Archive - November 2010

What and how to eat to stay thin this winter

You would rather stay in and curl up during these cold winter months, but the best part about winter the hibernation mode makes everything seems more delicious.  Why not?  It is already cold come Thanksgiving, what’s four weeks more for Christmas and the New Year’s?  Besides, as December lands, there is now the unending stream of Christmas parties, get-togethers, and all sorts of reunions.  Somehow the social calendar pumps up, and the best way to warm up is to eat up and drink more.

Unfortunately, this typical holiday habit can significantly affect your weight.  So the first thing to get rid of that notorious holiday weight is to avoid it in the first place.

Maybe as early as now you are thinking of strategies to keep off the weight and not miss out on the yummy holiday food and to keep warm during the winter.  There are actually some tips you can apply which will help you manage your weight better as you live through the next few months.

1) Focus on the protein – some may think that carbohydrates will make you feel fuller; although this is true, protein actually has the same effect without the unnecessary calories and starch.  What’s more, as your body digests the protein, it produces more heat, hence keeping you warm.  If you’re not up for eating beans, chickpeas or lentils the entire holidays, you can enjoy meat as long as it’s lean.  Try chicken and turkey breast, some fish and shellfish, and for a quick filling snack, open a can of tuna.

2) Don’t get hungry: snack throughout the day – if you think that starving the whole day gives you a free ticket to eat anything later in the day, you’re wrong.   Binging will not help your diet nor will it do good to your body.  Keep your body warm the whole day by snacking on healthy food such as fruit, nuts, low-carb chips, light popcorn and sugarless candy.  What to do when they start handing out candy canes?  Take it and save it for the children.

3) Eat warm – it will greatly help if you start eating warm food this winter, from your breakfast cereal (try porridge) and even your salad.  Warm meals will keep you warm, thus your body does not need to use stored energy to warm you up; instead, the energy will be used to digest and break down your food.

4) Enjoy the holidays – don’t deprive yourself.  Some may feel guilty for passing up on the food during the holidays, but it will only make you feel bad and even hungry!  Again, an important practice should be applied: portion control.  And eat as long as you’re hungry.  Don’t worry about the turkey or the desserts running out; it’s going to be a long season, you have weeks to enjoy all the food.  Spread the food treats evenly.

5) Avoid caffeine after your first cup – we all need a kick in the morning, but during winter season, caffeine can further drive your body to a dehydrated state.  This will make your body temperature drop; this will not only make you feel cold by your reserved body heat  will go on survival mode instead of breaking down the calories.  Opt for drinks with lower caffeine count such as chai tea, and enjoy it with skimmed milk.  Not only you will feel warmer, the drink has lower calories too.

6) Last but not the least, exercise - it will keep you warm and it will keep your heart pumping.  You’ll lose the weight, and you’ll keep warm toom!

How Kosher Works

For the non-Jewish and those who do not know, the term “kosher” probably sounds like a food ingredient or a way of cooking: there’s kosher salt and the question, “Is that kosher?”  In a way, kosher is true that way, but kosher is actually a set of foods that are allowed under Jewish Halakhic law framework.  Kosher is thereby part of the Jewish dietary law which is based on the Bible, particularly in the book of Leviticus.

Hence, what determines what is kosher or not?  In a way kosher can be quite complicated because there are indeed rules, but to make life simpler for most people, kosher can actually be purchased.  There are some basic rules that govern kosher food, and the approach can basically start with meat, dairy and parve or other foods that do not contain meat or dairy.

Meat is considered kosher if it came from an animal that had split hooves and chewed it cud.  Hence, cow, goat lamb, chicken, turkey, some ducks and goose are considered kosher.  Pig, camel and rabbit are not kosher meat.  Another criteria for kosher meat is the way it is slaughtered; it should executed by a shochet or a specialist, and the correct means to cleanse it from blood by soaking and salting it.  Another important point is if an animal eats other animals or the food of other animals, they are not kosher.

The rule on dairy is pretty simple.  Kosher dairy should come from a kosher animal.  However, should dairy is combined with meat, it is no longer kosher.

For parve or other foods, the rules are simple as well.  Fruits, grains and vegetables that are prepared in their natural state are kosher.  Fish that have fins and scales are kosher as well; examples are salmon, halibut and flounder.  Other seafood such as shellfish, underwater mammals, and meat-eating fish are not kosher.  Another rule is that should a parve is cooked with meat, it is considered meat; if cooked with dairy, it is dairy.  Again, the meat and dairy separation applies to parve.

Kosher, however, does not end in food.  It extends to the utensils used and the proper way people should eat meat and dairy, which basically requires a six hour separation for some communities. A kosher kitchen should follow strict rules such as separating the utensils that are used for meat and dairy, and there are strict rules when it comes to materials used for non-kosher food.

The question is, do all Jewish people strictly follow the kosher diet?  The answer is no.  Many reformed Jews do not follow kosher anymore, but there remains a significant amount of people who abide by these rules.  Some follow certain rules such as avoiding non-kosher meat, but in this day and age, it is almost impossible to avoid certain kosher rules, especially when it comes to the separation of meat and dairy, and the maintenance of a kosher kitchen.

Recipe of the Day – Sufganiyot

A sufganiyah is a jelly-filled doughnut widely cooked in Israel and Jewish families.    The name is from the Hebrew word sfog which means sponge; this pertains to the sponge-like texture of the small ball of pastry that is deep-fried, filled with jelly, and the sprinkled with powdered sugar.  Sufganiyot is a common pastry served during the Hannukah seasona, and it symbolizes the burning oil lamps that are celebrated during the Jewish Festival of Lights.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water

1/4 cup of sugar

1 teaspoon sugar

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 teaspoons salt

3 cups vegetable oil

1 cup seedless raspberry jam

Extra sugar, flour and oil

Directions

Make the rising component by combining the yeast, warm water and teaspoon of sugar in a small bowl.  Wait for 10 minutes or until it foams.

Put the flour in a large bowl, and then make a well in the middle.  Add the eggs, yeast mixture, sugar, butter, nutmeg and salt.  Stir the mixture using a wooden spoon until it forms a sticky dough.

Put the dough on a floured board and knead until it is smooth and soft.  Check by poking it; if it bounces back, put the dough in an oiled bowl.  Cover it with a plastic wrap, place it in a warm place, and let it rise for about 1 to 1 ½ hours until it doubles in size.

After it rises, roll the dough on a floured board until it is about ¼ inch thick.  Cut circles on the dough using a cookie cutter (2 ½ inches) or you can use a glass with the same diameter.  Place these patties again in an oiled bowl, cover, set aside, and wait until it rises, maybe in about 15 minutes.

Prepare the saucepan by heating it over medium heat.  Pour in the oil and wait until the temperature reads 370 degrees.  Gently slip the doughnuts into the oil and fry; should be about 40 seconds on one side, and another 40 seconds on the other.  Take out the doughnuts and roll in sugar.

Get a pastry bag and use a #4 tip.  Fill in the bag with jam.  Poke one side of the doughnut with a toothpick, and inject the jam into the small hole.

What’s Cookin’ on Twitter- Winter Food

It’s been a cold, chilly day.  So what’s on the menu on Twitter?

ResideLiving is all bright and sunny today, shouting out in Twitterworld:

Good morning, friends! Sending sunny thoughts and hot coffee wishes to you on this bleak morning!

Hot coffee is definitely on the ticket today, but where is the sun?  Winter has so far made a lot of people on winter mode, and when it comes to food, winter can be quite problematic as Viedictator shares:

winter always makes me hungry & hungry…but there’s no food in my room except instant noodle & corn flakes =3=

Oh winter.  You make us all dream of getting warm and keeping warm.  JessRox18 is thinking of the perfect winter daydream:

I agree RT @cindizz: You know what sounds fantastic right now? Being back in bed, or sipping hot chocolate near a warm fire. Not work.

In addition to getting warm and cozy, some can go on and on with what goes well with winter, as giraffetweet ticks off the list:

definitley a day for our hot chocolate with marshmallows or the warm winter cider -apple, cinnamon & vanilla #snowdrinks

Speaking of lists and people getting cold, alicelowe writes down the perfect winter food list… and the perfect way to get them.

if you’re going to the shop I would like some bread, milk, chocolate and a winter’s supply of food and booze. thanks. pay you back later

And we’ll see you later Twitter so keep warm!

Food Blog Digest – Doughnut Love

Whether you love the hole or the whole thing, doughnuts will always be one of the most in-demand sweets that people have come to love.  Today, let us visit some blogs posts which are dedicated to this magic ring of sugar, pastry and different yummy goodies.

This is Why You’re Fat – Doughnut Pizza

Okay, so the only round thing about this doughnut is that it is shaped like a pizza dough, but who doesn’t want to have their pizza and eat their doughnut too?  This is probably not good to those who are watching their weight or have health issues, but this post is worth a look if you’ve always wondered if a doughnut pizza is even possible.  Don’t tell Homer Simpson.

The Everyday Food Blog – Pumpkin Doughnut

Here’s another sweet inspiration to look at, obviously inspired by the Thanksgiving hype the week before.  Although the post is about a purchased doughnut in a bakeshop, this post gives you an idea as to what else we do with this lovely round of dough,

The Tasty Kitchen Blog – Apple Cider Doughnut Hole

The Tasty Kitchen shares a link to a doughnut hole recipe flavored with apple cider.  It may seem like an unlikely combination, but apparently this is a small ball of heaven.  Go ahead and try it — there’s a printable recipe to follow.

Chef at Large – Homemade Doughnuts

Now this is an interesting take on home-made doughnut from an Indian food blog.  Although the recipe is for a sweet glazed doughnut, it promises a quick road to doughnut heaven.

The Novice Chef Blog – Polish Doughnut

The Novice Chef blogged about her adventure in making Polish doughnuts or Paczi.  A paczi is a jelly-filled doughnut with icing sugar topping, which can be further topped with nuts and candied fruit.  This recipe will make you think twice if you really want to get rid of doughnuts altogether.

Is it the end for the bluefin tuna?

Apparently, the fate of wildlife is in the hands of negotiations.

The Atlantic bluefin tuna, or the Iccat, has been subject to a recent hot debate as to whether nations should be allowed to increase or stabilize the allowable limits as to how much bluefin tuna can be caught.  As far as negotiations went in the past years, the limit had been lowered from 32,500 tons to 13,500.  In the recent meetings at the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, many advocacies have been pressing to further lower the limit because bluefin tuna is already an endangered species.  The past years have been consisted of many talks and discussions as to the social and economic feasibility of the imposed limits, especially as the demand for bluefin tuna is especially high in Japan, which consumes 80% of the bluefin catch.

The events evidently illustrate how the survival of the Iccats seems to be placed in hopeless conditions.  Although some may commend that the suggestion to maintain the limit at 13,500, this number may not be enough to achieve the targeted sustainable bluefin tuna population rate by 2020.  This is to say that even with this supposed lowered number of Iccat catch, the species is still subject to potential extinction because this amount, although controlled, is still tantamount to overfishing.

The bluefin tuna, whether they’re caught from the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, or the Pacific, has been in a critical state in terms of their overall population.  The bluefins at the Gulf were victimized at the recent oil spill, thus their numbers in American waters have substantially decreased.  At the Pacific, the bluefin population has been subject to the overfishing of Japanese fishermen; even though Japan has signed a limited amount of bluefin catch, the country is not without the notorious black market which creates a demand that exceeds the agreed quota.  The negotiations on the Iccat would turn out to be a spring of hope for many environmentalists and bluefin tuna advocates.  Unfortunately, with the turnout of the meetings, even the European Union tries to find a reasonable point of negotiation that was supposed to make everyone happy.

European fishing nations such as France, Spain and Italy were expected to fight for an increase in the quota because the current numbers are economically unfeasible.  The economic opportunities brought by the Iccats can be seen in how these nations are in trade agreements with Japan that would ensure bluefin tuna supply in the country.  What comes with high demand is a high price; the Japanese are not too happy with the prospect that their beloved sushi would decrease in supply just because they don’t have enough bluefin tuna.

However, from the point view of the environmentalists, the need to lower the allowable quota is based on the fact that there are not enough bluefin tunas that could sustain the demand.  This thereby leads to an acceleration of bluefin tuna extinction.  This tug-of-war between conservation and economic objectives may seem ridiculous, but for some, a demand is a demand.  This is why many nations look at bluefin tuna scientists who can provide the important facts as to whether it is still alright to catch Iccats in its current quota or their current state already calls for tighter restrictions on the allowable limit.

At this point, it can be observed that the bluefin tuna is caught in a net of politicization, business negotiations, and groups that aim to save them.  Conservation can be a pretty dirty game.  What is interesting is that for Japan, bluefin tuna is just food, and they would pay any amount as long as their demand does not get threatened.  It is unfortunate for many nations that economic gain remains to be a priority.  It is more unfortunate for the bluefin tuna that their fates are already determined with handshakes and the belief that their only place is either in the waters or on a sushi plate.

The Benefits of Black Garlic

Black garlic? The first time I heard it, the first thing that entered my mind was that: isn’t that rotten garlic? Good thing I was wrong, because I just got myself introduced into the wonderful world of what you might call as the next big thing when it comes to spices.

Black garlic is a just like any other garlic. It got its black coloration because it underwent careful fermentation at a high temperature. The result are black-colored cloves, that have a mildly flavorful taste, and a unique aroma that tickles the senses. It is the perfect flavouring for many Asian cuisines that require garlic as an ingredient.

Although it was first introduced by a Japanese researcher about five years ago, the use of black garlic is primarily connected to Koreans. Even so, Korea has only been using black garlic just recently. And it’s only now that the American market developed the taste for such cooking. With the many attributes of it as a health food, Americans are now using black more and more in their dishes.

Now what are the health benefits of black garlic? First of all, it has twice as much antioxidants compared to regular garlic. It also contains S-Allcysteine, which is a compound that has been found to prevent cancer. It also has anti-bacterial properties that help in fight infection and improve immunity. Not bad contents for an herb Taoist’s recognize as a source of immortality.

Now, what kind of dishes can we prepare using black garlic? Here are some of them:

(Click “Next” to see the dishes with black garlic)

The Heat on Hot Chocolate

The cocoa bean is the heart of chocolate.  The history of chocolate, in that case, roots from the cocoa bean which grew from cocoa trees in Central and South America.  The early chocolate drink was actually made by the Mayans by grinding the cocoa beans to form a paste, and then it was mixed with water, corn meal, chili peppers and others.  The cold mixture is poured from one cup to another vessel until a foam was formed.  Hence, instead of the sweet hot chocolate we are all used to, the original cocoa drink was a mixture of bitter, thick and spicy, and it was actually cold.  The Aztecs would also adapt the same approach to making their hot chocolate, and other ingredients such as vanilla and achiote would become part of the concoction.  The popularity of the chocolate drink was it helped to fight fatigue, and because it was dubbed food of the gods, particularly the goddess of fertility Xochiquetzal, chocolate drink was also part of the sacred offerings of that era.

Fast forward to a few centuries later, the Spaniards discovered this fruit when they fought to conquer the New World.  They brought the cocoa home and the equipment needed to make it, but in its original form and formula, chocolate was bitter.  However, this did not stop chocolate from getting popular in Europe; eventually, the cocoa bean was subject to experimentation until it was found how it can be enhanced to combine its rich taste and make it less spicy.  European versions took the chilies from the hot chocolate mix and retained the vanilla, and then milk was added as well as cinnamon and other spices that would make it sweet.  The drink would be served hot because of the cold weather.

Today, the world has come to love hot chocolate, but there remains the particular regional stamp as to how it is made and drank.  In North America, hot chocolate is typically in its sweet thin form with sugar and milk, and topped with whipped cream or marshmallows.  In Central and South America, particularly in Mexico, still prepares hot chocolate with a pinch of chilies, cinnamon, sugar and vanilla.  Spanish influence is also evident with the hot chocolate being normally served with churros, a fried dough pastry.  The chocolate tablets or cocoa pellets are used to make the hot chocolate, and it usually comes in raw, bitter form.

In Europe, hot chocolate tends to be thick because of the added cornstarch.  Spain is still home to the hot chocolate and churros combo, whereas other countries paired their hot chocolates with their local pastries.  In Belgium, preparing hot chocolate means dissolving a small bowl of bittersweet chocolate chips in a cup of warm milk.

Today, hot chocolate easily comes in powder form with enhanced flavoring and other additives.  As hot chocolate has evolved through time, it has formed a tradition in different parts of the world how to prepare it.  This shows that the lowly cocoa bean has evolved all these centuries as well, but in the end, people come to appreciate the original mix of hot chocolate once they discover how it was made and enjoyed.

Chimichurri: The Taste of Home-Style Goodness

For those of you who haven’t heard of this yet, chimichurri is a sauce that helps you get to grilled meat heaven. Yes, you heard it right. That’s because it also functions as the secret marinade for an absolutely out-of-this world grilled meats.

This healthy and tasty marinade can be traced to the history of the Argentinian cowboys, the gauchos (which I encountered during my last trip to Argentina). Beef is a staple of the Argentine diet and Chimichurri is a perfect match for their delicious grass fed beef. In addition, Chimichurri adds nutrients that the open ranges of the Argentine pastures cannot provide.

After a lot of effort, Gauchos came up with a uniquely flavorful sauce and marinade, Chimichurri, which always calls for parsley. Most recipes also call for garlic to add that zesty zing and chili (for those who like a little heat).

Here’s a Chimichurri recipe for you to try at home:

1/2 Cup Olive Oil (For a more mellow flavor use a neutral flavored oil)

1/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar

1/4 Cup Water

1 small bunch flat leaf-parsley; chopped (should equal about 1/2 cup)

1 medium onion; finely chopped

4 cloves garlic; finely minced

1/2 of a red bell pepper; seeded and finely diced

1 tomato; peeled, seeded, finely chopped

1 Tablespoon dried oregano

1 Tablespoon paprika

1 Teaspoon bay leaf (laurel); very small flakes

1 Tablespoon coarse salt

1 Teaspoon ground black pepper

hot chili flakes to taste (Aji Molido if you can find it)

Make sure all of the fresh ingredients are well washed and clean before preparing.

Add all of the ingredients except the oil and vinegar into a large bowl and toss well to make sure that the salt is spread evenly around the ingredients. Allow to rest for 30 minutes.

Next add the vinegar and water. Mix well. Allow to rest for 30 minutes.

Finally add the oil and mix well. Make sure that the liquids cover the rest of the ingredients. If not add equal parts of oil, water, and vinegar until they are covered at least by a quarter of an inch. Transfer to a non-reactive clean bowl or jar that can be covered. Make sure to cover well. Place in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to blend overnight. For better results prepare at least 2 or 3 days ahead of time. If refrigerated, allow sauce to sit at room temperature for at least an hour or until the oil, if congealed, thins out before serving.

Now, for many people in Argentina, they add a third step in the process. They boil the water and salt together before they quickly pour the mixture over the ingredients, and right before the oil is added. This will produce a much more mellow and smoother chimichurri. This is ideal for those short on time or just couldn’t wait for a day or two before serving it.

Go ahead and give the recipe a try.

On Food and Television

Ah, Monday after Thanksgiving… it sure brings back the memories of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy and apple pie. It’s just too bad that the weekend ended so soon. But it’s all right, since there is a good reason to look forward to today. Just watching all these TV shows about food can make for a very entertaining, and relaxing, time for ourselves. To start with, for today’s schedule, we have:

Tyler’s Ultimate: Ultimate Spaghetti and Clam Sauce (11 a.m. at the Food Network)

It seems like there’s good, ol’ Tyler again as he searches for the ultimate in food. Really, the guy really doesn’t stop doing this. This time, he’s going to try the ultimate spaghetti and clam sauce. Well, good luck for him. Anyway, we’ll be there to watch him do it.

Man vs. Food: Phoenix (1:30 p.m. at the Travel Channel)

Adam Richman is off again for his quest to dominate the greatest food challenge around. For today, he stopping at the Valley of the Sun, to sample the biggest hotdog ever in the quaint place of Alice Cooperstown, Phoenix, Arizona: The Big Unit.

Grill It! With Bobby Flay: Flay-va Filet (2:30 p.m. at the Food Network)

Bobby Flay is right with us again to introduce us the fine things on grilling. For this show, he’s going to demonstrate how to prepare the tastiest filets around. Watch him as he does his thing with the filet for cooking.

Good Eats: Flat is Beautiful II (7 p.m. at the Food Network)

Alton Brown is at it again! This time, he’s going to explain to us why it’s better to flatten meat, and the best ways to make it tastier. See him add a new image for our classical dishes like chicken Kiev, Turkey Piccata, and Carpaccio.

Cake Boss: Santa, Sunrise, and Snowmen Cupcakes (9 p.m. at the TLC)

Christmas time is good business for Buddy and the rest of his crew at Carlo’s Bakery. With all the orders coming in, it’s no surprise if the whole place is whirring buzz. See them as they rush to meet orders for cakes, pies, and even cookies.

Can Cassava Cure World Hunger?

Most people know cassava as a root crop, the edible starchy tuber of a woody shrub indigenous to South American.  Today, cassava is widespread in tropical and sub-tropical regions, but it can also survive in arid regions.  Today, cassava is a common food staple in many areas of the world because they can be easily cultivated, and at the same, its carbohydrate-filled content provides substantial energy to those who eat it.  Cassava has become a common food staple in Africa, especially in Nigeria where the crop is largely produced. As a member of a Latin American household (Dominican-Cuban-American) I have eaten my share of Cassava (a.k.a. Yuca) and can attest to its tastiness.

Because of cassava’s importance in many poor countries, the crop is actually considered as a possible food source that can sustain the basic needs of the people.  However, cassava is found to lack many important nutrients, which  explains why in African nations, despite its high supply, many people are victims of malnutrition.  Cassava lacks many micronutrients such as vitamin A, thus a cassava diet is not enough to provide nourishment to people.

However, because of cassava’s ability to easily grow in these regions, many scientists have ventured into looking at cassava as a potential source of substantial nutrition.  Scientists led by Professor Peter Beyer of Freiberg University and researchers from Colombia’s International Center for Tropical Agriculture explored the cassava variants which can possibly produce vitamin A through the presence of provitamin A carotenoids.  By examining the white, cream or yellow roots, these scientists have dived into the science of the cassava which can lead to chemical manipulations that can alter the nutritional value of the crop.

There is actually an initiative called the BioCassava Plus which aims to focus on the marketable cultivars of cassava, and then improve on their traits.  The group promises to deliver better cassavas that are enhanced with micronutrients such as vitamins A and E, iron, protein, and zinc, with small quantities of toxins.  This cassava is also developed be durable after harvest and can fight viral diseases.

As science is in the stage of making enhancements in nature, the lowly cassava can potentially become a crop that can save world hunger.  As the root crop is being modified to produce more nutrient-enhanced varieties, people can actually live on cassava and do not miss out on the much-needed nutrition.  Hence, this can address the nutritional problems of societies that only consume for the purpose of subsistence; with developments brought by science, food is not just about survival but a source for the replenishment of people’s physical functions.

Hungry? Why not try some cassava (yuca) recipes at home:

Easy Yuca Fries

Muchines de Yuca

Boiled Cassava