Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Toast to life after Ike; Family constitution

If you’re in a position to toast Hurricane Ike survival, consider raising a glass to the spirit of Mid-County. This one-year anniversary is a milestone.
Vya is promoting vermouth aperitif in a sweet blend makers say inspires a “warm tingling sensation” with a spicy aroma. I couldn’t imagine what would make me more tingly than getting back to my own bed after flooded homes and trailers. The extra dry label reads that a forest after the rain is the idea behind this blend with lavender, sage, orris and linden. It’s very earthy and I tried it on the rocks, as suggested, and would love to try it enhanced (or maybe thinned) with vodka or gin for the suggested martini. Andrew Quady of California is the maker of this wine that’s a step above what I’m used to.

Star power fuels DVD on Bethlehem’s brightest
A study of the stars is always interesting. Lawyer Rick Larson tells how a young man’s offer to install holiday decorations lead to his Biblical study. “The Star of Bethlehem: Unlock the Mystery of the World’s Most Famous Star” is a DVD that’s a little bit History Channel and a little bit like the TV drama “Numbers.” Math is a big part of how ancients worked to follow this star and Larson bring a new passion to the study. “The Passion of the Christ” producer Stephen McEveety helps bring this story to the public.

What a great play on words. The Gatlin Brothers have released “The Pilgrimage,” singing their respect for Johnny Cash. It’s all based on a Gatlin family member said that the music business would never be the same after Johnny Cash died and his house burned down. Larry Gatlin flipped over his placemat and began writing. If you like country music, this album is kind of a two-for-one.

Draft it and sign it
Scott Gale details the highs and lows of his family getting on track with their written plan in “Your Family Constitution: A Modern Approach to Family Values and Household Structure.” It’s a simple reminder for families to treat each other with respect. Here’s a quick list of “valued behaviors” from the book: Academic performance, chores and allowance, clean-up, listening and communication, politeness, sharing and taking turns and telling the truth the first time. Even households with only adults could benefit from these tips.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Carry a smile with your bag, try black garlic and sweet stuff
Sunny side up
In a closet clean up, my daughter inherited a bag that has not failed to bring a smile. It looks like a red and white checked tablecloth, putting one in the mind of a barbecue. Turn it over and there’s a “face” of two eggs with a bacon mouth made of vinyl. Smiles break out whenever the bag goes out on the town. I want to decorate a whole ‘40s style kitchen around this bag, but it’s currently making appearances with Jasmine at Lamar University.
Sunshine to the donor, Michelle Sheppard. Her mother reports she is enjoying her first semester at Lamar just fine.

Black garlic
I admire everyone who tried black garlic at my desk. The name alone arouses the senses. Is it a Halloween dish? A savory status symbol?
Besides a conversation starter, I think aged black garlic is a sweet, spicy nugget of bliss. Cloves of gooey garlic are distributed by Frieda’s Specialty Produce in bags. The company’s serving suggestions include black garlic with noodles, pizza, potatoes and even ice cream. I’m seeing it as a stand-alone star, with bread and wine. I don’t want much to distract me from the flavor, which a co-worker likened to a garlic smoothie, or kissing an Italian woman. We get excited about our food here. Once you peel the papery clove, the inside is the consistency of a date. Tasters have also compared the flavor to molasses, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and licorice.
Whole garlic heads are aged a month in a special high-heat fermentation process, naturally turning the cloves a deep, obsidian black. Go for it.

Sports (or chocolate) fan
I’ve never liked Nolan Ryan as much as I do now. I can be mercilessly teased on my lack of sports knowledge, but Chew-ets Peanut Chew’ collectible edition could change that. Amazing what you can pick up when enjoying a nice chocolate bar. But these mini bars bundled with images of famous ball players Ryan, Lou Brock and Cole Hamels really weren’t designed for me. Fans will appreciate the cool pictures and people like me will love the flavor. Texas stores will get the Ryan edition. All three will also be available online at www.peanutchews.com.  

Superfood kit
Make your own superfood chocolate in an ice tray with Navitas Naturals’ new Organic Superfood Chocolate Kits in Goji Berry, Cacao Nib and Goldenberry. My daughter made these and I thumbed through the super-informative catalogue of the company’s tempting health foods. It would take all my space to report how healthy these chocolate kits could be, so I’ll just sum it up with a “yum.” This is hearty chocolate for gourmets, not the super-sweet stuff in Easter baskets.

Fudge folks
Wisconsin DairlyLand Fudge wants Texans to know they can mail you some caramel apples, cookie ‘n’ cream or pumpkin fudge for the holidays. Don’t think you’ll want to stop after the Christmas tree is put away. Go for the sample box with peanut butter and cashew varieties. I haven’t tried cranberry nut, but it’s available September through November and remember, local reader Seabourne Stokes says cranberries are going to be popular this season. Visit dellsfudge.com to get your order in.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Pecans are on the mind in Groves
Folks are claiming to feel fall in the air. In Groves, that means Texas Pecan Festival time and I’ve got pecans on the mind.
The festival runs from Thursday, Sept. 17, through Sunday, Sept. 20 at Lions Park in Groves and Angel Contreras heads the Cooking with Pecans Contest. Contestants may bring dishes in an appetizer, entree or dessert category to Lions Park at 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19. To register in advance, pick up a form at the chamber office 4399 Main Ave.
I noticed some pecan fare in “Raw Food Quick & Easy” by Mary Rydman. Golden Sun soup with corn and coconut, Winter Pate with pumpkin seeds and squash and persimmon cookies are all easy-looking temptations. I tried a variation of a pudding by simply putting an apple, banana and coconut in the blender. Great stuff. Here’s one that makes use of pecans:
No-Fail Pie Crust
Author’s note: This crust is so good it almost doesn’t matter what you put on top of it. It’s a no-fail recipe.
Advance prep: 6 hours to soak nuts
1 cup almonds, soaked
1 cup pecans or walnuts, soaked
2 cups dates, soaked if they are not soft ones
1 tablespoon vanilla
Grind nuts first in a food processor, then add dates. You may need to scrape down the sides occasionally. Press into pie plate with wet hands. Top with sliced seasonal fruit of your choice. Serves 8 with filling.

Junk food bondage
In “Faith & Fat Loss,” Ron Williams invites readers to build a physical and spiritual body by dispelling myths, overcoming soul wounds and enhancing a relationship with God. He lives in Salt Lake City and is pastor to Back to the Foundation Church and the cover calls him “natural bodybuilder of the decade.” For Williams, prayer is one exercise toward self improvement. He links the bondage of the Hebrews in Egypt to the bondage of junk food in today’s society and offers a way out, by eating real foods and not food-like substances.
Here are a few of his tips from a section called The Overlooked Hindrance:
• Avoid processed meats
• Eat broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, they are excellent choices for eliminating estrogen in the body
• Do not microwave foods in plastics or cover with plastic wrap
• Use a simple laundry and dish detergent with fewer chemicals

For deer hunters?
I love a good all-in-one product and Vermont Soapworks has what light-packing travelers and campers want. A new certified organic Camping Soap that cleans everything from dishes to oily hair can save you from packing lots of bottles, including shaving cream and laundry soap. It smells amazing with coconut, olive and jojoba oils, organic aloe vera and natural essential oils. Get a little bottle or buy it in bulk by calling 1-866-SOAP4U2.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Oily prune juice and sandy milk sensations aren’t deterrents to eating healthy

This week I’m getting all healthy on y’all.
Don’t worry. I’m sure we can talk festival food soon with the approach of the Texas Pecan Festival in September. But here’s a word on hurricane season:
Eat your favorites from your freezer now. You’d hate to have to toss them for any hurricane evacuations.

Hot or cold
The same chia seed that makes green, hairy “pets” makes a great cereal that’s as good for what it doesn’t have as what it does have. Chia Goodness is remarkable in that just two tablespoons soaks up water or milk to make a filling power breakfast. Serve it in a dainty bowl to highlight its nuances. My tasters enjoyed it raw and crunchy or you can add it to yogurt. I enjoyed it over bread toasted with olive oil. This made-in-Canada treat now comes in Original, Cranberry Ginger, Apple Almond Cinnamon: Chocolate is on the way. Hulled hemp seeds, buckwheat, Celtic sea salt and fruit and nuts give the flavor. A small, resealable bag goes a long way and chia offers five times the calcium of milk, more Omega 3 than salmon or flaxseed and protein and fiber. This stuff is gluten-free, lactose-free, and low glycemic.

Measuring up
I tend to eyeball spices, but Weight Watchers got me into measuring sweeties like syrup and raspberry chipotle sauce so I can get accurate servings. I brought a set of new Pyrex Cooking Solved measuring cups to a meeting and members passed them around with approval. Magnets hold the handles together so they’re always ready to go and easy to separate and wash. Measuring spoons also come in the sleek, black, streamlined look. It’s part of a line with nearly 40 BPA-free items offering “more intuitive kitchen helpers.” Look for a Pyrex balloon whisk and other goodies at Kohl's, Kmart and in limited distribution at Wal-Mart, and JC Penney.

Oily prune juice and sandy milk
Health food is beginning to be my preference over processed, salty, sugary fluff. To what some will wrinkle their noses over, I’ll dive into.
I dubbed AgroLabs, Inc.’s new Acai Daily Cleanse to remindy me of “oily prune juice” on first sip. I’ve taken double doses daily and quickly grew to like it the flavor of “the superfruit of the Amazon” when mixed with pure young green coconut water, antioxidant green tea, healing aloe vera, anti-inflammatory ginger, laxative senna and liver-boosting milk thistle. It’s full of fiber
I’ve already enjoyed boxes of Hemp Bliss Organic Hempmilk from Canada. Now they’ve improved their line and I’ll be happy to share the news again. It would take all my space to tell you how good it is for you. Besides the conversation piece that you’re drinking hemp, you get a good flavor. Drink it fast, or it could get a bit gritty near the end. It’s worth it, and here’s a recipe:
Cherry Chocolate Hemp Bliss
2 cups Manitoba Harvest Chocolate Hemp Bliss
1 10-ounce bag of frozen cherries
2 tablespoons raw cacao nibs
Blend until smooth and creamy.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What’s shaking? This reporter on a workout mission.

While the Port Arthur YMCA is my new favorite hangout, I’m augmenting my Y work at home during TV breaks. I believe America is currently divided into groups that have seen commercials for Shake Weight (and are snickering at them) and those who have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m with those who have tried it and loved it. One small weight has sort of a bellows at each end. Users grip it and shake it four ways for as little as 6 minutes a day for results, makers say. It uses dynamic inertia, not batteries, and that reminds me of a line from a “Rocky Horror” song.
I don’t yet have Michelle Obama arms, as mentioned in promotions, but I quickly went from snickering to feeling the burn. Quickly. I may be hooked on the good feeling. Shake Weight is on my coffee table. I use it every time I pass by.

Texas history
I know how passionate Texas history lovers can be. Charles Irwin of Port Neches comes to mind. The Texas Rangers fan recently released “Unheralded Texas Heroes.” He’d probably love to get his hands on “Yours to Command: The Life and Legend of Texas Ranger Capt. Bill McDonald.” With photos of gun-toting enforcers, maps and topics from prizefighting and bank robbery to mobs and gunfights, Harold J. Weiss Jr. keeps the “One Riot, One Ranger” sentiment alive in this University of North Texas Press release.

The glass standard
My fantasy kitchen exists in Katy, where my Aunt Anne creates tamale pie, roasts and even sandwiches with flair. Open her fridge and her leftovers tempt from glass boxes. Now I’ve got some new Pyrex Cooking Solved containers that look like little glass meat loaf pans for microwaving and oven baking. The small one is just right for toting lunches. They come with BPA-free red plastic lids for storing foods in the pantry, refrigerator or freezer transport, but my favorite look is the glass lid with oven-safe silicone trim affixed around the inside rims to prevent — as Pyrex calls it — glass-on-glass contact. The silicone in the glass cover is notched for self-venting in the microwave.
Get online to view Corelle’s 15 new patterns of round and square plates. Even the basic white square plates have an Asian flair, which puts you in a healthy-food frame of mind. Corelle has Asian-inspired foliage on more styles. The border of a soft-edged triangle with maroon dots in a field of brown make it look like your serving is heaped high on a round breakfast plate. It’s my new favorite that I keep in my drawer at work.
As usual, Corelle’s love-factor is influenced by crack-, chip-, break- and stain-resistant Vitrelle.

Other goodies
Grand Prairie, Texas, is home to Herbacin, a company new to me, that has been into cultivating herbal products using “Mother Nature’s treasures.” Of all the attractive bottles of hair care, bath additives and lotions for sensitive skin, I have just tried one, Kamille skin firming lotion, and it smells really, really good with argan nut oil and such.

Embrace fashion
While women are stretching their fashion budgets, some are finding their bra straps stretching out of shape, too. The Bra Strap Solution from Embrace is a clear plastic disc that easily hooks on to the back for help hide straps and give extra lift. This $8.50 trick can help all ages get more bra for her money. It works. Embrace also has another purse-sized packet called A Fresh Pair. Because there’s an image of a pear, I had to read this a couple of times to get that it’s a soap leaf (I loved these as a kid!) designed for washing delicates while traveling. A third trick of the trade is Embrace In Place tape. I remember being so pleased to learn celebrities use this stuff to keep bodices in place while doing red carpet and dance moves. It sounded kind of scary at first, but it’s another winner. Visit www.Iloveembrace.com for the scoop!