About Me

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My friends call me the "grammar goddess." Really. ;-) I own a freelance writing, editing and tutoring business. Previously, I served three years as food editor for The Morning Sun in Mt. Pleasant, which kindled my interest in food writing. My other areas of expertise in writing include features, community news, architecture/construction and engraving/personalization. I have a frightening number of cookbooks and watch too many DIY, HGTV, Food Network, Cooking Channel and Antiques Roadshow (BBC and PBS versions) shows. And I tweak nearly every recipe I make.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Help Stamp Out Hunger!

This entry is not exactly about your healthy eating, but rather, someone else’s. The U.S. Postal Service’s letter carriers will be collecting food by our mailboxes … right here in Oakland County and around the country to help “stamp out hunger.”

That’s right: the Stamp Out Hunger! food drive is slated for this Saturday, as in tomorrow. Just leave a strong bag full of non-perishables that won’t break Saturday when your letter carrier picks it up while delivering your mail. Some good choices are canned, unsalted vegetables (including beans and tomatoes) healthy versions of soups/stews (preferably without corn syrup), canned fruits in natural juice, canned tuna and salmon, dried pasta, tomato sauce, etc.

The collection, now in its 18th year, is a joint effort. According to Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeast Michigan’s website, the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) has the support of Campbell Soup Company, the U.S. Postal Service, Feeding America, Valpak, the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association, the AFL-CIO, United Way Worldwide, Teamsters and Gleaners.

You can even get a reminder by texting STAMP 6 to 30305 so you won’t forget to put out the food.

Our neighbors to the west, in Livingston County, already did their part last Saturday, raising $11,000 and gathering 8,000 pounds of food, according to the Livingston County Press & Argus. I’m proud to say a friend of mine, Rick Beaudin, a local realtor, a.k.a. “The Pickney Pirate,” promoted the heck out of this event.

Let’s hope someday these efforts are truly successful and we accomplish the goal to Stamp Out Hunger!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cookbook Review: Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats

First of all, I think Rachael Ray is brilliant at coming up with different (and usually fairly healthy) twists so you’re not eating the same old food. I watch her shows regularly. I have three of her cookbooks (the only other person who holds that honor is the late, great Peg “I Hate to Cook” Bracken).

I will say that in her 30 minutes, she gets a lot more done than I do! (Unlike Rachael, my area of food “expertise” is baking.) I’d almost never do a new main dish and a new side dish together on a week night, which she always manages to pull together on 30-Minute Meals.

My first (partly) successful Rachael Ray recipe, 3 Beans and Some Chicken, was from Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats. The pan-fried chicken, which incorporates EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil), thyme and the juice of one lemon, was terrific, even if it took me longer than 30 minutes. I don't exaggerate when I say the chicken portion of the recipe alone is worth the price of the book. It’s my favorite way to eat chicken.

The beans didn’t turn out as described, primarily because I added too much chicken stock (there's a big difference between one can and one cup of stock!). It had to be served as “stoup.” It did taste good and I think I’d leave it as “stoup” if I made it again, but I'd also add some garlic to it. The next time, when I didn't have the time (or patience) to make the side dish and the chicken, I thought, “I hate to waste the lemon zest used in the bean mixture” and threw it in with the rest of the marinade. The lemon zest made it even better. The third time I made the chicken, I decided to marinate it in the cast-iron frying pan I cook it in and simply let the marinade evaporate until the point that the chicken browns on both sides. It was still awesome, and I had one less pan to wash.

Here is a recipe I made inspired by this recipe, featuring key lime juice, zest and cilantro. I have yet to try orange juice with the chicken, mostly because I’m not sure what herb to use to complement it.

Lime-Cilantro Chicken

Thinly-sliced chicken tenders (about 1 to 1 1/4 pounds)

two turns around the pan (about two TBSP.) EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil)
zest and juice from two key limes
Salt and pepper to taste
2 TBSP. roughly chopped cilantro (I don’t recommend dried cilantro for this)

To make marinade: Put the olive oil, lime zest, lime juice and cilantro in the pan, turning the pan around until the mixture covers the entire bottom of the pan. Salt and pepper chicken to taste (salt can be omitted, if desired), then marinate about 5 minutes on each side. (Each piece of chicken should have cilantro on it.)

Just before the marinating is complete, pre-heat the burner on medium high and then put frying pan on (I use a fine mesh pan cover so the oil doesn’t spatter too much. Clearly, I also use an electric stove; on a gas stove, I'd start with the pan on the burner.)

Reduce heat slightly when oil is sizzling. Cook approximately 6-8 minutes on each side, until browned and chicken has no more pink in it. (I usually cut the largest piece to be sure it’s done.)

The next recipe I plan to try from Rachael is in her May 6, 2010 web edition: Coconut Mango Chicken with Black Beans.

Farmers’ markets offer fresh, healthy food

Farmers’ markets spring up like mushrooms at this time of year, and why not? My friend Sue and I were discussing that over lunch, and agreed they serve as a good source of healthy food, crafts and more. Getting your produce locally, including organic produce, is better for the planet. You’ve saved the gas that would normally be used to ship the produce you buy. Plus you can support the local economy when you buy directly from the farmers/artisans, starting, in most cases, this weekend.

An article in Metro Parent’s May issue lists a number of well-known farmers’ markets; one mentioned is the very large Royal Oak Farmers' Market. It’s a favorite of mine, because it features antiques and collectibles in addition to food products, including potted herbs for your garden. (The chocolate mint plant I bought there is very hardy.)

Some good markets not mentioned in the article include Oakland County Farmers' Market (also huge). I enjoy the farmers’market in downtown Brighton Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (so popular you may have to walk a bit from where you actually find a parking space!) as well as the one on East Liberty Street in Milford , which runsThursdays from 3 to 8 p.m. May 6 to Oct. 21. You’d think the markets would all be on weekends, but that’s not the case. Wednesday’s Walled Lake Farmers’ Market and Thursday’s Wixom Farmers' Market are among the exceptions.

Since I live in western Oakland County, the Livingston County markets are more convenient to me than many in-county markets. I plan to go to the Saturday Hartland Farm & Flea Market and Howell’s Sunday market early and often.

If you want to find even more farmers’ markets, regardless of where you live, try 2009 Farmers' Markets in Oakland County or Michigan Farmers Markets website. (The last link should be spelled farmers' markets, but I went with the legal name.)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Product review: The best single-serve applesauce is ...

I have found that large-scale applesauce jars tend to get shoved to the back of our refrigerator over a period of two to three days, and, when I finally find it again, it's usually morphed into a mad science experiment growing pink mold. Why applesauce generates pink mold is something I don't quite understand. Any scientists out there: please refrain from explaining. I really don't care, either. It's simply an aggravating fact of life.

For this reason, unless I am making a recipe requiring large amounts of applesauce, I stick to single-serve applesauce snacks. Maybe you have children who inhale a whole jar of applesauce at one shot, but even with three adults in the house, this shoving the big jar in the back of the frig phenomenon occurs and the applesauce spoils. So, while generally, this would be your most expensive option, I personally find single-serving applesauce a better buy.

One day a couple of years ago, while cruising down the aisles of Wal-Mart, I discovered the mother lode of Mott's Healthy Harvest brands, which include no-sugar-added, flavored applesauce. I tried some and it has become one of my favorite snacks, substituting for the artificially-sweetened rice pudding snacks I was eating a little too regularly. Each one is approximately one serving (1/2 cup) of applesauce, making for no-brainer portion control (my favorite kind). Admittedly, unless you're topping it with frozen Cool Whip Light (my father's favorite trick for an apple-pie-like dessert), it's hard to overeat applesauce.

My favorite Mott's single-serve applesauce is a tie between Healthy Harvest Peach Medley (which includes peach and mango puree in addition to applesauce) and Healthy Harvest Strawberry flavor. Make sure it says Healthy Harvest and no sugar added on the package, or it will be sweetened applesauce. (The plain Granny Smith Healthy Harvest also is good, but it's just not my favorite kind; however, the enclosed photo gives you an idea of what the single-serving package looks like.)

I've tried Musselman's; I've tried store brands; however, I keep coming back to Mott's single-serve applesauce (and that was before additional flavors were available. I think it's the best (although the new no-sugar added brands I just saw on Amazon look intriguing and I may someday revise my opinion).

A helpful hint: if you buy the large container of applesauce and are valiantly trying to use it up, stir in a pinch of pumpkin pie spice into each serving to perk up the flavor.