Sunday, March 18, 2012

Fair food and nutrition month: You can do both

Deep Fried Strawberries

Donnie Warner has the scoop. Warner, publicity man for the South Texas State Fair, says he hears deep fried strawberries with caramel and whipped cream will be the hot fair food. Count me in. Visit to get the scoop on the fair, set for March 22-April 1 at Ford Park in Beaumont. The YMBL Rodeo will be March 30-31. Warner says our Hughen Center students have looked forward to being rodeo guests for years and years.

By the way, the fair as a fried-food celebration comes during National Nutrition Month. Can you have it both ways? Read the whole column.

Gumbo greats

I hope everyone enjoyed the Rotary Club’s Taste of Gumbo, Etc. this weekend. I got a bowl of great gumbo at my mother’s house with shrimp and sausage. It was literally so good that I would put my spoon down after every single bite to say, “This is soooo good.”

A shapely plate

“Get Your Plate in Shape” is the theme for National Nutrition Month 2012. If you didn’t know it is going on now in March, it’s not too late. The Almond Board of California has this recipe:

Green Salad with Almond Butter Vinaigrette

Servings: 6

6 cups arugula or mixed greens
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup smooth almond butter, ** room temperature
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon raspberry vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup sliced almonds, roasted***
3/4 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
Place greens in a large salad bowl. Whisk together olive oil, almond butter and vinegar in a small bowl until smooth; season with salt and pepper. Divide greens among four salad plates and drizzle with dressing; top with almonds and pomegranate.

Note: **Almond butter may be found next to the jams and jellies in natural food stores and some supermarkets. Otherwise, you can make it by grinding together 1 cup roasted almonds and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a food processor or blender, then adding 3 tablespoons almond or vegetable oil in a slow, steady stream, and blending until the mixture comes together. This recipe makes 3/4 cup.

*** To roast slivered, chopped or sliced almonds : Spread in an ungreased baking pan. Place in 350ºF oven and bake 10 minutes or until golden brown and fragrant; stir once or twice to assure even browning. Note that almonds will continue to roast slightly after removing from oven.

Not plain vanilla: it’s a “potentiator”

In honor of National Nutrition Month, Nielsen-Massey Vanillas celebrates vanilla as a “flavor enhancer, or potentiator.” They say it increases our ability to taste other flavors by intensifying those flavors and adds flavor without calories and fat. Makers teamed with Victoria Shanta Retelny, author of “The Essential Guide to Healthy Healing Foods,” for these tipes:

- Citrus Fruits: Citrus fruits are packed with antioxidants, such as vitamin C. Sprinkle a bit of Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Powder on an orange or grapefruit to cover the fruits’ acidic bite, giving a creamier taste.

- Tomatoes: Tomatoes are lauded for their high lycopene levels. Lycopene is a carotenoid with powerful healing properties. Mexican Pure Vanilla cuts the acidity in tomato based dishes.

- Fish: Fish is a go-to source for omega-3 fats. Fish is also low in saturated fat and a great source of protein. When making fish on the grill, apply Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste with a brush. The paste caramelizes slightly forming a thin shell that seals in the moisture.

- Cucumbers: Cucumbers are a good source of potassium and have a high amount of vitamin K. The peel also provides dietary fiber. Tahitian vanilla, which works best in cold, no-heat applications, pairs nicely with cucumbers and in cucumber salads.

- Yogurt: Yogurt is high in calcium and contains other nutrients such as vitamin D, protein and probiotics. A splash of Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract helps increase the richness and creaminess.

10 million can’t be wrong

Turbana Plantain Chips sent out a press release from Coral Gables, Fla., announcing pride in producing 10 million servings. One of those came to me and I’m on board with a bag of sweet, crispy plantain chips that make a flavorful pick over greasy potato chips. You get a unique flavor in a chip that’s free of trans fats, GMO, cholesterol, gluten, preservatives and additives. Try them in chili, chili-lime, lime, sweet, lightly salted and garlic. I just saw a plantain for sale in a local Vietnamese market , and I don’t know how Turbana got one of those to turn into something so thin and crunchy. A bag of these will sure jazz up your peanut butter sandwich. For more info, visit


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