Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Sweet Rice is Not All About Pudding.

Let’s play one of those “name this” games.  Name a dessert made with rice.  Bet your answer would immediately be “rice pudding”.  Most folks would also consider this dessert’s origin to be either the United Kingdom, or America itself.  That would make you lose points in my game, as we will be going back to Asian culture instead.  Actually, way back to the Western Zhou Dynasty, of 1047 BCE, China. This country is known to be the first cultivator of rice, and rice pudding is called “eight treasure”, or” eight jeweled”, rice porridge.

Sweet rice, aka sticky rice, is more glutinous than your average, every day white rice.  It can be compacted more tightly around a sweet or savory filling, and served as appetizers, side dishes or desserts.  A one cup serving contains 37 grams of carbs which is about 2 and ½ servings; very little protein and fiber.  So why is it eaten, on a daily basis, in many countries, not just Asian cultures?  Sticky rice has antioxidant properties that help lower oxidative stress, and is rich in minerals like zinc, magnesium, copper, phosphorus and selenium.  Health benefits include increased bone density, decreased inflammation, and improved heart health.  The con side of all this is, what the rice is eaten with of course.  If you make a large batch of deep-fried rice balls that contain a mixture of chocolate and caramel, then eat the entire batch.  Oh boy, are you going to get yourself seriously sick, and just might end up in the hospital.  In other words, no matter how healthy something is, still have to keep in mind that annoying little word, moderation.

Is all sweet rice the same, no matter what country it is grown in?  Surprisingly not.  Here in Monticello, we have Ja-roen Thai Restaurant (thankfully still open, and everyone wishes the sushi would be brought back…but I digress).  In Moab, there are several Thai restaurants that are of high quality as well.  One dessert that is typically on menus is Mango with Coconut Sticky Rice (Khao Niao Mamuang).  The rice used is whiter, less opaque and longer than that used in Japanese restaurants.  After the rice is prepared, it is combined with full-fat, sweetened coconut milk, and left to rest to soak up the milk.


 

 

So, it is no surprise that Roy and I are super fans of Asian cuisines, and he benefits from all my attempts at creating many of our favorite dishes.  Lately, I have been on a mochi kick.  Say what?  Mochi which is made from a Japanese grown short grain, opaque form of sweet rice.  The traditional method of making the mochi paste is to steam the rice, then pound it out inside a wooden bowl with a wooden mallet.  The paste is then formed into balls that can be eaten as is, or the paste is formed around sweet or savory fillings.  Nowadays, the flour can be purchased, water and sweetener added, and the paste simply stirred up in a bowl.  For those truly interested, you can learn, in six easy steps, to make your own homemade mochi, with your purchased flour, at: https://www.instructables.com/How-to-Make-Homemade-Mochi/


 

Purchasing premade mochi, online, is available, shipped in from Japan, and most vendors have reasonable prices.  The products may have a filling, or you can purchase just the simple mochi balls that resemble mini-marshmallows covered in powdered sugar.  But wait, if you happen to be in Monticelli, stop in at Blue Mountain Foods, go to the ice cream section and you can purchase “My Mochi”; mochi wrapped around frozen balls of rich and delicious ice cream (my favorite flavors are green tea and double chocolate).  Remember though, these little goodies are high in carbs, so one is a perfect serving.  Roy and I, though, had a fun time taste testing all the products we could find; in moderation of course (wink, wink).

What does mochi taste like?  Similar to a marshmallow, but not as sweet, and the texture is similar, but gooier.  Oh dear, now another warning that sort of ruins some of the fun of eating mochi.  Do not put an entire mochi in the mouth and attempt to eat it whole.  Mochi must be eaten in small bites and thoroughly chewed before swallowing.  Due to its glutinous makeup and dense, thick, sticky texture, it can cause a choking hazard.  If not chewed, but simply swallowed, the sticky mochi gets stuck in the throat, and can lead to suffocation. 

Please do not be turned off by this warning, since common sense dictates that anything eaten must be in manageable bites anyway, but can still cause a choking hazard. 

Roy and I dream about traveling to the various Asian countries someday, but until then, we can enjoy the cuisines, either in a restaurant, or making it at home.  Try it, you just might surprise yourself, and truly like it!

Mary Cokenour

 

 

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

This Little Piggy.

This Little Piggy

By Mother Goose

“This little piggy went to market,

This little piggy stayed home,

This little piggy had roast beef,

This little piggy had none.

This little piggy went ...

Wee, wee, wee,

all the way home!”

However, my little piggies ended up inside bacon, crescent roll dough and pancakes!

 

In 1957, a cute recipe appeared in the new Betty Crocker’s Cooking for Boys and Girls cookbook.  This cookbook was geared towards parents, alright, let’s be honest, the homemaker mom, to teach her children cooking skills.  Hotdogs were baked inside a bread dough, and enjoyed for lunch or dinner.  In 1965, Pillsbury introduced crescent rolls, and included a recipe for crescent roll dogs which added slices of American cheese to the process.

The name “pigs in a blanket” is another one of those “Who claims to have invented it first?” origins.  Essentially the “pigs” refer to sausages that were roasted, wrapped in rolls, and eaten by laborers.  This is traced back to Germany, around the 1400s (remember, they also invented the ever-popular hotdog) where they were called W├╝rstchen im Schlafrock (translation: sausages in pajamas).  In the 1600s, the Irish, English and Scottish laborers were following the lead of German laborers, and ate these sausage rolls alongside meat pies and pasties.  In the 1900s, a recipe for “kilted soldiers” became popular for the Christmas holiday.   Small sausages, named chipolatas, were wrapped, and roasted, in bacon. The “cocktail” pigs in a blanket were basically born, and the bread wrapped version followed.

 

 

 

The breakfast style pigs in a blanket?  Grilled sausages wrapped in fluffy pancakes, drenched in maple syrup, breakfast style pigs in a blanket?  As far as I could ferret out of culinary sites, full of historical data, was linked to IHOP.  The first International House of Pancakes opened in a suburb of Los Angeles in 1958, and breakfast style pigs in a blanket was on the menu.  I have to presume that they got the idea from the 1957 Betty Crocker cookbook, revised it by using thinner pancakes for easy rolling, instead of bread or crescent dough, and it was a hit.


 

 

 

The concept of wrapping sausage inside some type of dough is worldwide, however, in America, hotdogs are used more often.  Sausage is primarily made with meat from the pig, while hotdogs can be all-beef, poultry only, or some combination of pork, beef and poultry.  For a meal, full length hotdogs, smoked sausages, or grilled brats can be rolled in dough, baked in the oven, and served with condiments and side dishes.  The cocktail style are the mini versions of the meats, again, also wrapped in dough and baked. 


 

Now making those is a lot of work, but there is a much easier way of course.  Purchase the full length, wrap in the dough and cut them up into bite size, individual pieces before baking.  First off, this is less work than wrapping those tiny “little smokies” or cocktail franks, and price wise, less expensive in the long run.  Do a price comparison, and depending on where you live, and prices charged at your favorite market, it probably will be less in price.  Also, compare your prices to buying the premade, frozen brands; make sure to check how many are in the package.  One can of crescent roll dough has eight pieces; one package of hotdogs is, usually, also eight.  After rolling the hotdog in the dough (make sure to seal up the dog completely), cut into four sections; that is 32 pieces.  Unless you are buying from a bulk store, the average size at a local market is 12-24 pieces, and the price is kind of high for the amount inside the package.  You are paying, for the convenience, of having the work done for you.





 
20 minutes at 375F.


Another plus, to making it at home, is you can add what you want; press shredded cheese, bacon bits, diced jalapenos, diced onions, or savory seasonings onto the dough, then procced with the wrapping and baking.  The dough is your canvas, now be a culinary artist!  As I have pushed in many of my articles, children at home, get them involved, and they do not have to be little ones.  Get those teenagers and college-aged to learn kitchen skills as well; prep work, creation, completion, and clean up!

 

Summer will be officially beginning soon, and here come all the summery events, parties, picnics and simply having fun in the sun times.  Do not forget the perfect little snack for all those times, pigs in a blanket.

 

Mary Cokenour

 

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Oatmeal Any Time.

Oatmeal has been, well as far as my life time is concerned, been advertised as one of the best foods to have for breakfast.  On its own, oats are low in fat, high in protein and fiber; contain antioxidants that reduce inflammation, and relax arteries which means “heart healthy”. Oats are naturally gluten free, but high in carbohydrates, so folks with blood sugar issues need to watch out for the latter. 

So, I have used the words “oatmeal” and “oats” in the same paragraph, and are they referring to the very same thing?  Sort of.  Typically, when we hear the word “oatmeal”, we picture a steaming bowl of, what was initially called, porridge. This might be eaten as is, or topped with a sweetener such brown sugar, sugar, maple syrup, or even jelly or jam.  Cut up fruits can be added for more flavor, and slightly different texture.  However, oat meal, and oat flour, are processed the same way while meal is coarse in texture, and the flour is a powdered form; both used in cooking and baking recipes.

Historically, China was cultivating oats around 7000 BCE, and its main function was medicinal.  Oats were thought to have the ability to tone, and circulate, “qi” (energy) which calmed spirit, and cleanse blood.  Ancient Chinese texts describe oats as "restorative" to the major organs: lungs, spleen, stomach, heart, large intestine, and kidneys.  Now in ancient Greece and Rome, oats were looked down upon as a weed that stowed away during the transport of wheat and barley.  The oats were grown, but used as cattle feed, since it was “inferior” for human consumption.

It was not, until around 1000 BCE, the Bronze Age, that oats proved to be a reliable crop in cold and wet conditions.  It grew better, than wheat and barley, in Ireland, Scotland, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Poland, and Germany; and the people of these lands needed to feed themselves as well as their cattle.  As tools were being invented, harvesting and processing of grain became easier; so, creating and experimenting with oat flour produced edible breads.

What got me started on this oatmeal journey?  Woke up this morning to a very dark sky and cool breezes coming down from the Abajo mountains, and it smelled of rain. This was the perfect weather for cookie baking as there is nothing like a cool breeze to cool a hot kitchen, and carry the scent of baking cookies throughout the house.  Also, a good time to try out a pioneer recipe for oatmeal bread.

This recipe for oatmeal bread was passed down from Scottish immigrants, and is found in The Pioneer Cookbook, Recipes for Today’s Kitchen by Miriam Barton, page 102. The bread is not as firm as a typical bread, that could be sliced and placed in a toaster; but laid on a baking sheet and toasted in the oven is plausible.  This is a rustic bread with full flavor of the molasses, and sweetness coming from the raisins.  No yeast is involved, so it is a quick and easy recipe to create, and I liked that!  In parenthesis, on the recipe, is what I used to make the bread.


 

Oatmeal Bread

 

Ingredients:

1 and ½ cups of milk (2%)

1 cup rolled oats (old fashioned)

1 cup raisins

1 egg, well beaten (large egg)

¼ cup molasses

2 cups flour (all-purpose)

1 and 1/2Tbsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. butter, melted (unsalted)

 

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 325F.  Lightly butter (non-stick baking spray) a bread pan (loaf pan).  In a small saucepan, heat the milk, but do not let it boil.  Remove from heat and stir in the oats and raisins.  Cool for about 10 minutes, then stir in the egg and molasses.


 

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Gradually stir the sifted mixture into the batter.  Stir in the melted butter.

 

Spread the batter into the prepared bread pan and bake for about one hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

 

Makes one loaf.

 

 

 

 


 


Since I did previously mention cookies, here is a favorite oatmeal cookie recipe of my own creation.  Instead of just raisins though, I add another dried fruit to make it doubly comforting.  

 


Double Fruit Oatmeal Cookies

 

Ingredients:

1 cup softened butter

1 large egg

¾ cup brown sugar

¼ cup sugar

1 and ½ cups all-purpose flour

¼ tsp. salt

¾ tsp. each baking powder and soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

¼ tsp. nutmeg

½ cup each of two dried fruits (raisins, golden raisins, dates, cherries), diced

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 cups Old Fashioned Quaker Oats (or your favorite brand, but do not use instant oats)

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350F. Use nonstick baking sheets, or spray with baking spray (contains flour).

In a large bowl, cream together butter, egg and sugars. In another bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder and soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix dry ingredients into creamed mixture.

Add dried fruits, vanilla and oats; mix thoroughly. Place tablespoons of batter 2-inches apart on baking sheets. Bake 12-15 minutes; until cookies are golden brown; remove to wire baking racks to cool.

Makes 3 dozen.

Enjoy your oatmeal any time, it does not just have to be for breakfast.

...and since I had a couple of very ripe bananas, making banana walnut bread was a bonus!

 Mary Cokenour