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Features

  • Submitted to the Optic

  • By J.M. HIRSCH
    AP Food Editor

    It may look and sound like a weed, but lemon grass actually is one of the most important ingredients in Southeast Asian cooking.

    It also happens to have the power to transform the all-American foods you love.

    Lemon grass is a reed-like plant that grows as a thin, firm 2-foot stalk with a small bulb at the base. It varies in color from pale yellow to very light green.

  • By Alison Ladman
    For The Associated Press

    School often starts when kids still have summer on the brain. So these easy-to-make bars have summer in mind, too.

    We aimed for a simple snack with the flavor of s’mores, but with the texture, ease and portability of puffed rice treats.

    We ended up with a layer of marshmallow-rich crushed graham crackers topped with chocolate. To make things interesting, we turned them into peanut butter s’mores bars. But if your kids aren’t peanut butter inclined, just leave it out.

  • The audition for the Missoula Children’s Theatre production of Beauty Lou and the Country Beast will be held at 10 a.m. on Aug. 6 at Ilfeld Auditorium on the New Mexico Highlands University campus.

  • By J.M. HIRSCH
    AP Food Editor

    People have been eating it for thousands of years, yet still no one can tell me why it should be peeled. So I don’t, and neither should you.

    “It” being fresh ginger, the gnarly brown root that lives amongst the grocer’s Asian produce. And the flavor is so much better than dried, you must get to know it.

  • By Alison Ladman
    For The Associated Press

    Whether you dress your potato salad with mayo or belong more in the vinegar camp, the beauty of this picnic staple is that it so wonderfully accommodates just about anything you care to add. And if the flavors are big and bold, all the better.

    So this year we decided to take a basic vinegar potato salad to the next level.

    We added all the trimmings you’d typically expect on an Italian grinder.

  • By Margaret McKinney
    Highlands University

    New Mexico Highlands University cultural anthropology professor Mario Gonzales was honored with the Hispanic Writer Award to attend the Taos Summer Writers’ Conference that started on Sunday and finishes on July, 22.
    Named as one of the top ten writers’ conferences in the country, the event is now in its 14th year.

  • By Alison Ladman
    For The Associated Press

    Pulled pork is a treat often reserved as an occasional indulgence. Which probably is good, since it tends to be made with some of the fattier pieces of pork, which then are smothered with a sugary sauce and piled on a white roll. Trouble is, we love pulled pork and we wanted a version we could feel good about enjoying a little more often.

  • By J.M. Hirsch
    AP Food Editor


    It’s hard to not love an ingredient that loves fat.

    And that’s exactly what sage does — it partners perfectly with foods rich in oils and fats. That’s why it is so common in hearty holiday foods.

  • By Alison Ladman
    For The Associated Press


    Ready for a cool and refreshing soup hot off the grill? It’s got to be gazpacho.
    Gazpacho is the perfect healthy summer food. It’s jammed with all manner of vegetables, including the tomatoes and zucchini that tend to overrun our gardens, and traditionally is served cool to help beat the summer heat.

  • By Michelle Locke
    For The Associated Press

    The parade of retro treats marches on. And this summer it seems the foodie hipster scene has declared shaved ice is the hot “new” old way to stay — and be — cool.

    “We have lines. People are really excited about it,” says David Carrell, one of the operators of the New York City-based People’s Pops, which specializes in shaved ice, along with ice pops, both made with fresh fruits and herbs.

  • By Alison Ladman
    For The Associated Press

    As all-American desserts go, it’s hard to beat apple pie, especially for the Fourth of July.

    But celebrating a big holiday shouldn’t have to involve making a big healthy eating sacrifice. So in honor of our nation’s independence, we decided to create an apple dessert that lets us have our pie and our healthy habits, too.

  • By J.M. Hirsch
    AP Food Editor

    Pretty to look at, but what do you do with it?

    That about sums up how most of us feel about star anise. And that's why it's mostly been relegated to the backwaters of spice cabinets in the U.S. What most people don't realize is that star anise actually is a deliciously potent spice that can do amazing things for your cooking, especially for meat.

  • Solar power has been around for decades, but until recently most area residents have seen it as a novelty rather than a real option for their own homes and businesses.

    That view has changed in recent years with Renewable Energy Credits, or RECs, and tax credits currently being offered that make converting to solar energy more affordable.

  • By Elizabeth Karmel
    For The Associated Press

    During a recent visit to a food festival in South Carolina, I was lucky enough to be invited to the home of Nathalie Dupree, cookbook author and Southern entertainer extraordinaire.

  • Burger King makes promise

    Burger King on Wednesday became the first major U.S. fast-food chain to pledge that all of its eggs and pork will come from cage-free chickens and eggs by 2017.

    The move by the world’s second-biggest burger chain helps it satisfy growing demand among customers for humanely produced fare and adds fuel to an industry-wide shift to consider animal welfare when purchasing food supplies.