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December 2004
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January 2005

Dave Recommends "Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy"

Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating by Walter C. Willett

Eat, Drink and Be Healthy is not a diet book.  Rather, it is a book that cuts across diets and food trends.  Using detailed dietary information collected from numerous sources over decades of research, Dr. Walter Willett is able to tell you about what is really known when it comes to healthy eating.

Continue reading "Dave Recommends "Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy"" »




Due to the volume of questions received, not all can be answered, nor can we guarantee we will answer questions immediately
© Lost Hobbit Enterprises 2004 onward


Substituting Vanilla Extract for Vanilla Beans

Q: What is the substitution of vanilla extract for beans?

There isn't an easy answer to this question.  According to Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, Inc., the substitution of whole vanilla beans for vanilla extract is one bean equals approximately one tablespoon of extract.  However, The Vanilla.COMpany says ½ vanilla bean is the equivalent of 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, so the "experts" differ by 50%.

I find that for custards and ice cream, one teaspoon of extract and about 2 ½ inches of vanilla bean give the same strength of flavor.  That said, the bean has a rounder, more subtle flavor than extract, especially in dishes where it is the star player, like classic french vanilla ice cream.

To substitute extract for beans, you generally don't need to worry about the added volume of liquid, except perhaps in candy making.  If you are substituting the other way, split the bean lengthwise, scrape the tiny seeds from inside the bean using the edge of a knife, and then steep the bean and seeds in the liquid being used in the recipe for about 10 minutes.  Remove the bean before proceeding.


If you have food or cooking questions, send them to Questions@KitchenSavvy.com
Due to the volume of questions received, not all can be answered.
© Lost Hobbit Enterprises 2004 onward



Due to the volume of questions received, not all can be answered, nor can we guarantee we will answer questions immediately
© Lost Hobbit Enterprises 2004 onward


Refrigerating Avocados

Q: Is it all right to store avocados in the fridge?

Avocados don't ripen on the tree.  After they are picked, they ripen best at temperatures between 60°F and 75°F (15°C and 24°F).  If you keep an unripened  avocado in the fridge, it can go straight to spoiled without ever completely ripening.  This is because the  ripening process is slowed down by the lower temperature.  To encourage ripening, try putting avocados in a paper bag with a ripe banana.

To tell if an  avocado is ready for  use, gently squeeze the fruit in the palm of your hand. A ripe avocado will be firm but will yield to gentle pressure.

Ripe avocados can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days  without concern, but if left too long they will spoil with no outward sign that they have gone bad.


If you have food or cooking questions, send them to Questions@KitchenSavvy.com
Due to the volume of questions received, not all can be answered.
© Lost Hobbit Enterprises 2004 onward



Due to the volume of questions received, not all can be answered, nor can we guarantee we will answer questions immediately
© Lost Hobbit Enterprises 2004 onward


Cooking Shelled Shrimp in a Casserole

Q: I am planning a shrimp dish which is basically a casserole of black tiger shrimp layered with thin slices of 2 lemons and 1 onion.  Over this is poured a butter and herb mixture and then the casserole is cooked in the oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.  Some cookbooks say that raw shrimp should be cooked in the shell so as not to dry them out.  Is it necessary to leave the shells on to cook shrimp or could we shell them before hand?

-- Cy S.

Raw shrimp may be cooked either in the shells, or peeled.  While leaving the shell on may prevent some surface drying, it also lessens the degree to which the shrimp can absorb any seasoning or flavors that may be used.  Depending on the recipe, this may or may not be desirable.

For a dish such as the casserole you describe, you could use shrimp either in the shell or peeled.  In this dish you want the shrimp to be infused with the other flavors, so I would be inclined to use peeled shrimp and toss them in the butter/herb mixture before assembly of the casserole, to help keep them from drying out at such a high temperature.  Not only will the shrimp be more flavorful, eating them will be less messy.

For a more complex dish, you may wish to leave the shells on.  That way, the shrimp will have a more distinct taste from all of the other flavors.  When shrimp are used in jambalaya, curries or stews, pre-cooked shrimp can be added towards the end and cooked on low until they are just heated through.


If you have food or cooking questions, send them to Questions@KitchenSavvy.com
Due to the volume of questions received, not all can be answered.
© Lost Hobbit Enterprises 2004 onward



Due to the volume of questions received, not all can be answered, nor can we guarantee we will answer questions immediately
© Lost Hobbit Enterprises 2004 onward


Marinading and Tenderizing Meat

Q: We got an entire deer given to us, so my husband took the meat off the bones and I cut it up into tiny bite-size pieces and froze it to use in stews, etc.  However (I think because of the low fat content) I find it's always somewhat tough.  What marinade or cooking method should I use to tenderize this meat?

You are right, the lack of fat is a contributor to the toughness of the meat and a marinade may help.  Typically, a marinade used to tenderize meat contains some acid, in the form of wine, vinegar, buttermilk or other ingredient, which helps to weaken muscle tissue somewhat.  Because a marinade is slow to penetrate the meat, it may leave the outer portion over flavored. The choice of acid in the marinade should match the nature of the meat and the cooking method.  A full-bodied red wine might suit stewed venison well, whereas a marinade using buttermilk would better suit chicken.

Other ingredients that might go in a marinade add flavor.  They might include onions or shallots, garlic, herbs, Worcestershire sauce and so on.  Some marinades also contain oil.

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Due to the volume of questions received, not all can be answered, nor can we guarantee we will answer questions immediately
© Lost Hobbit Enterprises 2004 onward


Substituting Whole Wheat for White Flour

Q: I like baking muffins and cookies and prefer to use whole grains.  I'd like to understand when I can make substitutions for white flour. Also, I have a muffin recipe that calls for 1/2 cup each all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour, and 1/4 cup wheat germ.  What's the point in that?  Why not just 1 ¼ cup of whole wheat flour?

Generally, you can replace white flour with whole wheat flour of the same type (bread for bread, all purpose for all purpose), substituting one for one.  However, products made with whole wheat flour will usually be more dense.  This may be helped somewhat by sifting the flour one or two extra times to help incorporate more air.  Always remember when using any all purpose flour for items such as muffins and cookies to mix as little as possible to avoid forming glutens, which will toughen the final result.

For cakes and pastry, it is possible to buy whole wheat pastry flour made from finely ground soft wheat, such as that made by Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods (note that I have not personally tried this product).  If you can't find whole wheat pastry flour, use equal parts of whole wheat flour and regular cake and pastry flour.

Because less of the proteins in whole wheat flour are gluten-forming compared to white flour, bread made with whole wheat flour will be more dense.  According to Corriher (CookWise) whole wheat flour that is not finely ground may also have sharp edges on the bran that can cut gluten strands while kneading.

As for your muffin recipe that calls for ½ cup each all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour, and ¼ cup wheat germ, using a combination of regular and whole wheat flour will produce a lighter result.  Using wheat germ slightly increases the amount of protein and fat in the product, by 5 grams for protein and 3 grams for fat over using whole wheat, and decreases carbohydrates by 7 grams, for the amounts in your recipe.  Assuming your recipe makes 12 muffins, that would mean about ½ gram less carbs per muffin, if you are counting them.

Also, some wheat germ is fortified with additional Vitamin E and folic acid.  Wheat germ may contribute a slightly more nutty flavor.

All of that said, you could substitute 1 ¼ cups of whole wheat flour in the muffin recipe and get good results, noting the precautions above.  You may need to slightly adjust the amount of wet ingredients, however.


If you have food or cooking questions, send them to Questions@KitchenSavvy.com
Due to the volume of questions received, not all can be answered.
© Lost Hobbit Enterprises 2004 onward



Due to the volume of questions received, not all can be answered, nor can we guarantee we will answer questions immediately
© Lost Hobbit Enterprises 2004 onward


Adding Flax to Your Diet

Q: I was reading that flax is really nutritious and was wondering if there are any recipes or uses for flax other than in bread?

-- Lindsay E.

According to Walter Willett, M.D., in his book Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating, flax seed is high in fiber and rich in n-3 (omega-3) fatty acids, which may help protect against heart disease and other chronic diseases.  The Flax Council of Canada says,  "Scientists at the American National Cancer Institute singled out flax seed as one of six foods that deserved special study. The reason: flax seed shows potential cancer-fighting ability. Flax seed is one of the richest sources of lignans, a type of phytoestrogen which may protect against cancer, particularly hormone-sensitive cancers such as those of the breast and prostate."

So, how can you add flax to your diet?

Continue reading "Adding Flax to Your Diet" »




Due to the volume of questions received, not all can be answered, nor can we guarantee we will answer questions immediately
© Lost Hobbit Enterprises 2004 onward


A Trio of Bread Books

If you are passionate about baking bread at home, if you aspire to bake the perfect baguette or artisan loaf, then you want to read these three books:

The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread by Peter Reinhart
OK, I admit that the first thing that caught my interest about this book was the front cover, the calm look of perfect satisfaction on the young lady's face as she holds a rough artisan loaf almost as big as she is!  It is that kind of calm pride that I want, and sometimes feel, about bread that I bake, too.   I had to find out what she knew.

What I found inside, is the wisdom of  Peter Reinhart, baking instructor at Johnson and Wales University, author of several books on bread and co-founder of Brother Juniper’s Bakery in Sonoma, California.

The book starts with a recount of Reinhart's visit to Paris and his discovery of pain à l'ancienne, a baguette with an ancient name made with the help of a very modern invention, the refrigerator.

Continue reading "A Trio of Bread Books" »




Due to the volume of questions received, not all can be answered, nor can we guarantee we will answer questions immediately
© Lost Hobbit Enterprises 2004 onward


Caster Sugar

Q: Could you tell me what castor sugar is? I have no idea what or where it is.

Caster (or castor) sugar is the British equivalent of what is called Superfine or Berry sugar in the U.S. and Canada.  It has a smaller grain than regular sugar and is usually called for in recipes where the sugar needs to dissolve easily.

If you can't find superfine, whiz the same amount of  regular sugar in your food processor until it is broken up, but not powdered like icing sugar.  Don't use icing sugar in place of caster as it has cornstarch added to keep it from clumping, which may affect the recipe.


If you have food or cooking questions, send them to Questions@KitchenSavvy.com
Due to the volume of questions received, not all can be answered.
© Lost Hobbit Enterprises 2004 onward



Due to the volume of questions received, not all can be answered, nor can we guarantee we will answer questions immediately
© Lost Hobbit Enterprises 2004 onward


Baking Soda vs. Baking Powder

Q: What is the difference between baking soda and baking powder and how are they used. Can one be substituted for the other?

Baking soda and baking powder are both chemical leaveners used to make baked goods such as cakes and muffins.  Baking soda has some other culinary uses, not discussed here.  In recipes calling for baking powder, baking soda can be used, along with some cornstarch and cream of tartar.  Baking powder cannot, however, be used to replace baking soda.

 

The chemical in baking soda is bicarbonate of soda (NaHCO3).  When combined with an acidic ingredient, such as vinegar or the lactic acid in buttermilk, baking soda releases carbon dioxide which forms into bubbles in the food.  When heated, these bubbles then expand and help to rise or lighten the final product.

Baking powder is a mixture of baking soda and an acid, in powdered form, that combine in liquid to create the same reaction.  There are three general types of baking powder -- fast-acting, slow-acting and double-acting; the most commonly available being double-acting.

Double-acting baking powder uses two different acids, one of which reacts at room temperature and the other only during the baking, at higher temperatures.  The first reaction helps to form the initial bubbles that are trapped in the batter.  As the food cooks, the material around these bubbles starts to set.  Carbon dioxide from the second reaction is better trapped within the bubbles and gives a better lift.

Fast-acting baking powder uses only an acid that reacts immediately, while slow-acting contains only the acid that reacts under heat.  All three forms will also contain some cornstarch to help keep the mixture dry before use.

Recipes that call for both baking powder and baking soda usually also contain an acid ingredient that will react with the baking soda.  The ingredient might be vinegar or buttermilk, mentioned earlier, or molasses, lemon juice, sour cream, honey or chocolate, to name a few.  In this case, the amount of baking soda is however much will react with the acidic ingredient.  Additional leavening is provided by the baking powder.

Baking soda, combined with an equal measure of cornstarch and twice as much cream of tartar, can be used to replace baking powder.  Use about one quarter the amount of baking soda as the recipe calls for baking powder, and then scale the cornstarch and cream of tartar accordingly.  For example, if the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of baking powder, it can be replaced by ¼ teaspoon of baking soda, ¼ teaspoon of cornstarch and ½ teaspoon of cream of tartar.

Generally speaking, baking powder can not be substituted for baking soda since this will leave excess acidic compounds in the food which may affect flavor, texture and color.

For more on this topic, see my posting Baking Soda vs. Baking Powder Redux.

For readers who might be interested, the chemicals commonly used in baking powder, along with the bicarbonate of soda, are cream of tartar (KHC4H4O6), tartaric acid (H2C4H4O6) or monocalcium phosphate monohydrate (Ca(H2PO4)2 • H2O) for the fast acting acid.   For the delayed reaction, the chemical may be sodium aluminum sulfate (Na2SO4 • Al2(SO4)3) or anhydrous monocalcium phosphate (Ca(H2PO4)2).


If you have food or cooking questions, send them to Questions@KitchenSavvy.com


Due to the volume of questions received, not all can be answered.
© Lost Hobbit Enterprises 2004 onward



Due to the volume of questions received, not all can be answered, nor can we guarantee we will answer questions immediately
© Lost Hobbit Enterprises 2004 onward