healthy eating – easy quinoa

I have a good friend in MN that blogs daily about food, wine, tea, music, life. Lots of things, and she is truly a professional writer. Author of a few books, including Chin Deep in Bubbles, Melissa has the corner covered on all things delicious and pampering. And beautiful. She’s a peach – visit her blog: http://www.chindeep.com/.

She could probably give you a thousand recipes on quinoa, or point you to her many friends in the culinary world that have their versions, but I’ll keep it simple and give you my little quick take.

I will admit right now that I do avoid carbs, and that’s not good. I know I need to consume more, especially with my workout schedule now. So I’m getting back to incorporating them, but focusing on the HEALTHY ones. Healthy, as in, less processed, not fried or packaged. Love me some tortilla chips and multi-grain crackers, but quinoa is a great source of protein as well, and pretty simple to prepare.

ingredients

This morning, I added one cup organic quinoa to a small saucepan and put the heat on high.

before toasting

I stirred my little pearls til they popped and crackled and turned a bit darker colored. If you like, you can add a little oil to the pan for this stage. Toasting the quinoa helps bring out the nutty flavor. If you are unsure, you CAN skip this step!

after toasting

After about 5 minutes of dry toasting, I added 1.5 cups low sodium vegetable broth and stirred.

adding broth

Then I turned the heat to medium-low and put the lid on. I simmered the quinoa for 10 minutes, gave it another stir, replaced the lid and turned the heat off, leaving the pan in place. I had to take my daughter to school :).

put the lid on and leave it alone

When I came home, about 10 minutes later, it was done. Nice and fluffy, although admittedly needing salt.

done - so fluffy!

Quinoa can be used in place of rice or couscous. You can use it with stir fry or fajita vegetables, and it’s great with fish (if you eat fish). Squeeze a little lemon over it. Add different herbs. Be creative and try a different flavor profile, or add veggies to make a pilaf.

If you make it with water instead of broth, you can also make this into sweet applications. Add raisins and apples, cinnamon and treat it like a hot morning cereal. Or almonds, blueberries and maple syrup. It’s quite versatile. And tasty. 🙂 enjoy!

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time to make laundry soap!

I found this AMAZING recipe for making your own laundry soap that is SOOOOOOO easy! I made it once before and just made my second batch this morning. Literally from start to finish for this GIANT bottle of detergent, it took me no more than 1/2 hour. And it’s so inexpensive! Scroll to the bottom to find the link!

I love lavender, so I add half my little bottle of lavender essential oil to make my laundry soap smell like lavender. You can use any scent you like, or none at all. It’s totally customizable.

This is the last bottle I bought, so I use this biggie to refill when I make a batch:

Check out how much of my solution is water. So when you buy brand name at the store, you are getting about 24 cups of water!!!

Here are my dry ingredients, and my receipt that proves how much I spent. Now remember, you use 1/2 cup of each dry plus 1/3 the bar for each batch. So this stuff will make boatloads!!! ha!

And there are hardly any dishes to clean:

Once you see how easy it is to make you will never go back to throwing your money at the corporate machine. Best of luck my friends = and happy washing!!!

CLICK HERE FOR THE LINK on how to make your own soap!!

Juicing the fruit

I had to share this, because it just makes so much sense! When I lived in Phoenix (and after I moved, before shipping was too expensive), my mom would bring me (literally) suitcases full of citrus fruit from the trees in their backyard. I love it, especially since I was eating so many grapefruits. But I didn’t eat all that many lemons…

So my mom told me a secret. OK not so much a secret as a hint, but it’s stuck with me and helped me save on my grocery bill. I was at Kroger the other day buying a few produce items and noticed the sale rack tucked in the corner. It was packed full of bags of overripe fruits. And each bag was marked at $1. HELLO!!!!!!!

So I bought 12 bags: 1 bag of limes, 2 bags of lemons and 9 bags of oranges and tangerines. When I got home everyone thought I was nuts and asked, “WHAT are you going to do with all THAT??”

So I showed them. I started with the oranges and tangerines, cutting each one in half. Then I pressed the juice with my hand-squeezer (I should have used the larger countertop model my mom got for me, but I worked my hands out instead) into a large measuring cup. Don’t throw out the squeezed fruits yet…

Then I poured the juice into ice cube trays of any size and shape I had on hand. I overfilled them a bit, so I used an old cookie sheet as a base in the freezer so the juice wouldn’t spill over. I let the cubes freeze overnight and then popped them out into large zipped top bags and stuck them back into the freezer.

Ever need a teaspoon of orange or lemon zest for a recipe, and find you have to run to the store to buy just one so you can finish making your meal, just to end up throwing the fruit out afterwards? No more! Before descarding the fruit halves that you’ve already squeezed, cut the peel off, and then use a sharp knife to remove the pith. Or you can use a zester, but you’ll have better luck with that PRIOR to squeezing them. The best news is my lemons were all organic, so I know my zest will be the best possible!

Out of all this I have all the citrus juice and zest I need for anything. I have freshly squeezed lemon juice for lemony green beans (or chicken if you eat it), fresh lime juice for salsa fresca or guacamole, orange zest for cashew cream (all my vegan friends will understand) and fresh orange/tangerine juice to complement a tall glass of soda water. Making lemonade is as easy as adding a cube to a half-glass of water with some sweetener and stirring.

There are infinite possibilities of what I can do with my new stash. If you find the opportunity to save yourself some time and money, join me in this venture! I look forward to hearing new ideas! Enjoy!

All Natural Hair Care

A few years back, I was reading through the internet news (if you’d call it that) and stumbled upon an article about all natural hair care. I read through the entire story and did a little research on the side, finding the information really interesting. I didn’t think with the amount of travel I had to do for my job that I could pull off doing the all natural hair care despite the need for few simple ingredients. Despite that feeling, I didn’t forget about the idea.

Fast forward a few years, and I decided to check it out again. So I searched the internet and found the simplest directions for my new regime. If you want to check it out first hand, do a search on “all natural baking soda shampoo”, and you’ll find a plethora of articles to peruse, all with instructions (they vary a bit) and LOTS of details on the perils of shampoo.

So for the past three weeks, I have been following this regime. After the first use my hair felt incredibly light, like years of waxy buildup from my conditioner had all been stripped away. About four days later my hair was a bit greasy, and then my scalp figured out the right amount of natural oil to produce and my hair has been fantastic ever since.

You see, shampoo is a detergent, and strips all the natural oils from your hair and scalp, which causes your scalp to produce excess oils, which is why your hair gets greasy after a day or so without reshampooing. I had to use conditioner to “rehydrate” my hair. Mass produced shampoo also contains very harmful ingredients to your health, such as sodium laurel sulfate and waste products such as mineral oil. Do you really want to put that on your body? See how great my hair looks now:

DIRECTIONS: This is so simple it’s ridiculous. And it’s VERY cheap. I take a glass measuring cup and put 2 cups of water in it. I heat it up a little (the first time I didn’t heat the water and it was sort of a shock to put the cold water on my head!) I then pour one cup of the water into my RINSE squeeze bottle, to which I add a little over one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. Then I add one tablespoon of baking soda to the cup of water remaining in the measuring glass and stir until the baking soda has dissolved. I pour that into my SHAMPOO squeeze bottle.

Squeeze bottle? Yep, I spent a whole $2 for an empty ketchup and mustard squeeze bottle at the local grocer. They are the perfect size and work great!

Warm up your shower, get your hair and scalp thoroughly wet, and squeeze on your ‘shampoo’. Mainly focus on your scalp, it will inevitably get through your hair as well. I usually squeeze with one hand and rub it into my scalp with my fingers of the other hand. Then I rinse under the shower head.

To ‘condition’, squeeze the contents of your rinse bottle on your scalp in the same manner. Leave it in for a few minutes and rinse out under the shower water. As you do this you will find your hair easier to put fingers through to the ends.

Of course you can make this in larger batches if you like. I like to make it quick right before I shower, it’s SO easy.

Benefits? Money saving. My hair is lighter and more manageable. My hair doesn’t get greasy anymore. No chemicals and excess oils being put on my body. Better for the environment. I have been losing less hair. AND I only have to wash my hair every four days or so. The alternate days (like yesterday) I just rinse through my hair with the shower water.

Try it and you will be amazed. There is really no risk. Just gain! Enjoy!

Roasted Organic Beets

Sprouts had a sale, and I was there. Their golden and red organic beets were on sale, so I loaded up and excitedly got to work on them as soon as I returned home. Not a fan? Try this recipe. It is not only simple, but roasting the beets brings out their natural sweetness, which compliments that wonderful earthy flavor.

I bought 6 medium-sized beets, three of each color (of course you can use all red beets if that’s what is available). I rinsed off the dirt and peeled the beets, cutting off the bottom and top ends. Then I cut them into approximately 1″ chunks, placing them on tin foil.

Once I was finished cutting, I drizzled the beet chunks with olive oil and sprinkled sea salt and fresh cracked pepper over the whole lot. I transferred the tin foil full of delight into a glass baking dish and baked them at 375 until they are tender, stirring a few times for even cooking.

NOTE: I have had better results by using clay baking dish, so if you have one of those, I recommend using it. The foil is not necessary, but keeps clean up to a minimum.

If you aren’t a beet fan, I hope you will give it a try, even with just one beet. I have made believers in my household (children and skeptical men included). Happy cooking!

Z BEST PIZZA EVER!

ZBQ Pizza

Heard that before? Ha, I’m sure you have. With the countless pizza chains and local pie shops to choose from, it’s inevitable that everyone has at least one personal favorite that they can’t imagine anyone else surpassing. But I really think this is it.

Once upon a time, I lived in the great state of Washington, and there was a road along Hood Canal through Seabeck that was one of my favorite Sunday drives. The town of Seabeck wasn’t really a town, more of a few buildings clustered together. But there was a pizza joint there, aptly named Seabeck Pizza. We stopped there once to try a slice, and never went to another pizza place after that. 

I can’t tell you specifically what it was about that pizza that I so much enjoyed. I just remember the proportions of wood-fired crust to fresh tangy sauce to melty creamy cheese being perfect. Or maybe it was just the view.Hood Canal and Olympic Mountains from Scenic Beach State Par

Then we moved. A few times.

Upstate New York is beautiful. The small town of Saratoga Springs is packed with visitors to the races in spring, but during the other months, it’s wonderfully quiet and serene. Going downtown is like stepping back in time, with street lamps along the sidewalk and shops and restaurants side by side standing tall and narrow, inviting you into the warmth within their doors. There were two establishments in particular that caught my fancy there: one was Mino’s Sushi and the other was the pizza place.

D’Andrea’s Pizza was amazing. This place was a single entity, i.e. non-chain restaurant, offering a wide variety of slices and in an eccentric environment, which was part of it’s charm. Once you entered, this place definitely didn’t seem like it fit in this little upscale town, but every time we went in, we left with a box of many slices and eventually had an empty box.

Fast forward about 10 years to Dallas, and a recent discovery of The Pure One. Yep, THE one. I’d actually tried their pizza before and honestly I was not really impressed. But then… Joey and I went there for something different for dinner, and have never considered any other pizza.

Their menu has a variety of choices. I chose the gluten free crust, not because I had to for dietary reasons, but because I wanted to try it. What they served me was an amazing, crunchy bottom, chewy top, slightly sweet, cornmealy crust which was perfectly fired. My topping choice was a menu selection: “Berkeley Vegan”.

Joe had the Thai pizza.

He said his was the best but I thought mine was better. I’d say that is a pretty good sign of good eats.

Their offerings are not limited to delicious pies on varying crusts. They also dish up salads, appetizer plates (I am really eager to try the Mediterranean plate), which includes olives, hummus, feta and more.

They also serve have pasta and warm and cold sandwiches as well. Just take a look for yourself! www.zpizza.com.

We have had them deliver since; Joe ordered the American, while I enjoyed the Napoli. I can’t wait to go back again and have another small pie all of my own; there are so many intriguing flavor combinations to try!

I truly apologize for tantalizing your tastebuds if you are so unfortunate as to have no Z nearby. But if you have your own pizza heaven, please share your favorite slice spot! Happy munching my friends!

CORN COB JELLY

Yep, that’s right, corn cob jelly. Never heard of it? I’d bet you could find it in some really old journals or cookbooks, maybe from the early American frontier days, when people really had to use everything they had to get by in life.

The funny thing is, this doesn’t taste like it is a nourishment bourne out of necessity. It tastes like smooth honey, with overtones of corn and a hint of citrus at the finish from the pectin. If you have never tried making it, I recommend you do, or at least find some to taste. You would likely be tasting something from our ancestor’s day.

It’s crazy simple, and starts with you buying corn. Fresh = better, so if you have a local farm, get it from ‘that guy’. But waste not: blanch your corn until the kernels are bright, cool your cobs and cut the corn off. Freeze it, can it, eat it, whatever you want. Just don’t toss it. Don’t toss the cobs either; follow along my friends!

CORN COB JELLY:

Ingredients:

  • 10 corn cobs
  • 4 cups water (use the water you blanched your corn in)
  • 1 package pectin
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp butter (or oil if you’re vegan)
  • 2 drops yellow food coloring

Directions:

Break cobs in pieces, throw back into blanching water and bring to a boil for 20 minutes. Cool and strain (if you want more corny flavor, you can actually squeeze the liquid from the cobs prior to discarding). If you want, you can put the little corn pieces into the jelly liquid for some texture and appearance value. Totally a personal decision.

Measure the liquid you boiled the corn cobs in; save 3.5 cups. If you need to add water to come to that quantity, do so. Put that liquid back into your put, and add your packet of pectin and butter. Bring your liquid to a slow boil for one minute, then add sugar SLOWLY! NOTE!! Add 1 cup, stir and taste. From here, add sugar to taste. Adding too much sugar will mask the natural flavor coming out of the cobs and make your jelly taste too sweet.

Once you have added all the sugar you want, add your food coloring to make the color less blah and return to a full boil for one minute. Remove from heat. Fill your jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace, wipe rims, cover and process for 10 minutes.

The only tricky thing about this jelly is that when it cools (as you fill your jars), it will get that weird film layer on the top. Just be wary and quick filling your jars.

OTHER NOTES: I actually had 37 cobs when I made this batch :). I filled the pot with the cobs and as much water as I could add to the blanching liquid to fill the pot. It ended up giving me about 14 cups so I used about 2.5-3 times the pectin and I think 5 cups of sugar.

After I boiled the cobs, I let them cool and squeezed all the milk from the cobs. I strained ALL my cooking liquid (and that milk) through a fine seive lined with cheesecloth, so there aren’t any chunks, but the liquid is opaque.

This jelly may take up to a week to set. You can ensure you have hit the jelling point by taking a spoonful of the jelly from the pot on your last boil and sticking it in the fridge for a minute. When you take the plate out, run y our finger down the middle. If the jelly doesn’t come back together, it will set. You can also judge by the boil – the bubbles look like they are boiling up through some liquid thicker than water (which they are), almost like slow motion.

 

So when winter rolls around (in this heat I know I can barely wait for it to get here!), throw some wood on the fire, grab yourself some fresh-from-the-oven cornbread and slather this on top, letting it melt just slightly. Close your eyes as you take the first bite, just listening to the crackle of the fire, and find yourself in a wonderful place.

Happy canning my friends.