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Low-fat sour cream can be a substitute for heavy cream or whipping cream used to flavor and thicken creamy soups.
Removing the skin from chicken reduces fat content by approximately 50%. Wow, that's a lot of fat!
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Week of June 24, 2007

Grilled Desserts Anyone?

Grilling does not have to be meat, poultry, fish or even vegetables. Grilled fruits can create some of the most delicious desserts.

Hard fruits like apples, pears, and pineapples are the easiest to prepare since they hold their shape and texture while cooking. Softer fruits like peaches, nectarines, plums and mangos will become soft and mushy if overcooked. You will need to be more attentive and not overcook these fruits. Pick a fresh firm fruit that is just short of being perfectly ripe and it will maintain its texture on the grill. Some of my favorite grilled fruits are pineapple, apricots, necterines, peaches and apples.

Leave the peel on fruits as this helps hold them together whether you eat the skin or not. Large fruits and citrus should be cut into slices to expose the flesh to the flame.

Once you have cut (and cored if necessary) the fruit, soak it in cold water to maximize the amount of liquid inside so that it remains juicy on the grill. Use enough cold water to completely cover the fruit and add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice to each cup of water to preserve its color. Let fruits soak in the lemon water for 20 to 30 minutes.Add ice to keep the water cold, if necessary.

Grill fruit over medium heat on a very clean cooking grate. Nothing will ruin the flavor of delicate fruit like left over drippings or spicy marinades.

To keep the fruit from sticking to the grill, lightly spray them with cooking oil . Many oils, like olive oil have too strong of a flavor for fruit, so pick something that will compliment but not overpower it.

If you like to baste, you can add even more flavor by using an orange juice and jam baste (fantastic on peaches and nectarines) or lime juice and brown sugar baste (wonderful on slices of pineapple) to intensify flavors. However remember that sugars burn quickly and easily so watch carefully. Spices like cinnamon and nutmeg can also be added to the baste.

Week of June 17, 2007

Why Blanch Vegetables?

Blanching - also known as water blanching - consists of plunging food into boiling water to partially cook it. If you like extremely crisp vegetables for salads, this provides a perfect methods (Particularly good with green beans and asparagus). Some recipes call for crisper vegetable, more dense vegetables to be blanched, especially before stir-frying. There are several reasons for doing this:

Blanching helps seal in the color, flavor and nutrients of vegetables. (Green vegetables turn a wonderful bright green when blanched).

Blanching crisper, denser vegetables (like broccoli and cauliflower) cuts down on the amount of time they need to be stir-fried. This means they can be added to the stir-fry with less dense vegetables and everything will be cooked at the same time.

A shorter stir-frying time means blanched vegetables absorb less oil.
(Not a major consideration but something to think about if you're on a diet).

Vegetables with a high water content can release enough water during cooking to affect the taste of a sauce: blanching removes some of that excess water before the vegetables reach the wok or frying pan.

Another great blanching trick - It's a great way to loosen the skins of soft vegetables, such as tomatoes, making them easier to remove.

Week of June 10, 2007

Trying to increase fiber in your diet? Try this tips.

Instead of: Try using this:
White rice, enriched grains Whole grain, brown rice, wild rice, whole cornmeal (not degermed), whole barley, bulgur, kasha, quinoa, or whole wheat couscous.
All purpose flour Substitute whole wheat flour for up to ½ of the flour. For example, if a recipe calls for 2 cups flour, try 1 cup all purpose flour and 1 cup minus 1 tablespoon whole wheat flour. Use “white whole-wheat flour” or “whole wheat pastry flour” for total amount of all-purpose flour.
Pastas, crackers, cookies, cereals Whole grain pastas, crackers, cookies, and cereals.
White bread 100% whole wheat bread and 100% whole grain bread.
Iceberg lettuce Romaine lettuce, endive, and other leafy lettuces, or baby spinach.
Meat Use more dried beans and peas. Add legumes and lentils to many different dishes: try adding lentils to your spaghetti sauce.
Peeled fruit and vegetables Add extra fruits and vegetables, such as adding carrots to spaghetti sauce, leaving apple peels in apple crisp, zucchini bread, etc. Add extra fruits and vegetables to recipes and include the peel when appropriate.

Week of June 3, 2007

Cooking with Couscous

So what is couscous? It is the separated grain of the wheat plant. When dried and milled, it becomes semolina flour, which is what pasta is made out of. However, as a grain, it makes a terrific rice substitute that has the advantage of being more flavorful (nutty with an interesting texture as long as it is not over cooked) as well as about five times quicker to make than rice.

The grain is a staple in many North African countries. Over the last decade, it's cropped up on American menus and dinner tables. You can usually find it near the rice in your grocery store.

Try our delicious couscous salad for a different type of chilled side dish for your next backyard get together.

Couscous Salad

Serves 16

6 ounces couscous
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 bunch green onions, sliced on the bias
6 ounces cucumbers, peeled, seeded, diced
4 ounces black olives, pitted
6 ounces red onion, julienne

Dressing
3 ounces orange juice concentrate
2 ounces water
2 ounces rice vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped
6 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1 ounce honey
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped

Steam the couscous until tender; set aside to cool.

Combine the couscous with the vegetables.

Whisk together all the dressing ingredients.

Combine the salad ingredients with the dressing. Chill thoroughly before serving.

Yield: 3 pounds (1.4 kg)

Per Serving: 120 Calories; 6g Fat (45.5% calories from fat); 1g Saturated Fat; 2g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 198mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.


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