Archive for the category ‘Cuisine and Food’

There’s One on Every Corner…but There is a Difference!

By

Let’s be honest, drive down any road and you’ll see a Chinese food carryout place. Really…there’s one on every corner. So what sets one off from the rest?

The answer is caring about every dish that goes out the door. And, consistency! The ability to reproduce a top-quality, perfectly seasoned and perfectly cooked dish over and over and over again — whatever it is. That’s how you build a reputation that brings customers back time after time.

Tucked away in a small strip shopping center on Manheim Pike near the Granite Run Corporate Center is China King Lancaster Do a Google search for China King and you’ll get hundred of hits in dozens of cities around the country. So, the question becomes, what makes China King Lancaster stand out.

Well, first of all it’s the ownership. In addition to this Chinese carryout location, they’ve owned and operated the Ming Court Buffet for years. Same owners, same demand to produce quality food day after day.

Now most people pick a Chinese carryout by convenience, usually the one closest to their homes. But China King Lancaster makes that unnecessary because everything on their huge menu is available for delivery by Carryout Courier — from Mountville on the west side all the way east to the Rockvale Square Outlets — usually within 45 minutes to an hour.

Christmas down south: Time to put on the feedbag

By

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?

By

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.

Can you tell me how to Cook Vietnamese Bun Rieu

By

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.

Birds Eye Potato Waffles

By

Now forgive me for starting off with this snippet of information but I wanted to share it with you before I forgot it!  By all accounts Birds Eye adds E464 (which is derived from a natural plant material) to control the amount of fat that the waffles absorb when they are cooking and to maintain their shape and texture. The one and only reason I found this information so intriguing was because each time I have shallowed fried Birds Eye waffles I have found that they have absorbed a substantial amount of fat and this is partially why I don’t make a habit of buying them. On the other hand, if I grill them they seem to have the texture of recycled cardboard.

So I have got my glasses on to make an inspection of the ingredients, which are potatoes, potato starch, sunflower oil, salt, stabiliser, pepper, mustard and the E 464. The ingredients seem fairly normal, nothing untoward in the list, Birds Eye have accounted for the E464 and fully explained why it is used. The product is free from artificial colorings, flavourings and preservatives too. It seems that Birds Eye have a `potato guru`, he is called Colin Wright and he selects the best seasonal potatoes from trusted farmers. One potato waffle contains95 calories, 4.9g total fat and 12g of carbohydrate.

A pack of 12 Birds Eye waffles are £1.38 ($2.10) a pack of 12 Asda waffles are 98p, so a substantial price difference there.
The waffles are always cooked from frozen, either put them on a slightly greased baking tray and then into a pre-heated oven (Gas 5) for about 15 minutes or if you prefer then shallow fry them for a few minutes either side. Admittedly they smell good when they are cooking and if I could get to grips with cooking them correctly I would be very tempted to eat them more regularly 

Thinking laterally about the situation, potatoes are rarely a low calorie option, a jacket potato is probably the healthiest and the lowest in terms of calories intake. I dont know about you but if I have a jacket potato then I need butter or spread to liven it up! Oh theres no pleasing me today!  Roast potatoes are not the ideal slimmers choice, creamed potatoes have to have milk and butter to make them 100% enjoyable, potato croquettes are pretty dry and uninteresting, boiled potatoes have as much allure as dry cream crackers and chips probably contain more fat than waffles! 

As I am writing this review there is an advertisement on the same page for a waffle maker, maybe I should log on to Amazon, buy a waffle maker and make my own instead of moaning!  If I could cook them properly I am sure they would be lovely

Buying caviar, a guide

By

To the layman, caviar is an expensive salted fish egg, otherwise called fish roe. Not too many people however are aware why this type of food is very costly yet quite sought after. Caviar came from the finest sturgeons found in the icy waters of the Caspian Sea, or at least 90% of them. Those who are aware of this delicate gourmet food know very well where the worth of their money goes when they buy caviar. To those who are yet to try its exquisite taste, then you should read on and find out why you are missing a lot.

The Russian portion of the Caspian sea produces one of the best types of caviar, the wild Russian Sevruga sturgeon where the world renowned Sevruga caviar comes from. This variety of caviar is however just one of the several types available in the market. However, many individuals buy Sevruga caviar instead of the other varieties because of its great taste and its better affordability than the other ones, e.g., Beluga and Osetra. Ordering for Sevruga caviar in the high-end restaurants near you would be possible since the best chefs in town buy Russian caviar for their use due mainly to its status of being one of the finest quality caviar in the market.

If you are on the look-out for caviar, you should consider some factors before making a purchase. You need to make sure you are getting your money’s worth by properly selecting the real and best quality Sevruga caviar. Keep in mind that caviar should be eaten at least three weeks from the time it was taken from the sturgeon to ensure its freshness. These fish eggs are actually graded after being taken from the sturgeon according to color and size. When buying, make sure that what you are getting has already been processed malassol. This simply means that the caviar has been salted already. The best way to select is by actually tasting the caviar. Some prefer larger eggs while others do not really find any difference. This matters since the varieties of caviar vary greatly in price. If you find the different types taste the same, then it would be best for you to buy the cheapest kind. If you have a scrutinizing taste however, you can always opt for the tastiest ones despite the greater price. When tasting the caviar, make use of a gold, glass or wood teaspoon. The use of steel or silver spoons give the caviar a different taste.

Since there are several kinds of caviar, you may want to know why you should choose to buy Sevruga caviar. Other types of Russian caviar would be the Beluga, the rarest of all the types of caviar, and Osetra, has strong, creamy and nutty taste. These two are a little more expensive than Sevruga yet tastes very much similar. This is why it would be wiser to buy Sevruga caviar. There are other cheaper types such as the Chinese and the American varieties but they can hardly be called true caviar.

The Russian Sevruga caviar is known to have an amazing texture coupled with its very intense taste. This is one of the most pleasurable things money can buy. You can buy caviar online, particularly the Russian Sevruga malassol variety, at about US$200 an ounce to about US$7,000 for about a thousand gram can. You will not question its cost if you know how rare the type of sturgeon where the caviar is taken from as well as the difficulty in getting it. More so if you get to taste it.

Caviar season is basically about the end of the year, perfect for Thanksgiving or New Year’s Eve. This is the time when supply is lesser and prices double. To avoid paying overpriced caviar, it would be best to buy caviar online. It is not only convenient, you will even get the chance to make the necessary comparison of prices and select the best ones while also considering the quality. The chance to get an actual taste of the caviar will however remain important. It would be best to read various reviews and testimonials about the provider of caviar online before making your order. Once you find the best one that will satisfy your taste, you can make that caviar online store your regular supplier

Best tips for buying spices

By

Adding spices to foods can greatly enhance flavor and taste. Spices also increase visual presentation of many foods, intensify aroma, and lend excitement and gourmet appeal to otherwise ordinary meals. While selecting the right spices to use is vital, knowing important buying information is a crucial first step in great cooking and food preparation. 

Growing herbs and spices and harvesting them from one’s own garden or indoor space is a great way to get the freshest plants possible as well as know exactly where and how they’ve been grown. Unfortunately, however, not everyone has the space or desire to raise their own plants. In some cases, individuals may grow small amounts in limited indoor areas, but most will still need to purchase at least some, if not most, of their spices.

The following are practical tips that are important in buying spices:

Start with a plan before shopping and purchasing

Never buy spices without a plan or with only vague notions about what they will be used for. Know what meals and recipes you plan to add the spices to. Will you use them in soups a couple of nights a week? Will you use them in breads and other baked goods you make? How much will you need?

Purchasing spices without a plan encourages expired or stale spices to sit for long periods in containers on kitchen shelves or in the refrigerator. Shoppers buy them with the idea that they will be added to recipes and used at meals, but frequently have no idea of what or how much they really need.

Having a plan and sticking to it is the best way to buy spices without having to throw them out later. Additionally, it helps save valuable time, eliminate indecision, and cut wasteful spending.

Buy in a form that is certain to be used

The next best thing to growing one’s own spices is to purchase them whole somewhere else and cut off amounts at home as you need them. However, while freshness and purity of product can be very appealing, the use of a whole spice involves grinding it up, requiring supplies such as mortar and pestle or coffee grinder. While these are affordable and not difficult to use, not every individual has the time, desire or patience to grind up their spices.

If a busy lifestyle or lack of motivation keeps one from grinding spices, an individual can purchase spices already ground up. While there is some controversy over effectiveness of purchasing ground spices as compared to buying whole ones, well-respected spice expert, Lior Lev Sercarz, believes that “There’s nothing wrong with buying ground spices, adding, “A good-quality spice will last as long as a whole one.”

Spices should ideally be used within months after purchase. Since they generally lose their flavor and aroma after 10 months, it serves no purpose to buy them and keep them hanging around for longer periods, regardless of how fresh they were when purchased.

Buy from sources with knowledge and good product turnover

If you purchase from a source that doesn’t sell many spices and doesn’t know the products well, risks are higher for getting incomplete or inaccurate answers to questions. Risks are also higher that the product will not be handled and managed properly. Additionally, if you purchase from a source that only sells a very limited amount of spices, chances are good that you may purchase items that have been sitting on the shelves for months and have already lost their valuable potency.

Purchase from reputable sources that know their spices and sell ongoing amounts. Ethnic stores and farmers markets are often good sources and generally offer good prices as well. The Internet can also be a good source. However, in the case of a new or unfamiliar source, it is always wise to get a recommendation from a family member, friend, or someone whose judgment you trust, whenever possible. Additionally, you can check out the source with the Better Business Bureau, or through other appropriate consumer resources.

Buy in small quantities

Freshness and quality of spices is important every time you make a purchase. It is important to resist the temptation of buying in bulk or responding to any special sales that leave you buying more than you planned to.

Buy spices in the smallest size possible, especially any that won’t be used often. No sale is a bargain if the product ends up stale and not being used.

The flavor and nutrition in food can be dramatically enhanced with the addition of spices. To get maximum benefits from spices, shop as a smart consumer and take that important first step to great cooking and enhanced dining enjoyment.