Special sh#% holiday gift shopping

Special sh#% holiday gift shopping

I saw these bottles and thought it was TOTAL GENIUS marketing. A Texas company called Special Sh$% is making all sorts of seasonings and gift packs, just in case you – or a close frenemy – need a little bit of  savory sh&^ in your life. (Or your kitchen.) I can’t speak for the quality of the ingredients, at 12.95/bottle, I’ll wait for someone to give me a jar of my own some...
Sweet on sauerkraut

Sweet on sauerkraut

Every couple of Saturday mornings we go to the Cabrillo Farmer’s Market, where the Kids breakfast on loaded baked potatoes and sample the offerings from local cheesemongers and I make a beeline for a shot of Farmhouse Culture’s kraut juice. More often than not come home with a bottle. This is the real thing, the original superfood, boldly flavored and so loaded with goodness you can actually feel you blood cells dancing for hours afterward. Especially the kimchi juice – cabbagegingergarlicradish all condensed in a tiny cup. My notion of sauerkraut used to be clear mushy sweetly tangy ribbons of precooked cabbage that came packaged in plastic bags. The ones my mom used to buy and heat up with Polish sausage and boiled potatoes. You too? Then toss that idea out the window. It’s so . . .  last century. Or at least mid-last century. Real sauerkraut is the stuff of tradition, of home preservation, of real foods – crunchy and aromatic, and, because it’s fermented, not boiled it’s a raw food, loaded with healthy microbes and micronutrients. Plus, and most importantly, it tastes great. I was awakened to this new-old wave of sauerkraut after reading Burkhard Bilger’s profile of “fermentation fetishist” and raw food activist Sandor Katz, AKA Sandorkraut. He’s quite a passionate and fascinating guy, author of The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved, The Art of Fermentation, and Wild Fermentation. He argues that we’re killing ourselves with cleanliness: pasteurization, processing, packaged prepared consumables. He’s onto something; quite a bit of recent research points to our gut microbes acting as an 11th organ system. So fermented sauerkraut is something I’d want to...
This powdered pea protein is delicious

This powdered pea protein is delicious

Have you ever fallen into this trap – the one that begins with a resolution to eat more vegetables, to try a detox diet, to lose a few pounds or bulk up, or to pack your kids’ diet with more nutrition than humanly possible just by eating? I used to. Every now and then I’d feel some tug of not-healthful-enough-guilt, sometimes making a pot of that infamous cabbage soup, sometimes something buying something like whey protein or flax meal, things that get tossed after some period of time because, well, they really don’t taste very good in the recipes I like to make.  Yogurt or sherbet make excellent additions to smoothies. Fish oil, not so much. It happened a few weeks ago, for the first time in years. I was at NOURISH in Santa Cruz, a really fabulous place if you every get a chance to stop in, waiting for a massage. Their berry tea blend was naturally sweet and soothing, and I amused myself by browsing the dietary supplements while waiting. For some reason, the powdered pea protein from Source Naturals caught my eye and my imagination.   Kid Two had decided to give vegetarianism a try and he likes peas, so it seemed like something I may rationally sneak into his smoothies to bulk up the nutrition. I couldn’t quite bring myself to do that to him, though. Peas and berries? Big ick. So the container sat on my counter for a couple of weeks, mocking me, destined as money down the drain. Until, on a whim, I tried whisking a couple of heaping tablespoonfuls into homemade...

Should You Choose Glass or Plastic Bottles In The Kitchen?

The debate over which type of bottles to use for your kitchen needs has long raged. Should you choose glass bottles for keeping your condiments, preserves and grains, or should you choose plastic bottles for a lighter-weight alternative? In reality, both types of bottle can be used in the home for kitchen storage, and both have their particular advantages over the other. Much of the decision whether to use glass or plastic bottles for your kitchen purposes will swing on what you are looking to store, and the duration of storage you envisage. Image source: http://www.astylishdesign.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/GreenGlassBottles.jpg Glass bottles can be used for storing a variety of liquids and powders. Glass bottles tend to be more robust than plastic bottles, and they tend to be much heavier pieces of home ware. This means that glass bottles invariably last longer than their plastic counterparts. If you are storing preserves, for example, glass is the best type of container in which to house these contents. This ensures your jar or bottle can be stored in a cupboard for as long as necessary, with no concern about the contents going off. However, glass bottles do have a few obvious drawbacks. Firstly, glass bottles can and do smash from time to time, which can be dangerous (not to mention fatal for the contents). The fact that glass bottles are weighty in the first instance makes them heavier to lift, and move, and more bulky to store. In these circumstances, it is also an option to choose plastic bottles, which offer similar storage properties in a softer, smash-resistant container. Any storage container or utensil that...

How do you choose a bottle of wine?

We have friends over fairly often for dinner, and I always love it when they bring wine. I don’t care what kind is it, how much it costs, or even how it tastes . . . any choice you make either because the bottle is pretty or it’s a tried and true favorite, whether it’s red or white, robust or dry, even just because it was marked down . . . it’s all good. I figure since there’s no way we could ever begin to sample the wine bounty out there, it’s nice to see what my friends enjoy. No wine snobs here! Here are a few bottles with a range of price points, mostly inexpensive, that have crossed our threshold recently: Line 39 Sauvignon Blanc, Lake County 2010 Layer Cake Malbec Vintage 2010, Mendoza – Argentina Vernaccia Di San Gimignano, 2010 Heitz Cellar 2009 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, St Helena Alamos The Wines of Catena Malbec, Mendoza Argentina 2010 Alfaro Family Vineyards & Winery Estate Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains 2010 Gundlach Bundschu Vintage Reserve Estate Vineyard, 2006 Sonoma Valley Bogle Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Vintage 2010 Mer Soleil Silver Unoaked Chardonnay, 2006 Bonny Doon Albarino, 2010 It’s tough to choose a wine, whether it’s for yourself or for a gift. Instead of worrying about vintage and bouquet and all the wine-tasting niceties, I just taste my way through different California’s different geographic wine regions and see what sticks. Over the years our wineglasses have travelled through the Santa Cruz Mountains, Carneros, Lake County, Santa Lucia Highlands, and are moving on to Arroyo Grande. I’ve found that once you choose a...
Doctor up your pancake mix

Doctor up your pancake mix

Trader Joe’s Buttermilk Pancake Mix is my breakfast shortcut of choice. Just add eggs and water – or eggs, water, and oil for waffles – and presto! Pretty good homemade-tasting pancakes in a few minutes. It’s hard to find a from-scratch recipe that has that same rustic taste, and at just under two dollars per box it’s not a bad deal. I say pretty good, because I’ve figured out a way to doctor up the mix to make them great . . . more dense and toothy, moist and flavorful, even more healthy-feeling. Just follow the waffle recipe on the box: 3 1/2 cups mix, 2 eggs, 1 cup water, 1/2 cup oil. Only swap out 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour for 1/2 cup of the mix mix, substitute 1/2 cup applesauce for the 1/2 cup oil, and stir in 1 cup of oatmeal and 1 tsp cinnamon. Cook them slowly on medium-low heat. Mmmm. What is your favorite doctored-up baking...
Gluten-free soy sauce alternative

Gluten-free soy sauce alternative

If you are looking for a gluten-free soy sauce alternative or just for a couple of new flavors, try these two MSG and preservative-free, non-GMO, Japanese-influenced condiments made by American companies . . . a cross cultural alphabet soup of tasty, healthy goodness. I can hear my mother’s voice in my head asking, “what is that weird stuff you’re eating in California?” But there’s nothing strange or odd-tasing about either one of these items, mom. Sure, they may not carry these in your local Schnucks or Safeway, but they’re readily available in natural food stores and inexpensive to order on Amazon.   The first one is an awesome find for soy sauce fans wanting to eliminate gluten from your diet. Look no more for that perfect substitute . . . Bragg’s Liquid Aminos have come to the rescue. It’s a gluten-free, preservative-free umami-packed goodness in a bottle that looks, smells, and tastes remarkably similar to supermarket soy sauce. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos smells richer and earthier when compared to Kikkoman soy sauce, the consistency is slightly thicker, and the taste is more complex and full-bodied. This succulent flavor is reflected in the serving size; just 1/2 teaspoon of Bragg’s Aminos packs the same punch as 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. In this case, you will want to follow that serving size guideline . . . you actually won’t need, or want, to use more than that. It’s about double the price of an inexpensive soy sauce, but the contents will last much longer than soy. Give it a try. The second one is Eden Shake. Eden Shake is a mixture of...