Sunday, September 25, 2011

Bring it: Grape Salad

Yes, I have played with wheat berries, but not at the same time I experimented with grapes that California fresh grape growers promote. They sent a recipe for Wheat Berry Salad with Caramelized Onions and Grapes and note a pairing “with the deep sweet of the soft onions and the subtle sweetness and juicy texture of the grapes.” They add chewy wheat berries, peppery arugula and the bite of feta cheese, for a dish diners will spoon up to the last morsels in the salad bowl. You can “bring it” to parties. Here’s how to make four servings:
1 cup wheat berries
6 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 cups green and red seedless California grapes, halved
1 cup baby arugula, washed and dried
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or pinch cayenne
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Cook the wheat berries in a pot of boiling, salted water until they are cooked but still quite crunchy, about 55 to 60 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Meanwhile, heat 5 tablespoons of the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they are dark brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Stir the onions into the drained wheat berries and cool slightly. Stir in the thyme, grapes and arugula.
For the dressing: Using a chef’s knife, mash and chop the garlic on a cutting board with the salt until it becomes a paste. Transfer to a bowl and add the vinegar, pepper and remaining tablespoon of oil. Blend well and pour over the salad. Mix well, sprinkle with feta and serve.

Grill Lean
Yes, we Southeast Texans love the fatty meats on the grill, but a doc shares tips for finding new favorites. Vivienne Halpern, MD, a member of the Society for Vascular Surgery, says your family can learn to love chicken, fish, turkey and sirloin are lean proteins that are lower in fat, calories, and cholesterol than hot dogs and full-fat hamburgers. Turkey, buffalo and veggie burgers are great on the grill, and olive oil-based marinades and lemon juice give barbequed meats and vegetables added flavor. Think squash, zucchini, peppers or tomatoes served over a bed of rice and round out the meal with a fresh garden salad and watermelon for dessert. No one would go hungry with this plan.

Spreadable update
I told y’all about Earth Balance Organic Coconut Spread for baking and cooking. I’m loving it on toast and even drizzled warm over popcorn. I’m enjoying the companion piece, Earth Balance MindfulMayo dressing and sandwich spread. It’s a dairy- and egg-free vegan spread that’s transformed my basmati rice into a fragrant salad when tossed with cilantro. I haven’t kept mayo in the house for years, but I’m thinking of amazing ways to use this little jar. Makers urge users to “Spread the joy.”

Friday, September 16, 2011

“The Kosher Carnivore”
I expected some good beef and chicken recipes in “The Kosher Carnivore,” billed as The Ultimate Meat and Poultry Cookbook,” but June Hersh surprised me with recipes for chicken fried steak and guacamole. Kosher sounds tasty to me. I love how she urges cooks to get to know their pepper mill, because sometimes you want to really taste that pepper and sometimes it should hang in the background. I also love that there are so many good recipes that plenty of non-meat options, such as a low-calorie version of creamed spinach and a cranberry chutney will be my first tries, along with this:
Horseradish Cream
½ cup good quality mayonnaise
2 tablespoons jarred or freshly-grated horseradish
1 clove garlic, peeled and grated
Pinch of wasabi, optional
1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper
In a small bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the horseradish. Grate the garlic clover over the bowl and combine. Stir in the wasabi powder, if using, and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill until ready to use.

Taste the burn
Burn is a workout program that I’m not familiar with, but Burn’s Lisa Corsello has some calorie cutting tips that I already use:
Sour Cream: Instead of sour cream, which has around 200 calories per 100grams, use low-fat or fat-free Greek yogurt (70 calories per 100 grams). The flavor difference is virtually unnoticeable and you’ll get a boost in protein.
Cheese and Crackers: When craving a cheese snack, substitute celery, which has only 10 calories per medium stalk, for the crackers. You'll still be able to get the benefit of the protein, calcium and flavor of the cheese, while avoiding the empty calories in the crackers.
Tacos, Burritos, and Wraps: If Mexican food is your weakness, you’re in luck. Tortilla makers have made tremendous strides toward cutting the fat and calories and bumping up the fiber. Bonus! A variety of fajita and burrito-sized tortillas can be found at your local grocery store for less than 90 calories per serving.
When dining out at your favorite Mexican Restaurant, ask to substitute 2 corn tortillas for 1 made of flour or wheat. One corn tortilla has around 70 calories, while flour tortillas have 180-200+ calories.
Soda: If you're craving a fizzy sweet soda (which averages 136 calories), try mixing sparking water (0 calories) with a splash of apple juice (around 30 calories).
Coffee: If you enjoy getting a daily espresso drink at your local cafe, try this simple substitution: Instead of one tall latte, which has 150 cal, order one tall cappuccino and save yourself about 60 calories.

Orange you glad
Oranges look great as a fall centerpiece. You can take a Sharpie pen and draw faces them like jack-o-lanterns, stick cloves in them for potpourri and candy the slices for holiday

Arthritis in the kitchen
Mix cake batter in a pitcher, instead of a heavy bowl, for easier pouring. It could ease your joints, the Arthritis Foundation suggests in a very handy little book, “Tips for Good Living With Arthritis.” A travel mug with a lid, bending straws and plastic mugs are good options for better gripping, and plates with a curved rim could help aching hands spoon food better, are tips from the book. Some ideas take kitchen items out of the box. Consider a wooden pizza paddle to help tuck sheets under the mattress. The more than 700 tips are for every room and beyond. Close drawers and push chairs under the table by using your backside, is another helpful hint.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Take five for quick cooking; tailgate time

I had to stop reading a cookbook on page 62, because I had already gotten so many ideas I had to catch up with myself. I love experimenting, saving time and being economical, so the new Quail Ridge Press “More Fast & Fabulous Five-Star 5-Ingredient (or less!) Recipes” book from Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley is good reading for me.
I had thought about cooking strips of bacon into all the crackers I had acquired, imagining they’d come out crispy and addictive. These women already did it, and called them bacon bows. They make a bread with nothing but flour and ice cream. There’s a beer omelet. Sigh. Good stuff. I’m sharing another one I never would have thought of, before savoring the rest of the book. It’s actually one of the more elaborate ones:

Sweet Tomato Jelly
5 pounds ripe tomatoes
8 cups sugar
2 lemons, thinly sliced
Scald tomatoes so peelings can be easily removed. Peel and chop tomatoes and place in a large bowl. Cover with sugar and let stand overnight.
Next day, drain juice into a large stockpot. Bring to a boil and boil until threads form. Add tomatoes and lemons. Allow to cool When thick and clear, pack in hot sterilized jars and seal.
A Big, Easy tailgate
How about those Lamar Cards? If you are on tailgate duty, consider a dirty jambalaya bar. I couldn’t dream this up: Zatarains sent me the tip:
* Set up a Dirty Jambalaya bar with different add-ins, like chicken, beef or sausage; and vegetables, like peppers, mushrooms and onions, for fans to customize their own perfect party plate.
* Seafood lovers can mix in shrimp or crawfish along with the meats and veggies for the ultimate flavor experience.
* Tailgating at the stadium? Prepare Dirty Jambalaya in advance and take it with you to the game. It’s easily eaten off paper plates, so no extra equipment is needed and clean-up is a breeze. All you need is a fork to enjoy!
Visit for more exclusive tailgating tips and recipes, as well as a chance to win a trip to the 2012 Allstate® BCS National Championship in New Orleans. Follow Zatarain’s on Twitter: (@MyZatarains).

Goin’ Green with purple
Fill ‘er up with Copco’s colorful Stir ‘n Sip Cups in crazy colors that keep you from filling up the landfill. I like a banana shake breakfast on the way to work and this cup, available at Bed Bath and Beyond stores for $7.99, is a winner with a paddle-bottom straw to keep the drink mixed. Mine’s purple, so I think I know a whole school district who could go for that. You’ve got a clear cup and lid with a colorful “coaster” band and the serviceable straw. Upcoming Halloween versions come in Crossbones, Midnight Branches and Damask.

And something for your Stir n’ Sip
Healthy food advocates talk about “ingredients you can’t pronounce” that make junk food. Our tongues and palates should be getting used to words like organic yerba mate and matcha green tea, which are in the powders of Amazing Grass which “has been sprouting some of the most vibrant ‘nutrition convenience’ ideas for years.” They’ve come out with Lemon Lime Green Energy Drink Powder, with the antioxidant equivalent of 7 servings of fruits and vegetables, giving “ a convenient and energizing means to achieve the recommended 5 to 9 daily servings of fruits and vegetables.”
I’ve tried the Green Superfood blend a few times and still find the organic wheat grass, barley grass, alfalfa, spirulina, spinach, chlorella and broccoli with other ancient superfoods including açaí and maca give me a feeling of mowed grass, but add-ins like banana blend a smoothie that transports me into a healthy mode. Makers say the blend “includes an enhanced digestive enzyme and active probiotic blend to improve nutrient absorption.” That’s got to be better than a plastic bag of what many Americans gulp down on the way to work.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Best women have done the work for you
Use your imagination to taste the joys of avocado pudding, jambalaya grits, onion fries and watermelon pickles. I can’t immediately prove it, but I think I’ve shared an earlier book from Best of the Best before. Three cooks have released “Recipe Hall of Fame: Fresh from the Farmers Market Cookbook” in the “Best” series, which gleans winning recipes from other sources. I love all kinds of cookbooks, but this is one that features something I not only want to make, but can make pretty easily, on nearly every page.
They’re all about fresh, and some are very quick, too. One’s got a slaw recipe with crushed Ritz crackers and grated sharp cheddar cheese. Another has a note that the recipe for Orange Mint drink is so important, it ought to be issued with Social Security numbers. Here’s just one that Gwen McKee, Terresa Ray and Barbara Moseley rounded up:

Edisto Stew
2 12-ounce cans beer
6-8 ears corn
2 teaspoons crab boil seasoning
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1 pound link sausage, sliced
1 pound shrimp, unpeeled
Bring beer and enough water to cover corn to a boil, add corn and seasonings. Let simmer 5 minutes, then add sausage and simmer 5 minutes. Add shrimp and cook until pink. Drain and spread on newspaper. Dive in; pretend you’re on the island. (“Recipes & Memories,” from South Carolina)

September marks the 21st year of National Rice Month, sponsored by the USA Rice Federation. The group reports U.S.-grown rice contributes $34 billion in economic activity in America and provides 128,000 jobs annually. That’s enough for me to cook up a pot.

Coffee with Wolfgang
If you want to stick to 120 calories, you already have a treat in Wolfgang Puck’s new line of iced coffees in four flavors. His signature in glass is raised on the little milk-bottle shaped servings. But if Café au Lait, Vanilla Fusion, Crème Caramel and Double Blended Mocha are great in the morning think how tempting they’d be as bases for drinks enjoyed in the evenings. Taste toasted, notes, Tahitian vanilla, Viennese chocolate and organic goods in these various blends, as the come. Wolfgang has a few add-in ideas:
Siberian Espresso
Covoa Iced Coffee
2 ounces Wolfgang Puck Café au Lait
1 ½ ounces vodka
½ ounce kahlua
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice and shake well for 10 seconds. Strain into a martini glass.

Crunchy Yogurt
This is one is designed for kids, who will think it’s fun to crunch drops of freeze-dried yogurt, without realizing it’s organic and good for them. Little pouches to slip in the lunch box remind me of Pop Rocks but Plum Organics and Revolution Foods have made Yo’ Drops out of 100 percent certified organic & hormone-free yogurt that’s mixed with real fruit and freeze-dried it into tiny drops. I tried the crunchy yogurt over fresh fruit. It’s got a “candy” sensation children ought to go for. This is from the folks who gave children and their health-conscious parents Mashups Fruit & Veggie Smoothies, also designed for on-the-go children.

The cheese investment
I’ve mentioned before that I’d like to “invest” in a cheese that’s so rich tasting you just need a little bit to get flavor satisfaction. Grana Padano is a hard hunk of sweet, nutty flavor that works with luncheon meats, fruits and vegetables and it works for those who are lactose intolerant, makers say. They ought to know, because monks in Northern Italy discovered about 1,000 years ago they could work with curds and whey and create the world’s first hard cheese, Grana Padano literature reports. It’s an Italian DOP, which to us is a PDO, meaning Protected designation of Origin. It gets tests, brands, marks and stamps to prove it is what it is. . . high quality cheese. I’m enjoying it as an appetizer, but the guide suggests packing it in a lunch box kabob style, with cherry tomatoes and gherkins or even little dippers with hummus and fruit spreads.