Thursday, July 31, 2008

Good news for chocolate nuts

The folks at Hershey's are crowing today and pass along a kudos that one of their main ingredients received:

Dark chocolate has come to be recognized for its flavanol antioxidant benefits, but a new study, conducted by the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, has uncovered an important link to its vascular health benefits. The study, which used Hershey’s Extra Dark Chocolate, reported that dark chocolate has a positive impact on blood pressure and blood vessel function. The study’s release comes on the heels of Hershey’s Extra Dark Chocolate, a rich dark chocolate featuring 60 percent cacao, earning renowned health and fitness expert Bob Greene’s Best Life seal of approval – the first chocolate bar to earn that distinction.

“The Hershey Company is continuously looking for opportunities to offer products that support the balanced lifestyles of today’s health-conscious consumers,” said Debra Miller, Ph.D., Director of Nutrition, The Hershey Company. “This one-two punch of the Yale-Griffin research confirming chocolate’s vascular health benefits, combined with Bob Greene’s Best Life seal, makes Hershey’s Extra Dark Chocolate a sensible option for people looking for small indulgences.”

The Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center study is the largest study of its kind to research the short-term benefits of solid dark chocolate and cocoa containing beverages on blood pressure and endothelial function (blood vessel function). The results of the study, recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that consuming Hershey’s Extra Dark Chocolate (75g) as well as Hershey’s Natural Cocoa (22g) lowered blood pressure and improved endothelial function in 45 participants 2 hours after consumption.

“Our study demonstrated impressive enhancement of endothelial function following the acute consumption of dark chocolate and cocoa,” said David L. Katz, MD, MPH, principal investigator of the study and director of the Prevention Research Center. “The results are exciting because they show that dark chocolate, a highly-popular treat long associated with pleasure, has health promoting properties as well.”

In addition, The Hershey Company announced that Hershey’s Extra Dark Chocolate is the first chocolate bar to earn the respected Best Life seal of approval. Designed by Bob Greene, respected exercise physiologist and famed trainer, the Best Life seal appears on select grocery products and is intended to help consumers make healthier food and lifestyle decisions. Hershey’s Extra Dark Chocolate’s naturally occurring antioxidants and proven vascular health benefits helped the product to earn this distinction. Bob Greene will utilize Hershey’s Extra Dark Chocolate and Hershey’s Natural Cocoa as he helps consumers to develop balanced, healthy lifestyles through his book, The Best Life Diet, the companion website, appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show and other national television and radio shows, and national tours.

The Best Life seal of approval will begin appearing on packaging later this year.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Regional delicacies -- online shopping, a new e-commerce shopping concept featuring local foods from across the country, launches today nationwide.

Developed by two entrepreneurial businesswomen who have a passion for great food, and who care about what their families eat, offers foods that span 16 categories.

Included are foods such as artisan cheese and salami from Utah, crab cakes from Maryland, wild American shrimp from North Carolina, wild blueberry jam from Maine, grass fed lamb from Idaho, grass fed beef from Montana, and a bounty of holiday gift giving ideas from coast to coast. There are dozens of foods, all raised, caught or produced by local artisans, farmers, fishermen, ranchers, beekeepers, and other small specialty food companies.

"We searched, tasted, and interviewed consumers, food professionals and potential merchants to find the right foods and artisans for our site," explains Marsha Cade, co-founder, based in suburban Philadelphia. "Superb quality and great taste were our top criteria, plus we support sustainable and eco-friendly, farming and food production practices."

The site offers new foods and old favorites, some all-natural, some organic. Many of the website's merchants started by selling their foods at local farmer's markets, and are now ready to reach a broader audience. provides the resources and means for their expansion. also tells the merchant's "story" -- how they got started, the special care they put into growing or making their products, the awards they've won, and other interesting tidbits about them and their products.

Here are examples of what you'll find:
· Utah's Beehive Cheese Company's, Tim Welsh and Pat Ford, left the fast-paced world of software and real estate to seek a simpler way of life as artisan cheesemakers. Their award winning, and labor intensive, Barely Buzzed cheese is hand-rubbed with a blend of lavender and espresso coffee.
· Lava Lake Lamb is raised with care by experienced shepherds. Located just southeast of Sun Valley, Idaho, the Lava Lake Ranch is dedicated to the proposition that what we eat matters. The ranch produces all natural, grass-fed lamb that is raised sustainably, humanely, and without antibiotics or growth hormones, and is never placed in feedlots.
· Gregg Charbonneau and Barth Anderson of Massachusetts' Barrington Coffee Roasting Company are coffee fanatics. They believe that directly supporting quality-driven producers is the ideal manner in which to promote sound, responsible growing practices, economic sustainability -- and ultimately, the best coffee.
"Our merchants are the heart of," explains Caragh Whalen, Cade's co-founding partner, who is based in suburban Boston. "Their commitment and dedication is amazing, and their stories are unique and compelling. We will continue to offer new products, stories, and blog postings to captivate our visitors. In fact, we're already creating a great community among our providers -- merchants are recommending other merchants to join the site which is very exciting!"

Camping goes fishy

I'm not a camper. We'll disclose that right off. The closest I'll get is a Motel 6 that hasn't left the light on.

However, there are a slew of folks here in Northeast Alabama that take advantage of our forests, lakes, hills and vales and camp like there's no tomorrow.

I salute them.
I'd also like to pass along some recipes that were passed along to me. They involve cheese, which means they can't be bad.
However, it's my responsibility to note that people who are, apparently, hard-core campers would scoff at "assembling anything more complicated than a s'more." At least that's what someone pointed out to me just now.
One third of all U.S. adults have gone on a camping vacation in the past five years, and more get into the outdoors every year. Campground and RV bookings are up nearly 25 percent in 2008, and studies show families are staying closer to home but making more camping trips this season. Hmm, can you say “four dollars a gallon for gas”?

“Few things can top a great meal cooked over an open fire,” says Cabot Creamery celebrity chef Jon Ashton. “And knowing how much people love to camp, Cabot has developed a number of delicious, easy-to-make recipes that are sure to be a hit around anyone’s campfire.

“Planning ahead is critical,” Ashton says. “The key to camp cooking is to keep things simple and to pack lightly. Prepare snacks ahead of time and keep them in reseal-able bags. Precook noodles, rice and pasta for quick reheating at your campsite. And be sure to bring plenty of ice and a good supply of bottled water, too.”

Ashton also recommends working from a cook’s checklist to ensure you pack necessities including: aluminum foil, disposable plates and utensils, can/bottle opener, corkscrew, plastic cutting board, paper towels and so on. Did we mention a can/bottle opener? Better say it again: a can/bottle opener. And depending on how you plan to cook, don’t forget things like fire starters, charcoal, propane or wood.

Here’s Ashton’s menu of easy-to-make Cabot recipes for campers…

Grilled Fish Tacos
Makes 4 servings

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
3 tablespoons olive or canola oil
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 cup Sour Cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 pound any firm white fish fillets, such as red snapper, halibut or striped bass
4 flour tortillas

Fresh lime wedges
1 large tomato, cored and diced
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
1 cup finely shredded red cabbage
1 cup grated Cabot Monterey Jack or Sharp Cheddar (4 ounces)
2 scallions, thinly sliced

In medium bowl, whisk together oil, 1/4 cup of cilantro, 2 tablespoons of lime juice, chipotle pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt; pour over fish, turning to coat. Let stand for 30 minutes.
In small bowl, combine sour cream, mayonnaise, remaining 1/4 cup cilantro and remaining 2 teaspoons lime juice; set aside.
Prepare medium-hot fire in charcoal grill or preheat gas grill to high. Place fish on grill and cook, turning with wide spatula, until just opaque in center, 2 to 5 minutes per side depending on thickness of fillets. Transfer fish to bowl and flake with fork; season with additional salt if needed.
Place tortillas on grill and cook until lightly charred on both sides, about 20 seconds per side.
Divide fish among tortillas. Serve with lime wedges for squeezing over fish and add desired toppings and spoonful of sour cream mixture.

Grilled Summer Pizza
Makes 4 servings

2 large vine-ripened tomatoes
1 pound homemade or store-bought pizza dough
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups grated Extra Sharp or Sharp Cheddar (8 ounces)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Prepare medium-hot fire on one half of charcoal grill or preheat one side of gas grill to high, leaving other side unlit (if gas grill has only one burner, preheat to high and lower heat to cook second side.)
Remove core from tomatoes; cut in half crosswise and gently squeeze out as many seeds and juice as will come out easily. Cut into thin slices.
Divide pizza dough into 4 equal balls; on floured work surface, roll/stretch each ball out into approximate 6-inch circle. Bring dough and toppings to grill.
Place two dough circles on heated side of grill; when dough is puffed and browned on underside, about 2 minutes, turn over with tongs and cook until second side is lightly colored, about 1 minute longer.
Remove crusts from grill. Drizzle each with some of oil. Cover with half of tomato slices and season with salt and pepper. Top with half of cheese and scatter half of thyme leaves on top. Return to unheated side of grill (or reduce heat on one-burner gas grill to very low). Cover grill and cook pizzas until cheese is melted, about 3 minutes. Slide pizzas back over heat or increase heat if crust needs additional crisping on bottom.
Use tongs to slide pizzas onto serving plate or cutting board. Repeat with remaining dough circles and toppings.

Grilled Chicken Breast Sandwiches with Cheddar and Black Forest Ham
Makes 4 servings

4 (4-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, fat trimmed
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 medium cloves)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 slices Cabot Sharp Cheddar
4 ounces sliced Black Forest or other flavorful ham
4 buns, split
Romaine leaves

Place chicken between 2 large sheets plastic wrap; pound with mallet or heavy pan to flatten to even 1/2-inch thickness.
In medium bowl, whisk together oil, lemon juice, rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper; add chicken, turning to coat. Cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour.
Prepare hot fire in charcoal grill or preheat gas grill to high. Remove chicken from marinade, shaking off excess. Grill until browned on outside and cooked thorough to center, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Toward end of cooking time, top each breast with slice of ham and cheese; cover with grill lid or foil until cheese is melted, about 2 minutes longer.
Serve on buns with bed of romaine leaves (toast buns on grill if desired).

Need more eats? Cabot's got 'em.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Getting my goat

We plan to have Indian food day at the office soon and I have taken on the task of making Curried Goat. I seem to have found a good recipe. That is a good start.

Does anyone out there in the interweb know where I can pick up a few pounds of goat meat? I have been told that a local Latin American Mercado has it. I'm pretty sure that I'm out of luck at Whole Foods or the local Winn Dixie.

Has anyone else tried cooking goat? Any secrets to tell a newcomer in the goat cuisine set? I know that Iron Chef America had a goat battle. Can't seem to find any video online though.

Melon-calling, baby

Today was home-grown melon day at The Star. The perfume of garden-ripe melon is almost overpowering, in a wonderful sort of way. As I peeled and sliced, the juice ran down my arms and gushed onto the plates. Good stuff. Good stuff, indeed.

The carnage (it's not pretty) is testament to how near and dear melon is to our Southern or Southern-transplant hearts. It's one of the few food groups in which it's proper to just grab a knife and start hacking and slicing away.

These were some fine melons. Everyone should be so lucky.

A bouncy fruit?

My wife brought back a fruit that I had never seen from her recent trip to Tennessee. Her uncle grew something they called a tigger fruit. After searching around online, I found a number of references to tigger melons.

This a very aromatic melon with a beautiful appearance. It smells like cantaloupe, peach and maybe apricot. It is about the size of a softball. I assume the name comes from the color of the Winnie the Pooh character.

We will be cutting into one at the office today. I'll come back by to give a report.

A description of it at reads, "The fruits are vibrant yellow with fire engine red zigzag stripes. The fragrance is powerful, similar to Queen Anne’s, but Tigger weighs about 1 pound and the white flesh is semi-sweet. Originated in Armenia."

Has anyone ever had one one? Any advice on how to prepare this thing?

Update: The tigger melon, while gorgeous to look at, had very little taste. It seemed like a watered down cantaloupe flavor.

Coming to Your Table

In Wednesday's Your Table, the definitive newspaper cooking section of Northeast Alabama) we'll blow up the idea of the traditional tomato sandwich. My life has been filled with 'mater samiches over the years, going back to the days on the farm when August hit and we'd canned hundreds (actually felt like close to 1,000) quarts of tomato products.

While I respect the white bread/mayo/mater goodness of a simple sandwich, I think some of the ideas in the paper Wednesday will intrigue you.

We've also got Prudence Hilburn's Gourmet Touch tapping another summer staple: sweet corn. Pat Kettles looks at the rise of American wine production.

All in all, a good mix for summertime dining. Enjoy. Life's too short to eat bad food.

Skincare for foodies

Some things are just as good for the outside of the body as they are for the inside. If you've ever used a pineapple/apricot exfoliant for your face, then you're aware that items from the food chain can do beutiful work on the complexion. Here are some new products worth a look -- but not a taste:

JUARA Invigorating Coffee Scrub ($37)
Sumatra Coffee Beans exfoliate and tighten the skin while providing antioxidant benefits. Caffeine dehydrates fat cells and improves micro-circulation – Bye, bye cellulite!

VMV Id Apricot and Salicylic Clarifying Soap ($12)
A hypo-allergenic, exfoliating, invigorating and stimulating body cleanser.
v Apricot kernels buff, massage and stimulate the skin. Rich in Vitamin A and C, apricots also provide an excellent source of beta-carotene which calms irritation and infections. Salicylic Acid cleanses the skin, clearing up pimples and other bumps.

100% Pure Tinted Moisturizer with Fruit Pigment SPF 20 ($37)
An all-natural 3-in-1 moisturizer provides flawless, sheer coverage. White tea and acai help to treat and reverse skin damage from free radicals. Pomegranate oil increases collagen production to help support skins natural structure and help repair itself. Fruit and Vegetable pigments provide sheer to medium coverage.

Skin Milk Shaving Milk with Real Milk Proteins
A one-of-a-kind shaving milk loaded with vitamins. Milk proteins and amino acids provide the skin with Vitamins A and D to help soothe, comfort and enhance skins natural suppleness. This creamy shaving milk forms a protective barrier that allows the razor to glide easily and comfortably while leaving your skin softer and smoother. Get ready short shorts!

Jerome Privee Moments Coconut Lime Paradise Body Lotion ($9 at
An everyday body moisturizer for smooth, supple skin
Formulated with exceptional moisturizing ingredients including Vitamin E and succulent plant extracts. The Coconut Lime Paradise scent possesses a blend of Lime Zest, Sheer Floral Bouquet, Ripe Melon, Coconut and Vanilla Musk.

Tam Tam crackers return to shelves

Manischewitz has finished its plant upgrade in New Jersey, meaning production has been stepped up on baked Kosher goods, specifically Tam Tam Crackers. They've been a mainstay in households across America for over 65 years and will return to supermarkets nationwide starting this week!

Tastier than ever, Tam Tams are available in seven delicious flavors including Original, Garlic, Everything, Whole Grain Garden Herb, Whole Grain Lightly Salted, Onion and No-Salt. Whether you eat them right from the box or with your favorite spread, you can once again enjoy the great taste of these delicious snack crackers all year long.

“The upgrading of our plant and ovens in our Newark, New Jersey facility in 2007, required us to shut down for a short period of time to install a new state-of-the-art matzo and cracker ovens,” said David Rossi, VP, Marketing, R.A.B. Food Group . “We are grateful for our consumers support during this time and are proud to say that the Tam Tams you know and love are back and better than ever.”

If consumers cannot find Tam Tams in their local stores, they should ask their grocer about the timing of when they will be back in stock.

The country's best cheese?

Leave it to a company from The Dairy State (Wisconsin, for those of you who are state-trivia challenged) to win top honors at the American Cheese Society's competition. And there was a lot of cheese to be judged.... So much cheese, so little time.

Carr Valley Cheese Company of La Valle, Wis., won during the Society's 25th Annual Conference and Cheese Competition July 23-27 in Chicago. Cheese maker Sid Cook garnered the "Best of Show" prize for his Snow White Goat Cheddar cheese. In addition to the award-winner, Carr Valley has a strong selection of other specialty cheeses.

Carr Valley's entry was singled out as the best of the best among the 1,149 cheeses submitted by more than 181 producers.

"For the past decade, it has been a wonderful experience to be part of the American Cheese Society, which is such an excellent forum for exchanging ideas and information," said Cook. "I was stunned and extremely excited to have a Carr Valley cheese receive Best of Show. Truly a thrill of a lifetime, since this competition is the Olympics of cheese!"

Other noteworthy winners include "Best of Show" second runner-up Galax, Va.- based Meadow Creek Dairy's Grayson and third runner-up Carr Valley Cheese Company's Cave Aged Marisa.

"Because it is the 25th anniversary of our conference, we were thrilled to have 1,149 entries, sustaining our momentum from last year's record number of entries in the cheese competition," said David Grotenstein, Chair of the Competition and Judging Committee of the American Cheese Society. "The competition is truly remarkable because it brings together the cheeses that represent emerging trends, outstanding examples of traditional cheese varieties and leaders in the world of American artisan cheese all in one place."

Nearly 1,000 cheese makers, retailers, academicians, enthusiasts, restaurateurs, food writers and cookbook authors convened at the Hilton Chicago, the site of this year's conference, to celebrate the widespread enthusiasm for American specialty cheese.

Every year, the conference culminates in the Festival of Cheese, where all the competition cheeses are on display and available for tasting.

Award-winning burgers .... click and cook

From the folks at Marx Foods in Seattle:

Would you be willing to try a Peanut Butter and Jelly Burger? If your taste buds are more mature than that, then how about an ostrich burger topped with an orange, olive and honey salsa? Or how delicious do fresh mozzarella, Campari tomatoes and basil oozing out from a sirloin burger sound? Our burger recipe contest just closed and we received a ton of very creative, to say the least, recipes!

The winning burger recipe (below) from our “Build the Best Burger Recipe Contest” is Hoisin Ginger Burgers with Lime Pickled Onions entered by Marc, author of No Recipes.

It was apparent people put a lot of time into creating their recipes. Some of our favorite titles included:

• My Big Fat Greek Burger (ground lamb mixed with fresh mint and rosemary, sandwiched between pita and finished with a cucumber, yogurt and mint dressing)

• Oh La La! Burgers (figs, walnuts, caramelized shallots and brie make this a delectable turkey burger)
• Under the Tuscan Sun Burger (think Italy with Parmesan cheese, ciabatta bread, fresh tomatoes and pancetta) If you ever find yourself in a burger rut or want to impress family and friends with a new twist on the classic meal, check out our inventory of 119 burger recipes. Every recipe entered in our contest can be found at our Blog.

Out of 119 recipes, Hoisin Ginger Burgers with Lime Pickled Onions, submitted by Marc from No Recipes came out as the best burger!

Hoisin Ginger Burgers with Lime Pickled Onions

This makes enough for 4 smaller burgers (perfect for a brioche roll), or 2 large 1/2 lb burgers. It took me about 45 minutes from start to finish but your mileage may vary.

for the patty:

1 lb of lean organic ground beef
1 green onion minced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 Tbsp minced cilantro
1 tsp minced ginger
1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tsp sesame seed oil
1 tsp soy sauce
1/8 tsp ground white pepper

for the pickled onions:

1/2 red onion sliced into thin rings
1 tsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp water
juice from 1/2 a lime

for assembly:

brioche rolls (or other slightly sweet soft rolls) sliced
gruyere cheese sliced
sliced tomatoes
salad greens
sweet Thai chili sauce

Combine the ingredients for the patty with your hand; be careful not to over mix it. Form the patties and stick them on parchment paper until you’re ready to cook them.

For the pickles, just separate the onion into rings, cover with the salt and water and let it sit for about 15 minutes. When they’re starting to wilt give them a little “massage” to until they’re translucent. Squeeze out any excess water and dump out the brine. Return the onions to the bowl and squeeze half a lime onto the onions.

Grill/fry/broil the patty to your desired level of done-ness and while the burgers are cooking, cut the rolls down the center and toss them in a toaster oven with a layer of gruyere on the bottom half of each bun.

To assemble, just spread a little Thai chili sauce on the top half of the toasted bun. Place a burger on the cheese half of each bun, top with pickled onions, tomato and mizuna then figure out how you’re gonna fit it all in your mouth

Marc will win his choice of 10 lbs. of burgers and Palm Leaf Dinnerware … so he’ll have a stash of eco-friendly plates to serve all those burgers on.

Stuffed Caprese Sirloin Burgers with Roasted Garlic Aioli, entered by Hillary Omdal of Team O from Bothell, WA came in at a very close second.

We had an awesome variety of burgers entered using ingredients ranging from bison to black beans. Several ethnic recipes were entered including Indian, Thai, Italian and Himalayan burgers. And have you ever had a Peanut Butter & Jelly burger? You can now … check out comment #94.

All the recipes are indexed by burger type and comment number. Once you get to the original post, just scroll down to find the index. All the recipes are in the comment section. View all the recipes here.

NOLA beer symposium this weekend

Apologies for the short notice (but we just got it ourselves), but the Southern Food and Beverage Museum has a symposium on beer this weekend. If you're braving New Orleans's heat and humidity the first weekend in August, then this might be worth catching:

This weekend at SoFab, Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company presents:

"The Southern Brewing Experience"
Saturday, Aug. 2, 3 p.m.
Leslie Henderson, of Lazy Magnolia, will speak about beer, its ingredients, and how to pair it with food. She will offer a tasting of their award-winning Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale.

Monday, July 28, 2008

National Seafood cookoff challenge

We are just days away from the smack-down of the century!

Sure, it’s only 2008, and there are 92 years to go. But, with the spectacular success of the past four years, we're quite certain that the Fifth Annual Great American Seafood Cook-Off is going to be a battle for the ages!

On Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4p.m., some of the country's top chefs will converge at the Louisiana Foodservice EXPO at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center.

On Monday, Aug. 4, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. is the Second Annual Louisiana Alligator Soirée. This fun and informal companion cook-off pits junior culinary teams from The Bayou State to compete against one another to find out whose alligator cuisine reigns supreme. These chefs-in-training and junior ACF members must prepare dishes featuring alligator meat as well as several mystery ingredients.

The opening ceremony will take place at 11:30 a.m. on day one, and there will be cooking demos and judging throughout the day. Day two, the challenge heats-up with mystery ingredientsbecoming apart of the mix by preparing a home-style dish practical for any cook!

Former Cook-Off winner (2004) and this year's culinary face for My Louisiana campaign and beloved New Orleans chef, John Besh will serve as Master of Ceremonies. Tickets are only available at the event for adults 18 years and older, so come with $10 (entry for Cook-Off and Alligator Soirée), a hungry appetite, and an open mind to discover diverse cuisine from across the nation.

Brown bag on the rise.....

Working folks, think about how much money you spend buying lunch each day. More and more folks are coming to realize that they simply can't drop between $7 and $10 (not unusual in northeast Alabama) five days a week.

No doubt people in other parts of the country are tightening their figurative belts as well.

The brown-bagged lunch is becoming an increasingly popular workplace accessory these days, according to a new study from The NPD Group reports weekday lunches carried from home reached a new high point in 2007, with adults, 18 and older, carrying some 8.5 billion brown bag lunches last year. More than half of these lunches are consumed at the workplace, and most often at the eater’s desk or workstation.

According to the NPD report, entitled, “What’s in the Bag and Why Is It in There?,” the majority of consumers said they carry their lunch from home more often due to financial reasons mostly because it’s cheaper than other options. Health and nutrition concerns ranked second as a reason to brown bag, followed by convenience, taste, diet, quality, and environmental concerns. Among consumers who typically brown-bag, nearly half said they are doing so more often.

“Consumers are definitely in a cost-cutting mode, and brown-bagging saves them money,” says Harry Balzer, vice president, The NPD Group, and author of Eating Patterns in America. “Making lunch at home and putting it in a bag also enables them to have full control over what goes into the bag as many are concerned about eating better.”

The NPD study finds that adult males carry more brown-bagged lunches than others, yet quite often, females are the preparers. Brown-bagging is more common among 35- to 54-year-olds, white collar consumers and professionals and more affluent consumers.

What goes in the brown bags varies, but typically, it’s fruit, chips, and some type of sandwich, but these items differ by gender and age, reports NPD. Cookies replace the chips in kids’ lunches; a poultry sandwich replaces chips for men; and women are more inclined to opt for healthier choices like yogurt and veggies. Among the total population, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are the most popular sandwich type and carbonated soft drinks are the dominant beverage choice.
“We’re seeing yogurt and frozen entrees gaining in popularity in carried lunches, and lunchmeat sandwiches, chips, or ham sandwiches declining,” says Arnie Schwartz, who heads up The NPD Group’s food and beverage unit. “Over the last several years, leftovers are increasingly a part of brown-bagged lunches.”

According to the report, brown-bagging is a planned behavior. Nearly half of consumers decide they want to brown-bag the day before or earlier, and two out of three brown-bagged lunches are prepared the morning of the same day. Over a third of consumers who brown-bag lunches do so three times a week or more, and in the middle of the week rather than on Monday or Friday.

“Brown-bagging is an extension of Americans now preparing and eating the majority of their meals at home,” says Balzer. “Home is not only where the heart is, it’s where the food is too.”

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The skinny on mushrooms

The U.S. Fresh Mushroom Council has teamed up with Weight Watchers to create some healthy, simple recipes using the grand old mushroom.

Mushroom Scramble Mug
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 2 minutes
Serves: 1
Non-stick cooking spray
1 cup white button mushrooms, sliced
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
1 whole egg
1 egg white
1 slice fat-free American cheese, torn in strips
1 tomato or red pepper, diced (optional)
Whole wheat English muffin (optional)
Lightly spray the inside of a microwaveable mug with non-stick cooking spray, place mushrooms in mug and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and microwave for 1 minute. Let rest 30 seconds and drain any excess liquid.
Add whole egg and egg white to mug and mix well with a fork. Add cheese and tomato or red pepper (if desired) and microwave for 1 minute, stirring halfway through. Let rest 30 seconds to allow eggs to finish cooking. Enjoy in the mug or on a toasted whole wheat English muffin.

Mini Mushroom Burgers
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Marinate Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 8 minutes
Serves: 4
2 Portabella mushrooms, stem removed
1/4 cup light balsamic vinaigrette
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 small high-fiber whole grain dinner rolls
8 slices red onion
8 slices tomato
Place Portabellas and vinaigrette in a large zip top bag. Zip and lightly rub the vinaigrette into the mushrooms. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes.
Remove mushrooms from bag, drain and season both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a grill or grill pan over medium heat and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Place the mushrooms on the grill gill side down and cook for 4 minutes. Turn and continue to grill until mushroom is almost cooked through, about 4 more minutes.
Remove from pan and drain mushrooms on paper towel, gill side down. Cut each mushroom into quarters and place on buns. Top with onion and tomato and serve.
144 Cals, 5g fat, and 5g fiber

Turkey Mushroom Soup
Recipe courtesy of the Mushroom Council and
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 35 minutes
Serves: 8
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces white button mushrooms, quartered
1 cup chopped onion (about 1 large onion)
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
3/4 cup chopped celery (about 3 stalks)
8 cups low-sodium turkey stock (or store bought chicken broth)
8 ounces (about 2 cups) cooked turkey (or chicken), removed from the bone and shredded
2 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups packed fresh baby spinach (a large handful)
1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add a single layer of mushrooms and cook, without stirring, for about 5 minutes or until mushrooms become red-brown on one side. Add onions, garlic and celery and sauté until translucent, about 5 more minutes. Add turkey stock (see recipe below) or chicken broth, turkey and sage. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 20 minutes. Add rinsed beans, spinach, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil to wilt spinach and serve hot.
To make turkey stock: Place turkey bones in a large stock pot and cover with cold water. Add 1
quartered onion, 2 coarsely chopped stalks of celery, 1 coarsely chopped carrot, 1 bay leaf and 2 sage leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a low simmer and cook 2 or more hours. Strain and skim fat from top and store stock for future use.
120 Cals, 3g Fat, 3g Fiber

Mushroom Chicken Piccata
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4
4 chicken cutlets (4 ounces each)
Freshly ground black pepper
4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
12 ounces crimini mushrooms, quartered
2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 lemon
2 tablespoons capers, with juice
Season chicken with salt and pepper on both sides and heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add 2 teaspoons olive oil and warm briefly, then add chicken and cook until nicely browned, about 2 minutes per side. Remove to a plate and cover.
In the same pan, warm the remaining olive oil over medium-high heat. Add a single layer of mushrooms and cook, without stirring, for about 5 minutes or until mushrooms become red-brown on one side. Flip mushrooms, add garlic and cook another 2 minutes. Add wine and scrape up any browned bits in the pan. Bring to a boil and add stock, then return heat until it is bubbling nicely. Slice 4 very thin slices of lemon and add to the pan along with the juice from half of the lemon. Add capers and continue cooking sauce till it becomes a glaze, about 2 more minutes. Add the chicken to the sauce and heat through, then serve.
199 Cals, 6g Fat, 2g Fiber

Tilapia with Mushrooms, Olives and Tomatoes
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4
4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
1 pound (16 ounces) button mushrooms, quartered
1/4 cup pitted green olives with juice, halved
2 cups halved grape tomatoes
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, removed from stem and chopped
1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped
4 skinless tilapia filets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and a single layer of mushrooms and cook, without stirring, for about 5 minutes or until mushrooms become red-brown on one side. Flip and cook about 5 minutes more, until other side is same color. Add olives, tomatoes and herbs and heat for another 2 minutes, until juice is evaporated. Remove from heat, place in a bowl and cover with foil to keep warm.
In the same sauté pan, heat remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium heat. Season the filets with salt and pepper on both sides and place in the pan. Cook for 3 minutes until nicely browned, gently turn and cook another 3 minutes. Return vegetables and herbs to skillet briefly to warm, then serve.
196 Cals, 7.5g Fat, 2g Fiber

Recipes courtesy of the Mushroom Council and

Exploring olive oil from Spain

Americans love things from Spain. They love the vibrant culture that celebrates the good things in life: family, friends, delicious food, wine and olive oil. There’s no time like the present to celebrate Spain as this beloved country enters its peak festival season, with the annual Dia de Santiago in July, a prominent national holiday, and La Tomatina festival in late August – the world’s largest food fight.

Celebrity chef Dave Lieberman believes that you don’t have to take a trip to Spain to enjoy the merriment of the festival season. “Tapeo,” or tapas-style dining and entertaining, is a great way to experience the passion, infectious energy and the culinary fireworks of this celebrated nation in the comfort of your own home.
Spanish culture and cuisine embodies so many ideals we Americans have about entertaining – easy, yet impressive, and centered around superb ingredients, like Olive Oil from Spain, and shared with great friends,” says Dave Lieberman, the host of the Food Network’s “Good Deal” and “Eat This,” as well as author of Young and Hungry: More Than 100 Recipes for Cooking Fresh and Affordable Food for Everyone and Dave’s Dinners: A Fresh Approach to Home-cooked Meals. “Tapas dishes and ingredients are the perfect way to bring a slice of Spanish life to your traditional summer table.”
Great Tapas Begins with the Best Ingredients Tapas are snacks, canapés or finger foods served as a meal with a beverage. An array of dishes make up the traditional tapas menu, from olives to charcuterie, sizzling garlic shrimp, stuffed piquillo peppers, potatoes with spicy sauce and ham croquettes. Chefs around the world like Dave Lieberman are evolving this classic menu with contemporary twists and fresh approaches. However, they all agree great tapas dishes start with great ingredients like olive oil; the backbone of Spanish cooking. Olive Oils from Spain offer a range of unique flavors and aromas – from bold and spicy to subtle and rich – that capture the spirit of the Spanish countryside.
Ready to try Spain’s best kept secret? Dave Lieberman developed a collection of simple and chic tapas dishes that are sure to impress family and friends and get the party started.
This tapas menu showcases the versatility of Olive Oils from Spain. Begin your culinary journey with Fresh Chorizo and Piquillo Pepper Bites with Shaved Manchego Cheese. The spicy sausage, sweet red peppers and full-flavored Manchego cheese combine to be the perfect present for your taste buds.
Continue the fiesta with Lemon Poached Shrimp with Spicy Gazpacho. This quick and simple soup allows one of Spain’s most prized ingredients, olive oil, to take center stage. Olive Oil from Spain Garlic and Idiazábal Mashed Potatoes Cakes with Herbed Cream steal the show with creaminess and crunch; a playful twist on the classic croquettas.
Dave recommends rounding out your party menu with Fried Cauliflower with Pimentón and Olive Oil from Spain Aioli.

The World’s Leading Producer of Olive Oil
There are several affordable and great tasting Olive Oils from Spain. When you’re grocery shopping, look for the “Olive Oil from Spain” label, or check the back of the bottle for the country of origin, to ensure that you’re getting quality oil made from the world’s most famous olives. Since olive oil is a key ingredient in so many modern recipes it’s important to have a few bottles in your pantry at all times.
Similar to wine varietals, defining factors of the land, such as climate, soil and altitude, provide Spain’s olives with a variety of unique tastes: smooth, vibrant and bold. All these factors greatly enhance the taste of each oil. From the northern valleys of Catalonia to the southern region of Andalucia, Spain’s olive oils offer flavors that distinguish them from any other in the world.
With more than 300 million olive trees growing in a territory the size of Massachusetts, Spain is the leading producer of olives and the world’s leading producer of olive oil. The country generates, on average, one million tons of olive oil annually, which is enough olive oil to fill approximately 400 Olympic-size swimming pools.

There are a number of brands of Olive Oil from Spain available. Some popular and affordable brands, which can be found at your local supermarket include Goya, Pompeian and Star. Discovering the Delights of Olive Oil from SpainIntrigued, but not sure where to begin? Lieberman recommends experimenting in order to discover what types of olive oil suit your taste. To demonstrate the range of Olive Oils from Spain available, he put together some simple guidelines to help get you started:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

This olive oil is the finest and is of the highest quality. Producers press olives immediately after they are picked from the tree during late Fall through Winter. The oil is therefore referred to as the “first cold pressed;” oil extracted from the olives by applying pressure without presence of heat (i.e., does not exceed 27ºC/ 80ºF). The result is an extra virgin olive oil that has a natural low level of acidity. It is ideal for drizzling, salad dressings, marinades, sauces, stews and soups.
Olive Oil

A much milder oil that is better suited for cooking. Olive oil is developed by combining refined olive oil (oil that has been processed to extract undesirable characteristics) with virgin olive oils. It is best used for baking, frying, grilling and sautéing.

Fried Cauliflower with aioli

Makes 8 to 10 servings
For the cauliflower:
2 dried bay leaves
1-2 teaspoons sea salt
Black peppercorns
1 large head cauliflower, core removed and broken down into florets
About 2 cups tempura batter (either from a packaged mix or homemade)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Spain
For the aioli:
1 tablespoon pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika)
1 fresh egg yolk
Couple pinches of salt
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Spain

To make cauliflower:
Fill a large pot with water, add bay leaves, salt and peppercorns and bring to boil. Let mixture
simmer for 5 minutes. Add cauliflower florets and cook until fork tender, about 10 minutes.
Strain cauliflower and place on paper towels to cool and air dry.
Fill a medium-size, heavy sauce pan with 2-3”of Olive Oil from Spain. Heat oil to approximately
375 degrees.

Dip cooked cauliflower florets in tempura batter and drop into the hot oil. Fry for 3-4 minutes or
until the cauliflower turns golden brown. Remove cauliflower and place on paper towels to drain
any excess oil.

To make aioli:
Toast pimentón in a small skillet over medium-low heat until fragrant, about 4 minutes. Blend
pimentón together with the egg yolk, salt and lemon juice. Slowly drizzle in extra virgin Olive Oil
from Spain, blending continuously, to emulsify the aioli.
To serve:
Serve cauliflower florets with a side dish of aioli.
Recipe note:
Green beans, zucchini, broccoli or summer squash can be substituted for the cauliflower.

Lemon Poached Shrimp and Gazpacho

Makes 10 to 12 servings
For the shrimp:
3 quarts water
1 lemon, quartered
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
For the gazpacho:
1 cup soft insides of rustic bread loaf
1 pound vine-ripened tomatoes, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
1/2 medium white onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 Thai chili, seeded and chopped
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons Olive Oil from Spain
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the garnish:
1/2 cup each finely diced red bell pepper and cucumber
Olive Oil from Spain

To make shrimp:
Combine water, lemon, thyme, bay leaf, salt and peppercorns in a large pot. Bring to boil, let
simmer 10 minutes. Remove and discard lemon and seasonings. Add shrimp to pot and poach for 2 to 3 minutes until cooked through. Using a slotted spoon, transfer shrimp to a large bowl of ice
water. Drain and refrigerate until ready to serve.
To make gazpacho:
Soak the bread in water for 10 minutes; drain and squeeze out excess water. Set aside. In a food
processor puree the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, peppers, garlic and chili. Add the bread, vinegar, Olive Oil from Spain, salt and pepper and process until smooth. Chill until ready to serve.
To serve:
Place a couple shrimp in a shallow bowl; pour gazpacho around. Sprinkle with diced red pepper
and cucumber. Drizzle with Olive Oil from Spain.

Potato Cakes

Makes 10 servings (20 potato cakes)
For the potatoes:
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes (2 large), peeled and cut in large chunks
¼ cup Olive Oil from Spain
2 cloves garlic, smashed
3 tablespoons milk
¾ cup grated Idiazábal cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 large egg beaten
¾ cup fine dry breadcrumbs
Light Olive Oil from Spain for frying For the herb cream:
3 tablespoons Olive Oil from Spain
2 tablespoons basil leaves
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley leaves
¼ cup crème fraiche
¼ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt to taste
To make the potatoes:
In a small saucepan combine Olive Oil from Spain and garlic. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. When cool discard the garlic.
Boil potatoes until fork tender; drain. Return potatoes to pot to dry. Mash potatoes leaving some chunks. Stir in 3 tablespoons garlic, Olive Oil from Spain, milk and cheese; season with salt and pepper. When cool enough to handle, form potatoes into small round cakes, about 2 inches in diameter. In a small bowl, beat egg with 1 tablespoon water. Dip each cake into egg mixture, then into breadcrumbs. Refrigerate at least ½ hour or overnight.
Pour enough light Olive Oil from Spain into a heavy skillet to cover the bottom with 1/4"of oil; set over medium heat. When the oil is hot pan-fry potato cakes until golden brown, 1 – 2 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels. Top each potato cake with a dollop of herb cream and serve warm.
To make the herb cream:
In a blender puree the Olive Oil from Spain, basil, and parsley. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until just mixed. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Chorizo Bites

Makes 8 to 10 servings
1 pound fresh Chorizo sausage
1/2 pound Manchego cheese
6 – 8 Piquillo peppers, drained and cut into 1-inch squares
Olive Oil from Spain
To make the sausage:
Prick fresh Chorizo sausages in several places with the point of a knife. Grill sausages over
medium high heat until medium rare, about 3 minutes on each side. Set aside to drain on a paper
towel. When sausages are cool enough to handle, slice diagonally into 1/2-inch thick pieces.
Add Olive Oil from Spain to a sauté pan and sear Chorizo slices on both sides until well browned
and cooked through, 1 – 2 minutes for each side. Drain on paper towels.
To serve:
Using a vegetable peeler, shave cheese into very thin pieces. Top each piece of chorizo with a
shaving of cheese and a square piece of Piquillo pepper. Skewer with a toothpick. Drizzle with
Olive Oil from Spain and serve.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Peaches, plums and nectarines! Oh, my!

A classic trio of Southern cooking is onion, celery and bell pepper. Folks in California have another Holy Trinity: peaches, plums and nectarines.

We've got peaches aplenty here in Alabama, and they've been joined at the produce stand by some fine plums and nectarines. If you haven't cooked with these ingredients, give them a go. They're tasty, crisp and can liven up your standard summer fare.

Peach Pie Smoothie
Prep time: 5 minutes

2 fresh peaches, pitted and sliced
1 cup low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt
1/4 cup low-fat milk
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
2 vanilla wafer cookies, crumbled

Puree all ingredients except cookies in a blender until smooth. Pour into 2 chilled glasses and top with cookie crumbles.

Italian-inspired Ciabatta

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes total

1 (1 lb.) whole wheat pizza dough
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 cups shredded Italian blend cheese
2 fresh plums, pitted and very thinly sliced
3 cups baby or chopped arugula
1/2 cup slivered red onion
2 tablespoons snipped fresh basil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper and sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 425°F. Divide dough into 3 pieces; roll each into a very flat oval on a lightly floured board (about 7 X 11-inches). Place dough on baking sheets and brush with 1 tablespoon oil. Bake for 10 minutes. (May be prepared ahead to this point.) Just before serving, top each flatbread with 2/3 cup cheese. Bake at 425°F for 5 minutes. To prepare plum salad, toss remaining oil with remaining ingredients. Place equal amounts on each warm cheese flatbread and cut into 3-inch slices to serve.

Makes 6 appetizer or light lunch servings

Recipes courtesy of California peach, nectarine and plum growers. Many thanks.

It's never too early to plan Oktoberfest

First, recall that Oktoberfest actually starts in September. And, given that it's almost August, it's not too early to start getting geared up for September, which, as we've noted, means Oktoberfest.

And that means sausage.

The folks at Marx Foods have passed along their exotic sausage sampler, in case those standard pork brats won't fly for you this year.

The Specialty Sausage Sampler is seven pounds and includes 4 links of each of the following:
Venison Sausage with Merlot and Blueberries
Lamb Merguez
Buffalo Sausage with Chipotle Chilies
Duck Sausage with Foie Gras & Sauterne Wine
Duck Sausage with Orange Liquor
Rabbit Sausage with White Wine
Wild Boar Sausage with Cranberries and Shiraz
Smoked Duck Sausage with Apple Brandy
Wild Boar Beer Bratwurst

This sausage is great skewered as an appetizer, grilled, sautéed or paired with pasta for a main course. The sausages cook quickly (less than 10 minutes on the grill) making them a simple, yet elegant, dinner option.

“My favorite way to make the sausage is grilled, sliced and skewered with a fig and watercress. It’s an effortless appetizer that’s delicious and results in an impressive presentation,” said Katy Springer, General Manager of

A beautiful sandwich for the fire

A plethora of summer vegetables has overtaken many of our neighbors. They're looking for ideas that'll a) use up all this fresh produce and b) taste good and, most of all c) not demand that they heat up their kitchen.

Here's a colorful sandwich that fits all the bills.

Radicchio, Prosciutto and Fresh Mozzarella Ciabatta
Serves 6

1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine vinaigrette in a bowl.

1 loaf ciabatta bread, sliced in half lengthwise
2 balls fresh mozzarella, sliced
4 tomatoes, sliced
6 to 8 slices of prosciutto (or smoked turkey or any thinly sliced deli meat)
1 cup baby spinach leaves
4 to 6 leaves of radicchio

Brush bread with vinaigrette.

Layer all other ingredients in the sandwich then drizzle with more vinaigrette. Put other half of bread on top and brush outside with olive oil. Sear on medium high grill until cheese melts.

Recipe and pic courtesy of Royal Rose radicchio.

Orange inspired barbecue sauce

Because you can never have too many barbecue sauce recipes. This is fabulous on pork chops and chicken. Not so much on beef.

Makes approximately 3 1/2 cups sauce

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup tomato ketchup
1 cup tomato-based chili sauce
2/3 cup sweet orange marmalade
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoon whole-grain or Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup GranGala Triple Orange Liqueur

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan (preferably nonstick) over medium heat. Add the onion and stir until golden brown. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Stir in the ketchup, chili sauce, marmalade, vinegar, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring often, until the sauce is slightly reduced and thickened, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the Liqueur. Use the sauce immediately or store it in the 'fridge for up to a month.

Grilled salad ideas galore

We eat a ton of salad in the summer. Every now and then, you've got to mix it up a little, or you'll start to feel like Peter Cottontail's unfortunate cousin.

Hence, grilled salad.

The radicchio growers have passed along a few tips: cut radicchio and Romaine hearts lengthwise into halves or quarters and baste with olive oil. Be sure to leave a portion of the core on the radicchio to hold the leaves in place. Set on a medium to hot grill and turn frequently to avoid burning.
Use aluminum foil to protect delicate leaf tips. Radicchio and Romaine are cooked, usually in minutes, when they are fork tender.

And the most depressing news of all.....

Here's why, eventually, I'll lose the will to live.

Coming to Wednesday's Your Table

We take a lighthearted look at outfitting your college student's first "kitchen." We tell you the only cookbook you'll ever need and how to get a starter kit up and going for $75.

Also cooking this week: Ben Cunningham talks about the traveling joys of beer in Pitcher This, and Pat Kettles helps us unravel prosecco in Uncorked. Prudence Hilburn's Gourmet Touch taps into the tomato bounty, with cream of tomato soup recipes, and we've got pulled pork shoulder you cook in the Crock-Pot. Capping off our selection of almost 20 recipes: a celebration of pie.

Life's too short to eat bad food.

Saturday farmers market, a reminder

Remember the Downtown Farmers Market continues this Saturday, July 19, from 8 a.m. to noon at Zinn Park. Fresh produce from the area is the highlight. There'll also be some artists demonstrations this weekend.

Next week, July 26, brings the second cooking demonstration to the Martin Luther King pavillion.

Sustainable fish

An excerpt from The Washington Post on July 16 regarding one of my latest crusades (yes, there are many): sustainable fish.

Aquaculture is becoming the next big issue at the dinner table. Supermarkets are introducing new standards for the farmed fish and shrimp that make up roughly half of U.S. seafood consumption, riding a wave of consumer demand for environmentally friendly products.

Whole Foods plans to announce today the first comprehensive set of aquaculture guidelines by a major retailer. Wal-Mart has established standards for farmed shrimp and certified its factories with the Aquaculture Certification Council. And Wegmans worked with Environmental Defense Fund on its farmed-shrimp policy to ban antibiotics, avoid damaging sensitive habitats, treat waste water and reduce the use of wild fish to feed shrimp.

"There are actually a lot of farmers right now who are trying to do the right thing," said Jill Schwartz, a spokeswoman for the World Wildlife Fund, which has advised Whole Foods on its standards. "Things are moving in the right direction."

Among the things I evangelize about is the idea of knowing where your food comes from and where it was produced. Fish, whether freshwater or seafood, is a great mystery to way too many American consumers. Know what you're eating, people, and how it got on your plate.

There's a National S'more day?

OK, really there is a day for everything. Even s'mores have their moment in the sun.

I'm not a huge fan of s'mores -- way, way too sweet. But, before you accuse me of being a Communist, I'll acknowledge their place in the national lore. I'll also acknowledge that my children love them, and when my son was small, we tried sticking him to the side of a truck after a s'more fest. He was so sticky, he almost clung to the side of a Silverado like a mussel on a piling.

As it turns out, National S’mores Day is Aug. 10, and The Hershey Company is giving consumers one more reason to celebrate with a collection of new recipes and cooking tips to create
s’mores treats for every taste.

For more than 80 years, families and friends have gathered around the campfire (or grill or, in the case of my high school chemistry class, the Bunsen burner) to indulge in the classic combination of s’mores - Hershey®’s Milk Chocolate, gooey marshmallows and Graham crackers. Naturally, there's a Web site:

“S’mores have always been a campfire favorite, but families don’t have to head out to the woods
to enjoy National S’mores Day this year,” said Linda Stahl of The Hershey’s Kitchens. “The Hershey’s Kitchens have created a host of s’mores recipes that can be grilled, baked and even microwaved. With these recipes, everyone can enjoy ‘s’more’ fun no matter where they are this August 10.”

S’mores are a quick and easy dessert to complete any backyard barbeque when cooked on the
grill. Start by placing half of a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar on half of a Honey Maid Grahams Cracker.

Then, carefully toast a large marshmallow over a grill preheated to medium, and place it on top of the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar. Finally, top the perfectly melted marshmallow with the
remaining graham cracker half and gently press together for a delicious treat. Or to make “s’more” s’mores at once, assemble half of a Graham cracker, Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar and marshmallow topped with the second half of the cracker and wrap it in aluminum foil. Place the foil pocket on the grill and cook for two minutes. The result is a warm, gooey s’mores treat.

Invite guests to build their own s’mores recipes this National S’mores Day with variations of the
classic treat. Try Chocolate Banana S’mores embellished with small slices of banana and Peanutty S’mores with a thin layer of peanut butter spread on the Graham Cracker. For dark chocolate lovers, try indulging in a recipe featuring a Hershey’s Special Dark Semi-Sweet Chocolate bar on a Graham Cracker, topped with a grilled marshmallow.

If the rain just won’t go away, families also can enjoy s’mores indoors. S’mores Ice Cream Pie is
frozen with vanilla or chocolate ice cream. Looking for a quick and easy recipe? Try Easy S’mores
Clusters. Simply break and heat six Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bars in the microwave, and stir in two cups of miniature marshmallows and eight coarsely chopped Graham crackers. Then
drop spoonfuls of the mix into miniature paper muffin cups, cover and refrigerate until firm. This simple treat will brighten any rainy day.

Grape ideas for a hot summer day

Grapes never go out of style, but they don't always get credit for being as versatile an ingredient. They're great hot, chilled or even frozen.

The California Grape Commission has some ideas we may not have tried:

Frosty Fresh Grape Pops – Brilliantly colored, these icy delights are perfect for a birthday party, special family barbecue or frankly, anytime the kids want a cool treat. Fancy molds are not required – a simple paper cup will work beautifully.

Grape Daiquiris – The trend in the creation of classy cocktails – with or without alcohol – continues unabated. This easy-to-concoct blend of fresh grapes, lime and white rum looks elegant in a slender tumbler with a slice of lime. This is a perfect and sophisticated drink for a brunch or summer luncheon.

Seared Salmon with Spinach and Grapes – Seared fish is one of the best ways to give a crispy exterior to a fillet without drying out the tender interior. In this preparation, the salmon is further enhanced with a savory grape and wine sauce, and presented with another flavor dimension, wilted, garlicky spinach. The recipe takes only about 30 minutes to cook.

Today, nearly 100 percent of the commercially grown table grapes produced in the United States are from California. There are about 550 farmers who grow California’s fresh grape crop, most of them family farmers now in their third or fourth generation of growing fresh California grapes. There are more than 50 varieties of fresh grapes grown in California, with 16 major varieties.

Selection and Storage Suggestions
Grapes are fully ripe when they arrive at the supermarket.
Look for plump grapes with pliable green stems.
Keep grapes unwashed and refrigerated in a plastic bag until ready to use, then rinse with cold water and serve, or add to recipes.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
· A ¾ cup serving of grapes contains just 90 calories, no sodium or cholesterol and virtually no fat. Grapes contain vitamin C and potassium, as well as a small amount of fiber.
· Grapes are a natural source of beneficial antioxidants.
o In addition to an abundance of polyphenols, grapes are one of the main dietary sources of resveratrol, which is found in the skins of grapes of all colors and is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
· Grapes and Heart Health
o Grapes have been shown to have beneficial effects on biomarkers of cardiovascular disease including blood pressure, platelet aggregation, and inflammation. Emerging research also indicates the potential for a beneficial impact on blood lipids.
· Grapes and Cancer
o Grape constituents have been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells through a variety of mechanisms.
· Grapes and Brain Health
o Preliminary data suggests that polyphenols from grapes may play a role in protecting against Alzheimer’s disease.

Sweet and Spicy Moroccan Turkey Pilaf
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 pound skinless, boneless turkey breast, cut into strips
1 cup long grain rice
1 ½ cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup green, red, and/or black seedless grapes
¼ cup dried apricots, sliced (about 6 – 7)
2 green onions, both white and green parts, sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

In a large covered skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Brown the turkey on all sides. Stir in the rice and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the chicken broth and season with the salt, pepper, cinnamon, and cayenne. Stir until the mixture comes to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, or until the rice is tender.

Remove the pilaf from the heat and gently stir in the grapes, pine nuts, apricots, green onions, and mint. Serve warm.

Option: If you prefer to cook the pilaf in the oven, follow the instructions as written, but instead of covering and leaving to cook on the burner, simply pop the dish in a preheated 325 degree F oven for 30 to 40 minutes.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional analysis per serving: Calories 426; Protein 39 g; Carbohydrate 55 g; Fat 4.3 g; 9% Calories from Fat; Cholesterol 96 mg; Sodium 683 mg; Potassium 603 mg; Fiber1.8 g.

Seared Salmon with Spinach and Grapes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon dried thyme (1 tablespoon fresh)
½ teaspoon pepper
Four 6-ounce salmon steaks or fillets
2 teaspoons honey
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 large bunch spinach, washed and stemmed
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups red seedless grapes, halved
½ cup dry red wine

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Combine the salt, mustard, thyme, and pepper in a small bowl. Drizzle the salmon fillets with the honey and sprinkle with the seasoning. Reserve any remaining seasoning mixture.
Heat 2 teaspoons of the olive oil in a nonstick skillet or sauté pan. Brown both sides of the salmon fillets over medium-high heat, about 4 minutes per side.

While the salmon is browning, toss the cleaned spinach and garlic with the remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil and arrange in a baking dish. Place the browned salmon on the bed of spinach, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and bake in a preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the salmon is just cooked through.

Meanwhile, sauté the grapes for one minute over medium-high heat in the skillet used to brown the salmon. Add the wine, bring to a boil, and reduce the quantity by half. Season the sauce to taste with the remaining spice mixture. Serve the salmon on the wilted spinach, topped with the grape and wine sauce.
Makes 4 servings.
Nutritional analysis per serving: Calories 449; Protein 36 g; Carbohydrate 20 g; Fat 23 g; 45% Calories from Fat; Cholesterol 100 mg; Sodium 730 mg; Potassium 1,120 mg; Fiber 1.6 g.

Grape Daiquiris

1 cup green, red, or black California seedless grapes
4 ounces white rum
3 ounces sweetened lime juice
3 cups ice

Place all ingredients into the bowl of a blender and puree until blended and slushy, about 2 minutes. Serve in tall glasses.
Makes 2 drinks.

Nutritional analysis per serving: Calories 214; Protein .7g; Carbohydrate 23 g; Fat .5 g; 2% Calories from Fat; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 3 mg; Potassium 199 mg; Fiber .98 g.

Frosty Fresh Grape Pops
4 1/2 cups green, red, or black California seedless grapes, plus 2 cups fresh grapes, halved (optional)
2 teaspoons
Food coloring (optional)

Juice the 4 1/2 cups of grapes in a vegetable juicer or puree the grapes in a blender or food processor until smooth. With a plastic spatula, press the mixture through a fine strainer into a mixing bowl. Discard the solids. Skim any foam off the top. Dissolve the sugar in the juice. Add a few drops of red, green, or purple food coloring if desired.
To make the juice pops, fill molds or 5-ounce paper cups with the juice, skimming any foam off the tops. If using cups, cover each cup with foil and poke a wooden stick through the center of the foil for a handle. If using fruit pieces, put about 3/4 cup halved grapes into each mold. Pour the juice and skim any foam off the top. Place the molds or cups in the freezer for at least 2 hours, or until frozen. To remove the pops from the cups, take off the foil and tear away the paper.

Variation: To make layered pops, make 2 batches of grape ice pop mixture from different colored grapes and food coloring if desired. Fill the molds half full with one color and freeze. When hard, fill the remainder of the molds with the other color and freeze.
Makes 4 Juice Pops or 8 Pops with Grape Halves.

Nutritional analysis per serving with grape halves: Calories 79; Protein .3 g; Carbohydrate 19 g; Fat .23 g; 3% Calories from Fat; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium .81 mg; Potassium 155 mg; Fiber.4 g.

For more about Grapes from California visit

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Lean Pockets Recall

Our summer of food news continues. Check out this from WebMD regarding a Lean Pockets recall.

Humming along with an unconventional dip

The other night on Good Eats, Alton Brown talked about what's the difference between a dip and a sauce. His take is similar to what I've had all these years: A dip has to be able to stay on some kind of delivery device and not drip off.

That eliminates salsa, which is probably my least favorite of all dips/condiments/sauces. That doesn't mean I don't scarf it up at Mexican restaurants; it means that, if there are other options available, salsa will be the last I try.

Among the hits from the past Dip Day at the Star was hummus and babaghanoush -- stalwarts of Middle Eastern homes for centuries. Here's a version that uses edamame instead of garbanzo beans. It's a little lighter in flavor, and soy (edamame is whole, green soybeans) is super hip in health food circles right now.

Edamame Hummus
Prep time: 5 minutes

2 cups Edamame, shelled and cooked according to package directions
1/4 cup
Soybean oil
3 tablespoons
Lemon juice
2 teaspoons
Garlic, chopped
3/4 teaspoon
Cumin, ground
1/2 teaspoon Salt

Puree edamame, oil, lemon juice, garlic, cumin and salt in food processor for 30 seconds, scraping sides twice, until almost smooth. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Nutrition Per Serving: 2 tablespoons per serving - Calories 60 (68% Calories from Fat), 2g Protein, 0g Saturated Fat, 0g Trans Fat, 5g Fat, 3g Carbohydrate, 1g Fiber, 0mg Cholesterol, 90 mg Sodium
Serving Tips: Serve with pita triangles, crackers, baguette or raw vegetables.

Other edamame options (to use up what you've bought that doesn't go into the hummus). Edamame plays well with other ingredients and is great served simply, sprinkled on a salad. If you want some recipes that are a little more elaborate....

Linguini in garlic sauce
1 head garlic*, skin attached
2 teaspoons Soybean oil (vegetable oil)
8 ounces Linguini, fresh or dry
2 tablespoons Soybean oil (vegetable oil)
3 tablespoons Shallots, minced
1/2 cup Dry white wine
1/2 cup Chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups Tomatoes (2 medium), seeded and diced
1 cup Edamame (Whole green soybeans), shelled and cooked
1/2 cup Pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup Basil**, fresh, chopped
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut pointed top off garlic head, leaving cloves intact, and place on square of aluminum foil. Drizzle 2 teaspoons oil over cloves. Seal foil around garlic and bake at 400°F for 30 to 40 minutes or until cloves are soft; cool. Squeeze paste from cloves, mash and set aside.
Prepare linguini as directed on package; drain and set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in medium saucepan. Add shallots and garlic paste. Sauté until shallots are translucent, stirring occasionally.
Add wine and chicken broth, bring to boil and simmer until reduced in half. Add tomatoes and edamame. Cook 1 minute until warmed, stirring gently. Stir-in pine nuts and basil. Remove from heat; add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon over linguini and sprinkle with Parmesan. Makes 4 servings.
* May substitute 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder for the head of garlic, if desired. Add garlic powder with the chicken broth.
** May substitute 1 tablespoon dried basil for fresh basil, if desired.

Southwestern Pork Tenderloin and Succotash
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 to 20 minutes

2 tablespoons Brown sugar
1 teaspoon Paprika, ground
1/2 teaspoon Cumin, ground
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne pepper, ground
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 pound Pork tenderloin
1 tablespoon Soybean oil

Soy Succotash
2 cups Edamame, cooked, drained
2 cups Cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 cup Corn, frozen, thawed, drained
1/4 cup Red onion, diced
2 teaspoons Garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Cumin, ground
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper, ground
2 teaspoons Soybean oil

Southwestern Pork Tenderloin:
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Mix brown sugar, paprika, cumin, cayenne pepper and salt. Sprinkle mixture over pork tenderloin.
Heat oil in large ovenproof frying pan over medium high heat. Add pork; cook for 1 minute on each side, until brown.
Place frying pan in oven and bake 10 to 15 minutes until pork reaches an internal temperature of 155°F. Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes before slicing into medallions.

Soy Succotash:
Mix edamame, tomatoes, corn, onion, garlic, cumin, salt and cayenne pepper in medium bowl. Heat oil in medium frying pan over medium heat. Add edamame mixture and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes or until warm. Makes 4 cups succotash.
Nutrition Per Serving: Calories 380 (33% Calories from Fat), 34g Protein, 29g Carbohydrate, 7g Fiber, 14g Fat, 2.5g Sat. Fat, 0g Trans Fat, 75mg Cholesterol, 680mg Sodium

Shrimp and Tofu Pad Thai
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

8 ounces Rice noodles, dried
1/2 cup Sugar
5/16 cup Ketchup
1/4 cup Water
1 1/2 tablespoons Soy sauce
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups Tofu, firm, drained and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1 1/2 cups Shrimp, small, cooked
2 teaspoons Garlic, fresh, chopped
1 Egg, beaten
3 cups Bean sprouts, fresh
1/2 cup Edamame, cooked and drained
1/2 cup Green onions, chopped, divided
1/2 cup Peanuts, chopped, divided

Soak noodles for 30 minutes in hot tap water; drain and set aside. (Noodles will be flexible, but not soft.)
Mix sugar, ketchup, water, soy sauce, worchestershire sauce and cayenne pepper in small bowl; set aside.
Heat oil in wok or large frying pan over high heat. Add tofu, shrimp and garlic, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Stir in noodles, stirring constantly to keep from sticking. Add ketchup mixture, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes or until sauce is absorbed.
Push noodles to side of pan. Add egg and stir until cooked. Add bean sprouts, edamame, 1/4 cup green onions and 1/4 cup peanuts, stirring until mixed with egg and noodles.
Mound mixture on large serving plate. Sprinkle remaining green onions and peanuts over top. Serve immediately.
Nutrition Per Serving: Calories 430 (31% Calories from Fat), 20g Protein, 57g Carbohydrate, 4g Fiber, 15g Fat, 2.5g Sat. Fat, 0g Trans Fat, 110mg Cholesterol, 670mg Sodium.
Recipes and photos courtesy of the U.S. Soybean Board.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Talking the plank

I spent my weekend packing boxes and stumbled across to cedar grilling planks I had been given a Christmas or two ago. I was instantly inspired to try and cook with them. The planks are about 12 inches long, and eight inches wide and are supposed to impart a special flavor into the meat you cook. The directions said soak the plank, put the meat directly on the wood and grill it keeping them temp under 400 degrees.

Here's a random recipe from Kraft with some tips on cedar plank grilling.

I went to Winn Dixie, grabbed a pound of tilapia (i think it was $3.99 or $4.99 for 5 filets) and was ready to go. I hit each fillet with the least garlicy poultry seasoning I had, some butter and some lemon juice.

I soaked the plank for about three hours and put it in the middle of the grill with two of the burners lit. If the burners were lettered A through D with A being on the far left I lit B on low and D on high with the plank over B and C. Once I saw that the board was not going to burn up, I turned on burner C as well. I threw one fillet onto the top rack as a control to see what kind of difference the plank made.

The fish cooked quickly and when we put it on the table I was anxious to try it. The plank-cooked fish did have a different taste than the control and the whole meal was good.

In retrospect, it may not have been worth the extra effort to cook on the plank. Since theses boards were a gift I didn't have to worry about the cost, but I don't think I'll be spending my money on any of the boards.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Dinner for $2: Crackin' good stuff

Many Americans are feeling financially stretched with the prices of gas, food and just about everything else on the rise. But sticking to a budget doesn’t have to mean sacrificing wholesome, nutritious family meals. Believe it or not, families can easily and quickly make healthy meals with fresh and natural foods while still keeping costs down.

Eggs are a great choice when it comes to affordable and nutritious foods. At an average of $1.93 per dozen (or $0.16 per egg)1 eggs really are incredible, providing all-natural, high-quality protein and 13 essential vitamins and minerals, for only 70 calories each. In addition to providing one of the most affordable sources of high-quality protein (see chart on left), eggs can help stretch other foods in the refrigerator or pantry since almost anything can be used in an omelet, frittata, quiche or strata.

Try these fast, nutritious and affordable meal ideas:
• Reinvent leftovers – Don’t have the same meal twice. Use everything from last night’s pasta to Chinese take-out as fillings in egg dishes like an omelet, frittata, quiche or strata.
• Roll it up – Scramble eggs together with vegetables and low-fat cheese and slide the mixture onto a flour tortilla. Roll it up and serve it with salsa for a filling breakfast, lunch or dinner burrito.
• Easy clean up – Serve the entire family from one dish by making a baked egg casserole with eggs, whole wheat bread, frozen spinach and deli ham.
• Skip the drive-thru – Create a healthier and less expensive version of your favorite egg breakfast sandwich by topping a whole wheat English muffin with scrambled or fried egg and low-fat cheese.
• Nutrient boost – Give pre-packaged pasta and Asian noodle dishes some protein power by adding whisked eggs while heating up the noodles in a skillet.
For additional affordable meals, try these recipes from the American Egg Board, all of which are under $2.00 per serving:

Eggs Benedict Strata
($0.91 per serving)

There are conflicting stories about the origin of classic Eggs Benedict. However the recipe was originally devised, the appealing combination of English muffins, ham, eggs and a lemony sauce is one that you can repeat in other dishes, such as this casserole. Next time, you might want to top toasted English muffin halves with ham slices, scrambled eggs and a dollop of mayo or sour cream mixed with a touch of lemon.

1 package (12 oz.) English muffins
6 slices (4 oz.) Canadian bacon, chopped
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups skim or low-fat milk
2 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Chives, optional
Halved lemon slices, optional
Split muffins and cut into cubes. Alternate even layers of muffin cubes and ham in lightly greased 8 x 8 x 2-inch baking dish.
In medium bowl, beat together remaining ingredients except chives until well blended. Pour evenly over muffin-ham mixture. Cover. Refrigerate several hours or overnight.
Uncover. Bake in preheated 350° F oven until golden brown and knife inserted near center comes out clean, about 50 to 60 minutes.
Garnish with chives and lemon slices, if desired.

Summer Squash Omelette
($1.58 per serving)
1/2 cup thinly sliced zucchini
1/2 cup thinly sliced yellow crookneck squash
1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1/4 cup chopped sweet red pepper
2 tablespoons water
4 eggs
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon basil leaves, crushed
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons butter or cooking oil OR cooking spray
getting started
In small saucepan over medium heat, stir together all filling ingredients.
Cover and cook just until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover.
Cook until liquid is evaporated.
Cover and keep warm while preparing omelets.
In small bowl, beat together eggs, water, cheese and seasonings until blended.
In 7- to 10-inch omelet pan or skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 teaspoon of the butter until just hot enough to sizzle a drop of water.
Pour in 1/2 cup of the egg mixture. (Mixture should set immediately at edges.)
With an inverted pancake turner, carefully push cooked portions at edges toward center so uncooked portions can reach hot pan surface, tilting pan and moving cooked portions as necessary.
When top is thickened and no visible liquid egg remains, fill with half of the reserved vegetable mixture.
With pancake turner, fold omelet in half or roll.
Invert onto plate with a quick flip of the wrist or slide from pan onto plate. Keep warm.
Repeat with remaining egg and vegetable mixtures for second omelet. Filling
1/2 cup thinly sliced zucchini
1/2 cup thinly sliced yellow crookneck squash
1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1/4 cup chopped sweet red pepper
2 tablespoons water
4 eggs
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon basil leaves, crushed
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons butter or cooking oil OR cooking spray
getting started
In small saucepan over medium heat, stir together all filling ingredients.
Cover and cook just until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover.
Cook until liquid is evaporated.
Cover and keep warm while preparing omelets.
In small bowl, beat together eggs, water, cheese and seasonings until blended.
In 7- to 10-inch omelet pan or skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 teaspoon of the butter until just hot enough to sizzle a drop of water.
Pour in 1/2 cup of the egg mixture. (Mixture should set immediately at edges.)
With an inverted pancake turner, carefully push cooked portions at edges toward center so uncooked portions can reach hot pan surface, tilting pan and moving cooked portions as necessary.
When top is thickened and no visible liquid egg remains, fill with half of the reserved vegetable mixture.
With pancake turner, fold omelet in half or roll.
Invert onto plate with a quick flip of the wrist or slide from pan onto plate. Keep warm.
Repeat with remaining egg and vegetable mixtures for second omelet.

Eggs and Pasta Verdi
$1.39 per serving

1 package (9 oz.) fresh spinach noodles OR (8 oz.) dried spinach noodles
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, crushed
2 medium tomatoes*, coarsely chopped
4 eggs
Paprika, optional
getting started
Bring large pot of water to boiling.
Cook noodles according to package directions until tender, about 2 to 3 minutes for fresh, 10 to 12 minutes for dried.
Drain well.
Return noodles to pot
Add cheese, oil, garlic powder and seasoning.
Gently toss until noodles are evenly coated.
Add tomatoes.
Toss again.
Set aside.
Keep warm.
In saucepan or deep omelet pan or skillet, bring 2 to 3 inches of water to boiling.
Reduce heat to keep water gently simmering.
Break cold eggs, one at a time, into custard cup or saucer or break several into bowl.
Holding dish close to water’s surface, slip eggs, one by one, into water.
Cook until whites are completely set and yolks begin to thicken but are not hard, about 5 minutes.
With slotted spoon, lift out eggs.
Drain in spoon or on paper towels.
Trim any rough edges, if desired.
Evenly divide noodles among 4 dinner plates.
Top each serving with a poached egg.
Sprinkle with paprika, if desired. Serve hot.

Quiche in Pepper Pots
($1.39 per serving)

2 medium (about 4 oz. each) green, yellow or sweet red peppers
1/2 cup (about 2 oz.) frozen vegetable blend, thawed
2 eggs
1/4 cup skim or low-fat milk
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning, crushed
getting started
Cut tops off peppers and remove seeds.
Sawtooth or scallop pepper edges, if desired.
Stand peppers upright in custard cups or muffin-pan cups.
Spoon 1/4 cup of the vegetables into each pepper.
In small bowl, beat together eggs, milk and seasonings until well blended.
Pour about 1/3 cup of the egg mixture over vegetables in each pepper.
Bake in preheated 325° F oven until knife inserted near center comes out clean, about 60 to 70 minutes.
Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Broccoli Carrot Frittata
($1.22 per serving)
1 package (10 oz.) frozen chopped broccoli
1/2 cup diced carrot (about 1 medium)
1/4 cup water
Cooking spray
8 eggs
1/4 cup skim or low-fat milk
1 tablespoon instant minced onion
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
1 teaspoon seasoned salt, optional
1/8 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup (3 oz.) shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
getting started
In covered 10-inch omelet pan or skillet with ovenproof handle* over medium heat, cook broccoli and carrot in water until tender, about 10 minutes.
Stir occasionally to break apart broccoli. Drain well. Set aside.
Evenly coat pan with spray.
Beat together eggs, milk and seasonings.
Stir in cheese and reserved broccoli and carrot.
Pour into pan.
Cook over low to medium heat until eggs are almost set, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Cover pan, remove from heat and let stand about 8 to 10 minutes OR broil about 6 inches from heat until eggs are completely set and no visible liquid egg remains, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Cut into wedges and serve from pan, or either slide from pan or invert onto serving platter.