Quote of the week

If we were not intended to eat extraordinary food, we would not have been given such extraordinary senses of taste and smell.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Ceviche...the warm weather treat.

One of my favorite things about living in the "Little Mexico" portion of Oakland was a small, outdoor dining, sort of hole-in-the-wall looking restaurant called Mariscos La Costa on International and 36th. For me, the number one sign of a good ethnic restaurant is the clientele are predominantly the ethnicity of the restaurant. Such is the case with La Costa. Their food is fantastic overall, but their ceviche....oh their ceviche is fantastic! So much so that both of my daughter's would attack me when I walked in the door with ceviche in my hand. We tried many other ceviche in the area (the Fruitvale are is a phenomenal food find), but none came close to La Costa.

So when we moved back to the midwest, my daughter simply could not live without ceviche. Whenever I asked her what she wanted to eat, she would always say CEVICHE! She went on a trip to Costa Rica and she was so ecxtied to eat ceviche down there. I had to start making it at home. Well, I have played around with it, and often will use what looks good and fresh and wild caught in the fish department. I don't really have a 'recipe', but more of a list of things I use. The beauty of ceviche is you can play around with it, with the type of fish or shrimp you use, the level of heat. So here is my lastest ceviche-

1 lb wild caught bay shrimp ( you can use larger shrimp, I prefer bite sized portions, so if using larger shrimp I suggest cutting into chunks)
1/2 wild caught tilapia (again, use whatever mild white fish you like. In the Yucatan, fisherman made us beracuda ceviche straight off the boat. Amazing!)
2 good sized ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 large English cucumber(seedless), peeled and chopped
3/4 of a large red oinion, chopped
2 good sized jalapeno, seeded and diced (seeds and white membrane carry the heat, so add accordingly)
1 bunch cilantro, rinsed, dried and rough chop
juice of limes and a bit of lemon to cover
zest of 1 good sized lime
salt to taste

Traditional ceviche cooks the fish via the acid in the lemon and lime juice. I find the best flavors occur when this method is used. However, I know many people who get freaked out by this. So, if you feel more comfortable, you can blanch your seafood for 1-2 minutes in boiling water and then immediately rinse in cold water to stop cooking. Pre-cooked fish becomes rubbery, in my opinion, so a quick flash of heat and straight into an ice bath, if you choose this method.

This recipe is done the traditional way, so if you pre-cook your seafood, you can combine all ingredients straight away and simply season with salt and let the flavors meld together.

Traditionally prepared shrimp and tilapia:

In a non-reactive bowl (I use a large glass bowl), combine the raw shrimp (deveined) and tilapia and start squeezing lime juice. It's hard to say how much or how many, as it greatly depends on the size and juiciness of the limes and lemons, so I can only say you want to use roughly 3/4 lime juice and 1/4 lemon. 

**tip** to get the most juice out of your lemons and limes, have them at room temperature. Prior to squeezing, roll the fruit under your hand, applying a bit of pressure, to release the juices. Alternatively, you can place the fruit in the microwave for 10-15 seconds.

Once the seafood is cover to the top with lime/lemon juice, add jalapenos, zest of one lime and 1 teaspoon of sea salt. Stir well and then pat down seafood to ensure all flesh is covered. Wrap tightly and place in the refrigerator for approximately four hours.

When seafood is opaque, remove from the fridge and add in the rest of the ingredients and sitr well. taste and adjust seasoning. Rewrap and refrigerate for an additional hour at least. Ceviche is better the next day, after all flavors marry. 
Taste before serving and make final adjustments to your liking.

Classically, ceviche is served with tostadas, a wedge of lime and sliced avocados. We often serve it with thick, crispy tortilla chips and a big bottle of Tapatio sauce.

As you can see, there is lots of play in this recipe. So discover your inner Latin spirit and create your own fabulos ceviche recipe!

Life's a Feast

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Feed The Body What It Needs

I hear so many people mention how they don't think protein shakes/ smoothies or juices work for them in the morning, because the are starving just a few hours later. 
When you drink a smoothie or juice, you are giving your body nutrients that are readily available to your system. The nutrients are absorbed quickly because the body doesn't need to 'digest' anything.This has triggered your metabolism. Your smoothie/juice has been used up.  

Your body is telling you it needs more 'fuel' to keep you going and keep your blood sugar level. Don't fight your body, feed your body. This is a simple key to healthier living, STOP trying to fight against your body. If we simply listen to our body and make healthy choices when it tells us we are hungry, we can alleviate this sense of starvation or deprivation.

If you have a healthy smoothie or juice in the morning, within a few hours you will most likely feel those hunger pangs. A few small adjustments in your day can keep you feeling happy and full and no blood sugar crashes. 
Things to keep in mind when eating more frequently, keep it small and balanced. Remember to have a good balance of protein, complex carbs (yes, I said eat carbs), and fat. We have been led to astray to believe we must starve our bodies of carbohydrates and fats, when, in fact, these are essential to proper body function. It is key to make smart and healthy choices. 

When you need a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack, think light but filling:
A lettuce wrap filled with black beans and a slice of cheese topped with salsa
Cottage cheese in half an avocado
A handful of raw soaked almonds and an apple
An apple and slice of cheese
Half a sprouted wheat bagel with yogurt cheese spread and tomato slices

The purpose is to feed your body the fuel it needs to function. This will continue to trigger your metabolism. Small meals keep the body 'fueled' so it doesn't think it is going into starvation mode. When the body thinks it's being starved, it saves fat and uses muscle protein first. When you keep the body fueled throughout the day, it keeps the metabolism high and the body turns to those fat cells for more energy. 

A great tip is to always have healthy options in your car, purse or bag, at the office or at home:
Plenty of fresh water, preferably flouride/chorline free
Raw almonds - great protein and fiber source
A high quality or homemade protien bar
An Apple 
Natural nut butter with apples or celery

When it comes to lunch and dinner, keep these same tools in mind. Your protein source should be no larger than your fist, around 3-4 ounces typically, complex carbohydrates about the size of your palm and greens/veggies the size of both hands cupped together. Remember to eat small amounts of healthy fats. Avocado, good quaility olive oil or unrefined coconut oil, hemp or flaxseed oil and high quality butter are good sources and our body needs them. The brain is predominantly made of fat.

If you keep these simple tips in mind and plan accordingly, those mid-morning munchies can be tamed with ease, without guilt or the blood-sugar crash.

Be Well-


Monday, April 1, 2013

Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy Natural Dishwasher Detergent

Of course, everyone likes to save a penny or two, which this recipe is great for. But I also love to not use chemicals to clean my dishes. So this recipe was sent to me by a friend and I had to give it a try. All of the ingredients I already had on hand, so that made it even better. I was already making a homemade powdered dish washing detergent, but I loved that these became cubes. Pop them in and turn it on.
You can't get easier than that!

So here is what you need:
Washing Soda (NOT baking soda but washing soda, sold in the laudry isle)
Espom salt
Lemon juice
Ice cube trays
Mixing bowls - 2 to be exact
Wooden spoon
Measuring cup
Measuring spoon

In a large bowl, place 1 cup of Barax, 1 cup of Washind Soda and 1/4 cup espom salt and stir well.
Once they are well incorporated, working in batches, take one cup of the mixture and place it into the other bowl and add 4 tablespoons of the lemon juice. It will fizz up a bit, so don't worry.

Mix well. You want a damp and sticky mixture, but not a soupy mixture. When it is done. it should look like this:

Now, lay out your ice cube tray and start with a small amount of mixture and press it into the bottom of the tray. You do not want any air pockets, so by adding a little but at a time and pressing it down, you get a nice, compact cube.
Continue until you fill your tray or run out of mixture. The repeat the process again. Logically speaking, this is done in batches, so if you fill your trays and have left of powdr, you can store it in a baggie or container, but once the lemon juice is in the mix, it will get hard as a rock! Lesson learned.

Once you have your tray or trays filled, set them in a dry location. I set mine outside, as it was a crisp and sunny day. Allow to sit until they are completely dry (timing depends on weather and temperature and humidity and such). When they are dry, pop them out of the ice cube trays and voila!
You really can't get much easier then that, now can you?
To store, I keep them in a ziploc bag. I use one cube per wash cycle.
Things you can add: Essential oils for extra disinfecting, like Tea Tree. Lavender for a soothing scent, anything you like. I add 20 drops into the mixture when I add the lemon juice.
For additional sanatizing and to help with spots on glasses, I add white vinegar to my 'rinse aid' compartment.
We also live in the country and our well watr is highly mineralized, so I need to use Lemi-Shine in my dishwasher as well.

Have fun and enjoy making a safe, natural and economical alternative to commercial detergents!

Life's a Feast!!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

White Bean and Kale Soup

It's late winter, the snow just keeps on falling and the tempertures just keep staying COLD!!! What what do I do when I am feeling the winter blues? I throw on a pot of soup. Something hearty and warm, healthy and delicious. Whate bean and kale! Yep, that is what is on the menu.
What I love about make soup, it there are no real rules. You throw things in a pot and season until it tastes good. It is perfect for that "clean out the refrigerator' day!

For this soup, I used the basics:

1 pound dried white beans, rinsed and picked.
2 white onions, rough chop
2 bay leaves
Dash or two crushed red pepper flakes
4 large celery stalks, slice thick
4 large carrots, scrubbed clean, but skin on, sliced thick
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary
5-6 basil leaves, julianned
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1 15 ounce package/can of diced tomatoes
A large bunch of kale (about 3-4 cups) chopped.
water or chicken stock (whichever you prefer, there is also a vegetarian "chicken stock" powder sold in the bulk section of the local HyVee if you like)
sea salt, pepper

After white beans are rinsed, you can either do the overnight soak (put beans in pot and cover with 6-8 cups of water and let sit for 8 hours or over night), or you can do a quick soak (add beans to the pot and add 6-8 cups of hot water. Bring to a boil and let boil for two minutes. Cover and remove from heat and let stand for an hour. Once beans are soaked, rinse again. Throw beans in pot, add chopped onions and bay leaf. Add 6 cups of water and bring to a simmer. Cover and tilt the lid to let steam escape and cookf or an hour to hour and a half until beans are tender.
Add carrots, celery, garlic, rosemary and basil and add more water or stock to cover vegetables. Add a nice sprinkling of sea salt and stir. Bring to a simmer and cook until vegetables are tender. Add tomatoes and  kale and stir. Simmer until kale wilts. Season to taste

** keep heat low and stir regularly to keep the beans from sticking to the bottom of pan.
** add any vegetable you like, parsnip, trunips, rutabagas, fresh parseley
** play with the seasonings to your liking
**finish with shredded parm if you like

I love to bake a fresh loaf of bread when I make a pot of soup. Fresh bread and homemade soup go togehter like peas and carrots! ( ;

Enjoy! Bon Appetite!!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Homemade Laundry Detergent

In today's crazy world, more and more people are looking for ways to not only save money, but to create a more natural and chemical free home. Here is a simple and extrememly cost effective recipe for  homemade laundry detergent.


1/3 bar Fels Naptha 
½ cup washing soda
½ cup borax powder 
optional: add natural fragrance with essential oils. Add approximately 1/2 to 1 ounce. I use lavender

Grate the Fels Naptha and place in large pot. Cover with 6 cups of water and heat until soap is melted. Add the washing soda and the Borax and mix until desolved. In a large bucket (I used a 5 gallon bucket) add 4 cups hot water. Pour in soap mixture and stir until well combined. Now add water until mixture is 2 gallons (about 1 gallon 6 cups).

Place lid over bucket and let sit for 24 hours. It will 'gel up' a bit. But more of a watery gel. You use 1/2 cup of mixture per load of laundry. I use an old liquid detergent container for easier use.

This is a low suds detergent, so don't worry if it doesn't seem as soapy as the store bought stuff.
This recipe makes 2 gallons of detergent. Cost per load is below $.20 per load. 
A family favorite. I even converted my "Tide is the only thing I use" spouse!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Carolina Style Pulled Pork

There are several different styles of pulled pork. I, myself, am a big fan of the Carolina style. I am a vinegar fan. I love the spicy tang of the vinegar mop over the sweet tomoato based barbeque pulled pork. But, everyone has their own preference. In order to please the masses, I will make a large batch of the Carolina style pork and then offer a couple of different barbeque sauces on the side. That way, everyone can make their own style. So this is a recipe for spicy Carolina pulled pork, cookeed in the crock pot.
This recipe serves roughly 10-12 pulled pork sandwiches

Things you'll need:

A large crock pot

1 5-6 plus pound Boston butt (bone in pork shoulder). You want these untrimmed (the thick layer of fat still attached)

Dry rub for pork:

3/8 cup brown Sugar
1/4 paprika (I prefer smoked Hungarian)
4 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons fresh cracked pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon chili powder

Combine ingredients and rub mixture on the pork butt. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerator for at least 4 hours, but overnight is best.

Take pork out of the fridge and set out to return to room temperature (about an hour). While the pork is is hanging on the counter, gather -

1 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup worcestershire sauce (you can use Bragg Amino Acids for a gluten free option)
4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
4 teaspoons honey (I always try to use a local raw honey)
2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 red onions, quarted
4 yellow onions, quartered

In a bowl, mix everything, but the onions, until combined.

Place quartered onions in bottom of crock.
Unwrap park and place on top of onions. Pour 3/4 of vinegar mix over the pork, reserving the rest to add to the shredded pork when done.

Turn crock pot on low, cover and cook for 7-8 hours (preferred) or high for 4-5 hours.

Remove pork and onions, place on large cutting board (there will be plenty of juice). Remove the layer of fat and set aside. Using two forks, pull and shred pork and chop onions. Take a small bit of fat (to your liking) and chop up and add to shredded meat nd onions. Through back into crock pot and mix well. Lower the temperature to warm on crock pot.

Serve with your favorite bun. We prefer kaiser rolls. Serve the extra vinegar sauce on the side, along with any barbeque sauce you like as well.

We suggest serving with coleslaw for a classic Carolina pulled pork sandwich.


Carolyn's Game Day Chili

With the Super Bowl just days away, here is a great recipe for a crowd pleasing chili, sure to please all fans! And best of all, it is simple to make and easy to mix it up and make it your own!


1 pound dried Pinto Beans or Red Kidney Beans-canned or dried, if beans gives you discomfort, I strongly reccommend that you use dry beans and soak overnight; it will allow for easier digestion.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
11/2 lb beef chuck steak, cut into 2 x 1/2 inch strips
11/2 lb lean ground beef
2 large onions, chopped
2 good size garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup chili powder-trust you will need it
2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 10oz can of green chilies
1  9 oz can of crushed tomatoes, personally this is where I use 16oz can of diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon of brown sugar
2 bay leaves
pinch of dried Thyme
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste, I never just use a teaspoon
1 tablespoon of Worchestershire Sauce
11/4 cup of Beef Stock
1 teaspoon of salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon of pepper, or to taste
1 Jalepano chopped-pending on your level of heat-hot chop jalepano with seeds and all, not so hot de-seed and chop

Preheat oven to 300 F (150 C).  Heat half of butter with the oil in a large heavy saute pan over medium heat.  Pat the beef strips dry with papaer towels and saute in batches until brown-you do not have to do in batches if your skillet is large enough but you do want an even browning of the beef.

Transfer beef directly into a large heavy pot or Dutch Oven

Add ground beef to the saute pan and cook over medium-high heat, breaking up the lumps and until lightly browned.  Transfer ground beef and juice directly to the heavy pot or Dutch Oven

Add remaining butter to the saute pan and stir in the onions, scraping the bottom and sides of the saute pan and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes, add garlic and let cook for 2 more minutes longer.  Transfer to pot or Dutch Oven

Stir the chili powder into the meat mixture and add the reamining ingrediants-except the beans, mix well.  Heat to boiling, cover and transfer to oven.  Bake for 11/2 to 2 hours or until strips are tender.

For Dried Beans-place in a pot with cold water, heat to boiling, reduce heat, add some bacon fat and simmer till tender about 1 hour, drain.

When the meat is tender stir in the "dried" beans or canned beans and return to oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes.  If you noticed that your chili is lacking suace add a little more beef stock.  This has never happened to me.

Some extras:
Add roasted corn to this in the last 15 minutes of the uncovered cooking.
Vary your spices to your taste but also add some smoked Hungarian Paprika
Pickled Jalepanos-always a treat
Crunchy Tortilla Strips or Crunchy Jalepano Strips for garnish

And....Chili is always better the next day!!  Enjoy!