Fresh for Summer

Here is a refreshing and unexpected combination: pineapple and cucumber. I was inspired to combine these two flavors after having a cucmber salad at a sushi restaurant last week. The menu said the cucumber salad had a hint of pineapple and that got me thinking. I looked through recipes (there are a ton of thai salades) and landed on this simple salad. This low calorie salad is filling and would work splendidly on a picnic or for lunch.

picnics are my favorite.

picnics are my favorite.

Cucumber Mint Pineapple Salad

Ingredients:

1 cucumber (peeled)
1 c  cubed pineapple
2 tbsp chopped mint
1 tbsp olive oi

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Directions:

1. In a large bowl combine cucumber and pineapple.

2. In a separate bowl combine oil and mint.

3. Combine dressing with cucumber/pineapple. Mix well.

3. Chill in fridge and serve. (It is recommended you serve immediately however I made this the night before and packed it for lunch and it was quite fresh.)

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Fresh and interesting

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Gluten Free is the way to be?

I am now gluten free.  I know what you are thinking and no… no…  I am not that trendy (apparently Oprah went gluten free a few years back and it became huge). I am now gluten free because my acupuncturist told me I needed to be. I am trying out the diet for a while to see if it helps me with particular health issues. I did not initially take to the idea but after some research and thoughtful analysis, I am committed to this new lifestyle. I am going to give it a try for about 2 months and assess my health from there.

It’s crazy how much gluten we consume! I am now in the process of switching over all of my major cooking staples to accommodate my shift in consumption. Yesterday I bought gluten free flour, pasta, oats, and granola bars to have on hand. It is an expensive diet which kind of sucks.

After reading about the benefits I am highly intrigued to monitor the effects and notice what body feels. I just read an article released by GreenMedInfo about the effects of gluten on your metabolism. New research indicates that switching to a gluten free diet will result in healthy weight loss. If you think about this logically it makes perfect sense. Due to subsidies, the food industry relies on corn and wheat to produce mass quantities of food. When you have to examine what has gluten in it you realize just how much wheat is used for filler… its in everything! Even if you consume the same amount of calories as you did prior to eating gluten you will loose weight because once you take out the gluten your diet becomes focused on protein and greens.

Last week I found a recipe that looked delicious. We bought all of the ingredients for  it and thankfully it was quite easy to transition it to be gluten free. I had to run out and buy gluten free soy sauce (see what I mean by its everywhere!) but other than that we were good. Tonight I cooked Stephen and I “Honey Sesame Tempeh with Quinoa” and it was awesome! You can make this recipe not gluten free… either way … try it out because its gooo- ooo- ood.

Honey Sesame Tempeh Quinoa with Carrot Slaw

(adapted from EatingWell)

food

Ingredients:

QUINOA & CARROT SLAW

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup organic quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 cups grated carrots (about 3 large)
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon gluten free soy sauce

SESAME-HONEY TEMPEH

  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1  8-ounce packages tempeh, cut bite-size pieces
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon of gluten free flour
  • 2 scallions, sliced

Directions:

  1. To prepare quinoa: Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add quinoa and return to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer, cover and cook until the water is absorbed, 10 to 14 minutes. Uncover and let stand.
  2. To prepare carrot slaw: Meanwhile, combine carrots, rice vinegar, sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon soy sauce in a medium bowl. Set aside.
Really good on its own.

Really good on its own.

  1. To prepare tempeh: Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add tempeh and cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to brown, 7 to 9 minutes.

tempeh

  1. Combine honey, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons water and flour in a small bowl. Add to the pan and cook, stirring, until the sauce has thickened and coats the tempeh, about 1 minute.
the original recipe calls for cornstarch which is gluten free

the original recipe calls for cornstarch which is gluten free

  1. Divide the quinoa among 4 bowls and top each with 1/2 cup carrot slaw and 3/4 cup tempeh mixture. Sprinkle with scallions.

NOTE: Next time I prepare this I am going to zest some orange to put into the sauce for the tempeh. I think the orange would compliment the honey very well and make it almost like orange chicken.

And there is some people thinking that the end is close by

But instead of thinking…they are learning to die. – Bob Dylan

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Nothing makes me happier then Sunday baking, having my husband on the couch and Bobby D on the record player. The weather is grim which makes for the perfect cozy Sunday.  Heck, I haven’t even gotten out of my pjs today. Yoga tonight will require a change in attire but that’s a move I’m willing to make.

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(we are a mess)

Today I made my final batch of holiday treats before winter break. I haven’t baked for my kids in a couple of weeks because I knew I would be stretched too thin and didn’t want to feel obligated. This week their baked good was listed on the board as “Ms. W’s Holiday Surprise Cookies.” The kids begged and pleaded to hear the ingredients but I stood strong and did not let them know what was in the recipe. I with held information for two reasons. First, they love simplicity (anything complicated scares them) and I knew if I told them that more than one ingredient was int the recipe, they wouldn’t want it. Second, I wasn’t even sure what I was going to make… slick. I knew that I wanted the cookie to have a similar taste to my holiday cookies I made for Stephen’s work but didn’t want to put the same mix ins into the recipe. After scouring the shelved of Trader Joe’s yesterday I came up a FREAKING AWESOME holiday cookie.

Chocolate Peppermint Pretzel Cookies

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Makes 40 cookies (smaller cookies)

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1  teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 c chopped chocolate covered pretzel slims
  • 1/2 c peppermint baking chips ( I used Trader Joes but I had seen mint chips at Target)
  • 10 waffle peppermint cane cookies from Trader Joes (if you don’t have a Traders close to you I used crush up 2 candy canes and add more of the pretzels to the mix)
  • Cooking spray or parchment paper

Directions:

  1. 1. Preheat oven to 350°. Beat butter and sugars at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until creamy. Add eggs and 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla, beating until blended.
  2. 2. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl; gradually add to butter mixture, beating just until blended. Beat pretzels, chips, and cookies just until combined. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets.

photo (88)3. Bake at 350° for 8 to 10 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. Remove to wire racks, and cool completely (about 15 minutes).

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“They taste like Christmas!”

” Chocolately peppermint goodness, 5 stars” – says the husband 🙂

Holiday Work Cheer: Part 2

Today was hours and hours of baking and prepping for work! One of my precious students came over to help me bake. While she was here we made an assortment of goods for my co-workers and for her family. I didn’t get to snap pictures of all of the treats but I did for the majority of what I am giving out for my holiday work gifts. My student has never had the opportunity to make Christmas cookies so I felt we must undo this wrong and decorate sugar cookies! I also taught her how to make basic chocolate chip cookies. We added some M&Ms for festive coloring. We also made some white chocolate peppermint Oreo bark, nom nom!

The past two years I made labor intensive gifts for my co-workers but this year due to time constraints and money I wanted something simple, affordable and delicious. I decided on Oreo bark and I am quite pleased with my choice! I purchased the items at Aldi and the total for the goods was around $6.00. I was able to make 16 gifts which means each bag cost .37… not too shabby!  I made Christmas colored bark for the majority of the staff and Hanukkah bark for my beloved tribe members. I recently received a wonderful Star of David mold* and was able to use it to craft the Hanukkah bark.

*I can not find the exact mold online but this quite close.

Hanukkah Oreo Bark

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Christmas Oreo Bark

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Ingredients:

  • 1 package of oreos
  • 1 package of white chocolate almond bark
  • 1 package of white chocolate morsels

Directions:

Prepare tray with parchment paper. Place oreos in a gallon ziplock bag and role with a rolling pin. Melt white chocolate in microwave safe dish at 25 second intervals. (If you want to use a double broiler feel free I just don’t have the patience) When the chocolate has almost completed melted, mix in food coloring. When the chocolate is completely melted mix the oreo pieces into the gooey greatness. Spread the mixture over the tray and place in fridge or freezer depending on the time. Once the mixture has hardened break into pieces and serve.

After bark making we made some sugar cookies and did some cheesey decorating. Nothing says Christmas and Hanukkah like sugar cookies!

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My cookies!

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Decorating.

photo (72)My dear student’s cookies

Also, my wonderful husband bought me this awesome cook book  for the second night of Hanukkah and I can’t wait to try out some of the recipes.

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Sleepy Sunday

Its cloudy out and 75 degrees, perfect day for bakin’ and makin’! Each Sunday I like to prep my week by making delicious foods that are healthy and will help keep my week stress free. I made my usual granola and started making jam again. Last year I was really into  making jam (check out Jam session), and once again the berries are in season and ready to go! Today I made a standard strawberry jam, per Stephen.

Organic Strawberry Jam

Along the theme of strawberries, I also attempted to make dried strawberries. The recipe called for 2 hours at 210 degrees, but I beg to differ. I left them in the oven for about 4 hours and they are still a bit squishy. However, I think on top of a salad with some balsamic dressing, they will be delicious. I don’t think that’s whats the original chef intended, but I still recommend it.

Half and Quarter strawberries, place them on a cookie sheet in the oven at 210 for 4 hours.

Lastly, I made a treat for my students. In an effort to bring balance and positive vibes  to all (including myself) I have a new management system in my classroom that focuses on positive community building. Each week students strive to earn points (all based on positive choices) and if they meet their goal they can select from 5 prizes. Prizes range from Homework passes to baked goods by me! This week I told them I would make them “Cookie Dough Brownies.” I saw this recipe on Pinterest and have been dying to try it. I love having hungry co-workers and students because I can bake all of the things I want to try, get it out of my house and provide everyone with a delicious treat. For the full recipe check out this site. I have to say, these are phenomenal and so easy to make!

Make the brownie batter first and bake for 30 minutes. It is heavenly.

Prepare cookie dough while brownies bake. There isn't any eggs in the batter, which allows you to enjoy the raw cookie dough without the phantom salmonella lurking over your shoulder!

Once the cookie dough is finished and the brownies cool, spread the cookie dough over the brownies. Then place in the fridge or freezer to allow the two ingredients to combine. Cut once its cold and solid.

Finished product. Absolutely amazing. Deathly though. If you make them... have others eat them ASAP.

The mother load.

I have been creating. I have been taking pictures. I have been scatter brained. I have not been posting.

I have a ton of pictures I have taken but haven’t put up because some are incomplete sets or I don’t have time.

But tonight, they will all be posted. Yes… I can feel how much excitement there is.

Peanut Butter Banana Cupcakes

(With chocolate frosting (which isnt pictured))

pre peanut butter mixture

mix until paste like

roll into individual balls on wax paper

meanwhile, make banana cupcake mixture

place a spoon of batter into cupcake holders

place pb inside batter

spoon and cover balls with remaining batter

bake and viola! We made chocolate icing to top off these guys. Super delicious.

Fancy Granola

My new granola is made with a peanut oil mixture. Its very sweet and delicious.

mixing while pouring makes the granola so evenly crunchy, I am obsessed.

dried apples and raisins to top it off!

Other things Ive made recently:

Cream Cheese Ice cream with Carrot Cake chunks (approved by work)

Baked Apple Pie Sorbet

I took pictures while doing both of these but for some reason only took pictures of part of the process.

Stephen bought a few new cookbooks. One of them is an ice cream book and its great. I got the sorbet recipe out of it. Check it out.

I want to cook more and blog more. This is a goal.

make your morning better part (1): granola

Nothing makes my mornings better than a delightful breakfast, a workout at the gym, and great walk with my dog. One of my favorite breakfasts is a homemade parfait! I use 0% vanilla Chobani Greek Yogurt, homemade granola, and a ton of fruit. I have finally perfected the granola using a few different techniques. I can now rest because the texture and distribution of cinnamon is exceptional. Take a chance… try the recipe.. and make your breakfasts better, ha!

Healthy Homemade Granola

Ingredients

1/4 c of raisins, cranberries, slivered or slices almonds

cinnamon – use as much or as little as you like. I probably put a little more than a tbsp

1 tsp- ground ginger

1 tsp- vanilla extract

3 c uncooked oats (buy the off brand, you’ll save money and it tastes the same)

2 cups rice crispy cereal (buy the off brand, you’ll save money and it tastes the same)

6 tbsp of honey (We bought locally produced honey from a near by farm and you can really taste the difference. If you can obtain such honey I highly recommend it.)

1/4 c of apple juice

1 tsp of canola oil

Directions

Heat oven to 350 and mix oats and crispies together in a large baking dish.  Place dish in oven and let bake for 10 minutes.

keep this bowl close.. you are going to need it later.

turn oats once while in the oven

While the oats are baking prepare your mixture. In another bowl mix together all the ingredients with the exception of the dried fruit and almonds. Mix well so that honey is dissolved.

heavy on the cinnamon but it was delicious!

Now here is the part where it is critical to follow directions! Once the 10 minutes are up spoon a small amount of the oats back into the large bowl and then spoon a small amount of mixture on top. Mix the liquid with the oats and repeat. The big part of this whole recipe is making sure all of the oats are coated. When it is evenly distributed you get a much crunchier granola mix. After, mix the whole batch, and spoon it back into the cooking dish. Then place almonds in dish and mix. Bake for additional 18 minutes, mixing the granola ever so often.

evenly coated

After the 18 minutes are up, take out your granola, add the dried fruit and place in an air tight container. Do not put the lid on the container until granola is cool.

enjoy!

bollywood on foster

This past Wednesday night Stephen and I decided to venture into the world of cooking Indian food from scratch. We recently have really taken to the cuisine and wanted to produce it in our own home. I researched healthy versions of the classic Palak Paneer and found one on an ipad app. Its interesting because there really was nothing that was unhealthy in the meal however, through my research I have found that traditionally made dishes are super heavy in fat. This recipe was extremely balanced and included: spinach, tomatoes, tofu, yogurt (we used 0% greek), spices, and onions. Naan is horrible for you hence why we did not originally purchase it, however I want to try and make my own next time. Cutting out the mass amounts of butter should help bring the fat content down.

Mike came over and helped me cook the meal while Stephen ran out for some last minute naan. The meal was made with love and tasted good too! Next time though I am going to cool it on the spices and add some red hot pepper flakes. I do have to say, for a first time try, we were proud.

georgia peaches and homemade biscuits!

I love making jam. As I have become more comfortable with the procedure I have begun to create my own recipes. My strawberry apricot jam was a big hit amongst friends so I decided to continue pursuing different combinations. Good ol Georgia peaches are abundant at the fruit stand now which my decision pretty easy. In this jam I used peaches, white wine, and lemon. I am pretty pleased with the outcome! The jam is sweet and light. I enjoy mixing it with other jams. Oh yes, and since I was already baking I decided to make some homemade buttermilk biscuits.

Ingredients: 4 c of peaches, 4 c of sugar, 1 tbsp of pectin, 8 tbsp of white wine, 3 tbsp of lemon juice

I bought a cheap white wine that is said to “compliment fruit.” Get buck wild and choose whatever wine you want!

fresh peaches

First, rinse and then pit each peach. You can cube them if you want, however it’s not necessary because of the food processor.

Place peaches in food processor and blend until smooth. It is okay if there are a few chunks in the mix.

blend until smooth

Once the peaches are blended you can add the sugar. You may add the sugar while it’s in the mixture or once you transfer it to your pot.

mix well with fruit

Once the sugar is mixed in, place mixture into a large pot and bring to a boil. Once at a boil add pectin and wine.

pectin makes the jam gel

Bring heat to a simmer and stir for about 10 minutes. There will be a film at the top, this is okay because you will skim it off prior to jarring.

Stir!!

Prior to jarring use a spoon to take off the foam

To check if mixture is finished take one tablespoon and place it on a flat surface. Give the jam a few seconds to see if it becomes jelly like. If it does, start jarring!

funnels make life easier

Pour the mixture into a jar quickly. The jar will be hot so be careful! Once all contents are in, wipe the mouth of the jar with a wet paper towel and seal. Let the jam set at room temp for 12 hours or so before transferring it to the fridge. You can freeze your jam for up to 3 months if you choose not to consume it immediately.

all finished!

I whipped up some biscuits to accompany the jam because were having “breakfast for dinner.” I love those kind of nights.

from scratch... and delicious!