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.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Product review: Sahale Snacks Nut Blends

I liked trail mix as a kid; however, many traditional mixes have something with corn syrup in them. Although they're still tasty, I'll pass on them these days. (In my opinion corn syrup is one of the more insidious additives to food ... pretty much ever. I don't want it, even in my soda pop, but some of the things it pops up in are surprising, such as clam chowder. Does that need to be sweet? OK, will stop ranting and get back to my post.)

I have tried out a few different kinds of Sahale Snacks, which are healthier, I think than your traditional trail mix with candies in it.

Valdosta (which has pecans in it) and Soccoro (featuring macadamia nuts) are my favorites, although I think they're all worth trying, as they are both healthful and tasty. Starbucks sells single-serve packs of these as part of its healthy snack entourage. Bon appetit!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Veggie pasta, with an emphasis on the veggies

One of the things I loved as a kid was spaghetti salad. I still do, but prefer to vary pasta shapes and the dressing a bit.
Last summer, quite by accident, I made a pasta salad with the things I had on hand. People kept requesting it when I went to parties. I made it with fresh veggies; I made it with frozen veggies. I made it with brown rice pasta, wheat pasta, even a mixture of the two once. It didn't seem to matter. The trick was the dressing.

On Sunday, I learned (in yet another serendipitous "mistake") that you can make pasta salad and vegetable soup at the same time in the same cooking pot; see my earlier post.  

I don't really measure the pasta, the veggies or the dressing, so I can't even call this a recipe. It's more of a suggestion to try for yourself. I know I'm probably driving some cooks crazy right now, though my favorite TV chef, Rachael Ray, will understand me if she ever sees this post. She's totally cool with the "dab of this, dash of that" school of cooking.

I use a base of approximately 1/4-cup Maple Grove Farms' sugar-free Bacon Vinaigrette, mixed with a few sprays of Bragg's Liquid Aminos (a soy product that I often use to substitute for salt-laden soy sauce), about 1 tsp. sesame seed oil, a dash of white balsamic vinegar, about 2 tsp. Maple Grove Farms' Vermont Sugar Free Syrup (or a tsp. of the real thing) and a pea-sized piece of Thai Kitchen's Green Curry Paste (just trust me when I say you want to thoroughly break it up and distribute it through the entire dressing). If you're not into sugar substitutes, use another brand of bacon vinaigrette (or make your own) and real maple syrup.

The dressing should taste like a vinaigrette with a touch of sweetness and a little smoky flavor. If it's too sweet to your taste, add either a little more Bacon Vinaigrette or a splash of white balsamic vinegar. You might want to add some of the cooked pasta water (a tablespoon or so); it helps make the dressing come together.

If you make the dressing more than a couple minutes before you drain the pasta and veggies and stir in it, you will need to beat the dressing again ... thoroughly. Toss the dressing with about 3-4 c. of your choice of a mixture of slightly cooked veggies and pasta. I suggest Oriental-style frozen veggies, which only require quick steaming (1-2 minutes, max), along with  the Tinkyáda brown rice pasta, which keeps its shape better than most pastas. Make this dish a meal: add chopped, cooked chicken.

My preferred ratio for veggies to pasta is between 1 1/2 and 2 times to 1; more dressing clings to pasta than veggies, which may be why I get away with less dressing than you would use for a bowl of pasta salad. 

Whatever pasta and veggies you choose, regardless of the proportions, make sure they are cooked al dente; otherwise, you'll have goopy pasta salad that mushes together.

(Note: Brown rice and whole wheat pastas tend to be an acquired taste. The photo and link I included is for large amounts of this pasta; try a single package first. I buy it in Kroger's organic area or at Whole Foods Market.)

When life hands you a defrosted freezer, make soup

The recent meltdown of the kitchen refrigerator's freezer led to the urgent need to do something with all the vegetables that defrosted.

I tried my hand at a vegetable soup, containing:

-Pacific Natural Foods Organic Low Sodium Vegetable Broth (32 oz.)
-2 C. water
-one 28-oz can of chopped tomatoes
-1/2 package of Tinkyáda brown rice pasta shells (or similar whole wheat shells would work)
-1/2 package of peas and carrots
-1/2 package of peas
-8 oz. green beans
a whole package of California-style vegetables (carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower)
-a whole package of Oriental style vegetables (broccoli, mushrooms, carrots, red peppers and water chestnuts)
-Two kinds of Mrs. Dash: Original Blend and Tomato Basil Garlic (about a tsp. each or to taste)
-McCormick Perfect Pinch, Roasted Garlic and Bell Pepper flavor, approximately 1/4 tsp.

Start by boiling the broth/water mixture in a large soup pot or Dutch oven. When it comes to a boil, start to cook pasta per package directions. When it comes back up to a boil, put in vegetables and add the seasoning, stirring thoroughly. When cooked, if you wish, you may take about three cups of the pasta/vegetable mixture out to dress with your favorite pasta salad dressing. (I did this because I decided I wanted to add tomatoes to my vegetable soup.) Add tomatoes and simmer until warmed through.

I didn't calculate the number of servings, but it was made Sunday and we're still eating the soup. I've pretty much finished off the veggie pasta salad.