Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Chinese Culinary Conflict—Anhui Campaign

The Anjui region is an inland area located in East China. The region surrounds the Huangshan Mountain, also referred to as Yellow Mountains. The region consists of many different types of terrain—including not only these mounjtains, but also forests and farmland.

Anhui cuisine revolves around wild plants and animals, very similar to Fujian cuisine that we talking about in an earlier post.,,,although there is less emphasis on seafood.

Anhui cuisine is humble and hearty peasant food. ..created by the native rustic cooking styles of the mountain dwellers.

Food is seen as therapy and meant to be healthy, visually stimulating, and simple.

As far as cooking method, it is important that the food is cooked in a way that doea not destroy the nutrients of the food. The cooking methods used in this province are simple, usually one of these four methods—braising, stewing, steaming, salting—with special emphasis on controlling cooking time and temperatures

As far as meat, Anhui cuisine includes more gamey meats than anyjui other regional cuisine.

As far as spices, Anhui cuisine uses many fresh wild herbs,

As far as vegetables, Anhui cuisine uses a lot of woodland vegetables—such as foraged mushrooms, berries, tea leaves, bamboo shoots, and other wild plants that can be found locally.

Examples of Anhui entrees that you might find on a menu are…

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Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Chinese Culinary—Zhejang Campaign

Zhejiang cuisine tends to be the simplest of all Chinese regional cuisines.

The focus of Zhejiang cuisine seems to be simplicity. The people of the region focus more on serving fresh seasonal produce served crispy, perhaps even raw or almost raw…much like Japanese food….fresh seafood…and

Zhejiang cuisine tends to be fresh, soft, and smooth with a mellow fragrance.,.,, with a good balance between saltiness and umami

Zhejiang cuisine uses a wide variety of cooking methods—including braising, sautéing, stewing, steaming, and deep-frying.

As far as meat, Zhejiang cuisins uses many different varieties of fresh seafood and freshwater fish caught from local rivers.

As far as sauce, Zhejiang cuisine tends to focus on simple marinades—such as a simple mixture of vinegar and sugar—instead of the more complicated sauces and marinades found in other Chinese regional cuisines.

As far as spices, Zhejiang cuisine tends to be lightly seasoned and veer on the salty side..

Examples of foods that you might find include…

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

The Spice Is Right

Now that you have created or chosen your base liquid…and sliced and diced and maybe even roasted your veggies…it’s time to add any spices and other seasonings that you might like.
The seasonings that you add to your soup at this point will honestly be a matter of personal preference, Feel free to add only one seasoning, but also experiment to find a spice combination that you and your family all enjoy.
Seasonings also can be based on what you are cooking. Good choices would be…

  • Beef soups…marjoram, rosemary, thyme
  • Chicken soups…celery seed, marjoram, thyme, parsley, and sage
  • Chilis…chili powder, cumin
  • Cream soups…parsley, thyme.
  • Meaty, hearty soups…cumin
  • Tomato-based soups…basil, oregano or fennel

Regardless what you are making or what seasonings you are adding, never use so much seasoning that it is overpowering.

 

Here are a few of the most commonly used seasonings…

 

1. Fresh herbs…You can add only one fresh herb or a combination of herbs to your soup, based on what your family likes best.

You can add the fresh herbs either with the woody stems still attached or not. It really doesn’t matter because the stems and leaves will drop off as they cook, Once your soup is finished, simply remove these can be removed with tongs or a slotted spoon before serving.

Fresh herbs will have a more intense flavor if added near the end of the cooking time.

 

 

2. Garlic…Garlic is a flavor enhance rhat brings out the flavors of the other ingredients in the soup. Garlic…Garlic is a flavor enhancer that brings out the flavors of the other ingredients in the soup. Even if a soup recipe doesn’t call for garlic, you can always add two or three cloves of garlic without worrying that your soup will have a garlicky taste.

 

.3. Ginger...Ginger is another flavor enhancer. Adding ginger to vegetable and chicken soups adds a slightly sweet taste and aromaFresh herbs…Fresh herbs provide an intense and complex flavor. Use three or four tablespoons of chopped, fresh herbs for ten to twelve cups of soup.

4. Spice Cabinet Spices…Use 1 to 2 teaspoons of ground spices per ten to twelve cups liquid.

Some of the most commonly used spices include…

  • allspice
  • cinnamon
  • clove
  • coriander
  • cumin
  • fennel
  • turmeric
Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Kimchi—The What Else—Star Anise

Star anise is another spice to look for on your journey through an Asian market or website.

Star anise comes from the seed pod from the fruit of the Illicium verum plant, a small evergreen shrub which is native to Southwest China and northeast Vietnam.

As far as shape, the star anise that comes from this tree has a unique dark brown star shape with six to eight points, each of the points containing a single pea-sized seed.

As far as taste, star anise has a very strong, distinct licorice-like flavor that is both sweet and spicy.

 

Star Anise—The Why

Star anise is an awesome addition to not only your adventures in Asian cooking, but also for your health.

Star anise provides powerful antioxidants that can prevent cell death and DNA damage.

Star anise can be steam-distilled to produce a pale yellow essential oil with a highly fragrant, licorice-like aroma that is often added to such products as soaps,  perfumes, toothpastes, mouthwashes, and skin creams.

Star anise can be beneficial to your body by helping with…

  • abdominal cramps
  • arthritis
  • bronchitis
  • calming nerves
  • colds
  • colic
  • cough
  • digestion
  • digestive problems and complaints—such as gas, indigestion, bloating, constipation
  • immune system function
  • influenza
  • painful muscles
  • sleep disorders
  • sore throat

 

Buying/Storing                      

Star anise can be found either whole or ground into a powder…and of course you could also make ground star anise by grinding whole star anise with your coffee mill.

Whole star anise will maintain its flavor for about a year.

Ground star anise powder will maintain its flavor for about six months.

Regardless, all spices that you buy should be stored in an airtight container in a cool and dark place that isn’t exposed to heat, moisture or sunlight.

 

Tips for Using Star Anise

  • Grund star anise is much easier to work with, but the flavor diminishes faster.
  • Toasting the ground spice sometimes heightens the flavor.
  • Use it sparingly…a little goes a long way.
  • Whole pods are best for simmering—such as in sauces, marinades, and soups—and then removing before serving.

 

Recipes for Using Star Anise

Baking…Star anise is often seen in recipes also calling for cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.

Beverages…Bring water to a boil in a stove-top pan.Add 2 whole star anise pods per cup of water, along with any additional other spices—such as cardamom seeds, cinnamon sticks, ginger root, solomon seal root, and cloves—that you like. Steep for 15 minutes.Strain away any large chunks.

Eggs…Star anise is commonly incorporated in egg recipes. I particularly liked this recie for Star Anise Tea Eggs from Nest Fresh.

Fruits and Vegetables…Stay on the lookout for star anise to be used in recipes that also contain citrus, leeks, onions, pears, and pumpkin.

Garam masala...Star anise is used to make this Indian spice blend that can be then used to make countless traditional Indian dishes.

Meats…Star anise is used to add a licorice flavor to beef, shrimp, duck, fish, pork, and poultry.

Soup…Star anise is commonly used in soup, such as this recipe from Martha Stewart.

Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Essential Oils to Keep…If You’d Like to Be Able to Sleep

Chamomile; German Chamomile; Hungarian Chamomile; Camomile; Matricaria recutita; Chamomilla recutita; Matricaria chamomilla

When I first started using essential oils, I felt overwhelmed by the selections and how little I knew. Which one should I choose, and why? Almost like being a kid in a candy store.

But as I have started reading and studying more about living a healthier lifestyle and beginning new habits, I have also learned more about which essential oils work best for what the problem is.

For example, these are the best essential oils for helping to cure insomnia that are out there…but instead of going into depth about each one of these in this post, I have decided to choose one oil per month, and detail more and more reasons and ways to use that particular essential oil that particular month…

For example, the Essential Oil of the Month is bergamot (see next post…oh wait, you can’t…because at this point I haven’t finished writing it)…

Anyway, here are the best options as far as essential oils to help you sleep…

1.  BergamotBergamot essential oil is a cold-pressed essential oil that is produced by cells inside the rind and peel of a bergamot orange, a citrus fruit that has been used as a fragrance ingredient since around the year 1714. It takes about one hundred bergamot oranges to yield three ounces of bergamot oil.

Bergamot essential oil smells like a sweet light orange peel oil with a floral note and has a bright, yet calming and relaxing, effect. Bergamot essential oil is used to give Earl Grey tea its flavor, to calm anxious feelings, and to reduce both the heart rate and blood pressure.

2.  Cedarwood…Cedarwood essential oil is an essential oil that is produced from the foliage of various types of pine and cypress trees. The oil has an earthy, woodsy smell and supports healthy function of the pineal gland, which releases melatonin, the body’s natural sleepy hormone.

3.  Frankincense…Frankincense essential oil is a steam-distilled essential oil obtained from the tree resin of four main species of trees from the Boswellia genus. Frankincense essential oil has an earthy, balsamic fragrance and is perfect for balancing emotions, supporting healthy sleep, calming your mind and supporting your body’s natural response to healing.

4.  Juniper Berry…Juniper Berry essential oil is a steam-distilled essential oil that has a calming, grounding effect and an earthy, woodsy smell. The oil is extracted from the leaves and twigs of about fifty different species of junipers plant, a member of the cypress family that can grow anywhere within the Northern Hemisphere, all the way from the Arctic down towards tropical Africa, Pakistan, and the mountains of Central America. Most of the juniper berry essential oil that we use here in America has been harvested from juniper plants found in middle Tennessee, northern Alabama, and southern Kentucky.

5.  Lavender…Lavender essential oil is a steam-distilled essential oil that is obtained from the flower spikes of certain species of the lavender plant, a member of the mint family. Lavender essential oil has a relaxing and calming effect…and is used to reduce heart rate and blood pressure, help reduce feelings of tension, and calm emotions.

Most of us are already familiar with the lavender plant because the plant has been used as ornamental plants in garden and landscaping, as a culinary herb, and was one of the common colors in that magical 64-count box of Crayola crayons…the bo that had the sharpener on the back of the box…and that every kid in the classroom envied unless they had one themselves.

6.  Marjoram…Marjoram essential oil is steam-distilled from from the flowering leaves and tops of the marjoram plant, a somewhat cold-sensitive perennial herb or undershrub, that was referred to by the Romans as the “herb of happiness” and to the Greeks as the “joy of the mountains.”

The leaves have a unique mixture of sweet “pine” and citrus flavor. Most of us have had a marjoram spice container at least once in our spice cabinet of marjoram. If not an actual jar of marjoram by itself, perhaps a spice blend containing marjoram, such as herbes de Provence and za’atar…(I probably still have all three of these spices in the same container from back when I purchased thirty-one years ago when I first got married….let me go see)…

Anyway, marjoram essential oil is wonderful for muscles and joints, but it also excels in creating peaceful sleep and calming frazzled nerves.

7.  Roman Chamomile…Roman Chamomile essential oil has a calming, soothing, and relaxing effect and is perfect for helping to get rid of restlessness and anxious feelings.

The Roman chamomile plant is a low perennial plant found in dry fields, gardens, and cultivated grounds in Europe, North America, and in Argentina…and is used for making foods, herbal teas, perfumes, and cosmetics.

8.  Sandalwood...Sandalwood essential oil is a steam-distilled oil extracted from chips and billets cut from the heartwood of various species of sandalwood trees. Sandalwoods belong to the same botanical family as European mistletoe and can befound in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Australia, Indonesia, Hawaii, and other Pacific Islands. Sandalwood is the second most expensive wood in the world, after African blackwood.

Sandalwood has a distinctive rich, woodsy smell that has been highly valued for centuries as an ingredient in perfumes, cosmetics.

9.  Vetiver…Vetiver essential oil is distilled from the roots of a type of grass that is widely cultivated in tropical regions such as Haiti, India, and Indonesia. Vetiver has a psychologically grounding, calming and stabilizing effect and a rich and earthy smell.

10.  Ylang Ylang…Ylang ylang essential oil is extracted from the flowers of a ylang-ylang tree that is native in the rainforest habitats of the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. Ylang-ylang is also widely used in oriental- or floral-themed perfumes such as Chanel No. 5…and is also believed to relieve high blood pressure, to help with skin problems, and to be an aphrodisiac. In fact, in Indonesia, ylang-ylang flowers are spread on the bed of newlywed couples.