Wednesday, July 24, 2013

We've Moved...

I was hoping to announce the move alot sooner but as I primed our new space, I realized it's not quite ready yet. I don't have all the keys and don't know the ins and outs of the rooms. And I have yet to paint and re-decorate. And a month later, I realized, it's never quite going to be completely ready so I'm having a house warming party anyway! Our new address is Welcome! Make yourself a better ice cream float and stay a while...

Friday, June 14, 2013

Creamy Chickpea Dip

I bought these two big cans of organic chickpeas on sale and I was so excited. (Sales, sometimes give me a little thrill. ;)) But they have been sitting in my cupboard for a while and I thought to myself, I gotta do something with them already. And I thought a creamy dip would be nice with some cut up veggies. To make your dip extra creamy, peel your chickpeas. I know it sounds a little labor intensive but I find it meditative. (Maybe that's even weirder than peeling the chickpeas, lol.) Either way, enjoy and have a fantastic weekend!

  • 3 cups chickpeas (about a 29 oz. can, drained and rinsed)
  • 7 oz. full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon grape seed oil
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • garlic powder
  • paprika
  • sea salt
  • a handful of sorrel leaves, minced

Using a hand blender or an immersion blender, puree your chickpeas, add the yogurt, oil and lemon juice and continue blending until nice and smooth. Add in the sorrel and the seasonings, adjust as needed. If you don't have an sorrel on hand, don't worry and just add in some lemon zest. Makes a nice big bowl, perfect for a party.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Hot Honey & Vanilla Coconut Milk

You wouldn't believe that summer begins next week, as here on the east coast, it's chilly and rainy as ever. When I attempted to take Daisy out for her walk this morning, she refused. She takes some steps backwards and then shakes her head, "No". It doesn't happen every time but when it does, I can't help but laugh out loud and attempt to coax her down the stairs by assuring her I will keep her covered with the umbrella. (Sometimes, she still refuses.) She really is Miss Daisy, as most of the time she gets her way and we go back inside until the rain lets up, lol. With this day and evening as raw and clammy as it is, I needed something warm to drink, with a promise of summer and when I think of summer, I think of tropical coconuts! This is a creamy, sweet and a little peppery drink that's just perfect for a beating-rain-against-the-window type of night, such as tonight. Enjoy!

  • 12 oz. coconut milk, (the drinkable, milk substitute type)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon coconut milk (the condiment type, in a can)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon honey or more to taste
  • 1/3 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • fresh ground black pepper

In a pot, combine all of the ingredients and heat on medium heat, until steaming hot. Adjust the sweetness as needed. Garnish with extra pepper, if you like. Serves 1. Double the recipe as needed.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Fun Salad Greens

It's almost summertime and that means it's salad time! And if you are a little weary of the spring salad mix sitting in your fridge, you can always make your salad a little more interesting and fun by adding in some fun salad greens, which are not typical and add so much more personality to a salad. These are nice grown right in the garden, as some of these are perennials or in pots. With fun salad greens, you want to experiment but in most cases, less is more and mix with mild lettuces such as a butter lettuce for the best flavor. In some salads, just a single leaf, minced, adds a nice flavor. And you may want to use some as just a pretty garnish, either way, they will make your salads more exciting! Enjoy and happy salad making!

A few fun salad greens to consider...

Lemon Gem Marigold: The word lemon is in the name but the lemon is not so prominent in flavor. They taste like a mix of bitter grapefruit pith along with a slight citrus freshness-along with that taste of greens. You can separate the flower and just use the petals but I think the most interesting flavor is in the whole flower. And the leaves may be the best part, very nice mixed into a salad. Garnish with a few flowers for a nice touch.

Lemon Balm: As the name states, it's lemony and fresh at first with a strong ending of bitterness. This would be nice used sparingly along with a roasted piece of fish on the side.

Salad Burnet: A little reminiscent of cucumber skin...You want to just use the actual leaves with this one, as the stems are a little tough and you want to use the mature leaves as the little clusters of new growth are bitter. (Not enjoyably so.)

Nasturtium Leaves: These are nice while you are waiting patiently for the flowers to bloom and are craving a little peppery and bitter bite to your salad. They are beautiful and striking in a salad.

Corsican Mint: If you are a mint lover, you will love these ever so tiny leaves, as they are so concentrated in mint flavor. They are so pretty and delicate and would be just gorgeous strewn around the outside of a plate as a garnish.

Lemon Verbena: A great lemon-lime flavored leaf, that's not overwhelming and would be pleasant in a salad with more of it, if you are a fan of lemons and limes.

When experimenting with atypical salad greens such as these, make sure you look at the tags and talk to some knowledgeable people at the plant nursery to be sure that they are edible and start with very small amounts, as they can upset sensitive stomachs.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Basic Chicken Salad

Last week, I didn't have time to make dinner one evening and it was quickly declared a "rotisserie chicken day!" And I made a bee line for the rotisserie chickens coming right out of the oven, piping hot. As my day started getting better, (I had the most perfect cup of iced coffee) I got a little silly and asked the nice guy behind the counter to pick out the "nicest, most juiciest, fattiest looking chicken" and I laughed. Good thing for me, he shared my sense of humor and said, "This is the nicest, chicken I've ever seen." I laughed and it was one of the tastiest, juiciest rotisserie chickens, I've ever had. (I'm serious.) As a young girl, I would cringe and want to hide under my moms skirt, as she would point out with her finger which chicken she wanted or which kielbasa or even stuffed cabbages she wanted to take home but here I was, doing the same, lol. And as always, with a rotisserie chicken dinner, come the leftover chicken breast, sometimes nice over a green salad the next day or in a salad itself, like here. Enjoy!

  • leftover chicken breast
  • 1/3 cup minced celery, reserve some leaves for garnish
  • 1 heaping tablespoon minced red onion
  • pear infused white balsamic vinegar or any fruit infused white balsamic vinegar 
  • 3 heaping tablespoons mayonnaise, a little more as needed
  • sea salt
  • ground black pepper

Let the onion sit in the vinegar while you prepare the rest of the salad.  Pull apart the chicken breast and roughly chop. (Makes about 2 cups.) Give your red onion a quick rinse with cold water and add to the chicken along with the other ingredients. Adjust the seasoning as needed. I like to serve the salad with Belgian endive leaves, just perfect to hold a spoonful of creamy salad. Serves about 4.

Monday, June 10, 2013

In Love with Sea Holly

Was I so excited about Fridays' post that never my computer screen went blank. Completely blank. It wasn't until my miracle-making genius brother-in-law fixed it. I still don't know how it was up and running over the weekend but it was amazing, as I thought I would have to be bringing this little guy down to the recycling center tomorrow. But alas, it's been saved along with Fridays' post. I hope everyone had a nice weekend and has an even better upcoming week!

Last year, I fell in love with lupine, so deeply in love that I ended up getting another plant. This year out of the two, only one returned, which I'm so grateful for the one. She feels happy and right at home. This year, the looker that made me turn my head a few times is "Sea Holly." I am not only in love but obsessed with her look, spiky and in-your-face beautiful, a true off-beat beauty that will add lots of personality to the garden. I'm so excited to be planting her. She is still in the pot, as I'm nervous where to plant her, as she does not not like to be moved once planted, as I'm learning from her tag and some of the garden forums. And I'm a little bit of a mover, moving some of my flowers from place to place, until I feel it's the right spot. So, I'm having a little performance anxiety here, lol. Isn't gardening suppose to be relaxing? ;)

Eryngium 'Sapphire Blue' Sea Holly likes full sun but I'm planning to give her a home in my part-shade garden and crossing my fingers, hoping for the best. (I think I get enough sun to keep her happy, I'm hoping.) Sea Holly grows about 28" and spreads out about a foot and a half. She likes soil with good drainage. Happy planting, (maybe not today on the east coast, as it's drizzly and a little chilly out. It's perfect weather for chicken and leek soup.)  I can't wait till some planting weather comes along!

                         Aren't the sea holly babies so cute? I'm so in love/obsessed...

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Spicy Grilled Mullet

Finding a fish grilling basket is harder than I thought! I scoured a few places by me, I figured, with it being grill season they would be a staple but none were to be found. I finally found one at one of my favorite places, West Elm! They came to the rescue, once again! And it was on sale too! I was so excited. When I go there, I get lost and it's just a inspiration filled time, where I find myself wanting to redecorate our little cabin, to make it modern and super fresh. But then I take a deep breath and focus on the goal. "Fish grilling basket Mary-you are here for a fish grilling basket." And did I find a great one! It has a flexible wire; not limiting what it can hold to just a flat fish, has a removable, wooden handle and I know I'm going to put it to good use, not just for fish but veggies too. I'm so happy I found it early in the season. Grilling fish can be intimidating and using aluminum foil feels more and more wasteful, than convenient. To a happy grilling season and finding fish grilling baskets on sale! ;) Enjoy!

  • 4 whole mullets, cleaned and gutted
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • Sriracha sauce
  • coriander seed, crushed
  • ground ginger
  • turmeric
  • curry powder
  • chili flakes
  • fresh cilantro
  • sea salt
  • ground black pepper
  • coconut oil for basting

Mix your coconut milk, lime juice, Sriracha sauce and spices. Add in a little at a time and adjust the seasoning accordingly. Cut up the lime and toss into the marinade. Score your fish and pour the marinade over them. Make sure to rub the marinade into the insides of the fish also. Allow to sit overnight, up to a day. You want to use fresh fish for this recipe. Place them in your fish grill basket and grill away. You want to grill at a temperature of about 350-400 degrees and baste with a little coconut oil so it doesn't stick. Grill for 30 minutes per each side, turning after every 15 minutes, until the fish gets nice and crispy. Serves 4.

Just a little tip: Don't flip your basket like a burger on the grill but (with caution) remove it from the grill, holding it in the horizontal postion, lowering it to your side, so the fish are facing the ground and with a turn of the wrist, flip and bring it back up and place on the grill, otherwise (as I learned) your fish will slide all over the place.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Pinto Beans with Spinach

A side of beans is a nice warm weather staple. But they are usually laden with sugar, (which I love but it doesn't help my waistline whittle away or the sugar cravings I get after having a helping, as I help myself to some more, lol) A great remedy for this is making my own pot of beans and I like to toss in some spinach to up my greens intake. This is nice served as a side dish at a barbecue or served with rice as a main meal for your meatless meal nights. These are especially good-room temperature. Serve with a creamy avocado wedge sprinkled with cayenne pepper or top with a fruity balsamic vinegar. Enjoy!

  • 1 pound pinto beans, soaked overnight
  • 5 cups water
  • 4 cups roughly chopped, tightly packed spinach
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 sliced bacon, minced
  • 1 cup chopped red onion, (about 1 medium onion)
  • a few inner celery stalks, chopped
  • cayenne pepper
  • sea salt
  • ground black pepper

In a Dutch oven, combine the olive oil, bacon, onion and saute on low heat for about 5 minutes until the onion is translucent. Add the beans and give them a good stir followed by adding the water, celery and spices. Bring the beans up to a boil on high heat, then lower the heat to a low setting and cook for about an hour and a half, until the beans are nice and tender. Remove from the heat and stir in the spinach, until wilted. Adjust the seasonings as needed. Serves about 6 or more. This makes a nice, big pot of beans.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Mason Jar Love - Snapdragons, Solidago & Asters

So...I feel a little late on the mason jar trend but better late than never. I just can't get enough of them! I'm obsessed with making sun tea in them, using them as drinking glasses and of course, using them as vases! Why not spoil yourself today and make yourself a little bouquet (or a really big and gorgeous one) of flowers? You deserve it, for simply being you! Enjoy!

In this mason jar, you'll find snapdragons, a little solidago in the center and asters in the background.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Lemony Chopped Cauliflower & String Bean Salad

Do you ever look at that bag of frozen cauliflower and inspiration strikes? It doesn't happen often but when it does, you gotta go with it! I thought it would be nice with string beans (another bag that was lurking in the veggie bin) and lemony sorrel leaves. And you want to use Bella Di Cerignola olives because they aren't too strong, yet add a nice flavor. This is quick salad to make that goes great, especially with grilled fish. I added the peppadews last minute and it made all the difference, making it so much more flavorful and colorful. Enjoy!

  • 3 cups cauliflower florets, cooked until tender
  • 1/4 pound string beans, chopped and blanched
  • 4 Bella Di Cerignola olives, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1-2 cloves fresh garlic, smashed and minced
  • a few sorrel leaves, minced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • sea salt
  • ground black pepper
  • peppadews*

Take your minced garlic and allow it to sit in the vinegar, while your veggies cook and you prepare the rest of the salad. To save time, I cooked the cauliflower and used a hand held strainer to drain it, so I could use the water to cook the string beans. Rinse off your veggies with cold water and drain well. Into the vinegar, stir in the olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt and ground black pepper. Combine all of the ingredients and adjust the seasoning as needed. Serves 2-3.

*not pictured

Friday, May 31, 2013

Iced Chamomile Tea

It doesn't sound too special but once it comes from a farm and was picked by hand, it turns extraordinary. With all of the farmer's markets opening up this time of year, do yourself a favor and find a bunch of chamomile and make yourself a cup of fresh chamomile tea. It will be one of the best cups of tea you'll have and the tiny bouquets are so pretty and long lasting, before you pick them for tea making. Have a great weekend and enjoy!

  • a heaping spoonful of fresh or dried chamomile
  • 8 oz. boiling water
  • ice

You want to pick the tiny flowers off and allow them to dry out. I set them out on a small paper bag and let them air dry for a few days. I don't think they were completely dried out yet when I made my tea but that's okay, you can steep your tea with the fresh flowers also, no need to wait.)

Take a heaping spoonful of chamomile and place it in a tea baller per 8 oz. of boiling water. Allow to steep until it naturally cools. Enjoy over ice.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Rose Water Spritzer

I absolutely love hot days! Mainly because I love the heat. In the middle of winter I fantasize of going away somewhere hot and finally the days have arrived, temperatures nearing ninety degrees. I get such a spurt of energy once the weather warms up. And the other reason (maybe the reason, lol) is I lose my appetite!  I could have a large salad and be satisfied. So, on days like this it's really important to stay hydrated and water just isn't that exciting. I usually cool down with iced teas and sparkling waters flavored with something and today rose water was that little something making the sparkling water extra special. It's a nice drink to have in the evening. Enjoy!

  • 8 oz. sparkling water
  • 1/4 teaspoon rose water
  • pinch sea salt
  • handful of crushed ice

Mix the water, rose water and the pinch of sea salt. Adjust the seasoning as needed. Add in the ice. Serves one.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Rhubarb & Cherry Cocktail

Sometimes, there is nothing sweeter than the first few drops of a spring rain. I was lucky enough to be outside while peeling the rhubarb, as the cool drops started falling and for a microsecond, I closed my eyes and really enjoyed it before the heavy drops started falling and fall all day, they did. This tart, yet slightly sweet drink is refreshing on a hot and humid, rainy day where the windows are opened up a bit and you feel that rainy breeze coming in, while enjoying a good read. Enjoy!

  • 4 cups chopped rhubarb, (about 1&1/2 pounds)
  • 2 cups frozen pitted cherries
  • 64 oz. water
  • sea salt
  • xylitol
  • rose water

Begin by peeling the rhubarb. I start off by giving the rhubarb a good wash and then cutting the stalks into manageable size pieces and then I peel the thinnest outer layer. I find using a vegetable peeler takes too much of the rhubarb and a small paring knife works best, just be careful. If you are unsure, bite into the rhubarb and it should have none of those fibers and be easy to eat, just pucker-your-lips-sour!

Next, combine the rhubarb, cherries. water and a pinch of sea salt and bring to a boil. Once it's at a rolling boil, lower the heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes. Next, with an immersion blender, blend your mixture until smooth and add in your sweetener of choice, if needed. I'm obsessed with xylitol now, so I added in 2 tablespoons. Stir until dissolved. Allow to cool and then add in your rose water. Add in the rose water, little by little, start with a teaspoon and then add more to taste. With rose water, my experience is a little goes a long way. This is super easy to make a party cocktail, just add in tequila, a fruity flavored vodka or sweet wine and serve with lots of ice and lemon and lime wedges. Makes 8 cups.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Creamy Cannellini Bean Salad

Macaroni salad lovers, you won't miss the pasta once you have this cannellini bean salad! It's nice and creamy, a little tangy and then you get a bite with a little bacon and you say, "What macaroni salad?" and the glutenous macaroni that you once pined for is a distant memory. That's right, a distant memory. I didn't think it was possible, but it is! Enjoy!

  • 3 1/2 cups cannellini beans soaked overnight or about 6 cups cooked
  • 1 Kirby cucumber, finely shredded and squeezed dry
  • 1/2 cup minced sorrel leaves
  • 2 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic pear infused vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • squeeze of about half a lemon
  • a pinch or two of chili flakes
  • sea salt
  • ground black pepper

Combine all of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust the seasoning as needed. (If you can't find sorrel leaves, just add a little lemon zest.) Garnish with a little shredded sorrel leaf or chili flakes. Makes a nice big bowl, great for a party and it's even better the next day.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Cucumber & Sorrel Cocktail

It's the unofficial start of summer and I have been looking forward to this Friday for a long time now and it's finally here! But it's raining and not feeling much like summer on the east coast, as I have my comfy sweater on to keep warm, the windows are closed shut and I'm contemplating making some steaming hot chicken and leek soup. And if the outdoor temperature gauge is working right, it's about 45 degrees outside. It figures with our long winter and springs' delay that the unofficial start of summer is delayed too but that doesn't mean that we can't celebrate with a summer feeling cocktail...inside with our sweaters on and maybe a nice blanket to keep warm. ;) Have a great, memorable weekend and a thoughtful Memorial Day. Enjoy!

  • 2 Kirby cucumbers
  • 2 large sorrel leaves
  • 4oz. cucumber vodka
  • 1 teaspoon xylitol
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon or more
  • 12 oz.can lemon or lime flavored seltzer

Remove the inner vein of the sorrel leaf and discard. Roughly the sorrel leaf along with the cucumber and toss into a blender with the vodka until well blended. Add the xylitol and the lemon juice until well combined. Divide among 2 glasses and do the same with the seltzer and give them a gentle stir. Adjust the taste as needed. Serves 2.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Little Gnome in a Rose Bush

Do you ever want to give the gift that keeps on giving of a potted flower or a houseplant and it just looks kind of sad? It comes in that hard dark green plastic pot and you wish it came ready to gift (without the shiny foil.) I know what you mean, me too. An easy and fun way to dress up your gift is by wrapping the pot in my favorite fabric of choice, burlap and adding in a little gnome. A little gnome always puts a smile on my face and makes it extra special. Happy gifting!

Make sure your plant is on the dry side, so it doesn't leak through the burlap. Next, cut a piece of the burlap, depending on how big of a pot you have. I usually take a corner of the piece of burlap and just mock wrap it around the pot and then cut to size. Use twine, raffia or even a fancy ribbon to secure the burlap and tie a bow. Plant your little gnome inside and you are done in less than 5 minutes flat. If placing him in a mini rose bush like here, just use gloves to protect your hands.

                                 I found this little cutie at Target and I fell in love...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Parsley & Pistachio Pesto

There was one summer that I was obsessed with pesto. It started with a traditional pesto of basil and pine nuts and further along in the summer, after putting basil pesto in about everything, I progressed to a parsley and pistachio pesto and I rarely looked back to basil pesto that year. I experimented and found that I like my parsley and pistachio pesto without cheese but when it's combined with pasta, I like some freshly grated Parmesan or Grana Padano on top, so I always make the batch without cheese. This is great on its' own to dip bread in, just top with a little extra olive oil; perfect for pasta, just toss in a little pasta water and this is also nice served with poached chicken and fish, served cold. And if you are a garlic lover, you can always add more. Enjoy!

  • 1 bunch parsley, roughly about 3 cups of loosely packed leaves
  • 1/4 cup raw pistachios
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • sea salt
  • fresh ground black pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and combine well. Adjust the seasonings as needed. Makes about a 3/4 cup or so. (I did a little adjusting.) ;) This recipe is enough for a pound of pasta.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Creamy Sunchoke and Leek Salad

In the mood for a creamy salad that doesn't have potatoes or macaroni in it? I was too! A salad that's great with some grilled chicken and a green side salad; that's a little different and a little fun. So I opened my fridge and did some experimenting. The internal conversation I had with myself while making this salad went a little like this:

"Hmm...okay...why not?"  (The initial sunchoke and leek combo)
"That could be interesting." (Adding in the egg.)
"Oh no...I don't know about this..." (The above combination)
"Eek, I think I just screwed up." (Adding in the heart of palm)
"Maybe not." (Adding in the pistachios.)
"Okay, I think we're getting somewhere." (Tossing in the beans.)

Finally ending at: "This is gonna be yummy!"(It's hard to really ruin anything with mayonnaise isn't it?) And it was! The hubby tested it and approved! He loved it and I hope you do too. Enjoy!
  • 1/2 pound sunchokes, peeled
  • 1&1/2 cup finely chopped leek
  • 1 hard boiled egg, minced
  • 1/3 cup small white beans
  • 1/3 cup minced heart of palm
  • 1 tablespoon raw pistachios, finely minced plus a little for garnish
  • a tablespoon finely minced parsley plus a leaf of two for garnish
  • 2 heaping tablespoons mayonnaise
  • sea salt
  • ground black pepper

Toss in a wedge of lemon or lime with the sunchokes and cover them with cold water and bring them to a boil, lower the heat to low for about 15 minutes until they are fork tender. Drain them and rinse with cold water and chop them fine. With the leek, rinse well to remove any sand and chop them about the size of the sunchoke pieces, then rinse again. Bring some water to a boil and toss them in for about a minute or two, until the green part of the leek is tender. Then drain and rinse with cold water. Combine the sunchokes and leeks with the rest of the ingredients. Adjust the seasoning as needed. Garnish with the pistachios and the parsley. Serves about 3. Double the recipe for a bigger crowd.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Peonies in a Fishbowl

Was it my lucky day, one day last week as I found this fishbowl at the recycling center! I decided against the fish fearing Daisy the dog would fall into a fit of jealous rage and push the bowl over the tables' edge as she would see me dote over our new pets. I even had names for them, Henry and Gail but Daisy is the boss, so I'm using the fish bowl as a vase instead. It's safer for all of us and with the gorgeous peonies available this time of year, it's just the perfect flower to fill my new "vase". I love peonies, they are so pretty and smell like a perfect spring day. When picking out your peonies get a few tight buds to mix in with a few that are opened already so you enjoy your bouquet a little longer. I got one bunch that was opening up with some tight buds and by the time I got home they opened up quite a bit. Give your vase some room so the petals fall where they may, making an even more interesting arrangement.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Warm Yucca Salad

It's the beginning of salad season! But not leafy salad season yet, where I'm satisfied with just a few leaves and a good vinaigrette. But a little bit of a heartier salad with maybe some lettuce leaves on the side. And that's where yucca comes in, satisfying like a potato with a little bit of a chestnut flavor to it. It's a great salad to have to celebrate the beginning of salad season! Enjoy and happy weekend!

  • about 2 pounds of yucca
  • 1 medium size red onion, about 1/4 pound, quartered and sliced
  • 1/2 pound mixed tomatoes, quartered if small enough.
  • about 8 oil cured olives, pitted and halved
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil plus 2 tablespoons
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • a squeeze of lemon
  • sea salt
  • ground black pepper
  • anchovies*
  • capers*
  • arugula*

Trim your yucca at both ends. (To cut the yucca, I use a big old knife and to peel the outer layer, I use a small paring knife. Please be careful.) The ends are a little tough, so trim a little more than you think. Cut your yucca into manageable pieces and peel the thinner outer layer, sometimes it peels nice and smoothly separates and other times, it's a bit of a chore. Cut into smaller chunks. Rinse well and cover with cold water and sea salt. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes or so until fork tender. Drain and allow to cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. You will see a small fibrous thread on some of the chunks that you can remove and then cut into smaller pieces and set aside in a bowl. While the yucca is cooling, in a pan, combine 4 tablespoons of the olive oil and the red onion, saute for about ten minutes, until softened, on low heat. Toss in the tomatoes and olives, until warmed through, about 2 minutes. Toss the onion, tomato and olive mixture into the yucca chunks along with the remaining olive oil, vinegar, the squeeze of lemon and sea salt. I was in a salty mood today, so I tossed in some chopped up anchovy wrapped capers and I think it made the salad! Serve with a little arugula on the side for a nice peppery contrast. Serves 4.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Citrus Gingerade

Gingerade kombucha always cools me down on a hot day and I combined it with some of the sad citrus that was sitting in the fruit bowl and I'm so glad I did because this drink came out so tasty! Serve with ice and enjoy!

  • 6 oz. gingerade kombucha
  • 1 ruby red grapefruit
  • 2 navel oranges
  • squeeze of lime

Juice the grapefruit, oranges and combine with the kombucha. Give it a squeeze of lime juice and garnish with a slice of lime. Serves 1.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

DIY: Denim Jean Napkins

Do you ever go through your closet and you find jeans that aren't wearable anymore? And you can't donate them either. Rust colored splatters of paint across the bottoms, just aren't in, this season. And coincidentally are you in the mood for new napkins for the dinner table? Then it's time to upcycle those denim jeans into denim napkins! This won't work for every pair of jeans, they have to be either the right size or wide width. Or you can be inspired to break out the sewing machine and piece some pieces of denim together with a few simple stitches to make a standard size napkin. This look isn't for everyone but can be if you love that distressed and frayed look. Have fun upcycling those jeans!  

Start out by cutting the thigh part of the jeans, along the seam to measure roughly about 7-8 inches width by 16 in length. This isn't the standard size but enough fabric to cover your lap and to rub your face clean of spaghetti sauce. You should be able to make four napkins from one pair of jeans, if not find two similar pairs that are in that non-wearable/donatable pile. A standard cloth napkin is about 15-16 inches in width and length and or larger. If you would like the standard size, take two pieces of the denim from the thighs and give it a simple stitch in the middle. Take your pieces of denim and rub them with a stone to softened them up a bit and throw them in with your wash, followed by the dryer. Once you are ready to use your "new" napkins, fold them so you see the fraying, tie with a ribbon or twine and tuck in a flower.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Bluefish Salad

Last night I made a whole bluefish on the grill. It was nothing fancy, just dressed with a little olive oil and sea salt. Despite it being really tasty, we had leftovers, so I made a bluefish salad today. It's pretty classic, I just added some celery leaves to it. This is nice for lunch when paired with some sorrel or lettuce leaves, sliced tomatoes and a wedge of lime, for a little extra zing. Use a gluten-free crispbread and it's a gluten-free meal! Enjoy!

  • 2 cups cooked bluefish
  • 2 celery stalks, minced
  • a few pale celery leaves minced and some reserved for garnish
  • 1 heaping tablespoon minced shallot
  • red wine vinegar
  • 3 heaping tablespoons mayonnaise
  • sea salt
  • ground black pepper

Place the shallot in a small bowl and cover with the vinegar. In the meantime, pick your bluefish over, removing the skin and any bones and flake equalling 2 cups. To your bluefish, add in the celery, celery leaves, mayonnaise, salt and pepper. After 5 minutes, drain the shallot, rinse with water and add to your fish. Give it a nice mix and adjust the seasoning as needed. Garnish with the celery leaves. Makes 4 half cup servings.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Golden Gate Meat Company Spice Rub & Sriracha Ribs

As a food lover that is trying to lose weight, I don't want to lose the flavor! I want to make substitutions that will leave me satisfied and retrain my taste buds away from craving sugar. I love a good barbecue sauce but they are usually filled with sugar, once my friend, now my foe. Luck me, my cousin sent me a great pork and poultry spice rub from the Golden Gate Meat Company (that was in my birthday package that I was obsessing over and still am!) It's full of flavor and has no sugar, no MSG or the dreaded g-word. Gluten. (Another frenemy.) I love it and although the spice rub is not on their website, you can still order it via phone or e-mail. You can contact them at 415.983.7800 or They have other rubs available along with a Rasta Rub, which I would love to try out one day! I combined the rub with Sriracha sauce, which although the second ingredient is sugar, it never leaves me with those sugar cravings and it has only five calories per teaspoon. I will probably disappoint alot of true barbecueers out there as I par-boil my ribs before throwing them on the grill. ( I know, I know. I hang my head down low in shame. I just haven't learned the trick to cook them through without burning them. Maybe one day...) But either way, enjoy!

  • pork ribs, par-boiled
  • Golden Gate Meat Company pork & poultry spice rub
  • Sriracha sauce

Once your ribs are cool enough to handle, baste them with the Sriracha sauce. I used just enough to get the ribs moistened. Next, coat with a liberal amount of the spice rub, packing it on. Once your grill is nice and hot, place the ribs in the grill, until you get some nice grill marks on them and the ribs are cooked through, turning as needed.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Dark Chocolate Hibiscus Bark...Hmm...Slab

Obsessed, I am with this hibiscus tea that my cousin sent me for my birthday! Yesterday was the first day I opened it up to find beautiful dried hibiscus petals in tea bags. I thought it could be nice combined with chocolate and maybe a little coconut or sea salt..or both. This was surely an experiment and would be something that will be added to the re-do, re-work pile but still, fun enough to share. But maybe not exactly a winner unless you like a slab versus pieces of bark and it is an aquired taste, not everyone likes to munch on flower petals. On second try, I would chop up the hibiscus petals and then it would probably break up more easily, making it more of a bark and maybe add something in along with it. So if you want to remind mom of the fun days of making mud pies and getting dirty, this could be a fun part of dessert on Sunday! Just leave it as a slab and have everyone break off a piece and have lots of napkins nearby. ;) Enjoy your weekend and Mom's day!

  • 3.5 oz. dark chocolate
  • 1 hibiscus tea bag
  • unsweetened coconut flakes
  • flakes of sea salt, like Maldons

Steep the tea and enjoy it while you wait for the tea to dry out a little bit. I put them on a paper towel and let them sit out in the sun for about half an hour. Melt the chocolate, (use any percentage that you like) in a double broiler and place the petals on a piece of wax paper, fairly close together. Your bark, slab (lol) will be about 8 inches by 5 or 6. Spoon the chocolate onto the petals and sprinkle with the coconut flakes or sea salt or both. Allow to cool in the refrigerator until hardened.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Hibiscus, Ginger & Grapefruit Cocktail

My cousin sent me a package for my birthday and did it make my heart sing. Everything in the box was a special food item and it was lovingly wrapped, so it wouldn't break. I unwrapped everything with such excitement and put it right back in the box, nestling everything back into its' square cardboard basket. I just wanted to enjoy it as it was and extend the happiness it brought to me. One of my favorite parts of Christmas was all of the wrapping paper and packaging strewn around and for some reason this is what it felt like, this treasure of mine, still in the box. And a treasure it was, Meyer lemons in olive oil, pork and poultry rub from the Golden Gate Meat Company, dark chocolate with Hungarian salami and smoked bacon (OMG), special pepperoni and olive oils and this package of hibiscus tea...I was in heaven. Have you ever seen a tea as beautiful as this one? I finally opened up the tea today and it was so delicious and makes one tasty cocktail! Enjoy!

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 inch piece ginger
  • 1 or 2 hibiscus tea bags
  • 1 teaspoon xylitol
  • 2 ruby red grapefruits, juiced
  • 2 shots of vodka
  • 2 strawberries for garnish

Use as much or as little ginger as you like. The piece I used was about half an inch thick and about two by an inch in size. Peel the outer skin of the ginger and place in the cold water and bring to a boil. Steep the hibiscus tea with the boiled ginger water. Let it cool, stir in the grapefruit, vodka and the xylitol. You can use any sweetener that you like but if using sugar or honey, dissolve while the tea is hot and then allow to cool. Divide among two glasses and garnish with the strawberries. Serves 2.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Spilled Milk, Lemonade and the Broken Iris

I saw a pair of beautiful cloud ballet bearded irises at a local flower nursery. I had to have them. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as they were a little bruised, a little battered and needed a little love, patience and good soil. But the towering two bloomed buds were voluptuous, proud, heavenly blue and they were what I call singing. But a little battered they were, as the wind must have gotten to them as the soil was at an angle in the pot, most of the rhizome visible, the greens and the heavy unbloomed buds were fighting to stand upright. I got home and placed them in the backyard to later find them on their sides, I underestimated the wind that day and they had fallen over. I rushed over to them and picked them up. I mistakenly attempted to straighten one of the leaning stems out as I firmly grasped above the rhizome and it snapped in my hand. A sadness completely overwhelmed me. What do you do when milk spills? What do you do when in your own life you have been snapped at the core but make the best of it. After my irrational sadness, I felt it thoroughly and made peace with it. The bruised greens looked even worse without their powder blue prizes but I let go of the regret and took the bud, along with the other one and placed them in bud vases. And what surprising joy did they bring to me for the beauty that was brought inside. When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, as in life what initially gives you sadness you can turn into pure joy.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Porcini Scented Beans with Balsamic Portabella Mushrooms

I love mushrooms and I found these great porcini mushroom bouillon cubes at Fairway and they make just about everything extra special and this includes a good old pot of beans. Pair them up with super flavorful balsamic portabella mushrooms for a little fancy feast. Enjoy!

  • 2 1/2 cups Great Northern Beans, soaked overnight
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • a few allspice berries
  • 1 porcini mushroom bouillon cube
  • sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil plus 4 tablespoons for the mushrooms
  • 4 portabella mushrooms, sliced or a 6 oz. package
  • a small shallot, thinly sliced, about 4 heaping tablespoons
  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • a few capers in brine, given a quick rinse

In a Dutch oven, combine the beans, water, bay leaf and berries, cover and bring to a boil on high heat. Skim the surface of any foam. Once it comes to a boil, add the tablespoon of olive oil and the bouillon cube and dissolve, lower the heat to low and simmer for an hour and 15 minutes, until the beans are tender. Add any sea salt if needed. In a large saucepan, combine the remaining olive oil and the shallots on low heat until the shallots are translucent. Add in the mushrooms and lightly brown on one side, about 3 minutes or so. Turn and add in the balsamic vinegar. Allow the mushrooms to soften and the balsamic vinegar to reduce, about another 3 minutes. Toss in the capers and adjust the seasoning as needed. Drizzle with a fruity balsamic vinegar to finish the mushrooms or have a balsamic glaze at the table so everyone can top their own mushrooms. Discard the bay leaf and berries and garnish with any fresh chopped herbs you have on hand. Great as leftovers. Serves 4.


Monday, May 6, 2013

Movie: I AM

Asking myself lately, "What's wrong with our world?" and "What can we do about it? I came across a movie that wonders the same thing and gives us answers. What I call a modern-day saint, Tom Shadyac makes a movie, giving our global unhappiness the attention it deserves. What society is slowly beginning to see is we are not happier by having more stuff or being number one as we are taught but by connections; real connections that give us those good feeling vibes. We, at the core of our hearts are meant to love and be good to each other. Somewhere along the way, we have lost this way of living and it has shown up in our culture in negative ways. It's time for a turn around in our society and for those good feeling vibes to start flowing. And with inspiring movies such as this one and small steps taken by each one of us, it will lead to big leaps in mankind heading towards happiness.

Movie: I AM by Tom Shadyac

Friday, May 3, 2013

Mexican Style Stuffed Peppers

What's a gluten and dairy loving gal that's avoiding her love suppose to do on Cinco de Mayo when a dollop or two of sour cream makes about everything taste more delicious? And when there are warm, soft, glutenous flour tortillas hugging the insides of tacos and enchiladas, making them oh-so-perfect? But make her own little pockets for celebrating, without feeling like she's missing out. And these came out really tasty and I didn't even miss the sour cream! Don't forget the wedges of lime, avocado and the extra cilantro! Now where's my Skinny Girl Margarita? Happy weekend and Happy Cinco de Mayo!

  • 1 pound organic ground beef
  • 4 cubanelle peppers
  • 1 8oz. can seasoned tomato sauce, reserving 3 tablespoons aside.
  • 2 tablespoons and 1 pepper from a 7 oz. can of chilpotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup cooked brown basmati rice
  • 1 small shallot, minced about 2-3 tablespoons
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, crushed and finely minced
  • 1/2 cup good salsa
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • fresh cilantro
  • sea salt
  • ground black pepper

Trim the stems if needed and half your peppers. Remove the seeds and membranes. Place them directly on the gas burner, until the outside is a little charred for a little extra flavor. Please be careful. Set them aside, using tongs. Combine the can of seasoned tomato sauce, 1 tablespoon of the adobo sauce and 1/4 cup of water and spread evenly in the bottom of a heavy bottomed 13x9 pan. Place the peppers in the bottom of the pan.

In a pan, combine the olive oil, shallots and garlic. Saute on low heat until soft and translucent. Add the beef, breaking it up with the back of a spoon. Add in the 3 tablespoons of the tomato sauce, 1 tablespoon of the adobo sauce and the pepper, minced. Add in more if would like a little more smoky heat. Keep stirring, until most of the beef is cooked through. Stir in the rice, salsa and the cilantro. I love cilantro, so I am never shy with it, so use as much as you like. Adjust the seasonings, adding hot sauce if you like. Next, stuff your peppers, packing in an even amount onto each pepper. Place in 350 degree pre-heated oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the peppers are fork tender. Makes 4 servings. Enjoy!

*Gluten free, if sauces are.