Thursday, April 22

Pasta for the heart

Dinner tonight was lovely. I finally went grocery shopping today (for the first time in a while... we have been deprived of fresh foods!) and stocked up on some essentials: onions, garlic, mushrooms, etc.

So tonight for dinner, we had pasta with a homemade tomato sauce, topped with sauteed mushrooms. One of my favorite things, is fresh tomatoes, in the summer. But summer is not quite here yet, and fresh tomatoes will have to wait. But in the mean time, I am lucky to enjoy my mom's canned tomatoes. Last year (and just about every year) she canned a bunch of my grandpa's tomatoes. Canning is a great way to preserve food! Stay tuned for a future post about canning.

Here is my recipe for homemade tomato sauce:
Homemade Pasta Sauce
2 tablespoons of butter
1 large red onion
2 cloves of garlic
4 whole tomatoes, canned plus juice
Oregano, basil, salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large sauce pan, melt butter. Chop onion and saute in melted butter, until the onions are semi-transparent. Chop garlic and add to the sauce pan. Crush tomatoes and juice with the back of a fork, in a large mixing bowl. Add to the sauce pan, and cook until the juice begins to thicken.

2. When vegetables are thickened, remove from stove, and transfer to the large mixing bowl. Using an immersion blender, puree the vegetables into a thick sauce. Add herbs and salt and pepper to taste.

This sauce can be used over any pasta of your choice. Pat and I ate it over sprouted whole wheat pasta, with some chopped, sauteed mushrooms! So tasty
Hope you enjoyed!

Sunday, April 18

A new spin on a classic cookie

Baking cookies is easy, but baking them as good as you mom is a challenge. It seems that you can never get the consistency just quite right.

So instead of trying to make one of the classic recipes, I decided, "Why not make a new cookie?" This way, I have no standard to live up to!

Baking can be pretty specific, with the chemistry of ingredients. So to start, I chose an already existing recipe, from a cookbook that I have been using lately. The recipe was for tahini cookies, and is from Natural Cooking, The Prevention Way. Then, I tweaked it!

Here is my new and improved recipe for:
Tahini Oatmeal Cookies
6 tablespoons of tahini*
1 cup of oats
3/4 cups of honey
1/4 cup of home-made raisins**
1/4 cup of chocolate chips
1/8 cup of sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons of golden flax seeds
Coconut oil

1. Mix tahini and honey until well incorporated. Then, add the remaining ingredients (except oil).

2. Grease cookie sheet with coconut oil (this adds a little extra flavor!). Drop tablespoons of batter onto cookie sheet.

3. Bake at 300 degrees for about 15 minutes.

*Tahini is sesame seed butter. You can find it at your local supermarket. It is frequently used in Indian cooking, so may be located near other Indian foods at the store. I purchased mine form a local Indian grocery store.

** Homemade raisins are great and easy! If your grapes start to shrivel, don't toss 'em, dry 'em. Just rinse and dry off the grapes, and remove them from the vine. Then, place them on a cookie sheet in a single layer, and let them set in the sun until dried. When they are dried, you can place them in a air tight container, and store them for a very long time.  Homemade raisins are often plumper than store bought ones. Also, they are sweet and delicious, and save one more food from the trash bin. (Remember, if they are too yucky to save, compost them!)

Thursday, April 15

GOOD eating

Here is a great video about food production, that puts our consumption into perspective. If you have a moment, I would highly suggest it!

How to feed the world ? from Denis van Waerebeke on Vimeo.

GOOD Magazine is a great resource. Check them out on the web at

happy day!

What's in season?

With each season, there is new life. In the spring, the trees bud, and the grass sprouts. And in the spring, new crops begin to ripen.

However, since our super markets provide many varieties of produce year-round, we have fallen out of the natural cycle of eating seasonal produce for our regions. Perhaps this seems trivial. If you can get what ever you want, at any time of the year, why is it important to know when produce is in season in your region?

Buying food that is locally grown and in season has many benefits -- not only for you, and your health, but also for your community. You benefit by eating fresh food of high qualities. When food is shipped from great distances, so that you can have tomatoes and apples in winter, its freshness is sacrificed for durability and shelf-life. Also, by buying local (within a 100 mile radius of your home), you reduce your carbon footprint significantly. The average food miles that produce travels when shipped within the country, is about 2000 miles, from farm to plate. Calculate your food miles here.

Buying local also helps the community! When you buy locally, you are supporting local community members. They in turn, put their earnings in local banks and spend their earnings at local businesses, retaining the money in the local economy.

Also, if you are able to shop at farmers markets, this is a great way to build relationships with the producers of your food. In doing so, not only are you able to learn more about your food and the way it was grown, but it seems that you will probably gain a greater appreciation for your food. Based on the amount of food that Americans waste everyday (about 1.3 pounds per American, daily), it seems that our current relationship with our food is unhealthy. We are not connected to our foods the way we once were, when we relied on seasons for our foods. Since the convenience level of our food is so high, we are estranged from our foods.

Once we are able to see the connection between food and the land, once more, perhaps we can learn to appreciate our food and our land and our communities more.

To help you learn more about what is in season in your region, check out this great graphic from GOOD magazine:
 (click here for a link to the full article, on the GOOD webpage)

For those of you Midwest-dwellers, here is a list of some of the produce that is in-season in spring:
Asparagus, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, collards, cucumbers, kale, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, radishes, rhubarb, turnips, spinach, sprouts, tomatoes

There are so many choices! You don't have to worry about a lack of variety, when you are eating locally.

I will be trying to eat as locally as possible. Let me know if you have any great recipes with these spring-y vegetables. I would be happy to try something new!

Tuesday, April 13

Apple Crisp and dinner with a friend

I spent the day outside, enjoying the weather. A nice way to spend the afternoon. This evening, I am sharing dinner at my dear friend Lauren's place. The other day, she brought over banana cream pie! This is my favorite. Though, another one of my favorites is apple crisp. My mom used to make it all the time, when I was a kid. The recipe I made was a bit different than my mom's recipe, but delicious in its own way.
Apple Crisp
6 apples, thinly sliced
1 cup of rolled oats
1/2 cup of crushed breakfast cereal (I used left over whole wheat chex, but this is totally up to you!)
1/4 cup of raisins
10 prunes, cut in half
1/3 cup of cashews, crushed (you can use any type of nut... my mom loves walnuts!)
1/4 cup of sunflower oil
1/4 cup of honey
1/4 cup of unpacked brown sugar

1. Line a deep dish pan with two layers of apples.

2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl, and toss with a fork. Spread over the top of the apples.

3. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.

Serve warm and for an extra delicious treat, top with vanilla ice cream! So tasty, all your friends will want you to come over for dinner...

Another treat, I have been listening to Norah Jones' cd, "The Fall" which is new from last November. Its such a nice and upbeat cd. If you have a moment, and are wanting some new music, I would suggest it.

Have a great day!

Old Bread? Yes please!

Today is a day of new posts. I have had so much time today (unlike the past couple of days, which have been filled to the minute...) and have been letting my creative juices flow in the kitchen!

Ever since I was little, I have hated bread crust much to my mother's frustration (apparently this habit can be credited to my Mema). Though my hate for bread crusts has nearly vanished, I am still not a fan of the butts of the bread. A thin crust around a slice of bread is one thing, but an entire layer of crust is just too much! No thank you.

However, I also hate the wasting of food. In fact, it is one of my biggest pet-peeves when people throw away food. According to an
article about food waste, "each American throws away 1.3 pounds of food a day, which amounts to 474.5 pounds per year per person." Often times, this is completely unnecessary. For instance, your apple cores and scrap produce? This can all be composted! Compost is great, because it results in especially fertile soil, which can be used to grow especially nutritious produce. Moldy cheese? The mold can be cut off, and the rest of the cheese is perfectly fine (there are some exceptions to this... you can use your own discretion). And now, what about bread butts (and stale bread)? If you don't like eating them, just as much as me, don't worry! They don't need to be thrown away. Instead, make them into bread crumbs! Bread crumbs can be used in many ways: fry your zucchini with bread crumb crust, make bean burgers, get creative. Bottom line, don't toss your bread butts or stale bread; repurpose it!

How to make bread crumbs:
Let your bread sit on the counter, uncovered for several days, or until dried out. Then, when throughly dried, use a cheese grater to crumble the bread into crumbs. Bread crumbs can be stored for a long time, in a jar or a plastic bag. They can also be stored for a longer period of time, in the freezer.

So next time you are considering tossing your food, take a moment and think of another way to repurpose it.

Slinky Potato

Today is a beautiful day in Milwaukee. The sun is shining and the air is warm. I am planning on biking shortly! It is days like these, that Milwaukee becomes alive with people, and it really lifts your spirits.

For lunch today, I was feeling like making something a bit out of the ordinary. These potatoes are a fun and tasty alternative to the classic baked potato. They take a while to bake, but the preparation time is very short.

Slinky Potato
1 clove of garlic
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Slice potato cross-wise about 1/8 of on inch thick. Don't cut the potato all the way through, so the potato stays in one piece, but fans open. Slice the garlic clove into thin discs.

2. Place garlic discs between each potato slice. Spread butter over top of potato, and drizzle with olive oil. Top with salt and pepper.

3. Bake in oven for about 45 minutes or until the potato is fully cooked.


Thursday, April 8

Hamburger Buns (from the heart)

Over the past year, I have been cooking and baking which has reduced my dependance on grocery stores (and processed foods). Of course, I will still need to go to the grocery to by the basic ingredients for my recipes, but every time I visit the grocery store, I notice more and more things that are made for convenience, but are really not so inconvenient to make, to begin with.

For instance, the hash browns I made last month from potatoes that were about to go bad... They took about 20 minutes to prepare, and now I have three bags of hash browns in my freezer, ready to prepare when ever I want. Not only was it a simple recipe, but it was definitely cheaper than buying frozen hash browns in the freezer section of the grocery store. And! By making it in my own kitchen, my end product is much more delicious than the over processed alternative at the grocery store. My recipe is just potatoes and olive oil... The Ore-Ida alternative, is made with potatoes, dextrose, and disodium dihydrogen pyrophosphate. Personally, I prefer my breakfast without chemicals.

This has got me thinking... If I can prepare these hash browns so simply, what is to stop me from preparing all sorts of things that I would otherwise purchase at the grocery store?

Here begins my efforts to prepare my grocery store convenience foods. Perhaps you will enjoy trying to prepare more things on your grocery list too, rather than buying the convenient and processed alternative at the store.

Here is another recipe that you can prepare easily, rather than picking it up at the store (and a perfect side-kick for the bean burgers Jill* and I made the other day!):

Homemade Hamburger Buns
3 cups of warm water
4 tablespoons of molasses
1 packet of yeast, or 1/4 oz
3 tablespoons of olive oil
8 cups of flour

1. In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together except the flour, until all of the yeast has dissolved. Then, slowly add the flour, to make a slightly sticky dough.

2. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for about 30 seconds to smooth out any lumps in the dough. Then, return the dough to the bowl, and cover with a cloth, for about 30 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. When the dough has risen, divide the dough into twelve even pieces and roll into a ball. Place each dough ball onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Again, cover the dough with a cloth and allow each bun to double in size (only about 5 minutes).

4. Before baking, lightly sprinkle each bun top, with water (this helps the rolls stay moist and forms a light crisp on the top of the roll!). Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the rolls are golden brown and cooked through.

These buns last for about 3 days. If you are not going to use them before three days, you can freeze them for another time! I hope you enjoy them.

*P.S. it is Jill's birthday today! Happy Birthday Jill!!

Monday, April 5

Easter Hens

Yesterday was Easter, and it was a nice Easter indeed. The sun was shining for the most of the day, and it was very relaxed. I hope you too, had a wonderful Easter.

For dinner, I prepared cornish hens for my family, with a recipe that I found from Martha Stewart. This recipe is very good for spring. The hens are seasoned with lemon, thyme and parsley and rubbed with butter, salt and pepper: which results in a light but flavorful dish! See the recipe here.

They turned out great! They were not too hard to prepare, and the results are good looking and delicious. For those of you who eat meat, this recipe is great. On the side, I prepared carrot soup, and we ate left over beets (from my egg-dying experiment).

Hope your Easter was lovely!

Saturday, April 3

Easter Eggs Dyed (Naturally!)

This Easter, I decided to experiment with natural egg dyes. Dying eggs with natural colors is not only fun, but easy and yields great lookin eggs!

For pinkish-purple, use beets. For blue, use purple cabbage. For yellow, use turmeric.

Here are step by step instructions for naturally dyed Easter eggs:

1. Dice the vegetables. Boil 2 cups of a vegetable or 1 tablespoon of spice in 2 cups of water (do each vegetable and spice in separate pots). Add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar. When the pan reaches a boil, reduce to simmer, and simmer for about 10 minutes.

2. Strain out the vegetables (don't worry about the spices in the yellow dye)*. Reserve the water, and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.

3. Submerge eggs (either hard boiled or blown eggs work just fine) and allow to set for about 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, or your desired color is reached, you can place them back in the egg carton, to dry. Then you are ready to go!

*With the beets, ours were perfect for eating! So don't toss 'em, eat 'em! Beets are full of vitamins and so tasty. Also, the beet greens should be removed before boiling, but can be used in many dishes as well. I cut my beet greens up, and sauteed them with one onion and garlic, in a bit of olive oil.

Easter Chick Cupcakes

Happy almost Easter! Today, I am baking and cooking up a storm. I am home for the weekend, and getting ready for our family feast tomorrow. Here is a fun cupcake recipe and decoration idea. So cute, you just won't want to eat them, but so delicious that you will!

I started with a carrot cake base for the cupcakes, but you can surely pick any cupcake you like. Also, remember to have all your ingredients at room temperature, for better baking! This is a modified recipe from a recipe I found in my mom's Betty Crocker's Cookbook.

Carrot Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1 cup of vegetable oil
3 eggs (room temperature!)
2 cups of flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
3 cups of finely shredded carrots

1. Mix together the sugar, oil and eggs until they are well blended. Then, beat for 1 minute.

2. Stir in the remaining ingredients except for the carrots. Beat for 1 minute. Stir in carrots until they are well incorporated.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a medium sized muffin pan. Pour mixture into the pan. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean, when inserted into the cupcakes.

note: If you do not fill all of the muffin holes in the pan with batter, fill the empty ones 3/4 of the way with water. This helps the muffins bake evenly!

Next, I prepared buttercream frosting for the cupcakes. I wasn't thrilled with the recipe, so I might suggest using a cream cheese frosting instead. Frost the sides and top the the cupcake.

Then, for the final touches, I rolled the cupcakes in toasted, shredded coconut. I used Good and Plenty candy for the chick's "comb", an almond for the beak and two mini chocolate chips for the eyes. So cute!