Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Food police, you have met your match
I’m not with the “splattered microwave” police at my office, but I am on the “get your moldy food out of the fridge” force.
Pyrex has something new to please patrols at any office or home: Pyrex® No-Leak Lids™, a new storage line of round and rectangular dishes with leak-proof, air-tight sealing lids for storing liquid and dry foods. It’s just the right size to pack a lunch. I tested it with brown rice and cherry tomatoes, notorious for popping into a hot mess. I released the snap vent to reveal a tiny steam hole and was soon enjoying my hot meal.
I didn’t have to stop and clean the microwave. Now I wish everyone had these instead of leaving a crusty residue for someone else to find.
Neat freaks can rest assured that the bowls nest and the metallic gray lids are engineered of BPA-free plastic with “embossed, oversized and easy-to-read cup capacities for quick identification — plus lid tabs for easy opening and closing of the air-tight covers. The No-Leak Lids are conveniently top-rack, dishwasher safe. The eco-friendly, non-degradable, reusable storage dishes, like all Pyrex glassware, are made in the U.S.A. and are oven, microwave, refrigerator and freezer safe.” They don’t absorb food odors, flavors or stains and wash up well, the company says.

I’ve heard that in some countries, people associate the photo on the label with what is in the jar or can, so they’re not impressed by little jars of baby food with smiling infant faces. I’m thinking of this as I view tiny Innobaby containers with baby illustrations on them. The buyer should have images of these sweet, stackable containers full of dry cereal, home-pureed vegetables or even breast milk. These are the coolest products, and also good for adults who would like to transport snacks, salad dressing, etc. to work. I noticed that four tabs lock the lids in place, then figured out the reason: You can hold a squirmy baby in one arm and, by steadying a container on a table top, open it with the free hand. If you have a baby to feed, I’m volunteering.

Monday, January 25, 2010

How was your Healthy Weight Week?
I don’t know who deems these weeks, but we’ve just wrapped up Healthy Weight Week, where the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reminds us Texans that some 28 percent of us are considered obese.
This next week doesn’t have a name to it, but can you still commit to the New Year’s Resolutions you so happily made just a few days ago? The Galleria Tennis & Athletic Club shares these tips:
• Just Move Something! Spending just 30-60 minutes a day on physical activities can make a big difference.
• Pick a cardio activity that you enjoy, whether it’s tennis, running, walking, swimming, etc. Finding something you enjoy will make exercise a lot easier, and a life-long habit.
• Make it a social hour. Invite friends to the gym or schedule a tennis date or morning walk with neighbors. They’ll help you stick to it, and make exercising fun.
• Combine healthy eating with a consistent exercise routine to get the most effective results. Doing just one or the other will only get you halfway there. Once you grasp one component you can then focus on the other.
• Tell everyone you know about your fitness goals — even blog, tweet and update your Facebook status about it. Friends and family will/could serve as great sources of support, and the accountability will keep you motivated.
• A personal trainer serves as a great support structure as well. It is much easier to commit to and achieve your fitness goals when you know that you have someone in your corner 100 percent of the time, with positive reinforcement.
• Be realistic with your goals and keep true to yourself.
Here’s some more on lookin’ good:
Super hero shirt
Equmen sells super hero shirts that don’t even have an “S” on them. Instead there’s a Helix-Mapping System embedded in T-shirts snug, slimming, moisture-wicking shirts that form to a fella’s body and instantly make him stand up straight and take notice of his own muscles. Go ahead and call it what it is … shape wear for men. It’s amazing, and women have been taking advantage of this for years. I fully expected my husband to balk, but he tried it and liked it, quite a bit. Results are immediate. The line has several shirt styles and underpants, too. These are apparently the rage in the UK and I think American men will take right to them.

Makin’ up not hard to do
Valentine’s Day falls on our Mardi Gras weekend, and the Jessica Red Alert Manicure Kit is the way to go if you’re flashing colors other than purple, gold and green. A base and top coat flank a black nail polish with two reds, each one competing for more brilliance. I like the one that reminds me of a boat’s candy apple gloss, but my daughter asked for alternating nails of red and black. I told her she looked like a deck of cards and she began planning for a viewing party on the upcoming Alice in Wonderland with Johnny Depp.
Jessica also makes three romantic pink glosses — Kiss me in the Rain, Prelude to a Kiss and It’s in His Kiss — in pastels to merit a second glance.
OleHenrikson’s new sugar glow face scrub is hands down the most aromatic scrub I’ve ever enjoyed. African red tea, pomegranate seeds, pumpkin and sweet honey are just a few ingredients to “awaken” the skin. Mine had been asleep all winter.
I’m aiming to try Cover FX Fortifying Lip Treat Mint Primer SPF 15, a pout primer, just because it has such a cool name.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Mom cautions daughter against ‘hot stuff’
I almost named my daughter Cayenne, because I love hot peppers so much.
I respect the advice against salting and peppering food before tasting it. Some say they could hire or not hire a person at a luncheon job interview because someone “assumed” the food needed seasonings without tasting first. This could be a sign of rash decision making.
But my daughter and I had to laugh when my mother chastised me for adding a generous sprinkle of crushed red pepper to my greens. “Oh, you have to taste it first,” she cried.
Jasmine (coulda-been-Cayenne) and I defended “But it’s salad,” in unison.
I assured her I meant to do that, figuring I was getting the metabolism boost experts say red pepper provides.

Try this:
Inspired by an infomercial, I tried something with what I had. I made an “ice cream” by blending banana with hot cocoa mix and a drop of imitation rum flavoring. Then I stuck it in the freezer for a few hours.
That was a delicious, healthy alternative to the real deal, and I gilded the lily by topping it with peanuts and cocoa nibs.

Brown rice and seaweed
I had a hunch these two things would work together and was just going to make some, but I thought I’d do a web search. I found plenty of ideas, and a blog by someone chastising a TV chef for pairing the flavors. The writer considered it so gross that wearing larger clothes and eating less healthy foods was preferable. I want to say this: If I could convince my husband to choose brown rice, anyone can change. It’s now something we both crave. We love the flavor and the health benefits.
So blogger, you should have tried my RiceSelect Texmati Brown Rice with Navitas Naturals Wakame Flakes. You might have liked it. We loved it.
Texmati comes in those boxy plastic jars that look so good in the pantry. I’ve got a new cooker with a brown rice setting that hasn’t failed me yet and I love this grown-in-the-USA product.
Texmati offers six new products, including pearl and whole wheat couscous, which I aim to share with you soon.
Wakame, grown in “pristine ocean waters of Tasmania and Patagonia,” is full of nutrition. The flakes are too hard to eat dry, but quickly soften into salty antioxidants to season soups, salads and Asian-inspired dishes. It’s great to keep in the pantry.

Goji goods
I’m still introducing people to little red goji berries from Ningxia Province, China. Apparently Asians have used them in herbal medicine for 5,000 years, but you know how we Americans are. Navitas Naturals sells them in a resealable packet so you can snack away wherever you are. The berries have a slightly sweet taste that’s subtle and refreshing. Goji makes a great tea, too.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Glam 101: clean up, look cute
This very week I noted a Port Arthur mover and shaker’s fabulous red pumps and she confided they were a tres reasonably priced Sears find.
We commented on the notion that if a woman consistently looks put together, she can start a trend with a 50 cent bauble. Admirers may never guess the trinket wasn’t expensive, though it’s often more fun to share news of a bargain.
This same budget advice is found in “101 Glam Girl Ways to an Ultra Chic Lifestyle.” Dawn Del Russo’s thoughts are called a “cheeky book with tidbits of advice for a glamorous lifestyle” and comes with Barbara Ann Scarrillo’s adorable illustrations.
While we can’t all keep our stylist on call or splurge on a real pair of designer pumps, lots of these glam girl tips are absolutely free. I already walk out stress and clean out closets to make room for “incoming.” Her best advice is to make life special and love yourself.
Here’s some more fun stuff:
* Wear diamond studs. A little sparkle peeking through will grab just the right attention.
* Sit up straight. Great posture is important. You will instantly look fabulous.
• Pick up a book. Knowledge is power and power is chic.
• Drink water. You have heard it over and over. Hydrate yourself.
• Stock up on white tanks. They can be worn with almost anything dressed up or dressed down and still look chic.
• Love yourself. I mean, really, if you don’t who will?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Feeling backwards? Want to know everything?
Some “resolution reading” for the new year could include books on improving your thought process, or at least your crossword puzzle skills. Here’s some of what I’ve been reading:

“BackWords: A Backwards Word List for Gamers”
By CHerie K. Miller
I love hearing puzzle master Will Shortz on NPR every Sunday morning and I love a good game of Scrabble. My family loves the Scrabble dictionary for tight spots and Cherie K. Miller has an equally handy new book for big points. It reveals words like xis, zill to crossword and other puzzlers, and is fun for people who just love learning new words. You look up the final letter in the word you may seek.
Skep is a round farm basket of wicker or wood; titi is a kind of monkey or shrub; and vexil relates to a Roman military flag. This book is just a word list. You get to look up the definitions and learn more on your own. Warning: The list of words ending in Q is as short as you’d imagine, but there are plenty that end in X.

“How to Be Right About Everything”
Nash Mourad
I still have a few more pages to go, so I’ll let you know when I know it all. What’s funny, is this is Volume I. What you believe comes true for you, the author writes. We can choose abundance over scarcity. Boredom, he supports, is “thinking you know everything.” Several people I know may find this a challenge, but the author suggests that by admitting you don’t know everything, the simple awareness will shift your mind.

‘The Affordability Factor”
By Nathaniel J. Williams
“We can only afford what we are willing to sacrifice,” Nathaniel J. Williams writes in his new release that’s sort of a quick-read workbook on change and living better. “The Affordability Factor” focuses on releasing oneself from a “challenging life event.” Who doesn’t have one of those going on? We have to own our decisions, he writes, then we reframe our events. This “Affordibility” is about more than money.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

McCormick Trends
I started sharing McCormick flavor parings with readers as soon as I found them. They’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Flavor Forecast. Though running their list shortens space for things I wanted to tell you, It’s good stuff.
Kevan Vetter, the company’s executive chef, says the year will be heavily influenced by bitter, warm and earthy notes and stronger flavors.
McCormick® Flavor Forecas 2010 Top 10 Flavor Pairings:
1. Roasted Ginger & Rhubarb
Exciting layers of spicy and sour, with warming notes and a powerful tang
2. Thai Basil & Watermelon
A colorful study in contrasts offers a sweet, refreshing balance
3. Caraway & Bitter Greens
An unmistakable spice tames the bitter bite of bold greens
4. Bay Leaves & Preserved Lemon
Slowly coaxed flavor worth the wait, an aromatic mix of bitter, salty-tart and bright
5. Almond & Ale
The bittersweet character of both ingredients makes a congenial, cozy and hearty match
6. Turmeric & Vine-Ripened Tomatoes
Earthy and naturally sweet, this colorful, healthful blend is always in season
7. Pumpkin Pie Spice & Coconut Milk
This lush, warm pairing reconnects with its tropical roots
8. Roasted Cumin & Chickpeas
This globetrotting Mediterranean duet delivers warm, earthy flavor harmonies
9. Creole Mustard & Shellfish
A vibrant pair that brings Gulf Coast gusto to any part of the country
10. Chives & Fish Sauce
Savory fusion of French and Asian cuisines

Leading trends in the McCormick Flavor Forecast 2010 include:
• In is the New Out — Big flavors and new definitions of “dinner party” bring the best of restaurant meals home
• Always In Season — Preserving the peak of ripeness for year-round enjoyment, fresh at the ready
• Meatless on the Menu — Mixing up the center of the plate 
• Ethnic Sizzle — Tastes of the global grill, appearing in a backyard near you
• New Comfort Cuisine – A renewed appreciation for the integrity of ingredients and cooking techniques

The new chopping block
Remember how expensive food processors were in Julia Child’s heyday? Check out what GE and Walmart have for you now at $49. There’s a line of sleek, stylish GE appliances and a big o’l processor in black chopped my New Year’s cabbage egg rolls in a wink. At 15 cents a pound, I still have several heads stored up for slaw, salads and stir fry. Suction cups as powerful as the motor keep it in place; a satisfying whirring sound and a monster-sized food pusher lets you know GE means business. I liked it. It’s suitable for Duggar-sized families, and even handles dough, if you were going that way.
Perks include: 3-Speed countdown timer; the extra-large chute that reduces pre-chopping (my favorite); electronic “intuitive” controls; chopping, slicing, shredding and dough blades; 14-cup capacity; a “food stopper” that directs food toward the place to catch the smallest pieces; cord storage; and a two-year warranty.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Resolve to try new things in 2010
I enjoyed every bite I had over the holidays and am already feeling better about it by drinking lots of water and eating healthy grains and vegetables. I’m with all the other New Year’s Resolution folks I see walking around the neighborhoods. It feels good.
My friend Brenda provided the black-eyed-peas for my Jan. 1 meal. She baked them into a casserole with collard greens and ham, then topped it with cornbread.
I lucked into cabbage at Market Basket for 15 cents a pound and shredded the lot of it for the traditional Castillo egg rolls. The day began with a “pate/hummus” blend I concocted from black-eyed peas.

Mangosteens & Pomegranate
My tasters up front deemed Naturally Thai Mangosteen an appealing shot and seem disappointed AgroLabs product was meant to serve 16. Jennifer could have downed the whole bottle. You’re supposed to relish the zanthones and other good stuff from this fruit that looks like it’s having babies. Pineapple, pear and more go into the mix. I recently shared word on the company’s Naturally Pomegranate, which I enjoyed mixed in ginger ale and alone. A little bird says the following sauce is “amazing with mahi mahi.”
Pomegranate-Lime Dressing
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup Naturally Pomegranate
1 tablespoon low-fat mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon canola oil
Combine the first six ingredients in a large bowl. Add canola oil and whisk to blend. Season with salt to taste. Makes 4 servings at 52 calories each.

X marks the sweet spot
Oh, think of the things you can do with Xagave Premium Raw Agave Nectar. Wait, you don’t have to think too hard: Stephen Richards has already written a cookbook with goodies as diverse as Bourbon Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Kansas City Jambalaya to Beer Beef Marinade and Pomegranate Tequilini.
Xagave is a sweet, amber liquid that puts tasters in the mind of honey, but there’s no “getting used to it” factor. It’s good straight up.
I think I’ll save some to try this interesting breakfast drink with oatmeal:
Chocolate Protein Oat Shake
4 to 6 ounces low fat milk
1 to 2 ice cubes
1 to 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
1 1/2 tablespoons Xagave
1 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoons rolled oats
Blend all ingredients together on high or liquefy.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Hunting, Super Bowl part of party season
I’ve never been hunting, but I’d consider it if it was the kind of party I recently read about. And I love a good party even if its made up of buds sitting on coolers in the garage. But if someone invited me to a blini bar, I’d be there with bells on. Two books help readers put on some memorable parties suitable for the holidays and beyond. Here are some of the authors’ ideas:

Hot and hot
Memory cuisine is serious stuff for authors of the “Hot and Hot Fish Club.” I love how they recall a pivotal evening: “It was autumn, and fresh porcinis were abundant at the farmer’s market, along with a colorful array of root vegetables.” Chris and Idie Hastings developed the restaurant of the same name as their new book in Birmingham, Alabama. I’ll leave you to discover the name’s Civil War-era meaning, but I’ll share that a Blonde Mary is their drink with yellow tomatoes and a BLT soft shell crab is something I aspire to consume in my lifetime. They get all Southern with shrimp and grits and lots of new ways to enjoy okra. I love the story of a woodcock hunting trip where hunters were awakened to a choir singing “Bonny Blue Flag.” Here’s their after-the-hunt refreshment:
Bog Sucker
3 cups gin
1/2 cup dry sherry
5 green olives, each skewered with a hawthorn or toothpick for garnish.
Combine the gin and sherry in a Mason jar and freeze until well-chilled, at least 4 hours. Pour the chilled liquor into five old fashioned glasses filled with ice and garnish each with an olive-skewered hawthorn. Sere immediately.

That’s Entertainment
How about a blini bar for a Russian cocktail party or dumpling and spring roll stalls to represent an Asian street market? Just how in-depth is your party planning? If you want to travel beyond cheese dip and chips, curl up with Denise Vivaldo’s “The Entertaining Encyclopedia.” She covers it all from invites to thank-you notes and includes tons of recipes to boot. Favor ideas include: potpourri bags for a ladies’ night out theme; potted herbs that serve as centerpiece; orchid corsages for Mother’s Day; and charms and note cards for a book club gathering. She also covers topics like linens, glassware and how much food to order. Here’s just a simple offering from the gourmet book that ought to fit right into a New Year’s even a Super Bowl party:

Hot Mustard Dipping Sauce
(For ginger shrimp pot stickers)
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1teaspoons hot pepper sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a small bowl, whisk together mustard, sour cream, soy sauce and hot pepper sauce until smooth. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.