How does your garden grow?

Most of my friends who enjoy cooking also appreciate the availability of fresh vegetables and herbs. That is why so many of us have small gardens in our yards. Of course, if you grew up on the east coast — you know that fresh tomatoes are a must for any gardener, serious or not. No matter how close you live to a farm or a farmers’ market, there is just nothing like the smell of fresh tomatoes after a rain. And picking them, adding a little salt and just biting? Well that’s heaven for me, right here on my little plot of earth. I also like growing things like basil, mint, eggplant, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce and cilantro. Because with those ingredients, an ordinary meal can become a moment of sheer pleasure.

hot summer air, cool summer feet

hot summer air, cool summer feet


baby basil leaves, please


jalepeno peppers from the garden go into a fresh salsa in summer

box gardening

a raised bed garden


good god, chives alive


mojitos without fresh mint? Never!


tomatoes… need to grow and ripen

Blueberry Spinach Smoothie

The Purple Wonder: Blueberry-Spinach Smoothie

It’s summer.

Blueberry Spinach Smoothie

AKA — The Purple Wonder, this smoothie has blueberries, spinach, coconut manna, wheat germ and almond milk in it.

We’re eating lighter. Trying to be healthier. Trying to just enjoy the fresh colors, tastes and “this” (scrunching up fingers in one hand — you know what “this” is?)  It is that which makes summer delightful.

In that spirit, breakfast has to be cool and nutritious if you’re planning to spend a hard afternoon swimming at the pool. Am I right? !

Enter: The Smoothie

You can make them out of practically any combination of frozen fruits and vegetables. I have several favorite combinations which I will share over time however,  this particular smoothie is so jam-packed full of antioxidants that there are days my body just demands only this!

So… how to make this Purple Wonder?

Step one:

Whip out your Blendtec, Ninja, Vitamix or other high powered squashing machine.

In no particular order:

Add a handful of freshly washed spinach. (I buy mine in bags because it’s just easier.)

Add about a cup of frozen blueberries.

Add about 8-10 oz of Almond Milk (I like the vanilla kind…but riffing is always optional)

Add a heaping tablespoon of Coconut Manna and if you like, a tablespoon or two of Honey Wheat Germ.

Put the top on the blender and hit “smoothie.”

Oh yeah.

Good isn’t it?

You don’t taste the spinach at all!

The other day, I made this exact same recipe, but I added in 1/2 a ripe avocado. It made the smoothie more creamy, richer I think. But I prefer the consistency of this one. Try both, see what you think!





What do you do with Tumeric? Carrot/ginger/tumeric soup!

So, we were having one of those conversations. He was looking at our spice rack twirling bottles around looking for the garlic I think, and he came across the bright orangey-yellow bottle. “TUMERIC?” he asked. “What do you use this for?” I bought the turmeric, a yellow spice used in Indian cuisines – to make a curry dish.  (Did you know you that curry is just a blanket name for a mixture of spices? You can make your own, adjusting it to your taste. Read this.)

Tumeric is a root that grows in southeast Asia. It looks kind of like ginger (and is actually in the ginger family) but it has brightly colored flesh. I have not seen it in our local Wegmans in root form, but it is easily available in a jar in the spice section — dried and ground into a powder.

Well, the bottle just sat there, barely used — until one day, I had the best breakfast one morning at our local vegan restaurant Strong Hearts. Their “scrambled eggs” are actually tofu scrambled with turmeric, onion, and peppers. Really delicious. For a week, I ate scrambled tofu 3 or 4 times!

And here it is, that time of our lives where rebooting, rethinking, reworking is what it’s all about. And, since chronic inflammation in the body is the root cause of so many of our aches and pains, I’ve been following the advice of Dr. Weil and adding more anti-inflammatory spices to our diet. We’re all going to grow old, might as well feel as good as you can as long as you are able, right?

Anywho, when my DH asked what I used it for, I told him about the fake eggs and the curry and also how good it is for fighting inflammation.  He reminded me to pick up more fresh ginger (as we like to drink carrot/ginger juice.)  That got me thinking that I should make something with carrot, turmeric and ginger in it. A quick search on the internet of those three ingredients brought me to this incredibly simple, really tasty recipe.

From thought to eating it took me about 45 minutes to reach a state of pure satisfaction! Since this was the first time I made it and I had all the ingredients — I decided to keep on the straight and narrow — AND FOLLOW THE RECIPE EXACTLY. (Gasp!)  Here it is — you must try it!

Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad (with bacon!)

Does this look amazing or what?

I’ve “massaged” my kale (with avocado and salt — yummy!) — I’ve steamed it in chicken broth and dressed it with garlic — but I’ve never seen a salad with raw Brussels sprouts and kale shaved and combined. This I have to try.  I’ll bet you could use any dressing that suits your mood. By the way, I always learned that you called these petite cabbages “brussel sprouts” — but according to The Grammarist — it’s actually correct to call them Brussels sprouts.  I guess you learn something new every day.

Shaved kale & brussel sprouts in a salad!

Here’s the original recipe.  Can’t wait to try it!

Summer Eggplant Risotto

20140608-142105-51665329.jpgI poked around in the fridge for inspiration. Leftovers can always save time when you are hungry!

The other night, I diced an eggplant and sautéed it with some garlic, roughly chopped sweet onions, and a can of Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes. (They are my favorite!) I served that over pasta — but the kids didn’t seem to enjoy it as much as I did. I had about a cup and a half of that mixture left over and since it had sat for 2 days in the fridge, the flavors had intensified.

Over in the pantry was a bag of arborio rice (Italian short grain rice) and a container of chicken broth.  Why not put my leftovers into a risotto?  Certainly, people make risotto with eggplant all the time!

So, here’s what I did.

I took two tablespoons +/- olive oil and poured it into my big skillet set at medium high.

1 1/2 cups of arborio rice went right in the pan to toast up before cooking. (Browning the rice a bit gives your dish a nuttier taste.)

After about 5 minutes of “frying’ the rice I added about 1 cup of chicken broth and stirred it while it cooked. I lowered the heat to medium and over the next 20 minutes or so, I continued to add more broth (I used 32oz – 4 cups total) slowly, stirring as the rice absorbed the liquid. What you’re looking for is a creamy consistency — not the dry, white rice that you get in a Chinese restaurant! Keep in mind that risotto is supposed to be cooked “al dente” — which means that it is a little firm and chewy even though it is a very starchy, rice dish.

I added my left over eggplant/garlic/onion/tomato mixture right into the pan. Then I shaved parmesan cheese right into the rice, a few pinches of salt, and I stirred it together. All in all, it took about 25 minutes from the time I started until I was ready to eat. Not bad, eh? It was as good as it looks. And I have some left over — tomorrow, I can just add a little broth and zap it in the microwave.

Next time I make this, I want to add fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, and fresh mozzarella right at the end.




Strawberry Swirl Cheesecake Bars

I think one of my favorite desserts is cheesecake. New York style — because growing up in the tri-state area (NY NJ CT) this is what we got at our local diner. Now, the rest of the country may have places to eat, but I have not really found the kind of diner that has menus that run 10 pages and dishes out Italian, Greek and American food any time of day or night except back at home in the NJ suburbs of NYC.

The problem is that I’m not downstate anymore and can’t get my hands on that amazing goodness anytime I crave it.  And this body really doesn’t need any help getting curvier — so it’s actually a blessing in disguise that I have to work for it if I want a piece of really good cheesecake.

So what do do?  How does a girl satisfy her cravings? In small bites!  I’m going to experiment with this recipe and will post my pictures, but I thought I’d share it now because you might be looking for something quick to make today and well, this just looks so incredibly good! And fresh strawberries are at the store now, and they are sweet!

Strawberry Swirl Cheesecake Bars | Brown Eyed Baker.

via Strawberry Swirl Cheesecake Bars | Brown Eyed Baker.

Stuff y’ur caps and peel your zucchini…

Crab stuffed Mushrooms

Crab stuff mushroom cap with a side of zucchini ribbons… oh yeah!

We were hungry. I hadn’t gone shopping. I had to make dinner. What to do?? Quick! Look in the cabinet. Mull over what was in the fridge. Have a sip or two of wine. A piece of cheese. Think, think…. Aha! Those portobellos I bought to grill like hamburgers? Mmmmm…. And that’s how it started. A quick look at our rations and I pulled together:

  • 4 portobello mushrooms
  • 2 cans of canned crab meat
  • a cup of ricotta cheese
  • half cup of finely grated parmesan cheese
  • dried oregano and parsley, salt, pepper, dried garlic
  • about a cup of crushed garlic croutons (’cause I ran out of breadcrumbs.)
  • an egg
  • thinly sliced mozzarella cheese

This is so stinking easy to make and it tasted great. I just drained the crab meat and added it to a bowl along with all those other ingredients (except the mozzarella – that went last.) I mixed it all up — probably using about 1/2 teaspoon or so of each of the spices… but of course, I do everything to taste.  Stuffed the portobellos by patting the mixture inside the cap and put all four of them into my big old wrought iron pan. Added about a cup of white wine to the pan. Put it in an oven heated to 400 and let it go for 20 minutes. Then I added a slice of mozzarella cheese to each and let that continue to cook for another 5 -10 minutes. In the meantime — I had a few zucchini in the fridge. My absolute favorite way to eat zucchini these days is also probably the simplest preparation of all. I washed them and cut off the ends. Using my basic vegetable peeler — I peeled ribbons of the squash right into a hot pan that had a bit of olive oil in it.  Then I shaved some fresh garlic into the same pan and added a few pinches of salt. It only takes a few minutes of tossing these thin ribbons around to cook them.  I’ve served this with pesto sauce, with red sauce, with cooked tomatoes — and always a little shaved cheese on top.  This tastes like pasta to me and is so much healthier for you, you can’t go wrong. The whole dinner took me about 1/2 hour to prepare and get on the table. Not bad, eh?

And simple peel the zucchini.... go as far as the seeds

And simply peel the zucchini…. go as far as the seeds.. then discard the core.

Shave fresh garlic cloves using your shaver... great for hard cheeses, too

Shave fresh garlic cloves using your shaver right into the pan…

Just sauté the zucchini & garlic...

Just sauté the zucchini & garlic…

Get creative. I added thinly sliced tomatoes, some pesto sauce, left over cooked eggplant...and topped it with cheese!

Get creative. I made this again tonight and I added thinly sliced tomatoes, some pesto sauce, left over cooked eggplant…and topped it with shaved cheese!

Is there some Hummus Among Us?

Hummus Ingredients

Simple ingredients. Use the best quality EVOO you can get your hands on, unfiltered gives a nice sweet boost of flavor.

Did you see the news about the hummus recall?   Read the article if you buy yours from Trader Joes!

There’s always a chance of food getting contaminated in these large plants. It’s a fact of life and something we deal with for convenience.  Thinking about it, it’s amazing that more of us don’t get sick more often. I for one, love the Sabra brand of hummus. We buy it often. But sometimes I’m not in the mood to head to the grocery store so I simply grab a few cans of chickpeas and whip up my own.

The basic recipes from around the web call for:

  • chickpeas in water (small cans)
  • garlic cloves
  • fresh lemon
  • tahini (sesame butter)
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

You’ll notice that I didn’t use any measurements. Why? Well, you don’t need them to make good hummus. I think it’s all about how it tastes to you, not to someone else.

I start with  TWO cans of chickpeas because I like to make it once and eat it for a few days. The rest? All negotiable.

Lemon and tahini

Squeeze fresh lemon right into the blender on top of the tahini…

I take about 1/2 cup of tahini, dashes of salt and pepper and a tablespoon or two of high quality olive oil and put that into my Blendtec. Then I squeeze in fresh lemon juice. You can use 1/2 a lemon, a full lemon — whatever you have. The key though is to use the fresh stuff. It just tastes better IMHO. Add some of the water from the cans of chickpeas to make the blades move.

Then pulse it up so that is nice and creamy. Taste. Add a little more salt, some onion powder if you wish, whatever. Then add a few peeled garlic cloves and some chickpeas.  I add about 1/2 of the can at a time along with the water and pulse. Keep adding chickpeas and squirting in lemon and adding salt & pepper until it resembles a creamy dip and  tastes good to you.

I have read that adding the chickpeas last is the key to creaminess. I would add that using the water the chickpeas came in helps, too. But I like my hummus creamy — you may like yours a bit more chunky.

Now — to riff on this, try adding:

  • cooked & shelled edamame beans
  • cooked great northern beans
  • sun-dried tomatoes in oil
  • roasted tomatos
  • toasted pine nuts
  • kale
  • roasted onions
  • roasted red peppers
  • roasted garlic clIMG_4260oves

I think you could put just about anything you like into your hummus. The key for me? Get the base right — tasting good — not too garlicky (is that possible?) not too lemony, just right.

The best part of course, is eating it.  I love schmearing it on bagel chips, toasted naan or pitas,  or forgoing the wheat and scooping it up with cut up red peppers, cucumbers, carrots and celery sticks. I have seen that some people make egg salad with their hummus and I have had it mixed into pasta — seriously, not bad at all!

Girlfriends claim it is a miracle food because it is high protein, filling, and low-calorie.  I think it’s easy and delicious. What’s not to love?

Dang, I’m making myself hungry.



Morning Glory Breakfast Cake made in a Big Ass Wrought Iron Skillet

Morning Glory Skittle Cake

everything that’s good for you in one yummy cake, this is a big, big winner at our house

So, it was Sunday morning. Last Sunday to be precise. I think around 7:00.

I was poking around in the fridge, trying to figure out what I should make for breakfast. I wasn’t really hungry, but since I was up too early on a day that there were NO sports, NO commitments other than coffee and Sunday morning talking heads while folding laundry… I figured I could be a little ambitious.

I opened the crisper and saw a big bag of organic carrots and immediately thought of a recipe I had seen a few days before for my favorite muffins in the world: Morning Glory Muffins. 

Hmm… I  decided right away that I didn’t feel like pulling out the muffin pan and baking twice – because I own only one stone PC muffin pan which can make 12 at one time and this recipe would have made 24 muffins in my guesstimation.

So — here’s the original recipe and what I did:

  • 1 1/4 cups Sugar  (half brown/half white)
  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour  (1/2 cup of coconut flour, 1/2 cup almond flour, 1 1/2 cups of regular all purpose flour)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon (same)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda (same)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (same)
  • 1/2 cup shredded, sweetened coconut (same, except I only had unsweetened)
  • 3/4 cup Earthbound Farm Organic Raisins (1/2 cup of golden raisins)
  • 1 large Earthbound Farm Organic Apple (peeled and grated) NOPE
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple (drained, about 8 oz) (1 cup of chunk pineapple in water, not drained at all!)
  • 2 cups grated Earthbound Farm Organic Carrots (I just threw a bunch of carrots in my food processor — it was a good two cups worth at the end — they were tiny pieces, not grated, not mush)
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts (1 cup pecans)
  • 3 large eggs (same)
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (1/2 cup of walnut oil, 1/4 cup of coconut oil, 1/4 vegetable oil)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (same)

And I added:

  • 1/2 cup chopped dates (I love dates)
  • 1/2 cup pear butter (why not? we had some in the fridge)
  • 1 teaspoon of coconut extract

I took out my big ass wrought iron pan. You know what I mean? They are super heavy. You need two hands to hold them.

I used coconut oil to prepare the pan so nothing would stick. After mixing up all those ingredients in my food processor until they were coarsely chopped, chunky and mixed — I dumped the whole thing in my skillet.  Spontaneously, I cut up a Granny Smith apple into pieces and splashed them on top like I was Jackson Pollock. Then I took some cinnamon-sugar mix and sprinkled that on top because I thought it would add a little extra crunch on top.  (You just take white sugar, add some cinnamon and stick it in your blender and pulse a few times. Great for toast, excellent for cookies and now, I’ve learned – cake!)

Into the oven at 350. I checked it at 45 minutes, but it was still moist in the middle. I kept checking every 5 minutes. This was a big pan and a heavy batter so it took about an hour and ten minutes to be done. I took out the pan and before I could snap a picture my daughter grabbed a big piece!!

Suffice it to say that today is Thursday. We’ve been nibbling on it most of the week. Only have a tiny bit left and it is still moist. Next time I do this, I think I’ll grate in some fresh nutmeg.

BTW — the cake continued to cook, then cool and settle. It was very moist on the first day. Butter on a piece was divine. I swear this tasted better on Monday morning once all the flavors had a chance to mingle!