Archive | January, 2013

New Food Friday – Yuca Root or Cassava

25 Jan Yuca Soup with Tortilla Chips

Yuca Root is the food I’m discussing today for New Food Friday. This is a very unattractive-looking food.  It is also called Cassava, Mogo, Manioc, Mandioca, and Kamoteng kahoy. 

Yucca Root

Yuca Root

Yuca Root is dark brown and comes from the root of the Yuca Plant. The root looks yucky,  doesn’t it?

Cassava plant

Cassava or Yuca Plant

The leaves of the plant are also eaten as they contain protein whereas the root contains very little protein. Although Yuca Root isn’t much in the “looks” department, its “personality” WOWS! In 2/3 of a cup of cooked Yuca, it provides 80% of your daily requirement of Vitamin C.  It is also high in iron, providing 20% of your daily requirement.  It doesn’t do too badly in the calcium department either earning a full 8%.

There is a lot of confusing information online and part of the problem is that there is also a plant called the Yucca Plant (spelled with a double “c”). Both the Yucca and the Yuca have edible parts but as far as I can tell from the information I’ve gathered, they are not botanically related! In any event, my time spent researching the differences has been fascinating! 

I bought my Yuca Root at my local Meijer.  The label attached to this vegetable stated that it could be prepared in the same way you would prepare a potato.  Here are further Nutrition Facts. 

Yucca Root Label

Click to Enlarge

This Yuca Root is a product of Costa Rica. 

Originally a native to South America, Yuca Root has become an important staple of Africa. Although there are many varieties of Yuca Root, there are only 2 main categories: bitter & sweet. I would say this Yuca falls under the sweet category. You may be surprised to learn that Yuca is used as a thickener in the making of tapioca. 

Storing Yuca

Store Yuca whole in a cool, dark, dry place for up to one week. Store peeled Yuca in the refrigerator covered with water or wrap and freeze for several months.

The thick skin of Yuca Root should be peeled and the fibrous core removed before using. (I forgot to remove the core because there was hardly any core to remove!) Do not use a vegetable peeler, the peel is thick and has a wax coating.

Paring a Yuca Root

Paring a Yuca Root

If you are short on time, as I was, you can peel the Yuca Root and put it in some water, cover, and place it in the refrigerator to use in a recipe for the next day or so. The water looks cloudy because of the starch in the Yuca Root.

Yuca Root in Water

Yuca Root in Water

The melissas.com website offers a soup recipe for Yuca Root along with Chayote (Remember that post?). I made the soup. Here is the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 3 Chayote Squash (approximately 1 pound) peeled and sliced
  • 1 Yuca Root (approximately 1 pound) peeled and diced
  • 1 Organic Yellow Onion (approximately 10 ounces) finely chopped
  • 3 cloves Organic Garlic peeled and chopped
  • 6 cups Vegetable Stock or Chicken Stock
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Jalapeno Chile seeded and diced
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin ground
  • Salt and White Pepper to taste
  • Organic Avocado diced for garnish
  • Crema for garnish

Directions

In a soup pot, sauté onion, garlic, and jalapeno chile with olive oil for 5 minutes over medium heat. I used canned, whole jalapeno and diced one.

Stir in cumin. Add vegetable or chicken stock, chayote, and yuca root.

Bring to a boil and simmer for 35 to 45 minutes, or until yuca root is soft.

Allow soup to cool and then puree in a blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Reheat before serving. Garnish with avocado and crema.

I didn’t have any vegetable or chicken stock on hand so I added carrots, fennel, and celery to my pot, plus six cups of water. Then I added a tablespoon of Low Sodium Chicken Bouillon. I did not add any salt or pepper to the soup because I didn’t think it needed any. The jalapeno made it peppery enough and the salt from the Bouillon made it salty enough, at least for me.

I didn’t have any homemade bread to go with my soup other than cinnamon raisin bread, so I decided to make Tortilla “Chips” with tortillas I purchased at the store. I had corn and whole wheat tortillas. These chips are easily made.

Brush one side of the tortilla with oil. (I used olive oil.) Sprinkle whatever you like on them. I sprinkled grated lime rind and Mexene’s Chili Powder. (Mexene’s Chili Powder does contain some salt.) I didn’t sprinkle any extra salt on them because they already contain too much salt. I should have read the ingredients of the package more closely.

Tortillas, Jalapeno, Chili Powder, Lime

Tortillas, Jalapeno, Chili Powder, Lime

Then, cut them into wedges and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until they don’t feel “leathery” when you bite into them. They should be crisp. Watch carefully so they don’t overcook!

I was too hungry to let the soup cool and then puree in a blender according to the recipe! I was thinking about removing my vegetables and using my emersion blender to blend the Yuca and the Chayote but I decided I wanted to see what they tasted like without blending them. I wanted to know what the mouth feel would be. 

Warning:  NEVER  eat Yuca Root raw. It contains hydrocyanic acid, which can cause cyanide poisoning. Thoroughly cooking the root removes the acid and makes it safe to eat. The sweeter Yuca is less toxic than the bitter Yuca.

The Results

After having eaten the soup, I’m still alive!

Ok, so I have a macabre sense of humor. Just remember that millions of people rely on this food to STAY alive! It is a staple food in many countries! It is also used world wide as animal feed. 

As for the soup, the Chayote was very tender and melted in my mouth. The surprise was the Yuca. It had a great mouth feel. It was similar to the consistency of a boiled potato. Not the taste of a potato, but the consistency. Maybe even a little bit firmer. I was very glad I didn’t blenderize it. The soup was delicious! I served it with the chips and skipped the avocado and crema.

Yuca Soup with Tortilla Chips

Yuca Soup with Tortilla Chips

The bottom line is Yuca Root isn’t yucky! Shucks, according to information online it is pronunced yoo-cah. What killjoys. Can’t a girl have any fun? All kidding aside, try this soup. It’s different, low in calories, flavorful, and will warm you up!

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New Food Friday – Radis Dejeuner Francais

18 Jan Radish Featured Image

In my past posts, I’ve covered some Italian vegetables and some foods used by Brazilians and Lebanese, and also  some used by the Japanese. Today, the French make my post for New Food Friday with their French Breakfast Radish or Radis Dejeuner Francais.

I thought all red radishes were alike but when I saw the French label, I was intrigued!

Radish Label

Radish Label – Click me to read French

When I got the radishes home, they seemed a bit wilted, so I let them soak in some cold water. That revived them quite a bit!

Radish & Greens Soaking

Radish & Greens Soaking

The Radis Dejeuner Francais are white tipped. Here is a another photo so you can see how much of the radishes are white.

Radish & Greens Closeup

Radish & Greens Closeup

I found a recipe for potato salad that called for radishes and decided to use my French radishes. I ate a couple of the radishes raw and found them to be very mild.

Radishes contain Vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, folate, and potassium. The bright red coloring indicates the presence of anthocyadinins, which are antioxidants. Radishes stimulate digestion.

In my potato salad, they were so mild as to be

Radish Salad & Watermelon Container & Spaghetti Holder

Radish Potato Salad 

indistinguishable in the salad! It was not the result I was hoping for. I thought these radishes would give the salad some “bite” but all they did was give the salad a pinkish color which was pretty, but I was interested more in flavor, not color.

The recipes I found online called for French Breakfast Radishes in salads and sandwiches.  The most highly recommended use was raw, with butter and salt which is the classic way the French eat them. That doesn’t sound appealing to me at all but I wish I had tried it before I made my salad!

Radish Night is December 23 in Oaxaca, Mexico ...

Radish Night-December 23 Oaxaca, Mexico – flickr

On the other hand, while the poor radish with the breakfast name doesn’t get eaten for breakfast by the French, it instead gets celebrated by the Mexicans on December 23, in Oaxaca, Mexico on Radish Night. Does that mean that Mexicans eat radishes on the evening of December 23? 

I don’t know and I’m not inclined to guess since I was wrong about the breakfast radishes! Look closely at the calendar photo. Everything is made of radishes!

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14 Jan Kiah

This is a post by my friend Marcy. Yes, we have the same nickname. She wrote about her pet, Kiah, whom she lost a short while ago. It is not a sad post, how could it be? It is filled with photos of Kiah, the least sad dog in this world or any other ; – )

Hot Rod Cowgirl

Every once in a while when you grow up living on a ranch…you will own a special dog, a once in a lifetime dog, a dog filled with heart and love for you…and your heart fills with love for them and they become your forever friend…the best dog you have ever had. When we lost Kiah December 30, 2012, we lost one of the best…she truly was our heart, our girl, our silly Ki Yippee Yi and we loved her so much.

SONY DSC

Many of you who have followed my blog have been introduced to Kiah…looking at her face, you can see her heart in her eyes…she was so smart and intuitive as she seemed to know what you were thinking!

SONY DSC

Kiah came to live with us in June 2011…turning a year old in September 2011. A good friend of ours mentioned to us that he knew the breeders were looking…

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New Food Friday – Chestnuts

11 Jan Chestnut Burr
American Chestnut

American Chestnut                     flickr: hickmanwoods

You’ve all heard the song, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”  But have you tasted a chestnut? Better yet, have you tasted a roasted chestnut? It’s time to investigate chestnuts on New Food Friday.

Whereas most nuts are hard, chestnuts are relatively soft and moist.  They’re firm and they’re also a bit sweet! Does that sound like a nut to you? Well, it might interest you to know that the botanical definition of a nut is a dry fruit!

Roasted chestnuts are a common street food. You can find them in many countries. I remember them fondly on the streets of New York City many years ago. You could smell them roasting for blocks. They’re great to eat in the wintertime because they are hot and if you wear your mittens, you can hold a few in your hands, warming your cold fingers while you wait for the chestnuts to cool off.

Chestnuts Hot!

Chestnuts Hot!

Chestnuts are low in fat and calories compared to a walnut which has 3 times the amount of calories. I bought a container of chestnuts at Meijer and they were originally $4.49 reduced to $1.49.  The package stated “Italian Chestnuts” so I’m assuming they were imported from Italy. I’m lucky I found them reduced. They were the best chestnuts I’ve ever eaten! At least to my memory. 

Almost all fresh chestnuts sold in your local markets are imported. These imported chestnuts come from all over the world–Italy, Spain, Korea, China, and sometimes even Portugal, according to http://www.buychestnuts.com/

Chestnut Unshelled with Bowl

Chestnut Unshelled with Bowl

When you roast them, you want to be sure to puncture them with the point of a sharp knife. In fact, make an “x” because just one puncture might not do. I had one explode in my toaster oven when I only gave it one puncture. They are like baking potatoes in that sense. If you don’t puncture a potato well and bake it in the oven, it will explode! I have experience with both unfortunately! They are a mess to clean up. 

Speaking of messes, when I work with flour, which is often because I like to bake, I manage to get flour everywhere. Although I’ve never used Chestnut flour, I imagine it wouldn’t be any different. Chestnut flour is favored in many Tuscany recipes. Chestnuts are found in some recipes in America on Thanksgiving. Some folks like to make their turkey stuffing with chestnuts. I would love to try that. It sounds delicious!

I used to see many of these chestnut burrs 

Chestnut Burr

Chestnut Burr sxc.hu – mordoc-(France)

on the ground on my way home from school when I was growing up. Whether they were the true American Chestnuts, I don’t know but I’m inclined to think so. The trees on this one particular block were very old and not just Chestnut trees. I remember Oak leaves in the mix. Their roots caused a major upheaval on the sidewalks over the years, causing permanent “ocean waves” that were a challenge to navigate, especially when Fall came and colorful slippery leaves covered the ground. When I went back, six years ago, all the old trees were gone, cut down, and in place of the shady canopy, sunshine and new sidewalks. To me it looked bare and ugly. I preferred the undulating sidewalks!

Chestnut Avenue

                          Chestnut Avenue, reminds me of my walk home from school                                                    sxc.hu – stockcharl(Germany)

When I was in school, I learned the poem, “Under the spreading chestnut tree the village smithy stands.” Some of you might recognize that poem.

sxc.hu - all81-Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree

                                    Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree                                                                            sxc.hu – all81(Netherlands)

The story of the American Chestnut Tree is a sad one. You may have heard it from your parents or grandparents. It’s been said that the East Coast American Chestnut Tree was the equivalent of the West Coast Redwood Tree.  Imagine how devastating it would be if we lost our Redwoods.

“The story is that the chestnut supported from cradle to grave,” says Bill Alexander, landscape curator of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. “You were rocked to sleep as a baby in a chestnut cradle and you were buried in a chestnut casket.” (Read more: http://www.motherearthnews.com/Nature-Community/1998-08-01/Chestnut-Revival.aspx#ixzz2HEhNgEbe)

Here are excerpts from The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) website.

“The American chestnut tree reigned over 200 million acres of eastern woodlands from Maine to Florida, and from the Piedmont west to the Ohio Valley, until succumbing to a lethal fungus infestation, known as the chestnut blight, during the first half of the 20th century. An estimated 4 billion American chestnuts, 1/4 of the hardwood tree population, grew within this range.

Scary or Scared Chestnut Trees? sxc.hu algiamil

                                     Scary or Scared Chestnut Trees?                                                                                    sxc.hu algiamil(Italy)

The American chestnut tree was an essential component of the entire eastern US ecosystem. A late-flowering, reliable, and productive tree, unaffected by seasonal frosts, it was the single most important food source for a wide variety of wildlife from bears to birds. Rural communities depended upon the annual nut harvest as a cash crop to feed livestock. The chestnut lumber industry was a major sector of rural economies. Chestnut wood is straight-grained and easily worked, lightweight and highly rot-resistant, making it ideal for fence posts, railroad ties, barn beams and home construction, as well as for fine furniture and musical instruments.

The blight, imported to the US on Asian chestnut trees, is a fungus dispersed via spores in the air, raindrops or animals. It eventually kills the tree.

In 1989 TACF established the Wagner Research Farm, a breeding station in Meadowview, Virginia, to execute the backcross breeding program developed by Philip Rutter, Dr. David French and the late Dr. Charles Burnham, three of TACF’s founding scientists. Two independent reviews of TACF’s scientific mission, methods, and results, were conducted in 1999 and in 2006 by prominent scientists from around the world. They concluded that the vision of The American Chestnut Foundation to restore the American chestnut to its native habitat in the United States is being accomplished through the breeding program & other TACF activities, and that regional adaptability is key to a successful reintroduction of the American chestnut tree.

Today, TACF’s Meadowview Research Farms have over 30,000 trees at various stages of breeding, planted on more than 160 acres of land.”

Chestnut blight. Experimental trials of resist...

Experimental trials of resistant Castanea dentata by the American Chestnut Foundation at Tower Hill Botanic Garden, Boylston, Massachusetts, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The comeback of the American Chestnut tree sounds promising.

For more information, to learn how you can participate,  and to hear Dolly Parton’s new song about the American Chestnut, click here.

In the meantime, while you are waiting for the American Chestnut to make its comeback, try the European chestnut sold in your supermarket. Although it is the end of the season for chestnuts, you might get lucky and still be able to find some at your supermarket. They were out of them at Meijer when I went back for more, but they were still selling them at my local K-Mart. Otherwise, you may find chestnuts sold in Michigan and a few other states where chestnut hybrids are planted.                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

New Food Friday – Chayote

4 Jan Chayote on the Vine - wikipedia - Thuydaonguyen

Although they’re spelled and pronounced similarly, Chayote and Coyote are two different animals. In fact, Chayote is a fruit! You already know what a Coyote looks like

and that is why I’m posting Chayote as the new food for New Food Friday.

Chayote, pronounced Cha-i-O-tee, is a fruit that is used like a vegetable.  It is originally native to Mexico or Central America.ChayoteIt is a very pretty pale green and the easiest produce I have ever peeled, fruit or vegetable! My paring knife just glides and therefore it is a pleasure to prepare.

As far as texture, it is like a cucumber or pickle: juicy and crunchy. But it doesn’t taste like a cucumber or pickle. It’s one of those fruits that has a taste that is hard to describe. It’s a pleasant taste, and mild flavored. I thought I detected a slightly peppery aftertaste on my first bite which was raw. It can be eaten raw in salads but I chose to roast it along with a medley of other vegetables. 

Chayote with Mixed Veggies

Chayote with Mixed Veggies, Olive Oil, Salt & Pepper

When I roast vegetables, I usually roast them with chicken. I didn’t have any chicken on hand this time but that’s OK.  Roasted vegetables are very good on their own. If you can call all the spices I put on them “on their own”!

Chayote on the Vine - wikipedia - Thuydaonguyen

Chayote on the Vine – wikipedia – Thuydaonguyen

I drizzled olive oil on cut brussels sprouts, russet potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and piled the Chayote pieces on top. Everything got a spattering of salt and pepper. One side of the pan got dill, the other side got some other spice. The sweet potatoes got dashes of cinnamon, and since I had fresh mint on hand, I tore up some mint leaves and sprinkled them over top too. I also had fresh tarragon and sprinkled those leaves over top too. I shook some cayenne pepper over everything.

This is how I usually prepare roasted veggies with chicken: I line the pan with parchment paper, add a mixture of spices, whatever strikes my fancy, and roast them at 425F for about 45 minutes or until the vegetables are charred and the chicken skin is crispy and to my liking. This is a very healthful way to eat vegetables.

Chayote with Mixed Veggies & Spices

Chayote with Mixed Veggies, Olive Oil, Spices & Herbs

Chayote with Mixed Veggies & Spices Roasted

Chayote with Mixed Veggies, Olive Oil, & Spices Roasted

I did this batch with my new convection toaster oven which cooks 25% quicker. I’m still getting used to it. The results were delicious! So, what tasted the best? Here are the results in order of preference:

1. The brussels sprouts (mmm, very good!)

2. The Chayote

3. The sweet potatoes

4. The russet potatoes

5. The carrots

Usually, I also add an onion quartered but as you can see from the photos, I had no room! Sometimes I add an apple, other times a quartered tomato.

I paid $.99/lb for my Chayote at Meijer or $.52 since it was a small one.

Chayote has a small soft seed which is edible but I removed it.

Chayote halved with Seed - Wikipedia

Chayote halved with Seed – Wikipedia

Nutritional Facts (from USDA)

Serving Size: 3.5 oz

Calories: 19

Sodium: 2mg

Carbs:  5g

Fiber: 2g

Sugar: 2g

Protein: 1g

Vitamin C: 1%

Calcium: 2%

Iron: 2%

Vitamin B6: 4%

Folate: 23%

Manganese: 9%

To see a further breakdown of nutrients, go to this USDA webpage. 

Chayote has a pleasing texture and a mild taste. It is low in calories and very versatile because it can be added raw to a salad, made into a soup, or stuffed and baked. Chayote is worth trying.

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Standing/Sitting Desk Workstation – Free!

1 Jan Standing Desk with Mat

Too much sitting has been under the gun as the latest bad health habit. Momentum has been gaining in companies to offer standing desk workstations to their employees. Some include treadmills!   What about us bloggers who sit in front of the computer day after day? We can’t run out and buy the latest standing desk workstation. Some will run you upwards of $4,000!

standing desk 2.0

Standing desk with chair 2.0 (Photo credit: A.J. Kandy)

Some say women will get increased problems with varicose veins using standing desk workstations. My thought was that some people would have swollen feet. Since this is a rather “new” idea in the workplace for many, there isn’t much data to prove that standing all day is better than sitting all day. So, like most things, my feeling is that it’s best to do both standing and sitting in moderation. 

Sitting at desk with feet up

Sitting at desk with feet up – sxc.hu/cornnius – Maria Luisa Gutierrez

One of the benefits of doing more standing is that you burn more calories than if you just sat all day. However, some claim that there are many more benefits to standing, including adding years to your life! You know that if something benefits your health, you can be sure that it will be posted in this blog.

Create Your Own Standing Desk

I researched and wrote an article about how I created a standing desk workstation that could be converted back to a sitting desk workstation in less than 5 minutes, (actually less than 1 minute), without spending any money. The initial setup may take a few hours depending on what you have on hand and how creative you are.

I’ve been using my workstation now for over a week. I had forgotten how tiring it is to stand all day! But how great it feels when you finally sit down! Like the guy in the photo, you may want to put your feet up after standing at a standing desk workstation!

I’ve converted my article into a blog post that explains how to set up the standing desk workstations. It’s worth checking out.

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