Saturday, June 30, 2012

Ice Box Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies are becoming more addictive than traditional chocolate chip cookies around here! I am known for my chocolate chip cookies (actually, my daughter passed me and is now the family's cookie queen all the way around) but we are eating better and watching our fat, calories and nutrtional needs.

So far, every single person who tried them went wild over them except my husband. He said the texture wasn't right for him. It sure was for the 11 others, ages 2 to 43!

Ice Box Chocolate Chip Cookies from: Going Raw by Judita Wignall

1 1/2 cups cashews
2/3 cups Medjool dates
3 T. almond butter (I made mine in the Blendtec)
1/8 t. sea salt (optional)
3/4 cup chocolate chips (the first time, we used regular semi-sweet chocolate chips and the next time, we used mini semi-sweet chocolate chips)

1. In a food processor, grind the cashews into a flour.
2. Add the dates (without the seeds), almond butter, and sea salt and process until it sticks. (I added some coconut oil to make it easier to work with). Use a spatula to scrape down the sides as needed.
3. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the chocolate chips with a spatula or your hands. If you're not using tempered chocolate, add the chips after you roll out the dough or they will melt.
4. Roll the dough with a rolling pin on a nonstick sheet or patchment paper, making the dough about 3/8 inch (1 cm) thick.
5. Cut out with cookie cutter and freeze. These are best served frozen. (Note: some of us loved them not frozen as well as frozen!)

Summer Style Stew

Summer Style Stew

I came up with this with a few goals in mind:

1. It had to be healthy.
2. It had to feed a crowd.
3. It needed to call for a lot of vegetables so I could make full use of my friend's garden gifts and my farmer's market finds.

I am pleased to say that not only were these things met but everyone loved it as well!
Here is how it is made:

olive oil
kale (washed, the main stem cut out and cut or torn)
cabbage (outer leaves off, washed, cored and cut into about 8 wedges)
eggplant (chopped and salted)
fresh garlic (about 4 cloves, through a garlic press)
sea salt & pepper
vegetable stock
chicken stock
fresh green beans
okra (I used sliced, frozen from our farmer's market that I had in the freezer)
lima beans (a hand full)
hard, parmesan wedges cut in big pieces

Saute the onion in olive oil and add kale, letting everything simmer while cutting the other ingredients.
Add cabbage and eggplant, and green beans and let simmer, stirring frequently.
Add tomatoes and salt and pepper all.
Add one box of chicken broth and stir as you go and eventually, add a box of vegetable stock.
Add the rest of the ingredients and just let simmer until cooked.

We shaved a bit of real parmesan on the top of ours and ate big bowls with no crackers, bread or anything!

LA Style Chimichurri Tacos

It is so hot.
I am literally using small towels to wipe the sweat off and you could probably wring it out of my shirt when I am done cooking! People wonder why I get so excited when fall and winter finally come around. We only get a few months of cool winds and the rest of the year is just sweltering.

Anyway, enough whining.
I am finding ways to make things that cause as little heat as possible because each meal needs to feed anywhere from seven to 20.

For lunch today, we just had seven and most of us were in the kitchen working! I assigned tasks to each of the girls and we got a very nice and healthy meal done far more fast than if I had worked alone. I am trying to get better at delegating.

Onto our recipe...

I chose LA-Style Chimichurri Tacos from, Chloe's Kitchen by Chloe Coscarelli. This author was a winner of the Food Network,'s Cupcake Wars. I miss that show so much and there are some other cooking shows I would love to see. We got rid of cable a long time ago so I just catch glimpses of them when I visit my kids;)

Here it is from the book:

Serves 6 (I doubled all the ingredients)

Make-Ahead Tip
All components of the tacos can be made in advance and kept refrigerated for 3 to 4 days. Reheat and assemble when ready to serve.

2 T. olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 t. sea salt
1 tomato, finely chopped
1/2 cup brown or white rice
1 cup vegetable broth

Chimichurri Sauce
1 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley (I used fresh dill bec the store was out of the other)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lime juice
4 cloves garlic
2 T. agave nectar
1/2 t. ground cumin
1 t. sea salt
1/2 t. freshly ground pepper

Taco Filling
2 T. olive oil
8 ounces crimini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced (I used baby portabella's because I couldn't find the ones suggested)
1 package 8-inch tortillas (I served regular and whole grain/low carb)
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained (used organic)

Optional toppings: Sour cream, chopped tomatoes, sliced onion, shredded lettuce, or diced avocado. We used all these toppings along with some spicy salsa!

To make the tomato rice: In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat and add onions and salt. Saute onions until soft. Add tomato, rice, and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until all broth is absorbed and rice is cooked. Turn off heat and let sit, covered, 15 minutes.

To make the chimichuri sauce: Blend cilantro, parsley, oil, lime juice, garlic, agave, cumin, salt, and pepper in a  food processor until combined and herbs are very finely chopped.

To make the taco filling: In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat and saute mushrooms until they have released their juices. Add black beans and half of the Chimichurri sauce and cook until heated through. Reserve the remaining half of the Chimichurri Sauce to spoon onto the taco, if desired.

To serve: Fill each tortilla with tomato rice, taco filling, extra chimichurri sauce, desired additional toppings, and a dollop of sour cream. Fold over and serve.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Hot days, cool smoothies!


It is going to be HOT for the next few days where we live so I am going to plan cold meals... or at least ones not requiring a lot of heat in the kitchen!
This morning, I ate a quail egg, some left over quinoa, and a small scoop of sauteed eggplant, green peppers, onions, portabella mushrooms and garlic (left over as well) --- so good!

I am hoping to not have to have my gall bladder removed and have two to three weeks to see if I can change it around with diet and lifestyle changes. I talked to my surgeon and he said it won't hurt to try it and that 25% of those who do so succeed. I won't focus on the 75% who do not at this point ;)

I've been very careful with what I've eaten and I made a meal the other night based on nutrition. Two of my four grandlittles were here helping me and they kept calling it the most special dinner. Last night, when they came back, they asked if we could all eat that "special dinner". It was cute ;)
The special dinner was turkey breasts in the crockpot, leftover kale and onions, steamed cabbage with salsa, oven baked zucchini chips, green beans and I can't remember what else!

The smoothies we have had ... delicious!

Here is my husband's new love:

Unsweetened almond milk
protein powder
vanilla extract
agave sweetener (I still haven't done enough research on this to know if we should continue use but it would  seem better than white sugar).

Another instant love for my daughter and I was based from a cookbook, Raw Energy by Stephanie Tourless.

Creamy Banana Cocoa Shake
1 complete recipe of Cheater's Mexican Chocolate Almond milk (recipe follows)
2 medium or 3 small frozen bananas, cut into chunks (ours weren't frozen yet so I added the fresh bananas and some ice)
1/3 cup walnut pieces

Put the milk, bananas, and walnuts in blender and blend on medium until smooth and thick, about 20 seconds.

Cheater's Mexican Chocolate Almond Milk
2 cups purified water
3 T. raw almond butter (I didn't have any made yet so I used almonds)
1 T. raw honey or agave nectar (I used honey)
1 T. raw, cocoa powder (I just used Hershey's cocoa powder)
Dash of ground cinnamon
pinch of sea salt
1/4-1/2 t. vanilla extract

Put the water, nut butter, cocoa powder, honey, cinnamon, salt and vanilla in a blender and blend on medium until smooth, about 30 seconds.
Transfer the nut milk to a liquid storage container and store in the fridge  for 2-3 days. It will freeze quite nicely for future use.

More as we make them!

Healthy Batch & Bulk Cooking

I am back in the kitchen. I am in the kitchen more than just about anywhere else.
It is requiring some planning (and a good deal of music) to make everything flow together. We have a family team of seven again with our precious nieces staying with us.
We have my husband and meself (smile) and our 18 year old daughter, 19 year old niece, 15 year old niece, 13 year old niece and 9 year old son. We also have family and friends over for a lot of our meals so I am looking back into batch and bulk cooking.

We are also trying to bet back on track with eating health, whole foods, cutting out processed and on it goes. This can be a challenge but I am working on it. I am going to the farmer's market every few days and making almost every meal based on what I get there and from my heart sister's garden. Speaking of my heart sister, Debby --- many of you probably feel you know her quite well since I've been sharing tiny bits about her for 14 or 15 years now. I actually shared more on the cleanandcozyhome email list, I think. ANYway, she grows a little to big garden each summer and shares from her bounty ... this year, salvaging what the birds, squirrels, and rabbits don't devour.

She has given delightful eggplants, green peppers, cantaloupe, cabbage, tomatoes and green beans. We have been sauteeing these with Vidalia onions and portabella mushrooms (all cut up or chopped) and using the mixture as a base for quite a few meals.

Savannah (19-year old niece) has fallen in LOVE with this mixture on a warm tortilla with some extra sharp cheddar cheese and scrambled, local eggs.

Yesterday, we had them for the second time and last night, we spread goat cheese with herbs over the pan toasted tortillas and spread left over quinoa, the vegetable mix, and nothing else. It was really good!

I have been buying fresh green beans for .99 per pound so I've been buying two pounds each visit. We have had them as a side to our turkey, onion, and green pepper burgers (I just mixed ground turkey meat with lots of chopped, Vidalia onions and chopped green peppers with some Bragg's Liquid Aminoes, sea salt, pepper, and some garlic powder and cooked on our cast iron griddle) and with a lot of our meals.
We steam them in a cheap bamboo basket set that goes into our wok or simmer in water until they start to get tender. Then we toss them in skillets and cook with worchestershire sauce, soy sauce, sea salt and pepper. Before done, we splash some balsamic vinegear over them and then grate parmesan cheese over before serving. Very good! For people eating bacon (everyone here does other than me) ... it adds the most amazing flavor to these green beans!

I will keep sharing as we go ;)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Today's Health

Quick add:

Today, I had a smoothie with:
Coconut milk, low fat vanilla yogurt, a pink lady apple, banana, blueberries, kiwi, orange, orange zest and pineapple.

For lunch:
Kale sauteed in a tablespoon of olive oil with 2 small Vidalia onions until bright green. Then, I added a couple of spoons of water and kept cooking on medium heat. After the kale was tender enough to eat, I added some chopped garlic, sea salt and pepper.

I also made a pot of these grits and stirred in a bit of chopped jalepenos. I ate the greens on the side of the grits and it was a delicious meal!

Kale is supposed to lower your risk of several types of cancer, to detox the body, as an anti-inflammatory help, and an anti-oxidant.

Vidalia onions offer some Vitamin C,  coconut milk provides vitamins, minerals, potassium and more.
To compare the nutrition in the fruits I listed, this Fruit Chart is excellent.
Have a great day!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dried Figs


My heart sister who lives one house from me and shares my passion for healthy and nourishing foods, herbs, teas and so on is picking some figs for me today!

Last year, we picked them together but I haven't been in a position to leave for a chunk of time like that this year. Last year, we picked blackberries and figs and this year, we have picked strawberries.

Anyway, she asked if we can dehydrate them and I looked it up last year to see and you can! Ours got eaten so quickly, they never made it TO the dehydrater!

I found this site and thought I would share it and what it shares about drying figs. Wonderful information! Thank you to the California Advisory Board!

Ways to Use Dried Figs

California Dried Figs make satisfying snacks and sweet and flavorful recipe additions. The dense, sweet flesh, coupled with their unique crunchy seed, goes well in baked goods, with meat, poultry, fish, vegetables and other fruits. Remember, too, that figs offer a power-house of nutrition; a combination of fiber, minerals, and nutrients that is unequaled by other fruits in nature. It’s no wonder that they are known as “The Fitness Fruit.”
  1. A few California Dried Figs in a plastic bag go to the office, to school, to the game, or to the park for a quick snack. Easy to eat and satisfying to a sweet tooth.
  2. Keep a container of figs in a desk drawer at work to satisfy late afternoon munchies or to nibble at coffee break time.
  3. Slice a few California Dried Figs and add to tossed green salads. They add delightful sweetness and texture, as well as fiber.
  4. Sweeten up mashed or cubed winter squash or sweet potatoes with some chopped California Figs. The figs add a richness of their own, so you can skip the butter or margarine.
  5. Blend low-fat cream, ricotta or cottage cheese with some California Figs to create a great spread for toast or bagels or as a dip for sliced fresh fruit.
  6. Scatter a few chopped California Dried Figs over instant or regular oatmeal or cold cereal of any kind. Skip the sugar and enjoy the figgie flavor and crunch.
  7. Bite-size – nothing is as delicious for out-of-hand eating or has the robust flavors of Black Mission or the sweet nuttiness of the Calimyrna or the delicate sweetness of the Kadota.
  8. No cooking is necessary. Just enjoy their naturally sweet goodness by itself, pair with your favorite cheeses, drizzle with a delicious dipping sauce, or simply add balance to your savory salsas and chutneys.
  9. For an early autumn salad, arrange a good amount of baby greens on a large platter and layer with fig halves or quarters, Then, sprinkle toasted pine nuts over all and drizzle with a vinaigrette made by whisking 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice with 1-1/2 teaspoons champagne or white wine vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Quick, easy and the perfect beginning to almost any meal!
  10. Combine 12 California Dried Figs with 1-1/4 cups water; heat to boiling and let stand overnight. Serve with cream to make 4 people very happy at breakfast time.
More Ways to Use Dried Figs
California Dried Figs are so delicious, they not only add taste and excitement to almost every course of a meal, but they can come to the table at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and in between times, too.
  1. For breakfast, halve the figs lengthwise; drizzle with honey and broil until bubbling. Serve hot or cooled.
  2. Garnish those broiled, honey-drizzled Dried Figs with a small scoop of soft cheese like mascarpone and a tiny mint leaf for a great appetizer.
  3. Wrap each fig in a strip of pancetta or proscuitto and thread onto skewers to cook on the grill. Even better when you stuff with toasted almonds or walnuts.
  4. A bit of blue cheese or chèvre added to the cut side of a Dried Fig half and sprinkled with chopped nuts makes a quick pass under the broiler to tempt the most discerning.
  5. Arrange slices of California Dried Figs with fresh or canned peaches on lettuce leaves and drizzle with fruity vinaigrette for the family to enjoy anytime.
  6. Quarter one or two figs per serving, but do not cut all the way through. Spread to make stars and top with your favorite crab or chicken salad mixture for a great lunch. Absolutely spectacular with dried Black Mission Figs!
  7. Remember that "million dollar salad" your mother used to make with bananas, mandarin oranges, miniature marshmallows, and sour cream dressing? Just add chopped California Dried Figs to make it a "billion dollar salad"!
  8. Combine cooked fettuccine with Alfredo sauce and stir in dried fig quarters and toasted pine nuts for something very special.
  9. For astonishing results and lots of excitement, just add a few whole, halved or chopped dried figs to chicken stir-fry, marinated and grilled beefsteak, or salmon steaks basted with lemon juice and butter!
  10. For dessert, combine chopped figs with caramel sauce and use fresh figs to top off scoops of ice cream.
  11. Make good crisps and cobblers or go all out with a clafouti filled with tasty California Dried Figs.
  12. Do not overlook the interest that a few chopped figs in a fresh salsa can add to meats, fish, or poultry.
  13. Pickled figs will substitute for pickled apples, any time.
  14. Chop them up and bake them into cake, cookies, breads, and muffins, too.
  15. Don't forget the jams and preserves. Alone or combined with other fruits like strawberries, peaches, berries or apples California Dried Figs make tasty jams -- traditional or freezer.
  16. Last but not least, Dried Figs can be used as a sweetener in a variety of preparations and a fat substitute in many other recipes.

Summer Smoothies


Fruity Pebbles Purple Smoothie
Kids went wild over this one!
Makes 2

16 ounces of almond milk
1 to 2 cups of frozen blueberries
Zest from one orange
Flesh from one orange
3/4 of a banana

Blended on the "Whole Juice" option on the Blendtec but you just want to blend it in whatever you are using until it is all liquefied.

Banana & Blueberry
makes 2
16 ounces almond milk
1 banana
1-cup frozen blueberries
1 T. chia seeds
Mix until well blended.

Blackberry Bliss
Makes 1

1/2 cup of organic coconut milk
1/4 cup organic Greek yogurt, plain
1 cup of frozen blackberries
1 banana
zest from one seedless, navel orange
flesh from one seedless, navel orange

Blend and enjoy! Scrumptious!

Fresh Apple Pie Muesli with Maple-Pecan Cream

I have so many cookbooks that I had decided to not buy another one... ever. Well, maybe not EVER but for a long, long time IF ever.
Well, that wasn't to be. . . at least not with me.
I don't have a printer right now and actually haven't had one for several weeks. I am SO in the habit of printing out my recipes when I make meal plans and other menus that I got a little lost without that task.
I pulled out all my cookbooks and chose to put to the side all except the healthy and whole food choices while I work on my weight and our health. My husband is on blood pressure medicine and has been told he has high triglycerides and I am on Synthroid, Atenolol, and water pills myself. They are also doing tests on my gall bladder and more.
For the past several months, my family and I have had a LOT going on and I allowed all of it to throw us off course. We have consumed an embarrassing amount of take out and fast food. It is showing up in our weight, health, well being, and bank!

Well, I wanted to change that around and I took some money and read some reviews and bought a few cookbooks to support us eating better. I already have some excellent choices (Nourishing Traditions is a favorite, King Arthur's Whole Grain Baking, Eating Clean and some others) so I looked for areas I didn't already own recipes in/for.

One of the books I got gets constant looks, comments and jokes but I tried a recipe from the author from her youtube and loved it so much that I got her book. The recipe, by the way was Thai Lettuce Rolls or wraps!
The books is: Get Nake Fast by Diana Stobo's. This author weighed 247 pounds and she lost a lot of weight when she changed her eating habits.
Her website is:

I have only tried one recipe but I plan to try a lot of them. This was really good but I will use a different apple next time. Her recipe just calls for apples and the pictures shows granny smith apples and they were a little tart for me.
Besides that, very good and a great start to the day.
Here it is:

Fresh Apple Muesli with maple-pecan cream
Makes 1-2 servings. (For me, this was definitely 2 servings)

1 apple, cored and diced (I just used my little round thing that cores and slices the apple at once)
1/4 cup whole, raw almonds
1 T. raisins
1/4 t. cinnamon (I used more)
1 pinch of sea salt

Fit processor with s-blade and mix all ingrdients in processor bowl together. Pulse 12-15 times until coarsely chopped or desired consistency is obtained. For a crunchier cereal, pulse less; for a smoother texture, process longer. Transfer creeal to serving bowl and top with Maple-Pecan Cream.

Maple-Pecan Cream
1/2 cup pecans or pecan butter
1/2 cup of water
2 T. maple syrup

Blend all ingredients ina  high-speed blender until smooth and creamy. Extra cream will keep in refrigerator for up to 5 days, and may also be used as a dip or dessert option.

I took a picture of this lovely meal but still have to figure out how to get it from my phone to my computer!

Parts of my path to here

We are still drinking a lot of smoothies and I can feel a difference in my energy level and hunger pains are lessened during the day.
I am also working up menu plans that are a blend of anything nutritious I can read about or have read about for over 20 years. Hopefully, we'll have a good mix:)
I am making some things from Nourishing Traditions cookbook, raw food cookbooks (but NO raw meat!) along with some vegan and vegetarian.
Before you think I've gone off of some overwhelming deep filled with countless food worlds - I will try to briefly explain.

I started reading about nutrition in my mother's nursing books when I was 19. I embraced all of it and took notebooks full of notes, made food and meal charts to perfectly match what was recommended.
By the age of 20, I was married and had a husband and three little boys to feed and I really tried to arrange our intake according to what the nursing books suggested.
We didn't adhere perfectly by any means though and I just went along doing the best I could with the time I had between changing diapers, cleaning house and writing in a tiny space I had wedged a make shift desk into.

As time went by, my hunger (smiles) for proper meal plans, dieting information and how-to's, along with just about anything related to food and kitchen ... grew. I read cookbooks like novels, replaced fashion magazines with culinary versions and tried to bake and make things left and right.

After awhile, life shifted and my heart changed and a ton of other drama I won't bore you with all took my place in the kitchen. I stopped loving it and grew to detest even the thought... to the point that I would cry sometimes when our dinner hour came.
We sadly lived off of a lot of pizza, Italian subs and pasta dishes --- anything that could be delivered because we only had one car.
It didn't help that I was pregnant with our fourth child and first girl and I was sicker than I had ever been in my life. I got sick between the couch and the bathroom... every single trip. I would get up to do dishes and just cry until I could lay back down.

In the process of all of this, I finally started crying out to God. I pleaded for His help changing our lives back around and for my place in the home (and the kitchen) to be restored and more. I think I told God I would help others if He would just help me and that I would not judge them. I remember thinking that if God could help me... every single woman in this world had hope.

He did. He has astounded me. He has gone far beyond and over anything I could hope or think to ask. Am I a perfect person, homemaker, or gourmet chef? Ask my family to get a quick answer on any of those! It will not be affirmative, I can assure you.

However, the LORD does deserve glory and honor and praise (just for He is) for bringing me to a completely different place.
My heart is turned around and I have learned and keep learning so much on not just food but healthy nourishment and I don't just stop at one. I take from each area just what I find to be accurate and blend it all together into a varied, wild, wonderful and swirling with colors galore (haven't seen that word in a long time!) way of eating.
So, there. You have some background on at least a tiny portion of why I share from so many perspectives and so on.

The latest smoothies, a fresh breakfast or two and some other things we have been knocking mixing bowls around to make will be in the next blog post.... or few.