Cook Smarter: How to Do It Better, Fasster, Smarter
The Well Fed Network was a compilation of blogs focused on informed, high quality, food and wine-based content. They endeavored to provide their readers with reliable information and opinions with a strong level of trust.
This was their website. Content below is from 2007 archived blog posts.
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Posts from 2007
Crossing the Line
Posted by Al Rosas
March 8, 2007
Last month, I wrote to you about my Indasian Invasion. It’s my own style of healthy organic cooking using a number of Indian and Asian spices and cooking techniques.
Our entire family is not genetically blessed when it comes to heart health and it is imperative that we follow the guidelines set forth in Dr. Dean Ornish’s heart healthy plans for eating. For me, it’s often challenging to come up with foods that have a “WOW” factor and still meets our family’s requirements for healthy eating. Cross Ethnic is truly the way food is moving and the next big thing in cuisine. Cross ethnic means flavor - usually without fat and added calories. I’ve been working with my Indasian flavors for years, but what goes with what?
Can we mix Italian and Greek? Why not? Think Pizza. French and Phillipino? Well, maybe not, but I will work on it.
The point is to play with your spices, experiment and not be intimidated and bound by recipes. For example, as a simple start I use simple cuts of meats with a bland starch and pasta.
Traditions were once new ideas – Christmas - Thanksgiving - New Years, all have their own traditional feasts and within those feasts are each one of our own traditions and feasts.
Meet a new friend and get invited to dinners and holiday feasts, and another door is opened to foods and even more traditions. If your new friends are a different ethnicity or even from a different state, even more doors open. Sometimes the diversity of our world makes an exciting flavor extravaganza!
Make an effort to ask what spices are being used when you enjoy them. Food preparation methods are just as important, ask how, why, when and how much. Is it steamed, baked, broiled? What pans are used?
Remember, what you think is difficult cooking is simple to those whose dishes are part of their lives. Soon you’ll be a worldly expert in global foods and spices full of experience, knowledge, insight and if you’re lucky, just plain full.
The point is to play with your spices, experiment and not be intimidated or bound by recipes or specific ethnic groups of spices. Recipes are merely templates. Feel free to add or omit ingredients you do not agree with, or add spices you like for example, add cayenne pepper to your spiced apples that rest on top of your crepes or replace fish sauce for balsamic vinegar. You are only bound by your taste buds. If you are not sure, try a small practice batch on the side.
Don’t be afraid to cross the line - often!
Down South… India
Posted by Kanchana Sundaram March 6, 2007
My background is South Indian by way of my parents and husband all hailing from Tamil Nadu, India. I, myself, am a product of Toronto, Canada, which is a far cry from South India. To most people, Indian food means butter chicken and naan; to our family, it means things like sambhar (tamarind lentil stew), dosai (lentil crepes), idly (steamed rice cakes), and lots of vegetable curries. We come from a community that is primarily vegetarian and hence, the South Indian diet consists of a lot of lentils and nuts for protein, rice for carbohydrates, yogurt for dairy, and all kinds of vegetables.
I’ve really been interested in learning a lot about the varieties of vegetable dishes that are prepared having mostly grown up on the standard beans, potatoes, and carrots. That isn’t because my mother didn’t try to expand our palates beyond the standard American vegetables, it’s more because my sister and I, as typical children, refused to eat anything else. Perhaps we already felt alienated from the other children eating burgers and steaks, and potatoes made us feel less different. As an adult, now fully enjoying the Indian experience, I am now not only loving trying different ingredients, but also learning to cook them.
South Indian cooking can be a bit daunting, and my North American friends who visit my webpage tell me they are a bit intimidated to make some of the recipes because they don’t have any of the ingredients readily on hand in their pantry. So I’ve decided to start my first post here on the Well Fed Network with a intro to South Indian spices. The following 7 spices are the foundation for most dishes that are made in the Iyer community in Tamil Nadu. All of these spices are available in local Indian grocery stores, but unfortunately the major grocery chains don’t usually have them.
1. Venthaiyam, Fenugreek
2. Urad Daal, skinned and split black lentils
3. Channa Daal, split chickpea lentil (also know as gram lentil)
4. Milagai Vetral, dried red chillis
5. Milagu, whole black peppercorns
6. Dhania , coriander seeds
7. Kadugu, black mustard seeds
8, Jeera, cumin seeds (centre)
The spices in bold would be the ones you’d find in the traditional anjaraipetti (5 spice holder). If you keep these, a jar of asafetida and some curry leaves on hand, you’ll be able to whip up many South Indian dishes easily.
The typical way to prepare most vegetable curries would be to first splutter a combination of the above spices together in very little oil, add the chopped vegetables and steam them. The final product can sometimes be garnished with a little grated coconut. But if you eliminate the coconut, it is a very healthy dish.
1. Written by: Susan from Food "Blogga"
Posted on: March 7, 2007 at 6:51 pm
Thanks for pointing out these essential 7 ingredients. Though I grew up in an Italian family, I adore Indian food. Since it’s so healthful, flavorful, and vegetarian-friendly, I make it quite frequently. I look forward to learning more about Indian cuisine from you.
2. Written by: Priya
Posted on: March 14, 2007 at 3:35 pm
That was a very informative post Kanchana. And its true that a lot of people find Indian cooking rather complicated to try, while the secret is having a well stocked pantry of Indian spices and a basic idea of their flavorings. Its definitely not about the greasy naan’s and gravy’s you find in the stereotypical Indian restaurants here.
Another thing I noticed is, people not familiar to Indian cuisine are given the opinion that North Indian food comprises Indian cuisine. It would be wonderful if you could touch upon this and introduce the other regional cuisines in India.
Sorry for the lengthy comment, and Good Luck with this series :-)
3. Written by: Sahanna Iyer
Posted on: March 15, 2007 at 4:54 pm
I agree that S. Indian food can be very healthy if prepared properly. S. Indians unfortunately though have a high rate of cardiac disease as well type 2 diabetes due to the heavy concentration of carbohydrates and lack of protein in the diet. There is also not enough emphasis on raw vegetables - S. indian curries tend to “overcook” vegetables.
4. Written by: Gomathi Sundaram
Posted on: March 16, 2007 at 1:58 pm
Kanchana !Grate Posting!
I would like to add that a Madrasi meal can be of many verities without repeating the same masala…so that each dish tastes distinctly different! Also with the advantage of waterless cookwares and micro waves we can make very very healthy meals!
In fact I beg to differ with Sahanna Iyer that S.Indian food has lack of protein!.If the meals are prepared with proper combinations of side dishes can be the most healthy food!
5. Written by: Sahanna Iyer
Posted on: March 27, 2007 at 2:59 pm
Any cuisine can be healthy if prepared in the proper combination. My point is many people do not take care in preparing the proper combinations (which takes work and time). Also, if you examine many of the foods that are commonly in S. indian cuisine and they way they are prepared they are often times of a higher glycemic index. (White rice vs. Basmati vs Brown rice)
6. Written by: g.krishnan
Posted on: June 10, 2007 at 3:05 pm
A South Indian meal — although heavy on carbs and, therefore, not good for diabetics — also can be modified to provide adequate protein intake by carefully choosing the kind of vegetables, nuts and lentils. Just go easy on the rice and everything will be fine.
7. Written by: Anna Fredricks
Posted on: July 15, 2007 at 3:05 pm
I really enjoyed your post. I have been cooking vegan for about six months and am always on the outlook for for a cuisine that I can adapt to my dietary needs. Fortunately we just moved to NYC so I have access to a number of the spices you mention. Just the other day my husband brought home a colleague, Satya Rangarajan, for dinner. Satya Rangarajan is the managing partner of Enlightened Capital Management, a social venture fund where my husband works. With his Indian background I didn't know if I were biting off more than I couod chew by creating a Indian base vegan meal, but he knows that I like to experiment and said he would be game when my husband explained what I wanted to do for his dinner invite. The two mean spent a great deal of the evening talking about work which entailed discussing technology platforms and software development methodologies, custom applications development processes, strategy, and then moved onto human factor engineering, systems management and RFID. Fortunately most of the "shop talk" was after my South India inspired vegan dinner which actually turned out very well. So thank you Well Fed Network and your bloggers.
Baking without Butter
Posted by Alisa Fleming
March 29, 2007
Several years ago, I returned to a dairy-free diet when I discovered that I had not outgrown my childhood milk allergy. Since I had never been fond of milk or cheese (I know, it’s just me and the cows on the cheese), there were only a few rough spots in the transition. The primary issue was that milk was in everything, including my favorite breads and cookies. Not willing to sacrifice the carbohydrate department, I eagerly took up baking from scratch. Nonetheless, butter emerged as a challenge. Margarine would seem a simple substitute, but trading one evil for a trans fat loaded other was not a good enough option.
Luckily, I was not alone. Millions of people have banished butter for weight loss, to lower their heart disease risk, or to follow a vegan diet. This growing demand has prompted several new products and inspired numerous ideas for butter substitutions. Below are some of my favorite suggestions as taken from the dairy alternatives and product sections of my book, Dairy Free Made Easy:
Straight Butter Replacement – There is one non-hydrogenated brand I have found that tastes and behaves remarkably close to butter in a one to one ratio, Earth Balance Buttery Sticks. I have trialed it in cookies, cakes, and frostings with excellent results. The Buttery Sticks come in stick form, and the package of four is a respectable $2.50 to $3.50 at most stores. Earth Balance Buttery Sticks are vegan, certified OU Parve, and cholesterol free. Though it should be noted that the overall fat content is similar to butter, and the saturated fat is reduced to 4.5g per serving versus the 7g per serving in butter. This may not be enough of a savings for some individuals.
Vegetable Shortening – Earth Balance and Spectrum Organics (also soy-free) have come out with mainstream shortenings, which are free of trans fats, and well suited to baking. The rule of thumb is to reduce the amount of vegetable shortening by up to ¼ cup for every 1 cup of butter that a recipe calls for. However, I have had great success with many recipes when I actually cut the amount in half. Like the Buttery Sticks, these two products are still relatively high in saturated and overall fat. Although, less is required in most recipes, and both are vegan and cholesterol free. Crisco also has a zero trans fat shortening that may be an option. As Crisco is still made with fully hydrogenated oils, I opt to avoid it.
Cooking Oils – This often takes a little experimentation, but oil can successfully be utilized in place of butter, even in baking. Of significant importance, replacing butter with an equal amount of oil will typically yield a very “greasy” product. As a fat equivalent in baking, they say that 3/4 to 7/8 cup of vegetable oil equals 1 cup of solid butter. However, I bake chocolate chip cookies using just ½ cup of oil rather than the 1 cup of butter the traditional toll house recipe calls for (I also up the flour by ¼ cup). The results are not a bit greasy, and my cookies are constantly on request. For my all-purpose oil, I like extra-light olive oil (not extra-virgin). Its very light flavor is undetectable in baked desserts, and it has a smoke point that is suitable for relatively high-heat baking or sautéing. Vegetable, canola, or rice bran oils will also work well. The saturated fat in oils (except for coconut) tends to be quite low, and though the overall fat is higher per serving than butter, much less is required for your recipes.
Fruit Puree – Now onto the top heart-healthy and weight conscious option…fruit! Blend up that apple pulp or a handful of prunes and you have an excellent, low fat butter substitute for baking sweets and quick breads. In fact, pureed bananas, pineapple, pumpkin, and pears also give an excellent “fat” consistency to recipes with an added jolt of nutrients and flavor. Here are a few tips to help maximize your results:
Because the fruit will add more sweetness than butter, reduce the sugar in your recipes a touch.
Think of the flavor of your recipe when judging which fruit will work best. For example, prune puree works best in rich desserts such as chocolate, gingerbread, or carrot cake. On the contrary, pineapple will add a light tropical flair to most quick breads.
Use ½ cup of pureed fruit in place of one cup of butter. You may need to add one to four Tablespoons of vegetable shortening or oil back into the recipe to achieve the best results.
If you don’t have fresh fruit on hand, drained unsweetened applesauce, strained baby food fruit, or a puree of water with any dried fruit (apples, apricots, peaches, etc.) will work in a pinch. For dried fruit help, try the following recipe:
Prune (Dried Fruit) Puree for Baking
Equivalent: 1 cup of Butter in Strong Flavored Desserts
- ½ cup pitted prunes
- ¼ cup hot water
Directions: Puree the prunes and water in a blender until smooth. Substitute other dried fruit such as apples, peaches, and apricots for half of the prunes for a flavor and nutrient variation.
Finally, if you aren’t in a huge Betty Crocker mood, but need a low fat alternative, then pick up a jar of Sunsweet’s Lighter Bake™. Though not quite as economical as homemade, it is a made-for-baking jar of apple and prune puree, directions and all.
Storing Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Posted March 23, 2007
Originally posted by Rachel Rappaport on Fit Fare.
Many people shy away from buy fresh fruits and vegetables because of their reputation of spoiling before you get a chance to eat them. You can avoid this trouble by storing your fruits and vegetables properly so they stay fresh and tasty for as long as possible.
Here are some easy tips:
On the counter, out of direct light:
• Unripe fruit like citrus or apples (they will not ripen if chilled)
• Tomatoes (they lose flavor and texture if chilled)
• Fresh ginger
• Potatoes (or in a dark cupboard)
• Winter squash
• Stone fruits
To be refrigerated:
• Ripe fruit (citrus, kiwi)
• Berries (in a vented container)
• Apples (can also be left on counter)
• Cut fruit
• Greens such as spinach and lettuce (wrapped loosely in plastic)
• Fresh herbs
• Asparagus can be stored standing in a cup of water for maximum freshness
Keep fruits and vegetables separate as some fruits like apples give off ethylene gas which speeds up the ripening process of other foods and can lead to spoilage. It is also important to clean out your produce bin frequently as possible- any rotten food can cause other fresh food to spoil more quickly.
One last tip: Tupperware makes a line of products called FridgeSmart® for the storage of fruits, vegetables and herbs which are amazing. They’ve kept fresh herbs and salad greens fresh for weeks in my refrigerator.