Archive for March, 2009

So last night I wanted something quick, easy, and delicious! Pretty much, that’s what I want every night.. so last night I warmed up some brown rice I had made on Sunday, and made a delicious nacho-style salad! Since the brown rice was already done, the longest cooking time was for the potatoes – and that was only about 20 minutes. This recipe make 2 large salads, but you could make them into 4 small/medium salads and serve with a bowl of soup.


Tortilla chips (use gluten-free chips if that’s what you need)
2-3 Roma tomatoes, diced
1-2 large handfuls Spinach, roughly chopped
1.5-2 C (or 1 can) refried beans
2 C brown rice, warmed
1 C roasted corn (or roasted corn salsa)
any salsas that suit your fancy
salt and pepper to taste
fresh cilantro, minced
Sara’s favorite potatoes
(or any favorite potato of your choosing)
*optional: fresh lime juice


1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Dice the potatoes and prepare to your preference (I used my ‘favorite potato‘ recipe). Place the corn on a baking sheet and roast in the hot oven about 5 minutes.
2. Warm the brown rice and beans, separately. Dice the tomatoes, chop the spinach, and mince the cilantro.
3. Begin the layering – distributing evenly among each bowl! Tortilla chips, followed by brown rice, then beans, corn, spinach, tomatoes, and cilantro. Then surround the salad with the potatoes, and sprinkle with fresh lime juice if you desire.taco salad: tortilla chipstaco salad: rice and beans

…etc. until you get here…taco salad

Happy Cooking!

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grapefruitWhen I woke up on Sunday morning, I had the most insatiable craving for a juice. Perhaps because Spring is springing and therefore the weather was nice, or perhaps because I haven’t made a juice/smoothie since last Fall. Either way, I made a super delicious juice. And since I normally tell you all the benefits of a juice blend, here you go. Mangoes give our bodies β-carotene (which can be metabolized into vitamin A), magnesium, and vitamin C. Raspberries are an excellent source of antioxidants and phosphorous. We all know that cranberry juice is great for healthy kidney function (by preventing harmful bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall), but it also has antioxidant properties which improve cardiovascular health and help to prevent cancer. And my favorite component of this blend, the grapefruit. Grapefruits are a wonderful source of vitamin C which helps to lower cholesterol, maintain healthy blood cells, and increase resistance to viral infections. The pith of the fruit contains bioflavonoids – which you get when using a juicer, but are lost when using a citrus press. Also, be aware that vitamin C from freshly squeezed citrus deteriorates rapidly, so only juice what you’ll be immediately drinking – it’s not good for storage. This recipe makes about one 12-oz beverage!


1/2 C frozen mango
1/2 C frozen raspberries
fresh juice of 1/2-1 Ruby Red Texas Grapefruit (depending on your tartness preference)
1/2-3/4 C cranberry juice (depending on how thick you like your smoothie)


Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Enjoy!

Ruby Red Raspberry Reviver

Happy Blending!

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French Martini

Saturday afternoon I was lounging in the hammock, doing some knitting, and watching Mocha play in the slowly-returning foliage. After speaking with Jo, I decided to have an afternoon cocktail – and I’m certainly glad I did. I perused my cocktail book and looked for something I had all the ingredients for, and found the French Martini. This cocktail was super good! This recipe makes one 4-oz cocktail


2 oz vodka
1 oz raspberry liqueur
1 oz peach liqueur/schnapps


Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled shaker. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Enjoy responsibly!

French Martini

Happy Shaking!

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Hot Peppers 101

Primate readers will know Jo and I have a healthy obsession with hot peppers – though some could argue an unhealthy obsession..but as any South Texan can attest..it’s totally healthy! I was asked some questions by David over at FoodNearSnellville about handling hot peppers, and how to test or judge the level of ‘heat’ of a previously untasted pepper – and it was suggested I do a post discussing this very topic, Genius Idea! While Jo and I are fans of the habañero for heat and lovely flavor, they are definitely not for everyone. For some, the heat of a jalapeño can be a bit on the ‘hot’ side (right Dad? 😉 ). So everyone’s palate is different when it comes to flavor preference as well as heat tolerance. So here’s a little lesson in hot peppers!

Peppers are rated in Scoville Heat Units (SHU), as a scale for their piquancy, which I’ll include here. Zero (0) being no heat, and the hottest pepper on record, the Naga, coming in at 1,050,000 SHU. Peppers that are grown in hot, dry climates tend to be hotter to the taste. Also, as the pepper matures, the capsaicin levels peak causing a greater intensity in heat.

Let’s start with those deemed hot chilies:

Capsicum chinense: Habañero, Scotch Bonnet, Naga (hottest in the world, remember), and Datil.

onion and tiny pepperHabañero (Red Savina) – My favorite hot pepper that I’ve tasted! I love adding it to my various salsas, enchilada sauces, even sometimes to Chana masala when I’m in the mood. When I opt for a hot pepper, this is my go-to. What I often suggest to others when I use this bad boy, is to sub a serrano or jalapeno because they are on the hotter side of mild – sort of medium. Because the habbie is so hot, a little does go a long way..so if you know you love the flavor but can’t take the heat..omit the seeds, where most of the heat lives. 350,000- 580,000 SHU

Scotch Bonnet – Another hot hot hot pepper, can sometimes be called a habañero chili. Other peppers that fall in this same range include the Datil. 100,000-300,000 SHU

Capsicum annum: Serrano Chilies, Cayenne peppers

Cayenne peppers – The peppers are usually dried, ground, and baked into ‘cakes’ which are further ground and sifted into what you buy as powdered cayenne. It’s also popular as red pepper flakes. 30,000-50,000 SHU

Serrano chili peppers – These are hot peppers, though not as hot as those found in C. chinense. Serranos are very fleshy, therefore don’t dry very well, and come in a variety of colors – green, red, brown, yellow, or orange. 10,000-23,000 SHU

Moving on to medium and milder chilies:

Capsicum annum: Jalapeños, Cayenne, Cherry Pepper, Poblano Chili – to name a few. This group contains both hot (see above), medium, and sweet peppers (see below).

Chickpea Chili Flatbread1Jalapeños – Perhaps the most commonly known chili in use in the southern region of the US, this is a medium heat chili. Jalapeños are typically sold while still green, but can mature on the plant to a bright red. The red jalapenos, considered inferior to the green, are smoke-dried and become known as chipotle peppers. Chipotles are slightly hotter than their immature, plump jalapeño counterparts. Chipotles rank at 30,000-50,000 SHUs, whereas the Jalapeño itself ranks at only 2,500-8,000 SHUs.

Poblano Chili – It also goes by the names Pasilla, and when dried is called Ancho chilies. It tends to have a low/mild heat. You mostly see them green, but can mature into a deep, almost-black red color. This would be a good chili for roasting and turning into a sauce for Mexican dishes or for a mild salsa. 500-2,500 SHU

Lastly, the sweet side of peppers:

purple bell peppersCapsicum annum: Bell peppers – A sweet pepper, meaning less pungent, the bell pepper can come in a variety of colors: red, yellow, orange, green, purple, white, brown. And the color indicates when the pepper was picked – as they are all the same pepper. Green tends to be more bitter and less sweet (though not hot) than red, yellow, or orange. I’m personally quite fond of the red..but when it’s price is high I will opt for a yellow or orange, whatever’s on sale. I thoroughly enjoyed my purple bells from the Farmer’s Market last summer. When sweet bells are dried and ground, the result is paprika! 100-500 SHU

When working with peppers, be cautious. The seeds contain capsaicin, which can burn horribly if you get it in your eyes or mouth, even on your lips – it’s what they use to make mace and pepper spray. So unless you have a desire to mace yourself, be careful! I like to wash my hands immediately following the chopping of pepper; then rubbing my hands with lime or lemon juice, rubbing alcohol or booze, or canola/vegetable oil; then washing my hands again. I also wash my cutting board and knife, so as not to recontaminate my hands when I move on to other veggies. Let air dry, the towel you wipe your hands and utensils off with could pick up any residual capsiacin, which could end up kicking your butt the next time you use it (or wash it immediately). Some would tell you to wear latex gloves, but I personally don’t. I would worry my food would pick up the flavor of the gloves I was wearing – sometimes latex has that something…I’m not a fan. Soap and canola oil work perfectly fine for me..and you get a little extra moisturizer by giving your hands an oil rub-down..so double-bonus!

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While I think it’s clever to use my initials as the name of a panino (technically panini is plural, and I only had one sandwich), it also aptly describes what is in the sandwich – Spinach, Bell pepper, and Tomato! 🙂 I roasted the red bell pepper (see step 1 here) before toasting my panino in my lovely waffle/panini maker. This is for one sandwich, but you can easily double and make two!


two slices multi-grain bread (or any bread preference, a foccacia would also be nice)
1/2 roasted red bell pepper
1 tomato, sliced
handful of baby spinach
salt and pepper to taste
any fresh herbs such as cilantro, oregano, or rosemary
extra-virgin olive oil


1. Preheat your panini press on high. Lightly brush sliced bread with olive oil, and pre-toast bread while your slicing your tomatoes, washing your spinach, prepping your herbs.
2. Layer your sandwich: tomatoes, baby spinach, roasted red bell in any particular order. Top with fresh herbs and a extra drizzle of EVOO (if desired), and second bread slice. Close panini press, and toast until warmed through, about 8-10 minutes (depending on your toasty preference and panini press heat). Serve with any veggies, I liked peas and corn..along with some fries (but roasted potatoes would’ve been nice).

SBT panino

Happy Toasting!

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Happy St. Patty’s Day!!!! Every year, I make sugar cookie shamrocks for St Patty’s Day.. I used the white whole wheat sugar cookie dough, and cut them into shamrocks!raw shamrock cookie sugar shamrocks2

…dipped them in a basic green glaze (confectioner’s sugar and oat milk to the right viscosity, with green food coloring)….

sugar shamrock: dip into glaze

sugar shamrock: glazed

…and dusted them with green sugar sprinkles…

sugar shamrocks

These go great with a wee bit o’ vegan Bailey’s Irish Ice Cream!

Bailey's Irish Ice Cream

Happy Baking!

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Long time readers will recall that I moved from Albuquerque to Alexandria last August.  Now, I’ve finally gotten around to retooling my chocolate chip cookies for sea level.  Yay!  I know you’re asking yourself how I went six months without baking CC cookies, but ya know, I’ve been busy with the new job, making new friends, yada yada.  Anyway, here it is.


2 TBS flaxseed meal soaked in 1/4 C warm water

1.25 C AP flour

1 C oat flour

2 sticks Earth Balance buttery sticks

1 C turbinado sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp vanilla

1 bag chocolate chips

1 C nuts (optional)


1.  Soak the flaxseed meal in warm water for at least 10 minutes.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2.  Cream the Earth Balance with the sugar.

3.  Add vanilla and flaxseed goo.

4.  Add dry ingredients in a few stages, mixing each thoroughly.

5.  Mix in chips and nuts.  Taste test!

6.  Roll spoonfuls of dough into balls.

7.  Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.



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Ok, so maybe not technically Irish…but potatoes and kale are fairly Irish, right? So here’s a stew that you can serve at a St Patty’s Day celebration (or any other celebration of Celtic origin, or any other time for that matter)! This recipe makes quite a bit, I’d say about 6 servings…so it would be great for leftover lunches! You could also add about 1 C white beans to stretch it even further, if you like 🙂


4 C broth
3-4 C water
1 TBSP canola oil
3 large golden potatoes, diced
10-15 small red potatoes, halved
2-3 green onions, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
2 tsp thyme
salt and pepper to taste
2 large carrots, peeled and largely chopped
2-3 large potatoes2leaves kale (or spinach), prepped and chopped

Directions:carrots and kale

1. Warm canola oil over medium heat in a large stock pot. Add potatoes and green onions. Sauté about 8 minutes. Add liquid, salt, pepper, bay leaf and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.
2. Add carrots and kale, and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper to taste, and serve!

Irish Stew


Happy Cooking!

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pb filled carob cupcakes2It might be weird to celebrate a birthday for someone who has already died, but perhaps not..I mean, we do it for famous people and presidents, right? Why not someone we actually knew and loved.. so here it is. Today would’ve been Copper‘s 9th (observed) birthday…so I thought I’d bake some pooch-worthy peanut butter-filled carob cupcakes, and do a little pictography of his life with me.. hope you enjoy these photos as much as I do! I can’t help but laugh every time I see these..

In the beginning, just a few days after rescuing him…April 30, 2000 – at about 6 weeks old (according to the shelter)


Puppies grow fast, learn to high-five, and develop a face that will let them get away with anything…

copper102000peppercopper22001Then comes the first birthday…”More cake before I lose all my marbles, Momma..


As time goes by he’ll laugh, and he’ll mock….

copper laughingcopper with tongue..but some things never change..

06-17-05_copper sleeping

He was born a dog, but died a gentleman…copper b&w

Happy Birthday my Handsome Prince!

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dillHopefully Spring will be here soon, which means getting back into the garden. So here begins the reinstatement of the Relaxing With Gnomes category!

Dill is a crucial ingredient in chickpea noodle soup, among other recipes. Freshly cut, chopped leaves enhance the flavor of dips, herb butter, soups, and salads. The seeds are used in pickling and can also improve the taste of roasted or stewed vegetables. Try grinding the seeds to use as a salt substitute. Both the flowering heads and seeds are used in flavored vinegars and oils.

Dill (Anethum graveolens) is a hardy annual, native to the Mediterranean region and Southern Russia. It grows wild among the corn in Spain and Portugal and upon the coast of Italy, but rarely occurs as a cornfield weed in Northern Europe. It is considered one of the easiest herbs to grow, therefore it would make a perfect first herb for those who need to build confidence in their herb growing skills. It can grow easily from seed and likes to be planted in cool weather (a week or two before the last frost, but for those who don’t get too cold winters you can plant it in the fall). They develop long roots, so if planting in a pot be sure to take the long roots into account.

When growing this annual at home, you want to watch weed infestation..but you also want to choose carefully where you plant this baby. It is known to be exhaustive of soil fertility, thus you don’t want to plant it near fennel, angelica, or caraway. And like most herbs, dill loves the sun – but it will tolerate late afternoon shade.

Dill is traditionally known to have healing properties. One of these is relieving flatulence in infants by using dill water/tea – but I’m sure it’ll still work on those who are technically no longer infants but children at heart 😉 . In addition to a digestive aid, it has been traditionally used to induce sleep and the ancient Greeks believed that dill cured hiccups. Here are some easy recipes for tummy-healing dill.

To brew a stomach-soothing tea:

*Use two teaspoons of mashed seeds per cup of boiling water. Steep for ten minutes. Drink up to three cups a day.

To make a tincture:

*Take 1/2 to 1 teaspoon up to three times a day.

To treat colic or gas in children under 2 yrs old:

*Give small amounts of a weak tea. Many herbalists recommend combining dill and fennel to ease colic in infants.

Random tidbit: It can be used as a nail-strengthening bath when the seeds are crushed and diluted in water.

Happy Gardening!

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