Monday, June 20 2011
The practice and art of cooking in the orient utilizes a variety of combinations, textures, flavors, colors and techniques. A large part of this style of cooking has to do with sauces and condiments that are used for cooking and at the table. What follows is a short list of the more common items:
Soy Sauce - Soy sauce originated in China around 3,000 years ago. Basic soy sauce is made by fermenting soy beans with water, salt, and specific types of molds. Sometimes other substances like wheat are added. There are many different varieties of soy sauce. Every country and region seems to have their own variation on the basic sauce. But all soy sauces are brown, salty, and earthy. They can be added to stir fries, soups, and can be used as a marinade. Soy sauce has been incorporated into more western types of recipes as an ingredient in barbecue sauces and other uses. Standard soy sauce is very salty, and contains over 900 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon. It can be a problem for those who need to restrict their sodium intake. There is a low sodium soy sauce that cuts the sodium per tablespoon by roughly 30%. Whatever type of soy sauce, use sparingly until you become more familiar with it as it can overwhelm a dish if overused.
Sweet and Sour Sauce - A mainstay of Cantonese cooking. It can be used to cook with or for a dipping sauce. As with soy sauce, there are many different versions of this sauce but the basic sauce is made with vinegar and honey or sugar. This sauce can be bought ready made in most grocery stores, but it is quite easy to make at home.
Hoisin Sauce - This is a dipping sauce and is also used as Chinese barbecue sauce. It has a very salty and sweet flavor. It can be used in stir-fry recipes as a thickener as well as for its flavor.
Plum Sauce - A thick sauce similar to Hoisin and used in the same ways. It is tangy, sweet and spicy and is often made with vinegar, sugar, chili peppers and plums. Some Plum Sauces have a slightly smoky flavor to them.
Oyster Flavored Sauce - The original of this sauce was made by cooking down oysters and adding salt to the mixture. The modern version is made with oyster extract, caramel for color and thickened with corn starch. It is very thick, salty and savory, a perfect sauce for adding to beef or pork. If used with chicken it can overwhelm the chicken flavor. A dollop added to a stir-fry can really add a lot of flavor to the dish.
Duck Sauce - A type of sweet and sour sauce usually made from apples, but can also be made from plums, apricots, or peaches. Salt, vinegar, chili peppers and ginger are also added. It is usually very thick and translucent with an orange color. This is used primarily for a dipping sauce and is very sweet, tart and fruity.
Rice Wine Vinegar - This is a vinegar made from rice wine. It can be clear or various shades of red and brown. It is not as acidic as Western vinegar and it has a slightly sweet taste, so when a recipe calls for rice wine vinegar, do not substitute regular vinegar. It is used as an ingredient in many of the sauces previously mentioned, as well as for cooking and for dipping.
Sesame Oil - Sesame oil is extracted from sesame seeds, and is used in South India as a cooking oil. In Chinese and other cuisines it is used as a flavoring agent. Regular sesame seed oil is amber in color and has a nutty flavor. Dark sesame seed oil is made from tasted sesame seeds and is darker and has a stronger flavor. All sesame oils have a robust flavor, so only a few drops can flavor a pot of soup or stir -fry. Use too much, and it can easily overwhelm the dish. Always add sesame oil towards the end of the cooking process. If it gets too hot and burns the flavor is ruined.
Sriracha Sauce - A chili sauce made from jalapenos, salt, sugar, garlic and vinegar. The original Sriracha sauce of Thailand is different than the more common Sriracha found in most markets in the United States. Also known as rooster sauce because of the rooster on the bottle, this sauce is known around the world and is made in the United States by immigrants from Thailand. This is without a doubt my favorite chili sauce of all. It is a tad bit sweeter and not as acidic as Tabasco, and goes good with eggs, stir-fry, almost anything. When cooking with Sriracha, some of the heat is lost but the flavor remains. It is great stir-fried with shrimp or chicken.
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Monday, June 13 2011
A growing trend in the food industry these days is the concept of functional foods. These actually refer to the foods or ingredients in the manufactured foodstuffs that not only supply the proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins or minerals needed by the body but also have other health benefits. A typical example of functional foods is probiotics which supposedly contain live "good" bacteria that keep the intestines and the stomach healthy. Whole foods that belong to this category include soy, oats and fruits and vegetables just to name a few. Grains with added fiber, beverages with herbal preparations and spreads with stanol esters are other examples.
By providing health benefits over and above basic nutrition because of its physiologically active components, these foods are touted to prevent disease and enhance overall health and wellness. There are four categories of functional foods as defined by the US Food and Drug Administration. These are: whole foods, enriched foods, fortified foods and enhanced foods. The health benefits of these foods are either labeled with structure and function claims describing only the effects the food has on normal body functions or they can also be labeled as having the ability to reduce risk of disease. For example, calcium-fortified juices claim to reduce the risk of osteoporosis in their food labels while beverages with antioxidants are simply labeled as contributing to overall health.
Proponents and supporters of the idea that foods can be functional point to the benefits derived from these foods. For them, these prevent disease and enhance overall health. However, there are questionable health effects that other developed functional foods possess that make a lot of people wary about them. Drinks with herbal preparations are a prime example. There are herbs that do not give its desired effect with the limited quantities they have in these power drinks. Another food that is subject to a lot of controversy regarding its positive health benefits is soy. Others tout it as the wonder food. However, soy is one of the most allergenic foods around and is also potentially dangerous to those with thyroid problems. Whey protein is another one that also adds to the confusion of the beneficial effects of these foods. It has been touted as one of the best drinks for those seeking to gain muscle and is in fact one of the most popular workout drinks for weight lifters or those undergoing strength training. However, over-consumption of whey is also blamed for some liver and kidney issues experienced by avid drinkers.
As the debate rages, it must be borne in mind that all foods are functional to a certain extent. Instead of focusing on taking more of a particular whole or enriched food, the focus should be on obtaining all the nutrients the body needs through a well-balanced diet represented by all the food groups. For your diet to be truly functional, you need to strike a healthy balance of all the foods you eat. Whether the foods are functional or simply natural doesn't matter. What is important is eating them in moderation to derive the most healthful benefits.
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Wednesday, June 08 2011
When talking about natural allergy relief, sometimes you hear more about the foods to avoid than about the ones you should be eating. For instance, about a third of people allergic to pollen deal with an added annoyance called oral allergy syndrome, meaning they experience generally mild symptoms of an itchy, tingly mouth, throat, or lips when they eat certain tree fruits or plants. Someone allergic to tree pollen may experience agitation from oral allergy syndrome when eating apples, cherries, plums, almonds, or walnuts. If ragweed causes you grief each hay fever season, you could also experience sensitivity to melons, bananas,chamomile tea, or echinacea in any form. And you may have heard the suggestion to give up milk and meat during hay fever season because the grasscows eat could stir up your allergies. The good news, though, is that there are lots of foods and herbs out there that can actually help bring you natural allergy relief.
Here are your secret tools for beating allergies, naturally:
This precious piece of produce serves two purposes in annihilating your allergy symptoms. It's high in allergy-relieving vitamin C and it's a member of the crucifer family, plants that have been shown to clear out blocked-up sinuses. Researchers have found about 500 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C a day can ease allergy symptoms, and just one cup of raw broccoli packs about 80 mg.
2. Citrus Fruits
To hit that 500-milligram vitamin C level from whole food sources, you can also turn to oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and limes. A large orange contains nearly 100 mg of C, while half of a large grapefruit contains about 60 mg.
5 Allergy fighters you might not have thought of.
Don't just admire kale as a garnish. Eat it! This superfood packs a one-two punch against allergies; like broccoli, it's a member of the crucifer family, but it's also rich in the carotenoid department, pigments believed to aid in fighting allergy symptoms.
4. Collard Greens
Highjacked by hay fever? Put collard greens on the menu for the same reason as kale. Their phytochemical content, mainly, carotenoids, eases allergy issues. To increase the amount of carotenoids your body absorbs, eat the veggie with some sort of fat source. One idea? Lightly cook it in olive oil.
5. Stinging Nettle
You can't discuss natural allergy remedies without hailing stinging nettle. It helps stifle inflammation that occurs when you're experiencing allergy symptoms. Stinging nettle contains histamine, the chemical your body produces during anallergic reaction, so it helps you acquire tolerance. Look for 500-mg freeze-dried nettle capsules in your natural health store, and take three times a day. That's the best form for allergy relief; it won't sting because it's freeze-dried. Long-term use of the herb is not recommended, since it can deplete your potassium stores.
Need spring allergy relief? Avoid these 5 common mistakes that make allergies worse.
Leaves and roots of the butterbur shrub contain compounds called petasines, which can block some reactions that spark allergies. Does this plant really work? Science says yes, though its use is not generally recommended for young children, people older than 65, or those with ragweed allergies. A large British meta-analysis of six studies looking at butterbur as an allergy reliever found five studies supported the claim. The roots of the perennial shrub generally contain high levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which can damage the liver, so herbalists recommend looking for butterbur products that specify no pyrroli zidines, or ones that use a CO2 extracting process, which limits the amount of pyrrolizidine alkaloids. Swiss and German researchers found that butterbur was just as effective as the prescriptionantihistamine cetirizine (Zyrtec) after two weeks of treatment. It's also been shown to relieve sneezing, itching, runny nose, stuffiness, and watery eyes in just five days.
Immune-strengthening elderberries are often hailed as a natural flu treatment, but the berries serve a purpose in natural allergy relief, too. Try elderberry wine, juice, or jam to tap the fruit's beneficial flavonoids that reduce inflammation.
8. Onions and Garlic
Quercetin is another secret weapon that helps fight allergies by acting like an antihistamine. Onions and garlic are packed with quercetin, as are apples. (If you go with eating apples, just make sure they don't stimulate oral allergy syndrome.).
According to Michael Castleman, author of The New Healing Herbs (Rodale, 2009), parsley inhibits the secretion of allergy-inducing histamine. (Parsley is a diuretic, so talk to your doctor before taking supplements or eating large amounts of it.)
Fight hay fever with these foods.
10. Anti-Allergy Soup!
There's nothing like a warm bowl of soup when you're feeling sick, and while this usually pertains to chicken soup for the flu, an expert on herbs developed this soup to naturally battle allergies. In The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods: Proven Natural Remedies to Treat and Prevent More Than 80 Common Health Concerns (Rodale, 2008), herb expert James Duke, PhD, recommends this allergy-fighting soup recipe:
- Boil an onion (with skin) and a clove of garlic.
- Add ½ cup chopped leaves and diced taproots of evening primrose.
- After boiling for about 5 minutes, add a cup of nettle leaves and a cup of diced celery stalks, and boil gently for another 3 to 10 minutes.
- Before eating, remove the onion skins and eat the soup it's while still warm.
- Season with wine vinegar, black pepper, hot pepper, turmeric, curry powder, or celery seed.
Tuesday, June 07 2011
During the hot summer, the metabolism of human body is very vigorous, so a large number of nutrition has to be consumed. People always sleep less in summer, and their appetite will be reduced. At the same time, they would sweat a lot in summer, which may also easily consume a large number of water and nutrition. As a result, experts remind: during this period, people should pay special attention to their daily diet. In the following section, we will introduce four suggestions for you, so as to keep you healthy in summer.
Firstly, drink more soup. Because of the high temperature in summer, people tend to sweat a lot. In such a case, a large number of body fluid will be lost. Drinking soup not only can supply enough water to the body timely, but it is also helpful for the digestion and absorption. There are many kinds of simple and healthy soup that can prevent heat stroke in summer, such as hawthorn soup, mung beans soup, sweet-sour plum soup, honeysuckle soup, and so on.
Secondly, drink more tea. The researchers have made test on two groups of people. The first group are those who drink warm tea in summer; and the second group are those who drink cold beverage. The result shows that drinking warm tea can reduce the skin temperature by 1 to 2 degrees, while cold drinks do not have such an effect. The first group people say that, after drinking warm tea, they feel cool, refreshing and comfortable, and their thirst feeling completely disappears. For those who always work in a high-temperature environment, they can add some salt in the tea, so as to make up for the salt lost in the sweat. This is much more beneficial to the prevention of heat stroke.
Thirdly, eat more porridge. During the hot summer, the intestines and stomach will be stimulated by summer heat, and their function will be weakened accordingly. This may make people easily suffer from fatigue, loss of appetite and other discomforts. If it is serious, it may even lead to heat stroke. Porridge can be easily absorbed and digested by the body, so it is very beneficial to the health of the intestines and stomach. Mung beans porridge and lotus seed porridge are good choices.
Fourthly, eat more melons. Melons are juicy and sweet, which not only can help produce saliva and slack thirst, but also can clear away summer heat. For example, watermelon is the best fruit in summer. It contains a lot of vitamin A and vitamins C, which has a good effect in relieving summer heat. What's more, other melons such as casaba and cucumber are also good choices.
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Wednesday, June 01 2011
Eating is something we all must do. All around the world there are millions of people eating foods and dishes that we have never heard of. Using ingredients that are only native to the geographic area in which they live to provide nutritious meals.
The world has become smaller with the advent of faster travel. This has allowed more people to take their native dishes into new geographical areas and also the ingredients can now be imported making these dishes more accessible to be created more authentically.
Cooking is not just about sustenance. Cooking is about bringing people together. Food that is tasty and nutritious inspires conversation, love and community not to mention variety in the diet.
Gone are the days when cooking required hours of training and learning. There is no reason why the most interesting and delicious meals cannot be created in the home kitchen. The excuse "I can't cook" is not really an excuse. A handful of simple recipes will keep meal time interesting.
Another excuse that is touted is "I don't have time to cook". You can increase your time to prepare quality meals by decreasing the time you troll the supermarket isles. By arming your pantry with food staples and just topping up you will cut down on the supermarket isle visits you need to make when shopping. This will also involve the cutting down on low nutritional products such as snack foods that eat into your shopping budget. The time you save shopping is guaranteed to give you more time with your family cooking great meals.
Streamlining your grocery shopping and increasing your cooking will decrease your food bill but increase the quality of the food you eat. It is satisfying and exciting.
Refrain from turning to packet mixes to create your meals. Packet mixes are full of ingredients that are numbers, modified dried ingredients and are comaritively expensive to using fresh ingredients. These packet mixes are designed to emulate fresh ingredients but have no nutritious value. You will be surprised that the quality of your equivalent meal will be better and tastier than anything created from a packet mix.
Turn mealtime into family time. This is easy to do. Give everybody a job and your meals will be more than just a time to eat but a time to bond and share the love of food.
Eating fast foods, pre-packaged foods and additives is a not only nutritiously bad but poor economy. A few simple changes will ensure the family get variety and quality balanced meals that will bring the family together.
Katherine Quirke is a successful Australian based business entrepreneur with an IT background, has owned a number of businesses over the last 20 years. Not only does she run her own business but enjoys gardening, cooking and sewing. She is now sharing her cooking passion and recipes online Visit: http://www.eatingthegarden.com