Monthly Archives: April 2012

FISH BASICS

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Fish are in such high demand today because we know the health benefits they provide. There are so many kinds of fish depending on the region you live in, I am not going to try to touch them all. Instead we will focus on basic terminology and those fish that everyone can find in their local store or fishing hole. Not only do consumers need to be aware of what they are purchasing at the store, but restaurants have picked up much of the terminology and put it on their menus.

Farm Raised The process of raising fish commercially in tanks or enclosures to be released into the wild or served as food. Fish that were raised in hatcheries and released to the wild live their life in various lakes, rivers and streams to procreate or be caught by fishermen. Some are transferred to cages placed in rivers, lakes and the ocean until they are large enough to sell. One of the biggest concerns with cage fishing is when fish escape in an area that is not their natural habitat and therefore have no natural predators. The most common cultured fish are catfish, salmon, carp, tilapia, European seabass and cod.

Organic how do you label a wild animal as organic? That is the question that causes controversy in the use of this label. Fish which are vegetarians can easily have their diets controlled. Carnivores however eat other fish which itself cannot be labeled organic. In 2008, the US National Organic Standards Board allowed farmed fish to be labeled as organic provided less than 25% of their feed came from wild fish.

Sustainable Sustainable fish or seafood was either fished or farmed from sources that can maintain or increase production in the future without jeopardizing the ecosystems from which it was acquired. Slow growing fish (such as orange roughy) are at most risk of being overfished. Overfishing puts species at risk of being placed on the endangered list or eventually to become extinct.

There are ways to find out if the fish you buy is sustainable. Some companies promote it on their websites. The Blue Ocean Institute has created a flier you can tuck into your shopping bag that labels fish by its sustainability. Store chains have begun to use this system so you may see the codes in your local store.

Seafood is any marine life regarded as food by humans. This includes fish, molluscs (octopus and shellfish), crustaceans (shrimp and lobster), echinoderms (sea cucumber and sea urchins) as well as edible sea plants, such as some seaweeds and micro algae.

Fresh If you are going to buy fish you certainly expect it to be edible. To determine if a fish is fresh you first need to smell it. There should not be a strong fish odor and seafood should smell of the ocean. Eyes should be clear and be slightly bulgy. Herring is an exception to that rule as their eyes should be red. The flesh should be firm with a slight sheen to it. If the meat is separating from itself (flaking), it is old. The gills should be a bright pink or red and slightly wet without being slimy. Check the labels, if the fish was previously frozen the label must state so. This means the store received the fish frozen and then packaged and allowed the fish to thaw.

Smoked Smoking was done to cure the meat in order to preserve it for consumption later on. As time passed, recipes and techniques were developed to create depth of flavor as well. The traditional method requires fish being suspended in a smokehouse and thus infused with the natural smoke of the kindling. Modern methods create smoke condensates which is a liquid smoke. This requires much less time to complete the process.

“Hot-smoking (also called barbecuing or kippering) requires a short brining time and smoking temperatures of 90°F for the first 2 hours and 150°F for an additional 4-8 hours. Hot-smoked fish are moist, lightly salted, and fully cooked, but they will keep in the refrigerator for only a few days.

Cold-smoking requires a longer brining time, lower temperature (80-90°F) and extended smoking time (1-5 days or more of steady smoking). Cold-smoked fish contain more salt and less moisture than hot-smoked fish. If the fish has been sufficiently cured, it will keep in the refrigerator for several months.” (1)In the USA cold smoked fish are raw and need to be cooked before serving. Cold smoked salmon is referred to as lox. Herring that has been salted and smoked are referred to as kippers

Storage Once frozen fish has been thawed, it should not be refrozen. Fresh fish should be kept on ice. The best way to do this is to fill container A with ice and place container B on top that holds the fish. This is needed because the water fish swim in is colder than air and the refrigerator cannot keep the meat cold enough to keep it from rotting. A second option is to place an ice pack under the fish instead of the ice.

If you caught the fish it will last about 10 days this way. Store bought is only good for a few days! Oily fish such as salmon, trout or sturgeon lose a few days automatically. Exceptionally oil fish such as herring, sardine or bluefish should be eaten immediately.

Freezing Fish freezes quite well if done properly up to 6 months. First and foremost it must not touch air. All fish should be wrapped tightly before being placed into the freezer. Glazed fish means it has been frozen in ice to prevent this. I am not a fan of this method as I feel it often produces mushy fish once thawed.

Cooking The 10 minute rule has the cook measure the fish at its widest point. Cook fresh fish 10 minutes for each inch (20 minutes for frozen). This assumes you are cooking a filet. Cooking a whole fish takes longer. Check by pressing on the thickest part of the fish, do not cut it open!

Poached Fish that has been simmered in a liquid

Fried Fish can be pan-fried or deep-fried. If the oil is at the correct temperature the fish should not absorb very much oil. Breaded fish requires more oil in the pan than unbreaded.

Baked Most fish will dry out if baked by itself. You will need a little liquid even if it is simply oil or lemon juice and covered with tin foil. Fish baked in packets cook in their own juices and become very tender. The added benefit is you can enclose vegetables with the fish and cook everything at once. Salted fish requires the fish be cleaned and covered with a mixture of salt and beaten egg whites. The fish bakes within the “crust” and contrary to how it sounds, does not come out tasting like a salt lick.

Sushi Not all sushi uses raw fish. Sometimes it is also smoked or pickled. Western sushi has created a variety of combinations so if you are not familiar with a name, ask what is in it.

Pacific vs Atlantic Salmon In the great salmon wars, people tend to take 1 side and will only eat one or the other. So is there really a difference? The Atlantic salmon is restricted to 1 species. The Pacific salmon encompasses the Chinook, Chum, Coho, Pink, Sockeye, Steelhead, Masau and Biwa. Both Pacific and Atlantic spend about 5 years in the ocean before returning to the lakes to spawn. Pacific salmon only spawn once, while Atlantic salmon can do so repeatedly. How much this affects the taste of the meat is up to you to decide.

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Garlic Pot Roast

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When I had The Boy over 20 years ago, I came home from the hospital exhausted. Being our first child, The Man waited on me hand and foot. It was so nice to just be able to relax and try to get to know the newest member of the family. My husband made dinner for me and when he told me what he was making I was very nervous as I had never seen him cook more than eggs before. To be honest I was expecting to have to order pizza for dinner. But it turned out great!

INGREDIENTS:
3 lb Pot Roast
15 Cloves of Garlic
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Pepper
1 c Beef Broth

Pay your roast on the cutting board and pat it dry with paper towels. Using a paring knife. make slits in the meat every couple of inches. The need to be deep enough to go halfway down into the roast and long enough to hold your largest garlic clove. Once the paring knife has cut a slit, wiggle it around just a tiny bit to make a pocket. Set the roast to the side.

Lay the garlic on the cutting board and with a knife or scraper, push down on the garlic so they pop open. If using a smaller roast, reduce the garlic cloves accordingly.

The idea is to open them up so they can release more flavor into the meat, but you don’t want them mashed or chopped.

Now stuff those garlic cloves into the pockets you made in the roast. You do not want them sticking out or they will come out during the cooking process. Get them in as far as you can. Season the roast with salt and pepper or your favorite steak seasoning. Over medium high heat, brown all sides of the roast. Not only will this add depth of flavor, it helps to keep those garlic cloves in their pockets. Place the roast in your slow cooker . Pour in broth and cover. Cook on low for 8 hours. Water can be substituted for the broth, the jus won’t be as rich in flavor. If cooking in the oven, triple the amount of liquid.

When the roast is done, remove and set to the side covered. I place it in a warm oven as well, while I work on the jus. Pour the liquid in a small pot on the stove and bring to a low boil. Allow it to simmer until it reduces to the thickness you prefer. This will take 5 to 10 minutes. If you baked the roast in the oven, place the roasting pan on the stove top and scrap all the bits off the bottom as you reduce the sauce. The French call this fond and it has lots of flavor.

Serve the roast with the jus on the side. I hope you give this a try, I think you will really enjoy the flavor. As always, let me know if you have any questions.

Coupon policies

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When using coupons at your local stores, it is always good to have a copy of their current coupon policy. They do change from time to time and not only does it help you, but if the cashier is not aware of the new policy you can show them.

A

Acme Fresh Market

Albertsons There are different policies for 2 regions so be sure to chek the right one for you.

Amelia’s Grocery Outlet

Arlan’s Market

A&P

B

Bashas

BJ’s Wholesale Club

Big Y

Bi-Lo

Brookshire

Brookshire Brother’s

Bruno’s

Buehler’s

C

Commissaries for our military families

County Market

CVS

D

Dominick’s

D&W Fresh Market

Dierbergs

E

Econ Foods

F

Fareway

Festival Foods

Family Owned Markets

Food City

Food Bazaar

Food Town

Food Lion

Food Basics

Food Emporium

Fred Meyer

Family DOllar Stores

G

Giant Eagle

Gristedes

H

Haggen Foods

Harris Teeter

Harps

H-E-B

Hannaford

Heinens

Home Depot price match

Hy-Vee

I

Ingles

J

Jon’s International Market Place

K

Karns

King Kullen

Kroger Digital

L

Lowe’s Foods

M

Mars

Marsh

Martin’s

Meijer

Menards

N
O
P

Pathmark


Price Chopper

Picknsave

Piggly Wiggly

Publix

Q

Quality Foods

QFC digital

R

Randall’s

Raley’s

Redner’s Market

Reasor’s Foods

Riesbeck’s

Rite Aid

Rosauers

Rouse’s

S

Saver’s Choice

Sam’s Club

Safeway

Schnuck’s

Scolari’s

Sentry Foods

Sellers Brothers

Shop Rite

Shop’n Save

Stater Brothers Markets

Stewart’s Shops

Stop & Shop

Sun Mart

Superfresh

Super One

Super King Markets

Sunflower Farmer’s Market

Sullivan Foods

T

Target price matching and coupons

Times Supermarket

Top Foods

Tops

Tom Thumb

U

United Supermarkets

V

Vons

W

Wade’s

Walgreens

Waldbaum’s

Wal Mart Ad Match and Coupon

Wegman’s

Weis

Winco

Winn Dixie

Whole Foods

Woodman’s

X
Y
Z

If there are any stores not listed that you would like help with, please let me know and I will do my best to find the information.

Smoothie Pops

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It is 68 degrees, there is a slight breeze and tulips are blooming in the front of the house. Last year at this time we were still in a cold snap and I was trying to figure out which rose bushes had been killed from the early and long winter. This week I have been hearing lawn mowers all over the neighborhood and even the chimes of the ice cream truck. That means only 1 thing, it’s popsicle season!

Living in the desert where it reaches over 90 degrees on a daily basis after the middle of June, we go through frozen treats quite a bit.The Schwan Man gets a lot of our ice cream business, but homemade treats are so much cheaper and healthier for everyone.

TOOLS:
Blender
Cups
Sticks
Smoothie Recipe

Make your favorite smoothie in the blender. Green tea smoothies work just as well as a fruit smoothie as will a homemade frappuccino, mine uses yogurt and frozen fruit. Something about being in the form of a popsicle makes the kids try flavors they would normally turn their nose at. The only thing I change is I try to keep them as thick as the blender can handle. The less liquid use means fewer ice crystals in the popcicle.

Strawberry and blueberry flavor.

I have small plastic cups that Jello sold many years ago, but bathroom sized Dixie cups work just as well. Ice cube trays are nice for little ones who don’t eat very much at one time. You can even use yogurt cups as long as the open end is larger then the bottom. The added benefit is they are disposable and you can make a lot for when friends come over.

Fill the cups up with the smoothie leaving 1/2 and inch at the top. This allows for expansion as it freezes and keeps it from running over the sides.

Insert a stick into the smoothie about halfway down. If it is pushed all the way to the bottom of the cup it will stick out the top when eating it.

I have often seen recipes that suggest using plastic spoons but I don’t. I find they tend to break and create very sharp edges. You can find sticks in the craft section at Wal Mart that work far better. Pictured below is the traditional popsicle stick and another that has wider ends. I like the second one better as it gives more for the frozen smoothie to hold onto as it freezes.

They will freeze in just a couple of hours because the smoothie was already half-frozen itself. To store place the cups into a ziplock bag so they don’t take on any nasty freezer flavors. If they don’t pop out of the plastic cups easily just run under hot water for 2 seconds and they will. If using a paper cup just rip it off and toss. Do not leave the popcicles exposed for very long as the freezer can dry out the popcicles. If you know it may be awhile before you can get back to them, cover with cellophane.

What is your favorite flavor smoothie to try?

Beans and Ham Soup

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A hearty soup does not require a dozen or more ingredients and can take less then 10 minutes to put together. This classic soup uses up leftovers from a ham dinner for a simple and easy meal tomorrow night.

3 c Water
2 c dry Navy Beans
2 c sliced Carrots
1 c Sliced celery
1/2 c diced Onions
1 tsp minced garlic
Ham Bone
Ham
Salt and Pepper

Sort through the dry beans looking for stones. Do not think you can skip this step because they look okay. I found 2 when I made this batch of soup.

Place the bone in the slow cooker. I intentionally leave some meat on it when I slice up my hams. Cover the bone with the vegetables, garlic, dried beans and water. Slice the vegetables about 1/4 inch thick. DO NOT ADD SALT! Adding salt now will prevent the beans from getting soft. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or high for 4 to 5 ours.

Give the soup a taste and season with salt and pepper according to taste. Depending on how salty the ham is you will need to add more or less.

The bone needs to be removed about 30 minutes before you intend on serving. Place it on a cutting bone and allow to cool long enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Pull or cut off any remaining bits of ham that are left on the bone and return to the pot. If you have a dog, they enjoy a good ham bone, just make sure it does not have any sharp edges. Depending on how much ham was on the bone and how much you like in your soup, add some more 20 minutes before serving. Serve with your favorite bread.

A variation is to use a 15 bean mix. The process is the same and the variety of beans add a lot of color, texture and nutrients.

Happy cooking!

Cupcake Holder

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I am not sure what made me think of this originally, but I have been doing it for many years now. My kids have always liked having a cupcake in their lunch but they would either get smooshed or the frosting would get stuck to the baggies. This simple and completely free idea solves the whole problem.

The container on the bottom has cupcake liners in it. The container on the top has a cupcake in it. When you bake your cupcakes save the container and use it to transport cupcakes in your lunch.

You can see from the above shot, there is still plenty of room left for more frosting on the cupcake.

The best part is that if the cups don’t come back home, it is no big deal you will have more the next time you bake cupcakes.

Chocolate Biscotti

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Several years ago I participated in a cookie exchange. The lady in charge needed to know what everyone was bringing so that there was a good variety. When I said biscotti she was concerned that it would be so much work for the 10 dozen I needed to bring. This is such a common misconception I hope I can persuade you to try making your own.

INGREDIENTS:
1 stick Butter softened
3/4 c Sugar
2 Eggs room temperature
1 tsp Vanilla or Rum
2 c Flour
1/2 c Cocoa Powder
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt
4 oz chopped Chocolate
4 oz melted Milk Chocolate for dipping – optional

Prep time 10 minutes Total Bake Time: 35 min Cool Time 5 min

These are not a sweet cookie because of the chocolate I choose to use. Regular cocoa powder has no sugar added. Another option is to use Ghiradeli which is a combination of cocoa and ground chocolate. This will produce a sweeter biscotti. The chocolate you mix into the dough is personal preference as well and can be as sweet as you like.

Allow the eggs and butter to sit on the counter for at least 15 minutes. The butter should be softened but not room temperature. If you can easily smash it with your hands it is ready to beat.

Place the butter into a mixing bowl and whip until it is nice and fluffy.

Slowly add the sugar and continue beating. At first it will look very crumbly, then it will smooth out but look very grainy. It is ready when it again looks very fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, thoroughly incorporating into the butter. Whip in the vanilla or rum flavoring.

Sift together all the dry ingredients. Slowly add to the butter. If you add it all at once you will end up with lumps of dry ingredients. Mix on low and the powder won’t fly all over the place. If you are concerned about that happening, a tip is to place a towel over the bowl when you first turn it on. Just double-check that it is not in the bowl or it will catch the beaters!

One way to prevent splatters of dry and liquids from the mixer is to lay a towel over the bowl till the ingredients have been mixed together.

Mix until completely mixed and no further. Scrape down the sides and give it another quick pulse. Add the chopped chocolate and pulse just until it has been evenly distributed in the dough. Don’t try to chop the chocolate into the same sizes, it is nice to have a variety in your biscotti. In this case I use unsweetened chocolate but you can use whatever you prefer.

Divide the dough in half and form into logs. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes or lightly browned. You can use a silicone mat, parchment paper or a well seasoned stone to bake on. If the dough sticks to the pan you will have a crumbly mess. If yo do not have any of those items lightly grease and flour the pan before placing the dough on it.

Remove to a cutting board (you may have to slide it off if you don’t have a large spatula) and cool for 5 minutes. If you leave the logs on the pan they will continue baking and we need to cool them down.

You must use a serrated knife or this won’t work. A bread knife works the best. Once the dough has cooled down carefully slice the logs on the diagonal about 3/4 inches thick. This version makes about 18 cookies. If you prefer smaller cookies, make the logs longer and more narrow and you can double that amount.

Places the slices upright onto the cookie sheet 1/2 inch apart and bake for another 10 minutes, or slightly dry. Cool on wire racks. I find that an offset spatula or pie server works well to transfer the longer pieces.

Once they have cooled they can be dipped in even more chocolate. I used milk chocolate but white chocolate is nice and provides a contrast in color as well.

Drizzle with chocolate.

Coat the bottom with chocolate.

Sprinkle candy, coconut or chopped nuts on the chocolate while it is still wet.

Dip one end.

Store in a glass jar next to your coffee pot.