Thursday, April 26, 2007

Bag It like You're Green!

Today, as I hauled a hefty pile of newspapers, old school papers, plastic bottles and a few unwashed cans (gross and totally inappropriate, roommates) to the recycle bin, I started to think about those plastic bags you use as you get your fresh veggies and fruits in the produce department. Now, some advocate for buying special cloth bags for this, but I'm a poor student, about to graduate, and currently unemployed. Certainly, I thought, there MUST be a way to reuse those things!

Then, an epiphany. Sure, you can use them to wrap up your flip flops at the beach or to pack small shoes, slippers or sandals in your luggage. But what about reusing them at their original purpose? I mean, we have to wash the produce anyway, so why not just reuse these bags? My ratty, old tote bag has a pocket that's perfect for smushing those clear produce bags into a small compartment. Even if the worst happens, and say you forget your broccoli and it starts to mold and rot, you can always get another one. The point is that you aren't getting NEW ones each time and filling our landscape with garbage.

Happy shopping!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Go Green!

It feels like the oh-so-popular thing to be writing about these days, especially after Oprah's Earth Day special. America has been pummeled with more and more about going green, conserving our resources and saving our planet. From An Inconvenient Truth to the Green Room at the Oscars, we've gotten our fair share of tips to help out.

And with good reason. Have you seen those statistics? It's scary! I was jolted awake when I finally saw An Inconvenient Truth. I stared at my bottle of water on the table and felt horrible guilt. So this post is dedicated to going green and what I'm doing to help out!

1. Bag it.
I have about 1,000 plastic bags from the grocery store. Now, my boyfriend protests that he uses his as lunch sacks and garbage bags. Good for him. I think this is permissible, as long as you haven't stock-piled them like I have. I've vowed to throw my old, ratty and ugly tote bags in my trunk so that I'm always prepared for the grocery store. Sure, on occasion, you'll forget them, and the plastic ones you get that visit can be reused. Wrap up shoes you're packing for vacation, take them with Fido on your next walk, sack your lunch, or line your bathroom wastebasket with them.

2. Forget the Hype: No More Bottles!
I love carrying around water like the rest of you hydration-focused folks. But think of all the plastic we're using up. In fact, to make 1 liter of bottled water, it actually takes 5 liters of water. That's nuts! Also startling: the plastic used to make the bottles is usually grade 1, which means it can leech harmful chemicals into your water, or, at the least, make your agua taste like plastic. No thanks. Instead, buy a reusable bottle. I love my Rubbermaid 32 oz. bottle. It cost about $3, and has lasted many months now. It's made from grade 5 plastic, which is better for us. No more plastic bottles EVER!

3. Cut down on paper, don't cut down trees.
Love firs? Think pines are divine? Then stop using so much paper! You know when your printer spits out a whole page with a line or two of insignificant info, like a web address or time and date? Turn it over and pop it back in your printer! Recycle your newspapers and everything else you don't need.

4. Switch off the light.
Sounds simple. Because it is simple. Open your windows and enjoy natural light during the day. Only use lights when you need them.

5. Shut off during shaving.
Ladies, think about it. Do you really need the water running from the shower when you're shaving? I usually find myself in this strange hunch-back position, trying to guard the water away from legs so it doesn't wash off all my shaving lotion. So instead, try shutting off the water. Turn on the faucet for a second to rinse your razor. Then go back to work. You know that wonderful feeling of stepping into a warm shower? This way, you'll get that feeling twice. You might get a little chilly during shaving, but it's saving lots of water and possibly speeding up the time-consuming task.

So that's what this green gal is implementing in her life to help out and keep our Earth keepin' on! Happy, healthy living!

Jacob's Creek 2005 Shiraz-Cabernet

Again, I'm late. But this week's Try This Wine is here!

When my boyfriend brought home the Jacob's Creek 2005 Shiraz-Cabernet mix, I was skeptical. I like a good shiraz, and I like a good cab, but I generally shy away from blends. But this one was good.

It's got all the punchiness and body of a shiraz. It's fruity and brooding, and really smooth. As it fades, the body and fruit is melded with the dry acidity of the cab. It doesn't taper well, but there's enough good in this one to come out on the positive side.

As with most reds, this would be great with red meat or anything dark. But maybe even lighter fare with a touch of the sensuality, like cinnamon or raisins.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Crinkle Cut Cuties

I love Bolthouse Farms Carrot Chips. Their bite-size shape makes them perfect for snacking, as the bag denotes, or in soups and meals. These are crinkle cut, so if you sautee them in a pan, the ridges brown and they look grilled. Plus, it causes a slight carmelization, making these sweet little things even more sweet!

Thai Drumsticks

If you're looking for an easy Thai marinade, trust this novice: this one works. If you want something spicy, this will be right up your alley. I used drumsticks, which resulted in a disaster of uncooked portions of meat, crying and drinking some cabernet (see this week's Try This Wine), vowing "I'll never cook chicken on the bone again!". But you can use this recipe with any cut of chicken and savor the delicious flavors our Thai friends have brought us.

Thai Drumsticks
3 T red curry paste
1 cup coconut milk
2 T lime juice
4 T coriander, chopped
12 chicken drumsticks, scored
2 bunches of baby bok choy
2 T soy sauce
1 T oil

Mix curry paste, coconut milk, lime juice and coriander. Marinade chicken in mixture for 2 hours in the fridge. Cook chicken (grill, broil). Trim bok choy and combine with soy sauce and oil. Cook on grill or in wok for 3-4 minutes, or until leaves are wilted. Serve chicken on a bed of bok choy.

If you're want to cut down on some calories, use light coconut milk. I did, and the result was good. I served this with some steamed carrots in a dressing of soy sauce and oil.

The Perfect Summer Pizza

It's getting hotter every day here in Texas and the seafood and produce sections are enjoying some fresh sprucing up. The bright pinks of salmons and soft, ripe avocados make this the perfect choice for a new sophisticated, summery spin on a classic fun food.

Salmon and Avocado Pizza

5 oz. fresh salmon

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 pizza crust

1 T olive oil

14 oz. can chopped tomatoes

1 cup mozzerella cheese

1 avocado, diced

2 t lemon juice

2 T sour cream

3 oz. smoked salmon

1 T capers

2 T chives

pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425. While oven is warming, place salmon in a pan, add wine and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. When salmon is cooked, removed from heat and cool. Flake salmon with a fork. Brush crust with olive oil. Sprinkle with flaked salmon, tomatoes and cheese. Bake for 10 minutes. Dot with sour cream. Arrange smoked salmon, avocado and capers. Sprinkle or squeeze lemon juice around pizza. Bake for additional 5-10 minutes. Add chives. Serve.

I didn't use the capers or chives. My boyfriend loved this pizza because it features his favorite foods. It's tangy from the tomatoes and salty from the smoked salmon. You'll fill up fast, so pace yourself. This is also a great alternative for people who don't eat meat but do eat fish and find themselves needing some protein that a regular cheese pizza lacks.

Try This Wine: Xplorador Concho y Toro 2005 Cabernet

For my inaugural run at this new feature, I am late. Mea culpa, mea culpa. We went out for margaritas and then had a not-so-good wine. So here it is... My first Try This Wine!

Sorry for the fuzzy pic!

Recently, our local grocery store put this one on sale, and I suggest that those in Texas snap up a few bottles at this less-than-$10 price. The Chileans once again impress, cementing a new area of the world to get Cabs from. I buy my Shiraz's from Australia, and now I think I'll buy my Cabs from Chile.

So about Xplorador 2005 Cabernet Savignon. Medium-bodied and fruity, this cab has an almost surly presence. It tastes like it's from the earth. Not too dry, it's got a smooth finish. The tannins haven't totally mellowed, but it's still okay for sipping alone. I recommend this with a good pasta with a dark twist, like portabella mushrooms.

For your money (and not much of it) this is a phenomenal wine and one I hope you all will enjoy.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


I've noticed that as much as I love a good glass of wine, I love raving about it just as much. I feel like I'm constantly rattling off good wines to friends. In light of this, I'm announcing a new feature to my blog. Friday evenings or Saturdays, I'll post to a new topic: Try This Wine!

This gives me an excuse to expand my wine catalog, document each new wine and share my thoughts with all. Looking forward!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Sun Bird delivers

If you're like me, you often find yourself craving Chinese food, but wanting to cook it at home. Instead of the dim lighting and poor ambience of many Chinese restaurants, I'd much prefer the quiet light at my own dinner table. Plus, I get to stay in sweats!

Here's my suggestion: Pick up the season and sauce packets from Sun Bird. In my grocery store, they're lumped together with other Asian ingredients like rice noodles, soy sauce and coconut milk, in some sort of politically uncorrect mish-mash that takes up only half an aisle. Check the back of the packet to see what ingredients they recommend you add, some necessary and others optional.

I was particularly impressed with their seasoning for fried rice. I was able to throw together a delicous pan of rice that satisfied even my picky, Asian-food-snob boyfriend. The result was a nicely balanced, not too salty side of rice that one could throw a variety of vegetables or meat in.

Recently, I used their stir fry packet to whip up dinner for a friend and myself. It was slightly sweet and also not too salty. The sauce reduced quickly, leaving us with a thicky, translucent sauce coating our vegetables and mixing nicely with the rice.

So if you're ever in the mood for some Chinese, be it rice, beef and broccoli or soup, stroll down the aisles of your grocery store and pick up some of Sun Birds products.

Friday, April 6, 2007

El Flaco Worth the Wait

Walk into El Flaco on S. Congress, and you may notice the news clips about the healthier alternative to Mexican food. True enough, the menu is scattered with healthy options, demarkated by a tomato.

But this diner did not opt for a healthy option. I went in for one of my favorite dishes from Mexico: mole. I love the dark sauce and El Flaco does an impressive job. Served over soft, floppy corn tortillas wrapped around shredded chicken, rolled into an enchilada, it is smooth, almost creamy, sweet and sensual. I've had good and bad moles; this one is very good. Good enough that I had to share, but, of course, I would only share a little bit. The rice is good and the beans are a bit smoky and delicious.

The food took a while to be delivered, but a sign notes that this is due to dishes being cooked by the order. Reasonably priced and in a cozy, homey restaurant, El Flaco is worth the wait.