Stress Less for the Holidays

Stress Less for the Holidays

Holiday Stress

Holiday Stress
Photo source: Dorothy Lee

Tis the Season Merry and Bright:

From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve there are greater incidences of stress and tension related headaches and migraines. Family stresses, long shopping lines, and unrealistic expectations are enough to trigger tension headaches even in people who are not headache prone. To avoid these aches and pains a strategic plan may be necessary. 

Planning is crucial not only at the holidays but throughout the year.  Having a plan and being organized makes everything easier and more manageable.  The key is to start early and don’t wait until December. This is where Christmas in July becomes useful thinking. 

The following are some tips to help avoid stress during the holiday season.  Make a schedule that includes all tasks you have to complete, how long you think each task will take, and when each task needs to be completed.  This is why Santa makes a list and checks it twice.

  •             Start shopping early to reduce time wasted in long lines with early-bird hour sales
  •             To avoid long period of times wrapping, shop in stores where gift wrap is free
  •             Shop on-line while drinking your coffee in your pajamas
  •             Track your purchases in a notebook or in note section of your cell phone
  •             Prioritize your social events and don’t spread yourself too thin
  •             Use your computer for online postal mailing to avoid lines at the post office
  •             Instead of mailing gifts, order gifts on-line, and have gifts directly sent to gift recipient
  •             Practice relaxation and stretching to reduce stress
  •             Establish a spending limit and stick to it

Be realistic about how much you can do as nobody likes a cranky Santa.  By following these tips, you will be as jolly as old Saint Nick.

Enjoy the holiday season with family and friends as it is the greatest gift you can give yourself.  And remember, laugher is the best medicine for stress! 

Happy Holidays!

 

       

 

           

      

 

A is for Apple

A is for Apple

Bowl of apples
Photo source: bing

October is National Apple Month. “A” is for Apple.  We have all heard this childhood saying as well as other apple idioms.

The Fall season has arrived and along with cooler weather, shorter days, and autumn leaves comes the bounty of Fall………apples.

In Autumn, apples fill farmers market and grocery store bins with seasonal shades of red, green, yellow, and russet.  Popular varieties of apples grown in the United States include Mcintosh, Fuji, Red Delicious, Gala, Crispin, Honeycrisp, Granny Smiths, and Golden Delicious.

Nutrition

A large raw apple contains about 95 calories.  Apples provide fiber, vitamins, and minerals.  Apples are low in calories and high in antioxidants.

Selection

Each apple variety has its own distinctive flavor and texture.  When purchasing apples choose a variety suitable for your intended use.  Best apples for eating cooking baking  The surface of the apple should be smooth, firm, unbroken, and free from bruises.

Preparation

Apples are delicious eaten raw.  Simply rinse, cut into quarters and remove core from each section and slice.  Use a vegetable peeler or a sharp knife to peel apples for cooking.  To core apples for cooking push an apple corer through center of fruit from top to bottom, pull out core and stem.  Coat peeled or sliced apples with lemon juice to prevent darkening.  A bag of medium sized apples yields about 3 cups diced fruit or 2 ½ cups sliced fruit.

Cooking with Apples

Apples are the most versatile of all fruits.  They are suitable for a variety of cooking techniques and can be used in a variety of recipes.  Apples can be baked, grilled, poached, and even sautéed.  Add diced apples to salads or dried and added to granola cereal.  Sauté to accompany meat dishes and add to pancakes or waffle batter.  For desserts, pair apples with a variety of cheeses.

Storage

Apples ripen faster at room temperature than in the refrigerator.  Store apples in the refrigerator in a plastic bag to help retain moisture.

Celebrate the bounty of Fall with apples at their peak of flavor.

 

Get Hooked on Seafood

Get Hooked on Seafood

Photo source: UF/IFAS Northwest District

Fish and shellfish are easy to prepare and swimming with nutritive value. Fish and shellfish have become an even more important part of the diet as people turn to more healthful eating.  People are choosing fish and shellfish more frequently for several reasons.  It is economical, versatile, high in nutritive value, quick and easy to prepare, and it tastes good.

When purchasing fish, look for bright, clear, bulging eyes; reddish or pink gills; tight, shiny scales; firm, elastic flesh that springs back when pressed; and a pleasant saltwater-like odor.

Fish and shellfish are best if cooked the day of purchase but can be stored no more than two days in the coldest part of the refrigerator, preferably on ice. Frozen fish and shellfish should be kept solidly frozen until ready to thaw.  Frozen seafood will remain fresh for four to six months.  Cook seafood immediately upon thawing.  Do not thaw fish at room temperature or in warm water because it loses moisture and flavor.  Never refreeze uncooked fish.

Most fish and shellfish can be cooked using a variety of methods. Fish and seafood can be broiled, grilled, deep-fried, poached, steamed, baked, pan-fried, and sautéed.  Care must be taken not to overcook fish or seafood.  Fish are done when the flesh, pierced at its thickest point with a fork, flakes easily, and turns from translucent to opaque.  Proper cooking develops flavor, softens connective tissue, and makes protein easier to digest.

Many seafood aficionados prefer flavoring their dishes with small amounts of salt, pepper, and occasionally lemon. The delicate taste of seafood blends exceptionally well with a variety of herbs, spices, and seeds, as long as these seasonings are used sparingly.

The next time you are in the neighborhood of your local seafood market, stop in. Remember that fish and shellfish from the Gulf are nutritious, economical, quick and easy to prepare, and taste great.  So, enjoy local fish and seafood today!

Sunshine Fillets

2 pounds red snapper fillets or other fish fillets, fresh or frozen

2 teaspoons grated orange peel

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

Dash nutmeg

2 tablespoons orange juice

Dash pepper

Thaw frozen fillets. Cut fillets into 6 portions.  Place fish in a single layer, skin side down, in a well-greased baking dish, 12 x 8 x 2 inches.  Combine remaining ingredients.  Pour sauce over fish.  Bake in a moderate oven, 350°F, for 20 to 25 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.  Makes 6 servings.

Shrimp Kabobs

1 pound frozen raw, peeled, cleaned shrimp

1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted

1 teaspoon salt

2 large green peppers, cut into 1-inch squares

Dash pepper

8 slices bacon, cut into sixths

3 cans (4 ounces each) button mushrooms, drained

Thaw frozen shrimp. Alternate shrimp, bacon, mushrooms, and green pepper on 48 skewers or round toothpicks, approximately 3 inches long.  Place kabobs on a well-greased broiler pan.  Combine remaining ingredients.  Pour half of the sauce over kabobs.  Broil about 4 inches from source of heat for 5 to 7 minutes.  Turn carefully and baste with remaining sauce.  Broil 5 to 7 minutes longer or until shrimp are pink and tender.  Makes approximately 48 hors d’oeuvres.

 

What is an Instant Pot Pressure Cooker?

What is an Instant Pot Pressure Cooker?

Instant Pot settings display. Photo source: Wendy Meredith

An Instant Pot Pressure Cooker is a small electronic multi-cooker appliance that can function as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, warmer, and more. It is often referred to as an Instant Pot.  It is currently the hottest trend in home cooking.

An Instant Pot Cooker can prepare just about any type of food you can imagine. Poultry, beef, and pork recipes, soups, stews, bread, and even desserts.

Considering today’s fast paced lifestyle the Instant Pot is a time saving kitchen helper. Spend a few minutes preparing the recipe ingredients, program the Instant Pot and relax.  The Instant Pot cooking method takes the stress out of long cooking times and of meal preparation.

Instant Pot cookers are available in a variety of sizes, styles, and functions. The function of an Instant Pot is based on the model purchased.  Many brands are available.  Basic functions present in most models consist of slow cooker, pressure canner, steamer, rice cooker, yogurt maker, egg cooker, sauté or browner, and warmer.

When purchasing a multi-cooker consider the usage and quantity of food to be prepared. A 3-quart cooker is just the right size for single servings.  Family sizes are available as  6-quart (4-6 servings) or 8 -quart (6-8 servings).

The benefits of an Instant Pot cooker are numerous. No need for constant or frequent stirring, no worry about overcooking or burning, saves energy based on quick cooking times required for recipes and less small kitchen appliances needed for preparation.

Traditionally beef stew and less tender cuts of meat take hours of cooking to render tender.  The Instant Pot Cooker dishes up these delicious dishes in under an hour.

 

Corned Beef Cabbage*

2 pounds corned beef

2 cups chicken broth

2 cups water

3 bay leaves

8 peppercorns

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

8 medium red or white potatoes

8 cups coarsely sliced cabbage

 

Place beef in cooker. Add stock, water, bay leaves, peppercorns, and vinegar in cooker.  Cook for 90 on meat/stew setting.  Remove corned beef.  Add vegetables; cook on high pressure for 4-5 minutes.

*Follow directions listed on Instant Pot instruction manual for programming cooker.

 

Instant Pot cooking is easy, economical and quick.

Recipe adapted from Cooks’ Essentials.

 

 

Grill It Up!

Grill It Up!

Grill Out Safely This Summer

Perhaps it’s the gentle climate with temperatures conducive to outdoor cooking for much of the year. Or it might be that an outdoor get-together with family, friends, and good food is a great way to celebrate the summer. Whatever the reasons, outdoor cookery is firmly established as a tradition in the South.

Outdoor cookery has given rise to many unique and flavor-filled recipes for foods that can be prepared on even the simplest grill. If long days of summer have you longing to fire up the grill, the following tips, delicious recipes, and helpful grilling charts will help make your outdoor cooking experience easy, safe, and rewarding.

Grilling
Photo Credit: Dorothy Lee

Safety is an important consideration when operating a grill. Improper use can cause a fire or explosion. Keep the area around a lighted grill clear of combustible materials, and never use a grill in an enclosed area such as a sheltered patio or a garage. Avoid wearing loose-fitting clothing that may catch fire. The cooking grids should be cleaned after every cookout. The last thing you want to do is cause someone to become ill due to improper cleaning or unsafe food preparation practices.

Wash your hands with hot soapy water for at least 20 seconds before starting to prepare any foods and wash your hands again if you do anything else—change a diaper, pet an animal, or blow your nose, for example. Cover any cuts or sores on your hands with a bandage or use plastic gloves. If you sneeze or cough while preparing foods, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue and turn your face away, or cough into your sleeve. Always wash your hands afterwards.

Bacteria multiply rapidly at room temperature. Most food-borne illness-causing bacteria cannot grow well at temperatures below 40°F or above 140°F. Thaw foods in the refrigerator or in the microwave. Never leave foods out at room temperature.

Keep everything that touches food clean. Bacteria can hitch rides around your kitchen on all sorts of things—plates and cutting boards, dirty utensils, dish rags and sponges, unwashed hands.

Never chop fresh vegetables or salad ingredients on a cutting board that was used for raw meat without properly cleaning it first. If possible, keep a separate cutting board just for the preparation of raw meat, poultry, and fish.

Wash cutting boards thoroughly with hot soapy water, and then sanitize with a solution of household bleach and water.

The most popular meat for outdoor grilling is beef, particularly ground beef. If ground beef burgers are to be the feature of your next cookout select freshly ground meat that has fat content of about 15%. Form the meat into loose patties. Cook hamburger patties to an internal temperature of 160°F.

Keep raw meat, poultry, fish, and their juices from coming into contact with other foods during preparation, especially foods that will not be cooked. Wash all utensils and your hands with hot soapy water after contact with raw meat.

Marinate meat, poultry and seafood in the refrigerator in a covered, non-metal container. Throw away any leftover marinade.

Grill food to a safe internal temperature. Use a meat thermometer to assure correct doneness of the food being grilled.

Safe minimum internal temperatures:

  • Poultry (whole, ground, and breasts): 165°F
  • Hamburgers, beef: 160°F
  • Beef, veal, and lamb (steaks, roasts & chops):
    • Medium rare: 145°F
    • Medium: 160°F.
  • All cuts of pork:   145°F.

Hold meat at 140°F until served. Use a clean platter for transferring cooked meat from grill to serving table.

Summer is the time for getting together with friends and family and cooking outdoors. Make your outdoor grilling experience safe and enjoyable.

Safe Food Handling Fact Sheet, USDA, Food Safety and Inspection Series, https://www.foodsafety.gov/

 

When we think of foods to prepare outdoors we almost immediately think meat.  However, grilled vegetables and grilled fruits make a delicious accompaniment to grilled meats.

Corn on the Cob Kabob

  • 2 medium red onions, cut into 8 wedges each
  • 4 fresh ears sweet corn, husked, silks removed, and cut crosswise into 4 pieces each
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano, crushed

On each of eight 12-inch wooden skewers, alternately thread 2 onion wedges and 2 pieces of corn, leaving about ¼ inch between each vegetable. Lightly coat vegetables with nonstick spray.

For a charcoal grill, grill kabobs on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals for 15 to 18 minutes or until vegetables are tender and brown, turning occasionally to brown evenly. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place kabobs on grill rack over heat. Cover, grill as above.)

In a small bowl, combine butter, garlic powder, onion powder and oregano. Brush over vegetables. Makes 4 servings.

Cinnamon-Grilled Peaches

  • 4 large ripe freestone peaches
  • Eight 3-inch cinnamon sticks
  • 8 fresh mint leaves
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup dark rum
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch salt
  • Peach or vanilla ice cream, for serving

Rinse the peaches and blot them dry with paper towels. Cut each peach in half and discard the pit. Then, cut each peach into quarters. Using a pointed chopstick or metal skewer, make a starter hole in the center of each peach quarter, working from the pit side to the skin side. Skewer 2 peach quarters on each cinnamon stick, placing a mint left between the 2 quarters.

Combine the butter, brown sugar, rum, cinnamon, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Let the glaze boil until thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes.

Prepare and preheat the grill to high. Brush and oil the grate. Next, place the skewered peaches on the hot grate and grill until nicely browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side, basting with the rum and butter glaze.  Spoon any remaining glaze over the grilled peaches and serve at once.  Peach or vanilla ice cream make a great accompaniment.