Saturday, December 31, 2011
I've noticed that several of my favorite blogs and sites have had "best of" posts in the last couple of days. It's been interesting seeing which posts have resonated most with their readers and it's been a fun way to catch up on some of the older posts of my newer favorite sites.
So I decided to check out my own stats and see which posts have gotten the most traffic. It was so interesting to see which posts get the most interest and who is reading them. It was also fun to see what searches people use to find my site. The first several months the searches were for certain recipes but lately most of them are for my blog title which was pretty fun to see.
The post on Ev's cupcakes is far and away the all time which makes me pretty happy. Not only do I love the cupcake but I love that boy!
This cilantro chicken sandwich is also a big hit and one of my favorites.
Right behind was another sandwich - my homemade veggie burger.
Cheese bread was next. Such a simple recipe and you'll see that it has many variations throughout the blog.
Our trip to France also made the list and I had fun rereading and remembering that one.
The Cinco de Mayo post rounded out the list and has two yummy Mexican recipes.
It was even more interesting to see where visitors are coming from. While most visitors are American; Canada, Germany, the U.K., Australia, Sri Lanka and France also show up often. This was fascinating to me and I'd love to hear from more of you. I know many of you tell me that you cannot post comments no matter how hard you try or subscribe to the RSS feed and I'm trying to figure those issues out. Until then you can always email any questions or comments directly - just see "about me" for my email address.
The last few months of blogging and getting to know so many new friends has been such a wonderful experience for me and I really look forward to another year of the same.
My hope for each of you is to have a healthy, happy and blessed 2012.
Friday, December 23, 2011
One of my very favorite Christmas traditions is making tamales with my friend and neighbor Gabby. We get to catch up while we roll tamales and eat way too much. Tamale day gets better every year as we get our routine down and we always think our tamales turn out better than the year before. Today we made a traditional beef filled tamale and this version; which is the perfect tamales for both beginners and vegetarians.
This simple version takes just minutes to mix up and since you skip the filling step they roll up quickly. Last year we filled our masa with the chilies and cheese but found the cheese melted right out of some of the tamales. Nothing is sadder than an empty tamale. By shredding the cheese and mixing the corn and chilies into the masa the flavor and texture is much more consistent.
Tamales are not hard at all; you just need a few supplies and go step by step through the recipe.
First, you’ll need a couple of packages of corn husks or hojas to wrap your tamales. They are crucial to give tamales an authentic flavor and texture. I find them in many grocery stores and our local Hispanic market. Two packages should be more than enough. Soak them a few hours or overnight in a bowl or pan of warm water to soften.
There are several different masa varieties available. This time we used instant masa. It cooks in far less time than non-instant varieties and makes for an earlier lunchtime. This is important to us. =D
You’ll also need a steamer. The tamales need to steam over simmering water. The steamer basket needs to sit an inch or two above the water. You’ll need to make sure there is plenty of water in the pan so that it doesn't boil dry.
While we waited for the last of the tamales to finish we worked together to make a hat for Gabby's sweet little girl. Oh, she looked so adorable trying it on.
We listened to our sons playing video games together and it cracked us up listening to little Ev keeping up with Marc and Joe. They went out to play Frisbee in the unseasonably warm sunshine and we, of course, followed them out and watched them while we sat on the porch. The best part - whenever a car drove by they had to get out of the street and wait. What did they do while they waited? They danced. All three of them danced!
Mike brought Olive over after nap time and we walked the dogs and laughed as Ev sang an alien Christmas song over and over and over. It was a perfect day.
I think tamale day has to come more than once a year.
Tamales with Chilies and Cheese
Set a large pot of water on the stove to boil.
In a heavy duty mixer place:
8 ounces Pepper Jack Cheese, Shredded.
4 cups Masa
1 quart Vegetarian (gf) Broth – room temperature
2 t. Baking Powder
1 ½ t. Cumin Powder
1/8 t. Garlic Powder
Mix at low speed until well incorporated. Add:
1 ½ cups Corn, canned, fresh or frozen
1 7 ounce can Diced Green Chilies
Mix again. You may need to hold your hands on the sides of the mixing bowl to keep the mixture in the bowl; I did. Stop mixer when all ingredients are evenly distributed.
Now you are ready for your corn husks. Take about ¼ cup of the masa mixture and put it right smack dab in the middle of the corn husk just as Gabby is doing, right. Fold over the left side and then fold the right side over. Tuck the bottom under and stack in the steamer basket. Keep filling, folding and filling the steamer basket until it is full but not tightly packed. You want the steam to be able to circulate.
Once the steamer is full; set it in the pot and cover. With my pots I have to use heavy duty aluminum foil to cover the steamer basket as tightly as possible.
Steam about one hour or until steamed through – to test take one of the tamales out of the steamer and open. If it still sticks to the corn husk and is gummy and soft you’ll need to give it a few minutes more.
Today we had them with salsa and guacamole and some hot sauce.
Thank you, Gabby for taking such great photos. You can certainly tell which are yours and which are mine. =D
Thursday, December 22, 2011
I love these nuts on Greek yogurt, oatmeal and even tossed on top of a mixed green salad. A handful with a cup of tea is a great afternoon pick me up.
Vanilla Glazed Walnuts with Sea Salt
In a medium saucepan over medium heat melt
1/4 cup Butter
1/3 cup Organic Cane Sugar
When it starts to simmer add:
3 cups of Shelled Raw Walnuts
1/8 teaspoon Ground Vanilla Beans
1/2 - 1 teaspoon Sea Salt
Stir constantly until walnuts brown slightly. Scrape the sugar and butter mixture up from the bottom of the pan as you stir.
Remove from heat and stir occasionally as the mixture cools. When completely cool store in an air tight jar.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Last night was the holiday dinner for the company Chris works for and since it was in Chicago it meant a quick flight and a weekend away together. We were really looking forward to going because while Chris had met several fellow employees on different projects there were many people he hadn't met yet. This was a great opportunity on many levels. We were also excited to have a mini family reunion with some of his family.
We flew in Friday night and visited with our personable young Kenyan cab driver while stuck in rush hour traffic before checking into our hotel. It was fascinating hearing about his move from Kenya to Wisconsin to Chicago. We’d noticed that there was a Chipotle right across the street from the hotel so we scratched our plans for a cab and an unknown, but promising, meal across town for something quick, close and known. As always, Chipotle was great. The customer right ahead of me had already asked the line to change their gloves for a gluten free bowl. Our fast meal gave us an hour or so to wander up and down
and experience the coldest shopping experience of my life.
Saturday morning we had breakfast at our hotel. I brought a container of my sneaky chocolate peanut butter muffins along with and Chris brought coffee and fruit up to the room from the buffet. It was a perfect start. We spent the morning shopping for a couple of items we forgot to pack and even found a few small Christmas gifts for our sons. The morning somehow felt even colder than the night before and the sidewalks were packed tightly with other shoppers. This proved to be a very good thing as our fellow shoppers served as great windshields!
Lunch was great fun. Chris’ cousin Matt and his wife Alma picked us up at our hotel and took us to HUB 51 where we met our nephew John and his girlfriend Marina. That's all of us above. It had been seventeen years since I’d met Matt and Alma and about eleven since I’d seen John so there was a lot of catching up to do. We all met
The party at Quartino was a brisk walk of three or four blocks from our hotel. Once there it was fun to finally put faces to the names I hear so much about and the turn out was great. Crystal, who coordinated the event with Quartino, had made sure there were gluten free and vegetarian choices – and delicious ones at that. The room was beautiful and dinner was just an amazing amount of wonderful food served family style. As we sat to dinner there were plates of olives and cheeses and meats with a grape salad, a fennel salad and an apricot puree in the center of each table. All of them were very different and so tasty. Our waiter brought out a separate plate of without the bread for me and went over the night’s menu. He was very attentive to two of our vegetarian table mates as well as making sure everything was safe for me. The meal was served family style and the there were two salads coming, followed by two pastas, salmon, chicken and beef. It was no problem to skip the pasta with so many great choices. Dessert was Tiramisu but our sweet waiter brought out a little scoop of chocolate gelato for me.
Saturday was a blur. A wonderful blur of a day. I took terrible pictures but have great memories.
This morning we had our coffee and muffins and hopped in a cab about 7:5 a.m. We were home just after noon and in time for a quick lunch with Marc and then I was off to pick Joe up from church and shuttle him to work. Since Marc is catching a cold and Joe’s cold is still hanging and because it's pretty cold here, too, it seemed like a good night for a nourishing bowl of hot soup. It’s full of immune boosting and detoxifying ingredients and it’s just awesome.
This soup is loosely based on the coconut chicken soup from Nourishing Traditions. This quick and easy version is made with boxed organic chicken broth, coconut milk, garlic, ginger, shrimp and vegetables poured over a bowl of rice and garnished with cilantro, jalapeños and real fermented kimchee. While there are a lot of healthy ingredients this soup goes together in no time at all.
Coconut Shrimp Soup
2 quarts Organic Chicken Broth
2 cans Coconut Milk
1 T. Minced Fresh Garlic
1 T. Minced Fresh Ginger
1/4 t. Fish Sauce (or 1 t. Gluten Free Soy Sauce)
1 lb. Peeled and deveined shrimp - any size you like
Pour all ingredients except the shrimp into a large saucepan and bring to a simmer as you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Hold the shrimp aside for now.
2 cups Basmati rice washed and cooked according to package directions.
1 lb Mushrooms of your choice, sliced
1 cup Carrots, peeled and sliced
1 Shallot, minced
1 T Coconut Oil
1 lb Baby Spinach Leaves, washed
Saute the mushrooms, carrots and shallots together in a large saute pan until soft lightly browned. Lower heat to warm. Hold the spinach aside.
1 bunch of Cilantro, chopped fine
2 large Jalapeños, seeded and sliced
1 cup naturally fermented kimchee, chopped fine
Use any or all of these to your taste.
Once the rice is cooked and the garnishes are ready add shrimp to broth and spinach to veggies. The spinach should just be wilted and the shrimp will turn pink when ready.
To serve spoon rice into bowl, top with veggies and broth and garnish as desired. This recipe should serve about eight and can easily be cut in half for smaller appetites.
Monday, December 5, 2011
In my zeal for my Mini Chocolate Chip Pumpkin & Ginger Muffins; I totally stocked up on canned organic pumpkin. It was at that point I was made painfully aware of the fact that two out of the four of us really, really do not like pumpkin. How can that be? Pumpkin is a fall favorite - so versatile and delicious - not to mention a nutritional powerhouse. I was surprised and maybe just a bit annoyed but determined to find a way to use it in a way we'd all enjoy.
Several friends have been baking cakes by using a regular box of cake mix and subbing canned pumpkin for the oil, water and eggs called for on the box. I tried that trick with a bag of Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Brownie Mix a few weeks ago and everyone loved it. Absolutely delicious with a perfect texture. However, it's a very sweet treat that I would only make occasionally.
I'd played around with my breakfast cake a couple of times and while I liked it my pumpkin phobic loved ones just weren't bowled over. Last night I tried once again and we're all happy with the results. Here's what I did: I left out the oil and used one can of pumpkin puree. I still used all six eggs for the protein. Then I added a half cup of cocoa. I used white chocolate chips because they're the favorite of my pumpkin disliking son. I'm not above bribing him. The end result was a really moist and chocolaty treat with an almost milk chocolate flavor. This would be a good alternative for those cutting down on oils. The pumpkin flavor is present but it blends so well with the chocolate. Nearly half the pan is gone so I know it's a hit.
Chocolate Pumpkin Breakfast Cake
1 lb. Pkg Almond Meal
1 can Organic Pumpkin
2/3 cup Sugar, Organic Cane
1/2 cup Cocoa
1/2 cup Cocoa
1 T Vanilla
½ t Salt
1 T Baking Soda
1 cup White Chocolate Chips
Always double check your ingredients and make sure they're all gluten free.
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until well incorporated, pour into lightly greased 9 x 13 pan.
Bake at 375 for approximately 40 minutes or until baked through using a toothpick to test.