Thursday, September 30, 2010

Apple Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

It is hard to find better culinary companions than pork and apples. One of the finest cuts of any kind of meat is pork tenderloin. When cooked well, it is tender, succulent, and lower in fat than you might think. This recipe roasts a pair of pork tenderloins with an apple stuffing. Any firm, tart apple works best for this recipe. Honeycrisp is my favorite apple to eat out of hand and to use in cooking, and it works very well in this recipe.

Take a pair of pork tenderloins (many times they are sold in pairs, about 4 pounds per pair) separate them and make a groove in each half of the tenderloin for the stuffing. Set aside.

Stuffing

1 medium apple or 1/2 large apple, Red Delicious or Honeycrisp, peeled and cubed
4 pieces whole wheat bread, toasted and cut into small cubes
1/4 medium onion, chopped
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon cooking sherry
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Stuff each tenderloin and then put them together with the stuffing sides facing. Tie them together with butcher's twine.

Sprinkle tied tenderloin with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Place on a rack sitting in a jelly roll pan that has been sprayed with cooking oil. Roast in a 375 degree oven until the internal temperature of the meat is 170 degrees. When meat is done, take out of oven and let rest for at least ten minutes.

Excellent served with mashed potatoes, baked potatoes or yams. Add a vegetable and the meal is complete.



Orange Flavored Pork


This recipe has the natural sweetness and flavor of orange juice and orange zest.
  • 1/2 pound boneless pork rib or pork chop
  • 1 medium orange
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced thinly at an angle
  • 3 stalks of Bok Choy, cut into bite sized pieces at an angle
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced thinly at an angle
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • Peanut oil
Cut the pork into bite sized cubes. Heat wok, and then add 1-2 tablespoons peanut oil. When oil is hot, add onion and pork. Stir-fry for a minute, and then add 1-tablespoon dry sherry. Stir-fry for another 1-2 minutes until done. Remove pork from wok.

Wash the orange, and zest with a citrus zester or small grater. Don't go too deep into the peel. You want to get just the surface of the peel and not the white part. The peel is where the flavor is, the white part is bitter. Put orange zest in a 1-cup measuring cup and set aside. Cut the orange in half, and add the juice to the measuring cup with the orange zest. Add the remainder of the dry sherry and the soy sauce to the measuring cup. Add the cornstarch and enough water to make one cup of liquid. Stir to combine, and set aside.
Wipe out wok, reheat and add peanut oil when hot. When oil is hot, add all the vegetables and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the cooked pork and stir-fry for 1 minute. Stir up the orange juice mixture in the measuring cup and add to the wok. Cook until the liquid boils and forms a sauce. Serve over brown rice or oriental noodles.

This dish can also be prepared with leftover pre-cooked pork. Prepare the orange sauce and stir fry the vegetables and add the meat after the vegetables have cooked and just before the orange sauce mixture.

Marjoram - More Subtle Than Oregano


Marjoram is an herb that is sometimes confused with oregano. The two herbs are both members of the mint family, but marjoram has a more subtle, sweet flavor. Marjoram is more flavorful when used dried than fresh, and should be used towards the end of preparing the dish, as too much heat will kill its flavor.

Ancient Greeks and Romans cultivated marjoram, and the herb was equated with happiness. The ancients believed that if marjoram grew over a grave that the one buried there would have a happy afterlife. Ancient Egyptians used the herb in embalming, and the herb is still associated with Egypt, for over 80 percent of all modern imported marjoram comes from there. It is an herb that is high in anti-oxidants and rich in Vitamins A and C.

It can be grown easily from seed, and should be planted in a sunny, fairly well drained area where the soil is not too rich. But marjoram tends to need more moisture than other herbs, so check it during very hot weather to make sure it is wet enough. It can also be grown as a potted plant. Springs of the herb should be harvested as the flower buds appear. Pick before it blooms for the best flavor. In milder climates it can be grown as a perennial, but in most areas it is an annual as it is very cold sensitive.

Marjoram is associated with many meat dishes around the world. It is used in Germany in the spice mixture used for sausages, as well as in France in bouquet garni and pickling solutions. Italian and Greek cuisines use the herb in meat dishes and in sauces. Marjoram also is used in body care products such as lotions, body soaps, skin cream, and even shaving gel.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Perfect Home Made Pizza

By following just a few simple and basic rules of thumb, anyone can make delicious pizza at home.
  • Use a good pizza dough - some folks use the refrigerated dough that comes in a roll, some use Bisquick or some other powdered mix. But why not make your own?
  • Use a pizza stone - This is essential. A good crust is half the battle in making a good pizza. There's no other way to make a great pizza crust in the home kitchen without using some sort of pizza stone.
  • Use a simple sauce - If using a stone and a good crust are only half the battle, what else is there? The sauce. If you're using a plain tomato sauce, don't use too much. Too much sauce and even a pizza cooked on a stone can come out pretty sloppy and the crust gooey. A little canned tomato sauce can be used. I actually use tomato paste thinned with a little dry sherry for flavor. Add oregano, basil, garlic powder and onion powder to the sauce for that Italian flavor. But spread it on thin.
  • Less is more - A great crust baked on a pizza stone with just the right amount of sauce on it can't cure a pizza that is overloaded. Stick to a few toppings. If you use pepperoni (the #1 pizza topping in the U.S.)remember that it has a lot of fat in it, and the fat will cook out and settle on your pizza. A little of this is great, too much of it and you've got a sloppy, greasy mess. Experiment with limiting yourself to no more than three toppings besides the cheese. Toppings can affect the time it takes to cook the pizza. Too many toppings and you may have to leave the pizza in the oven longer than usual and the crust will be burnt. Not a good thing! After you learn about how toppings and the amount of them affect the cooking time of the pizza, you'll be able to load the pizza up!
  • Use REAL cheese - Mozzarella is the standard. A little parmesan, scamorza, even cheddar and swiss can be used. Again, experiment and see what works and what you like. But by all means use REAL cheese. The plasticized, artificial cheese 'product' that you can buy in the cheese section of the grocery store may look like cheese, even smell like cheese. But it sure doesn't cook and taste like real mozzarella!
So experiment! Don't worry if you make a few boo-boos along the way. They will most likely still be edible. And if you really want to celebrate pizza, make a simple pie with sauce, basil and mozzarella cheese. Red, green and white are the colors of the Italian flag! Buon appetito!


Italian Gnocchi

Gnocchi are small dumplings. They are a very old form of food, and there are examples of recipes for Gnocchi that go back to the 13th century. Gnocchi can be made with many different ingredients like squash, bread, semolina flour, even eggplant. But modern Italian Gnocchi is made with potatoes.
  • 3 pounds of russet potatoes
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • Two dashes of salt
Be sure and use russet, or baking potatoes. Russet potatoes are high in starch and low in water content which will make the dumplings lighter in texture. Bake potatoes in the oven, microwave, or boil them until done. If potatoes are boiled, leave on the skins and remove after they are cooked. Too much moisture in the potatoes will cause excess absorption of flour, which will lead to a heavier dumpling. Run cooked potatoes through a food mill or ricer.

Put potatoes in a bowl and mix in the flour, egg and salt. Mix together until all ingredients are incorporated, and when loose dough begins to form take the dough into your hands and knead it gently for a few minutes until it forms a ball and dough becomes dry.

Roll dough into a long stick about ¾ to 1 inch in diameter. Cut into1 inch pieces. Use a fork and gently flick each piece with the fork to put small grooves in one side of the gnocchi. This will help hold the sauce.

Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. Drop in gnocchi, being careful not to put too many into the pot at once, and let cook until they float, about one minute. Remove cooked gnocchi from hot water and place into ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Continue until all the gnocchi are cooked. Removed cooled gnocchi from ice water onto a towel to drain.

The gnocchi can now be used like any other kind of pasta. They are especially good with pesto sauce, but can be used with any other type of Italian pasta sauce. Cooked and cooled gnocchi can also be tossed with olive oil and kept in the refrigerator for a day or two.

Crab Rangoon

Crab Rangoon is a staple of Chinese and most other kinds of oriental restaurants, but it is not a traditional Chinese dish. There are very few authentic Chinese dishes that call for any kind of cheese and none that use cream cheese.

There are two schools of thought concerning the origins of this dish. One states that it was a food that was introduced at the World's Fair held in St. Louis Missouri in 1904. The other story is that the dish was invented at the famous Trader Vic's Polynesian restaurant in Oakland California in the early 1950's. Whatever their origin, they're tasty, and easy to make.

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 green onion, minced
  • pinch of pepper
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 8 oz. package of cream cheese
  • 8 oz. fresh or canned crab meat
  • wonton skins
  • oil for frying

Break up crab meat and combine with cream cheese. Add remaining ingredients (except for wonton skins) one at a time, thoroughly mixing before adding another ingredient.

Lay out wonton skins and put 1 teaspoon of the mixture in the center of each wonton and spread it out, leaving enough of the edges of the wonton bare that they can be pressed together. Wet the edges of the wonton and fold to create a triangle, making sure to remove all the air before pressing the edges together. Continue until all mixture is used up, covering finished rangoons with a towel so they won't dry out.

Put frying oil in wok at least 2 inches deep. Heat oil to 360-375. Carefully slide in wontons and let fry for about 3 minutes total, turning once half way through. Do wontons in batches, the number of each batch depending on the size of the wok.

Serve with sweet and sour sauce, soy sauce, hot mustard, or eat them plain! Cooked or smoked salmon can be substituted for the crab. This recipe makes about 48 crab rangoon.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Home Made Pasta

If you've got some time and are willing to put forth some effort, you can make your own home made pasta. The basic ingredients are:
  • 3/4 cup unbleached white flour
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of salt
That's it. Some folks use a little (1/2 teaspoon) extra virgin olive oil in their pasta, but it is optional. This recipe makes pasta enough for 2 regular servings, so if you want more increase the amounts in the same proportions.

The classic way to make pasta is by putting the flour on a board, make a well in it, and put the egg and salt into the well. With a fork, gently mix the egg with the flour until a rough dough forms, then knead the dough with your hands until it becomes soft. But it can also be made in a bowl, a food processor or a mixer with a bread hook.

A few tips: If the dough is still too sticky, dust with a little flour and knead it some more. If the dough is too dry, sprinkle a little water on it and knead it in. The humidity in the air determines if a dough will be too sticky or dry with the basic recipe, so you'll need to act accordingly.

After the dough has been kneaded and is soft and elastic, wrap it in plastic wrap and allow to rest for 20 minutes. This will help 'relax' the gluten in the dough and make it easier to roll out.

Folks who make pasta regularly invest in a pasta machine. While this does make for more uniform noodles, you don't need one. Take the dough after it has rested and separate it into small portions if you've made more than the basic recipe. Dust a board with flour, put the dough on the board and roll it out. Try to get the dough thin enough so that you can almost see through it. If the dough sticks, dust with a little flour.

When you have the dough as thin as you like, dust it with a little flour and roll it up like a jelly roll. With a very sharp knife, cut the roll into very thin slices. Unroll the pasta and let it dry for 20 minutes or so on the board, or drape it over a broom handle covered with plastic wrap that has been suspended between two chairs.
After drying, the pasta can be cooked or refrigerated for use within the next 2 or 3 days. Fresh pasta does not take as long to cook as fully dried pasta, only about 4 to 5 minutes, even less if the noodles are small and thin. You want to cook it al dente (to the tooth, a little firm in the middle, so watch fresh pasta closely as it cooks!

This basic recipe can be varied in many ways. Substitute whole wheat flour for the unbleached white flour for whole wheat pasta. Whole wheat pasta dough will have a little different 'feel' to it. Or you can make spinach pasta. Cook 5 ounces of frozen spinach as directed, drain and let it cool. Squeeze as much water as you can out of the spinach. The spinach should be about the size of a large egg when you're done. Mix it in with the egg before adding to the flour.

Pastas can be flavored with most anything. Add a little garlic, use a little tomato juice, let your imagination run free and experiment! Making home made pasta is easy. Add it to some home made sauce, and you've got a great meal.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Elephant Garlic Chicken

Elephant garlic is not actually garlic, but a type of leek. It gets its name because the individual cloves of elephant garlic are so large that they can be as big as an entire head of regular garlic. It is available in many large supermarkets. Elephant garlic has a much milder and sweeter taste than regular garlic. It can be eaten raw as a garnish or in salads as it does not have the heat or 'bite' of regular raw garlic. It lends a very delicate garlic flavor to this dish.

This is a recipe where all ingredients are put into the wok in turn. The meat is not cooked and then removed, but remains in the wok until the entire dish is finished. Notice the elephant Garlic is the last ingredient added. That's because this type of garlic needs very little cooking time, and if it is cooked too long it looses its mild flavor and turns bitter.

Marinade:
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry

Other ingredients:
2 halves boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 clove elephant garlic
2 green onions
1 small can baby ears of corn
1 stalk celery, cut on a diagonal
1/4-teaspoon sesame seed oil
1-tablespoon cornstarch
1/2-cup cold water or chicken broth

Cut chicken into bite sized pieces. Put into a bowl and add marinade ingredients, making sure chicken gets well coated. Let marinade for at least 20 minutes.

Peel elephant garlic cloves and slice very thinly. Cut green onions into one-inch pieces on the diagonal. Cut celery into thin pieces on the diagonal. Open and drain can of baby ears of corn.

Heat wok. Add peanut oil when wok is hot. When oil come to temperature, add chicken and stir-fry for two minutes. Then add green onions, corn and celery. Continue to stir-fry until chicken is done, about 2-3 minutes. Combine water, cornstarch and sesame seed oil in a bowl. Add mixture to wok. Add elephant garlic after cornstarch mixture. Cook until mixture thickens. Serve over rice or noodles.


Fried Rice

A basic Chinese recipe, and a great way to use meat and rice leftovers. To cook basic long-grain white rice, bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan that has a lid. When water is boiling, put in 1 cup rice and stir. When water returns to the boil, put on lid and turn the fire down to very low simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Don't take the lid off the pan. For more flavor, beef or chicken stock can be used in place of water. Add 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric to the water and it will turn the rice a pretty yellow color.

Pre-cooked rice
Any kind of leftover meat, cut up into bite sized pieces
2 eggs
1 package frozen peas
1 clove garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 tablespoon sherry
soy sauce

Open bag of frozen peas into strainer, run under cold water and set aside to thaw and drain.

Heat wok, and then add 1-tablespoon peanut oil. Scramble eggs in wok, remove when done and set aside.

Wipe out wok, heat and add 2 tablespoons peanut oil. Stir-fry onion, celery, carrot for 1 minute. Add drained peas, garlic, and sherry, stir-fry for 2 minutes. Crumble and add up to 3 cups of rice. Stir-fry for a minute, add 2 tablespoons soy. Continue to stir-fry until rice is warmed through. Add more soy if desired. Keep rice moving so it won't clump together. Add meat and combine thoroughly. Gently chop scrambled eggs and sprinkle on the top when done.

The variations on this basic recipe are endless. You can make it vegetarian by omitting the eggs and meat, or substituting tofu for the meat and eggs.

Lemon Fluff

Childhood memories involve a lot of things, not least of all the scents and flavors of foods we were raised on. I've been on a quest to recreate some of those scents and flavors I remember so well. I grew up in the 1950's, and there's a lot of folks out there that have some of the same food memories I have, as a quick search of the internet has shown. So I've managed to piece together a few of Mom's recipes.
One of these recipes was Lemon fluff, made with whipped lemon gelatin dessert and whipped evaporated milk.


Lemon Fluff

1 can chilled evaporated milk
1 (4 oz) package lemon gelatin dessert
1 ¾ cups boiling water
¼ cup lemon juice
1 cup sugar
graham cracker crumbs

Chill unopened can of milk in refrigerator 3 to 4 hours. Dissolve Jello in boiling water, chill until partially set. Whip partially set Jello until light and fluffy. Add lemon juice and sugar. Whip chilled milk until fluffy and fold into Jello mixture. Line bottom of 13 x 9 pan with graham cracker crumbs, reserving some for on top. Pour Jello mixture over crumbs, top with remaining crumbs. Chill until firm.

To make Orange Fluff, substitute Orange Jello and ¼ orange juice concentrate.

Mahogany Chicken Wings

This recipe results in chicken wings that are a brown color when cooked (hence the name). The sauce the wings are marinated in, along with the natural gelatin in the wings makes for delicious flavor and texture. Hoisin sauce and plum sauce can be found in many large supermarkets along with rice wine vinegar. Cider vinegar or white vinegar can be substituted for rice wine vinegar. For easy clean up, make sure and line the baking pan used to cook them with aluminum foil. The sauce will be very sticky and very hard to clean after it bakes on.
  • 5 lbs. chicken wings
  • 1-cup soy sauce
  • 1-cup hoisin sauce
  • 1 cup plum sauce
  • 3/4-cup honey
  • 3/4-cup rice wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup dry sherry
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 8 green onions, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
      Remove wing tips and separate wings at the joint. Combine all the rest of the ingredients in a saucepan and slowly bring to a boil. After mixture starts to boil, reduce heat and simmer on low for 5-10 minutes. Allow mixture to cool completely. Put mixture into a large covered dish or large zip lock plastic bag, and add wing pieces. Put into refrigerator and allow to marinate at least overnight, or as long as two days, making sure mixture coats all the wings.

      When ready to cook, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a shallow baking pan with aluminum foil and spread out wings in a single layer. When oven reaches temperature, place wings in oven and cook for 1 to 1.5 hours, turning wings every 15 minutes and basting with leftover marinate.

      Basil - The King Of Herbs

      Basil is a very fragrant herb that is related to mint. It is thought to have originated in India, Asia and Africa and has been cultivated for over 5,000 years. It has a slight flavor of anise and is used in Italian, Greek, and Asian cuisine. Its name comes from the Greek word for king. There are over 60 varieties of basil including those with purple leafs, ruffled leaves, large or lettuce leafed basils and oriental types. Genovese basil is the type used for the popular pesto sauce of Italian cuisine. There are also lemon and cinnamon flavored basils. The flavor of basil can be easily lost by cooking it too much, so it is most often added towards the end of cooking.

      Basil is a very healthful herb, as it provides the body protection from bacteria at a cellular level. It also has anti-inflammatory properties plus is rich in vitamins A and C, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and iron.

      Basil is best used fresh. It is very easy to grow, and should be sown directly into the garden in a spot that gets full sun and is well-drained. The soil should not be too rich, as basil does very well in poor soils. It is very sensitive to cold, and much prefers a lot of heat. Harvest when it starts to bloom for the best flavor. It also does well as a potted plant.

      Pesto sauce is the showcase recipe for this herb and is easily made:

      2 cups Genovese or sweet basil leaves
      1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
      1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
      3 cloves garlic
      1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
      1/2 teaspoon pepper (or to taste)
      1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

      Place basil leaves, garlic and pine nuts in a food processor. Chop these ingredients by pulsing the processor until they are all roughly chopped. Remove contents from food processor and place in a bowl. Add olive oil and cheese, salt and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly.

      Pesto can be put over any freshly cooked pasta, a baked potato, a slice of pizza, even spread on a piece of toasted Italian or French bread.


      Yin and Yang, Sweet and Sour

      Chinese philosophy pays a great deal of attention to opposites. Light and dark, sad and happy, black and white. These concepts are called Yin and Yang. But these concepts are more than opposing. They are complimentary. There can be no light without dark, no dark without light. No heaven without earth, and no earth without heaven. This philosophy permeates all of Chinese culture, including their cuisine.

      The philosophy of Yin and Yang is represented in the familiar sweet and sour dishes in Chinese cuisine. The two flavors are opposite in the reactions and sensations they give the taste buds, but yet they also compliment each other, are both present in one dish to be savored separately and in combination with one another.
      A basic no-frills sweet and sour sauce can be made with the following ingredients:
      • 1 cup white sugar
      • 1 cup vinegar
      • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
      • 1/4 cup cold water
      Place sugar and vinegar in a saucepan. Stir together and put on stove. Heat mixture on high heat, stirring continuously until sugar dissolves and mixture boils. Add cornstarch to cold water, stir to combine. Put cornstarch mixture into vinegar/sugar mixture. Continue to stir until mixture boils again. Remove from heat, cool and refrigerate. This sweet and sour sauce works best to cook with, not for the usual type that is more familiar and used for dipping.

      The following sweet and sour recipe can be used to make a more familiar kind of sauce for dipping:
      • 2/3 cup of rice vinegar
      • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
      • 2 tbsp of tomato ketchup
      • 4 tsp of cornstarch mixed with 8 tsp of water
      • 2 tsp of soy sauce
      Put rice vinegar, brown sugar, ketchup and soy sauce in a saucepan and heat to boiling. Thoroughly mix cornstarch with water, add to boiling contents of saucepan and stir until thick.




      The Tomato - From The New World

      Some history and facts about tomatoes:

      • Tomatoes are in the same botanical family as tobacco, peppers, potatoes, eggplant and the poisonous plant deadly nightshade.
      • Tomatoes are thought to have originated in South America and Mexico. These wild tomatoes were the size of the modern day cherry tomatoes.
      • The Mayan and other peoples of Central America and Mexico were the first people to domesticate the tomato.
      • Spanish explorers took the tomato from South America and Mexico and introduced it to the Caribbean area and the Philippines. From these areas the tomato moved to the Mediterranean and southeast Asia regions.
      • The tomato is a relatively recent cooking ingredient in Italy. The earliest record of tomato use in Italy was in a recipe in a 17th century cookbook.
      • The tomato was first grown in England in the last decade of the 16th century. It was considered poisonous and used only as a table decoration until the early 1700's.
      • Tomatoes were also considered poisonous in early America, even though Thomas Jefferson ate them in Paris, brought back seeds and grew them in his garden.
      • Tomatoes are a very healthy food. Studies have shown that a diet including tomatoes can reduce the risk of heart problems, reduce the risk of prostate disease, good for pancreatic health, colon health, antioxidant and cancer prevention qualities.
      • There were over 130 million tons of tomatoes produced in 2005. China is the largest producer of tomatoes and accounts for 25% of total world production.
      • The tomato is technically a fruit, more specifically a berry. It is used more as a vegetable because it does not have the sweet flavor usually associated with fruits.
      • The record for the heaviest tomato grown is 7 ponds, 12 ounces grown in Oklahoma in 1986.
      • The largest tomato plant on record is one that reached 65 feet in length, grown in England in 2000.
      • The fruit of the tomato comes in a rainbow of colors. Red, pink, green, purple, yellow, orange, even a white tomato.
      • The Campbell Soup Company introduced their canned Tomato Soup in 1897 and it has been one of their biggest sellers ever since.

      Oregano - Herb of the Mediterranean

      Oregano is an herb most thought of as an ingredient in many types of Italian food. Oregano has a wonderfully aromatic and warm smell when used in Italian dishes like pizza and it is a great compliment to any tomato-based pasta sauce. But it is actually an herb that is used in all types of Mediterranean cooking, and is an ingredient in Mexican cuisine. Mexican oregano is thought to be the strongest variety. Oregano is sometimes confused with marjoram. The two herbs are somewhat similar, but marjoram (also called sweet marjoram) is milder and has a slight sweet flavor.

      Oregano originates from Northern Europe, and grows in many other areas of the world. Ancient Greeks and Romans treasured the herb not only for cooking. They considered it to represent joy and happiness and would present bunches of it to newlywed couples. The name oregano is derived from ancient Greek and means 'Joy of the mountain'. Oregano is also a very healthy herb, and is high in anti-oxidants and is a good anti-bacterial. It is a good source of dietary fiber, iron, manganese, calcium, and vitamins A and C.

      Fresh oregano is preferred over dried as the flavor is more intense and complex. Whether it is used fresh or dried, oregano should be added towards the end of the cooking time of a dish, as too much heat can lessen its flavor. A few sprigs of fresh oregano can be put into a bottle of olive oil to flavor it. Like many herbs, oregano is easy to grow. Plant a few seeds in a spot that gets full sun and where the soil is well drained and not too rich. In areas of the U.S that have harsh winters, the plant can be grown as an annual, as a perennial in milder climates. It also does well as a potted plant. Pick fresh oregano from the plant just before flowers appear for the best flavor.

      Whether used for Italian, Spanish, Mexican or Greek dishes, oregano is one of the great herbs that not only imparts good flavor and aroma, but also is very healthy.


      Basic Pizza Dough

      This dough uses olive oil and two packets of rapid rise yeast to create a basic pizza dough.

      6 cups (approximately) white flour
      1/4 cup corn meal
      2 tablespoons sugar
      4 tablespoons olive oil
      2 cups warm water
      2 packages rapid rise yeast

      This dough can be made in any kind of electric mixer that is heavy duty enough for dough making. Use a dough hook in the mixer. It can also be done by hand with a wooden spoon, but expect a real workout doing it that way.

      Put warm water in a large bowl. Add yeast and mix thoroughly. Add sugar and olive oil. Mix thoroughly. Add 2 cups of the flour and corn meal. Mix until a smooth batter forms. Add flour one cup at a time, mix thoroughly before adding the next cup, until 3 cups have been added. Add half of the remaining cup of flour, mix and turn out onto a floured board to knead. Knead dough, adding flour as needed, until the dough is smooth and not real sticky. The amount of flour you'll use depends on the humidity and temperature, so the flour amount is not exact. Roll dough into a ball. Oil the inside of a a large bowl. Put dough in the bowl, then turn over. Cover with plastic wrap and put in a warm place to rise.

      Because of the two packets of rapid rise yeast used, the dough should double in size in about 30 minutes. Punch the dough down, and let rise again. Punch down dough, and it is ready to use. This versatile dough can be used for pizza, Italian bread, stromboli, calzone, or focaccia.
      Substitute 1-2 cups of whole wheat flour for the white flour to get a slightly heavier and tasty dough.


      Saturday, September 25, 2010

      Mongolian Beef

      This is a recipe that reflects the cooking techniques of northern China. The meaty flavor of this dish has made it popular, even with folks who don't usually like Chinese food.

      Sauce:
      2 teaspoons peanut oil
      3 garlic cloves, minced
      1/2-cup soy sauce
      1/2-cup water
      1/3-cup brown sugar
      1/2-teaspoon ginger, minced
      1/4-cup hoisin sauce

      Other ingredients:
      1 lb. Flank steak or sirloin
      12 green onions
      1/4 cup cornstarch

      Heat peanut oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic, ginger, water, and hoisin. Add brown sugar and stir to dissolve. Raise heat to being mixture to a boil, and boil for 3 minutes or until the sauce turns thick. Remove from fire and set aside.

      Cut steak across the grain into very thin strips. Coat meat with cornstarch and allow to sit for at least ten minutes. While meat sits, cut green onions into 1-inch pieces on a diagonal, and prepare chilies if you're going to use them.

      Heat wok. When hot, put in one cup of vegetable oil. When oil is ready, add cornstarch- coated meat and stir-fry until the edges of the meat turn brown. Remove meat with a slotted spoon. Remove oil and place meat back into wok. Pour prepared sauce over meat and stir-fry for one minute. Add green onions and stir-fry for another minute. Serve over brown rice.

      This dish is many times prepared in Szechwan style with hot peppers. To prepare this way, take two jalapeƱos or other hot peppers of comparable size and cut them into thin strips, add them with the green onions towards the end of cooking

      Garlic - The Left Footprint Of Satan

      Some facts and folklore about garlic:
      • Garlic is a member of the same family as the onion, leek and shallot.
      • The name 'garlic' comes from an Old English word that means 'spear leek'.
      • Garlic is thought to have originated in southeast Asia. It has been used in culinary and medicinal applications for at least 6,000 years.
      • China is by far the largest producer of garlic. In 2005 China produced 23 billion pounds of garlic, 75% of the world's total production.
      • There is an ancient Christian myth that says when Satan left the garden of Eden, garlic sprouted out of his left footprint.
      • Some have said that if a clove of garlic is crushed and rubbed on the sole of your foot that you will experience the taste of garlic on your tongue after a half hour or so.
      • Garlic is a natural blood thinner and massive consumption of it can lead to bleeding disorders.
      • Garlic as well as onions can be toxic to dogs and cats.
      • Garlic contains natural antibiotic and anti-fungal compounds. These compounds are released from the clove after it is crushed, but quickly break down in contact with air.
      • The sharp, hot flavor of raw garlic is caused by the breaking down of the cellular walls when garlic is chopped, crushed or minced. This releases various sulfur compounds which account for the sharp flavor. These compounds are removed when garlic is cooked, thus causing the garlic to mellow in flavor.
      • 'Garlic breath' that occurs after eating garlic is not only caused by residue of the garlic left in the mouth. It is the result of the digestion of the garlic and the odor is exhaled through the lungs. Any attempts at sweetening garlic breath will not actually stop it, only mask it.
      • In the United States, garlic was found only in ethnic dishes until the 1930's. Slang terms for garlic in the early 20th century were Bronx Vanilla and Italian Perfume.
      • Gangsters in the first half of the 20th century would rub crushed garlic cloves onto bullets they loaded into their guns. If anyone that was shot survived, they were likely to develop a serious infection from a garlic-rubbed bullet.
      • The smaller the piece of garlic, the stronger the flavor. So when you use it, the smaller you mince it the more you'll taste it.
      • Because of its odor, garlic is sometimes referred to as The Stinking Rose.

      The Four Regions Of Chinese Cuisine

      The world of Chinese food consists of more variety than most Americans realize. There are many different types of food in China that can be categorized roughly by four regions: Southern, Northern, Eastern and Western. Some information about each:

      Southern, or Cantonese - The cuisine from this area is perhaps the most well known to Americans. Cantonese cuisine uses a large variety of vegetables and meats. Rice is the staple, and the familiar Fried Rice recipes are Cantonese in origin. Many of the dishes of this area are prepared very quickly by stir-frying. Usually Cantonese cuisine is lightly flavored, but there are a large variety of tastes used. Sweet and sour dishes originated in this region.

      Northern, or Beijing - Also known as Mandarin cuisine, this type of food originated in the area of China that has very sever winters. The climate of this region does not allow for the growing of rice, so wheat is the staple. Wheat is made into noodles, pancakes and dumplings. The flavors of Northern China are more robust, with plenty of onion, garlic, cabbage, bean pastes, dark soy sauce and oyster flavored sauce. With influences from Mongolian and Muslim invaders in the past, Northern cuisine is hearty fare. Beijing (Peking) Duck, Mongolian Hot Pot and Mongolian Beef are some of the more familiar types of this cuisine.

      Eastern, or Shanghai - This cuisine uses a combination of wheat and rice as its staples. Rice and wheat noodles are very popular. This region has a lot of rivers and other bodies of water, so fish and seafood are a very large part of the cuisine. Sugar is also grown in this area, and Shanghai cuisine uses more of it than the other regions. The cooking style of this region can be delicate and refined, with a large variety of sweet and savory pastries being made using the thinnest of pastry skin. Meatballs made from finely minced pork are also part of this cuisine. This area also produces a type of cured ham.

      Western, or Szechwan - Szechwan cuisine is famous for its use of tongue-blistering chili peppers in a variety of dishes. But there's more to this cuisine than just heat. There are subtle dishes, such as smoked Chicken that is smoked with tea leaves. Szechwan pepper is also a spice used in this cuisine. Five-spice powder is another spice that is used in this cuisine. Hot and Sour soup and Twice Cooked Pork are familiar dishes from this area.
      These four regions are only a broad guide to the remarkable, varied cuisine of China.


      Teriyaki Chicken

      This dish is more in the style of Japanese cooking, as the chicken is cooked on a griddle, not in the wok, and separate from the vegetables. I use an electric griddle, and it works great. The dish can be made with chicken breast, but I prefer to use chicken thigh meat.

      *2 boneless skinless chicken breasts OR 4 boned and skinned chicken thighs
      *teriyaki sauce
      *1 teaspoon garlic powder
      *2 tablespoons sherry
      *vegetables for stir frying
      Cut up the chicken, in small thin strips. The thinner the better. Put the chicken into the freezer for a half hour or so. It will firm up the meat and make it easier to slice. Put cut up chicken in a bowl, add the sherry, garlic powder and teriyaki sauce. The meat doesn't have to be completely immersed, just well coated with the sauce. Marinate for at least 1/2 hour, up to 4 hours. The longer the meat marinates, the stronger the teriyaki flavor.

      Preheat grill at 400 degrees if you're using an electric one. You can also use a cast iron skillet. When cooking vessel is hot, put 1 tablespoon of peanut oil on griddle. Let oil get hot, then use a pair of tongs to CAREFULLY put meat on griddle. There's going to be a good deal of sizzling and some spattering, so please use caution. Spread meat one layer thick over griddle and let sit for 10 seconds. This will caramelize some of the teriyaki sauce. After the initial 10 seconds, keep the meat moving Teriyaki sauce has a lot of sugar in it, so you need to keep the chicken moving or it will burn. You want to have a nice browning of the meat and a little charring is good, but avoid burning. Any marinate left in the bowl can be poured over the chicken while it cooks. Continue to keep chicken moving until done. Cooking time depends on how much chicken and how thin you've sliced it.

      As meat grills stir fry the vegetables in a little oil in a wok. I like mushrooms, green onions, carrots and celery with teriyaki chicken. Serve the vegetables over a bed of rice or oriental noodles, and then put the chicken on top of that. Pour a little fresh teriyaki sauce over the meat. The taste of the fresh sauce and the cooked sauce is just different enough to give the dish a good variety of flavor.

      This can also be done with beef,pork, and seafood. An interesting variation is to slice up green onions and/or green or red peppers lengthwise and add to the marinate. They add more flavor to the meat when grilling.

      Yee Haw! Cowboy Beans!

      An easy dish that really sticks to your ribs. Teenagers especially like this dish. Take advantage of that and teach them how to cook it for themselves.
      • 1 to 2 lbs hamburger
      • 1 regular size can of red kidney beans
      • 1 regular sized can of yellow corn
      • 1 large can of pork and beans (28 oz.)
      • 1 onion, diced small
      • 1 or 2 ribs celery, diced small
      • 1 small green pepper, diced small (optional)
      • 1 clove garlic, (or more if you like garlic)
      Brown hamburger in a large skillet, drain off excess fat. Add the onion and celery (and green pepper if you're using it). Let cook for 5 minutes. Add garlic, yellow corn, kidney beans and pork and beans. Stir until well mixed and cook on low for 20 minutes. I don't add any salt to this recipe. Doesn't seem to need it taste wise and there's for sure enough salt in the canned items used to make it. Some ground black pepper is good though, or if you want some real heat in it use your favorite hot sauce.
      Served with cornbread, this dish is a meal in itself. There's all kinds of variations you can make on it, such as putting in barbecue sauce or salsa for added flavor, using canned butter beans or Lima beans instead of kidney beans. It can also be made with sausage, ground turkey, or a combination of ground meats. It's also good as a leftover. You can freeze it for heating up in the microwave too.

      Tea Smoked Chicken

      This Chinese method of smoking is much different than western methods as it uses brown sugar and tea.

      1 whole chicken
      soy sauce
      tea leaves
      brown sugar

      Wash chicken thoroughly, inside and out and pat dry. ALWAYS wash chicken well with plenty of water, no matter how you're going to cook it. The way chickens are processed commercially leaves a lot to be desired. Also be careful of any cross contamination by washing your hands utensils and countertops with soap and hot water after coming in contact with raw chicken. Rub soy sauce liberally over chicken, inside and out. Steam chicken until completely done, time depending on the size of the bird, brushing more soy sauce on it occasionally.

      What? You say you don't have a steamer? Got a pot with a lid big enough to hold a whole chicken? Put something in the bottom of the pot that will hold a plate with the chicken on it. Put a few inches of water into the pot. Bring to a simmer, put the chicken in and put on the lid. I use my wok for this, and it works great. You don't need to keep the water boiling, just have it hot enough that it produces steam vapor. Add water to the bottom of the pot as needed.

      CAREFULLY remove chicken when done. Now comes the smoking part. Mix 1 cup brown sugar and 1 cup tea leaves in an aluminum pan or piece of foil. Place the chicken on your outdoor grill, over indirect heat. Place pan with brown sugar/tea mixture on the coals of a slow fire, and close the lid of the grill. You want the sugar and tea to smoke, so have the fire low. Smoke for at least 1/2 hour, adding tea/sugar as needed.
      This gives the chicken a delicate taste, nothing like the heavy smoke flavor we're accustomed to. This is especially good served cold, but you can sure eat it warm too!

      Home Made Pizza Sauce


      There's a huge variety of pre-made pizza sauces available. But if you make your own, you can make it as you like it. The basic ingredient in the pizza sauce I make is tomato paste. It is thick enough that you can add many different things to it.


      Basic Pizza Sauce
      1 6-ounce can tomato paste
      1 tablespoon dry sherry
      1 tablespoon olive oil
      1 clove garlic,minced
      1/2 small onion, minced
      1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
      1/4 teaspoon dried basil
      1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
      1/4 teaspoon salt
      1/4 teaspoon marjoram

      Empty tomato paste into a glass bowl. Fill tomato paste can half full of water and stir. Pour 1/2 can of water into paste. Add the rest of the ingredients. Blend well, and let sit for at least 20 minutes for flavors to combine.

      This recipe makes a thick, tomatoey sauce. There are many variations you can try, using garlic powder and onion powder instead of fresh. If you prefer a thinner sauce or a milder tomato flavor, use more liquid in it.
      A really great variation on this sauce is to use roasted garlic instead of fresh or powder. To roast your own garlic, take an entire head of garlic and remove any loose outer skin. Cut just enough off the top of the head so that each individual clove is exposed. Place head in tinfoil, pour two teaspoons of olive oil over top of garlic. Seal up and place in a 400-degree oven for 30-40 minutes. Roasted garlic is much milder than raw and after roasting the cloves become very soft, almost like a paste. To use for pizza sauce, use one or two cloves mixed into the rest of the sauce instead of fresh garlic or garlic powder. Roasted garlic can also be mixed with olive oil, oregano and a little salt for a tasty dip for crusty Italian bread.

      Friday, September 24, 2010

      Thyme - The Antiseptic Herb

      Thyme is an herb that has been known about and used since ancient times. Egyptians used it as an ingredient for embalming, ancient Greeks would burn the herb for its aromatic properties. The spread of thyme through Europe is credited to the ancient Romans, as they used it as a room purifier and a flavoring for cheese and food.
      Thyme was a symbol of bravery and courage in medieval times. Ladies would sew springs of the herb onto handkerchiefs that were given to knights. Oil of thyme has also been used medicinally in topical applications, mouthwash, and as an antiseptic. Thymol is the substance contained in the herb that makes it an antiseptic. Thymol is the active ingredient in Listerine mouthwash.

      Thyme is an excellent antimicrobial herb. Studies have shown that thyme used in preserved food actually helps prevent spoilage, especially in foods that are not cooked, such as salads. Using fresh thyme in a salad can make the salad safer to eat.

      Thyme originally is indigenous to Asia and the Mediterranean area, but is now grown around the world. Its strong scent and mild mint flavor gives a good accent to many recipes such as soups, stews, roasted meats and pasta sauce. It should be added to the recipe towards the end of cooking, as too much heat for an extended time can kill the flavor of it.

      Thyme is easy to grow. Sow directly in a sunny, well-drained spot or in pots. Thyme is an herb that is good dried or fresh, and along with bay leaf and parsley it makes up the classic bouquet garni of French cooking.

      Stir Fried Chicken With Cabbage

      Cabbage, along with other cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and kohlrabi are very heart-healthy foods.

      Stir Fried Chicken With Cabbage
      Skinless boneless chicken breast
      I small to medium sized head of red or green cabbage
      1 medium onion
      2 stalks celery
      2 cloves garlic
      2 carrots
      8 ounces fresh mushrooms
      2 tablespoons oyster-flavored sauce*
      2 tablespoons soy sauce*
      1/2 teaspoon sesame seed oil*
      1 tablespoon sherry*
      1 tablespoon corn starch
      1/4 cup cold water or chicken stock

      Use whole cabbage if head is small, half if head is medium sized. Cut cabbage in half, and core it. Slice cabbage as thinly as possible. Thinly slice carrots on the diagonal. Thinly slice celery on the diagonal. Wash and slice mushrooms. Peel onion and cut in half. Dice one half of onion, cut other half into chunks. Smash two cloves of garlic and dice. Cut up chicken into bite sized pieces.

      Heat wok, and then add peanut oil. Wait until oil heats up, then put in diced onion. Stir-fry for a minute or so. Add chicken. Stir-fry for two to three minutes, and then add sherry. Stir-fry until chicken is done, then remove from wok. Let wok return to temperature, add a little more oil if needed, then add mushrooms and stir-fry for a minute or two. Then add garlic, cabbage, carrots, chunked onion and celery. Stir-fry until vegetables are done, then add cooked chicken. Cover wok.

      Dissolve the cornstarch in the water or stock. Add the sesame seed oil, oyster flavored sauce and soy sauce to mixture. Uncover wok and pour in mixture. Stir-fry until a light sauce forms. Serve over rice, oriental noodles, or for something really different, over fried pork rinds.

      You can substitute pork or beef for the chicken, or add no meat at all. For a thinner sauce, omit the cornstarch and water. Fresh cabbage is always the best, but this recipe is good for cabbage that is less than fresh too. Cutting it thin and stir-frying it brings out the mild sweetness of the cabbage.

      This is a basic recipe. You can add or substitute, as you like.

      *Oyster flavored sauce is a very thick, dark brown sauce that has a salty, meaty flavor. It really doesn't taste much like oysters to me.
      * I use reduced sodium soy sauce, because I watch my sodium intake. Regular soy sauce is just too darn salty for my taste.
      * Sesame seed oil is a basic oriental cuisine flavor. Go easy on it though. It can overpower if too much is used.
      *DO NOT USE COOKING SHERRY! You know, the stuff you get in the grocery store. The stuff you can't drink because it's so nasty and full of salt. Use drinkable sherry, the kind you get in the liquor store. A bottle of it lasts quite awhile (as long as you don't take a swig ever time you use it!) and just a tablespoon or two can add a lot of flavor.

      Wok Cooking 101

      There is no end to the versatility and flavor that can be achieved by cooking in a wok. It's not only used for stir-frying, but for deep frying, steaming, making soup, or for even making popcorn. Less oil is needed to cook food in a wok when stir-frying, thus helping to reduce fat and calories. Vegetables cook up beautifully, warmed all the way through but still with a fresh 'crunch'. And meat is used more as a flavoring than a main ingredient. Diced into small cubes, four ounces of meat can flavor a wok-full of vegetables, thus reducing meat consumption. And of course you need not add meat at all if you don't want to. There are a few basic things about the wok that are different than traditional western cooking utensils:
      • Remember this rule of thumb - Hot wok + cold oil = foods don't stick. That means get your wok really hot BEFORE you put in the oil. Let the oil get hot for a minute or two, THEN put in the food.
      • Stir-frying in a wok takes less time than in regular pans. That's the whole point. Cook the food as fast as possible. This will ensure that meat has a crusty exterior but is still moist and tender on the inside and vegetables will be warmed all the way through but still have some 'bite'.
      • Use peanut oil (unless you're allergic to peanuts!) The wok can get very hot, even on a home stovetop. Regular cooking oils have a low smoking temperature while peanut oil's smoking temperature is over 500 degrees.
      • I've actually used a wok the way it's done in most oriental restaurant kitchens, over an intense gas burner. An entire stir-fry dish can be cooked in 3 minutes. That's how hot the fire is. Most kitchens don't have a heat source like that, but you can come close if you've got a gas stove. Lots of luck for an electric stovetop, or worse yet an electric wok. You can still cook on them, but it's not quite the same.
      • NEVER cook with a wok that does not have a lid. A lid is essential for cooking, plus is a safety feature, as cooking temperatures can get really hot even on a home range, and cooking oils can on occasion burst into flame. Slapping on the lid takes care of that problem in a hurry, especially if you're using the wok for deep-frying.
      • For wok cooking on a regular stovetop, cook the food in stages. Cook the meat first, then remove, let wok heat up again, then put in vegetables. Cook vegetables for a few minutes, add meat and put on the lid for the last minute. This will steam the food and help ensure doneness.
      • When the dish is cooked, serve immediately or make a sauce by dissolving one tablespoon of cornstarch in 1/2-cup water (meat or vegetable broth or stock is even better) and adding to the food. Let this cook until the sauce is thickened, then serve.
      • You'll spend more time in preparation than actual cooking. Cut vegetables into bite-sized pieces at an angle to increase the surface area of the vegetable to the wok.

      Pizza Stones And How To Use Them

      The home cook that wants to create a great homemade pizza should take a cue from professional pizza chefs. Half of the battle is in the crust. Whether thick or thin, the crust can make or break a pizza. No matter what the toppings are, if the crust is not done all the way through, or done too much to the point of being burnt, the pizza is ruined.

      The home cook can come real close to the quality of cooked pizza crust of professional pizza chefs by using a pizza stone. With a pizza stone, a home oven can approximate the heat and cooking method of a commercial oven. A pizza stone increases the temperature and amount of heat that is directly applied to the pizza, so that it not only cooks on the top, but from the bottom also. As a good pizza stone is unglazed, it also wicks the moisture from the crust, which helps to ensure the crust is completely done.

      To cook pizza on a stone, you of course need a stone and a paddle, or peel. The peel is usually made of wood, and transfers the raw pizza directly onto the hot stone, and also removes it when done. But first, the stone.

      There are many pizza stones available commercially. Make sure that the stone you get is not glazed. These stones can be rather expensive, but with care a pizza stone can last for a long time. Some have said that you can use regular unglazed terracotta tiles, which are not only cheaper but you can make the cooking are bigger or small by adding or subtracting tiles. I would advise using caution when using unglazed terracotta tiles that were manufactured for other uses besides cooking on. If you are positive that the tiles have no additives that could affect the food being cooked, then give them a try if you want. Otherwise, the money spent on a commercial pizza stone is money well spent.

      Always place your stone in the oven before you turn it on. Placing a cold stone in a hot oven is inviting disaster, for the stone could break. Heat the stone for at least 30 minutes; an hour would be even better. For pizza, most times the temperature to set your oven at is 500-550. This allows the pizza to cook rapidly, another secret of professional pizza chefs.

      Of course, after being in a 500-degree oven for an hour, the stone will be HOT! That's where the peel comes in. Liberally sprinkle the peel with corn meal, place your dough onto it and build your pizza. When ready to cook, CAREFULLY slide your pizza from the peel to the stone. The corn meal helps the pizza slide onto the stone.

      After use and the stone has cooled, anything stuck to the stone can be scraped off with a plastic spatula or other utensil. There's really no need to ever wash the stone, but if you must, rinse it off with warm water only. Don't use detergents because the stone is porous and can absorb it and transfer tastes to the pizza. The stone will turn a dark brown color with use, but this is just the sign of a well-used, seasoned stone and will make it cook even better.

      With a little experience, a pizza stone will not only bake a great pizza, but also bread, calzone, focaccia, stromboli, practically anything. With a little care and proper use, your pizza stone will last a long time, develop a patina and get better with age!


      Basic Tomato Sauce For Pasta

      A basic recipe that is good just as is, or add an endless variety of ingredients to suit your taste!

      2 cloves garlic, minced
      1 small onion finely chopped
      1 stalk celery finely chopped
      1 small carrot finely chopped
      2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
      1 tablespoon dried basil
      1 tablespoon dried oregano
      1 28 ounce can crushed or diced tomatoes
      1/2 of 6 ounce can tomato paste
      3 tablespoons dry sherry or 1/2 cup red wine
      small pinch red pepper flakes or powder
      4 tablespoons olive oil
      ground black pepper to taste
      salt to taste

      Cook onions, carrot and celery in olive oil over low heat for a minute or two. Add garlic and cook until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes or so. Be careful not to burn the garlic! Garlic is usually added after the onions and celery cook for a few minutes because garlic will burn faster. Burnt garlic turns bitter!
      Add parsley, basil, oregano and pepper. Increase heat to medium and add tomatoes, tomato paste and sherry. Cook for a few minutes while stirring. Add pepper flakes, cover and reduce heat to low simmer and cook for 30 minutes.

      And that's all there is to it. You can make the sauce thinner by adding a little tomato juice or water to it. This sauce is an excellent base that you can add many things to. Add meat, sliced mushrooms, zucchini, artichoke hearts, green peppers, you name it! If you're going to add meat, cook the meat first, and add before the tomatoes. Any vegetables can be cut up and added just before the tomatoes.

      2 pounds of fresh peeled and seeded tomatoes may be used instead of canned. If fresh tomatoes are used, more salt may be needed and the sauce may need to cook a little longer. The flavors in this sauce get even better if it is frozen or kept in the refrigerator for a day or two

      The Marvelous Onion - Facts And Folklore

      Onions have been valued for thousands of years for culinary, medicinal and other uses. Some facts and folklore about the onion.

      • The common onion is part of the Allium or lily plant family, which includes garlic, chives, leeks and shallots.
      • The onion gets its name from the Latin word uniowhich means 'one' or 'single', as onions are different than garlic, which produces many small bulbs while the onion produces only one.
      • Traces of onions have been found in Bronze Age settlements dating back to 5000 B.C.E.
      • Actual cultivation of onions by man is believed to have begun 4000 years ago in ancient Egypt.
      • Alexander the Great fed his army onions with the belief that if they ate strong foods, they themselves would become stronger.
      • Onions have strong antiseptic qualities, and their juice has been used for cleansing and healing wounds for centuries, all the way up to the American Civil War.
      • When The Plague infected Europe, some believed it was caused by evil spirits. Some would wear strings of onions around their necks to try and protect themselves.
      • Onions have also been used for other varieties of ailments through the centuries. In ancient India they were used as a diuretic, in China they were used for many things like liver disease, constipation and wound healing. In Colonial America eating a raw wild onion was thought to cure measles.
      • There is medical research that proves onions are indeed a healthy vegetable. They can lower blood glucose, lower blood pressure, lower overall cholesterol, dissolve blood clots and help prevent cancer.
      • There are two general categories of onions. Fresh spring/summer onions and storage onions. Fresh onions can be any color, some have their green stems attached. They are generally milder than storage onions. Storage onions can be red, yellow or white. They can range in flavor from mild to really strong, but most storage onions sweeten up and become mild when cooked.
      • Everybody who has ever had to cut up a lot of strong onions knows what happens. It is literally a job that makes all of us cry. That is because onions contain sulfur, and when you cut the onion sulfur is released into the air. This air-borne sulfur reacts with the moisture in your eyes and creates a mild form of sulfuric acid. Your eyes tear up to flush this substance from your eyes.
      • There are many ways to try and prevent crying while cutting up onions, some methods practical, some not. Some say cut them under water, or put them in the refrigerator an hour before cutting, or don't cut the root end until last. Some have even suggested putting on a tight fitting swimming mask.

      Peanut Butter Chicken Stir Fry

      It may seem a little odd to some to cook with peanut butter, but if you like peanut butter you'll like this recipe!
      • Boneless skinless chicken breast
      • 1 medium onion
      • 2 cloves garlic
      • ! cup broccoli flowerets
      • 1 cup cauliflower flowerets
      • 1 stalk celery
      • 2 carrots
      • 3 green onions
      • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
      • 1 tablespoon sherry
      • 1 to 2 tablespoons soy sauce
      • 1/2 teaspoon sesame seed oil
      • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
      Cut up chicken into bite sized pieces. Thinly slice carrots and celery (on an angle). Cut green onions into one-inch pieces, tops and all. Halve onion, dice one half and cut other half into chunks. Place peanut butter into bowl; add soy sauce and sesame seed oil. Stir peanut butter until smooth, adding water if necessary.

      Heat wok. Add 1-tablespoon peanut oil. When oil is hot add diced onion and chicken. Chow (the Chinese term for stir fry) the chicken and onions for a minute, add garlic and sherry. Cook until chicken is done. Remove chicken from wok. Let wok reheat; add the rest of the peanut oil. When hot, put all the vegetables into the wok and chow for 2-3 minutes. When vegetables are warmed through, add cooked chicken and cover wok. Let cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove lid, add peanut butter mixture and mix it in well,covering all the vegetables and chicken. Add a little water to the wok if peanut butter sauce is too thick. This can be served over oriental noodles or rice.

      There are variations galore on this recipe. It's good with mushrooms instead of or in addition to chicken. The peanut butter sauce does tend to go with chicken better than beef or pork. And if you like it hot and spicy, add a diced jalapeno or red pepper flakes to the vegetables while cooking.

      Types of Cheese For Pizza

      Without a doubt the most popular cheese to use for pizza is mozzarella. This cheese originated in the Naples region of Italy and was first made from water buffalo milk. Original mozzarella was of very high moisture content, and had a short shelf life. It The texture of original mozzarella did not lend to grating at all, and the cheese was usually cut into slices to be used.

      Modern mozzarella is now made from cows milk, and is of a lower moisture content to help make it easier to work with and extend the shelf life. Mozzarella is available in a variety of moisture and butterfat content. A little experimenting to find which you like better will be needed, for different mozzarellas have different ways in which they melt and brown.

      There is a fresh mozzarella sold that comes as balls of cheese packed in water. This cheese has a different texture and taste than regular mozzarella and can also be used on pizza. It does not grate as it is too soft, and it must be used fairly soon as it turns sour within a few days. This fresh mozzarella is sometimes called scamorze. But mozzarella isn't the only cheese you can use for pizza. Consider trying some of these others for different flavors.

      Provolone - Non-smoked provolone has a nutty flavor, creamy texture, and is easy to grate and use. Smoked provolone has a more robust, smoky taste. Provolone can be used by itself, or in a combination with mozzarella.

      Cheddar - From white to orange, from mild to sharp, cheddar is a good cheese for pizza. Cheddar melts well, but does not 'stretch', so it is always used in combination with mozzarella or provolone. The more cheddar you use in the blend, the milder it should be. The sharp varieties can dominate the flavor of the pizza, so use them sparingly.

      Romano & Parmesan - These cheeses are most often used dried and grated over pasta dishes. They can be used on pizza for added flavor. Their flavor can be quite robust, especially the dried and grated kinds, so use accordingly. Parmesan is also available as fresh, and can be sliced or grated. Fresh parmesan has a better all-around flavor for pizza than the dried.

      Feta - Feta cheese is a cheese that is cured in brine, and many times sold in small tubs of brine. It is an excellent cheese to use in combination or all by itself for pizza. Its salty, earth flavor holds up well after baking.

      Swiss - Swiss is a very flavorful, salty cheese that not everyone likes used on pizza. It can add a great accent to a pizza, but as it is such a strong flavor should be used in a mixture of no more than 10% Swiss. Swiss can get rubbery after melting, another good reason to use it only sparingly and in a mixture of other cheeses.

      Monterey Jack - This cheese is a good one for pizza, best used as a mixture of no more than 30% with other cheeses. Good quality Monterey Jack cheese has many small holes in it.

      Muenster - A semi-soft cheese with a great flavor that can be used as an accent on pizza. Grates with difficulty. It can be sliced thinly and put on the pizza.

      These are but a few of the alternatives to just plain old mozzarella cheese for pizza. Try other kinds, and see what combinations you can come up with that you like the best. When using other varieties of cheese, remember that as a rule of thumb it is best to blend them with mozzarella or provolone to see what they will taste like. Buon appetito!


      My Zimbio