Thursday, April 28, 2011

If you like Cinco de Mayo . . .
Sing the above headline to the tune of “If you like Pina Colada.” Now get ready to enjoy “ all the flavors of the fiesta without all the guilt.” That’s how La Tortilla Factory bills new authentic hand made style tortillas in Yellow Corn, White Corn, Chipotle flavors at 90 calories a tortilla. I picked chipotle and loved the flavor, flexibility and 14 grams of whole grain. This Santa Rosa, Ca.,-based company suggests a Cinco de Mayo Makeover that includes their tortillas, and a “skinnied-up” margarita. I always try to shave calories off my Mexican food with dabs, not globs of cheese, a high pile of lettuce and salsa and diet lemon-lime soda as the base for my beverages. Viva!

Top tequila
Tequila Partida’s Reposado has received a “best tequila in the world” rating from one source, so that made me want to check out a sample. I’m rating the blanco (not aged) Anejo (aged 18 months) as pleasing. In a six-month aging, the reposado acquires sweetness with aromas of chocolate and vanilla, hazelnut and almonds. It’s possible to sip it straight for Cinco de Mayo, but when I found this Sangrita recipe incorporating a jalapeno with seeds, I had to give that a shot. It’s a keeper.

2 ounces Tabasco or Cholula Hot Sauce
1 ounce lime juice
7 ounces orange juice
2 ounces grapefruit juice
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper
15 ounces tomato juice
1 jalapeno, cut in half with seeds
Add all the ingredients into a pitcher. Stir until the salt and pepper is dissolved. Let the mix sit for 15 minutes to 30 minutes with the jalapeno then, when the right heat level is reached, discard the jalapeno pieces. Keep refrigerated.
Enjoy Sangrita traditionally accompanied with neat pour of your favorite Partida Tequila.

Ruby Partida
1 1/2 ounces Partida Reposado Tequila
1 /2 ounce fresh ruby red grapefruit juice
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce French Cassis
Shake the first 4 ingredients in a shaker with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Dribble the 1/2 ounce French Cassis down the inside of the glass so it will settle at the bottom.

Passport to flavor
McCormick must have had success with new cards of pre-measured spices cooks snap out for exotic meals. New World Flavors include Tuscan Chicken Stew, Chicken Tikka Masala, Asian Sesame Salmon and Caribbean Grilled Steak. Nervous cooks can have confidence from the cards.

Healthy Steps
Culinary Thrill Seekers who say they love my column always ask how I can try so much food. Portion control, baby. I’m loyal to Weight Watchers for showing me how. I measure everything, so I’m loving Healthy Steps, a line of ladles, etc. designed so you know your serving size. They have bright green handles, which my mom says is the color of the season on all the food shows. My favorites include a collapsible strainer you can measure for a single serving. Hook it on the side of your pot and you can cook it, strain it and serve it with confidence. There’s a butter cut and serve tool, a cheese grater that, forgive me, everyone says looks like those foot file eggs, and a very cool push scooper for ice cream that can allow you to form an attractive tower of cool cream and dress it up with fruit, sauce and a cookie. Even if you aren’t on any diet plan now, just monitoring your portions can make a big difference.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Claire’s BO sandwich and a scallop haiku

A sandwich tribute is high honor, and on my way home from work I decided to name the dinner I was anticipating after the woman who provided it: Claire’s BO.
My daughter Jasmine got the joke immediately. Instead of a BLT, it’s a bacon and onion sandwich with a questionable title. Claire is always passing purple onions, bacon and Papadeaux bread into my life. Long story. Delicious options. I’m always thinking of new ways to prepare these blessings and drove home imagining olive oil toasted onto the bread halves with crispy bacon and pungent, thin onion slices. A little Swiss cheese made its way in to the BO in its inaugural serving. Can’t wait for the next delivery.

A scallop haiku
We Gulf Coasters are by the sea, yet far from the scallop world. Images of the creatures, their habitat and harvest and ways they can delight your dish fill pages of “Scallops: A New England Coastal Cookbook.” Elaine Tammi and her daughter bill themselves as scallop foodies and haikus prove the point. If I can’t travel to New England soon, I must buy every scallop I see and try each offering here. Bet you never thought to pair them with pumpkin. There’s so much on scallop culture, the first recipe, doesn’t come up until page 121. It’s for Broiled “Dayboat” Scallops and Bacon with Honey Soy Sauce.
Here’s more from the foodies:

Captured Scallops
A haiku by Eliane Tammi

Captured scallops sit
In a basket by the dock
Awaiting our feast.

Ginger Scallops
1/4 teaspoon butter
4 scallions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons ginger root, chopped
8 large sea scallops, trimmed, rinsed, patted dry and left whole
7 tablespoons white wine or champagne
chopped Italian parsley for garnish
sauce pan
bay scallop shells or scallop baking shells
Sheet pan
Melt butter in sauce pan on medium heat; add scallions and garlic. Cook for about 7 to 8 minutes, simmering until scallions and garlic are translucent. Then add ginger and scallops and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove scallops and scallions from sauce pan, keeping warm. Pour wine or champagne into sauce pan juices to deglaze pan. Cook on high heat, quickly. Warm scallop shells for 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Remove and spoon scallop-scallion mixture into warm shells. Pour sauce over scallops in shells and sprinkle with parsley. Serve.

Chocolate bunnies for grownups
I didn’t bite the ears off my Godiva chocolate bunnies. I melted them into coffee when no one was looking, so I wouldn’t have to share. Hop to those shiny foil bunnies now, but in May, be on the lookout for Godiva’s new flavors: Banana Split and Black Raspberry, available this year exclusively in the chocolate case. The ice cream-flavored novelties are something I’ve not tried, but I’ll be on the lookout for pints of Mint Chocolate Chip, Neapolitan and Pecan Caramel Sundae, Pistachio, Rocky Road, Double Dark. Ice Cream Parlor Truffle Bars, chocolate bars filled with ice cream infused truffle filling, have new goodness: Strawberries n’ Crème in White Chocolate Bar as well as a Milk Chocolate encased in Dark Chocolate Bar.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The drink for yoga

Yoga has its own drink, but you can boost energy, endurance, digestion, fat metabolism, weight loss and skin replenishment in connection with other activity.
YogaEarth’s drink mix sticks come in Balace, for pre-practice, and Vitality, for post practice. These vegetarian-safe dietary supplements come with organic apple juice, lemon, acai berry and such, but I think the Irish moss is the main flavor I’m getting.
I’m not gonna lie, the flavor takes some getting used to, but I can easily adjust to the vigor. I tried the before and after for my workout at the Port Arthur YMCA and felt great, even though I cried while watching “Of Mice and Men” on the treadmill screen. Balance is like juice and designed for digestion, focus and clarity, skin detox and pore cleansing with antioxidants. Vitality is like green tea and has a focus on fat metabolism after a workout. Visit the YogaEarth site for beautiful artwork and inspirational shopping.

Nuts a new way
Jennifer Barney broke a lot of blenders creating Barney Butter Almond Butter, but we get the smooth results. California Almonds taste so creamy oozed out from 90 calorie packets onto crackers, apples, etc. The stats show this stuff has more of what you need and less of stuff you don’t want than peanut butter and this blend is an alternative to those with peanut allergies. It’s a no-stir, non-gritty, fully-delicious product that goes gourmet.

Pasta Boat? All aboard.
The As Seen on TV people wanted me to try the microwave Pasta Boat; I tried it and enjoyed it. It doesn’t seem like boiling water, cooking pasta and straining it is that big a deal, but it can be a messy task. This oval plastic box that allows you to cook pasta and strain it thorough a smart, red lid, makes cooking pasta for just one or two a breeze. A steamer rack lets you microwave vegetables. When I took the Pasta Boat out of the oven, it looked a bit like all the strands had stuck together, but they fluffed out fine. I used whole wheat, and they tasted good with just a little olive oil and spices.
The company puts out a collapsable Chef Basket that did in my kitchen all the things I saw on TV, but I do not need to be frying anything. This one is also good for vegetables.

Pass the shandy
Leienenkugel says it’s time for summer and presents the return of Summer Shandy, a beer with a lemon punch. I sipped some on my front lawn as a reward for weeding and pretended the calendar jumped ahead to June. I loved this shandy, which I’ve learned is short for shandygaff, a mixture of beer and soda or lemonade served in Europe since the 17 century. Makers of this brew also share the story of radler, the German term for cyclist. In September of 1922, Franz Xaver Kugler came up with this when about 13,000 cyclists visited his Munich tavern. The beer was running low, so he mixed the rest with lemonade and said it was just for the cyclists. Bravo, Franz!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Culinary Thrill Seeking: PB Crepes give up gluten

Peanut Butter Crepes give up the gluten
A special diet was once considered a punishment, but now cookbooks help patients consider the joys of eating what they should to stay healthy. Photos in “Simply ... Gluten-free Desserts” illustrate that those enjoying Mexican Chocolate Cake with Cinnamon Whipped Cream, Chocolate Cherry Fudge Drops or Balsamic Strawberry Ice Cream wouldn’t seem to be sacrificing anything.
Carol Kicinski makes everyone want to eat this way in her book. I’ll try anything she’s showing, but here’s the one I’m planning to make:

Peanut Butter Crepes
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons water
With a handheld electric mixer or in a blender, combine all the ingredients and mix until smooth; you will have a thin batter.
Heat a small skillet or crepe pan over medium heat until a drop of water sizzles immediately when dropped on the pan. Spray the pan very lightly with gluten-free, nonstick cooking spray. (The author sprays, then wipes with a paper towel.) Ladle 1 tablespoon of the batter onto the hot skillet and immediately tilt and rotate the pan to spread the batter evenly over the bottom. Cook the crepe until the edges look dry and the bottom is browned, about 1 minute. Flip the crepe over and cook the other side for 30 seconds. Keep warm while cooking the rest of the crepes.

Soap up your produce Everyone has their own level of cleanliness. My mom had a friend who didn’t mind her pet cat jumping upon the kitchen counter, but she washed all her grapes with soap and water. Were long, white cat hairs sticking to her “clean” grapes.
My mother is still rigid about cleaning produce, and has detail images seared into her mind like how the knife cutting an unclean watermelon will transfer bacteria into your portion of fruit. It’s like a “CSI” scene. Now she can wash her produce with what is essentially more produce.
Produce Magic is another product from the very natural Vermont Soap Organics company and I love the stuff made from “renewable and organic vegetable and botanical sources including saponified organic oils of coconut, olive and jojoba and a natural citrus essential oil blend with organic orange oil, organic aloe vera and rosemary extract.” All you have to do is spray it on, scrub and rinse. This is especially good to get rid pesticides, fertilizers, dirt, road grit, molds, fungi and waxes. Gardeners, think how this can green up your cucumber and tomato crops this season. Makers say it makes your food taste better, too.

Faith in pretzels
A reader brought me a pretzel, in the arms in prayer shape, with a little note to eat it as a reminder regarding Lenten fasting. Pretzels are also considered an indulgent snack, but read the label. They’re usually a better option than some crispy vending machine snacks. Snyder’s of Hanover is aware that snackers are becoming more aware and is now offering new Organic Whole Wheat Pretzel Nibblers made with organic whole wheat flour, organic blue agave syrup, organic expeller pressed sunflower oil and organic rosemary. Be sure to measure out the portable crunchies so you can stick with the 2 grams of fat per serving, 120 calories and all natural organic ingredients. A little can go a long way to curb hunger and satisfy. They actually taste good, not like something you’re substituting because you want something else.

Egg Fillers
The first thing I hear from several co-workers upon return from time off was how great some cakes were that I missed (and no one saved me a crumb), I shared from “The Edible Easter Garden from Wonka.” A package of Bottlecaps, Gobstoppers, Spree, and SweetTarts proved to be the favorite of many adults and these are designed to be plastic “Egg Fill,” as the colorful package proclaims.
Scrumdiddllyumptious Chocolate Eggs with crunchy toffee, cookie and peanuts have been an after-lunch treat for me and reporter Mary Meaux all week. She doesn’t know about the Exceptionals of swirled chocolate still in my desk. Sweet Tarts Jelly Beans in orange are packaged to look like a carrot. Grown people gobbled up packets of colored jelly beans at a staff meeting. I’m counting on the adults competing for Springy Double Yummy Gummies in duck, lamb and bunny shapes.

Finish your cookie dough
A ZonePerfect bar saved the day when I was feeling . . . flat. The tagline “Taste like cookie dough. Acts like a nutrition bar,” is not a tease. Three new flavors offering the comfort food flavors of chocolate, peanut butter and oatmeal give a “naughty” dessert for breakfast feel with protein, vitamins and minerals. Find them in the nutrition aisle and plan a busy day. These bars will take you places.

Pass the shandy
Leienenkugel says it’s time for summer and presents the return of Summer Shandy, a beer with a lemon punch. I sipped some on my front lawn as a reward for weeding and pretended the calendar jumped ahead to June. I loved this shandy, which I’ve learned is short for shandygaff, a mixture of beer and soda or lemonade served in Europe since the 17 century. Makers of this brew also share the story of radler, the German term for cyclist. In September of 1922, Franz Xaver Kugler came up with this when about 13,000 cyclists visited his Munich tavern. The beer was running low, so he mixed the rest with lemonade and said it was just for the cyclists. Bravo, Franz!