Hint-Drink Water. Not Sugar.

Did you know that an estimated 50 billion bottles of water are consumed per year in the US and around 200 billion bottles globally? We are addicted!  I know we didn’t have it as kids and I can remember having a tupperware square water bottle in highschool. weird. I don’t really remember drinking bottled water on a regular basis until I lived in France…then Evian water. It was so chic to walk around with a bottle of Evian water (that was to rehydrate after consuming bottles of wine the night before).That was in 1996. There weren’t many choices. Today there are millions of choices…flavors, sizes, types, bottle shapes, etc. Can you believe that sales of flavored, non-carbonated drinks surpassed soda this year?

A few weeks ago I read an article about how detrimental our bottled water habit is to our environment. From the production of the plastic to the waste that the bottles produce, this consumer product is leaving its mark on the world’s environment. Though recycling rates are up about 3% and the bottle weights are down, our consumption increases daily to offset the positive strides being made.

I actually promised myself that I would STOP drinking bottled water….actlually I told myself I would stop consuming all beverages that come in plastic containers. But being the LAZY, overindulged American that I am, I can’t seem to stop.  And especially not since  today I discovered a wonderful new flavored water by Hint- mango-grapefruit (with the tag line- Drink Water. Not Sugar. That’s some powerful marketing right there). Lightly flavored, no juice, no sweetener. No calories. It really did have a fruity essence that was smoothe-not overpowering. Quite tasty. I mentioned this discovery to a friend and she said she loves to use these flavored waters for a cocktail base in the summer- adding vodka and a lime or lemon or other fresh fruit. interesting. Just when I was ready to throw in the towel on bottles, she had to give me a new cocktail idea.

So- about my resolution to be more environmentally conscience. The first step is to acknowledge that you have a problem. I have now become more educated and am conscious of the problem. Next step is to take action. I can’t give up bottled water cold turkey. No addict ever succeeds cold turkey. So here’s what I will do. I will re-use this water bottle for several weeks and promise myself not to buy another until I have used this one to the point that it is embarrassing to carry it around. Then maybe I can ween myself into an aluminum bottle or perhaps maybe just another fresh plastic one without such a guilty conscious.

Quintessentially Southern

Doughnut peaches. Does it get anymore southern than this?

That’s right- a little round flat doughnut shaped peach! Found them at the Saturday market downtown. They were so interesting in shape and size that I just had to try them. 3/$1 – Can’t beat the price. The woman working the produce stall told me that someone created this fancy little peach for high browed southerners. Ok – I’ll buy that and three peaches please.

Compare the differenence in size between a doughnut peach and a regular peach!

Mother Nature’s Summer Treat

What a weird day.As the dogs and I took our morning stroll, I was greeted this morning by a huge full moon sitting just on the horizon. The tree lined street framed out a huge glowing moon. Mind you…the sun was up- I think the moon was a little confused. It looked like a harvest moon in broad day light. So began mother nature’s work on a bizarre day.

There were strange nuances throughout the day like a weird delay on my keyboard that made typing a little off.

My evening yoga class was a bust as I received a last minute call from my boss. Then as I started to drive home, it began to rain-SIDEWAYS! How is that possible?

So it was no surprise to arrive home to a power outage. What is a girl to do with no power? I have managed to find some candles and a flashlight. Oh and a can of tuna for dinner…

Todays freaky events are just a reminder that we can’t always plan things out. And sometimes the best things are not planned. Like tonight…I brought home all kinds of work..but without power, I have no internet which means no work for me! How am I writing this blog you ask…its my something new- I am trying out word press’s email feature using my little pink crackberry! I’m digging this little break from the norm. Thanks mother nature!

To ensure compliance with requirements imposed by the IRS, we inform you that any tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code.

watermelon

When the weather heats up, what better way to cool off than to enjoy a little cool, sweet watermelon. I can’t imagine summer without the luscious flavor of watermelon. The dog days of summer are here. It’s terribly hot outside. Too hot to do much of anything outside …a perfect time to stretch my culinary knowledge.

Here’s the skinny on watermelon- a delish summer treat: 92% water, mild diuretic, great source of vitamin C. Entire melon is edible, though most Americans only eat the pretty pink part…except in the south where we sometimes pickle the rind (perhaps I’ll try this one day). Have you ever noticed how we southerners will pickle anything? I digress. In Asia, they use the rind in stir-frys . Also notable, the green fleshy part between the skin and the pink is very high in nutrients, though we usually don’t eat this part because of the strange flavor.

I bought a huge watermelon at the market today and  needed to find a fantastic recipe that would highlight this summer treat. Bingo- Watermelon Pork Tacos in Lettuce Wraps. The ingredient list was long and full of asian delights that I have never cooked with: oyster sauce, toasted sesame oil and rice vinegar. A perfect way to stretch my culinary vocabulary.

The prep time was a bit lengthy…chopping, dicing and peeling, but pair the prep with a summer cocktail and some fun toons and the work seems quite minimal. In addition to the toasted sesame oil and the oyster sauce (yes this is a sauce made by an oyster reduction- very rich), the pork marinade had garlic, ginger, serrano chiles, onion powder, red pepper flakes, and soy sauce. The result was a fantastic asian flavor. The salsa included watermelon, cucumbers, an avocado, olive oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar and toasted sesame oil. TASTY. Tangy and sweet.

Though the prep was a bit lengthy, the actual cook time was quite quick. The pork was sliced into medallions and quickly grilled. After grilling, I diced the pork and created a do it yourself buffet to fill the lettuce wraps with this delish combination of pork and watermelon. I can’t even believe how much the wraps tasted like PF Changs….but more fresh and actually much better. A wonderful way to combine Asian, Mexican and American flavors and a nice, light summer dish to be enjoyed in a casual setting with a good beer and great friends.

The Knitting Cirlce

I’ve always wanted to learn to knit. It’s been on my bucket list for about 5 years. One year, I even bought the needles and yarn, but never made the move to learn how to use them. I dream about the beautiful scarfs I would knit and the colors I would blend together. It’s rare that a day passes, even on the hot summer days, that I don’t accent with a scarf (after all it’s an igloo in my office!).

I began reading The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood today. Within the first 20 pages, I was hooked…no pun intended. As cliché as it sounds, this is a story about love, loss and the power of friendship. The story centers around a woman who is struggling to overcome the grief brought on by the loss of her daughter. Her whole world is turned upside down and she turns to knitting to help fill the void she feels within her heart. It’s going to be a quick read. Though the subject matter is very serious, it is a light story and moves quickly. The characters are quickly developed and I can’t wait to read more.

I am inspired. Perhaps one day soon, I’ll be able to report a knitting class.

Just add a little ginger

Though I love the flavor of ginger, I have never cooked with fresh ginger. In my attempts to encourage C to join me on my asian adventure, I am trying to cook a few asian dishes. Tonight, Ina Gartner’s Indonesian Ginger Chicken. The recipe called for 1/2 cup of shredded ginger. Off to the grocery store I go. C’s been traveling for over a week so I have big plans to welcome him home with a fab dinner.

Of course I know what ginger root looks like…sort of like a flat potato with arms and legs. I pick out a rather small piece with about 6 small arms and legs. I didn’t want to purchase too much. Ginger is rather expensive. So I got home and  began attempting to peel the little root. In all of the cooking that I have done and all of the reading I have done…no one ever told me to avoid ginger roots with arms and legs. So I am here today to tell you- avoid the arms and legs. They are a waste. They can’t be peeled and they break off easily. So I was down to the body and barely had a quarter cup. So I halved the recipe…which was fine because I was only cooking 1/2 the amount of chicken.

I forgot to add, I was preparing this the night before so we could just pop in the oven and presto dinner for two! Because I wouldn’t get home until late, I sent C EXPLICIT directions on how to cook this. It did involve changing the oven temperature and REMOVING the tinfoil covering. So when I got home, he said it would be ready in about 20 minutes. Perfect.

The photos on the website looked like chicken with a rich, thick sauce. Tangy from the soy sauce, sweet from the honey and a bit of zing from the ginger. The reviewers on the website RAVED about this delicious easy chicken. I just knew this would be a home run- a new go to recipe for busy nights. So you can imagine my surprise when out of the oven comes shriveled up chicken in a watery sauce. This was not what I expected. I even bought free range chicken for the occasion. I realized as C. was removing the tinfoil….a mistake had been made. He assured me he followed my instructions…but I knew something was amiss. This was not what the Barefoot Contessa would ever serve to Paul.

You’ve figured out the mistake I am sure….C was so happy to be home…he forgot to remove the tinfoil. So…. although  the Indonesian flavor was exoctic, it lacked that thick, rich sauce that was supposed to make it WOW.

I’ll try this one again. On a day when I can control the oven.

certified organic

Juicy, sweet, tangy fresh tomatoes. How happy are you that summer is here? Did you know that tomatoes are native to South America and the first tomatoes in America are thought to have been right here in South Carolina in the early 1700’s?

About a month or so ago I decided to try out my green thumb and I planted my first tomato plant. Easy enough. It’s of the patio variety so we just picked it up the container and brought it with us when we moved. I’ve been watching its growth everyday. It seemed to take FOREVER to produce a little fruit. First the blooms, then small little pea size maters, then bigger and bigger, then finally beautiful red tomatoes (well tomato). These maters are certifiable ORGANIC. I didn’t even put any fertilizer on them…mainly because I am lazy.

Tonight I plucked my first tomato. It was a perfect shape…though a bit small. I’m not sure it would win a state fair prize.

Couldn’t decide quite what to do with it. Tomato pie, tomato sandwich, broiled tomato, italian sauce? I settled on just a plain sliced tomato. I wanted to savour it in its most natural uncompromised state. Perfect texture, fair flavor…mine all mine. I should have waited for C to come home to share in my success…but the temptation got the best of me. He can have the next one!

feel the rhythm

Sometimes I close my eyes and can feel the African air and see the beautiful African skies from my 1996 visit. You’ve never seen the stars shine so brightly as they do in the African sky. No bright city lights for miles to dilute the glittering stars.

Of course I would be remiss not to tell you about the African”shopping”- no it’s not an oxymoron. With $100 cash in hand, I was a millionaire at the African markets. These artisans would work for months to carve a giraffe statue or beautiful drum. They felt like millionaires as well when the American girl would purchase their goods for a year’s worth of money. Even the highest paid of the villagers made as little as a $1 a day. They followed us around from artisan to artisan trying to get us to buy their goods. Not quite the same treatment I get here in the states!

I am still not sure how I managed to get all of the STUFF back here to the states. I consider the purchase of a beautiful carved impression of Rodin’s The Thinker my first purchase of original art. I also managed to drag home a couple of African drums. I know I gave one to a friend who enjoyed African drums while living in Paris and I think I may have lost the other.

Recently I noticed a sign promoting an African Drum Circle at my yoga studio. A taste of my beloved Africa right here in Gville. The only problem…I am not very rhythmic! But what the hey…why not give it a shot. I showed up wearing a cute little pink skirt and a red shirt that said “love”. Love- perfect theme for an African Drum Circle. The drum circles are all about equality and community. Typically, people gather to drum in drum “circles” with others from the surrounding community. The drum circle offers equality because there is no hierarchy. It includes people of all ages. Grateful Dead drummer, Mickey Hart described the circle, “The main objective is to share rhythm and get in tune with each other and themselves. To form a group consciousness. To entrain and resonate. By entrainment, I mean that a new voice, a collective voice, emerges from the group as they drum together.”

This drum circle was made of a very diverse group of folks, young and old- some who have played for years and some who were newbies like me. I don’t know what I expected…but it was defintely not the group I expected. Billy the teacher was full of energy and clearly quite passionate. He told us that as we learn the rhythm, we’ll find that rather than us playing the drum, the drum would play us. Interesting. I definitely didn’t get to that point. 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, I’ve got rhythm! I counted the whole time trying to keep up. I really wanted to watch the others in the class but every time I looked away from my drum, I totally lost the rhythm. The first 30 minutes were super fun. Then the beats got a little harder and my brain began to fatigue. It takes incredible concentration. By the end, I think I was just banging at will rather than following the group. But I loved the feeling of the rhythm and the vibe of the music.

I think it would be so much fun to know the beats. But I am not sure I have the energy or ability to go that far (note- my childhood piano teacher told my mom that she was wasting money bc I have NO musical talent!). I can definitely see how the drum would play you- like becoming one with the rhythm. I’ll spare C the experience of having to endure my drum practice!

Adzuki!

How could one not be intrigued by something that goes by the name of Adzuki? It sounds like a wizard or a wise yogi or maybe how you describe a sneeze in another language-AAAACHEW.

But it’s actually a bean that grows on an annual vine native to East Asia and the bean is often made into a sweet paste and used in a similar way that we use peanut butter- spread on pastries, waffles and biscuits. I stumbled upon these little darling at the Fresh Market today. Had absolutely no idea what I was buying…other than a sprout mixture that I had never heard of. I vaguely remember the 80’s craze of sprouts on sandwiches and salads. These bean sprouts are totally different. They aren’t long and stringy but rather are little peas/beans with a sprout coming out. Just like you would envision. Kind of like the bean sprouts you made in first grade as you learned about how veggies grow.

I was quite pleased when I tasted the nutty earthy crunchy little sprouts, a combo of adzuki, lentils and peas.  According to Sunny Creek Farm’s website “Sprouts have a higher biological efficiency value than mature plants and whole seeds, raw or cooked. Less food is required, yet more nutrients reach the blood and cells.  Sprouts also have a regenerating effect on the human body because of their high concentration of RNA, DNA, protein and essential nutrients which can be found only in living cells. (Synthetic supplements are not living food.)” www.sunnycreekfarms.com.

Wow- super food. Interesting. I certainly didn’t realize these little darlings were so valuable when I found them. But one bite and it’s clear that these sprouts aren’t playing around when it comes to nutrition.

For lunch I scattered them on a salad. Quite tasty. They added a nice little crunch to the greens. For dinner, I thought I should go out a limb and try something a little more adventurous. Upon research I learned that they can be made into a cereal, humus, blended drinks and of course added to a variety of salads that can be served as a side or as a main meal because of the powerful nutritious value. I settled on a curried sprout salad I found on http://www.sproutpeople .com. It was really a strong salad and I only needed a few tablespoons to feel fulfilled. The recipe called for a mayo base and I substituted for greek yogurt. I also added a little cider vinegar and chopped chives. I made the mistake of subbing shallots for purple onions. The shallots were too strong.

The flavor was tangy and exotic while at the same time sweet and smooth. The combo of the cool yogurt and ketchup paired with curry and dill make for an exotic complement to the sprouts.

Tomorrow I look forward to snacking on them plain. They really are a fun discovery.

Curried Sprout Salad

1 cup Sprout Mix

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1/4 cup greek yogurt

2 Tbs. ketchup

2 Tbs. olive oil

1/4 tsp. dill weed

1/2 smallish red onion – diced

1/2 – 1 Tbs. curry powder

salt + pepper to taste

Splash of cidar vinegar

1 tomato – diced

Preparation

Mix all ingredients together.

Sprinkle diced tomato