Lentils with Vegetables Over Spaghetti Squash

Lentils with Vegetables Over Spaghetti Squash

If you’re wanting to give meatless meals a try once in a while, this is a good one to start with. Yes, there are a lot of ingredients, but don’t let that stop you. The lentil vegetable topping cooks in about the time it takes for the squash to roast, so there’s little time wasted in making this dish. It’s a delicious recipe of (oil-free) roasted spaghetti squash topped with a lentil and vegetable mixture. It’s delicious and makes a wholesome and light meatless meal. Below is a video demonstration with the written recipe below that.

Enjoy!
Judi

Lentils with Vegetables Over Spaghetti Squash
Makes about 4 Servings

1 medium spaghetti squash

Lentil vegetable mixture:
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup diced onion
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup diced carrot
½ cup brown or green lentils, rinsed and drained
1-1/4 cup vegetable broth
1 (14.5 oz) can petite diced tomatoes, with juice
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried oregano
Pinch red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast, optional topping

Cook the spaghetti squash:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper; set aside. Wash the squash and cut it in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds, scraping them off with the tip of a spoon; discard the seeds. Place the prepared squash, cut side down, on the parchment-lined baking tray. Place on middle rack of the preheated oven. Roast about 30 minutes, or until the squash can easily be pierced with a sharp knife or a fork. Remove from oven to cool enough to be handled.

Meanwhile, prepare the lentil vegetable mixture:
In a medium-large saucepan with a lid, add the oil and briefly allow it to warm up. Add the onion and sauté it briefly until it begins to turn translucent. Add the mushrooms and garlic, stir, and sauté briefly until they just begin to cook. Add the remaining ingredients, except the squash and Parmesan cheese.

Stir the mixture and bring it to a boil. Then reduce the heat to simmer and cover the pot. Stir it occasionally, as it cooks. Adjust flavorings if needed. Simmer for about 25 to 30 minutes, until lentils are tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Meanwhile, as the lentil mixture is cooking, prepare the squash:
After the squash has cooled down enough to be handled, turn the squash halves over and gently release the strands with a fork. Remove them to a serving bowl.

When everything is ready, place some squash noodles on each serving plate. Top with lentil mixture and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast, if desired. Enjoy!

Note: The lentil mixture would also be delicious served over traditional pasta, rice, quinoa, or mashed potatoes.

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Cilantro

Cilantro 101 – The Basics

The popularity of cilantro has grown tremendously in recent times, yet it has been used by mankind for literally thousands of years. Its health benefits as an herb are second to none, so it is being included in many dishes, smoothies, and beverages not only for its flavor, but also for its healthful properties. If you’re wondering what this herb is, why it’s beneficial for your health, and what to do with it, you’re in the right place! Below is a lot of information that should help you.

Enjoy!
Judi

Cilantro 101 – The Basics

About Cilantro
Cilantro, or Coriandrum sativum, is known by two names: cilantro and coriander. It is related to carrots, celery and parsley. Americans usually refer to the small round seeds as coriander, and the green plant as cilantro. In Europe, the entire plant (including the seed) is called cilantro. The entire plant is edible: roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and seeds. Because we use the green plant and the seeds, cilantro or coriander is considered to be both an herb and a spice.

The plant has been used for thousands of years for both culinary and medicinal purposes. Early physicians, including Hippocrates, used coriander as a medicine. The use of coriander has been traced back to 5,000 B.C. and is one of the world’s oldest known spices.

Cilantro is native to the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions, and has been used in Asian countries for thousands of years. More recently, cilantro has become a favorite component of Tex-Mex foods. It is also used in Asian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Latin American, North African, Caribbean, and Scandinavian cuisines. In China, it is known as Chinese parsley.

The cilantro plant is either loved for its gentle citrus notes in the flavor, or hated for its perceived soap-like taste. According to recent research, genetics seems to play a role in the taste perception of this long revered herb. Apparently, more people love the herb than hate it, since it is commonly found in many grocery stores. For those who enjoy the flavor, it pairs well with spicy foods and tropical fruits.

The roots of the cilantro plant impart a different flavor than the leaves or seeds. The deep earthy flavor of the roots blends well in a popular Thai seasoning mix where cilantro roots are pounded with garlic and white peppercorns.

Coriander seeds are small yellowish-brown, round seeds. They can be used whole or ground. Coriander seeds have a flavor that is sweet and citrusy with a slight hint of pepper. The seeds are often used in Indian, Middle Eastern, and Asian cuisines. The seed is also used in pickling and brining.

Nutrition and Health Properties of Cilantro
One-fourth cup of chopped cilantro has all of 1 calorie! It contains a lot of Vitamin K with small amounts of folate, potassium, manganese, choline, and an array of antioxidants. The nutrients found in cilantro coupled with its antioxidants pack a powerful punch for our health. Some of the benefits are as follows:

Removes toxins and improves digestion: Ancient Chinese and Babylonians used cilantro for its medicinal properties. It is known to help remove toxins from the digestive tract, and aid digestion, relieving pain from intestinal gas. Cilantro is also known to soothe inflammation in treating urinary tract infections.

Relieves stress, headaches and nausea: Cilantro is also known to help relieve stress, headaches, and nausea.

Blood sugar control: In Europe, cilantro is known as the “anti-diabetic” plant as it can help to control blood sugar.

Reduces formation of heterocyclic amines in meats: Research has shown that cooking meats with cilantro reduces the formation of heterocyclic amines. These compounds promote the formation of cancer. Thus, cooking meats with cilantro can help reduce your risk for certain cancers.

Antifungal Properties: Research has demonstrated that the essential oil of cilantro leaves has anti-fungal properties. Ongoing research is testing the effects of cilantro oil on Candida albicans. The results showed that cilantro oil did have effects on C. albicans and more research was suggested.

Natural Preservative: Cilantro is high in antioxidants. Because of this, the essential oil extracted from cilantro leaves has been shown to inhibit oxidation (spoilage due to interaction with oxygen) when mixed with other foods, acting as a type of preservative.

Heavy Metal Detoxification: Research has found that cilantro helps to suppress lead accumulation in rats. It appears to bind with heavy metals, acting as a natural chelating agent. With this finding, many people are adding cilantro to detoxifying smoothies and drinks.

Antibacterial Agent: A compound in the leaves of cilantro, dodecanal, has been found to have antibacterial effects against Salmonella. In laboratory tests, dodecanal was found to be twice as effective as the antibiotic commonly used against Salmonella.

Anti-Inflammatory Agent: Recent research has shown that extracts of coriander (seeds) can have pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects in mice. More research was suggested, so at some point, coriander extracts may be incorporated into pain and anti-inflammatory drugs.

How to Select Cilantro
Look for bright green, unwilted leaves, with no yellow or brown spots. It can be hard to distinguish cilantro from flat-leaf parsley. Cilantro leaves are a bit curlier than those of flat-leaf parsley and may be a bit lighter in color than parsley. Another way to distinguish cilantro from parsley is its aroma. Cilantro will have a stronger, more pungent aroma. When in doubt, give it a little taste.

When buying coriander seeds, opt for whole seeds rather than ground powder, which loses its flavor more quickly. The whole seeds can be ground in a powder at home with a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder, as needed. To revive their aroma, soak the whole seeds first in a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes. Drain well, then grind them and use as needed.

How to Store Cilantro
To store your (unwashed) bunch of fresh cilantro, place it stem side down in a glass or container big enough to hold it. Add some water so all the stems can get a drink, then place a plastic bag loosely over the top. Change the water every day or two. It can be stored like this in the refrigerator for up to a week. Alternatively, you could store the cut cilantro stems by wrapping them in a damp paper towel, then placing them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

How to Freeze Cilantro
Cilantro is best fresh, but it can be frozen. Many resources say the aroma is lost in the process.

Freeze cilantro, whole or chopped, in air-tight containers. Do not thaw it before use. Another way to freeze cilantro would be to chop it and place the pieces in an ice cube tray. Cover with water and freeze. Transfer to a freezer bag. Add the cubes to soups, stews, or smoothies as needed.

How to Prepare Cilantro
To use fresh cilantro, simply give it a quick rinse then pat it dry. Do not wash it until you are ready to use it. If it is visibly dirty or gritty, swish it around in a bowl of water. Drain the bowl and repeat as needed until the leaves are clean. Pat it dry, then use as needed. The leaves and stems may be used in any recipe calling for fresh cilantro.

Cooking/Serving Ideas
Cilantro is often used to flavor and to adorn salads, salsas, dips, guacamole, chutneys, pesto, beans, quesadillas, meats, fish, poultry, vegetables, sauces, egg dishes, soups, desserts, and more. When used in hot dishes, it is usually added toward the end of cooking time or sprinkled on top as a flavorful garnish. Overly cooking the herb may cause it to lose its flavor.

Quick tips for using cilantro:
* Combine chopped fresh cilantro with garlic, sea salt and unsalted butter for a homemade herb butter.

* If you don’t enjoy the flavor of cilantro, parsley can often be substituted in recipes.

* Make a delicious nut or soy milk by combining in a saucepan over low heat your nondairy milk, honey, coriander, and cinnamon.

* Add coriander seeds to liquid when poaching fish.

* Add ground coriander seeds to pancake or waffle batter.

* Put whole coriander seeds in a pepper mill and keep it on the table. It will be readily available for use at any meal.

* Use up extra cilantro by making a quick salsa, combining tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, and cilantro with a little salt.

* Add cilantro to quesadillas, tacos, fajitas and other Mexican dishes.

* Make a simple cilantro pesto with cilantro, lime juice and salt. Use in on pasta, sandwiches, tacos, fajitas, and quesadillas.

* Add extra cilantro to a green salad for a special flavor twist.

Other Herbs/Spices That Go Well With Cilantro
Basil, cardamom, cayenne, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, mint, parsley, pepper (black), and sorrel

Foods That Go Well With Cilantro
Proteins, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, beans (esp. black), beef, chicken, chickpeas, clams, edamame, eggs, fish, lamb, lentils, nuts, peanuts, peas (black-eye), pork, pumpkin seeds, shrimp, tahini, tofu, walnuts

Vegetables: Beets, bell peppers, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, chiles, corn,* cucumbers, eggplant, greens (i.e. Mustard), jicama, mushrooms, okra, onions, peas, potatoes, scallions, squash (summer and winter), sweet potatoes, tomatillos, tomatoes, wakame (a type of seaweed), zucchini (*Yes, we know corn is actually a grain. But in many dishes, we often use corn as a vegetable, so it is commonly referred to as a vegetable or a grain.)

Fruits: Avocado, citrus, coconut, lemon, lime, mangos, melon, oranges, papaya, pears, tamarind

Grains: Corn, couscous, noodles, pasta, quinoa, rice, wheat berries

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Coconut milk, yogurt

Other: Miso, moles, mustard, oil, pesto, soy sauce, vinegar

Cilantro has been used in:
North African cuisines, Asian cuisines, Caribbean cuisines, chili, chimichurri sauce, Chinese cuisine, chutneys, curries, dips, enchiladas, fajitas, guacamole, Indian cuisine, Latin American cuisines, marinades, Mexican cuisine, moles, pad thai, pasta dishes, pestos, salad dressings, salads, sandwiches, sauces, soups (i.e. chickpea, gazpacho, tortilla), South American cuisines, Southeast Asian cuisines, tacos, Tex-Mex cuisine, Thai cuisine, and Vietnamese cuisine

Suggested Flavor Combos using Cilantro:
Combine cilantro with…
Avocado, chiles, garlic, red onions, tomatoes
Basil, chiles, garlic, lime, mint
Basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese
Carrots, lime, rice
Chiles, corn
Chiles, garlic, lime
Chiles, lime, onions, tomatillos or tomatoes
Corn, tomatoes
Garlic, ginger, rice vinegar, sesame (oil/seeds), soy sauce
Jicama, lime, onions, orange, papaya
Onions, pinto beans

Recipe Links
Corn Salad with Cilantro and Caramelized Onions https://food52.com/recipes/13784-corn-salad-with-cilantro-caramelized-onions

91 Bold and Savory Cilantro Recipes https://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/12-cilantro-dinners-recipes-gallery

40 Recipes for Cilantro Lovers https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/cilantro-recipes-for-cilantro-lovers/

5 Ingredient Cilantro Vinaigrette https://pinchofyum.com/5-ingredient-cilantro-vinaigrette

15 Ways to Use Up a Bunch of Cilantro https://food52.com/blog/13986-15-ways-to-use-up-a-bunch-of-cilantro

Cilantro Lime Chicken Thighs https://damndelicious.net/2019/03/30/cilantro-lime-chicken-thighs/

Grilled Corn with Chipotle Cilantro Lime Butter https://producemadesimple.ca/grilled-corn-chipotle-cilantro-lime-butter/

Shrimp Tacos with Kiwi Salsa https://producemadesimple.ca/shrimp-tacos-with-kiwi-salsa/

Green Goddess Salad Dressing https://producemadesimple.ca/green-goddess-salad-dressing/

Fish Tacos with Peach Jalapeno Salsa https://producemadesimple.ca/fish-tacos-with-peach-jalapeno-salsa/

Fabulous Cilantro Pesto https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/16644/fabulous-cilantro-pesto/

Cilantro Pesto Recipe https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/cilantro_pesto/

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Resources
http://www.apinchof.com/cilantro1027.html

https://www.spiceplace.com

https://www.thekitchn.com/inside-the-spice-cabinet-cilantro-210866

https://www.gardenguides.com/12553969-fun-facts-about-cilantro.html

https://food52.com/blog/7678-cilantro-the-divisive-herb

http://mexicanmademeatless.com/24-cilantro-facts-you-need-to-know/

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/277627.php

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25831119

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=70

https://www.nutrition-and-you.com/cilantro.html

https://producemadesimple.ca/?s=cilantro

https://www.thefrugalgirl.com/how-to-use-up-cilantro/

https://www.thespruceeats.com/what-is-a-coriander-995627

Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

Desiccant Packets

Uses for Desiccant Packets

You know what I’m referring to here…those little packets of drying agent found in bottles of vitamins, etc. We usually toss them with the bottle when it’s empty. Well, there ARE useful things we can do with them, so consider keeping one of those bottles and save the packets in there for future use. Here are some ways to use them…

Store some with silver tableware or silver jewelry. The drying agents won’t stop silver from tarnishing, but it will slow it down.

Add some with clothes and blankets during off-season storage. The drying effect will help to prevent mustiness and mildew.

Add them to whatever you store in a damp basement. They will help to keep items dry and prevent mustiness and mold from forming.

Put them in a camera bag. If you use your camera outdoors, the humidity in the camera bag can cause some film and condensation to form on the camera. Placing some drying packets in the camera bag can help to prevent that from happening.

Add them to any container where you store photos. Moisture can cause old photos to stick together and ruin them. Adding some drying packets to the photo box can help to save those precious old photos.

Protect important documents. Add some drying packs to any container where old, important documents are being stored. Birth certificates, marriage licenses, death certificates, property titles, important receipts, and treasured old letters and cards are all prime examples. This will help to preserve the documents.

Use them when storing dry flowers. Many people use dried flowers for potpourri, room decor, and assorted craft projects. Drying packets can help to dry flower petals and also keep them dry in their storage containers.

Add them to your toolbox. Some tools and accessories are prone to rusting. Adding some drying packets to your toolbox can help to prevent that from happening.

Help keep electronics dry. Put some drying packets in your electronics bags and storage containers to help keep them dry and prolong their life.

Add them to powdery mixtures to prevent clumping. Some powdery mixtures can tend to clump up when humidity enters the box. Laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, and other powdered cleaning agents are good examples. Toss in a few drying packets to help prevent the clumping. Be sure to remove them when using the detergent!

Preserve stored collectables. If you have a collection of old baseball cards, comic magazines, or any other such paper items, add some drying packets to the storage container. This will help to soak up moisture in the box, preserving your precious items that much more.

Help to preserve holiday decorations. Adding some drying packets to your boxes of stored holiday decorations can help to keep them fresh and dry for your next use.

Revive old musty books. Place some drying packets in a plastic bag with a musty book. Leave it there for a few days and that will help take the moisture and musty smell out of the book.

Add them to garden seed packets. If you save seeds from year to year, add some drying packets to the bag your seeds are stored in. The reduction in moisture may help to preserve your seeds a bit longer.

Place some in bathroom medicine cabinets. Adding some drying packets to bathroom medicine cabinets can help prevent shelves from rusting, and also to help protect the contents of the cabinet from the excessive moisture in the bathroom.

Add them to your sorted vitamins and other pills. If you divvy out pills in advance, adding some drying agents to your storage container can help to keep your pills dry and fresh.

Keep fishing tackle items from rusting. Placing some drying packets in your fishing tackle box can help to keep those items from rusting.

Store some in shoes. If your shoes have gotten wet, or if your feet tend to sweat a lot, place some packets inside your shoes when storing them to help dry them out and reduce odors.

Prevent carpentry nails from rusting. If you store carpentry nails and such, they might rust over time. Placing some drying packets in with those items can help keep them from rusting.

Prevent holiday tins from rusting. We all enjoy the beauty and joy decorative tins can bring to our homes and tables during the holidays. But they do have a tendency to rust over time. Place some drying packets in your favored tins when they are being stored to help keep them dry and prevent rusting.

Place some in closets. Closets can tend to smell stale, especially if not used regularly. Place some drying packets in closets to help make them (and their contents) fresh and dry.

Place some in gym bags. This will help to keep the contents dry and smelling fresh.

Rescue your cell phone. Many people have accidentally dropped their cell phones in water. After retrieving your phone, wipe it dry and remove the battery and memory card, if you can. Place your phone, battery, and memory card in an air-tight container (such as a plastic bag) with some drying packets. Leave it there at least overnight, even up to 24 hours, and your phone should (hopefully!) be fine.

Keep windows dry. Sometimes condensation can form between window panes. Placing a few drying packets between the window panes can help to stop the condensation from forming.

Keep pet food dry. If you invest in a large, bulk bag of dry pet food, place a few drying packets in the bag to help keep the pet food dry and fresh. Of course, be careful not to feed them to your pet…they are NOT edible!

Keep windshield from fogging up. The car windshield can get foggy on humid days, especially during early morning drives. Placing some drying packets on the dashboard can help to soak up some of that humidity, preventing the window from getting foggy.

Extend razor blade life. Razors tend to have a short life, especially when not dried after use. They’re too expensive to waste them like that! After use, dry them off, then go one step further by placing them in an air-tight container with some drying packets.

Preserve dry makeup. Preserve the life of dry makeup powders by storing them in an air-tight container with a few drying packets. This is especially helpful if you live in a humid area.

Keep dry foods dry. Add one or more drying packets (depending on size) to opened, dry foods. Bread crumbs, flour, herbs and spices, pastas, rice and other grains, and crackers are good examples of foods that can age quickly if moisture gets in them. The drying packets will help to keep these foods fresh and dry until needed. This is especially helpful if you live in a humid climate.

Freshen stale dresser drawers. Have you ever noticed a musty odor when you open a dresser drawer that isn’t used very often? Place some drying packets in the drawer to keep the things inside fresh and dry.

Freshen luggage. When returning home from a long trip, dirty laundry in luggage can cause smelly, and even moldy luggage. Carry some desiccant packs with you and turn them loose in your luggage to do their job on the way home. You’ll still need to wash your laundry, but at least it (hopefully) shouldn’t be moldy!

Revive your used packets…Don’t Throw them Out!
When your packets have been used and reused, don’t toss them! They can be revived by placing them outside in the sun on a dry, hot day. Afterwards, store them in a tightly closed container until you need them again.

If that won’t work for you, place the used packets on a clean, dry baking sheet and place them in your oven set at its lowest temperature. Allow them to “bake” for an hour or more to dry them out. (Be careful not to burn the packets during the process. If you see the packets turning dark, remove them from the oven!) Store them in an airtight container.

Better yet, if you have a dehydrator, place the used packets in the dehydrator with the temperature set at about 120°F for 2 or more hours. Return them to your storage container to be used again.

Resources
https://www.practicallyfunctional.com/17-uses-for-desiccants-how-to-make-your-own/

https://www.makelifelovely.com/6-uses-for-silica-gel-packets-dont/

https://www.edcosupply.com/3-unbelievable-uses-for-desiccant-packs/

https://www.mythirtyspot.com/17-clever-ways-to-use-silica-gel-that-you-never-knew/

https://www.littlethings.com/silica-gel-household-uses/1

https://www.bobvila.com/slideshow/10-reasons-you-shouldn-t-toss-silica-gel-packets-51628

https://www.ifixit.com/Answers/View/403/What+is+the+best+way+to+dry+used+desiccant+Silica-Gel

Easiest Cooked Spinach Ever

Easiest Cooked Spinach Ever!

If you’re looking for a fast, easy, and very healthful way to cook spinach, this is it. It’s a method I came up with years ago and it’s like no other. Yet, it’s as simple as can be. Below is a video demonstration of my cooking fresh spinach using this method. The recipe is below the video. Enjoy!

Judi

Easiest Cooked Spinach Ever!

Fresh spinach (any amount)
Garlic powder, or other seasoning of choice
Salt, optional
One or two wedges of fresh lemon

Wash the spinach. This step is important, even if you’re using pre-washed spinach from the grocery store. Place the washed spinach in a colander and allow it to drain briefly. Do not dry it in a salad spinner or by blotting it with a towel. In this case, we want whatever water is clinging to the spinach leaves.

Place the washed spinach in a (clean, dry, unheated) pot with a lid. Do not add oil or additional liquid. Sprinkle seasonings of choice over the spinach and toss to combine. Place the lid on the pot and turn the burner to high heat. Do not walk away! As soon as you see steam coming out from under the lid, turn the burner off and allow the pot to stay on the burner for a few minutes until the steam stops and the spinach has had time to wilt.

At this point, the spinach is ready to serve or the pot can be removed from the heat and allowed to sit elsewhere with the lid on until you’re ready to serve the spinach.

Remove the spinach to a serving dish and drizzle with fresh lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Enjoy!

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Avocado

Avocados 101 – The Basics

Avocados are a unique fruit often included in Hispanic foods. Their popularity has grown in recent years, so they are now being included in many other cuisines, and in dishes of all sorts. If you’re not quite sure what to do with avocados or are looking for something different, I have some ideas! Below are extensive notes on just about anything to do with avocados. Hopefully this will help!

Enjoy,
Judi

Avocado 101 – The Basics

About Avocado
Avocados belong to the group Persea americana. There are over 50 different varieties of avocados within this basic group. Different varieties may vary in texture, with some being smoother than others. Color may also vary, with some being darker and richer in color than others. The skins may also have varying degrees of glossiness.

Mexico is the world’s largest producer and exporter of avocados. Avocados are also grown in Chile, Indonesia, the Dominican Republic, Columbia, Peru, Brazil, China, and Guatemala. In the United States, most homeland avocados are grown in California and Florida.

Nutrition Tidbits
One-third of a medium size avocado is considered to be one serving. That mere one-third of this delicious and healthful fruit provides almost 20 vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, including an abundant amount of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, especially oleic acid. One-third of a medium avocado has 80 calories.

One serving (1/3 of a medium fruit) of avocado provides notable amounts of pantothenic acid and other B-Vitamins, Vitamin K, Vitamin E, folate, copper, magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron, phosphorus, manganese, fiber, and Vitamin C. One avocado can have twice the potassium of a banana! Among a list of other phytonutrients, avocado also contains the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, known to help protect the eyes from diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration.

How to Select an Avocado
A ripe avocado will have a slight give to it when gently squeezed in the palm of your hand. Make sure it has no dark sunken spots, cracks, or is very soft, as that specimen will be overripe. An avocado with a slight “neck” on it will have ripened longer on the tree, so it should have a richer flavor. An unripe avocado will be firm, and not give when squeezed. It may be advantageous to select unripe avocados if you don’t plan to use them right away.

Color alone is not enough to tell when an avocado is ripe. Some varieties, such as the Hass avocado, will turn dark green or even black when ripe. However, the skin of other varieties will stay light green, even when ripe.

One quick way to tell if an avocado is ripe is to lift off the little piece left at the stem end. If it’s green underneath, the avocado is ripe. If it’s brown, the fruit is overripe.

How to Ripen an Avocado
To speed up the ripening process of an avocado, place it in a paper bag and close the top. Store it at room temperature (65 to 75°F) until ready to eat, usually between two and five days. To further speed up the process, place an ethylene-producing fruit (such as an apple, banana, or kiwi fruit) in the bag with the avocado. The gas released will speed up the ripening process. If you’re not ready to eat the avocado once it is ripened, place it in the refrigerator for up to five days.

If you’re not in a hurry to ripen the avocado, simply place it on the kitchen counter for a few days. It will ripen on its own and will be ready to be used when it gives a little when gently squeezed.

How to Store an Avocado
Once your avocado is ripe, place it in the refrigerator if you don’t need to use it immediately. Ripe or soft avocados should be used as soon as possible, but should keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

How to Prepare Avocado
Start with clean hands, then wash your avocado well and pat it dry. With a sharp knife, cut the avocado lengthwise around the seed. Give the avocado a quarter turn, then cut the avocado around the seed again, ultimately cutting it into four sections. Move the halves in your hand to release the slices from the seed. Gently remove the seed with your fingertips or a spoon. Starting at the tip of each section, peel the avocado by placing your thumb under the skin and peeling it back. Slice or dice the sections as needed. To help prevent darkening, sprinkle the cut avocado with some lemon or lime juice, or vinegar.

How to Store Cut Avocado
If you’re not going to use all of your cut avocado at one time, the California Avocado Commission recommends to sprinkle the cut avocado pieces with lemon juice, lime juice, or white vinegar, then wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or place it in an air-tight container. Store it in the refrigerator and use it as quickly as possible.

Cooking/Serving Ideas
Avocado is usually eaten raw in a variety of ways including being added to smoothies, guacamole, hummus, salads, sandwiches, toppings for vegetables, salad dressings, sushi, ice cream, quick breads, garnishes for assorted cooked meals from soups, to meats and main dishes, to desserts, and more.

When cooked, avocado can be grilled, roasted, and added to soups and sauces. It is noteworthy that cooked avocados can turn bitter. It’s helpful to use citrus juice with them, cook them for as little time as possible, and eat the food right away.

Quick serving ideas for avocados:
* Use diced avocado as a garnish for black bean soup.

* Spread ripe avocado on bread in place of mayonnaise when making a sandwich, or on toast in place of butter.

* Try a salad of diced fresh avocado with sliced fennel, oranges and mint.

* An interesting accompaniment to a Hispanic dish would be diced avocado with corn relish, topped with a fresh wedge of lime.

* Try mashed avocado on baked potato in place of sour cream. Top with a little shredded cheese for added flavor.

* Grill avocado by cutting it in half and removing the seed. Drizzle with lemon juice and place cut side down on the grill for 2 to 3 minutes, until the edges just start to sizzle. Season with salt and pepper or your seasoning of choice.

* Add avocado to your green smoothie for a boost of healthy fats and richness.

* Avocado can be used in place of shortening, butter, oil and eggs in baking. Use 1 cup mashed avocado in place of 1 cup of butter, oil or shortening (equal parts for substitution). Replace 1 egg with 2 to 4 tablespoons of mashed avocado.

* Add avocado to your favorite hummus.

Herbs/Spices That Go Well With Avocado
Basil, cayenne, cilantro, chili powder, coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, lemon verbena, mint, miso, oregano, paprika, parsley, pecans, pepper (black), salt, sesame, sorrel, and wasabi

Other Foods That Go Well With Avocado
Proteins, Nuts, Seeds: Beans (esp. black), bacon, beef, cashews, chicken, chickpeas, crab, eggs, pecans, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, shrimp, tempeh, tofu, tuna, turkey, and walnuts

Vegetables: Artichoke, arugula, asparagus, beets, bell peppers, cabbage, carrots, celery, chiles, chives, corn, cucumber, endive, fennel, greens, jicama, leeks, lettuces, mushrooms, nori, olives, onions, radishes, scallions, shallots, spinach, sprouts, tomatillos, tomatoes, and zucchini

Fruits: Citrus, grapefruit, kumquats, lemon, lime, mangoes, melon, oranges, papaya, pears, persimmons, pineapple, pomegranates, and pomelo

Grains: Breads, bulgur, corn, couscous, quinoa, and rice

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Buttermilk, cheese, ice cream, milk, sour cream, and yogurt

Other: Coffee, mayonnaise, mustard (Dijon), oil, rum, stock (vegetable), and vinegar

Avocado has been used in: Burritos, California cuisine, Central American cuisine, chili, desserts (esp. chocolate mousse), dips, egg dishes, fajitas, ice cream, nachos, quesadillas, relishes, salads and salad dressings, salsas, sandwiches, smoothies, sorbets, soups, spreads, stuffed avocados, sushi (vegetarian), tacos, and veggie burgers

Suggested Flavor Combos
Try combining avocado with…
Basil + lime
Basil + onions + tomatoes
Black beans + tomatoes
Celery + chiles + cilantro + cumin + garlic + lime + spinach
Chiles + cilantro + lime + onions
Chili powder + cilantro + jicama + onions + orange juice
Cilantro + cucumber + jalapeno + lime + mint + yogurt
Cilantro + garlic + lime + red onions + tomatoes
Citrus + jicama
Cucumber + green onions + lime + yogurt
Cucumber + mint + yogurt
Fennel + citrus (ie grapefruit, orange)

Recipe Links
California Avocado Salmon Bean Salad https://www.californiaavocado.com/recipes/recipe-container/california-avocado-salmon-bean-salad

Curried Sweet Potato Noodle Salad https://www.californiaavocado.com/recipes/recipe-container/curried-sweet-potato-noodle-salad

California Avocado Tri-Color Potato Salad https://www.californiaavocado.com/recipes/recipe-container/california-avocado-tri-color-potato-salad

Stuffed California Avocado with Jicama Salad https://www.californiaavocado.com/recipes/recipe-container/stuffed-california-avocado-with-jicama-salad

Bacon, Grape and Avocado Salad https://producemadesimple.ca/bacon-grape-and-avocado-salad/

Avocado Chocolate Mousse Tart https://producemadesimple.ca/avocado-chocolate-mousse-tart/

40+ Ways to Love Avocado https://producemadesimple.ca/40-ways-to-love-avocado/

15 Minute Shrimp and Avocado Salad http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=21

15 Minute Cod with Avocado Salsa http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=133

Romaine and Avocado Salad http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=45

Healthy Veggie Salad http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=311

Southwestern Salmon and Black Beans http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=83

Salmon, Cucumber, and Dill Salad http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=130

Guacamole https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/guacamole-recipe4-1920420

Easy Guacamole https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/14064/easy-guacamole/

Salmon, Green Beans, and Avocado https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/salmon-green-beans-avocado

10 Easy Avocado Recipes https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/recipe-collections-favorites/popular-ingredients/easy-avocado-recipes?

49 Avocado Recipes So You Never Waste One Again https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/g2894/things-to-do-with-avocado/

60+ Easy and Satisfying Avocado Recipes You Need to Try ASAP https://www.womansday.com/food-recipes/food-drinks/g23/30-awesome-avocado-recipes-36194/?slide=6

Avocado Chocolate Mousse https://www.wellplated.com/avocado-chocolate-mousse/#wprm-recipe-container-34124

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Resources
https://www.californiaavocado.com/nutrition/nutrients

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=5#descr

https://www.californiaavocado.com/blog/why-you-should-peel-avocados

https://www.californiaavocado.com/avocado101/how-to-choose-and-use-an-avocado

https://producemadesimple.ca/?s=avocado

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/23-ways-to-eat-avocados#section4

https://www.mercola.com/infographics/avocado-uses-health-benefits.htm

https://www.avogel.co.uk/food/ingredients/avocado/how-to-cook-avocado/

https://thecookful.com/can-you-cook-avocado/

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/guacamole-foods_n_3922338

Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

Wild Rice

Wild Rice 101 – The Basics

Wild rice is not a staple in the American diet, but it IS a favored addition to meals for many people, especially those in the upper Midwest region of America, where this delicacy originates. If you’re not sure what wild rice is or how to use it in your meal plan, you’re in the right place! LOTS of information is below that should help.

Enjoy!
Judi

Wild Rice 101 – The Basics

About Wild Rice
Wild rice is not actually rice at all. It is the seed of a marsh grass, native to the Great Lakes region of North America. It grows naturally in shallow freshwater marshes and along the shores of streams and lakes. There are four species of wild rice, with three of them being native to North America. The fourth species is native to Asia, and is harvested as a vegetable.

Wild rice has long black or dark brown grains that have a chewy texture with an earthy, nutty flavor. It is more expensive than true forms of rice and takes longer to cook. It is often found in rice blends where the components complement flavors, textures and cooking times.

Nutrition Tidbits
Wild rice is slightly higher in protein than other whole grains. In addition to protein, it is a good source of fiber, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, Vitamin B6, and niacin. It has slightly fewer calories than brown or white rice. Wild rice is gluten-free.

Research on the health benefits is scarce since it is a small part of our food supply. However, in 1994, researchers at the University of Minnesota found that wild rice is very high in antioxidants. In 2009, scientists at the University of Manitoba found that the antioxidant level of wild rice is 30-times higher than that of white rice. That same year, researchers in China found that wild rice lowered cholesterol and other blood lipids in animals.

How to Store Wild Rice
Because of its low fat content, wild rice will keep in a dry, air-tight container up to 10 years. Once cooked, place your wild rice in an air-tight container and store it in the refrigerator up to 4 or 5 days.

How to Freeze Wild Rice
Cooked wild rice may be frozen by placing it in an air-tight container and storing it in the freezer for up to six months. It may be thawed overnight in the refrigerator before use.

How to Prepare Wild Rice
Wild rice should be washed before being cooked. Place it in a bowl of cool water, stir, then set it aside for a few minutes. This gives time for any debris to float to the top. Pour off the water. Combine one cup of wild rice with three cups of water or broth in a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer, and cover the pot. Simmer time for wild rice varies a lot on package directions, ranging from 30 to 45 minutes up to an hour. Cook it until the kernels just start to open, or taste it to determine if it’s tender enough for you. For chewier wild rice, cook less time. For tender, fluffier wild rice, cook longer until it’s as tender as you want it to be. Drain off any excess liquid and serve. One cup uncooked yields 3 to 4 cups cooked wild rice.

Cooking/Serving Ideas for Wild Rice
Wild rice can be used as a substitute for potatoes, pasta, or traditional rice. It can be eaten alone, but is often combined with traditional rice or other grains. Wild rice can be added to a variety of dishes, including salads, soups, casseroles, and even desserts.

For something different, try popping wild rice! You can pop wild rice like popcorn. Heat it in a little oil and shake it until it pops. Season it with butter, salt, and any way you enjoy your popcorn.

Herbs/Spices That Go Well With Wild Rice
Bay leaf, cardamom, cinnamon, dill, garlic, mustard, oregano, parsley, pepper (black), sage, salt, seeds (i.e. sunflower), tarragon, thyme

Other Foods That Go Well With Wild Rice
Proteins, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, beans, beef, chicken, eggs, game, ham, hazelnuts, nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pork, poultry, sausage, turkey, walnuts

Vegetables: Artichoke hearts, asparagus, bell peppers, carrots, celery, celery root, chives, corn, greens (i.e. collards), leeks, mushrooms, onions, pumpkin, scallions, shallots, spinach, squash (summer and winter), watercress, zucchini

Fruit: Apples, apple cider, apple juice, dates, dried fruit (esp. cherries, cranberries), lemon, orange, raisins, tangerines

Grains: Barley, bulgur (wheat), corn, rice

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Butter, cheese, ghee, sour cream

Other: Maple syrup, oil, soy sauce, stock (esp. vegetable), tamari, vinegar, wine

Wild rice has been used in: American cuisine, baked goods (i.e. breads, cakes), casseroles, crepes, frittatas, Midwestern American cuisine, Native American cuisine, omelets, pancakes and waffles, pilafs, salads, soups, stuffings

Suggested Flavor Combos:
Combine wild rice with…
Beets + orange
Brown rice + nuts
Cinnamon + orange zest
Dates + pecans
Fruit (i.e. apples, dates, dried cherries or cranberries, raisins) + nuts (i.e. almonds, pecans, pine nuts, walnuts)
Garlic + spinach
Pine nuts + mushrooms + spinach
Scallions + walnuts

Recipe Links
Manitoba Wild Rice https://www.food.com/recipe/manitoba-wild-rice-7808

Wild Rice and Mushrooms https://www.food.com/recipe/wild-rice-and-mushrooms-51714

Rice Cooker Wild Rice https://www.food.com/recipe/rice-cooker-wild-rice-106087

Wild Rice Apple Salad https://wholegrainscouncil.org/recipes/wild-rice-apple-salad

Wild Rice Salad with Pepitas and Sun-Dried Cranberries https://wholegrainscouncil.org/recipes/wild-rice-salad-pepitas-sun-dried-cranberries

Shrimp and Wild Rice Salad https://wholegrainscouncil.org/recipes/shrimp-and-wild-rice-salad

Wild Rice Apple Cake https://www.ramywildriceco.com/recipes/wild-rice-apple-cake

Wild Rice and Apple Skillet with Pork https://www.ramywildriceco.com/recipes/wild-rice-and-apple-skillet-pork

Stuffed Acorn Squash with Wild Rice, Hazelnuts and Dried Cranberries https://www.ramywildriceco.com/recipes/stuffed-acorn-squash-wild-rice-hazelnuts-and-dried-cranberries

Wild Rice Vegetable Pilaf https://www.bowenappetit.com/2013/11/19/wild-rice/

Harvest Wild Rice Skillet https://pinchofyum.com/harvest-wild-rice-skillet#tasty-recipes-39437

Roasted Apple, Quinoa, and Wild Rice Salad https://producemadesimple.ca/roasted-apple-quinoa-wild-rice-salad/

Wild Rice Pilaf http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=156

Minnesota Wild Rice Bread https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/minnesota-wild-rice-bread-recipe-2012014

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Resources
https://www.food.com/about/wild-rice-290

https://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/grain-month-calendar/wild-rice-september-grain-month

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/wild-rice-nutrition-review#what-it-is

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/wild-rice-nutrition-review#cooking

Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

Assorted Vinegars

Vinegar 101 – The Basics

This post covers a lot of details about vinegar, from general information to specifics about assorted types of vinegar. Hopefully you’ll find what you’re looking for. Please let me know if you need further information!

I hope this helps!
Judi

Vinegar 101 – The Basics

About Vinegar
The word “vinegar” stems from the French word “vin aigre” which means “sour wine.” This is appropriate since vinegars are made by adding bacteria to liquids to cause fermentation. The liquid to be fermented is usually wine, beer or cider. The fermentation process creates alcohol, which is then exposed to oxygen. The bacteria then create the acetic acid, turning the liquid very acidic, giving it the tart flavor characteristic if vinegar. Depending upon the process used and the type of vinegar being made, the fermentation process can take anywhere from a couple days to years. Some vinegars, such as balsamic, may be left to ferment for up to 25 years. Vinegars are often diluted to contain from 5 to 20 percent acetic acid, by volume.

Vinegar has been used for thousands of years as a cooking ingredient, condiment, medicine, and preservative. Today it is even being used as a cleaning agent. The use of vinegar has been traced back to ancient Babylon, around 5,000 B.C.E, where it was used in cooking and as a medicine, preservative, and a drink for strength and wellness.

Vinegars are excellent additions to marinades because the acid helps to break down proteins, making them more tender. Vinegar can also be used to balance out flavors and reduce bitterness in some foods. It is commonly used in salad dressings, marinades, sauces, mayonnaise, and ketchup.

Nutrition Tidbits
Most vinegars have few nutrients yet they do have some beneficial health properties. It is very low in calories with one tablespoon having only 3 to 14 calories, depending upon the variety. The few calories it has comes from the little bit of sugars remaining from the fermentation process. If you have food sensitivities, it is important to read labels, as some vinegars are a blend of vinegar, juice, added sugars, and possibly other ingredients that may cause reactions in some people. A few vinegars contain gluten while others contain added sulfites.

Early records in China, the Middle East, and Greece, show vinegar being used as a digestive aid, an antibacterial agent on wounds, and a treatment for cough. Today, a few small studies have shown some health benefits from vinegar, which has sparked a lot of attention for using vinegar in natural health treatments.

Studies published in 2010 showed that including vinegar with a meal helps to reduce post-meal blood glucose levels. Balsamic vinegar has been shown to lower triglyceride and total cholesterol levels.

General Tips for Using Vinegar
* Use vinegar to brighten the flavor of foods and balance the richness of a fatty dish.

* Use vinegar to tenderize protein foods (such as meats and poultry) by adding it to marinades.

* Use vinegar when pickling foods, as it not only adds flavor, but acts as a preservative by killing bacteria.

* Adding a little vinegar to cooking water can help to brighten the color of vegetables, especially those in the cruciferous family (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, etc.).

* Some resources suggest adding a little vinegar to the water when boiling eggs. They say it makes eggs easier to peel.

* Some suggest adding a little vinegar to water when poaching eggs to help keep them together.

* For a quick buttermilk substitution, add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to 1 cup of milk. Allow it to rest a few minutes for the milk to thicken.

* To perk up the flavor of cooked beans or bean soups, add a little vinegar during the last 5 minutes of cooking time. Adding it earlier will make the beans tough and harder to cook properly.

How to Store Vinegar
Vinegar does not need to be stored in the refrigerator. However for best quality, store it tightly capped in a cool, dry, dark place, away from sunlight and heat. Some vinegars will have a “Best by” date stamped on the bottle. Even though it may be safe to consume the vinegar beyond that date, the quality may not be its best.

Unpasteurized, raw apple cider vinegar may become more cloudy with age. That’s simply the culture (bacteria) multiplying in the bottle. It is still safe to use.

Generally speaking, unopened vinegar will keep for about two years in a cool, dry, dark place. Once opened, it should be used within about six months for best quality. To keep opened vinegar longer, it may be stored in the refrigerator.

What is the “Mother” in Vinegar?
The “Mother” of vinegar is a mixture of cellulose and bacteria (or culture) that fermented the original liquid into vinegar. It is found in fermented alcohols and unpasteurized vinegars, most commonly in raw apple cider vinegar. It creates a cloudy appearance in the vinegar and is harmless to consume. It will not affect the flavor of the vinegar. In fact, the “M other” contains friendly probiotic bacteria, prebiotic fibers, and nutrients that can boost health.

Food Sensitivities
Gluten: Most vinegars do not contain gluten. However, some that are made with grains may contain gluten. This information is listed below each type of vinegar for clarification. When in doubt, check the label and ask your physician or dietitian, if necessary.

According to Shelly Case, RD (at https://shelleycase.com/is-vinegar-gluten-free/), the distillation process destroys gluten. So, if a vinegar (such as white vinegar) was made from wheat (a gluten-containing grain), and it was “distilled” the gluten has been removed or destroyed in the process and would therefore be safe to eat, even by those with gluten sensitivities. If the vinegar was made with a gluten-containing grain, such as wheat, and was not distilled, then the vinegar does still contain gluten, and would not be safe to eat by those with gluten sensitivities. Beware and read labels! This information is also confirmed by the FDA as stated here… https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/why-distillation-is-compatible-with-a-gluten-free-diet/

Sulfites: Most fermented foods contain naturally-occurring sulfites. However, naturally-occurring sulfites differ from those added as food preservatives, and usually present no problems to those with sulfite sensitivities. Some vinegars have added sulfites, whereas others do not. If you are sensitive to sulfites, always check the label before purchasing vinegar, and consult your physician if necessary.

Common Varieties of Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar: Also known as cider vinegar, this variety is pale brown with a mild apple flavor. It is made from fermented apple cider, unpasteurized apple juice, or apple pulp. It is inexpensive.

Best Uses: Apple cider vinegar is excellent in chutneys, stews, marinades, sweet pickles, and in coleslaw or salad dressings.

Food Sensitivities: Apple cider vinegar is naturally gluten-free.

Balsamic Vinegar: This is a dark, sweet vinegar that has been produced in Italy for over 800 years. It is usually made from whole processed red or white wine grapes (called “grape must,” or the crushed grapes including the seeds, peel and stems). The grape must is boiled to a concentrate, fermented, acidified, and then aged in wooden barrels for up to 50 years. The longer it is aged, the thicker, sweeter and pricier it gets.

Best Uses: Balsamic vinegar is excellent on strawberries, tomatoes, grilled meats and poached fruit. It can also be used in salad dressings, marinades, sauces, and soups. It is sometimes reduced into a thick sauce and served over fruit or ice cream.

Food Sensitivities: Balsamic vinegar is gluten-free and, like other vinegars, contains naturally occurring sulfites. Most balsamic vinegars will not have added sulfites, but if you are sensitive, it is advisable to always check the label before purchasing any balsamic vinegar.

Malt Vinegar: Malt vinegar is a dark, flavorful vinegar that is very popular with fish and chips in England. It comes from barley that was made into beer, then fermented into vinegar. It has a milder, sweeter and more complex flavor than plain white vinegar.

Best Uses: Malt vinegar is often used on French fries (and on fish and chips in the UK), and in making pickles.

Food Sensitivities: Malt vinegar is made from barley, which contains gluten. Therefore, if you have a sensitivity to gluten, you should avoid malt vinegar UNLESS it was distilled (which would have removed the gluten). Malt vinegar naturally contains a small amount of sulfites, less than 10 ppm. This is a very low level, which usually poses no issue, even for people who have a sulfite allergy. When in doubt, ask your physician!

Red Wine Vinegar: This vinegar is made from red wine and is usually aged in wooden barrels. It has a strong flavor that blends well in hearty dishes. Red wine vinegar is often used in French and Mediterranean cuisines and is less acidic than distilled or cider vinegars.

Best Uses: Red wine vinegar is excellent in salad dressings, stews, sauces, marinades, and with cooked meat and fish.

Food Sensitivities: Red wine vinegar is gluten-free since it is made with grapes. Like other vinegars, red wine vinegar will have naturally occurring sulfites. However, some brands of red wine vinegar have ADDED sulfites, whereas others do not. If you are sensitive to added sulfites, it is important to read the label before purchasing this type of vinegar.

Rice Vinegar: This type of vinegar is made from fermented rice. It is commonly referred to as rice wine vinegar. It has a mild, sweet flavor and is less acidic than other vinegars.

Best Uses: Rice vinegar is excellent in salad dressings, seafood marinades, and Asian cuisine in dishes like sushi, pickled ginger and seafood, and stir-fries.

Food Sensitivities: True rice vinegar (made only with rice and no other grains) is naturally gluten-free. However, some rice vinegars imported from Asia may contain a mixture of grains. If your rice vinegar was made only with rice OR was distilled, it is considered to be gluten-free. Otherwise, be sure to read the label carefully to be sure it does not contain something you might react to.

White Vinegar: This is also known as distilled vinegar or distilled white vinegar, and is made from fermented grains. It is clear, highly acidic, and has a very sour flavor. It is one of the least expensive vinegars and is now being used as a cleaning agent, especially for washing windows and cleaning coffee pots. It is not as strong as “cleaning vinegar,” yet it is still an effective cleaning agent.

Best Uses: White vinegar is excellent for preserving foods such as in pickling fruits and vegetables. It is also an effective antibacterial, grease, and mineral-removing cleaning agent.

Food Sensitivities: White vinegar is made from fermented grains, particularly wheat. If white vinegar was not distilled, it will still contain gluten. If the vinegar was distilled, it should contain no gluten. So, if you are sensitive to gluten, be sure to purchase white vinegar that has been distilled.

Cleaning White Vinegar: It’s important to note here that “cleaning white vinegar” is not the same as the age-old distilled white vinegar. Although they may look the same, cleaning vinegar is stronger and is not something to ingest. Cleaning vinegar is diluted to 6% acidity, whereas distilled white vinegar is diluted to 5% acidity. That one percentage point difference may seem small, but in vinegar terms, it equates to cleaning vinegar being 20% stronger than distilled white vinegar. It is TOO strong to ingest and can cause harm if consumed.

Some brands may also be scented with chemicals not intended for consumption. Hence, that’s one more reason not to add this type of vinegar to your salads! If you do use “cleaning vinegar,” I suggest you do not store it near your usual vinegars that you use in foods. You really don’t want to mix these up! Its added strength makes it a very effective cleaning agent. However, be careful what you apply cleaning vinegar to. Its strong acidity will damage hardwood floors, granite, marble, and metals. It is safe to use on bathroom ceramic surfaces, on glass, and in the laundry. Cleaning vinegar is more costly than distilled white vinegar.

White Wine Vinegar: The flavor of white wine vinegar will range from mild to very tangy, depending upon the type of wine used in its production. It is usually pale in color with a mild flavor. It is often used in French and Mediterranean cuisines.

Best Uses: White wine vinegar is excellent in vinaigrette dressings, vegetable dishes, soups, stews, pickled vegetables, and in cooking meat and fish.

Food Sensitivities: Since white wine vinegar is made from grapes, it is naturally gluten-free. The vinegar will contain naturally-occurring sulfites from the wine, and may or may not contain added sulfites. If you are sensitive to sulfites, please read the label before purchasing white wine vinegar.

Less Common Varieties of Vinegar

Black Vinegar: Black vinegar is also known as Chinkiang vinegar, and is usually made from glutinous rice or sorghum. It has a woody, smoky flavor. It is a common sour ingredient in foods found in southern China. In the United States, black vinegar is used as a dipping sauce for dumplings and in meat marinades.

Best Uses: Use black vinegar as a dipping sauce, and to flavor meats and stir-fries. It may be used as a less expensive alternative to balsamic vinegar.

Food Sensitivities: Traditional black vinegar, made from rice or sorghum would be naturally gluten-free. However, some varieties may have been made with added wheat, millet, peas, barley, bran and/or chaff (the outer husk of a grain). Wheat and barley contain gluten. So, if the vinegar was made with other grains in addition to rice and was not distilled, it may contain gluten. If you are gluten sensitive, be sure to read the label before purchasing any black vinegar.

Black vinegar may or may not have added sulfites. If you are sensitive to sulfites, reading labels is warranted.

Cane Vinegar: Cane vinegar is made from the syrup of sugar cane. It has a mellow flavor, similar to rice vinegar. It is not sweet since it contains no residual sugar. It is yellow to golden brown in color, and is less acidic than distilled vinegars. It is made in the Philippines, France, and Louisiana. It is called “sukang iloko” in the Philippines. Champagne, white wine, cider, and rice wine vinegars may be substituted for cane vinegar.

Best Uses: Cane vinegar is often used in sweet and sour dishes, and to flavor meats.

Food Sensitivities: Since cane vinegar is made from sugar cane, it is naturally gluten-free. However, it is important to check the label before purchasing cane vinegar, as it may contain other ingredients that may or may not contain gluten.

Cane vinegar usually does not contain added sulfites, but check the label before purchasing, as brand ingredients may vary.

Champagne Vinegar: This vinegar is made from a slightly dry white wine, made from the same grapes as champagne. It is made only in the Champagne region of France. It has a mild flavor.

Best Uses: Champagne vinegar may be used like any white wine vinegar. It is especially good on citrus salads, and in marinades and sauces.

Food Sensitivities: Champagne vinegar is naturally gluten-free since it is made from grapes. It will contain naturally-occurring sulfites from the wine. If you are sensitive to sulfites, check the label before purchasing to be sure it contains no added sulfites.

Coconut Palm Vinegar: This type of vinegar is made in Asian countries from the sap of the coconut palm tree, and/or the water of the coconut. It is a white, cloudy vinegar with a flavor ranging from mild to sharply acidic. All varieties have a faint flavor of yeast or must. A substitution would be 1 part rice or white vinegar, 1 part water, and a squeeze or two of fresh lime juice.

Best Uses: Coconut vinegar is usually used as a dipping condiment, and can be added to sauces, cooked foods and salads.

Food Sensitivities: Coconut vinegar should be naturally gluten-free. However, if you are gluten-sensitive, read the label before purchasing to be sure no gluten-containing ingredients have been added.

Flavored Vinegars: Some flavored vinegars, such as tarragon vinegar, are available in many grocery stores. However, many people make their own flavored vinegars by adding desired herbs, spices or flavorings to wine, rice, or cider vinegar. Colorado State University Extension has prepared an excellent website detailing how to make your own flavored vinegars, with specific recipes included. https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/nutrition-food-safety-health/flavored-vinegars-and-oils-9-340/

Specialty flavored vinegars may also be purchased from select stores. The following are just a few (of many) online shops carrying flavored vinegars. Please note that I have no connection with any of them.

https://www.igourmet.com/shoppe/shoppe.aspx?cat=Vinegars&subcat=Flavored+Vinegar

https://theolivepress.com/shop/catalog/flavored/filters/page=allhttps://www.theolivetap.com/vinegars/

https://www.williams-sonoma.com/shop/food/vinegars/

Specialty vinegars may also be purchased at https://www.amazon.com/

Fruit Vinegars: In this case, we’re referring to vinegars made with fruit other than apples (as in apple cider vinegar). Fruit vinegars can be made with just about any fruit you want including, apples, apricots, grapes, pineapples, pomegranates, passion fruit, raisins, peaches, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, figs, pears, cranberries, lemons, mangoes, oranges, plums, raisins, tomatoes, and more. Fruit vinegars may be purchased online and in some grocery stores. They can also be made at home.

Best Uses: Fruit vinegars add a sweet-tart flavor to whatever foods they’re served with. They pair well with extra virgin olive oil and have been used to flavor pork, turkey, chicken and fish. They add fruitiness to green salads, vegetables, and dips for fruit/cheese trays. They can also be used in marinades for a sweet-tart flavor.

Instructions for making your own fruit vinegars can be found on this and other websites: https://www.organicauthority.com/eco-chic-table/homemade-fruit-vinegar-recipe

DIY Fruit Vinegar Instructions, using strawberries, blueberries, figs, persimmons, or pears: https://www.foodrepublic.com/recipes/make-fruit-vinegar/

Red Rice Vinegar: This vinegar is made from fermented red yeast rice. It is milder in flavor than red wine vinegar. It is sweet, tart, and salty.

Best Uses: Red rice vinegar is often used in Chinese seafood dishes and dipping sauces.

Food Sensitivities: Sometimes barley and sorghum are added to red rice vinegar. Since barley contains gluten, this type of vinegar may contain gluten if it is not distilled. If you have a gluten sensitivity, it is important to check the label to see if it contains barley. If so, and if it was not distilled, it should be avoided.

Seasoned Rice Vinegar: This is rice vinegar with added sugar, salt, and sometimes sake or MSG (monosodium glutamate). Using this vinegar is an easy way to boost the sweet, salty, and tangy flavor of foods. It is found in the Asian section of some grocery stores.

Best Uses: Seasoned rice vinegar is often used in sushi and salad dressings.

Food Sensitivities: This rice should be naturally gluten-free, but check the label to be sure a gluten-containing ingredient was not added. Also, some people react to MSG. Read the label carefully if you have food sensitivities when choosing seasoned rice vinegar to be sure there are no added ingredients that you need to avoid.

Sherry Vinegar: True sherry vinegar is made in Spain from sherry wine, and is used in Spanish and French cuisine. The wine is aged for at least 6 months, with the resulting vinegar being aged from 2 to over 10 years. The older the vinegar, the darker the color, the more complex the flavor will be, and the more expensive it will be to buy. It has a bright, deep flavor. Some grocery stores may carry sherry vinegar. Wine vinegar may be used as a substitute for sherry vinegar.

Best Uses: Sherry vinegar can be used to flavor beans, marinara, soups, snap peas, tomatoes, and green salads.

Food Sensitivities: Since sherry vinegar is made ultimately from grapes, it is naturally gluten-free. It will contain naturally-occurring sulfites since it is made from wine. It is important to read labels since less-expensive brands may have additives.

Spirit Vinegar: Spirit vinegar (sometimes referred to as grain vinegar) is a colorless, strong vinegar made by a double fermentation process of a grain, usually barley. The first fermentation converts sugars to alcohol. The alcohol is distilled then subjected to the second fermentation, which converts the alcohol to acetic acid. It has a higher acidity than other vinegars. This vinegar is sometimes referred to interchangeably with distilled white vinegar. However, spirit vinegar contains a higher acid content than white vinegar, and it still contains a little alcohol, where white vinegar does not.

Best Uses: This type of vinegar is used mostly in pickling.

Food Sensitivities: Since spirit vinegar is made with distilled liquids, it is considered to be gluten-free.

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Resources
https://www.foodnetwork.com/healthyeats/healthy-tips/2011/08/vinegar-101

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vinegar

https://www.livestrong.com/article/21611-nutritional-value-vinegar/

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/vinegar/

https://www.livestrong.com/article/555379-how-to-store-opened-bottles-of-apple-cider-vinegar/

https://www.doesitgobad.com/does-apple-cider-vinegar-go-bad/

https://www.finecooking.com/ingredient/malt-vinegar

https://www.foodrepublic.com/2012/04/06/what-is-malt-vinegar/

https://www.foodandwine.com/condiments/what-you-need-know-spring-about-many-types-vinegar

https://lifehealthhq.com/whole30-vinegar/

https://www.beyondceliac.org/gluten-free-diet/is-it-gluten-free/vinegar/

https://www.verywellhealth.com/sulfite-allergy-82911

https://www.verywellfit.com/is-vinegar-gluten-free-562363

http://www.heinzvinegar.com/products-red-wine-vinegar.aspx

https://shelleycase.com/is-vinegar-gluten-free/

https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/why-distillation-is-compatible-with-a-gluten-free-diet/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_vinegar

http://thebaldgourmet.com/focus-ingredient-what-is-chinese-black-vinegar/

https://www.cooksinfo.com/champagne-vinegar

https://www.cooksinfo.com/cane-vinegar

https://aussietaste.com.au/glossary/oils-and-vinegars-a-to-z/cane-vinegar/

https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/nutrition-food-safety-health/flavored-vinegars-and-oils-9-340/

https://www.cooksinfo.com/palm-vinegar

https://www.cooksinfo.com/vinegar

https://www.bonappetit.com/story/what-is-sherry-vinegar

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherry_vinegar

https://www.livestrong.com/article/262961-what-are-the-benefits-of-coconut-vinegar/

https://www.webstaurantstore.com/article/373/types-of-vinegar.html

https://www.thekitchn.com/rice-vinegar-ingredient-spotlight-184260

https://www.finecooking.com/article/whats-seasoned-rice-vinegar

https://www.theolivetap.com/product/vinegars/balsamic-vinegars/white-balsamic-vinegars/peach-white-balsamic-vinegar/

https://www.glutenfreedietitian.com/vinegar/

https://www.simplyrecipes.com/a_guide_to_balsamic_vinegar/

https://fantasticservicesgroup.com.au/blog/cleaning-vinegar-vs-normal-vinegar-whats-the-difference/

Spaghetti Squash

Easy Way to Cook Spaghetti Squash

This is the EASIEST way I know to cook a spaghetti squash. It’s SOS-free (that’s salt, oil, and sugar-free), with not even any additional water added to the pan. It comes out perfect every time! The directions are below, but do watch through the video demo for some important tips!

Enjoy!
Judi

https://youtu.be/QpEySPaFblY

Easy Way to Cook Spaghetti Squash

Wash the squash, then cut it in half, either lengthwise or crosswise. The seeds can be scrapped out with the tip of a spoon at this point, or after it is roasted. Place the halves, cut side down, on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Place in a preheated 400F oven until the squash can fairly easily be poked with a fork or sharp knife. Remove from oven and allow to cool until it can be easily handled. Turn the squash over and loosen the strands with a fork. Use the cooked squash as needed for your recipe. EASY!

Note: If you prefer not to use parchment paper, the squash can be roasted on a clean, dry glass baking dish. Simply place the halves cut side down on the dish and place it in your 400F oven on the rack in the middle. About 10 minutes into the baking process, slightly move the halves around to loosen them from the glass pan and prevent sticking. They should be fine thereafter, and finish baking as usual.

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

How to Fix a Food That is Too Salty

It’s happened to the best of us. We taste a food and it’s way too salty! What can we do? Your first instinct might be to throw it out and start over. But that’s costly, time consuming, and probably not necessary. Below are some ways to remedy the situation. Some options may work better than others, depending upon the type of food you’re working with and how much salt is in there. Nevertheless, anything is worth a try over throwing out good food!

Here’s a video where I cover these tips…

1. Add more liquid. If you’re making soup, a sauce, or another liquid dish and it’s too salty, add more liquid to balance it out. Of course, this may mean you need to add more of the other flavorings already in the dish, but that is do-able.

2. Increase the recipe. Try increasing the recipe. If you’re cooking a stew and it’s too salty, you could add more vegetables and a little more of the liquid that was used in the stew. Adding a little more browned meat may also do the trick, but adding more vegetables may be simpler, since extra meat may be frozen in a larger amount than needed. Allow the altered stew to cook a little while, then taste it before adding any other seasonings to adjust the flavor.

3. Rinse salty raw meat. If you’re just getting started with a meat and you’ve accidentally over-salted it, give it a quick rinse under cold running water, then pat it dry with a paper towel. Of course, any other seasonings that were added to the meat will then need to be replaced. But that’s far better than tossing the meat!

4. Add a bit of acid. A small splash of vinegar, lemon juice, or another acidic liquid can mask the saltiness of soups, sauces, and other liquid dishes. If you’re not thrilled about adding more water to the pot, this may be an alternative.

5. Add a little sweetener. A pinch of sugar or other sweetener may also counter excessive saltiness in a liquid food, like soups, stews and sauces.

6. Change it to a milk or cream based dish. Transform the food into a cream-based dish, such as adding cream to a tomato-based sauce, making it a tomato-cream sauce. It would add a new flavor dimension while cutting the saltiness.

7. Try a potato. Some sources claim that adding a potato to a liquid-based dish will cut some of the saltiness, while others claim this will not work. When in trouble, it’s worth a try. If your dish does not already have cut potatoes in it, place a washed, whole potato (with the peel) in your salty soup or stew and let it cook for a while. The whole potato can be removed at the end, if desired. If this trick works for you, please let me know! If nothing else, the potato will absorb some of the salty liquid, thereby removing some of the salt that way. Removing the potato, then adding back some unsalted liquid may help a little.

8. Soak it in water. If you purchased a food that is too salty, such as bacon, a ham, or salt pork, simply soak it in some water for a couple hours (in the refrigerator). The extra salt will leach out into the water.

9. Cover it with an unsalted sauce or topping. If you’ve over-salted a main dish, such as a meat or a casserole, and it’s too late to fix the problem, try balancing it out with an under-salted sauce or topping for the food. When eaten together, the two may balance each other out to have just the right amount of salt.

Simple tips to avoid over salting foods in the first place…

1. Don’t measure over the pot. Don’t measure salt over a vessel (pot, pan, bowl, skillet, etc.) that you’re preparing food in. If you accidentally spill some, it will be hard to remove all the excess.

2. Check the lid! Check the lid of the salt container before pouring. If it’s loose, you’re in trouble!

3. Consider the other ingredients. Beware of other ingredients that may be salty when using them in a dish with added salt. For example, if you’re using canned vegetables that contain salt, or a store-bought container of broth, soy sauce, fish sauce, salted butter, anchovies, capers, or pickles, it may contain more salt than you think. It’s better to season lightly, taste as you go, then add more when you’re sure it needs the extra flavoring.

4. Start with less seasoning, then taste and adjust. Deliberately use less seasoning while cooking. Taste and adjust seasoning as you go being careful not to overdo it.

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Resources
https://www.thespruceeats.com/how-to-fix-a-recipe-that-s-too-salty-1388006

https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/how-to-save-food-thats-too-salty-article

https://www.sheknows.com/food-and-recipes/articles/966391/in-a-pickle-how-to-fix-overly-salty-food/

https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/common-cooking-mistakes-and-how-to-fix-them/

Easy Sauteed Cabbage

Easy Sauteed Cabbage (NOT Mushy!)

If you’re looking for an easy way to cook cabbage and not have it turn out mushy, you found it! This recipe is simple, so even novices in the kitchen can prepare this with ease. Below is a video demonstration of making the recipe. Following the video link is a scaled down recipe from what I made in the video. (The recipe can EASILY be increased or decreased.)

Enjoy!
Judi

Easy Sautéed Cabbage
Makes About 4 Servings

1 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil*
½ cup chopped yellow onion
4 cups chopped green cabbage
1/3 cup vegetable broth or water
Salt and pepper, to taste

Briefly warm the extra virgin olive oil in a skillet that has a lid. Add the onions and sauté briefly until they start to soften, about 1 or 2 minutes. Add the chopped cabbage and stir to combine. Add the vegetable broth or water and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Cover the skillet with a lid, and allow the vegetables to steam, stirring occasionally, until they are crisp tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and serve.

*If preferred, a tablespoon or two of the vegetable stock can be used to sauté the onions in place of the oil.

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.