Instant coffee is a flavor booster
Instant coffee can be a quick cook's secret ingredient, effortlessly adding deep, rich layers of flavor to all manner of sweet and savory dishes.
Instant espresso also is widely available and packs even more flavor. In many cases, you'll need to experiment to determine how much coffee suits your tastes. Start small and taste as you go.
Caramel sauce: Add a teaspoon or two to caramel sauce (a simmer of butter, cream, sugar and water). Or heat store- bought caramel sauce and stir in instant coffee. Try this over pancakes or drizzled on ice cream.
Chili: Add a tablespoon or two during simmering. The coffee deepens the savory flavors of the dish.
Chocolate cake: Mix a teaspoon or two of instant coffee into the milk for the batter for an exceptionally rich chocolate cake. It also can be added to chocolate frosting.
Pancakes: Mix a teaspoon of either instant coffee or espresso into your pancake batter.
Butter: Soften a stick of butter in the microwave, then place it in a food processor. Add 1 teaspoon instant coffee and pulse until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and refrigerate. Use on toasted bread or muffins.
Seafood or meat rub: In a blender or food processor, combine 2 teaspoons of sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon instant coffee. Process until well combined, then use to rub on broiled or grilled meat or salmon.
There's no rice shortage in California
The main cause for rice shortages is weather disasters in major rice-producing countries, which hit at a time when reserves were at a 20-year low, according to spokesman Jim Morris of the California Rice Commission.
"Export bans by China, India, Vietnam, Egypt and Brazil have impacted an already tight supply," Morris said. He added that supplies in California should be fine.
"There is an adequate rice supply in the U.S., especially considering that nearly 90 percent of what's eaten in America is grown right here," Morris said. "California is the nation's second-biggest rice producing state, and we have sufficient rice to fulfill the needs of our domestic and international customers. The majority of what this state grows is medium- and short-grain rice, which is prized for sushi, paella, risotto and rice bowls, among other uses.
"It's important to keep in mind that California rice is available and, at 10 cents a serving, remains one of the best values on your plate," Morris said.
If you love mangoes but struggle to remove the pit without turning the pulp to mush, here's a quick lesson on how to cut a mango.
1 Mangoes have a large, flat seed inside that needs to be removed. The mango has two flat sides. Place the mango on the cutting board with a rounded side up. Place a knife in the center of the mango, then move it about ½-inch toward the flat side. Slice straight down through the fruit. Do the same thing on the other side. You should have missed the seed as you sliced. Set the piece with the seed aside.
2 To cut the mango into slices, place one section on the cutting board with the skin down. Make vertical cuts through the pulp, trying not to cut through the skin.
3 Slip a spoon between the peel and the pulp to lift out the slices.
Some vegans may be lacking B-12, a vitamin found in animal protein but otherwise elusive.
The body requires only 2.4 micrograms of B-12 — almost nothing. However, B-12 can be tricky to absorb and without enough of it, your body reduces red blood cell production. Over time, you can feel sluggish. In extreme cases, you get pernicious anemia.
Fortify yourself with a daily B-12 supplement, a multivitamin, or with the few vegan-friendly foods fortified with added B-12.
Some brands of soy milk are fortified. An 8-ounce serving of vanilla soy from Silk ($3.39, 1.89 liters) and 8th Continent ($3.09, 1.89 liters) contains 100 calories, but Silk offers half your daily B-12 requirement, while 8th Continent offers only 15 percent.
Two cereals have all the daily B-12 you need — Kashi Heart to Heart ($3.39, 13.4 ounces) and Nature's Path Organic Optimum Power ($3.49, 14 ounces).
While you can find soy milk and these two cereals at supermarkets, head to your favorite natural food store for the niftiest way to get your B-12 — Red Star's vegetarian support formula nutritional yeast ($4.59, 5 ounces). It's inactive for baking but hyperactive when it comes to amino acids and B vitamins including B-12.
A serving of 1½ tablespoons has 60 calories, 8 protein grams and 133 percent of your daily B-12 needs.
Nutritional yeast is yellow and comes in powdery flakes that taste as cheesy as anything dairy, but are lactose-free. Sprinkle on salads, vegetables and whole grains — it's awesome on popcorn — stir it into soups, toss into pasta.
Some stores sell nutritional yeast in bulk, but check the label. Not all nutritional yeast is B-12-fortified like Red Star — so B sure.