Consumer Connections - July/August 2011
Posted: June 23, 2011
Dear Consumer: July/August 2011
Quick summer meals that do not heat up the kitchen yet are satisfying and tasty are the new ideas we forever search for in hopes of adding it to our recipe favorites list. Many people go out for Chinese food, but many of the ingredients are available in our grocery stores and some suitable substitutions can be made. Chinese recipes bring a number of vegetables together with very little meat or the use of tofu instead of meat.
Because of the vastness of China and the diversity of the terrain, several regional styles of cooking have been brought to the United States. Cantonese is probably the most familiar to us and we all identify Szechwan cooking as being hot and spicy. Cantonese cooking is most popular in Hong Kong where the climate is subtropical bringing forth lots of rice, green vegetables and tropical fruits. Fish and shellfish, poultry and pork add to the variety of their foods. Soybean sauces, cilantro, ginger, chilies, cloves and sesame seeds are the dominant flavorings, but all are used sparingly. The quick tossing of ingredients in a hot wok with oil is their preferred style of cooking. It is quick and produces very little heat in the kitchen, but all the food preparation comes before the cooking.
One trip through our large grocery stores can provide you with the ingredients necessary for most Chinese recipes or at least some reasonable substitutes. Any of the bottled Chinese sauces may change the taste of our ordinary vegetables, seafood, poultry and pork into a delicious meal at home, a welcome change from the ordinary fare. You may learn to like one of your least favorite vegetables. Broccoli and cabbage vegetables become more appealing and if you enjoy garlic, many Chinese recipes will be your favorites.
Common Chinese vegetables are available at most of our grocery stores but substitutions can be made with our traditional vegetables. Napa or Chinese cabbage absorbs flavors in a stirfry and bok choy is a very crunchy cabbage with long leaves but our traditional green head cabbage can be a good substitute and less expensive too. Sugar peas can substitute for the oriental edible pod peas, regular broccoli for Chinese broccoli, string beans for Chinese long beans and many items are available canned like water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, mung bean sprouts, etc. A variety of packaged Oriental noodles are available, but if you prefer vermicelli or angel hair pasta, use it. The recipes that follow are not meant to be authentic Chinese recipes, but ones you can make quickly with an Oriental flare.
Be aware that many bottled Oriental sauces are very high in sodium. Check the nutrition label to choose a lower sodium variety. Also remember that sauces are used in moderation which may not contribute that much extra sodium to the recipe. Many recipes do not include table salt.
Your Oriental pantry should include a few items of regular use adding those that suit your taste and can be used in multiple ways.
Ginger—buy fresh ginger root. Cut it crosswise into usable size chunks and freeze. It can be peeled while still frozen and will be easy to grate for recipes.
Rice Vinegar—made from fermented rice, this vinegar is mellow yet tangy.
Rice Wine—also made from fermented rice, this wine is sweet and usually low in alcohol.
Sesame Oil—an amber colored oil pressed from toasted sesame seeds, it has a strong, nutty flavor. It adds a unique flavor to Oriental dishes, but is to be used sparingly. If the flavor is too strong for you, use half sesame oil combined with half canola oil or any unflavored oil.
Hoisin Sauce—a dark brown spicy sweet sauce used in many recipes. An opened jar lasts a long time in the refrigerator.
Soy Sauce—an all-purpose dark, salty sauce made from fermented soybeans. Look for reduced sodium soy sauce.
Tamari—similar to soy sauce but it is a thicker, stronger sauce. Reduced sodium brands are available.
Hot Chinese Mustard – make it yourself. It really is HOT.
2 tablespoons Coleman’s dry mustard
2 pinches of salt
1 teaspoon vinegar
Add water a teaspoon at a time until you get a smooth consistency.
Rice—long grain rice properly cooked is standard fare; however, Americans are used to quick or converted rice and we eat less rice with a meal than the Chinese do. Use the type you prefer. Cooking rice is the longest part of Chinese cooking.
Several vegetables take on a new flavor when tossed in diluted hoisin sauce. Thin the hoisin with water or rice wine. Try cooked broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, string beans, edible pea pods, onions, peppers or summer squash.
¾ pound lean pork or chicken, cut into thin 2-inch strips
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
4 tablespoons oil, divided
1½ cups diagonally sliced celery
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 (10 oz.) jar Sweet & Sour Sauce
1 (8 oz.) can sliced water chestnuts, drained
1 (6 oz.) package frozen pea pods, thawed and drained, or 3/4 cup fresh pods
3 green onions, diagonally cut into1-inch pieces
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 (5 oz.) can Chow Mein Noodles
In medium bowl, combine pork or chicken, soy sauce and garlic; cover and marinate 30 minutes in refrigerator. Drain. In large nonstick skillet or wok, heat 3 tablespoons oil. Add meat mixture; stir-fry until meat is no longer pink in center. Remove meat from skillet; set aside. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in same skillet. Add celery and bell pepper (and fresh pods if using); stir-fry until crisp-tender. Return meat to skillet with all remaining ingredients except noodles; heat thoroughly, stirring occasionally. Serve over noodles. Makes 4 servings
Chinese Plum-Glazed Chicken
4 fresh plums, sliced
2 tablespoons sugar
1½ teaspoons minced fresh ginger
6 chicken breast tenders
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon black pepper
To Microwave: Combine plums with sugar and ginger in microwave-safe dish. Sprinkle chicken breast halves with paprika and pepper. Arrange on top of plums. Cover dish with plastic wrap, turning back one edge about ½ inch to form steam vent. Microwave at MEDIUM (50% power) for 5 minutes. Baste chicken with juices and rotate dish ¼ turn. Microwave at MEDIUM for 5 to 7 minutes more. Let stand, covered, for 2 to 3 minutes. To serve, arrange chicken on 2 plates; serve with plum sauce. Serve with rice or rice noodles. Makes 2 servings.
Recipe adapted from California Tree Fruit Agreement
Tested in a 650 watt microwave oven.
Oriental Beef & Noodle Toss
1 pound lean ground beef
2 packages (3 oz. each) Oriental-flavor instant Ramen noodles, divided
2 cups water
2 cups frozen Oriental vegetable mixture
⅛ teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion
In a large nonstick skillet, brown ground beef over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes or until beef is no longer pink. Remove with slotted spoon; pour off drippings. Season beef with one seasoned packet from noodles; set aside.
In same skillet, combine water, vegetables, noodles, ginger and remaining seasoning packet. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Cover; simmer 3 minutes or until noodles are tender, stirring occasionally.
Return beef to skillet; heat through. Stir in green onion before serving. Makes 4 servings
Resource: National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
1½ cups long-grain rice
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1-2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons chili bean sauce
3 tablespoons tomato purée
3 tablespoons chopped scallions
2 teaspoons freshly chopped coriander (or flat leaf parsley if preferred)
4 large eggs, beaten (optional)
Cook the rice according to package directions. Heat a wok or large frying pan and add the oil. When it is hot, add the chopped onion and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the rice and continue to toss for 3 minutes.
Add the remaining ingredients, except the eggs, and stir-fry over high heat for 5 minutes. Fold in the beaten eggs, stirring continuously, until they set. Serve at once. Serves 6
Helping Children Understand Death
Make a habit of talking to your children about death and your beliefs, however trivial or serious the catalyst is. When devastating events happen in our society, such as the recent devastating tornadoes, the acts of war, or a death in the family, children often approach parents with questions about death. For many children, this is not the first time such questions have arisen, but it is a fact that death touches our lives again and again. Rabbi Earl Grollman writes in his afterword to On the Wings of a Butterfly, “We cannot, and should not shield children from death’s reality. Understanding death is a life-long process that stretches from childhood to old age. Death education begins when life begins.”
Children are exposed to death in many ways:
The death of a plant that a child had planted and nurtured.
The death of leaves when they come off the trees in the fall.
The death of a pet.
The death of a grandparent, relative or acquaintance.
The death of a friend by accident or illness.
The death of a sibling or parent
Children are also impacted by deaths they hear about on TV, or by the portrayal of death in movies or video games. These deaths range from the benign to the traumatic, real death vs. pretend death, but all are opportunities for teaching, sharing, and loving discussion.
Many good children’s books can help parents discuss death with their children. A few examples are:
On the Wings of a Butterfly: A Story About Life and Death
by Dr. Marilyn Maple.
My Grandma Died: A Child’s Story About Grief and Loss
by Lory Britain, PhD.
Everett Anderson's Goodbye by Lucille Clifton
Sad Isn’t Bad, A Good-Grief Guidebook for Kids Dealing With Loss
by Michaelene Mundy
Help Me Say Goodbye: Activities for Helping Kids Cope When a Special Person Dies by Janis Silverman.
Gentle Willow, A Story About Dying by Joyce C. Mills, PhD
Teenagers have found the following books helpful:
Facing Change: Falling Apart and Coming Together Again in the Teen Years by B O’Toole
My Grieving Journey Book by Donna & Eve Shavatt
Fire in My Heart, Ice in My Veins by Enid Samuel-Taisman
Encourage your children to ask questions and be honest with your answers. This can be hard because you may not have all of the answers. But it's important to create an atmosphere of comfort and openness, and let them know that there's no right or wrong way to feel. You might also share any spiritual beliefs you have about death. Parents can’t always shield children from the sadness of death, but you can help them cope which will build emotional resources they can use throughout life.
Adapted from parentingpress.com and betterkidcare.psu.edu
It’s Summer, Visit the Farmer’s Market!
Berks County is fortunate to have the availability of farm fresh produce from
local growers. Make it a part of your weekly grocery shopping to buy produce at a local farmer’s market then stick to the habit throughout the fall. Expand the family’s tastes by trying a new fruit or vegetable each week.
A copy of Pennsylvania Produce, a guide to quality produce grown in Pennsylvania, is available for free in our office. It includes a harvest calendar, food safety tips for fresh produce, and storage requirements for each type of produce.
**Where trade names appear, no discrimination is intended, and no endorsement by Penn State Cooperative Extension is implied.
Joan D. Cook
Family Living Program