Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Fish…The Why

 

Fish is a great source of the important vitamins—such as…

Vitamins

  • B-complex vitamins—niacin, B12, B6…which have been associated with healthy development of the nervous system
  • Vitamin A…which is needed for healthy vision as well as for healthy skin
  • Vitamin D…which is essential in the calcium absorption needed for bone health and growth

Minerals

  • Calcium…which is needed for bone development.
  • Iodine…which helps maintain thyroid gland function
  • Iron…which is important in red blood cell production
  • Zinc…which is needed for cell growth and immune system health

Omega-3s which…

  • alleviate the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
  • halt mental decline in older people
  • help ease movement by the body, reduce your risk of heart disease, and strengthen the mind
  • reduce depression, the risk of heart disease, and tissue inflammation
  • regulate blood flow
  • keep our heart and brain healthy

In fact, the healthiest fish are those that contain the most omega-3—such as salmon, trout, sardines, tuna steak, mackerel, and herring.

Fish has been shown to have all sorts of awesome benefits for you as far as health goes…

So let’s find out the facts about how fish can make a difference to your health…

 

 

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Brain

Eating fish regularly can keep you smarter, longer…keeping your brain from slowing down as fast as it would had you not been eating fish regularly.

Fish does this by helping you maintain the grey matter in the brain, the tissue in our brains that contain the neurons in charge of processing information, storing memories, and regulating emotion and memory,

This will lower your chance of getting such brain malfunctions as Alzheimer’s disease.

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Depression

The omega 3 fatty acids found in fish can help improve symptoms of depression and increase the effectiveness of antidepressant medications.

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Heart

 

Fish is also great for your heart and circulatory system. In fact, eating fish regularly can reduce your risk of heart attacks, strokes, and death from heart disease by 36% by…

    • decreasing your risk of abnormal heartbeats
    • helping to lower  “bad,” cholesterol levels
    • improving blood vessel function
    • lowering cholesterol-building lipids in the blood
    • lowering triglycerides
    • lowering your blood pressure
    • lowering your heart rate
    • slowing down the growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque

 

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Insomnia

Eating fatty fish—such as salmon and herring—can improve both sleep and daily functioning because of its vitamin D content. One serving of cooked salmon contains the recommended amount of intake of vitamin D per week.

 

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Vision

Finally, eating fish regularly can help you maintain your vision by strengthening the retina…which in turn prevents age-related macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of vision impairment and blindness among people age 50 and older, by as much as 53%.

 

….The American Heart Association also recommends increasing the intake of Omega-3 through diet with food rather than supplements

….The American Heart Association also recommends increasing the intake of Omega-3 through diet with food rather than supplements

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect Eggplant Parmesan

top view photo of vegetables
Photo by John Lambeth on Pexels.com

The perfect Eggplant Parmesan boasts of perfectly cooked eggplant slices perfectly layered with the perfect amounts of mozzarella, Parmesan, basil, and tomato sauce….the ultimate comfort food of Italian cuisine…wonderfully cheesy and tomato-y without weighing you down with too much water or oil.

 

 

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Ingredients

2 large eggplants

1tsp salt

1/4C olive oil

1tsp minced garlic

28oz diced tomatoes

1-1/4C grated Parmesan cheese

1½C flour

4 eggs

1-1/2# mozzarella

1 large red onion, chopped

½tsp crushed red pepper flakes

¼C finely chopped basil leaves

3C panko breadcrumbs

1 tsp pepper

1Tbsp Italian seasoning

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Prep Work

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

 

 

 

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Getting Started

Heat 1Tbsp olive oil in a saucepan on medium heat.

Add the minced garlic, basil, tomatoes, salt, and pepper.

Simmer for 15 minutes,.

Remove from heat.

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Prepping the Eggplant

 

 

 

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Cooking the Eggplant

Mist the tops of the eggplant with some olive oil or cooking spray.

Place eggplant slices in the oven. Cook 20 minutes at 425°F, turning the slices over at the half-way point…until nicely browned.

Remove from oven.

Let cool to touch.

 

Once baked or fried, lay the cooked,  lay the slices on wire cooling racks. This will keep your eggplant from getting as soggy.

 

 

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Breading the Eggplant

Set up three  bowls===one for the flour, another one for the egg, and a third one for the breadcrumb mixture.

Pour flour into the first bowl.

Whisk the eggs until smooth. Place in the second bowl.

Stir together the breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, 1tsp salt, and Parmesan cheese in the third bowl.

Let the bowls sit out while you are waiting for your eggplant to absorb the salt.

Working one at a time dredge the eggplant slices first in the flour, then dip in the beaten eggs, and then dredge in the breadcrumb parmesan cheese mixture.

Set on a parchment-covered baking sheet.

Repeat with the remaining eggplant slices.

More information about the breading process can be found in my previous post…Dreading the Breading.

 

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Layering the Dish

Spread 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce over the bottom of a 9×13 pan.

Place a third of the eggplant rounds in a single layer over the sauce on the bottom of the pan.

Repeat this process three times…kinda like making lasagna.

Sprinkle the top of the dish with the cheese.

 

 

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Baking the Dish

Cover with foil.

Bake on a rimmed baking sheet for about twenty minutes…until the cheese is bubbly and brown on top.

Remove from oven.

Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve hot, topped with more chopped fresh basil.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect Baked Eggplant

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Eggplant…The How

Eggplant has slightly bitter flavor and spongy texture that many people say that they don’t care for, but how many of these people have had eggplant dishes that have been prepared so that the eggplant becomes tender when cooked and develops a rich, complex flavor…so that the eggplant absorbs cooking fats and sauces to enhance its flavor.

Eggplant can be cooked many different ways, including…

  • baking
  • barbecuing
  • currying
  • deep frying
  • grilling
  • pan frying
  • pickling
  • roasting
  • steaming
  • stewing
  • stir-frying

We have already discussed several of these cooking methods in previous posts…such as this posts about Facts to Never Forget about Frying Foods and Pan-Frying 10

In the next few posts we will be looking at the other cooking methods mentioned above as well as some recipes using eggplant….recipes including\ Eggplant Parmesan and Ratatouille.

But before you can make any of these dishes, you must obviously have an eggplant, right?!

When choosing an eggplant, look for one that is firm and somewhat heavy for its size…with smooth, glossy skin and an intense purple color….stay away from any eggplants that are withered, bruised, or discolored.

Once you get your eggplant home, stick it in the refrigerator until ready to use it.

And before you start cooking with eggplant, there are two important facts to remember.

First of all, you need to remove any bitter taste from the eggplant that you can. You can do this by first washing the eggplant, trimming off the green end, and perhaps peeling the skin. This will keep your eggplant from being as bitter and also will keep the eggplant from absorbing too much oil as it is being cooked.

Then slice the eggplant into 1/2″ disks and set them in a colander or on a cooling rack set over baking sheet, sprinkle with salt, and let sit for at least 30 minutes. This process is known as “sweating.” Before you start cooking, remove any moisture from the surface of the eggplant,

Another way to keep the eggplant from being so bitter and to help the eggplant maintain its shape as it is being cooked is to soak the eggplant in salt water. This process is called “brining,”

Also always use only a stainless steel knife to cut your eggplant. This will keep the eggplant from turning black.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Eggplant…The What

Eggplant has had an interesting part in folklore around the world for many centuries,. For example, eggplant in India, the eggplant was believed to cause people to go insane….yet according to the Kama Sutra eggplant is erotically stimulating when rubbed onto the penis…male organ. or whatever yuou wanna call it, so much so that is causes a month-long erection.

The poor eggplant was also accused of causing health problems—such as liver problems, inflammations of the mouth, leprosy, fever, headaches, and even cancer. 

As far as to whether eggplant is a vegetable or fruit…kinda like with the tomato….it’s actually neither.

Technically eggplant is a berry…but at the same time as being a berry, it is also related to the tomato and potato…which makes it even more confusing.

Eggplant has a spongy, absorbent that makes it the perfect base for all sorts of dishes from all sorts of different cuisines around the world….(more on this later)…

As far as how eggplants are grown, they are tropical plants with a typically spiny stem, large leaves that can grow to eight inches,  and white or purple flower that grow up to four feet tall.

And when you think about eggplants, you probably picture this glossy purple long and egg-shaped thing…

But actually eggplants, like we learned with just like we learned with pumpkins, can be a variety of sizes and shapes and colors, including…

  • black…as the Burpee Hybrid
  • dark purple…the typical eggplant…which is a long football shaped vegetable that is about…that can range anywhere from 4 12″–10″ long and 2 123 1wide
  • green with white stripes,,,Louisiana Lon Green
  • multicolored…such as white at the stem and then bright pink, deep purple or even black on the actual vegetable
  • orange and the size of Ping-Pong balls
  • purple…ranging from faint purple-pink to reddish-purple and dark purple
  • white…smaller and egg-sized…also known as Easter white eggplants, garden eggs, Casper or white eggplant
  • yellow and round

So let’s start looking at why how to add eggplant to New Year health resolutions..

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Dark Chocolate…The How

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Dark Chocolate…The Why

Dark chocolate, especially any 70% dark chocolate or higher, contains many nutrients—such as antioxidants, fiber, potassium, calcium, copper, iron, zinc, and magnesium that may help lower your risk of heart disease, reduce inflammation and insulin resistance, and improve brain function, alleviate stress, and lower your risk of diabetes.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Dark Chocolate…The What

In our quest to add more antioxidants to our diet, we havec talked about alfalfa sprouts… blackberries…broccoli…and corn…

…all of which may not seem very appoealing…

But there is one source of antioxidants that we can probably all warm up to…

Chocolate…

Specifically dark chocolate…

People have been enjoying chocolate for about four thousand years…starting in Central America by the Mayan population who enjoyed the chocolate as a fermented beverage that was mixed with spices or wine and had a bitter taste. These people used the chocolate beverage for ceremonial and medicinal purposes.

Chocolate was brought back to Europe from these groups of people in the early 1500s by Spanish explorers…and the Europeans soon started adding honey and cane sugar to to make the bitter chocolate sweeter.

.But where does chocolate come from?

Actually chocolate is deived from the the seeds of a cacao pod….which are fermented, dried, and roasted. After this process the shells of the beans are separated from the inside of the cocoa bean and then ground into a liquid called chocolate liquor…which is then processed further to produce cocoa solids.

There are basically three different types of chocolate…

  • Milk Chocolate
  • White Chocolate
  • Dark Chocolate

All chocolate contains the chocolate liquor mentioned above…as well as perhaps additional cocoa butter, sugar, lecithin, and flavoring…what makes them different is the milk content.

Milk chocolate contains 10-50% cocoa solids,

White chocolate does not contain any cocoa solids at all and simply consists of cocoa butter, sugar, and milk.

Dark chocolate usually refers to chocolate that doesn’t contain milk.

For decades most people ate only milk chocolate…but as dark chocolate has been noted as having health benefits. this decadent and delicious treat has become more mainstream.

Speaking of the health benefits of dark chocolate, let’s take a closer look…

Feathering the Nest, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect Corn Smoothie

Combine all ingredients in a blender jar. Blend for thirty seconds or until all of the ingredients are fully incorporated and the smoothie is perfectly smooth.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect Chili

The perfect chili will depend on your own person preferences…beans, not beans…beef of chicken…plain or served as chili dogs… burgers topped with chili… (usually without beans)….chili fries…chili mac…or Frito pie and flavored to perfection…(more on this later)…

As we all probably know by now, especially if you live in Texas, chili is a type of spicy stew that not only is great to serve alone…or as

And speaking of chili, chilii made in New York City may taste good…and chili made in Texas may be better…the best chili is made in your own kitchen because you are the boss, and you can choose what ingredients you actually like best, not what somebody thinks you’ll like.

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THE INGREDIENTS

The recipe that you actually end up using for your chili will probably vary from one person to the next…based on where you live and what you actually want to be in your chili…(such as beans or no beans)

Since the perfect chili is a matter of person preference, instead of simply giving you one single recipes for the perfect chili, let’s consider some of the ingredients that you could use in chili…so that you can tweak the recipe until you find the perfect chili that is perfectly perfect for you and your family.

 

 

 

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THE MEAT

Beef…Most of us like our chili to be good and hearty…probab ly stockpiled with lots of meat…chili con carne…as most of us already know, you can always substitute ground turkey for the ground beef.

Chicken,,,one of my favorite meals is white chicken chili…kinda like my favorite lasagna contains white sauce and chicken…instead of the typicaxl ground beef and red saucer.

No Meat…my daughter has decided to embrace the vegetarian era…meaning that I often have to disappointment my Mississippi husband by making meals that do nit contain any meat…

Pork…Chili can also be made with pork…such as chili verde…a ‘green chili that is made from chunks of pork.

 

 

 

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THE PEPPERS

Chili peppers, often in the form of chili powder…which we will talk about later)…is commonly used to spice up your chili.

What makes chili peppers so hot is an ingredient called Capsaicin, the same stuff that’s used to make pepper spray, many pain relief creams, insect-repellentproducts…(yum)…

 

Remember that the white part of the pepper is where most of this capsaicin…especially the seeds.

Five types of  chili peppers rhat you can consider using are…

  • Bell pepper
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Habanero pepper
  • Jalapeno pepper
  • Poblano pepper
  • Serrano pepper
  • Thai prepper
  • Wax pepper

As far as if the word is actually “chili” or “chile,” there is no clearcut answer. “Chili ” is typically what most of us call it here in the US, but “Chile” is the the word more often used in Mexico and several other Latin American countries.

Other people prefer to use the word “chile” whenever referring to the pepper, and chili to talk about the stew.

 

 

 

 

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THE VEGETABLES

Vegetables, other than tomatoes, can also be good ingredients in your chili—vegetables such as mushrooms, zucchini, corn, squash, and beets…which is why I thought I could get by with a chili recipe while talking about the raw food pyramid, while talking about leafy greens, while talking about smoothies, while talking about antioxidants…if that made any sense)…

 

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THE  BEANS

The use of beans in chili has been debated for a very, very long time…especially here in Texas.

In fact the society that “governs” most of the chili cookoffs so populat around America have banned the use of beans in their cook-offs.

Here in Texas. supposedly we eat our chili without beans…(sorry…that doesn[t include me…I like my chili as heartless…I mean hearty…as possible).

While everyone else supposedly like their chili with beans, any type of bean—including

  • black beans
  • blacked-eyed peas
  • great Northern beans
  • kidney beans
  • navy beans
  • pinto beans
  • white beans

As far as chili beans, these are actually pinto or kidney beans that have already been spiced…which will obviously change the taste of the chili from what it would have been if you had used them by themselves.

When using beans, be sure to rinse them first to to remove the extra salt and starches.

 

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THE TOMATOES

 

The use of tomatoes…just like the use of beans…whenever making chili has been a topic of debate for a very, very lnog time.

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THE SPICES

What actually makes chili chili…at least to me…is the spices that you add…

Without the perfect blend of spices, you simply have another meat dish that contains tomatoes, vegetables, and perhaps beans…

NOT chili!!!

The spices that you use are what give chili its complex flavor.

Recipes exist with all sorts of different spice blends to flavor the chili….but the four most common spices are when making chili are…

  • chili powder
  • cumin
  • oregano
  • paprika
  • Other spices that I’ve seen in chili recipes include cayenne pepper, cinnamon,  dry mustard, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and onion powder.

Any by the way, chili powder is not actually a spice in and of itself…and you can make your own without making a special trip to gT

 

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THE TOPPINGS

Toppings that you can add to your chili once it’s finished cooking include…

  • Cheese—such as Monterey Jack, cheddar
  • Cilantro
  • Crackers—such as saltine crackers or oyster crackers
  • Croutons
  • Diced avocado
  • Diced red or green onion
  • Jalapenos
  • Lime wedges
  • Sliced green onions
  • Sour cream
  • Tortilla chips
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THE MENU

Foods that go great when served with chili include cornbread,  tortillas, tamales, rice, and pasta.

 

 

 

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THE RECIPE

Meat

  • 2# ground beef or turkey

Vegetables

  • 1/2 large white onion, chopped

  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 green bell pepper seeded and diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion -diced
  • 1 jalapeno seeded and finely diced

Spices

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder…OR…2Tbsp cumin, 1/4tsp cayenne pepper -optional, 1tsp oregano, 1/2tsp paprika
  • 2Tbsp sugar or brown sugar
  • 1Tbsp garlic powder or 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 1/2tsp salt
  • 1/2tsp pepper

Tomatoes

  • 2Tbsp tomato paste…OR…8oz tomato sauce
  • 28oz diced tomatoes with juic

Beans

  • 19 oz kidney beans canned, drained & rinsed

Other

  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth…OR…beer
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Toppings as desired

Cook for 6-7 minutes.

Just thought that I would throw that in there before you smart making chili for tonight’s dinner…it would be much better if you make it today and serve it tomorrow.

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes.

Add the onion. Cook five minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the beef, onions, garlic and some of the chili powder…cook for about seven minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.

Drain any fat.

Add remaining ingredients…making sure to stir until well combined.

Bring the liquid to a boil.

Reduce the heat to low or medium-low.

Simmer uncovered for at least twenty minutes….again stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon…the lower your cooking temperature and the longer you cook your chili, the more flavorful it will be.

Simmering you chili uncovered will allow the chili to naturally thicken without having to add cornstarch or flour.

Remove the pot from the heat. Let the chili rest for at least five minutes before serving.

Top with cheddar cheese, green onions, cilantro or other favorite toppings.

Leftovers…assuming there are any…will last from three to five days.

Freezing Chili…Chili can be frozen either in single sized portions for lunches or in freezer bags for a quick and easy weeknight meal.

Remember…If all else fails, you can always run back to Kroger or Albertson’s or Tom Thumb…or order from Instacart…to get some canned chili…people have been doing this since 1908 when chili first started being canned and sold in New Braufels, Texas…