Sunday, June 26, 2011

Bean sprouts now; frosting later: A girl’s got to plan

To all those who tease me for my bean sprout lunches, surely you know I am eating smarat at one juncture and planning ahead to my next culinary thrill seeking experience. Why, just the other day I was faced with cake and high-quality mixed nuts. I think I made a good choice. For my second helping, I didn’t get more cake, I just got a glob of the icing that had collected in the corner of the platter, and sprinkled a few salty nuts on top to balance out the sweetness. A girl’s got to plan ahead.

One for you
I’m a fan of Fiber One products and commercials and recognize them for what they are. To me, they straddle the packaged vs. cook-it-yourself world, offering a convenient way for those used to prepped-food taste to explore more healthy options. Now they’ve got a 90-calorie brownie that hits my spot. On first glance, it’s on the small side. Try it with an apple, and it’s a filling snack I can make last a long, long time. Get your fill of Fiber One.

Elevate Me!
A mom blended pure whey protein isolate with whole fruit to nourish a large, athletic family and Elevate Me, dubbed the world’s simplest protein and fruit energy bar, became available to healthy snackers everywhere. Fruit, espresso, matcha green tea and coconut are flavor options for these dense squares. It doesn’t take long to get used to the intense flavor. These squares come in smaller portions than similar bars and I’m grateful for that, because a little does go a long way to fuel your day.

A round of goodness
The humble round tortilla is an icon of versatility. It doesn’t need much in the way of improvement, but LaTortilla Factory went the extra mile to bring us new flavors with more fiber and fewer calories. There’s a 100 calorie fat-free version in traditional or whole wheat that can be the canvas for breakfast, snack, dessert or other meals. Extra Virgin Olive Oil flavors seven flavors, including the tomato basil, which I filled with beans and served several. Big old tortillas in the Smart & Delicious high fiber line are labeled “Perfect for the Serious Dieter.” Try egg, rice, vegetables, lunch meat and more in these guys . . . seriously.
Rice still nice this week

Several readers commented on this past week’s column reminding that rice is a nice, low-budget blank canvas for flavor. This week a pot of brown rice carried me through with new Thai Kitchen goods including Spicy Thai Mango, Thai Chili & Ginger and Pineapple & Chili dipping and all-purpose sauces. They’ve also got jars of kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass stalks, ginger chunks and my fave: Thai Bird Eye Chilies that are like crunchy little skeletons of heat that crunch. As many times as I’ve grabbed and handful like they were nuts, I’ve burned in the heat. Then a few days later, I’m back for more. I think I’m going to sprinkle some on Greek yogurt.

Try this:

As the rain finally hit this week, I was melting a chocolate bar. Then I sliced an apple and dipped/smeared it in the chocolate. Those Thai peppers came in handy again.

Salsa for your health

Sure salsa dancing can keep you fit. Consider salsa at the table for better nutrition. Dos Pistolas Salsa is the first salsa product in the U.S. that carries the American Heart Association's heart-check, according to makers. Down in southeast Texas, we don’t need convincing. Those up north may be swayed that this salsa is gluten, preservative and additive and is of course, low cal. I enjoyed the texture, flavor and color, especially the variety with mangos and jalapenos. Visit

Here’s a recipe:

Salmon with Dos Pistolas All-Natural Gourmet Salsa


1 pound salmon steaks

1 lemon, juiced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

salt and pepper to taste

1 lemon, sliced

1/3 cup water

Dos Pistolas All- Natural Gourmet Salsa


· Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Arrange salmon steaks in a shallow baking dish, and coat with the lemon juice. Season with rosemary, salt, and pepper. Top with lemon slices. Pour water into the dish.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven, or until easily flaked with a fork.

In a medium bowl, mix pineapple, onion, garlic, jalapeno, tomato, pineapple juice, red bell pepper, and yellow bell pepper. Cover, and refrigerate while fish is baking. Top fish with Dos Pistolas All- Natural Gourmet Salsa to serve.

Monday, June 13, 2011

My daughter’s nice rice lesson
Jasmine thought she’d give it a shot. She knew she’d be alone for a few days and tried the “leave me a wad of cash because there’s nothing to eat” pitch. She knew she wouldn’t get far, but tried anyway.
Turns out she loves cooking as much as I do. I cooked her a pot of white rice, and within minutes she was thinking of different spices that would turn servings of rice into different flavors for each day. Problem solved, with leftovers.

Dollar bags
Check out your favorite supermarket for reduced produce deals. My Market Basket has $1 bags of fruits and vegetables, when I’m lucky. I’ve asked and hear you have to go pretty early in the morning. I lucked out to grab a bag that had a carton of mushrooms, a prized yellow bell pepper and strawberries, all for $1. I roasted the mushrooms and pepper with olive oil and Italian spices and enjoyed them as I watched the Tony Awards. The berries went into a breakfast smoothie.

Just a thaw away
“The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eazy Freezer Meals” delivers a method as well as recipes that include but go way beyond mac and cheese casseroles. Of all the Dummy books, I figured I wouldn’t need this one, but there’s plenty of tasty tips. Recipes include:
Honey Baked Brie en Croute, English muffin breakfast sandwiches, charro beans and crab cakes with pesto aioli
A sauce like the following can be frozen and at the ready for grilled vegetables, chicken or beef, over pasta with tofu or vegetables on a California-Style Thai Chicken Pizza.

Thai-Style Peanut Sauce
¼ cup chopped yellow or sweet onion
¼ cup chopped celery
¼ cup grated carrot
½ teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced ginger
¼ cup minced fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon lime zest
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
½ cup smooth or chunky peanut butter
In a food processor or in a blender, combine ingredients. Process or blend on high until smooth and ingredients are well combined. Package in a rigid freezer container, label and freeze.
To use after freezing:
Thaw sauce in the refrigerator and use, or add frozen sauce to recipes that will be heated.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Cool coffee, a strip diet and a sneaky dessert

No matter how hot it gets in summer, we here in Southeast Texas keep the morning coffee habit. If you have some cold coffee left over, just pour it over ice for treat later in the day. I know people who say they’ve been meaning to try this, like it’s some exotic recipe. You’ve got everything you need.
If your morning coffee is black, or with cream and sugar, try it the same way over ice.
My daughter graciously shared some chocolate ice cream with me, and I added cold coffee to the dish and made it a mocha treat.

Stripped Diet
I don’t know about you, but when Tosca Reno says her recipes can help readers lose those final 10 pounds, I’m in. Her book, “The Eat-Clean Diet Stripped” has photos of dishes such as: Ode to Oregon Grilled Duck and Bitter Greens Salad with Pears, Dried Cherries and Hazelnuts; Sweetheart Shrimp and Watermelon Salad; Your Body’s Keen on Kale and Carrot Salad; and When the Weather is Frightful, Make Delightful Roasted Butternut Squash Farro Risotto.
Reno is already a best seller and doesn’t need my help, but she can sure help people realize that real food is real good and the processed stuff can bring you down. Plenty of photos show people having fun exercising, and that’s not a stretch (no pun intended). I took me years to realize that moving more and eating more, natural food, is a key to weight loss and feeling better, and I didn’t have this cool book.
I’ll bet she’d like the new plate guide that replaces the food pyramid.

Won’t they be surprised?
If you’re “old” enough to remember buckles and crisps as desserts, are you “new” enough to go vegan? Recipes for Luscious Lemon Bars, Free-Form Peach Galette and Rosemary Focaccia are mixed in with coconut frosting, cobblers and pies between the pages of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Vegan Baking,” by Donna Diegel.
I know people who would consider substituting non-dairy whipped topping for something made out of tofu a dirty trick, and I also know of a college student happy to find something like that at a Whole Foods market. I’d be very willing to try this:
Whipped Topping
1 cup soft tofu, drained and blotted dry
3 tablespoons canola oil
¼ cup vegan confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons agave or brown rice syrup
½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In a blender, add soft tofu, canola oil, vegan confectioner’s sugar, agave syrup, lemon juice and vanilla extract and blend on high speed for 3 or 4 minutes or until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides of the blender as needed with a rubber spatula
Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight to set up before using. Cover, and keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.