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Stock your pantry with low fat snacks - popcorn and baked potato and corn tortillas chips.
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Week of August 29, 2004

Cooking with a wok is not only a quick method of cooking, it is also a healthy way to cook. When stir frying, a wok has numerous advantages over a regular frying pan - it distributes heat more evenly, requires less oil, and ensures that food tossed during stir-frying lands back in the pan and not all over your stove top and kitchen.

1. Have all the ingredients you need out and ready to use. Stir-frying in a wok is quick, so you need to be ready to go.

2. Make sure all the food is washed, dry and cut or chopped according to recipe instructions before you start.

3. For even heat distribution and cooking, cut all the ingredients the same size.

4. If the recipe does not specify, cut all the ingredients into bite-sized pieces.

5. Heat the wok on medium-high to high heat for at least a minute before adding oil. (Skip this step if you have a nonstick pan - it can cause damage the teflon coating.)

6. Add the oil (up to 2 to 3 tablespoons but no more) drizzling it so that it coats the sides and the bottom of the wok. The oil will heat up faster this way.

7. Before adding other ingredients, season the oil by cooking a few pieces of garlic and ginger. This in turn will flavor the meat and the vegetables. You may want to reduce the heat slightly at this point to keep them from burning.

8. If the recipe calls for meat and vegetables, cook the meat first and then set it aside. Add the meat back when the vegetables are almost cooked. This ensures that the meat is not overcooked and tough.

9. Meat is normally stir-fried on high heat to seal in the juices (of course individual recipes may differ slightly).

10. Add only a cup of meat at a time to the wok, laying the meat flat on the surface.

11. Remove the meat from the wok when it changes color. Beef will begin to lose it red color and chicken will begin to lose it pinkness. At this point the meat should only be about 80 percent cooked. You will add the meat back to the wok at the end of the recipe to reheat and finish cooking with the leafy vegetables or right before the sauce is added.

12. Stir-fry vegetables according to how long it will take for them to cook. Denser vegetables such as broccoli and carrots will require more cooking time than green leafy vegetables such as bok choy and cabbage and spinach.

13. If the vegetables become too dry during cooking, you may want to add a few drops of water while stir-frying.

14. When stir-frying meat, wait a few seconds before tossing so that the outside has a chance to brown; when stir-frying vegetables, begin moving them immediately.

15. When adding sauces to vegetables and or meats, form a "well" or "valley" in the middle by pushing the ingredients up the sides of the wok leaving an empty space at the bottom. Add the sauce in the middle and stir to thicken before combining with the other ingredients, then season to taste.

COOKS NOTE: Heat varies from stove to stove. For wok cooking, start with a medium-high heat and then adjust the temperature up or down as needed for your particular stove top.

Week of August 22, 2004

Are you looking for a sweet treat with little or no fat - then look no further. Don't forget the lowly little marshmallow. Remember how good they are toasted over a campfire? Well guess what; they are virtually fat-free. For the jet puffed commercial version, here is a breakdown on the nutritional facts. One serving listed below is about four large (not the mini) marshmallows.

But, if you have the time and the right equipment, why not indulge in a real treat?

Real Homemade Marshmallows
Makes 18 servings

1 cup confectioners' sugar (used for dusting)
2 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 1/4 cups water, divided
4 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sprinkle a 9 x 9 inch square dish generously with confectioners' sugar.

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stir together white sugar, corn syrup and 3/4 cup water. Heat to 250 to 265 degrees F (121 to 129 degrees C), or until a small amount of syrup dropped into cold water forms a rigid ball.

While syrup is heating, place remaining water in a metal bowl and sprinkle gelatin over the surface. Place bowl over simmering water or in the microwave until gelatin has dissolved completely. Keep in a warm place until syrup has come to temperature. Remove syrup from heat and whisk gelatin mixture into hot syrup. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whip egg whites to soft peaks. Continue to beat, pouring syrup mixture into egg whites in a thin stream, until the egg whites are very stiff. Stir in vanilla. Spread evenly in prepared pan and let rest 8 hours or overnight before cutting.

Dust knife while cutting with confectioners' sugar as well as cut marshmallows.

COOKS NOTE: You really need all the correct kitchen tools to make this recipe easy - a medium to large nonstick saucepan, a candy thermometer, a nonstick silicone-coated spoon or spatula and a good standing - electric mixer.

Nutrition facts are based on only about 1/2 cup of the confectioners' sugar adhering to the marshmallows. Per Marshmallow: 119 Calories; trace Fat (0.0% calories from fat); trace Saturated Fat; 1g Protein; 30g Carbohydrate; 0g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 17mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Lean Meat; 2 Other Carbohydrates.

Week of August 15, 2004

Tips on Cooking with Yogurt

  • To get the healthy benefits from yogurt, look for yogurt that contain live bacteria cultures. Contains active yogurt cultures means that the bacterial cultures are still present in the yogurt because it has not been heat-treated. Read the label to make sure that they have not been stabilized with starch or gelatin. U.S. Government regulations require a minimum of two cultures, but some yogurts have as many as five distinct cultures.
  • Substitute plain yogurt for sour cream on a baked potatoes, or use in stews or Stroganoff type dishes.
  • Yogurt can be substituted for mayonnaise or sour cream in equal amounts for dressings, dips and spreads.
  • Yogurt becomes sharper with age. Stored at a refrigerator temperature of 35°F to 45°F, yogurt will keep fresh for up to two weeks. The fresher the yogurt, the better the flavor and consistency.
  • When cooking with yogurt, the sweeter flavor of plain low fat yogurt works better as opposed to most nonfat yogurts which have a thin, slightly sour taste.
  • To thicken sauces, you can use yogurt in place of heavy cream. By adding some flour to the yogurt before adding it to the sauce will prevent curdling. Use 1 tablespoon of flour to 1 cup of yogurt.
  • Use yogurt helps to tenderize meats or marinades. Read more about how to use yogurt to tenderize meats.
  • Using yogurt in reduced fat baked goods will improve texture and make the food moist.
  • When substituting buttermilk with yogurt, thin the yogurt with a little water or milk to the right consistency.
  • When using yogurt for baking, add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda for each cup of yogurt used.
  • To preserve the bacteria, do not add yogurt to a boiling or extremely hot mixture. The best way is to stir a few tablespoons of the hot food into the yogurt to gradually warm the yogurt. Then stir the warmed yogurt back into the hot mixture.
  • Mixing yogurt in a blender can cause it to break down and liquefy. Gently fold in yogurt when incorporating into most recipes.
  • Avoid using aluminum products when cooking with yogurt. The acid in the yogurt will react negatively with the aluminum.

Week of August 8, 2004

Preparing cooked vegetables for crisp salads.

Blanching then shocking in cold water or iced water is a great way to cook vegetables, then cool them quickly for use in dishes like salads. Depending on how long you cook the vegetable will give you a different degree of crisp tenderness desired in most salads. You can use this method to cook almost any vegetable. For example, try green beans or asparagus. Trim and wash beans or asparagus.

In a pot, bring salted water to a boil and prepare an ice bath (a bowl full of ice and water). If you are on a salt restricted diet, plain boiling water will work as well.

Place your vegetables just a few at a time into the boiling water. Do not to crowd in the pot. Make the water is at a constant boil. Test the vegetables for doneness after a minute or so; green beans and asparagus should be crisp, yet cooked. To test larger vegetables like cauliflower or broccoli, insert a small sharp knife into the thick part of the stem. If the knife slides in and out easily, the cauliflower or broccoli is ready to be shocked.

When you are sure that the vegetables are cooked, quickly remove them from the boiling water and plunge them into the ice bath. Immersing the vegetables in ice water (called shocking) will stop the cooking process quickly.

Keep the vegetables in the ice water long enough for them to cool completely, then drain and pat dry for use in your salad. If the vegetables from the ice bath before they are cooled, they will continue to cook from the inside out. This will mean give you a less than crisp vegetable for you salad.

Week of August 1, 2004

Don't Forget the Veggies on the Grill

I know, when everyone's eyes are on those succulent chicken breasts or pork chops sitting atop the grill, it is hard to thing of vegetables. But at your backyard barbeque, they can steal the show or even become the entrée. Vegetables absorb a deep, smoky sweetness when grilled, and almost any kind of vegetable works great. You can serve them over pasta, rice or polenta. You can also make them into fantastic sandwiches - try them on focaccia bread, in pita bread rounds or as a wrap with fat free or reduced fat flour tortillas. Remember to use a light not overpowerung flavored condiment.

If you plan to put your grilled veggies in a sandwich, cut vegetables like zucchini and eggplant lengthwise into thin slices onion, tomatoes and peppers into thick rings. When grilling asparagus, the spears can be left whole and placed perpendicular to the grill grates. You can also get a special grill pan with small holes that the veggies can't slip through or thread everything onto a skewers.

Of course you can just serve them as a side dish a well. Whatever way you decide to use them, I think you will agree. They are fantastic.

So as long as you are starting up the grill, bring on the veggies too!

Grill Basket Veggies

Toss into salads or serve with rice or pasta; garnish with basil just before serving.
Serves: 6

Cooking oil spray for grilling
1 zucchini squash, cut lengthwise into quarters, then thickly sliced
1 yellow or summer squash, thickly sliced
1 small eggplant, cut into 1-inch chunks (peeled optional)
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 medium onion, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 1/2 tablespoons virgin olive oil

Spray cold grill basket and cooking tongs well with cooking oil spray for Grilling Cooking Spray. Position grill 3 to 4 inches from heat or grill according to suggestion by manufacturer.

Place vegetables into large bowl; drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat well. Place basket on grill; add vegetables.

Cook over medium high heat about 25 minutes stirring occasionally or until vegetables are crisp tender and have grill marks. Salt and pepper to taste.

Per Serving: 71 Calories; 4g Fat (42.8% calories from fat); 1g Saturated Fat; 2g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 5mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 1/2 Vegetable; 1/2 Fat.


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