Saturday, April 30, 2011

Being a Bit More Careful Now . . .

So we had quite a week.  First, on Monday morning, my 2 year old daughter woke up puking noodles.  And I mean - literally.  She was throwing up undigested rice noodles in her pillow.  Poor little thing was so confused.  It was the first time she'd ever experienced throwing up.  She was fine after a few hours - and back to normal later that day.  However, it was an unusual occurrence.  Then Wednesday, I had been feeling fine all day.  All of us ate the same dinner, at home.  Middle of the night Wednesday night/very early Thursday morning, I was up tossing my cookies all night long.  My husband had to go out to the market and buy some ginger ale for me - just so I could get my stomach settled enough to go back to sleep.  I slept for a bit - but felt really sick.  Thursday - I laid around most of the day because Adam was off work and I needed some rest.  I was fine Friday and still feel just fine.

However - today is when it all came together for me.  My sweet two year old and I were making a pie.  I was assisting her in making the pie crust .  I was out of the canola oil that I normally use in that recipe and I thought we'd just substitute grapeseed oil - one of my favorite oils to use for all-purpose cooking.  I had purchased a large, 2 quart bottle of grapeseed oil from the wholesale store just about a month ago.  It had been stored in my pantry and I never really gave it much thought.  Normally, when I use it, I am juggling my 11-month old baby and redirecting my two year old as I'm trying to throw dinner together.  I don't really think about my oil and it's condition.  Anyway - today, when I was hovering over my girl - to make sure she was not making a huge mess out of the pie dough - I noticed the unmistakable scent of rancid oil.
It all started to make sense.  I had used the grapeseed oil when I made the sauce for her rice noodles the night before she had gotten sick.  Then I had used the same oil the night before I'd gotten sick when I ran out of the other oil I had used to make dinner for the rest of the family.  And I was the only one that ate from the affected batch.  I thought it tasted funny - so after I had tried it, I didn't serve it to the rest of the family.  Fortunately, they all ate from the first batch - the batch made with fresher oil.  Without knowing it - I had been very close to serving rotten oil to my 11-month old son.  He ate the same dinner as the rest of us that night.  I'm just so glad he didn't eat from the bad batch.  I can't imagine that he wouldn't have had to be taken to the ER if he was vomiting all night and becoming dehydrated.
I'm posting this story because it is something that could happen in anyone's kitchen.  A bottle of oil is used time and time again - and most of us never think to smell it once in a while to be sure it isn't spoiled.  We check other ingredients for freshness - milk, eggs, fish - but rarely even think about the oil.  At least, I never used to think about the oil.
Today - after the first pie crust was ruined from my rancid oil, I gave it some good thought . . . and I did a  small amount of research to find that many oils we buy at the market are somewhat rancid when we buy them.  They go through a lot of refining and that removes much of the odor and taste we normally associate with rancidity.  One exception is olive oil - because it is mainly a monounsaturated fat (as opposed to a polyunsaturated fat).  However, olive oil should still be refrigerated and used up within a month.  And get this - many doctors and other nutrition experts recommend not using vegetable oils (soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil) at all.  The oils that are said to be more healthful for us include, palm oil, coconut oil and even butter.  This all may sound a little crazy - but do a little reading, and comment on this article if you have any helpful fat tips. 
As for me - I think I will be more careful about storing oils.  I also think that I will do more cooking with olive and coconut oils. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


I used a random number generator to select a winner.  Mary Beth won our package of Trader Joe's Taco Seasoning Mix.  Thanks to all who entered.  Stay tuned for more great recipes and giveaways.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

GIVEAWAY - prize info.

So I've decided to give away one of my favorite secret seasonings.  It is a versatile blend that I use in hummus, chili, Pad Thai, black beans and countless other dishes.  It is called Trader Joe's Taco Seasoning Mix; however, I have yet to use it for tacos.  :)

Anyway, comment on the yogurt post here for your chance to win.  

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Plain Yogurt Recipes??? GIVEAWAY

So I sorta goofed.  My 2 year old daughter eats plain yogurt twice a day - once before her nap and once before bed.  So - when we buy plain yogurt, we buy a lot of it.  Last month, we ordered it through our natural foods co-op, because it was a bit cheaper that way.  We ordered 12 quarts.  When they came, they had about a one month shelf life.  Perfect - we had ordered about a one month supply.  When I ordered for this month, we weren't as fortunate.  My co-op order came in on March 21.  The sell-by date on the yogurt was March 29.  That gave us 12 quarts of high quality, organic, full-fat, plain yogurt to use in eight days.  So - here it is, March 29th and I still have eight of the twelve quarts to use.  They don't freeze well - I've tried.  I can't be certain - but my guess is that I have about a week to ten days to use them. 

So this is where I need your help.  Do you have any creative ways to use up plain yogurt?  Any recipes that call for it?  PLEASE leave a comment, including your recipe or a fun way to use this stuff.  If you post a comment, I will enter you into a random drawing to win something fantastic.  I haven't decided what I'll give away yet - but I promise it won't be an expired quart of plain yogurt.  :)  Please send me your ideas by April 5th.  Thanks for your help.  I will post an update - with the prize details - within the week.

The Mammoth Mangoes

So we got mangoes with our CSA box last week.  They must be of the extra large variety.   I had to take a picture because these things are HUGE.

I also thought I'd post my very favorite mango recipe - just in time for your Spring get-togethers.

Mango Avocado Salsa

2-3 large mangoes
1 small red onion
juice of one lime
                                                                                        2-3 avocados
                                                                                       1/2 c. chopped cilantro

Chop the mangoes into bite sized pieces and put into a large bowl.  Include all juices.  You can also use a 16 oz. bag of frozen, chopped mangoes - thawed.  Then chop the avocados into bite sized pieces and toss them with the mangoes.  Chop the red onion into very small pieces and toss that, along with the cilantro into the bowl.  Add the lime juice and stir everything together.  You may want to add a little salt - depending on your preference.  Serve this with tortilla chips and watch it disappear.  I like to use blue chips with this salsa.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Sometimes, my everso handsome, vegan husband has a hankerin' for fries.  Here's my best method for making fries that taste good enough to calm the cravings. 

6 potatoes, medium sized
1/4 c. oil
garlic powder
any other seasonings you like

Cut the potatoes in half - longways - and then into long wedges, about 1/2 inch thick.  Try to make all your wedges about the same size.  Then put them all into a large bowl and toss with the oil.  Add spices and salt and then toss again.  Spread out the spuds on a cookie sheet and bake at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes or until done.  Cooking time will vary according to the freshness and thickness of your potatoes - so keep an eye on them.  When they are done, take them out and put them on a paper towel on a plate and serve.  My husband likes them with BBQ sauce.  I like them with ketchup. 

Tip - these fries freeze very well.  I like to make extra and freeze what we don't eat in a zipper seal bag.  Then, when we want fries again, I heat the frozen fries at 425 for about ten minutes or until they are crispy.  I think they are even better and more crispy the second time.

Also - I like to season these with Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute. 

Beautiful Soup

Ah the butternut squash.  So big, so pretty, so difficult to cut.  I got quite a large supply of butternut squash in my CSA box recently.  Here's a soup that I made.  It turned out just delectable.  First, enjoy this poem about soup.  We read it aloud lastnight before we ate this soup for dinner. 

Beautiful Soup
Beautiful Soup, so rich and green
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, Beautiful Soup.
Soup of the evening, Beautiful Soup.

Beau-ootiful Soo-oop!
Beau-ootiful Soo-oop!
Soo-oop of the e-e-evening,
Beautiful, Beautiful Soup!

Beautiful Soup!  Who cares for fish,
Game, or any other dish?
Who would not give all else for two
Pennyworth only of Beautiful Soup?
Pennyworth only of Beautiful Soup?

Beau-tiful Soo-oop!
Beau-tiful Soo-oop!
Soo-oop of the e-e-evening,
Beautiful, Beauti-FUL SOUP!
                          -Lewis Carroll

So here's the recipe for Beautiful Butternut Squash Soup:

2 large or 3 small butternut squash
1 large onion
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground ginger - or 1 Tbsp. ground fresh ginger
2 Tbsp. butter
1 can (14 oz.) coconut milk
5 cups water
1 tsp. cinnamon

Cut squash in half and seed them.  Then place them, flesh side down, into a large, oiled, shallow pan.  Add a couple of Tbsp. water.  Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees for about an hour. 
While the squash are baking, chop the onion into very small pieces and saute in the butter until the onions are soft and clearish.  Then add a cup of water, the garlic, pepper and ginger and simmer - covered for about ten minutes.

When the squash is tender - remove it from the oven and allow it to cool a bit.  Once it has cooled, it will be easy to remove the flesh from the skin.  You will be able to peel it right off.  Put half the squash in a food processor - and add half the can of coconut milk.  Process until smooth.  Then add it to the pan of onions and spices.  Put the rest of the squash and the rest of the milk into the processor and repeat.  Add in the remaining four cups of water, the chili powder and the cinnamon - then stir, over low to medium heat, until hot.  Add salt - if you wish and any other spices that you like.

I really never measure much when I make this soup.  These are all approximate measures and I encourage you to add a little of this and a little of that until the soup tastes good to you. 

You'll love this soup.  I add about a cup of cooked lentils to the soup and call it a meal.  It is also nice served with some good bread.  It is even more fun if you read the Lewis Carroll poem aloud before you eat it - and I think that makes it taste better too.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Kettle Corn

Kettle corn is one of my favorite snacks to make.  It is easy and delicious.  We have a few variations.  I will give you the basic recipe and some suggestions afterward.

2/3 c. popping corn
1/2 c. cooking oil - canola, grapeseed or coconut oil
1/4 c. agave nectar (you can use sugar or corn syrup)
salt - to taste

Heat oil, over medium heat, in a large pot with a tight fitting lid.  Add one kernel of corn and cover.  When the single kernel pops, quickly and carefully dump in the rest of the popping corn.  And as fast as a fox, add the agave nectar.  Put the lid back on and shake the pot back and forth to combine the agave nectar.  Keep the lid on and continue to shake the skillet while the corn pops.  When the popping slows down, remove the pot from the heat.  When popping has completely stopped, carefully remove the lid.  Dump the popped corn into a large bowl or a clean, paper grocery sack, add salt and mix.

Variations and Tips:
  • I like to add in a bit of Trader Joe's Taco Seasoning Mix to make "sweet & spicy" kettle corn.  IF you use this, you won't need salt.
  • Though any pot will work, a nonstick pot works really well for this.
  • To make chocolate Kettle Corn, use less agave nectar, then add in a bit of sugar mixed with cocoa at the end - and salt.
  • Cinnamon is also a tasty addition - add it when you add the salt.  
  • This Kettle Corn can be stored in an airtight container for a few days.
  • A large batch of Kettle Corn makes a nice gift.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Pink Smoothie

So - if you made the pink salad, from my last post, you'll likely have some very red water leftover from boiling your beets.  And if not, boil some beets!  Then you'll have one of the necessary ingredients for this AMAZING morning smoothie. 

Admittedly, I was somewhat nervous about using beet juice in a smoothie - but I had this leftover, blood-red liquid that i knew was loaded with goodness.  I couldn't just throw it out!

Beets are not only an excellent source of calcium, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, sodium and iron - but they also provide vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and C.  The juice rendered from a beet is rich in choline, folic acid, iodine, manganese and potassium.  So many good things from one little plant.  

So here's what I did with our leftover beet water. 
A Pink Smoothie . . .

1 c. beet water
2 apples, peeled and cored
2 bananas
1/4 c. coconut milk 
1 c. ice

Combine all ingredients in a blender, a food processor or a smoothie maker.  Then drink it.  You will be surprised at how good this smoothie tastes.  It might have been the most tasty smoothie I've ever had.  My 2 year old asked for seconds and my 8 month old loved it too.  

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Pink Salad

I took a picture of this salad - but one of my kids deleted it before I could post it.  However - it really is a beautiful pink salad.  It may be a while - but when I make it again, I will post a picture of it.  Here's the recipe though - a VERY tasty little number.

3-4 large beets
3 organic romaine hearts - chopped
2 cans marinated bean salad (I buy it at Trader Joe's)
1 small chopped onion
4 oz. sliced mushrooms
2 Tbsp butter or oil
3-4 chopped carrots

To prepare the beets:  wash them and quarter them.  Then put the unpeeled beets into a pot of water.  Cover the pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and let them cook for an hour or so - until the beets are nice and soft.  Then remove beets and allow them to cool a bit.  Once they are cool enough to handle, use a spoon to separate the beets from the skins.  Then chop the cooked beets into bite-size pieces and put them in a large bowl.  Saute' chopped onion and sliced mushrooms in butter or oil - until soft.  Then add them to the beets.  Chop the romaine and the carrots and add them.  Then add the two cans of marinated bean salad and toss it all together.
This salad is amazing.  Full of great nutrients and so good.  And it is so pretty and pink.  I promise to post a picture soon.

Notes and Tips:
  • Save the water in which the beets were boiled to add to your morning smoothie.
  • If you want more "dressing" than the marinade from the beans, add a little balsamic vinaigrette.
  • Radishes are also nice chopped and added to this salad.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Friendly Stew

A good friend of mine sent me this fantastic Red Bean Stew recipe - and a great picture of it to post.  Enjoy this hearty recipe on a cold day.

Red Bean Stew
Serves 4

1 teaspoon canola oil
2/3 cup chopped red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup water
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon snipped cilantro
1 teaspoon snipped fresh oregano or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1/2 teaspoon adobo seasoning
1 (15-ounce) red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups hot cooked brown rice

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Add red onion and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes or until onion is tender.  Carefully add water, tomato paste, snipped cilantro, oregano and adobo seasoning.  Stir in beans.  Bring to boiling; reduce heat.  Cook and stir over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes or until soup is slightly thickened, mashing beans slightly while stirring.
Serve stew with rice.  If desired, garnish with cilantro sprigs.
Per serving:  220 calories; 2 g fat; 427 mg sodium; 44 g carbs; 8 g fiber 11 g protein

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

We Have A Winner!

Congratulations to Chita73!  She is the winner of our Grand Opening Giveaway!  I used the true random number generator at to select a winning name from the list today.  Chita73 will be notified by email and will receive a jar of my very favorite savory spice blend. 
Thanks to everyone who entered the contest.  This is just one of many fun giveaways to come - so keep following for your chance to win something fabulous!


Monday, February 14, 2011

Sweet Potato Valentine

What is my Valentine getting today?  I'm making his very favorite treat. . . a sweet potato pie.  He will be so happy when he comes home from work tonight.  I know he will have had a busy day.  So I can't wait to see his face light up when he discovers his gift.

Here's the recipe.  You'll love this pie.

2 c. cooked sweet potato
1 c. milk (I like coconut milk or rice milk for this)
1/4 c. butter
3/4 c. agave nectar (can use cane syrup or honey)
1/4 c. cornstarch
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. allspice

Double wrap a few sweet potatoes in foil and poke some holes in them.  Bake at 350 for about an hour - or until soft.  While those are baking, make your pie crust from the earlier post.  Click here: no-roll pie crust.  When potatoes are done, unwrap them.  Use a spoon to remove the meat from the skins (it should come out easily).  Heat oven to 425.  Combine sweet potatoes with all other filling ingredients and blend in food processor until smooth.  Pour filling into unbaked pie crust and bake at 425 for ten minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 and bake for an additional 50 minutes or until done.

Remove pie and allow to cool a bit.  Then refrigerate for at least six hours or overnight.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Melt In Your Mouth Valentine's Day Cookies

So I had given up cookies for a couple of weeks.  And then I fell off the wagon.  Well - maybe I jumped off the wagon.  I just had a serious need for shortbread cookies.  I found an easy recipe - then adapted it to this.

1.5 c. flour
1 c. butter (softened)
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

1 c. powdered sugar

Preheat your oven to 350.
Then mix the butter, flour, sugar and vanilla together.  Roll the dough into small, 1" balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet or baking stone.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Put your powdered sugar into a deep bowl and take each cookie - right off the cookie sheet - and roll it in the powdered sugar.  Coat each cookie completely and put them on a plate to cool.  When cooled - roll them in the sugar again.  Be careful to save some for your valentine.  These are addictive.

Tips and notes:
  • To make these melt in your mouth even more - take out 2T of the flour and replace it with cornstarch. 
  • Use lemon juice, instead of vanilla - if you want a lemony cookie.
  • Add a little food coloring to the cookie dough to make these pink for Valentine's Day.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Giveaway Reminder

Just a quick reminder . . .
The drawing for my Grand Opening Giveaway is TUESDAY, February 15th.  All you have to do to enter is become a follower of this site.  There are other ways to get additional entries (listed on the original post).  Anyway - make sure to sign up for your chance to win a jar of my favorite seasoning blend!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Easy Nutty Spicy Thai Dish

So I LOVE Thai food. LOVE IT!.  I love a good Pad Thai.  Here's a very simple dish that combines the flavors of traditional Pad Thai with a peanut sauce and plenty of spice.  Don't be appalled by the ketchup in the ingredient list.  It is just a shortcut for tomato paste, sugar, vinegar & salt.  And, obviously - adjust the spice to your liking.  All the spices are optional - just use the ones you have on hand and improvise.  This is a recipe that is hard to mess up.  Try it.

1/4 c.crunchy Peanut Butter (heaping)
1/4 c. milk (I use Rice Milk or Coconut Milk)
3 Tbsp. organic Ketchup
1 Tbsp. sugar or agave nectar or honey
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. garlic powder (or use fresh, minced or crushed garlic)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Combine all sauce ingredients in a small saucepan over LOW heat, stirring well.  Boil some rice noodles and drain them.  Toss the noodles with butter and a little salt and pepper.  Then combine the noodles and the sauce.  These measurements are just an estimation.  I normally just add a little of this and a little of that until it tastes the way I want it.  If I have lemons on hand, I sometimes add a squeeze of lemon juice.  Tamarind is also a great spice for this if you have some.  Adding cooked chicken, tofu and/or vegetables to this dish is great too.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Flour - Wheat, White and in Between

I've finally found a type of flour that I like using for all my cooking and baking!  It isn't whole wheat - but it is close.  It is an organic, hard, red, winter wheat flour that is sifted to remove most of the bran - but retain the germ.  It is an amazing and versatile flour that I've been using in cookies and anything else that calls for flour.  That wheat germ is oh-so-healthy, and my baked goods don't have the whole-wheat grittiness.
I got the flour from a fantastic natural foods co-op called Azure Standard.  I paid less for this organic product than I would have for regular white flour at my local "big box" grocery store.  Here's a link to the product page:
This company is in the pacific northwest, but they ship UPS - as well as freight delivery.  Check them out.  And check out this fantastic flour!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Best Vegan Cookies

These are the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever tasted.  Vegan or not.  I'm not a vegan.  My husband is.  Because of his diet, I've just learned to do most of my baking without eggs.  To replace eggs, in most recipes, you can use a "flax egg".  To make a flax egg, just use about 2T ground flax in 1/4 c. fluid (you can use ricemilk, soy milk, nut milk or water).  Adding flax to your cookies and muffins has other benefits too, like added Omega 3's and dietary fiber.
Okay - here's the recipe.

2 1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. butter (use earth balance to make it vegan)
1/2 c. peanut butter
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar (I like to use turbinado sugar instead)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. fluid (I use rice milk) + 1/4 c. ground flax   -   or use 2 beaten eggs
10 oz. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  If using the "flax egg", mix your ground flax into the fluid and set aside.  If using real eggs - skip this step.  Combine flour, soda, salt and chocolate chips in a large, mixing bowl.  Stir. Then, in another bowl, combine sugars, eggs (or flax mixture), softened butter, softened peanut butter and vanilla - mix well.  Then combine everything together in the large mixing bowl.  If you mix it with your hands, it will be easier.
Roll into one inch balls and press down onto ungreased baking sheets (I use baking stones instead).  Then bake for about ten minutes - being careful not to overbake.  Let these cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack or plate.  

A few notes:

Turbinado sugar (also known by the brand "Sugar in the Raw") is a nice, large granule sugar used in baked goods to enhance sweetness and add a little fun texture.  You can find it at most stores these days - wherever you buy sugar.

You can make these without peanut butter - just use one whole cup of butter, instead of a half cup.

Walnuts are also good in these.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Follow Me - Giveaway!

So this is a new blog for me.  I am planning to make it a public blog about cooking, eating, baking, nutrition, grocery shopping and creative meal planning.  I will, periodically offer giveaways and product samples, also recipe contests and helpful tips.
As a GRAND OPENING for my weblog, I'm going to host a little giveaway.  If you become a follower of my blog, I will enter your name into a drawing and - if you are selected - I will send you a jar of my very favorite spice blend in the mail!  You can follow publicly - or privately.  If you choose the latter, please send me an email to let me know you are following so that i can put your name in the hat.  Following my blog will not cause you to have additional email every time I post.  My blog and posts will just appear on your list if or when you log into Blogger. 
You can, however, subscribe to my posts and receive some other notification when I post.  If you subscribe, I will give you another entry into the sweepstakes.
Another way to get an additional entry is to post a link to this blog on your blog or website.  If you do that, please send me an email - or post a comment to let me know you did it.  

To become a follower, click the "follow" tab on the top right section of this page.  To subscribe to posts, scroll down to the bottom of this page and click on "subscribe to posts."

I'll give you some time to enter.  Then I'll draw a name, randomly, on February 15, 2011.
Best wishes to you.  And thanks for reading my new blog.