Thursday, February 20, 2014

Specialty and canned foods find way to pantry

Boiled egg trick
I’ll be off this boiled egg kick by the time you read this. I was going hitting them hard to get back in line after holiday parties. One morning I started water boiling before it was time to head off for work, then realized time was short. I got a trusty stainless steel coffee tumbler and gently filled it with the hot water and egg. Sure enough, by lunch I enjoyed that fully cooked egg with both red and black pepper.

Phoenicia Specialty Foods
Block off time and go with people who “get it.” If you get to a Phoenicia Specialty Foods Store in Houston over the holidays be prepared to travel the globe in aisles and fill that cart with everything from tins of fish and penguin-shaped jars filled with honey to hookah pipes and metal squirrels that crack hazel nuts by turning their tails.
I’d been hearing about these stores and I got to the one featuring a conveyor belt of pita type breads that spirals from overhead into the ground-floor bakery. An international treat of shoppers stocking up on teas, chocolates and canned goods from their homelands made this an adventure that could come with a sandwich and coffee break if you plan it right. I can’t get enough of this kind of thing and want to hit every store. As the parking lot sign invites, “Thank you, yum again.”

Got cans in your pantry?
Of course you do. Mine are weird, including squid in its own ink. I roll that way. A survey shows we love our canned foods:
A new survey commissioned by Cans Get You Cooking,” a program of the Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI), reveals that for a majority of Americans, a home-cooked meal means turning to their pantry – or Cantry™. An overwhelming 98 percent of Americans currently have canned foods in their kitchens, with the average pantry stocked with 24 cans.
Canned corn is king, and vegetables top the list of America’s most popular canned ingredients (present in 79 percent of American homes), followed by beans (74 percent), broths, stocks and condensed cooking soups (71 percent), fruits (67 percent) and meats and seafood (54 percent).
  Here are more findings:
* The average number of canned food items used each week is five. That’s a can each weekday
* Busy parents streamline their meal prep with canned foods, and 86 percent agree they do not go a week without using cans.
* Among those who keep canned fruits in their Cantry, canned peaches (67 percent) and canned pineapple (63 percent) are the most commonly found in America’s Cantry, followed by canned fruit cocktail (56 percent) and pears (52 percent).
* Among all Americans, the top four canned fruit and vegetable classics after corn are: green beans, tomatoes (whole, diced or pureed), peas and peaches.
* On average, Americans throw away spoiled fresh produce twice a month.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Breaux Bridge is 'Full Cajun' territory

Y’all loved hearing about Callie Summerlin’s family’s roux-based chicken and dumplings over rice. Tony Giarratano was inspired to share a good anecdote about his Cajun and Italian roots. Here It is:
“My grandmother, Joyce Poche` Bernard is from around the area of Breaux Bridge (more specifically, Poche` Bridge).  Upon reading your article about the chicken and dumplings Callie made, I was intrigued at the mention of the area.  She recently passed on her 93rd birthday, Nov. 28th, and my brothers and myself all made the trek down from the Dallas area to make her funeral in Orange.  She'd had a book published in her years titled "A Journal of Remembrances" Anyway, I thought I'd say hi.

My mother would make her own version of chicken and dumplings when my brothers and I still lived in Orange (though the dumplings were actually biscuits).  The chicken and biscuits were served over white rice and a creamy sauce.  For someone who is full Cajun, my mom has always taken to her Italian roots (of which she inherited from my father upon their marriage). 

I enjoyed reading your article

Tony Giarratano

 Southern Stuff  
Amid glorious photography of bayous with Spanish moss and zydeco players, Kelly Alexander describes the heart of Louisiana, where people drink coffee with chicory and eat Tabasco sauce on most everything. It’s home to hurricane cocktails and hurricanes, she writes in Southern Living’s “No Taste Like Home: A Celebration of Regional Southern Cooking and Hometown Flavor.”
Salt-Crusted Red Drum and Chipotle Smashed Sweet Potatoes help tell the spicy story of Texas. Atlanta, Charleston, Birmingham and other Southern charms are also highlighted in a book that makes you want to pack your bags. When I get to where I want to be, I want some of this:
Mississippi Mudslide
1 pint chocolate ice cream
1 pint coffee ice cream
1 cup milk
Half cup bourbon
Toppings; Whipped cream, chocolate syrup, marshmallows
Process first four ingredients in blender until smooth. Serve with desired toppings.

Alabama White Barbecue Sauce
1 and one half cups mayonnaise
1 fourth cup white vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon coarse ground black pepper
1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons horseradish
Stir together all ingredients until well blended. Refrigerate in an airtight container up to 1 week.

Brad’s Raw Crunchy Kale is labeled as Naked, with plain vegan cheese. I loved every mouthful. There’s always a fair amount of content in kale snacks so small as to be considered “dust,” but this is a super-flavorful dust. I thought it would be a good coating or topping for any number of other foods. Then I thought I’d just eat it with a spoon. The spoon won and I enjoyed every bite.
Here’s the deal on Brad Gruno, founder of Brad’s Raw Foods and author of Brad’s Raw Made Easy. This book tells how he had it all and lost it in the economy, then came back better than ever after regaining his health and energy with raw foods. He’s a likable inspiration who can also tell you why recipes for fresh sprouted breakfast cereal and zucchini chickpea curry can help you enjoy life. 

Nutrition you can see
Post has added Vanilla Graham and Berry Medley as  new Great Grains Digestive Blend flavors. My daughter compares the barley to popcorn and it combines with flakes and clusters. Makers say these cereals are filled with “nutrition you can see in every spoonful.” You can taste and hear it, too. I’ve enjoyed the crunch of Vanilla Graham as a topper to oatmeal. I like it, and I love that it supports healthy digestion.
Here’s another thing the makers are proud of. Press for the cereal reads: “ A study recently published in the British Journal of Nutrition found women who consumed probiotics lost twice as much weight over a 24-week period versus the placebo group. New Great Grains Digestive Blend cereals feature active cultures that deliver 'good' bacteria which optimize digestive health to help you feel more balanced from the inside out.”

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Are you a bowl licker?

Monica Holland shares the story of losses that inspired her to blog in her photo-filled book “Lick the Bowl Good: Classic Home-Style Desserts with a Twist.” Cooking for appreciative audiences can help all sorts of concerns. Her process gives us all recipes for Peach Melba Buttermilk Cake, Oreo Cheesecake Cupcakes, Chocolate Gingerbread, Brown Butter & Spice Rice Crispy Treats and Nutella Panna Cotta. Plenty more temptations are in these pages. There’s a whole section on breakfast treats that will make you want to get out of bed. Holland believes that if you can read and follow directions, then you can create the beauties in this book. Here is one of the easiest ones:
Berries Romanoff
You need:
6 cups assorted fresh berries, rinsed and patted dry
1 cup sour cream
one half cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon brandy liquor
In a small mixing bowl, combine sour cream, brown sugar and brandy. Whisk together until a pourable consistency. Divide your berries evenly between 6 small bowls or cups. Evenly divide the sour cream sauce over the berries.

Can of mango pulp
I promised my sister I’d eat the mango pulp if she bought it for me. You really don’t have to nag me to try new things. It was just a big can and during the holidays with all those parties. She kept asking if I’d tried it. I finally told her I did and it was a hit. I opened up a can of Kesar Mango Pulp she bought from a specialty store in Beaumont with foods from India. For days I enjoyed the 30 ounces of sweet, thick, orange liquid in smoothies and over ice. She has hers over yogurt but mine didn’t last that long. It was sure easier than dealing with fresh mangos. I got the most flavorful part with no mess.

Small Alchemy is the new big flavor
They look like croutons but are tiny cubes of gourmet cookies you can’t forget. Petite cookies are Bites of Love in lemon black pepper shortbread, almond ginger, pecan shortbread with vanilla salt, etc. Could celebrity chef Carla Hall be my Valentine? She’s a host on “The Chew” and, from what I’ve tasted, a creative mastermind of cookies that could be served on a quarter. Miniscule squares are crispy and the Black Forest Crinkle is soooo soft and chewy. I have shared these with people of all ages and everyone has been intrigued. A variety pack features clear cylinders packed with cookies and tasters have been satisfied with the little bites because they are so flavorful. You want there to be more for later, so you’re not rushing to devour the whole package. There are so many more temptation at that you can “keep the love coming.” Doesn’t goat cheese cranberry sound intriguing?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Can you "Slim Down South"?

Okra in the Maque Choux, appetizers served in the bowl of grandma’s silver teaspoons, Cajun lemonade with Tabasco, fig hand pies and a world where the snack you grab is a hoppin’ john parfait. Feeling deprived? I didn’t think so. Thank you Southern Living and Carolyn O’Neil for “The Slim Down South” Cookbook,” our guide to “Eating Well and Living Healthy in the Land of Biscuits and Bacon.”
We’ll still be savoring shrimp and grits and pecan pancakes on tables set with linens, pitchers of sauces and cake stands full of treats. There’s a photo of fried chicken and cornbread on the cover. Sure we already eat greens, but the no-trick trick here is to be aware of a few switches in ingredients and attitudes for better meal choices. The flavors and traditions are still there.
Little info boxes among the photographic spreads encourage us to SLIM, or Savor the South; Linger longer, Indulge a Little and Make it Happen.
Some of the best and easiest things to “cook” in this book don’t even involve “cooking.” Consider these intriguing quickies over your junk food go-to:

Pimento Cheese & Pickles
Spread 3 tablespoons pimento cheese spread on 1 multigrain rice cake and top with three pickled okra. – 154 calories

Sweet Peaches & Cornbread
 Top one fourth slice cornbread with one fourth cup sliced peaches and two tablespoos crumbled goat cheese – 175 calories

Proscuitto & Fig Crostini
Place one ounce proscciutto and 1 tablespoon fig preserves on 1 ounce pretzel bread. Top or serve with one fourth cup sliced cantaloupe – 185 calories

Buttermilk & Berry Smoothie
Blend 1 cup low-fat buttermilk with a half cup frozen blueberries and a half cup frozen sliced strawberries. – 166 calories

Open-faced Turkey & Pepper Jelly Sandwich
Top a 1-ounce whole grain bread with a tablespoon red pepper jelly, 2 ounces lower sodium turkeybreast and ½ cup cucumber slices – 154 calories

Coconut & Flax
Carrington Farms has healthy stuff we should still be craving with our resolutions still intact. I’ve recently written about other brands of coconut oil and flax seeds. Here’s what makes this brand different. The coconut flavor is an asset in pure, unrefined,cold pressed oil that is 100 percent extra virgin. I’ve been toasting everything from bread to Vietnamese pound cake in this oil and tasters agree it takes the flavor up a notch. I am also loving it to sautee onions and fry eggs.
Flax Paks contained milled organic flax seeds that have an extra nutty flavor. I loved the texture over cheese and, get this, over a chocolate-glazed doughnut. I don’t want to hide this flax into something. It’s a star attraction. Look up Carrington Farms
for other superfood ideas like hemp and chia.

A product from Scotland made me savvy to an upcoming date: The World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) is sponsoring Salt Awareness Week from March 10 to March 16, 2014 to focus worldwide attention on the health risk of consuming too much salt in our diets, according to makes of LoSalt, which has 66 percent less sodium than regular salts. There are 95 countries in WASH and representatives must be like me, always eying the people who salt their food, especially tortilla chips in a Mexican restaurant, without even tasting. I’m assuming they serve chips and salsa in all those 95 countries. Anyway, we know the risks of too much salt. I’ve been sampled LoSalt in the original and iodized and I sure don’t think families could tell any difference. The UK already loves this product that is Kosher and Parev certified. Visit for more details. Maybe you can head to Scotland to celebrate Salt Awareness Week.
 I have a tip for them, though. My mom and I agreed this product label needs a new design. Because a little salt goes a long way, this rather humble canister will be on your pantry shelf a long while, and it is not… sexy. When I realized it came from overseas, I was even more let down, because we associate the Euro area to be so high style.