Food and Drink

Pass the coconuts, please! – Published May 22, 2018

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DRY living and thin air is a reality residing in a semi-arid climate at 6000 ft elevation! Everything dries fast. Fruits spoil quickly. Plants always need water. So I hate to imagine what all this dryness is doing to my body!! Now and then, I get an annoying headache, which is the body’s way of telling me…you need fluids!! Drinking water has never been a favorite and playing catch-up to hydrate, often makes me feel bloated and nauseas. About a year ago my husband read about the benefits of coconut water. He bought a case and stocked the refrigerator. Initially, I wasn’t a fan but we did have a case, which offered many opportunities to establish that acquired taste. We now LOVE coconut water! It appears to hydrate faster than water and offers health benefits that plain drinking water does not. This post will share a few facts about coconuts, the health benefits of drinking coconut water, as well as suggestions on how to prepare this refreshing alternative with a tasty twist! Planning for HOT summer days…you might consider giving coconut water a try!!

Is it a fruit or is it a nut??

Coconuts come from the coconut palm tree and are considered a fruit. The seed is called a drupe and it is not a nut. The scientific name is Cocos Nucifera. However, “in the U.S. coconut is classed as a tree nut by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for labeling purposes.” The Coconut Allergy Guide In Europe, coconuts are classified as fruit. Although allergic reactions are not common, if you or any one of your family members suffer with food allergies or are allergic to tree nuts, as a precaution, you may consult with your physician. Reported coconut allergy symptoms from The Coconut Allergy Guide include the following, contact dermatitis being the most common. However, anaphylaxis to coconut is extremely rare.

  • Skin reactions such as rash, hives or eczema.
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • Airway symptoms including wheezing, coughing, or a runny nose.
  • Swelling, also known as angioedema, of the lips, tongue, or face.
  • Severe reactions, called anaphylaxis, may occur, affecting multiple organ systems.

Coconut water (clear fluid inside the coconut) is harvested while the fruit is not yet ripe (still green), about 5-7 months in maturity. It takes about 10-12 months for a coconut to fully mature. As the coconut continues to age and ripen, the fluid transforms to the white meaty inner lining of the fruit.

Tropical countries, where coconuts are grown, have used this fruit to treat health issues for centuries and for this reason, the tree from which the fruit is grown is known as the tree that gives life.

Health Benefits

Coconut water is a good source of fiber, vitamin C and several important minerals. 8 Science-Based Health Benefits of Coconut Water

  • Carbs:9 grams
  • Fiber:3 grams
  • Protein:2 grams
  • Vitamin C:10% of the RDI
  • Magnesium:15% of the RDI
  • Manganese:17% of the RDI
  • Potassium:17% of the RDI
  • Sodium:11% of the RDI
  • Calcium:6% of the RDI

11 Surprising Benefits Of Coconut Water states… The mineral content includes calciumironmagnesium, phosphorous, potassiumsodiumzinccoppermanganese, and selenium. The vitamins found in coconut water include vitamin B6vitamin C, and vitamin E, as well as vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavinniacinpantothenic acid, and folate.

Below is a health benefit summary combining reported findings from two online articles, Is Coconut Water Good For You, by Dr. Draxe and  GO NUTS: 55 COCONUT WATER BENEFITS TO KEEP YOU SIPPING To date I have found most all studies conducted about coconut water benefits have been performed on animals, and such studies have yet to be conducted on humans.

  • It has fewer calories, less sodium, and more potassium than a sports drink.
  • Great electrolyte replacement.
  • Can lower blood pressure because of the high potassium that neutralizes the effects of sodium in the body.
  • Can aid in weight loss.
  • Boost energy and therefore, increased athletic performance.
  • Reduce cellulite.
  • Relax muscle tension because of its high amounts of calcium and magnesium.
  • Coconut water contains antioxidants that protect cells from damaging free radicals
  • Good for fighting infections.
  • Shown to lower sugar levels in diabetic animal testing. Also a good source of magnesium, benefiting (lowering blood sugar levels) to those with type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes.
  • In animal testing reduced cholesterol and triglyceride levels at the same effectiveness as statin drugs and further research is needed in human study.
  • Treats Cholera.
  • Protects the liver helping to cleanse and reduce toxins.
  • Beneficial for postmenopausal symptoms or hormone replacement therapy
  • Wound healing properties.
  • It has a unique chemical composition of sugars, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and cytokinines – which have shown anti-aging and anti-cancer effects in research studies. GO NUTS: 55 COCONUT WATER BENEFITS TO KEEP YOU SIPPING

When compared to regular water and sport drinks, coconut water was one of the 3 drinks that did not produce a feeling of nausea and fullness, often experienced when drinking large amounts of fluid after rigorous exercise or participating in a sporting event. And, for this reason, more coconut water was consumed for lasting hydration.

I am now drinking coconut water regularly; consuming  2 – 3 each 11.1 oz cartons daily, an amount I never consumed with regular water. Headaches are now rare and chronic leg and foot cramps are gone. My skin looks so much better, too! The best health proof of coconut water is how YOU feel and the benefits YOU notice after regularly consuming this natural fruit water.

Coconut Water RecipesjBo38dvxTJStCzIMKEZ82w

Coconut water is good on its own merit, cold from the fridge. For added flavor and perhaps as a summer refreshing drink without alcohol, below are some suggestions. If you are wondering what brand is best, it’s truly personal preferences because pure coconut water should all be the same (no added ingredients). My favorite is Vita Coco. At the grocery store the cost is $1.99 for the small 11.1 oz carton. A 12 pack of this same size at Sam’s Club is $13.98…BIG price difference!!

Coconut Lemon Water– pure and simple

qht2dRKiQoqdaHEG1HW2GwCoconut water taste best served cold. The other day I added freshly squeezed lemon juice, ½ lemon. Oh my gosh…a lemonade flavor without having that sugar after taste! This is a thirst quencher, unlike some drinks that actually make you feel more thirsty after the initial feeling of being refreshed! Adding just lime juice didn’t work as well for me. Another option is to make ice-cubes using raspberries or blueberries, grated fresh ginger root, 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice and coconut water for each cube, in an ice tray. I added a few cubes to my coconut water, letting it sit for about 5 minutes. SO refreshing!!  The only recipe I found online that isn’t filled with sugar or alcohol, is noted below.

Lemon Lime Coconut Quench by Meghan Telpner 

  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1½ cups coconut water
  • ½ cup water (or more depending on desired concentration)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • ½ tsp grated ginger root
  • Sea salt to taste

Directions

  1. Add lemon and lime juice to blender.
  2. Add coconut water, water, honey, ginger and sea salt into blender.
  3. Drink up with a smile or keep refrigerated for up to two weeks.

You can stay wonderfully hydrated with added minerals and vitamins simply by including coconut water to your daily regiment. This mega-electrolyte and natural alternative to regular water offers potential health benefits ranging from anti-aging to heart health, digestion aid and fighting infections! When drinking coconut water, keep it simple without adding surgery syrups or alcohol. Coconut water has been used for centuries for medicinal purposes and I am grateful this tree of life has made its way from the tropical islands to our grocery store shelves. This summer, stay hydrated, grab this healthy alternative, and pass the coconuts sharing this awesome find to friends and family, while you enjoy a refreshing glass, too!

Resources

It’s A Polenta Day! – Published May 15, 2018

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When someone in my family says, “it’s a polenta day”, I can precisely describe the weather without leaving the house or peaking out the window! Polenta has been the perfect comfort food in our home since my youth, growing up in San Francisco. At that time, this dish was usually reserved for cold, cloudy and drizzle filled days, which didn’t just occur during the winter months.

The Coldest Winter I Ever Spent Was a Summer in San Francisco Author Unknown

This is a popular quote about San Francisco. Although credit has been given to Mark Twain, he actually didn’t say this about San Francisco but did share his disappointment about the weather he experienced in Paris. Quote Investigator

Serving polenta always triggers fond memories, watching my mom cooking at the stove on drizzle cold days. I still LOVE polenta traditional style with Parmesan cheese, either stirred with butter or topped with marinara sauce. Polenta recipes have definitely become quite sophisticated today, with different serving styles and flavor options. We now enjoy this dish on cold days or warm summer nights, served as a side starch or as a gourmet first course for formal dining. An added benefit…it’s Gluten Free!

Today of course, polenta is one of the most glamorous players in the high, international interest in Italian eating. Perhaps we’re entering another golden age of polenta. Polenta, Past and Present, by Zingerman’s Food Tours

As we transition to long summer days and beautiful warm summer nights, below are some great recipes you can enjoy!

Polenta Recipes

Traditional Polenta – side dish – serving for 4 or entree serving for 2

  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 cup corn meal

Corn meal works great. It is not necessary to purchase pricey boxes of polenta meal. I use Aunt Jemima Corn Meal.

  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Optional – 2 tablespoons Mascarpone cheese, if you want a creamier texture

Add 3 cups water and salt in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. In a bowl add one-cup corn meal and 1 cup cold water. Stir until it forms a paste mixture. Add ¼ cup of the corn meal mixture to the boiling water. Stir until fully dissolved before adding additional ¼ cups. When the corn mixture has been incorporated, cover and let simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally  (option…add mascarpone cheese for a creamier texture), until thickened.

Butter and Parmesan Add two tablespoons of butter and stir. Top with Parmesan cheese.

Marinara and Parmesan Top with your favorite marinara sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Chili and Polenta  My husband’s favorite – top with your favorite chili and shredded sharp cheddar cheese.

Butter and Gorgonzola Cheese Add 1 tablespoon of butter, 2 tablespoon mascarpone cheese (if not previously added) and ¼ cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese – a distinctive creamy texture and rich flavor.

Baked Polenta Pizza

  • Follow Traditional Polenta Recipe.
  • Pour into a 9″ x 13″ baking pan lightly sprayed with Pam. Spread the mixture evenly throughout the pan. Let it cool for about 30 minutes. Or, place in the fridge until you are ready to add toppings and bake.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Brush lightly with olive oil, add your toppings such as; favorite pizza sauce, sundried tomatoes, baby Portobello mushrooms, Kalamata olives, sliced fresh Mozzarella cheese (or use the mini fresh Mozzarella balls). Add a light layer of  shredded Parmesan cheese and chopped fresh basil.
  • Bake for 15 minutes or until all cheese has melted, turning slightly golden.
  • Let sit for 10-15 minutes, to become firm, before cutting.
  • Option: Place in the fridge and cut up in smaller squares for a great cold appetizer.

Enjoy! As shown in the photos – before bake and after bake. I lightly brushed the top before baking with olive oil and Barilla Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto, adding Kalamata olives, fresh sliced Mozzarella cheese, fresh chopped basil and shredded parmesan. Excellent!!

Grilled Polenta with prawns, roasted peppers and Gorgonzola – Serving for 4

  • Polenta rounds, homemade or store purchased
  • 1 each red, yellow, and orange peppers, to roast
  • 20 prawns 21-25 count size
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoon chopped basil
  • 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil
  • 3 cloves garlic diced
  • Ground ginger, 1/8 teaspoon (dash)
  • Dash of salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1- 14 oz can of diced tomatoes

You can make polenta and form your own polenta rounds by pouring the mixture in a baking ban for 1/2 inch thickness and then put in the fridge. When cool and firm, use press the top of a round glass into the firm mixture to form round circles. Or, purchase polenta Screen Shot 2018-05-14 at 12.12.22 PMpackaged rolls available at most grocery stores, such as this Sun Dried Tomato Garlic Polenta product by Food Merchants.

Roasting peppers. Purchase a jar of roasted peppers or make your own. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut each pepper in half and remove the seeds and wash. Dry each half and place cut-side down on a Pam sprayed cookie sheet or roasting pan. Roast peppers for one hour or until blackened and charred on the top. Remove from the oven. Place peppers in a gallon size baggie and refrigerate for 1/2 hour+.  Once cooled, remove from baggy, peel skin off and thinly slice.

Making the sauce. You can use your own favorite sauce, homemade or purchased. This is my simple recipe. Coat and heat skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add 3 cloves diced garlic, 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped basil and 1 tablespoon of fresh chopped cilantro and sauté a few minutes. Add a dash of ground ginger, salt, pepper. Add 14 oz can of diced roasted tomatoes. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of Marsala wine and 16 – 20 peeled and cleaned uncooked prawns, 21-25-count size. Stir, cooking shrimp until they are done.

To serve.  Add a tablespoon or two of sauce, on each plate. Place one grilled polenta round on top of the sauce. Top each round with 2-3 pawns with sauce. Top with a few roasted sliced peppers and crumbled Gorgonzola cheese. Option: Grill shrimp instead of cooking in the sauce. Add sauté Portobello mushrooms. Serve immediately.

Grilling polenta rounds.

  • Slice to 1/2 inch rounds and brush with olive oil.
  • Pam Spray your grill BEFORE turning it on.
  • Place the rounds on the grill (about 350 degrees) and grill about 5 minutes on each side. You can also do this stove top or broil for a few minutes in your oven.

Summer Grilling

Polenta seasoned rolls are great to simply slice (1/2 inch) and grill. When grilling is almost done, add bruschetta or brush with pesto and sprinkle Parmesan cheese while still on the grill, until cheese melts. This makes for a great summer appetizer paired with a buttery chardonnay.

Additional Polenta Recipes

I’ve bookmarked the following recipes that look amazing!

If you haven’t yet experienced the uniqueness of polenta and its versatility, give it a try!! There are so many ways to prepare this dish; polenta as a meal in itself, an appetizer, or a side dish, served throughout the year – rain or sunshine!! Maybe today… is your polenta day!

Resources

  • Polenta, Past and Present, by Zingerman’s Food Tours, if you are interested in reading the history of polenta.
  • Recipes – all recipes noted in the post are hyperlinked.

In An Instant…even grandma would approve👍 Published February 6, 2018 

The New Year is a great time for fresh starts with high hopes and enthusiasm for wise meal planning and grocery shopping. Often times, however, when we exit the month of January our excitement for nutritious meals is also left behind. Although we have the desire to prepare quick and healthy entrees, soon we may find ourselves slipping back to poor choices and comfortable habits. Why? Too much work. Too much planning. Too tired by dinner time. Too busy. Too hungry and can’t pull it all together when I’m am/family are hungry.

As technology becomes ever so savvy, tech solutions are heading to the kitchen that make it easier to eat healthy. This past month I was able to enjoy getting acquainted with a Christmas present I received…The Instant Pot. And, it appears as if I am not the only one experimenting with this popular appliance although I (and awesome results shared by a friend of mine!) seem to be having better results than some. While working on this post, an article appeared in the WSJ, February 1, 2018, “Why Is American’s Anxiety Rising? The Instant Pot”, noting that Amazon delivered 27,000 Instant Pots in 2017. The article also reveals fear and frustration that many new users are experiencing with the pot. The numbers, though, definitely support what I heard last fall… this appliance is “all the rage” for fast cooking. It is…quite amazing!! Instant Pot website, notes…

If you live a fast-paced, healthy, and eco-friendly lifestyle Instant Pot® is designed for you!

Does some or all of this statement apply to you?

The following shares what I discovered about this appliance and why I love it, how to overcome common reported frustrations, and, inspiring resources to keep your focus on healthy menu choices.

What I love about Instant Pot

  • I can make most healthy hot meals in 12 – 20 minutes. Their claim that cooking is 70% faster, is true!!
  • No chemical coating on the cooking appliance. YES!!
  • This one appliance serves many functions, saving on kitchen cabinet storage.Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Sauté, Steamer and Warmer
  • Numerous available built-in programs (depending on size 3,5,6, or 8 quart) make preparing meals easy.
  • Can make anything from soup/broth, meat/stew, eggs, sauté, rice, porridge, steam pressure cook, keep warm and slow cook your favorite chili, meat dishes and stews to baking breads and cakes.
  • It makes PERFECT risotto in 12 minutes using ½ the broth typically needed and I don’t have to stand over a pot stirring for 25 minutes!! We love risotto in my household so this is a big win!!

Meal planning and grocery shopping for the week can be done on the weekends, for the most part. Mincing and dicing along with purchasing prepackaged sliced vegetables or washing and bagging ahead of time for the following day’s dinner makes it easy to pull a meal together. When dinnertime approaches, I feel as if we can now have our dinner in an instant and it feels good to know we are eating healthy and timely prepared meals.

Common Instant Pot Reported Frustrations

After reading the WSJ article and doing an internet search found these common reported frustrations: burnt food, splattering liquid when using the quick pressure release, curd like results from recipes using dairy as an ingredient, liquid overflow, steam release intimidating spewing out HOT.

Suggestions to avoid frustrations

  • Purchase the right size pot for your cooking needs. Read the capabilities of each Instant Pot available and invest in the size best suited for you – Instant Pot Products. If you are cooking for a family, invest in the 8 qt size.
  • Read the provided manual.
  • Follow the guide in the Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker Recipe bookthat accompanies your appliance.  I found pages 31-37 to be helpful.
  • Watch professional and helpful instruction videos. Visuals are often easier than reading manual instructions. Click here for the menu of free available videos.  This is one of my favorite videos, How To Use An Instant Pot.
  • Only use recipes created for the Instant Pot. This video link offers an impressive menu of video taped recipes . Amazon offers a wide selection of Instant Pot cookbooks.
  • Always, slowly release the steam handle, even though it is called “quick release”. Quick release means it is faster than letting the pot sit for 30 minutes to depressurize on its own.
  • NEVER have children operate this or any appliance and whenever releasing the steam be sure children and pets are not near the pot. Never place your face down looking at the pot when releasing steam. This instruction video, How To Use An Instant Pot offers a good demonstration on steam pressure release.
  • Join the Facebook Instant Pot Community to see how others are successfully using their pot and to share some of your successes, too. This group has 1,230,798 members and 10,000+ new members just in the past 30 days!!

Inspiration for a Healthy Focus 

Years ago I read in a health magazine (wish I could remember the source!) that what we eat and do (or not do) for our bodies today will reflect the condition of our health 10 years from now… good or not so good. Where is your current lifestyle leading you?

If you need to be inspired to get back on a healthier track, visit Wellness Changer 12 Days of Christmas Video Series by Jeanne Wisniewski, BS, NTP, CFT. Jeanne does an outstanding job in these brief yet powerful video segments, sharing information we all need to know about how food and exercise directly affect our health and overall wellbeing. The Wellness Changer website explains the RESTART program and how nutrition, fitness and lifestyle choices can proactively reduce the risk of disease, even those known to be linked to family history. Jeanne is passionate about combining her love for science and clinical research to educate others for life transforming results. If you need inspiration, visit her website and watch the video series! And, if you are fortunate to live in the Austin area, call Jeanne for a consultation.

Healthy meals can easily be achieved! Invest in today’s savvy appliances to make meal planning, prep and cooking easier on you. The Instant Pot is one of these kitchen conveniences and it doesn’t need to be intimidating. In fact, pressure-cooking has been around for generations and often a common means of preparing family meals. This cooking option is now coming back in vogue through multi-function appliances, which requires a slight learning curve. The result is fresh, balanced and healthier meals in a fraction of the time that even grandma would approve to accommodate our busy lives! If you need inspiration to maintain enthusiasm for healthy living, surround yourself with educational resources, such as Wellness Changer. Stay focused on the truth that the benefits of your choices today will shape your overall wellness tomorrow.

Resources – Hyperlinked

 

 

Cozy Fall Bake! Published October 10, 2017

Fall is that awesome time of year when the temps begin to fall and beautiful warm shades of yellow, orange, and soft reds begin to color the landscape, which has me longing for the sweet aroma of autumn. Although wax melts and scented candles do a great job, nothing compares to what is baking in the oven! After researching and writing about Cultural Fit these past 2 months, I’m ready for the warm and fuzzy feeling that accompanies fall scents and comfort food. And, apple pie is a great place to start!

Growing up in San Francisco we had a backyard apple tree at our home. I fondly remember the tree bearing awesome apples in September, which turned into many baked apple pies through October. This past week I had a hankering for mom’s homemade apple pie and unfortunately she was never one to write down recipes. It was more of “a little of this and a little of that”, which always led to perfection. So, I decided to create an apple pie recipe, merging flavors from my mom’s baking along with some of my favorites. The end result…a lemon almond apple pie with cranberries. This pie certainly lives up to my expectations in both fall aroma and TASTE, somewhat resembling a strudel pie.

Gluten-Free (GF) readers, I have not yet mastered making GF pie dough. I purchased, instead, frozen GF piecrust in the freezer section of the grocery store. The package comes with two already prepared piecrusts in aluminum pie containers. I filled one of the piecrust with fruit filling. The other, I scrapped out all the dough, divided into 5 small sections and carefully rolled dough into strips to lay on top of the pie filling. It came out “artisan” great!

Listed below is the recipe inspired by and shared from Taste of Homepublished recipe, which comes closest to my mom’s home baked apple pies, especially using lemon. In bold and underlined are my tweaks. Get started and fill your home with the aroma of autumn giving this amazing bake a try that will warm your heart and bring you some cozy fall comfort!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (gluten-free APF like Pamela’s or Cup 4 Cup)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 6 to 7 cups thinly sliced peeled tart apples
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon of pure almond extract
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • Pastry for double-crust pie (9 inches)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 large egg white
  • Additional sugar

DIRECTIONS

In a small bowl, combine the sugars, flour and spices; set aside. In a large bowl, toss apples and cranberries with lemon juice and pure almond flavoring. Add sugar mixture; toss to coat.

Line a 9-in. pie plate with bottom crust; trim pastry even with edge. Fill with apple mixture; dot with butter. Roll out remaining pastry to fit top of pie. Place over filling. Trim, seal and flute edges. Cut slits in pastry.

Beat egg white until foamy; brush over pastry. Sprinkle with sugar. Cover edges loosely with foil.

Bake at 375° for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake 20-25 minutes longer or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool on a wire rack. Yield: 8 servings.

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Biscotti For All Seasons! – Published July 22, 2017

This week we received sad news. Steve, who inspired me to go into the biscotti business back in 2002 and partnered in the launch, passed away. At that time the business was poised to do well, however, getting the required venture capital funding did not happen and after one year the business came to a close. We had one impressive account, some fun times and a wild ride on the learning curve of being an entrepreneur, for sure!

As a tribute to Steve and in memory of those days, I’m sharing 4 biscotti recipes, the most popular from each seasonal group we sold at that time through Dean and DeLuca, an upscale grocery store in St. Helena, CA. The concept is American style biscotti, and therefore the cookies reflect the American palate of flavors.

For ALL – Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Fall – Gingerbread

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • ¼ stick of salted butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1-tablespoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon cloves
  • 1-teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1-teaspoon lemon flavoring
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups of All Purpose Flour plus a cup on the side
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

Winter – Peppermint Chocolate Chip

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ stick of salted butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons of pure peppermint flavoring
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla flavoring
  • 1-cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups of All Purpose Flour plus a cup on the side
  • 1 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

Spring – Cherry Blossom

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ stick of salted butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 ½ teaspoon pure vanilla flavoring
  • 1 ½ teaspoon orange Flavoring
  • ½ cup dried chopped Bing cherries
  • ½ cup whole almonds chopped
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups of All Purpose Flour plus a cup on the side
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder

Summer – Lemon Poppy Seed

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ stick of salted butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon flavoring
  • 2 teaspoons of poppy seed
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups of All Purpose Flour plus a cup on the side
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Apply to all the recipes

  • In a mixer, whisk sugar and butter.
  • Then add eggs one at a time, until each one is incorporated.
  • Add remaining ingredients.
  • The dough should be stiff but workable. Add more flour if needed.
  • Dust a board or counter surface with flour. Divide the dough into 4 equal parts.
  • Roll each one into a long log to fit your cookie sheet.
  • Spray the cookie sheet with Pam.
  • Place each log on the cookie sheet.
  • Slightly press each log down the center so each log is about 2″ wide.
  • Place in pre-heated oven. Cook for 20 minutes. Remove from oven.
  • Depending on your oven and where you live you might have to cook it less or more.
  • Reduce heat to 325 degrees.
  • Let cookies rest for 5 minutes.
  • Using a serrated knife, either cut straight, one inch wide, for bite size biscotti OR cut diagonally for a larger cookie.
  • Separate so there is breathing space between cookies. (I don’t lay the biscotti on their sides.)
  • Place back in the oven for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes
  • OPTION: Before the 2nd bake, you can brush lightly with milk and sprinkle granulated sugar. OR after the second bake, when the biscotti cools, drizzle with white or dark chocolate.

The biscotti are great to store in the freezer. They also make great gifts. Mygirlfriendshouse.com has the best cellophane self-sealing printed bags for all seasons that I use (flat, self-sealing, 6.25 x 12) and the bags are awesome for keeping the biscotti fresh and crisp!

Gluten-Free option – you can substitute APF with Pamela’s All Purpose Gluten-Free or Cup-4-Cup. I do find the consistency is not as good as the regular APF and haven’t yet found a solution.

Salute to you, Steve! Remembering your enthusiasm, laughter, and the quick OMG whisper when a famous person would come into the store!

Buon Appetito!!

Summer Sizzle – Refreshing Drinks and Quick Appetizers! – Published July 8, 2017

A HOT summer, like the one we are having, is a perfect opportunity for an impromptu get-together! We live in a community without fences. The backyards are all open. Late afternoons we look forward to relaxing outdoors, my husband smoking his cigar while I appreciate a refreshing glass of chilled Sauv Blanc. We love when neighbors walk by and join us because a connected community is a thriving community! What is the best way to prepare for unexpected but welcomed guests?

There are a few simple food and drink staples we always have on hand. Fortunately, we have a Sam’s Club that recently opened close to our home. Like Costco, there is an abundance of refreshing beverages to choose from, nice wines, as well as prepared dips (Raspberry Chipotle Dip is incredible!!) and appetizer trays, making life summer simple!! Most local grocery stores also carry prepared foods to go. When I don’t have time to shop, I can count on basic drinks and a few ready-to-prepare food items stocked in my fridge and pantry.

Below is my inventory listing for drinks as well as simple prep and serve appetizers. Serving a variety of 2-3 work well. So far, no one has ever complained about the same drink or appetizer menu served at our home. Click Quick Summer Appetizers for some of our favorite recipes.

Drinks – Something for everyone!

  • Ice-tea or Sweet-tea
  • Bottled water and coconut water
  • 12-pack of light beer
  • Wines – Light wines are available in white, rose and reds. Here is a LINK found online listing 2017 summer wines to pair with your summer appetizers.
  • 12-pack of diet soda

Appetizers

  • HummusBush’s Hummus packets, cans of garbanzo beans and black beans. Love this! No longer am I throwing out hummus that has gone bad. We make it, as we need it!! So simple!!
  • Smoked Salmon Dip – lemon juice, cream cheese, mayo, dried Italian herb seasoning. You can serve with capers, diced red onions and mini bagels. Big hit whenever I serve this.
  • Skewers – cucumber, cherry tomatoes, fresh plain or marinated mozzarella balls, sliced prosciutto (or sliced Genoa Italian salami). Quick to pull together. Option – Put the mozzarella balls in a bowl, ditto with cherry tomatoes and roll lunch meat on a plate. Put out toothpicks and let guests help themselves!
  • Crackers with sliced cheese – I always have a few boxes of Gluten- Free crackers in the pantry and an assortment of cheeses in the fridge.
  • Tortilla Chips and jar salsa
  • Cans of artichoke hearts
  • Peanuts, cashews or pistachios
  • Brazi Bites & Tostitos Cheese Sauce

When serving and consuming alcohol, always have snacks to slow absorption. Hot weather can compound the effects of alcohol on an empty stomach causing dizziness, weakness, and mood change. The best way to keep guests safe (as well as yourself) is for snacks to be protein rich. This article found online provides an informative and wise listing anytime you are hosting a gathering. HINTS FOR SENSIBLE, MODERATE, AND RESPONSIBLE ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION AND PARTY HOSTING, Adapted from Engs, R.C. Alcohol and Other Drugs: Self Responsibility. Tichenor Publishing Company, Bloomington, IN, 1987

The best get-togethers at our home have been impromptu, when the focus is on guests and not menu or gourmet dining perfection. This means, stress, is not a barrier to a joy-filled experience. Be prepared for welcomed yet unexpected guests and stock your fridge and pantry with drinks and appetizer staples that all can enjoy. Make summer sizzle and be ready to celebrate this hot season with your friends, family and neighbors!

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Processed with MOLDIV

4th of July BBQ Best! – Published June 29, 2017

Are you prepared for your 4th of July BBQ best? This recipe for BBQ Beef Tenderloin sandwiches has never been shared, until now! It was created many years ago, searching for a unique school auction donation that would bring in $$$ paired with a round of golf at our local course. Well, the sandwiches became a huge hit and enjoyed throughout many school auction years. These sandwiches also became awesome bagged lunches for my husband’s corporate golf events. And, now, this unique and tasty BBQ dish can be yours!

You may already have your traditional BBQ planned for Tuesday. But, if you don’t, this hyperlinked Recipe, Beef Tenderloin and Salad with GF options will help you get there.

Beef Tenderloin

The marinade is amazing!! This recipe shows both whole tenderloin or grilling individual tenderloin rounds (filet mignon) for sandwiches.

Vegans

Recommend using large and thick Portobello mushrooms, which do not need to be marinated overnight. Reserve some of the prepared marinade to heat up as a glaze for after grilling. Prepare mushrooms 1-hour before grilling with a slight brush of olive oil and sprinkle tops with garlic and onion powder. DO NOT use salt, which dries out mushrooms.

Gluten Free

The tenderloin prepared as a sandwich requires a strong, sturdy, old-fashioned French roll. I have yet to try a gluten free option that works. You can enjoy it without bread. This LINK, however, brings you to top rated Gluten Free hamburger buns, and some that are listed look as if they could work. You will need to use GF soy sauce/Tamari to make this dish gluten-free.

The salad recipe included is an all-time-favorite from my California days. It pairs well with the BBQ Tenderloin and Portobello mushrooms.

Freedom becomes more precious to me as we prepare to celebrate 4th of July, when daily news covers a concerning international political climate that appears to worsen with each passing year. So…celebrate freedom in true American style – BBQs fired-up across our country – like a unified toast to America. Enjoy the holiday commemorating all from our historical past and those currently serving who sacrifice much to keep us free!

The next blog posting, because of the long 4th of July weekend, will be Thursday, July 6th, 2017. Have fun and be safe!

Healthy & Confident…Eating with Celiac Disease – Published June 22, 2017

Grateful for all the support received on Tuesday’s posting, Medical Mayhem. The popularity of the article led to this writing, how to eat Gluten-Free (GF). If you are in pain and bloated after eating, I find ice cubes or popsicles help the discomfort along with taking Gas-X. Chamomile tea soothes once the pain begins to subside. Some people experience intense pain leading to an ER visit. Gluten reactions differ so best to have a conversation about symptom management with your physician.

Dining Out & Travel

I’ve received numerous responses about challenges dining at restaurants. Strongly feel that the “gluten-free trend” has hurt more than helped those who suffer from Celiac Disease and gluten sensitivity. We have become confused with a trending population on the receiving end of eye rolling and TV satire humor, too!! How can you rise above this response when dining out?

Gluten-Free restaurant cards are available. Attached is one I have had for many years, PDF document Celiac Disease Medical Alert Cards that prints on business card stock. Mentioning “food allergy” for some reason triggers a higher level of seriousness with restaurants rather than saying “gluten-free”. When ordering you can state to the waiter “Gluten-Free for medical reasons” and hand the waiter this card, or, simply say, “Gluten-Free Food Allergy”. DO CHECK when your meal or that of your GF child is brought to the table. This past Saturday while dining out, after clearly indicating Gluten-Free for medical reasons, my salmon dinner was served with orzo on the plate!! Orzo (often used alone or in rice pilaf) is gluten/wheat pasta not rice.

GF bread is not always available at deli counters or restaurants. Sometimes I’ll bring my own bread in a plastic baggie. FYI…a Deli will put everything on a plate for you to assemble your own sandwich.

Below is a listing of online resources (hyperlinked), which includes another option for GF cards and information available in many languages to use when traveling. I have found Europe to be far more GF accommodating than the USA. The European symbol for gluten-free is known as the cross grain symbol, shown on the blog photo.

Gluten-Free at Home

What about cooking and baking at home? Being GF offers a great opportunity to cut back on carbs. At one time my diet was carb focused, but it isn’t now and I have become accustomed to this lifestyle. Below, however, is a listing of my favorite cereal, crackers and breads. Most listed are available at major grocery chains, Target, and Wal-Mart.

Breads

  • Glutino (usually in grocery store freezer)
  • B-Free Wheat & Gluten-Free (non-GMO)
  • Chebe (awesome pizza crust)
  • Canyon Bakehouse Gluten-Free Breads (awesome rye and cinnamon raisin!!)
  • Barilla Gluten-Free Pasta (BEST!!!)

Baking Breads, Cakes, and Cookies

Flour – Pamela’s All-Purpose Gluten Free Flouror Cup-4-Cup. (Already contains Xanthium gum – binding agent).

Any of your favorite baking recipes can be followed. Consider using ½ to 1 cup less flour and check the consistency of the batter or dough before adding the remaining flour, as needed. Also suggest adding one teaspoon of baking powder to the recipe to lighten the density of gluten-free breads and cakes. Practice recipes until you are happy with the result. Baking at different altitudes makes a difference so I always feel the need to tweak the amount of flour at high altitude.

Pillsbury and Betty Crocker offer great cake mixes. Check my blog Flavor Your Summer, using extracts and flavorings to add a twist of exciting flavor to your cake and cookie mixes.

Bread machine with a GF setting makes amazing bread! The machine I use at home is Zojirushi BB-PAC20.

FYI…anything pickled (including pickles!) contains gluten. Imitation crab also contains gluten and is found almost always in sushi at grocery stores and restaurants. Ditto with soy sauce. Be careful. Sometimes foods we would never consider to have gluten…DO! When purchasing vitamins (including fish oil!) check for the GF certified label. You can be mindful of meeting daily vitamin requirements through the foods you eat.

Eating Gluten-Free for Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity is far easier now than ever before. It is important, because of GF popularity, to take the lead and distinguish yourself from the trending masses by making meal prep requests clear to your restaurant waiter when dining out or host when eating at someone’s home. Consider using available GF instruction cards if you feel comfortable doing so, and check the meal when it’s served. Look for the certified GF label when grocery shopping or use a phone app to scan bar codes for GF status and GF accommodating restaurants. Gluten – Free Living is an excellent resource for current Celiac Disease news and gluten-free eating. The world isn’t over if you have a Celiac Disease diagnosis! A simple internet search brings up numerous sites about this autoimmune disease. A new world of many opportunities is yours to explore for healthy eating and confident living!

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Flavor Your Summer – Published June 10, 2016

Get creative with your baking this summer using extracts and flavoring oils! Just because a recipe calls for Pure Vanilla shouldn’t stop you from trying something new. This summer give your favorite baking recipes a fresh twist and substitute vanilla on the ingredient list with exciting combinations!!

Need a few flavor examples you can try with your favorite sugar or butter cookies? See the listing below. You might also consider flavorings when using a box cake mix, which can spice up your easy bake cake. Add an awesome glaze for a perfect warm summer evening dessert. Other ideas? If using a Bundt pan, fill the center with fruit that compliments your cake flavor. For instance, a lemon-flavored cake would work well with blueberries in the center. A raspberry almond flavored cake would be awesome with fresh raspberries in the center drizzled with dark chocolate. Rum flavored cake would pair well with bananas, drizzled with white chocolate. Yum!! Gluten Free (GF) readers, Pillsbury and Betty Crocker have GF cake mixes that are good.

Flavoring ideas

The amount of vanilla flavoring noted on your favorite recipe apply the same quantity to the idea options (or your own flavoring ideas) noted below. Example: 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract could be ½ tablespoon lemon extract and ½ tablespoon pure almond flavoring.

  • ½ lemon and ½ pure almond
  • lemon with poppy seeds
  • ½ raspberry and ½ almond
  • ½ raspberry and ½ lemon
  • ½ rum and ½ almond
  • pure orange with a teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • ½ almond and ½ anise with a teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • pumpkin spice with a teaspoon of ground cinnamon (Great fall idea but who says you can’t have pumpkin in the summer!)

My favorite glaze on cookies or cake (Ultimate Cookie Collection – Taste of Home, page 147)

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup (At most you can add 1/8 teaspoon of the same flavoring that is already in your cookie/cake or if using a combo, choose one, i.e., raspberry and almond you might select the almond to add to the glaze.)

Combine ingredients until smooth. Place in a plastic bag, snip the bottom tip and drizzle. Let cool until the glaze hardens.

Nestle Toll House is the best chocolate chip cookie recipe for our family. Of course, I tweaked the recipe (BOLD font below) and this is how these cookies roll in our home. For Nestle’s ORIGINAL complete mix and baking instructions…LINK.

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (GLUTEN FREE OPTION – Cup-4-Cup or Pamela’s All Purpose Flour that already contains Xanthium gum)
  • 1-teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1-teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.)  NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Summer baking can be fun and delicious by recreating your favorite recipes (including winter baking bests) using off the grocery shelf extracts/flavorings for refreshing summer sweets! Enjoy!!

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Simple Summer Slow Cooking – Published June 1, 2017

Slow cookers (crock-pots!) remind me of hot and savory dinner dishes served in the winter. But, why not use slow cookers in the summer??

The other day my husband asked about cooking a seasoned Tri-Tip roast, which I had purchased at Costco last week and placed in the freezer. So, I moved the Tri-Tip to thaw in the fridge. Yesterday he wondered if we could slow cook it in the crock-pot. Really?? Not BBQ?

A quick Internet search turned up a few ways to slow cook Tri-Tip, which I had to modify, not having every ingredient in the pantry. Below is my recipe. By afternoon our home had the most magnificent aroma permeating throughout. All we wanted to do is eat!! (It’s like traveling and staying in a hotel room next to an amazing bakery and by 5 AM you are wide awake and ready for breakfast, anything!!)

Slow-Cook Tri-Tip – serving for 4

  • 1 1.6 lb seasoned Tri-Tip (Costco)
  • 1 cup low fat milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 packet dried onion soup mix
  • 2 large russet potatoes thick sliced and quartered
  • 3 cups sliced portabella mushrooms (or more…optional)
  • 2 cups sliced carrots or your favorite root vegetable

I used the LOW setting and the meal cooked in 4 hours. Reminder, be sure your slow cooker is working the way it should, especially if it hasn’t been used in a while. The dinner was incredible!!!

We are excited about using the slow cooker this summer, especially as temps rise! Searched online “Summer Slow Cook Recipes” just to see what would pop up and found many recipe sites specifically for summer. WOW! Surprised! There must be a demand for this “drop and go” summer meal prep. Recommend you search and find recipes that satisfy your palate. Here are a few I found …Cooking Light LINK , Southern Living LINK  and Delish, LINK.

Some of these recipes look amazing and are perfect for summer gatherings! In fact, Friday is our first TGIF Summer Nites neighborhood get-together that I blogged about on April 25th. Timing is perfect because now I have exciting slow cook appetizers to consider and share on Friday evening. When summer days are too warm for cooking, you can look forward to a refreshing beverage, cocktail, or your favorite wine instead of standing over a hot stove or grill. Let the pot do the work! When dinnertime arrives, serve and Bon Appetit!!

 

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It’s All About The Chicken! – Published May 20, 2017 

Everyone today seems to be BUSY, whether it’s demanding work and travel schedules, driving through horrific commute traffic, parenting children and/or assuming responsibility for aging parents while trying to fit in a social life and needed alone and family down time. Often, when dinner time arrives, my husband and I look at each other with that surprised and concerned look on our face…”dinner?”!

Moving to Colorado we discovered an awesome lifesaver in the deli section of our local grocery store…Roasted/Rotisserie Savory Shredded Chicken. As you can see from the photo, it comes in plastic containers. There are two types…deli chicken or roasted/rotisserie chicken. Read the label. You want ROASTED/ROTISSERIE. The deli chicken is a combination of chicken and “other” stuff, which you might want to avoid.

The slick idea behind these golden little containers, is all the possibilities to pull together a pretty good dinner without too much effort. What if your grocery store doesn’t carry shredded chicken in plastic containers? You can take a screen shot of the photos shown on this blog, speak to your local grocery store manager, share the idea showing the pic and suggest this would be a great way to profit by repurposing the roasted or rotisserie whole chicken that didn’t sell that day! Or…you can purchase a few rotisserie chickens, have the legs, thighs and wings for dinner one night and freeze the pulled breast meat to use when needed.

Since we discovered shredded chicken we purchase 3-4 containers at a time and freeze. When needed, even if it’s late in the day, we remove the chicken from the plastic container and place on a microwave safe plate. Using the defrost microwave setting, thaw it out to soften. Here are some of the quick dishes we enjoy.

Chicken Soup – Coarsely chop the shredded chicken and add to 2 containers of chicken broth (pantry staple), handful of roughly chopped cilantro, sliced mushrooms, chopped carrots and celery, little garlic, onion powder, dash of cayenne pepper, salt, ground pepper and bring it all to a boil until carrots soften. Add rice or pasta noodles, based on preference. It’s also awesome in chicken tortilla soup.

Chicken Salad – Chop up the chicken, add diced scallion onions, olives (optional), sliced celery, chopped parsley, dash of salt and pepper, 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard and add to your favorite bread with a tomato slice and you are good to go! Or, for a salad topping you can internet search chicken salad and your chicken is ready for any of the recipes listed. I LOVE using this chicken for Waldorf salad. Recipe LINK

Polenta Or Pasta With Chicken – Using your favorite pasta sauce, either store bought or homemade, toss in pieces of chicken and serve on top of polenta or pasta as shown in the photo. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Easy Chicken Tacos or Enchiladas – All you have to do is layer the chicken with your favorite recipe.

Enchilada Casserole – Shown in the picture with a completed layer and after being cooked, using corn tortillas, but use what works best for you.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps – Watching your carbs or simply want a tasty Asian Fusion alternative, internet search chicken lettuce wraps and whip up a tasty dinner using the shredded chicken! Texture might be different from the traditional use of chicken in this recipe. Haven’t tried this option yet, but looking forward to adding lettuce wraps to yummy ideas.

The shredded chicken offers so many uses to pull together quick dinners. Also great for toddlers to eat as is! Wonderful as a light pan sauté to serve over rice with veggies for a healthy dinner. One IMPORTANT note…do not shred and serve in your dog’s food bowl. Whether roasted or rotisserie, this chicken is made with seasonings, some of which includes BBQ sauce, onions, garlic and others that could be harmful to your dog’s digestive system. Even though the shredded chicken breast looks free of seasoning, they have cooked through the chicken.

Be creative and use the chicken with any of your favorite recipes. If your local grocer doesn’t currently offer this convenient alternative to buying a whole chicken, ask if they can. It sure is handy in our home, especially when we get an unexpected snowstorm like we did this past Wednesday and our freezer becomes a treasure chest for what we will be having for dinner!!

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Refreshing Wine Surprise! – Published April 23, 2017

A few weeks ago we enjoyed a wonderful dinner party at our home with neighbors. Serving a fresh spinach and prosciutto stuffed pork tenderloin, our guests brought wine to pair with this entrée, one being a Sauvignon Blanc. I’ve always judged Sauvignon Blanc as being too light in body and flavor. So, the Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc was not one I rushed to pour for myself.

As the evening was winding down the guest who brought the wine said, “Before we go, we need you to taste the Oyster Bay.” I was embarrassed that perhaps it appeared as if I was not grateful for the wine that was kindly brought to our home.

Pulling a fresh wine glass I took a 3 oz pour and sipped. WOW! Humbled I am! This is a great bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and now one I have shared with others and I am excited to share with those reading this blog. The wine has a wonderful crisp, zesty, refreshing fruity flavor with an emphasis on grapefruit and lemon, yet dryer than typical for this Sauv Blanc. I quickly assumed the wine was pricey and I’m frugal. After our guests left I googled the wine, and, pleasantly surprised discovered the price for Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc averages between $8 -$16 per bottle. I found it at Sam’s Club for $9.95 per bottle.

Warm temperatures are making their way into our weather forecast. I can’t think of a better way to relax before dinner than with a crisp, fruity, Sauvignon Blanc that fits my wine budget! Cheers!!