Saturday, June 30, 2012

Cocoa almonds a trending snack

Cocoa trend
Apparently cocoa-dusted almonds are a trend, because I saw two brands in the same store. I bagged a canister of Blue Diamond Natural Oven-Roasted Almonds in dark chocolate and I’m in love. They’re so satisfying that I’ve been eating them one serving at a time, as we all should, but often don’t. Blue Diamond makes it easy by noting the ounce size on the side of the label, so you can shake out about 24 nuts at a time. Nice touch.

The $7 sweet

Make a sweet salad, put out some nuts, fruit and white cheese and pick up a bottle of Barefoot Red Moscato. Moscato is making the news and it’s a light, refreshing summer kind of drink. I enjoyed some by a rooftop pool observing the summer skyline. I was on the lookout for notes of fresh peach and orange blossom layered with pomegranate and raspberry aromas. I found that with a sweet citrus finish. I’m so thankful for labels that point me in the right direction. Barefoot White is the most-awarded California wine under $15 and Barefoot Bubbly is the most awarded sparking wine under $20. Don’t be one of those wine snobs. Go Barefoot this summer.

No-fish water

I know some people who don’t even like their fish dinner to taste “fishy.” Omega-3Water is touted as the country’s first natural, flavored water with omega-3 nutrients and the company isn’t messing around. They assure that since their nutrients are sourced from flax seed, no fish taste is EVER included. I’m a fan of the Orange Kiwi while Bold Berry is the pick of my heal-conscience acquaintance. This stuff is bottled so you can take it with you, but makers want you to enjoy it chilled, like I did. I think it’s a good low-cal cocktail mix in. It’s a good feeling to know you’re refreshing your self without a sugar overload. You be the mega-2 fatty acid judge.

Burger bar for summer entertaining

Burger bar: easiest plan ever

Schwan’s Spoil

I’m not so used to being spoiled and the person who drives the Schwan’s delivery truck may be the one to entice me. Sure I’ve seen those trucks around, but had never tried it out myself. Those boxes have some good stuff inside and stack up so temptingly in the fridge. In minutes I had burgers going and a tortellini salad in a bowl. Another meal showcased beef sirloin steak tips for kabobs, corn on the cob and asparagus. Try those firm, green babies on a raft you fashion with skewers. The modern family can go online to arrange this world of food to come home to you. It’s a perfect solution for some busy households. I’m willing to work to create a good meal, but Schwan’s has shown me how easy it is to have the good stuff even in a hectic week. Here’s some ideas from their extensive list of burger toppers:

Southwest with Grilled Corn Relish-Spoon a spicy crunchy corn relish made with corn, chopped romaine, tomatoes, red & green pepper, jalapeño, vinegar, a chopped cilantro and a hint of sugar over your burger. Add provolone cheese and a chipotle style mayo dressing.

Farmhouse Bistro-Top your burger with lettuce, tomato, American cheese, onion and a fried egg,

Bacon Guacamole-Top your burger with a slice of American cheese, a slice of fully cooked crisp bacon and a generous scoop of cool guacamole.

Pizza -Top your burger with favorite pizza ingredients such as pepperoni, mozzarella, marinara sauce, black olives and a sprinkle of Parmesan.

Rio Bravo -Top your burger with bacon, cheese, and BBQ sauce.

Hawaiian Holiday -Top your burger with grilled ham, Swiss cheese and pineapple and drizzle with sweet & sour sauce.

Mean Green Supreme-Top your burger with crisp bacon, grilled green pepper rings and a generous scoop of cool guacamole.

Sweet Caramelized Balsamic Onions -Top your burger with thin cut, sautéed onion slices and balsamic vinegar.

Black & Blue-Top your burger with blue cheese crumbles black pepper, fried onions, bacon and blue cheese mayo dressing.

Ultimate Cowboy-Top your burger with sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, tomatoes, bacon and a hot horseradish mayo dressing. For added flavor add a dollop of chili ketchup.

Cheesy Texas Toast-Top your burger with Gruyere cheese, crisp lettuce and serve on slices of Garlic Texas Toast.

Texas Roadhouse-Top your burger with peppers and onions, bacon, cheddar cheese, pickles, and BBQ or steak sauce.

Philly Style-Top your burger with roast beef slices, Swiss cheese and sautéed peppers and onions.

Oscar Surf & Turf-Top your burger with asparagus spears, crab meat and Béarnaise sauce.

French Bistro-Top your burger with caramelized onion, gorgonzola cheese, gruyere cheese, and garlic mustard. mayo

Quesadilla-Top your burger with Pepper Jack cheese, pico de gallo, southwest ranch and serve in a quesadilla.

English Cheddar- Top your burger with 2 slices cheddar cheese, English muffin and a mayo mustard sauce.

Bagel-Spread vegetable or herb cream cheese on a bagel and layer with burger, tomato and red onion

Panini -Top your burger with pesto, provolone cheese, prosciutto and roasted red pepper.

Spinach & Artichoke -Top your burger with prepared spinach and artichoke dip.

How good can granola get?

I know I have at least one fan who goes gluten free. I hope shell try Giddy Up & Go Granola from Thoughtful Food, Inc. This stuff is absolutely indulgent. I vow to eat it only on top of yogurt, because it could blow my mind to eat a bowl full as cereal. I want to savor it. Jennifer Beielawski experimented after her family was forced to change diets to eliminate grain, starch, sugar and most lactose. She’s found a winner. I just like this crunchy stuff full of natural foods. I can imagine how grateful I would be if I found it because I couldn’t eat the “regular” stuff that doesn’t hold a candle to Giddy Up & Go. The package will tell you how good for you it is. I’m telling you stuff like sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, agave nectar, cinnamon and vanilla make it crazy good.

Goin’ Greek

I’ve had some variation of Greek yogurt about every week for the past year or so. Here’s something new: Rickland Orchards All Natural Greek Yogurt Bar. I’m fighting my daughter for our morning doses of blueberry-acai, apple & honey, cherry-almond, cranberry almond, orchard peach and toasted coconut. Good granola is “iced” with sweet, creamy yogurt and you can tuck it into your purse for an on-the-go treat. It’s a dessert thing, too. I love how the lettering looks Greek. Everybody in my family thought these tasted better than we even expected.

Also delicious:

Navitas Naturals now has Blueberry Hemp in an award-winning line of organic Navitas Power Snacks. I may have mentioned these before, but I want to tell you I packed some on a trip and just one nugget during uncertain travel scheduling kept me full and energized until I had a proper meal. They’re dense and tasty, like a healthy brownie. They have no refined sugar, preservatives and artificial colors and flavors. In addition to being certified organic they are also certified gluten-free, and are GMO-free and dairy-free.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Granny's grains, bourbon and new stuff

I do have a lead on the Murphy’s cake icing search. Keep reading.

In other news, here’s something I’ll call Granny’s Grains:

My mom often cooks for one, which is how she passed on a few bags of grains with just a few tablespoons of product left in each. After pondering how what to do with it all, I decided to combine and cook. My shrimp and broccoli had a side dish of orzo, pilaf and cous cous. It all worked out well in the end. Unless, of course, you let my mom know I referred to her as “granny.”

Bourbon Day

While Bourbon Day in June is not a national holiday, it is a good time to relax. It’s over, but you can still raise a glass. Here’s a Maker’s Mark recipe:

The Ward 3

Recipe by Ward III, New York

Muddled Fresh Strawberries

¾ part Fresh Lime Juice

½ part Simple Syrup

1 Egg White

2 Dashes Peychaud's Bitters

2 parts Maker's Mark® Bourbon


1. Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice.

2. Shake vigorously and pour into a rocks glass.

3. Garnish with a shaving of nutmeg.

Vegetarian Plus

Some one told me about the new Whole Foods on Waugh Drive in Houston and I got there fast as I could. Vegetarian Plus meals were my goal and I got a package of citrus sparerib cutlets in plum vinegar sauce that had me tossing me head back and glad there was no one there to share it with. It’s so sweet and good and I served it over a bed of sliced cucumber and onion. It came in a bag in a box and heated in minutes. Great pick. Vegan Black Pepper Steaks comes in a close second in the line.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Reader's request: Murphys icing and potoato bread

Two other culinary thrill seekers have asked for help through this column, so if you can help, send me an e-mail. Reader Penny Daigle writes: “I read your column with the recipe for zucchini bread & I was hoping you could help me find a similar recipe for potato bread. I made it years ago & it was very good but I lost the recipe. It was not for potato biscuits or anything else, it made a loaf. I have not been able to find anything like it & I thought perhaps you would know of one. I enjoy your columns very much. Thanks for any help you can give.” Readers, if you have one, type it up and mail it to me, and they we can all have it. Thanks in advance. Sherrie Hardesty started with her age, perhaps so I would know she was authentic in experiencing the iconic Murphy’s cakes from Port Arthur. “We bought all our cakes and such from them. Just moved back to Texas eight years ago and wondering if y’all got the cake icing recipe. Please, I got to have it,” she writes. It’s “just the regular one” she wants. Olive love I tried and succeeded in saving the blue cheese stuffed olives until my husband got home. West Coast Products, a grower and processor of domestic olives, launches a new line of stuffed olives in its 75th Anniversary year and this combo are two family favorites. The wait was worth it. The Olinda brand Sicilian style green olives also come in varieties I didn’t wait to try: Lemon Peel Stuffed; Habanero Stuffed; and Pimento Stuffed. Olinda Olives and California-certified Extra Virgin Olive Oil is supplied to restaurants, distributors, and specialty retail stores and you can get your own. They use salt brine, no lye. I may have loved the lemon the best, even though I’m a hot pepper fanatic. I savored a sample pack, indulging in just two at a time. Other products include Sicilian style whole olives, Greek Kalamata style olives, sun-dried olives, and California-certified Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The sun-dried are moist and crinkly. West Coast Products is family owned and operated since 1937. I’ll bet you’ll love their work as much as my family did. Garlic Gold Does fragrant, crunchy garlic send you to a happy place? I held a bottle of Rinaldo’s Organic Real Garlic gold Nuggets while I ate with another, so these tasty tidbits would keep shaking out onto homegrown tomatoes and cucumbers. Just sprinkle it on, the label urges. Count me in as urging you, too. Garlic Gold has a line that includes classic Balsamic Vinaigrette, which also made me smile. But all I really want to do is crunch some more. Look for more in this organic line: • Traditional garlic packed in organic extra virgin olive oil • Garlic Nuggets combined with other seasonings for a flavorful condiment to shake on everything from meats to vegetables • Garlic infused extra virgin olive oil • Garlic vinaigrettes including the popular Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette

Sunday, June 10, 2012

HopeFULL is frozen poetry of mindful eating

I can’t stop thinking of new HopeFULL ideas. Of course, there’s the coolest flip card recipe book ever, with photos, inspirational poems and general tips on living life. Taste of Thailand puts coconut milk, spiach leaves, lime juice, peanut butter, lime, soy and brown sugar into a frozen pop. I wonder if kids in Thailand would have even thought of that. Next page over is Cocobanana Bean, with coconut milk, black beans, banana and vanilla yogurt. Pink Utopia has beets. I started small with a banana and peanut butter blend, then got bold in my second experiment of yogurt and cut up hemp cake. I want play with pumpkin, carrots, peas, pineapple, etc. This pop method doesn’t involve much more than an orange silicone mold, wooden spoons as holders and your imagination. You can download a tracking chart of your HopeFULL/BellyFULL ideas from www.the They have a Rambler lunch bag made from stretchy wet suit material. Before you begin gobbling you treats, consider the mindful eating exercise where eaters are asked to slow down and consider the taste and feel of food as well as the nutrition they are about to intake. I love everything about this business, including the ending of the little writing that comes with the Zucchini Bread pop recipe:

“The only thing that could ruin this day is the fear of it ending.”

Zucchini Bread

1 cup chunked raw zucchini

1 cup vanilla soy milk

½ cup infant oatmeal cereal

4 tablespoons apple butter

1 tablespoon walnut oil

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Add zucchini and soy milk to a blender and liquefy. Add remaining ingredients and blend until completely smooth, scraping down the sices if necessary. Pour into HopeFULL tray, add wooden spoon-sticks and freeze.

Classic Maker’s Mark is onto a trend

Mixologists are making fresh produce the talk of the summer. I recently had a drink with muddled cucumber and vanilla. Apparently you can now see tenders of bars scouring farmer’s markets as thoroughly as chefs. Sugary mixes and artificial syrups are out and fresh fruits, herbs and veggies are in, according to those in the know. Look for the unexpected, such as Thai basil and strawberries. Here’s an idea from promoters of Maker’s Mark:

In New York City, bars including Macao Trading Co., Saxon and Parole, and Ward III serve renowned fresh produce cocktails made with Maker’s Mark. (I will add that the traditional recipes to enjoy this red-sealed wonder are still in vogue. I found plenty of this popular blend for sale on the streets of New Orleans and while I’ve tried several new blends, I’m still down with the simple mixology of sugar and Maker’s Mark over a jar of raisins. Just a few of these little fruits will brighten your brunch.)

The Ward 3

Recipe by Ward III, New York

Muddled Fresh Strawberries

¾ part Fresh Lime Juice

½ part Simple Syrup

1 Egg White

2 Dashes Peychaud's Bitters

2 parts Maker's Mark® Bourbon


1. Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice.

2. Shake vigorously and pour into a rocks glass.

3. Garnish with a shaving of nutmeg.

Granny’s Grains

My mom often cooks for one, which is how she passed on a few bags of grains with just a few tablespoons of product left in each. After pondering how what to do with it all, I decided to combine and cook. My shrimp and broccoli had a side dish of orzo, pilaf and cous cous. It all worked out well in the end. Unless, of course, you let my mom know I referred to her as “granny.”

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Grapes & Roses gets a tarragon twist

Thanks to my new neighbor, who brought me a bundle of herbs she grew, I can make this beverage. Keep reading, and you’ll get the recipe.

This is what I learned about Pisco Portion: By Peruvian law, this spirit must be blended from one or a blend of eight specific grape varieties grown in Peru; Pisco means “little bird” to Quechua Indians; It was invented in the 1600s; and Pisco is also a port town from which the drink was first imported. I find the clear stuff light and it puts me in the mind of grass and citrus. Old as it is, it’s something new for me to play with. Here’s an idea from the makers:

Grapes & Roses

1 ½ parts Pisco Porton

4 muddled grapes

¾ part grape juice

1 tarragon branch

½ part lemon juice

½ part simple syrup

4 drops rose water

In a mixing glass, muddle the grapes and tarragon and then add the rest of the ingredients. Add ice and shake really well. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with rose petals.

Coffee Break

Orange Carpet Magic, Not Your Average Joe and Glorious Day are names as fun as race horses get. These go to Ponderosa Roasting creations out of California. I’m a New Day fan, made by a couple who believes we are all racing around so much that we need to enjoy simple pleasures, like good coffee. They invented a touch-screen roaster and then got into the supply side. Cheryl Guildner has her e-mail right on the pouch: You have got to be proud of your product to stand by it like that. They’ve created blends for an Academy Awards event and support Coffees with a Cause.


POM Wonderful 100 % Pomegranate Juice comes in little travel sizes for road trips. Makers have recipes from adult beverages to chicken dinner and I’ve got a tip of my own. A dash of this juice makes cheap boxed wine better. I’ve been having some straight up and also used as a flavoring for orange juice and sugar-free lemonade. A bottle of their antioxidant super tea, flavored with lychee, is what I grabbed to ease my allergy haze. I’m sure you’ve heard this pomegranate juice is good for you. Now, here’s an idea from the bottlers:

Frozen Pomarita

1 ounce freshly squeezed pomegranate juice* or POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice

1 ounce tequila

1 ounce triple sec liqueur

3/4 oz. fresh lime juice

1 1/2 ounce simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water dissolved together in cold water)

Salt and lime for garnish (optional)

Shake all drink ingredients with ice to chill.

Serve this pomegranate cocktail recipe in a martini glass prepared as follows:
Mix in a bowl, one part ground cinnamon and one part granulated sugar.
Moisten the rim of a martini glass by swiping a slice of orange around the rim.
Dust glass rim with the sugared cinnamon mixture and decorate with a spiral of orange.

* This cocktail can be made with freshly squeezed juice from a POM Wonderful Pomegranate or by using POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice. To juice the pomegranate, cut it in half (as you would a grapefruit) and juice using a citrus reamer or a juicer. Pour mixture through a cheesecloth-lined strainer or sieve. One large POM Wonderful Pomegranate will produce about 1/2 cup of juice.