Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Get rid of kitchen clutter by Easter
I organized my mom’s spice cabinet on the very day I read Barbara Tako’s dismay at finding five 5-spice jars in her own rack. In “Clutter Clearing Choices,” she explains how she came to alphabetize her seasonings after thinking that was just nuts, and how it helped her a lot.
At Mom’s, I found a few bottles marked Shwegmann’s, her favorite grocery store to visit when my sister lived in Baton Rouge, more than a decade ago. She was surprised to find extra dill and celery powder, and happily shared with me. I took a bunch of jars with tiny bits of green stuff and morphed them into a new mix I labeled Italian. I’m willing to make a sauce with this, because it was free to me, but I know Mom and Tako are right … fresher spices make a better meal.
Tako takes on other rooms in this book, and I already subscribe to her thoughts that items should flow through our lives, instead of park there and rot. One of her anecdotes is about a woman with beautiful, dusty candles sitting out. The friend won’t burn them because she’s afraid of starting a fire, but dusty candles aren’t attractive. They need to get out of her life.

Give him a foot . . .
Mel Bartholomew is my fantasy neighbor. In “All New Square Foot Gardening Cookbook” he tells you how to get the most from a tiny space, offers both gourmet and “classic” recipes from your yield and even has games and lessons for the children. Fresh Pepper Lentil Salad, Zucchini Parmesan Pancakes and Asian Cucumber Salad are some temptations. Here’s another:

Sweet Peanut Carrot Spread
_ cup crunch peanut butter
1 to 2 tablespoons orange marmalade
1 large or 3 small carrots, shredded or grated
2 tablespoons raisins
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Use the mixture to fill sandwiches or spread it on crackers. Makes enough for four sandwiches.

Deliver a switch
Although this pizza box doesn’t have cheese and sausage inside, it is by no means empty. Makers of World Famous Chocolate Pizza from suggest watching Dad’s face when he opens a gift of a “pizza” of Belgian milk chocolate blended with puffed crispies to make an extra large 14-inch sweet and crunchy “crust.” White chocolate drizzles make the “cheese,” and toppings include yummies in shapes of mushrooms, pepperoni and pepperoni. The supreme comes with complete with chocolate mugs of beer and remote control. Now that spells “Dad.”
Can I get some of these for April Fool’s Day? Who doesn’t like fun you can eat?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Oh nuts … foodie crosses over to the healthy side

I may have crossed over.
I could be one of those health food nuts. In fact, nuts … maybe almonds … sound good about now. I’m also craving some brown rice with … how about a hemp oil dressing?
Processed, salty boxes of just-add water foods are not tempting to me now that I’m making sure to get my vegetables and whole grains in. I work a little olive oil into my daily diet, but this week I’m trying Manitoba Harvest Hemp Oil in everything.
I baked it into chocolate bread and folks seemed to enjoy the “grassy, nutty” flavor. I’ve also drizzled it on popcorn, couscous and fruit salad. My bottle is emptying fast. I’ll have to contact Canada for more. Hemp Pro Fiber powder comes in regular, dark chocolate and vanilla flavors that when blended, with a banana if possible, keep me really full until lunch.
Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods & Oils has improved packaging on the omega-rich oil with a no-drip spout. Makers suggest it on salad dressings, soups, sauces, juices and smoothies: You can substitute hemp oil for other oils in recipes that are not heated above 350 degrees, or drizzle it on cooked food. Hemp oil comes with a list of benefits so long that I’ll advise you to look it up yourself, so I can have space for this recipe:
Hempini Dressing
(Makes: 1 1/2 cups; Prep Time: 5 min.)

1/2 cup Hemp Seed Butter
1/2 Cup Hemp Oil
1/4 Cup Tamari
1/4 Cup Maple Syrup

Combine Hemp Oil and Hemp Seed Butter in a bowl. Stir until creamy and smooth. Add tamari and maple syrup. Mix well. Will keep in the refrigerator for 4-5 days in a sealed container.  This is a high protein dressing that is ideal for salads, rice or veggies.

Still snacking like astronauts
Co-workers ate all the new Frutzio varieties of freeze dried fruits in peach and apricot. At just 40 calories a serving, I suggest these as croutons for a fruit salad. You’ve got the crunch with 0 grams of fat.

La Linda
The year 2008 brought us Hurricane Ike. For Bodega Luigi Bosca, Argentina's leading family-owned premium wine producer, it produced Finca La Landa Malbec, a $10.99 bottle of wine that can lead you into the Easter/Passover season. It’s my favorite time of year to have a glass of red, but I’ve already consumed most of this bottle.
The makers have just shipped new vintage releases from its Finca La Linda portfolio with new take-note packaging. The 2008 La Linda Malbec, 2008 La Linda Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 La Linda Viognier and 2009 La Linda Chardonnay represent the initial introductions, with more to come.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patrick, are you ready for raw?
Looking for green food this St. Patrick’s Day? You can get much greener than the way some people are choosing to eat. I learned so much from meeting area raw foods enthusiasts. They all said that they gained a lot of energy from eating real food over processed junk. That sentiment is echoed by people in a new book.
“Raw food: A Complete Guide for Every Meal of the Day” by Erica Palmcratz and Irmela Lilja is filled with beautiful pictures of food and people. They aren’t all young model-quality beautiful. They’re real people of all ages who eat this stuff up. They make vegetable lasagna, and marinated salads look amazing, and who could go hungry with soaked buckwheat and fruit snacks and smoothies. I think people have forgotten what real food is and these authors are ready to make us healthy with wakame burritos, stuffed peppers and parsley tabbouleh.
I’m ready for summer where I could enjoy one of these recipes a day in the back yard.
Raw foodist heat food only up to about 104 degrees to make the most of nutritional value. They prepare — not cook — foods via soaking, grinding and sprouting. I’m starting with the following recipes, providing my lemongrass bush didn’t freeze.

Avocado Lemongrass Dip
A guacamole variation, good as a side dish, but equally yummy as a dip for carrots, cucumber slices and celery sticks.
1 avocado
1 lemongrass stalk
1/4 red chili pepper
Pinch of chili flakes
2 apricots, soaked
1 or 2 tablespoons of the soaking water from the apricots
1 teaspoon tamari
Put all ingredients in a food processor. Start by adding a little bit of the chili pepper if you don’t want too much spice.
Remove any remaining large pieces that have not mixed in well.

Sweet Breakfast Porridge
1 banana, chopped into large pieces
1 apple, chopped into large pieces
1 pear, chopped in to large pieces
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon flax seeds, ground
First put the pear into the blender, then add the banana and then the apple. Blending the fruit in this order prevents the mixture from getting too sticky.
Sprinkle the cinnamon and flaxseed over the mixture.

Raspberry Coconut smoothie
1/4 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen
1 banana
1 cup apple juice
Fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon coconut flakes
Blend the raspberries, banana and apple juice in the blender.
Garnish with mint leaves and coconut flakes.

Green reverse
I’m thinking of my grandmother’s day as a young homemaker. After a quest to collect crystal-like glasses from deterrent boxes, could she have imagined an era where people would spend money for a cup that only looks disposable?
Copco makes a clear, reusable To Go Cup that holds your cold drinks and helps keep an average of 312 cups a person out of the landfills, makers say. I say this 24-ouncer has been my smoothie savior, because the straw has stirring paddles on the bottom and the non-slip grip feels so good with its BPA-free self. Look for it at Bed, Bath & Beyond stores for $7.99. 

Asian popcorn
I started my Oscar party the night before the ceremony, just to play popcorn. Black Sesame Mustard Popcorn is a perfectly good recipe from The Popcorn Board, but I was out of mustard powder, so I used wasabi powder instead. I used less butter than called for, and got flavor from the dark sesame oil, kosher salt and black sesame seeds. Results are attractive, and the photo shows some black-seeded popcorn in fancy glasses, as though they’re set out for a party. I just held my biggest mixing bowl in my lap and gobbled it all up.

Wine Wand
Glass jewels sound like their summoning fairies as they slide in the glass Philip Stein Wine Wand, a tool to aerate fine red wine in 2 to 3 minutes, saving the connoisseur hours of waiting. Just set the wand in the poured glass and let it do its stuff. The wand, a beauty even denuded from its leather case, replicates natural frequencies of air and oxygen, infusing them into the wine, which, makers remind, is “alive.” It sounds crazy, but I could tell the difference between the taste of a glass that had been wanded and one that had not. Another bit of wonder: the test glasses should be several feet apart on non-conductive surfaces (not glass or metal). I’ll bet you didn’t realize your wine was so reactive.
The wine wand is a perfect gift for your favorite onephile.

Perky Jerky
Everyone who got a taste of my Perky Jerky loved the flavor, the texture and just saying the name of it. It’s flavorful and juicy and so tender it didn’t even hurt my teeth. Billed as the world's first all-natural performance enhancing meat snack, the extra dose of energy comes from guarana’s caffeine for a “jerky experience you won’t find anywhere else.” I suppose it will keep you alert in the deer blind.
Development behind this fine product is told in the story, “Two Jerks in a Ski Lodge.” To shorten it, they spilled their energy drink on their peppered beef jerky and found it pretty good. We agree.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I prefer the term ‘frugal’ over ‘cheap’

My dinnertime topics often include a bit of a boast about how inexpensively I made such wonderful fare. But I’ve never written a whole cookbook about it.
Erin Chase dishes up kid-pleasing fare in “The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook” with 200 tempting recipes. They’re not all pasta, rice and lentils, but she does a great job with those basics, as well.
Barbecue lentils, blueberry wild rice and green pepper soup may be adventurous in your book, but cranberry pork chops, sloppy chicken joes and beef tacos sound like something the kids would try. I love her ideas and will probably make her whole wheat pizza dough often. I’ll pass on making my own hot dog buns, but hey, it’s there for you.
Chase lived abroad, where there was only one toothpaste brand to choose from. Now back in America, she found her food budget shrinking as she began to buy more and more from her vast selections. Now couponing and healthy choices for her family has her back on track, and she wants to help readers budget their money and calories as well.
Here’s a Lenten idea: Make a shrimp marinade for about 40 cents with two crushed garlic cloves, 3 tablespoons of butter and salt and pepper.
She calculates her pizza sauce can be made for 84 cents:
Homemade Pizza Sauce
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
In a small saucepan or skillet, whisk the tomato sauce with the spices and olive oil. Simmer for 2 to 8 minutes. Makes 2 cups.

Ginger Salmon Marinade (estimated cost, 35 cents)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons canola oil
Salt and pepper
In a small bottle or plastic container, shake the soy sauce, ground ginger, oil and salt and pepper. Pour over four salmon fillets. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator before grilling.

Link to your drink
We’re handed Sharpies with cups and my friend’s house, so no one loses their drinks. Drinkmarx customizable beverage markers take it up a notch with plastic collars you can snap on to cups, bottles and cans. Stickers spell out my name on a pink link and stickers with chocolate cake, the Eiffel Tower and a glass of wine symbolize things Darragh might like. I’m thinking creating your “marx” is part of the party fun. Hey wait, that Sharpie could come in handy by creating your own artistic designs on this cool tool. It’s fun, and prevents the spread of germs.

Beemster sounds like a European car, but it’s an awesome Dutch cheese, which could help the good people of Nederland celebrate the Nederland Heritage Festival. I find the original so compelling it’s like a cheese candy. I’ve now enjoyed BeemsterLite Matured, which uses only grade-A milk from cows that have grazed freely on lush, pesiticide-free grasses of the Dutch Beemster Polder in North Holland.
People, the food pyramid says we’re supposed to have dairy daily, so we ought to enjoy it as much as we can. A serving of this is like a dessert that you’ll look forward to all day.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cook this, have fun, get full
Eating great food is a priority for me. If I can make it more healthy and save money doing it, that’s icing on the cake, so to speak. It’s an exciting mission to me, but those who thought it would be boring need only pick up “Cook This, Not That!”
Authors David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding have sassy commentary and eye-popping photos comparing dollars and calories saved recreating versions of popular restaurant foods. Try one restaurant’s baby back ribs for 3,021 calories, or make Dr. Pepper Ribs for 400 calories on your plate. Cornmeal catfish, teriyaki scallops, butternut ravioli, loaded pizza and turkey meat loaf mimic what you could get out. This is a good guy cookbook, it’s easy to read and it could just be the motivation you need to be good to your gut.
Here’s some quickie goodies from just two pages of this useful book:
• Mix a can of tuna with chopped pickles, minced onion, and equal parts Dijon and olive oil mayo. Stuff into a whole wheat pita.
• Mix together a bit of mayo with grated horseradish. Spread on toasted rye or wheat bread, then top with roast beef, sharp Cheddar, sliced cucumbers, pickled onions and arugula.
• Slice an avocado and remove the pit. Fill the round cavities with canned tuna and a squeeze of lemon, plus salt and pepper. Eat with Triscuits.
• Mix equal parts of cooked brown rice and drained canned black beans. Top with leftover chicken or steak (or deli turkey), salsa and guacamole. Eat with a small stack of tortilla chips.

Do you know Hungry Girl?
This real lady has a cool avitar kind of character that appears on healthy stuff. If you’re not familiar, get to know her, because Hungry Girl can point you in good directions, like toward Mann Packing Co. clean and cut-up packaged products. She’s on packages of cut up sweet potato, courage musquee (butternut squash) and other natural goodies you see right in front of you in the produce section, but may not be trying.
Snacks on the Go come in a party pack with the best celery I’ve ever tasted. That sounds funny, but it’s true.
Sweet potato slices tumbled out of a bag ready to be baked in olive oil. I actually blackened some (on purpose). Sprinkled with cinnamon, baked sweet potato spears also made a fabulous breakfast, paired with my famous special sauce of ketchup and Taco Bell packets, seasoned with chipotle dust.
Nothing could be easier than mixing olive oil, red wine vinegar and dijon mustard into their slaw mix, unless it would be putting the mix directly on a sandwich. Try something new.

“Quick & Easy Tips to Lose Weight”
Drink water, make juice, ditch stress and eat real food, Georgia Salgado Chavez asks readers in this slim little book. You may have heard it all before, but have you listened? The author keeps things short and simple, like this:
Simple recipes:
Smoothie: Orange, pineapple, coconut
Milkshake: 1 cup of milk, 1 banana, 1 spoon of honey
Juice: Carrots, parsley, cucumber, celery, beets and grapes
Fruit water: 1 cup of water, 1 spoon of raw sugar (honey) 1 slice of melon
Tea: Sage
Meals: Fish, steam it with some spices; lemon adds great taste to fish.
Seafood combo: add chopped tomato, cilantro, serrano pepper, onion (don’t add salt). Add lemon juice, mix it, and eat it with crackers.

Hippie Chips
You’ve gotta just love saying “Hippie Chips.” The baked potato chips come in fun flavors like White Room Cheddar, Woodstock Ranch and Memphis Blues BBQ. I’m hooked on the goods and groovy labels from Rock-n-Roll Gourmet, launched by a rocker couple. I think you’ll love eating and saying Hippie Chips, too.
“Don’t Worry, Be Hippie!” and “Peace, Love and Gluten Free” is how the all-natural snack is billed.
Rock & Pop Jalapeno Korn and Kettle Korn bags feature a suited keyboardist in a fedora and a rocker girl guitarist in black. This line puts me in an ‘80s feel.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Aromatherapy is real

If you don’t believe me, watch me spray it into the newsroom. People raise their heads and perk up. One reporter gets visibly relaxed. Aura Cacia, a favorite brand of mine, suggests a bottle or two of its latest offerings is an economical bargain, considering it gives you a spa feeling at home. The popular Lavender Harvest line has opened the door for peppermint, eucalyptus and tea tree.
Multitasking Harvest Collection scents come in aromatherapy mineral bath; bath, body and massage oil; and mist for room and body.
Peppermint Harvest promises “refreshing” and lavender, a favorite of my next-desk neighbor Mary Meaux, promotes “calming.” I love that my daughter got a whiff of “purifying” Tea Tree Harvest and it gave her memories of my pampering her through childhood aches. Eucalyptus has an “awakening” label.
I don’t worry that I don’t have a bathtub. I can use that packet of bath grains for a grainy rub down and foot soak. Wouldn’t that have been nice after my sprint down Procter Street to catch up with the News Mardi Gras float?
These goods are free of synthetic fragrances, colors or preservatives.
In other smelly-good news: Vermont Soap Organics has made my happy list again with a new collection of certified organic and USDA approved moisturizing shower gels in Sweet Orange, Country Lavender and Sweetgrass Shea. Besides the aroma and feel, I love the extra-large pump head ideal for folks who shower without benefit of their glasses or contacts. They’re proud that it’s a “shake first” product, because it helps keep everything natural. It leaves the entire bathroom smelling like a spa.
CleanWell wants to promote that it’s free of controversial triclosan, a known endocrine disrupter and synthetic chemical that mimics or blocks hormones. Well, I’d never heard of them, but I’m glad to know this stuff does more than kill germs and smell amazing. Look for the sprays at Target in original kid-safe and the invigorating new orange vanilla that leaves hands soft. It really does clean well.

Hairs to lookin’ good
I’m a sucker for fancy bottles, but even more of a fan of stuff that works. HerCut comes in slightly more sexy versions of some hair coloring squeeze bottles that my chemistry teacher’s wife saved for our lab chemicals. What memories.
I’m squeezing out shampoo and conditioner for The Shag. The line is designed for special needs of styles from the blunt, bob and pixie to long layers. The science of the shag formula comes from patent-pending Ionic Polymer Technology that creates separation and weight dispersion through negatively charged macromolecules that repel each other and create controlled separation. Whew. I actually do feel a positive difference in my hair, especially with the HerCut catalyst.
It also notes women with a shag (curls really, in my case) are rebels who rock, roll and never fall flat. Yep, that’s me.