Archive for March, 2016

Bread Machines – Yes

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Bread machines come in a range of brands and models with the most basic device returning a standard sized loaf, made from various types of flours with a couple of different crusting options, and the more elaborate devices producing larger loaves, a greater range of settings for sweet and savoury loaves, as well as dough making facilities and even jam making. Of course, the cost of more elaborate models reflects the greater functionality.

The bread maker gives the cook great control over what ingredients are used. This is perhaps one of the best features of the device and what makes it most worthwhile. It enables cooks to tweet the ingredients and proportions in a way that would not be possible buying off the shelf bread-products.

Whether you are health conscious and want the most healthy ingredients, or simply want to create a loaf to your own individual taste, the bread maker presents one way of achieving this. It would often not be possible to purchase products that met your own individual requirements; however, the bread maker allows you to create exactly what you want. This is priceless!

Beyond the scope for creating your own bread products, the bread maker is also an invaluable investment because it can also save money. Cooking bread in the oven in the traditional way requires more energy than the device made specifically for the purpose. The oven can often be an expensive way of cooking, especially for individual loaves or small batches. If it is used to assist dough to rise the cost of running the oven also increases.

Of course, the cost of a bread maker probably cannot match the cheapest loaves that can be purchased in shops and if the primary purpose of the bread maker is to produce bread as cheaply as possible, the bread maker may not be the best choice. The more elaborate models will certainly offer more functionality than is needed and if these functions are not used, the device may be a “waste.”

When it comes to the more elaborate bread machine functions – like jam making – the bread maker really comes into its own. Whether you are using home grown fruits, or fruits purchased cheaply in bulk, both jams and marmalades can be made well below cost of purchasing even the cheapest preserves in the shops. Over time even the additional outlay for the device can be recuperated.

The one downside of bread machines is that the models change very quickly and when a part wears out, it is not always possible to fix it because your model is no longer supported by the manufacturer. But while manufacturers do not stock spare parts that would fix your device cheaply, it is often possible to find spare parts, such as paddles, from ebay stores at a very good price that means you can get a bread maker fixed, preserving its life.

Bread makers offer great scope for cooking creativity – enabling you to make speciality products cheaply that you cannot buy; it is cheaper to run than a conventional oven for cooking; and more elaborate functions like jam making truly make the bread machine a winner. Fixing it can be done cheaply, leading to it being a worthwhile investment.

Chicken Marsala

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Forget that frozen excuse for chicken Marsala to be found made by Healthy Choice or Lean Cuisine or whoever is trying to fool you this time. No, the only chicken Marsala worth its salt is an authentic, Italian preparation, meaning no microwave!

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 (3 oz) thin-sliced skinless chicken breast halves (1/4 inch thick)
2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms
1 cup dry Marsala wine
2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 garlic clove, bruised and peeled

Directions

1. Use a large, nonstick skillet to heat the olive oil.

2. In a plastic bag with a zipper top, mix together the flour, salt, and pepper. Add the chicken and shake well to coat.

3. Remove the chicken from the plastic bag and place it in the skillet after shaking off any excess flour. Saute for about 3 minutes on each side, until cooked through, and transfer to a warm platter.

4. Combine the mushrooms, wine, parsley, basil, and garlic in the skillet. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the liquid is reduced to 1/3 cup, then discard the garlic.

5. Reduce the heat and add the chicken (as well as any juices there may be) to the skillet. Warm to serving temperature, then serve the chicken topped with the sauce.

Try this tasty Italian dish as a romantic entree, paired with some light pasta or risotto and a great glass of wine. Use the best mushrooms you can, only the freshest and most flavorful will do for a good chicken Marsala. Finish off the night with a great tiramisu and you will have the perfect Italian dinner on your plate!

Black, Green, Oolong and White tea leaf Varieties

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There is a tea on store shelves that has some people confused as to exactly what the difference is between it and the old standby teas is. It is white tea and this tea leaf is considerably more expensive than Black, Green or Oolong teas.

All four teas are derived from the camellia sinensis plant, so it has many people wondering why the white version of this common beverage is so much more costly than the others.

Although picked from the same plant, it is the method by which each tea is processed for consumption that makes the difference between oolong, black, and green tea. Black tea is fermented, while green tea is steamed rather than fermented, so as to allow the leaf to retain the majority of the polyphenols and antioxidants within it. The processing of Oolong lies somewhere in the middle of the way in which the green and black teas are processed.

White tea is most similar in its processing method to green tea, but what makes white tea truly unique is the period within which it is picked. For white tea, the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant are picked and harvested before the leaves of the plant are fully open.

The picking occurs at a time when the young buds of the plant are still covered in a fine white hair and hence is the reasoning why white tea is the name given to the tea leaves derived from this special picking.

White tea leaves are much rarer than other tea leaves and for this reason, much more expensive. White tea leaf is also the healthiest of any of the commercially-sold teas currently available to consumers.

Catechin concentrations are highest in unbroken unfermented tea leaves. As these are the main component of white tea, the antioxidant content surpasses even that of green teas for the health benefits that it can provide. Studies also suggest that white tea contains a higher level of gallic acid and theobromine than do varieties of green tea.

One of the most noticeable differences between green tea and white is that the green variety will have a bitter or grassy taste to it, while the white tea does not. The sweeter more subtle flavor of white tea makes it much more pleasurable to consume.

White tea usually contains even less caffeine than green tea which was previously known to be one of the lowest caffeinated teas available. Another significant difference between green and white tea is that the white variety contains less fluoride than does the green.

White tea is classed into four distinct groups. The highest quality of white tea is known as Silver Needle and this leaf is made from only the white buds of the Camellia Sinensis plant.

The next highest ranked category of white tea is White Peony and it is comprised of both the unopened leaves and young buds of Camellia Sinensis plant.

Long Life Eyebrow is the next category of white tea and it is made from the remaining leaves after the first two higher grades of leaf and bud have been removed.

The lowest category of white tea is referred to as Tribute Eyebrow. Although the lowest of the grades of white tea, it is still a beverage higher in antioxidants and other health benefits than black, green, or oolong tea. 

In a few instances, a name may be present on packages of white tea that is not a reference to its grade. Some varieties of white tea may instead bear the name of the area in which they are produced. Darjeeling Tea is one of these brands and it derives its name from where it is produced in India.

The majority of white tea is currently produced within China and Japan.

Other than the current high price tag it sports, the white leaf variety is currently one of the most excellent health choices in tea for consumers. White tea is currently one of the best options in a healthy hot beverage.

Christmas pancake ideas

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Pancakes are an integral part of holiday breakfast in many families. This may be the one day a year where dad heads to the kitchen to whip up his special pancakes. Whatever your family tradition, or even if you don’t have a tradition, these Christmas-themed pancakes will get you thinking about what you can come up with this year.

Pancake batter can be made quite easily from scratch but if you prefer, a mix like Bisquick or even Aunt Jemima’s works well. There are even frozen pancakes that can be used. This is all about having a Christmas-themed pancake whether you are a from scratch cook, or one who prefers the convenience of pre-packaged.

Basic pancake recipe: (courtesy of Betty Crocker)

1 large egg

1 cup all purpose or whole wheat flour

3/4 cup milk

1 tablespoon granulated or packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

or

2 cups Original Bisquick® mix

1 cup milk

2 eggs

Both of these recipes will make between 10 and 12 medium pancakes, if you want more just double or triple the recipe.

Now that you know how to make the basic pancakes, how do you make them Christmas-themed?

Red and green are the traditional Christmas colors. One way to make your pancakes Christmas-themed is to make them red and/or green. Red is easy to accomplish with either some berry juice in place of some of the milk or with red food coloring. Green coloring can also be accomplished with green food coloring. You can use either liquid or paste.

Once the pancakes are cooked, you can either served them stacked one red and one green in their normal round shape ,or you can use a large cookie cutter to cut them into Christmas-themed shaped. The green works well for Christmas tree shapes or for holly. The red can be cut into bell shapes, candy canes or of course good old “Santa Claus.”

If you are not much of a cook and want to use the frozen pancakes, these can be cut into shapes with a cookie cutter. You won’t get the red or green color unless you buy some squeeze tubes of cake decorating frosting and decorate the pancakes with these. Or why not let the kids do their own decorating before they add the syrup.

Another way to make a Christmas-themed pancake is with the flavor. Candy canes are a Christmas favorite and adding a few drops of peppermint flavoring to the batter will make it reminiscent of a candy cane. You can go a step further and make whipped cream with crushed candy cane to place on top.

Peppermint also goes very well with chocolate, so adding chocolate chips to your batter with a little peppermint flavoring will make for a delicious Christmas tradition.

Dried fruits are also very traditional at Christmas time. Adding some finely chopped dried cherries or cranberries to the pancake batter will give them a Christmas theme. Nuts also go well with dried fruit and of course, chocolate goes well with just about anything.

Another Christmas favorite is eggnog. The main flavor besides for eggs in eggnog is nutmeg. You could easily replace the milk in your pancakes with eggnog and give the family some pancakes that they will be talking about for the rest of the day.

There are many ways to create a Christmas-themed pancake. Whatever your family tradition or tastes, you can easily find a way to translate it into this universally loved breakfast food.

Chicken, apple and pineapple salad

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This delicious chicken, apple and pineapple salad is quite easy to make and takes about 10 minutes to prepare if you have all the ingredients at hand. It is a great favorite with children who love the apple-pineapple combination. It can be served with homemade pizza, burgers or tacos.

Ingredients:

3-4 chicken breasts, boiled and diced.

200 ml packaged cream.

1 can pineapple tidbits. Drain them completely.

2-3 medium apples

A few chopped walnuts.

Iceberg lettuce or salad leaves.

3-4 cheese slices. Cut them in thin strips.

A little sugar (optional)

A red cherry for decoration

Method:

Boil the chicken with a little salt and pepper till done. Cut into cubes when cool.

Peel the apples and cut them in cubes or finger length portions. Soak them in a little pineapple juice to prevent them from turning brown. It is better to cut the apples in finger length sizes as they look great in the salad.

Add a teaspoon of fine sugar to the chilled cream and whip till very fluffy.

Add chicken pieces to the cream.

Add apple chunks, walnuts and pineapple chunks and mix well.

Finally take the cheese slices that are cut in thin stripes and lay them crisscross over the salad. Add a few pineapple pieces for decoration.

Line the salad bowl with iceberg lettuce or green salad leaves.

Place a red cherry in the centre to complete your mouth watering chicken, apple and pineapple salad.

Tastes best when served chilled.

Tips:

Always use crunchy and juicy apples for this salad.

The quantity of cream and amount of pineapple tidbits can be increased or decreased according to your taste.

Add very little sugar to the cream as the pineapple tidbits and apples soaked in pineapple juice are enough to sweeten the cream.

Black Forest Cheater Cake Recipe

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Black Forest Cheater Cake

Deep in the woods of the Black Forest of Southwestern Germany, a local pastry chef might pour many ingredients and family secrets into a traditional Black Forest Cake. This dark, rich baked dessert treat is a favorite for family gatherings, holidays and special occasions.

Make a Black Forest Cheater Cake at home in short order, using a basic devil’s food chocolate cake mix, canned cherry pie filling, instant vanilla pudding mix and low-fat chilled whipped cream. If you don’t tell anyone, we won’t!

Black Forest Cheater Cake Ingredients

1 devil’s food chocolate cake mix

1 cups water

1/3 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

1 can (20 ounces) cherry pie filling

1 box (3.5 ounces) instant vanilla pudding

1 tub (8 ounces) chilled low-fat whipped cream topping

Black Forest Cheater Cake Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Grease and lightly flour two round cake baking pans.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, water, vegetable oil and eggs. Beat well until batter is smooth and fluffy. Pour the mixture evenly into both pans. Tap the pans lightly on a counter or table to release excess batter bubbles.

Bake the Black Forest Cheater Cake for approximately 35 minutes at 350 degrees (F). Test the doneness of the cake with a wooden toothpick.

Cool the Black Forest Cheater Cake layers for 10 minutes before removing them to baking racks to finish cooling on a counter or table.

Place the bottom cake layer on a large round platter. Gently unfold the cherry pie filling to cover this base layer. Place the second cake layer on top.

In a medium bowl, mix the instant vanilla pudding and low-fat whipped cream topping gently. Spoon this carefully over the top layer of the Black Forest Cheater Cake.

Add a few extra cherries as garnish, if desired, before serving the Black Forest Cheater Cake.

Christmas down south: Time to put on the feedbag

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People who’ve lived or traveled in the American south know that one of its most endearing treasures is its food. Influenced by English, French, Mexican, African and Native American cuisines, southern food is truly American and among the most varied in the country – and, this takes into account the introduction of Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American, Indian and other foods throughout the country. Food is a way of life in the south – holidays, funerals, births, you name it … are all celebrated with elaborate displays of food.

For those who grew up in the south, the holidays – especially Christmas – are probably the most memorable times of their lives, and one of the things that surely contributes to those memories is the incredible food that is part of the south.

Turkey with all the trimmings is, of course, traditional, but there is so, so very much more. Many southerners will remember having roast goose for that Christmas dinner, with fresh cranberry sauce, dressing spiced with pepper and maybe a hint of cumin or other seasonings – an old English dish with Latin spicing. And, of course, after the main course is done, there’ll be a steaming sweet potato pie with pecans or melted marshmallows on top. A variation of turkey, mainly in the Gulf Coast area, is to fry the bird. A turkey, deep fried in boiling oil, while a dangerous undertaking, is a treat that is hard to describe or forget if you ever taste it.

Less common nowadays, but frequently part of Christmas up until the mid-1960s, was serving local game for the main meal. Here is just a sample of Christmas fare as provided by nature:

Venison with roast chestnuts, collard greens, and cornbread

Roast Opossum with sweet potatoes, corn on the cob, and biscuits

Roast wild duck with onions, black-eye peas, and dinner rolls

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a traditional southern fruitcake. Made with sorghum, cherries, apple and pecans, this sticky treat, washed down with hot chocolate (for the kids) or mulled wine, is one of the best ways to end that late Christmas dinner sitting around a warm fire and humming carols out of tune.

But, fruitcake is not the only dessert. A Christmas dinner without at least three different pies sitting on the sideboard is probably in a different region of the country. Along with the sweet potato pie, there will be the southern signature pecan pie, at least one apple pie, and maybe even a banana cream pie piled high with meringue. Almost any fruit, in fact, is apt to find its way into a crust for the holiday. Thanks to the mild weather in many parts of the south, sometimes the fruit will be fresh, but in times past, it was a southern tradition to ‘can’ or preserve fruits in season. They are then brought out during the non-growing season, as condiments or ingredients in other dishes. A blackberry pie, for instance, is just as good made from preserved berries as from the fresh kind – the taste is a bit different perhaps, but usually by the time you get to the dessert in a southern meal, your taste buds aren’t all that discriminating anyway.

The proliferation of processed foods, fast food outlets and shopping malls all over the country has destroyed many of these venerable culinary traditions. There are still a few pockets of resistance here and there in the south where the old foods are trotted out during the Yuletide season, and some expatriate southerners have taken their traditional foods with them – not the venison or opossum, but a former mayor of San Francisco, for instance, was famous for his deep fried turkey dinners during the holidays.  

Carrots – cooked or raw?

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Have you ever analyzed the food set before you on the dining table? Of course, everyone looks at their food but how closely did you look? The chances are that you haven’t looked as closely as scientists have because studies on the nutritional value of carrots, performed by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry looked at the different methods which were used to cook certain vegetables and came up with surprizing results. What they found out may just add to your knowledge of the nutritional value of cooked carrots as opposed to raw ones.

Raw values

Everyone knows that carrots are good for you. From an early age, children are encouraged to eat them. Parents comment about them being able to let people see in the dark. Whether that is an old wive’s tale or not remains to be seen, although the amount of vitamins and minerals that are provided by raw carrots is pretty amazing.

Vitamin A in a raw carrot is more than seven times the daily dietary amount human beings need. As vitamin A promotes good vision, which is where the myth originated from in the first place. Vitamin K is also present in carrots as well as vitamins B6, B1 and B3. B vitamins are used for helping to produce energy. Hence, the happy rabbit who bounces around probably knows a little about what B vitamins do, and he didn’t eat his carrots cooked.

Potassium, mangenese and phosphorus are all needed by the body and carrots provide these. Potassium is needed to produce an electrical impulse which helps to make sure that the amount of acids within the system are healthy. Manganese has some pretty amazing uses as well, including helping the thyroid to operate within normal parameters. Phosphorus helps to make sure that bones and teeth stay strong.

Looking at the list of things which raw carrots provide,  it’s hard to see how cooked carrots could even compete with raw ones. However, the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry’s experiment shows that in fact carrots cooked in water may be more beneficial.

Carrots cooked in water

There are many reasons why families serve up boiled carrots. Some people even find them easier to eat than their raw counterparts. Softer, they don’t aggravate teeth problems though their benefits go way beyond most people’s expectations. The secret lies in the amount of antioxidants in cooked carrots. In fact, these anti oxidants are not even released from the carrot until the cooking process. 

The study explained how vegetables with strong colors, such as carrots, contain bioactive compounds which are not released until the cooking stages. They also found, like most housewives would, that the texture and color of vegetables changes during the cooking process. The study used three vegetables to demonstrate the goodness released by vegetables during the cooking process. These were carrots, brocolli and courgettes. 

The chart showing the results of the study show other amazing values that people may wonder about. For example, the public is told that steaming vegetables is healthier than boiling them. Makers of steamers purport that much flavor is lost in the water used for boiling and that steaming produces better, healthier vegetables. In fact, if you look at the chart on the study, what it proved was that boiled carrots contained more carotenoids than those carrots which were raw or steamed. This is a pretty amazing find, since carotenoids are very important as antioxidants. The bottom line on antioxidants would appear to be common sense. The Harvard School of Public Health, although set against the introduction of antioxidants in the form of supplements, were in agreement in their report that antioxidants do help the body to ward off disease and the effects of aging. 

So what about antioxidants found in natural foods like carrots?

These are very important to health. The findings of the study mentioned above showed that the increase in carotenoids caused during cooking meant an effective increase in antioxidants. This means that carrots can help ward off illnesses.

Fitness Day purports that the antioxidants found in carrots especially when boiled can help ward off heart problems and even fight the possibility of cancers. They also state that cooked carrots can cut down your risk factor of lung disease by as as much as 50 per cent. Does that give you a free license to smoke more? Of course not and extra smoking would of course bring down that percentage. What it clearly states though is that as a chosen vegetable, cooked carrots can help clean out the system so that it works more efficiently. 

In conclusion, raw carrots have a lot of nutritional benefits to everyone, though those getting a little older or failing in health may find that cooked carrots really do help in their fight against disease.

Bk Creates a Lower Calorie French Fry

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Burger King has introduced a new product in its menu that is aimed at “healthier” eating. The new item, a lower calorie serving of french fries, is being advertised as a lower-calorie and less fat alternative.

The new side item has been named “Satisfries,” and the french fries are an old-fashioned crinkle cut. This strays away from the “natural” look so many chains, such as competitor Wendy’s, have been aiming for in recent years.

How Satisfries are made?

You might be wondering how the burger chain’s new french fries are able to be lower in fat and calories. According to media reports, Burger King’s new fries have a different kind of coating than its regular fries. The coating is “designed to be less porous and absorb less oil”, reported Business Week.

What about the regular french fries?

Burger King reportedly has no intentions of removing its other “fattier” fries from its menus. The two recipes will be made simultaneously to give consumers different choices. Media reports note the ingredients are essentially the same, they’ve just been tweaked a bit in order to allow the fries to be less fattening. BK, however, is not sharing the details on how the chain has accomplished this method.

“Small changes create a big impact,” said Alex Macedo, president of Burger King North America, according to USA Today. “This will grow, just like diet soda grew over time.”

Nutrition information

Nutrition information for Satisfries has been published by Burger King in its announcement. A medium-sized order of fries will have 340 calories, 14 grams of fat (saturated fat 2 grams and trans fat 0 grams), 4 grams of protein, 51 grams for carbohydrates, and 370 mg of sodium. According to Burger King, the new french fries have 40 percent less fat and 30 percent less calories than the standard fries.

Priced about 20 cents to 30 cents higher than the chain’s classic fries, Satisfries made its debut in Burger King restaurants on Sept. 24, 2013. The fries will be sold in all Burger Kings in North America.

While the fat and calories of the fries are lower than the Miami-based chain’s classic fries, it should not be mistaken as a “healthy” option for a side item choice when making selections. When it comes down to it, the new menu item is still deep fried.

Will the market become “satisfried”?

Burger King is betting the product will take off and that consumers will be willing to shell out a few extra cents to buy the fries with lower calories. Their stance seems to be that customers are not going to buy veggies and dip, they want the fries.

“You live in Manhattan and might be having a kale smoothie on your way to work this morning,” said Eric Hirschhorn, chief marketing officer for Burger King, according to the New York Times. “But a lot of people don’t even know what kale is, and if they do, they don’t want to eat it. You have to give people what they want.”

Currently, Burger King sits at #3 in terms of fast food restaurants. McDonald’s and Wendy’s hold the #1 and #2 places respectively. Wendy’s slid into the #2 spot last year.

Can you tell me how to Cook Vietnamese Bun Rieu

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Bun Rieu is a traditional Vietnamese soup recipe that was first made over two hundred years ago, it is a staple food of the Vietnamese people, ‘Bun’ refers to the thin rice noodles or vermicelli that are always present in the soup.

There are several varieties of Bun Rieu which all contain a meat and noodles but the most famous (Bun Rieu Cua) is a slightly sour tomato and crab meat noodle soup; in Vietnam various freshwater crabs are used, including whole blue crabs and the brown paddy crab found that are found in the rice paddy fields in Vietnam. It is served as both a starter or appetizer or a main meal.

Living in the West it is very difficult to be able to recreate this dish in an authentic manner and not all people here are happy or competent with cooking fresh crabs; however this recipe is a very acceptable replica of the authentic soup and yet is easy to make with ingredients that are easily available in our stores.

It is a delicious hot, sour and spicy soup that is perfect on cold winter’s evenings.

I have used Romaine lettuce in this recipe, if however you cannot get this you may substitute it with iceberg lettuce.

BUN RIEU

Serves four people as a main course.

INGREDIENTS

8 spring onions (scallions) including green tops, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 ½ “piece of root ginger, grated

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 red chilli, de seeded and finely chopped

1 green chilli, de seeded and finely chopped
400g flaked crabmeat
6 tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

1 litre fish, chicken or vegetable stock
500g rice vermicelli, cooked
1/2 Romaine lettuce, finely shredded

150g bean sprouts

2 tablespoons tomato puree (paste)

2 tablespoon lemon juice

4 large mushrooms, cleaned and sliced thinly

4 Jalapenos, thinly sliced

METHOD

Heat the oil in a large heavy pan over medium-high heat. Sauté the onions, garlic, chilies and ginger in the hot oil until soft. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the crabmeat, tomatoes, fish sauce, sugar, lemon juice and salt. Pour in the hot stock, bring to a boil, and then simmer for about 30 minutes.

You are now ready to serve the soup.

Take four large bowls and divide the cooked vermicelli equally between the dishes. Ladle the hot soup over the noodles, and top each bowl with a mixture of the shredded lettuce, Jalapenos and the bean sprouts.

Fried tofu can also be added to this soup to make it a more substantial meal.