About Me

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Oakland County, Michigan, United States
My friends call me the "grammar goddess." Really. ;-) I own a freelance writing, editing and tutoring business. Previously, I served three years as food editor for The Morning Sun in Mt. Pleasant, which kindled my interest in food writing. My other areas of expertise in writing include features, community news, architecture/construction and engraving/personalization. I have a frightening number of cookbooks and watch too many DIY, HGTV, Food Network, Cooking Channel and Antiques Roadshow (BBC and PBS versions) shows. And I tweak nearly every recipe I make.

Monday, September 29, 2014

It's National Coffee Day! Get your coffee now!

I knew this yesterday, but I forgot it when I hit the ground running starting before 9 a.m. 

It is National Coffee Day. 

Yes, it's a bit after 7 p.m. Just the perfect time to go grab a decaf latte, iced coffee or a blended cold, frosty drink. 

If you don't feel like going out, try this flexible recipe: 

Frosty Coffee Drink 

This can be an iced coffee or more of a frappe (frozen) drink. Depends on the number of ice cubes. 

Place the following in the blender: 

  • 2-3 heaping teaspoons of instant coffee (It's usually decaf for me; I use Maxwell House. The exact amount depends on how many ice cubes and how much water you put in it.)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 heaping tablespoons of Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa, optional (original also is fine)
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon orange extract, optional (almond extract is also good)
  • 5-10 ice cubes, depending upon how frosty you like it
  • Approximately 12-16 ounces of water, depending upon how much coffee flavor you want and how thick you want it
  • Stevia to taste (I use three to four packets; feel free to use sugar if you prefer it: I have not tried it with honey or agave nectar) 
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need some coffee. 

This is a pretty healthy recipe; if you want something more fattening and more sinful than a famous coffee shop version, try this recipe from "The Pioneer Woman," Ree Drummond.

Monday, August 25, 2014

A little food nostalgia ... and hurray for Sanders

Simple scenes from our childhood often can be recalled more strongly than anything else. We're so busy, I believe, that the simple everyday pleasures don't make it into our long-term memories as often, unless we make a point to focus on them. Food often can be part of our memories, both of our own lives and people. 

For example, I cannot see the Michigan brand cottage cheese or Keebler® Fudge Stripes without thinking of my Gram (Ruth) LaBerge or Bill Knapp's® desserts without thinking of my Grandpa (Ed) Seebaldt. (Even though the restaurants are no more, the desserts live on and are distributed by various companies.)

One scene I still can picture from my childhood is sitting at a Sanders counter in Detroit near our old house on the west side. I remember the way the counter looked and that I was sitting with my Mom, eating a hot fudge ice cream puff. I was about five years old. 

I've had my share of sundaes and other ice cream concoctions, but very few I remember like the ones I consumed at Sanders, which probably is why the company is doing so amazingly well right now, as described in this Detroit Free Press article. Well, that, and the fact that Sanders' dark hot fudge sauce is the best I've ever had. 

Sometimes nostalgia meets the present. These are the places I remember going to that were fun and kid-friendly.Sanders is still around in Michigan, but Farrell's, where I (and my cousins) had a few birthday parties, and Friendly's, whose desserts came pretty close to Sanders' quality, aren't in Michigan anymore. (I was happy to see, though, that they both are still around in some parts of the country. I did go to a Friendly's restaurant in New York about five years ago, again with Mom.Their milkshakes still are the best!) 

What foods or restaurants make you nostalgic and why? Tell me why they're so wonderful. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Helping the homeless and saving money with ugly vegetables

You may not know this, but I used to work as a cashier in a grocery store in the 1990s.

I met a number of people who received WIC and/or food stamps at my first grocery store, where I worked for two years. Some of these customers I got to know very well because they bought small orders and came in two to three times a week. It was clear that most of them were embarrassed to be buying food with assistance. Some came in with a chip on their shoulder, expecting to be criticized, whether by other customers or the cashiers checking them out, I'm not sure. 

I treated them like any other customer, often calling them by name. Why wouldn't I? It's good business to get to know your customers and it was a small enough store that I could learn many of their names. 

The woman (and by and large, it was they who were buying) clearly weren't used to being treated that way. Once we were better acquainted, some told me that. They came to our smaller store because the people were nicer and it was close enough to walk. It was evident they were used to being treated as second-class customers somewhere, which made me upset on their behalf. 

Sometimes I wondered why they picked the items they did, though I never criticized. The items they bought, almost universally, were cheap and/or on sale, were filling and often non-perishable, except for WIC items such as milk and cheese.

A couple of the other customers occasionally commented to me about a prior customer's choices (whether purchased with food stamps or not). I either changed the subject or politely ignored those comments from the busybodies and got on with my job, rather than telling them to mind their own business. 

Fruit and vegetables my customers bought with food stamps were almost always canned. I didn't connect that 20 years ago, when I started working at the first store, to the fact that fresh fruits and vegetables are almost always expensive. I did clue in, eventually, but I didn't know what possibly could be done about it. I knew fresh produce was more expensive, and some of these ladies had three or four kids to feed.

Let's go forward 20 years. A few articles and blog posts I've recently come across are giving me ideas of what could have been done back then and should be done now.

The most touching of the articles was the most personal; it was by Brooke McKay, who documented a trip to the grocery store with a woman who lives in crisis housing within the homeless shelter at which Brooke volunteers. Brooke gave Tori $50 (name changed for privacy purposes), though actually they spent more because she didn't want Tori to have to take any of the food back. She was surprised that one of the items Tori picked was an $11 bag of apples. The trip broke through the assumptions people often make about the homeless and those on food stamps. 

The comments section also is rather enlightening. I will admit that I had a few tears in my eyes reading the blog and comments. (“There but for the grace of God go I.”)

A big part of why produce seems to be so outrageously expensive appears to be food waste. 

According to a 2013 NPR (National Public Radio) blog post I read, Doug Rauch, formerly Trader Joe's president, planned to use edible produce past its sell-by date in prepared food that will be cheap in his supermarket-restaurant hybrid that features food that other stores would have thrown out. The Daily Table market will be in Dorchester, Mass. It was scheduled to open this year. I've been searching for half an hour and still can't figure out whether or not it's opened yet.

It's mentioned in other articles, too, including this one 4 Restuarants Rethink Food Waste, on www.sustainableamerica.org's blog. The post offers some fabulous ideas, as does another on that site, called Ugly Produce Can Be a Beautiful Thing. One of the points noted is that at every level, ugly produce is wasted. 

In a quest to reduce waste, grocery chains in the U.K., such as TescoWaitboro, and Sainsbury's Food Rescue embrace the sale of these fruits and veggies at discounted prices. In Europe, it's Ugly Fruits leading the way. Intermarch√© in France also is promoting the benefits of ugly produce ... and a 30 percent discount, according to a grist.org article. French shoppers are gobbling them up

Ugly Produce Can Be a Beautiful Thing also commented that the U.S., Greenling, which delivers groceries in Texas featuring local food and organic produce, "sells 'seconds' that have slight physical defects" while another delivery service, "Fresh Direct," based in Long Island City, Queens, rates its produce from one to five stars and customers can choose their grade, either taking a chance on one-star produce, which can be inconsistent to the perfect five-star produce. Home delivery is available in some areas; check the list. Out west, Grocery Outlet "sells closeouts and overruns, including produce." 

If you want to know more, here are additional sources I found interesting:

Friday, August 1, 2014

Where in the world is Anne? And here's some gluten-free news to chew on

"Where is the world is Anne?" you might ask. "She hasn't posted since April." 

Ahem. Shameless plug incoming (and you can't say you had no warning, either). 

Since my last post, I have published a book of poetry, Reflections, which encompasses more than 30 years of my poetry, with amazing illustrations and cover art by Sarah J. Waldock, who is an author in her own right. 

My book can be found here on Amazon.com. And here on CreateSpace. Check it out.

And now, for some gluten-free news to chew on. Sorry, I couldn't resist the pun.

Now this news doesn't affect my home state of Michigan, sadly, but is cool to know for travel purposes. According to an article in Supermarket News, Wegmans now offers sushi made without gluten, including gluten-free soy sauce Kikkomans formulated especially for the supermarket chain. 

A later version of the story indicated that the sushi is not labeled as
gluten-free, because of the possible change of cross-contamination. 

I believe Wegmans is covering its corporate bottom with careful language. 

Still, making that change definitely is a step in the right direction, and good for those who have not been diagnosed with celiac disease but avoid gluten for other reasons. 

I'd like to hear my readers' opinions on Wegmans' actions: good move, or "close but no cigar?"

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Review: Yotsuba Ann Arbor ... delicious but slow

See the pretty sushi? Jen and I had fun tonight eating this at Yotsuba in Ann Arbor. Jen's was a tempura jalapeno Philly roll (right). Mine (below)  was a combination we shared of all things California roll: regular, spicy and tempura. It was delicious! The only downside was rather slow service.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Every time I turn around lately, I see another charity event involving food.

Perhaps it's due to the fact that people are more likely to attend indoor events in the winter than the summer?

At any rate, there are some awesome events to choose from coming up in Southeast Michigan. (Some are even within half an hour's drive or less from me, which is ... unusual.

You might consider one of these three events coming up in the next six weeks or so:

  • This Saturday, Feb. 1, try an authentic Russian dinner, First Presbyterian, 1432 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48104. It will fund mission work. For details about the menu, guest speaker, mission and costs, check out Ann Arbor MLive or go to the church's website. RSVP required; call 734-662-4466.

  • The next one's in my neck of the woods. Enjoy Freedom Work Opportunities, Inc.'s 30th anniversary celebration on Saturday, Feb. 8 at 59West, 786 W. Highland Road, Highland Township, MI 48357. The $50 entry fee includes dinner with your choice of top sirloin with au jus or chicken marsala entrees paired with garlic parmesan mashed potatoes, mostaccioli, green beans almondine and a dessert/coffee bar. A photo booth, a silent auction with a wide variety of items  and a live auction with  Highland Township Supervisor Rick Hamill serving as auctioneer is featured. Among the great prizes for the live auction are a drive for two around the General Motors Proving Grounds track and four "park hopper" tickets to Walt Disney World are all part of the fun. For more information about the silent or live auction items, or to purchase tickets, go to Freedom Work Opportunities' website.

  • Metro Detroit Empty Bowls event is from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sunday, March 16 in the Assumption Cultural Center, 21800 Marter Rd., St. Clair Shores, MI 48080. A $10 minimum donation is accepted. The event features food from top area restaurants and inspirational music by The Ambassadors. To purchase tickets, or to donate, click here. For more information, see the listing in Hour Detroit.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Healthier eating out for holiday celebrations

It's a holiday, so you want to join in having some celebratory food and your favorite holiday drink. With the wide variety of foods around, sometimes it's hard to make sure you are still overall meeting the goals of eating healthy. I have this problem as much as the next person, but I've learned a few things over the years.

Try to keep it to one small cookie!
There's no need to be crazy about it: for example, don't munch only on plain celery sticks while looking longingly at the pie your cousin is eating. For one thing, it'll make him nervous the way you're eyeing his food. In addition, that level of self-sacrifice might lead to overeating later.

Take it easy
"All things in moderation." While I've gnashed my teeth on some occasions I have heard this, it still is true. I'm not trying to be a killjoy; all these suggestions are meant to enhance your enjoyment of the holidays while minimizing the pain involved getting on the scale after them.

The best thing to do, with both snacks and dinner, is to take a plate up to where the food is, select what you will eat and move on out.

You and I both know what makes a healthy dinner, really. I don't think we need to go there. Do you?

Personally, I find the nibbles before and after and the dessert course much harder to deal with than what's for dinner.

Standing in the kitchen next to the snacks or eating standing up by the food buffet both tend to lead to mindless nibbling. Take some things you really like that scream "holiday food" to you, but don't get carried away. And go sit down rather than staying by the food. Meanwhile, keeping your mouth busy with talking with friends and family between bites also helps to keep down the food intake. If you follow these steps, you'll still have room for a reasonable dinner and a light dessert.

But a buffet of snacks is hard for almost everybody, including me. People tend to nibble here and there; and, before you know it, you've consumed hundreds of calories!

Better choices can be tasty, too
There usually are some healthier choices from the snack buffet (pick two or three if dinner follows). If the snack buffet is your dinner, have between five and seven choices.

Just try these:
  • a handful (no more) of your favorite nuts 
  • plain tea, black coffee, or water for your drinks, rather than punch, cider or eggnog, is a very good idea
  • two small pieces of dark chocolate or fruit covered with dark chocolate
  • a roll-up consisting of a slice of lunch meat and a slice of cheese
  • two to three pieces of sushi (if quite large, limit to two pieces)
  • grape or cherry tomatoes (my personal favorite; I will, left to my own devices, eat them all, even without dip)
  • pickle chips and/or olives (keep it to 10 or less if you need to watch sodium)
  • fruit salad or other fresh fruit (grapes, strawberries, pineapple tidbits, or apple slices and fruit dip made with low-fat yogurt are all good choices)
  • veggies and either low-fat spinach-artichoke dip or ranch dressing 
  • approximately three cubes of your favorite cheese (the equivalent of about one string cheese stick, depending on size). 
  • Three cubes or three small pieces/slices of ham, sausage, salami, prosciutto or smoked salmon (I am like a starving mouse when it comes to cubes of cheese and love prosciutto; believe me: you do not want the "hungover" feeling from overdoing either of these items)
Other ideas to avoid overeating

If you want a cup of eggnog, try diluting it with skim milk and keep to a small cup (1/2 c. is one serving for any type of eggnog). Try either low-fat eggnog or one of the non-dairy versions available in the natural foods sections of many stores, including Kroger and Meijer. Any of these choices are lower in calories than traditional eggnog.

Why not make your favorite healthy treat to share? Then something you like and can eat without derailing your balanced diet will be available. You might even make a healthy main dish, if dinner is something very heavy like 10-layer lasagna and bread sticks. (This does require coordination with your host/hostess, but usually that's not a problem. That's especially true if you follow a healthy diet for medical reasons and explain that.)

Fill up on unadulterated veggies (steamed beans versus green bean casserole, for example, or salad or the raw veggie tray with a little bit of light ranch) and take small amounts of high-calorie items. (At the risk of sounding obvious, any dish smothered in/mixed with cheese, sour cream, butter, fried onions or mushroom soup, it is pretty high in calories.)

Protein, such as turkey ham or lunch meat rolled up with a slice of cheese is a better bet than potato-cheese casserole.

A serving of sweet potatoes is usually a better option than whipped, mashed potatoes with cream and butter. If your sweet potatoes come with marshmallows baked on it, why not make it your dessert?

One reason I adore having bite-sized desserts at a party is that I can try two or three things without totally destroying my game plan. The point is to limit yourself to the equivalent of one fairly small dessert portion. So try fresh fruit instead of pie, cake or cookies when possible. If pie is your must-have holiday food, keep it to one thin slice or two very thin slices (1/4-1/2 inch thick). Ditto for cookies: have one normal-sized cookie or two small cookies.

Above all, don't forget to enjoy yourself when you're out for the holidays.