Sunday, February 26, 2017

Broccoli and cauliflower soup

The broccoli was on sale. Two for one read the sign at Remark. I got two. And the cauliflower was on sale as well. I bought one. And then I took all home, put all in the fridge and discovered I already had both broccoli and cauliflower in the fridge.

By the time the old veggies were eaten, the new veggies were old. Oops. Hating waste, I decided to put my aging purchases to immediate use. I made broccoli and cauliflower soup.

I chopped one small onion and three garlic cloves and dropped these into a deep pot with a splash of olive oil. With the onion turning translucent and the garlic taking on a deep toasty tone, I tossed my broccoli and cauliflower into the mix. Both the broccoli and cauliflower were, of course, chopped into large chunks. When the cauliflower started to show signs of being pan roasted, I dumped 900 ml of chicken stock into the pot. Then I immediately added 500 ml of 1% milk to the mix. I placed a cover on the pot and left all to simmer.

Half an hour later all the veggies were tender. Using a handheld blender I turned my bubbling mixture into thick, smooth soup. My wife liked the result but I found it wanting. I sprinkled a little paprika and a little herbs de Provence into the pot. I made sure to taste the soup as I went as both can pack a strong punch. Too much would overpower the simple flavour undertones on which my soup was based.

At the table I added a swirl of no-fat sour cream and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese. A quick pass of the pepper grinder and the soup was ready to enjoy.

I've got enough soup to last for days and the cost was minimal.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

A fine vegetable peeler at a fair price

Kuhn Rikon peelers are the best.
I use my peeler everyday. But despite its constant use, it has stayed sharp. Why? Good Swiss quality combined with the fact I bought two.

But all good things come to and end. Saturday I tossed one of my Kuhn Rikon peelers. It was getting dull.

I bought my Swiss-made peeler at the suggestion of some fine cooks I know. Since buying my two, I came across a review by America's Test Kitchen. It said about the Kuhn Rikon product:

3-packs were out of stock in London, Ont. Ordered online.
It's a featherweight (3/8 of an ounce), but surprisingly sturdy, and its razor-sharp blade effortlessly skinned anything we threw at it—and at $3.50, it’s a steal. (I'm paying $15.00 for a three pack at Bed Bath and Beyond in London, Ontario. Not so much of a steal but I'm not complaining.)

Is this an ad? No. This is a review. As I blog on cooking, at times I will mention stuff I use in the kitchen and like.

If you are Canadian and feel $15 is too much for a peeler, buy one 3-pack and share the cost with a couple of friends.

Add: Bed Bath and Beyond e-mailed me to say that they did not have these peeler packs in stock in London. The pick-up they promised would be impossible. They sent me an number to call and told me to order the peelers online. There would be no charge for the shipping.

When I called, I was told that Bed Bath and Beyond was very sorry for the inconvenience, it might take as long as ten days for the peelers to arrive at my home if I decided to order them, for this reason I was being offered a thank-you-for-your-patience discount. I'm now getting three peelers for $12 plus the Ontario sales tax.

Now I think I'm getting a steal.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Go light on the butter

Some folk actually prefer the light, clean flavour of margarine to butter.
My heart doctors all agree: go light on the butter. My heart-healthy diet demands spreads like Becel or Olivina. Butter is a no-no.

It's tough convincing folk that margarine, with its long list of ingredients and additives, is superior to butter. But, trust me, it is. At least, it is if you pick the right kind.

First, look for tubs of soft, spreadable margarine. These are generally trans-fat-free. You want to stay as far away from trans fats as possible. These fats are the worst fats. Next, check the saturated fat content. Less is better. Again, soft margarine is generally preferable to hard. Lastly, make sure the margarine is "non-hydrogenated."

I have some friends who often invite my wife and me for dinner. They keep a tub of Becel in their fridge just for me. But they insist on using butter despite the fact the husband has heart problems. And his brother has had to have stents inserted to open plugged arteries. They believe my fears are overblown and direct me to newspaper articles to support their position. Don't fall into the same trap. Newspapers can be poor sources for health information.

According to a recent article in a Harvard University health publication, many studies "have suggested that the type of fat in the diet is extremely important, and that replacing trans fat and saturated fat with unsaturated plant oils can have major health benefits."

The linked article quotes Harvard nutrition expert Walter Willett: "Making healthy types of fat in the diet a priority is one of the most important things people can do about their long-term health and well-being."

If you need more convincing, check out the following:

Is Butter Really Back? (Harvard Public Health magazine)
We Repeat: Butter is Not Back. (The Nutrition Source)
Butter is not back: Limiting saturated fat still best for heart health (Harvard Chan School release)

Monday, February 13, 2017

More from the New York Times

The New York Times has a wonderful cooking section. It is so good, and I use it so often, that I subscribe to the paper as my way of saying thank you.

I grabbed the above image to tempt you to click on the link: Linguine With Lemon Sauce.

Because of my heart condition, I substituted no fat sour cream for the heavy cream and I used two tablespoons of olive oil spread, Becel, instead of butter. If I wasn't avoiding saturated fat, doctors' orders, I'd have left the recipe alone. I like the taste and texture of cream and butter adds more flavour than the spread. Still, if you want a heart healthy meal, make my changes and enjoy. My wife still gave my dinner four stars.

The dinner is deficient in vegetables. I served asparagus on the side with a squeeze of lemon. The addition of the green stalks of asparagus kicked up the visual beauty of the dinner and the squeeze of lemon tied all together. When I make this again, and I will, I will make sure to serve asparagus off to the side.

Monday, February 6, 2017

America's Test Kitchen offers some excellent cookbooks

Having a heart condition does not mean giving up good cooking. In fact, I dine better today than I did before my condition was diagnosed. A few months ago I began following America's Test Kitchen online. I soon realized they often put their cookbooks on sale. I bought a number.

Tonight I made its braised cod peperonata recipe. It was excellent, both the recipe and the result. I made two modifications: I substituted herbs de Provence for the thyme and I added large chunks of mushrooms.

Here is a link to the recipe online: Braised Cod Peperonata. And here is a link to the America's Test Kitchen site where the book, The Complete Cooking For Two Cookbook, was on sale at the time that I wrote this post.

The next time I make this, I'm going to serve it on a bed of white and black rice. It will be a show stopper. Hmmm. Maybe I should invite some friends for dinner. If you make this, don't forget to have a glass of white wine with dinner. A quarter cup of white wine goes into the recipe. You must use the remainder within a day or two or it will go off. That would be such a waste.


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Navel oranges: an annual heart healthy treat

Around our house, navel oranges are an annual treat. When I worked in produce back in the late '60s, the business owner confessed navel oranges were his favorite. Valencias were nice but navels were the best: sweet, seedless, with an easy-to-peel skin. (To peel: quarter the orange and peel the skin free starting at the pointed ends.)

I love 'em, and so does my wife and granddaughters. Navels make a good afternoon snack, are wonderful accents when mixed into a green salad and they even make a great heart-healthy dessert when served alone or mixed with other fresh fruit. According to the Cleveland Clinic, orange coloured fruit such as oranges, cantaloupe and papaya are all rich in beta-carotene, potassium, magnesium and fiber.

In doing a little research to write this post, I've learned that there are a number of varieties of navel oranges. I gather, the Washington navel orange is the original and best known navel orange. And many folk claim that California oranges bearing the heritage sticker are the best of the best. I gather that oranges, like tomatoes, have been bred more for ease of handling and shipping than for flavour. The heritage oranges harken back to a time when flavour was king (or queen). For more info on heritage oranges click the link:
What is the Difference Between Heirloom and Regular Navel Oranges?

Here in London, Ontario, I buy my navel oranges at the Remark store on Hyde Park at Oxford Street. Often their oranges carry little, black, oval stickers emblazoned with the word "Heritage". If memory serves me correctly, these oranges are available each year mainly from January through April. It seems they are gone from the shelves by May at the latest.