Creating a Home, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

The Peking Order of Chinese Regional Cuisine

Every now and then I like to step back and look forward to “What’s Next”…This is one of those posts…

Lately we have been talking about the different cooking methods—specifically sauteeing and stirfrying…

 

 

But before we leave the topic of stirfrying and move on to other cooking methods, I thought that it might be a good time to step back and learn about the “Eight Culinary Traditions” of China.

These are the different cuisines that are found in different provinces of China

These cuisines distinguish the unique flavors of the different regions of the country that vary because of factors such as…

  • agricultural structures
  • availability of resources
  • climate
  • cooking methods
  • cooking techniques
  • eating habits
  • geography, such as the riverlands of the South and mountain ranges of the North
  • history
  • ingredients
  • lifestyle
  • seasoning
  • staple crops grown in each specific region
  • terrain

 

For example, Northern cuisine seems to have more of a preferencfr for salt and noodles. Whereas Southern cuisine seems to have more of a preference for sweetness and rice. Eastern cuisine seems to have more of a preference for spiciness…and Western cuisine has more of a preference for acidity.

 

 

Even though these eight cuisines are considered the most commonly accepted categories of Chinese cuisine, they only represent about a fourth of Chinese cuisine.

 

So let’s take a look at the following regional cuisines, so that whether you’re loading up your plate at the local all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet or cooking healthy meals in your brand new wok at home, you will actually know the difference between Hunan chicken and Sichual porl…(other than the fact that one consists of chicken and one consists of pork, obviously)…

Now for the “bona fide” list…

  1. Anhui
  2. Fujian
  3. Guangdong
  4. Hunan
  5. Jiangsu
  6. Shandong
  7. Sichuan
  8. Zhejiang

 

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Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Black is Beautiful

Once you’ve chosen your new wok…or like most of us these days, had it delivered off Amazon, you may be tempted to rush to the nearest Half-Price Books, buy the biggest Chinese cookbook that you can find, and start cooking Chinese as devotely as Julie in the move Julie and Julia…

But wait…

‘Tis the season…

And the season is so very important that you don’t want to miss it.

 

 

So what is the season…and why is it so darn important?!

 

Your brand new wok will most likely have been coated with oil when it was being made in the factory. Manufacturers do this to protect the metal and keep it from rusting or tarnishing in the store before being sold.

Your goal is actually to turn your nice, shiny, and new wok into an even more beautiful*?!) black, nonstick wok with a patina that makes for excellent stir-fry..

So exactly why do you need to season your wok before you start making gourmet meals…and how do you go about it?

 

First the WHY…

Seasoning your new wok will not only removes any metallic taste and the preservative oil manufacturers place on it, but also prevents rust.

Seasoning supposedly also gives you a chance to get acquainted with your wok…

  • how heavy it is
  • how it responds to you
  • how to clean it
  • how to hold it

 

Seasoning your wok properly is so very important because if seasoning is not done properly, your food will probably stick to the pan.

 

 

So now for the HOW

  • Turn the stove burner on as high as it will go.
  • Set your wok on the burner for about a minute,
  • Now take the wok off the heat, Add 2Tbsp  oil,  swirling the pan around to make sure that the bottom and sides are coated.
  • Put the wok back on the heat.
  • Add 1 bunch chopped scallions and 1/2C sliced unpeeled ginger.
  • Reduce the heat to medium,
  • Stir-fry for about twenty minutes.
  • Smear the aromatics up the sides of the wok all the way to the edgem adding more oil if needed
  • Remove the wok from heat,
  • Once the wok has cooled down. rinse the wok with hot water
  • Finally heat the wok over low heat for a couple of minutes.

Even though you have taken all this time to season your wok, time to time you may find from that your wok has become “gummy” and rust spots have started to form. If this is the case, heat the pan as you did before, rub 1-1/2tsp oil and 1Tbsp kosher salt into the wok, and dry completely with a pad made from three layers of paper towels,

 

Cleaning Your Wok

To clean your wok after using, rinse with a soft sponge, dish soap optional…(depends on how much of a germophobe you are…but many chefs recommend avoiding soap). Never use metal utensils or scrubbers to clean your wok because this will weaken the coating.

Dry it off.

Once you have finished drying it off, heat the wok on the stove at a low setting for about a minute in order to evaporate any remaining water.

Now rub in a dab of oil before on the wok before storing. This cost of oil will help to seal any pits in the metal and keeps the surface non-stick.

If something is sticking to the pan that you can’t get off this way, add a dash of salt and scrub it gently with a paper towel..

 

Using Your Wok…After you have been using your wok for a while, you will find that the interior has changed from that shiny silver color that it had when you brought it home from the store to either a brownish, or even a black color.

Don’t worry…you have not ruined your pan.

Black is beautiful.

This is actually what you have been ultimately waiting for.

This permanent black patina makes sure that you have a flavorful meal each time you cook.

 

 

Cooking with Your New Wok

  1. Make sure your wok is very hot before adding your ingredients. There should actually be smoke rising from it.
  2. Now add oil to the pan before adding your ingredients.
  3. Be sure to spread the ingredients evenly and along the sides of the pan
  4. As your ingredients are cooking, only stir them as needed to prevent burning.  while cooking.
  5. Cook your food in batches. Overcrowding them may save you time, but will not be worth it in the long run.

 

Finally for a few more words of wisdom…

  • Hold off on using your wok to steam, boil, or poach.
  • Avoid cooking with any acidic foods—such as tomatoes, vinegar, and lemons—because acidic foods can damage the delicate surface of the wok.
  • And it probably goes without saying to be cautious when using a hot stove, especially when hot oil.
Sweet, Sweet Sunday

This Blog is About Raw Foods and Diabetes…Yet You’re Gonna Tell Me to Fry Something?

Lately I have been debating whether I should go back to the Raw Foods
pyramid and brutally torture its believers by taking a look at the various cooking methods that we can use to violate that tower.

But I have decided that right now learning about all of the different cooking methods at one time would make it much easier in the future as we start looking at ingredients.

That way, if I tell you to saute or to fry something, you will know that there actually is a difference between the two…and what you should be doing…

So let’s look at the next dry cooking method…the one that is the favorite of Southern chefs, not to mention their husbands…

FRYING…

But frying is sacred ground to Southerners…and a scary territory for diabetics.

So let’s first consider why frying foods has gotten such a bad name?

Then let’s find out what we can do about making our fried foods healthier—okay, maybe not the fried Snickers bars and other Texas State Fair icons…

So…exactly why are fried foods bad for you?

Let’s state the obvious…

When foods are fried in oil, that oil is absorbed into every available nook, cranny, and crevice of whatever is being cooked, meaning that deep frying anything in oil will obviously add a lot of calories and way more fat and calories than those same foods had they not been fried…

For example…

  • Wendy’s large baked potato contains 278 calories and 0.4g fat
  • Wendy’s large French fries contains 420 calories and 20g fat

But have you ever realized that all that deep fried greasy food could eventually lead to…

  • Alzheimer’s
  • autoimmune disease
  • cancer
  • hardening of the arteries
  • heart attacks
  • heart disease
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol levels
  • inflammation
  • insulin resistance
  • malfunctioning of the human brain
  • obesity
  • stroke
  • type 2 diabetes

Knowing now that those who eat four to six servings of fried food per week are 39% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who eat it less than once a week may have made a lifestyle change back in our 20’s so that my husband’s not having to now take insulin shots, like almost every Southern male in America.

So not getting on those scales ever again…Almost goes without saying that those who eat fried foods more regularly are most likely to be overweight or obese. In fact, those of us who eat fried food more than four times a week have a 37% greater risk of being overweight or obese than those who eat it less than twice a week.

Another reason to avoid fried foods…Not only can eating fried foods make you gain weight because…well, because, they’re fried foods, and that’s what fried food does to you….but fried foods can also affect the hormones that regulate appetite and fat storage.

Frying Doesn’t Always Have to Mean Nutritional “Mush”

Grabbing fries from the closest drive-thru and chowing down on some “food” that is honestly nothing but “empty calories” that has lost any and all of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that its original ingredients may have contained. 

Yet we are learning about the different cooking methods here, and frying is one of the most frequently used cooking method.

So let’s learn to fry not only the “right” way, but a “healthy” way that leaves us with a nutritious and tasteful dish that doesn’t have to be smothered with lots and lots of ketchup.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Don’t Just Gaze…When You Could Deglaze

Now that you have finished sauteeing whatever it is that you are sauteeing, you will find that your skillet has little bits of brown stuff still stuck to the bottom.

Your first thought as you gaze at this skillet that you dread cleaning is that you now have to get out a Brillo and clean the darn thing…all the time wondering if you’re gonna scratch the new skillet that you just forked over how much for…

But wait…

There is a way not only to make cleaning this skillet easier, but also to use these bits to make your food taste even better.

What you find stuck on your skillet is actually a mixture of browned sugars, carbohydrates, proteins, and rendered fat that have collected on the bottom of the pan.

This caramelized “mess,” which the French call sucs, is actually packed with flavor and will only require some sort of liquid—such as wine, stock, or juice—to become something quite delicious.

How do I do that?

The way that you make this stuff actually taste good, not to mention cleaning your skillet is deglazing.

Deglazing transforms this messy residue into a delicious gravy or sauce that can be served with the food that you finished sauteeing or used to flavor sauces, soups, and gravies.

This will add an additional rich flavour to the dish, capture the food’s flavor that is lost during cooking, and tenderize the foods that have so often become dry as you have sautéed them.

So how do you deglaze?

First transfer whatever you have just cooked onto a platter and cover so that it stays warm while you are deglazing the skillet.

Next add a liquid—such as wine, beer, stock, wine, juice, or both—and any desired fresh herbs to the hot pan. Add enough liquid to make twice the amount of sauce you want to make.

The flavor of your sauce or gravy will ultimately be determined by the following three things…

  • the key ingredient
  • the liquid used for deglazing
  • any flavoring or finishing ingredients that you add—such as aromatics, herbs, or butter

Raise the heat to high. Bring to a boil, and gently boil gently until the sauce is reduced to the desired consistency, stirring to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan and make them dissolve into the sauce.

Cook until the there seems to be half as much liquid as you started with.

Taste the sauce until you get the flavor that you like.

If you need to thicken your sauce or gravy so that you get a richer and more concentrated sauce or gravy, add some flour, cornstarch, or arrowroot…or simply simmer some more.

You could also add a tablespoon of whipping cream, olive oil, or butter to add even more flavor, give it a velvety texture, and thicken the sauce.

And there you go—not only a cleaner skillet that will be easier to wash, but also a delicious something extra to serve with whatever you had just sautéed…

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Best Cooking Oils to Use for Diabetics

  • The next step in our learning how to saute food is choosing which oil we would like to cook in.
  • There are at least a dozen choices out there…each of which not only affects the final taste of your food, but also your health—even more so as a diabetic.
  • Let’s take a look at some of these choices, starting with the most commonly used—or at least the most commonly used cooking oil in my own house—olive oil. 

————————————————————————-

Olive Oil

The What

  • Most of us think that about huge bottle of olive oil that we hide under the sink with the other bottles—such as rum and vodka—that we might want to have close at hand.
  • And most of us think that olive oil is olive oil—never having any variety as far as flavor–ranging in flavor from fruity to peppery,, viscosity, and color.
  • Some of the olive oils found around the world that can make you change your mind about all olive oil’s tasting the same include…
  • Badia, ..a great, inexpensive well-rounded olive oil from Spain, found in many supermarkets.
  • Ravida…a brightly-colored green Italian olive oil with a pungent taste that stands up well to the robust flavor of Sicilian cooking
  • Terra Medi…a smooth, well-rounded, and not too heavy olibr oil from Greece
  • Unió…a mild and fruity olive oil from Spain with a soft peppery finish

The Why

  • Olive oil is considered by many to be the healthiest of all the cooking oils, mainly for helping to reduce the risks of heart-related conditions.
  • As far as diabetics are concerned, olive oil is a good choice because olive oil helps improve the sensitivity of the body towards insulin.
  • Olive oil is also rich in antioxidants and monounsaturated fats.

Almond Oil…Another cooking oil that can be used to saute your foods is almond oil.

Nutrients...Almond oil is not only a good source of monounsaturated fats, but also a rich source of nutrients—including potassium, zinc, vitamin E, manganese, and magnesium.

Benefits…

  1. can help you lose weight and prevent weight gain
  2. can reduce your risk of colon cancer.
  3. decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease
  4. helps fight inflammation in the body
  5. helps naturally regulate blood sugar levels
  6. keeps you feeling full, which helps to prevent snacking and overeating
  7. may also work as a natural laxative, relieving constipation and IBS
  8. naturally reduces cholesterol levels
  9. promotes the flow of oxygen and nutrients through the blood
  10. reduces the risk of heart disease
Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Some Like It Hot

Before you start to actually sauté your ingredients, you should preheat your pan for a few minutes. 

Making sure that your pan is at the proper temperature before adding oil or ingredients.

Meat…As far as cooking meat, heating the skillet before adding any oil or ingredients—such as chicken or pork chop—will mean that your meat will not be as dry as if you had not done this. The reason is that tender cuts of meat needs to be cooked as quickly as possible in order to stay tender.

If your pan is cold when you add your meat, the meat will spend more time over the heat

If your pan is not hot enough when you add your meat, then the meat will just sit there until your pan slowly heats up enough to start cooking the meat.

As the meat just sits there waiting, eventually the juices will start leaking out and then boiling away….resulting in disgusting gray-colored soggy pork chops or tough, instead of tender,  chicken.

Veggies...As far as cooking veggies, heating the skillet before adding any oil or ingredients will mean that your veggies will steam them instead of sautéing. This will mean that you will have drab, mushy, overcooked vegetables—not crisp, flavorful and brightly-colored veggies because the veggies have spent too much time over the heat.

How Hot is Hot Enough?…To make sure that your pan is hot enough to add your meat and/or veggies, set a drop of water into the pan. If it’s ready, the water will jump and skitter around on the surface.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Macro Facts About Microfiber

Another choice that would be more “correct” in what has become our global effort at saving our environment, creating “greener” homes, and doing our role as a responsible member of current society than using ordinary Brawny would be microfiber cloths. 

Microfiber cloths are more commonly used in Europe than here in the United States because this is where the original first two leading brands of microcloths—e-Cloth and Norwex—were created and marketed.

Microfiber cloths have micro fibers that usually consist of an equal combination of two different plastics—polyester and nylon. These materials are forced through a tiny pipe and then heated. Once the two materials fuse together, they are then split apart into tinier fibers, known as “microfibers,” that are as much as twenty times smaller than the fibers originally were.

Because these new microfiber cloths have far fewer and much smaller fibers than the fibers found in ordinary cleaning cloths—such as those that are made from cotton or a synthetic such as nylon that has not been used to create a microfiber cloth—they can more easily grab even the smallest, most microscopic dirt, dust, and other stuff that ordinary cleaning cloths leave behind.

  • Microfiber cloths are hastier …Microfiber cloths get things looking far cleaner in a lot less time and are better at clean up spills faster than paper towels because their tiny fibers are more absorbent.
  • Microfiber cloths are healthier for the environment…Microfiber cloths eliminate the need to buy expensive and harmful detergents.
  • Microfiber cloths are healthier to your wallet…Microfiber cloths are fairly cheap when compared to many other ways of cleaning up spills and doing other such jobs around your home.
  • Microfiber cloths are hygienic…Microfiber cloths have been shown to minimize the spread of infections in hospitals and similar environments.

Choosing Microfiber Cloths…When choosing microfiber cloths, look for those that have the smallest microfibers because these are the most hygienic.

These days there are SO many different websites selling microfiber cloths, so it can be hard to know which ones are the best ones, but this list of the most highly-reviewed microfiber cloths found on the internet might come in handy. These microfiber cloths include…

AmazonBasics Microfiber Cleaning Cloths

  • Absorbency…can absorb up to eight times its own weight
  • Best used for…cleaning inside the house, not advised for outdoor use because they can tear easily
  • Care…machine washable and can be washed, rinsed, and reused over and over again
  • Color…three different towel colors—blue, yellow, and white
  • Cost…packs of twenty-four for only fifteen dollars
  • Material..,90% Polyester 10% Polyamide
  • Review…
  • Size…25″x33″

Chemical Guys Miracle Dryer Towel

  • Absorbency..absorb up no less than ten times their weight in liquid
  • Best used for…best suited for drying a wet surface or applying a polish or wax on a car or kitchen appliances
  • Care..best temperature to wash the towel at is 60 degrees celsius, and if it is not washed at that temperature the towel could need to be washed twice to fully clean it out
  • Cost…brand is the most “premium” available, so cost more than most other brands out there…
  • Material…360,000 strands in every square inch of highly refined loop-woven microfiber, more than the numbers of strands in the competition, which is usually only 100,000-150,000 strands for every square inch of the towel
  • Size.. 16″ x 16″

Zwipes Microfiber Cleaning Cloths

  • Absorbency..,eight times its weight in water
  • Best used for…cleaning off and dusting surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom—such as sinks, toilets, showers, bathtubs, vanities, mirrors, countertops, appliances, and stainless steel
  • Care…wash in the washing machine with cold water and then tumble dry on a low setting
  • Color…orange, white, and blue
  • Cost…fifteen dollars
  • Material…110,000 fibers per square inch of cloth
  • Size..12″x16″
Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Maintaining Your Knife For Life

If I just forked over this much money for a quality knife to slice and dice veggies, I am gonna want to take the very best care of it that I can.

So how do we do that?

Here are a few tips…

After each use wash your knife in warm, soapy water and dry it well.

Never put it in the dishwater. This can dull and damage the blades.

Never soak your knife in water.

Store your knife in a certain place, not in a drawer crammed with everything else that manages to find its way into your kitchen….but more on this later…

Use a traditional knife sharpening steel to sharpen your knives. Otherwise, bring them to a knife store that will sharpen them for you. Remember that sharp knives are  not only easier to use, but also safer.

——————————————————————

  • Cuts
  • slice, mince, chop, crush, tenderize, and scoop up
  • cutting and
  • making garnishes
  • hold the knife in your writing hand (the Chinese
  • call this the “chopstick hand”).
Sweet, Sweet Sunday

These Knives Made the Cut

7" Chinese Chef's Knife Vegetable Cleaver, , large

So in my quest for the best knife to buy as far as veggies, which ones did I find worth considering…

Cutco Vegetable Knife #1735

  • Blade…wide enough to easily move ingredients from the cutting board to the pan
  • Blade Length…7-3/4″
  • Blade Material…410 High-Carbon, Stainless Steel
  • Cost…$150
  • Edge…straight
  • Engraving…available
  • Guarantee…Cutco’s Forever Guarantee means that they will sharpen, hone, buff, repair and if necessary replace your CUTCO knives and accessories for FREE, no receipt required
  • Handle…ergonomically designed for all hands—both large and small…both left and right
  • Handle Color…classic brown or pearl white
  • Handle Material…highly engineered thermo-resin
  • Overall Length…13-1/4″
  • Review…On the Gas
  • Source…”American Made. American Proud.”
  • Tang…full, meaning that the blade extends the full length of the handle
  • Use…to chop, slice and dice ingredients for soups, stews and vegetable platters
  • Weight…7.6 oz.

Dalstrong Phantom Series 6” Nakiri Vegetable Knife

  • Blade Length…6”
  • Blade Material…forged from a single piece of ice tempered steel with high levels of chromium added for stain resistance…the ice-tempering ensures excellent resilience and superior edge retention
  • Cost…$149.99…on sale now for $44.04
  • Edge…straight…double-bevel…tapered to minimize surface resistance and to increase both durability and flexibility
  • Handle Material…traditional Japanese D-shaped black pakkawood with a distinct red spacer, carefully crafted mosaic of copper and brass, and hand-polished stainless steel end cap designed to create counterbalance and distinction
  • Review…That’s a Knife
  • Tang…full tang for incredible robustness and quality
  • Use…prepping vegetables in bulk

Global Cutlery USA SAI 6″ Vegetable Knife

  • Blade Material…three-ply corrosion-resistant 18/8 and CROMOVA 18 stainless steel
  • Cost…$164.95
  • Edge…12.5-degree convex convex blade edge
  • Handle…unique thumb rest to give added comfort and control.
  • Handle Material…metal, totally wood free….three-ply corrosion-resistant 18/8 and CROMOVA 18 stainless steel
  • Review…Knifeista
  • Tang…full
  • Warranty…lifetime warranty against defects and breakage
  • Weight…1.3 pounds

Shun Classic 7-in. Vegetable Cleaver

  • Blade…hand-sharpened 16° double-bevel blade
  • Blade Length..7 in
  • Blade Material..high-performance VG-MAX stainless steel.
  • Cost…300.00
  • Handle Material…D-shaped ebony PakkaWood
  • Overall Length…13-1/4″
  • Source…Japan

ZWILLING Cutlery TWIN Signature 7″ Chinese Chef’s Knife Vegetable Cleaver

  • Cost…90
  • Edge…laser-controlled edge that is incredibly sharp, honed, and hand-finished
  • Handle…three-rivet handle
  • Handle Material…polymer
  • Source…a German manufacturer that has been making knives for over 280 years
Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Sources for Cooking Utensils

Quality cooking utensils are key to quality cooking results, regardless of the cooking method that you are using.

And so here I’ve highlighted a few of the sources of quality cooking utensils that you can refer to as we finish discussing the various cooking methods…

I also used this as a chance to find which one spatula to buy to go next to my brand new saute pan.

 

1. di Oro Seamless Spatula

  • Material…BPA free, US FDA and German LGFB certified silicone with 18/10 stainless steel reinforced core
  • Size: 11.2″ x 2.5″ with 3.25″ blade
  • Cost…$11
  • Awards…Chosen America’s Test Kitchen  & Cook’s Illustrated “2017 Best All-around Silicone Spatula
  • Colors…Black, Red
  • Easy to Clean…Dishwasher Safe
  • Temperature Resistance…to 600ºF
  • Warranty…Forever Guarantee…Every spatula or utensil bought from them is guaranteed. forever.
  • Weight: 3.2 oz

  • Material…BPA Free and FDA Approved Silicone
  • Colors…red, orange, purple, and blue
  • Design…one-piece design
  • Heat Resistant…to 450°F
  • Easy-to-clean…dishwasher safe…stain and odor resistant
  • Durability…will not discolor, warp, melt or chip.

3. OXO Silicone Sauté Paddle

Silicone Saute Paddle 3647
  • Cost…$9.99
  • Colors…available in black or red
  • Easy to Clean…dishwasher safe

Vremi

West