Turmeric Ginger Kookys

The recipe:

1 stick of butter (1/2 cup) diced

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon turmeric

1 tablespoon ginger

1 egg

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

I baked them for 8 minutes at 350°F. They seemed too soft and not brown enough, so I baked them an extra 4 minutes. If I were to bake them all over again, though I think 10 might be interesting–to keep the color at its brightest.

After allowing them to cool, I sampled the results and so did my husband. The taste starts sweet but ended bitter. I thought I’d made a Kooky, but it’s really more of an eastern-influenced digestive biscuit.

Uh what-now? you may ask.

In British English, a cookie is a biscuit. And a digestive biscuit is a pragmatic after dinner cookie. It is made with bran, wheat, or other grains. it’s the practical matter of aiding digestion and I would think, preventing indigestion.

Turmeric and ginger are herbs that aid flavor or color, but both are beneficial for your stomach and digestive system. Turmeric can color your yellow rice for paella–it is much cheaper than saffron, and it doesn’t take much to deliver the hue. It can stain plastic and silicone kitchen tools, not to mention your clothes.

Anyway, my recipe had a flavor problem. I wanted to counteract or diminish the bitterness in these Kookys I made, and I had wanted to layer them from the beginning, too. This is the layout:

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To keep with the warm color trend, I chose marmalade for the filling. All the Kookys were placed on parchment paper on a cookie sheet.

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I just put a 1/4 dollop in the center of the smaller Kooky, then flipped over on top of the larger Kooky of the same shape. I didn’t spread the marmalade to the edge–once the smaller Kooky is placed on the larger Kooky, the compression causes it to spread more. If I had spread the marmalade to the edge, then placed it on the larger Kooky, the marmalade would seep beyond the dimensions of the smaller Kooky; it would look oozy and sloppy.

Once I had put marmalade on all the Kookys I could, I put them in the fridge for at least 3 hours so the marmalade would re-solidify and be less runny.

I sampled one and the bitterness seems to be less present. So all the Kookys that weren’t part of a pair were topped with marmalade as well.

May I Have Your Attention Please? The Importance of Magnesium

So I was reading an article the other day about a new supplement coming out. Aimed at ages 5-14, it is designed to address magnesium deficiency in young people. According to a study in Europe, children with ADHD are likely to have a magnesium deficiency.

This is a great idea for a supplement. And there’s definitely a need; I can’t tell you how often adults complain or make jokes about “having ADD”, and being unable to focus or concentrate like they used to. This is not meant to make light of the disorder, or the stress, grief and challenges it presents in one’s life as a result. It’s just to say that, if you have ADD, you’re definitely not alone. It seems to be a universal affliction these days, whether an individual is formally diagnosed or not.

Beneficial and well-designed as this supplement is, though, nature beat us to it. Nature’s magnesium supplements include many nuts (Brazil, almonds, cashews), cooked dark leafy greens (kale, spinach, chard, collards), and beans.

If you have a nut allergy, greens and beans have offer lots of options. If cooked greens taste bitter to you, adding a little lemon or lime juice and some sea salt can help.

If you feel like you have trouble concentrating, it’s worth incorporating more magnesium in your diet and seeing if it makes a difference.

NOTE: As a followup to the above post, there was a book published recently about the importance of magnesium. It is available here.

Food for Thought: Have You Ever Seen Agriculture Television Ads? Do You Remember Them?

There’s this cute meme online that says:

“The key to eating healthy?”

(photo of fresh produce)

“Avoid any food that has a television commercial”. 

I “liked” it because I understood where it was going and it’s a positive message. But I and at least one other person noted that this meme’s claim isn’t totally true.

The other commenter mentioned Dole and BirdsEye, which are major canned and frozen food brands that do advertise and sponsor televised events. You could add Picsweet and Del Monte to that list as well.*

I mentioned state and national agriculture boards also run television ads and have for many years. I know I’ve seen avocado, potato and egg ads before, sponsored by their respective agriculture boards.

The original poster responded that they’d never seen an ad for eggs, avocados or potatoes but they didn’t have cable. Semi-full disclosure–the original poster is part of print media in a Western state that’s very much identified with vegetable and starch produce.

In light of that, this really blew my mind. ‘Not the cable part, I don’t have it either. It’s the not recalling agriculture tv ads from a national or state agriculture group. That would be like me, a native South Carolinian, saying I have never seen peach ads or other marketing for that industry. [We grow more peaches than Georgia, by the way.]  This isn’t just a public health concern, what about the state’s economy?

This whole situation really made me wonder about the effectiveness of agriculture advertising.

I am curious—do any of the following American TV ad references jog your memory? Or any agricultural ads? 

  • Have you heard of the incredible, edible egg? Do you “love eggs from your head down to your legs?
  • Fast forward to today: are potatoes goodness unearthed? And do you prefer Idaho potatoes?
  • How about What goes with the potatoes?What goes with the potatoes?  I can’t find it on the Web, maybe it was intentionally not uploaded by its creators, but I digress. Sometime between 1999-2005, a TV ad featured two young 20somethings, traveling cross country in a minivan, and invading random families’ houses at dinnertime. These energetic, perky young adults were there to show families potatoes are healthy, great for dinner, they’re easy to cook, and here’s what to serve with them.
  • How about those mini-ads at the beginning of PBS cooking shows? Do you watch Latin-themed cooking shows on your PBS affiliate station, sponsored by California Avocados or California Almonds? Or another state’s produce pride and joy?

Feel free to share in the comments any US or state agriculture TV ads you’ve seen, and what year or decade it was.

*=I really didn’t want to start a ‘nerdfight’ in the comments, but canned fruit is often sweetened with sugar or high fructose syrup, and high in preservatives. Canned vegetables are frequently ‘salted’ to death and a soggy mess when you open them up. Then there’s that possible BPA can lining issue. Similarly, frozen foods often have a mystery sauce on them that is full of preservatives as well. Major brands looking out for their profit margin above all else are tempted to use GMO produce and not tell you about it. We live in an age where we all have to read those labels and know where our food comes from, and know our farmers.

Spice Blends, Some Exotic Aisle: Chinese Five Spice

Chinese Five Spice, like Garam Masala and other blends I’ve covered in this series, can have varying ingredients.

The ironic thing about five spice powder is, it does not have to contain five spices, it could contain more. The “five” actually relates to the elements, or phases, in Wu Xing*, or Chinese zodiac. These are earth, fire, metal, water, and wood.   In Chinese cooking, there are also five flavors–sweet, salty, sour, pungent, and bitter. This blend has it all.

Five spice powder

Fennel seeds (red bowl), cloves (orange bowl), anise seed (yellow bowl), saigon cinnamon (green bowl), ginger (blue bowl). Some varieties include Szechuan (Sichuan) pepper (not pictured).

I think the most aromatic spices in this blend are the subtle licorice scent of anise and fennel and the sweet warmth of the cinnamon (Saigon or Vietnamese smells more aromatic to me than regular cinnamon in the US).

Used In: Roasted chicken, duck, boar and pork dishes in China, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Malaysia. Beancurd pork and shrimp dumplings (ngo hiang).

Other uses: Spice cake or cookies–especially autumn and winter when warming, hearth-themed foods are the focus; apple and other fruit pies; pumpkin bread; baked or mashed sweet potatoes; beef or lamb stew; marinades and dry rubs; breading for fried meat.

*=The Western world could easily think the Greek four elements and the Chinese five elements are the same thing, or at least pretty close. This is not true.

The Greek four elements–earth, air, fire, water are about material composition. Chinese elements, more aptly called ‘phases’ are agents of change. They are consecutive and dependent on each other in the balance, destructive out of sequence or out of balance. Wood nurtures fire but separates earth,  fire’s ashes make earth but fire melts metal, earth creates metal but parts water, metal carries water but cuts wood, water nurtures wood but kills fire.

Wu Xing shows up throughout Chinese culture, including traditional medicine, feng shui, and the zodiac. If you’ve ever curiously read your horoscope at Chinese new year, each of the twelve animals has five phases, so it takes 60 years to complete a cycle.

This blog discusses the recurring “fives” in Asian culture better than I could.

If you have other ideas for this spice blend, please share in the comments below.

Feast For the Eyes: Tortilla Soup (2001)

Cinco de Mayo is almost upon us.

It is the anniversary of the battle of Puebla, a victory of the Mexicans of Puebla over the French in May 5, 1862. It is not Mexican Independence Day, which happened on September 16, 1810. It is not even a big deal for Mexicans outside of Puebla. But it is an excuse to drink ample amounts of Corona, Dos Equis, Modelo, and margaritas, and be ‘unofficially Mexican’ for an evening.

A perfect foodie movie for this time of year is 2001’s Tortilla Soup, a Latin-flavored story set in Los Angeles. Widower (Hector Elizondo) is a retired chef with three grown daughters, Leticia, Carmen and Maribel.  Eating large dinners together is a family tradition, but its evident each daughter is restless with tradition and wants more for her life. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps fate just might have what each woman wants.

The plot of this movie was inspired by the Ang Lee film Eat Drink Man Woman, originally released for a Taiwanese audience, in 1994.

Tortilla Soup is not just a catchy title, it really is a dish. It is a chicken broth-based soup containing tomatoes, peppers, and oregano, with crispy tortilla strips served on top. In the US, it contains chunks of chicken meat as well. I especially love this soup when I feel a cold or sinus issue coming on—chicken and hot peppers loaded with vitamin C are just what the doctor ordered, not to mention delicious.