You know spring is right around the corner when Alaskan halibut is in season! Kanaloa‘s Alaskan halibut is one of its best sellers, loved for its light, mild flavor and thick steaky fillets. Hook line and caught off the Alaskan coast, this versatile fish is low in sodium and saturated fat, with high levels of selenium and protein. It pairs well with fresh herbs, infused oils, lemon and cream.

Pica Pica Arepa Kitchen is  six years old this month and they’re celebrating with a brand new arepa. Stop in to wish the team a happy birthday and try the new crunchy chicharron arepa for $6. They’re so good, you’ll want more than one!

It’s great to know there is an alternative natural sweetener available that is sweeter than table sugar, and has virtually no calories. Does that seem too good to be true? In a sense yes, but it is a fact. This natural sweetener is called “Stevia,” which is an all-natural herbal product with origins in parts of South America. The main cultivation is in Paraguay, Brazil, Japan and China with other growers spread out across the Pacific Rim.

Stevia Rebaudiana is a perennial shrub that grows up to 1 m tall and has leaves 2-3 cm long and is a member to the Aster family. The leaves contain glycosides and stevioside, which is responsible for the incredible sweetness of this herb. For centuries the Guarani Indians in South America had used the leaves of the plant to sweeten their tea concoctions or to add sweetness to some of their foods.

The crude stevia leaves and green herbal powder are reported to be 10-15 times sweeter than table sugar. The refined extract of the stevioside is claimed to be 100 to 300 times sweeter than ordinary table sugar. Now that is sweet!  If you do use the extract, we suggest that you dilute the extract with water so you won’t overpower your food or beverage.

Stevia can be purchased and used in a variety of forms – leaf, liquid, or powdered extract. Also the fresh leaves can be added to any hot liquid to add sweetness. We carry the pure herbal green form of stevia that has been ground into a fine powder and ready to use.  But you have to watch out for all the processed stevia that is sold in the marketplace – best to use the real deal.

Although there are many ways to use stevia, start out by adding it to hot or cold beverages, or in smoothies. Also, it does impart a slight after taste that takes getting used to, but not for long. For me, stevia has to be one of the best healthy alternatives to beat the sugar guilt – so consider it a friend with healthy benefits and enjoy the guiltless pleasure of sweetness.

Stevia is available at Whole Spice.

St. Patricks day is coming up on Monday, and St. Paddy’s Day isn’t St. Paddy’s Day without corned beef!  Both Five Dot Ranch and The Fatted Calf have their own versions of corned beef available for your St. Paddy’s Day celebrations. And, of course, leftover corned beef makes amazing sandwiches, perfect corned beef hash, and is great chopped into a salad. Make sure to pre-order your corned beef by stopping in or calling today. Plus, you can enjoy St. Paddy’s day at Five Dot  Ranch Friday, March 14 through Monday, March 17 (St. Paddy’s Day). This year, the menu features house-made corned beef with braised cabbage, mashed potaotoes and whole grain mustard sauce for $15.  We recommend calling ahead to reserve yours 707-224-5550.

In addition to a regular offering of tasty, seasonal cupcakes, Kara’s Cupcakes regularly gives back to the community. The March charity cupcake sweetly supports the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The chocolate salted caramel is a chocolate cake with a sweet and salted caramel frosting — and a portion of the proceeds benefit the MS Society!

The busy bakers at The Model Bakery are always coming up with great new baked treats to entice us, and their new pretzel bread is no exception. Made with organic whole milled California wheat, organic whole milled Montana hard red/white wheat, Strauss organic whole milk, organic butter, organic malted barley syrup, sea salt, grey salt and caraway, sure to bring back childhood memories of soft pretzels at the ball park, zoo and the beach.  And for you pumpernickel fans, expect a Model Bakery version soon…yummy!