Blasts from the Past

Good evening, Dear Readers:

This being Memorial Day weekend, many people are getting ready for the first official holiday of summer–even if they’re still dealing with Old Man Winter. Sorry about that!

I’ve had an up-and-down week, and now I’m a bit cranky. While I was happy about the six interviews I had this week with some good feedback, yesterday my browser crashed, and I had to install something else. A couple of other things have gone wrong, making it worse. Then I went looking for something and could NOT find it no matter how hard I tried. But I found it today, just in time for summer.

Please remember that Memorial Day is not about cookouts, beach trips and parties. It’s a remembrance for the service men and women who have fought and died on behalf of America. While there isn’t anything wrong with having a barbecue, the real meaning of the “day off” is somber. There are a number of men and women who didn’t come home, and many more who are stationed overseas and won’t be able to make that barbecue. While I do occasionally comment on Facebook that I love the Marines–and I do–the day is not just a “day off.” Thank you to all the US service personnel who work everyday for the defense and betterment of this country.

Now, if you are planning a barbecue, I can offer a little something–a quick-to-make barbecue rub from the pages of Martha Stewart Living magazine, August 2002. (I kept thinking it was earlier in the year.) It wasn’t in the recipe section–it was a Good Thing, so that recipe wasn’t on the website (not that I could find.)

Me and the GER had started dating, and we were doing the entertaining at each other’s place. He used a barbecue rub that had sugar in it, and while I consumed it, I was lucky enough to find this recipe for the next barbecue. I have been making it every since, and always have some in the pantry. In a bowl, combine the following:

  • 1 cup chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Keep it in an airtight container at room temperature.

This rub is not hot, and best of all–no sugar or weird chemicals! It gives a wonderful smoky flavor to beef, chicken, pork (especially baby-back ribs) or anything you want to put on the grill. Don’t know what it would do to, say, pineapple wedges, but that’s your call if you’re of a mind to do that. Couple it with some sugar-free barbecue sauce and you’re in business.

After I’d moved in his house, though, for one 4th of July I’d bought some baby-back ribs at Central Market, did the rub and sugar-free barbecue sauce, and he said they were the best ribs he’d ever had! Of course, he also asked me to get some sausages while I was at CM, and I got some of their delicious chicken sausages, which he in turn burned to a crisp. GRRRRRR. . . .

Yes, it’s good. Even the GER likes it. I haven’t decided if I’m going to do the barbecue thing, but if I do, I’m just going to get some chicken leg quarters and put them in the toaster oven, even though I have an Old Smokey charcoal grill. It’s great, I just don’t feel like messing with it. Maybe for the 4th of July.

I also happen to have some fresh thyme, so I want to use it to make more of this stuff. The rub lasts forever, long as you keep it in that airtight container.

Now from another blast from my past. Don’t worry, it’s not an ex-husband. That’s a different blog, right?  🙂

When you’re unemployed, you have a lot of time to think. This can be an asset or a liability, especially when you’re on your own. Recently I signed up for a free month of Amazon Prime. I needed something, and with the free shipping it was cheap.  This week that trial period ended, and yes, I remembered to cancel it–I put a reminder on my calendar. Gone until the next time I can sign up for it–like, when I need something with free shipping. Might be a while.

This week I remembered a cookbook I bought when it was new, and wondered if it was even available. Well, surprise, it sure is. My original 1982 copy was falling apart and really beat up, and I tossed it. Today its replacement arrived. It’s got a bit of cover wear, but the pages are clean and the binding is tight. Almost new, and for $4, and no shipping, it was definitely a bargain.

The old book is called The 20-Minute Natural Foods Cookbook by Sharon Claessens. It was one of the first cookbooks I ever owned, and when it was new I was married about a year. . .the first time. Ms. Claessens actually had several cookbooks in the 1980s, and one in 1997. I had this one and her 1985 Lose Weight Naturally Cookbook, which I used until the mid-90’s, when someone asked me for it and I never saw it again; I probably gave it to her, I don’t remember. I had some favorite recipes in that one, but I’m not buying it again.

No, I’m not on an 80’s kick. While I do listen to online radio stations (i.e. Pandora, iHeartRadio) that feature 80’s music, I also listen to classical piano, jazz piano and smooth jazz. While I’m driving, it could be any toe-tapping stuff, but mostly Def Leppard and The Monkees. I don’t want to fall asleep, either.

See, my parents were avid readers of Prevention magazine, back when it was about health and wellness, and didn’t have many pictures in it. I subscribed and loved it, but I dropped my subscription about 1999, when it was clear the magazine became more about prescription drugs than actual health and wellness and the recipes were becoming awful–frozen hash browns and canned salmon? (They now have a sex column, but nearly every magazine does, except Martha Stewart’s magazines. For now.) But I got on Rodale’s main mailing list, and I got every mailer for every new book out there; never mind how many I bought, and some, I still have.

This book I received today was a favorite, even though many of the recipes use a lot of bread and wheat flour. Pita bread is, far as I know, normally white bread, and in the early 80’s, well, healthy ingredients were difficult to find, especially in New Orleans. Whole Foods was a little bitty store in the French Quarter the size of a 7-11. I don’t remember how I finally found something called agar-agar, which also goes by another name I can’t remember. That’s a vegetable gelatin used to thicken up stuff in a number of her recipes. I was so happy the day I found it, and made that Blueberry Peach Pie on page 110, or the beautiful Strawberry Pie on 111 that’s pictured on the front cover.

Now, what to do about the Prebaked Granola Shell that goes under the pie? Well, I think since it’s only a half cup of whole wheat flour, I can likely replace it with ground flaxseeds and have much the same result. Maybe I’ll try it this summer–assuming I can find agar-agar, or whatever it’s alternately called. It’s available in health food stores and Asian groceries. I have a health food store nearby in Nassau Bay, and a Hong Kong Market about 10 miles in the other direction. There are a myriad of health food stores in Houston, I’m sure someone knows what it is. When I get ambitious enough to make this again, I’ll go looking for it. Right now. . .nah. Even though the fruit part of the pie is really delicious.

I think I can Wheat Belly-up some of the recipes that call for flour. Maybe not all, but some. But that’s why I have Dr. Davis’ books.

Irony alert: Rodale also publishes Wheat Belly.

I should point out that there are no pictures IN this historical, 32-year old book like cookbooks you buy now. There is a (dated) picture of the author on the front cover with the Strawberry Pie, some stuffed bell peppers, some drinks (I’m guessing the Citrus Medley on page 102), roasted chickens, bread, muffins, and some assorted green stuff. It’s a very plain layout with recipes divided by type, preparation time and meal (breakfast, lunch, etc.) Some are 20 minutes or less, like the Pineapple Frappe, some take longer, like soaking beans or baking bread.

I made the Lemon Squares on page 165 many times, and to this day, Neighbor K saves me one when they are leftover from an activity at work. Granted, the ones Ina Garten makes are good, too, but this recipe was. . .my first. However, I’ve never made that Walnut and Raisin Pie on page 164.

Mark Bricklin was the Executive Editor of Prevention at the time, and he described the changing times that were happening.

Wait–what’s a typewriter, again?

Because stay-at-home women were becoming less common, healthy, home cooking was becoming less of a reality. From the foreward: “There must be a better way, we think every night, but the solution seems forever to elude us.” This book, Mr. Bricklin opines, is “the ‘better way’ we have all been seeking. It is a bridge between the reality of our frenzied lifestyle and the ideal of honest, natural foods that taste good and are good for us.”

Mark Bricklin still writes for Prevention, too, but I only found one article on the website. He’s promoting the idea that diabetics should avoid fat, but doesn’t say anything about the very starchy white-flour buns that you get in a fast-food place. DUH–diabetics need to watch their SUGAR, and that bun is basically a sugar overload. I see nothing’s changed much there.

OK, enough of that. . . .

Some of my favorite recipes included Pineapple Chicken Mozambique, which is also on the back cover of the book, and Chicken with Cashews and Snow Peas. Another favorite is Spaghetti with Garlic Salmon Sauce, which is how I started buying canned salmon. Mind you, it was REALLY expensive back in those days, like $5 or more or so a can. It also calls for red salmon, as I am noticing, but I’ve always bought pink salmon in the can, especially since it’s like $2 or $3 now. . Add 3/4 pound of whole wheat spaghetti, egg, parsley, olive oil and 10 cloves of garlic, and you’re ready to fight off vampires. Actually the garlic isn’t strong since you cook it first, and you don’t crush it. Maybe I’ll make it again soon for old times’ sake with some gluten-free pasta.

Oh, I remember this one, Turkey with Peppers and Tomatoes. I made that once for The E Man, and I called it “Wild Turkey Surprise.” I couldn’t resist. Maybe I’ll make that again sometime, maybe for lunch, or when the GER comes over for dinner. Maybe I’ll tell him it’s “Wild Turkey Surprise, too.” And –guess what? It’s gluten free!! Oh, wait, no it isn’t–you dredge the pounded turkey breast in the flour. OK, use something else, like almond flour, garbanzo bean flour or regular gluten-free flour, and now it’s gluten free.

I never tried something called “Creamed Tuna and Peas,” and all these years later, I still won’t. Anything called “creamed,” no thanks.

I also learned to make mayonnaise with this book, although today I prefer Suzanne Somers’ recipe in her first cookbook. There are many recipes for sauces, dressings, side dishes, desserts, and make-ahead stuff like brown rice and cooking beans.

Since it’s getting on summer, here’s another blueberry recipe I liked from page 110.

Blue Gingham Yogurt Delight (Makes 2 servings)

  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1 cup blueberies
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Dash of grated nutmeg
  1. Place chilled yogurt in serving bowl. Wash and add blueberries.
  2. Quarter banana lengthwise, then slice into bowl. Pieces should be similar in size to the blueberries.
  3. Add honey and vanilla, and stir to combine. Dust with a little nutmeg and serve

What to make first? I dunno–whatever I feel like making that uses ingredients I have already.

This book has over 300 kitchen-tested recipes that are simple, pretty healthy, and most that I’ve ever enjoyed are also tasty. Sure, it’s old, but when you just want some food, do you care how old the recipe is?

That’s all for tonight. Please have a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend.

Happy Dining!










Going coconuts!

Hello, Dear Readers:

It’s been a busy week. WordPress is once again telling me to get with it, so here I go. Just so happens I have a topic that I’ve never really written about before: the humble coconut.

The humble coconut!

Delicious and tasty

You’ve seen them in the grocery stores, thinking about buying one even, but wondering about cracking it open and extracting all the tasty bits. But there’s more to it than that twiggy, fuzzy exterior and white flesh.

You might be familiar with the stuff you get in the baking aisle, too–but that’s got plenty of sugar in it, since it’s made for recipes like this one for Lamingtons, which, yes, I made many years ago. Know what? I gave my bud the GER some of them and I do seem to remember he enjoyed the heck out of them, as did the rest of the recipients. I do remember them being VERY tasty too. But I only made them once.

I’ve mentioned before my new favorite sweet, Mounds bars with dark chocolate (not Almond Joy, which has milk chocolate), but I can’t say that I consume a LOT of coconut. I like it, but I can get sick of it, too. For a while I was making some coconut “cookies” with unsweetened coconut, beaten egg whites and SomerSweet, but I soon got sick of those, particularly since they tend to soften and get gummy if you let them sit for more than a day. But the dried stuff keeps in the pantry pretty well.

This week, the esteemed Wall Street Journal ran a story on the benefits of coconut oil. The article called it “better than butter,” but really, that’s primarily if you’re allergic to milk, I think. I say that because both are healthy fats, and the only difference is lactose, or milk sugar, and the fact that butter must be refrigerated. So allergies not withstanding, what’s the difference, right?

I was first introduced to coconut oil about ten years ago when I was living at the GER’s house. I forwarded him an article about something and there was a popup ad from Tropical Traditions, an online purveyor of oil from The Phillippines. He didn’t read the article–he thought I was asking him to buy some, pulled out his credit card and bought a five-gallon bucket of it! Back then it was $65, now it’s doubled in price. But it has a very long shelf life and a high smoke point like olive oil.

Having read that it could replace butter, I, um, well, put it on whole wheat bread and sprinkled Splenda on top. (I know!!) But I got sick of the coconut taste very quickly and stopped doing it. Didn’t know I could fry with it, bake with it, all that, and when I moved out, all I took was a small jar to use on my hands. Not sure what the GER did with the rest of it, I guess he used it up. (I don’t have room for a five gallon bucket anyway.)

Tropical Traditions also makes a number of different personal care products, including hair care. I know this because I got some last time I went to Dr. Davis’ office in The Woodlands. Trust me, you do NOT need much of it! No odor either, so you don’t smell like a tropical drink.

You can also check out their recipe section for all kinds of ways to use coconut, coconut oil, and alternative versions of everyday foods. While I have not tried any of them yet, perhaps I need to go back and look at it again. I think it’s been a while. This one for flourless chocolate chip cookies looks good, but my guess is you’ll have to order the coconut cream concentrate from Tropical Traditions. Chocolate Orange Truffle Pie? That might be good. There’s even a section of gluten free coconut recipes. I need to go look at that soon, too.

Don’t forget, coconut oil features prominently in my favorite Yeast Free Brownies. That’s primarily why I keep it around! (SomerSweet works well in them, too.)

If you’ve heard about coconut oil here and there but don’t know if you want to try it, well, there are a number of factors to consider. This oil is solid when the temp goes below about 75 degrees–that’s why you can replace butter with it in many recipes. If you put it in the fridge for a long time, you can break a window with it. No kidding–if you’re going to cream it with sugar (or like I do, with SomerSweet), you have to let it sit out for a bit so that it’s not “frozen.”

This article really doesn’t tell a whole lot about coconut oil, just gives you a brief overview. But there’s so much more to coconuts.

Oh, and they’re not actually a real “nut.”

One thing you might not know is that coconut oil features prominently in Dr. Hotze’s Yeast Free Diet program for a couple of reasons. First, it’s plant based, so no milk sugar (lactose) to feed the yeast while you’re trying to kill it. Two, the health reasons stated in the article–medium chain fatty acids and all that. Third–something you might not know–is that coconut oil has anti-fungal properties that help with the killing of the yeast in your gut. (It also works in gluten-free cooking and baking, but more on that later.) So it’s healthy for a couple of reasons, not just the no-dairy thing.

I am not dissing dairy. Far from it. But if milk/dairy has you saying “shiver me timbers,” coconut oil can help you out. Yes, I know, unless you’re allergic to coconut.

If you’re interested in doing a yeast cleanse, you can find Dr. Hotze’s cookbook on the subject here. The book describes how and why to do a yeast cleanse, lists the prescriptions you need as well as how long to take them. You don’t need to be a guest at the Hotze Clinic to buy the book or do the program. The two prescriptions, Hypo Nystatin-A and Fluconazole, are readily available at pharmacies nationwide; you just need a doctor to write you a prescription. You’ll need a 90-day supply of the first, and 3 weeks of the second. (I had one doctor give me one month of the first and one week of the second; that’s like taking antibiotics just until you feel better, not the whole prescription.)

I’ve done the yeast-free diet many times. The first time had me swearing, because I was so hungry! But–that was because I didn’t have the instruction book and wasn’t ready for it. I know I need to do it when I start getting heartburn. I don’t GET heartburn from eating stuff like tomato sauce and chili. If you do have that problem, or other alimentary issues, consider it. And, actually, Dr. Hotze’s website has this quick primer on yeast overgrowth so you can learn more and see if it would work for you.

It probably can’t hurt. I say that as someone who has done a couple of rounds of yeast free successfully; those prescriptions aren’t harmful, either. Anyway. . . .

I can’t personally vouch for this, but there is a lady who began giving her husband coconut oil when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Dr. Mary Newport gave her husband coconut oil, and quickly improved. That’s not to say it’s a definite CURE for Alzheimer’s (or anything else, for that matter), but if you go to her home page and scroll down to the bottom, you’ll see her husband’s “clock test” and how he improved in 37 days from coconut oil. Unless you are allergic to coconut, this probably couldn’t hurt–but it’s a matter of using your own judgment.

Remember, I’m not a doctor/nurse/medical person, just a patient who reads and pays attention. I only present information, and it’s up to you to review it before use. I present info because there might be one person somewhere who happens to read it and it was the very thing they were looking for. Happened to me once or twice, too.

Anyway. . . .

I’d forgotten about Dr. Newport until I read the comments in the WSJ article, which are quite interesting. (No funny stuff this time.) However, be forewarned that many doctors still ascribe to the “all fat is bad” mantra, which explains many modern illnesses.  Don’t get me started. I don’t follow the “healthy new trends” anymore because many are bogus and none seem to be particularly helpful. I’m someone who used to eat white flour pasta because it was “healthy and low fat,” OK? Guess what? Healthy, it ain’t.

Anyway. . .

Now, some time ago I bought a bag of coconut flour for one of the Babycakes recipes, and have only used it for a couple of things (including the infamous Pineapple Upside Down Cake.) One of my writer friends told me about a book specifically for coconut flour and gluten free stuff, called Cooking with Coconut Flour: A Delicious Low-Carb, Gluten-Free Alternative to Wheat by Bruce Fife. There is actually a second book by Bruce Fife, but I don’t yet have either one of them. However, the friend raved about it, since she’s also diabetic, and interested in solutions.

When I put the first book on my wish list, I also found this one, since I’m also a fan of almond flour. Oh, and there’s one by the same author for just cupcakes. I don’t have either one of those yet, either. One day.

Oh, wait–this wasn’t supposed to be a gluten free blog post. It was supposed to be about coconuts. OOOPS.

I have only once had a can of coconut milk in my pantry, used for a slow-cooker recipe from Everyday Food. It was a curry or something. Made it once, never again.

I have also seen coconut water, but I dunno what that is or what it’s for. There are so many beverages with all kinds of things thrown in that I don’t want anything but a cup of tea, for heaven’s sake.

Now, if you’re wondering about the cost of coconut oil, well, it’s not like Wesson’s hydrogenated oil, the trans-fat kind of thing. I was in HEB a couple of days ago and can show you this:

Two different brands, two different prices.

Two different brands, two different prices.

I’ve been buying LouAna’s coconut oil for several years. I called the company one day and it is NOT hydrogenated, although it has no coconut taste. When I started buying it, the price was, no kidding, $1.98 a quart. As its popularity has grown, so has the tab. I mean, overnight the price kept going up to where it is now. I’ve seen it as much as $7 a quart in Kroger.

Remember too that the one next to the LouAna is the kind that you get in a health food store–extra virgin organic, and all that. Central Market has its own brand, as does Kroger, but it may be repackaged Tropical Traditions for all I know. With more and more people looking for healthier options and alternate ingredients, it’s available in more and more places, as well as online. Even if you live out in the middle of nowhere, if you can get mail or UPS, you can get some.

And you thought coconuts were just for tropical drinks!

Now you know more than you did before on the benefits of coconut. Next week there might be a new weight loss pill made from coconut, but I’d rather just eat it.

Oh, I forgot about them coconut-breaded shrimp at Joe’s Crab Shack, too. Those were really good. (It was a long time ago.)

So there you have it, Ladies and Gentlemen, a quick primer on the various uses and benefits of coconut–beyond what the Wall Street Journal told you. It’s not just for candy and daiquiris anymore, so enjoy some when you can, if not for sweetness, for its health benefits.

Happy Dining!








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