Stew crew is taking a short hiatus. Meanwhile, we’re serving reruns of Spring oldies and goodies. We’ll be back with new recipes and ideas on May 23. Cheers!

Post from February 23, 2010

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 target="new"soak whole saffron in warm water to release natural oils. Saffronmay 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, May 16, 2011

Monday's Bread Bowl: Blueberry Waffles

The Mixed Stew crew is taking a short hiatus. Meanwhile, we’re serving reruns of Spring oldies and goodies. We’ll be back with new recipes and ideas on May 23. Cheers!

Post from May 10, 2010

Flip over these blue speckled treats

These yummy blueberry waffles are worth all the effort and mess in mixing batter and working with a waffle iron. Blueberry waffles have more flavor and nutritional content when compared to regular waffles. Hide a serving of fruit in every waffle that you serve the kids with this recipe:

What you will need:

Waffle iron
1 Wooden spoon
1 large bowl
1 cup blueberries, chopped
2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 whole eggs
1 ½ cups milk
5 tablespoons melted shortening
4 tablespoons melted butter

Cooking and Directions:

Combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in bowl. Add two eggs, milk, melted shortening, and melted butter. Mix well. Add chopped blueberries. Again, mix well. Cook in a waffle iron until crisp. Follow the instructions for your waffle iron. Serve blueberry waffles with butter, powdered sugar, pancake syrup, or honey.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday's Last Spoonful: Food Surfing

A veggie wave

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.

May is National Asparagus Month! Here’s our short primer, think of it as a refresher, on asparagus.

This site features more in-depth info on your favorite spears.

Do something different with your asparagus. Here are some simple but elegant recipes for this veggie.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Thursday’s Side Dish: Lavender Asparagus

A sour note might be good sometimes
We learned about this pickled veggie and had to sample it. Brooklyn Brine Company makes “Damn Fine Pickles!” and other specialty food items. Each jar cost $10. Their pickled asparagus provides a unique alternative to regular pickles. The Lavender Asparagus brine comes spiked with whole peppercorns and fennel seed. Serve pickled asparagus with hotdogs. Tired of chips or nuts with your beer? We suggest cracking open a jar of Brooklyn Brine Co.'s asparagus for a sweet and tangy nibbler.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wednesday’s Helping: Blanching

Hot, and then cold, works

Biting into ingredients cooked this way has its perks. We recommend blanching for preserving color and nutritional value of fresh fruits and vegetables. Green vegetables, such as asparagus, green beans, and spinach have strong all-natural flavors and a vibrant green appearance that veggie lovers crave. Blanching involves dunking ingredients in boiling hot water for a few seconds to several minutes before quickly cooling in cold or ice cold water. Expect fruit skins to peel off with ease and the blanched products to present strong taste and flavors.

Helpful Hint: Blanching vegetables, such as mustard greens or kale, tends to lessen their bitterness if you want to use them in stir-frys or sauteed dishes.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tuesday’s Cupful: Lingonberry Concentrate

An exotic berry base for various uses
Look for bottles of this sweet syrup at IKEA’s specialty food mart. Each 17-oz. bottle cost $4.99. We added a shot to our green bean salad vinaigrette to give it a tasty berry twist. We also suggest adding some to ice cold ginger ale or citrus soda. IKEA lovers know heaping tablespoons of Lingonberrry jam get dished out with the Swedish furniture store’s meatballs, but we suggest you also sample the Lingonberry beverage. Feeling frisky? Add ¼ cup of lingonberry concentrate to your favorite recipe for chocolate cake or homemade fudge. Can you think of another use for lingonberry concentrate?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Monday’s Bread Bowl: Spring Green Bean Salad

A seasonal veggie bite

This is a refreshing green bean salad that we cooked up just in time for the early spring. A sweet and tangy vinaigrette dressing that’s spiked with Dijon mustard makes all the difference along with lingonberry syrup. Here’s the recipe:

What you will need:

1 wooden spoon
1 large bowl
1 small bowl
¼ cup Dijon mustard
Plastic wrap
4 tablespoons IKEA lingonberry concentrate (or your favorite berry concentrate)
1 tbsp cider or cane vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
1-2 lb green beans, blanched and cooled
1-2 lbs sugar snap peas, blanched and cooled
Pinch of salt and pepper

Direction and Preparation:

Combine mustard, olive oil, vinegar and lingonberry concentrate in small bowl. Mix well. Place blanched beans in big bowl and toss well. Add vinaigrette, salt and pepper and toss again. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours before serving.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Taking a Spring Break

Time for rest and relaxation
The Mixed Stew Crew is going on hiatus but don’t worry. We’ll be back on Monday, May 9, with more tasty food ideas. In the meantime, please go back into our archives to check out fun food posts on everything from tasty sandwiches and soups to cheesy casseroles.