Mushrooms Forever

Mushrooms are one of my all-time favorite foods. I love them sautéed in garlic butter. They are welcome in my omelets, over steaks, in cheese sauces, on pizza and in quesadillas, as well as soups and stir fries. I love them in stuffing, on grilled sandwiches, in casseroles, their caps filled with crab or most anything imaginable.  The only use I don’t have for mushrooms is raw in fresh salads.

There are 5 main flavors associated with foods, according to an old text book picture of the human tongue I saw back in high school: salt, sweet, sour, bitter, and a recent edition, umami (some also add ‘spicy’ for a total of 6 flavors).  Umami is a Japanese word for ‘meaty’ or ‘savory’, a perfect description of the mushroom’s earthy essence.  Mushrooms can give depth and body to a sauce like few things can, making them a stealth ingredient in some of my sauces and soups (pureed and blended to remain anonymous).

The nutrients in mushrooms become more available to the body when cooked. Their strong cell walls take a little time to break down but will freely give up their treasures under heat. Other qualities of mushrooms: they are a low calorie food; a good source of potassium; contain B-vitamins and antioxidants (particularly selenium).  Some even have Vitamin D. One of the most thoroughly researched living things on earth, mushrooms are the basis for numerous antibiotics and other medicines including statin drugs (ex. LovaStatin, a derivative of the oyster mushroom).  Clinical studies are underway to validate the effectiveness of certain mushrooms in the treatment of cancer in humans. Animal studies have already confirmed the mushroom’s anti-tumor, antiviral, and cholesterol-lowering properties.  What’s not to love about mushrooms?  Let’s pay our respects and get cooking!

The following recipe is a scientific mystery. Put the baked mushrooms on a serving dish and they vanish! Great for entertaining and easily made ahead. Bake and serve immediately.

Garlic Mushrooms with Herb Cheese         

Serves: 4 polite guests get 2 each; or 1 selfish guest makes a meal

1 package (6.5 oz) Boursin Light Garlic & Herbs Gourmet Spreadable Cheese

Mushroom Caps (or whole mushrooms, stems removed – about 8 medium size)

2 Tablespoons butter

2 Tablespoons olive oil, or grapeseed oil

2 Tablespoons onions or shallots, minced

1 large garlic clove, minced

Parsley, minced, for garnish

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove stems from caps and wipe off mushrooms with a damp paper towel.  Stuff caps (level) with Herb & Garlic Boursin Cheese.  Put all mushrooms in a shallow baking dish.

In a small skillet over medium heat, melt butter and oil with onion (or shallots) and garlic. Sauté vegetables until tender, about 3 – 5 minutes.  Let sauce cool slightly then pour over mushrooms. Garnish mushrooms with parsley then bake uncovered for about 10 – 15 minutes or until done, still slightly firm but not mushy.  Remove to serving platter and drizzle garlic butter mixture over mushrooms. NOTE: You can get fancy and sprinkle on some toasted bread crumbs right before baking, and combine a small, well-drained can of crab meat in the cheese mixture (which will make it go a lot farther and you’ll need more mushrooms. Worse things could happen).

Sources:  http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/TreatmentsandSideEffects/ComplementaryandAlternativeMedicine/DietandNutrition/shiitake-mushroom (American Cancer Society), and Nutrition Fact Sheet – Discover Mushrooms: Nature’s Hidden Treasures, American Dietetic Association, 9/2010).

Breakfast Ideas for Children

Here’s a new addition to the ever growing recipe guide “2012 Breakfast Ideas for Children V3” – Ham & Cheese Waffles. I’m on a mission to stamp out all excuses for not making our kids a nutritionally balanced meal with these quick and easy ideas. Each recipe includes protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats for a full tank of premium fuel to start their day. Grandparents, keep this list handy for when the grand kids come over. They might even enjoy helping prepare their meal.

Here’s another idea….why not try these adult-friendly recipes for yourself? Although I love my protein shakes for breakfast I do like a change every now and then. Most of these recipes can be fully prepared the night before to save you time in morning. Got some breakfast favorites you’d like to share? Please post them and they might find their way in to a book some day!

Welcome to the Choose Cooking Blog

It seems you can buy any cooking oil you want in the grocery store these days as long as its Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

‘Extra Virgin’ means it is fragile and unrefined to protect its delicate flavor. It is produced from a single type of olive rather than a blend of several olive varieties making it more expensive than other oils. Extra Virgin Olive Oil can be used for short term medium to medium low sauteing and baking and most are safe to use up to 325 degrees, depending on brand. At this point the oil may begin to smoke and break down into trans fats, creating free radical molecules with potential health effects.   One thing that most of us will agree on is that trans fats are bad for health and to be avoided.

Manufacturers recommend (and I agree) the best use of Extra Virgin Olive Oil is for finishing dishes – added at the end of cooking for a healthy flavor boost, drizzled over a soup or entree, in salad dressings, dipping oils, and pestos to name a few. Better choices for medium temperature cooking are grapeseed oil, coconut oil, and pure olive oil (a blend of virgin and refined oils). Save EVOO for uses where its delicate flavor can be appreciated. Your health and your wallet will thank you.  Click here for an excellent resource for information on oils and uses by temperature on the Spectrum Organic website.   More on this topic later!