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TIPS FOR KEEPING FOOD FRESH LONGER

For those who love to cook, there’s nothing more satisfying than creating delicious meals from using fresh food ingredients. However, since most of us can’t afford to go to the market every morning (well, probably 2 to 3 times weekly), keeping food fresh as long as possible is a challenge. Many of us throw out food because they’ve gone bad, so here is some tips that we hope you will find to be helpful in reducing wastage. 

To keep asparagus fresh longer, cut the stems, place in water and refrigerate.

If greens begin to wilt, revive them by soaking in ice water. This also works perfectly well for peppers. 

Keep unripe tomatoes with their stem down in a cool area until they turn red. To ripen faster, store with fruit. Ripe tomatoes should be kept at room temperature away from sun, not touching one another and stem side up. Do not keep tomatoes in fridge because refrigeration will cause the membranes in the cell walls to become damage and lose its flavor. 

Use one part vinegar and three parts water to wash strawberries, raspberries and other berries to keep them fresh for days or even weeks. Do ensure to dry the berries and store then in clean, paper towel-lined container after washing. 

Storing potatoes with apples will prevent them from sprouting. 

Do not separate bananas until you want to eat them, as they will keep longer in a bunch. Wrap the crown of a bunch with plastic wrap and they will keep for 3-5 days longer.

Store your leftovers in jars which is healthier and longer-lasting alternative to plastic tupperware which deteriorates and stains easily. They are airtight, leak-proof and safe for reheating in microwave. Another plus point is because they are see-through, so you’ll know exactly what’s inside and how much food is left. 

Keep mushrooms in a paper bag instead of a plastic bag because a plastic bag will trap moisture and cause them to mildew. Put paper bag in the fridge or in a cool, dry place. 

To keep salt dry and from clumping together, put a little bit of dry rice in the shaker. It will stop the salt from hardening as the rice works like a sponge to absorb condensation that causes clumps.

Keep meat and poultry in the original package if you use it within 2 days because re-packaging increases the risk of exposing it to harmful bacteria. If you keep it longer than 2 days, wrap it in zip lock freezer bags and freeze.

Milk should be kept inside the main refrigerator compartment. Milk stored in the door rack stays warmer because the refrigerator door is opened and gets exposed to kitchen temperatures.

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HERBS, SPICES AND SEASONINGS

Herbs, spices and seasonings are generally used to enhance the natural flavor of food. Each one of them can complement another but do be selective and do not use too many at one time. 

Did you know that herbs are the leaves and greener parts of the plant whereas the seeds, bark and roots are considered the spice? Some plants can be both. Most herbs can be found in both dried and fresh form. 

Some herbs like oregano, thyme and rosemary are better used in dried form as they tend to retain their flavor. Basil and chives tend to lose much of their flavor once dried so best to use them fresh.

Herbs and spices are a wonderful way to bypass salt, butter or oil on foods but which go best with what foods? Classic pairings include rosemary or thyme with lamb, dill with salmon and basil with tomatoes products. Chicken breasts go great with rosemary, paprika or sage. However, be creative and combine them to create your own taste. 

Food always taste better when properly seasoned. One of the best ways to enjoy spices is as rubs for meats - as a dry marinade. Brush steak or chicken breast with olive oil, then apply mixture of salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, paprika and cayenne powder. Rub with your fingers, rest for 10 minutes then sauté or grill the meat.

For freshest herbs, grow your own herb garden. Parsley, cilantro, thyme, basil and rosemary can be planted in pots. 

What’s the best way to keep your herbs, spices and seasonings so that they’ll last longer? Store them in your kitchen away from heat and sunlight. Once  you’ve mastered the basics of herbs, spices and seasonings, you’ll enjoy cooking a lot more. Food taste better, smell better and you’re on your way to impress your friends and family :)

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Be Kitchen Smart

Happy cooking starts with a clean kitchen. It’s great if you keep your kitchen spick-and-span but make sure that you are handling both cooked and raw foods correctly to avoid food poisoning. Here are some tips :-

Scrub, Rinse, Cut

Scrub and rinse melons, pumpkins and other foods with inedible rinds to remove bacteria that can transfer to the flesh when you cut into it.

Take Temperature

You can’t tell whether meat is safely cooked by looking at it. It’s probably not commonly used here but the best way to tell if the meat is cooked through and all bacteria killed is to use a food thermometer to check if it has reached a safe minimum internal temperature, roughly 165 F. 

Clean Sponges

It’s not enough to just rinse the sponge as its dampness is an ideal breeding ground for germs.  Best way to clean is to zap it in the microwave for 2 minutes. Make sure the sponge is wet, not dry. Do this every other day.  

One, Two Cutting Boards

Use one for meat and one for veggies so that bacteria from uncooked meat will not stray into your salads. For same reason, use separate knives for cutting.

In and Out of Fridge

Just wiping outside to make it sparkle is not enough. Wipe down drawers in the fridge with warm water and soap every few weeks and dry with dishcloth.  Remember to wipe any spills immediately.

Wash Up

Before and after food preparation, wash your hands thoroughly including areas between the fingers and dry completely afterwards. It only takes 20 seconds to do so or sing “Happy Birthday” 2x. 

What about leftovers? They can be kept for 3-4 days in the fridge but make sure you eat them within this period. If not, freeze them immediately. If in doubt, best to throw them out.

Happy cooking, everyone!

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HEALTH BENEFITS OF TEA

Why drink tea? There are many healthy reasons to drinking tea as a daily ritual. Studies have found that some teas may help with cancer, heart disease and diabetes; encourage weight loss and lower cholesterol.

White tea: Has the most potent anticancer properties compared to more processed teas. Fights the signs of aging and may protect against cancers.

Green tea: High level of antioxidants that makes it an effective cancer fighter and helps to slow down the aging process. May potentially prevent the onset or slow the progression of dementia.

Oolong tea: Boosts metabolism, helping fat to burn faster. Lowers bad cholesterol levels.

Black tea: Contains polyphenols that prevents plaque and keeps your breath smelling sweet. May also help prevent diabetes.

Pu-erh tea: Beneficial to “blood cleansing” and digestion. Lower cholesterol & blood pressure and increase metabolism.

Teas that do not come from the traditional tea plant are considered herbal teas. They are caffeine-free and are well-known for their health and therapeutic properties, giving a sense of calm and peace.

The variety of herbal teas and their benefits are : -

Rose – remove fatigue; enhance metabolism and blood circulation, moist skin (for natural glowing complexion).

Osmanthus – warm lungs, relieve chills, warm stomach and alleviate pains.

Chrysanthemum – cooling properties, decrease body heat  (for those with fever, sore throats), strengthen liver and gallbladder.

Chamomile – consumed teas in the world behind regular black tea. Aids toothaches, excellent in the evening (for those with insomnia) or in times of stress because of its mildly sedative and soothing properties.

Peppermint – great digestive drink to consume after a heavy meal. Helpful for heartburn, nausea and indigestion. Relieves constipation to get you going! 

Best to brew your tea using a cup or bottle made of glass as the container. 

Taken regularly, tea is awesome for your health and can help contribute to your overall well-being. Enjoy a cup today!

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TIME TO GET BACK INTO HEALTHY MODE!

Did you eat too much over the Chinese New Year with all the parties, family gatherings and dinners after dinners? 

It’s difficult to avoid overeating during the holidays but if you did, don’t be hard on yourself.  Instead, be good to yourself and remember that you can get back to healthy shape by maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Some simple rules to follow to get back into healthy mode:-

Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast. Skipping meals can make you feel tired as it puts your body into starvation mode. Eat small meals. Perhaps a whole grain cereal or a cup of VONO® for breakfast, healthy salad or sandwich for lunch.

Eat small amounts of the foods you love. You don’t have to feel deprived, so go ahead and take one cookie or a pie, but not both :)

Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Drink lots of juices, water and milk but avoid soda. Eat healthy snacks (yogurt, granola bars) instead of high-calorie junk food that are tasty but rarely healthy. Snack on nuts, raisins, fresh fruit or energy bars instead. 

Avoid eating 2 – 3 hours before bedtime so that your body has enough time to digest and burn the meal. 

Get active! Remember, a balanced diet must be coupled with physical activity. You don’t have to work out for hours in the gym. Just 20 minutes of exercise a day is incredibly beneficial for your overall health.

Keep it all in perspective. You’re making a lifestyle change and not going on a diet – don’t punish yourself! Just make sure you eat healthily and don’t expect results overnight. You can do it, one meal a time! :)

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