Sunday, February 24, 2008

More Packaging

My intent of this blog is and will be to be informative. But today I need to rant, just a bit. I am amazed on how manufacturer’s think that we want (and probably our society does) everything with too much packaging. In the last few days, I have seen advertisements for single serving frozen vegetables and single serving cookies. Really?

We are such a disposable society. Everything is over-packaged, single servings packaged into outer packaging. Things inside bags, housed in boxes, wrapped in bags, sealed in cellophane! I just ask that you think about how much packaging your purchases contain when you buy them. Our purchases determine what manufacturer’s produce. All of this packaging ends up in landfills. Think about which materials are used, can you recycle the plastic container? I have seen many products made with plastics made from corn or soy instead of traditional petroleum-based plastics.

Sorry for stepping on the soapbox. Thanks for listening and please make a conscious decision at your next visit to the market.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Oscars

This Sunday is the presentation of the 80th Academy Awards. If you love everything Hollywood, it is a great time to invite friends over for an Oscar night party. You can glam it up or keep things low key. Here are some easy tips for either.

And who are you wearing tonight? Depending on your style, you could ask your guests to glam it up and wear those great dresses and suits we all have in our closets that we are waiting for an excuse to wear. Or you could have your guests dress the part of their favorite nominee. Have fun with it or just come as you are.
Give your place the red carpet treatment. Go to the fabric store and buy a couple of yards of red fabric or buy a few dozen red rose petals and give your front entrance the red carpet treatment. If you have a strobe light, adding it to the front yard would emulate paparazzi snapping your guests’ photos. Or you could ask a friend to snap photos of your guests as they arrive and either print the photos at home that night or send them photos later as a keepsake of the evening. Some photo finishers are able to print text on the photos so you could add the event name and date.
Eat like the stars. Depending on your budget and your time constraints, there are several options for food. If you prefer the casual route, offer typical theater foods like popcorn, nachos (of course using the cheese from the soup can), hot pretzels and bowls of your favorite candies (junior mints, juju fruits). Or for a more glamorous offering, make small bite-sized appetizers like shrimp wrapped in prosciutto, cucumber slices topped with salmon cream cheese or chive cream cheese, bake a frittata and cut into bite-sized squares, top scoop-style tortilla chips with your favorite chicken salad recipe or many of the restaurant-supply stores (like GFS Marketplace) offer a descent selection of frozen, heat-and-serve items. Using a star shaped cookie cutter, you cut items like cookies, bread slices or puff pastry for a base for appetizers and meats and cheeses to add some fun to your selections.

If you are feeling really creative you can create a menu based on the movies being nominated. Since I have not actually seen any of the movies that were nominated, I can not offer any scene specific ideas, but some ideas based on the period and location of the film include Austrian delights like Spaetzle, Goulash or beef, paprika stew and wiener schnitzel or breaded and fried veal cutlet (Sweeney Todd); Southwestern US dishes like Chicken in Salsa Verde or green salsa made with tomatillos, cheese enchiladas, guacamole (In the Valley of Elah); or make several international dishes from Israel, Poland or Russia to honor the films nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. Do some research to find out some of the actor’s favorite culinary delights are and add those to your menu.

Drink and be merry. Just as important as the food are the drinks. Whether you are offering alcoholic libations or
not, do not forget to think about your beverage selections. An inexpensive sparkling wine or juice adds a glamorous touch for your guests. Creating a signature drink for the night, really makes it memorable. Whether it is a Tom Collins or fruited non-alcoholic punch, the in thing is to have a signature drink. For some drink recipe ideas visit or for a bombshell actress inspired drink visit Non-alcoholic creations are easy to make by substituting tonic water, club soda or ginger ale for many liquors.

Remember to relax and have fun and just enjoy yourself!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Do You Know What I Am?

Do you know what this little guy is? I had never seen it before or if I had I walked right by thinking it was an oddly shaped orange. But last week, while at the market with my sister, she introduced me to these. They are called minneola tangelos.

A minneola is a hybrid of a grapefruit and a tangerine (which are also called mandarin oranges). Their skin is a bit darker and redder than an orange.It tastes to me like a very mild grapefruit. Their skin is loose like a tangelo and very easy to peel. The pear shaped end is almost like a pull tab to remove the skin and with little- to no-seeds like make a great traveling snack.

A little research told me that this was introduced in 1931, much to my surprise as I thought it was a relatively new development. Like other citrus fruit, minneolas are high in fiber and vitamin C. Their sweet-sour flavor goes well with salads and adding their juice makes a great vinaigrette. In recipes, you could substitute them for lemons or grapefruits to give dishes a new dimension.

I would recommend trying these tasty little treats.

Monday, February 04, 2008

February is Heart Month

Besides being Black History month, National Bird Feeding month and Spunky Old Broad month (I swear I don’t make this stuff up), February is American Heart month. So I am dedicating this post to heart healthy foods.

According to WebMD, the top 25 heart healthy foods are (including some suggestions for each):

  1. Salmon Omega-3 fatty acids. Grill salmon with a yummy rub or marinade. Save a chunk to chop for a pasta or salad later on.
  2. Flaxseed (ground) Omega-3 fatty acids; fiber, phytoestrogens. Ground flaxseed hides easily in all sorts of foods -- yogurt parfaits, morning cereal, homemade muffins, or cookies.
  3. Oatmeal Omega-3 fatty acids; magnesium; potassium; folate; niacin; calcium; soluble fiber. Top hot oatmeal with fresh berries. Oatmeal-and-raisin cookies are a hearty treat.
  4. Black or Kidney Beans B-complex vitamins; niacin; folate; magnesium; omega-3 fatty acids; calcium; soluble fiber. Give soup or salad a nutrient boost -- stir in some beans.
  5. Almonds Plant omega-3 fatty acids; vitamin E; magnesium; fiber; heart-favorable mono- and polyunsaturated fats; phytosterols. Mix a few almonds (and berries) into low-fat yogurt, trail mix, or fruit salads.
  6. Walnuts Plant omega-3 fatty acids; vitamin E; magnesium; folate; fiber; heart-favorable mono- and polyunsaturated fats; phytosterols. Walnuts add flavorful crunch to salads, pastas, cookies, muffins, even pancakes.
  7. Red wine Catechins and reservatrol (flavonoids). Toast your good health! A glass of red wine could improve "good" HDL cholesterol.
  8. Tuna Omega-3 fatty acids; folate; niacin. Here's lunch: Salad greens, fresh fruit, canned tuna. Keep "Salad Spritzer" a light dressing -- in your office fridge.
  9. 9. Tofu Niacin; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium. Tasty tofu is easy: Thinly slice "firm" tofu, marinate several hours, grill or stir-fry.
  10. 10. Brown rice B-complex vitamins; fiber; niacin; magnesium, fiber. Microwavable brown rice makes a quick lunch. Stir in a few chopped veggies (broccoli, carrots, spinach).
  11. Soy milk Isoflavones (a flavonoid); B-complex vitamins; niacin; folate, calcium; magnesium; potassium; phytoestrogens. Soy milk is great over oatmeal or whole-grain cereal. Or, make a smoothie with soy milk.
  12. Blueberries Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); anthocyanin (a flavonoid); ellagic acid (a polyphenol); vitamin C; folate; calcium, magnesium; potassium; fiber. Cranberries, strawberries, raspberries are potent, too -- for trail mixes, muffins, salads!
  13. Carrots Alpha-carotene (a carotenoid); fiber. Baby carrots are sweet for lunch. Sneak shredded carrots into spaghetti sauce or muffin batter.
  14. Spinach Lutein (a carotenoid); B-complex vitamins; folate; magnesium; potassium; calcium; fiber. Pick spinach (not lettuce) for nutrient-packed salads and sandwiches.
  15. Broccoli Beta-carotene (a carotenoid); Vitamins C and E; potassium; folate; calcium; fiber. Chop fresh broccoli into store-bought soup. For a veggie dip, try hummus (chickpeas).
  16. Sweet potato Beta-carotene (a carotenoid); vitamins A, C, E; fiber. Microwave in a zip-lock baggie for lunch. Eat au naturale, or with pineapple bits.
  17. Red bell peppers Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex vitamins; folate; potassium; fiber. Rub with olive oil, and grill or oven-roast until tender. Delicious in wraps, salads, sandwiches.
  18. Asparagus Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex vitamins; folate; fiber. Grill or steam slightly, then dress with olive oil and lemon. It's a pretty side dish.
  19. Oranges Beta-cryptoxanthin, beta- and alpha-carotene, lutein (carotenoids) and flavones (flavonoids); vitamin C; potassium; folate; fiber. Got orange juice? Check out the new nutrient-packed blends.
  20. Tomatoes Beta- and alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein (carotenoids); vitamin C; potassium; folate; fiber. For a flavor twist, try oil-packed tomatoes in sandwiches, salads, pastas, pizzas.
  21. Acorn squash Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex and C vitamins; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium; fiber. Baked squash is comfort food on a chilly day. Serve with sauted spinach, pine nuts, raisins.
  22. Cantaloupe Alpha- and beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex and C vitamins; folate; potassium; fiber. A fragrant ripe cantaloupe is perfect for breakfast, lunch, potluck dinners. Simply cut and enjoy!
  23. Papaya Beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein (carotenoids); Vitamins C and E; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium. Serve papaya salsa with salmon: Mix papaya, pineapple, scallions, garlic, fresh lime juice, salt and black pepper.
  24. Dark chocolate Reservatrol and cocoa phenols (flavonoids). A truffle a day lowers blood pressure, but choose 70% or higher cocoa content.
  25. 25. Tea Catechins and flavonols (flavonoids). Make sun tea: Combine a clear glass jar, several tea bags, and hours of sunshine.

Some more tips to incorporate these into your day:

  • Substitute one cup of tea for one cup of coffee several times a week
  • Eat a small handful of almonds as a mid-afternoon snack. You only need 1 ounce, which is roughly 20 – 25 almonds, and you will be surprised how filling these protein rich foods can be.
  • Instead of mashed potatoes, try mashed sweet potatoes. I like them mashed plain, but you can add brown sugar or horseradish to them to give them a little added flavor. Because they are so moist, you do not need to add the cream and butter like with traditional potatoes.
  • Make a salad using spinach leaves instead of your standard lettuce leaves, or do a half and half blend if you don’t like spinach along. Add some fruits (orange segments, papaya chunks, blueberries), some halved baby carrots or red pepper strips, sprinkle with some almonds or walnuts and if you are feeling especially heart-healthy, top it off with a piece of grilled salmon or tuna. Voila you have a great lunch or dinner.