Today I'm sharing some tidbits of information which have come across my desk. I hope you find some information which will help you put healthy meals on your table.
Asparagus, thick or thin? It's a sure sign of spring -- fresh asparagus from the garden. Some spears are thick and some are thin, and both can be tender. Thick spears are a result of older plants and the variety of asparagus.
Thin spears tend to have more concentrated fibers than thick spears. This keeps the less juicy flesh from getting in between the fibers. Fatter spears have fibers that are separated more by the flesh.
Thick spears are good for broiling, grilling, and roasting as they withstand dry heat cooking better. When steaming or stir-frying, thin spears will cook quicker.
Vanilla -- not just for dessert. Vanilla has a sweetness that makes it a natural ingredient in ice cream, cookies and frosting. But, as a flavor enhancer, vanilla also helps intensify other flavors.
In soups such as pumpkin, butternut squash or cauliflower, vanilla enhances their flavor. Add a couple drops to tomato soup and the acidic bite is mellowed to a smoother flavor. Add vanilla to vinaigrette dressings to boost the flavor of cucumbers, tomatoes and bell peppers.
For meats, add vanilla to sauces such as barbecue sauce or marinades. Vanilla in a citrus sauce reduces the acid taste.
Garlic/onion odor on hands. While garlic and onions add great flavor and aroma to many meals, the lingering odor on your skin is not always pleasant.
To help remove the odor, try rubbing your hands on stainless steel. The iron atoms in the stainless steel exchange some of their electrons with the sulfur atoms in the garlic or onion. This neutralizes the odor.
Another option is rubbing the skin with lemon juice. This contains lemon oil which will dissolve oil soluble compounds in the garlic. Rubbing skin with baking soda will neutralize weak aromatic acids in the garlic with the alkaline baking soda.
Seasoning with vinegar. A dash of vinegar can be an alternative to seasoning with salt. Vinegar works like salt by masking bitter flavors. It competes with the perception of bitterness and helps to bring out other tasty flavors.
Try vinegar in a variety of recipes such as soups, stews, sauces, meat dishes and many others. It only takes a dash, or 1/8 teaspoon, to replace the need for salt and to reduce added sodium in the diet.
Greek yogurt -- a new "in" food. Thicker than traditional yogurt, Greek yogurt is strained to remove the watery whey. It contains more protein, between 14 to 18 grams per six ounce portion. Regular yogurt has less than 10 grams per six ounce portion. This can help you feel fuller on less.
Use Greek yogurt to replace sour cream in sauces and dips. It has about 135 calories per cup; fat-free sour cream has 170 calories per cup; regular sour cream has 440 calories per cup. Greek yogurt also comes in reduced fat and fat-free varieties.
Removing baked goods from pans. A handy tip is to create a sling out of aluminum foil. Cut pieces of foil to fit the inside of the baking pan lengthwise and widthwise and up the sides. Leave enough to extend over the pan edge for handles. Fit the foil into the pan and spray with baking spray. Parchment paper can also be used.
Editor's Note: Ann Ludlum is a K-State Research and Extension family and consumer sciences and 4-H extension agent assigned to Bourbon County. She may be reached at (620) 223-3720 or firstname.lastname@example.org.