Saturday, May 31, 2008

Borracho Beans

Another spin on yummy black beans and rice. :) I served these with cilantro-lime rice - what a great combination!
The original recipe called for pinto beans so you can use those in place of black beans if you prefer. It also called for soy bacon bits which I omitted.

Serves 2

1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 medium onion, chopped
1/2 stalk celery, chopped
1/4 green bell pepper, chopped
1/4 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup amber ale, other darker beer, or water
Salt to taste
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large sauce pan. Add the onion, celery, bell peppers, jalapeno, and garlic, and saute for about 5 minutes. Add the chili powder, cumin, tomato and saute an additional 5 minutes.

2. Add the beans and beer to the pan. Combine the ingredients well with a spoon to prevent the beans and veggies from sticking. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the beans appear saucy but not too runny. Season with salt if desired. Garnish with cilantro and serve hot.

From the Whole Foods Market Cookbook.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Middle-Eastern Chickpeas with Spinach

I served this with the tomato-cucumber salad below. It was a great pairing (no, I didn't make that up! One of my favourite things about the Moosewood book is that it gives suggestions for things to add to make a complete meal).

This is a great source of vegetarian protein!

In place of the orzo, you may wish to use couscous or rice.

Serves 2

Sauce Ingredients:
1/3 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh mint

Beans Ingredients:
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and cubed (I just used a handful of frozen tricolour peppers)
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
Pinch of saffron (oops... forgot to pick some up! I'm excited to try it in there next time - I love saffron!)
3/4 cup canned chickpeas, reserve the liquid and then rinse the beans
5 oz. spinach, rinsed, stems removed, and coarsely chopped
1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Cooked orzo pasta

1. Prepare the sauce by combing the yogurt, mint, and garlic in a bowl. Refrigerate while you prepare the beans/orzo.

2. *Prepare the orzo while you make the bean mixture. In a skillet, saute the onions in the oil over medium heat until softened (about 6-8 minutes). Add the bell pepper, coriander, cumin, and saffron. Continue to saute for another 2-3 minutes, stirring often.

3. Stir in the chickpeas and 1/8 cup of their liquid and simmer for about 5 minutes or until the peppers are tender. Add more of the reserved chickpea liquid if necessary.

4. Add the spinach and cook, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes until the spinach is wilted. Stir in the lemon juice. Serve over the orzo with the yogurt sauce on the side.

This recipe is from the Moosewood Low-Fat Favorites cookbook.

Tomato-Cucumber Salad

Yum! The vinaigrette from this recipe made this salad taste just like the one from my favourite hole-in-the-wall Italian place... perfect! :)
The only thing I would change on this for next time would be to add a little chopped red onion with the cukes and tomatoes.

Serves 2
1 medium cucumber, peeled (or make those "strips" by peeling and then leaving a bit of skin - if it's not organic, peel the whole thing).
1-2 tomatoes, sliced
1/8 cup white wine vinegar
1 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. dried mustard
Freshly-ground black pepper to taste

1. Slice the cucumber and tomato into rounds. Place in a shallow bowl.

2. Combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, and mustard in a measuring jug. Pour over the cucumber and tomato slices. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Just prior to serving, sprinkle with a little black pepper to taste.

Based on the Cucumbers Vinaigrette recipe from the Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites cookbook.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Fabulous Peanut-Pineapple Extravagaza!

This is a vegan West African-inspired dish that Nestie branny shared. Oh my gosh, it's super tasty (just isn't all that photogenic so no picture!)
I served mine with couscous but you could use chick peas, rices, millet, quinoa, whatever you have!

African Pineapple Peanut Stew

2 Servings

1/2 cup chopped onion (I used red onion)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tbsp. olive oil or other vegetable oil
2 cups spinach, kale, or Swiss chard
1 cup undrained canned crushed pineapple
1/4 cup peanut butter (creamy or crunchy would work!)
1/2 tbsp. hot sauce
1/8 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Chopped green onions
Additional fresh cilantro to garnish
Optional: you can also sprinkle some chopped peanuts on top if desired

1. In a covered saucepan, saute the onion and garlic in the oil for about 5 minutes until softened and slightly browned, stirring frequently.

2. While the onions saute, wash the kale/chard/spinach. Remove and discard the large stems and any blemished leaves. Stack the leaves and slice crosswise into 1-inch thick slices.

3. Add the pineapple and its juice to the onions and bring to a simmer. Stir in the kale/chard/spinach, cover, and simmer about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Mix in the peanut butter, hot sauce, and 1/8 cup cilantro. Simmer 5 more minutes.

branny on the Nest posted this. I'm afraid I forgot where she said she got the recipe from. :) I will have to ask and update this!

1st Blog-i-Versary!

Tomorrow is my blog's first anniversary... awww :) Since I have a gazillion things going on tomorrow, I'm sure I'll forget! Now I have to go plan something good for dinner so I can have a fabulous post for the blog-i-versary! heh..

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Spring in its Step

I'll start this post with a mini-lesson for you :) I took years of Spanish and live in San Diego so, even though it's been a while since I took a class, I seem to find a reason to utter some Spanish on an almost daily basis.
Primavera is the Spanish word for Spring. Spring to me does not mean "smothered in icky, fattening cream sauce." heh... I prefer to think of Spring in terms of fresh veggies. So, this dinner is in honour of my impression of Spring. I present:
Pasta Primavera sans Cream Sauce ;)

Serves 2 (yeay for leftovers!)

2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. olive oil
1 1/2 cups tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/4 small red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup or so carrots, chopped
1/3 pound asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/4 cup bell pepper, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/3 cup fresh or frozen green peas
1/3 pound butterfly/bowtie pasta
Small amount of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Bring a covered pot of water (large enough to accommodate a steamer basket) to a boil.

2. While the water boils, saute the garlic, onion, and oil in a saucepan for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and wine and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the red onions, cover, and remove from the heat.

3. When the water is boiling, place the carrots in the steamer basket and add them to the water. Cook for 3 minutes and then add the asparagus and bell peppers. Cook another 3 minutes then add the zucchini and peas. After the zucchini and peas have had 3 minutes, lift out the steamer basket. Reserve the water for cooking the pasta. Stir the veggies into the tomato-wine sauce. Add salt and pepper. Cover and set aside.

4. Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain. Toss the pasta with a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese. Top with the tomato-vegetable sauce and sprinkle with additional Parmesan and the fresh basil.

Based on the Pasta Primavera recipe from the Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favourites cookbook.

Breakfast Quinoa!

Further proof I could eat quinoa three meals a day... as if we needed further proof of that! This was a delicious, protein-packed breakfast! Add even more protein by sprinkling on some chopped nuts (about 1/4 cup for 2 servings).

Please note, I marked this as vegan. However, I then went ahead and made it with cow's milk! Not exactly vegan (unless, of course, you are a calf..)
To make it vegan, please make sure you use non-dairy milk (rice, almond, soy, hemp).

OK, I added the fake daisies to attempt to make the photo a little more interesting... I think all they achieved was making it cheesy! Sigh... I am just not cut out for fun food photography! lol

Creamy Quinoa with Dried Cranberries

Serves 2

3/4 cup vanilla soymilk (plus a little more for serving)
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 tbsp. raw sugar (turbinado sugar)
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
Optional: 1/4 cup chopped nuts

1. Bring the soy milk, salt, and water to a boil in a saucepan. Stir in the quinoa and cranberries, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer 15-20 minutes (until the liquid is absorbed and the grains are tender, stirring occasionally).

2. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and nutmeg. Serve warm with additional milk and optional nuts.

From the May 2008 issue of Vegetarian Times magazine.

Protein Pilaf

If you read this blog, you'll know I've become a HUGE fan of quinoa in the last couple months! It's the whole package - natural, nutrient-dense, tasty! :)
Quinoa is an amazing source of protein so I've bee
n using it more and more in place of rice or couscous. Here is a great recipe for a quinoa pilaf - I served this last night for dinner along with some roasted veggies (Mixed Vegetables al Forno). I should add that I updated the mixed veggie dish a bit by using 1 whole portobello cap in place of the button mushrooms. I also added in a little fennel (1/2 tsp. dried) and 1 tbsp. fresh basil (at the last minute).
It was a yummy combination!

Quinoa Pine Nut Pilaf

Serves 2

1/2 large onion, chopped (superfood!)
2 garlic cloves, minced (superfood!)
1/2 tbsp. olive oil (superfood!)
1/2 cup bell peppers, chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 cup quinoa (superfood!)
5/6 cup of water (or 1/2 cup + 1/3 cup)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
3/4 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp. toasted pine nuts (to toast - spread in a single layer on an un-oiled baking sheet and bake for 3-5 minutes at 350 degrees).

1. In a heavy saucepan, saute the onions and garlic in the oil for 5 minutes or until softened. Add the bell peppers, cumin, and coriander and continue to saute for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. While the veggies cook, rinse the quinoa under cold water for a couple minutes. Add the rinsed quinoa and water to the saucepan, cover tightly, and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Stir in the basil and corn and cook 5-10 minutes longer or until the quinoa is tender.

3. Stir the pilaf to fluff it, add salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with toasted pine nuts.

From the Moosewood Collective's Low-Fat Favourites Cookbook.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Brazilian Rice

Here is the recipe for the Brazilian rice that serves as the bed for the feijoada.

2 servings

2/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 tsp. olive oil
2/3 cup chopped fresh tomato (seeded and chopped)
1/3 tsp. sea salt
2/3 cup brown rice
1 cup water

1. In a medium saucepan, saute the onion in the oil for 5 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Add the tomatoes and salt and continue to cook 5 minutes more.

2. Stir in the rice and water, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and gently simmer on very low heat until the rice is tender (I think mine took 25 or 30 minutes).

From the Moosewood Collective's Low-Fat Favourites Cookbook.

Vegetarian Feijoada

Er... that was the least blurry photo I got of this! I'll have to try to remember to take a better one next time... lol

Before I get further into this (and forget), I need to point out that you will want to make the hot pepper-lemon sauce in advance! It needs to sit in the fridge for at least 3 hours to let all the flavours meld together. In case you forget or don't plan ahead (or just don't read my commentary!), you can make it and let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour.

Feijoada (pronounced fay-zwah-dah) is a Brazilian dish. According to the Moosewood book that I got this from, it was created by Brazilian slaves and has become a traditional dish in Brazil. I bet they wouldn't have treated the slaves like crap if they'd have known they'd create this! ;) As usual, I'll spare you any more of my political commentary (as much as I want to comment! lol)

Black beans become feijoada when elements such as Brazilian rice (I'll post that next), greens, oranges, and hot pepper-lemon sauce (see below) are added to it. I read that it's actually not feijoada unless you include that pepper sauce (and it's amazing - I don't know why you wouldn't include it!) Feijoada usually includes smoked meats; those are obviously lacking from this version but feel free to add whatever you like to it. :)

This recipe is vegan and is packed with protein. It's also really low-fat (less than 5g total for the entire meal). I have some of the beans and pepper sauce left over so I'm thinking of adding it to some veggie broth and making a soup for lunch tomorrow! Yum...

2 servings

1 recipe Brazilian hot pepper and lemon sauce (see below)
Brazilian rice (see next post)
2/3 cup chopped onion (superfood!)
1 garlic clove, minced (superfood!)
1/3 cup celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup bell pepper, chopped (any colour or combination of colours)
1/6 cup water
2/3 cup canned diced tomatoes, undrained (superfood!)
Small amount chopped fresh cilantro (plus additional for garnish)
Pinch of dried thyme (about 1/12 tsp.)
1/8 tsp. ground fennel
1/3 tsp. ground coriander (I know, who the heck has a 1/3 tsp. measuring thingy! Just guess!) :)
2 cups canned black beans, drained and rinsed (superfood!)
Sea salt to taste (believe me, you won't need it with the hot pepper-lemon sauce!)

Collard greens, kale, or spinach (about 2 cups, chopped)
1/3 cup water
1 tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 oranges

1. Place the onions, garlic, celery, bell pepper, and 1/6 cup water in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Drain the juice from the tomatoes into the pan and squeeze the juice from each tomato into the pan (I just squished them with a spoon to get the juice out!) Set the tomatoes aside (do not add them to the pan yet!)
Place the pan on high heat and boil the vegetables (onion, garlic, celery, bell pepper), stirring often, for about 15 minutes or until the onions are translucent.

2. Lower the heat and stir in the cilantro, thyme, fennel, and coriander. Add the black beans and tomatoes. Cover and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Add salt to taste if desired.

3. Boil the greens and 1/3 cup water. Cover and simmer, stirring frequently as the greens wilt (10-15 minutes or until greens are tender).

4. When the black beans and Brazilian rice are ready, drain the greens and toss with the soy sauce. Serve the feijoada by placing the bean mixture on top of the rice with the greens on the side and the oranges adorning the rim of the plate. Sprinkle with additional cilantro if desired.

Brazilian Hot Pepper-Lemon Sauce
Again, you will want to make this 3 hours in advance so the flavours can all mix.

1 jalapeno (or other hot pepper), seeded and chopped
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 garlic clove, minced
1/6 cup fresh lemon or lime juice
pinch of sea salt

Mix onions, hot pepper, salt, and garlic into the lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate 3 hours.

**The sauce can be made ahead and kept covered in the fridge for up to 3 days.**

This is from the Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favourites Cookbook.

Avocado Enchiladas Redux

I actually managed to improve on the already fantastic avocado enchiladas! If you read my original avocado enchilada post, I mentioned wanting to try them with mole sauce. Well... it really works! I had actually been at a great local Mexican restaurant on Monday and they had avocado enchiladas on the menu. I was offered mole sauce with them so I was not about to pass that up! They were good (but I have to say my filling was more interesting!) - at least I knew the mole-avocado combination wouldn't be weird!

One of my friends hosted a "healthy food event" last night so I decided to make these (as well as the vegan chocolate cupcakes). I found local avocados for 33 cents each so that helped seal my decision to make this recipe.
Both items were a hit and my home-made mole turned out great!

Here's the updated avocado enchilada recipe that I used yesterday, including the mole sauce. Other than the mole, I also changed them by adding more tomato and some black beans for protein.

Yield - Makes 4 enchiladas (since we had a variety of other stuff, we cut them in half; normally this would serve 4).

2 1/4 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 1/2 tbsp. garlic, minced (I actually think I just used 5 cloves)
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/4 tbsp. chili powder
1 1/2 tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 oz. dark chocolate, chopped

4 ripe avocados, halved and seeded (yes, 1 whole avocado per enchilada!)
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
Juice of 1 lime
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 tsp. cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1/2 cup black beans, drained and rinsed (I might actually add more next time)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. For the mole sauce, heat 1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat.

2. Add the onion, garlic, oregano, cumin, and cinnamon to the hot oil. Cover and cook until onion is almost tender (about 10 minutes). Stir occasionally during the cooking process.

3. Mix in the chili powder and flour. Stir three minutes.

4. Gradually mix in the broth and increase the heat to medium-high. Boil until reduced (it took mine about 15 or 16 minutes). Stir occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate.

While the mole sauce reduces, prepare the enchilada filling. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a glass baking dish with cooking spray. Smush up the avocado in a glass bowl. Add the onion, garlic, cilantro, cumin, tomatoes, jalapeno, lime juice, black beans, and salt and pepper. Mix together to create a guacamole.

6. Spoon the avocado mixture into the tortillas and roll them up. Place tortillas in the prepared baking dish and cover with mole sauce. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes.

Based, rather loosely, on Deena Kastor's Avocado Enchilada recipe.
I found the mole sauce recipe on RecipeZaar. My only change was to add a little extra chocolate after tasting it. Oh, I also changed the chicken broth to vegetable broth!

Weekly Menu - May 11-17

Sunday - Vegetarian feijoada, Brazilian rice. DH is having chicken stuffed with olives and cheese; he will probably have broccoli as a side dish.

Monday - Quinoa pine nut pilaf with roasted veggies; DH is having a burger.

Tuesday - Pasta primavera from a Moosewood cookbook. DH will have Jamie Oliver's Jools' Favourite Saturday Afternoon Pasta.

Wednesday - African pineapple-peanut stew and grown-up fish sticks with dill remoulade for DH.

Thursday - Roasted eggplant with orzo and ricotta pillows and crispy chicken strips, rice, carrots, and celery for DH.

Friday - Taco night! I am having Indian dal tacos, DH is having ground beef.

Saturday - I have no idea yet! DH has a bachelor party to go to so it will just be me.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Strawberry Chocolate Chip Bread

I managed to find a really good deal on some local strawberries last week but, since I'm the only one in the house who will eat them (!), I needed a quick way to use them up. Strawberry bread it was! :) This was a recipe posted by one of the girls on the Nest - she doesn't have a blog so I'm *publishing* it for her.

My changes:
*The original recipe would have made 2 loaves (9x5x3-inch). I halved it so that's what is reflected here.
*I omitted 1/4 cup chopped nuts (didn't have any on-hand) and used 1/2 chocolate chips instead.
*Rather than halve the amount of vanilla extract, I just left it at 1/2 tsp.
*I also kept the full amount of strawberries instead of halving that.

I'd love to try this with a mix of strawberries and raspberries next time!

1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp. aluminium-free baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup milk (I used fat-free)
1 cup chopped fresh strawberries
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
1. Lightly grease a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Mix in the eggs and vanilla.

3. In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture alternatively with the milk, beating until combined after each addition. Use a wooden spoon to stir in the strawberries and chocolate chips. Pour into the prepared pan.

4. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

5. Cool on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool completely.

Thank-you, msT2B on the Nest! This is based on her recipe for Strawberry Bread.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Reusable Bags!

**I had some comments asking for links for the bags... here they are :)
Envirosax - reusable grocery bags.

DaisyDots - Etsy store with reusable nylon produce bags. - They sell reusable organic cotton produce bags (and larger grocery bags).

This is sort of a two-part post :) First, a vent about supermarket checkers and then a great new find!

I've had my reusable grocery bags for quite a while - just added some really cute Envirosax to the collection (they have the Retro Kitchen designs - fun!)
Anyway, I was at the store today just picking up a few things I'd forgotten earlier in the week and placed two Envirosax bags on top of my groceries. These things are bright blue and yellow - hard to miss! Well, the checker starts bagging my stuff in plastic! I told her "Oh, I brought my own bags but I can re-bag the stuff for you." She replied "Oh really, I didn't see them!" and then added some silly little giggle. Ugh.. how the hell could you not see them? Are you blind? I spared her the snark and went on to re-bag my stuff. I did comment on how she could then re-use the plastic bags I was giving back... heh, had to slip some passive-agressiveness in there somehow ;)
To make matters worse, I'd gotten a small package of tortillas for my enchiladas for Saturday... she had put the 1 small, thin package of tortillas in its own personal plastic bag! Aye...! Do people really not get it that plastics are clogging up the planet faster than we can say plastic? So sad...
BTW, for my not-so-green-obsessed readers (do I have any of those?!), even my conservative DH shook his head at this (or was that at me venting about this?!) He applauds my break-up with plastics :) It's not just for us hippie liberals! :) I do think he believes I go a bit overboard in other areas of my greeniness but whatever... he knew what I was like before he married me. ;)

Great new find:
This is related to the reusable bags.
I have recently been feeling a bit hypocritical for using all these great reusable bags for groceries and other shopping but then putting produce in plastic! LOL :) Seems a bit silly when you think about it, doesn't it?
I have long been one of those who does not bag things with their own natural packaging (oranges, bananas, potatoes, onions, garlic, etc) but wanted a solution for the things like green onions that don't have a protective shell (especially since I have not been able to come up with a way to reuse those cheesy little produce bags and my area will not take them for recycling... grrr!)
Well, after asking on the What's Cooking? board and the new Eco-Friendly Family Board (yes, I'm child-free but my DH and I count as a family and I was raised in cloth diapers so I *get* all the cloth diaper talk! lol), I found some Etsy sites for people who make and sell these great produce bags!
I ordered some nylon reusable produce bags on Wednesday and had them in my mailbox yesterday! Woot! :) I found out the girl I ordered from is actually fairly local (less than 100 miles from me) so that makes it even more exciting. Can't wait to try them out.
I was also referred to a site which sells organic cotton mesh bags for produce so I'll be getting some of those, too (because really, isn't a nylon bag just a plastic bag? :) I have issues with my Envirosax for the same reasons - they're polyester - but at least these *plastic* bags will last me a long time!)

I'm sure I'll get some funny looks for these mesh produce bags (you should see the scowls I get from checkers when I place my loose oranges/whatever on the conveyor!) but oh well.. good thing I do most of my shopping at a local market (well, it's a chain but not a big-box chain) - they give discounts for bringing in your own bags :)

Now I just have to find an eco-friendly solution for lining the trash cans in the bathrooms (I used to use plastic grocery bags!) :)

A different sort of recipe :)

I'm really trying to make more of a conscious effort lately to use *truly* green cleaning products and have found that may mean just sucking it up and making some (which is fine by me - it's like a science project!) I've been using baking soda and vinegar to clean some things for a long time but decided to take it one step further.
These are totally cheap which is great given that the economy is in the toilet at the moment (I'll spare you my liberal comments on that!)
I just made this yesterday and used it to clean the kitchen counters, sink, and then the shower! Made a little more than I really wanted but oh well! :)
It smells great and is completely non-toxic - it won't harm you, your kids, your pets, or our earth :)

Eco-Friendly *Soft Scrub* (not to be confused with the store-bought Soft Scrub that's full of carginogenic who-knows-what-they're-doing-to-your-lungs chemicals.. bleh!)

1/2 cup baking soda
Liquid castille soap (I especially love Dr. Bronner's since they're local to me) or enviro-friendly dishwashing liquid (I like Ecover or Seventh Generation)

Mix the baking soda and soap until you get a substance that's the consistency of frosting. Put a blob on a sponge and apply a little elbow grease!

Mother Nature will thank you! And, think of all the karma points you'll be racking up! :)

This was from the the Non-Toxic Cleaning Kit I found on the Care2 website. I plan on trying out the other stuff this weekend! Yeay - cleaning is *almost* fun again. OK, maybe not *fun* but at least I won't die doing it now!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Lemon and Veggie Pasta

There has been a lemon pasta recipe floating around on The Nest for the last couple weeks. It sounded really yummy so I knew I would have to check it out! The original was used as a side dish but I wanted mine as a main course with lots of vegetables. Here is the result! I'll mark my changes in purple.

The lemon flavour was really intense - it was great! This will definitely be repeated often around here :)

This makes a quick and easy dinner. The only "time-consuming" part is giving the eggplant an hour to "rest" while you salt it. Use that time to prep the rest of your veggies and herbs. After that hour, it will take 10-15 minutes max. :)

If you leave off the cheese, this recipe is vegan. I'm not convinced you need the cheese - the lemon and veggies work really well together!

Serves 1

1 serving whole wheat spaghetti (or any other pasta you like)
Olive oil
A couple slices of eggplant, diced (probably about 1/2-1 cup)
1 tomato, seeded and diced (superfood!)
4 button mushrooms, sliced (I'd love to try this with a portobello cap!) - superfood!
1/4 cup broccoli florets (superfood!)
1/2 zucchini squash, sliced and then quartered
1/8 cup onion, finely chopped (superfood!)
1 clove garlic, minced (original called for garlic powder) - superfood!
3 tbsp. fresh basil or 2 tsp. dried basil
A little crushed red pepper
1/3 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice (superfood!)
1/2 tbsp. grated lemon zest
1 tsp. capers
1/8 cup Parmesan cheese (original called for Pecorino Romano)
1 tbsp. fresh parsley

1. Slice eggplant. Rinse off slices and pat dry. Sprinkle each with a little salt and let them "drain" on a paper towel for 1 hour. Re-rinse and pat dry. Dice.

2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add eggplant, tomato, mushrooms, broccoli, zucchini, onion, garlic, and red pepper. Also add dried basil if you are using it. Saute the veggies for about 10 minutes or until tender.

3. While the vegetables saute, cook the pasta according to the package directions.

4. Drain the pasta and then mix the lemon juice and lemon zest in. Add capers, fresh parsley, and fresh basil to the veggies. Toss the veggies with the pasta. Serve and sprinkle with freshly-grated Parmesan and a little extra fresh parsley.
Enjoy immediately.

I used the Lemon Pasta recipe from Erin's blog as the base for this. Thanks, Erin! :)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


I decided to try the Ratatouille with Tofu recipe from Cooking Light for dinner last night. I made quite a few changes/additions - it ended up being really tasty! Tons of great veggies! I'll label my changes in purple.

I also didn't serve this with those white noodle things that they had in the magazine (sorry but those look like they have the nutritional value of a donut!) - I used quinoa instead which is another great source of protein on top of that tofu.

Serves 2

1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/4 cup chopped onion (superfood!)
1/4 cup fresh basil, separated
1/2 tsp. dried thyme or 2 tsp. fresh thyme
2 cloves minced garlic (superfood!)
1 cup diced extra-firm tofu (well-drained) - superfood!
1 cup diced eggplant *see tip on salting eggplant below*
1/2 cup diced zucchini
4 button mushrooms, sliced (superfood! Yes, the little cheap button ones are just as much anti-oxidant powerhouses as their fancier cousins!)
1/2 cup chopped tomato (I just used a regular tomato, not plum tomatoes) - superfood!
2 tsp. pesto (I used regular basil pesto since I had some in the freezer... this did make my version of the recipe non-vegan but I'll type out the vegan pesto below)
1 cup tomato sauce (I made it using 1/4 cup tomato paste + 1/2 cup water)
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. herbes de Provence (rosemary, thyme, summer savory, fennel seed, basil, tarragon, and lavender)
1 tbsp. lemon juice (superfood!)
1/4 tsp. dried marjoram
1 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped

1. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat the pan with cooking spray. Add carrot to the pan and saute 4-6 minutes. Add the onion, 1/8 cup fresh basil, herbes de Provence, thyme, marjoram, and garlic; saute 3-4 more minutes. Add the tofu, eggplant and zucchini and saute 4 minutes more or until tender.

2. Add the chopped tomato, mushrooms, lemon juice, pesto, and tomato sauce and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in black pepper, fresh parsley, and additional 1/8 cup fresh basil.

*Salting eggplant:
Slice eggplant and rinse the slices/pat dry. Sprinkle a little salt on both sides of each slice and let the eggplant "drain" for about 1 hour (I usually just sit mine of a paper towel). Re-rinse the eggplant and chop/use as desired. This will remove any bitterness from the vegetable and will help it retain its shape as it cooks.

*Pesto Coulis (vegan):
1/2 cup parsley leaves
1/2 cup basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until smooth.

Based on the Ratatouille with Tofu recipe from the May 2008 issue of Cooking Light Magazine.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Refreshing Summer Cocktail

Oh my goodness, this was good! I'm already coming up with different things to do with this (see below). Think I missed my calling as a bartender! ;)
The basil flavour is very subtle (but I could tell it was there - I love basil!)
This was really yummy with my manicotti and rosemary focaccia :)

I'm so bad - as I was making this I was thinking "ooh, so many superfoods in this cocktail!" Well, berries and citrus are both superfoods and gin is made with juniper berries... hee hee ;) Hey, anything in moderation, right?

Enough for 2 cocktails

2/9 cup sugar (odd amounts, I know - the original recipe was for 6! I just used a 1/3 cup measure and did two scoops that were about 1/3 of the 1/3 cup - hope that makes sense!)
1/6 cup basil leaves (I chopped mine up but that's not necessary)
2/9 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/6 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/6 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tbsp. frozen raspberries
2 shots of gin

1. Make a simple syrup by bringing the sugar and 1/9 cup of water to a simmer in a saucepan. Stir in the basil and remove from the heat. Let steep for 30 minutes.

2. Pour the lime juice, orange juice, lemon juice, and raspberries into a blender. Strain the basil syrup into the blender, pressing the basil leaves. Blend the mixture until smooth and strain into martini or high ball glasses filled with ice. Stir in gin. Garnish with fruit slices or fresh basil sprigs.

Other ideas for this cocktail:
**Note: these are just things I just came up with! I have not tried these yet (come on, I'm not that much of a lush! ;)
*Use fresh mint in place of the basil and rum in place of the gin for a citrus-y mojito.
*Try it with silver tequila.
*For a festive cocktail, mix in champagne or sparkling wine in place of the gin.
*For a non-alcoholic treat, replace the gin with sparkling water or sparkling apple cider.
*Try it with different berries.

This is the Three Citrus Basil Cocktail from the April 2008 issue of Vegetarian Times.

Rosemary-Cheese Focaccia

I have to start by saying I have no idea how I've been keeping this blog for the best part of a year and have managed to miss having an "Italian" tag.. heh :) One of my favourite types of food...

This was actually my first attempt at making bread (other than a quick bread) without the bread machine! It turned out beautifully (it looks a little "well done" in the photos but it was actually perfectly baked!) Yum...
This made a great *sponge* for the manicotti/marinara sauce we had for dinner tonight!

I am 99% sure that if you leave out the cheese, this recipe will be suitable for vegans (and it will be dairy-free!)

This recipe makes a lot of bread but make the whole thing - you can freeze it for up to a month! To freeze, just wrap the cooled bread in plastic wrap and then foil.

Makes 12 squares/servings

1 1/2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil (superfood!) plus more for greasing the bowl
1 clove garlic, minced
4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. finely chopped rosemary
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. salt
1 1/4-ounce package rapid-rise yeast
1 tsp. dried rosemary (crush it a little with a mortar and pestle) - I was seriously tempted to use lavender! Next time ;) I am so in love with the rosemary-lavender combination!
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1/6 cup mozzarella cheese, freshly grated
1 2/3 cup warm water (it should be about 110 degrees F)

1. Rub a large bowl with olive oil. Mix 1 1/2 tbsp. of olive oil with the clove of garlic. Cover and let sit. Combine the flour, chopped fresh rosemary, sugar, salt, yeast, and dried rosemary in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the dough hook, stir in 1 2/3 cup warm water and mix until kneeded (about 2 minutes). The dough will seem wet and sticky.

2. Transfer the dough to the oiled bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place for 1-1 1/2 hours, or until it has doubled in bulk.

3. Line a baking sheet or baking dish (I used a glass lasagna dish) with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Spray with cooking spray. Stir the cheeses into the dough and transfer the dough onto the baking sheet. Spread to the sides of the sheet/dish with wet fingers. Brush the top of the dough with the olive oil-garlic mixture. If desired, sprinkle with additional (whole) fresh rosemary. Let the dough rise 1 hour more or until it is level with the sides of the pan.

4. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on top and bottom. Allow the bread to cool for 20 minutes on a wire rack before unmolding and serving.

Stats from the original recipe (I used less salt and part-skim mozzarella so mine may be a bit different...)
Per serving: 216 calories; 6 g protein; 4 g total fat (1 g sat. fat); 39 g carbs; 4 mg cholesterol; 929 mg sodium (eek!); 1 g fibre; 3 g sugars.

This is based on the Oregano and Asiago Focaccia recipe from the April 2008 issue of Vegetarian Times. I used Baking Illustrated to figure out the ideal water temperature.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Lemon-Herb Butter Cookies

These are lovely with some tea and they will make your kitchen smell divine! They are very similar to the lavender shortbread I've made before but I love the addition of the rosemary and lemon - so many great flavours!

I was hoping to make these earlier in the week since I had fresh rosemary from my parents' garden and a local lemon to use but I was unable to find corn flour at the "big box" grocery store. I go to a smaller store on Saturdays to get the bulk of my groceries - they have a wonderful bulk foods section (as well as a bunch of local and organic produce!) so I was able to get the corn flour I needed there. If you can't find it, you should be fine just subbing
additional all-purpose flour.

This made 32 cookies - you may or may not get more than that :)

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary

1/2 tsp. dried lavender - my addition (I gave mine a quick crush with a mortar and pestle)
1/2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
2 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup corn flour
1 1/2 tsp. aluminium-free baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup turbinado (raw) sugar for decorating

1. Beat the butter, granulated sugar, rosemary, lavender, and lemon zest with an electric mixer or stand mixer for 3 minutes (or until creamy). Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla.

2. Whisk together the flours, baking powder,
and salt in a small bowl. Add to the butter mixture and beat until just combined. Shape the dough into 2 1-inch wide logs. Wrap in wax paper and chill for 2 hours.

3. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Cover 2 baking sheets with parchment or spray with cooking spray. Place the turbinad
o sugar in a bowl. Slice the cookies into 1/3-inch thick rounds (work with 1 log at a time - keep remaining dough refrigerated until you're ready to use it). Press one cut side of the cookies into the turbinado sugar and place sugar-side up on a baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown on bottoms. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

This is based on the Lemon-Rosemary Butter Cookies recipe from the April 2008 issue of Vegetarian Times. The only change I made was to add some dried lavender.

Menu - Week of May 4-10

My goodness, is it really May already?! Phew... where does the time go? :)

This has some repeats from last week - just stuff I never got around to!

Sunday - Manicotti (I'll have spinach and cheese, DH will have Italian sausage). I am also going to make a rosemary and Parmesan focacia since I have some great fresh rosemary I need to use up!

Monday - Ratatouille with tofu for me; DH will have ribs with home-made Jack Daniels BBQ sauce. We'll both have roasted potatoes (I can use more of that fresh rosemary to make the rosemary-lavender ones!)

Tuesday - Lemon pasta for me. I'm doing it a little differently since I want it as a main dish, not a side. I'm planning on fresh basil, Parmesan, tomato, mushrooms, broccoli, zucchini, capers, and a sprinkle of fresh parsley. Yum!
DH is having Buffalo chicken bites. I know, they sound so crummy after that pasta description but he loves 'em! :) Salad on the side for both of us.

Wednesday - Garden-stuffed baked potatoes with salads. I might make a taboulleh salad for myself so I can use some of the mint from my "garden" (hee hee, I love how that sounds!)

Thursday - Parmesan tilapia, rice, broccoli or some other veggie.

Friday - Stuffed tomato with quinoa, black beans, and corn for myself and cheese-stuffed chicken breast for DH. Not sure on sides yet... It won't be salad ;)

Saturday - I have stuffed shells down but I think I'll probably change that since we're having manicotti earlier in the week!

Friday, May 2, 2008

The real reason God created avocados...

heh :) These are really good! Someone, wish I could remember who, had posted this recipe on the Nest a couple weeks ago and I immediately copied and pasted it so I could save it! I will go for anything with avocados - food of the gods, I'm telling ya!

Anyway, I got some wonderful local avocados for free last week and have been waiting for them to ripen up so I could make these. In the meantime, this meal got so hyped up in my head that when I went to actually make it last night, I was a bit nervous it wouldn't be anywhere near as good as I had made it out to be! Well, all that was for no reason - these were everything I was hoping for and then some!

I am planning on doing them a bit differently next time - I think they would be even more wonderful with some black beans worked in and I'd really love to make the sauce that was included in the original recipe! :)
OMG, I just had a thought - I love mole sauce (chicken mole enchiladas were one of my favourite things). I wonder how well mole would work with the avocado... hmmm! I sense an experiment ;)

By the way, this is a super-fast, easy dinner - great for weeknights! Plus, it's packed with nutrient-dense superfoods!

Here's my version (my additions/changes in purple):

This made 2 enchiladas

2 ripe avocados (slice 'em down the middle lengthwise/along their Prime Meridian - lol - and then use a knife to carefully pop the seed out. Scoop the flesh out with a spoon) - superfood!
1/8 red onion, finely chopped (superfood!)
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
Lime juice (I actually realized I had no lime so I used lemon... oops!)
1/4 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (superfood!)
1/2 tomato, seeded and diced (superfood!)
1 clove garlic, crushed (superfood!)
1/4 tsp. cumin
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 flour tortillas
Enchilada sauce (ugh, I used the stuff in a can... so lame! I'm making my own next time!)
A little grated sharp Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
Additional cilantro leaves

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a glass baking dish with cooking spray. Smush up the avocado in a glass bowl. Add the onion, garlic, cilantro, cumin, tomatoes, jalapeno, lime/lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Mix together as you would if you were making guacamole (um, this really is a guacamole!)

2. Spoon the avocado mixture into the tortillas and roll them up. Place tortillas in the prepared baking dish and cover with enchilada sauce. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with additional cilantro just before serving.

This is based on marathon-runner Deena Kastor's Avocado Enchiladas recipe.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The beginnings of my herb garden!

I got a mint plant last night! yeay :) So excited - I've been looking forward to really starting a small herb collection this year so this will really help get that in motion.
I had gone over to my parents' house last night to drop off some things I had borrowed and to pick some fresh rosemary and my mom says "oh, do you want one of these mints?" Lol - I thought she was offering me a piece of candy. ;) They had 4 or 5 big mint plants so I was not about to say no to free mint! Hurray!

Now I have to search for recipes to use it all with!
Don't worry, I won't be planting it - I know how it will take over the entire garden... we only have a small yard but I'm having a heck of a time coming up with ways to use this pot of mint... there is no way I want to deal with 100 square feet of it! ;)

Guess it's mojitos with dinner tonight :)