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Sustainability: What Does It Mean To Us?
More Peppers Please!
Potential Health Benefits of Peppers
Salmon: A Tasty, Fast Entree For Summer Delights
The Salads of Summer

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Sustainability: What Does It Mean To Us?

Posted On 2011-09-26 , 6:22 PM

Sustainability is a word frequently heard today. It’s something to be considered whether we are in business for ourselves or working for a company (large or small). Many companies are making sustainability part of their daily practices and some companies will only use vendors who also have sustainability programs in place.

How we handle sustainability as a consumer is also extremely important in making a difference for our planet. I think it’s important to learn as much about the subject as possible in order to make a contribution to the effort that will eventually be felt and seen by all.

I’m not going to try to educate everyone who reads this on all aspects of the subject as I am a mere novice and feel like I’m taking baby steps to a better understanding. So, here’s my first “step”.

My Reason For Becoming More Aware

At my last physical, my doctor told me I was doing great but he wanted to see if I could get my cholesterol levels where he felt more comfortable with them. I never thought I had a cholesterol problem, but as with everything else when we age, things happen!

“Eat more fish and take Omega-3 supplements to help naturally with your levels,” was what he told me. He then continued with, “but, don’t eat too much fish and make sure it’s the right kind and not loaded with mercury.”

Wow, talk about making me nervous! That meant I had some homework to do. I always thought tuna was the best and easiest kind of fish to consume. Open that little can, make a casserole or salad and you’re golden! This is true to a certain extent, but tuna, as well as other fish we eat, also has the potential to expose one to mercury and other toxins. Informed decisions about eating fish farmed or caught in a sustainable way can only be made by understanding the threats that our marine environment is facing.

So one might ask, “Why even eat fish?” Well, studies by the Harvard School of Public Health have shown that eating a modest amount of fish weekly reduces the risk of coronary heart disease by 36% and overall mortality by 17%. I think the key here is becoming aware of the right types of fish to eat and learn more about sustainability practices by the fishing industry.

Top 5 Safe Fish

Catfish (U.S. Farmed) – High in omega-6 fatty acids, catfish has been eaten all over the world for centuries.

Salmon
(Alaska Wild) – Eating farmed salmon can be risky to your health as it is higher in certain toxins. Best to stick with Alaska Wild Salmon.

Mahi Mahi (U.S. Atlantic Troll) – Although it is sometimes referred to as a dolphin fish, there is no relation to that mammal. Mahi Mahi is a mild-tasting fish with dense, moist flesh.

Striped Bass (Farmed or wild) – Sometimes called rockfish, this is a great choice for sustainable seafood hunters; both farmed and wild are options, although be aware contaminant levels in farmed fish are higher.

Tilapia (U.S. Farmed) – This common white-fleshed fish has a very good flavor and texture and fits well in many types of cooking.

Here Are Some Basic Rules

Avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish – they contain the highest levels of mercury.

Canned tuna comes in white and light. White tuna consists of albacore, a large species that accumulates moderate amounts of mercury – eat cautiously. Light tuna usually consists of a smaller type of tuna with approximately thirty percent the mercury levels of albacore.

The most commonly eaten fish that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish.

Cooking does not remove mercury because mercury binds to the protein in fish tissue. However, doing the following can help reduce other toxins that concentrate in the fatty tissues.

  • Remove skin, fat, internal organs, where toxins can accumulate
  • Drain fat away when cooking (avoid deep frying as frying locks in pollutants in the fish’s fat). Grill, poach, broil or bake for the healthiest options.


Sustainable fish guides are available at stores, restaurants, fisheries, and consumer agencies, as well as the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program. By being careful consumers of seafood, people can help to preserve the vast natural resources of the world’s oceans.

Spanish-Style Pacific Halibut


Ingredients

• 1 slice applewood-smoked bacon
• 1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
• 2 (6-ounce) skinless halibut fillets
• 1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic or 1 cube frozen crushed garlic
• 1 (6-ounce) package fresh baby spinach

    

Preparation

Cook the bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, and crumble. Set aside.

    

Combine 1/2 teaspoon salt, smoked paprika, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle spice mixture evenly over fish. Add fish to drippings in pan, and cook for 3 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness. Remove fish from pan, and keep warm.

    

Add 2 teaspoons garlic to pan, and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in bacon. Add spinach to pan, and cook for 1 minute or until the spinach begins to wilt. Place spinach on plate with halibut on top. Serve with herbed Israli couscous.

Even though my choice of Halibut wasn't one of the top 5 recommended sustainable fish, Pacific Halibut is a good choice for the consumer. Any mild sustainable white fish can be prepared in this manner with excellent results.






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More Peppers Please!

Posted On 2011-07-01 , 9:55 AM

I seem to be on a pepper kick this week. Earlier it was a dinner with jalapenos. Then I made stuffed bell peppers with added jalapenos for a little kick. I suppose the next thing to do would be to use as many different peppers as I can in one meal. Hmmm, must think up an appropriate recipe for that one.

My sister inspired this recipe post. She didn’t tell me to make Stuffed Peppers for dinner. She did tell me I had to try Jennie-O taco seasoned ground turkey. So when shopping I bought some then realized I needed to come up with a way to prepare it that would be tasty and fun. Cooking is always fun for me and I had not made stuffed peppers for quite a while so the following recipe was made with what I had on hand and sounded tasty and healthy at the same time.

Stuffed Bell Peppers


2 bell peppers
½ pound Jennie-O Taco Seasoned Ground Turkey
½ jalapeno (sliced lengthwise and seeds removed), chopped
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 cup cooked rice
1 can diced Fire Roasted Tomatoes
Shredded cheese

 

Slice the top off of the bell peppers and remove seeds and membrane. Heat a large pot of water to boiling. When water comes to a boil, place peppers in pot, cover and turn off heat. Remove peppers after 5 minutes and let drain and cool slightly.

 

Meanwhile, drizzle extra virgin olive oil in a frypan and sauté the onion and jalapeno for 2 minutes. Add ground turkey and cook until done. Add rice to frypan, combine and cook until heated through.

   

Spoon cooked turkey mixture into the bell peppers, packing down slightly, and place in a shallow baking dish. Top with fire roasted tomatoes and cheese and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until hot and cheese is melted and turning brown.

Serve and enjoy!

Since I cook for two people I always have ingredients left over that I need to use up. Check back to see what I did the next night!




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Potential Health Benefits of Peppers

Posted On 2011-06-28 , 8:22 AM

I like peppers. I like cooking with them. I like eating them. I like growing them. The best part about peppers, aside from the great taste, is how good they are for you. Peppers have a spicy image for a very good reason. They can make an otherwise bland dish tasty, and they come in such an array of colors, peppers also make an aesthetically appealing addition to any dish. Peppers also provide a decent amount of fiber, an important part of our diets.

All peppers are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, but red peppers are simply bursting with them. The antioxidants found in peppers help to prevent cell damage and diseases related to aging plus they support your immune function. Peppers also help reduce inflammation such as that found in arthritis and asthma. Red peppers are a good source of lycopene (a carotenoid), which is earning a reputation for helping to prevent prostate cancer as well as cancer of the bladder, cervix, and pancreas. Another carotenoid found in peppers, beta-cryptoxanthin, during research has shown promise for helping to prevent lung cancer related to smoking and secondhand smoke.

The fire in hot peppers comes from capsaicin, which acts on pain receptors, not taste buds, in our mouths. We find capsaicin in the white membranes of peppers, as well as the seeds. Capsaicin in hot peppers can decrease blood cholesterol and triglycerides, boost immunity, as well as reduce the risk of stomach ulcers (hot peppers used to be thought to aggravate ulcers).
One other bonus to both hot and sweet peppers is they contain additional substances that have been shown to increase the body’s heat production and oxygen consumption for about 20 minutes after eating, thus helping your body to burn extra calories which translates into helping weight loss. (One of the reasons I like peppers!)

The “heat” in various peppers is measured using the Scoville Heat Unit. The number of Scoville heat units indicates the amount of capsaicin present. Numerical results for any variety of pepper can be dependent on many things: cultivation conditions, uncertainty of the laboratory methods used to assess the capsaicinoid content, seed lineage, climate (humidity can be a big factor), and even soil composition (this is especially true of habaneros).

The following list shows the ratings of some of the various peppers.

Scoville heat units Examples

  • 15,000,000–16,000,000 -- Pure capsaicin
  • 5,000,000–5,300,000 -- Law enforcement grade pepper spray
  • 855,000–1,463,700 -- Infinity Chilli, Naga Jolokia pepper (ghost chili)
  • 350,000–580,000 -- Red Savina habanero
  • 100,000–350,000 -- Habanero chili, Jamaican hot pepper
  • 50,000–100,000 -- Bird's eye chili
  • 30,000–50,000 -- Cayenne pepper, Ají pepper, Tabasco pepper
  • 10,000–23,000 -- Serrano pepper, Aleppo pepper
  • 2,500–8,000 -- Jalapeño pepper, Guajillo pepper, New Mexico varieties of Anaheim pepper, Paprika (Hungarian wax pepper), Tabasco sauce
  • 500–2,500 -- Anaheim pepper, Poblano pepper
  • 100–500 -- Pimento, Peperoncini, Banana pepper
  • 0 No significant heat -- Bell pepper

Regardless of the actual “heat” one feels when eating peppers, the addition to any dish when cooking is remarkably beneficial.

SPICY CHICKEN RIGATONI




6 ounces rigatoni
3 roma tomatoes, diced
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped, divided
2 small cans Spicy V-8 juice
8 ounces chicken (breast or thighs, boneless) cut in cubes
¼ cup onion, diced
1 jalapeno, chopped
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Black pepper, freshly ground to taste

Cook rigatoni per package instructions, drain and place in a casserole dish. (Keep warm.)

 

In a skillet sprayed with extra virgin olive oil, sauté the tomatoes, parsley, cilantro, basil and one chopped garlic clove. Cook on medium heat for 3 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the V-8 juice and simmer on low heat for 12-15 minutes. Pour over rigatoni and stir to mix. (Keep warm.)

 

In another skillet sprayed with extra virgin olive oil, place the chicken, onion, jalapenos, and remaining chopped garlic clove. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper and cook on medium heat until chicken is almost done. Add freshly ground pepper and continue to cook for 3 minutes more. Combine with other ingredients in the casserole dish, sprinkle with cheese (optional) and serve immediately. This dish can also be made ahead and reheated easily in a 350 degree oven.

 

 

I really like making (and eating!) this dish. The flavors of each ingredient go well together. It can be rather time consuming (45 minutes to 1 hour prep and cook time), but the effort is worth it! The best part is because of the agreement my husband and I have (I cook, he cleans up after me), making this gives me the opportunity to get lots of dishes dirty!




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Salmon: A Tasty, Fast Entree For Summer Delights

Posted On 2011-06-23 , 4:44 PM

Salmon has long remained a delicious source of healthy fats, lean proteins, and vital minerals and vitamins. With salmon's status as one of the staples of the Pacific region, recipes can be rather hard sort out and pick a winner. But dump your worries out the window: salmon recipes are a quick way to add health benefits and culinary delight to your meals.

As mentioned previously, salmon recipes abound. One of the best ways to prepare salmon is to bake it. This method involves little preparation and plenty of flavor. In fact, many flavors and variations can be found for baked salmon recipes; this is one reason that baked salmon is perhaps one of the most popular methods of preparing salmon. Another way to prepare your salmon is to grill it over a charcoal grill. If you can use a cedar plank to grill your salmon on, this will impart a delicious, earthy flavor to your finished dish. Salmon can also be used in salads, soups, pot pies, and more.

One thing you should be aware of when purchasing your salmon is the kinds of salmon that are available. There are essentially five different species of Alaskan or Pacific salmon, and they all have differing culinary uses and delights. The biggest and rarest salmon sold today is the chinook (king) salmon. This magnificent fish reaches an average weight of 20 pounds, and lives anywhere between four and seven years in the wild. Chinook fillets are prized for their brilliant color, exquisite flavor, firm texture, and high oil content. This salmon is mainly served at fine dining restaurants, so if you are hosting an extra special event, this fish just might be the perfect fillet.

The second largest of the salmon is the coho salmon. Reaching an average of twelve pounds over their three to four year life cycle, this fish is well known as one of the most popular species of salmon in the food industry. This popularity is largely due to its reddish-orange hue, firm texture, and beautiful eye appeal.

Another variety of salmon is the sockeye salmon. These fish weigh around six pounds, and live between four and six years. Sockeye salmon is a favored fish for Japanese cuisine, due to its beautiful coloring and firm texture, and distinct flavor.

The Alaska chum salmon is yet another species of salmon with pale pink skin and delicate taste. The fish live between three to five years, and reach an average weight of about eight pounds.

The pink salmon is the most abundant species of salmon on the market today, and because of this, is also the best buy for the salmon bargain hunter. The flesh is a rosy pink, and the flavor is delicate. These salmon live for two years and reach an average weight of two to three pounds.

With these tips, you will be able to set out to select that perfect slab of salmon for tomorrow night's dinner. But before purchasing and cooking it, be sure to check out cookwarecookingutensils.com for more salmon recipes, tips, and other fun ideas for a summer dinner.

Grilled King Salmon with Tomato-Peach Salsa






Ingredients

• 1 cup chopped peeled peach
• 3/4 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
• 1/4 cup thinly vertically sliced red onion
• 3 tablespoons small fresh mint leaves
• 3 tablespoons small fresh basil leaves
• 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 tablespoon honey
• 1 jalapeño pepper, thinly sliced (optional)
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
• 4 (6-ounce) wild Alaskan king salmon fillets
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• Cooking spray

Preparation


Preheat grill to high heat.
Combine first 8 ingredients in a bowl; add jalapeño, if desired. Sprinkle mixture with 1/4 teaspoon salt; toss gently. Sprinkle fillets evenly with remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Place the fillets on a grill rack coated with cooking spray, and grill for 10 minutes or until desired degree of doneness, turning after 5 minutes. Serve with salsa.







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The Salads of Summer

Posted On 2011-06-20 , 6:44 PM

I live in the Southern California desert and it gets hot. I don’t mean warm (upper 90’s), I mean blazing, crank on the air conditioning, crawl in the refrigerator if you can hot. Since I’ve lived here most of my life, I don’t think I realize how hot it really is until I get in the pool and it’s like bath water -- tepid bath water (92 degrees or so), but not really refreshing after the first few seconds.

I suppose the saving grace is “it’s a dry heat”. We hear that a lot from the local news casters and we read how low the humidity is in the local newspaper. I am thankful for small favors. I don’t think I could endure temperatures with matching humidity that can happen in other parts of the country. So I’ll settle for 110 to 115 degree “dry” heat and tepid swimming pools. That’s why salads were invented.

Lately I’ve spent lots of time surfing the internet in search of new and exciting ways to prepare salads – all types of salads. I still have my favorites that I prepare since summer lasts a long time here, but still…I like to experiment with salads. There are so many excellent blogs being done now with cooking and recipes that it’s hard to find the time to read each and every one I’ve discovered. I try, but I still can’t seem to get it done.

This recipe I saw on www.bittersweetblog.com by Hannah Kaminsky and have adapted for my own use. She named it Mediter-Asian Couscous Salad which I thought was so appropriate since it blends the flavors and ingredients from two cooking styles beautifully. My adaptation I’m simply calling “Harvest Grains Salad”, mainly because Trader Joe’s is one of the three places I shop every Saturday morning and I absolutely love the Harvest Grains Blend they offer!

Harvest Grains Salad


Dressing Ingredients:
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
¼ cup Rice Vinegar with Garlic
¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/3 cup White Miso Paste
3 tablespoons Amber Agave Nectar
1 tablespoon Tamari or Soy Sauce

 

Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and set aside so the flavors can meld together.

Salad Ingredients:
1 ¼ cups Harvest Grains Blend (available at Trader Joe’s) or pearl couscous, if you don’t have access to a Trader Joe’s
1 cup Kalamata Olives, pitted and sliced
1 ½ cups English Cucumber, diced
1 small Tomato, diced (I think grape tomatoes, pearl tomatoes, or cherry tomatoes would also work)
¼ cup Red Onion, finely chopped
1 cup Edamame, shelled and cooked
½ cup Scallions, thinly sliced
10 – 12 fresh Mint Leaves, Chiffonade
¼ cup Toasted Pine Nuts

 

Cook the Harvest Grains Blend or pearl couscous according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water to cool and stop the cooking process. Place in a large bowl and add in all of the other ingredients from Kalamata Olives to Mint Leaves. Toss to combine all the ingredients.

Begin incorporating the dressing with the ingredients a little at a time until the salad is coated to your satisfaction. (Of course, test tasting is advised because it’s so much fun when cooking!) Just before serving, sprinkle pine nuts over top and garnish with a sprig of mint.

Leftover salad can be stored for 3-4 days in a tightly sealed container. The unused dressing will keep for 7-10 days in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

This salad was so tasty I will definitely be making it again next weekend so I can use up the leftover dressing I have. I didn’t even have to twist my husband’s arm when I told him we’d have it again soon!




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