Thursday, July 30, 2009

Italian Summer Squash Side

Simple. This little side dish is flavorful, healthy and easy. Zucchini tends to taste a little watered down so big flavors like garlic, butter and vinegar transform bland to brilliant. To avoid a bowl of mush, remove pan from heat while it is still crunchy. As with most things there is some carry over cooking time that finishes the job while you are setting the table, calling the family to dinner, praying, plating and all those other little things you try to squeeze in at the last minute before scarf time.

Bright, fresh, balanced...balsamic vinegar. I was once asked what my favorite secret ingredient was. Without a second's thought I chose balsamic vinegar. When I taste a dish before serving and it is not quite right, but it is not the salt I reach for the balsamic vinegar and 90% of the time it is perfect. Just a little bit makes a huge difference, I guess the secret is out now.

What is your favorite secret ingredient?

1 tablespoon sucanat

3 zucchini or yellow squash, quartered and sliced

1 tablespoon butter

2 cloves garlic

2 teaspoons salt

1 cup diced tomatoes (canned or fresh)

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

Heat a large pan to medium high, sprinkle sugar on zucchini and saute in butter for 5 minutes. Add garlic and salt, cook for 2 minutes. Mix in tomatoes, vinegar, basil and serve.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fish Stroganoff

Years ago when we had Dish Network, 30 Minute Meals was my favorite program. My recipe creating skills blossomed during that time. I never even realized how much Ms. Ray had to do with said blossoming until I saw this recipe. My mom had seen her make it on her show and liked how it sounded with all the vegetables and all (I guess it’s hereditary) so we looked it up and made it for dinner.

The recipe is very versatile. Use any veggies you have on hand; green beans, asparagus, broccoli, zucchini carrots, peppers, mushrooms, peas, corn, onions…We have had it with a different combination of veggies each time, but one thing that makes the meal for me is a nice fillet of fish.Wild salmon and smoked tuna or wahoo are divine, but even a can of tuna would be quite lovely.

½ pound brown rice rotini noodles, cooked with ½ cup starchy water reserved

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, pressed

1 bunch broccoli, cut into small chunks

1/2 pound carrots, sliced or julienned

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1 cup chicken or vegetable stock

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

1/2 cup sour cream

½ pound cooked fish, broken up

2 teaspoons dill

1/4 cup chopped parsley

2 tablespoons lemon juice

salt and pepper

Sautee the onion and garlic in olive oil, cook 4 minutes. Add the broccoli and carrots and continue cooking for another 1 minute. Push the veggies to the sides of the pan to make a well and drop in the butter to melt. Sprinkle the flour over the melted butter and cook for about 1 minute. Add the stock, mustard, reserved pasta-cooking water and sour cream to the pan and whisk to combine and simmer until the sauce has thickened. Add the cooked pasta, fish, dill, parsley and lemon juice to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine.

Who has influenced your cooking skills?

Thursday, July 23, 2009


I know it doesn't look like anything spectacular, probably doesn't even sound remotely interesting to most of you. But if you have had the spinach based Indan curry “saag,” then you know it is worth gathering up a few more spices to create at home. I personally think saag is amazing, the flavors are well balanced, the texture is so creamy and what a nutritional punch! This recipe makes just less than 4 cups of curry. I, myself eat a full cup. That is ½ a pound of spinach!

A lot of foods I can create a recipe by just tasting them, not this one. The first time I had saag I didn't even know there was spinach in it! When I haven't got a clue I turn to allrecipes and recipezaar to get the low down on ingredients and techniques. I like these sites because they have a lot of varations of the same dish. Also, the recipes are rated with stars by people who have tried them along with reviews of how they may have changed the recipe to make it suit them. I take ideas from this one and that one, subsitute some of my healthy oils, sweeteners and whole grains and try it out.

Where do you go for recipes when you haven't got a clue?

2 tablespoons coconut oil

2 bay leaves

6 cardamom pods

2 medium onions, finely chopped

6 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons grated ginger

2 teaspoons cumin seeds, ground

1 teaspoon coriander seed, ground

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more for heat)

¼ teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 pound meat, cubed (chicken thighs, beef, lamb, venison)

½ cup plain whole milk yogurt

2 pounds fresh spinach, chopped (or frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed)

¼ teaspoon garam masala

Heat oil in a large pot or pressure cooker on medium-high. Place bay leaves, cardamom pods and onions in the pan, fry for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, cloves, cumin, coriander, salt, black and cayenne pepper, stir well. Then add the meat and cook for 2 minutes. Slowly incorporated the yogurt and add spinach handfuls at a time. Stir until spinach is completely wilted. Cover and simmer for 1 hour or pressure on high for 20 minutes, natural release. Remove lid and add the garam masala. Turn the heat to medium. Stir and cook another 5 minutes until most of the water in the spinach disappears and you have a thick, green sauce. Remove the whole spices (you may not be able to find all the cardamom pods which is okay, but at least remove the bay leaves) and serve with brown basmati rice and *garlic naan. To make this dish vegetarian-ish use less meat, paneer, or cubed red potatoes.

*For garlic naan I roll out 3 ounces of pizza dough, real thin. Then cook the dough on a 450 degree skillet and brush it with garlic oil. Not exactly naan but pretty darn good!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Kitchen Sanitation

It is good to have a clean and work area when preparing and eating food, but it is better to have a kitchen free of chemicals and toxic cleaners. Most kitchen clean up can be done with just water maybe a bit of soap for the really grimy stuff. You can actually extend the life of most kitchen items by washing less, if a towel can do the job there is no need for water, if water can do the job, there is no need for soap. Residue from soaps and cleaners make you sicker than crusty food.

I cringe when I see a teacher getting the table prepped for snack time. Out come the Clorox Wipes as the whole surface is disinfected—germ free. The fact is that those germs are much less harmful than a chemical-covered table. So now these little bodies are taking in denatured ethanol, dimethyl benzyl ammonia chloride, dimethyl ethyl benzyl ammonia chloride AND over processed cheese fish. Our poor kids!

I have a recipe for you. This is a powerful disinfected that is all natural, effective, smells nice, is safe to breath and won’t give you cancer or even a headache. Make up a bottle for your kid’s teachers as a start-of-the-year gift.

2 cups water
20 drops thyme oil

Mix in a 16 oz. spray bottle, shake well before each use.

Another great cleaner to use in the sinks and refrigerator is a simple mixture of 1 cup baking soda and 5 drops eucalyptus oil. Shake it up really well, sprinkle on grimy surfaces, for added cleaning power spray with vinegar and scrub clean. This is also great for toilets and bathtubs.

What is your favorite safe-for-people cleaner?

To learn more about essential oils check out my guest post at Your Natural Baby & More.

For essential oils on the go, visit Addicted to Oils.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Green MONSTER Popsicles

I wasn’t going to post this because I thought my kids were crazy for gobbling them up the way they do. But then we took some up to my inlaw’s cabin where there were some “regular kids” and they gobbled them up too. So I thought I'd better share this one.

When I came up with this concoction I was just trying to make them really green and green they are! It is basically a smoothie, but I leave out the kefir since most of the good cultures are killed once frozen anyway. The ingredients can be fresh or frozen before added to the blender, if mostly frozen add 3/4 cup of water instead of ice. If you don’t have the stevia, use a healthy sweetener like honey. You'll want to send them outside to eat these, ‘cause that green will stain.

1 avocado
1 banana
2 kale leaves
3 cups spinach
1 pineapple core
2 whole kiwi’s
dash of salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 pinches dulse
1 cup ice
1 dropper orange flavored stevia

Blend all ingredients well in blender, pour into popsicle molds and freeze for at least 3 hours. This makes 8 for us, if there is some left over I just drink it down.

If you are too scared to try this recipe, start out with this one:

Purple DINO Popsicles
1 cup blueberries
1 mango
1/2 avocado
dash of salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 pinches dulse
2 leaves kale
2 cups ice
1-2 tablespoons honey.

Blend all ingredients well in blender, pour into popsicle molds and freeze for at least 3 hours.

What healthy alternative treat do you make that all kids go ga-ga for?
Green Monster Popsicles on Foodista

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Black Bean Salad

Beans are so healthy, they have it all; the fiber, the protein, lots of vitamins, minerals and protective phyto-chemicals. I have been learning about the benefits of soaking grains and beans in a slightly acid solution. The purpose is to neutralize the phytic acid which blocks absorption of some of the minerals. Just a tablespoon of kefir, lemon juice or apple cider vinegar per cup of beans in the the soaking liquid for 12-24 hours does the trick. Of coarse they cook up faster this way too.

Black beans are so versatile as they are fairly small and become soft while holding their shape. The texture blends well with lots, try them in sloppy joes, shepard's pie, tacos or enchiladas. I added quinoa to my salad, another power house, which is totally optional. It should be soaked and cooked separately. I cooked it for 2 minutes in my pressure cooker. I bet avocado would be good in this too. I love the light dressing, it brightens the flavor of the salad/salsa.

1 pressed garlic clove
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
3 cups black beans (cooked)
1 cup corn (I like the roasted corn from Trader Joe's the best)
½ cup cooked red quinoa
¼ cup red bell pepper, finely diced
¼ cup red onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped

Whisk together garlic, vinegar, oil, honey and spices to form a dressing. Combine all other ingredients, pour dressing over and toss. Serve as a side dish alone, with chips or in tacos.

Black Bean Salad on Foodista

Monday, July 13, 2009

Lemon Chicken

Chinese restaurants give me the willies. I get sick just smelling the food. I have learned to stay away. Their low quality ingredients combined with the fact that their oil is used and reused over and over again until even their highly flavored, MSG laden sauces can no longer cover up the rancid flavor.

Did you know that grocery stores used to sell straight MSG? Now that the majority of the public knows that it is harmful it is hidden in common products and companies hope people don’t read labels and if they do at least they are not able to understand what they read.

The whole concept of chicken and vegetables with (brown) rice is a good one though, so we recreate.

1/2 cup corn starch
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, whisk with 1 teaspoon water
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 chicken breasts, cubed
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon stone ground mustard
juice and zest of 1 lemon
½ cup pineapple juice
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
¼ teaspoon pepper

Combine cornstarch, cayenne and salt. Heat oil to medium-high. Coat chicken with cornstarch/spice mixture, then egg. place in oil and brown on each side. Combine vinegar, lemon juice and zest, pineapple juice*, honey, soy sauce and pepper. Pour mixture over chicken. Partially cover and let simmer on low for 10 minutes, until liquid thickens into a sauce. Serve over rice and don’t forget the steamed veggies. I keep mine on the side because I don not like them all saucy, but if you want to stir fry them and add them to chicken at the end, just up the sauce mixture by 50 percent.

*Since we don’t use a lot of pineapple juice, but I like to keep it on hand for sauces and dressings, I buy it in the frozen concentrate form and just scoop out a tablespoon at a time and add ½ cup water.
Lemon Chicken on Foodista

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sorta Fresh Salsa

We had a sweet, family friend cater our recent family reunion, it was really quite a treat. I spent some time in the kitchen chatting over her recipes. She did a delicious roasted onion and feta breadstick and scrumptious strawberry cheesecake pancakes, but I was really wowed by her salsa. She brought it already prepared, we had it for dinner on day two, yet it tasted so fresh.

My fresh salsas always turn to a watery, mushy mess the day after, and canned salsa just isn’t the same. So I got the secret for making your fresh salsa keep better; canned petite diced tomatoes. So it is not quite the same as fresh, but when tomatoes are not in season, you are feeding a crowd or need to save time, this is a great option over Pace. I seem to never be able to make a recipe just as it is given to me, so this has been altered to fit my taste. Muir Glen just came out with petite diced tomatoes that are delicious, now if they could just get the BPA out of their cans!

28 oz can petite diced tomatoes
¼ yellow onion, chopped
5 green onions, sliced
1 cup cilantro, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon oregano

Combine all ingredients and let flavors marry for 1 hour before serving. Great with chips or tacos.
Sorta Fresh Salsa on Foodista

Monday, July 6, 2009

Chicken Avocado BLT Pizza

As a teenager I worked at a pizza place called The Pizza Ranch (a chain in the Midwest). It was new in town and very popular. All of the pizzas had funny western names like “trailblazer,” “bronco,” and “round up”. One of the pizzas that were hardly ever ordered was the BLT. It was a bacon pizza that was topped with mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato after baking. Yes, mayonnaise. I thought that was the weirdest thing ever to put on a pizza.

Now that I am a creative pizza connoisseur and have a delightful mayonnaise in my fridge: why not? Since this is a sauce-less pizza, I like to up the flavor by adding roasted onions to the dough. Just slice two onions, toss in olive oil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes, stirring once. Once cooled, they can be added right to the mixer and kneaded in with the dough. Roasting onions takes all the bite out of them while making them tender and sweet. They melt away in the dough and leave nothing but great flavor to enjoy, so don’t be afraid to make this for onion haters.

1/2 batch roasted onion dough
parchment paper
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
4 slices bacon, chopped and fat rendered and saved
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
3 cups shredded lettuce
2 avocadoes, sliced
1 tomato, diced

Let dough rest while prepping the toppings. Preheat oven to 550 degrees. Divide dough in half, roll out each round and place on parchment paper. . Brush the dough with the rendered bacon fat, sprinkle with cheese. Arrange chicken and bacon evenly, top with 1 cup cheese per pizza and bake on hot pizza stone for 6 minutes. Let cool slightly, spread each pizza with 1/2 cup mayonnaise and slice. Then, top with lettuce, avocado and tomatoes and dig in because you deserve it.

Blt Pizza on Foodista

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Ranch Dressing

Contrary to popular belief, homemade ranch dressing is not a packet of seasoning mixed with prepared mayonnaise and pasteurized buttermilk at home. I will credit this as a step in the right direction, however. The prepackaged bottles are far worse, using low quality vegetable oils and lots of preservatives to stand the test of time. Steer clear, for they are a health hazard.

Ranch is the most likeable of all the salad dressings. It imparts good clean flavor, a hint of sweetness and a creamy base. I formulated my ranch dressing around these loveable attributes. The purpose of a dressing is to aid in the consumption of more vegetables. So dip away, my friends.

1/2 cup kefir (or buttermilk)
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 small clove garlic
thin slice of onion
1 tablespoon fresh parsley
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed (or 2 teaspoons fresh)
1/2 cup mayonnaise

In blender, place kefir, maple syrup or other sweetener, mustard powder, salt, pepper, garlic, onion, and parsley. Blend on high for 20 seconds. Add in lemon juice, dill and mayonnaise and blend on low until fully mixed.
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