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, July 9, 2010

Mom's "Birthday Cake": Three Berry Shortcake

Today is my mom's birthday. We had Three Berry Shortcake, because it's been hot and no one felt like baking.

Shortcake was made more or less following the directions on Bisquick Heart Smart®, except we used Splenda. They are about 2 to 2 1/2 inches in diameter and rather flat.

Three servings of berry shortcake consisted of:

Approximately 1 1/2 c. mixed berries, cleaned (1/4 c. raspberries, 1/4 cup blueberries and 1 c. halved strawberries)
About 2/3 c. Kraft Cool Whip Light (just enough to cover the berries)
Six thin "shortcakes," halved

To assemble each serving, put one half of one shortcake topped with some of the berry mixture in a serving bowl; repeat layers ending with berry mixture on top.

My parents and I all enjoy this dessert; I find I prefer to use only one split shortcake so I have a higher berry to shortcake ratio.

If you don't care for Cool Whip, you may use frozen yogurt, ice cream or a dairy-free frozen dessert (thaw it slightly first). It also works well with thin slices of angel food cake or one large store-made biscuit (again, cut in half), although you need to leave the berry mixture to soak into the biscuits a bit before serving.

Iced Tea and Company

When I was growing up, sun tea was fashionable. Big glass or plastic jugs with tea bags in them sat on a quite a few porches in the neighborhood; often, it was steeped for a full day in the sunlight. 

That wasn't my favorite tea: I favored Lipton premixed and sweetened iced tea. Now that I'm older, I don't particularly like sweetened tea, unless it's chai, fruit flavored or herbal tea. Most of them have too much sugar.

I've found a few I like iced:
  • Luzianne decaffeinated tea bags: two per tea pot.
Tazo Tea, nearly all flavors. (It's available in several places; it's also brewed by the cup at Starbucks). The sampler is a cheap way to try most of them.

I especially like Tazo Zen tea (unsweetened) as well as the Chai and Passion teas (with a little bit of stevia added). A decaf substitute for the Zen tea involves two decaffeinated green tea bags and one herbal mint tea bag. 

FYI: A tea seller told me you should not brew green tea in boiling hot water (it should be about 170 degrees). If you don't want to use a thermometer, you can put one ice cube in the cup you're brewing it in or two or three to a teapot before steeping the green tea.

Premixed teas I like include Oregon Chai Concentrate and Tazo Chai Spiced Black Tea Concentrate. (It says you get four servings per 32-oz. package; I find it's more like six to eight, depending on how strong I want the tea to be.

For me, Oregon Chai has a slight edge over Tazo Chai, mostly due to the fact that the manufacturer gives you the choice of regular, decaf, slightly sweet and sugar free versions.

These all are great teas to have in your cupboard in case of unexpected company.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Healthier Lattes

In case I haven't mentioned it yet, I'm a big fan of Starbucks coffee. I am not a big fan of the number of calories in a regular soy latte.

Today I got a cup of ice and a grande Verona coffee and made my own iced coffee. It was pretty good, and a bit cheaper than the iced coffee that's already made.

Some time ago, I made a discovery: a hot Cafe Americano with sugar-free or regular syrup (your choice) and a little bit of soy milk tastes just as good (I think possibly better) than a full-on soy latte. It also saves me about a dollar each time I do it. This choice is better for my waistline and my wallet.

It works with most Starbucks coffees, too. I prefer the bold blends. The only way I can tolerate Pike's Place coffee at Starbucks (which is, unfortunately, the type of decaf coffee the company sells in its stores here in Michigan is with (at a minimum) soy milk and either three Sugar in the Raw or a couple of Splenda packets in it. And sometimes I go for the decaf Americano instead (with or without sweetener, depending on my mood).

If you don't care for Starbucks, you still could get any of these drinks at your favorite coffeehouse. Or make them at home (Expresso Roast is a good substitute for the Americano).

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Barbecue: A Historic Viewpoint

Here's a little bonus about the history of grilling (which many of us are undertaking on this day celebrating our freedom). It's an excerpt from John M. Duncan, a Scotsman publisher/bookseller (1795?-1825) from Glasgow, called A Barbecue in Virginia. The description of it on the Library of America's story of the week follows: "Invited to join Busrod Washington
(a favorite nephew of George, and owner of Mount Vernon) for an afternoon

barbecue, Duncan discovered a cotillion-like 'rural fĂȘte.'"

It includes some historic explanation of barbecues in America as well as a link to the actual story, originally part of the 1823 work Travels through Part of the United States and Canada in 1818 and 1819, which is reprinted in O'Neill's bestseller, American Food Writing: An Anthology With Classic Recipes.

Happy grilling and a Happy 4th to all!