Sunday, October 30, 2011

Holidays a good time to savor ginger ale
One of my parents’ friends would tote ginger ale to parties because she did not partake of adult beverages. I was just a kiddo when she let me taste hers and I became a fan. My daughter and I enjoy some around the holidays.
Q Ginger is billing individual servings of organic agave ale with real ginger, coriander, cardamom, rose oil, cayenne and orange peel as “Finally, a ginger ale for adults.” One sip made me a huge fan. Q Tonic was bitter to my husband’s taste. That’s because it’s supposed to be, I assured him. It also features agave and “real quinine from real trees, not a lab,” as the info card indicates. I realize you’re supposed to mix this with gin or vodka, but I rather enjoyed a sip alone, as it put me in a European bistro mood.

A little bit sweet
Little candy dots pouring out of brightly colored plastic tubes look like most other children’s candies, but SparX, makers of the fruity bites, think these sweeties could make a better candy choice for your oral health with natural xylitol. Corn cobs, birch trees and other sources make up the sweeter. I couldn’t make this up. The company reports: “Xylitol contains 40 percent fewer calories than sugar, has a net carb level of only 0.4 per gram, and has minimal impact on blood-sugar levels, making it an appropriate sugar substitute for diabetics. Xylitol is absorbed slowly by the body, resulting in a low glycemic index of seven compared to sugars index of 83 (or higher).”
Xlear, Inc. (pronounced “clear,” the leading manufacturer of xylitol based products in the United States, cranks ‘em out. Tastes like candy. Xlear also makes a nasal spray, a dental defense system, tooth gel and floss.

Mole to go
A panini grill is a preferred way to heat Red’s All Natural burritos, with an oven as a second-best option. If you’re hungry enough and you can head to the microwave, but I wouldn’t suggest it. While the brand boasts composition from highest quality veggies, beans and spices with antibiotic and hormone-free meats, cradled in light wheat flour tortilla, make sure you read the label if counting calories. One burrito is two servings, so grab a burrito buddy and share. If you are already predisposed to the flavor, texture and filling quality of this dish, Red’s will fit the bill with turkey mole, steak, chicken and bean and rice varieties. In other words, this burrito tastes exactly like you think it will.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Be prepared in the kitchen; play with your oranges
Did I ever tell you about the time I thought I was tossing popcorn kernels into my hot air popper and it turned out it was yellow lentils?
It’s not the worst thing that’s happened in that kitchen. In fact, I redeemed my self by playing with oranges:

Orange salad

What I just did with an orange surprised even me. I added diced onions and cucumber to chilled orange slices and spiced it up with peppercorns for a very filling treat. It was so good, I made almost the same thing the next day.

Spicy stuff
McCormick Kitchens has compiled a list of the Top 10 most-searched for family dinner recipes. Any of these sound familiar?
Pork Chops
Chicken Soup
Beef Stew
I’ll take some of each. Visit for more ideas.

Fall for this dessert:
White Lily suggests combining two or three varieties such as Granny Smith, Golden Delicious or Gala for Fall Fruit Crisp with Berries. Make the crumbled topping is made with White Lily Self-Rising Flour, butter, and white and brown sugars mixed together to resemble coarse bread crumbs.

Fall Fruit Crisp with Berries

Crisco Original No-Stick Spray

Fruit Mixture
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon White Lily Self-Rising Flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups peeled, cored and chopped baking apples
2 cups peeled, cored and chopped pears
2 cups chopped plums
2 cups fresh or frozen blackberries, thawed

2 cups White Lily Self-Rising Flour
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup salted butter, melted
1 3/4 cups quick cooking oats
1 cup chopped pecans, almonds or walnuts
Vanilla ice cream

Heat oven to 350° F. Coat 13 x 9-inch baking dish with no-stick cooking spray.
Combine granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon flour, cinnamon and ginger in large bowl. Add fruit and berries. Stir to coat. Pour into prepared baking dish.
Combine 2 cups flour and dark brown sugar in a medium bowl. Add melted butter and stir with a fork until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in oats and nuts. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over fruit mixture.
Bake on middle rack of oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Move to top rack of oven and bake 10 more minutes until topping is golden brown. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Makes 12 servings

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Oh My Gosh! Guys, Learn to cook!

Some people don’t know how easy it is to mix crab meat, mayo, cheddar, horseradish and French dressing into a snappy dip. Others don’t realize how pine nuts can dress up a salad and there are poor dears who haven’t even made quick cheese grits or French toast. Hollis Ledbetter has met these new adults who have moved out of the house and are suddenly faced with feeding themselves. After boning up on her book, readers may even want to host parents for dinner or . . . throw a party.
“Oh My Gosh! I’m in College and I Never Learned to Cook” covers basics and gets creative. I do like the emphasis on young people having fun with the whole deal enough to invite friends over to taste their accomplishments. Where there’s food, there’s fun. Some may learn to cook, others may learn to eat better. Here’s one made with healthy stuff:

Black Beans and Chopped Avocado Dip
1 ripe avocado, diced
1 16-ounce can black beans, drained
3 medium tomatoes
1 8-ounce can corn
½ cup red onion
1 ½ cup salsa
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
To prepare, take the seed out of the avocado and scoop out the meat into a bowl. Dice the onion and tomatoes. Combine avocado, beans, tomatoes, corn and onions. Mix salsa, lime juice, olive oil and sugar together, and pour over the avocado and bean mixture. Chill for two to three hours. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips.

The spirit program
Many of us pray before meals. Thomas C. Kaut keeps up a prayerful attitude with “Spirit” Matrix” “Spirit Healing,” “Spirit Netting” and other names for his program throughout the chewing and digestive process, and through selection of the next meal. Scripture spices his message as he reminds readers to be grateful for air and water and stay away from junk food. His book is “The New Millennium Christian Health Program and Kaut ends each chapter with an “Amen.”

The Consious Plate
Chef Randy Rabney, owner of, offers a “blueprint” on keeping stocked, cooking simply and making it good and good for you. The new book is “Delicious for Life: Your Everyday Guide to Making Quick & Healthy Meals.” With space for notes and ideas to create your own signature dishes, this little book is best-suited to readers who think they can’t do it all. Rabney aims to show they can. Tips include:
Make the most of the flavor combinations you love by using them in multiple dishes. For example, if you love tomato and basil, you can make whole wheat spaghetti with zucchini, fresh tomato and basil, a mozzarella tomato and basil salad, or zucchini, onion, tomato and basil frittata with parmigano reggiano.
Tired of having your fresh vegetables go to waste? Make a creative pasta sauce by sautéing vegetables and garlic and combining them with a small amount of high-quality marinara sauce. Or for an Asian inspired noodle dish, instead of marinara, use a small amount of organic soy sauce and dark sesame oil and toss in soba or rice noodles.
If your sweet tooth kicks in, eat cherry tomatoes or beets that are naturally sweet. Or, you can roast the vegetables at 450 degrees so that they become caramelized and the sugar is released, thus making them taste sweeter.
I’ve already been making something like Rabney’s Banana Ice “Cream” recipe:
Ingredients: 3 very ripe frozen bananas, 1 fresh banana, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional), 1 tablespoon of milk of your choice (nut, cow's milk, etc).
Step 1: Take the very ripe bananas, peel them, and break them into chunks and freeze.
Starry nights and lots of spice for October

Blue with Van Gogh
Van Gogh Vodka has two new flavors for fall: Rich Dark Chocolate and Cool Peach. What I have tried from the culinary artists in Holland is Acai-Blueberry Vodka, which got me with straight up flavor, after I was already smitten by the flamingo on the label. It seems like you wouldn’t want to add anything else, since there’s hints of raspberry and almond. But if you’d like a cocktail, here it is:

Starry Night
4 ounces sparkling rose
1 ounce Van Gogh Acai-Blueberry Vodka
Pour chilled van Gogh Acai-Blueberry vodka into a flute. Top with Sparkling Rose wine and garnish with a starfruit.

I’m reading up on the chocolate version, offering hints of coffee, nutmeg and spice and notes of coffee, chili pepper, caramel, and exotic spice. They’ve gone all Aztec on it. The peach is a customer request.
Van Gogh Imports in Orlando, Florida, also brings Ron Abuelo Anejo, which has won lots of awards, yet is in a very reasonable price range. Fall is a good time for rum and this one offers estate-grown sugar cane from Panama. The company started in 1908 and its third generation is producing this satisfying blend with hints of sweet fruit, toasted coconut, vanilla, mocha, nuts and sweet spice. It’s a reason to celebrate the season.

Nuts about ‘em
Mix brown rice and almonds and what do you get? Nacho chips. Or Sour Cream and Chive chips. Maybe you’d prefer to stick with Sea Salt? Blue Diamond Almonds makes the flat, triangular snacks that are wheat and gluten free while coming out with significantly less saturated fat than potato chips. Don’t pretend it’s a tortilla chip. It’s got its own personality. Think “interesting cracker,” then try it with cheese or guacamole. It’s a tasty match.

Naked Juice
I know a woman who works out and refreshes with a bottled juice that seems to have more calories than she just burned off. Be aware and read labels of what’s tagged to be “good for you.” If you down the bottle, you may be drinking more than one serving.
Naked Juice has a tasty alternative to the super-sweet stuff with smoothies in a bottle. They offer two new flavors: Reduced Calorie Lychee and Reduced Calorie Citrus Lemongrass. Bet you’d never have thought of mixing one of these up. Makers use “100-percent bare-naked ingredients” such as coconut water and mango. Very refreshing. I used some to flavor up French toast, so I’ve been “Naked” cooking with this product as well.

Their loss is our spicy gain
Celeste De Armas and Corina Mascaro met at college, where their longing for dishes from their native Cuba lead to discussion of their “freshman 15” weight gain. Through a search for a healthy lifestyle, they eventually launched Nueva Cocina Foods, what they say is the nation’s first line of all-natural and authentic Latin rice dishes, seasonings and soups. Now their company offers 17 different items featuring authentic recipes from Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Spain and other Latin countries. Most are vegetarian and gluten-free. I’ve tried Chipotle Taco, Picadillo and Taco Fresco seasoning packets in unusual ways. They smell amazing and they’ve got to be wonderful in meat. I’ve mixed them in to eggs and vegetables on a week I wanted to eat modestly. Dried raisins and olives plump up well in the picadillo and there’s a different aroma going on when compared to our beloved Tex-Mex. It’s a good, hearty pick for fall.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What to eat in October: Start with chocolate and wine

I began with Toffee Interlude, then went to 60 percent, 72 percent, then, the highest I’ve ever taken it: 86 percent cacao. Ghirardelli’s Midnight Reverie is dark chocolate meant be paired with dry red wine, strawberries and cheese. It’s savory, and an adventure. I think I’m most comfortable at 60 percent, Evening Dream. That’s dark enough to keep my husband out of the Ghirardelli, though he’s way into the Toffee Interlude. These squares are so good and satisfying, a reasonable person can ration out one a day to make them last. Are you reasonable?

In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company has teamed with Leslie Sbrocco share pairings for Ghirardelli Intense Dark chocolates, in support of the National Breast Cancer Foundation. They can inspire a Girl’s Night Out Pairing. Through December, specially marked pink ribbon packages of Intense Dark found at grocery and specialty retailers nationwide will carry a code inside the package redeemable for a $1 donation to the NBCF (up to $100,000). has the scoop.

Drink with a Vampyre/Vampire

I perfectly timed consumption of a refreshing Blood Berry Martini on my front lawn at dusk. A bat flew overhead following my final sip. Mexican fre-tail, I’m pretty sure. Perfection. I made the recipe that Vampyre Wickedly Smooth blood-red vodka provided. By the way, I improvised with brown sugar.

Blood Berry Martini

1.5 oz Vampyre Vodka, red

2 strawberries, hulled and sliced

1 oz orange juice (blood orange juice, if available)

0.5 oz lemon juice

1 teaspoon sugar

Half a strawberry, for garnish

· Directions: In a cocktail shaker, muddle the strawberries with the orange juice and sugar. Add the Vampyre Vodka. Top with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a half strawberry.

Vampire Vineyards has selections from where “a vineyard where the fruit is night-picked and the winemakers are sworn to secrecy.” I could say, don’t wait until Halloween to try their syrah with black cherry and cark chocolate flavors and a “jammy” finish. I didn’t. But, I have to confess. I’d like to save the Cabernet Sauvignon until Halloween. It comes with a Lord Byron verse on the label and the promise of adventure. Every year there seems to be drink recipes that call out the sexy vampire. This line simply wants to be uncorked.

Autumn with Sailor Jerry

After tasting Sailor Jerry Rum, I’m put in the mind of local band Hanna’s Reef, which Jerry Diaz promotes as Texas Beach music. Both the rum and the band are in the “kick back” style. It’s spicy and strong and full of fall flavor. Fortunately, Sailor Jerry Rum Brand Ambassador Paul Monahan (what a cool title) created a “handful of special cocktails” to usher in the season. Here’s one that will make you ready for the next Cayman Fest:

Autumn Bite

-1.5 part Sailor Jerry

-1.5 part lemonade

Top with black cherry soda

Add Sailor Jerry and lemonade to ice filled mixing glass. Shake and pour into fresh rocks filled highball glass. Top with black cherry soda. Garnish with cherry.