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Unrefined, low-glycemic carbohydrates

Posted by culinarydelightsgb on July 7, 2010

Low-glycemic foods

Not all carbohydrate foods behave the same way in our bodies. Each has a different effect on our blood glucose levels.

What are the benefits of the Glycemic index? How can we incorporate more low-glycemic foods in our diet?

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Food Expert Michael Pollan’s Food Rules – Video – Oprah.com

Posted by culinarydelightsgb on January 29, 2010

Food 101 with Michael Pollan, food expert, featured on the Oprah Show

Chicken: Then vs Now

Photo: Food, Inc.

“There’s no more personal choice than what you feed your body, but what do you really know about the food you eat? Fat, carbohydrates and calories are listed on every label, but where that food comes from, what’s been added and what’s been removed isn’t as easy to see.” Oprah.com

How much do you know? Test your knowledge this Food 101 quiz. I got 3 out of 5 questions correct. How about you?

Watch this short,  informative video.

Food Expert Michael Pollan’s Food Rules – Video – Oprah.com.

Here are a few of Michael’s Food Rules:

1: Eat food .

2: Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.

7: Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce.

13: Eat only foods that will eventually rot.

39: Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.

“It’s not that hard to eat well if you’re willing to put a little more time into it, a little more thoughtfulness into it and, yes, a little bit more money,” he says.

Posted in cooking, culture, diet, food, foodie, fruits, video | Leave a Comment »

Feel-good foods for 2009 – Almonds

Posted by culinarydelightsgb on January 24, 2009

Throughout this year I will be posting articles inspired by a list published in the January 2009 issue of Sunset Magazine called “Feel-good foods of 2009.”  It speaks about good eats to incorporate into our diet for a healthier new year. First on the list – Almonds. Here is a brief background, along with nutritional benefits. The bulk of the information will be provided by Practically Edible – “The web’s biggest food encyclopaedia.”

http://www.practicallyedible.com/edible.nsf/list/Almonds?opendocument&keyword=Almonds#almonds

Almond blossom. Taken in Swifts Creek, Victoria in September 2008

Almond blossom. Taken in Swifts Creek, Victoria in September 2008

Almonds are members of the peach family. The tree blossoms in the spring before it grows leaves.

There are two kinds of Almonds, sweet and bitter. An Almond, technically, isn’t a nut — it’s the pit of a fruit related to peaches, plums and apricots. The Almond fruit is small, green and has soft, velvety fuzz on it; the fruit isn’t any good for eating, as it is tough and fibrous.

Sweet Almonds are usually blanched before use as the outer brown skin can in some people irritate their digestive tube. Some ground Almond packages sold may contain ground peach kernels to lessen the cost to the producer. Sweet Almonds are used both in meals and in desserts. If a recipe calls for Almonds, chances are it means Sweet Almonds.

Bitter Almonds are extremely poisonous when raw and untreated; it is illegal to sell them in their natural state in North America, though their sale remains legal in the European Union. Only the oil and extract is sold. Their oil is mixed with hydrous ferrous sulfate, which reacts with the prussic acid in the Bitter Almonds and causes it to form calcium ferrocyanide crystals, which can be filtered out of the oil, making it safe.

Blanched Almonds have the brown skins removed from the nuts. The Almonds are scalded in boiling water, plunged into cold water, then put through rollers that rub the skin off. The nuts are then dried and packaged. Blanched Almonds cost more than unblanched because of the extra processing required, but not much more, and it’s almost always worth paying the extra to save yourself the fiddling at home.

If you are buying unshelled Almonds, ones that rattle a lot inside the shell have shrunk from aging, so you don’t want those.

Even if you have access to Almond trees, it’s not recommended to pick your own unless you truly know that they are sweet Almond trees and not ones that produce the bitter, poisonous Almonds. California now provides 60% of the world’s Almond production. In China, apricot kernels are often used instead of Almonds.

Cooking Tips
If your whole Almonds came with the skin on, or if you had to shell them, to remove the skin pour boiling water over them and let them soak for two minutes. Then drain, and rub the skin off. These are called Blanched Almonds.

To toast Almonds, spread them out on a baking sheet and then place on middle rack of oven preheated to 350F. You can toast slivers, halved or whole Almonds. If toasting sliced or slivered Almonds, watch them very closely as they can burn quite quickly. Toast about 5 minutes, then take out, toss, and return to oven until they are just turning a golden brown, about 15 minutes total, tops. Play close attention to them after about 12 minutes, as they can go from golden to burnt in a flash. Remove from oven, turn out onto a plate and let cool.

Almonds are often eaten on its own, raw or toasted. Along with other nuts, they are often sprinkled over desserts for an added crunch. Sweet almonds are used in marzipan, nougart, French macaroons, Financiers, baklava and other wonderful sweets.

Substitutes
Other nuts or seeds.

Nutrition
Almonds contain as much calcium as milk.

Bitter Almonds, when mixed with water, let off cyanide gas. For this reason, it is illegal to sell them as is in many parts of the world; you are restricted to selling only a treated extract from them.

Sweet almonds contain almost no carbohydrates, so they can be made into flour for cakes and cookies for low-carb diets. Almonds are also rich in Vitamin E and monounsaturated fat. Recent research shows that including almonds in the diet elevates the blood levels of high density lipoproteins (HDL) and lowered levels of low density lipoproteins (LDL).

Equivalents
1 pound unshelled Almonds = 1 to 1 1/4 cups shelled = 5 to 6 oz shelled = 150 -170g shelled
1 pound shelled Almonds = 450g shelled Almonds = 3 cups whole or halved = 3 1/3 cups chopped = 4 cups slivered or sliced

Storage
Packaged Almonds can be stored at room temperature for up to two years; even longer if refrigerated right from the start. Once opened, refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 3 months. If your Almonds turn yellowish, taste one: they may be getting quite old and rancid, in which case offer them to your neighbourhood birds or squirrels. Toasted Almonds can be frozen for up to 6 months.

History
The Almond tree is a native of western Asia and North Africa. Almonds were grown in ancient Egypt, and in Israel: they are mentioned in the Old Testament. The Greeks and Romans both grew Almonds and made oil from them. A Greek myth has the gods changing a disconsolate woman (Phyllis) into an Almond tree (probably the bitter kind). The Romans introduced the Almond tree into England during their settlement there.

Almonds
Mixed blanched almonds
– © Denzil Green

The Romans and Greeks believed that Bitter Almonds helped prevent you from becoming drunk, and this belief carried through the middle ages. This theory (noted by the writer Plutarch) may have led to the now out-of-fashion practice of serving salted Almonds with dinner.

Almonds have been found at Pompeii and under the Knossos palace in Crete.

During the Middle Ages, Almonds were an important trade commodity — Almond Milk was used in a great deal of cooking. It wasn’t until about 1562 that people in England began deliberately growing Almond trees, largely as garden plants for their blossoms. Yet Almonds were widely known. At the time of Shakespeare, “An Almond for a parrot” meant the height of temptation, perhaps bad temptation, as they must have noted that Bitter Almonds were not good for birdies.

Almond trees were brought to Spain and Portugal by the Moors; Spanish monks brought Almond trees to California.

Literature & Lore
Almond < Almande (Old English) < amande (French) < amandela (Latin) < amygdalus (Greek)

And it came to pass, that on the morrow Moses went into the tabernacle of witness; and, behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded Almonds. Numbers 17:8

Would I could meet that rogue Diomed! I would croak like a raven; I would bode, I would bode. Patroclus will give me any thing for the intelligence of this whore: the parrot will not do more for an Almond than he for a commodious drab. Thersites. Troilus and Cressida, V, 2. Shakespeare.

Also called: Prunus dulcis (Scientific Name) Amande (French) Mandel (German) Mandorla (Italian) Almendra (Spanish) Amêndoa (Portuguese) Badam (Indian)

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A County in China Sees Its Fortunes in Tea Leaves Until a Bubble Bursts

Posted by culinarydelightsgb on January 22, 2009

An article written in the NY Times January 16, 2009 speaks about the collapse of southwest China’s Pu’er tea market.

Visit article here.

Tea factory in Menghai County

Tea factory in Menghai County

Pu’er is an fermented tea touted as having the ability to reduce cholesterol and cure hangovers, as well as having a number of other health benefits. From 1999 to 2007, its price increased tenfold befold sinking well below its pre-boom numbers. It has been a lesson in gullibility, greed and the risks of speculative trading. A group of manipulative tea buyers and connoisseurs took over the market and drove the prices to astronomical levels, sometimes paying up to 30% more for the “drinkable gold” than in the previous year. When the stock values hit record levels last spring, the buyers unloaded them, took the money and disappeared.

Menghai County farmers were among the worst hit by this crash, many having never experienced the level of success and prosperity available in other cities in China. They built new homes, equipped with t.v.s and refrigerators; and sent their children away to good schools. They bought cars and designer-label clothes.

Chen Li, a trader who jumped into the business three years ago, now survives by offsetting his losses with profits from a restaurant his family owns in Alabama. He does remain one of the few optimists in town. He’s confident that Pu’er’s prices will eventually rebound now that so many farmers have stopped picking.  And the mounds of unsold tea that nearly engulf him?

“The best thing about Pu’er,” he said with a showman’s smile, “is that the longer you keep it, the more valuable it gets.”

Do you share Mr. Chen’s optimism?

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Tea and its Place in Jamaican Society

Posted by culinarydelightsgb on August 26, 2007

Tea and its Place in Jamaican Society

Tea is made from the leaves and buds of the Camellia sinensis plant, which is an evergreen tropical shrub. It is native to mainland Asia but is now cultivated worldwide in tropical and subtropical regions. The seeds can be pressed for tea oil, which is a seasoning and cooking oil. Fresh leaves from the camellia sinensis plant contain about 4% caffeine; the young leaves are more desirable for tea production.

Tea tree plant

There are generally four types of tea – black, white, green and oolong. These are all harvested from the same plant, but are processed differently to achieve different levels of oxidation.

Black Tea

Black tea is more oxidized than white, green and oolong teas. It has a stronger flavor and more caffeine than the other varieties. In Chinese and some other languages, black tea is known as red tea, which perhaps better describes the color of the beverage. In the western world, red tea refers to the South African rooibus herbal tea.

Assam tea

Black tea can retain its flavor for many years, unlike green tea, for example, which usually loses its flavor within a year. Varieties include Keemun (China), Darjeeling (India), Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and Earl Grey (blended with bergamot oil – common in the United Kingdom).

White Tea

White tea is made from the new buds and young leaves of the tea plant. Oxidation is deactivated by shocking it with heat, then drying. Since this variety of tea contains buds as well as leaves, the dried product has a pale appearance.

White tea

Due to the lack of oxidation, white tea retains high concentration of catechins, an antioxidant found to reduce the risk of stroke, heart failure, cancer and diabetes. Buds and young leaves have also been found to contain higher levels of caffeine than older leaves, which would suggest that some white teas may have higher caffeine levels than green teas. Varieties include Bai Hao Yinzhen (China), White Puerh (China), Ceylon White (Sri Lanka), and Assam White (India).

Green Tea

Called a “true” tea, green tea has undergone minimal oxidation during processing. It has a yellowish-green color and a bitter flavor. Green tea is popular in China, Japan, Korea, Pakistan, Morocco, and the Middle East among other countries. Recently this trend has extended to the West.

Green tea

Varieties include Longjing (China), Gyokuro (Japan) and Matcha (Japan).

Oolong Tea

This is a traditional Chinese tea, also known as wu-long. With an oxidation range from 10% to 70%, it’s somewhere between green and black tea. Oolong has a flavor more like green tea, with a more nuanced profile: it doesn’t have the flowery aroma of black tea, or the sometimes grassy notes of green tea. The leaves are often processed then rolled into long, curly leaves or into ball form.

Oolong tea

Varieties include Da Hong Pao (China), Huang Jin Gui (China), and Pouchong (Taiwan).

Jamaican Connection – A Brief History

Jamaica, an island nation in the Caribbean, was originally populated by Arawak Indians. Christopher Columbus claimed the island for Spain upon his arrival on May 5, 1494. Spain eventually relinquished its claim in 1670 to England, which had claimed it in a raid. Jamaica gained independence on August 6, 1962 but has remained a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, a voluntary association of former British colonies/possessions.

Through many years of colonization, the Jamaican cuisine took on many of the habits and traditions of the British. The most obvious is consumption of tea. Jamaicans drink the most tea per capita in the Caribbean to this day as a result. Of the four main types of tea, black tea is the preference of most Jamaicans.

Herbal teas, often referred to as “bush teas”, are believed to be good for you, and are held in high regard. The most popular of these bush teas is cerasse tea, thought to be able to prevent and cure everything from colds and flu to headaches and bellyaches. Although hailed as a blood cleanser and sugar controller for people with diabetes, it is feared by everyone for its ghastly bitter taste. Other popular herbal teas include black mint, peppermint, fever grass, ginger, lime leaf, and bizzy or bizzy nut.

Of course, there is much more information to this topic than I can cover here, but I would love to hear from you. Especially if you’re from Jamaica or anywhere else in the Caribbean, what’s your favourite tea? How do you like it – sugar, milk, black? Which tea do you absolutely hate 🙂 ?

 

References:

Wikipedia: http://www.wikipedia.com

United Kingdom Tea Council: www.tea.co.uk/

Lori-Ann Thompson is the owner of Culinary Delights Gourmet Baskets, a gift basket service in Florida. She has been certified in the Culinary Arts and has worked in the field for a number of years. Visit her site at www.culinarydelightsgourmetbaskets.com and see what’s new.

Posted in culture, food, tea | 2 Comments »