Archive for the ‘Appetizers’ Category

A Farewell Year to Remember…my dear!

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

It was a gift from her to us and our final gift from us to her, a bonus year, although she wouldn’t have agreed. “Put me on an ice float with one day’s food ration like the Eskimos when it’s my time!” said she when still young and spicy enough to approach the inevitable closure with levity and panache, her signature approach still at the end of her almost 95 year run on this stage. My mother-in-law was a pip! One of the very last of the big time spenders and red hot mamas telling it like it was from her point of view which was, of course, the only point of view. A radio, TV, and stage actress ‘back in the day’, gravelly voiced and a fashionably card carrying Communist who was acting during the Black List (and she knew many) McCarthy era. She was that ‘never say die’, all is possible and ‘damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead’ generation, which we refer to as dinosaurs. There used to be many more, and sad to say they, too, are becoming extinct.

Yes, she was a hoot. We called her several nick names, Diamond Jim Brady was one, picking up the tab whenever possible not only just for the bravado of it regardless of affordability, but also to make it easy on everyone. Money should never be an issue. Her take was like Scarlet O’Hara’s, “… after all, tomorrow is another day”. Smoothing the way to ensure everyone should be HAVING FUN — money was, after all, just…….money. Don’t spoil the fun. No waves. She was ‘a sport’. A classy gal. Never cast a shadow on a good time because of money! It comes, it goes…but the memories, ahhh those last forever and should be happy. Let’s live!

Another name? Auntie Mame, of course, to everyone — Hariet by birth. She came by all honestly with her uncle being Sam the Horse Thief who owned the Hudson Burlesque in New Jersey and married Nell a stripper. Sound somewhat familiar? Sky Masterson, Nathan Detroit, Adelaide? The story is that Damon Runyan’s blue print for his unforgettable characters in “Guys and Dolls” was Hariet’s Uncle Sam. Larger than life, just as colorful, and cut from the same cloth. Wish I’d known him also.

No more tomorrows for Hariet now, but she did have a bonus year of unexpected tomorrows, unexpected by all doctors after several strokes and debilitating health issues at almost 95 years on her largest and most challenging stage — her life. To the end at home she was an unsinkable Molly Brown. No looking back at yesterday’s news, it was yesterday’s news after all. But as with all of us, the inescapability of the final curtain can be made easier with the best food. She herself was a gourmet chef, so there was no fooling her, no schnibbling, as she used to put it, with the ingredients: taste and quality were utmost. “And that, my dear….” is a significant reason why she was so strong to the last.

I always go on the premise that where there’s life and good food, there’s not only hope but also replenishing. What Hariet wanted, regardless of doctors or caregivers or even us, Hariet got. And I’m so happy to say that this past year, though very difficult, was one of the most loving, rewarding, instructive, pleasing, and educationally eye-opening of my life. The doctors credited her last eleven months of survival to the natural food that was prepared for her daily, and that she devoured with relish even though the choices became somewhat narrow throughout the year. Fresh and organic fare with herbs and spices that varied the taste and venue while simplicity was the standard, and basic ingredients were very often the same for several days during the week, every week. It was amazing to see what good food can do even under these trying circumstances. We had seen this before with her as she advanced in years and didn’t feel like cooking, resorting to the previously abhorrent use of frozen dinners and liquid nutrition among others or nothing at all. In a matter of a few days with organic and fresh meals, her pallor would change from ashen gray to rosy pink, as the pixie twinkle returned to her violet eyes.

Her doctor who had been so amazed with her throughout the years and loved her, as did all who came to know her, made consistent house calls, really!, always expected the worst but found her rallying, always cheerful and healthy for her condition. He applauded the food and said that that’s what probably made so much difference adding to her longevity and mental cognizance helping her to approach her destiny with dignity. Clearly, outwardly, coping with any cold reality was never part of her character (the stage, my dear, was everything), but neither did she ever want to be away from the action. We believe that being in her home, the care and love in preparation and the purity of her food helped her cope with her final reality as we witnessed her coming to terms with her deepest secrets. At the very end we all bid her “good night” and were present as she quietly drifted out of this dimension but probably bolted into the next impatiently champing at the bit for her new curtain rise. Never a moment’s rest — “roll with the punches” and “when life deals you lemons….” That was Hariet. How can you take a cruise without your own hairdresser and his lover to stage your nightly, elegant shipboard appearances so every curl, every wave, every hair, and every makeup dab enhanced those beautiful evening gown changes. Never. That was Hariet, “my dear”!

She had always relished great food and was known for demanding that chefs from around the world make their appearance at her various ports of call, after divinely devouring one of their dinners, for her unreserved appreciation when they deserved it, and their recipes — which they actually gave her. Her praises were unrestrained and genuine — as were her criticisms which were gently respectful. But either way, you basked in her glow. Eating was not just ‘eating’, she celebrated all food. Her joy was ours. We helped her celebrate to the end still glowing from her grateful appreciation of our efforts to the last.

It’s an honor to toast you Hariet, a bona fide diva, coifed, begowned, bejeweled, and utterly beguiling taking one more well deserved curtain call to our standing ‘O’! Brava!

Forget Free Range Feathers! Eat Organic!

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

Free Range Chicken. Aaaah! Conjures up the delicious aroma of a roasted, oven browned, juicy chicken surrounded by equally browned potatoes basted and steeped in a white wine and herbed gravy waiting to be devoured by you and that you can feel good about devouring. Funny how the mind works. In that same split second we see a happy hen pecking at its 100% pure grain feed outside in the warm sun enclosed by a friendly humane wooden pen. Uh uh! Right picture, right focus, wrong USDA camera. Not the aroma or the sight but the ‘feel good about devouring part’. Senses are deceiving. And this is prime.

Buy Organic!
Unless your chicken is labeled organic, here’s the real picture of your regular supermarket and ‘free range’ poultry. Even though ‘free range’ conjures up that cozy picture, the only difference between the more expensive ‘free range’ and the regular market variety is that the USDA says the ranchers have to open the door for only at least 5 minutes a day in case the hens want to go outside. They may not even make it or have the energy let alone the desire, and they don’t have to. Otherwise, same chicken! There’s no other change in feed and no other difference in caged habitat. Read the egg carton and the chicken labels. Compare. You’ll see. No difference unless it’s stated. Then I’d call and possibly visit, just to make sure.

Eat organic! The USDA and FDA regulate our ‘feed’ by their inhumane and sickening treatment of these hens and their feed, ‘free range’ or not. The ‘wooden pen’ has been replaced by a windowless, sunless, brick or concrete bunker hardly open to the light of day. I actually drove by a ‘poultry plant’ (as opposed to a friendly, organic chicken ranch) in the Southeast. The chickens are caged in confined spaces, subjected to high intensity artificial light to simulate sunlight, fed a daily variety of hormones to fool their bodies for faster growth for early egg laying maturity/production, and antibiotics to ward off disease and bacteria from being in that confined area with thousands more – the deadly unfortunate side effect of overcrowding. When their first birthday comes around which is when they’re supposed to start laying, they are effectively ‘used up’, exhausted, and incubating diseases that we know along with those we don’t know that come from drug resistant bacteria. Inhumanely treated, weakened, chemical specimens that the USDA, FDA, & Big Pharma can be proud of…where do they all go? You’re not going to like this…

Well, here’s the bonus sickening kicker: at the end of their one early forced egg laying year, just before all the lurking cancers and diseases attack their livers and bodies, they’re slaughtered and go straight to our supermarket coolers to become….us and our children! And you wonder why we and, more importantly, our children are plagued with more diseases than there are names for? Here’s one of the multitude of reasons. Forget Free Range. EAT ORGANIC! And there’s that wonderful bonus of superior taste.

It will cost more, but the cost for the bills of rising anxiety, fear, medical, and health care are more than the cost of an organic chicken. I’d rather pay that.

Here is one reference for my blog. I am not endorsing any ads on this site, but I thought the article was very concise, informative and summed up much already known info that would help my blog stay more concise as I tend to run on……… Also write, email, blog your favorite TV/radio news station etc. your congressperson, everyone. Only we can uncorrupt our food chain.

Asian Style Tofu Wrap-Around

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

Tofu RrapOrganic/natural tastes best.

This recipe is Tofu at one of its best. An appetizer/wrap that can also be a main dish. I’ve had kids clean their plates and ask for more – even knowing that it’s tofu.

An all round taste pleaser – light, spicy, savory.

You’ll need:

2 Tablespoons Peanut Oil
2 Tablespoons Toasted Sesame Oil
2 Garlic Cloves or to taste, finely minced
1 Tablespoon Fresh Ginger, finely minced
1 Small Red Bell Pepper, finely chopped
1 Can Water Chestnuts, water discarded, finely chopped
6 Whole fresh Scallions sliced crosswise into small rounds
1 Pound brick Tofu, soft or firm, crumbled by hand
2 Tablespoons or to taste Organic Soy Sauce or to taste
2 Tablespoons Oyster Sauce or to taste
2 Tablespoons Mirin Cooking Wine or to taste (found in Japanese/Oriental markets
or section of supermarkets and natural food stores)
2 Tablespoons Cilantro, finely chopped
1 Fresh & crisp Head Lettuce, leaves gently taken off
(Can also use Napa cabbage, leaves cut to scoop size or celery cut
Into 2” long pieces or your choice of veggie scoop)

Large heavy skillet (not nonstick)
Takes about 20 minutes to put together then refrigerate to cool
Ground meat or poultry can be substituted for Tofu. Adjust seasonings to taste.

To prepare:

Heat skillet over medium flame. Add oils, garlic, and ginger and sauté till fragrant about 2-3 minutes. Add red bell pepper and water chestnuts for another minute. Add crumbled tofu and continue breaking up with spatula mixing continuously until consistency resembles ground beef, about 5 minutes. The tofu/veggie beads will separate as the water evaporates. Add soy sauce, oyster sauce, and Mirin and continue stirring till mixed through. It should be salty, spicy, slightly sweet. Adjust to your taste. Add scallions and cilantro and stir another minute to mix through. Place in a serving bowl and refrigerate till cool. You can serve by putting bowl of tofu mixture in the middle of a platter with lettuce leaves for people to wrap themselves and other raw veggies all around or fill the veggies yourself. Either way this is definitely a fun favorite finger food.

ABOUT: Wellness Chef Helen Sandler
Lecturer, personal chef, teacher, wellness coach, & speaker, Helen promotes a healthier lifestyle through common sense, organic / natural approach to a happier, positive life.

Helen Sandler is used to being an innovator and at the cutting edge of whole foods whole grains awareness. After graduating from SUNY, New York with a teaching degree, she began to follow her real passion for healthy cooking which took her from Los Angeles to Boston to attend the cooking school of the late and great master Japanese natural chef, Aveline Kushi. Later that passion took her to Kyoto, Japan to continue her studies, where she spent four more years learning the art of healthy Japanese cooking (Seishoku).

As Wellnes Chef Helen she is the featured authority at CTNgreen /wellness with articles in the library there and the virtual paperless magazine at CTNGreen Magazine