Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Be Kind; Eat KIND

I've been searching for a yummy energy bar ever since I tasted my first one when I first started playing tennis, years ago. That one tasted like chalk and, although the chalk came in different flavors- vanilla, chocolate and oatmeal raisin- the overall taste was like dried powder that was chewy and yucky and just sat in your mouth. So, I'm happy to announce I've finally found an energy bar that tastes good- The Kind Bar. It comes in nine different flavors, is relatively low in calories (between 150 and 230) and tastes like real food, not a writing utensil. The one I tried (Fruit and Nut Delight) was made of nuts, dried fruits, puffed rice, flax seeds, as well as other ingredients and was crunchy, sweet and delicious. Since I discovered it a few months ago, I've seen it written up in many magazines, so apparently I'm not the only one who's digging this all-natural, wheat free bar of yumminess. Obviously, eating fresh foods such as fruit, veggies and protein is the ideal way to eat, but in our go-go world, it isn't always an option. I HATE getting hungry- it puts me into a nasty mood and I just can't think straight (like the guys in the Snickers commercials) so I always keep a little, healthy snack in my purse or tennis bag. From now on, it will likely be The Kind Bar.  Their motto is- "Do the KIND thing- for your body, your taste buds, & the world." Amen to that!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Nature Rocks

    The other day I went for a run through my neighborhood and saw: a rainbow in a sprinkler, a monarch butterfly and a beautiful half moon in the morning sky. It left me with one feeling: Nature Rocks! Nature also heals, why else do we retreat to the mountains or the ocean when we are in need of a break? I used to ride my bike down to The Point, when I was growing up in Gables by the Sea, to watch the waves crashing up against the shore and to think. Now I walk around my neighborhood or go out to my garden. Today, while I was run/walking, I saw the amazing Royal Poincianas in their full glory and smelled a delicious flower blooming (I also saw a dead snake on the sidewalk). That's the other thing I love about nature- it's a different show every day and it's completely free and available to all. Last week, there was a male and female cardinal hanging out in my front lawn. When I went a couple days ago, they were precariously close to my front door, hopping along. I thought it strange they were so close, until I saw a little, teeny, baby bird sitting there as well, chirping. It looked like they were searching for food for their baby bird. Just around this time, a stray cat I've been feeding showed up. I shooed it away and, luckily, disaster was averted. I have not seen them around since, so nature teaches us to Carpe Diem, because what's here today may not be here tomorrow. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, and all that jazz. Someone recently sent me a list of advice from an 80 year old woman and one of her nuggets of wisdom was to spend some time outside every day. Luckily, it doesn't have to be a mountain retreat, or a beach house. Your front yard will do, and who knows? You might see some cardinals and their baby bird.

   Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. Lao Tzu

   I think it annoys God if you walk by the color purple in a field and don't notice. Alice Walker

   The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where
   they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God.  Anne Frank

Monday, May 28, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Freeze your Fruit!

   If your family is anything like mine, there are always bananas that are turning black, strawberries that get moldy and mangoes that have turned to mush. I've found a great solution to this ever-occuring problem and that is to freeze the fruit before it reaches the point of no return and use it in smoothies and other dishes. When a banana has one hint of black to it, the kids refuse to eat them. Now, they get tossed into the freezer (in a bag so the black slime doesn't drip all over) and turned into: banana bread, banana cake (Silver Palate), or into a smoothie, which is especially good with peanut butter and milk. Elvis, eat your heart out! The other night, I threw the bananas, in their skins, on the grill, until they were heated through, then squeezed them out, poured a little rum and brown sugar over them and put a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Yummy! Cool Whip, with chopped nuts, is another alternative. As soon as my strawberries start to go south, I slice them up and throw them in the freezer, making them perfect add-ins for my vanilla protein shakes (along with flax seeds and glucosamine). Grapes never seem to get eaten, so I pop them in the freezer and they make the best little mini-popcycles ever! Mangoes help me make my favorite smoothie- a copy of Aveena Appeal at Sun Juice Smoothies. I blend oatmeal and protein powder in the blender, add ice cubes, skim milk, frozen, chopped mangoes, a dollop of vanilla yogurt and a squirt of honey to make one delicious frozen concoction. Mangoes can also be used to make mango bread, mango cookies, mango cheesecake and mango cupcakes. Mangoes can be chopped up and frozen, or made into a puree in the blender. Here's the recipe for the cupcakes which is especially good.

Strawberry Smoothie
Mango Cupcakes

1 1/4 cup self rising flour
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter (room temp)
2 eggs
2 tbsp. milk (if mixture is dry)
2/3 cup diced mangoes or mango puree

Mango Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
2/3 cup mango puree
1/3 cup sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line your muffin pan with cupcake liners.
2. Cream the butter and slowly add the sugar until it's dissolved.
3. Add the eggs, one at a time into the mixture and beat well.
4. In another bowl, measure the flour and baking powder. Blend together.
5. Slowly, pour flour mixture into egg mixture and mix together. Add the diced mangoes.
6. Pour into the cupcake liner and bake for 20 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean.
Mango Whipped Cream
7. Beat whipping cream on medium speed for five minutes, until soft peaks form.
8. Add sugar.
9. Add mango puree into the whipped cream.
10. Decorate cooled cupcakes with whipped cream frosting.

An alternative which would keep longer (once the cupcakes have the whipped cream frosting they are extremely perishable) would be to use cream cheese frosting with mango puree added.

Frozen grapes, strawberries and bananas

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Magic Eraser

May has been a hectic month for me- hence the shortage of postings but just wanted to mention a wonderful product my daughter A.J. turned me onto called Magic Eraser. I don't know how I've gone my whole life without knowing about this but, as they say, better late than never. It's a product by Mr. Clean (we of a certain generation remember the bald headed cleaning genie) that looks like a white sponge that has some cleaning product in it and is great at removing grit and grime from many surfaces. It is especially helpful on door frames, around light switches and on base boards; with the entertaining I've done at the house this month, I've been working to do some Spring Cleaning. I had two parties here this month- The Kentucky Derby party and an April in Paris Dinner Party. My mother always said that you need to have a party every now and then to "keep you honest" and I think she was right. It's easy to let things around the house slide - like that hole in my kitchen wall and the worn and torn couch in the family room- but throwing a party is just the motivation you need to get the place spruced up. As a result, I got new family room furniture, fixed the hole in the wall and guests said the house has never looked prettier. And I also have to thank Mr. Clean and the Magic Eraser (found on the cleaning aisle of your grocery store for about a dollar a sponge) for helping me whip the house into shape.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Kentucky Derby Party

   I had the idea to have a Kentucky Derby Party for a while and turned it into reality last Saturday night. For some reason, "The Greatest Two Minutes In Sports", the horses, the Roses, the Mint Juleps and the first Race of the Triple Crown seems so romantic (and exciting) to me, I wanted to have a party to celebrate it! Southern food ruled- so I made cheese straws, pickled black eyed peas (also known as Texas Caviar), deviled eggs, and spiced bourbon pecans for appetizers. Friends brought a hot crab dip and corn dip and I served Mint Juleps (of course!), lemonade (with Vodka to spike) and Iced Tea (to mix into Arnold Palmers). Five to Six was Mint Juleps and betting. I made little tags with the horse's name, number and colors and hung it on a branch to pick as you walked in, with safety pins to attach it. It was fun to see how people bet. Some bet on the number, some on the name, some on the color of the horse, some on the color of the jockey's silks. I bet by name- "Daddy Long Legs", while my hubby voted for "I'll Have Another."  Ladies, of course, were invited to wear hats and I decorated with red roses, since The Kentucky Derby is "The Run for the Roses". Most of the ladies wore hats and we sipped our Mint Juleps and chatted until the race began.

   We all gathered around the TV in the Family Room and cheered on our horses. My horse, a long shot actually got to #3, in the beginning. Zeke's horse shot ahead at the end to win, so he won the $200 pot (it was $10 a horse). Daddy Long Legs (my pick) finished last! Oh well. We all ate Burgoo, a typical stew served at Kentucky Derby and Bar-B-Que Pork with coleslaw, potato chips and corn bread (my sister Kelley brought), with pickled onions, jalapenos and pickles on the side. Dessert (for those who had room left) was Hummingbird Cupcakes, Derby Pie, Strawberries with Whipped Cream Sugar Cookies in the shape of hats with Royal Icing. Everyone left around 8 to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Until Next Year-