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Seafood is one of the foods recommended by nutritionists and physicians to serve as a foundation for a healthy, balanced diet. Fish and shellfish like shrimp and crab are rich in lean protein, low in saturated fat and packed with healthy vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. Still, despite all the health benefits of seafood, many people are hesitant to work with lobster, octopus, calamari and fish in their home kitchens.

If you'd like to start enjoying fish and seafood dishes at home, here are some tips to help you get started:

- When choosing freshly caught fish, look for four signs of freshness: red gills, clear, shiny eyes, a mild odor and shiny skin.

- When purchasing skinned fillets, choose fish that is all one color. You should not see brown spots, and its hue should be vibrant throughout.

- Keep fresh fish and seafood in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic surrounded by ice. It will keep this way for one to two days.

- If you do not intend to cook with fish or seafood within one to two days, you can freeze fish.

- Shrimp, crab, lobster and other shellfish can be purchased pre-cooked and flash frozen for simple use in recipes. You can also cook many recipes with dry fish if you're concerned about freshness.

- When you thaw frozen fish or seafood, do so in the refrigerator, not in the microwave or by running it under warm water. Always cook with the fish or shellfish the day that you thaw it.

- Pin bones are best removed from fish fillets using needle-nose pliers. Just press down on the fish to expose the bones and pull them out.

- Over-marinating fish can leave it being mushy and unappealing in texture. Keep marinating times to a maximum of 30 minutes. Do not pour leftover marinade over the cooked fish, as this can result in food poisoning.

- Overcooking fish is the biggest reason for unpleasant odors in the kitchen. Always cook your fish for a few minutes less than what is suggested in recipes. Make a small cut in the fish and examine the meat. It should form flakes easily.

- When cooking with shellfish like clams and oysters, discard any that are open. This indicates that the seafood is already dead and no longer fresh.

- Avoid cross-contamination when preparing seafood dishes. Don't put cooked fish onto a plate or cutting surface where you had placed raw fish and don't use the same utensils with cooked and uncooked fish. Clean counter tops with an antibacterial solution after cooking to remove microbes.

- Serve cooked fish with sliced lemons or limes to enhance flavor and balance any strong tastes.

If you'd like to try your hand at cooking with dry fish, be sure to shop Cantinastar for a wide variety of options for use in recipes or for enjoying as snacks.

0 Comments | Posted in News By Karen B. Vance

Indoor Gardening Tips

Fall ushers in cooler days and nights, beautiful foliage and wonderful festivities surrounding Halloween and Thanksgiving.  Your garden is now preparing itself for much needed rest.  You probably have some plants you would like to enjoy throughout the fall and winter months.

This is the perfect time of year to start grabbing your favorite outdoor plants and bringing them inside.  Coleus, Hibiscus and Geraniums do very well indoors and are often considered indoor plants anyway.

This also is the time to start paying closer attention to your "indoor" house plants.  As the nights get cooler, rooms are being heated and taking a great toll on your potted friends.  Heat can dry out plants, cause leaves to dry out and can start an onslaught of unwanted pests.

You should remove any debris or dead leaves from the pots while circulating the soil and checking for any insects.  This is a good time to add small amounts of fresh potting soil and/or moss.  As plants start to slow down their growth, the administering of fertilizer should become less frequent.  A light, slow releasing fertilizer is best for this time of year.

Plants with wide or thick and rubbery leaves should be wiped down in order to rid of any possibility of pests.

Indoor plants need fresh air and various level of light, depending on the plant.  This is also the case with plants you transfer from your garden into your house.  To determine what is a "house plant" is almost impossible to do because all plants were outdoor plants at one time.  Here are a few plants that most gardeners have found to be very adaptable in both environments:

Hibiscus:

These plants adapt very well both outside and indoors.  During the winter months they will need some pruning to prevent spindly growth.  A sunny window is the choice environment for Hibiscus.  The sun will cause the soil to dry out more frequently but that's fine because the soil should dry out completely between waterings. Hibiscus are susceptible to aphids, so keep a watch out for these insects.

If you don't have a sunny spot, place your plants in a cool spot with moderate light.  They will drop their leaves and go into dormancy.  Fear not, they will come back in the spring.

Coleus:

Coleus make for great house plants if given proper light and nutrients.  Their ideal temperatures are between 70 and 80 degrees and require several hours of high light.  Although they prefer continually moist soil, watering should be cut back in the winter months.  A great deal of water along with indoor heat can cause problems with pests.

If you have these plants in your garden, they should be brought in at the first hint of frost.  Leave them inside until garden soil stays above 55 degrees. Then you can return them to their flower beds and continue to enjoy them all summer long.

Geraniums:

Geraniums are a favorite with gardeners year round.  You can either allow them to go dormant until spring time or place them in a southern window.  As these plants are commonly grown in pots, both outside and inside, they are easy to transfer.  Once you bring them in, give them a trim and feed them once a month.  Only water when the soil has dried out.  These plants are very easy to care for and should continue to bloom for you year round.

Indoor plants need as much, if not more, attention as your garden plants.  They are indoors and therefore not open to the natural light or elements of the outdoors.  Their feeding and watering needs will alter during the winter months. Understanding this is crucial to their health.  All plants slow down during the fall and winter months, therefore, their tending needs alter as well.

2 Comments | Posted in Indoor Gardening By Charles R. Sword

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