Things to do with onions besides crying

There is something about onions that give food more flavor, whether raw, cooked or pickled. Depending on which kind, onions can be sharp, spicy, tangy or mild and sweet. They’re used in almost any cuisine in the world and can you believe they have been used since 5000 BC?  Click the link for more amazing facts about onions.

This post is not about the historical or cultural value of onions, but merely listing information and some tips on how to handle onions properly without crying or cutting yourself. I found some great videos to illustrate how the pros do it!  Read on and soon you’ll feel like an onion-pro yourself!

Reduce the intensity.
Where it was never a problem before, nowadays my stomach can’t handle any food prepared with raw onions or an abundance of onions. To reduce the intensity of chopped raw onions for my homemade coleslaw dressing, I soak it in vinegar or lime juice first, before adding to the dressing.

Some of the tips at The Kitchn mention soaking in cold water before adding to the dish, quick cooking over high heat, slow cooking over medium heat, or slow cooking over low heat to caramelize the onion (French Onion Soup).

Chop onions without crying.
Over the years I’ve tried many things to keep from crying while cutting onions, including running out of the kitchen halfway through chopping, only to start crying again as soon as I returned. I finally found one tip that really worked:  NOT breathing through my nose, but through the mouth!

  • Others say that burning a candle right next to the cutting board – a Martha Stewart tip – helps them.
  • Rinse onion in cold water after peeling and after cutting in half,then chop like crazy (done that, didn’t work for me).
  • Keep the roots on while peeling and chopping (doesn’t always work).
  • Cutting under running water (but what if the onion should be dry to prevent oil from spattering?).
  • Make the knife wet with with cold water before cutting, so the sulfur reacts with water on the knife and not in your eyes.
  • Use onion goggles (swim goggles should work too), although I cannot see myself do that 🙂  It seems that contact lens users also have no crying issues when cutting onions.
  • This is a weird one: Put some vinegar on the cutting board, or soak a paper towel in it and sniff it just as your about to cry. (Maybe the vinegar balances out the sulfur?)

You can find many more tips at http://www.wikihow.com/Chop-Onions-Without-Tears

Check out this video to see another tip to cut onions without tearing up.

Here’s another  video on how to properly chop an onion.

And if you ever wondered what scallions or shallots look like, visit this wonderful Epicurious onion guide.

Other things you can do with onions:

Do you have other onions tips? Feel free to share in the comments below!

What’s the world cooking for Christmas?

holidaycandlesToday I’m starting a series of Christmas food traditions around the world. In my series I will not only explore the traditions of Christmas, but also other holidays around that time. My main focus is Christmas because that is what we have always celebrated in my family. At the same time I want to acknowledge Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and others too, so stay tuned.

This idea was born after I received an email from a friend with ties to Canada. He thought the topic would be interesting to post on Multiculti Cooking and included the link of an article on the Calgary Herald website: A non-Christian guide to Christmas. Follow the link to learn more.

This article appealed to me because I grew up celebrating holidays of all religions in our community. There is a unique tolerance for different religions and traditions in Suriname where a Synagogue may be located on the same block with a Mosque, or a Protestant church down the street of a Catholic church. We used to join our friends and neighbors to share in their holiday traditions and food, learning about other customs around us.

The world is a big playground, and if you want to learn more about special food traditions, be sure to come back and check out what I am digging up. I’ll keep adding links to new entries below.

Part 1: Sea Urchins
Part 2: Stollen, Glühwein and Lebkuchen – Germany
Part 3: Sinterklaas – Belgium & The Netherlands
Part 4: Latkes on Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights

Turn your holiday blues into holiday fun

Ever since Halloween was approaching – way back in October (how time flies!) – I wanted to write this post about the holidays. The sometimes holidaydecor“dreaded” holidays that are supposed to be happy times, but can be so stressful with all the errands and the events and the parties and the pressure 🙁  Let’s not even talk about getting the house cleaned before and after, decorating, organizing and shopping for dinners and all the other stuff your guests don’t see or won’t know about.

It’s very tempting to take a 4-week vacation in December or to go into hibernation, but with some careful planning it doesn’t have to be that bad. This planning applies to parties and dinners, but also to your survival of the holidays without throwing your healthy eating habits to the wind.

Give yourself enough time to get organized and start planning at least two-three weeks (or months for the type A’s) in advance. I use idea/mind mapping, mini-lists and my calendar to help me stay sane and enjoy the holidays too.

For your dinner or party:

  • Make your guest list and send invites by mail or email
  • Break up housecleaning tasks in small, daily chores so you will not be overwhelmed.
  • Set up your menu (be flexible because things may change), starting with the main entrees, adding the sides, appetizers and desserts.
  • Build your shopping list from the menu items.
  • Enlist family members to bring a dish to take some pressure off yourself, because you will have enough with hosting the event and cooking.
  • Create a list of items you will need, such as tablecloth, napkins, plates, etc. It will keep you sane in a hectic time and you will not forget anything.
  • Make a list of party games or activities if you plan to entertain.
  • Assign a “clean up” crew of family and friends if you don’t have a cleaning lady.
  • Keep track of all this on one sheet with your own mindmap, yes it will all fit!

giftsFor gift giving:

  • Make your list of recipients.
  • Add a gift to their name of something that you know or think they would like. Not knowing what to get adds stress to your shopping.
  • Stock up on gift wrap and ribbons.
  • Buy the gifts off-season or during the least busy time of the day if you can.
  • Collect all gifts in a room or closet.
  • Wrap as you go (don’t forget to label the gifts) or dedicate one day for gift-wrapping.

To find more organizing ideas: Get Organized Now!

Party going:

  • Select which ones you will attend. Yes, it’s okay to be selective and decline invitations if it means you will be stretched too thin!
  • Mark your calendar.
  • Find out what the proper attire is, whether you are bringing a gift, etc.
  • Go shopping to get what you need at least 1-2 weeks before the event. Or go closet-shopping. There maybe something in there you have not worn yet.
  • Schedule your hair and nail appointments at the salon or at home.
  • Give yourself enough time to get there, because traffic can be awful during the holidays.

Dining:

  • Best way to survive holiday eating is to relax and avoid “all or nothing” thinking. There is no point in punishing yourself by not eating some of the food you really enjoy; a small piece is better than nothing.
  • Instead of skipping dessert try some low carb, low-cal alternatives like strawberry2strawberries and whipped cream with a thin slice of angel food cake.
  • Tiramisu has mascarpone cheese, a source of protein and fat.
  • Avoid chocolate bars, baked goods like cakes, cookies, brownies because they contain lots of sugar and trans fats.
  • Dark chocolate (70-80% cocoa) is healthier thank milk chocolate.
  • European chocolate is less sweet, but creamier and more satisfying.
  • Eat small portions of bread, mashed potatoes and other simple carbs or skip some of them.
  • Enjoy a slice of pie, with light cream on top instead of vanilla ice cream.
  • Eat some carbs to feel satisfied but in moderation.

You can get these and other tips in the The No-Diet Plan. (sorry, no longer available)

 There you have it! My way of beating the holiday blues and stress. How do you handle yours? Do share in the comments section below so everyone can learn.

Happy Holiday Planning!

 

Different types of noodles

pastaUntil I moved to the U.S.A. I only knew of spaghetti and macaroni which we either used for bami, spaghetti, macaroni salad or in soup. Imagine my surprise when I saw shelves of what was called “pasta” in the supermarkets. There are so many varieties, from dried to fresh, small to large, and many more possibilities to cook with pasta. Here is a list of the different types of pasta I have personally cooked and their recommended uses.

Strands

ANGEL HAIR (capelli d’angelo)
Super thin and fragile; best served with a light broth-based sauce, because a creamy sauce would be to heavy for this pasta.

VERMICELLI
Up a scale in thickness, can be lightly tossed with olive oil, garlic, and black pepper. Also good in soup.

SPAGHETTINI
Spaghetti’s thinner brother; toss with freshly made tomato sauce or use in a soup like minestrone.

SPAGHETTI
Means little string in Italian, even though it’s the thickest. It is the best known pasta of the family, America’s favorite to pair with meatball, fresh, jarred or canned tomato sauce topped with cheese.

Ribbons

LINGUINE
Flat type of spaghetti; absorbs sauces well and usually served with seafood sauces.

FETTUCCINE
Wider than linguine; for a richer flavor and softer texture eggs are added to the dough. Perfect pasta to serve with a creamy Alfredo sauce.

LASAGNA
Wide and flat noodles with smooth or ruffled edges; fits most casserole dishes for ovenbaking.

EGG NOODLES
Curly or straight, short and flat noodles made with egg yolks. These noodles are usually served for stroganoff, simply tossed with butter and parsley, or cooked in soup. Also comes in a version made with egg whites for low or no cholesterol.

Creative

BOW TIE PASTA (Farfalle)
Farfalle actually means butterfly in Italian. They are rectangles pinched in the middle. This small pasta is great for salads.

CANNELLONI
Tube-shaped pasta with a spinach and ricotta (or other) filling. Finish in the oven with a red or white sauce.

SHELLS (Conchiglie)
Shell-shaped small pasta (Italian pronunciation ‘con-kee-lee-ay’). Good for catching thick sauces and for soup and salads.

ELBOW MACARONI
Short, curved type macaroni (‘maccheroni’ in Italian), very popular in the U.S. and often served with cheese. Also good in soup or salad.

PENNE
Penne means ‘quills’ in Italian and refers to straight pasta tubes cut diagonally at the ends. Excellent for salads or ovenbaked dishes.

RIGATONI
This is a very popular pasta in South Italy and rigatoni are large, ridged tubes of pasta with squarely cut off ends. Good for meaty sauces.

TORTELLINI
Small, cheese-, vegetable- or meat-stuffed pasta that is sold fresh or canned and maybe even semi-dried.

ZITI
Medium thin, smooth or rigged tube pasta. Ziti is great for casseroles with a red sauce.

Asian Noodles

RAMEN
Better known as instant noodle-soup, the noodles are skinny and made with eggs. Quick and easy but plain so you can add anything to complement these noodles.

RICE NOODLES
Round or flat, thin and translucent white noodles made from rice flour and water. Thin rice noodles are also known as chinese vermicelli. There are wider varieties as well.

BEAN THREAD
Made from mung bean starch, these noodles become translucent and slippery when soaked in hot water or cooked. They absorb other flavors cooked together very well. Used in soups or with meat and soy sauce.

WONTON SKINS (dumpling wrappers)
Fresh or frozen round wrappers for meat or vegetable fillings are made with wheat flour. The square wrappers are made from an egg dough for boiling or deep-frying. Usually prepared and steamed for brothy soup.

Sources: Good Housekeeping, Pasta Recipes Made Easy and Wikipedia’s List of Pasta.

Dining out healthy

A few weeks ago I came across an article on CNN providing some healthy tips for eating out. The topic is definitely getting more attention nowadays, because just this morning I saw on the news how fat affects your bloodstream after eating ‘bad’ food and ‘good’ food.

Santa Fe Salad
Santa Fe Salad

Although most Americans want more healthy choices in a restaurant, they don’t always go for it. As a matter of fact only 20% of about 2000 polled earlier this year, indicated health food as an important factor. Of course this is a small sample of the entire population, but considering that 2/3 of adults in the U.S. are obese, there must be some truth in the numbers. Source: Trust for America’s Health

The CNN article highlights the healthier options in a variety of restaurant, most of which I already (intuitively?) knew.

Chinese.
In general I find Chinese food in the U.S. a lot saltier then in Suriname or Holland, especially in dishes with (brown) sauce. The same goes for grease content. My preference is steamed rice with a vegetable/meat stir-fry dish. Stir-fry dishes are good because they are cooked quickly with a little bit of oil at very high heat.

Sandwich shop.

Egg sandwich
Egg sandwich

Although whole-grain bread is highly recommended, I have to admit that I prefer French bread when buying a sandwhich. Fortunately this doesn’t happen too often because I normally choose things I can’t make well or at all. I hardly use any butter or mayo on my bread and don’t stack up on deli meat because I still want to taste the bread.

Imagine my horror when I found this website with pictures of artery clogging sandwiches that would make you fat just looking at them!

Italian.
Steer away from anything deep-fried or cooked in butter, instead go for grilled, broiled or poached. And if you must have something with butter (because it tastes so good!), be very conservative. Good thing I can’t stomach dishes that are too rich or creamy.

Japanese.
Since I would prefer tempura over sushi (I know, I know, it’s totaly wrong), I’d better stay away from these restaurants. Tempura is deepfried food, coated in a light batter. The funny thing I discovered is that this Japanese dish is from Portuguese origin!

Sushi may be healthier because it involves fermented rice and fish that is usually salted, but I can’t get over the smell and taste of uncooked fish. Nevertheless, a lot of people I know love sushi and can eat it almost every day.
More on Tempura or Sushi.

Steakhouses

Sobrebarriga a La Brasa
Sobrebarriga a La Brasa
On special occassions and if I’m in the mood for it, I’d like to have a steak. However, I would never choose that 12 oz slab of red meat. A fillet mignon is plenty and honestly, going to a Brazilian or Argentine steakhouse is wasted on me because I just can’t eat so much meat. But for those who do like it, which in my experience are usually guys, it is recommended to go for the lean cuts (sirloin) or to split a dish.

Mexican.
Glad I never really liked burritos because those are killer when filled with cheese and meat. My all time preference is fajita beef, chicken or shrimp with grilled vegetables or a salad. Refried beans seem to be a big no no, but who can resist the avocado guacamole? Fortunately avocados contain the good fat.

As you can see, dining out can be a heatlhy experience depending on the choices you make. I also think that moderation plays a big role in eating healthy, whether at home or in a restaurant. If the restaurant portions are big, either split or take half of it home for later. Not only is it healthier, but doing so can save you money too.

Read the entire CNN article on heart healthy food.

To learn more about Good Morning America’s report, go to how fat affects your bloodstream.

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