Moon Cakes

At the time of the Moon Festival, special moon-viewing parties are held with much wine and feasting, and poems composed to the moon. Moon cakes are generally packaged in boxes of four cakes and are a traditional gift from one family to another.

The reason why moon cakes are so meaningful goes back to the 14th century when China was overrun by the Mongol invaders who ruled the country in a cruel and oppressive fashion. The women of the households devised a clever way to organize an uprising. They inserted messages in the filling of the moon cakes given and received during the Moon Festival, conveying secret instructions to patriots who could be depended on to join in the struggle that ended in war and liberation.

Moon cakes are not easy to make, as special, elaborately carved wooden mounds have to be used to shape them. Most Westerners find the filling made from solid lotus seed paste unpalatable, especially with the salted egg yolk in its center. If possible, try to find moon cakes with a filling of preserved melon and melon seeds. For anyone with a sweet tooth this is irresistible, especially when cut into thin wedges and nibbled while drinking clear, fragrant Chinese tea.

It is the packaging of moon cakes that makes them tempting, usually square red and gold tins with Chinese characters and motifs printed on them, and containing four individually wrapped cakes. For the determined cook, the pastry should be very rich and preferably made with at least a proportion of lard. Some popular fillings are candied fruits or sweetened lotus seed paste.

Squid and Calamari

Both have less saturated fat than meat and small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, a group that includes the essential fatty acid linolenic acid, plus ecosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and dicosahexanoic acid (DHA), the primary unsaturated fatty acids in oils from fish.

However, like shellfish, squid and octopus may be a significant source of cholesterol. The cholesterol content of squid and octopus can vary from animal to animal. There is no reliable guide to choosing the one that is lower in cholesterol. As a general rule, the mantle (body) generally has less cholesterol than the tentacles.

Four ounces raw squid has 1.58 g fat (0.38 g saturated fat), 266 mg cholesterol, and 17.8 g protein. Four ounces of raw octopus has 1 g fat (0.3 g saturated fat) and 54 mg cholesterol, and 17 g protein. The most nutritious way to serve this food is to prepare with little or no added fat, so as to preserve the seafood’s status as a low-fat food. People who are on low-cholesterol, low-protein and low-sodium diet should avoid this food.

When buying, look for fresh whole squid with clear and smooth skin. The squid should smell absolutely fresh. Squid larger than 8 inches may be tough. Choose fresh, whole baby octopus or octopus meat that looks and smells absolutely fresh. Octopus larger than 2 to 2.5 pounds may be tough.

Always refrigerate fresh, cleaned octopus or squid immediately and use it within a day or two. Frozen squid or octopus will keep for one month in a 0 degrees F freezer.

Buffalo Steak

Buffalo steak is extremely healthy, packed full of vitamins and minerals, including vital Omega-3 fatty acids, which help lower cholesterol and decrease the risk of blood clots. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, buffalo steaks cut from grass-fed bison have a fraction of the fat (up to 75% less fat per serving) of beef steaks and are extremely high in iron and protein. Buffalo steak is even recommended by the American Heart Association for a heart-healthy lifestyle!

Buffalo steaks can be cooked in the same manner as beef steaks, with one important difference – buffalo cooks in much less time because of the low fat content. We can all see the benefit in meat that cooks much more quickly, but there is a down side to this. Because of the low fat content, it is extremely important to use every measure possible to keep the moisture in the buffalo steak. Searing both sides of the steak and then cooking until done to your preference will ensure that the moisture is locked in so that you’ll be left with just mouth-watering flavor. Try rubbing the outside of the buffalo steak with your favorite steak seasoning or a mixture of salt, pepper, and garlic before grilling or broiling for a great taste sensation. Just be sure to cook at a lower temperature than you would for beef steak, and you’ll have a perfect buffalo steak in no time.

By gourmet chefs and meat-lovers everywhere, buffalo steak has been coined as more beefy than beef. Without the thick fatty marbling through the cut of meat that is common in beef steak, buffalo is packed with hearty meaty flavor through and through. Try a buffalo steak for an escape from the ordinary and a step back into historical life on the plains.

Benefits of Fresh Noni Fruit

The amber juice that forms on top of the fermented fruit is consumed daily as a general preventative medicine.

But in contemporary Western civilizations, fresh noni fruit is hard to come by. You could try to buy fresh noni fruit directly from a manufacturer of noni fruit products, but it would be expensive, because there is not enough demand to encourage regular supply.

Fresh noni fruit smells very pungent, and not an aroma one normally associates with fruit. Noni juice itself also radiates this aroma, but not to the extent that fresh noni fruit does. The riper the noni fruit, the stronger the odor.

Consuming fresh noni fruit is the healthiest way to benefit from its properties. This is because it is completely unprocessed. All products made from noni fruit go through a process by which some of the nutrients are lost, decreasing their therapeutic value. Many of these nutrients are chemically volatile, evaporating rapidly in dehydration, juicing, pureeing, and other preparation processes.

The next best thing to fresh noni fruit could well be a preparation process called lyophilization or, simply, freeze-drying. In the process, the fresh noni fruit is frozen, and then the water is reduced just enough so that harmful microbes cannot survive. This process avoids the most destructive elements a natural food supplement can undergo, including heat, light, air, moisture, and time.

Dehydrate Vegetables for Long Life

Prepare your vegetables as if you were going to serve them. Wash them well, trim, cut, chop, slice, whatever. Thickness will play an important role in how long your veggies take to dehydrate, so bear that in mind when preparing.

Next you must blanch the vegetables. This will preserve the colour and flavour of the vegetable. Most vegetables have an enzyme that, left active, is what makes it spoil so quickly. Blanching the vegetables stops the enzyme action.

Follow available guidelines for blanching (available at http://www.no-dig-vegetablegarden.com). Once blanched, chilled and drained, you are ready to dry or dehydrate your vegetables for long
term storage.

The Rules

Of course, there are heaps of rules…but let’s start here.

There are three methods used to dry or dehydrate vegetables.
Sun dried, commercial dehydrator or oven.

Sun drying is the least reliable method for areas with variable temperatures. Unless you live in a climate that is a consistent 90F with low humidity for a guaranteed 3 days in a row, you risk your produce.

Once the drying starts, it cannot stop until finished. So DO NOT let your vegetables cool again until they’re done. Having said that, lots of places do have that sort of weather…but more places don’t, so sun drying is a bit of a gamble for most.

You can purchase food dehydraters in a range of sizes, but unless you are going to be doing an awful lot of this, it’s probably better to wait or buy one with a group of friends to pass around. They aren’t very expensive, but they are usually used for quite short periods of time.

So, we’re left with the oven. It’s almost certain that you have one, so nothing new to buy. It is time consuming and a little fiddly, but it’s such a great result!

Oven drying

A home oven will only dry small quantities at a time (up to six pounds of produce, depending on the number of racks you have) so don’t be preparing bushells of veggies at a time!

Set the oven at the lowest temperature and preheat to 140F (60C). If you are uncertain of the temperature, put a separate oven thermometer on a rack you can see. Check your temperature
every half hour or so.

Lay out your vegetables on stainless steel screen mesh or wooden
frames covered in cheescloth. Do NOT use cookie sheets as the
air must circulate around the food. Having the food sit next to
metal sheets may also transfer a metallic taste. Using other
types of metal materials may react with the food so please don’t.

Load up the veggies. Doing trays of items similar in size will keep the drying even. For instance, doing pumpkin, carrot and
potato might be a good mix. Try not to mix strong flavoured items as the flavour may transfer from one vegetable to another.

Keep the oven door open about 3 inches or so during drying. It is vital that the temperature is maintained at 140F (60C) and that the moist air can escape. Move the trays around frequently to ensure even drying. No oven has even heat throughout.

Keep a close eye on your drying vegetables. Don’t let them scorch and keep them moving.

Depending on the vegetable you are drying it will take between
4 and 12 hours to dry. Once they’re done, the vegetable pieces
will be hard and should shatter if hit with an instrument.

Store in a water tight container. To use, just add them to soups and sauces as they are, or reconstitute (cover them in a container with water 2:1 ratio) for approximately 2 hours before using.

Tobacco

Tobacco leaves can be burned and inhaled (in the form of cigarettes, cigars, pipes, smoke, etc.) or absorbed through the mouth (in the form of spit tobacco, chew, or snuff). The membranes in the nose, mouth, and lungs act as nicotine delivery systems – transmitting nicotine into the blood and to the brain.

Smokers usually feel dizzy and sick when they first inhale the nicotine in tobacco, but gradually build up tolerance to its effects. Other symptoms new smokers experience includes coughing, a dry, irritated throat as well as nausea, weakness, abdominal cramps, headache, coughing or gagging. These symptoms subside as the user develops a tolerance to nicotine.

Nicotine is highly addictive. The addictive effect of nicotine is the main reason why tobacco is widely used. Many smokers continue to smoke in order to avoid the pain of withdrawal symptoms. Smokers also adjust their behavior (inhaling more deeply, for example) to keep a certain level of nicotine in the body.

Smokers who usually smoke at least 15 cigarettes per day and/or smoke their first Cigarette of the day within 30 minutes of waking are likely to experience nicotine withdrawal symptoms. They will likely find quitting uncomfortable.

Stopping can produce unpleasant withdrawal symptoms including depression, insomnia, irritability, difficulty concentrating, restlessness, anxiety, decreased heart rate, increased appetite, weight gain, and craving for nicotine.

Symptoms peak from 24 to 48 hours after stopping and can last from three days up to four weeks, although the craving for a Cigarette can last for months.

Most smokers make an average of three or four quit attempts before becoming long-term non-smokers. Relapse is the rule rather than the exception and must be viewed as part of the process of quitting.

Slow Cooker Meals

The slow cooker is a very simple electric appliance: a tightly covered pot that cooks food at a low temperature for a long period of time. Many people think of one-pot recipes as being limited to stews or soups. The fact is just about anything can be cooked in a slow cooker! Meat entrees, soups, vegetarian, and even dessert!

Get one with a removal pot. These can be lifted off the heating base and placed on the stove top. If you choose to, you can brown meats or sauté vegetables and there will be no extra dirty pans. You can also prepare the ingredients the night before, place the pot in the refrigerator and be ready to go the next morning.

Size – Slow cookers and crackpots come in different sizes ranging from 1.5 quarts to 7 quarts (1 quart = 4 cups). Choose one that is compatible with the size of your family.

Do a Test Run – Select a recipe and do a test run on a weekend when you’ll be around the house. This way, you can monitor the progress and note the amount of time your cooker needs. Most cookers have Low, Medium and High settings. Those settings will be at different temperatures, depending on the manufacturer. Even two different cookers from the same manufacturer might NOT require the same time for the same recipe.

Fill the slow cooker to 1/2 or 2/3 full only – If the cooker is too full, the food will not cook evenly.

Keep the lid on! – Every time you lift the lid, it can take up about 20 minutes to regain the lost heat, thus extending your cooking time.

Test for Doneness – Use a food thermometer to make sure that the meat and poultry have reached a safe internal temperature.

Gourmet Baklava Pastries

All the evidence presently available suggests that the Baklava originated as a dessert in Central Turkey. While there are claims that there was another dish called the Proto-Baklava which existed before the Ottoman Empire came into existence, there is no evidence in any form to prove this. The first recorded proof of the Baklava recipe exists in a Chinese cookbook of the 1330’s. This was under the Mongol Dynasty. According to this recipe, the different layers of the Phyllo Dough were put one after the other into a mixture of sugar and warm milk.

The Mediterranean Baklava is known to serve either with fresh pomegranate or with walnuts. The desert is known to be reserved for very special occasions and is primarily eaten in the Middle East and other regions on the auspicious occasion of Ramadan. The interesting thing about the origin of Baklava is that the Turks as well as other ethnic groups from different Middle Eastern regions have their own version of this delightful and delicious pastry.

There is also another version of the history that Baklava recipe was first tried from thousands of years BC and it used to be the food served only to the rich and wealthy classes of the society till as late as the 19th century. There is as such, some evidence of the same in Greek literature which states that it was a delicacy served only to the rich people of the society.

In the early years, when there was no Baklava professional establishment to make it, the pastry dough was rough and had a texture like bread. It is said that when the Greek sailors visited the Mediterranean shores, they fell in love with this unique pastry and brought the Baklava recipe to Greece. Here it underwent many major changes, the biggest being in the recipe for making dough for the Baklava. This new technique made it possible for the makers at the professional Baklava to roll the dough so that it was as thin as a leaf. As such, here it got the name Phyllo, which, as mentioned earlier means leaf in Greece.

As time passed, the pastry underwent many changes and a number of cultures have contributed not only to its present form but also to the many variations that we see today in the gourmet baklava recipe. An interesting fact that you would like to know here is that while the desert has Middle Eastern origins, the baklava that we have today is French and was first made by a former pastry chef who worked for Marie Antoinette living in the Ottoman Empire after being exiled. He was soon taken in as a palace employee and developed the present dome-shaped way of creating serving this very popular dessert.

Start Eating More Seaweed

From a functional standpoint the biggest reason to start eating more seaweed is because it is excellent for digestive health. Several studies have shown that seaweed can actually strengthen the layer of mucus which protects the stomach wall. It also slows down digestion so you will feel fuller for longer following your meal. Additionally, it slows down the digestive process which forces food to release its energy and nutrients more slowly. Not only does this mean you get more energy from your food but also gives your body more time to absorb the nutrients from your meal.

There are a number of studies that have shown seaweed may be able to improve heart health as well. Specific types of seaweed have been shown to prevent high blood pressure in animals as well as reduce the risk of stroke. A 25 year study of Okinawans, often regarded as the longest lived population, discovered that sea vegetables counted towards 7 to 10 portions of fruit and vegetables they ate on a daily basis. Not surprisingly, they had extraordinarily low cholesterol and low homocysteine levels, which is a heart damaging chemical.

Several studies have noted that seaweed is very high in lignans. Lignans are a plant substance which turns into phytoestrogens in the body. This helps block dangerous chemicals that can predispose people to a variety of cancers, including breast cancer. Several reports have noted that the higher levels of kelp consumption in Japan may be a driving factor behind the lower rates of breast cancer.

Another benefit of eating more seaweed is it can play a primary function in helping regulate thyroid health. It has a very high iodine content which will not only maintain healthy thyroid function but can also assist in weight loss. The presence of zinc in antioxidants also helps strengthen the immune system, thus reducing the risk of illness and infection.

Aside from the health benefits, seaweed is also a great healthy food because of its general makeup. It’s not bulky enough to meet as a primary portion of a meal but at the same time its strong, smoky flavor is intense enough that you are going to eat an exorbitant amount of it during one sitting. This makes it a very synergistic food that can be easily added into meals you already enjoy.

Benefits of Eating Steak and Seafood

You don’t have to travel far until you locate a restaurant that offers this dynamic duo on their menu. The reason is that they are so good together. And, they have tremendous health benefits.

Sometimes people are leery of eating red meat. It’s true many cuts are higher in saturated fat and cholesterol than other cuts but a little education will help you realize the many nutritional benefits it provides.

Another great way to make sure you are choosing the best cuts is to buy and eat organic beef. Most, if not all, of this beef is grain-fed and the animals are allowed to graze freely in pastures.

The most important nutrient the beef in steak and seafood supplies is protein. Every day, the average adult needs about 6 ounces of protein. Three ounces has all the amino acids so vital to repairing body tissue and building muscle.

Without a healthy muscular system you wouldn’t be able to function on a day-to-day basis. It’s what keeps you able to live an active lifestyle. Hormones and enzymes are also produced in our body when we ingest protein. These two crucial components help eliminate sickness.

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight by not eating protein, you just won’t succeed. It keeps hunger in check and helps you stay happily satisfied for a long time after a meal.

Three other essentials in red meat are iron, zinc and the B vitamins. Just eating red meat a few times a week can help your body’s red blood cells do their important job with the help of iron. Zinc builds muscles, boosts the immune system and keeps your brain working well. B vitamins are essential for an overall healthy body and immune system.

The benefits of eating the second half of the steak and seafood combo are also vital. Fish plays a great role in our health and well-being.

Besides tasting super, fish contains Omega-3s. These important nutrients fight many diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer. They also work wonders on joint inflammation with arthritis and help to strengthen the immune system. Fish is also very low in fat and high in protein.

It’s a huge mistake to eliminate fish totally from your weekly diet. There are so many kinds of fish and cooking methods that it won’t take long until you can find a way, which suits your taste buds. For a healthy balance in many bodily systems you should strive to eat about two servings of fish per week.