Getting The Most Out of Your Asparagus

asparagus

What to Look for When Buying Asparagus

  • Choose firm, bright green stalks with tightly closed tips and that are plump in size. If the color is fading or they are limp, that is a sign of being old. Also, check the stems at the bottom to make sure they look freshly cut, not shriveled up or dried out.

How To Store Asparagus for Longer Shelf Life

  • Fresh Asparagus will stay fresh for three to four days in the refrigerator. Do not wash your asparagus before you cook it.  You want to keep it in a cool and damp location. One way to store it is to place the unwashed stems/bottoms upright in a container in a few inches of water. Then place a plastic bag over them and loosely cover them. Let them sit like that in a refrigerator until you eat them.
  • Another option is to wrap the unwashed ends/bottoms in moist paper towels, place the bundle into a plastic bag, and place it in the refrigerator.

How to Prep Your Asparagus

  • To trim the stems/ tough ends, pick up one spear and hold it from each end. Then gently bend it with your hands, and where it snaps or naturally breaks, is where to cut off all the other stems.
  • Wash your asparagus only before cooking it by submerging it in warm water to remove any sand or grit.
  • If you purchase thick asparagus, you may need to peel them if the skin is tough. To do so, use a vegetable peeler to peel until you get to the more tender stalk underneath. Do not peel the tips.

How to Cook Your Asparagus

  • Boiling –  In a large pot, boil them in salted water for 5-8 minutes until they are tender crisp.  Salt is optional for added flavor
  • Steaming –  Either keep the asparagus long or cut diagonally into 2-3 inch pieces. Place them in a large pot with a steamer basket, adding water up to the steamer basket.  Steam them for 2-8 minutes or until tender crisp.
  • Sauté –  Cut each stalk diagonally into 2-3 inch pieces. Then place them in a skillet over medium to medium high heat with extra virgin olive oil.  Sauté for about 3-5 minutes stirring constantly.
  • Roasting – After washing them, pat dry and lay them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet or on a cooling rack on a rimmed baking sheet.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle them with a seasoning of your choice. Using your hands, make sure to evenly distribute oil and  seasoning all over each one.  Then, place in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 5-8 minutes. Cook until tender crisp.
  • Grilling – After washing them, pat them dry. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle them with a seasoning of your choice. Using your hands, make sure to evenly distribute oil and  seasoning all over each one. Then, place in a grill basket or lay perpendicular in a single layer on your grill so they do not fall through the cracks. Turn every few minutes, making sure you evenly cook each stalk.  Grill them until slightly brown in color and still crisp.
  • Microwaving-  After washing them, place them in a microwave -safe dish, adding about 1/4 cup of water to the dish. Then, cover and cook for 5-7 minutes, stopping and stirring every few minutes.

Photo Courtesy: goosegrease

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How to Know if Eggs are Fresh

Photo Courtesy: Joost Nelissen on Flickr

Stages to know if your eggs are still fresh:

– Fill any bowl with cold water and place an egg inside.  If the egg sinks to the bottom, it is fresh.

– If the egg sits at the bottom of the bowl in an angle/tilt, it is a little older but still fresh enough to eat.

– When the egg  sinks to the bottom of the bowl but stands on a point upright, it is still safe to eat. However, it needs to be cooked soon.

– When you put the egg in the bowl and it is floating on the top, it is no longer fresh and needs to be discarded.

– If your egg has any type of odd odor or color, it needs to be discarded.

The Fact Behind the Egg

If an egg sits for a long period of time, it starts to decompose. The yoke and egg whites begin to evaporate or become smaller, as water vapor and gases are released through the porous shell.  When this takes place, gases leave the egg and air enters in through the porous shell, causing the egg to weigh less. This is the reason for the floating egg.  

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Heavy Cream Tip

If you are wanting to cut calories in a recipe that calls for heavy cream, a low calorie option is to swap it out with silken tofu when making soups or sauces.

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A Tip When Buying Garlic

When buying whole heads of garlic, look for ones that are held together tightly, are firm, and have no give when you squeeze them in your hand.

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Tips for Dried Spices

– Dried spices that are unopened have a shelf life of 2-3 years.

– Ground spices have a shelf life of 6 -9 months after being opened.

– Whole spices have a shelf life of about 2 years after being opened. A few examples of whole spices include peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, and cloves.

– When using spices, make sure to close the container they are in tightly after each use.

– Dried spices should be kept far from intense heat and sunlight. Heat lessens the flavor.  Examples of a few spices that are light sensitive are Paprika, parsley flakes, and freeze-dried chives.

– Freezing spices helps maintain flavor as well as a longer shelf life.

– Whole spices freeze better and have a longer shelf life than ground spices.

– When freezing any spice, make sure you put them in food safe storage bags/ air tight containers.  Using 2 bags is best for total air tight seal.

– When freezing spices, it is best to  freeze the spices you will not be using as often. Removing them from the freezer too often, can cause condensation in the container which causes spices to lose flavor faster and have a cake like consistency.

– Do not store dried spices in the refrigerator due to it being too humid.

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Pepperoni

– When shopping for pepperoni, it is worth spending a little more money on deli- sliced pepperoni due to the fact that it contains less sodium than pre-packaged pepperoni.  Plus the taste of pre- packaged pepperoni does not compare. Another option to try is thinly sliced soy-based pepperoni. For a longer shelf life for fresh pepperoni, store it in an air-tight container in the freezer. Thaw when ready to use again.

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Hot pepper tips

– Remove the ribs and seeds from hot peppers to reduce heat.

– Store any left over Chipotle in adobo sauce in a marked Ziploc® Brand Bag in the freezer to maintain shelf life.

– Before storing Chipotle in adobo sauce in freezer, remove ribs and seeds if desired, then puree in a blender or food processor. Roll the bag in a way to make the sauce freeze into a log. When ready to use again, let thaw a little and cut desired amount. Store remaining in freezer.

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Garlic and Onion Tip

When it comes to eating dinner with your significant other, do not worry about that after-dinner after-taste.  If you both eat garlic or both eat onions, your smells  cancel each other out.   The garlic or onion aroma in your breath is no longer a problem.

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