Monday, January 31, 2011

Millet Tortilla Soup

I just love Mexican flavors, they seem to be made for vegetables.  My husband is not crazy about tomato based soup, though he loves chili, go figure.  This recipe has a mild, but nourishing chicken broth base.  Sometimes I throw in a jar of tomatoes, because I love the things!

Even though the list of ingredients is long, do not be overwhelmed.  This is a really quick soup to throw together and will turn out delicious even if you don't have an ingredient or two.  So just use up what you have laying around.

I always try to make a large pot because it freezes wonderfully.  Unfortunately we always eat more than I expect and there is not much left for freezing either way.  It is great left over and is a great time saver to cook once and just reheat on the stove a few days later.

Relishing the cool weather and the end of soup season.  Though I am NOT looking forward to covering my garden again this week!  Enjoy and stay warm.

1/2 cup millet
4 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 carrots, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small jalapeno
1 medium onion
3 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 green onions, sliced
½ cup cilantro, chopped
2/3 cup frozen corn
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper to taste
1 avocado - sliced
Pepper jack cheese
Tortilla chips

Cook millet in chicken stock (cooking chart). Sautee carrots, peppers and onions in coconut oil for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cumin, cook 1 more minute. Mix in millet, green onions, cilantro, corn, lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with avocado cheese and chips.

Friday, January 28, 2011

February 2011 Classes

Another mini series, this will be it until April.  March is too crazy.  I am having a blast getting to know new people and learning about their food journey's and aspirations.  It is really motivating for me to learn more, apply more and teach more.  These have been the most requested classes.  They are for beginners, hence the "101."  Those of you who need to see the process to feel confident, these classes are for you.  If you have been soaking, sprouting and sour-doughing some, but have tons of questions, bring those and we will be sure to discuss them either during class or after.  Share this post with friends that might be interested too.

I am open for suggestions for Spring classes.  I am planning on doing kefir and yogurt because they are such great classes.  Gardening was a popular one, maybe some demonstration in the garden before it gets too hot?

These classes will be held at my home in East Mesa. Contact me via email at to register. Class fee will be collected at the start of class. No children please.

Soaking 101
How to make it happen in your kitchen.
Wednesday, February 9 from 7:30 to 8:30 pm
$10 per person

Sprouting 101
For salads and flour.
Wednesday, February 16 from 7:30 to 8:30 pm
$10 per person

Sourdough 101
Pizza making at it’s finest.
Wednesday, February 23 from 7:30 to 8:30 pm
$15 per person

Register Now

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Herbal Ideas

This Thursday is my new class Fresh Herbs; Storing, drying, using.  My friend, Cindy, was my inspiration for this class.  She has an awesome blog and is a wealth of knowledge as she has been studying aromatherapy for a couple years.  I love that these medicines are culinary friendly.  They add great flavor that is so fresh and appealing and are simple to grow and use.

Herbs are expensive to buy in the store and do not last too long in the fridge (partly because they were at the store and in transport for too long.)  It really makes sense to grow them yourself as all they need is dirt, water and sun.  They are continuous harvest plants meaning you use what you need and it grows more. I do not fertilize my herbs, just grow them in native Arizona rocky, clay soil.  Most herbs are essentially weeds; they re-seed themselves and take over and entire area if you let them. They can be tricky to grow from seed, so buy starts to improve your chances of success. I challenge you to find a big pot, or a small plot of dirt to plant at least 5 different herbs in.

When I sat down last week to brainstorm ideas on how I use my herbs, I realized how often I use them even though they are usually optional in recipes.  Most of the time I just throw in what I have on hand and it is a different mix every time.
  • Salads are perfect for herbs and salad dressing is even more perfect.
  • I pretty much drown my pasta in herbs. Every. Time.
  • Herbs and vegetables are a natural pair.
  • You can't make delicious pesto without fresh herbs, or bruschetta or salsa
  • Place fresh herbs on your sandwich or throw in a marinade
  • Flavor oils and vinegars
  • Make refreshing beverages like cucumber mint or basil lemonade
  • Knead into breads for gourmet loaves
  • Soup, rice and bean dishes
  • Whip into butter, yogurt or mayonnaise for a special treat

If you are in the area, be sure to register for my Fresh Herbs class tomorrow evening at 7:30 pm.
links; Real Food Wednesday, Works for Me Wednesday

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bite for a Bite

I developed this eating strategy, over time, while teaching myself to eat my vegetables. I grew up with very limited exposure to veggies and had great drive as I learned more and more about their benefits.  I found that when I came up against something that was really hard to choke down, I could sike myself out with a basic reward system.  If I could take just one bite of this vegetable, I would then get to eat something highly desirable.  The more of the offensive food I ate, the more yummy-ness I would have to look forward to. When my mind concentrated on the good, it was all easier to get through.

Now I love a huge variety of vegetables and other healthy foods.  I still use bite for a bite when I have a recipe failure or I decide to teach myself to like something that I haven't learned to like yet.  There are so many diets and food rules that people live by that are harmful to their relationship with food.  They are confusing, restrictive, self defeating and based on guilt.  This strategy is completely opposite, straightforward, flexible, and builds other important character traits like self discipline and confidence.

Bite for a bite evolved when I decided this was a good strategy to teach my kids.  Children have a smaller attention span and respond better to immediate verses delayed consequences.  Luckily, I have started from the beginning with my kids eating the most nutritious foods and have kept their diets low in sugar and processed foods.  I also don’t buy or bake a lot of treats, so they are just not available for eating on a daily basis.  This means most of the time the desirable, yummy food is a piece of fruit, pizza cut into bite sized pieces, homemade whole grain bread, granola or even a sip of smoothie.

My kids do so well with this and often suggest it themselves when they are having a hard time.  Even my 2 year old keeps track of himself while he is using this strategy. He will take a piece of a cucumber and an orange slice off his plate, look at them both, pick up and eat the cucumber, then the orange and repeat.  We treat it as a privilege at our house because it says; I trust you to do this. Now, if your kids are not big fans of fruit, you may have to go with something less healthy for a time for the reward.  It is still worth it to train them in this beneficial, life long eating strategy.

I believe that many parents have such a broken relationship with food that they don't give themselves, let alone, their children the credit that they can change their taste buds.  Vegetables will not always and forever taste terrible.  A few skills in preparation along with regular exposure is the recipe to success.  Believe you can do it, believe your kids can do it and take baby steps, a bite for a bite.
links; Tuesday Twister, Tasty Tuesday, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday

Thursday, January 20, 2011

College Student Cooking {Potatoes}

Dear Kate,

Like Mom, you may think potatoes will make you fat and have no redeeming value.  Potatoes have gotten a bad rap from the low carb enthusiasts to the common junk foods;  French fries and potato chips.  I will make a case for these veggies ANY day of the week.  They are a real food with all that real nutrition to go with them.  Easy to find, easy to afford, filling and tasty.  We just need to use them for good instead of evil.

It is worth buying organic, conventional is sure to have soaked up lots of bug poisons.  Leave the skins on, as with most produce the greatest concentration of vitamin lies in the layer just beneath the peel.  Scrub them well and imagine the possibilities.

You could start out with a regular baked potato by rubbing the skin with oil and baking for an hour in a 350 degree oven.  You could grate them on your cheese grater, make patties and fry then in butter.  You might cut them into cubes, coat with oil and seasoning and steam/fry them until tender.  Or slices would be nice too.  You could even quarter and boil them for fork mashing later.

Potatoes make a nice bed for a great many traditional and untraditional. Bacon , chives, chili, cheese.  Pour spaghetti sauce on top and s sprinkle of cheese and you have a “potato pizza”.  Sautee onions and peppers for a “potato fajita”.  Steamed broccoli (or spinach) over a potato with cheese and you have ”cheesy potato broccoli un-soup.”

And my favorite…

Potato Bruschetta

4 medium baked potatoes
¼ cup finely chopped red onion
1 large ripe tomato, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped (grab some from the garden next time you are here)
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Combine onion, tomato, garlic, basil, cheese and olive oil in a small bowl.  Split open potatoes, sprinkle with salt and pepper and spoon tomato mixture evenly over all four of them.

Obviously, you would just make one at a time unless you were feeding your friends J
Another variation of this that is super easy is to find/make a nice chunky salsa, strain off the juices and put the chunky part over your potato.

Monday, January 17, 2011

My Water Kefir


The small soft, crystal-like “grains” are symbiotic colonies of bacteria that have different microbes than milk kefir grains. I am working on including more lacto-fermented foods in our daily regime, eventually to every meal. Water kefir is one of the many products I can serve to meet that goal. With everything being so processes, pasteurized and ulta dead, our gut flora is suffering. I believe this to be the root of many reoccurring illnesses and is what is keeping us from healing completely.

This probiotic beverage is an extremely simple way to increase beneficial bacteria, helpful enzymes and improve digestion.  You can flavor it to your liking, I have found a good place to start is with grape juice, a widely preferred flavoring.  A quart bottle of grape juice lasts us through 2 gallons of water kefir.  The sugar that is used in both the recipe and in the juice is eaten by the bacteria in the kefir grains, the byproduct is lactic acid, a natural preservative.

I have not drunk pop in years and  have never been a fan of other carbonated beverages.  Even though water kefir is only slightly carbonated, it took a little while for me to acquire a taste for it.  If you don’t like it at first, do some experimenting with flavors, fermentation time, increase the amount of sugar to water/ grain ratio.  Also, keep in mind, a serving is only 2 – 4 ounces and like anything else, your taste buds can acclimate over time.

If you are into more carbonation, purchasing some flip top bottles can make a big difference in your water kefir experience.  I don’t even know if that is what they are technically called, one is pictured above.  I got mine at IKEA for about $3-4.  These are strong and durable, as well as attractive, easy to use and air tight.

The directions are simple once you have seen the process.  It takes very little hands on time to create, it does all the hard work it’s self.  The healthier your grains are, the better the end product will be.  The grains love minerals and sugar and hate chemicals and metal.  Well water is the best, I use reverse osmosis and add a pinch of Celtic Sea Salt, which is full of minerals.  An eggshell also adds minerals.  The less refined your sugar, the more minerals it has, but if you are not used to the flavor of unrefined sugar, you may not like the end result as well and what good is a healthy beverage if nobody drinks it?

¼ cup grains
½ cup sugar
7 cups water
1 pinch Celtic Sea Salt
½ clean egg shell (optional)

2 cups grape juice
more sugar to taste

Heat 1 cup of water and ½ cup sugar on stove, stir to dissolve.  Place in half gallon jar and fill to with in 3 inches of the top with room temperature to cool water.  Add a pinch of sea salt and water kefir grains.  Stir gently with wooden spoon. Dunk egg shell in the sweetened water.  Cover lightly with towel and let chill on your counter for 1-4 days.  The warmer your house is, the less time you will leave it for.  You may want to date it so that you don’t loose track of the days.

If you are ever unsure if your grains are working properly taste it before you add the grains and again a couple days later, it should be noticeably less sweet after fermenting for two days.  When you have super healthy grains, they will multiply like gang busters. So you will know that too.  Remember to improve their health they need minerals, sugar and no chemicals or metal.

You can taste for the sweetness of your liking or just guess and adjust the sweetness later.  I tend to guess and give it attention between 1 and 2 days.  At this point, remove the egg shell and funnel the water kefir equally into 2 flip top bottles, eyeballing it.  Hold a small strainer or just a silicone spatula to prevent the grains from flowing into the bottles.  You don’t have to be tedious here, just get most of the liquid out while keeping most of the grains in.  Store your grains in the fridge or start another batch of water kefir

Top the bottles off with grape juice to the shoulder of each bottle and ferment for another day.  It is really ready to drink any time in this process, but I prefer to refrigerate it over night before popping it open.  The beverage still has microscopic bits of water kefir grains in it that will continue fermenting slowly in the fridge.  Be careful when opening after a couple days.  The pressure can build and it will fizz out like a bottle of pop that has been dropped when you open it.

Because it continues to ferment after removing the visible grains, you can also top your bottle off with more juice after it is partly drunk or you can add more sugar if too much sugar has been consumed by the friendly bacteria.

Hope that gives you enough to get started.  Feel free to ask questions in the comments.  In the future, I will turn it into a question and answer page that will be a good resource for others.  I will continue to mail water kefir grains by request ;$12 for 2 teaspoons, which will rehydrate to ¼ cup. Free shipping. Cash, check or paypal.  Email me at

Friday, January 14, 2011

Soaked English Muffins

English muffins are in the same category as most bread products.  Like pitas and tortillas, it is impossible to find a store bought variety made with healthful ingredients, properly prepared that tastes good.

These are great to just eat with butter and honey, or make little sandwiches with.  We like smoked salmon, egg and cheese J.

2 cups spelt flour
¾ cup kefir or buttermilk
1 teaspoon honey
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

Combine spelt, kefir and honey, mix well.  Let soak on counter about 12 hours.  Combine baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Sprinkle over soaking flour, mix well.

Heat skillet to medium (about 275 degrees).  Form dough into rustic biscut shapes.  Place on dry, preheated skillet.  Cook 4 minutes, carefully flip and cook 4 minutes on second side.  Split with a fork, serve warm.  Toast to reheat.
links; Finer Things Friday, Foodie Friday, GCC Recipe Swap

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Basic Bircher Muesli

I had this delicious breakfast for the first time just last month.  My husband and I were on a Caribbean Cruise and I came across it on the breakfast buffet.  Breakfast is a hard place to find real food, and when you are eating out every meal 7 days in a row, you kinda want to find stuff that your body is used to so that you feel good.  The problem is there is so much sugar and refined foods, all the waffles, pancakes, bagels, pastries and muffins are made with white flour.  Scrambled eggs are usually made with powdered mixes and the diary is all skimmed, ultra pasteurized junk.

I mostly stuck to fruit and water, which is really a great light breakfast to eat when you are overeating for lunch and dinner.  Except on the days that we spent off the ship, we wanted a nice hearty breakfast that would last us into the afternoon so that we didn't have to stop to eat.  Luckily they did have smoked salmon and eggs over-easy, there is no tricking with egg powders there.  This was standard hearty breakfast, but I decided to try the muesli to round out the meal, even though I knew the dairy in it was terrible stuff.  What can I say?  I'm bad to the bone. It was so filling and took me through the day!  We would get back on the boat as late as 4pm without eating since breakfast without a problem.

I did come back with some wickedly congested lymph nodes thanks to that crappy dairy I suppose, but now I can make my own healthy version at home :)  I am so glad I picked this one up because it is so quick and easy to make.  It can also be changed up to incorporate different flavors.  I have listed my base recipe, but have come across some fun variations online by adding different dried and fresh fruits, nuts, spices, nuts. I saw many with grated apple, which I will definitely be trying.  The one in the picture I made super cinnamon-y.

I have found that I like to add fresh fruit and nuts just before serving, they are not as pleasant when they are soaked with the oats.  I add in some rye flakes when soaking because I heard somewhere that this helps the oats to be more digestible and now it is habit, totally your preference.  I also have been soaking this in the fridge verses the counter because I want it to be cold in the morning and I don't think ahead enough to get it started in the morning.  I have made up big enough batches to serve it a second day and it was just as good.

1 cup whole milk yogurt
1/3 cup rye flakes
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup raisins
2-3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1 cup fresh fruit

The day before, place yogurt, grains, raisins, maple syrup, milk, cinnamon and vanilla in glass bowl or jar.  Mix well, cover and refrigerate.  In the morning, sprinkle with salt, mix and serve up portions in bowls.  Top each bowl with nuts, fruit and additional milk or yogurt if desired.
links; Works for Me Wednesday, Real Food WednesdayThings I Love Thursday, Ultimate Recipe Swap, Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter

Monday, January 10, 2011

Winter Class Schedule

I am really excited to announce my next series of classes starting this month!  After weeks of agonizing over how to simplify my life, I can’t shake the drive to teach more classes.  I am taking my own advice this year by taking babysteps to meet my goals.  I will be presenting classes in mini segments around my complicated life and schedule.  I know times are crazy for you as well, I hope our schedules gel somewhere along the line and I will see you here.  These classes will be held at my home in East Mesa.  Contact me via email at to register. Class fee will be collected at the start of class.  No children please.

Grow Your Own
Gardening tricks and tips
Thursday, January 20 from 7:30 to 8:30 pm
$10 per person

Fresh Herbs
Storing, drying, using.
Thursday, January 27 from 7:30 to 8:30 pm
$10 per person

Home Canning
Preserving you harvest
Thursday, February 3 from 7:30 to 8:30 pm

Friday, January 7, 2011

Water Kefir Grain Winners and Offer

Thank you for all those who entered my water kefir grain giveaway. I enjoyed the feedback through your comments and hit 200 followers this week.  It is rewarding to feel the support system that has built through doing this blog as we learn from each other. 

You may have noticed, I have added Amazon ads to my page.  This is two fold; for many, it is helpful to have a picture, know where or for how much an unfamiliar tool or ingredient is sold. Amazon is not always the best deal, but for the most part their prices are competitive and it is a simple way to list an item on my blog.  The other reason is to earn a bit of cash while keeping up this blog.  I am not asking for anyone to order a product from Amazon for my benefit.  I do kindly ask that if you ARE going to order something, no matter if it is related to my site or not, if you simple enter the Amazon site through my site, I can get credit for your purchases and your price is the same. 

Now for the winners from;
#28 Alisha and Josh
#13 Melissa's Life

Congratulations, please contact me with your mailing address at by Monday, January 10 to claim your prize.

For all others, I will be sending 2 teaspoons water kefir grains along with rehydrating instructions to anywhere in the U.S. for the introductory price of $7 while supplies last.  Cash, check or paypal.

I will be putting together some tips and recipe variations I have come up with here in the future.  Thanks again and happy kefir-ing.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Food With Kid Appeal

Isn't that a great premise for a blog!?  Almost as good as "What good is a healthy dish if nobody eats it?"

I wrote a guest post this week on how I market adult food to kids complete with recipe, of coarse.  Jenna, Food with Kid Appeal's author said it was the best guest post she has ever had.  Now there is one heck of a compliment!  If that doesn't get you curious, maybe the title "Rainbow French Fries" will.
links; Simple Lives Thursday, Things I Love Thursday, Cooking Thursday

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Garden Journal 2011 {Freezing}

We love our winter garden.  I am growing a really fun variety of kale that has bumpy, dinosaur skin with curvy claw-like ends.  Boy fun :)  Our favorite preparation is to strip it from the stem, chop, blanch and toss with lemony dressing, which is posted long ago here.

Arizona is so great for gardening besides the terrible native soil, virtually no rain and killer summers...  I ran a continuous garden this year and even let some summer crops carry through to the new year.  I have tomatoes, peppers, sweet potatoes and green beans going right now that are super frost sensitive.  Last weekend it got down to 22 degrees.  We broke out the Christmas lights and clear plastic to protect our vulnerable plants.  Hubby got BIG points that chilly night.  I hope it doesn't freeze again for a while.

I had 4 pepper plants that were away from the pack and we couldn't find the rest of our lights, so I just covered them and called it good.  No good...

It was a hard pill to swallow.  To make matters worse, I snapped my most hearty, gorgeous, fruitful tomato plant when I was taking the lights down :(

I can't get too down about it, since I still have 8 pepper plants and 12 tomato plants that are going strong.  The peas and beans are looking great too!

Sorry if you are 2 feet under snow right now...
links; Works for me Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Tuesday Twister, Pantry Challenge

Monday, January 3, 2011

College Student Cooking {Thai}

Dear Kate,

While I was out shopping this week, I browsed the aisles for some healthy, college friendly products.  I am thrilled that you are broadening your horizons with international foods and taking a liking to them.  There is a brand that is found mostly in health food stores like Sprouts called Tasty Bites.  Their products are mainly Indian and Thai flavors and they use real ingredients, no salt, MSG, preservatives, colors, ect.  Take a look sometime and try some of the products out.

The line I recommend is the simmer sauce.  With these, you use your own brown rice and fresh vegetables for incredibly frugal and nourishing meals.  A 7 oz pouch of simmer sauce is $1.69, the package says it serves 2, but I can easily stretch it to 3 or even 4 servings with vegetables.  There were 5 different sauce recipes available including; Pad Thai, Satay Partay, Good Korma, Tikka Masala and Rogan Josh.

Here is a recipe I have come up with, using what I have on hand.  You might just use 2 or 3 vegetables, or throw in a scrambled egg or chicken even. Broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, asparagus, green beans, celery would all work good here.  You would most likely leave out the cilantro and look forward to having a refrigerator bigger than a nightstand one day.

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 small red bell pepper, diced
2 carrots, sliced
1 cup snow peas, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 pouch Satay Partay
1/2 cup water
3 green onions, finely sliced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 cups cooked rice noodles

Heat oil in pot, add pepper, carrots and snow peas.  Cook 7 minutes, until carrots are just tender.  Add salt, sauce, 1/2 cup water and noodles.  Simmer for 2 minutes. If the sauce has gotten too thick, add more water.  Mix in onions and cilantro, chopped peanuts would be nice too.  If you want to replace the noodles with rice, cook rice separately and serve up vegetables with sauce over the rice.

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