Originally created 03/06/02

Capsules



Funky fries

Heinz, the company that brought you green and purple ketchup, has developed blue french fries. The Kool Blue fries are among five varieties of Heinz's Ore-Ida Funky Fries that will be on store shelves in May. Other varieties will include cinnamon and sugar; cocoa; sour cream; and crunchy rings. Heinz would not give the suggested retail price of the fries, but said they will be priced competitively.

Saying no to salt

Using spices and herb seasonings instead of salt may help you reduce high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association.

Here are some spice and herb alternatives to flavor foods rather than using salt:

Allspice: For lean ground meats, stews, tomatoes, peaches, applesauce, cranberry sauce, gravies.

Bay leaves: For lean meats, stews, poultry, soups, tomatoes.

Cider vinegar: For salads, vegetables, sauces.

Dill: For fish sauces, soups, tomatoes, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, green beans, cucumbers, potatoes, salads, macaroni, lean beef, lamb, chicken, fish.

Nutty peanut facts

They not only have crunch, but historical echoes in their background, and some quirky details, too.

The peanut profile includes:

The peanut is not a nut. It's a legume related to beans and lentils.

The peanut plant originated in South America.

As early as 1500 B.C., the Incas of Peru used peanuts as sacrificial offerings and put them in tombs with mummies to sustain the deceased in their spiritual life after death.

Peanuts are cholesterol free.

There are four types of peanuts grown in the United States: Runner, Virginia, Spanish and Valencia.

Americans eat more than 600 million pounds of peanuts and 700 million pounds of peanut butter each year.

Bread books

Cookbooks on baking are the rule rather than the exception this year. Here's just a taste:

The Baker's Dozen (William Morrow, $40), a group effort that includes recipes from bakers Marion Cunningham and Carol Field.

Bread of Three Rivers: The Story of a French Loaf (Beacon Press, $24) by Sara Mansfield Taber, which sets out to answer the big question: What is it that makes French bread so wonderful?

Country Breads of the World (Lyons Press, $35), by Linda Collister and Anthony Blake, featuring 88 of the best bread recipes from around the world.

Baking for Dummies (Hungry Minds, $19.99) by Emily Nolan, one of a practical series of comprehensive cookbooks.

Clever colander

A plastic colander is a venerable kitchen have-to-have. But at the 2002 International Housewares Show in Chicago, Circulon introduced an impressive 5-quart stockpot that has a perforated lid for straining foods. Made of durable, anodized aluminum, the stockpot has an easy-to-clean, nonstick interior.

Pasta people will particularly be pleased with the stainless-steel, dome-shaped lid. When it comes time to drain the linguine, the cook just locks the lid into position and pours the boiling water down the drain. Reserve your handy, plastic colander for rinsing the arugula. Circulon's Straining Colander Stockpot is $49.99 at all Hecht's stores.

Seaweed please

You don't need to eat seafood to appreciate the culinary bounty of the oceans.

Sea vegetables (vegetarian-speak for seaweed) are packed with nutrients and high in calcium and other minerals.

Dried seaweeds (the most common way to buy them as ingredients for home cooking) are readily available at most natural-food stores and just about any Asian market.

One popular variety is wakame, which makes a great green to add to vegetable and miso soups.

Another popular method of preparation is to stir-fry, for which the hiziki (also spelled hijiki) and arame varieties excel. These are thin, noodlelike seaweeds with a salty taste and toothy texture.