Friday, June 21, 2013


One’s journey to health will have some twists and turns, especially when it comes to food.  It won’t always be easy, especially when it comes to snacking!  The thing to remember is not to beat yourself up if you get sidetracked.  Sometimes it’s the effort and not the failures that really matter.  In this article, I include reviews of healthy and nourishing snacks that are healthy, cookbook reviews from Mii Amo Spa, Mario Batali and Wilbert Jones; my interview with Wilbert Jones, a successful food scientist and developer, lecturer, cookbook author and chef; and, my recent experience at a Bloggers Breakfast at the extraordinary new Williams-Sonoma Store in Chicago, conducted by Chef Anupy Singla.  Lastly, there’s a segment on looking within your own community for inspiration, and another on spa food pairings and how spas are integrating food within their treatment therapies and how the companies that manufacture treatment products use whole foods in their formulations.  It’s all about healthy food and lifestyle options.

~ Healthy Indulgent Bites ~

Crunchies Freeze Dried Mango, Freeze Dried Cinnamon Apple, Freeze Dried Strawberry Banana, Freeze Dried Tropical Fruit, Freeze Dried Roasted Veggies, Freeze Dried Salted Edamame ~ While I know I should be eating more fruits and veggies each day, I don’t always enjoy prepping them, packing them up in single serve bags or containers, and tucking them in the fridge, often forgetting I put them there; waste often results.  But, with Crunchies, there’s no need for any of that hassle.  These are handy take with packages of freeze-dried untreated fruits or veggies in their natural and unaltered state, which maximizes their nutrient-dense properties.  There’s no added sugars and their gluten-free, non-GMO, cholesterol free and low fat.  The fruit varieties are a raw food; freeze-drying and a refrigerated vacuuming process preserves the purity of the fruit, making for a very intense natural fruit flavor and crunchy fruit product.  The same process is applied to the veggies.  Available in single serving and two serving packages, that fit nicely in a kid’s lunch sack or an adult’s carry with.  While I enjoyed all of these varieties, my favorites were the Freeze Dried Tropical Fruit, and Freeze Dried Roasted Veggies.  With these delicious Crunchies Freeze Dried varieties, there’s no excuse for anyone to miss getting their recommended daily servings of fruits and veggies.

Mediterranean Snacks Tapaz 2 Go*** Lentil Crackers+Red Pepper Hummus, Lentil Crackers+Classic Hummus, Lentil Crackers+Roasted Garlic Hummus ~ These handy take-with sets of Hummus and Lentil Crackers are the ideal healthy snack food.  The Lentil Crackers are baked, low fat, non-GMO, gluten free, cholesterol free and high in protein; one serving has 4g of protein.  The Crackers were crunchy and ideal for for scooping the tasty Hummus.  I thoroughly enjoyed all varieties of the Hummus; each was delicious and authentic, and made using tahini, sesame seed paste.  No refrigeration is ever required, which is another plus for busy on the go individuals.  These delicious Mediterranean Snacks can be supplemented with a piece of fruit and string cheese for a healthy and quick meal.

Simply Sprouted Way Better Snacks** Beyond Black Bean Tortilla Chips, Unbeatable Blues Tortilla Chips, No Salt Naked Blues Tortilla Chips, Sunny Multi-Grain Tortilla Chips, Sweet Potato Tortilla Chips, So Sweet Chili Tortilla Chips ~ I love crunchy snacks and these healthy Tortilla Chips could become an addiction.  What is great about these Tortilla Chips is that each variety is low fat, low fat, low sodium and cholesterol free.  Depending on the variety, the ingredients include sprouted seeds like black bean, golden flax, quinoa, radish, chia, broccoli, brown rice, plus the goodness of sweet potato, stone ground corn and pure sea salt and then cooked in high oleic sunflower or safflower oil.  The Tortilla Chips are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants.  These are a definite health food without thinking they’re a health food.  I enjoyed eating them as is, or dipped in a healthy salsa, or scrunched up and used as a topper in soup, chili or on a salad.

Silverland Bakery Crafted by Heart & Hand Brownies* Pomegranate Pistachio, Chocolate Truffle, Blondies, Salted Carmel, Raspberry Crumble, Dark Chocolate Apricot, Flax Seed, Oasis, Apricot Defense, Peanut Butter Raw, Spiced Ginger Raw, Mocha Raw ~ Reading through the varieties tested, these aren’t your ordinary brownies.  Brownies aren’t exactly a health food.  But, trust me, with a lot of discipline and limiting these, feeling guilty hardly fits into the equation.  These artisan-crafted Brownies use the purest and highest quality ingredients like 100% dark chocolate liquor, cocoa, semi-dark chocolate chips, dried whole fruits, nuts, flax seed, turmeric and ginger.  The Raw Brownies are vegan, wheat and dairy free and have no added sugar, making it a new health food!  And please, don’t ask me which variety was my favorite, since all of them were delicious.

Sheila G’s Brownie Brittle** Mint Chocolate, Chocolate Truffle, Chocolate Sea Salt, Chocolate Brownie ~ These low fat, low sodium and cholesterol free Brownie Brittle treats will satisfy the sweet tooth, without giving you the guilt.  Each variety had a depth of flavor that was rich in chocolate.  I enjoyed all four varieties, but the Chocolate Sea Salt was my favorite.   I also loved sprinkling the leftover crumbs on my yogurt for just the right amount of subtle sweetness.  These were crunchy, delicious and satisfying!

Wholesome Meals Snack Bites Vegan Cran Almond, Nutty Monkey, Sunny Honey, Chia Chocolate, Peanut Butter ~ You don’t have to be a vegan or adhere to a gluten-free diet to thoroughly enjoy these delicious Snack Bites.  Each variety was a tasty low fat, low sodium, cholesterol free and non-GMO free treat; each 4g Bite is packed protein, making this an ideal energy snack; there are six bites packed in a sleeve; the Bites are about the size of a golf ball.  Some of the ingredient profiles included organic peanut butter, organic sprouted brown rice, chia protein, organic sunflower seed butter, organic dark chocolate chips and organic molasses.  My favorites were the Vegan Cran Almond and the Nutty Monkey.

~ Healthy Cookbooks ~

Mii Amo Spa “A Journey of Taste” Cookbook ~ This Cookbook is from the award-winning spa Mii Amo and beautifully presents the Spa’s philosophy, while providing the reader a glimpse of what it’s like to experience this inspirational destination spa and dine on health-conscious food.  The recipes are simple to follow, require most pantry staple items or those readily available on-hand or at local food stores, and also includes suggestions for daily meal planning.  Along with these healthy and nutritious recipes, there’s a handy reference guide of measurements and equivalents that will turn the novice cook into a “seasoned” one.  The Cookbook is beautifully illustrated, easy to follow and inspirational, and a great way to bring the Spa experience to one’s home.

“Molto Batali Simple Family Meals From My Home to Yours” Cookbook by Mario Batali ~ This book contains Chef Batali’s all-time favorite family recipes.  The Cookbook is also uniquely broken down by month as a celebration of the best in seasonal produce and also contains a comprehensive “Glossary” on food ingredients and “Sources” for locating some of the ingredients used.  Unfortunately, I think many readers live in colder climates and may not necessarily benefit from the suggested monthly dishes because of seasonal-only ingredients; the Cookbook could’ve been made all the better by offering suggestions on ingredient substitutions, given the seasonal limitations due to geography and climate.  I’m also half Italian; my mother’s people are from the Southern region of Calabria; I recognized very few of his recipes beyond some of the ingredients, so I’m guessing that Chef Batali’s Italian roots are from Northern Italy.  His parents were French and Italian, and he also attended high school in Spain; it makes sense why these recipes would have an international and fusion element to them; I also think it would’ve been informative to know the culinary origins of his recipes and thus give a better appreciation for them.  Still, it’s a beautifully illustrated book, with easy to follow directions; obviously, the home cook doesn’t need to conform with Chef Batali’s monthly suggestions or even ingredients and dabble at will; I’d like to think he’d appreciate their initiative and creative bent.

“The New Soul Food Cookbook ~ Healthier Recipes for Traditional Favorites” by Wilbert Jones ~ When I think of Soul Food, I think of food that’s fried, caloric and spicy.  This Cookbook quickly dispels that misconception, by emphasizing “…Healthier Recipes for Traditional Favorites”.  The author beautifully and simply presents a portrait of loving memories and recipes that were cherished from childhood.  Being enlightened on the need to alter the diet and recognizing the health traps for many, and not just those in the African-American community, such as high cholesterol, high saturated fat content and high sodium content, Wilbert Jones, food scientist, food developer and passionate cook, was determined to recreate the most beloved recipes without sacrificing tradition, taste and quality.  What resulted was his first cookbook of several, “The New Soul Food Cookbook…”  Each recipe is easy to follow and uses widely available ingredients that are readily available and not “exotic” or extravagant; occasionally, ingredient substitutions are suggested.  This Cookbook includes healthified versions of traditional recipes for appetizers, main entrees, breads and rolls, soups, salads, side dishes and desserts; included are suggested menus.  The Cookbook is written in an encouraging manner and not one that chastises, like so many other so-called cookbooks that extol the virtues of healthy eating.  I made the Citrus Barbecue Sauce and had all of the ingredients on hand.  This delicious sauce is recommended as a pairing with meat, poultry and even Fried Green Tomatoes; the Cookbook includes a recipe for those as well.  I used the Sauce to “smother” boneless and skinless chicken breasts.  I layered the chicken breasts with sliced yellow onion, green bell pepper and an additional squeeze or two of fresh lemon, and then “smothered” everything with the Sauce; I then baked everything at 350°F oven for about an hour.  The finished dish was delicious.  The Citrus Barbecue Sauce intensified the flavors and added a tang and sweetness to the dish.  I wonder how it would taste over Baked Brie en Croute?

~ Interview ~ 

While I’ve known Wilbert Jones for a number of years through our professional writing interests, spending some time with him to talk about his background made me aware of his extraordinary talents and how many lives his many talents have touched.   

For starters, he’s a successful Food Product Developer, Marketing
Consultant, TV Host of Food/Travel Programs and Cookbook Author.  His expertise is constantly in-demand, whether that involves his speaking before a class of culinary students, or cooking on many of the Chicago-area television stations, or authoring or co-authoring books about history, music and food.  Then there’s the other side of him where he works closely with clients on food science and development, marketing and other operational aspects of their business, including sourcing, inventory control and improved manufacturing efficiencies.  In asking him who influenced and inspired him during his formidable years, without hesitation he said his grandmother; for him, family was always key to his journey and remains an integral part of that journey.  In addition to his grandmother’s influence and inspiration on especially the culinary, other influencers included his godmother, Julia Child, Art Smith and Charlie Trotter. 

In the mid-1980s and while attending college, he was able to intern at Kraft Foods in their Micro Biology area; during this time, he was also given an opportunity by Kraft Foods to travel to France and study at the prestigious Ritz-Escoffier School of French Gastronomy.  He would remain at Kraft Foods for another nine years and would eventually start his own company in 1993.  From that point on, he prospered in the culinary arts and sciences.

While his award-winning Cookbooks haven’t always been just about health, they have always remained a reflection of who he was and where he came from.  Since 1998, he’s been a Contributing Editor for Prepared Foods Magazine, as well as a Freelance Special Features and Lifestyle writer for (Black Entertainment Television).  Other impressive accomplishments have included hosting a popular PBS television series, the Healthy Heritage Kitchen (2008), which re-runs on national PBS stations.  In 2002, he was inducted into the prestigious Les Amis d’Escoffier Society of Chicago; the invite-only membership is reserved for those individuals who have established themselves in haute cuisine and culinary traditions and is held in high esteem by his piers.  Other projects he’s working include a cable television program on African cooking; guest lecturing at Chicago’s top-rated Kendall College, which is dedicated to the culinary and hospitality arts; and, working on a book about Chicago Blues.  Wilbert Jones is one of Chicago’s finest and influencers in the culinary arts and sciences.

~ Cooking Demo ~

In “A Healthy Lifestyle Through Food ~ Part One”, Anupy Singla and Indian As Apple Pie are featured, and I also had the pleasure of joining a number of other Chicago-area bloggers at a recent Blogger Breakfast held at the gorgeous new Williams-Sonoma Store (1550 North Fremont, Chicago, IL 60642).  We were treated to a demonstration and tasting of recipes from Chef Singla’s Indian Vegan Cooking” cookbook of Roti and Parantha; the Roti was stuffed with spicy potatoes.  The staff at Williams-Sonoma also brewed fresh Illy coffee and had plenty of yummy homemade chocolate chip and poppyseed cupcakes on hand as well.  Both recipes looked easy to prepare and a few of the bloggers were even encouraged to try their hand at making them.  All attendees enjoyed these delicious vegan recipes and additional taste treats. 

In addition to this informative cooking demonstration and tasting, the new store also has one of the largest, if not the largest, in-store cooking areas I’ve ever seen.  There was a main counter with multiple cooking stations, plus two additional flat top moveable cooking stations.  There was also multiple seating available at the counter, making for a comfortable session.  One of the announcements made at the breakfast by staff member Sarah, was that this new location was going to be the first-ever Williams-Sonoma location to offer a Cooking School.  As details were being worked on, the hope was that the Cooking School would begin its sessions later this summer.  We’re all excited about this! 

Throughout the session, there was a wonderful Q & A exchange; one of the questions posed had to do with the shelf life of whole spices versus ground; Chef Singla reminded all of us that with whole spices, the potency can remain fresh for four to five years, while ground, usually only three months; of course, how the spices are stored matters too; storing them in air tight containers and in a dark area where there’s no heat is recommended.  Another tip she shared with us that in using cooking oil for her recipes, she always uses neutral tasting oil, such as grapeseed or canola, to avoid flavor migration that would alter the intended taste of the recipe.  Lastly, if you’re in the Chicago-area, be sure to visit this enormous and beautiful new Williams-Sonoma Store; the floor to ceiling windows adds natural light, which makes for a very open and airy feel throughout the store and makes for a wonderful shopping experience.  Another plus is that there is a parking lot, something very favorable given the proximity of this heavily congested trendy part of the city.

~ Healthy Eating Opportunities ~

I’m always curious about learning new aspects of healthy eating or having aspects reiterated by various sources.  My local library started out the New Year by offering a workshop on health conscious and budget friendly eating.  In late February, they also offered a workshop on healthy cooking vegetarian options.  I also recently went through a healthy eating makeover program sponsored by my local Whole Foods Market.  The program was aptly named “Health Starts Here, 14-Day Blast Off”.  There were three Monday night sessions that involved lectures, literature, cooking demos and tastings; participants received an incentive “program kick-off” goody bag containing whole wheat pasta, organic white beans and fat free marinara sauce; the items helped to point all of us in the right direction.  Healthy eating doesn’t mean sacrificing taste, variety or nutrition.  These workshops were a great way to gain exposure to additional information on nutrition; lessons learned were also a great reminder of what folks needed to do to step up their “game”.  Be sure to check your local library and specialty food stores for informational workshops, cooking classes, or guided nutrition programs that might be offered to locals. 

~ Spa Food Pairings ~

International SPA Association (ISPA) member spa facilities are pairing food with their therapeutic spa treatments.  Laguna Cliffs Resort & Spa, where Spa Director Jessica Timberlake found farm-to-table treatments a missing element from high-end spas.  “We are incorporating fresh ingredients sourced from VR Green Farms of San Clemente, Calif. into our seasonal body treatments and facials. We are also looking into some cross-branded retail items so our guests can take their spa experience home with them.”

Many spas feel that offering local and whole foods are a part of the mantra of their spa. “Paying tribute to the land and family farming supports our mission of wellness in all we do and setting an example of love and respect for the earth,” said Communications Manager, Carla Minskey at Sundara Inn & Spa in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin.  The Umstead Hotel and Spa in Raleigh, N.C. partners with a local, organic, fair trade, coffee company to provide three flavors of coffee to their guests, even creating a flavor named after the hotel.  ISPA President Lynn McNees added that, “ISPA member spas are doing their part within their local communities and are partnering with farms to bring their clients nutrient-rich components as part of their experience and visit to the spa. This is such a natural fit for an industry that has spent decades promoting to the health-conscientious consumer.”

Food pairing doesn’t just stop with spas and their treatment menus, as many personal care product companies have been infusing elements of whole food, extracts, pulp, seeds and essential oils into their preparations as a way of adding nutrient-dense properties of food into their product profiles, while also improving the product’s efficacies.  Historically, many cultures have always used food for its beneficial properties of health and restoration, whether ingested or applied topically.  The adage “what’s old again is new” continues to serve well younger generations as they age in both wisdom and years!

*       Exhibitor, National Restaurant Association Show (NRA)
**     Exhibitor, Sweets & Snacks Expo (SSE)
***   Exhibitor, NRA and SSE

(N.B. Like the IHHS and NRA, the SSE is also an annual trade-only event that draws exhibitors and attendees from around the globe, and considered one of the better events in its category.  At this year’s event, there was a strong presence of companies exhibiting products that were natural, organic and gluten-free.)

~ Wrap-Up ~

It’s all about moderation and enjoyment.  If food weren’t both nourishing and enjoyable to the senses and sustenance, our species would have ceased to exist.  So, the next time you want to splurge and consume something decadent, or even calorie-laden, don’t feel guilty about indulging.  Enjoy, savor and make the indulgence as healthy as possible; besides, you can always make up for it the following day with a bit more effort in your fitness routine!

That’s it for this edition.  Until the next one, remember to take care of yourself and those you love.

By Terry Herman

Terry Herman is a recognized expert in the industry, and regularly covers issues that include business, management, operations, customer care, treatments, products, and trends. In addition to writing and reviewing, she is also a management consultant and motivational speaker.  She also serves on EXPERIENCE | PREMCHIT Journeys In Retreat To Wellness Advisory Board, which is comprised of ten international experts in various fields of wellness and spa.  She also serves as a Group Manager for the popular LinkedIn group, The Spa Buzz.  You can email her at


(Introductory photo from  All other photo credits as represented from the specific brand.)

N.B.  Google’s blog platform is incompatible with my Mac OS X and Firefox browser latest software versions, which is why some web links appear in different colors and why when attempting to have embedded images their sizing is consistent and/or can’t be sized. 

Friday, June 14, 2013


Most of us know that being healthy leads to longevity and involves numerous contributing factors besides luck. Being healthy and remaining that way doesn’t happen magically and requires effort, diligence, commitment and consistency.  While one’s DNA is part of the equation, so too is regular fitness activity, regular medical check-ups, healthy lifestyle choices and proper nutrition.  On the latter, it’s not just the type of foods one chooses to consume, but the food’s origins, how it’s processed and how and where it’s prepared and by whom.

It also gets complicated with all of the food hype and trends.  The chatter by the talking heads confuses, contradicts and confounds:  is the food natural, locally produced, organic, certified organic, sustainable, toxin-free, free-range, cage-free, farm-raised, vegan, vegetarian, raw, gluten-free, allergen-free, non-GMO, non-rGBH, non-MSG, vitamin fortified, low fat, full fat, half fat, saturated fat, trans fat, country of origin, seasonal, processed using artificial ingredients, processed at an unethical or inhumane facility, fair trade, cooking surface contamination, sanitary and hygienic facility, contaminated with the disease du jour, ad infinitum!   

Throughout the year, I’ll test and review different foods that fall somewhere in the vast healthy or healthier categories.  And, at least once a year, I write a comprehensive article that focuses on “healthy lifestyles through food” that I’ve tested and tasted, and which includes food categories, cooking implements and tools that make food prep healthier and easier for the home cook.  Most of my experiences in this article are the result of attending the International Home + Housewares Show (IHHS) and National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show (NRA).  

Both of these trade shows are enormous that attract over sixty thousand attendees from around the word; attendees are comprised of buyers, sellers, trade guests and media.  Attendees peruse miles and miles of aisles packed with over two thousand exhibitors from around the world whose products represent the latest in technology and trends, and the latest and most innovative developments in home, housewares, equipment, culinary, containment, manufacturing, preparatory, cooking, décor, tableware and food. 

In addition to the exhibitors, there are major keynote presenters and hundreds of professional development workshops and seminars.  Mixed within these best of the best are cooking theatres where globally renowned chefs demonstrate the latest food trends to packed audiences.  There are also white-coated culinary students in eager to observe, learn, taste and query, and also compete in specialty events.  Buyers from wholesale, distributor, retail, online and restaurant also eagerly observe, learn, taste and query.  Booth-side exhibitor cooking demos are a mainstay, along with samplings that can border on the gluttonous.  Both trade shows are incredible, to say the least, but their respective enormity makes it humanly impossible to take everything in and experience the shows in their entirety.

At the IHHS, I also had the pleasure of interviewing Iron Chef Cat Cora and Chef Anupy Singla.  These two chefs are equally passionate about healthy cooking and eating.  I’ll also share with you my experiences at home testing and using some of the latest and greatest products featured at the show, which make food prep and cooking effortless, while at the same time, healthy and on-target for one’s nutritional goals in overall wellness.  I also include comments about Chef Singla’s two highly successful cookbooks on Indian cuisine, “The Indian Slow Cooker” and “Vegan Indian Cooking.

Although the main focus of the IHHS is on containment, prep and presentation, each year there’s a special pavilion showcasing the latest in new food products.  Major trends that continue growing in relevance each year include social media, environmental, green, sustainability, simplified food prep, recycling, and non-toxic cooking and containment surfaces, for example.

At the NRA, major trends that continue growing in relevance include social media, environmental, green, sustainability, hydroponics, recycling, food safety and health, non-toxic cooking and containment surfaces, natural food, organic food, gluten-free food, and food trucks.
~ Healthy Food Prep ~

Cat Cora Three-in-One Grater/Peeler by Starfrit* ~ I’m not a gadget type person, but admit that when I can find an implement that fits well in the hand, allows me to prep effortlessly with minimal to no waste and whose cleanup is fast, I’m there.  This Grater was terrific; the easy grip handle made for ease when grating cheese or lemon rind; there were two sizes of grating planes for gating/zesting and a long peeler blade that can be detached; the peeler is ideal for hard cheeses or chocolate blocks.  As items are grated/zested, a built-in storage compartment catches the particles; the easy-open flip-down section can be quickly opened for removal and cleaning, or keep the cover removed and grate cheese right over pasta.  The overall design is ergonomic and is also ambidextrous.  The pyramid design also allows for upright display on the counter.

Edge of Belgravia Ceramic Onyx Knife* ~ I have always been a pathetic cuter and slicer, but the Edge of Belgravia Knife proved to be a work of art, was balanced between the easy grip handle and precision super sharp blade upped my knife cutting skills and made me feel very knife-accomplished.  The overall design is beautiful and makes this an outstanding cutting implement.  The ceramic blade is a zirconium oxide blade that’s been forged under three-tons of pressure and fired at 1400°C.  The blade is ideal for cutting and slicing fragile fruits and vegetables, but strong enough to butcher meat.

Indian As Apple Pie Spice Tiffin* ~ The ingenious Spice Tiffin is fashioned after the Indian Masala Daaba, or Spice Box and the popular lunch takeout containers in India, referred to as Dabbawalas or Tiffin Walas.  The polished stainless steel Spice Tiffin is round, contains seven small individual spice bowls that have a patent-pending “half moon” cover that doubles as a leveler for either the teaspoon or tablespoon stainless steel measuring spoons, which are also included.  The Spice Tiffin has a double lid design; one fits snuggly over the spice bowls, which prevents air from getting in and compromising the freshness and quality of the spices; the two measuring spoons included in the set fit nicely on top of this inside lid; then there’s an exterior lid, which fits over the Spice Tiffin to further seal everything.  This compact design requires minimal storage space, or if left on the kitchen counter, its beautiful design adds a nice appearance to a countertop.  Another great feature of the Spice Tiffin is that it’s stackable.  If you’re just getting into the art of Indian cooking, this is an ideal product to have; just make sure your spice bowls are labeled so you can keep track of the contents; although in time, you'll become an expert and know which one is which just by the appearance or the aroma.  Another great aspect of the Spice Tiffin is that you can be creative and use it to hold other cooking related ingredients for baking, Italian or Mexican recipes, soup recipes, oatmeal toppings, ice cream sundae toppings, seasonings for meat rubs, etc.  This product was chosen as a featured New Product at the IHHS.

iSi North America Flex-It Magnetic Measuring Cups and Spoons* ~ This is another example of innovation and won an Innovation Award at the IHHS for its unique design.  Both the Cups and Spoons have soft-curved handles, which are more ergonomic to hold; the measuring bowls are elongated and made of pliable plastic.  The edges are soft and bowl can be formed to create a pour spout.  Each nests compactly inside of each other.  Handles are color coded with large embossed detail for the individual measurement and feature an imbedded magnet, making for each individual measure stay put.  I found them easy to stack the Spoons on top of the Cups to minimize storage.  Both the Cups and Spoons are made of dishwasher safe non-BPA plastic.  I used both sets extensively in baking and cooking needs, and loved the flexibility, and overall, they’re less weighty and rigid than the stainless steel sets I had been using.

Madeira Products Mario Batali Teak Cutting Board* ~ These boards are made of beautiful teak that comes from a sustainable plantation forest in Brazil.  The wood is naturally hard, making for a durable cutting surface.  The individual graining of the wood will result in different surface patterns, making for a visually appealing product.  I tested the Medium sized board and while it worked well and provided a sturdy cutting surface, it was a bit small for the cutting jobs I tested.  The naturally hard surface didn’t show any cuts from the knife I used and there wasn’t any odor migration from the vegetables I cut.  Clean up was easy and all I needed was a damp cloth.

Prepara Roasting Laurel and Herb Savor* ~ These items were also innovative and ingenious.  The Laurel is a Laurel Wreath a green shaped form made of silicone; it’s pliable and can be shaped to conform to whatever is being placed on it or inside of it before baking or roasting.  It’s ideal for roasting chicken, which is what I used it for, or used as a rack for other roasting jobs; it also can be wrapped around stuffed peppers to keep them from collapsing while being cooked.  The roasted chicken I made using the Laurel came out crisp and moist and the best-roasted chicken I’d ever prepared.  Before roasting, I rubbed the chicken with EVOO and rubbed various salts (The Spice Lab) and herbs (Olde Thompson).  For the Herb Savor, I used it to store a bunch of cilantro in it.  The Savor comes apart easily; the bunch of herbs are then stored in the compartment in an upright position so that the leaves are at top and the stems are towards the bottom; the upright bunch of herbs then rests on a removable compartment that is filled with fresh water; this continuously keeps the herbs fresh and crisp while being stored in the refrigerator.  In testing this product, I found that the bunch of cilantro was still three-quarters fresh after being refrigerated for nearly four weeks; the water had turned green from the herb, but remained at its fill level.

Press Art Squeezer*** ~ This innovative Squeezer is ideal for citrus, but especially lemons; made of BPA-free material with a sleek and ergonomic design.  The ingenious Squeezer holds a half lemon slice that’s compressed by an easy glide lever.  An incredible amount of juice, free of seeds, is ready to pour onto fish, meat, poultry, vegetables, fruits, salads, or beverages.  The Squeezer allows for more juice to be pressed from the fruit than traditional methods (hand or presses), with less waste of fruit occurring.  Made of BPA-free material and squirt-free.

Starfrit Heritage The Rock 8” Fry Pan* ~ The Starfrit brand consistently offers innovative cooking tools that simplify and perform.  The Rock Fry Pan is no different.  The major feature of this innovative product is its non-stick design feature.  Small steel pellets are embedded throughout the pan, making the cooking surface three times more durable and thereby superior to traditional non-stick coatings.  This innovative design feature eliminates the need for using cooking oil or spray to cook, brown or sauté foods, unlike other non-stick products.  The permanent non-stick surface feature does require an initial seasoning of the cooking surface with oil, which is similar to seasoning cast iron.  The Rock Fry Pan is lightweight and cleanup is quick and easy.  While the Rock Fry Pan won’t be available until September, it will be worth the wait. 

Totally Bamboo Lettuce Knife* ~ This light weight ergonomically designed Bamboo Lettuce Knife has a serrated blade that makes cutting of leafy greens a breeze and fits nicely in the hand; the handle is easy to grip and the curved blade makes it easy to use a rocking cutting motion.  The cut lettuce resembled torn rather than straight edge cuts; the latter leads to bruising and discoloration.  The Bamboo Lettuce Knife didn’t cause any bruising or discoloration of lettuce leaves.

WearEver Pure Living Nonstick Ceramic Coating 12” Sauté Pan* ~ I enjoyed using this Sauté Pan.  I tested making brown butter and the results were impressive; cleanup was also fast.  I used the Pan a few times to sauté different foods and each time, the foods cooked beautifully and again, cleanup was fast.  Because the cooking surface is large, I found that the cooking times were reduced because there was more cooking surface area exposed to the heat source.  The Ceramic Coating is environmentally safe and free of PFOA, PTFE and cadmium.  This pan is beautifully made, sturdy and balanced, making it easy to grip.  My Sauté Pan was in the color Champagne; this color is one of several trending colors for cookware and bakeware, and makes for a beautiful add to any kitchen.

ZingAnything CitrusZinger and SaladZinger* ~ Both of these innovative products made food prep easy and
enjoyable.  Material is BPA-free.  The CitrusZinger is ideal for those that love fruit-infused waters in a handall-in-one bottle option.  I found that zesting a lemon in this bottle was easy to use and once the water was added, a few shakes and turns of the bottle made for effortless fruit-infused water. The SaladZinger was also easy to use.  Its bottom contains a multi-blade mechanism that churns away at herbs, garlic, shallots, fruits or anything diced that’s placed in the bottom portion of the container; in testing, I added garlic and shallots and twisted to pulverize these ingredients; I then inverted it and added EVOO, lemon juice, honey and dried parsley.  A few shakes later, I had delicious vinaigrette.  The container stored nicely in the refrigerator; the freshness of the dressing lasted for several weeks.

~ Cookbooks ~

“The Indian Slow Cooker” and “Vegan Indian Cooking” by Anupy Singla ~ Both of these cookbooks are a guided tour of the art of Indian cuisine in an easy to understand and simple format.  Having the right cooking tools, fresh spices, seasonings and and foods, whether fresh or pantry staples, are key to turning yourself into a somewhat accomplished cook.  I’m hardly one of those and probably won’t become an accomplished one until quite some time after numerous attempts at cooking the individual recipes in each cookbook.  Still, what I love about these cookbooks is that after reading the recipes and understanding the ingredient components, it’s exciting to contemplate making the individual dishes and savoring them.  Each books provides the reader with all of the necessary step by step background and detail on how to move forward effortlessly in preparing and cooking these healthy dishes.  Each book is also beautifully illustrated.  In attempting one of the recipes, I discovered that some of the spicy seasonings could be reduced in quantity for one’s palate sensitivity without any sacrifice to taste.  My first recipe attempt was making the Jeera Chawal (Cumin Rice), which was from the “Vegan Indian Cookbook”.  I cut the recipe in half and had the majority of ingredients in my pantry; I did, however, need to use the cumin seed from the Indian As Apple Pie Basic Spice Collection.  I substituted a few items, like shallots for yellow onion and green cardamom pods for black.  I also forgot to brown the Basmati rice first, and instead, added it, along with the water, to the fragrant mix of toasted cumin seed, whole cloves and cinnamon bark.  I’m detailing this only to underscore that even with these omits and substitutions, the final dish turned out to be incredibly delicious, aromatic and very flavorful; it could have sufficed as an entree, or as Chef Anupy suggests, served with a side of yogurt.  My next recipe attempts will be the Masala Tofu Scramble and Tofu Pakora (Chickpea Fritters); both recipes are also in the “Vegan Indian Cookbook”.  I’ll have to dig out of storage my slow cooker and use that as an excuse to invite some friends and family over to feast on some of the recipes found in the “Indian Slow Cooker” cookbook.

~ Healthy Culinary Adds  ~

Indian As Apple Pie Basic Spice Collection* ~ Whether you’re just starting out with learning how to cook Indian cuisine, or are an accomplished cook to this style, the Basic Spice Collection is a must-have for the pantry (or Spice Tiffin).  Made from the purest and freshest spices, the Collection includes Cumin Seed, Mustard Seed, Turmeric Powder, Coriander Powder, Red Chili Powder and Garam Masala.  For the advanced Indian cook, a Custom Spice Blend Set is also available.  While I admit I’ve enjoyed this cuisine on a number of occasions, in time, I hope to become more familiar using these spices in cooking Indian cuisine; I’ll also have to adjust my palate, somewhat, to some of the more spicy, but aromatic ones.  The Basic Spice Collection accentuates the flavors of this wonderful cuisine.

LoSalt** ~ This reduced salt alternative is a healthier version of traditional table, rock or sea salt.  LoSalt is made up of two beneficial minerals, potassium chloride (66%) and sodium chloride (33%).  Compared to traditional salt, which contains 518mg of sodium for a one-quarter teaspoon measure, LoSalt contains only 171mg of sodium for the same measure.  Excessive amounts of sodium in the diet are harmful to one’s health and elevate blood pressure.  I’ve tried other brands of reduced salt products and was turned off by the unpleasant metallic after taste.  With LoSalt, none of that was detected.  It’s granulated like traditional table salt and works well in recipes calling for measured salt or sprinkled on foods like a condiment.  The taste is clean and “salty” and comes in original or iodized versions.  I used the product in various recipes and also as a flavoring condiment to replace traditional salt; there was no sacrifice in taste.

Olde Thompson Saigon Cinnamon, Organic All Purpose No Salt Seasoning, Rustic Tuscan Seasoning and Italian Seasoning* ~ Since 1944, Olde Thompson has been the purveyor of the world’s finest and purest seasonings and spices.  Whether used by the professional chef or home cook, the quality of Olde Thompson products is consistently superior; using them added a rich flavor, brightness and a superior taste quality to foods prepared using these various spices and seasonings.  I used the Organic All Purpose No Salt Seasoning, Rustic Tuscan Seasoning and Italian Seasoning in a variety of dishes such as roasted chicken, marinara sauce, ragus and vinaigrettes; I used the Cinnamon in pancakes, French toast and carrot muffins.  The bright fresh flavors of the seasonings and spices intensified the overall flavors for each dish.

The Spice Lab India Black Kala Namak Mineral Salt (Pakistan) and Gourmet Sea Salt Collection No. 2** ~ The Sea Salt Collection includes Persian Blue Diamond Mountain Salt (Persia), Himalayan Crystal Pink Mountain Salt (Pakistan), Carolina Hickory Smoked Sea Salt (North Carolina), Alderwood Smoked Sea Salt (Washington State), Cypress White Flake Sea Salt (Island of Cypress), Hawaii Black Lava Coarse Sea Salt (Hawaii).  These superior quality global salts all brighten the flavor of foods when used sparingly and as a condiment, versus a measured seasoning.  A little of these high quality salts goes a long way.  The only varieties not tested were the smoked versions, since my various food preparations didn’t call for a smoky dimension; I will eventually test the India Black Kala Namak Mineral Salt in an Indian Masala Tofu Scramble.  These Salts that were tested intensified the overall flavor of the dish, without making them seem “salty” and adding a brightness and freshness to the dishes.

~ Healthy Bites, Libations & Miscellany ~

CapaBunga Wine Savers ~ These wine-saver bottle toppers are made of pliable silicone and fit over
most bottle tops, including carbonated beverages without the beverage losing its freshness or taste.  Usually when a cork or a bottle top is removed from a bottle, either all of the bottle’s contents have to be consumed or discarded; once oxygen hits the contents, destabilization occurs and robs the beverage of its flavor.  The Wine Savers are available plain or with custom imprinting, which makes for a great gift idea.

Davidson’s Tulsi Organic Teas and Tisanes** ~ I tried all of the Tulsi varieties of these fair trade and certified organic tisanes.  Varieties included Signature Blend, Spicy Green, Rooibos Chai, Chamomile Flowers, Pure Leaves and Hibiscus Flower.  The Tulsi, or “Holy Basil” is revered by many cultures for its curative and nutritionally healing properties.  Each had a distinct, yet refreshing and clean taste to them.  I would’ve also enjoyed trying their black, white and green tea varieties.

Sweet Sensations Southern Sweet Potato Fries** ~  Sweet potatoes are rich in fiber, antioxidants, Vitamin C and A, potassium and protein.  When prepared without using any added fats and baked, not fried, they’re nutritious and satisfying as a side dish.  I tried Sweet Sensations in the Plate Fry and Crinkle-Cut; both cuts were minimally seasoned and tasted delicious.  The Sweet Sensations were low in fat and sodium, and contained no saturated fat or trans fat.  No deep-frying required, although these can be deep-fried, baking in the oven retained the healthier aspect of the product.

Tofurky Artisan Sausages Chick’n & Apple, Andouille Cajun Style and Spinach Pesto ~ Although not a vegan or vegetarian, occasionally I’ll forgo the meat.  These Tofurky Artisan Sausages taste just like they contain meat.  Each variety is non-GMO and made with wheat gluten and organic tofu, so those with allergies to wheat or soy need to steer clear of these Sausages; the added seasonings make them taste like a meat-based version.  They’re easily prepared, and because they’re meat-free, minimal preparation is required; I boiled the Chick’n & Apple; sautéed the Andouille Cajun Style; and, cooked in the Spinach Pesto in a marinara sauce embellished with veggies.  I enjoyed dipping the Chick’n & Apple and Andouille Cajun Style varieties in honey mustard; the Cajun seasoning was a bit too spicy.  Delicious and ideal for even carnivores!

~ Interviews ~

Chef Anupy Singla* ~ Chef Anupy Singla is one of Chicago’s finest and could easily be its ambassador of Indian Cuisine.  An award-winning journalist, she turned her passion for Indian cuisine into a successful career as a cookbook author, chef, instructor and entrepreneur.  Her successful business, Indian As Apple Pie, offers a number of must-have items for the Indian cook, whether they’re just beginning, or advanced.  When not perfecting and testing new recipes for her packed cooking workshop and demonstration schedule at select Williams-Sonoma and Whole Foods, she’s also doing book tours.  More recently, she became a member of the Les Dames d’Escoffier, a worldwide culinary and philanthropic organization that supports, encourages and recognizes contributions made by professional women leaders in the food, fine beverage and hospitality industries.  As if this weren’t enough, she’s also an incredibly busy mother of two young girls.

Interviewing her was fast-paced, animated and informative.  She was the consummate teacher, explaining to me her background, her products and a brief history about the cultural significance for each one.  After a brief exchange on my likes and dislikes of the cuisine and encouraged me to “give it a try” and experience the richness and delicious cuisine by trying to make a dish or two on my own, versus going to a restaurant.  Her passion for the culinary is driven by concerns with nutrition and diet for her family; through this passion and concern, others are also benefitting by her cookbooks and products.  Like so many other chefs, she uses fresh foods for her recipes that are organic, local and seasonal.

Chef Singla was one of the featured chefs that shared their culinary expertise with a cooking demonstration in a packed IHHS Cooking Theatre.  For more on Chef Anupy Singla, be sure to follow her website’s informative Blog.  She can also be found on YouTube discussing and demonstrating the finer aspects of Indian cuisine.  To me, Chef Singla is a Goodwill Ambassador for the Indian culture and its delicious cuisine.

Chef Cat Cora* ~  Chef Cora is no stranger to food and hospitality being catalysts of conviviality and fellowship.  Family and food were always an integral part of her formidable years; her Greek heritage and Southern roots taught her early on how great the two cultures and cuisines paired together.  Food was fresh, local and although it wasn’t a term coined yet, it was natural and organic; these local foods and those sent to her family from their homeland helped ground her in both culture and cuisine.  Over time, she became more passionate about food, opened a restaurant, went to culinary school and became an extraordinary chef and entrepreneur.  She remains true to her heritage and upbringing on all levels; and, no matter where she appears, it’s always a celebration of food and hospitality; her legions of fans are part of her culinary family and what better way to celebrate the family than through food.

Interviewing her is always a treat for me (I had the honor of interviewing at last year’s IHHS) because it gives me an opportunity to have a better understanding and appreciation for her extraordinarily busy schedule that includes making numerous event and television appearances, testing and perfecting new recipes, developing her new app for the iPad (Cat Cora’s Kitchen), insight into her own line of food and wine products (Cat Cora’s Kitchen) and her collaboration with Canada’s leading brand of kitchen prep tools, Starfrit; her collaboration includes critical input on design and development, as well as researching ways to simplify and streamline design profiles while incorporating improved efficiencies in both functionality and materials; wherever possible, recycled materials are used as an investment in sustainability. 

She’s extremely proud of bringing cooking into the homes of so many, who otherwise might not feel comfortable being creative in this area; her simple and quality basic tools continue to help the home cook realize that cooking isn’t a mystery.  Since we all have to eat, it might as well be easy to prepare and delicious.  These two aspects definitely describe this extraordinary chef.  You can find the Cat Cora name at restaurants, in airport restaurants and also at Disney online.  Giving back to the community is vital.  In 2004, Chef Cora founded the Chefs for Humanity (CFH) charitable organization whose programs have been making the difference throughout the world with its programs in hunger relief, nutrition education and disaster response.  You can read more about this extraordinary celebrity chef by checking out her website (see link).  Lastly, on top of everything else, Chef Cora is an incredibly busy mom of four young boys, but manages to find some time each day for herself; she tries setting aside at least ten or more minutes each day to reflect, relax and meditate, as well as incorporating some form of physical activity into her daily routine; and, whenever possible, she finds the time to get a therapeutic massage.  All that being said, one of her favorite things to do as often as possible is to take time to unwind while enjoying a nice hot bubble bath!  

Chef Cora was also one of the featured chefs that shared their culinary expertise with a cooking demonstration in a packed IHHS Cooking Theatre.  For more on the extraordinary Iron Chef Cat Cora, be sure to follow her website’s informative Blog and checkout YouTube video clips, which feature Chef Cora demonstrating her cooking prowess.

*     Exhibitor, IHHS
**   Exhibitor, NRA
*** Exhibitor, IHHS and NRA

~Wrap-Up ~

Being healthy, cooking healthy and eating healthy are all part of “wellness” concepts.  Taking care of oneself requires consistency, diligence, patience and a plan, and food is definitely part of these aspects.  I hope my article presented some new ideas on culinary-related products.  Be sure to checkout the websites and see if they’re on Facebook and Twitter, and consider following them.  Lastly, in “A Healthy Lifestyle Through Food ~ Part Two”, I’ll continue this theme with a few more goodies I tested in my home kitchen.  Stay tuned…..

That’s it for this edition.  Until the next one, remember to take care of yourself and those you love.

By Terry Herman

Terry Herman is a recognized expert in the industry, and regularly covers issues that include business, management, operations, customer care, treatments, products, and trends. In addition to writing and reviewing, she is also a management consultant and motivational speaker.  She also serves on EXPERIENCE | PREMCHIT Journeys In Retreat To Wellness Advisory Board, which is comprised of ten international experts in various fields of wellness and spa.  She also serves as a Group Manager for the popular LinkedIn group, The Spa Buzz.  You can email her at


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N.B.  Google’s blog platform is incompatible with my Mac OS X and Firefox browser latest software versions, which is why some web links appear in different colors and why when attempting to have embedded images their sizing is consistent and/or can’t be sized.