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Ragout: the perfect autumn stew

When the first of the seasonal storms come calling, I start salivating for ragout. This rich, highly seasoned stew can be made with meat, poultry or fish; with or without vegetables. Sometimes the ragout is a side dish; usually it’s a main dish because of its hearty nature. The beauty of a ragout is that it can be made in advance, tasting even better the next day. It is also a great way to use slightly freezer-burned foods, since the richness will mask any dryness. The famous Italian red meat sauce called ragu has a base of ground beef and diced vegetables. In any classic ragout, the meat is cut into very small pieces so that it can become part of the sauce, adding to the thickness and rich flavor. Here are three favorites to try.

Tasting the wide range of local products

Meat eaters in Hawaii, usually choose common cuts of beef or pork to barbecue or use in Hawaiian dishes such as laulau or kalua pig and cabbage. We seldom eat less popular cuts which are rarely available. Consider brains, pancreas, feet, tongue, cheek and the more available liver. Often these “off cuts” are made into delicious dishes including head cheese, sweetbreads and pate, or pickled and smoked. Even the intestines can be used for sausage casings and the stomach as well as heart, lungs and liver of an animal is used for the Scottish national dish, haggis.

Look to the garden for meal ideas

Most people eat meals based on recurring themes. This is because meal planning is based on factors such as culture, diet, where you live and what you enjoy eating. Rather than stay in a rut, next time you are at the grocery store or farmers market, buy something different and learn to make a dish from it. You might also try growing something different in your own garden.

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State-provided targeted benefits: help or harm?

State governments, including ours, are increasingly using targeted benefits, such as tax credits and exemptions, to attract companies or industries to their states. Research recently published by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University raises the question about whether these benefits help or hurt.

Pohinahina — a hardy ground cover and sprawling shrub

A sunny spot in a lower elevation garden is the perfect place to plant the indigenous Hawaiian plant pohinahina. Also known as beach vitex, this ground covering plant fills an area quickly, even when the soil is poor and irrigation is sparse. Pohinahina is salt and wind tolerant and can also live at upper elevations or in partial shade. This vitex qualifies as a xeriscape plant that can be a trouble-free addition to any garden.

Treating colds with essential oils

Aromatherapist Laura Lease is expanding her class offerings. Starting this month, her series of 10 essential oils classes will be offered in two locations in South Kona. She started her series with a class on lavender, then last month offered a class on using oils in cleaning products. This month her focus will be on oils to help with colds and the flu. With cooler weather and holiday germs fast approaching, now is a good time to learn ways to use herbs to help you through the upcoming season.