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I went on a field trip to our Georgia State Capitol building yesterday. With a busload of third graders. Five of whom were my responsibility. All of us ended up having lunch an hour-and-a-half after our normal lunchtime. I wish I could say that there was something so cool at the capitol that it overshadowed that little lunch detail, but… At least I can say that the kids really were well-behaved and that helped make the trip not suck.

The one thing I can pat myself on the back for is that I took along a salad that I’d like to think would have made a real chef proud: Shaved Vegan Parmesan, sliced cucumber rounds, red bell pepper strips, corn kernels cut from the cob, and soaked raw pecans on a bed of baby spinach, arugula and cilantro and drizzled with a homemade vinaigrette. Okay, I know it doesn’t look “drizzled” in the photo. Frankly, it looks drowned, but in my defense, I hadn’t yet mixed it up. It really wasn’t more than a couple tablespoons worth, I swear.

Simple & Scrumptious Vinaigrette

3 Tbsp Raw Apple Cider Vinegar (I use Bragg’s)
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp minced garlic (packed in olive oil)
2 Tbsp fresh dill
2 Tbsp Jack Daniel’s(tm) Old No. 7 Mustard (gluten-free)
1 Tbsp hempseed

Place all ingredients except hempseed together in a small blender or food processor (I use a NutriBullet). Blend well, about 30-45 seconds. Pour into airtight container and stir in hempseed. Allow overnight to let the flavors develop fully.

You’re welcome to use freshly pressed garlic if you like – I find I like the jarred version just as well in dressings and usually reserve fresh garlic for dishes I’m going to cook.


Ain’t it purdy?

Okay, I’m going on a weird tangent right off the bat… Wanna come along? I chose this title for the post mostly because I like alliteration but also because creating beautiful food that also tastes delicious is a lovely aspiration – and still a wonderment for me because I can usually nail one aspect then fall short on the other. Generally speaking, my food tastes pretty good but ain’t so fair of face. I guess I’d rather it go like that, though I challenge myself to strike the balance on both. BUT… The title really popped a totally different thought into my head:

Oddments and Tweeks

Where did that come from? Thanks to Mr. Google, I know our dear pal Ms. Rowling is responsible for that (along with Nitwit and Blubber), beginning in Book 1 of the Harry Potter series. According to a quick search, the Oddment part refers to Slytherin and Tweek to Hufflepuff. I’ll let you do your own research and drawn your own conclusions if you’re so inclined.

I like the way they sound together… Oddment and Tweek. And I think there’s a cooking analogy here: we often use the odd, leftover bit of something or many somethings to create something scrumptious on its own, tweaking a tried-and-true recipe here and there depending on what we happen to have on hand. It’s really the essence of home cooking – making your food uniquely part of YOU!

So… I couldn’t have bought a thought as coherent as anything above when I was actually in the kitchen cooking this last night. I got the quinoa cooked with relative ease but everything devolved from there. The eight-year-old came home from playing and I had to crack the whip on him to do his homework, walking him painstakingly through each step as he yawned at me and threatened to tear up (a clear, non-verbal “back-off, Mommy”) while the three-year-old did his best impression of a thirteen-year-old PMSing girl… Burst out crying that I was “angry at him” when I told him he couldn’t have his hot dog yet (because it was still too hot for him to eat, for crying out loud… and boy, was it loud!).

I thought I would have, in the end, two recipes to share. I was really keen on that idea because it would have been like a two-fer: Almost all the same ingredients, one prep session, lots of leftovers. In my book, that’s just about perfection! Alas, it’s more like one and a half… And half a recipe doesn’t really translate so well, so I’ll outline it but you’re on your own if you choose to stumble along the path with me.

So there was my disclaimer; here’s my caveat: you can just make a bigger pot of soup if you want to use all the ingredients. Add water or chicken stock or a second box of potato leek soup as it suits you. You’ll see what I mean.

Pretty ingredients, all in a row.

Quinoa Corn Soup and Quinoa Corn Muffins*

(*partial recipe – proceed at your own risk)

1 cup quinoa (uncooked) – I mixed 1/2 c white and 1/2 c red
2 ears corn
1 small sweet onion
1 jalapeno
1 box of Imagine Potato Leek Soup
Seasonings to taste – I used salt, Nature’s Seasonings and an Adobo mix from Fresh Market

Rinse the quinoa then add to 2 cups of water in a large pot. Bring to a boil, stir a couple times then turn down to the lowest setting and cover. Cook for 10-15 minutes until water is absorbed.

While quinoa is cooking, dice the onion and the jalapeno (keep the seeds if you like it spicier – I did not this time) and slice the corn off the cob. Mix all three together in a large mixing bowl then add the cooked quinoa, stirring well to mix and add seasonings. Taste test and be aware that the Potato Leek soup is fairly bland on its own. The quinoa will begin to cook the veggies just a little; that’s fine.

Really? The ingredients are so simple and fresh, it’s pretty much edible at this point. Yum!

Pour the boxed soup into the quinoa pot and begin heating it. Once it’s warmed a bit, mix about half the quinoa veggie mixture in IF YOU’RE MAKING BOTH RECIPES. Otherwise, make sure you’ve got enough liquid to handle the whole batch of quinoa veggies.

So the bowl is half eaten… It was delicious and I was really quite famished.

With what’s left of the quinoa veggies, if you’re brave enough, mix in two beaten eggs once the quinoa has cooled a bit (otherwise the eggs will cook up too quickly). Oil a cupcake pan well and press a generous amount of the quinoa-veggie-egg mixture tightly into each cup, overfilling them above the top just a bit so they’ll look like muffins. Bake at 400 degrees for about 25-30 minutes until lightly browned on top.

Wow… That second part sounds like a whole recipe, doesn’t it? Here’s why it’s not really: I couldn’t get the darn things out of the muffin cup in one piece. Oh, sure, here’s a pretty picture of one:

Food styling at its, erm, decent-est?

But I totally faked it. They tasted fine – the hubby had three for dinner and I had two for breakfast, but I think they need some tweaks. And maybe the addition of some shredded potatoes. And maybe some bacon. Because everything’s better with bacon, right?


Where I went scrounging around for a meal last night, tonight I was determined to make something more… Wholesome. Four-fifteen this morning found me in the midst of a triage, cleaning up my eldest son’s bloody nose caused by overheating as he slept. I hadn’t gone back to sleep so by the time I got off work at 3:30 p.m., I barely had enough juice to make it home. A “quick” two-hour nap later (really, I set the alarm for 45 minutes!), it was after 7 p.m. and I almost gave in. But I needed this tonight.

The title says “better”, which begs the question, “How so?” In large part, because it is NOT a store-bought, rubbery hockey puck. It is light, crunchy and delicious, whether you choose to bake them or pan-fry them. Go wild with your toppings – you won’t regret it!


Sweet Potato Quinoa Burger

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa (mixed red and white)
1/2 sweet onion, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup raw pepitas
1/2 sweet potato, shredded
1 egg
1/2 cup garbanzo flour
Salt, pepper, garlic powder and red chili pepper, to taste – don’t be shy, season these guys up!

Put raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds) into 1 cup of hot water; set aside to soak while quinoa cooks.

In a large pot, add quinoa to a cup of water, bring to a boil then cover and reduce to lowest heat. Simmer for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed then fluff and allow to cool a bit.

Combine onion, pepper, sweet potatoes and egg in a large mixing bowl. Season well and set aside.

Drain and rinse pepitas then pulse in a food processor to a rough chop. No need to over process these; just get them broken down so they don’t end up being too huge of a chunk in your final product.

Add pepitas and quinoa to the mixing bowl and mix well with your hands (as you would a meatloaf). Begin adding garbanzo flour, sprinkling in a tablespoon or two at a time, mixing well between each addition. Use as much as you need to take away the excess wet of the egg, adding more if needed. It doesn’t need to be too dry, just not runny.

Form into patties and bake in the oven at 375 degrees for 25 minutes, flipping once in the middle. Alternatively, pan-fry in coconut oil on medium for a few minutes per side. Or you can bake THEN pan-fry briefly to crisp the burger up. Any way you decide, you’ll enjoy a fulfilling meal. I topped mine with mashed avocado and roasted garlic-infused olive oil then opted to skip the bread and wrap it in a romaine lettuce leaf. So good I had a second – and my hubby had a THIRD!

That’s what I call success. Now if I could just convince my offspring to try them…


Sunflower Seed Avocado:: Persnickety Eater

Sunny, delicious, gorgeous!

Who has a thirty-minute lunch break? Oh yeah, I do! Who has a full-service cafeteria right in their lunchroom? That would be me, too. We’ll call it a “perk” of working at a large manufacturing facility – breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, if you please. Heck, I could even drive up there in the middle of the night, were I so inclined. Trust me, I’ve eaten way more than my fair share of mediocre meals, mindless snacks, and unnecessary desserts from there. It’s a well-run organization – the people are nice and will make special orders with a smile.


It’s not MY food. And that’s a big deal to me. I generally select different kinds of foods entirely than what they normally offer. In particular, I rarely eat anything canned or prepared and they often have several dishes of that nature.

So, what’s a busy mommy of two who works full time supposed to eat for lunch? Sandwiches? Most of the time my response to that would be, “Meh.”


I stumbled up an idea not long ago. Granted, it was born out of a slight desperation. Still, it felt “inspired” and so, I share it here in the hopes a few of you might enjoy it as well.

    Sunflower Avocado

Take about 1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds and soak them in some warm or hot water for the 30-45 minutes prior to when you’re ready to eat. Drain and rinse at chow time. Grab an avocado and dig out half of it (leave the pit in the other half to help keep it fresh). Mash that green goodness up well then mix in the soaked sunflower seeds. Add a sprinkle of salt, a dash of pepper, a dusting of garlic powder and just a smidgen of olive oil (I keep these four in my desk and use them almost daily). Spread the mixture on some toasted crusty bread and, if you happen to be so blessed, add some fresh, homegrown tomatoes. It’ll give you an open-faced sandwich and you’ll love every juicy bite!


I might be in love. With two things, actually. The soup I threw together this evening and… Parsley. I’m not in love with having to write this post for the second time since I’m still coordinating the iPhone app with the online postings… Oh well. Some of my witty thoughts may be missing from this version. Can only hope I’ve learned my lesson: refresh the app before you edit and update the post!

Soup is a fickle friend to our family. I think I might be the only one who really likes it. My two little boys won’t eat it and my husband seems to view it as the last bastion of the ailing – he’ll usually only eat it if he’s sicker than a dog. Add to that my lack of proficiency in soup-making and, well, I don’t really hold it against him that this dish didn’t thrill him.

On the other hand, I was tickled pink with the results! This recipe was simple, filling, economical and protein-packed with an anti-inflammatory boost from the parsley. Parsley: it’s not just a throw-away garnish!

Edamame and Quinoa Corn Soup

1/3 c white quinoa (mine was pre-rinsed)
1 bag Cascadian Farms brand frozen, shelled edamame
1 1/2 c Imagine brand Organic Creamy Corn Soup
1/2 sweet onion, diced fairly large
1/8 c parsley, roughly chopped
Seasonings to taste (a dash of cayenne and a bit more salt are must haves)

Add the quinoa to 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low simmer and cover for about 10 minutes. Add the frozen edamame and corn soup; increase heat to medium and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently to keep quinoa from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Add onion and seasonings of choice – I like Nature’s Seasonings blend and a Kroger Pizza Seasonings blend in addition to cayenne and salt. Oh, and garlic powder. Cook for about 5 more minutes and test/adjust seasonings as needed. After a couple more minutes, turn off heat and add parsley (please don’t just skip it, I’m begging you – you’ll love what it adds). Serve immediately with crusty wheat bread and olive oil for dipping the bread.

Sometimes, just sometimes, things are so tasty that I’m not really all that sorry that I’m the only one in the house who eats them!

What ingredients are your favorite to use when you’re low on time, cash or patience and you need some at least a half-homemade fare?


So, I thought to myself, if I can post to my Blogger blog through an app on my iPhone, surely I can post to my WordPress blog that way as well!

Why in the world did THAT epiphany take so long?!? I’m not sure that my family will love that I’m “playing” on my phone more, but can I tell you, I’m ecstatic!!

Ahem. Mistress of Whatshouldhavebeen Obvious may step aside now so Madame Playsinthekitchen uhLot can take her place.

I like the idea of whole grain dishes that can be eaten cold or room temperature but, having tried making them in the past, I’ve never been thrilled with the results. They are just sort of… Bland. When I make them, that is. Apparently, the Whole Foods folks are far more adept at it than I am. Until… I hit on a simple (and probably obvious) solution: add the “dressing” to the freshly cooked, still hot grains!! Hahaha – Duh!

Wheat Berries with Dried Cranberries and Pecans
1 cup wheat berries
1/4 c dried cranberries
1/4 c raw pecans
1/4 c olive oil
4T raw apple cider vinegar
4T powdered cactus honey

Soak, drain, rinse and cook wheat berries according to package directions. While that is cooking (which takes a while), soak the pecans in room temperature water. When the wheat berries only have a few minutes of cooking time left, mix the powdered honey into the apple cider vinegar and stir to dissolve. Add olive oil and whisk briskly to combine. Drain fully cooked wheat berries then return to pot and pour in olive oil mixture. Add dried cranberries and stir well. Drain and rinse the pecans thoroughly then add to pot; stir to combine. Allow to sit and cool then transfer to fridge. Enjoy cold or at room temperature!

What are your favorite grains to use for “salads” like these?


So tasty I almost forgot to get a photo before it was gone!

Economy of ingredients has been an important focus for me lately. When you’re eating in restaurants a lot, as I have a tendency to do when my life gets stupid busy, you lose a gauge for how much an appropriate portion size for you is as well as how many of which ingredients comprise the larger portions you’re consuming. It’s easy, then, when you (ostensibly) return to your own kitchen, to go way overboard with ingredients. This can happen even if you’re working from a recipe. For home cooks like me who tend to just start pitching stuff in pots, well, sometimes you end up with a ridiculous amount of food. That can lead quickly to moldy leftovers because, really, who cares to eat ten servings of Quinoa Minestrone or Mama Hummus over the course of five days. I love the stuff, but I’ll be the first to state categorically “NOT ME!” (And, believe me, I can put away some Mama Hummus!) None of us wants to know we’ve wasted not only food, but the money and time required to prepare it, too.

Stand-by recipes, then, become vital go-tos as we near the end of our own unique buying cycles – these are recipes I call upon that are versatile enough to allow for unending variety in the amount of each required element along with the capacity to utilize most any remainder ingredients.

Enter the Almighty Frittata! When it’s almost time to go to the grocery store, but you absolutely need to use up what you have on hand before then, frittatas are a nearly perfect vehicle. I only add the caveat “nearly” because they’ll obviously not be an option if you don’t eat eggs; however, if you do, these meals-in-a-pan are wonderful!

Back to the portion control, frittatas are useful in two ways. First off, the size of your pan largely dictates how much total frittata you can make. I usually use a deep-sided frying pan that has a well-fitting lid. Secondly, you can use just about any leftover ingredient, raw or pre-cooked, in the making of these beauties. I usually find mine filled with onion (there’s ALWAYS an onion around), some variety of peppers, and often enough yellow or zucchini squash. Once upon a day, there was a good portion of cooked hamburger crumbles, though not so much for me anymore. A little cooked, leftover quinoa would be an excellent protein replacement for meat.

Here’s the key: it doesn’t have to be much of anything! An eighth of a cup of diced bell peppers, a quarter of a diced onion, half a cup of meat – really any veggie you can slice, dice, chop or grate!

Perusing my crisper drawer yesterday, I actually found a couple ingredients I’d never used in a frittata before. Et voila! The Caulifrittata was born!


1 cup of cauliflower crowns, chopped fairly small
1/8 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup bell peppers, diced (whatever color you happen to have is fine)
1/8 cup onions, diced (again, whatever type you have on hand)
2-3 organic eggs, lightly beaten
Splash of milk mixed into eggs (optional)
Handful of shredded cheese (optional)
Seasoning blend of your choice

Sauté the veggies in an oil of your choice (I prefer extra virgin coconut oil most of the time) until the cauliflower starting losing their opacity. Using a spatula, move the veggies toward the middle of the pan in an even layer, leaving about an inch around the edges of the pan. Sprinkle on a seasoning blend and add some cheese if you are so inclined (I used Veggie Shreds). Allow the cheese to melt only a little then pour the egg mixture in the center. Turn the pan so the egg gets evenly distributed then push some of the veggies back toward the edges. Turn the heat very low and cover.

Check after about 15-20 minutes – when the edges look set but the center is still “wet”, drain off any excess liquid (mostly water from the cauliflower) using a large spatula to hold the frittata in the pan then continue to cook uncovered for another 5-10 minutes. When the top looks pretty firm and the edges nice and brown, turn off the heat and allow the frittata to rest on the stove for a few minutes. Slice, serve and enjoy!

Servings: 2-4, depending on your appetite!

This recipe is great as a make-ahead, too, because it travels well and heats very quickly in a microwave. Also, it’s easy to enjoy for ANY meal of the day.

What ingredients do you always find you have on hand prior to a grocery store trip? Would they be good in a frittata? Dare to get funky and give them a try!

Persnickety Eater :: Sweet Potato Pancakes

Mmm… Thanksgiving in a Pancake!

Hmm… What’s a mommy to do when her offspring eschew vegetable matter in almost every form? HIDE IT!

So, I’m not proud of this, per se, but it has become a bit of a necessary evil. Hopefully it will be a temporrary measure. Besides, these really were delicious, I have to admit, and economical to boot.

While I’ve been avoiding dairy for the past couple months (and truly enjoying the results of this decision), I have found that a limited amount of milk or butter that is cooked or baked into something doesn’t seem to upset my stomach. I won’t drink a glass of milk or spread butter on a piece of bread – I’ll use soy, almond or coconut milk and soy-free, buttery spread from Earth Balance instead. Cheese and yogurt will turn me into a crampy mess if I eat even the tiniest bit, and I haven’t had the nerve to try ice cream.

In order to have the leeway to make a single meal that all of us can enjoy AND that I have the opportunity to add veggies to, I know I can almost alway count on pancakes, even though they usually contain milk and butter. I have to acknowledge that if I try to get “too weird” with the pancakes, altering them to be wholly vegan, I’ll be the only one eating them. So this recipe is a very traditional pancake recipe with the addition of a sweet potato and an adjustment of the milk.

Sweet Potato Pancakes

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar
  • 2 cups organic milk
  • 1 organic egg
  • 3 tablespoons organic butter, melted
  • 1 sweet potato, baked and mashed with a fork
  • A handful of praline pecans, powdered sugar, maple syrup or agave nectar (optional toppings)


  1. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. In a separate bowl, mix the milk, egg, butter and sweet potato. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients; mix until smooth. Add more milk if needed to thin the batter.
  2. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Flip when edges are dry and bubbles begin to form on top. Brown on both sides and serve hot with toppings of your choice.

I think I’d like this just as well with pumpkin in place of sweet potato. Or for a fun treat, use purple sweet potatoes! 

What vegetable would you try adding?


I am not a huge fan of pasta salads – usually too much mayo (settle down, turning tummy) and the noodles are often overcooked. Plus, for some unfathomable reason, black olives seem to be everyone else’s favorite addition. Even the smallest amount of these sneaky blighters is too much for me – it messes up the flavors of everything else. If you like ’em, be my guest, but none on mine, please and thank you. Oh yeah, and most people go heavy on the pasta, light on the veggies. Wrong ratio, in my humble opinion.

That said, I will get a hankering for pasta salad occasionally, especially when I am reminded how economical and easy they can be to make. In addition, they keep well for a couple days, so you can enjoy a quick, light bite on the run. I like to make it with small pasta, like mini spirals or mini bow ties. Half a box is usually plenty, making it about $0.75 worth of pasta for several servings of salad. Yay!


½ box mini spirals (I got the Barilla with added fiber)
1T Extra virgin coconut oil
Salt & garlic powder, to taste
½ green bell pepper, diced
½ red bell pepper, diced
A couple stalks of celery, sliced or diced
1 large carrot, shredded
¼ red onion, diced
2-3T mayo (barely enough to lightly coat noodles)


¼ c extra virgin olive oil
1T apple cider vinegar
1T Jack Daniels “dirty” mustard
Juice of half a lemon
Italian / Pizza Seasoning (I found this in a grinder)

Cook the noodles al dente, drain, return to pot and add coconut oil. Mix thoroughly then add salt and garlic powder to taste. (At this point, try not to munch all the pasta immediately – it’s SO GOOD just plain like this.) Mix in diced veggies then add mayo and stir well. In a separate bowl, mix all dressing ingredients together and stir to blend well. Don’t bother too much with tasting this – it’s very sour from the lemon juice; just trust that it’s really stinkin’ good, especially once chilled. Pour over noodles and veggies and stir well. Serve immediately if you like it warm-ish or refrigerate overnight – Delicious either way!

P.S. Along with black olives, as a general rule, I am no fan of mustard. This “whiskey mustard” (as I’ve nicknamed it) is a rule breaker and makes a really nice addition to this dish. Up soon, a recipe for baked beans with this same mustard!

P.P.S. What? There are garbanzo beans in the picture, you say? Oh yeah… Well, I added them for protein / fiber but I didn’t really care for them after all. Add them if you’d like – about 1/2 a cup should do.

What’s a dish you normally don’t like but have found a way to personalize so that you can enjoy it on occasion?

Right out of the gate I will warn you: I’m a chia novice, but playing with this stuff makes for some serious, “test kitchen” fun.

I do wish I had some pictures for this post. However, hydrated chia looks more than a bit sketchy (mucilaginous is how some other sites describe it – Ew!), so until I have this recipe perfected, I’ll hold off on the photo shoot. It’s just that I can’t wait that long to at least share the basics.

To start off, I added 1/3 cup of chia seed to 2 cups of water. This is just a proportion I stole from a random website; I’m pretty sure you could use just about any proportions you need to get a “gel” consistency that you like. It seems like a 1:3 ratio of seed to water is about the minimum, but, hey, have fun trying out different things!

I stirred the chia in the water pretty continuously for several minutes, playing with it, watching the gel begin to form. What my [15-minute, Google-based] research told me was that I could use this gel after about 10 minutes or put any remaining gel in the fridge in a sealed container for a long time. Suffice it to say, they suggested times far longer than I would be willing to attempt at this stage of the game.

My original idea was to do a “pudding” of some sort and as I began hunting around the kitchen for likely victims ingredients, I found my bottle of Barlean’s Total Omega Vegan Swirl. It’s fruity (blueberry and pomegranate) and a vegan source of Omega 3-6-9… And it cost a small fortune so it behooves me to use it up prior to its “Best By” date.

Mind you, this was just a test run, so I mixed 1T of Barlean’s with 4T of the chia gel because it seemed about right. The mixture is very runny and I suspect (after more reading) that I probably could have just put the chia seed straight into the Barlean’s. But that’s not how I roll. Er… Actually, I just didn’t think of it until after I’d started hydrating the seed in water.

Since it wasn’t yet a consistency I could convince my 2-year-old to try, I scanned around the kitchen again and my gaze fell on… Bananas! They mush up nicely, right? Yup, that’ll do.

So I mashed a banana, mixed in the chia-Barlean’s mixture and gave some to the munchkin. He “mmmmm’d” through the first couple bites then decided “not so much” and just played with it instead. I suspect texture was a culprit here because I wasn’t so keen on it (though I did try a bite, too). What to do, what to do?


This step, I approached with some trepidation. I don’t actually have a proper source saying, absolutely yes, you may freeze this without unintended side effects.* So I gave it a shot. I know, it doesn’t sound like me – too risky, right?

Well, after about 20 minutes or so, the edges had frozen into a nice, almost fro-yo texture. The chill on the gel made it less slimy, which was also nice. I put it back in the freezer for a while longer, more of it began to freeze over and I liked it even better.

Some observations:

—  It thaws rather quickly when it’s not fully frozen
—  As it thaws, it get slimy
—  Slimy is not a texture I prefer
—  The next batch will be frozen MUCH longer
—  I think I may skip the water in a future batch and just hydrate with the Barlean’s to increase the thickness
—  Whatever the hydrating medium, I will soak the seeds longer before freezing to get most of the “crunchy” of the seeds out
—  I will also try adding soaked, ground almonds in a future batch, just because that sounds good to me

There you have it. I’ll revisit the infamous chia forthwith once, betwixt the twain of us, we have had many more adventures!

*In the several hours that it’s taken me to write this post amidst bedtime for my boys and TV show clips my husband had DVR’d that he just HAD to show me so he can get them “cleaned off”, I had the lovely raw chef Victoria Moon, proprietor of Permission to Heal, verify for me that, yes, “chia is sturdy” and can be frozen. Yay!! Thank you.

Mmm... So fresh and tasty!

Since it’s summertime and that’s the time for T-O-M-A-T-O-E-S, I have a fully summer dish, almost entirely prepared from purchases I made this morning at our local Suwanee Farmers Market. (Some extra virgin Australian olive oil is the only ingredient I acquired elsewhere.)

Colorful and Lovely

First, I had to refrain from eating all the tomatoes. Seriously. They are so perfectly ripe and delicious, I almost couldn’t help myself. I think I did eat close to a third of these plain before I was finished with the salsa!

I have culled you, my pretties!

I decided to go with the larger, green tomatoes and the medium-sized dark purplish tomatoes because they seemed to jump out at me. The other little ones are easy to pop in my mouth, but these larger ones? Not so much. Too much of a squirty-texture issue for me, if you’ll kindly forgive my oddities.

The ingredients, gathered and ready to go.

 The onion was just a small, sweet, white one that I diced then halved – part for the processor, the other to give the final product chunkiness. I’d never tried these lovely peppers before but went on the advice of the growers that they are mild. At only $2 for a dozen or so, I knew I couldn’t go wrong at least giving them a try. The garlic is from last week’s market trip – a luscious variety so very different from grocery store commodities as to be an almost wholly other species.

They're so green, they look like little melons.

 These just made me smile – practically perfect, bright green – I might be in love.

Sure wish I knew what variety these are...

 So very juicy I had to slice them carefully over top of the food processor’s bowl so I didn’t lose even a drop of their goodness.

Think I diced it finely enough?

 Not wanting to take a chance that I’d get this salsa hotter than I could handle, I removed the seeds and diced the little green pepper finely.

Almost ready for go-time!

 Full food processor – time to add a splash of olive oil (probably about 2 tablespoons or so) and fire that puppy up!

Hmm... Doesn't look terribly appetizing, does it?

 There really wouldn’t have been anything wrong with leaving the salsa like this. After I processed it, I mixed in the diced onions that I’d reserved, but it was just so watery that it didn’t seem “finished”. What else did I buy today, what else could fill this out? Hmm…


Salsa finished - ready to hang out in the fridge and "mingle".

 So much better and perfectly acceptable to eat as-is. So I did. Eat some. Then tried to figure out what else I could slather it over. Then remembered that I’d only finished breakfast about 30 minutes earlier. Not to mention the half pint or so of tomatoes I ate while I was fixing it. Yeah.

So it’s hanging out in my refrigerator, flavors getting good and matured together. I’m still not sure what I’ll do with it, but guaranteed I’ll enjoy the fool out of it!

Have window sill, can grow.

This could possibly be the most exciting thing I’ve ever done. No, really. I think it might even beat out the time when I was 18 and talked two elderly, retired gentlemen I’d never met before to motor me around Lake Lanier (in North Georgia) to find some friends who were out on a sailboat I’d never seen before and that had no working radio on board.

I. Am. Growing. Something. Edible.

Beans + Water + Time = Sprouts

Purposely. For the very first time. Ever.

They were shrivelled before they went into the cold water. I promise.

So, yeah, you can get technical with me if you really must and point out that I’m only sprouting them, not actually growing them into full and proper plants that will produce more of the same.

Bah, I say – These suckers are G-R-O-W-I-N-G!

Look at these lovely little sprouts!

Admittedly, I’m a little nervous about actually eating them once they’re grown. Especially since I missed a rinse cycle this morning. The instructions for sprouting all have a ring of absolute authority to them and I have no previous experience, even as a bystander, so I’m wary. I’ve rinsed them well to try and get the slightly slippery feeling mostly gone. There’s also a portion of the batch that’s grown more than the rest so I’ve separated them out. The “less grown” have gone back into my sprouting jar and the “more grown” (I’m tempted to call them “horny”) are in the process of drying out so I can seal them and refrigerate them until tomorrow.

It's horny... Like a unicorn!

Upcoming: Sprouted Raw Almond Hummus – Because I’m soaking some almonds now, too. Wheee!

Wow... Now I want ANOTHER!

There’s a lot of stuff in this one besides chicken, so I’m tempted to come up with another name for it. Honestly, though? I’m doing well enough as it is to be sitting at the computer writing a blog post. Not that I haven’t been at the computer enough already today (read: “real” work from 6:15 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) (yes, those times are correct) (no, I don’t intend to repeat that again tomorrow as I have already logged similar hours the first three days this week), it’s just that I really liked my thrown-together version and wanted to share it. Immediately. As in, without waiting for the Creativity Genie to show up and give me a good name for this concoction.

For the record, I categorized this as “Convenient & Conscious”, but truth be told, it’s closer to the former and rather far from the latter in most respects. Still, I made it myself which meant I had control of the constituent elements. Always a good thing in my book!

I started with a lemon pepper rotisserie chicken from our friendly, neighborhood Publix. I’d had a thought that I might just pick up some pre-made chicken salad from their deli but what I found in the case was far too “wet” for my preference. Yuck-o to mayo! Okay, most mayo, most of the time, the way most people wield it.

The chicken contributed the better part of one breast. Yes, I could have picked the carcass clean, but I had been hungry when I left work, driven to Publix, navigated the after-work crowds, and finished my drive home. I diced it up pretty small because I’m opposed to getting a huge chunk in my mouth. Textural issues, mm-hm.

Then I diced two celery ribs into small cubes, about the same size as the chicken. Good for crunch! Next I added about half a bag of – don’t shoot me – SunMaid Fruit Bits. I liked the variety: apples, raisins, peaches, prunes, apricots. Who could resist?

I contemplated adding nuts and settled on pinenuts. I don’t think they’re real nuts (seeds, maybe?) but they’re the sort of crunchy I was hoping to get. A sprinkle of pepitas (a.k.a. hulled, roasted, salted pumkin seeds) followed, then a very obnoxious generous helping of hempseeds. At the end of it all, I mixed in some Smart Balance mayo – the smallest amount I felt like I could get by with and have it seem close enough to something I could reasonably call “chicken salad”. I don’t know why it needed to fit under that umbrella, it just did. Deal.

It stinks that my husband is probably going to finish off the rest of it that I didn’t have for dinner but I suppose he’s entitled to eat, too. Drat!

Oh! And the wrap was a brand I’d never tried before but really enjoyed: La Tortilla Factory’s Smart & Delicious Whole Grain White Soft Wraps made with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Each tortilla wrap is only 100 calories and has 13 grams of FIBER – that’s 52% of the RDA. Wheeee! They’re just a little stretchy rather than the dry, brittle standard flour tortillas you get grocery-marketing. I’m not brave enough to try making my own tortillas – okay, well, I really just don’t want to get the whole counter all flour-y – so these will do just fine.

What do you put in YOUR chicken salad?


Wondering how to make your tuna salad better than the slop they serve at the diner on the corner? There are lots of simple ways to improve on the standard tuna-mayo-relish-bread that many of us grew up eating. I must confess, though; I never ate tuna salad before I met my husband. It’s true: Never. I don’t like mayonnaise, fish has never been a favorite, and eating COLD fish always just seemed so ew!

Nevertheless, the hubby convinced me [shocker] to try it out. On Ritz crackers, of course. And I really enjoyed his version! Pretty standard alternate combo: tuna-hard boiled egg-mayo-salt-pepper. I’d never eaten egg salad before either so it was a totally new thing altogether.

There are several small ways to turn this into a conscious, while still convenient, meal that’s delicious to boot. Encorporate them all together for the most impact or simply choose the ones that you are most comfortable using.

Tuna: go for a wild-caught tuna that has a low mercury content, like Oregon’s Choice.

Eggs: Locally-sourced, organic, pastured chicken eggs provide the highest quality but may not be readily available in your area. Check your local supermarket, farmers market or CSAs to find ethically produced eggs.

Mayonnaise: If you’re feeling particularly motivated, you can certainly make your own. Or there are plenty of organic, vegetarian and vegan options in the average grocery store. We usually have one made with canola or olive oil hanging around our refrigerator.

Celery: Since you’ll be eating all of the stalk (i.e. there’s no peel to remove), it’s best to go for organic to minimize your exposure to unwanted pesticide residue. If that’s not an option, wash well with a fruit & vegetable wash. I like to diced mine into small squares to maximize their CRUNCH potential!

Salt: A good quality celtic sea salt or other salt that hasn’t been stripped of its naturally occuring minerals, like Himalayan pink sea salt really enhances both the flavor and the nutrient profile. Conventional table salt that’s been treated with caustic chemicals is a wholly different, non-nutritional additive that can contribute to a host of maladies, including high blood pressure. Not. Good.

Pepper: Get out your grinders! Use any variety of whole peppercorn you prefer, grinding it fresh into your tuna salad as the final ingredient. Such a wonderful flavor that really contributes depth to the taste profile of the whole dish.

Finally, get creative with your presentation. Sure, you can always dig out some stale crackers, but why not give it a gorgeous green gown? I piled mine on crisp green leaf lettuce and baby spinach leaves then sprinkled hempseeds on top. Roll into a wrap and voila!

Patience Required to Photograph before Enjoying

I do so adore the color green.

Whenever the kitchen beckons to me all the way home from work, even forcing a $30 sidetrip to Kroger for specific ingredients, it’s a call I must heed. It’s also probably not the time to be nearby unless you don’t mind being a guinea pig trying out my sometimes-unusual creations. If your palette is limited (as mine was for the first three decades of my life), you’d better high-tail it before I harangue you – in a congenial way, of course – about being “a picky wuss”. Or something more colorful if I know you well enough.

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Mountain Rose Herbs

Mountain Rose Herbs