Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Oil Free Goma (Sesame) dressing

Perusing through the Asian section of Central Market, I came across Ikari Oil Free Sesame Dressing.  Kewpie brand Goma dressing is like gold.  The absolute BEST salad dressing in my humble opinion.  Also, any steamed vegetable like spinach is amazing with Goma powder on top.  (Usually a mixture of ground roast sesame seeds & sugar) In Japan many schools don't allow children to have sugary snacks or even fruit in their bentos (lunch boxes).  Many times this powder is used to entice youngsters to "eat their veggies". 

It's ridiculously hard to find oil free salad dressing in the super market.  Salad is so so healthy...and then, we pour dressing over it and add about 100-300 added empty calories to it.  At $3.99 a bottle and 12 calories a tablespoon, Ikari makes for a great back up when I don't have home made.  It's very tasty.  Like, really.  Like, I ate a whole head of Roman lettuce in one sitting because I loved it so much. 

Did I mention it's delicious? Okay, now that we have that out of the way, here's the con.  It's store bought in a bottle.  While it doesn't have oil, it does have some preservatives and other things that I really don't want to have all the time. So I set up Nicki's lab----ur, I mean Nicki's Kitchen to make my own version. Here's a recipe chronicling my first attempt.

  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove (diced)
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 2 dates (Medjool pitted)**
  • 3 baby carrots or, about 1/4 of a carrot (minced finely)*
  • 4 Tbsp. roasted sesame seeds (divided)
  1.  In a small sauce pan ad cornstarch, water, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar.  Simmer until solution is clear and it's thickened a little
  2. In a frying pan, dry or water saute onion and garlic until translucent
  3. Place all ingredients, save one Tbsp of sesame seeds in a high powered blender or food processor to combine. 
  4. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp. sesame seed in and shake for added texture if desired



    *If you have a high powered blender like a Vitamix, just put the baby carrots in whole or, roughly cut whole carrot in chunks.
    **If you don't have a high powered blender like a Vitamix, try 1 Tbsp of maple syrup and add more to taste.





Thursday, April 07, 2016

Purple Jesus & Copy Cat All Purpose Cleaner

Just realized there's no essential oils in the pic! Sorry about that.  I've linked
below in the recipe what essential oils I used.
What do these two have in common?

There is a certain "natural" cleaner that I get at a certain favorite store of mine.....no names here other than this store would be good for traders. Anyway, the cleaner comes in a 34oz spray bottle and is super for all applications but especially wonderful in the kitchen and bathroom.  It leaves a streak free shine on the back of the bottle is says it's good for, ' any washable surface, including glass, mirrors, stainless steel, oven tops and hoods, countertops, refrigerators, walls, tile, linoleum, sinks, and even granite countertops. ' 

It's not that expensive.  About $3 a bottle I believe.  I also appreciate that there is no animal testing.  However, I wondered if I could make this all on my own.  The ingredients on the back were almost everything that I had already at home.  Except for one.

Grain Alcohol or, Everclear was something I had never heard of.  My college educated husband had though.  Apparently this is something used at a PJ party (Purple Jesus Party).  According to stories it involves grain alcohol and a bathtub.  Let's all take a moment and pay homage to higher education.  HA!

After exploring online, there are some folks who will use rubbing alcohol for a DIY cleaner.  It's a lot cheaper for sure. A bottle of Everclear at the store cost me about $21 (This bottle will probably last me for 30-40 of these recipes).  I'm not sure if there is a significant difference of the two when it comes to quality of cleaning.  The one thing I will write is that although both liquids are pretty detrimental if swallowed, grain alcohol would be less so. On my store bought natural cleaner, there are no warnings about not swallowing the product and no phone# for poison control so,  I'm lead to believe this is the reason grain alcohol was used over rubbing alcohol. 

If there is a reader out there who knows more information please write a comment.  I couldn't find much information online about this.

Even though I spent $21 on a bottle of Everclear, I'm still saving a good amount of money by making it on my own.  If someone where to use rubbing alcohol it would literally bring your cleaner cost down to pennies.  I also appreciate that I won't be in a scramble running to the store if I run out.  I can just whip up another batch in my kitchen in like....a few seconds.

You ready for this?  Here we go:

  • 3 Tbsp. of Everclear
  • 1 Tbsp. of dish soap (You can also use Castile Soap)
  • 30 drops of Essential oil (There are many with anti microbal or anti bacteria properties use your favorite!  I used 20 drops of orange oil and 10 drops of tea tree.  The original store bought cleaner has clary sage and ceder wood oils)
  • Distilled Water (Tap works alright as well)
Using a funnel, pour first 3 ingredients into the bottle then top off with water.  Give it a little shake.  I reused my 34 oz plastic bottle BUT, I read that I could do this later on. Mind Blown!

It's that easy. Seriously. This will take you seconds to do. Do it. Right now.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Hippidy Dippidy Mouthwash

Not sure if the title of this post is an actual word or phrase but we're gonna roll with it today!

Besides moving slowly into a Vegan plant based life, our family is also taking a journey down DIY cleaning products and toiletries.  We aren't only looking to save money (although, this was the main reason we started this) but also reduce our package waste and get rid of unwanted and unnecessary chemicals in our lives.  I've found that in many cases I can produce a product with items that I already have in my cabinet at home.  So, almost kinda for free.  For this mouthwash, I did have to purchase Aloe Vera Juice.  That's about a $6 to $9 investment but it won't take the whole bottle to make this mouthwash so, you'll get a good amount for that price. 

A while back, I suffered from a mild case of bleeding gums.....ew...I know.  I tried quite a few different store bought mouthwashes.  The one that finally worked was this one 

Now, did you catch the price on that bad boy? Yeah almost $10...... I can't afford that!  That's like a trip to my favorite Pho restaurant, 2 days worth of family meals, 2 specialty fancy coffees, ...well, you get the picture.  But, I really liked it....and, it worked.  I noticed the active ingredient it bragged about was Aloe Vera.  I decided to play mad scientist and make some of my own.  Guess what?  I like it.  It's cheaper. It works. So without further delay....


1 cup aloe vera juice
1/2 cup water (I used distilled but tap should work as well)
1 Tbsp. baking soda
15 drops of Peppermint Essential Oil
5 drops of Tea Tree Essential Oil

Pour ingredients into a jar or bottle.  Fasten a lid on and give it a shake before taking a swig....and by swig I don't mean swallow it.  Swish around for 15-30 seconds and spit.  AH!  Minty fresh!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

22's Chili



Now a typical Texan may have my hide for this recipe but this really does it for me....and, I don't live in Texas so thankfully, for now my hide is safe! 

This is some super fast chili and really really easy.  We made this chili to go along with the Happy Herbavore's recipe for California Drive Through Fries! (or, a healthy substitute for In-n-Out?) My hubs said that was better than Dennison's Chili......hmm-mm intrigued? If you make your beans instead of purchasing canned, use about 1 3/4 cup cooked beans for each "can" indicated on the recipe. Better Than Bouillon no beef base is AMAZING but, if you can't find it, veggie bouillon works in a snap or even swapping out the water for broth works too. Whenever possible, I water saute my veggies.  I try very very hard to refrain from oil.  It's added calories that I don't need, and oil is expensive! I highly suggest trying to cook without oil as much as humanly possible.  You will be amazed at how easy it is to give it up in most recipes.

Top off a baked potato with this, wrap it in a tortilla, or use in your taco rice, or if your a purist it it all on it's own. Preferably on a chilly wet day!

1 can pinto beans (rinsed and drained)
1 can kidney beans (rinsed and drained)
1 can black beans (rinsed and drained)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 onion
3 garlic cloves
1 red bell pepper
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp. Better than Bouillon no beef base
2 tsp. oregano
2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt (optional)
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. cornmeal

1.  In a food processor mince onion, garlic, bell pepper. (or, chop by hand)
2.  Pour veggies in a pot with chili powder, cumin, and oregano.
3.  Saute for several minutes.  If for some reason the veggies start to stick, add a little water and stir.
4.  Put in tomato paste and dices tomatoes (if you've got a picky eater when it comes to chunks of tomatoes, consider blending them in the blender before adding to the pot) Bring to a simmer.
5.  Dump in those beans and cornmeal.  Give it a good stir.
6.  Simmer for 5-10 minutes or until heated through.



Thursday, October 15, 2015

Stupid Easy Butternut Squash Soup



I love soup.  Some people don't.  Especially my children.  Which is why I made mine for lunch.  So, I can have it all to myself. After taking a couple cooking classes in Europe, one thing that was usually done while boiling vegetables was to add a little salt and sugar to the pot. The salt in this recipe is already in the Bouillon so I didn't ad any more.  This recipe calls for pre-cubed squash from the market but if you've got the time, just cube it yourself.  It's much much more budget friendly. The cashews ad creaminess.  However, only if you have a high powered blender! If not, try adding coconut cream (from a can) or, a cut of margerine after it's been placed in the bowl.  If you aren't Vegan some sort of cream. (Again, after it's been plated)

A 2 lb package of pre-cubed butternut squash
1/2 tsp rosemary
1 Tbsp.  Veggie Bouillon powder + 4 cups of water (or 4 cups of veggie broth)
1 Tbsp.  Onion Powder
1/4 to 1/2 tsp.  pepper
1/2 Tbsp. organic sugar
1/2 cup unsalted raw cashews

Dry saute cubes of squash until some pieces are browned. Add other ingredients (except for the cashews) and simmer covered  for 20 minutes.  Pour soup and cashews into a blender and blend until smooth. (be careful!  It will be super hot. Do this in batches if need be) If for some reason, your liquid isn't covering the squash when it's simmering, add more liquid (water or, broth)

Theoretically, one could make TONS of variations with this.  Unfortunately, I was at a loss of time and fresh ingredients...

Try this.  Let me know how it turned out or let me know if you created a different variation with this base recipe and leave a comment about it! If there were more time, I may have tried cubing 1 or 2 apples in place of sugar and possibly using fresh onion instead of powder.  This is vegan.  If there is a concern about adding sugar, try dates or maple syrup as a sub!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

It's Been a While & An Alternative Title Idea?

This should maybe be titled "My Unabashed Adoration of Costco" but, as I was writing I didn't quite know where this was going to go so, grab some tea, coffee or a snack and delve in readers. 

So, it's been a while?  I was listening to a podcast last night. (No Meat Athlete).  These guys were discussing their morning routines or, the important things they do everyday.  One of them was writing.  Sitting down and hand writing something for 30 minutes everyday.  I couldn't help but think about the journals I used to keep as a young girl and then of course, the blogs I used to write.  Then, several weeks ago on facebook a girlfriend of mine asked if I was going to star writing again.

Most recently, I've moved back to the United States.  I am now living on the Pugent Sound in the great state of Washington. We are so happy to be "home".  Honestly, we loved traveling throughout Europe and we feel blessed to have that experience but never once did we feel as though we were comfortable.  For the followers of all of our blogs, it was obvious to see we stopped blogging for a while in Germany while we blogged A TON in Japan.  One of the reasons was we were not very happy in Germany and, there are many reasons why that is that I just won't go into detail publicly.  Suffice is to say, Germany just wasn't for us. 

There are things however, like everywhere we've lived, that we will miss.  I hope to go over those things and also cover some things that we a totally grateful to have back.  This may take form in a sister blog.

Because our family has been camping out, blogging hasn't really been on the top of our list.  We are waiting for our household goods.  I have been sticking with the Vegan idea though.  And, while it's been easier here in the US of A to keep vegan, it's pretty darn tricky when I'm out to eat.  I still haven't become comfortable enough to proudly declare that I don't eat meat.  The hardest part is handling the immediate judgment from people.  The tricky part is staying away from excess salt sugar and oil as well when I don't have a kitchen.  I have a kitchen but, it's a mishmash of borrowed supplies.  Which, any cook will tell you just feel "off", or "icky" or "wrong".  We've been able to do simple meals like stir fry, bean burritos, baked potato bar, and veggie burgers.

One of the first stops we made was Costco.  They have changed so much just in the 4 years I've been out of country.  A fantastic selection of vegan, vegetarian, and generally healthier options.  Last night was a perfect example of a Costco vegan meal.  Brown rice (Costco), Frozen stir fry veggies (Costco), and this new curry they have in the refrigerated section.  Maya Kaimal Vindaloo & Coconut Curry.  Both packages were Vegan, Non-GMO, and gluten free.  For a package of 2 sauces it was a little over $14.  Pretty steep in my book but still if one divides it out for a family of 4 (plus, seconds) we are looking no more than about $2 a person.  Last night, we used the Vindaloo sauce.  YUM!  Amazing stuff I thought.  The label said spicy but I didn't think it was overkill.  The flavor reminded me of  S & B Golden Curry but not as heavy.  The kids weren't fans but they don't love curry like Mike and I. The package suggested 4 cups of veggies and 2 pounds of chicken.  I added about 5 cups of veggies and a can of chickpea beans. Although there were many healthy aspects of this the sodium was over 500.  Tonight more than likely we are doing veggie burgers.  We've been enjoying the boxed variety lately again from....drumroll.....Costco! These are the Don Lee Farms Veggie Patties.  Unlike many of the varieties on the market this is a true Vegan option. Also, organic, GMO free, and lastly (I'm not sure if this is to my detriment admitting this) I can actually pronounce all of the ingredients! These veggie patties were somewhat a treat.  I will more than likely keep them on hand for those busy school nights or, when Mike can't seem to find anything to eat, he can rummage through the freezer and not starve.

Although, I must mention the family and I absolutely adore the Happy Herbivores recipe for black bean burgers.  I love that it doesn't require many ingredients or utensils to make, it's fast, and it's inexpensive.  The family loves it because....they taste good. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Creamy Nicoise Inspired Dressing


This is creamy without the cream...or, oil.  Brace yourself.  It's not traditional Nicoise but I hope that it is close enough for your enjoyment. Serve this over or, beside traditional Nicoise collection of ingredients: hardboiled egg, tuna, steamed potatoes, green beans, tomato, and lettuce or, make your own salad of whatever veggies you can dream up!

Large Bunch of basil (About 2 cups packed 4 cups unpacked)
2 Tbsp. Grainy Mustard (I use Maille brand)
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
1/2 cup cashews
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
4 Dates
1/4 cup water

Blend all ingredients in the blender until creamy dressing is formed.