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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 May 27, 2007

How to Cook Fresh Asparagus

Stovetop:
Saucepan or Steamer: Cook fresh asparagus in a small amount of boiling water until tender. Fresh asparagus will be crisp-tender in 5 to 8 minutes.

Frying Pan:
Place a strip of folded aluminum on the bottom and up the sides of the pan, extending over the edges. Bring water to a boil; add asparagus spears and cook, uncovered, until crisp-tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Use foil strips to gently lift the spears to a serving dish.

Double Boiler, Stock Pot or Percolator:
To steam asparagus in an upright position, fasten the stalks into a bundle using a band of foil or string. Stand the stalks upright in the double boiler or percolator with the tips extending an inch or more above the boiling, salted water. (A glass cooking vessel works best.) Cover and cook until tender, 5 to 8 minutes.

Stir-Fry:
Cut spears diagonally in 1/2 inch pieces, leaving tips whole. Stir-fry pieces in butter or hot oil, in a skillet or wok at medium high heat. Stir constantly until tender-crisp, 3 to 5 minutes.

Microwave:
Microwave fresh asparagus by placing one pound in a microwavable baking dish or serving bowl. If cooking whole spears, arrange with tips in center. Add about 1/4 cup water and cover tightly. Microwave at 100% power for 4 to 7 minutes for spears, 3 to 5 minutes for cuts and tips. Stir or turn halfway through cooking time.

Week of May 21, 2007

Grilling in Corn Husks

If you are trying to grill something too delicate to hold together on the grill, there are several packet options available. One of the best packets are corn husks. Corn husk wrappers are not only cheap, easy to work with and add extra flavor as well.

You can use either fresh or dried husks. If you happen to purchase fresh corn on the cob, go ahead and remove the husks, wash them and use these to wrap your food. Make sure you get all the silk off beforehand. If you have dried husks you don’t have to soak them before you use them unless you need a more pliable wrapper. They also don’t need to be soaked to prevent burning. The charring of the corn husks adds a great smoky flavor to foods while they cook, so if you do need to soak, only soak them long enough to make them workable. Soak corn husks in hot water, but do not boil them.

When wrapping foods, make sure you have enough space to completely wrap the food item. Lay the corn husks out in layers to provide an area large enough to go all the way around. Tie the packet with kitchen twine or tear a couple of husks into thin strips and use these strips to tie the package together.

Fish is always a good choice to wrap in husks. Corn husk packets are also a great way to mix food items together. By letting the meats and vegetables grill together in packets, the flavors blend. You can also slice or cut meat and vegetables before you cook it. This lets you serve straight from the grill in an attractive package. Make sure you select items that can be grilled in about the same amount of time.

Grill packets over a medium heat, turning to prevent the husks from burning. Charring is fine and the smoke will add flavor to whatever you cook.

Week of May 13, 2007

Buying and Storing Tomatoes

As long as they are kept at room temperature, tomatoes picked at the mature green stage will finish ripening in supermarkets and after you purchase them at home. Within a few days, they will soften slightly, still with a firm texture, turn red anddevelope their full flavor and aroma.

To avoid interrupting this process, place the tomatoes on a counter or in a shallow bowl at room temperature until they are ready to eat.

REMEMBER DON'T REFRIGERATE THEM IF YOU WANT FULL FLAVOR!
When tomatoes are chilled below 55° F, the ripening comes to a halt and the flavor never develops.

To speed up the process, keep tomatoes in a brown paper bag or closed container to trap the ethylene gas that helps them ripen. Adding an ethylene-emitting apple or pear to the container can also hasten ripening. Store the tomatoes in a single layer and with the stem ends up, to avoid bruising the delicate "shoulders."

Once they are fully ripened, tomatoes can be held at room temperature or refrigerated for several days. When you’re ready to use them, bring the tomatoes back to room temperature for fullest flavor.

Week of May 6, 2007

How to Cook Perfect Corn on the Cob

It's spring and what better way to find the most delicious and sweet corn than at your local farmers' market?

But if you do not cook it correctly, all that lovely freshness is lost.

Have you ever tried to boil corn on the cob only to wind up with hardened kernels, no matter how long it's been on the stove?

It may be that you're adding salt, which toughens kernels, to the cooking water. Instead, fill a large pot or straight-sided skillet with cold, unsalted water ¾ of the way up and bring to a rolling boil. Then, carefully drop in several shucked cobs of corn, making sure they're all immersed in the water. Return to a boil. Cover and turn off the heat, allowing corn to remain in the pot 4-6 minutes for perfect, crisp-tender corn every time.

Now if you still have to have that extra sodium, just sprinkle ears lightly before serving.


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