Saturday, September 30, 2006

Thirty Minute Meal, Pasta with Ricotta, Herbs, and Lemon

1 1-pound box penne
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup fresh ricotta
1/3 cup roughly chopped mixed fresh herbs (such as chervil, tarragon, and flat-leaf parsley)
Zest of 1 lemon, grated
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt object2
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserving 1/3 cup of the water, drain the pasta, then return it to the pot. In a medium bowl, whisk together the butter, ricotta, and pasta water until a rich, creamy sauce forms. Pour the sauce over the hot pasta. Add the herbs, zest, salt, and pepper and toss.Tip: Ricotta can vary dramatically in taste and texture. Depending on the brand you use, you may need to add extra pasta water and butter to create a sauce that's sufficiently creamy.

Yield: Makes 4 servings


CALORIES 573.42(24% from fat); FAT 15.36g (sat 9.21g); PROTEIN 22.65mg; CHOLESTEROL 46.68mg; CALCIUM 159.82mg; SODIUM 271.26mg; FIBER 3.94g; CARBOHYDRATE 87g; IRON 4.23mg

Friday, September 29, 2006

Take Two: Chai Latte vs. Caffe Mocha

See which java wins the nutrition showdown
When choosing a beverage from a specialty coffee shop, you may lean toward chai latte as the lower-calorie choice. After all, it's made with healthful tea, and the exotic moniker simply sounds healthier than coffee. However, a medium-sized (or "grande") chai latte—a blend of black tea, steamed milk, honey, and spices—has the same amount of calories as the same-sized caffe mocha, even when made with skim milk. Both do provide a hefty dose of calcium—about a quarter of the daily requirement—though the mocha delivers 100 milligrams more.
Chai Latte

(16 fluid ounces, made with skim milk)
230 calories
0 grams fat
250 milligrams calcium
Caffe Mocha

(1/2 cup, or one serving)
230 calories
2 grams fat
350 milligrams calcium

Source: Cooking Light
Understanding food labels can be challenging
Susan Aldridge, PhD, medical journalist says, many people misinterpret food labels, which may impact on their nutrition status. There is now a wealth of information on food labels which, in theory, should help us make informed choices and improve our diet. But what do people actually make of food labels? A team at Vanderbilt University Medical Center tested 200 patients on their understanding, setting them questions on, for example, the carb content of food servings. Many of the products used in the survey were labeled 'reduced carb' or 'low carb'.
Of the participants, 77 per cent had at least grade 9 literacy, but 63 per cent had less than grade 9 numeracy. Forty per cent had a condition where healthy eating was recommended and 23 per cent were on a specific diet plan. Most participants said they found food labels easy enough to understand. But only 69 per cent of the questions put were answered correctly. For instance, only 32 per cent could correctly calculate the amount of carbohydrate consumed in a 20 ounce bottle of soda that had 2.5 servings. This illustrated problems people have in working out amounts of nutrients in serving size from a food label. People might be able to improve their nutrition if food labels were easier to read. Maybe, too, healthcare providers can talk to patients about how to use a food label for healthy eating.
Source American Journal of Preventive Medicine November 2006 Volume 31 Number 5

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Baklava history and recipe
Baklava a rich, sweet pastry found in many cuisines of the Middle East, South Asia, and the Balkans. It is made of chopped nuts layered with phyllo pastry, sweetened with sugar or honey syrupThe history of baklava, like that of many other foods, is not well documented. Though it has been claimed by many peoples, the best evidence is that, despite its Arabic-seeming name, it is of Turkish origin.
Vryonis (1971) identified the ancient Greek gastris, kopte, kopton, or koptoplakous, mentioned in the
Deipnosophistae, as baklava, and calls it a "Byzantine favorite." However, Perry (1994) shows that though gastris contained a filling of nuts and honey, it did not include any dough; instead, it involved a honey and ground sesame mixture similar to modern pasteli or halva .
Perry then assembles evidence to show that layered breads were created by Turks in Central Asia and argues that the "missing link" between the Central Asian folded or layered breads (which did not include nuts) and modern phyllo-based pastries like baklava is the
Azerbaijani dish Baki pakhlavası. Further development would have occurred in the kitchens of the Topkapi Palace, where the Janissaries had an annual celebration called Baklava Alayı.

If layering in a baking dish, layer and butter a dozen phyllo pastry sheets, then top with a mixture of ground nuts and a little sugar (and cinnamon, for variation, if desired). Walnuts or pistachios are used most often, sometimes with a combination of almonds and pecans. After the nut mixture has been spread evenly across the phyllo, layer and butter the remaining dozen phyllo sheets. Before baking, cut baklava with a sharp knife into diamonds (traditional in Lebanese cuisine) or squares.
If rolling, butter 5 individual sheets of phyllo, then place nut mixture along 1 side of the phyllo
and proceed to roll up like a tight log. Once rolled, cut the log on the diagonal into about 12 to 13 pieces. Do not cut all the way through until after the baklava is baked. For easier handling, the logs can be frozen for 10 to 15 minutes to firm them up.
Whether using the pan or rolled technique, the procedure is the same after the baklava is baked. Pour on the
syrup (equal parts sugar and water boiled to a syrup consistency and then mixed with either a small amount of lemon juice and rose water (traditional in Lebanese cuisine) or with honey, cinnamon and cloves (traditional in Greek cuisine). As the hot syrup douses the baklava fresh out of the oven, it boils again and thickens by evaporation. It is then ready to cool down until ready to serve, or to refrigerate and serve later.


INGREDIENTS Filling 500 gr. walnuts,
coarsely chopped
60 gr. sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
500 gr. fyllo dough,
180 gr. insalted butter melted
230 gr. caster sugar,
300 ml water
cinnamon sticks
2 teasponn lemon juice
some lemon peel
2 teablespoon honey

Mix all the filling ingredients in a bowl.Liberally butter the base and sides of an elongated or round baking dish. Measure the length of the fyllo against the baking dish roughly and, allowing 2 cm extra approximately for shrinkage, cut to length with a sharp knife. Brush each layer of fyllo with melted butter and spread over the base of the container as evenly as possible. Once you have used 5 layers of pastry, sprinkle a thin layer of filling all over the surface and add 3 more layers. Sprinkle a thin layer of filling and place 2 more sheets of fyllo on top. Sprinkle on all the remaining filling, spreading it evenly, and cover with 7-8 more layers of fyllo, brushing individually with butter. Fold any excess pastry on either of the sides over the filling and brush it with butter. Brush the top layer liberally with butter in order to get it crisp and golden. Trim any excess pastry with a small sharp knife, keeping in mind that it will also shrink. Cut the top layers of fyllo carefully, either diagonally into diamond shapes or straight, which will result in square or elongated pieces. Be careful not to cut right down to the base, but only the top layers. This is done in order to make cutting and lifting the pieces out, once it is cooked, much easier and efficient. Using the tips of four fingers, sprinkle drops of water all over the surface and cook it in a preheated oven, gas no.5/ 375 grades F / 190 grades C, for 15 minutes; lower the heat to gas no.4/ 350 grades F/ l80 grades C and cook for a further 20 minutes.In the meantime, prepare the syrup. Place all the syrup ingredients, apart from the honey, in a saucepan and stir to dissolve the sugar. Simmer for 6-8 minutes, add the honey and simmer for a further 5 minutes until it thickens slightly. Let the baklava cool down then pour the hot but not boiling syrup slowly all over, through a strainer. Let it stand and absorb the syrup.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Fab Gadget

Are you the sort who believes that ‘life is too short to stuff a mushroom’? If so, then this kitchen gadget may end up being forgotten at the back of a dusty cupboard before long. Making your own pasta isn’t for everyone, but there are plenty of people who would rather cut off a toe than part with their pasta machine. You’ll only know which camp you’re in when you give your new machine a whirl.
Making pasta isn’t as difficult as some people make out and there’s enormous scope for creativity. Once you’ve mastered the basic pasta doughs, you can flavour your pasta with an infinite variety of herbs, spices and flavourings. Try these:

Basic pasta dough
Fresh pasta dough by Nick Nairn
Pasta dough by Giorgio Locatelli
Smoked paprika pasta by Wendy Lewis from Masterchef
How many hot dogs do Americans eat each year and where do they eat them?
According to recent survey data obtained by the Council, Americans purchase 350 million pounds of hot dogs at retail stores - that's 9 billion hot dogs! But the actual number of hot dogs consumed by Americans is probably much larger. It is difficult to calculate the number of hot dogs Americans may eat at sporting events, local picnics and carnivals. The Council estimates Americans consume 20 billion hot dogs a year - more than twice the retail sales figures. That works out to about 70 hot dogs per person each year. Hot dogs are served in 95 percent of homes in the United States. Fifteen percent of hot dogs are purchased from street vendors and 9 percent are purchased at ballparks, according to statistics from the Heartland Buffalo Company.
New York proposes trans fat ban in restaurants
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City's Health Department on Tuesday proposed a near ban on the use of artificial trans fat at restaurants, likening its health danger to that of lead paint. Full Article
Autumn lamb
Autumn lamb is available until the end of October and tends to have more flavour than spring lamb owing to the maturity of the meat. It is the perfect partner to other autumnal produce such as orchard fruit and root vegetables. A butterflied boned leg of lamb cooks wonderfully on the barbecue for late summer days. Autumn lamb should be readily available from butchers and supermarkets. Look out for bright red meat and white fat as a sign of freshness.
Try this seasonal
lamb recipe.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

British menu with a twist

There's no doubt that British food's ever-heightening reputation has something to do with the increased imagination applied by chefs to traditional ingredients and dishes. British cuisine has received and embraced a deluge of exotic flavours and styles from other cultures over the past decade, but, as the recipes below show, this has not replaced the Britishness of our menu; rather it has inspired and invigorated it. Why not experiment and create your own new British favourites? Apply different techniques to British ingredients or embolden and modernise a classic recipe with a dramatic new flavour.

Egg and bacon salad by Gary Rhodes
Pork shoulder steaks and beetroot 'pilau' by Martin Blunos
Sticky toffee bread and butter pudding by Simon Rimmer

Tips on eating less sodium
Flavor your food with fresh fruit to avoid salty seasonings

Shoot for a total of 2,300 milligrams of sodium daily if you're healthy and 2,000 milligrams or lower if you have a cardiovascular condition or risk factors.
Start gradually and work up to bigger changes. Initially your palate may balk at the bland taste, but within a month or two you'll probably prefer low-salt foods.
Avoid seasonings that taste salty such as bouillon cubes, meat tenderizer, soy sauce and steak sauce.
Read food labels. A surprising number of processed foods contain "hidden" sodium even if they don't taste salty. Look for canned veggies labeled "no salt added," as well as "low-salt" or "low-sodium" labels on cans and packages (only allowed if the food has 140 milligrams or less per serving).
Check food labels for the number of servings. If more than one, multiply total servings by the amount of sodium listed on the label to get the total amount of sodium in the can or package.

Scrutinize labels of over-the-counter medicines. Products may include sodium biphosphate, sodium saccarin, sodium phosphates, sodium citrate and sodium bicarbonate.
Use fresh fruits, vegetables and other ingredients. These are naturally low in sodium and usually taste better than processed food.
Go easy on -- or avoid -- cheeses and other processed, salty or cured foods including bacon, ham, sausage, salted butter and margarine; hot dogs and other deli items; prepackaged frozen dinners; pre-seasoned mixes (i.e. tacos, chili, rices, sauces and gravies); snack foods such as pretzels, potato chips, olives and pickles; salad dressings and fast food.
Especially high in sodium are canned goods such as soups, meats and fish (water-packed tuna or salmon is better).
Ban the salt shaker from your table.
Keep a supply of low-sodium snacks handy -- at home or at work. These may include fresh fruit, raw vegetables, popcorn cakes, unsalted rice, low fat or non-fat yogurt, frozen juice bars and popcorn kernels to prepare without salt.
Drain and rinse canned vegetables and meats packed in liquid brine before preparing a meal. Get rid of the salty liquid.
Look for the American Heart Association "check mark" while shopping -- given to food products meeting the agency's heart-healthy criteria that includes 480 milligrams or less of sodium per serving.

Low Sodium Web Resources: California Project Lean,; American Heart Association,; American Dietetic Association, Reach Mike Schwartz at 951-368-9591or

Monday, September 25, 2006

Online shoppers eat healthier?
People will choose to eat healthily if given the option, researchers in Australia have found. An experiment involving 497 people shopping for groceries online found that, when prompted, people are very happy to swap an unhealthy food item for a lower fat alternative.
During the course of the experiment, the average shopper lowered the saturated fat content of their shopping basket by 10 per cent.The experiment was only concerned with fat, but the researchers reckon they would get similar results if the shopping engine offered people low salt or low sugar foods as well.The research was conducted at the George Institute for International Health. The team collated a list of 524 foods with saturated fat percentages between one and 92 per cent, (i.e. 1g saturated fat per 100g) and rewrote the supermarket site to display a pop up when someone added one of the items to their basket.
The pop-up flagged the high fat choice and offered the shopper the option of choosing a lower fat alternative or sticking with the original choice.
Most took the healthy option, and the older, more overweight shoppers were the most likely to make the swap. Low fat dairy items were the most popular substitutions.

The Mukka Express is a clever stove-top latte and cappucino machine

Bialetti is one of Italy’s largest stove-top coffee maker makers but the Mukka Express (retail price $89) is special even for them. It’s the first stove-top coffee maker with the ability to brew two cups of espresso coffee and froth milk simultaneously.
First, you put water inside the bottom of the cast-aluminum device. Next, you fill the interior basket with coffee and then screw on the top section and pour in milk. Place the contraption on your heat source and after a few minutes the water boils, passing through the coffee grounds. A special valve opens and steams the milk. Finally, everything combines in the top chamber to create your masterpiece.
What you get is two cups of good-tasting cappuccino. It’s a little light on the foam but flavorful and satisfying. Clean-up is pretty simple: There are few parts to wash, dry or lose. And don't worry, non-cow lovers it comes in a plain stainless steel version as well as the one pictured above.
Key Lime Pie with Passion Fruit
Coulis and Huckelberry Compote

16 ounces fresh wild huckleberries or wild Maine blueberries or one 15- to 16-ounce package frozen wild blueberries
1/2 cup sugar1 vanilla bean, split lengthwiseCoulis
3/4 cup frozen passion fruit puree,* thawed
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons
(3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup fresh Key lime juice or regular lime juice
Whipped cream

For compote:
Combine huckleberries and sugar in medium saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Bring to simmer over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer until reduced to 1 1/4 cups, about 15 minutes. Refrigerate until cold.
Do ahead: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Discard vanilla bean before serving.
For coulis:
Combine passion fruit puree and sugar in heavy small saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Simmer until mixture is reduced to 1/2 cup, stirring frequently, about 6 minutes. Transfer coulis to bowl and refrigerate until cold.
Do ahead: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated. Discard vanilla bean before using.
For crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine cracker crumbs, sugar, and salt in medium bowl. Add butter and stir until crumbs are moist. Press mixture onto bottom and up sides of 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Bake crust until set and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Cool crust completely. Maintain oven temperature.
For filling:
Whisk sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks in medium bowl to blend. Add lime juice and whisk until blended. Pour filling into cooled crust. Bake pie until filling is set, about 18 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate pie overnight.Cut pie into wedges. Spoon huckleberry compote on top. Garnish with dollop of whipped cream. Drizzle passion fruit coulis around and serve.
Food Safety

Spinach is getting a bad name, and with good reason. The outbreak of E. coli contamination in fresh, prepackaged spinach has U.S. consumers concerned about the food supply. As federal investigators try to pinpoint the origin of the contamination on California farms, citizens, not surprisingly, are refusing to eat canned or frozen spinach, too.
The E. coli outbreak that has killed at least one person and sickened more than 100 others is a setback to attempts to convince the public to eat healthier meals. And although there is no indication that eating frozen or canned spinach could be harmful, it isn't surprising that nobody wants to eat the stuff these days.
There were outbreaks in August, but health officials didn't connect the dots until this month. As soon as the Food and Drug Administration knew, it promptly issued a warning, telling consumers not to eat fresh, prepackaged spinach.
Then, some food supply firms sensibly issued a recall, and restaurants and grocery stores stopped offering spinach that's not even suspected of contamination.
Guidelines describe how to wash spinach and lettuce to eliminate the deadly bacteria. But most consumers won't even try to do that until this is long over, figuring it's better to be safe than sorry.
Nearly lost in the panic is the appalling truth that almost a year ago federal health officials warned California farmers to shore up produce safety. And this isn't a freak accident either. This is the 20th time since 1995 that a food poisoning outbreak has been linked to spinach or lettuce. Experts suspect this is because big farms cut and bag spinach in the field, and that raises the chances for contamination.
Americans are unhappy about this, and rightly so. Lawsuits are not the answer to everything, but the growing stream of those now being filed should send farmers and food manufacturers the message that changes are%