Tag Archives: Food

8 Vegetables You Have Never Eaten (and May Never Want to Try) – New Food Friday Flash

15 Aug Farm in Minnesota

I’ve covered some of the fruits you’ve never tried or even heard of in the last two New Food Friday Flashes and I could do more. Maybe I’ll come back to fruits in the future. Today I’m covering vegetables that you’ve never tried or heard of.  It’s good for your health to eat your vegetables but in some of the vegetables listed below, it might be better for your health if you avoided these vegetables!

Also, I couldn’t find a photo of any of these vegetables but I found a nice photo of what is a “forgotten farm in Minnesota” according to the photographer and selected it for my featured image.

 

Ackee

The alternate name for Ackee is vegetable brains. Is that because if you eat it you will get smarter? Unfortunately not. It’s because it looks like brains. Does it taste like brains? No. How do I know? I’ve eaten a brain sandwich at a country fair once. It was fried pork brains. It had a mild flavor and was served on a bun with either mustard or ketchup. I asked for one side mustard and the other ketchup. But I digress. Vegetable brains, (Ackee) tastes like scrambled eggs according to some. Looking at a photo of Ackee as it is ripening on an evergreen tree, totally creeps me out. It can only be picked when it has turned completely red, has been split open showing it’s “smile” revealing two black seeds that look like eyes. Anything other than the creamy yellow pulp cannot be eaten nor can the unripened fruit because it is fatal! Yipes! You can find this vegetable in the forests of the Ivory Coast and Gold Coast of West Africa. Served with salt cod, it is Jamaica’s national dish! Canned Ackee is available around the world and completely safe. Don’t forget to eat your veggies!

 

Celtuce

You would think that Celtuce is a cross between celery and lettuce but it isn’t. It is sometimes called Chinese lettuce as it originated in China. It is grown mainly for its thick, tender stem, but its leaves can also be eaten. In China, the stems are broiled or boiled, added to soups, and used in stir-fries with meat, poultry, or fish. It is grown mostly in home gardens and is not widely known. When cooked, the stem tastes like a cross between squash and artichoke which means that I would like it a lot!

 

Marsh Samphire

This vegetable is shaped like miniature Arizona cacti but flourishes in the mud of salt marshes around the coastlines of England and France. Collecting and cleaning it is messy and time-consuming. Marsh Samphire is also known as glasswort and was once used in glassmaking! Today, however, it and its relatives are seen as plants of the future because they will grow in salty conditions. To cook, blanch without salt (because it is salty) and add butter. It is served in salads and on trout. Cultivated varieties can be imported from Israel and the Gulf. Its nickname is sea asparagus.

 

Angelica

The healing powers of Angelica, according to the people in France’s marshy Poitou-Charente region where Angelica has grown for centuries, have used it as an antidote to poisons. Hmmm, possibly good to eat after you eat Ackee (above)? Angelica is a member of the parsley family and also grown in Italy, Scotland, Germany, Scandinavia, Russia, and parts of North America. It can withstand the temperatures of Iceland and Greenland. The leaves can be shredded in salads and used in omelets and fish dishes. The stems are often stewed with rhubarb or made into preserves and jams. Today, it is most commonly used as a candied confection for cakes, sweet breads, and cheesecakes. The leaves and stems taste like licorice.

 

Golden Needle

One of the least familiar ingredients to the Western world is golden needles also known as tiger buds. That is, unless you’ve heard of the folk song, “Silver threads, golden needles can’t unbend this heart of mine….” Sound familiar? These buds range in color from pale gold or orange to dark amber in its dried version. They are often added to noodles and meats prepared over high heat. Their sweet, musky flavors complement woodears, enokitake, and misos and appear together in recipes across China and Japan.

 

Ratte Potato

Unlike other vegetables or fruits with names that mislead you to believe their taste, shape, or lineage is why they were so named, this particular vegetable actually was named Ratte Potato because it, alas, looks like a rat!  Eeeeks! Leave it to the French to take care of that problem: they called it Quenelles de Lyon. Ratte’s texture is dense, firm, resistant to breaking down, and yet smooth. They have a nutty taste similar to chestnuts.

 

Huitlacoche

Huitlacoche is also known as corn smut. Part of its name is the Aztec word for dung. I’m not making this up folks. Truth is stranger than fiction. It is a naturally occurring fungus that disfigures growing corn. I’m surprised I never heard of it, considering that Indiana is a corn-growing state. We (we?) must call it something else. The corn kernels swell and mutate into distorted silvery blue lumps with black interiors. How divine. It has a mushroom-like flavor with hints of corn and licorice. It is usually sautéed with garlic and onion and used to flavor traditional Mexican dishes. It can be difficult to find fresh huitlacoche outside of Mexico, but specialty food stores in the US and Canada often stock flash-frozen or canned versions in the event you are dying to try this.

 

Stinky Tofu

Known as ch’ou doufu in Mandarin, it has a mild, faintly sour, beany flavor which is far surpassed by its gargantuan aroma. As you might have guessed, it is a fermented concoction made with vegetables, herbs, shrimp and sometimes other seafood items. There are many, many fermented vegetables served around the world but I chose this one because it is often eaten as street food in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong where you might encounter it in your travels. It is deep-fried until crusty then dressed with spicy sauces, and topped with chili oil and garlic in Hunan. How will you know it? Your nose knows.

 

Based on some of the description of these vegetables, is it any wonder kids don’t eat their vegetables? Poison? Used in glassmaking? Rats? Dung, and Stinky? Those are hardly enticing descriptions. Consider yourself lucky. You didn’t have to look at the photos of these vegetables as I did when doing the research! On the other hand, don’t little boys love gross things? The grosser the better? Maybe you can tempt your non-veggie eater with a plate of Ratte Potato or Ackee!

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Bean Relief Tip-Puree Them!

14 Jul Beans (sxc.hu - adyna)

Lot’s of people have intestinal gas from eating beans and lentils. These legumes can cause problems in their whole form.

According to a mini-magazine I received in the mail, you can avoid this issue by eating puréed chickpeas (beans) and lentils. Puréed chickpeas are also known as Hummus. You can also make lentil soup and purée the soup.

These puréed legumes are less likely to trigger symptoms! Now there is no excuse not to eat your beans! I don’t know if this works with all beans, but if you try it out, let me know!

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New Food Friday Flash – Dandelion

16 May dandelion-sxc-hu-theartistg

Wait! Wait, you exclaim! dandelion is a food? You want us to try a new food called dandelion? Yes, fellow foodies. As I have been known to say, “Try it, you’ll like it.”  Or, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Or, “Variety is the spice of life!”

While I wouldn’t want to see you grazing on your lawn masticating the stuff, you could try the supermarket version of dandelion. It’s nutritious and delicious. Why else would I post it here if it wasn’t?

Naysayers halt your protests because this New Food Friday Flash is about the controversial weed called dandelion.

It’s controversial because we hate seeing it in our lawns but we (some of us anyway) love seeing it on our dinner plates.

Did you know that dandelion is a relative of endive? That doesn’t sound so bad does it? It’s low in calories, high in potassium, vitamin C, and calcium. If you want to know more about the dandelion, how it got its name, who gave their child the name, and other amusing and interesting facts about dandelion, click here.

Otherwise, I’ll let the thought about eating dandelion percolate in your brain for a while and when you’re ready, you can click on the above link. Far be it from me to force you to eat something that you perceive as negative. 

More for me I always say!

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Men’s Health – Their Greatest Threats

25 Apr Wheel-chaired Man (sxc.hu ba1969)

Today’s post is devoted just for men but women should read it too.  I’ve noticed recently that my male readership has increased steadily and so I want to address health issues that men specifically find challenging.

It’s no secret that men don’t live as long as women. I think part of the reason for that is that men don’t take care of themselves as well as women do. I’ve been witness to this countless times with my own father, my son, my husband (ex), men I’ve dated, through social networking, and just in general.

I remember my dad saying that when he finally went to see a doctor, the doctor was shocked that my dad hadn’t had a physical in 20 years!

A past boyfriend of mine told me that he fell over the balcony of his two-story house, landed on his back, and never went to the doctor!

Another past boyfriend had symptoms of depression but never followed up with a health professional. He was a counselor prior to his current job.

My son told me he had growths on his hands that he let go for too long. He doesn’t believe they are warts.  He still hasn’t seen a doctor.

My ex-husband quit smoking countless times. He IS a doctor!

So men, you can see you are not alone in not seeking out help for your health issues. We women would like to see you live as long as we do. The way to do that is to pay more attention to your body. Seek medical help when you need it and even when you don’t, in the form of a preventative checkup or procedure.

I’ve written more here. Start now to take better care of yourself.

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New Food Friday – Kasha, Groats, Buckwheat

18 Apr Kasha (sxc.hu - yirsh)

I had never tried Kasha until an Internet friend said that she loved it and would eat it for breakfast everyday. So, I bought a box of Wolff’s Kasha at my local Meijer.

Box of Kasha

Box of Kasha

Kasha is buckwheat and it comes in several granulations. I chose medium. This particular box had a small cellophane window so you could see the product inside (which I ignored), and put the box in my cart. When I got home, I placed the box in my pantry. When it was time for me to try the Kasha, I opened the box and began pouring the Kasha into a bowl. Out poured contents that contained Kasha, caraway seeds, and some other type of seeds. I recognized caraway seeds when I saw them and I didn’t think they were supposed to be in this box!

After doing some research, I realized that seeds were not supposed to be part of Kasha! I contacted the company and told them about it. I received a nice letter of thanks for letting them know from the vice president of Birkett Mills. He said they use the most efficient and sophisticated cleaning machinery known in the dry grain processing industry and that rarely even the most advanced technology can be fooled. (Well, we all know how I feel about technology as per my last post, now don’t we!)

In a show of their appreciation, they sent me two more boxes of Kasha (without seeds) and a whole bunch of information about Kasha. I kept one box and gave the other to my son, the other health enthusiast in the family.

Rather than let the box with the seeds go to waste, I used the caraway seeds from the “bad” box of Kasha for my Russian Rye Bread recipe! As you know, the loaves turned out great! To be honest though, I’m not crazy about Kasha for breakfast even though I know how good it is for you and how popular it is in Russia and throughout the Balkan region of Europe.

Map of Europe (sxc.hu - vygnyo)

Map of Europe (sxc.hu – vygnyo)

However, a recipe I found among all the recipes they sent, sounded good and good for your health too, so that I had to chose it for this New Food Friday.

The following information was provided to me from Birkett Mills, established in 1797. (Yes, that date is correct, 1797.) Read the eye-opening information that I have written by clicking this link.

If, after you have clicked the link and read the material you are now convinced that you need buckwheat in your diet, Birkett Mills offers a cookbook with over 50 recipes, many with full color illustrations, for $2.50. Write to: Pocono Buckwheat Cookbook, P.O. Box 440 PC, Penn Yan, NY 14527

Here is one of their recipes that caught my eye.

Grilled Portobello Caps with Kasha Pilaf
1/3 cup diced celery
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion (such as Vidalia)
2 cups water
2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup Kasha
salt to taste
6 large Portobello mushroom caps
Olive oil
1 1/4 cup grated hearty cheese (such as aged Gruyere or aged Gouda)

Aged Gouda

Aged Gouda

Prepare the Kasha Mixture First
In a 2-qt saucepan on medium-high heat, combine celery, onion, water and 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning. Cook until liquid is very hot, but not quite boiling. (Or, you can microwave it.)

Old Bay and Kasha Granules

Old Bay and Kasha Granules

While the liquid mixture is heating, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the extra virgin olive oil add remaining 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning and the Kasha. Stir Kasha until it is hot and slightly toasted.

Browning Kasha in a Pan

Browning Kasha in a Pan

Reduce heat to low. Carefully add hot liquid mixture and cover pan tightly. Simmer about 10 minutes until kernels are tender and liquid is absorbed.

Remove from heat and “fluff” with a fork. Season to taste with salt. This may be used immediately to stuff mushrooms or refrigerated for up to two days (or frozen for up to 1 month.) Makes nearly 4 cups.

Prepare medium-hot grill fire. Discard mushroom stems, clean gills with soft brush, and wipe caps with damp paper towel. Brush top of caps with olive oil.

Mushrooms (sxc.hu - mzacha)

Mushrooms (sxc.hu – mzacha)

Grill mushrooms gill-side down for a couple minutes. (I didn’t grill mine, I used my skillet.) Use tongs to flip caps top-side up and move them away from the heat while you fill the caps with the Kasha mixture.

Stuffed Portobello Muchroom Caps with Kasha Mixture

Stuffed Portobello Mushroom Caps with Kasha Mixture

Return caps to the heat and continue grilling, with grill lid down for 3-4 minutes. Top each cap with a scant 1/4 cup grated cheese. Lower grill lid and heat until cheese melts.

My mushrooms were not very large so I had left-over Kasha. I used it in another meal and added diced chicken and peas.

This mushroom recipe is good for when you crank up the barbecue. It would go well with my recipe for hot dogs with Chipotle in Adobo Sauce. Add a salad,  corn on the cob, 

Sangria (sxc.hu - matthijs_v)

Sangria (sxc.hu – matthijs_v)

a pitcher of Sangria, and you could invite the neighbors!

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New Food Friday – News Flash!

13 Apr Flash Drive (sxc.hu - mrceviz)

I thought of a way I could keep my New Food Fridays going while reducing the amount of time it takes me to do them. Introducing the New Food Friday Flash. The difference between the regular New Food Friday and the new New Food Friday Flash is that the New Food Friday Flash would be shorter and with less photos. Taking photos and finding good ones on the Internet takes up a lot of time for me when putting together New Food Friday.

I still have one more New Food Friday post ready for April’s post, but then after that, New Food Friday Flash will take its place until further notice. The bones of it will stay the same: 3rd Friday of the month, informative, hopefully entertaining, just shorter and sweeter. A food flash in a pan, in a manner of speaking minus the negative connotation! I think you will enjoy it!

*One more thing; if you’re wondering how things are working out now that I’ve canceled my AT&T Internet service, I don’t miss them one bit! I put my posts and any work I need to do at home on my Flash Drive or what some call a USB Memory Stick. The library computers are fast, much faster than my computer, and accept Flash Drives so I can transfer my work from the Flash Drive to the library computer and into my blog. This is working out great! I wish I had done this sooner! You may want to follow suit!

 

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New Food Friday – Bok Choy or Pak Choi

21 Feb Polenta instead of rice with Bok Choy

If you haven’t tried Bok Choy, you don’t know what you’re missing! Bok Choy is my choice for this New Food Friday.

This Asian staple is full of vitamin A, C, and is high in calcium and many other nutrients.  It resembles celery but doesn’t taste like it and it’s juicy like celery, maybe even juicer. I like to munch on it raw while I’m preparing it for a stir-fry or a soup. Bok Choy is in the cabbage family but it doesn’t taste like cabbage either. Its taste reminds me of escarole except that Bok Choy is mildly sweet and has a slight peppery bite at the end.

The leaves of Bok Choy are very dark green but the stalks are very white.

Bok Choy Stalks

Bok Choy Leaves

It’s a beautiful vegetable! The Chinese have been cultivating it for over 5,000 years.

Recently, my local Meijer had Bok Choy on sale for 88 cents a pound. Oh happy day! I bought 1.75 pounds of it!

Bunch of Bok Choy

Bundled Bok Choy – 1.75 pounds

There are two versions of Bok Choy in this country: there is the Baby Bok Choy and the regular Bok Choy. I’ve purchased both in the past and they taste the same to me. It may be more convenient to cook the Baby Bok Choy because you can cook it whole.

Baby Bok Choy

Baby Bok Choy or Pak Choi (sxc.hu – MeiTeng)

You couldn’t cook the regular Bok Choy whole because you wouldn’t have a pan large enough! I like the larger version which can sometimes be quite large! Ginormous, in fact, so you can expect more prep time with it. Don’t wash it until you’re ready to use it. Bok Choy stays fresh for up to a week in the fridge.

In my research for this post, I was surprised to learn that Bok Choy falls under the category of cruciferous vegetables. As you may well know, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower) contain anti-cancer compounds. All the more reason to try, buy, stir-fry Bok Choy!

Cooking Bok Choy

I typically cook all greens the same way when I use them for a side dish: olive oil, garlic, a few tablespoons of water or broth, cover and cook in my large fry pan. Bok Choy is good this way. But I decided to do a stir-fry with chicken. I found two recipes online that I liked and I combined them and tweaked them too. The results were delicious. I’m posting the recipe for you below. Since one recipe was Chinese and the other was Thai, I’m calling it:

Chinese-Thai Almond Chicken Stir-Fry

1 Tablespoon oil (peanut or coconut, I used olive oil)

1/2 cup whole almonds

1 skinless, boneless chicken breast

1 Tablespoon soy sauce (reduced sodium is best)

1 Tablespoon oyster sauce

Oyster Sauce

Oyster Sauce

1 Tablespoon chili garlic sauce

Chili Garlic Sauce

Chili Garlic Sauce

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

8 oz (more or less) rinsed Bok Choy cut into bite-sized pieces

2-3 Tablespoons Chicken broth if pan seems dry

You can add mushrooms, thinly sliced onions, or whatever you like to this. I added 1/4 cup thinly sliced carrots and 1/4 cup chopped celery.

To thicken gravy

1 Tablespoon corn starch

1/4 cup cold water

Stir together then pour into pan at the end of cooking until gravy thickens. (I did not do this step. See below.)

Directions

In a small bowl add the soy sauce, oyster sauce, chili garlic sauce, brown sugar, and lime juice. Stir the mixture well to melt the sugar. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a fry pan or wok and add the almonds and heat on medium-high heat until golden about 2 minutes. Be careful not to burn! Remove from pan.

Stir-fry thinly sliced chicken breast in same pan for 2-3 minutes. Add the Bok Choy, then the carrots, celery, mushrooms, onions, or whatever you like and spoon 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce mixture over it; stir and cook 2 minutes. (Cook longer and cover if you prefer your veggies less crispy.) Add a few tablespoons of broth if the mixture seems dry. Taste. If you like it spicier and saltier, add the rest of the soy sauce mixture. If you have any leftover, you can use it to baste most meats. I reserved my leftover for my next Bok Choy meal using the same recipe but substituting bay scallops in place of the chicken. (It wasn’t as good as the chicken.)

Serve with the sprinkled almonds on top. This is a very nutritious dish, low in calories, high in fiber, high in calcium, but also high in sodium which is why I suggested you taste the dish before adding all the soy sauce mixture. If you’re watching your sodium intake you may not want to use all the soy sauce mixture.

This dish is great served over rice and is the typical way it would be served. I wanted to try something different. I already had a pan of polenta that I had made the day before and feeling adventurous, I decided to try it in place of the rice.

Polenta instead of rice with Bok Choy

Polenta with Bok Choy

It was just as good! In fact, it thickened the gravy without using the cornstarch mixture. I liked this recipe so much that I decided to make it again, this time with brown rice.

Bok Choy dish

Bok Choy with a drizzle of sweet & sour sauce and mustard

 

Whichever way you try it, be sure you do try it! It’s delicious!

qǐng màn yòng!

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Valentine’s Day Cream Cheese Danish Heart

14 Feb Iced Cheesecake Heart

Every once in a while people who exercise and watch their weight want a little dessert. My favorite dessert is this Cream Cheese Danish Heart. It’s perfect for Valentine’s Day and easy to make for your sweetheart.

 

This recipe is very delicious and versatile. If you don’t want to use cream cheese for the filling you can substitute any of the following: apple, pineapple, lemon pudding, cherry, plum, almond paste, or walnuts. I’ve never tried any of the substitutions but these substitutions are from the list of the original recipe. Unfortunately, I don’t know where I got this recipe or I would gladly give credit for it! It is a winner in my book!

 

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup sugar

1 envelope rapid rise yeast

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup water

½ cup sour cream

¼ cup butter

1 large egg

 

Filling

1 8-oz pkg cream cheese room temperature

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

(Stir all until smooth)

 

Powdered Sugar Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar

2-3 Tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

(Stir all until smooth)

 

Directions

In a large bowl combine ¾ cup of the flour, sugar, yeast and salt. In a pan, heat the water, sour cream and butter until warm. Gradually add the warm mixture to the flour mixture. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed scraping bowl occasionally. Then add the egg and 1 cup of the flour and beat 2 more minutes at high speed. Finally, stir in the remaining ¼ cup flour to make a stiff batter. Cover tightly and refrigerate 2 – 24 hours.

Cheesecake Heart that expanded too much!

Cheesecake Heart that expanded too much!

 

I’ve made this dessert many times. In the photo above, my yeast expanded too much and it lost the heart shape so try to form your heart on the thin side like this:

Unbaked Cheesecake Heart

Unbaked Cheesecake Heart

When you are ready to bake, roll out the dough to 16” x 8” and spread the filling at the long end. Roll up tightly as you would for a jelly roll. Pinch seams closed then shape with your hands into a large heart.

 

Place on a greased sheet. With a sharp knife or razor, cut 1/3 of the way through the heart at 1” intervals, alternating from side to side. Cover and let rise 1 hour. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes.

Baked Cheesecake Heart

Baked Cheesecake Heart

 

If I have them, I add slivered almonds on top of the heart before I bake it. Otherwise, you can leave them off and glaze with the Powdered Sugar Glaze Icing.

Iced Cheesecake Heart

Cheesecake Heart with Almonds and Icing

 

This dessert goes well with coffee or tea. I’m sure your loved one will appreciate it!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

P.S. Make sure you exercise the day you’ve eaten a slice of this delicious dessert to work off the calories!

Cheesecake Heart Slice

Cheesecake Heart Slice

 

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New Food Friday – Russian Black Bread

17 Jan sxc.hu-uccrow Basil's Cathedral

I have a childhood friend who is originally from Estonia. A little bit of a history lesson is worth mentioning here. Estonia was part of the Russian empire until 1918 when it proclaimed its independence. 

The Russian Basilica-Tallinn, Estonia

The Russian Basilica-Tallinn, Estonia (sxc.hu sx937)

It was  incorporated into the USSR in 1940 by force but regained its freedom in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. The last Russian troops left in 1994.

sxc.hu Tallinn Capital of Estonia

Tallinn, Capital of Estonia (sxc.hu  gundolf)

Today, the Estonian economy has one of the higher GDP (gross domestic product) growth rates in Europe.

So, back to my childhood friend. One day my friend gave me a loaf of black bread. I don’t remember if she said it was Estonian black bread or Russian black bread. Maybe they’re one in the same. Anyway, it was delicious! Now, many years later, I have found a recipe in one of my cookbooks for Russian Black Bread. I will share it with you for this New Food Friday.

This recipe makes two round loaves. The bread is delicious, reminiscent of the loaf my Estonian friend gave me and I will definitely make it again. It is made with chocolate, coffee, and molasses. It is a dark color (hence the name black bread) and looks chocolatey! You can almost taste the chocolate and almost taste the coffee. However, it is not a sweet bread. It has a slight sour taste similar to a sour dough bread because of the rye flour and maybe the vinegar but this taste seemed to dissipate after the first day and the chocolate flavor became more pronounced instead.

I’ve already finished off one loaf. I stored the other in the freezer and then let it defrost in the refrigerator when I wanted more. It is just as delicious as the first loaf. In fact, I believe I noticed that the bread tasted even better the day after I baked it and it kept well in the refrigerator. I usually sliced off 3 ounces for my meal, buttered it, and let it warm to room temperature.

This bread can vary somewhat in flavor depending on the type of chocolate you use or the type of coffee you use. The recipe also calls for bran cereal so depending on the type of cereal you use, that can also alter the taste. However, I doubt that the varieties you use would make that much difference. Just use the best ingredients that you can afford. There are a lot of ingredients!

4 cups unsifted rye flour

3 cups unsifted white flour

1 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons salt

2 cups whole bran cereal

2 tablespoons caraway seed, crushed

2 teaspoons Instant Coffee

2 teaspoons onion powder

1/2 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed

2 packages active dry yeast

2 1/2 cups water

1/4 cup vinegar

1/4 cup dark molasses

1 square (1-ounce) unsweetened chocolate

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) margarine or butter

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1/2 cup cold water

Combine rye and white flours. Mix 2  1/3 cups of the combined flour mixture with the sugar, salt, cereal, caraway seed, coffee, onion powder, fennel seed, and undissolved yeast.

Combine 2 1/2 cups water, vinegar, molasses, chocolate, and margarine or butter in a saucepan. Heat over low heat until liquids are very warm (120 – 130 degrees). Margarine and chocolate do not need to melt. Gradually add to dry ingredients and beat 2 minutes at medium speed of an electric mixer, scraping bowl occasionally. Add 1/2 cup flour mixture. Beat at high speed 2 minutes.

Russian Black Bread Batter

Russian Black Bread Batter

Stir in enough additional flour mixture to make a soft dough. Turn out onto lightly floured board. Cover; let rest 15 minutes. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 to 15 minutes. Dough may be sticky. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm place, free from draft, until doubled in bulk. about 1 hour.

Punch dough down; turn out onto lightly floured board. Divide in half. shape each half into a ball about 5 inches in diameter. Place each ball in the center of a greased 8-inch round cake pan. Cover; let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. I like to let my bread rise in the microwave with a cup of very hot water. This is a draft-free environment and the cup of hot water makes the small area warm enough for the dough to rise. Important, don’t turn on the microwave!

Russian Black Bread Rising in Microwave

Russian Black Bread Rising in Microwave with Hot Water

Bake at 350 degrees 45 to 50 minutes until done. Meanwhile, combine cornstarch and cold water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture starts to boil; continue to cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. As soon as bread is baked, brush cornstarch mixture over top of loaves. Return bread to oven and bake 2 to 3 minutes longer, or until glaze is set. Remove from pans and cool on wire racks.

Russian Black Bread Cooling

Russian Black Bread Cooling

This recipe comes from my Fleischmann’s Bake-it-easy Yeast Book. I hope you bake this. It’s very good and has a lot of nutritional value! Das vadanya!

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New Food Friday – Harira

20 Sep sxc.hu - lamb - iubitzoaia- 1030219

Harira. It sounds like something you would say to your dentist when he has his hands in your mouth.

There are many versions of Harira. In fact, I created my own version when I departed from the recipe I was following. Harira is a soup – stew. It is a Moroccan dish that is eaten often, but particularly at the end of Ramadan, a religious holiday. I was attracted to the recipe because it calls for Turmeric which is a spice I have grown to love. Now you know why I have selected this recipe for New Food Friday.

A lot of attention has been given to Turmeric lately. More research is needed, but some studies show that it has anti-inflammatory properties. It may help fight cancer and it may protect against certain diseases. Read more here.

I like to add Turmeric to a chicken dish that I make. I shake it on the potatoes, carrots, and/or onions that I add to my baking dish. It is also great on a Focaccia bread recipe I love. More about that in next month’s New Food Friday.

Another reason I was looking forward to making Harira is that it also calls for cilantro. I grew my own cilantro this year and within the last few days it started to bolt. I grew it from seed. It grew in a hanging planter

Cilantro

Cilantro growing in a planter. See my rose bush in the background?

and it also grew in my vegetable garden. It would have continued to grow in my vegetable garden if a rabbit didn’t also like it a lot and chewed it to the quick! (Which is why I ended up growing it in a hanging pot.) But really, it is so easy to grow! And the fragrance! It smells wonderful! You have to try it!

Here is the recipe for the Harira. I substituted ground turkey for the lamb. (You can also use beef or chicken.) I also substituted the vermicelli noodles for brown rice. Many recipes say to add flour to thicken the soup. I didn’t want to use flour which is why I added raw rice. It helped thicken the soup. The longer you cook it, the more it thickens. Also, I used a no sodium tomato sauce.

Ingredients

6 – 8 oz lean ground turkey
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
1 bunch fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
2 celery stalks chopped
1 large yellow onion chopped
1 16-ounce can of low sodium garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
1 fresh tomato chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1½ teaspoons pepper
½ teaspoon turmeric
6 cups water, divided
1/4 cup dry lentils, picked over and washed (I forgot to wash mine! I guess that means you won’t be dining over at my house anytime soon?)
3 tablespoons tomato paste, mixed into 1 cup of water
1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes (I used fresh tomatoes again since I have so many of them this year.)
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1/4 cup brown rice

Optional Thickener:
1 cup flour
2 cups water

Instructions:
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the meat and any meat bones if you have them and cook for a few minutes, stirring to brown the meat.
  2. Add the chopped cilantro, parsley, celery, onion, chickpeas, fresh tomatoes, cinnamon, ginger, pepper, and turmeric.
  3. Stir in 3 cups of water. Heat over high heat bringing mixture to a light boil.
  4. Add the lentils, rice, tomato paste mixture, canned (or fresh) tomatoes, and tomato sauce and 3 cups of water.
  5. Cover the pot and heat the soup over high heat to bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking, simmering for 45 minutes with the lid ajar to help condense the soup. Stir occasionally.
  6. Taste soup for seasoning. Add salt or pepper if needed.
  7. If you prefer a thicker soup, you can add the flour water mixture after cooking 45 minutes. But I think adding it will dull the flavor and add empty calories.

Serves 6

Harira

Chopping Cilantro for my Harira

I wanted to use my Heirloom tomatoes for this dish but they weren’t ripe enough. Since I had plenty of cherry tomatoes, I used them instead.

Let the Harira come to a light boil.

Boiling Harira

Boiling Harira after all ingredients are added

After 45 minutes of cooking, the Harira thickens.

Thickened Harira

Thickened Harira after cooking 45 minutes

I enjoyed two bowls full of the Harira with my Focaccia bread.

Bowl of Harira

Bowl of Harira with Focaccia Bread

They went well together! This was good and I expect that tomorrow it will be even better. Next time I will use lamb for this dish. Harira is high in protein and fiber. With all the tomatoes, fresh and canned, it contains a lot of lycopene which contains antioxidant and antiproliferative properties. Read more about it  here.

To your good health!

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New Food Friday – Moroccan Preserved Lemons

19 Jul Asparagus and Butternut Squash with Pickled Lemon

My post about Meyer lemons brought about some interesting comments. This sent me to the internet to do research. To make a long story short, this post is about Moroccan preserved lemons also known as pickled lemons.

sxc.hu/craigbcn - Moroccan Architecture

Moroccan Architecture (sxc.hu/craigbcn)

You can use Meyer lemons or any type of lemon for this dish. Moroccan’s typically use these preserved lemons as a garnish or as a main ingredient. They are very simple to make. The hardest part is the waiting because you have to wait 4 or 5 weeks before the lemons are pickled.

sxc.hu susannah - Marrakech Koran School

Marrakech, Morocco Koran School (sxc.hu susannah)

There are many variations to making preserved lemons. You can use lemons only or you can add spices like a cinnamon stick, a bay leaf, garlic, chili flakes, coriander, cloves, allspice, peppercorns, the list is limited to your imagination. To be clear, this is not a sweet dish nor is it to be confused with preserves that you spread on bread or scones!

Moroccans use preserved lemons in dishes like Chicken tagine with lemons and olives.

sxc.hu cecilegeng - Tajine

Tajine (sxc.hu cecilegeng)

Moroccan food-Chicken tagine with preserved le...

Moroccan food-Chicken tagine with preserved lemons and olives (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Preserved lemons are made from lemons and salt. That’s all! I wanted to make the smallest batch possible because I wasn’t sure if I would like this dish and I didn’t want to waste lemons!

So, I selected one gigantic lemon and used my smallest canning jar. You can see the size of the lemon in relation to the demitasse cup in the photo.

Lemon Espresso

Lemon Espresso

Not only was it a big lemon, it was juicy! This was perfect. The lemons or lemon slices in my case, have to be squashed into the jar as much as possible to release the juices.

How to make the Preserved Lemons

Put about one tablespoon of Kosher salt in the bottom of a meticulously clean canning jar.

Kosher Salt

Kosher Salt

The safest way to do this is to boil the jar and the lid for 5 minutes first, let the jar cool, dry it off, then add the salt to the jar.

Meanwhile, wash the lemon very well. I use dish washing liquid. Make sure you rinse carefully removing all soap. Then, cut off the ends and slice it into wedges.

Lemon Ends

Lemon Ends

Remove any visible seeds.

Lemon Wedges

Lemon Wedges

Add the first 2 wedges to the bottom of the jar then cover with more salt.

Add a couple more wedges and cover them with salt. Now, because Meyer lemons are usually used for this dish and I was using regular lemons, I decided to add a pinch of sugar.

Lemon and Pinch of Sugar

Lemon and Pinch of Sugar

Just a pinch! It’s optional.

Squash down the lemon wedges and if you can add more wedges, do so. Finish with a topping of salt. Add about 2 tablespoons of salt for each lemon you use. You can see that my lemon wedges are above the rim of the jar.

Screw on the lid. This is akin to closing an overstuffed suitcase, but the idea is to make juice by squeezing the lemon wedges this way. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to give each of the lemon wedges a squeeze as you put them in the jar. It’s funny that none of the recipes I saw online suggested this. If you feel that the lemon is not very juicy, add the juice of another lemon into your jar. Within a few hours, my jar was filled with lemon juice. The salt draws out the juices.

Dry off the jar if any liquid seeps out and store in your pantry or a cool, dark place for about 1 week.

Lemon Preserves Shelved

Lemon Preserves Shelved

Every few days, press the lemons down to release their juices then tightly screw on the lid again turning the jar upside down. Then, refrigerate for 1 month, again turning upside down every so often. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 year.

Once pickled, a small amount can be used in a variety of dishes. I diced some of the rind on top of a piece of sockeye salmon last night for dinner. It was perfect! Tonight I’m sprinkling some on roasted asparagus and butternut squash.

Asparagus and Butternut Squash with Pickled Lemon

Asparagus and Butternut Squash with Pickled Lemon Bits

When you are ready to use the pickled lemons, rinse the salt off the lemon wedge(s) then add a small amount to a quick saute; add a pinch to mashed potatoes; add to a sauteed salmon dish; add to a roasting chicken; chop the rind and add it to a salad, etc. The flavor is intensely lemony but different from using straight lemon juice and/or zest so you only need a little bit. The peel (the zest and the pith), is the most valued part of this dish.

This is worth trying. You might become addicted! There are many variations using a variety of spices and salts. You can also pickle limes or oranges. 

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My Nutrition College Course and a Follow-up Website

4 Jun sxc.hu michtur

When I was in college, I took the course Nutrition 304. This was no light course. I was the only non-nursing student in the class at the University of Evansville in Indiana.

University of Evansville Rick Lewallen 2005

University of Evansville (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The year was 1985 and I was 5’8″ tall and 148 lbs. Sigh! I’m still 5’8″ but I’m not 148 lbs.!

I know my exact weight at that time because in this class we had to do a dietary project which consisted of logging information on data sheets recording our mood when we ate, the place where we ate, with whom, the times, the food and amount, and our observation.

Fruit basket (sxc.hu michaelaw)

Fruit basket (sxc.hu michaelaw)

If that wasn’t enough, there were also calculations that we had to do such as percentage of calories from fiber, fat, carbs, etc.  This was an 8-page project of instructions and forms which included an evaluation form where I had to make recommendations to myself for improving my eating habits and diet. It was thorough and tedious!

In case you’re wondering, I don’t remember all of this from memory, I stumbled upon the dietary project today tucked into my Nutrition Concepts and Controversies 3rd Edition soft cover text book (133 pages) that I’ve kept on my bookshelf all these years because it is excellent. I paid $27.95 for it. You can now purchase the 13th paperback edition (864 pages) on Amazon for $177.49! YIKES!

My project required that I record my food intake over the course of five days. My findings were that I rushed when I ate and needed to try to relax more before and during a meal. I was low on calcium, iron, and too high on fats. I improved my fiber intake and my carb intake during the project. 

Bell Peppers (sxc.hu ivanmarn )

Bell Peppers (sxc.hu ivanmarn )

It’s interesting that I notated that I felt bloated when I drank milk. It’s unfortunate that I didn’t pursue that because even though I was low in calcium, I’m sure the bloating feeling influenced the amount of calcium I consumed. If I didn’t work out so much and lift weights, I wonder if I would have had a broken bone or two by now because throughout the years, I really didn’t improve my calcium intake enough.

asparagus-and-tomatoes-sxc-hu-muffet1

Asparagus and Tomatoes (sxc-hu-muffet1)

In those days, I drank soda. My poison of choice was Dr. Pepper. It was shortly after this course that I gave up all soda. I also gave up beef. Many years later, I gave up ketchup (too much sugar). 

I received an “A” for the project and ultimately a “B” for the course. I was SO close to getting an “A” –  missed it by that much! 

Part of the reason that I bring all this  up is because I stumbled upon a website where you can log your food choices and activity level. It is an outstanding website: caloriecount.about.com

I had been logging my foods and activity previously on WebMD but it isn’t as detailed as caloriecount.about.com. There are over 250,000 foods listed in their database! There are over 5 million members. You can chose to keep all your records private, or you can share with the other members. 

One of the things I love about this website is that it is very detailed, and you know me, I love details! I can click a button and find out how many carbs I ate in a day and which foods had the carbs and the percentage of carbs in each of those foods! The same is true for sugar and other nutrients/vitamins. I learned I have been eating too much sugar without even realizing it! I don’t even add sugar to my coffee or my tea, yet I was getting too much sugar from the foods I ate. 

You get a nutrition report at the end of the day that shows whether you are too low, good, or too high for each nutrient/vitamin. This is very helpful because you can check how you are doing any time of the day and if you notice that you are too low in, let’s say calcium, you have the opportunity to correct that by drinking some milk, or eating some yogurt or consuming any food that contains calcium. I love this feature!

One of the great things about this website is that I have finally been able to get my needed amount of calcium each day. I am ecstatic over that!

One of the down sides to the site is that it takes a while to learn. I’ve been using it for two weeks now and I still don’t know everything about the site.  So, if you plan to use it, expect it to take some time until you get the hang of it. Keeping track of the foods you eat is the best way to lose weight. It’s been proven. 

Not only can you keep track of your foods and activity levels but when you mouse over words like sodium or potassium, you can click the link and it will take you to a page that explains all about it, listing the foods that are high in these nutrients. This website is like a continuation of my college nutrition course and it’s free!

There are two other levels to joining caloriecount.about.com. One is a Premium level for $3.33 per month. (One day free trial). The other includes a Dietitian service for $24.99 per month (Seven day free trial). I’m not pushing either, I’m just explaining what is available.

For the free service, you also have access to over 400,000 recipes, nutrition articles, a goal-setting page, and much more. I haven’t even scratched the surface myself.

So far I haven’t been able to lose any weight. I’ve been too busy trying to squeeze in all the vitamins and minerals that I need. Calcium, fiber, and potassium take a great deal of effort and planning for me.  I also made the mistake of buying bagels without reading the label. They contain over 700mg of sodium per bagel! They’re blueberry bagels so I don’t want to throw them out. Every day that I eat one, I’m over my limit for sodium.  They are also high in sugar. This is why I preach reading the labels. I don’t know why I forgot to do it for these bagels. Maybe because they looked so good!

It takes perseverance to meet your daily requirements but it’s worth it. I hope you will take a look at the caloriecount website. It might save you a broken bone!

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New Food Friday – Kimchi or Kimchee or gimchi

17 May sxc.hu hobbesyeo Korean Dishes

As it sometimes happens, I was looking for something at my local Meijer and found something else instead. That is how I came upon Kimchi. At one point, it seemed I was hearing so much about Kimchi that I wanted to try it. So now you know why this Friday’s post is all about Kimchi. Kimchi is a food product popular in Korea.

sxc.hu winchild Kwang Reung National Park Korea

Kwang Reung National Park Korea (sxc.hu/ winchild)

I first heard about Kimchi on the PBS cooking show, The Kimchi Chronicles. Hugh Jackman starred in the first two episodes along with Marja (Allen) Vongerichten and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, a world-renowned chef. 

Don’t let Marja’s last name fool you. She is Korean. She was born of a Korean mother and a GI. At the age of three, she was put up for adoption and raised by an American mother in Virginia.  When she was 19, she reunited with her birth mother. In this reunion, she took many trips with her Korean family to Korea.

sxc.hu fliku Gwanghwamun Palace

Gwanghwamun Palace Seoul, Korea   (sxc.hu/fliku)

Those first episodes with Hugh Jackman were confusing to me. I couldn’t figure out whose show it was. I thought it was Jackman’s show. After the first few episodes, Jackman wasn’t there anymore so I assumed it was Marja’s show. But I wasn’t sure if she had any culinary background yet she seemed to be dominating the show.

sxc.hu vancanjay Korean Dancers

Korean Dancers   (sxc.hu/vancanjay)

In any event, I muddled through the confusion to find a new food: Kimchi.

When I spotted the jars of Kimchi at my local Meijer, there were two varieties: mild and hot. With the little knowledge I had of Kimchi from the show, I knew that the mild was going to be hot enough, so I opted for the mild Kimchi.

Mild Kimchee

Mild Kimchee

As it turned out, the further down I got in the jar, the hotter the Kimchi seemed to be. The spices had settled.

So what is Kimchi? Kimchi is fermented cabbage. It is very similar to sauerkraut and has a similar “crunch” factor. It’s made with Napa Cabbage and there is a distinct red broth surrounding the very packed-down cabbage made from red chili peppers.

Kimchee Ingredients

Kimchee Ingredients

I’d like to show you what was in the jar but I ate it all, sorry.

Gimchi, a very common side dish in Korea

Gimchi, a very common side dish in Korea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was eager to taste this Kimchi although looking at it in the jar was not an appetizing sight. I wondered what I had gotten myself into! I stabbed some with my fork and tasted a bite. I didn’t care for it at first. I thought it was going to give me terrible indigestion, but that never happened.

Every day I would take a forkful and surprisingly, I began to like it. However, I won’t be running back to Meijer to buy another jar anytime soon but if someone served it to me, I would eat it without hesitation. But some people can’t turn off their desire for Kimchi.

Koreans for example, are obsessed with Kimchi. They even have a Kimchi museum.

Kimchi Field Museum in Seoul, Korea

Kimchi Field Museum in Seoul, Korea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Korean families own special refrigerators designed to maintain the “optimal temperature for the stinky vegetables’ fermentation and preservation” and South Korean scientists spent years developing a recipe for a bacteria-free “space kimchi” to accompany their first citizen’s visit to the international space station.

When Koreans have their pictures taken, they don’t say “cheese” they say, “Kimchee!”

Claims about the nutritional benefits of Kimchi vary. Below are the Nutritional Facts from the Sun Yum jar.

Kimchee Nutrition Facts

Kimchee Nutrition Facts Click to Enlarge

I would think it would have some benefits because it is fermented but I found conflicting evidence about its health benefits, particularly when it comes to cancer.

According to health.com, Kimchee contains vitamins A, B, and C, but its biggest benefit may be in its “healthy bacteria” called lactobacilli, found in fermented foods like kimchi and yogurt. It is served at every meal in Korea and, as it is high in fiber and low in fat, it helps to keep Koreans out of the obesity statistics. Some studies show that there are compounds in Kimchee that may prevent cancer.

On the other hand, some scientists have identified some potential carcinogens in the food and that there is evidence that Kimchee might increase the risk of stomach cancer.  Some doctors suggest that kimchi is fine when eaten in moderation, along with a regular diet of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Koreans eat 40 pounds per year per person. That sounds like a lot to me. If you check the cancer statistics for Korea, you will find that stomach cancer is among the 5 leading causes of cancer death for both men and women.

sxc.hu ychi Escalators in Electronics Department Store in Seoul

Escalators in Electronics Department Store in Seoul, Korea   (sxc.hu/ychi)

If you are willing to try Kimchee, look for it in the refrigerated section of your grocer’s supermarket. I found mine where they keep the tofu, bean sprouts, and ready-made egg roll wrappers.

As far as the Korean photos in this post, I selected photos that showed the traditional Korea and the more modern Korea. I hope you enjoyed them.

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New Food Friday – Meyer Lemons

19 Apr Meyer Lemon Sliced

Although I was sad to have to postpone New Food Friday, in hindsight, it turned out for the best. Preparing for my talk on blogtalkradio took more effort than I realized when I agreed to be a guest on the show. I thought I wouldn’t have enough to say. It turned out that I ran out of time and couldn’t finish what I had to say! Who knew? It was an interesting experience and fun to talk to Marilyn and Tatiana. I wish we could have chatted more.

Just to catch up, I’ve gotten a lot done in the short time I skipped New Food Friday. I dug up my garden in preparation for my new plants. What I usually do is collect all the leaves that huddle in a corner of my house and bury them in holes I dig in the garden once the weather turns warmer. This aerates the soil, feeds the plants as the leaves decompose, and eliminates the need to bag them, having to use plastic bags in the process. It’s a win-win.

I also got a car repair taken care of which included getting reimbursed and having to go to another repair shop to diagnose and fix the things that were botched up. I may be writing a post about it soon.

Since my lawn mower died and I tried fixing it myself to no avail,(it’s an electric push mower), I tried to get someone to fix it. Two repair places declined!  I had no alternative than to buy a new one. This is another story that deserves its own post because a police officer was involved! I kid you not. So much for my boring life! NOT!

So, without further ado, let’s discuss my experience with Meyer Lemons which is what brings me to this New Food Friday. One of my favorite drinks is lemonade, especially during the summer when I’ve just finished mowing the lawn. I’ve always used regular lemons for this drink until I spotted some Meyer Lemons on a visit to Wal-Mart while I was looking for lactose-free yogurt which they were supposed to have but didn’t. 

Meyer Lemons are different from regular lemons. As you can see from the packaging in the photo, Meyer lemons are sweet and tart.

Meyer Lemons

Meyer Lemons

But are they really? I sliced one in half and tasted it. It didn’t taste sweet at all. In fact, it had an odd taste but I reserved my judgment until it was time for me to use the second lemon from the package. It tasted exactly the same as the first one.

English: Cross sections of Eureka, Meyer, Yuzu...

Cross sections of Eureka, Meyer, Yuzu, and Pink Lemons, and 1 sweet Lime (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These Meyer lemons looked like tangerines. They are a cross between a regular lemon and a mandarin orange.  To me, they taste like the juice squeezed from the skin of a tangerine. That is how I would describe it. Is that how they should to taste?  I have a hunch they should taste better than that! Maybe it depends on what orchard produced these lemons or maybe these lemons had been sitting around Wal-Mart for too long. Or perhaps they were left on the tree too long. It’s anyone’s guess.

The flavor didn’t stop me from adding the juice to my tea and honey

sxc.hu aga_wrr Tea with Lemon

Tea with Honey and Lemon  sxc.hu aga_wrr

or to make a glass of lemonade.

sxc.hu suzula  Glass of Lemonade

Glass of Lemonade sxc.hu suzula

Neither tasted as good as a regular lemon in these drinks.

These Meyer lemons look good, they just don’t taste that good I’m sorry to say.

I’d be willing to try them again. Next time I’ll buy them from Meijer and maybe I’ll have more luck. If it turns out that they are better, I will amend this post. 

But for now, these Meyer lemons are getting a thumbs down from me! Booooo! Have you used Meyer lemons? If so, what has your experience been like?

UPDATE 4/23/13: I found Meyer lemons at my local Meijer yesterday and made myself a glass of lemonade. So far, these Meyer lemons are an improvement over the ones I bought at Wal-Mart. 

Meyer Lemons2

Meyer Lemons2

I don’t know if you can see the difference from the photos, but the Meijer Meyer  lemons (hehehe) are more yellow where the Wal-Mart Meyer lemons were more orange.

I paid $2.69 at Meijer for Sunkist, a well-respected brand, of Meyer lemons. There were 5 to a package. The Wal-Mart Meyer lemons contained only 4 lemons even though they weighed the same. They cost $1.98.  But you’re not saving anything if you have to throw the produce out and if it doesn’t taste good. Also, I’d rather have 5 lemons instead of 4 even if the overall weight is the same. For one thing, there would be more skin and therefore more zest for recipes with 5 lemons. 

Speaking of zest and skin, when I squeezed the Meijer Meyer lemon for my lemonade, the skin cracked very easily which made it difficult to squeeze. That’s not such a big deal because I’ve had regular lemons do that on occasion. You can see from the photo that the skin was rather thick. It’s actually very edible. I can see making preserves out of these lemons!

The packaging of the Sunkist Meyer lemons didn’t say anything about them being sweet as the Wal-Mart lemons claimed.  These Sunkist Meyer lemons are much less “puckery” than regular lemons. I didn’t get a strong “tangerine” taste that I got with the Wal-Mart lemons, these had a much milder, more pleasant tangerine-lemon taste.

Meyer Lemon Sliced

Meyer Lemon Sliced

I’ve recently seen regular lemons sell for $.63 each at Meijer. So, the Meijer Meyer lemons would be cheaper! 

By sheer luck, I found the castelvetrano olives today at Kroger; the ones that Gerard mentioned in the comment section below. I combined an olive with the Meyer lemon and enjoyed the combination! 

I will be having thin slices of these lemons with salmon for dinner along with a side of brown rice and a stuffed artichoke. Yum!

OK, so Meyer lemons now get a thumbs up!

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New Food Friday – Almond Milk

15 Mar Milk Mustache-flickr

In my search to find lactose free foods that are high in calcium, I found almond milk. This particular brand (Silk), has 45% DV calcium with no lactose. I am very pleased to say that it is also delicious and is therefore the pick for this New Food Friday!

I love almonds, who doesn’t? So it’s no surprise that I love almond milk too.

sxc.hu sateda Almond Heart

Almond Heart sxc.hu sateda

Almond milk tastes like chocolate milk without the chocolate. But before you lactose intolerant folks run out and buy some, you should know that there are differences in the various brands of this type of milk in the event you want to cook with it. Aye, there’s the rub. There’s always a catch, isn’t there?

First, what about freezing it? Since an opened container of almond milk should be used before 7-10 days, I wondered if I could freeze some in the event I couldn’t drink it all in that time span.

According to the Silk website, the product changes in texture when thawed although you may still use it for frozen dessert recipes.

As it turned out, I had no problem drinking one cup daily for breakfast and finishing the container before the 10 days was up. The almond flavor goes great while eating a banana. I’m not a cold cereal eater in the wintertime, but I bet almond milk would be great in a bowl of cereal with sliced bananas!

So, can you heat it? Yes, you can with the Silk brand of almond milk.  I can’t wait to make hot chocolate with it. By the way, the recipes on their website are decadent! See http://silk.com/recipes 

If you can heat it, then you can bake with it so I made a batch of carrot/walnut/raisin muffins with one cup of almond milk.  

Carrot.Walnut.Raisin Muffin

Carrot/Walnut/Raisin Muffin made with Almond Milk

They came out great!

Many people make their own almond milk. It’s not that difficult. Here is one example.

Almonds and almond milk are very good sources of Vitamin E. Vitamin E helps with less cognitive decline as you age.  Some say almonds keep you thinking clearly and boost brain power. So, the benefits of almonds and almond milk go further than adding calcium to your diet and helping folks with lactose intolerance.

One cup of Almond milk also contains 25% DV of vitamin D. Vitamin D as you know, is the sunshine vitamin. We don’t get as much sunshine in the winter as we do in the summer when we’re outdoors more. It isn’t easy to get the vitamin D we need everyday so almond milk can help you reach those dietary needs too.

Here is the nutritional information.

Almond Milk Nutrition Facts

Almond Milk Nutrition Facts

 

This is an almond grove.

sxc.hu pv Almond Trees

Almond Trees sxc.hu pv

 

This is an almond branch with almonds.

sxc.hu pv Closeup of Unhusked Almonds

Closeup of Unhusked Almonds sxc.hu pv

 

This is your brain on almonds and almond milk.

sxc.hu plrang This is Your Brain

This is Your Brain on Almond Milk   sxc.hu plrang

The milk mustache in the Featured column is by Vengel Crimson – flickr

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New Food Friday – Kumato Tomato

8 Mar Sliced Kumato Tomatoes

No matter how you slice it, tomatoes are one of the most versatile fruits/vegetables known. My local Meijer was advertising the award winning Kumato Tomato and I was looking forward to giving it a try.

Packaged Award Winning Kumato

Packaged Award Winning Kumato

Welcome Kumato Tomato to New Food Friday.

The Kumato tomato is a brownish red tomato. It is very similar to a Black Russian tomato I grew a few years ago in my garden. My Russian tomato was not pleasing to the eye. The Kumato however, is pleasing to the eye and the taste buds.  It is mild flavored and not very acidic. It’s juicy and small in shape. They hold up well on the kitchen table and are firm enough in a sandwich. But other than that, I didn’t think they were worthy of the hype! Maybe I’ve eaten too many tomatoes in my life. To me, these were just another tomato. My Russian tomatoes probably spoiled the color “surprise” for me, but unless you’ve also had brown tomatoes, you may want to give these tomatoes a try. 

sxc.hu JohnMason Multi-colored Tomatoes

Multi-colored Tomatoes      sxc.hu JohnMason

As long as I’m writing about tomatoes today, let’s see what we can do with them.

Sandwiches

Tomatoes are great in a BLT (Bacon, lettuce, and tomato) sandwich. When was the last time you had one, slathered with mayonnaise?

sxc.hu winjohn BLT

BLT   sxc.hu winjohn

It’s that combination of the salt in the bacon and the sweetness of the tomato that makes it one of the most popular sandwiches in America!

Pizza

Tomatoes can hold their own in a pizza. Whether sliced or in a tomato sauce, Italians and Americans alike love their pizzas!

sxc.hu ATunska Tomato Pizza

Tomato Pizza   sxc.hu ATunska

Other countries have their versions too!

Bruschetta

Is there anyone who doesn’t know what bruschetta is? It’s become as popular as pizza in this country! Tomatoes are the basis of bruschetta. I like mine with chopped garlic, chopped Italian parsley, salt, pepper, and a good olive oil.  All the ingredients have to be at room temperature.

sxc.hu spiridus Bruschetta

Bruschetta   sxc.hu spiridus

I don’t bother toasting Italian bread, slicing it, and putting a mound of bruschetta on top. I like my own small bowl of bruschetta and a good loaf of crispy Italian bread to dunk. It is often a meal for me in the summer with my garden tomatoes. Variations call for chopped basil or oregano.  I think I even saw one with balsamic vinegar. No thank you. The simpler the better for me!

Salads

The photo of this salad was as close as I could find of a salad that looked like one of my salads.

sxc.hu artvisions Salad

Salad   sxc.hu/artvisions

My salads are a meal in themselves. As you can see in the photo, there is meat, cheese, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, shredded carrots, etc. Tonight I had one of my salads similar to this one.

I like to layer my salads. The first layer was romaine lettuce. Romaine because the escarole looked wilted at Meijer so I bought romaine lettuce instead but otherwise, escarole always goes into my salads. The next layer was the Kumato tomato slices. Then, a specialty cheese called Bella Vitano by Sartori.  Sartori makes award winning cheeses. If you ever come across their cheeses in the supermarket, pick one up. They make a wide variety that will make your mouth water. I highly, highly recommend them. Make note; that was TWO highly’s.

Back to my salad, I had leftover rapini (broccoli rabe) and I put spoons-full of that in strategic places around my salad bowl. I had leftover green string beans, they went in. I like to roughly shred a carrot on top of my salads for color and a bit of sweetness so that went in. I remembered I had walnut halves that I had sprinkled some Garam Masala on, they went in too. I baked a piece of wild salmon while I was creating my masterpiece. Salt and pepper went over the salad as did Chianti vinegar and a good quality olive oil. When my salmon was done, I placed it on top of the salad. Then I dolloped some thousand island dressing on the salmon. If I make anything consistently good, it’s my salads.

This was fabulous if I do say so myself: the bitter rapini with the sweet Kumato tomatoes and the creamy, nutty, sharp cheese with the green beans, not to mention the salmon with the thousand island dressing and the crunch of the walnuts, the sweetness of the carrots…..what can I say. I am a well-fed happy foodie! I suppose I should have taken a photo but the photo wouldn’t do it justice!

My salads are kitchen sink salads. If you haven’t tried leftovers in a salad, you should. Leftovers like: roasted medium rare sliced leg of lamb, broiled or roasted chicken, broccoli, asparagus, beans, they all shine in a fresh salad. In the summer, I often add fruit like, fresh peach slices or fresh mango chunks. But you don’t have to wait until summer to make a good salad! Now is a good time for a salad!

sxc.hu merala Clock with Tomatoes

Clock with Tomatoes sxc.hu merala

Salad anyone?

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New Food Friday – Lactose Free Dairy Products

1 Mar sxc.hu wendyrmelg Yogurt Parfait

As each day goes by, we all become more and more lactose intolerant. Yes, that is the sad news folks. Gone are the days when we could drink bottle after bottle of milk with no aftereffects.

sxc.hu Cylonka Baby drinking Milk

Baby drinking Milk sxc.hu/Cylonka

Lactose intolerance increases with age. The good news is that New Food Friday will be covering a few of the most common dairy foods that you CAN eat that won’t cause intestinal distress.

These foods are:

Milk

Ice cream

Yogurt

Cheese

I’m not talking about dairy substitutes. For example, I bought a new Silk product that was a soy-based yogurt. Ick, is all I can say. I tried two varieties. Both were very watery. The second one I couldn’t even finish it was so bad. 

I’m talking about dairy products that include the lactose enzyme which enables you to eat it without any digestive distress.

sxc.hu iamiam Dairy Farm

Dairy Farm sxc.hu/iamiam

Ice Cream

The first dairy product is Breyers Lactose Free Vanilla Ice Cream. This is sinfully good. I think it tastes even better than their regular vanilla ice cream.

sxc.hu LotusHead Ice Cream Sundae

Ice Cream Sundae sxc.hu LotusHead

Although I am not a big ice cream eater, I found it very difficult to not go for a second helping. Those of us who watch our weight should not allow this ice cream in the house because it is too tempting and too good for our own good! So, sadly, I can’t recommend it if you are lactose intolerant! You would have to have a will of iron to just eat 1/2 cup and who among us has that?

sxc.hu lekyu Dairy Farm wCows

Dairy Farm with Cows sxc.hu/lekyu

Yogurt

The next lactose free product is Yoplait Lactose Free Yogurt. Yoplait’s Lactose Free Yogurt comes in four flavors. My two favorites are the Peach and the Vanilla. The Strawberry and the Cherry are also very good. Each are 170 calories per 6 oz container so they are not low calorie. They also contain 20% calcium per container including Vitamin D. While I am not a big fan of yogurt, I can easily make an exception for Yoplait’s Lactose Free. It is delicious and I can recommend it heartily! I feel satisfied after one container and am not tempted to get a second one. That is the good news.

The bad news is that my local Meijer discontinued carrying it! Yoplait has a store locator on their website so you might find their products using the locator.

Then again, you might not. It is still showing that my local Meijer stocks the lactose free yogurt. It also shows that my local Wal-Mart stocks the lactose free Yoplait. Well, I went to the Wal-Mart near me and they didn’t have it either. So much for the Yoplait store locator. I hope you have better luck than me! (And by the way, I’ve contacted Yoplait about all this.)

But the good news is that  I recently learned that Chobani Greek yogurt is 95% lactose free! 

The bad news is that Greek yogurt is more expensive than Yoplait Lactose Free Yogurt.

Not all Greek yogurt is equal. For example, I bought Meijer Greek yogurt and it only contained 15% calcium per container.  Strangely enough, on many websites touting Yoplait Lactose Free Yogurt, the nutritional value for calcium shows 50% not 20%! I don’t know where they are getting their information but the containers I bought all showed 20%.

Stoneyfield also makes a lactose free yogurt but the manager at the Wal-Mart I went to said they discontinued it.

It doesn’t make any sense to me that these lactose-free products are being discontinued when companies must know that as people age they become more lactose intolerant! Since baby boomers are coming of age where, once they realize they have become lactose intolerant, they will be demanding  more lactose-free products.

Symptoms for lactose intolerance can be mild to severe depending on how much lactase your body is still making: bloating, abdominal cramps, stomach pains, diarrhea  nausea, and vomiting. 

It’s the lactase enzyme in your small intestine that breaks down the lactose (without me getting too technical on you). When you’re a baby, your body produces a lot of lactase which enables you to drink milk, your primary source of nutrition.

I found a Stonyfield Greek Plain Yogurt that contains 30% calcium. I will probably be buying that again.

Cheese

Many of the harder cheeses like cheddar or Swiss are more easy to digest. You may be able to tolerate them.

sxc.hu VictorBR Cheeses

Cheeses sxc.hu/VictorBR

The only way to know is to try them. Generally, the harder the cheese and the longer it ages, the less lactose it contains. Check the label too. It might show the lactase enzyme in the ingredients.

Milk

While I haven’t tried this product myself, you can buy milk called Lactaid. Lactaid milk comes from cows not treated with artificial growth hormones, according to the Lactaid website. It contains the same nutrients as regular milk and is lactose free. If you still suffer from lactose intolerance because you haven’t tried any of the lactose free dairy products that I recommended, don’t blame me! But there’s no sense in crying over spilled milk.

sxc.hu laswift Spilled Milk

Spilled Milk       sxc.hu laswift

The next time you go to the supermarket, pick up a few lactose-free products and let me know how you liked them.

UPDATE: Good news! Bryers now has a chocolate lactose-free ice cream! I have learned that Greek yogurts (the thicker yogurts) contain less lactose so you may be able to tolerate them. And the variety of Greek yogurts is going through the roof! Every brand seems to make a Greek yogurt now and the flavors are divine! My favorite is Lime. It tastes like a cheesecake to me. Try them!

New Food Friday – Tangelos

22 Feb Orchard sxc.hu/winterdove

Have you tried a tangelo? They look like an orange but are much less acidic. They are very juicy and very sweet. I am hooked on tangelos and so this post for New Food Friday is about tangelos!

Tangelos are grown specifically in Florida.

 I am on my third 5-lb bag of tangelos and I have one tangelo for breakfast everyday.

Bag of Oranges sxc.hu/JR3

Bag of Oranges sxc.hu/ JR3

I used to eat an orange everyday but they are too acidic for me. Once I tasted a tangelo, I was a convert.

Here are the Nutrition Facts.  

Nutrition Facts-Tangelo

Nutrition Facts-Tangelo Click to enlarge

 

When you take into account the smaller size of the tangelo compared to an orange, note that the average size orange is 180 grams and the average tangelo is 109 grams so don’t let the difference in calcium throw you (or the other differences either).

For myself, I prefer the smaller fruit. Oranges have morphed into a fruit that is so big that when I ate them, I eventually decided to just eat half. I wish they would stop growing fruit to such an enormous size! Even apples are ridiculously large these days. I wonder why this super-sized fruit growth hasn’t been addressed by health experts as they have addressed portion sizes for everything else, haven’t they!

Orange Branches sxc.hu pepo

Orange Branches sxc.hu pepo

Tangelos make a good snack during the day because they are low in calories and you can’t scarf them down in a hurry.

Tangelo Waiting to be Peeled

Tangelo Waiting to be Peeled

Tangelos are a cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit. This is surprising to me because they don’t look or taste anything like a grapefruit.   They are very sweet. There are several varieties and the ones I’ve had so far vary in the amount of seeds.

The tangelo in my photo had no seeds. The last bag of tangelos I bought had more seeds than the other two bags but for the most part, there are few seeds.

Peeled Tangelo

Peeled Tangelo

Also, the type that I bought was not that easy to peel which makes it a challenge to avoid breaking the membranes and losing a drop of that delicious juice!

On the other hand, juice is going everywhere in the little Italian town of Ivrea. As you can see in the photo, the Italians have other uses for oranges besides eating them and cross-breeding them.

Annual Carnival in the Italian city of Ivrea sxc.hu JosipBroz

Annual Carnival in the Italian city of Ivrea sxc.hu JosipBroz

In this photo they are celebrating the Annual Carnival in the Italian city of Ivrea where they throw oranges at each other.

In the Valencia region of Spain, they hold a tomato-throwing festival. (Ironic isn’t it that they are throwing tomatoes and not oranges in Valencia!)

La_Tomatina Wikipedia - flydime

La_Tomatina Wikipedia – flydime

Fruit throwing is one way to get out your aggression. It’s also good exercise and apparently fun, therefore good for your health, although you could be hurt by getting hit. But at least it isn’t a bullet, some would say. Maybe we need to throw more fruit in America.

Would you stand under an orange tree? I wouldn’t, not even if the trees were on a patio with a fountain!

A fountain in the Patio of Oranges within the grounds of the Cathedral of Sevilla sxc.hu sueanna

A fountain in the Patio of Oranges within the grounds of the Cathedral of Sevilla Click to see the oranges. sxc.hu sueanna

It’s a good way to get unexpectedly clunked on the head.

Once I sat under an almond tree and an almond fell on me. It was like a missile and it hurt like heck! That’s right, a little old almond. They’re not so little when they are unhusked!

So,  for the time being, I’d rather eat than throw oranges or tomatoes or tangelos. Then again, maybe I’m just comparing apples to oranges.

Apples and Oranges sxc.hu cherrycoke.jpg

Apples and Oranges sxc.hu cherrycoke.jpg

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New Food Friday – Blackstrap Molasses

15 Feb Windmill sxc.hu/http://www.thebend.be/dimitri_c

You don’t hear much about blackstrap molasses and that is why this post is about blackstrap molasses for this New Food Friday.

Blackstrap Molasses

Blackstrap Molasses

What is the blackstrap in blackstrap molasses? The name ‘blackstrap’ originates from the black ‘strap’ or mark that distinguished the casks of molasses from the casks of raw sugar that  shipped as part of the same cargo.

(see: http://www.processedfreeamerica.org/resources/health-news/287-the-many-benefits)

What about sulphured and unsulphured molasses?

This jar of blackstrap molasses is not sulphured.  Blackstrap molasses can be sulphured or unsulphured. Make sure you check the label when you buy it.

Sulphured molasses: Sulfur dioxide is added as a preservative to keep young, raw sugar cane fresh until it is processed and to preserve the molasses byproducts produced from it. 

Unsulphured molasses: is made from matured cane plants that have been allowed to ripen naturally in the field.

Molasses is made by boiling sugar three times. Each time it goes through a boiling process, it gets darker and the flavor becomes more intense and somewhat bitter. (Just like when you try to make caramel and burn the sugar!)

What is the Nutritional Value of Blackstrap Molasses?

Blackstrap Molasses Nutrition Facts

Blackstrap Molasses Nutrition Facts – Click to enlarge

Blackstrap molasses has a very strong taste. I’ve made the mistake of adding too much to a recipe once. I’ll never make that mistake again. It will take over the flavor of whatever you add it to so be careful not to use too much when you use it.

On the other hand, I don’t know anything that has more Iron than blackstrap molasses. One tablespoon contains 70% of your Daily Value (DV). This is beneficial to pregnant women, those who are anemic, and vegetarians who don’t eat meat.

I don’t remember what I paid for this jar of House of Herbs Blackstrap Molasses, but I do remember that it was the least expensive molasses on the shelf of my local Meijer. 

You can use blackstrap molasses to make baked beans, gingerbread, and gingersnap cookies. 

I made whole wheat bread and although my recipe didn’t call for blackstrap molasses, I have other bread recipes that do, so I added it to this recipe. I often combine recipes, sometimes due to lack of ingredients. For example, I didn’t have the oats needed for the recipe that required blackstrap molasses, so I added the molasses to a different recipe that didn’t require oats.

This is a very delicious whole wheat bread recipe. I highly recommend it for its nutritional value and nutty taste. (I ate three slices when it cooled!)

2 Loaves Whole Wheat Bread

2 Loaves Whole Wheat Bread

I ate two slices for breakfast toasted!

Whole Wheat Toast

Whole Wheat Toast

This bread would be great smeared with peanut butter and probably Nutella would work too. I tried spreading Apricot jam on it and that didn’t work for me but then I’m not that fond of Apricots.

Here is the recipe:

5 1/2 to 6 cups unsifted white flour

2 cups unsifted whole wheat flour 

3 tbsp sugar (I used brown sugar)

4 teas salt

1/4 cup molasses

2 pkgs active dry yeast

2 cups milk

3/4 cup water

1/4 cup butter or margarine

Combine flours. (I don’t combine the flours as the recipe suggests.)

Wheat sxc.hu/umayr http://www.communicate.pk

Wheat sxc.hu/umayr http://www.communicate.pk

In a large bowl thoroughly mix 2 1/2 cups flour mixture, sugar, salt, and undissolved yeast.

By the way, I like to use white whole wheat flour. If you haven’t tried it, I recommend it.

Mill sxc.hu/linder6580/Robert Linder

                                                                             Mill                                                                                                                                                      sxc.hu/linder6580/Robert Linder

Combine milk, water, butter in a saucepan. Heat over low heat until liquids are very warm (120F – 130F). Butter does not need to melt. Gradually add to dry ingredients and beat 2 minutes at medium speed of electric mixer, scraping bowl occasionally. Add 1 cup flour mixture. Beat at high speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Stir in enough additional flour mixture to make a stiff dough. Turn out onto lightly floured board and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap, then a towel. Let rest 20 minutes.

Divide dough in half. Roll each half to a 14 x 9-inch rectangle. Shape into loaves. Place in 2 greased 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pans. Brush loaves with Peanut oil (I omitted this step or you could brush them with melted butter.) Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate 2 to 24 hours.

When ready to bake, remove from refrigerator. Uncover dough carefully. Let stand at room temperature 10 minutes. Puncture any gas bubbles which may have formed with a greased toothpick. Bake at 400F about 40 minutes or until done. Remove from pans and cool on wire racks.

You may have noticed that this recipe calls for kneading.

Kneading

Kneading on a counter  sxc.hu/arinas74 Ariel da Silva Parreira

I do all my kneading in a very large bowl with a somewhat flat bottom. This way I don’t have to flour my counter and get it all sticky with dough. I also don’t roll out my dough with a rolling pin.

Rolling Pin sxc.hu/topfer www.pixelmaster.no

Rolling Pin sxc.hu/topfer http://www.pixelmaster.no

I just stretch the dough out with my hands in the air, like a pizza dough except I make the shape rectangular. I pull it gently so as not to tear it. I even roll it up this way (like rolling up a large map or a scroll or your diploma if that helps you to visualize it.) I couldn’t photograph it because my hands were full of sticky dough. Sticky dough and cameras are not a good mix! You don’t have to do what I do but you can see from the finished results that my method doesn’t hurt the results and saves me some cleanup time.

I’ve made this recipe several times and the results were always good. Try it, or your favorite whole wheat recipe with blackstrap molasses. I think you will like it and it will be so good for you!

P.S. If you want to read an unbelievable, incredible, mind-blowing TRUE story about molasses, click here if you dare

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New Food Friday – Saigon Cinnamon

1 Feb Cassia tree

Cinnamon, what would life be like without it? Stores are named after it: Cinnabon. Strippers are named after it: Cinnamon Buns. Musical groups are named after it: Cinnamon Chasers.

As you may know, cinnamon comes from the bark of a tree. It is one of the oldest known spices. Arab traders brought it from China in 1700 B.C.

It’s that spicy, aromatic, and sweet-hot spice that we love to add to dishes both sweet and savory. This New Food Friday is about Saigon Organic Cinnamon.

If you will recall, last week we (we?) were eating roots of trees (Yuca Root). This week we are eating the bark of trees. If I keep following this path, next week we (we?) could be eating leaves of trees or sap from trees! Perhaps my subconscious is still showing reverence to the almighty tree, after writing a post about the American blight-decimated chestnut tree!

Whatever the case may be, I couldn’t wait to finish using my regular (cassia) cinnamon so I could try my Saigon Cinnamon (which is still cassia cinnamon). Unfortunately, due to misinformation I received on the Internet, this is not the cinnamon I was looking for.

Let me explain. There are two types of cinnamon: one is called cassia cinnamon and the other is Ceylon cinnamon, the “true” cinnamon. I thought I was buying true cinnamon. I was not. In the States, what we know as cinnamon is really the bark of a cassia tree.

Brewster's Cassia - flowering tree

Brewster’s Cassia – flowering tree (Photo credit: Tatters:))

According to the http://www.thefreedictionary.com, the definition of a cassia tree is a tropical Asian evergreen tree (Cinnamomum cassia) having aromatic bark used as a substitute for cinnamon.

English: Bark of Cassia siamia tree ocurring i...

Bark of Cassia siamia tree (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, as far as cinnamon goes, Saigon Cinnamon is absolutely delicious! If you shake some on your finger and taste it, it is sweet as if there was sugar mixed in with the cinnamon. This surprised me!

It has that wonderful zing to it and I’m sure you already know that the aroma is divine. It is hard for me to imagine how much better “true” cinnamon would be! But I will continue to be on the lookout for it!

True cinnamon comes from Ceylon from the bark of a true cinnamon tree.  However, since 1972, the island country known as Ceylon changed its name to Sri Lanka.

Tea plantation in Sri Lanka

Tea plantation in Sri Lanka (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is situated off the coast of India and is often referred to as the “teardrop of India.” This is due to its shape like a teardrop. To add to the name confusion, they still call the true cinnamon, Ceylon Cinnamon (and not Sri Lanka cinnamon). 

In this photo below, you can see the difference between Ceylon cinnamon (left) and Indonesian (cassia) cinnamon (right).

English: Ceylon cinnamon (cinnamomum verum) an...

Ceylon cinnamon and Indonesian cinnamon (photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ceylon Cinnamon has citrus overtones and a rich buff color. It is less strong than cassia cinnamon, and lacks bite.  Ceylon cinnamon sticks are papery thin. It is the favorite cinnamon of both Europe and Mexico. It will shine in custard, cinnamon ice cream, Dutch pears, stewed rhubarb, steamed puddings, dessert syrups, or mixed into whipped cream.

According to the label of McCormick’s Organic Saigon Cinnamon,

Saigon Cinnamon Jar

Saigon Cinnamon Jar

it has been harvested from the central highlands of Vietnam and is the highest quality 100% organic cinnamon. That’s good enough for me! It was pricey as you can imagine. I think I paid over $4.00 for it for a 1.5 oz jar. It has a Best Buy date of October, 2014. It is long-lasting unlike many other spices which are best used within a 6-month period for optimum taste.

I decided to make cinnamon raisin bread with my Saigon Cinnamon. The results were great.

Cinnamon Loaves

Cinnamon Loaves

I baked two loaves on Tuesday and my house still smells like cinnamon. (You might want to remember this when the Christmas holidays come around, or if you want to sell your house!)  I love to pull apart a slice and “unwind” the curled bread. It brings out the kid in me, what can I say.

Cinnamon Loaf Sliced

Cinnamon Loaf Sliced

If you’ve never made cinnamon bread, you have to roll out the dough into a flat rectangle, brush with melted butter, and sprinkle a cinnamon sugar mixture over the whole thing. Then you sprinkle on the raisins.  Then you roll up the short end, or the end close to you, like rolling up a carpet.

Can you see in the photo where I began rolling up the dough? My recipe called for three eggs and I substituted two cups of white whole wheat flour for the white flour to make it more nutritious.

The recipe also called for a cinnamon, sugar, flour, butter, crumb topping which was just added work and totally unnecessary and then makes a mess when you slice it.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread is delicious toasted and buttered with or without jam for breakfast. I used to eat cream cheese and jelly sandwiches on raisin bread at school when I was a kid, which is very good! It’s also good made into French Toast although I haven’t tried that myself. I also like it plain as a snack while watching TV in the evening.

There are many cinnamon raisin bread recipes online and it is amazing that they are all different! Look for one that has a lot of good reviews or get one from a trusted site like Martha Stewart or Epicurious. Use whatever cinnamon you have on hand but if you are running out of cinnamon, try the Saigon Cinnamon. It’s very good! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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