The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

June 19, 2013

Cheryle Finley: Eats and drinks that beat the heat

By Cheryle Finley
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — I think the recent hot weather is really getting to some of us. I've already noticed grouchy and somewhat lethargic behavior from people who are usually chipper and energetic. What will we be like by August? Tall glasses of iced tea and bowls of ice cream will surely be in big demand.

If you get overheated in the coming weeks and are looking for something cool to drink, remember that staying hydrated is rule No. 1. Water is the best drink during hot weather, but there are some good food choices, too, because of their high water content. Watermelon and grapefruit are good choices that we often turn to, but remember cucumbers and broccoli, too. Low-fat milk, yogurt and lettuce are some other choices that are high in water content, making them good go-to foods. All these foods will give you temporary relief.

A wild idea that is used worldwide by people who live in hot climates is to eat spicy foods because it's a long-term remedy. When you eat something spicy, it makes you sweat, which cools you down faster and for a longer time. Spicy food raises your internal temperature. So to match the outside temperature, your blood circulation increases and you start sweating. Once the moisture evaporates, you are cooled off. Say hello to jalapenos this summer.

Wikihow.com has tips on cooling the burning sensation you get when the heat from food causes your mouth to feel like it's on fire. If you are thinking ahead, eat a piece of fruit before starting on the spicy food. If you need relief after eating the food, put a little sugar in your mouth and suck on it for about 20 seconds. You can also chew on an unpeeled wedge of lemon or lime. The citrus skin oils will strip the chili oil from your tongue. It's the same results you will get by eating a piece of bread. Or try a piece of chocolate or a tomato. Got milk? Milk is the top choice, and whole milk works best because its fat will coat your tongue.

The Best Choice Award is my own nomination, based solely on the fact that Adam, the guy from "Man vs. Food," always has a glass of milk when he finishes a spicy food challenge. I would venture to guess he's tried just about every solution possible and must have found that milk works best at putting out the fire. I could have used this information 30 years ago when I opened my carry-out container of Hunan chicken and proceeded to pop a small, whole chili pepper into my mouth. It must have been through the roof on the Scoville heat unit scale, the rating system for the hotness of peppers.

I was unable to eat even one bite of my food. Instead, I spent the rest of my lunch break trying to extinguish the inferno in my mouth with a glass of water. Even the next day I was unable to taste anything. That feeling is still so vivid that I now order only the sweet and sour chicken. I hope these tips help you if pepper heat sneaks up on you when you least expect it.

Thursday is National Ice Cream Soda Day and Saturday is National Chocolate Pudding Day. Those are two good reasons to celebrate when it's time for dessert.

For a little heat this summer, consider cooking the chili beef quesadillas from the "Taste of Home Comfort Diet Cookbook." It's a tasty mix of veggies and seasonings. Another good mix is the rice and summer squash dish. This is supposed to be a side dish, but I could make a meal of it.

For a fun summer dessert, the watermelon cake has both the taste and look of watermelon; cool, refreshing and pretty to serve. Don't use too much red food coloring because you want the chocolate chip "seeds" to be visible. This recipe is from about.com. Have a wonderful week and happy eating.

 

Chili beef quesadillas

3/4 pound ground beef

1 medium onion, chopped

3/4 cup finely chopped fresh mushrooms

1 medium zucchini and carrot, shredded

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons chili powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced

4 (8-inch) whole wheat tortillas, warmed

Cooking spray

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

In medium skillet over medium heat, cook beef and onion until meat is no longer pink; drain. Remove and keep warm. In same skillet, cook and stir the mushrooms, zucchini, carrot, garlic, chili powder, salt and pepper sauce until vegetables are tender. Stir in tomatoes, cilantro and beef mixture. Spritz one side of each tortilla with cooking spray; place plain side up in 10-by-15-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Spoon beef mixture over half of each tortilla; sprinkle with cheese. Fold tortillas over filling. Bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes. Carefully turn over and bake 5 to 6 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Cut into wedges. Yields 4 servings.

 

Rice with summer squash

1 cup chopped carrots

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

1/3 cup uncooked long-grain rice

1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper

1 medium yellow summer squash, chopped

1 medium zucchini, chopped

In large saucepan coated with cooking spray, cook carrots and onion in butter until tender. Stir in broth, rice, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 13 minutes. Stir in squash and zucchini. Cover and simmer 6 to 10 minutes or until rice and vegetables are tender. Yields 4 servings.

 

Watermelon cake

1 white cake mix

1 small package vanilla instant pudding

1 1/2 cups seedless watermelon, cut from center, cubed into 1-inch blocks and pureed

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 to 4 drops red food coloring

1 cup miniature chocolate chips

For the frosting:

1/8 cup watermelon juice

6 tablespoons butter, room temperature

1 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

2 to 3 drops green food coloring

In medium bowl, whisk together cake and pudding mixes until combined. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat watermelon, eggs, oil and food coloring until smooth. Add dry ingredients, half at a time, and mix well. Batter will be thick. Fold in chips. Pour into greased and floured bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted near middle comes out clean. Cool 20 minutes, remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack. For frosting, blend first four ingredients until fluffy. Add food coloring to achieve rind color. Frost cooled cake and refrigerate to set frosting. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before servings. Yields 12 servings.



Address correspondence to Cheryle Finley, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.