Thursday, November 12, 2009

Give thanks for Indian-style fig chutney; spread the love of peanut butter month

My daughter and I want to live down the street from Bal Arneson and her family in Vancouver, B.C. She looks fun, wise and friendly in her book, “Everyday Indian” and I love the little anecdotes she shares about growing up in India.
One story tells how new brides head to the kitchen with elder women to attempt creating perfect roti for their new father-in-law. It looks like our tortillas and would be amazing with her curried scallop salad, zucchini paneer or Indian-Thai fusion prawns.
My brother-in-law is from India and has exposed us to the cuisine. Arneson has some very easy methods for achieving great flavor, even with the simple lentil. We want to live near her to sample some of her cooking. That spicy food must taste even better in the cool Vancouver clime. Here’s an easy one that sounds good on a Thanksgiving table:

Apple and Fig Chutney
Arneson writes that as a girl, she suffered consequences when caught sneaking a bite of apple chutney that was reserved for men in the family.
1 cup chopped apples
1 cup dried figs
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup raisins
1 teaspoon chat masala (recipe follows)
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 cup water
Mix everything in a pot and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. Let the mixture cool, then place in a food processor and process to a paste. Store in an airtight glass container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Chat masala (mild)
1 tablespoon mango powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon coriander
1 teaspoon pomegranate powder
1/4 teaspoon dried ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to three months. For more of an enhanced flavor, add 1 teaspoon fennel seeds and 1/4 teaspoon mint powder.

November is National Peanut Butter Lovers Month
Venders are touting new back-to-basics products such as Natural Jiff Creamy Peanut Butter Spread with 90 percent peanuts. There’s no need to stir, and it should make any pb lover happy. There’s also a new organic version.
Smucker’s Natural selections includes: Creamy, Chunky, Peanut Butter with Honey, No Salt Added, Natural Style Reduced Fat Creamy, Organic Creamy and Organic Chunky. A few ideas from the makers:
• Warm a small amount of natural peanut butter in the microwave in a microwave-safe bowl until soft and then swirl into yogurt.
• Stir natural peanut butter into hot oatmeal and sprinkle with raisins or other dried fruits.
• Drizzle warmed natural peanut butter into hot cocoa.
• Spread natural peanut butter on a rice cake and top with sliced apples or mini-chocolate chips.

Water’s the new wine
That’s what Hawaiian Springs says. A water “sommelier” recognizes the smooth, clear, slightly sweet drink as one of the world’s finest waters. I’ve never been to Hawaii and this could be as close as I , or many others get, so I wouldn’t mind having a case of this water under my stocking (with or without an airplane ticket attached). It comes from the Arctic rains that fall over the Big Island and travels through a volcanic rock filter. The U.S. Geological Survey names the source aquifer on Mauna Loa one of the purest in the world.

The bitter end
I’d have never believed I could get hooked on bitters. It must be the chic spray pumps you can slip into your evening bag. You can spritz Urban Moonshine Organic Bitters into your cocktail, or use as an aperitif or digestive. It’s like making people take a dare to try them, but there have been an array of reactions.
“I feel like an orange peel just kicked me in the face,” was Cody-on-the-desk’s proclaimation after trying the citrus version.
Original is not for the faint of taste buds; there’s a maple I haven’t tried. I consider it a palate cleanser (that’s what they do in Europe), but others felt they needed to cleanse their palate of the spray. Proclaimed bitter benefits: support liver function and detoxification; tone and repair the digestive tract; regulate the secretion of hormones involved in blood sugar balance; and reduce cholesterol by increasing its elimination from the body. 
The Urban Moonshine Cocktail
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
3 ounce Reeds Ginger Brew
3 ounce organic vodka
5 dashes Urban Moonshine Citrus Bitters
Muddled fresh ginger to taste

Bottle art
The lure of bottle art is tempting to both sexes. I work with a guy itchy to get his hands on one of those vodka skulls. I know a woman who has ridden her motorcycle to Sturgis, but she’s not getting my “Open Road” Lee DeVito-designed bottle of 1800 Tequila. No way. This is art, and it’s one of 12 in the second annual collection of limited-edition Essential Artists bottles from up-and-coming artists. There’s kind of a snow globe effect as you peer into the bottle to view the image of a rider with a guitar slung over her back as she heads down a mountain highway. More than 15,000 submissions were considered for the designs and this fine tequila’s price has been reduced to $24.99 to support “affordable art.”
With this collection, you can have an art show in your living room with refreshments built right in.

Amazing Grass powders are my new go-to breakfast on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when I have drop my daughter off at Lamar. I drop a powder and a banana into the Magic Bullet for a power-packed drink. The company has launched a new Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Bar that I can choose when I’m feeling “chewzy.” It’s soft and satisfying, with your taste buds processing organic dates, peanut butter peanuts, rice crisps, and agave nectar and Amazing Grass Green SuperFood. That’s a sneaky organic blend of wheat and barley grass, alfalfa, spinach, broccoli, acai, carrot, beet, rose hips and other stuff you’d never guess you were eating.

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