Friday, December 27, 2013

Heart Healty

There are a few of things that will practically guarantee a danger of heart disease.  Live in America...that is the big one!

The Mediterranean diet is fairly heart healthy.  Italians like my mother and her family are not heart disease free, but the odds are fairly low.  As we Americans export our food habits overseas, we tend to add a little gift of heart disease along with it.

Eat lots of fat to get a nasty heart condition. 
We can probably boast one of the healthiest fats there is in our Italian diet.  That is olive oil.  Most foods contain a bit of fat, even things as unlikely as onions.  Try to steam foods, boil them, or grill them on an open fire or a dry or lightly olive oil brushed, grill pan, instead of frying.  We need about a tablespoon of fat a day just to function, so do not be a fanatic. 
Choosing good, or at least better fats will go a long way toward remaining healthy.  Fish oils are pretty good as well.. Omega three oils are in a number of fish.  Before dropping all the bad meats, find out on the Internet, which fish have high, heavy metal content so you can avoid them.

Eat a lot of red meat for better chances of a heart problem. 
Our relatives did not eat all of this beef and pork or even chicken.  These were all very special treats and the meat was hard to get and hard to store.  Wild game would have been more likely in their know the ones that have little fat in them.  Fish would be more common too.  Eat meat on Sunday or on holidays and special when the priest visits...  Let him get heart disease!

If you must eat meat, make the portions more than three ounces a day and lean at that.  Lean meats, long cooked, tend to be tastier as well, though fat does add flavor, save the fat for the TV chefs and the restaurants.

Cook a few vegetables on a grill pan, then remove them and grill a bit of meat on the same pan without any more fat...lower the temperature as soon as you get color on the meat.
Stew meats after grilling in their own fat, then drain off the fat and add veggies.

Cook meats at about 185 degrees to make tough cuts tender.   Also, do not raise internal temperatures of meat above the recommended internal temperature to make them safe to eat.  They will stay moister and more tender that way.

Toss pasta in chopped Broccoli or Cauliflower instead of meat sauces.  Be especially vigilant, and remove the fat from tomato sauce before serving it, because you do not think of how bad it is in sauce because it is simmered in liquid.  We tend to think it will automatically be healthy.  Let the sauce cool, skim off fat, then reheat.  Frozen vegetables are a good and cheaper alternative to expensive fresh.

Eat plenty of sugar to end it all quickly. 
I have a sweet tooth, and I have to admit it. but you(and I) have to cut it out.  The old timers did not eat that much sugar.  European sweets are remarkably less sweet than here in general.  But sugar and honey, boiled down wine, etc. , were not cheap, and most of us were not wealthy.  Sugary sweets were, again, for special occasions.  Probably like the red meat.    Italians did not do sugary tea party treats like in England.  What sugars were common were the ones in dried fruits etc..
Sunday is also a good day for these sweets.
Have a little red wine...dilate your blood vessels a helps if not in excess.  People did not get big glasses of alcohol in most homes...We had thimble sized glasses of Anisette etc.. A skim on the bottom of a snifter is enough...Mmmm...Malvasia!  The rule in my house was:  Sip...just wet your lips and tongue...don't gulp it.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Bill Mitchell's Version of Apple Dumplings.

I do not believe that I have not posted these earlier.  I guess that since I lost the original recipe for the syrup, that I have not had the confidence to do my own half-assed version.
I made them today and they came out perfectly for a Christmas Eve lunch with John's family.
Soooooo...Here goes.

This is a very old fashioned dessert, so do not be surprised when I tell you to boil pastry.  Some people try to avoid the soggy bottom of the crust, and go to all sorts of lengths to make hybrids, like apples cooked in pastry with sauce poured over it.  No, you have to have it the old least the first time.  Dumplings by definition are soggy masses.  This, however, has a thick brown and crisp topped crust with the soggy bottom swimming in syrup.

5 cups flour
1 1/2 cups shortening 1 hour in the freezer and cut up into chunks.
1 t salt
1 T sugar
1 cup water icy cold

Mix the salt flour and sugar.
Cut in the shortening with a pastry cutter or use your fingers to smear or pinch the shortening into the flour till it resembles soft bread crumbs and there are still tiny bits of shortening showing here and there.
Add the water, a few tablespoons at  a time.  Toss the mixture with a fork trying to incorporate the water without getting big wet spots.  Repeat till all the water is in and the dampness is evenly distributed.  Press the mass together into a log without over working it.
Cover tightly and chill for an hour or so. and bring back to cool room temp.

Cut the log into 8 pieces.  As you use them, roll each out on a pastry board or marble slab into a rough triangle.

Cut 4 very large Granny Smiths or Cortland apples in half after peeling.  Try to use an apple that will not readily cook to a mush...avoid Macintosh.

Use a melon baller or a spoon or knife to cut out the seeds and membranes.  A grapefruit spoon works well.

Press a small amount of chopped pecans or walnuts into the hole along with a candied or Maraschino cherry if you have them.

Smear 1 T butter over the hole to hold the filling in the hole.

Mix 2 T cinnamon, a pinch of clove, 1/2 t ginger, 1/4 t nutmeg into a cup of brown sugar.

Put a generous tablespoon of the sugar mixture over the butter and wrap the whole thing in a piece of the pastry.

I dip the bottom of the apple in flour to help contain the juices inside the pastry.  Lay the rounded part of the apple in the center of a triangle of dough.
Brush all the edges with a bit of ice water.  Bring the points up to the center over the apple and pinch the seams together wet side to wet side.  Seal up the pastry by pinching together any way you can the first time.  You can figure out the neat way of doing it the third or fourth time you do it.
Lay in a lightly greased lasagna pan.  Fill the pan with the dumplings but try not to let them touch.  If you run out of room, do more in a loaf pan.
Brush the tops and especially the seams with beaten egg.

Bake for 10 to 15 min in a 375 degree oven.
Pour syrup around the apples in the pan and continue to cook up to 35 minutes or until a skewer meets no resistance when you pierce the apple inside.  The syrup should come about 1/3 to 1/2 way up the side of the dumplings.
Brush occasionally while baking with some of the syrup to form a glaze.  Allow to cool before serving, but make sure they are warm when removing from the pan as the syrup can harden.  Warm over in the oven or microwave to serve with ice cream, milk, whipped cream or cream.

3 cups water.
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup Caro light or dark syrup
1/3 cup butter
add any left over spices or sugar not used in the filling.

Boil five minutes till all the sugar is dissolved.

If this does not remind you of wood stoves, long tables surrounded by farm hands and family, Christmas, Thanksgiving and grandmothers, then nothing will!
I am truly sorry I do not have a photo, but they were gone before I had a chance!!!!