Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Green Goddess dressing

I made this the other day and loved it! I've missed having a good dressing for a salad or baked potato that didnt to rain oil or sugar.  The flavors blend and mellow with time. It was much better the next day.

1/2 c. chopped red onion
2 T. Fresh parsley
3 garlic cloves crushed
1/2 c. Firm tofu
2 T. Lemon juice
2 T vinegar (preferably red or rice wine)
1 T almond butter
1 T soy sauce , tamari or Aminos
1 T 100% maple syrup
1/2 T. Salt
1/4 T. Ground black pepper

Blend together in high powered blender.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Crusted Salmon With Herbed Mayonnaise

My friend Gwen served this about 17 years ago and it was the best salmon I may have ever had. I begged her for a copy of the recipe, and I've come across it every now and then, but it has never had a permanent home.  So here it finally is for posterity...  

Crusted Salmon with Herbed Mayonnaise

Herbed Mayonnaise
1/3 c. minced fresh Italian parsley
1/3 c. minced fresh cilantro
¼ c. minced green onions
2 T. red wine vinegar
½ t. minced garlic
¼ t. dried oregano
¼ t. freshly ground black pepper
1/8 t. cayenne pepper
1 c. prepared mayonnaise

¼ c. chopped fresh Italian parsley
¼ c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 T. chopped fresh thyme or 2 t. dried thyme
1 t. finely grated lemon zest
¼ t. salt
2 small cloves garlic, peeled
1 ¼ fresh white bread crumbs
¼ c butter (1/2 stick), melted, divided
2.5 pounds salmon fillet, 1 piece if available

In a small bowl, combine 1/3 c. parsley, cilantro, green onions, vinegar, ½ t. minced garlic, oregano, pepper, and cayenne.  Stir until well blended and let stand, at room temperature 30 minutes, or cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease large, shallow baking pan. In food processor or blender, combine ¼ c. parsley, Parmesan, thyme, lemon zest, and salt. With processor running, drop 2 cloves garlic through feed tube and process until finely chopped. Transfer to large bowl and add bread crumbs. Toss to blend. (May be prepared in advance. Cover and chill overnight. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.) Add 3 T. of the melted butter and toss to combine.

Pat salmon dry and place, skin side down, in prepared pan. Brush with remaining 1 T. melted butter. Pack crumb mixture on salmon. Bake 20-25 minutes or until center is opaque. If using several small fillets, cook 10 minutes per inch of thickness. If crumbs brown too quickly, cover loosely with foil. Transfer to serving platter. Stir mayonnaise into chilled herb mixture and serve on the side. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Polenta Bites

We hit the jackpot with this one. I could probably eat it every day.

What's not to love? Corn meal, tomatoes, arugula, flax seeds, avocados, black olives and some hot sauce or homemade salsa on top, or whatever you have on hand and suits your fancy.

The hot polenta creates a palette or base for this meal, and causes the tomato juices to warm and run and mmm - these combine all of our favorite flavors and are a super quick and satisfying meal.

Simply slice polenta into 1/4 inch thick slices and place over medium heat in a frying pan (no oil needed - if it sticks add just a splash of water).  Heat on each side...just a few minutes.

Arrange on plate and top with baby arugula (which gives it a contrasting spicy freshness), freshly chopped tomatoes, sliced avocados, chopped black olives, a sprinkle of flax seeds for texture and some omegas, and hot sauce (if you want a little more heat) on top.

Lentil Soup - Pressure cooker

I've made various lentil soups over the years but my family didn't especially love them.
This one however, caught our attention and I'll definitely make this one often.
I've adapted it from a recipe by Jill Nussinow.
It takes less than 30 minutes.

1 onion - chopped
2 carrots - chopped
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs dried thyme
6 cups liquid (at least 2 cups vegetable broth)
1.5 cups green or brown lentils
1/2 cup red lentils
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 knuckle fresh turmeric, peeled and grated
1 t. ground coriander
2 t. salt
1/2 t. black ground pepper

Place onion into pressure cooker insert and add 3 T. water. Bring to a boil using the saute setting, and add onions. Saute for 3 minutes, stirring if needed. Add garlic, and carrots, and saute for another minute or so.
Add bay leaves, thyme, broth/water, lentils, potato, turmeric, and coriander.

Lock the lid into place and cook at pressure for 7 minutes.  Allow the pressure to release naturally. Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs.

Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve as is, with crusty bread, or over a bowl of rice, quinoa, barley, faro, or a mixture of these grains.

Brussel Sprouts to fight over

Growing up I experienced brussel sprouts just a handful of times. On one of those occasions, my brother and I posed for a photo with our cheeks stuffed like chipmunks.  Then we spit them out because they were so bitter and I hoped to never have to eat them again. Blech!

You may have thought I was jesting with the title of this recipe, but no, for the children (teenagers) had a fight today over these brussel sprouts...complete with someone stomping off to her room crying.. because we used the "I cut, you choose" method when they were dividing them up, and her portion was a little less than her sisters.  Yeah, they are that good. We've had them twice last week.

Our discovery began this Thanksgiving. A friend invited us to dinner and kept talking proudly about how we would be having brussel sprouts. I was not excited...not in the least, but rather I was worried about having to eat them graciously. Somehow, I avoided them, but my family kept raving about them. They kept asking "why we don't eat those, are they too expensive??" So, I asked my friend for her recipe, which I've adapted here just a bit for our family's needs.  
Super simple, and it takes maybe 15 minutes start to finish.

1 lb brussel sprouts - washed, and bottoms trimmed
2 T. coconut milk 
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400*
Half brussel sprouts and place in medium sized bowl. 
Add coconut milk and toss to coat. 
Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet - I use a silpat, if you don't have one, I recommend a layer of foil. Salt to taste.

Place on the bottom rack of the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes, gently stirring once.

Stand back and let the fighting begin - we have a tough time actually getting these to a serving bowl on the table...half usually go missing in the transition!  

Monday, January 2, 2017

Almond milk - whole food, plant based, vegan milk

Almost three months ago, I decided to try out a Whole Foods, plant based diet-not as in "diet" but as in lifestyle. In adopting this new lifestyle, I decided to cut out all processed sugars, oils, processed foods and refined flours.

I know, it sounds pretty extreme, but it has been an incredible adventure. I'm learning how to cook ALL over again. I didn't see that one coming!

I originally thought I'd try it just to see how my body would respond for 3 months.  And my body has loved it. I LOVE knowing exactly what I'm putting into my body.  I've looked and looked for a suitable milk option and just haven't found one that doesn't have sugar or oil, or ingredients I don't recognize or can't pronounce. So, I've been making my own almond milk.

I've tried it using a date or two as a sweetener, but found that it fermented and only lasted a day or so. So I've been using some raw, unfiltered honey.

Here's the method I've been enjoying the most:

1 cup raw almonds
4 cups water
Dash of salt
1/2-1 teaspoon raw unfiltered honey (preferably from your own bees!)

Place almonds into a quart jar and fill with water. Place in the fridge and
allow to soak overnight.
Drain and rinse almonds.

Place in a high powered blender. Add 4 cups filtered water, honey and dash of salt.
Blend until smooth.

Stain using a nut bag (best ever, takes about 3 minutes), or strain cheesecloth.

Add additional water for consistency.
Place in a container with a sealable lid, and refrigerate immediately.
Lasts 5-7 days.

Use ground almond meal remains in breads, granolas etc. 

Hot chocolate - Whole Food Plant Based, vegan

We woke up to 8 inches of snow and after our walk and some snow shoveling, we were totally craving a warm mug of hot cocoa. 

Honestly, I'd been mulling over how to make a sugar free, vegan hot chocolate for a while. My very skeptical non-vegan teenage test taster said it wasn't too bad (that's like winning the lottery), and she said I could probably sale it, she then suggested we move to Seattle and set up hot chocolate stand and hot cider stand.  She's a funny one, but she asked for seconds and thirds. 

This comes out warm and creamy and perfectly hits the spot of a great comfort food on a snowy day.  Mmmm 

3 cups almond milk 
2-3 T cocoa powder or cacao nibs (for a deeper chocolate taste)
6-8 dates (seeds removed) covered with and soaked for 15 minutes in boiling water
1/3 cup raw, unsalted cashews preferably soaked overnight or 15 min in boiling water.
Additional boiling water

Cinnamon (optional)
Vanilla (optional)

Place dates and water they were soaked in, into a high powered blender. 
Blend until smooth.
Add cocoa powder, almond milk and cashews, blend until smooth. Add additional boiling water until it reaches your desired consistency. 
Add a dash of cinnamon or vanilla if desired (optional).

Serve immediately. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Zucchini & Portabello Mushroom Stir Fry

Holy cow! This was such a great dish - my husband asked me when I was going to make it again, even though I just made it two days ago.
This takes a slightly Asian twist on zucchini and is so easy and healthy.
Truly a 15 minute dish.

2 medium zucchinis
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 portabello mushroom, sliced, coarsely chopped
1-2 T. soy sauce
1-2 T. grated fresh ginger
2 t. sesame seeds

Using a grater, thinly slice zucchinis. 
Place in cast iron pan, with a small amount of water (so they don't initially stick). Add onions and mushroom pieces and cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until ingredients become tender and translucent.  

Add soy sauce, and grated ginger, and cook down to reduce the liquid. Add sesame seeds, salt and pepper to taste and serve warm.  

Tadka Dal with Potatoes (Split Red Lentils)

We've entered a new realm - the realm of whole food, plant based diet, with no refined sugars or flours, or oils.

So...these next recipes are recipes have been altered to fit into the no anything (see above) category. We've been very surprised to find workable recipes that we've actually liked. The following posts include some of our favorites.

I was at Winco last week checking out their bulk dry options and found some red lentils that I thought might be fun to try out.  They were awesome in this recipe!

Tadka Dal With Potatoes (Split Red Lentils)
1 onion - finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 T. grated fresh ginger
1 jalapeno pepper - sliced into rings (with or without seeds)
2 cups red lentils, rinsed
4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 T. grated fresh turmeric or 1.5 t. ground tumeric
1 t. salt
6 cups water

1 quart tomatoes
1 T. yellow mustard seeds
1 T. coriander seeds
1 T. sesame seeds
2 t. green cardamon pods
2 T. cumin
1 t. allspice

Pre-heat a pressure cooker using the brown setting.
Add a small amount of water, then cook the onions, garlic, ginger and jalapeno until softened, stirring occasionally.
Add the lentils, potatoes, turmeric and salt. Then add the water, stir and lock the lid into place.
Pressure cook on high for 7 minutes.
Release the pressure using the quick release method.

While the dal is cooking, in a cast iron skillet, heat the spices, stirring occasionally - all except for the cumin and allspice.
Once they've begun to brown and are moving around and popping a bit, add 1 quart of canned tomatoes. Use a potato masher or similar tool to break tomatoes down, and boil and stir this mixture, Add the cumin and allspice, and boil and stir until it reduces and most of the liquid cooks off.

Remove from heat.

Serve in bowls, on top of rice or with naan bread, (or a homemade Maseca corn tortilla), with the tomato mixture on top of the dal.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Sandee's Super Amazing Green Chocolate Smoothie

My friend Sandee in Florida sponsors healthy living challenges periodically, and she is a health guru.  She recently shared this recipe on a blog. I've tweaked it just a bit to better work with what my family normally has on hand.

A little backstory - I've been making smoothies for YEARS, and my kids hate it when I "nutritionalize" everything (their words not mine).  If you ever come to visit they will share their favorite story of when I tried to add arugula to a smoothie. Yes, the results were a disaster, and now we know... Anyways..

I didn't get a photo of this smoothie because they inhaled it - I present the empty glass as evidence. My husband even asked for seconds and took it with him to work, and asked me to make sure that I let Sandee know how much he loved it and thank her for the recipe. That never happens. EVER. My daughter finished all of hers - with no complaints. Needless to say - this one is a keeper.

Power Greens - kale, chard, and beet greens (can be found at Costco)
5 medjool dates (for natural sweetening), pitted
3 T. cocoa powder
1 T. chia seeds
1 T. flax seeds
1 T. hemp hearts
2 cups almond milk or coconut milk 
1 c. ice

Stuff blender full of greens. 
Add additional ingredients. 
Blend and serve.

Serves 4

There you go - super healthy greens, cocoa powder, and those awesome omega 3 super food seeds that are all the rave - and it tastes good! 

Easy Almond Milk

This is another super simple recipe:  
Basically, you need almonds, water, a blender and a few hours. Yep. That's it. 

I tried a new recipe this am which added a cinnamon stick, a date, and a pinch of salt to the overnight soak, and so I tried it out - a couple of ways. Results are as follows: 

Combine the following in a quart jar:
1 c. raw almonds (not roasted or dried)
Water - fill the remainder of the quart jar
1 medjool date
1 cinnamon stick
pinch kosher salt

Let soak overnight. 
Drain off water, and place almonds in blender - they should be swollen. 
Add 4 cups of water for every 1 cup of almonds to the blender. 

Blend until very smooth - strain through a sieve, and chill. Water down if thinner consistency is desired.  

I blended one batch without the date and cinnamon stick and another batch with the date and cinnamon stick. Personally, I found the one without, a little on the bitter side.and prefer the one with the date and cinnamon stick. 

This is a great milk for morning smoothies! 

Super Simple Chicken

Last night, grilled chicken was on the menu, but when I stepped outside to grill, I found that my grill was out of order.
I was in a hurry, and so I threw this recipe together - just winging it with ingredients I had on hand.

I was surprised when my oldest daughter, followed by my second exclaimed how good this was! They both immediately asked me to post it here for posterity's sake (theirs). My husband got home a little later and he too really loved it. He and one of my kids took leftovers of this meal for their lunches today.

My jaw is still on the ground because it was so simple. I served it with roasted potatoes, and chimichurri sauce. 
Here's the recipe - for posterity's sake.

6-8 skinless, frozen chicken breasts
1 c. water
1/2 yellow onion - sliced
4 mushrooms, sliced
1/2 c. chopped red bell pepper
3 garlic cloves, chopped

Place chicken in cast iron pan over medium high heat.
Spread onions, mushrooms, peppers, and garlic over the top of the chicken.  Add 1/2-1 c. water, and cover with a lid (I use my pizza stone as a lid).
Cook for approximately 20 minutes, until chicken is no longer pink in the middle.
Check halfway through to make sure water hasn't boiled away. If it has, add more water.

Serve with roasted potatoes and chimichurri sauce - serve everything with chimichurri sauce :)

Friday, March 18, 2016

Fresh Corn Tortillas

Hello! It's been a while. I moved from beautiful, humid Florida, to the desert climate in south central Washington, and have been getting settled - it has taken some time. So, I'm back and ready to experiment cooking in a new climate. 
On to the tortillas!

What could be better than fresh hot tortillas? With perhaps a little salt, butter, and key lime juice? Ummm for me, not much! 
When I lived in Guatemala, the family I lived with asked me if I liked tortillas, and my response was, "sure, I guess" - I didn't dislike them.  For the next couple of weeks, at breakfast and dinner I'd find 10-15 hot corn tortillas, freshly made, wrapped in banana leaves at the table. Finally, we had a discussion, and only one or two tortillas appeared at each meal :) In Guatemala, fresh tortillas are part of every meal. Women cook and sell tortillas three times a day, usually over an open fire on a big lid to a metal barrel/drum called a comal. 
Since I'm not equipped to cook these outside, over an open fire, here's the easier version.   

My children teenagers just happen to LOVE these babies, so this morning I whipped out a batch. While these aren't made from fresh hominy, many Guatemalans also use this "just add water" mix that can be found at many grocery stores, or Walmart - and it's dirt cheap, as in $3-$4 for this bag which makes a whole mess of tortillas.

While there is a recipe on the maseca bag, really, it is trial and error to get the right consistency. Pour some mix into a bowl, and add water. Mix a little, then add more water until it starts to form a ball. If it is too wet, then add more mix, if too dry, add water, a little at a time. Ultimately, it will be quickly apparent when you've got the right consistency. The dough will be soft and pliable, but won't really stick to your hands. Furthermore when you use the quick and easy plastic wrap to roll them out, if it sticks to the plastic and doesn't come off easily, then it needs a little more of the dry mixture.

Here I'm just beginning to mix in the water. It usually takes more water than you imagine!

I mix mine by hand so that I can govern the consistency.
Once you've got the water added in and your dough is the right consistency, scoop out a small amount - about the size of a ping pong ball.  Roll in the palm of your hand, then gently flatten into a small but thick disk - about 2 inches across.  Smooth any rough edges. 
Lay a large piece of plastic wrap onto a flat surface (counter top), and place the dough on half of the plastic wrap. Lightly wrap the other side of the plastic wrap over the dough. Using a cutting board, or similar flat object, press down from the top and center, applying even pressure. 
It should look something like this
(yes, I'm still using my red Christmas and Valentine's Day plastic wrap!)

Note: For the record, you can also just use your hands and "tortillear" these tortillas - the fine art of slapping the dough back and forth between the hands while turning it, turning in the edges and flattening it. I however, have very hot palms, and my hands always dry out the dough too quickly, and my tortillas come out too thick or break. So..the plastic wrap is a surefire method for pretty looking tortillas which cook much more quickly than my thick little hand made hockey puck tortillas (called pistonas).  

Gently peel off the plastic wrap that was folded over the dough. Lift the tortilla up so that the raw dough is in one hand, and use the other hand to gently peel the plastic wrap from the other side. 
If the dough is too sticky and won't peel off, then scrape it off, add it back to the dough in the bowl and work in a little more dry mix. 

Place tortilla onto a hot pan or griddle - no grease or cooking spray needed. 
Because Maseca is a little bland, I grind fresh salt onto the bottom of my pan, and then grind a bit over the top of the tortilla as it begins to cook.

Now for the exciting part - and I really don't know why this is so exciting for me. 
Once the tortilla sears on one side, flip it over. 
As it cooks, tap it. 
Yes, you heard right. Use your fingers (or a spatula if you can't take the heat) and lighty press your fingers over the tortilla. You'll see certain spots that will begin to slightly inflate. This is a great sign! Once you are seeing inflation in various areas of the tortilla, flip it again, and after 15-20 seconds, lightly press in the inflating areas again. 
The inflation means that your tortilla is steaming inside which means it's gonna be a great tortilla! 
Some just don't inflate, but it's like you won the lottery when you consistently get inflated tortillas. It's difficult to see, but below are two nicely inflated tortillas.


After the tortilla has cooked on both sides, and has inflated, remove from the pan, and wrap in a dish towel or tortilla warmer to retain the heat. And repeat until all of the dough has been used. 
These tortillas can accompany any meal (really ANY meal). My favorite is to butter them while hot, and add a splash of key lime juice to them. They are also a great quick snack with re-fried beans, honey, peanut butter, filled with rice and beans or eggs, or just as a general meal accompaniment.   

Store in the refrigerator in plastic wrap. To quickly reheat, wrap in a paper towel, and place in the microwave for 1-2 minutes, or pop into the toaster for a minute. 
Buen provecho! 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Roasted Potatoes

This is such a simple recipe, but oh so satisfying. Thanks to my friend Carla for teaching me how to make this - it's a keeper!
Potatoes, and butter, salt and pepper, and a little something else, just to season it a bit more. 
Taco seasoning - who knew? 
My kids have asked for this various times since first having it with friends last week. 

6-8 potatoes, scrubbed, skins on, chopped into 1.5 inch cubes
1/2 cup butter - melted OR Coconut Milk (WFPB)
2 Tablespoons Taco seasoning (Costco brand)   OR a blend of chili pepper, cumin, oregano, sea salt, onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, cocoa powder, jalapeno pepper
Sea salt, Pepper to taste

Heat oven to 375*. 
Place potatoes in large bowl, and add butter OR coconut milk and toss to coat. 
Add spices, toss to coat, and place in glass 9 x 13 baking pan in a single layer (this will make one side crispylicious).
Bake for 45-50 minutes, uncovered, until soft. 

Pairs nicely with steak and chimichurri sauce (yes, because I can't get enough chimichurri!) :)

Lucia's Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Growing up, my best friend's family had 10 kids and their home was pretty busy.  However, when her mom made this cake, kids came running (including me) from all corners of the house. Moist, not too sweet, there's was never a wrong time of the day to enjoy this treat.

Lucia's Sour Cream Coffee Cake - tried and tested for years.
1 cup butter (or 1/2 cup butter, and 1/2 cup chia gel)
1 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
Cream butter and sugar together. Beat in eggs thoroughly. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt.  Add this mixture and sour cream to the egg mixture. Add vanilla.

1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup pecans (or nuts of choice)
Put half the batter into a buttered 9x13 inch pan. Sprinkle with half of the topping mixture.
Add remaining batter, evenly on top and sprinkle with remaining topping mixture.
Bake at 350* for 30 minutes.

Chimichurri - I'm in love!

We had an amazing meal at a friend's house last week, where I was introduced to chimichurri sauce, and oh my heavens! It totally struck a chord with me. So much, that I replicated the exact same meal for our dinner the next night, and ate chimichurri with my next three meals as well. My mouth is watering again just thinking about it.

The great thing about this sauce, is that it is so versatile (and it keeps vampires away). It can be eaten on steak, grilled chicken, mixed into pasta, or that spaghetti sauce you were just whipping up, with eggs or potatoes, or on toast with eggs and avocados as pictured here.

1 bunch parsley - washed and minced
1 head of garlic (yep - a whole head, meaning all of the cloves) - finely minced, or processed through a garlic press
2-3 Tablespoons of fresh lemon or lime juice (key lime is my citrus juice of taste)
1/4-1/3 cup olive oil OR 2 teaspoons coconut milk, OR 1 tablespoon chia gel

Mix together in small bowl, and season with kosher or large grain salt, and black pepper (red pepper flakes may also be added for a little more zing, if the garlic isn't enough!)

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Chili Cheese Fries - Comfort Food

I recently returned from a trip to Colorado.  
There we tried to visit one of my favorite restaurants in Minturn - the Turn Table. 
It is the epitome of a greasy spoon diner, and a local's secret. Our favorite meals there are the gringo, and boos burritos.  One of my best friends and I used to stop in after snowshoeing, and she would ALWAYS get their chili cheese fries.  Yesterday, we played with homemade steak fries in my kitchen, and here's my rendition of chili cheese fries - inspired by the Turntable. 
This is a great meal when you want to spice up left over chili, need a warm comfort food, perfect for a cool fall or cold winter's night.

1 Recipe Chili (leftovers are great)
1/2 - 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Place desired quantity of fries on oven safe plate or dish.
Sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese.
Place under broiler until cheese is melted and bubbly. 

Slide fries and melted cheese into bowl of hot chili.
Garnish with sour cream, chopped onions or chives, bacon as desired.  

Steak Fries

My daughter decided that she wanted some fries yesterday, and she set out to make some. She asked for a few pointers, and made herself some great fries with the cast iron pan on the stove. 
They looked so good, that I decided to do a bigger batch, but without the heat from the stove top. 
These fries come out crisp, and tasty, and can be made more quickly than it takes to bake the frozen ones from the grocery store.  

5-8 Russett potatoes - scrubbed
Oil for frying
Salt as desired
Dish lined with paper towels

I picked up this food chopper several months ago, on the advice of my sister in law. I found it at an outlet kitchen store for less than $20.00, and love that it has many interchangeable blades.  I also found a potato slicer at Walmart a couple of years ago, that similarly juliennes food (makes easy sticks) as well.  A kitchen knife and cutting board also do the same thing, but the result may not be quite as uniform.
Slice clean potatoes into 1/4x1/4" slices.  Leave peels on as desired. 

Soak potato sticks in ice water for 10-30 minutes. This helps make them crisper, and alleviates the 'rust' that potatoes get when in contact with air. 

After soaking,I tried gently drying the potatoes with a paper towel just prior to submerging in oil, but liked them best when they were submerged in oil, still wet from ice water. Be aware however, that this may cause oil to "pop" and may cause burns.

Using a fryer (if you have one) or a heavy skillet on the stove, heat 1.5 - 2 inches of oil to 350-400* F.  
A fry basket comes in pretty handily if you have one. 

Working in small batches, remove a handful of potato sticks from the ice water bath, and place into fry basket/or directly into pan, and submerge in hot oil. 
Allow to cook for 3-5 minutes - tossing gently as needed.  

Remove from oil, and salt immediately. 
Dump into paper towel lined bowl or pan, to allow oil to drain. 
Serve hot

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Rice Spice Bites - Puerto Rican Recaito & Sofrito

 Ever wanted some extra flavor in your rice, or in a sauce, but didn't have the time to chop and sautee everything? Or have everything on hand? In Puerto Rico, many rice, soups, or meat dishes have a base of recaito or sofrito.. made with a cilantro or culantro base. These are spicy - to your preference, and add a quick burst of flavor to rice and meat dishes. 

3 bunches cilantro - coarsely chopped
8 jalapeƱos -seeded and finely chopped
5 bunches green onions - chopped
1 large garlic - 8-10 cloves, chopped
3 limes juiced
3 Tablespoons butter

Melt butter in saucepan, add everything except for the lime juice.  Sautee until tender. 
Add lime juice and simmer for a few minutes. 

Place in spoonfuls on baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and freeze for several hours or overnight - ice cube trays can also be used.  
Place in individual snack baggies or in a large bag for future use - keep
stored in freezer. 

Add as a base to rice, shrimp, or meat sauces for a quick, rich flavor. 

Hand Soap with Shea, Mango, Coconut, Sweet Almond, Avocado, Emu, and Rose Hip Oils

Super Luxurious Homemade Hand Soap

Even though I'm really stepping away from my edibles genre here, I love making lotions and soaps.
My favorite hand cream (which is the best gift ever, and clears up ecema if used regularly) is
Karen's Buttercream.  It is as yummy as it sounds!   

When I moved to Florida, I brought all of my lotion making supplies, but after a while, I wasn't quite sure about the shelf life of some of my luxury butters and oils.
I called Majestic Mountain Sage and their kind technical staff walked me through and helped me create a soap recipe from my "use it or lose it" oils and butters. 

I totally fell in love with this soap after my first batch. I love the smell, and I love the lather, and they make a great gift presentation, wrapped with velum, tied with lemon grass.   

First off - figure out how much you will need by doing the following: 
In a pyrex, measure 3 cups of water. 
Line a box (or mold) with plastic, and add water to check height/size.  Continue adding water, and adjusting recipe (double/triple etc.) as needed. 

6 oz coconut oil
4 oz shea or mango butter (or half and half)
4 oz avocado, emu, sweet almond, or rose hip oil
4 oz hydrogenated soybean oil (crisco)
6 fl oz distilled water
2.3 oz lye

Line a mold (cake mix, muffin or shoe box etc.) with a white trash compactor type of bag (not black).  
Set aside. 

In a dedicated "for soap use only" plastic pitcher, place water, and carefully pour in lye.  Make sure to wear protective clothing and eyewear.  The lye/water mixture will heat up drastically and is extremely caustic - use caution. Allow to cool, until gently warm when a hand is placed on the outside. 
This may take an hour or more. 

Once the lye mixture has cooled to gently warm, combine oils and butters into a "dedicated for soap only" plastic or glass mixing bowl (with high sides).  Add lye solution to butters and oils, and use a blending stick/emulsifier to blend until the oil and water emulsify and achieve trace.  (Trace looks like a spoonful of cake batter, drizzled back into the batter, when the drips and drizzles are visible for a few moments).
Quickly mix in essential oils for scent, and or colors and additives. (I like a combination of cinnamon, clove, bergamot, and lemon grass, or ylang ylang).  You may also enjoy experimenting with finely ground oatmeal, lavendar, rosemary, colors, layering etc.  

Pour mixture into prepared box - lined with plastic bag. 
Allow to rest for 24 hours. 

Release from pan, and cut into bars. 
Allow to harden for 2-3 additional weeks, turning every few days. 

Notes: Don't use glass pans, they get too cold.  Don't use aluminum with the lye. 
Olive oil gives a hard dense lather, coconut and palm kernel give a fluffy lather.

Other recipes - use these with the lye calculator below to determine water and lye amounts: 

6 oz coconut oil
4 oz crisco/hydrogenated soybean oil (crisco)
3 oz shea/mango
3 oz liquid oil - sweet almond, rose hip, jojoba


8 oz coconut oil
4 oz olive oil
4 oz shea or mango

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Fresh Homemade Strawberry Jam

Because we live in Florida, strawberry season begins in December and runs through March.  We have a favorite u pick strawberry farm we visit each year, and we love to bring them home and immediately process into jam to share with friends for Valentine's Day, and eat throughout the year.
  I've had many friends ask me to teach them how to make this jam.  Ultimately, for quantities, you have to follow the recipe on your pectin.  That's rule number 1.  The rest, you learn as a kitchen slave to your mother and grandmother, year after year, in the middle of summer in a burning hot kitchen and wonder why anyone would be crazy enough to want to do this (until you taste the final product of course) :)  

Here's a general recipe that will yield between 8-10 half pints: 
3.75 - 4 cups strawberries
7 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 package liquid pectin
1 teaspoon butter
8-10 half pint jelly jars, lids and rings
tongs & jar lifters

Keep the following in mind:   
It will take time. More berries = more time, but it depends on how much you are making, and finding your groove. At low altitude, one batch can be done in less than 30 minutes.
It will be messy (but not too bad).
Never EVER double the recipe. EVER. Unless you enjoy failure. I've done it - against better advice. 
Don't do it. Enough said.
It will be totally worth it.

Make sure you have paper towels on hand, lots of kitchen cloths, and an electric kettle comes in super handy. Jar lifters are a great tool also - I've dropped some jars just with tongs, and had some mishaps. Jar lifters are awesome - a $5-$10 investment that is worth it.
Find the ripest, freshest strawberries (or other fruit) around. 
At home, fill a large bowl or pot with water, and allow berries to sit for 10-15 minutes.  This helps remove soil - it drops to the bottom of the bowl.  
Pare off any bad spots, as well as stem and leaves. 
Place berries into another bowl.

Make sure that jam jars are washed (sterilized - they can stay in dishwasher on dry cycle to keep warm)
Place lids inside of rust free undamaged jar rings and submerge in boiling water.  Keep submerged, and keep water at a low boil constantly.  

Use the hot pack recipe found in the pectin box. Using a food processor or high powered blender, blend berries.  Pour into a pan, and add sugar and lemon juice as directed. Cook as directed until it comes to a boil. 

In the meantime...we multi-task
While fruit mixture is coming to a boil, line counter with clean dishcloths, and place 8-10 sterilized jam jars about an inch apart on dishcloths (this allows you to pour more quickly).
Still multi-tasking...
Heat a deep pot of water to boiling on stove. 
Make sure that the jars can fit into the canning pot (depth), and still have 1-2 inches of water cover them, boiling (electric kettles come in handy here with boiling water in just a few minutes, the microwave works too, but because boiling water evaporates, it is needed for lids and for the canning).     

Once fruit mixture boils, add 1 teaspoon butter - this will reduce the foaming later on. 

Add pectin as directed on package, and cook as needed. Usually a minute or two more after it comes to another rolling boil. 

Working quickly, remove from heat. 

Use a metal spoon and skim the foam from the top of the fruit mixture, depositing it into a bowl. This won't be processed, so you can eat it as soon as you want!  

Pour jam into the ready jars on the countertop. 
Use a clean rag (or dampened paper towel), and clean off the rim of each jar, removing any sugar or jam so that a proper seal can be achieved.  

Using tongs, remove rings and lids from boiling water (they need to boil a minimum of 10 minutes to soften the gum that will help them seal), and quickly place on lids.  Only tighten rings finger tight.

Place in boiling pot of water, and process as directed on pectin instructions - making adjustments for altitude. 

Remove from water - no need to dry lids, they are so hot, the water will evaporate. 
Place on dishtowels on countertop and do not disturb for 24 hours.  
If the jars have sealed, you will hear a "pop", and the center of the jar lid will be pulled down in a vacuum.  

After 24 hours, jars may be wiped with soapy water, or a rag with vinegar to make them shine and remove any residue on top of lid from evaporated water.  

"Souped Up" Hearty Multi Grain Pancakes

My family loves hot pancakes for breakfast, however I'm not a fan of premade "just add water" pancake mixes. I like the fluffy thick made from scratch pancakes - but they are a tougher sale at my house as time is a commodity in the mornings.
So, I've come to a compromise - we use the mix, but I get to add "healthy things" to the pancakes, and to make up for it, I'll usually throw in some blueberries or chocolate chips to make sure the kids will actually eat them.  It's a vicious cycle.
I'm on a huge omega 3 oils kick right now, and anywhere I can throw them in, they are included. These are full of protien, and fiber, and the omega 3 oils - so they are healthy, and they fill you up and keep you going.   I've also been adding freshly grated and toasted coconut to everything.  As in, I use my machete to break it open, and then put it into the food processor to shred, then toast in the oven.  It isn't sweet, but I feel like it is important and it isn't noticeable.   

1 Tablespoon amaranth seeds - lightly toasted or popped 
2 Tablespoons flax seed
2 Tablespoons chia seed
1 Tablespoon natural coconut - shredded and toasted (unsweetened)
1/4 cup oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
dash of cardamom

Mix ingredients together, then add 2 cups of pancake mix, and water to reach desired consistency.  Allow to sit for a few minutes so that the oats soften, and the flax and chia will begin to thicken.    
Stir, then pour onto hot griddle, and add berries or chocolate chips if desired.  Turn once bubbles appear and begin to pop. Serve immediately, with a pat of butter, and 100% maple syrup or my Blueberry Syrup.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Superfood Orange and Date Protein Power Bars - Gluten free

(Photos coming once they've cooled)
I am so excited about this recipe for protein/power bars!  
Besides being super yummy, they are rich in super foods/nutrients, (google flax, chia, quinoa, sesame, anise, and amaranth), 100% natural (no processed ingredients), and gluten free - yay! Made from nuts and seeds and so full of those healthy Omega 3's that we all need more of, but rarely get. I'm a proponent of 'made from scratch', and love that these are made with home ground nut butter, and my own shredded and toasted coconut. And did I mention that they are yummy?  

Filling and perfect for a morning when you don't have time for breakfast (I have a lot of those), after a run or bike ride, or as an afternoon snack for the kids after school.  Crunchy, nutty goodness, and totally versatile for whatever you might have in your pantry, to suit your taste.   
Heat oven to 350*
Mix the following together, spread on a cookie sheet, and toast in oven for 15 minutes - stirring occasionally. 

1 c. uncooked quinoa
1 c. uncooked oats
1 c. uncooked amaranth seeds
1/2 c. flax seeds
1/2 c. chia seeds
1 T. sesame seeds
1 T. anise seeds

Remove from oven, and place mixture in a large mixing bowl.

Add following fruit and nuts to mixing bowl with cooled grains: 
17-20 chopped (pitted) medijool dates (or any dried fruit - raisins, cranberries, blueberries, cherries)
3-5 chopped dried figs
1 c. shredded, unsweetened, lightly toasted coconut 
(Shred whole coconut, and toast in oven for 60 minutes at *225)
1/2 c. cashews
1 T. chia

Grate zest from 2 valencia oranges into a small bowl, and set aside. 

Binding mixture: 
1 c. unfiltered raw honey
Juice from 2 valencia oranges
2/3 c. nut butter (peanut, almond, or cashew)
(blend 3/4 c. raw nuts in high power blender until it turns to paste)
1 t. kosher salt
1.5 T. coconut oil

Heat honey in saucepan, over low heat.  Add orange juice and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for a few minutes so that it reaches a syrup like consistency. Stir in nut butter and whisk until smooth. Add salt and coconut oil.  Stir constantly and bring mixture to a boil.  Allow to boil for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat before this reaches a nougat like consistency.  

Immediately pour over grain/nuts/fruit mixture, add grated orange zest, and quickly mix together. Pour into a lightly greased 9x13 pan.  Use hands or spatula to compress, and smooth down, and bake at 350* for 20 minutes. 

Remove from oven and allow to cool for 2 hours.  
Cut into bars. 

Optional - Melt 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips with 1 T. coconut oil.  Dip bottom of power bars into chocolate, and allow to cool on parchment paper. 

Individually wrap in plastic wrap.  
These store well in the cupboard, or refrigerate or freeze.