Monthly Archives: July 2011

Mary’s Memo #2224

      On one of our trips to New York, we ate at Food Network star Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill and left the restaurant with a copy of the Mesa Grill Cookbook. Mary Ann made a recipe from the cookbook recently: Roasted Asparagus and Mushroom Salad with Toasted Pecans, Blue Cheese and Red Chile-Mustard Vinaigrette. Her presentation looked just like the colored photograph with whole stalks of roasted asparagus resting on mesclun green-roasted mushroom mixture. It was delicious but a little on the labor intensive side to fix. Instead, I cut the spears in thirds to roast. Vinaigrette called for ancho chile powder but I used regular chili powder to save money although McCormick ancho chile powder is available at Chief and Rays. Original recipe called for several kinds of mushrooms that add to the cost so I limited the kind I used in my adapted version.


20 medium spears fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into thirds1 lb. cremini and button mushrooms, cleaned and coarsely chopped1/4 cup olive oilKosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste4 oz. mesclun or baby greens torn into bite-size piecesRed Chili-Mustard Vinaigrette4-oz. crumbled blue cheese1/4 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped     Preheat oven to 425 degree F. Spread out the asparagus and mushrooms on separate baking sheets and drizzle each with 2 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the mushrooms on bottom rack of the oven and the asparagus on the top rack. Roast asparagus until crisp cooked, about 8 minutes, depending on size of stalk (medium stalk preferred instead of thin). Roast mushrooms, stirring once, until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Combine mesclun greens, asparagus and mushrooms in a large bowl. Toss gently with enough of the vinaigrette to moisten. Sprinkle with cheese and toasted pecans.

Red Chili-Mustard Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup red wine vinegar1 heaping Tbsp. Dijon mustard1 Tbsp. chili powder2 tsp. honeyKosher salt and freshly ground pepper1/2 cup canola oil     Whisk together the vinegar, mustard, chili powder,
honey, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the oil until emulsified or very thick. Dressing can be made ahead of time and refrigerated.
Source: Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill Cookbook recipe.

     I don’t know what I did before rotisserie chickens because they do save a lot of time when I need cooked chicken for a recipe. Remember that it’s easier to strip a rotisserie chicken as soon as you bring it home if you’re planning to use it in a recipe.
     If you don’t imbibe replace wine with 1 cup of apple juice or chicken broth.

6 Tbsp. melted butter, divided4 cups cubed sourdough bread (Pepperidge Farm preferred)1/3 cup Parmesan cheese2 Tbsp. fresh chopped flat leaf parsley2 medium sweet onions, sliced thin(1) 8-oz. package sliced mushrooms1 cup white wine (same amount of apple juice or chicken broth can be used)(1) 10-3/4-oz. can Healthy Request cream of mushroom soup4-oz. jar chopped pimiento, well drained2-1/2 cups cubed rotisserie chicken     Toss 4 tablespoons melted butter with sourdough
bread cubes, parsley and Parmesan cheese; set aside. Sauté onions in remaining butter in large skillet over mediumhigh heat. Cook 15 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently. Add mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes. Whisk together wine, mushroom soup and pimientos and add with chicken to onion-mushroom mixture. Cook 5 minutes, stirring  constantly. Spoon into lightly buttered 9-inch square baking dish. Top with croutons. Bake in preheated 400 degree F oven for 15 minutes or until croutons are golden brown. Recipe makes 4 servings.
Source: Adapted from January 2006 Southern Living
recipe. Download PDF of Memo #2224

Mary’s Memo #2223

     After starting with 48 cases of cookbooks, 24 books per carton, there are only 35 copies of “Thank You, I’m Glad You Liked It” available (could be less when you read this). They won’t be put on sale because buyers are still paying $16.00 for their copy. The cookbook can be purchased at the Bryan Area Chamber of Commerce office in Bryan or directly from me when I am working weekends at the Bryan Chief. No second printing is planned. If you’ve postponed buying a cookbook I suggest that you get it while the supply lasts. I am certainly grateful to all who bought cookbooks since November, 2004.

     Sometimes I’m asked questions that I can’t answer without further research. Such was the case with bitter gourd that I’d never heard of. Bitter gourd is a vegetable popular in Asian and Indian cooking. It resembles a cucumber. A member of the squash family, bitter gourd contains an array of vitamins
and minerals, including vitamin A, B1, B2 and C, along with iron, calcium, copper, phosphorus and potassium. Young bitter gourds are best for cooking when they’re bright green. Beneath the skin of the bitter gourd the flesh is white and contains small fibrous seeds that are removed before cooking.

     Adults in a recent study who shopped for food, clothes and other items more than once a week or even just window shopped had a much lower risk of dying than those who didn’t go to stores. This was the case even when researchers took into account poor health that may have kept them home. Daily trips had the most benefit.
Source: Consumer Reports on Health, July 2011.

     If counting calories and carbohydrates leaves you confused or feeling like meal planning is too much hard work, a simpler approach called “The New American Plate,” may be just the tool to help you develop a healthier diet and manage your weight. The concept was developed by the American Institute for Cancer Research to address the two main concerns of
healthy eating: food proportions and food proportion sizes.
     The New American Plate recommends meals that are no less than two-thirds vegetables, fruits, whole grains and/or beans, and no more than one-third lean animal protein. But dietitian Carly Trueger, RD, with New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell, suggests an even larger percentage of fruits, vegetables and grains. “You should fill at least 75 percent of your plate with plant-based foods,” she says. Rather than attempt to radically alter your eating habits in one day, Trueger suggests making smaller changes a week at a time until your plate looks like the New American Plate.


     There is no better time of year to enjoy fresh fruits. Most are grown in the USA now and the closer the source, the better the quality! Not only is Minted Fruit Salad colorful but it’s a refreshing choice for hot summer meals. Serve with baked pita chips sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar if you can find them.

1 ripe cantaloupe, cut into bite-size chunks1 pint fresh blueberries, washed, well drained and picked over for stems1 pound strawberries, hulled and quartered2 ripe red Anjou pears, cored and cut into bite-size pieces1 cup orange juice1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves for garnish      Combine prepared fruits with orange juice. Cover and store in the refrigerator. Add chopped mint just before serving. Recipe makes 10 to 12 servings.
     Adapted from recipe in Around the Table by Ellen Wright; Harvard Common Press, $27.95/hard back.

A lot of us grow our own herbs so I have everything in the summer to make daughter Mary Ann’s Herb Dip. Serve with assorted raw vegetables dippers. Use reduced-fat mayonnaise for a lower calorie version.


1 cup mayonnaise (I use Hellmann’s Light)1 cup cottage cheese (I prefer Daisy brand)1 clove garlic, minced1/4 cup snipped chives2 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf parsley(1-1/2 teaspoons dried parsley)1 tablespoon finely chopped dill(3/4 teaspoon dried dill weed)1 tablespoon finely chopped basil(3/4 teaspoon dried basil)Dash of Worcestershire sauceDash of bottled hot pepper sauce     Place mayonnaise, cottage cheese, garlic, chives, herbs, Worcestershire and hot sauce in a blender container or food processor bowl. Cover and blend or process until smooth. Turn into storage container. Cover and chill. Recipe makes 1-3/4 cups dip.
Source: Mary Ann Thaman via old Better Homes and Garden or Southern Living recipe. Download PDF of Memo #2223

Mary’s Memo #2222

     Many muffin cookbooks offer a large number of recipes, yet few actually deliver on a truly diverse and wide array of flavors and options. That said 750 Best Muffin Recipes by Camilla V. Saulsbury is a truly happy exception! Discover nine innovative chapters including Muffin Classics, Good Morning Muffins, Decadent Coffeehouse Muffins, Lunch and Supper Muffins, Farmers’ Market Muffins, Global Muffins, Superfood Muffins, Gluten-Free Muffins and Vegan Muffins. From the Farmers’ Market chapter try Vidalia Onion Muffins.

1 cup all purpose flour1 cup quick-cooking oatmeal1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder1/2 teaspoon salt1/4 cup granulated sugar1 egg3/4 cup milk1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted2 teaspoons fresh rosemary2/3 cup chopped Vidalia onion1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted     Preheat oven to 400ºF. Grease 12-cup muffin pan. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, oats, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, egg, milk, butter and rosemary until well blended. Stir in onion, cheese and pecans. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just blended.
Divide batter equally between prepared muffin cups. Bake for 16 to 20 minutes or until tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then transfer to the rack to cool. Recipe makes 12.
Source: 750 Best Muffin Recipes by Camilla V. Saulsbury; Robert Rose Inc., $24.95/soft back.


     Absolutely nothing is wrong with plain water from the faucet but judging by how much soda, so-called health drinks, bottled tea and bottled water that customers buy, a lot of shoppers don’t hold plain water in as high regard as I do. Having said this I do admit to keeping regular (not diet) root beer in my refrigerator to make an occasional float, orange juice by the carton because I’m to drink 8-ounces per day, and regular V-8 juice just because I like it.
     Sports drinks may be a good choice for athletes needing to replace minerals but Baylor University reported that a football player consumed too much potassium via sports drinks and it brought on an irregular heart beat. Sports drinks also contain sodium as well as significant concentration of carbohydrates and calories.
     The majority of people would be better off with our best natural resource: water!MOST FOOLED BY “SEA SALT,” WRONG ABOUT SODIUM SOURCES
     Makers of TV commercials about fries and other products seasoned with “sea salt” know their audience: According to a new American Heart Association survey, 61% of Americans erroneously think that sea salt is a healthier, lower-sodium alternative to regular salt. In fact, sea salt is the same sodium chloride, simply harvested from seawater than mined. The US public is equally confused, the survey found, about the primary source of dietary sodium: 46% blamed the salt shaker, when in fact most dietary sodium comes from salt in processed foods. Fewer than a quarter of the respondents knew that the heart association recommends a maximum of 1,500 mg for sodium per day.
Source: Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter, July 2011.

     McCormick’s Two Potato Salad with Toasted Pecans got “thumbs up” from most tasters at the Bryan Chief. Recipe said to cook sweet potatoes and russet potatoes together but not to overcook. I found it easier to regulate the doneness by cooking the sweet potatoes in lightly salted water first and the russet in
the same water second. I reserved the toasted pecans and added just before serving.

1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed (2 medium large should do it but take time to weigh on the produce dept. scale)1 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and cubed (I used 3 med. ones)1/2 cup canola oil1/2 teaspoon lime zest2 tablespoons lime juice2 tablespoons cider vinegar1 tablespoon packed brown sugar1 teaspoon ground ginger1/2 teaspoon kosher salt1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg1 cup chopped celery1/2 cup chopped red onion1/2 cup toasted pecans      Bring sweet potatoes to a boil in lightly salted water in large saucepan or Dutch oven until just tender but not overcooked. Remove from water with a slotted spoon and drain in colander. Add russet potato cubes to water on stove and cook until tender (it’s not going to take as much time because water is already heated). Remove with slotted spoon and cool slightly in colander. Meanwhile in a large bowl whisk together oil, zest, juice, vinegar, brown sugar, ground ginger, salt, and nutmeg until well blended. Add potatoes; toss to coat well. Gently stir in celery and onion. Add toasted pecans just before serving. Salad can be served immediately or refrigerated until ready to serve. Recipe makes 8 servings.
Source: Adapted from recipe. Download PDF of Memo #2222

Mary’s Memo #2221

     I haven’t read a Culinary Institute of America cookbook that I didn’t like and the newest, Cooking for One, by Mark and Lisa Erickson, is no exception! For countless people, cooking for one is a fact of daily living. While it might appear to be a daunting task, with some key strategies and a bit of creativity, cooking for one can become a fun and rewarding
activity. Chefs Mark and Lisa Erickson, both Culinary Institute of America alumni, have not only assembled an impressive collection of recipes and techniques but Cooking for One shows you how to plan and create satisfying meals which are as simple to prepare as they are delicious! They’ve also followed the seasons taking full advantage of the bounty of ingredients available throughout the year.
     Summer recipes include Mediterranean Rice Salad with Spinach. This salad can easily become an entrée with the addition of a few cubes of feta cheese and slices of tomato and cucumber on the side.


3/4 cup rice, preferably basmati1 small scallion with 2 inches green top, thinly sliced1 tablespoon currants1-1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided2 cups coarsely chopped fresh spinach1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice1/4 teaspoon lemon zestSalt and ground pepper as needed1 teaspoon toasted pine nuts     Combine the rice, scallions and currants in a bowl. Set aside. Heat 1/2 teaspoon olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the spinach and cook, stirring until just wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, lightly squeezing out excess moisture. Add the drained spinach to the rice. Whisk remaining teaspoon of olive oil together with the lemon juice and zest. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then pour over the rice-spinach mixture. Toss to coat evenly and adjust seasoning if needed. Sprinkle the salad with toasted pine nuts. Serve at once. Source: Culinary Institute of America Cooking for One by Mark and Lisa Erikson, Lebhar-Friedman Books, 2011, $24.95/soft back.

      Many of you are familiar with Anne Byrn, the Cake Mix Doctor, and her series of award winning cookbooks featuring recipes that start with a cake mix. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that she has her own cake mixes now, Anne’s OldFashioned Yellow Cake Mix and Anne’s Deep Dark Chocolate Cake Mix. Her cake mixes contain only the best ingredients (just 5 or 6) with no additives, but they cannot be called “all natural” because she’s used bleached flour instead of unbleached. Anne thinks bleached flour is an essential ingredient in light cakes. For more information on how to order the cake mixes send questions or comments to or call toll free 1-855-225-3649.

      I see a lot in the Bryan produce department, some
of it good and some of it appalling! First, I never tasted grapes or cherries before the e-coli scare because I don’t taste anything without washing it first. But many of you do and seem to think that rubbing a grape or cherry with your fingers makes it safe to eat but not me! A company called Joseph Joseph has a colander that I bought recently that hooks onto my double sink divider and it’s even better than a strainer because it hangs over the sink, not in it. For other fruits and vegetables I could not be without a vegetable brush and I run the brush through the dishwasher frequently.
      I haven’t done sprouts, alfalfa or bean, for a long time and they’ve been implicated in an outbreak that has killed 31 people and sickened nearly 3,100 in Europe. Though they add a nice crunch and are loaded with protein and vitamins, they carry a real risk. To be safe, cook or stir-fry them.


     Have this dessert in the freezer for unexpected company. Ice cream is always good but Ice Cream Dessert is even better!


1/2 cup butter (1 stick)1/2 to 1/3 cup slivered almonds1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar1 cup flaked coconut1-1/2 cups Rice Chex®, crushed fine2 quarts vanilla ice cream, softened     Melt butter in saucepan over low heat. Lightly brown the almonds in butter. Add brown sugar and stir until melted. Add coconut and crushed Rice Chex®. Pat half the mixture into 2-quart oblong dish. Spoon softened ice cream evenly over crumbs. Top with remaining crumb mixture. Cover with foil ands freeze 24 hours. Recipe makes 12 servings. Download PDF of Memo #2221