Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Get more nutritional bang for the grocery buck

Eating better, as in getting more nutritional bang for your grocery store buck is what “Cooking Light What to Eat” is all about. I think any one of any age can learn from this little book with eye-catching magazine-spread worthy photos designed to teach a lot in a glance. The book walks readers down every store aisle from bread to dairy, seafood to meat and snack to ready-to-go cook products with info on serving sizes and better choices. Look for answers to questions like these:
• Does peeling an apple negate the health benefits?
• What should I look for in a granola bar? Fiber? Sugar?
• When should I buy organic?
Here’s some answers I learned:
Fat-free balsamic vinaigrette and fat-free Italian are top healthy dressing choices, honey mustard is in the mid range and French, ranch and blue cheese are on the low rung of the nutritional ladder.
A few good oatmeal add ins:
• 1/2 slice crumbled bacon
• 1 1/2 tablespoons shredded cheese
• 1 1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
• 2 tablespoons diced apple
• 1 tablespoon chopped cashews
• 1 tablespoon strawberry jam
From the Believe it or Not boxes:
One cup of frozen spinach has four times more potassium than raw.

On the frontier of cinnamon
I currently have more cinnamon in my pantry than I have eaten in a lifetime. But I’m challenging myself to use, and enjoy, new shipments for Frontier Natural Products Cinnamon, some fair trade certified good stuff. Ceylon, “true cinnamon,” is so pungent I want to mix it with dusting powder and walk around smelling like a giant gingerbread woman. I’m also working from a big, foil pouch of the line’s premium Vietnamese blend that’s good and powerful. I know folks match cinnamon with Christmas months, but it’s got a summer-patio-grill bite going on, too.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Eat and look good
Figs, avocados, olive oil, crab and curry are a few ingredients Celia Westberry uses in “Eat Yourself Younger Effortlessley: The Easy Way to Slow Aging, Feel Great and Look Good.” The author has ties to Trinidad and tells how she lost her father when she was 5. She learned about diabetes and how health can related to what people put in their mouths. This is a simple book with great flavor, and I can’t imagine anyone who is advised to eat in a more healthy manner to feel anything but energized about her recipes. Here is a very easy one:

Parley Pesto
2 cups closely packed fresh parsley leaves
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons pine nuts, pecans or walnuts
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Dash of hot sauce, water or chicken stock for smooth blending
Place parsley, garlic, lemon juice and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process until pureed.
Add 2 tablespoons oil, nuts and cheeses and continue to puree.
Transfer to a glass jar.
Cover top with remaining olive oil. Refrigerated in the coldest part of the refrigerator.

My Rosemary secret
Rosemary does pretty well in my garden, but I’ve also liked the smell more than the little needles in my food. I ground rosemary into powder and it dissolved nicey into recipes.
Along comes Dry Spice: The Flavor Savor, a canister of drying agent that draws moisture from containers of spices. It’s like the kind one finds in medicine bottles. I can’t wait to grind my oregano, too. I’m sharing these with other spicy gardeners I know.

I’ll bet lumberjacks love it
So I’m listening to Monty Python while enjoying some Malbec on my front porch. I’m sure everyone does that, right? I happen to glance at the Redwood Creek Wines bottle at the same time their “Lumberjack” song said “Redwood.” What fun. As the sun set and the chiminea crackled with fragrant magnolia leaves, I sipped this 2009 Argentinean Malbec from Redwood Creek, now boating a portfolio of nine, “attractively priced and food-friendly wines.” I was friendly with the vintage, I served with served with pork-stuffed grape leaves, cherry tomatoes and dates.
The makers say Malbec is generally associated with the Mendoza region of Argentina, at the cusp of the Andes Mountains, an area reminiscent of California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range. Makers traveled there to develop their California blend, offering flavors of black cherry, blueberry and dark blackberry fruit, with hints of brown spice and maple after notes.
Enter Blaze a Better Barbecue recipe contest by July 31 by visiting to submit an original grilling recipe using one of Redwood Creek’s nine, food-friendly wines as an ingredient. Barbecue authority Steven Raichlen, host of Primal Grill® on Public Television, shares some of his signature dishes on the website, including Grilled Clams with Sauvignon Blanc, Brats in a Chardonnay “Hot Tub” and Beef Ribs with Pinot Noir Barbecue Sauce.
Enter to win the ultimate grilling vacation – an all-expenses-paid trip to Steven Raichlen’s Barbecue University® in 2011 featuring Redwood Creek wine.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Salt pipe a hit with allergy sufferer
If you have not heard me go on and on about the nasal bidet/netti pot, you just haven’t sneezed around me. After Dr. Oz showed the world, via Oprah, about this little teapot contraption used to drain salt water through your nostrils, I was among thousands who rushed out to get one. It took some time to learn the technique, but I’m hooked on natural, drug-free sinus relief.
Now I’m on the salt pipe, which I understand Doc Oz likes as well. Colored crystals of Himalayan salt go into this oddly-shaped device and the breather, that would be me, inhales the benefits from the minerals in through the mouth and out through the nose. It feels amazing, and my family is making fun of me only because they are jealous they don’t have their own Solay Wellness Inc. salt pipe. There’s nothing more to explain how good it feels in the lungs and nose, but I will tell you Solay has lines of Himalayan salts to eat, coffees, teas, chocolate, etc., and mineral bath and body products.
I’m hooked on the salt pipe and want others to follow me.

More on breathing
Redd Remedies cites the National Center for Health Statistics’ report that 84 percent of all colds in America occur among children under age 17, and are thought to be related to developing immune systems and exposure to other infected children while attending school or day care.
I know I’m loving the hand sanitizer about now.
Redd Remedies, natural dietary supplement and aromatherapy provider, has introduced Children’s Sinus Support and the Seasonal Sinus Support Aromatherapy Inhaler. I tried really tasty chewables designed to promote natural histamine response and healthy sinus cavities as well as supporting a healthy immune function.
I’m tickles and relieved from the inhaler, which is a milder form of me rubbing essential oil under my nostrils. The device looks like a tube of lip balm with an opening for the fragrant vapors to get out.

Paper, plastic or bamboo?
I’ve been green before it was hip. I prefer the term frugal over cheap. I find it difficult to throw away some things that are meant to be disposable. Core Bamboo's new disposable line of biodegradable, environmentally-friendly serve ware is forcing me to make decisions. Luxeware comes in three sizes of plates that put one in the mind of the tropics. Bamboo cutlery, even adorable, tiny sporks, look like fancy wooden products. The company calls it a “100 percent guilt-free, visually-appealing, and hassle-free option for the eco-conscious picnic and outdoor party set.”
I’m keeping fruit on my plates and using them as centerpieces. Look for it at major retailers, or visit

All pink, all fun
I’m guilty of flash forwarding when I spy a beautiful product. Twinkle Toes is a pink, glittery powder to sprinkle in “ballet slippers, dance bags and all over your body before slipping into your tu-tus,” Herban Renewal suggests. The pink stuff flies out of what looks like an over-sized Victorian salt shaker. The silver-topped shaker allowed the powder to flow so freely I made a little surprised sound. Then, as much as I’m enjoying the powder, I imagined filling that shaker with cayenne pepper and seasoning up all the air around me.
Urban Renewal’s kid and adult line includes Shoo Monster (anti-boogeyman) dusts and Fish’n and Hunt’n Lather. Fun stuff.

Bamboo and pine
It’s almost easy to imagine little German gnomes collect ingredients for Gehwol’s Fusskraft line. I get a “kick” out of their foot care products and am truly impressed with a bamboo scrub that’s soft and fragrant. Essential oils in a spray-on herbal lotion cool with the scent of rosemary, mountain pine and lavender. This one, which puts me in the mind of German forest tales, is a strong product that means business. I think these gnomes never get tired, because their feet are feeling so fit. I’m sure humans at the company love the product, too.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Grocery gardening fits the flavor bill, budget
Imagine the freshest rosemary for a black bean dish, sugar snaps for your pasta and goat cheese and fresh grapes for dessert. “Grocery Gardening” is just right for Southeast Texas. Jean Ann Van Krevelen never even met the three other contributors to this book in person, but they’ve created a picturesque, practical guide for getting the best bang for your garden buck. Make trellis, pot and window plantings and you’ll have something growing every season. The recipes here are easy and fresh. I already love the following. In fact, this blend finally made me realize I like cucumbers. Try the salad and try this book:

Asian Cucumbers
3 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded, sliced lengthwise and then sliced crosswise in thin slices
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon hot, red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted in a skillet until golden brown
Toss the cucumbers with the sea salt and place in a colander in the skink. Place an ice-filled bag on the cucumbers to drain for 45 minutes to 1 hour. (The ice bag will weight the cucumbers to help their liquid drain.) Whisk the vinegar, sesame oil, sugar and hot pepper flakes until blended and the sugar is dissolved. Rise the cucumbers and pat them dry with paper towels Toss the cucumbers with the dressing. Top the sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Grape leaves
The above book got me onto grape leaves, which I found on vines taking over my mother’s back yard. I plucked some perfect ones and arranged them on a plate, like a charger. Then I plopped down a sort of black-eyed-pea “hummus” I made, and ground up additional leaves into that blend. I also wrapped pork bites in additional leaves.
My daughter says I’m addicted. I’ve learned how to blanch and store them, and I aim to grow my own vines at home.

The right pinch
Potatoes were my testing ground for new McCormick blends, but first let me clarify. I recently sent readers to learn more about the Perfect Pinch line by sending them to perfect.pinch, and the company ask that I make a correction, by sending readers to for the right address. Goodness knows what kind of pinching the other place could be discussing.
Cinnamon and coffee is my pick of intrigue in the McCormick Flavor Forecast 2010 grilling edition, but let it be known that spice folks have new ready-to-use blends on the market, including Lowry’s Szechuan Sweet & Sour BBQ and Tuscan Sun-Dried Tomato marinades and Grill Mates Brown Sugar Bourbon and Mexican Fiesta Marinades, Applewood Rub and Smokehouse Maple Seasoning Blend. I couldn’t wait to fire up the grill and fried up some potatoes in olive oil and some of these blends for a flavorful dinner.

Do you have Paula Deen in a box?
We let her out for Mother’s Day, preparing Southern-Style Buttery Beer Bread, Homestyle Moist Yellow Cake Mix and Homestyle Sugar Cookie Mix. I ordinarily pass on sugar cookies, but the family seemed to concur these were the best ever. My mom voted the cookies as her favorite even before she tried the cake, but she also loved the cake’s texture and flavor. No one could have a problem with this beer bread. Designed to go quickly to the table, the Paula Deen line ranges from $.69 to $2.49, which makers say appeals to the increasingly cost-sensitive consumers today and still offers them a quality brand.
The roll outs also include Homestyle White and Chocolate Cake Mix; Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix; Blueberry, Corn and Raspberry Muffin Mix; and the spice grinders and shakers I shared with you earlier.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What a crock: Slow cookers do all the work

Slow cookers, as crock pots prefer to be called now, go beyond cheese dip, but it’s hard to resist the variety of dips that open “Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook,” Phyllis Pellman Good’s revised and updated offering of 700 recipes.
You don’t have to get fancy to get supper on the table. If you can stock Velveeta, cream of mushroom soup and cans of beans, you are on your way to slow cooker heaven. Some cooks who share theirs recipes and tips say they keep a couple going for various stages of meals. They must host a lot of parties.
I thought Ham ‘n’ Cola would be an easy one to share. You rub a cooked ham with a mixture of brown sugar, dry mustard, prepared horseradish and cola-flavored soda , then cook for 2 to 10 hours.
A few pages down I found something even more easy, which can go with mashed potatoes and applesauce or cranberry sauce:
Chops and Kraut
1 pound bag fresh sauerkraut,
2 large Vidalia onions, sliced
6 pork chops
1. Make 3 layers in well-greased cooker; kraut, onions and chops.
2. Cover. Cook on low 6 hours.

Deen is doin’ it
Ground cinnamon is the only ingredient in Paula Deen Collection spice bottle, and it smells remarkable. Why does it sound so clever that sea salt is featured in the Cajun seasoning? Louisiana is on the coast, and we are flavoring entrees fished out of the water. Her smiling face is also on the label for black pepper corn and sea salt grinders. Aromas from both are memorable. I know because I opened the lid to snatch crystal chunks of salt for the new salty and sweet trend. I was going for the sensation of crunchy salt atop a gourmet chocolate cupcake, but made do just as well by topping part of a doughnut I found in the break room.

Nori nirvana
I wonder if harvesting nori is as easy as collecting the algae that rolls in with the sea. I do feel abundantly healthy when enjoying a sheet of nor, made from the sea veggie, tucking a sushi roll together. I don’t know if I’ve eaten a whole lot of seaweed in my life, but I am feeling that Navitas Naturals has packaged the best raw nori sheets I’ve ever kept in my home. I could actually crave this stuff that packs an “umami” punch. Read the label to know it’s good for you, too. I also have Navitas Naturals wakame flakes to serve with rice.

Glazed over
Feeling trendy or healthy? Either way, there’s a fruit with your name on it. I’ve been telling readers about AgroLabs’ Naturally Pomegranate, a juice with amazing flavor and color that provides what makers call a healthy, flavorful and anti-oxidant-rich addition to any meal. I’ve made it an addition to mixed drinks and desserts. Bananas and ice cubes thank me.
One ounce of AgroLabs Naturally Pomegranate has the antioxidant equivalent of eating 15 whole pomegranates. Another version packs Resveratrol. This bottle keeps in the pantry and you don’t even have to peel the fruit. This recipe has something of everything I like: Something sweet, tart and hot:

Maple-Pomegranate Glaze
1/4 cup Naturally Pomegranate™
5 tablespoons pure maple syrup
4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon finely minced ginger
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 medium apple, peeled, cored, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Breathe it in
Aura Cacia has gone beyond Relaxing Lavender in its air freshening spritz line to offer Uplifting Bergamot & Orange, Refreshing Lime & Grapefruit and Comforting Spices & Clove. Made with 100 percent pure essential oils, these don’t smell artificial or give me a headache. Remember, they’re not to eat: keep them handy to make linen closet, car or sick room more palatable. This is a brand you’ll love, if you don’t already.
Going green, bags and bling

I recently told a clerk I’d let her keep the bag, meaning to recycle it for another customer. She took my purchase out, wadded up the bag and tossed it.
In the ‘70s, kids like me were learning to go green. I’d have thought a teen like here would be all into the amazing “green” bags out these days. I can’t get enough of them and I hope I’m reducing landfill accumulation while being so stylish.
I’m already a Bazura Bag supporter. The company has new styles that are helping the Women’s Cooperative of Manila get life back to normal after September’s Typhoon Ondoy. Crazy cool new styles of bags woven from pre-consumer waste include silvery foil evening bags and lipstick cases, bowler bags and messenger bags fashioned from colorful juice box and rice bag durable material. I love, love, love a rice-doy tote featuring some crazy goldfish and Fruit Chum juice labels. An inside pocket holds coupons and the sturdy bag will hold most all the groceries you’d want to deal with in one shopping trip (me, anyways). You’ll feel very international toting this line.
Earth Day is every day. Read more to find your bag, baby:

Bamboo, abounds
Bamboo takes over Southeast gardens. That’s a good thing for green people out to better the earth while looking fashionable. Mad by Design wholesale handbags is basement-to-big-deal business offering bags you wouldn’t believe are from bamboo. Visit to see what they also do with shells, animal friendly leather. Bamboo can look like that sofa pattern we all know, like a happy sunflower or like a fine wall of brown weave. I’m toting a round-handled number that reminds me, in all the best ways, of bags my mother’s trendy friends carried in the ‘70s. You can shop from their Facebook page. See for yourselves and love it.

b. happybags
If the name doesn’t get you, the patterns will. b. happybags are billed as bags for the planet. They’re simple cloth bags designed to get your groceries, wine, yoga goodies and dry cleaning from one place to the other and are made in the United States of domestic materials and they reduce plastic bag waste. I’m toting one blooming with big ‘70s-style flowers that remind me of my favorite bed sheets from my youth. Another flowery one looks like my sister would love it for her knitting. Fold up your soft bags in styles of stars and stripes, dots, paisley, etc. and be informed, be smart, be green, be responsible and be happy, makers ask. I think I will.

Sign of the times
I recently spent big chunks of time perusing various bags people tote to airports and I think a new Yak Pack TerraCycle Billboard Bag is a green winner. They’re like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates … you never know what you’re going to get. I can’t guess what my round-bottom bag once advertised, but there’s what looks like a moon on one side and the letters “ent” on a blue digital background on the flip side. I love that it appears to look cooler the more you use it, like favorite blue jeans, and that the “nearly indestructible material” offers resourceful totes, messenger bags, backpacks, laptop sleeves, MP3 cases and wallets.