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Week of January 29, 2012

Superbowl Snacks

Here is a great snack to nosh on for Superbowl Sunday. These little crab bites are heathy but taste absolutely delicious.

Mini Crab Cakes
6 servings, 2 cakes each

1 pound crabmeat
2 cups fresh whole-wheat breadcrumbs *
1/2 red bell pepper, minced
3 green onions, sliced thin
1/4 cup low fat mayonnaise (we used Hellmann's®)
2 eggs
1 egg white
10 dashes hot sauce, such as Tabasco
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
6 lemon wedges, for garnish

Preheat oven to 450°F. Generously coat a 12-cup nonstick muffin pan with cooking spray.

Mix crab, breadcrumbs, bell pepper, scallions, mayonnaise, eggs, egg white, hot sauce, celery salt and pepper in a large bowl until well combined. Divide
mixture evenly among muffin cups. Bake until crispy and cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.

COOK'S NOTE: To make fresh breadcrumbs: Trim crusts from firm sandwich bread. Tear bread into pieces and process in a food processor until a coarse
crumb forms. One slice of bread makes about 1/3 cup crumbs.

 

Week of January 22, 2012

How To Sweat Vegetables

A sweat is similar to a sauté in that the goal is to cook small, uniform pieces of food in an open pan in a small amount of fat. The difference between the two techniques lies in the temperature. A sauté should be done over medium-high to high heat, and the goal is to cook quickly while browning the food. While a sauté can produce a finished meal, a sweat is almost always a preliminary step in a longer cooking method.

In cooking, we take the time to sweat aromatics—onions, carrots, celery, garlic, shallots, etc—before adding other ingredients in order to start building flavors. Most aromatics are pretty crunchy when they are raw. This translates into strong cell walls.

Sweating helps to draw out moisture from the aromatics and weaken and soften the cell walls. Once the aromatics are translucent, which is easiest to see in the onions, you can add more ingredients and continue with the recipe knowing that you’ve given the aromatics a head start in cooking and drawing out flavors.

Steps to Sweating Vegetables

  1. Dice or chop onions, carrots and celery to roughly ¼” pieces. The more uniform your pieces, the more evenly they will cook, so dicing is preferable to chopping.
  2. Mince garlic and/or shallot.
  3. Heat a pan over medium low heat until hot.
  4. Add a small amount of oil (no more than 2 tablespoons) to the pan and swirl to coat.
  5. Let the oil heat for a few seconds.
  6. Add the diced vegetables to the pan along with a healthy pinch of salt. The salt will help to draw out water from the vegetables.
  7. Adjust the heat so you can only hear a gentle sizzle. You should not hear loud sizzling or popping, if you do, turn down the heat to maintain the gentle sizzle.
  8. Stir the food frequently—remember, you don’t want to brown the food, so keep it moving.
  9. Add the minced garlic and/or shallot (if using), and continue to cook and stir.
  10. Once the vegetables are softened and translucent, about five to ten minutes, you are finished with the sweat and can then continue with the recipe.

Week of January 15, 2012

Freezing Cooked Foods

Preparing double or even triple recipes and freezing portions for later means you don’t have to cook every night to have a delicious and nutritious meal on the table. Freezing is a great make-ahead strategy, but it doesn’t work for all foods. Some things simply don’t freeze well:

  • Gravies and sauces thickened with cornstarch or flour will separate during the freezing process. You can freeze an unthickened sauce, and then add thickeners after thawing.
  • Fruits and vegetables with a high water content, such as lettuce and watermelon, will become limp and soggy when thawed
  • Cooked potatoes develop a gritty texture when frozen
  • Fully cooked pasta may become mushy once reheated. Slightly undercook pasta before freezing it
  • Some dairy products, such as yogurt, sour cream, milk, and light cream, will separate when frozen.

So what freezes well? Casseroles, soups, stews, chili, and meat loaf all stand up to the freezer well. And most cooked dishes will keep for two to three months in the freezer.

Remember to leave room for expansion in your container and also to write the date down on the container.

Below is a full list of foods that do not freeze well.

Foods Usual Use Condition After Thawing
Cabbage*, celery, cress, cucumbers*, endive, lettuce, parsley, radishes As raw salad Limp, water-logged,quickly develops oxidized color, aroma and flavor
Irish potatoes, baked or boiled In soups, salads, sauces or with butter Soft, crumbly, water-logged, mealy
Cooked macaroni, spaghetti or rice When frozen alone for later use Mushy, tastes warmed over
Egg whites, cooked In salads, creamed foods,sandwiches, sauces, gravy or desserts Soft, tough, rubbery, spongy
Meringue In desserts Soft, tough, rubbery, spongy
Icings made from egg whites Cakes, cookies Frothy, weeps
Cream or custard fillings Pies, baked goods Separates, watery, lumpy
Milk sauces For casseroles or gravies May curdle or separate
Sour cream As topping, in salads Separates, watery
Cheese or crumb toppings On casseroles Soggy
Mayonnaise or salad dressing On sandwiches (not in salads) Separates
Gelatin In salads or desserts Weeps
Fruit jelly Sandwiches May soak bread
Fried foods All except French fried potatoes and onion rings Lose crispness, become soggy
* Cucumbers and cabbage can be frozen as marinated products such as "freezer slaw" or "freezer pickles". These do not have the same texture as regular slaw or pickles.

Effect of Freezing on Spices and Seasonings

  • Pepper , cloves, garlic, green pepper, imitation vanilla and some herbs tend to get strong and bitter.

  • Onion and paprika change flavor during freezing.

  • Celery seasonings become stronger.

  • Curry develop a musty off-flavor.

  • Salt loses flavor and has the tendency to increase rancidity of any item containing fat.

  • When using seasonings and spices, season lightly before freezing, and add additional seasonings when reheating or serving.

This document was extracted from "So Easy to Preserve", 5th ed. 2006. Bulletin 989, Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia, Athens. Revised by Elizabeth L. Andress. Ph.D. and Judy A. Harrison, Ph.D., Extension Foods Specialists.

Week of January 8, 2012

How to Poach Chicken

Poached chicken makes the best chicken salad ever! Tender and succulent every time.

Poached chicken is made by cooking chicken in liquid. While it seems simple to do, poached chicken can be dry and stringy if it is not poached correctly. It's very important not to overcook the chicken. It may seem silly, but you can dry chicken out even when you are cooking it in liquid.

Poached chicken is used as a base for chicken salad. It can also be served as a dish in its own right, either plain or in a sauce. Any part of the chicken can be poached; you can even poach a whole chicken!

What You Will Need:

Chicken parts to be poached
Stockpot
Cheesecloth

2 tablespoons fresh parsley
1 tablespoon fresh sage
1 bay leaf
1 large onion, peeled
1 carrot
1 stalk celery, with leaves

You can also use

1 bay leaf
1 large onion, peeled
1 carrot
1 stalk celery, with leaves
whole peppercorns

Make a bouquet garni by placing 2 tablespoons parsley, 1 tablespoon fresh sage and 1 bay leaf in a square of cheesecloth. Tie the cheesecloth into a bundle. Using a bouquet garni will allow you to season chicken without getting flecks of herbs all over it. Feel free to vary the herbs to suit your taste.

Put the onion, carrot, celery, and bouquet garni in the stockpot. Fill it with enough water to totally submerge the chicken parts when they are added. Bring to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes.

Add the chicken. Return the water to a boil and immediately reduce the heat to just below a simmer. Don't allow the water to boil again, as this can toughen the meat.

Poach the chicken until you can pierce the chicken with a fork and the juices run clear. The length of time it will take will vary, depending on the pieces you are poaching. Thin slices of breast may be done in as little as 8 minutes; a large roasting chicken may take over an hour. Check bone-in breasts at about 35 minutes; whole legs should be checked to see if they are done after 45 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the water when done and let it rest for 15 minutes before slicing. This time allows the juices to redistribute, and ensures you'll get clean slices. If you try to cut the meat too quickly, it will shred rather than slice.

TIPS: Substitute some of the water with other liquids, such as wine, broth or juice to flavor the meat.

Save the poaching liquid for soup or stock.

Poached chicken can be refrigerated for 2 to 3 days.

Week of January 1, 2012

It's that time of year when we all vow to take off a couple pounds.

Salads can be a nutritious and low calorie food choice as long as you don’t overdo it on the dressing!

Here is a simple little vinaigrette that packs a lot of flavor but very few calories and fat grams to help you lose that fat.

Balsamic Vinaigrette
Makes 3 servings (2 Tablespoons each serving)

1/4 teaspon garlic powder
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon water

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk them together well. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Per Serving: 11 Calories; trace Fat (29.1% calories from fat); trace Saturated Fat; 1g Protein; 2g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 125mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Fruit; 0 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.

 


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