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Category: Food and Drinks

Unlike some other meats – such as chicken – lamb have a reputation for being of a higher quality when imported from other areas of the world. Notably, lamb from New Zealand has a strong reputation throughout the world for being extremely tender and flavorful – other areas include Wales and Canada. The need for imported lamb also drives up its overall cost. Despite its cost and exotic nature, lamb is an extremely versatile meat and can be used in just about any situation where beef would ordinarily be used.

Lamb is a common ingredient in Scottish food, and many countries pride themselves on the succulence of their lamb dishes. Lamb is certainly a meat that can be eaten on its own, but it works well in a number of different modes. It can be a basic dish, all the way up to one of the most complicated and expensive dishes on the menu.

The most common lamb recipes consist of slowly roasting the meat and eaten with potatoes and vegetables. Traditionally, this forms a ‘roast dinner’ and is preferential as the lamb is nice enough to be enjoyed on a bare dish. Lamb requires minimal seasoning, and can be dry roasted for several hours. Typically, one may slow roast a leg of lamb for around 6 hours on 150. The key thing to remember about roasting lamb, especially a leg of lamb, is that it should not be cooked at a high heat, and if it is, it should not be roasted at that heat for too long.

Lamb recipes can also be enjoyed mixed into meals, such as a replacement for ground beef in a cottage pie. Or in a simple stir fry to put a fresh new twist on an old tradition. Alternatively, lamb can be enjoyed skewered over a grill with vegetables or other meats – this is a common Mediterranean dish and is one of the most simple ways to enjoy lamb.

Black beans, being such a traditional American foodstuff (and note that I’m talking about The Americas here, not USA – get off your USA centric high horse!) is featured in many traditional recipes. You can get chili con carne with them; enchiladas with them; attractive corn and black bean salads; soups with them; and stews with them. One of the simplest ways to enjoy them is to eat them stewed up with just salt, and fried onion and garlic. You could add some lime and leaf coriander (cilantro) to add some extra “Mexican” taste to it, too.

Did you know that black beans have the most fibre of any bean known to man? They are also high in iron and protein, as well as many other nutrients. In fact, that trademark black colour signifies the presence of a nutrient – anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are antioxidants, and as such protect against cancer as well as other illnesses.

The nutrient richness of black beans is such that many have found it to help with gout. A simple broth made out of it can help immensely with gout symptoms for many people. Black soya works in the same way, which contains the same anthocyanins which the black turtle bean has, but which is otherwise quite different from the black turtle bean, so it would seem that it is the anthocyanins which are helping here.

If you’ve never tried these beans before, I suggest you give it a go! They are easy enough to find in Mexican food stores, as well as in organic stores and big supermarkets in general. Just soak them overnight with some bicarbonate of soda, and then drain and boil for about 30 minutes or until soft. You can then use them in salads, or keep them in their cooking liquid to make a soup (add vegetables and seasonings) or a stew (just mash a few of the beans until the consistency is thick).

Russian stuffed eggs

There are as many different Russian stuffed eggs recipes as there are grandmothers, and most families have their own version which is handed down from one generation to the next. Mushrooms are commonly used for stuffing hard boiled eggs, to make a wonderful and tasty appetizer or snack for your party. Other Russian households make devilled eggs with hard boiled eggs stuffed with cheese and vegetables. Others might prefer more high brow or exotic ingredients like caviar, salmon, or finely chopped bacon.

Hard boiled eggs in Pirozhki

These are small flaky buns, that are usually stuffed with either meat or fruit. These buns are a popular, traditional, Russian snack. Although most people stuff them, most often, with mince or fruits and vegetables, you can make a mean pirozhki by substituting the filling with hard boiled eggs. In both sweet and savory fillings, a substitution or addition of eggs is possible.

Sweet or savory stuffings

The sweet pirozhki often contain fresh or stewed fruit, like apples, cherries, and apricots, either by themselves or combined with cottage cheese, or jam. Whether these will go well with eggs is your decision. Take a call on what combination of tastes you want, before you incorporate the eggs. The savory version on the other hand lends itself well to eggs, complementing the meat, fish, vegetables, oatmeal, or rice that are the common fillings.

Blini stuffed with hard boiled eggs

You can change and experiment with many other kinds of common Russian foods with the addition of hard boiled eggs. These crepes can be turned into savory rolls with the addition of this extra touch. Once you have the crepes made, in the usual way, for example, you can set them aside to prepare the stuffing. Think about all the ways in which you want to dress the dish up, add body, or make the serving a more rounded meal. Diced onions, shredded carrot, shredded cabbage, garlic, chives, and herbs care all good additions to the stuffing.

In more recent years, however, it has become clear that hydroponic growers are mastering their craft and producing fruits and vegetables that have surpassed the taste and quality of some of their soil-grown competitors. I now confess to choosing a particular type of tomato, basil, and salad green over all others at the grocery store, and (with great surprise!) they are all grown hydroponically. That got me to thinking. If these growers can produce such outstanding tomatoes, basil, and lettuce, couldn’t I produce an outstanding hydroponic wheatgrass?

While I am a strong proponent of soil-grown, it has caused me a fair number of infrastructure problems in my growing operation throughout the years. Soil definitely has its place, outdoors and in greenhouses, but for an indoor growing operation–in my case, a 300 square foot year-round, climate-controlled growing room akin to a laboratory setting–it wreaks havoc and has caused me innumerable problems in the way of soilborne pathogens, dust, odors, storage limitations, and physical injury. Even when one works as cleanly as possible, soil has a way of taxing indoor air cleaning systems, which can turn into hundreds and even thousands of dollars in maintenance costs when the system unexpectedly and prematurely fails because of fine dust buildup.

During the years when I was growing primarily in soil, I was also experimenting with soilless media for my floral wheatgrass crops. Call me crazy, but I just didn’t like the idea of putting soil on a fancy dinner table for the above-mentioned reasons: pathogens, dust, odors. Also, soil wasn’t the easiest thing for florists to work with when they needed to cut pieces to fit their decorating needs. So I began growing in coco coir (ground coconut husks), which turned out to be an exceptional growing medium. The simple fact that it is not soil is what makes it a hydroponic growing medium, and thus began my journey as a hydroponic grower. Coco coir looked and acted just like soil, only it was pathogen-free, retained water longer and more evenly, didn’t cast odors, and didn’t present the mold problems that soil seemed to present at times. Because it was packaged in dry compressed bricks, it was lighter than soil, took up less storage space, and eliminated the issue of frozen soil in winter. My only problem with coco coir was its nutritional value. Sure, it produced a nice looking short grass for floral use, but could it possibly provide the same nutritional benefits as soil for my juicing clients? If not, what did I need to do to bring this growing medium to a place where I could feel good about selling what I was growing to customers who valued product nutrition above all else?

First of all, let’s look at the nutritional needs of the wheat berry as it sprouts, produces shoots, and becomes the grass that is eventually harvested. Seeds generally do not require any nutritional amendments when they are just sprouting. That is true of wheat berries as much as it is true of any other seed. The nutrition a seed requires to sprout into a baby green essentially comes from the seed itself. It’s when a plant’s second set of leaves begin to emerge that it depends on its growing medium as a lifeline. At that point, all conscientious growers, whether they grow in soil, coco coir, water, or anything else, take measures to ensure that their growing medium is equipped to support the nutritional requirements of the plant.

After a great deal of experimentation, I have found that wheatgrass does fine in coco coir up until it is time to harvest and pretty much not a moment more. Sure, the entire tray doesn’t yellow all at once because not every single wheat berry sprouts at exactly the same time, but the moment each little shoot begins to require more nutrition for its next level of maturity (when the grass begins to form another blade), it no longer has what it needs to thrive in coco coir alone and begins to yellow, much more dramatically than when the grass is grown in soil. This predictable yellowing tells me that I am working with some sort of nutritional deficiency in the growing medium and that nutritional supplementation is required.

So, let us look at what types of nutrients coco coir has to offer, what types of nutrients wheat requires, and what our options are in terms of healthy organic supplementation to help get us to where we need to be on a nutritional level and feel good about our hydroponically-grown grass in a way that we have come to feel good about our soil-grown grass.

  • pH. First and foremost, let’s look at pH. Exceedingly important to keep that right. Without the proper soil/water pH, everything else goes out the window. Wheat grows best at a pH between 6.0 and 7.0, which is slightly acid. I have personally found that it grows best somewhere around 6.5. As mentioned in one of my previous articles, the slight soil acidity enables the plant to process all of the required micro and macronutrients most efficiently. I realize that is tough concept to swallow for some folks who are looking to alkalize their bodies using wheatgrass, but trust me on this one: soil alkalinity does not equal body alkalinity. At least not here. So if you are growing in soil, this means testing your soil supply periodically with a soil testing kit, and also testing your water with the proper metering device to make sure that you are not flooding your wheatgrass everyday with something that is either too acid or alkaline for your grass.

Coco coir itself does not need to be measured with a soil tester. Its pH is pretty stable at the correct level, between 6.0 and 6.5 straight out of the bag. It’s when you add that 7:1 ratio of water to your coco coir that everything has the potential to change, so having a meter that measures water pH is extremely important for hydroponic growers as well. I cannot stress that enough. My water tends to be very alkaline, close to 8.0, so I add a little bit of citric acid to my water bath before soaking the coco coir. It only takes a tiny bit to dramatically change the water pH. Citric acid is naturally derived from citrus fruits and provides a short-term correction to an alkaline growing medium. For a short-term crop like wheatgrass, citric acid works perfectly.

  • Macronutrients. Next, let’s look at the macronutrients. All plants need Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K) to survive, each in varying quantities depending on the plant. For wheat, higher levels of Potassium are desired by farmers for higher protein content in the grain, but that potassium uptake is not even a factor until the heading stage, and it is irrelevant for the purposes of harvesting wheatgrass. Because wheatgrass is harvested as a baby green, technically halfway through its first stage of growth, it does not require heavy fertilization. Suffice it to say, unless your soil is entirely deficient in one of the three macronutrients, your wheatgrass should be just fine, but the only way to know exactly what you are working with is with a soil testing kit. A simple soil testing kit to tell you if your NPK ranges are high, medium or low is all you really need as a home grower or small business owner. A low reading on any of the three macronutrients calls for some sort of soil amendment to bring things into balance.

Coco coir, on the other hand, is a given. It is naturally high in Potassium, with lower levels of Nitrogen and Phosphorous, which means that the type of natural amendment we are looking for is one that provides Nitrogen (to help give a plant its proper green) and Phosphorous (for strong young root growth) but not as much Potassium (which, in excess, can actually inhibit nitrogen levels). What I have found to work best for my needs is the addition of spent coffee grounds to my coco coir mix, which gives a nice Nitrogen boost (solving the problem of yellow grass) and helps increase Phosphorous for strong root growth without also increasing Potassium too much. With the coco coir, I like to keep my amendments plant-based as this presents more immediately bioavailable nutrition for the roots of my short-term crop. Coffee grounds do not seem to present composting issues that can damage a baby crop, and contrary to popular belief, spent coffee grounds are not high in acid. The pH of spent coffee grounds measures with some variability in the 6.0 range, which is exactly where we want to be with wheatgrass. If you choose to use spent coffee grounds, be sure to refrigerate them until use.

  • Micronutrients. Coco coir, while not a micronutrient powerhouse, actually does carry with it an array of low-level micronutrients, including iron, magnesium, copper, and boron. It is not enough to really make a substantial difference in a maturing crop, however, so it is probably a good idea to supplement coco coir with a nice liquid organic fertilizer packed with micronutrients, like liquid kelp, which is immediately bioavailable to the roots of our short-term wheatgrass crop and can easily be added to the coir’s initial water bath. Remember that wheatgrass does not require a whole lot though, so pour judiciously. Remember, you just need enough to carry you through those last couple of days before harvest. Liquid kelp, while lacking in macronutrients, provides an ample supply of micronutrients, trace minerals, amino acids, and natural plant hormones to help stimulate growth and produce a nutritious baby green. Even folks who prefer to grow in soil find liquid kelp to be a wonderful soil amendment.

You can cook more than 1 lobster at a time but make sure that you have a pan large enough so they won’t be crowded.

Put enough water in the pan so when the lobster is added the water will completely cover them.

Put enough water in the pan and add 1 tablespoon of salt for every quart of water.

Bring the water to a rapid boil and add the lobster head first.

Start timing. Do not cover the pot and stir a couple times.

  • If lobster weighs 1 pound… cook for 12 minutes
  • 1 ½ pound… 14 minutes
  • 2 pounds… 16 minutes
  • 2 ½ pounds… 20 minutes
  • 3 pounds… 25 minutes

If you are doing more than one lobster use the weight of one lobster not the total weight when figuring the cooking time.

To check if the lobster is done pull on one of the small legs, they should come off easily and the meat should be opaque, not translucent and the shell should be bright red. The best way to check is with a meat thermometer. Lobster is done at 140 degrees. Overcooking will toughen the lobster.

You will need a pan with a cover, large enough to hold the lobster without crowding. Add 2 inches of water to the pan and bring it to a rapid boil. Add the lobster head first into the water and cover the pan.

Start timing.

  • If lobster weighs 1 pound… cook for 12 minutes
  • 1 ½ pound… 14 minutes
  • 2 pounds… 16 minutes
  • 2 ½ pounds… 20 minutes
  • 3 pounds… 25 minutes

If you are doing more than one lobster use the weight of one lobster not the total weight when figuring the cooking time.

To check if the lobster is done pull on one of the small legs, they should come off easily and the meat should be opaque, not translucent and the shell should be bright red. The best way to check is with a meat thermometer. Lobster is done at 140 degrees. Don’t ruin an expensive meal, use a meat thermometer. Overcooking will toughen the lobster.

With all the food colorings and preservatives that go into commercial ice creams and frozen snack foods, I do not feel comfortable offering them to my grandchildren. Especially if you have kids with allergies, you know how essential it is to stick to natural ingredients. And with all the processed fast food that kids consume nowadays, it only makes sense to try and introduce more healthy ingredients whenever we can. This is why self-made ice pops are the perfect treat. Even the pickiest eaters among my grandchildren will consume fruit in the form of ice pops. Sometimes I will even “hide” healthy fruits and vegetables in an ice pop, that my grand-kids would not consume otherwise. Avocados and beets, if blended with a banana, offer a very good color and tons of nutrients while the little ones cannot determine the “secret ingredient”, thanks to the sweet taste of bananas. The best aspect is that you can allow your kids to eat as many ice pops as they want, since they are actually good for them!

I have considered a couple types of ice pop makers and they all work, but my personal favorite ones are the ones that are BPA-free, because I do not like my grandchildren to come in contact with chemicals. I have found a great package that has six molds in fun colors and the kids are in love with them. They are also FDA-approved, so I feel comfortable using them. I have tried the 4-pack ice pop molds before, but they just disappeared way too quickly! The ones that I have now have a lid that closes tightly, which is great, because we had a few incidents of spilled juice in the freezer with other freeze pop molds before. It was sticky and messy and not pretty at all! Here are my favorite Silicone Ice Pop Molds.

There are a couple of recipes that my grandchildren love and they are so easy that I let them make them on their own (under my supervision). Here are some thoughts to get you started:

Frozen yogurt pops: Cut up fruit of your choice -we prefer strawberries and bananas- and mix them with the yogurt of your choice. It can be plain or with a fruit flavor. It can even be soy yogurt, if your kids are lactose intolerant! Now pour the yogurt in the ice pop maker and freeze.

Layered ice pops: you can use various colors of juices or even ingredients with different textures in order to make your freeze pops. Pour the first layer in the mold and freeze until it looks firm on the top. Then add the next layer and freeze again. Continue like this, so that the layers do not mix with one another. You can use whipped cream, chocolate chips, sprinkles etc to make your pops nicer looking!

As you can see, you can create many distinct combinations and be sure that your kids eat well, while you save money. What’s more to ask? Cleaning after the kids is also a snap because the ice pop molds I have can be easily cleaned with a bottle brush or in the dishwasher. I am absolutely in love with them!

Popcorn is a snack that gives you a wide array of options- there are several ways to cook it, with near infinite seasoning options. Popcorn can be savory, salty, sweet, spicy… it’s all up to the chef!

There are three basic type of popcorn poppers on the market today- air poppers, microwave poppers, and oil poppers.

Air poppers make the healthiest popcorn. Air poppers are basically big hair driers repurposed to pop popcorn. Did you know that nutrition experts are beginning to consider popcorn to be a superfood? It’s hulls have an extreme concentration of healthy stuff. Despite the health benefits of air popping, there’s trouble in paradise- air popping leaves some kernels unpopped, sometimes the popper will prematurely eject kernels, and the popcorn tends to come out a bit on the bland side.

Then we have microwave poppers, which look like little more than a microwave-safe bowl with a lid. These have lots of problems but are incredibly convenient and easy to clean. You have to experiment with different power settings to get the popcorn popped right, the bowl gets very hot in the microwave, and the bowls can even scorch and crack from cooking. The lids can warp. When new, these can give off a plastic smell that ends up flavoring your popcorn. Despite all of this, some people still like these due to their convenience.

Then, we have oil poppers. This is the kind of popper that is used in theaters, but there are two main varieties- stovetop units and electric standalone units.

Stovetop poppers can make fantastic popcorn, provided you get the temperature right. Cleanup can be hard, as these units tend to have several moving parts to clean. When cooked right, these can make amazing popcorn. And you can even use them over campfires. My experience with these has been less than stellar- I burnt the popcorn.

Eugenol is an anesthetic benefit of clove, and is used for toothache, sore throat and gum pain. This active ingredient is used in some mouth washes, and sore throat treatments because of its germicidal and antiseptic benefits. Eugenol is specifically known to help improve dental health, and is used in toothpastes and dental antiseptics. The health benefits of cloves toward the dentistry profession are known by all. Remember the last time you were sitting in the dentist’s chair, before getting a shot of novacaine? Your dentist rubbed your affected gum area with an anti-bacterial, helping to numb the area, and leaving your mouth tasting and smelling like fresh clove. Where would modern dentistry be without eugenol?

Honestly, cloves are just an absolutely amazing little spice. Cloves are effectively used in many medicinal products to help cure digestive health problems. Indigestion, stomach ulcer symptoms, nausea and gastric discomfort are just a couple of ailments helped by this miracle spice. Diluted clove oil can be applied to cuts, burns, wounds and bruises because of its natural antiseptic characteristics. Benefits of clove oil can even help relieve muscle spasm when applied around the spasming area.

The eugenol in clove spice helps prevent blood clots. Mixtures of clove and sesame oils are warmed and used for earaches. There are home remedies for headache that include a combination of salt, milk and clove oil. It can be used as a massage oil, providing relief from stress and natural aromatherapy for your lungs, sinus tract and throat. Clove oil is used to eliminate bacteria, fungi and intestinal parasites. Did you know that clove oil is widely used in soap, perfumes and other hygenic products for its smell? Or that this oil can be concocted into a natural mosquito repellent that’ll work for hours?

It’s an easy thing to incorporate some clove into your diet. We enjoy making split pea soup, and have found a few whole cloves give the soup a zestier flavor. We steep our teas with a clove or two, which not only gives the tea a better flavor, but helps the kitchen smell so good! Ground up some cloves, and sprinkle some in a rice dish. How to ground cloves? Just use a coffee grinder. Of course, you can find many recipes online that use and enhance this amazing spice in many different foods. This article is just a glimpse into the benefits of clove spice, but you can easily see how it can, and does, benefit human life in so many ways. Someone once asked in wonder if there was anything cloves cannot do? The health benefits of cloves are awesome, and will probably leave you wondering the same thing.

Ice cream and frozen custard

An ice cream, according to the FDA guidelines may contain one or more of the optional caseinates, some optional hydrolyzed milk proteins and suitable nonmilk ingredients. They must contain 10 % milkfat, 20 % milk solids, and must meet specific fat and calorie guidelines for labeling as reduced, light, and lowfat. Other food fats are excluded, except the ones that might be part of the flavoring. The sweeteners are to be safe and suitable. Ice cream must not weigh less than 4.5 pounds per gallon.

Frozen custard should have only 1.12% to 1.4% egg yolk solids by weight, and both ice cream and frozen custard may contain other optional dairy ingredients such as dried cream, plastic cream, butter, milk, concentrated or evaporated milk, condensed milk, part-skim milk, skim milk, sweet cream buttermilk, and so on.

Mellorine

Mellorine should contain a minimum of 1.6 pounds of total solids to the gallon, according to the FDA guidelines, and must weigh no less than 4.5 pounds to every gallon. Minimum amount of fat is 6 % and that of protein 2.7 % with protein efficiency ratios (PER) equal to that of whole milk by weight. Minimum required percentage of fat is 4.8 % and the protein content cannot be less than 2.2 percent, to be provided by milk solids. They can be fortified with 40 international units (IU) of Vitamin A per gram of fat. Each of the ingredients should be declared on the label.

Sherbet

According to the FDA definitions, Sherbet is a food produced by freezing a pasteurized mix of dairy ingredients while stirring which may also contain one or more optional caseinates as well as other suitable nonmilk-derived ingredients. Sherbets are sweetened with nutritive carbohydrate sweeteners, and contain added fruit ingredients.

The minimum weight per gallon of sherbet is set at 6 pounds per gallon with a milkfat content of no less than 1 % but not to exceed 2 %. The total milk or milk-derived solids content must not be less than 2 % or more than 5 % by weight. Sherbet containing a fruit ingredient must have titratable acidity of at least 0.35 percent.

Differences

The difference between a sorbet and ice cream is the base of both. The former is based on water whereas the latter is based on dairy products and air. Both of which are not present in the water based dessert. This makes for a lighter and flavorful treat. This is one of the reasons why it is commonly served in just single scoops or small servings.

Sometimes these are also used to wash clean the palate in between courses. The presence of sugar in the dessert can also affect the consistency of the said frozen treat. The appearance of the said treat is also decidedly more iced than that of ice cream or even gelato. This is mainly due to the presence of water in the recipe.

Because ice cream is dairy based, it is more fattening compared to the water based sorbet. The flavoring of the treat can also affect just how fattening it may be. While some people flavor their recipe with fruit juices or purees, others use liquor to do so. In order to improve the ice texture of this dessert, it is whipped for a better consistency. Its base does not contain any form of dairy products as oppose to that of gelato or ice cream. It does have a smoother texture compared to another Italian refreshment called granite. This is because it is whipped to make the ice crystal smaller and less crunchy.

Advantages and Benefits

Eating the water based treat for dessert or as a refreshment can be beneficial for most people. The fact that the base of this treat is water, and not dairy, means that it has less fat than ice cream or gelato. People can eat a lot of it and not worry about the consequences, like gaining pounds or getting bad skin due to the diary. Another advantage of this kind of dessert is that it is usually more flavorful compared to others. This is mainly due to the fact that it contains no fat which can coat the tongue and mask the taste of the flavor. The mouth tastes the flavor immediately and the person can appreciate it. This is one reason why the sorbet is sometimes used to cleanse the palate, if it is based on citrus.