Coffee Talk 3: Roasting

Coffee beans are shipped from their production areas to the rest of the world as dry, green beans. Processors small and large then take on the rest of the process.

Some beans will be decaffeinated using one of two methods. The most common is to soak the beans in water, which draws out much of the caffeine. Another method is to apply steam which draws out caffeine oils from the beans. In either case, a small amount of caffeine will remain in the beans. The caffeine that is removed is sold to the pharmaceutical industry.

The most delicate part of processing is the roasting. This is more of an art than a science and requires a skilled human operator who gauges the smell and color of the roasted beans. Mere seconds can be the difference between a perfect roast and coffee that’s burned and useless.

Here’s something you might not know. The lighter the roast, the higher the caffeine content. Breakfast blends usually use what’s called a City roast. This type of coffee is complex in flavor because certain oils are destroyed by high heat. The darker roasts, French, Italian and Espresso, have a bolder, sweeter flavor but less caffeine. Medium roasts, also called House or Classic roasts, combine the qualities of both light and dark. This is an all-purpose roast found in most commercially available blends and coffee served in restaurants and coffee shops.

Storage becomes an important aspect at this point. Air, heat and moisture are the enemies of keeping coffee fresh and flavorful. But there are some myths about the proper way to store you coffee, whether already ground or as whole beans.

It is true that if possible beans should not be ground until just before brewing. However, if properly stored, pre-ground coffee will lose only a small amount of its character while waiting to be brewed.

You’ve probably heard that you should keep your coffee in the refrigerator or freezer. But it’s not as simple as that. In fact, continually removing and replacing coffee as ground or beans from the cold environment to the relative warmth of your kitchen can quickly destroy the quality of the coffee. If you’re not going to use the coffee for a couple of weeks, put it in the freezer. If the time frame is more than a couple days but less than a couple weeks, the refrigerator is the best place for the coffee. But if you’re using it every day, just keep it in an air-tight, opaque container and a cool, shady spot in the kitchen.

If you buy whole beans, you’ll have to grind it at home. Yes, there are still some grinders in some grocery stores, but they are mostly gone. They cause a big mess and are hard to clean. They’re also no better than buying a can of pre-ground coffee.

There are two types of grinding in common use today: chopping and burr grinding. Chopping is what you see most often in homes. This uses two steel blades to grind the beans and depends on the amount of time in the grinding to determine fineness. However, because this method produces a lot of coffee dust, it should only be used for drip and percolating brewing. The dust will clog up espresso makers and French presses.

Burr grinding is a miniature version of the old fashioned gris mill in which the seeds are passed between two large stones, one turning while the other is stationary. Today’s burr grinders found in coffee houses and some homes uses steel parts but the same principle. The quality or fineness of the grind is determined by setting the distance between the grinding wheel and burr. This offers more accurate and even grinding with less powder.

There are two other forms of grinding that are less common. One is pounding and the other is rolling. In both cases, a heavy weight is used to break up the coffee beans. Pounding uses a mortar and pestle to grind the beans into a fine power used for Turkish style coffees. Roller grinding is used only at commercial coffee producers because of the size and weight of the machine. The beans are sent between two large steel drums like a pasta machine or the old fashioned washer wringers.

Next, it’s time to start brewing the ideal cup of coffee.

Coffee Talk 2

Coffee has become one the major commodities exported, traded and imported all around the world. Lots of people will try to steer you away from your morning pick-me-up, but there has yet to be a definitive study proving either coffee’s harm or its benefits. The active ingredient in coffee that causes the controversy is caffeine, a chemical stimulant found in seeds, leaves and fruit of many plants. Caffeine is an xanthine alkaloid and a psychoactive stimulant. Plants make it to use as a natural pesticide. It is the most common and most widely consumed psychoactive substance used by humans.

Whether coffee is healthy or not is a medical argument that goes back and forth. One thing that has become clear in discussing the health benefits of caffeine is how coffee is prepared and in what quantity it is consumed determines how bad it can be. Many doctors say that as a central nervous system stimulant we simply don’t need it. But it has been found very useful in allowing certain pain medications to be more effective. Personally, I think a couple cups in the morning won’t do much if any harm. But if you put away pots of the stuff there could be a problem of over-stimulation which would affect mood, concentration and sleep.

Coffee begins as seeds of a bush. The ripe seed pods are picked by hand, which is part of the cost we see in prices at the grocery store. Next, the green berries are processed in one of two ways: wet or dry. Dry is obviously easier. The berries are laid out in the sun to dry before the flesh is removed to reveal the coffee bean. In the wet method, the berries are allowed to ferment before the seeds are removed and prepared for the next step in the process.

As a side note, the most expensive coffee in the world comes from the North forests of South America where a cat-like animal eats the berries, releasing fermented beans from the other end. I’m pretty sure you can understand why this “cat poo” coffee costs so much.

The beans are then washed, sorted, graded and dried. Drying is done on screen-bottomed tables allowing air to circulate all around the beans which are spread out in a thin layer. They are then bagged and shipped around the world.

The next step in the process is roasting. This can make or break a coffee, no matter what processing or brewing methods are used.

Coffee Talk

Like lots of Americans, we really like our morning coffee. But it was an acquired taste. It was bitter and nasty. When we got to college, it became a lifeline for those long nights of study and… well, other things. The coffee world is exploding. The recent National Coffee Day reminded us it might be time to look at this culturally important beverage.

Coffee originated in Northeastern Africa around Ethiopia. It spread into the Arab world and then around the Mediterranean and into Europe. It is now grown in over 70 countries around the world. The plant is a type of evergreen bush which produces green seed pods slightly larger than most grapes. As the pod ripens, it turns a bright red, which gave the pod its name: cherry. Inside the cherry is the seed, which is usually called a coffee bean.

There are two kinds of coffee beans: Arabica and Robusta. Arabica is considered the higher quality and grows in higher altitudes of equatorial regions of the world. It is considered to have better flavor but less body than the more common Robusta. The later is a hardier species of coffee and grows at lower altitudes. Naturally, Arabica coffee is more expensive. Robusta is usually used for pre-ground coffees, like the commercial supermarket brands, and decaffeinated coffee. The reason decaffeinated coffee uses the less expensive Robusta beans is that coffee companies know people won’t pay more for something that has less in it. The process that removes the caffeine adds cost to the processing of the beans. Sometimes both varieties are used to get a particular flavor profile. Arabica beans are grown in Northeastern Africa and Central and South America from Mexico to Columbia to Peru. Robusta is grown throughout Southeast Asia, central Africa and Brazil.

Where the coffee is grown has a big impact on the flavor. Altitude, rainfall, heat, insects and other crops all affect the taste. Some of the most desirable coffees are grown in places like Hawaii, Jamaica, Columbia and Sumatra. Brazil grows the most coffee, followed by Vietnam, Columbia and Indonesia. The ideal coffee growing conditions are bushes in the shade of larger trees. These produce lower yields but superior tasting coffee. In addition, traditional coffee growing methods give shelter to animals and other plants, making the crop more environmentally friendly and sustainable. Because of demand, more and more coffee is being produced in open areas with the aid of chemical fertilizer.

Soup Great Way To Use Leftovers

Leftovers accumulate quickly at this time of year. We make those bigger-than-usual dinners and have plastic storage containers full of small amounts of starches, vegetables, meat and gravy. What do you do? What do you do?

Well, the housewife of the past would know what to do. When the refrigerator gets full, make soup!vegetable-soup-lg

One of the wonderful things about soup is that you can make it from just about anything. Leftovers are particularly good for bringing together a quick meal in the stock pot.

What we had in the house. Since we had chicken instead of turkey, there was really only a little meat left from when I made stock. Because I had planned to make soup, I had picked out the meat from when I made stock from the mostly barren carcass of the bird. I also had plenty of chicken stock, homemade just a few days ago. I had made a pot of Great Northern beans with onion a week before, a little brown rice and some vegetables that had been stir-fried. We also had some nice broccoli crowns.

I found a recipe for a broccoli, cannelloni bean and cheddar soup that I thought could be adapted to my use. So, I started with two cups of homemade chicken stock and the same amount of water. I prepared one large broccoli crown by cutting it into bite size pieces which I washed. I brought the stock and water to a boil and added the broccoli. When the broccoli was tender, I lowered the heat to a simmer and added about a cup of my Great Northern and onion bean mix, a pinch of kosher salt, a few grinds of black pepper and made sure everything was cooked through. Then I added the stir-fried vegetables, about a quarter cup of mushroom gravy, about half a cup of shredded chicken and about a cup of shredded cheddar cheese. I poured about half the soup into a bowl and used an immersion blender to puree the mixture to add texture to the soup. I added the puree back into the pot along with about two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and it was ready to go. We discovered the dish could be improved by adding a squeeze of lime juice into the bowl just before serving.

Soup is easy and a great way to clean out the refrigerator of all those little partial servings of leftover whatever. It goes great with a salad or a half sandwich.

More Grocery Shopping Tips

grocerylistGrocery shopping is a chore for most folks. We bachelors are particularly prone to putting off that trip to the store as long as possible. But there are ways to make that trip easier and save money at the same time. We’ve covered some shopping tips before. But people are always coming up with new ideas and schemes.

You’ve probably heard this before, but most of your food should be coming from the fresh, whole foods around the outer edge of the store’s sales floor rather than the inner aisles, where most of the food is bagged, boxed and processed. There are some foods that are not processed, or minimally so, in those center aisles. Things like rice, cooking oil and baking supplies can be found there. Know where those aisles are so you can skip most of the others. In fact, knowing where different categories of products are located in the your usual store will help save a lot of time.

The sad thing about all those processed foods in the center aisles is they are usually cheaper than if you were to buy the ingredients to go into them. But buying the whole, real foods give you better health and more flexibility. Those processed foods are loaded with salt, fat and sugar. We used to like the box baking mix. Now we buy flour, baking powder and shortening to mix together when we need them. That’s the beauty of learning to cook for yourself. It may take more time, but nearly all the time, what you make will be better and healthier than what you can buy.

Always make a list, even if you’re only picking up a few things. While this is not completely stop impulse buys, it will shorten your trip through the store and make it less likely you’ll stop to consider the offerings in the candy aisle or other tempting foods.

Start by reviewing the store’s weekly ad.Weekly-Ad Most grocery stores have one. Many are available online. Store websites may also have other features like recipes, coupons and event information. Select recipes or meal ideas that go along with what’s on sale in the store. Be sure to include all the ingredients on your list. And if you eat before you go shopping, you reduce the temptations of impulse buys even more.

When you hit the produce aisle, pay close attention to what’s in season and what’s not. If the asparagus is imported, not only are you going to pay more for it, but it’s unlikely to be very fresh or very good. Anyone who buys a tomato in the winter is asking for a beautiful red ball of tastelessness. Food that must be imported usually has to be picked so early to survive the journey that it never fully ripens or develop flavor. At those times, reach for canned or frozen fruits and vegetables.

You’ve probably heard that we should be eating less meat. Not only is that healthier and more environmentally friendly, it saves money. Vegetable protein from beans and tofu is lower in fat and usually uses less polluting fuel to grow and harvest.

One of the best things about lettucelettuce is that it’s usually available all year. But don’t buy those pre-packaged, pre-washed bags of salad. First of all, many of them have been found to contain contaminants like e coli and salmonella. Secondly, you get a lot more for your money if you buy the whole head of lettuce. Investing in a greens spinner will make those fresh homemade salads even easier.

If you’re lucky enough to shop at a store that has bulk foods,Bulkfoods you can save a lot of money by buying just what you need. For example, some spices don’t get used so much and you have to buy a whole jar when all you need in a few tablespoons. Getting just what you need from the bulk foods aisle is a big saver. Also, the spices won’t lose their flavor before you get around to using them the way a whole jar might.

You also save money on lots of other ingredients when you use the bulk foods aisle. But not all stores have this section. They take up a lot of space and can leave behind quite a mess.

Another great reason to study the weekly grocery store ad is you can see when staple items you buy all the time are on sale. That’s the time to buy even if you don’t need it now.

Another thing to buy when on sale is chicken.chickenbreasts It can always be frozen. Whole chicken is cheaper than parts, especially the boneless, skinless variety. Those parts are convenient, but only buy them on sale. A whole chicken can be baked or roasted and used on so many ways, including making your own chicken broth.

Make grocery shopping less of a chore and save money at the same time. It just takes a little planning and a little thought.

Avoid those holiday extra pounds

It’s that time of year again. There are holiday parties and big dinner celebrations. We’re often busy running around and fall back on fast food to get through the day. It’s not surprising that so many people gain a little extra weight around this time of year.

It’s not just the feasting, although that is bad enough. No, it’s all the little things. Someone brings cookies to the office. Fudge at a little company get-together. Shrimp as a holiday buffet.

And that’s not all. In our busy running around preparing for the holiday, we are more likely to stop for a quick bite along the way at a fast food restaurant, the food court at the mall or at a chain restaurant to reward ourselves for getting through it all.

But wait, there’s more. There’s the kids holiday concert or performance where they have concessions to raise money. Social gatherings at work, neighborhoods, churches and spouses’ social events. And food will be there every time.

Here are some ideas to help your holiday battle with the bulge.

Make It Ahead

If you plan quick, healthy meals at home, you’re less likely to make that stop at the drive-through. A slow cooker is great for this. You can put things together, turn it on, and have a hot healthy meal ready by the time you get home.

Can’t I Eat Healthy While Out?

In a word, no. It is true that more restaurants are offering healthier fare. But chances are that seemingly healthier meal will still have more calories than you would have eating at home. Their portions will be larger and you’ll be more likely to finish it even if you’re full. Also, you still don’t know exactly what’s in it or if it’s the same as you would make at home.

Don’t Deny Yourself Too Much

There you are, facing the buffet table at the holiday party. There are a wide range of foods, some of them quite tempting. You see a tray of mini-quiches, something you know you really love to eat. But, you think, they’re so loaded with fat. So, you decide to be good to yourself and stick ti the dried fruits, nuts, olives and a cracker or two. Sadly, you feel unsatisfied later, after you’ve washed that food down with a bit of alcohol. So, you reach for those mini-quiches anyway. End result: you’ve eaten more that if you had gone for what you really want in the beginning. Hey, it’s a holiday. Go for the goodies. Just concentrate on taste rather than volume. And go easy on the alcohol.

Don’t Over-Treat Yourself

Those delicious-smelling coffee drinks seem like just the thing to pick you up during those marathon shopping trips. But remember, you’re going to be consuming more calories at holiday events and some of those drinks pack a walloping 500 calories or more. Instead, go for the skinny latte made with skim milk. Skip the sugar and reach for the no-calorie sweetener. You’ll get a nice jolt without all the extras.

Write Down Your Indiscretions

Grazing is something that happens a lot during the holidays. But you’re not a cow or sheep, are you? Keep a small notebook and pen with you at all times, something that can slip into a pocket easily. Then write down everything you eat. Yes, every cookie, chocolate, mini-sandwich or cocktail shrimp. Just being more aware of what you’re eating will make a big change in your behavior.

Work Out Your Stress

Walking or doing an extra workout at the gym will not only help burn off those extra calories, but it will help reduce your stress level. You see, it works like this: when your boss yells at you, your body sees it as a threat and initiates the fight-or-flight response, pumping adrenaline into your blood stream causing your arteries to constrict and your heart to beat faster. But you can’t fight your boss nor can you run away. You swallow your anger and that response will quickly lead to high blood pressure. But when you exercise, it burns up that adrenaline, causing your blood vessels to relax and your heart to operate more efficiently. Even if you’re out of shape, a walk around the block can do wonders.

Cooking Vegetables: Potatoes – Part 2

Sometimes when I’m writing, I suddenly look up and notice that something has gone on way too long. That happened when I was writing a post about cooking potatoes. I had barely tackled the subject when I noticed it was running long. So, I’m continuing that post here.

As a reminder, we’re talking about eating more vegetables and learning about all the many ways they can be cooked and prepared. Potatoes are a common vegetable that lends itself to many, many different ways of preparation. We’re talking about some of the leading ways in hopes it will spark your creativity the next time you’re fixing potatoes for a meal.

We’ve covered boiling, steaming and mashing. So, let’s look at some more cooking styles.

Simmer or braise: This is not a common technique for potatoes, but it might be one worth trying. Cut potatoes into 1/2 inch pieces and add to a large, cold skillet. Stir in 1/2 cup of broth, 1/2 cup milk and a teaspoon of butter. Over medium heat, bring to a simmer, then cover and lower the heat. Cook for about 20 minutes or until nearly all the liquid is absorbed.

Baked: The good thing about this method is that it adds little or no additional fat, which makes it a more healthy way to prepare potatoes. Russets work best. There are many ways to do this, but I’ll tell you my favorite. Scrub the potatoes well, I like to eat the skin. Preheat the oven to 450ºF. On a square of foil, coat the potato with extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of kosher salt. Wrap the potato completely and bake for about an hour. You can speed up the process by putting the potatoes unwrapped into the microwave for about 4 minutes. I don’t like to completely bake potatoes in the microwave because I find the ends get hard.

Microwave: Potatoes are one of the best vegetables for this method. You can bake a whole potato this way, but as I just said, I don’t think it works that well. But they can be roasted in the microwave wonderfully. My favorite way is to cut the potato into 1/2 inch chunks and coat with olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika, chili powder, garlic powder and dried parsley. This goes into a plastic dish that’s mostly covered (allow steam to escape) and microwave on high for three minutes, stir and cook for at least another 2 minutes.

Roasting: If you’re not in a hurry, you can use the same preparation outlined above for roasting in an oven. It should be preheated to a temperature of 450 to 500. The potato pieces should be laid out in a single layer after being coated in oil, herbs and spices. About 20 to 25 minutes should give you potatoes with a crispy outside and a fluffy inside.

Frying: There are a number of different frying styles you can use. French fries are usually deep fried. Slices or small chunks fried are called home fries. Sliced thin and fried give you potato chips. Shredded gives you hash browns. Shredded, squeezed and formed into patties gives you latkas or potato pancakes.

International Flavor: In South America where the potato originated, it’s used largely as an ingredient in a variety of dishes. One of the most interesting versions uses cooked, diced potatoes as part of a filling for chili rellena, a sort of stuffed pepper. It’s also a common ingredient in many soups and stews, including Ecuadorian locro de papas, made with potatoes, squash and cheese. There are many British dishes that feature potatoes: fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, bubble and squeak, and bangers and mash. Boxty pancakes are found throughout Ireland and Irish communities in the U.K. Those are made with grated potatoes which have been soaked to release the starch and then combined with flour, buttermilk and baking powder. In Eastern Europe, grated potatoes are made into puddings like kugel or bobka. Italians make a potato dumpling pasta called gnocchi. Fried potatoes in a spicy tomato sauce is a common Spanish tapas dish. In Canada they have a dish called poutine, french fries topped with fresh cheese curds and gravy.

All of these only touch the surface of how potatoes can be cooked. But that’s not all. Other uses for potatoes are to make art, including pottery; to make liquor, like vodka or potcheen; and as animal feed. Potato starch is a common industrial food additive used to thicken and bind soups and sauces. Some potatoes are used to make adhesives. And just lately, scientists are using potatoes to make plastic and biodegradable packaging. Many a young student has made a potato battery.

I’m sure with all this, you can find plenty of ways to make potatoes a part of your eating plan without getting bored.

Cooking Vegetables: Potatoes

We’re not done yet talking about how to cook some of the most popular and most unlikely vegetables on your dinner table. Why? Because we all need to eat more vegetables. But many of us don’t because we say we don’t like them. Maybe you just don’t know what you can do with them. So, here are some ideas.

This time, we’re talking potatoes, a staple on nearly all American tables. There are nearly 4,000 varieties of potatoes, all descended from a species originally grown in South America, specifically around what is today central Chile. The name was given us by the Spanish Conquistadores, who found this staple crop being grown by the South American aboriginals. They brought this tuber back to Europe. Today, it is the fourth largest food crop in the world.

No other vegetable I’ve seen has had such a well-known history. Nor is there any vegetable that’s become so versatile in the kitchen. They are in the Nightshade family, which includes Deadly Nightshade, Henbane and Tobacco. These plants contain glyco-alkaloids, which are toxic and can affect the nervous system. Cooking will neutralize most of these. The largest concentration of the toxins are in the stems, leaves and just below the surface of the skin of the potato. They can cause weakness, confusion, headaches, diarrhea, cramps and even coma or death.

All this information also applies to the sweet potato, which may have been the original version and is considered a nutritional powerhouse by food scientists. We’ll talk about that separately. For now, we’re talking about what is sometimes called the white potato.

There are three varieties usually found in our supermarkets: red, russet and gold. There are also yellow and blue varieties but we don’t see them often. Red potatoes are called “waxy,” and tend to hold together better when being cooked than others. That’s why these are the type most often boiled or steamed. Russets are used for most other applications, such as baking, frying or mashing. Golds have qualities that are between reds and russets and are often seen as the “all purpose” potato. Golds are hybrids with a slightly golden flesh and skin and have a slightly buttery taste.

While the potato is no stranger to most of us, we may sometimes not realize how many ways they can be prepared. We’re going to explore just a few of those ideas to help you see more possibilities for cooking them.

Shopping: Look for potatoes that aren’t too big with firm skins that aren’t wet or papery. Also look for skins that have not been punctured or cut, which allows rotting to set in quickly. As these tubers grow in dirt, the cleanliness of the skin is a secondary consideration. If potatoes are packaged in a bag, smell them. Yes, put that bag right up to your nose and take a whiff. That’s the best way to tell whether they are good and have been stored correctly. You should smell dirt. If there’s any hint of ammonia or any strong smell, those potatoes are bad. You may not see it, but there’s a bad potato somewhere in that bag. It’s a trick some sellers will use to get rid of product they might otherwise throw away. If they’re in a plastic bag without holes, you may want to steer clear, as there’s probably some bad ones in there you won’t find until you get home.

Storage: Potatoes should be kept in a dark and cool place. They should be well ventilated and between 50° and 70ºF. Refrigeration is not recommended unless you have new potatoes. If possible, they should be spread out a little rather than on top of each other. Putting them in a paper bag rather than plastic will also help keep them from going bad. These things will keep decomposition and sprouting to a minimum. While commercial warehouses can store potatoes for months, in your home the maximum time they should be stored is about three weeks, depending on your storage conditions. Preferred storage time in the home is one to two weeks. Light will create green spots. And they should be kept away from pears since the odors of these fruits will ruin the flavor of potatoes.

Preparation: Keep a vegetable brush or scrubber sponge set aside for cleaning potatoes and other root vegetables. Don’t use soap. Just scrub the skins well under running water, removing all dirt. Pay particular attention to the little dents and eyes. Sprouts should be removed and, if not peeling, cut the eye underneath the sprout away. Peeling is optional depending on how they’re to be used. The peels contain lots of fiber and nutrients, but in soup or long cooking methods may come away from the rest of the potato pieces. Any rotted areas, green or black spots should be cut away. Do not put the peels in the garbage disposal, which turns them into a glue that can cause expensive problems. Nor should these be saved for stock since the starch will make a clear stock near impossible. I prefer peeling potatoes over the garbage can or over old newspaper to make disposal easier. They make great compost if you have a place for it. The alkaloids will keep away many pests in the garden.

Boiling: This is one of the most common ways of preparing potatoes and works particularly well with small, new potatoes. Potatoes should be peeled. If larger than about one inch in diameter, they should be cut into halves or quarters. Put the pieces in a pot just large enough to allow about an inch of space above the potatoes. Fill the pot with water until all the potatoes are submerged. Allow room for the water to boil without overflowing. Put the pot over medium high heat without a lid. Be prepared to lower the heat to medium low once the water gets boiling. A pinch of salt in the water once it gets boiling is all the seasoning you should do at this point. Cooking should take about 10 minutes. Test for doneness by seeing if a spoon will break a piece in two. Drain and then add other seasonings as desired or needed.

Steaming: Follow similar procedure as above, but put the pieces into a steamer basket over boiling water for about 10 minutes until the pieces are fork tender.

Mashed or Smashed: Start by boiling potato chunks as above. Make the pieces about a 1/2″ thick and as uniform as possible. Boil just a little longer than usual so the pieces fall apart when prodded. Drain all but about a half cup of the water and return to pot. Add about 2 tablespoons of butter or extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder and a splash of milk. Use a hand masher to break the potatoes up and stir in the ingredients. Add more milk if needed. Don’t use a mixer as that gives you glue instead of potatoes. The only difference between mashed and smashed is that mashed is usually fairly smooth. But be careful not to overmix them or you get glue again. Many people like lumpy mashed potatoes.

Here we are with only three different cooking methods discussed, and we’ve hardly touched the surface of this topic. As this post is getting long, we’re going to continue this in another post in a couple of days. Stay with me, folks!

More Fish In The Sea

Lots of people like to eat cod and salmon as their seafood choices. In fact, these two fish are so very popular that they are being fished to death, literally. Many people complain about the taste of farm-raised versions of these breeds. But there are lots of other fish in the sea that are both delicious and sustainable.

Monkfish.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This ugly brute is sometimes called the “poor man’s lobster.” In fact, the tail meat of this fish really does taste like lobster tail, sweet and meaty. This Atlantic bottom-feeder is a type of angler fish, meaning it uses a spiny extension from its head to lure other fish, which it swallows whole.

Spiny Dogfish. As you can see, this fish is a type of shark and is sometimes called the Cape Shark or Mud Shark. It likes shallow waters and has two dorsal spines. Its meat is oily and ideal for deep frying. Spiny_dogfishThis is the fish you would most likely get in an English fish and chips shop. It is also popular in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. Right now, it is so popular in Europe that some conservationists have classified it as “vulnerable.”

sturgeonSturgeon. Yes, this ugly fish is the one that gives us caviar. There are several varieties, both fresh water and sea-going. They are farmed in British Columbia and make fine steaks. They are one of the oldest of the boney fishes and have been around for at least 400 million years.

Wahoo.wahoo They look fast and they are, one of the fastest fish in the sea. They are found in the Pacific around Hawaii. In fact, the name is a mispronunciation of the Big Island. The Hawaiians call this sleek fish “ono,” meaning good to eat. The taste has been compared to albacore tuna. When grilled, people say it tastes like chicken or veal.

Artic Char is considered to be one of the least “at risk,” most sustainable wild fish. This cold water species is related to salmon and lake trout. Some chefs call it “salmon lite.”

There are many more fish you can enjoy instead of cod or salmon.

‘Soup’-er Baked Chicken

Have you ever wondered why there are so many recipes for cooking chicken? It’s one animal protein that you can find all over the world. And it’s inexpensive. We are more likely to eat chicken in some form more than twice a week than any other meat. And, let’s face it, it often seems like there are just so many ways to prepare it.

The answer is there are and there aren’t. Many chicken recipes are just modifications of older recipes. And that’s what we have for you today. This dish takes it’s cue from the nifty ‘Fifties when food companies were out to find easy ways for housewives to put dinner on the table every night without disturbing those June Cleaver pearls with sweat.

This is a very easy dish that can be adapted in all sorts of ways to fit your personal tastes. For even faster service, this can be put together in just a few minutes. For accompanying dishes, I’d go with a salad or sautéed green beans, and rice or stuffing if you happen to have some around. Also, you don’t have to use chicken breasts. Use the cheaper bone-in thighs. But trim off the fat and skin.

Souper Baked Chicken

Prep Time: 5 Minutes; Cook Time: 1 Hour; Ready In: 1 Hour 5 Minutes

Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds chicken parts
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 (10.75 ounce) can Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup (Regular or 98% Fat Free)

Directions

  1. Place chicken in 2 quart shallow baking dish. Drizzle with margarine. Bake at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes.
  2. Spoon soup over chicken and bake 30 minutes more or until chicken is no longer pink. Remove chicken. Stir sauce.

Footnotes

  • Tip: If you remove skin from chicken before baking, mix 2 tablespoons water with soup.
  • Tip: To melt butter, remove wrapper and place in microwave-safe cup. Microwave on HIGH 30 seconds.

Nutritional Information

  • Amount Per Serving:  Calories: 382; Total Fat: 24.7g; Cholesterol: 103mg; Sodium: 659mg; Total Carbs: 6.2g; Dietary Fiber: 1.2g; Protein: 32.5g