Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Potato, Potahto!

A few days ago, I was cooking with my nieces and nephews and decided to finally try out the purple potatoes that I had picked up from the market the week before. That's right: PURPLE potatoes! I only wish I'd thought of it in time to do something fun for Valentine's Day. How perfect that would have been.

I was cooking for a group of kids and we decided to make Scalloped Potatoes. The kids were apprehensive at first, but couldn't resist trying this colorful concoction. It was a hit! And it was so easy to make. The color made it fun for the kids to try something new. It kind of reminds me of when they started putting that colored ketchup out on the market, only I think this is a much better idea!

Everything You Want to Know About Potatoes
Here is a fantastic video that will teach you everything you want to know and more about cooking with potatoes! We hope you enjoy it!

Potatoes from USU Cooperative Extension on Vimeo.

Leave us your comments! I love good old mashed potatoes! What's the most delicious potato dish you've ever tasted?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wheat! How Do I Eat Thee? Let Me Count the Ways!

Did you know that more food products contain wheat than any other grain? Wheat is everywhere! And it seems as if more and more items on the shelves are competing for our attention when it comes to wheat and the likes.
Everywhere we look, labels on packages claim that their contents contain "Whole Grains". So, why does it matter if we choose to eat whole-wheat or enriched wheat products? Isn’t it just all wheat? And if it's not, how do we know which one is?

Well, you know what we say: Knowledge is power! So here are some wheat basics that might help you make a more informed decision next time you are planning your shopping list:

Know your Wheat Kernel Anatomy!
The entire wheat kernel has over 40 nutrients, including the B vitamins, iron, zinc, and vitamin E. The endosperm is the part of the wheat kernel where the starch or carbohydrate comes from as well as some protein.
The germ is the part that sprouts. It is high in antioxidants, specifically vitamin E. It is full of protein and other nutrients, like B vitamins not found in the endosperm. The bran is the outer covering of the kernel. It is full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which is necessary for good digestion.

Read the Ingredients!
Enriched flour has been stripped of most of its nutrients during the milling process to remove the bran and germ and then “enriched” with some of the nutrients that were lost during milling. However, it is impossible to enrich the endosperm with all of the nutrients lost when the bran and germ were removed.

Understand How Wheat is Classified!
There are thousands of kinds of wheat in the world, but three main classifications: Hard, Soft, and Durum.
o Hard wheat is high in protein and gluten. Gluten is what gives flour elasticity so hard
wheat is preferred for bread making. It's also great for long-term storage!
o Soft wheat is lower in protein and gluten than hard wheat. It is best for baked goods, and is the wheat used to make pastry flour. It does not store as well as hard wheat.
o Durum wheat is the hardest wheat grown and is highest in gluten. This is the wheat
used to make semolina flour, which is used to make pasta.

Wheat is also classified according the time of year it is planted. Winter wheat, which is planted in late fall, sprouts and then lies dormant until spring when it grows until it is harvested in early summer. Because of this long growing season, Winter wheat is higher in minerals.

Storing Wheat
A little bit of wheat goes a long way. It stores well for years as whole kernels if kept dry at room
temperature or cooler. If cracked, crushed (flour, couscous) or rolled, it should be refrigerated
to protect the oils in the germ from going rancid.

Wheat Has Many Forms
And you can usually find all or most of them at your local grocery store! Try the bulk foods section! You can buy as little or as much as you'd like!

Wheat berries come from cooking the whole kernels of wheat. Cracked wheat is wheat that has been broken into small pieces. Rolled wheat is similar to rolled oats (oatmeal) Bulgur is a little like cracked wheat except the wheat berries are cooked first, then dried and cracked. Since bulgur was pre-cooked, it is a little like “instant” wheat. Whole-wheat couscous is a tiny whole-grain pasta. Make sure the box says whole-wheat or you are just getting plain ol’ pasta. Even though you could leave a box of regular couscous on the pantry shelf for a long time, it is best to store whole-wheat couscous in the fridge to keep it from going rancid.

Do you love bread? The picture you see here is a loaf made from an incredibly easy recipe. Looking to try something new with wheat? You'll also love this couscous recipe!

So, now that you know about wheat; Get out there and make something delicious! And then tell us about it! Go on! What are you wheating for?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Just keep stirring! Just keep stirring! Just keep stirring, stirring, stirring!

What's good? Stir-fry, that's what! Who doesn't love a meal that can be prepared all in the same skillet? Not to mention tastes delicious and fresh! Did I mention how EASY it is to make?

I tried this stir fry recipe and loved it. Now that I've got a taste, I want more! I want to know what else can I stir-fry? I'm thinking of making it a part of my weekly meal plan. Of course, I want to enjoy a variety of stir-fry combinations, without spending too much. Yet another great thing about stir-fry: There are so many options!

Here is a simple formula to follow to make your own stir-fry: Create a Stir-Fry! What I like about this method is that once I get a feel for how to do stir-fry, it will make pulling the ingredients together so simple.

Also good to know: When you stir-fry, you are continuously stirring to keep the food moving. So you heat the oil on low, increase the temperature to medium-high heat, add the food to hot oil without overcrowding, and then stir, stir, stir.

I find it comforting to know that no matter what is happening in my life, I can always make good food for myself and those that I love. I fed eight people with the stir-fry recipe I mentioned above and the ingredients cost me less than $14, including the rice. Is that great, or what?

So, now you know what's good around here today! Tell us what's good with you! Post it in our comment box. I love a nice chat around the dinner table (or...food blog). And remember, no matter what's not good: Just keep stirring!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

FAT: FRIEND OR FOE?



Fat. It seems that in our society, this is a four letter word. Whether we like it or not, it's a big part of our daily decisions about food. So, let's embrace it! What do you know about fat? Here is some basic information to help us all make informed decisions about how we deal with fat in our diet. Knowledge is power!

Is fat good for you? There is one food group in MyPyramid called the oils group. Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature. Fat is necessary and essential to a healthy diet. However, it is easy to get too much fat in the diet and this can lead to heart disease, obesity, and cancer, especially when you eat too much of the wrong kind of fat. When eating fat, eat small amounts of fat, even oils. They are high in calories.

Some types of fats are okay in the right amounts. Fats we should use are oils like: Canola oil, corn oil, olive oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, oils in fish, nuts and seeds.

Some types of fats are better to limit. These fats are: Butter, lard, stick margarine, fats on meats and poultry, trans fats that are in a lot of prepared foods like some cakes, cookies, crackers, pies, donuts, stick margarines, fried foods, chips, and solid vegetable shortening.

How do I know what kind of fat my food contains?

Check out the Nutrition Facts label! For info on reading labels, click here.

Tips for Limiting Fats:

• Fat intake should be 20-35 percent of total calories with most coming from polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. • Select fat free or low fat dairy products.

• Select fish, nuts and vegetable oils. • Limit snacks and desserts high in fat.

• Read nutrition facts labels. • Less than 10 percent of fat calories should come from saturated fat.

• Choose lean meat and poultry. • Trim fat and remove skin before cooking.

• Choose soft spread margarine and oil rather than solid margarine and shortening.

Can you tell me more about which fats are good or bad and why?

There are 4 major kinds of dietary fat.

Monounsaturated fats – These are mostly oils, meaning they are liquid at room temperature. Famous monounsaturated fats include olive oil, canola oil, and avocados. These are considered ‘heart healthy’.

Polyunsaturated fats – These are also liquid at room temperature. These include corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, and soybean oil (more commonly known as vegetable oil), nuts, and seeds.

Saturated fats – These are fats that are solid at room temperature and are usually animal fats such as butter, lard, and the fat in meats. They contain cholesterol and have been linked to heart disease. Palm and coconut oils (both plant oils) are also saturated fats but do not contain cholesterol.

Trans fats – These are fats that start out as liquid oils but are processed to become solid at room temperature. The processing of the fats is called hydrogenation. Trans fats contribute more to heart disease than saturated fats and are known as the really bad fats. Examples of these fats are margarine and shortening. Look for the words ‘hydrogenated’ or ‘partially hydrogenated’ on food labels.

As a quick review: Mono and poly unsaturated fats are considered beneficial heart healthy fats while saturated and trans fats are considered to pose a risk for heart disease.

Recipe containing healthy fat: Recipes: VEGGIE BEAN WRAP

How much fat should you get each day?

The answer according to the Dietary Guidelines is: 20 to 35 percent of daily calories should come from fat, with most of these being mono and poly unsaturated fats (for a 2000-calorie-a-day diet that would be between 400 and 700 calories. Example – 2000 x .20 = 400; 2000 x .35 = 700).

Consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fats a day (less than 200 calories/day). Keep trans fat consumption as low as possible (strive for 0). A person on 2000 calories a day should aim for no more than 6 teaspoons of added fat a day. For instance, a little mayonnaise on your tuna sandwich or the peanut butter on your toast. For a specific measurement of how much fat you should consume each day, click here. For info on the amount of oils in some common foods, click here.

Suggestions:

o Choose fat free or low fat milk, yogurt, cheese, and sour cream.

o Choose lean cuts of beef and pork (round or loin cuts) and trim any visible fat from meat.

o Eat more chicken and fish and less red meat, sausage, lunchmeats, and bacon.

o Take the skin off of poultry.

o Bake, steam, broil, grill, or roast foods instead of frying them.

o Add no or very little fat to vegetables. Season with herbs instead of butter or margarine.

o Use more cooked dried beans and have one or more meat free meals per week.

o Cook with nonstick cooking sprays.

o Use butter and margarine sparingly.

o Select soft tub margarines instead of hard stick margarines.

So, what are some of your favorite ways to reduce your fat intake?
A favorite way of mine is to make my own salad dressing! Many of the dressings on the market contain both high calories and fat. I like to either use lowfat cottage cheese to dress up my salad, or try a simple and delicious salad dressing recipe, such as this one. Please share your own ideas in the comment box! We'd love to hear from you!