Originally created 02/17/99

Small portions

Taste of home

Not all food products are distributed nationwide. Sometimes when you move from one part of the country to another there's a certain brand of cookie, coffee, or beer you can't find.

If there's a food or product you miss from back home, call staff writer Melissa Hall at 868-1222, ext. 113 for possible inclusion in an upcoming article.

Dead head munchies

So you're listening to some Grateful Dead LPs and reminiscing about the good old days as a Deadhead when suddenly -- for whatever reason -- you find yourself in the throes of the munchies. Now what? Resourceful 'heads reach into their Grateful Dead Tour Bus cookie jar and pull out a bear head sugar cookie or a 13-point gingerbread bolt they've made using their Grateful Dead cookie cutters.

The limited edition ceramic jar ($125) is a colorful tribute to the countless long, strange trips home that Grateful Dead groupies have survived. Bolt and Bear Head cookie cutters ($7 each) come with recipes and decorating ideas from the Grateful Baker.

To order or request a catalog, call (800) 225-3323 or visit the Grateful Dead Online Store at mars.dead.net.

Stock the pantry

February is National Canned Food Month and a good time to stock the pantry with staples that make fixing meals a cinch. Try these ideas from the Canned Food Alliance:

For mashed potatoes, puree drained canned white potatoes with drained canned yams. Mix in butter, salt, pepper and a dash of nutmeg.

For salsa, combine canned drained black beans with a little canned mango nectar, diced canned mild chilies, diced red onion, chopped cilantro and salt to taste.

Ripened flavor

In an ideal world, we would always buy perfectly ripe fruits and eat them that day. But in the real world, many of the fruits in the supermarket need to continue their ripening at home. Then there's storage -- once the fruit's ripe you need to be careful to store it properly. And not all fruits are the same.

Here's how to keep your fruit in the best condition possible:

Apples: Apples are ripe when picked so it's just a matter of storage. Refrigerate in plastic bags. They lose both their crispness and flavor if kept in a warm environment.

Avocados: Put hard avocados in a brown paper bag; store at room temperature until the fruit yields to gently applied pressure. Be patient, avocados can ripen in a day or can take as long as five days. Then refrigerate and use within two to three days.

Bananas: Underripe bananas should be stored at room temperature, preferably hanging on a hook or banana tree so that air can circulate through the bunch. Once ripe, they can be stored in the refrigerator for two to three days. The peel will turn brown, but the fruit will stay fresh.

Citrus: Ready to eat when you buy, oranges and grapefruits can be kept at room temperature for two to three days, but should be refrigerated for longer storage. For full flavor, allow the fruit to come back to room temperature before eating.

The okra show

Don't turn up your nose at okra. The strange green, grooved, pointy pods that look as if they landed from outer space -- but which really were brought here from Africa -- have gotten a bum rap for being slippery, slimy characters. So the Black Culinarian Alliance and Bestfoods, maker of Hellmann's Mayonnaise and Skippy Peanut Butter, are spreading the word during Black History Month that okra can be quite elegant and doesn't get slimy if cooked properly.


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