Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Strawberry Blueberry Mango Chia Jam... Homemade and Pectin Free!

I'm hereby proclaiming 2015 my "year of the chia seed".  That tiny little seed is finding its way into all sorts of my recipes from smoothies to pancakes, but one of my favorite uses is in jam.

A good homemade jam brings the farmer's market to your table, but I've always struggled with the huge amounts of sugar and the use of pectin in many homemade and commercial versions.  I'm not sure why the pectin bothers me so much, heck, it's in apples, right?   But for some reason, pouring that powder from a box into my beautiful freshly chopped strawberries is a no go for me.

Hence, we've switched to chia for our gelling needs, and I have beautiful jam (though not as "set" as a pectin gelled jam) with only fresh ingredients.  Adding seasonal fruits (or in winter frozen varieties) we can save nature's goodness in a bottle and bring amazing nutritional benefits to a simple PBJ.

Did you know chia brings 70% more protein than soybeans, 25% more fiber than flaxseed, more calcium than milk and more potassium than a banana?

Soaked in liquid, chia seeds (filled with soluble fiber) swell up to 10 times their weight and form a gel-like outer layer which, in the digestive system, actually slows down the conversion of carbohydrates to sugar and in turn helps stabilize blood sugar.  In addition, the seeds high soluble fiber content also helps to control cholesterol levels.  And in addition again, the gelled seeds work to "gel" our jam!

So today we bring our latest jam featuring some of the best local California strawberries of the season.  Plump, juicy and sweet, these berries mixed beautifully with farmer's market blueberries and a handful of chopped mango (we actually used frozen from Trader Joes).  Simple, sweet and good for you, feel free to slather this jam without any of the guilt from store bought, sugar-laden varieties.  Enjoy this spring in a bottle!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Lemony Kale Salad with Goji Berries, Farro and Pistachio

Lemony Kale Salad with Goji Berries, Farro and Pistachio

If you had told me a year ago I'd be making myself a salad of mostly kale I would have bet you were wrong.  And I would have lost.

Way behind the kale bandwagon, I've finally found a love for this somewhat tough leafy green.  Or in my case, purple.

A farmer's market find of this beautifully ruffled, purple kale has me positively hooked.  We started adding it to our morning blended juice, then it found its way sprinkled into salads, and now it's evolved into a salad all on its own.

Lemon Blossoms
Lemon blossoms setting for next season's fruit!
Dressed with lemons from Dad's tree, a splash of white balsamic vinegar and a touch of avocado oil, the salad balances with chopped cucumber, sweet goji berries that plump resting in the dressing, and about a cup of farro - another new find.

Originating in the Fertile Crescent (a crescent-shaped region containing the comparatively moist and fertile land of otherwise arid and semi-arid Western Asia, the Nile Valley and Nile Delta of northeast Africa, it was also near Asia Minor or known as Anatolia - from Wikipedia), Farro has been found in the ancient tombs of Egyptian Kings and is said to have fed the Roman Legions.  Italian's have used the grain as an valued ingredient for centuries, and farro is now gaining popularity in the US.

My reading on farro has actually left me a little confused as to exactly what it is and how to cook it and I often times have difficulty finding it in the store, but the 10-minute version found at my local Trader Joe's has made easy work and has brought a nice, al-dente grain to my salad.

So, with spring greens (or purples) appearing at the farmer's markets, don't forget to pick up a bunch (or two) of kale.  It's what's for lunch.

Lemony Kale Salad with Goji Berries, Farro and Pistachio

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Coconut Strawberry Chia Overnight Oats... they're meant to travel! #DanceMom

Ahhh.... the weekend!  Those used to mean leisurely mornings sleeping to our hearts content, then casually mixing pancakes till light and fluffy while sipping a second cappuccino.  Yep, those were the days.  The days before I became a Dance Mom.

Now weekends are filled with before sunrise call times, fluttery false eyelashes, a world glittering with rhinestones and duct tape, and meals on the fly.  Many days our mornings begin in hotels which occasionally include a breakfast in the deal, however my lactose intolerant dancer usually can't partake in the dairy-laden breakfast fare leaving us on our own and with not a lot of time to go in search of a healthy meal.

But as any good dance mom does, we've learned to improvise on the fly.  Liv loves her homemade hotel waffles (yes... travel with a waffle iron!), but I'm not much of a morning person and don't usually eat until much later.  Hence, I'm frequently left to what I can fit into my cooler, and Overnight Oats have become my turn to morning meal on the road.

Mixed together before we leave home, I keep my jar on ice and make my way out to my car after I have Liv set in the dressing room.  Packing sides of walnuts and shredded coconut I can close my eyes and almost see myself in some luxurious location... after all, the show is all about illusion, and with Coconut Chia Overnight Oats you can send yourself to the tropics, even if it is only for a few glorious moments.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup

Even here in sunny San Diego we sometimes need a "warm you to your bones" winter soup.  Hot and steamy, this particular soup also adds a spicy kick to heat you up just that much more.

Join me today as we bring you our latest submission to the Blogger C.L.U.E Society and make our way back to Colorado to Lea Ann at Cooking on the Ranch with Western Flair and Rocky Mountain Air!

Lea Ann brings fabulous recipes with a little something for everyone, and it didn't take me long to find a recipe fitting for our C.L.U.E March assignment - potatoes.  And does Lea Ann have some awesome potato recipes on her blog!  How about Potatoes Cooked in Banana Leaves?  Or the one that totally caught my eye, Twice Baked Potatoes with Poached Eggs?

However, with our family dietary restrictions (dairy-free), our quest for mostly plant-based foods, and a somewhat chilly day here in San Diego, it was the Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup that my husband chose as our recipe for the month.  (Funnily enough, we chose sweet potatoes last time we visited Lea Ann's blog in November!)

Filled with sweet potatoes, onions and apples, this soup receives a spicy kick from a spoonful of adobo, and then cools down with a drizzle of creamy coconut milk.  Spiced with ginger and a touch of my new favorite spice, turmeric, the soup bursts with flavors and warms you to your toes simply from the scent alone.

So here's hoping that your winter weather is turning as snow drifts away into warmer breezes and spring flowers.  But if you still need a warm up, this soup has your name all over it.

Now see what the rest of the C.L.U.E Members brought to the table! 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Classic Peanut Butter Cookies

Homework takes a lot of energy, especially when it includes teenage boys, long hours and cameras.  Preparing for an upcoming Broadcasting Competition, Liv and her group spent the afternoon at our house practicing with a short story on ISIS, and I'm amazed at how these kids can throw 90 seconds together on a surprise subject and end up with a professionally done story suitable for tv.

While I love listening to them, it's hard not to interject my opinions on everything from the subject matter to camera angles.  I've been requested to "hold my ideas", however cookies are always welcome.  And today Classic Peanut Butter Cookies fit the bill.

Adapted from a Martha Stewart Living recipe, I reduced the butter and added oat flour for a cookie that I can serve and watch them demolish while feeling good they are getting a decent snack with a bit of nutrition.

Proclaimed "One of the best cookies I've ever had!",  I loved that the boys suggested they film all their projects here, and I've promised cookies every time.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

DIY Oat Flour

Sometimes we tend to make things harder than they need to be.  Oat flour for example.  I love it.  It lends a slightly nubby texture to many baked goods and brings a wealth of nutrition along with it.

But my local stores often don't carry it.  Hence, I found myself ordering online and paying more shipping fees than I care to admit to.  (shhh... don't tell my husband!)

And then I thought, "Why don't I just pop some oats in to the blender and make my own flour?".

And I did.  And I had oat flour ground to the fineness I desired for the particular recipe I was making in mere seconds (with no shipping fees!).

Want more of a nubby texture for your pancakes?  Don't process the aots quite as long.  Want a finer texture for crepes?  Blend a little longer.

Oat flour has become one of my go-to flours lately, and when I purchase gluten-free oats it reduces the gluten in our baked good.

 Long known to have cholesterol lowering benefits, (Oats, oat bran, and oatmeal contain a specific type of fiber known as beta-glucan - and since 1963, study after study has proven the beneficial effects of this special fiber on cholesterol levels), antioxidant compounds unique to oats, called avenanthramides are now being said to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

And if that isn't enough, according to The World's Healthiest Foods, oatmeal also has the potential to stabilize blood sugars, enhance immune response to infection, lower type 2 diabetes risks, and protect against postmenopausal breast cancer.  #superfood

After reading all these health benefits, I'm even more inspired to kick up our daily oats and I've been substituting oat flour in place of a portion of the all-purpose flour in pancakes, waffles, muffins, breads, etc.  I've even been known to add a few tablespoons into Liv's smoothies and she doesn't have a clue.

So here's to oat flour!  Make your own and save those shipping fees!

DIY Oat Flour
A simple spin in the blender - I use a Blendtec (note this post is not sponsored by Blendtec nor has Blendtec given me a blender) and within a few pulses I have transformed my oats into oat flour.  I've also used a regular blender with good results, however I wasn't able to blend quite as fine as I wanted at times.

To prepare:
Place rolled oats (gluten-free or not) into your high-powered blender or regular blender.  Pulse until pulverized, then pulse a few more times to desired fineness.  Note, with a regular blender you may have to process for a longer time.

Store in an airtight container. 

Here are a few of our favorite recipes:


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

You'd think when they turn into teens, kids would catch on to your little secrets.  You know, like telling them "eat the crusts from the sandwich, they're really good for you!".  Or "Try this smoothie... you'll love it.  It's Orange Mango!" and then you stuff it with avocado or spinach and they don't know the difference.  I've been filling pancakes, muffins, brownies etc with all kinds of secret super food ingredients for years and while the kids now know I do that, they really don't know when I do it.

Shape though, is a whole different matter.  Shape isn't something you can hide, but I do know that pancakes shaped like dinosaurs or hearts have always been more popular than just plain round.  And today, sweet potatoes became just that much sweeter because they were crinkle cut.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries
Last week I made these same Baked Sweet Potato Fries for Liv and she turned her nose up at them.

"I don't like sweet potato.", she said, and she didn't touch a one.

So today I used my Crisp Wavy Knife.  When I served them to her this time I told her, "Hey... try these fries. . You love crinkle cut things!"  and she exclaimed, "You know it!!", and then polished off a full serving.  Teens... Go figure.

As such, our sweet potato fries will henceforth be wavy cut... And I have just the tool you need to make your own, way better than the normal cut Wavy Cut Baked Sweet Potato Fries.

I "met" Crisp Tools last year at the International Food Blogger Conference in Seattle where they promoted their line with a gift of a super handy zester to the attendees.

crisp zester
Well made and perfectly balanced in my hand, this tool has received a workout since it arrived in my kitchen, but what I also brought home was a feel for the company.

I still remember the happy and friendly people who represented, smiling faces you simply wanted to hang out and chat with. The Crisp representatives made an impression on me and when they later asked if I'd like to review more of their tools it was my turn to exclaim, "You know it!".

I'd promised to have this review up before the holidays, but my husband's illness and time in the hospital set me back a full month and a half.  While Crisp has my apologies for an extremely "unprompt" post, the extra weeks have given me even more time with the tools, and they've become regulars in my hands.  The holidays even saw more arriving on my doorstep as I ordered for foodie friends.

Crisp Kitchen Tools
I'm not exaggerating when I say I use one of these tools at least once a day.  Receiving a set of three small strainers (used daily), the Wavy (crinkle cut) Knife and a straight peeler, these tools have had numerous runs through the dishwasher and have yet to show any wear.

We used Crisp Products in gift bags for teacher presents and hostess gifts for the holidays (My girlfriend loved the avocado slicer we ordered for her and my niece has gone melon ball crazy with her new melon ball set!) and the feedback from them is just as excited as mine.  Just a thought... Mother's Day is right around the corner!

These bold tools with gracefully contoured and perfectly balanced handles fit beautifully in your hand and are comfortable for kids all the way through adults with arthritis.  My mom has arthritis in her hands and mentioned that the angled peeler we ordered for her is easier to grasp and she is back to peeling apples for pie.  Needless to say Dad is now a Crisp fan as well.

So... our many thanks to Crisp for sending us a care package.  I'm always a fan of things that make my life easier, and you've done just that.  Thank you.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

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