June 2012


The previous owners of our home planted some fruit trees and berry bushes around the backyard. I sampled one of the blackberries black raspberries but it wasn’t ready yet…sour!

They looked ripe, but I’m told to wait until they are soft enough to practically fall off on their own.

Volunteer maples had taken root  around the blueberry bushes and grape vines, keeping them in constant shade and making them a bit scraggly. Although we felt a twinge of guilt for wanting them “removed,” some trees had to be cleared away to bring in more sunlight for the berries.

A tree was cut down on the left. You can see the amount of light that can now shine on the grape vines and blueberry bushes, far right.

The beginnings of a blueberry

Morning dew collected in a grape vine.

an abandoned birdhouse under the thornapple tree

little blue birdhouse

Have you ever seen happier clothespins? Good day to do laundry!

It’s been a great morning so far, and I’d like to continue this good feeling by passing on some awards to my fellow bloggers.

First, I’d like to give Richard@ REM Cooks  both the Sunshine Award and Versatile Blogger Award, and here’s why. Richard’s professional experience in the kitchen and love for food is evident in all his recipes, whether it’s a simple dish or something extravagant from luxurious crab meat to some lean green beans (okay, haricot vert, but it’s the same thing, right? ;)) He’s inspired me to try out some of his recipes, experiment with new flavors and be more fancy-yet-simple in the kitchen. He’s incredibly helpful and friendly if you have any questions, I suggest you read his blog immediately! Richard, your blog is awesome and your recipes are outstanding. Thank you very much for sharing.

I just recently got to know Cinnamon@eat PRAY tri after several WIAWs, and she’s got good recipes mixed in with family stuff, work stuff, her faith, and a lot of good laughs. She just started her first 23 Paws party for us pet-loving food bloggers, and I think that alone deserves a Sunshine Award! Be sure to check out her 23 Paws Intro Page on how to link up, it’ll be fun!

Gabby over at The Veggie Nook deserves a ton of Sunshine Awards, if you ask me. The recipes she posts are healthy, simple, and delicious—what more could you want? Sometimes I read her posts in the morning and she may have an easy-to-make snack or breakfast item that I would immediately try (I’m in the kitchen already, so why not?) She also is constantly on the lookout for healthy challenges (she’s on a no-sugar challenge right now!) so hop on over if you need some motivation or inspiration for a healthier lifestyle.

My rendition of Gabby’s amazing “Lemon Coconut Hemp Seed Bites”


Mama’s Gotta Bake has one of the most beautiful collections of food photos I’ve seen. Desserts are her specialty, and once you look at her delicious cakes, you’ll see why! She definitely gets a Versatile Blogger Award for making the word “dessert” inadequate for the gourmet gallery of goodies she has to offer.

Anneke from notsoskinnycook gets a Versatile Blogger Award for creating a wide variety of delicious home-cooked meals and lovely photos of her food as well as her family enjoying her food! From broccoli soup to beef schawarma, Anneke has a nice collection of recipes with international flavors and universal appeal.

Beef Shawarma

Anneke’s Beef Shawarma with Peanut Butter Sauce (source: http://notsoskinnycook.wordpress.com)

Thanks again to my fellow bloggers for making food fun! :D

Here are the rules for the Sunshine Award:

This prize is awarded to “bloggers who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere”As an award winner, there are a few rules to follow:

  • Thank the person who gave this award and write a post about it.
  • Answer the questions below.
  • Pass on the award to 10 fabulous bloggers, link their blogs, and let them know you awarded them.
1.  favorite color?
2. favorite animal?
3. favorite number?
4. favorite color?
5. favorite drink?
6. Facebook or Twitter?
7. what is your passion?
8. giving or getting presents?
9. favorite day of the week?
10. favorite flower?
 Here are the rules for the Versatile Blogger Award:

– Thank the award giver(s) and link back to them in your post
– Share 7 things about yourself
– Pass this award along to 15 or 20 bloggers you read and admire
– Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award

Whew, this was a long one! Be sure to visit their blogs for some great food, beautiful photos and maybe an interesting story or two. Have a great weekend, and eat well! :)

This month The Recipe Redux is hosting a challenge to create a healthier version of one of the all-time favorite barbecue side dishes, potato salad! According to the United States Potato Board, a medium potato has only 110 calories, contains more potassium than a banana, and half your daily value of vitamin C. Seems like good ol’ potato salad is already on the right track to being healthy, so I helped it along by giving it an even bigger helping of vitamins and minerals (such as potassium, vitamin E, folate and vitamin B) from one my favorite nutrient-dense foods, avocado.

This potato salad is a good accompaniment to anything from the grill and, because it has no dairy, won’t spoil as quickly like regular potato salad, so you can bring it on a picnic and not worry about keeping it ice-cold. It has chunks of creamy avocado instead of mayonnaise, a sprinkle of fresh tomatoes, chopped cilantro, and is infused with a hint of smoky spices. The firm texture of earthy red potatoes brings all this creamy goodness together. If you love barbecues, you’ll love the smokey flavors of this potato salad!

Smokey Potato-Avocado Salad

Smokey Potato-Avocado Salad

1 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 pound red potatoes, cut into 1″ chunks
1 ripe, firm avocado, pitted and cut into large cubes same size as potato
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 ripe tomato, seeds removed and diced, reserving 1 tablespoon for garnish
fresh cilantro or coriander sprigs

Directions:

Fill a large pot halfway with water. Add 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Add potatoes, making sure they are covered with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and bring to a low boil on medium/medium-high and cook 7 minutes more or until just tender when pierced with a fork. Drain and cool for 15 – 20 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine 1/2 teaspoon salt, chili powder, cumin, and smoked paprika. Set aside.

Cut avocado in half, remove pit and cut into 1″ pieces. Place in a bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon lime juice. Sprinkle half of seasoning mixture and toss gently with a fork. Add potatoes and mix gently (the mixture will get creamier, but keep some chunks of avocado.) Sprinkle in half of remaining seasonings, adding more to taste. Fold in diced tomato. Top with remaining chopped tomato and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Added note, 6/28: avocados tend to brown, so be sure to serve this within 4-5 hours of preparation. One trick you can do is garnish with fresh diced avocado right before serving, so even if the salad is a few hours old, it will look nice and fresh! (Thank you, Emily, for asking me about this! )

 By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the United States Potato Board and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

A quick and easy dairy-free, gluten-free potato salad


Happy Wednesday, everybody! Jenn at Peas and Crayons is hosting our weekly blog party and there’s LOTS of delicious goodies to be found! I’m pretty excited today because not only do I have another chocolate recipe to share this week, it is a raw chocolate chip cookie recipe, perfect for this month’s WIAW theme of “sensible snacking” and my Flavor of the Week, chocolate!

Last winter I became interested in learning about raw food dieting. Not sushi kind of raw, but uncooked veggies and soaked grains kind of raw. I won’t go into a lot of detail but here’s just three easy-to-remember health benefits to a raw (or mostly raw) diet:

1) more nutrition – uncooked foods (foods heated to less than 118 degrees farenheit) retain more of their vitamins and minerals. When cooked, the nutritional value is greatly reduced and you will have to eat more food to get the nutrition your body needs (so eating raw foods can help you maintain a healthy weight, too!)

2) easier digestion – raw foods contain lots of fiber and water to help your body with elimination.  You won’t have that bloated, over-stuffed feeling after finishing a meal and no afternoon slump.

3) increased energy – since raw foods are easier to digest, your body won’t have to “shut down” while its trying to digest your food, like it might do with heavier foods like a delicious bacon cheeseburger and french fries. (Ask my husband, he’ll tell you I pretty much always crash out after eating stuff like this for lunch.)

Even if you don’t go 100% raw, you can still benefit with a chocolate green smoothie for breakfast, a colorful veggie salad for lunch, and a normal-cooked dinner with some kimchee or sauerkraut on the side (also considered raw!)

Speaking of which, here’s some of the foods I had for BL&D over the pas few days…

On Sunday morning I pulled out my juicer and made some fresh carrot-apple-ginger juice and grape juice and garnished with mint and lemon thyme. Looks good, doesn’t it?  Served up in a champagne glass, it looks like an expensive cocktail!

raw foods: fresh carrot-apple-ginger juice and grape juice

The colors alone will energize you!

Breakfast that followed was a not-so-raw peanut butter toast with raspberry preserves and coffee (recycled pic):

Lunch on Tuesday was a mish-mash salad of veggies and fruits, plus some pulverized flax seed crackers that tasted better crushed than in cracker-form. I sat down with my bowl, got my camera ready and look who decided to stick his furry orange head into my shot:

Sammy is not a vegetarian…he was after my goat cheese!

Dinner was kind of up in the air, I didn’t know what to cook, didn’t want sandwiches and my husband probably wouldn’t have wanted salad. After running a few simple options through my head I decided to make pannekoeken (Dutch style pancakes) with cheddar cheese and mushrooms:

I can’t make ’em big without breaking them, so kiddie-sized it is!

I needed some greens with this meal, so ate a bunch of sugar snap peas:

I love raw peas in the shell, especially these fat ones!

Sugar snap peas aren’t the only raw & delicious food I had today. Remember those cookies I talked about in the beginning?  Those were made from a raw cookie recipe in Judita Wignall’s, Going Raw:

Going Raw: Everything You Need to Start Your Own Raw Food Diet & Lifestyle Revolution at Home, by Judita Wignall

Judita gives a lot of easy-to-follow information on raw dieting and makes it very user-friendly. There’s tons of mouth-watering photos that will inspire you to plan out your next grocery trip with veggies in mind, and maybe even try your hand at sprouting some grains! She has a ‘live and let live’ attitude that makes her book informative, not preachy, which is really great when it comes to talking about something like healthy diets. Plus, I love her gorgeous red hair!

She has several recipes that I like, including the Ice Box Chocolate Chip Cookies I’ll be sharing today. I didn’t change the recipe much except the substitutions I wrote in parentheses, and the instructions are not copied verbatim but the steps are the same.

Yum! These raw cookies are delicious and nutritious!

Raw Chocolate Chip Cookies
From the book Going Raw by Judita Wignall 

1 1/2 cups cashews
2/3 cup Medjool dates (about 6-7 large ones, with pits)
3 tablespons almond butter (I used 2 T peanut butter and 1 T coconut oil)
1/8 teaspoon sea salt (optional)
1/4 cup raw chocolate chunks* (I substituted Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips–not raw and contains dairy–and added dried cherries)

*Judita has a raw chocolate recipe in her cook book that is gluten-free and dairy-free, but you can use any chocolate you prefer

Directions:

1. In a food processor grind the cashews into a flour.

2. Add the dates, almond butter (or peanut butter and coconut oil) and sea salt and process until it sticks together. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides as needed.

3. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the chocolate chunks/chips (and optional dried cherries) with a spatula.

4. On a nonstick surface, roll out dough to 3/8″ thickness. Cut out with a small cookie cutter and freeze (not to worry, they won’t get rock solid.) Cookies will keep for 1 month in the freezer.

Raw chocolate chip cookies!

I almost forgot…look what else you can do with these raw chocolate chip cookies:

Mini ice cream sandwiches!

Check out these Mini Cake and Ice Cream Bites from last Thursday’s Recipe ReDux. They’re just as cute!

This recipe is also my first contribution to Cookbook Sundays, sponsored by Couscous & Consciousness.

CookbookSundays

Have you tried any healthy versions of classic recipes lately? What’s your favorite cookie? :)

When I was in the 6th grade, I did a book report on this:

I was pretty excited about doing this report because 1) it was on chocolate and 2) I gave out samples. :)

As I talked about the different kinds of chocolate I handed out paper muffin liners of  unsweetened, bittersweet and milk chocolate chunks to the class. The students were probably more excited about the “candy” than my book report, and I recall my teacher Mrs. Higaki grimacing when she got a taste of the unsweetened chocolate (ewww, bitter! said her expression!) I don’t remember what grade I got, but I remember being really excited about sharing one of my favorite things in the world: food! (and chocolate food, no less!)

So this week’s Flavor of the Week is the very popular happy-go-lucky CHOCOLATE!

In the vanilla Flavor of the Week post a couple weeks ago I mentioned my parents recently sending me a dozen home-grown vanilla beans. You know what else they sent? Hawaii-grown cacao nibs!  They’re about the size of a brazil nut and are processed similarly to coffee (fermented, dried, roasted.) But rather than a berry, these nibs grow in a large, thick-rinded pod that is harvested off the tree trunk:

And, like vanilla, cacao was also cultivated by the Aztecs (they got the best of both worlds, didn’t they?)

Deconstruction of a roasted cacao bean

But with chocolate, it’s hard to get the best of both worlds. You get the antioxidant benefits of cocoa, but the unhealthy effects of sugar. Thankfully chocolate is just an occasional indulgence so enjoying a few sweet treats every now and then won’t reverse all the other good things you do for your health (like eating fresh fruits and veggies, taking your vitamins, exercising, and having fun while you’re at it!) But if you’re like me and are looking to cut down on dairy and wheat, then today is your lucky day!

I love homemade chocolate chip cookies, nothing beats the crispy-chewy texture from the butter and flour (or so I thought) until I came across a really good alternative to the traditional chocolate chip cookie recipe. Cutting back on my wheat and dairy, I wanted a chocolate chip cookie recipe that used neither wheat flour nor butter, and I happened across a wonderful cookie recipe at “Angie and James do stuff.” In her recipe, Angie uses spelt flour and hazelnut meal instead of all-purpose flour. That already sounded great! Although I made a few substitutions, I REALLY liked the results, and so did my husband. So much, in fact, that he even ate the burnt ones! (can you imagine how delicious the normal cookies were??) To view the original recipe, click here. Thank you, Angie, for letting me use your delicious recipe…it was just what I needed! :)

Thin, crispy, chewy chocolate chip cookies!

Chocolate Chip Cookies: wheat-free, dairy-free*

3/4 cup spelt flour
3/4 cup ground almonds (texture of cornmeal)
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup dairy-free semisweet chocolate chips*
1/2 cup coconut oil, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

*I used Nestle semisweet chocolate chips, which has milk fat, but items like Ghiarardelli semi sweet chocolate chips, Guittard semi sweet chocolate chips, and Enjoy Life semi sweet chocolate chips have no dairy ingredients listed. I have used Ghirardelli in previous cookie recipes and the texture/consistency were very similar (if not same) to Nestle’s.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silpat.

With a wire whisk, combine dry ingredients (except chocolate chips.) Add softened coconut oil and mash into mixture until coarse but well-combined. Sprinkle in vanilla and add egg. Stir in chocolate chips.

Scoop rounded teaspoons of cookie mix onto baking sheet 2″ apart. Bake for 5-6 minutes or until edges are browned and middle is golden.

Remove from oven and cool on wire rack. Store in airtight container, will keep for 2 days before they are all gone!

Coconut oil makes them spread more, but the addition of ground almonds give them a different taste and texture from a traditional chocolate chip cookie.

Nooooo!!!

Not to worry, Wolfie doesn’t like cookies; he was just wondering what I was up to!

Do you have a twist on the traditional chocolate chip cookie? What was the BEST TASTING cookie you ever had? (If you have a pic, I’d love to see it!)

There’s a new party going on at 23 Paws sponsored by Cinnamon at EatPrayTri. You’ll meet a lot of furry friends and their wonderful owners who not only love their pets, but also love to cook…and sometimes FOR their pets!

Today I will formally introduce our trio of cats: Sammy, Wolfie and Trixie.

My husband got Sammy as a kitten when he lived on Oahu. Sammy is 14 now, loves napping and eating sliced turkey. But because he started to put on some extra ounces, we had to cut back on table food (he sometimes gets yogurt and Feline Greenies as a snack.) Last time we weighed him, he was a healthy 12 pounds:

Sammy, enjoying the afternoon sun.

We got Wolfie (actually Wolfi, from ‘Wolfgang’) a couple years ago from my mother-in-law’s friend, who couldn’t keep him anymore. He’s about 12 years old, loves to come on nature walks with us, is a good mouser and sometimes brings critters to the door (since moving to NY we got snakes, squirrels, moles and mice.) He’s the most outdoorsy one, as you can tell by his spiffy vest:

A hunter on the prowl

Trixie is the most recent addition to the family. We got her when we purchased our home in March, and she is about ten years old. She’s a sweet little cat, a bit skittish, but is the most playful of the three and makes use of all the toys and catnip bags that I initially got for Sammy and Wolfie. She has big, saucer eyes and a tiny mouth, both of which you cannot see in the picture below:

I told Trixie to smile nicely for the camera, she went all out

Thanks for visiting my first 23 Paws post, and be sure to check out the other bloggers and their furry friends!

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Has anyone been having a crazy hot & sunny week like we’re having in Upstate NY? I’m glad for the sunshine, but doing yard work is more difficult with the heat, as well as the bugs that keep attacking me. My sister also gets a ton of bug bites and calls them “noseeums,” because you really can’t see what the heck is biting you!

Checked the thermometers around 4 o’clock in the afternoon: one on the south side of the house says 95, the one facing west says 105, and another is 120! I felt more sorry for the cats, especially Wolfie, who’s more equipped for cooler weather (see below pic.) I waited until the sun was behind some trees to do some weeding and redo the stones by “the gateway”:

Wolfie, guarding his catnip plants.

Last month we got an unfinished wooden picnic table that started looking pretty yucky after a few days in the rain. It needed some color, even a neutral color would be an improvement. I had the hardest time deciding on a paint color at the store when Fate stepped in (or was her name Karen?) and put a few gallons of “reject” paint on the clearance shelf. A $36 can of exterior paint marked down to $8? Works for me! I painted the picnic table gray, then dry-brushed and damp-sponged it with white. I think it turned out pretty great!

A little neutral color goes a long way

– This also turned out to be a good background for my photos. Here you can see the white over gray brush/spongework:

Peony in silver vase

Peonies in silver vases

I was planning to make some curry for dinner (following the “Flavor of the Week” theme) but it was so incredibly hot, I needed something cool and refreshing. There was some leftover quinoa, veggies, and chicken that needed to be cooked so I made a miso-based sauce with a healthy squirt of fresh lemon juice for this pretty tasty quinoa chicken salad:

A light, refreshing salad that’s also filling: quinoa, tomatoes, water chestnuts, chicken, green onion and a dressing made with miso paste, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, and lemon juice.

We also had some kale massaged with salt, lemon juice and sesame oil. Delicious!

What are some of your favorite summertime salads?

perfect little bites of your favorite ice cream and cake

Happy Birthday to The Recipe Redux! This month we are celebrating their first successful year of delicious and healthy recipes with “Small Bites to Celebrate a Big Event.” And this is definitely a BIG EVENT!

I decided to make a favorite two-in-one dessert: ice cream cake! And with the first day of summer, what better way to enjoy it than in cute, bite-sized portions? This dessert has only two ingredients, but you can have any flavor ice cream, frozen yogurt, cake, or even brownie that you want. Want a variety of flavors? I say go for it!

All you need is cake mix, frozen yogurt or ice cream, a jelly roll pan, a small round cookie cutter about 1 1/4″ in diameter, and some fresh fruit to garnish. Alternatively, you can layer the ice cream on the cake, freeze it, then cut into bite-sized pieces. Either way, it’ll be cool, delicious and very fun to eat!

Cherry Garcia Fro Yo and gluten-free chocolate cake


Ice Cream Cake Bites – using frozen yogurt and gluten-free cake recipe

One Bowl Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake recipe, slightly modified from original at food.com:

3 cups GF flour mix
1 1/2 tablespoons xanthan gum
1 cup cocoa
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons instant espresso
3/4 cup coconut oil, melted
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups coffee
ice cream or frozen yogurt of your choice
fruit and herbs to garnish

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a jelly roll pan with nonstick cooking spray, set aside. Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl. Add all liquid ingredients, mix well. Bake  for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

Using a round cookie cutter about 1 1/4″ in diameter, cut as many rounds as you need (you can make around 60-72 for one jelly roll sheet) and set aside on wax paper.

To assemble, place one cake round into cookie cutter. Scoop 1 heaping teaspoon of ice cream inside cookie cutter, place another cake round, banana slice, or strawberry slice inside cookie cutter and press down firmly, being careful not to squish the ice cream down the sides of the cake. Hold top down with index finger while unmolding. Place on wax sheet-lined plate, repeat with 4  more then transfer to freezer to firm up for at least 20 minutes. Serve and enjoy immediately!

No birthday is complete without cake and ice cream!

As the first and only recipe challenge founded by registered dietitians, The Recipe ReDux aims to inspire the food lover in every healthy eater and inspire the healthy eater in every food lover. Thank you for visiting. We hope you enjoy!

(Please note that this is a closed link-up for Recipe ReDux posts only. Any links added to this collection for non-ReDux posts will be deleted.) 

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