Friday, September 26, 2014

I Don't Enjoy Visiting my Children's Classrooms

Here goes.  It's not necessarily a cooking entry but, I needed an outlet so,  hopefully since I don't get any comments anyway, this one will be no different.

I love my kids. I love being a mom.  Honestly, when I was a little girl I dreamed of being a mother.  That is really what I aspired to do. I hated school.  I was always awkward.  In fact, I don't ever remember a time I didn't feel "outside".  Even in my own family but mostly in school.  I quit girl scouts because they picked on me.  In middle school I wore a winter jacket every day (I'm from California people) and my parents switched  me to private school  because I was getting sick and being bullied. I never felt smart or accomplished in really any of my subjects.  I was good at writing and history. So good that I was once accused of cheating and many times held up as an "example" for my fellow classmates. But everything else I kinda sucked at.  I'm not going to go too far down the rabbit hole of " Poor Poor Nicki". But I think this explains some things.

Love being a mom until I was expected to show up in my kids classrooms.  I had run or avoided uncomfortable situations all my life. Living the idea that I could just blend into the background and no one would notice me really worked well but, this is one thing that I couldn't run away from or avoid.  My boys counted on me to be around.  So I had to go....gulp, back to school and be active in scouts and sports events. If we are keeping score I'm an abysmal failure.  I get dates wrong all the time.  Kindergarten for my second kid has been the worst.  I forget every time and date.....At the beginning of the year, I forgot when I was having a home visit.  So, at 9:30 in the morning the Kindergarten teacher and her TA were greeted by me and same in our pajamas.  Then today was a "family day" it happens twice a month.  The first one was at 9:00 so I just assumed it would be at the same time every time.  Turns out they are different times and they are posted on the Kindergarten news letter that is emailed out. Again, I showed up at 9:00 to a teacher looking at me like I took a stupid pill today. "Um, it's at 1:00 was in the newsletter that I send home every week"

The question remains.  Do I forget times and dates because I simply just don't want to be there?  Or, am I just a scatter brain?

More I avoiding my kids school because I feel this way?  Or, do I not like going because I kinda don't believe in being all up in the teachers business?  I mean, theoretically the only time I really want to hear from the teacher is if my sons are struggling or, if they are doing fantastic.  Otherwise, I don't believe in being a helicopter. Or, is that attitude just an excuse?

During school conferences and field trips my better half goes.  He likes doing that stuff. I like being in the background. Doing the work behind the scenes and never to be seen.

It's hard to sum up in a few paragraphs what makes my skin crawl when I join my kids in their classrooms.  When some parent involvement date comes, the little person inside of me is screaming,  "I HATE THIS.  NOT GOING NOT GOING NOT GOING!!!"  Does anyone else feel this way?

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.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Ranch Alternative

Being a redblooded American, I love ranch dressing but hate the calories and saturated fat that come with it.  This recipes satisfies my ranch craving but is much healthier. It's dairy free.  There are some fantastic health benefits to skipping on dairy.  Noticeably less sinus problems, stomach and digestive issues, and less fat & calories.  Other benefits include being able to eat dairy free ranch with hot wings!  If trying to live a kosher lifestyle, this is definitely a benefit!  No need to stress with this dressing/dip at the next summer BBQ.  Because there's no egg or dairy, it can stand out in room temperature longer without posing a health hazard. One more thing.....a 12 oz. carton of tofu is much cheaper than buttermilk, cream, sour cream, creme fresh, or mayonnaise.

I'm slowly moving into a Vegan lifestyle.  While I don't know if I'll ever become fully vegan, I think we can all agree that eating more plants is beneficial to our health, the world, and animals. 

This recipe includes frozen prechopped herbs from Aldi.  I use the 8 Krauter blend and it's fabulous.  I'm not sure if stateside grocers have wised up and started selling frozen pre-chopped herbs but this is a "Get with it America!" moment for me. Many grocers in Germany sell small frozen containers (about 75-100 grams) of herbs for less than 1 Euro. 

The herb blend that I use includes. Parsley, dill, watercress, chervil, chives, sorrel, borage, burnet.  I've provided links to definitions of herbs that may seem unfamiliar.  While I realize in the states, these herbs may not be easily accessible, I thought I'd provide a little education!  Also, for those who have a green thumb try growing these in your herb garden! For alternatives try using fresh chopped Parsley, Dill, Chives, and Basil.  1-2 Tbsp. each.  If fresh isn't available, try a 1 tsp. each dried.  Or, 2-3 Tbsp. of dried Italian herb blend.

So, here's the rest of the recipe.

1 12oz. box of silken firm tofu
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper (regular pepper works too)
1 1/2 Tbsp. chopped garlic
1/4 cup Aldi 8 Krauter Blend (Click on the link to see a picture and purchase at Aldi or (if you're here in Germany) or, use one of the alternatives listed above)

Place all ingredients except for the herbs in a blender and blend until smooth.  Pour mixture into a bowl and wisk in the herbs.  Pour into a jar or Tupperware and stick in the fridge to marinade for several hours.

This recipe will make about 2 cups of dressing. Serve it to your family and see if they can tell the difference! 

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Making Milk & Flour

I'm sure by now if readers have ventured into the health food scene, they've heard ad nauseam about THE VITAMIX!

I have to say, I was sick and tired of hearing about how fantastic this thing was.  I mean really?! It's a blender for crying out loud!  A $500 blender! But then I drank the kool-aid too.  We had blown through 3 blenders in one year.  I wanted one.  Really badly.....and then, my hubs bought me one.  I have never looked back.  This thing is just amazing.  I'm no spokes person but seriously everyone who loves to cook or is into their health and wants to experiment should really really consider it. 

So, I finally ventured into making nut milks and nut flours.  I have to say that in general, making ones own milk, isn't financially "better". But, health wise and taste wise, it is.  No preservatives or artificial anything.  For those who or control freaks about what they ingest into their body this is really the only way to go.  For me, I've found that I don't always have the time for it.  But, I've been able to make it a little more financially "better".  By using the leftover pulp from the nut milks and grinding it into nut flour. 

The cheapest one I've found so far is coconut.  Now here at Aldi (a German grocer) I can get unsweetened coconut shavings  for 55 euro cents for a 200 gram bag. This is a little under $1.00. 

To get the milk:

  • Dump 2 bags of coconut shavings into the vitamix pitcher (8 cup pitcher) then fill the rest of the pitcher up with filtered water (up to the 8 cup line). 
  • Blend on high for 3 minutes.  3 minutes is just enough time for me to get a bowl, fine mesh sieve and line it with an old gauze cotton diaper. My first try making nut milk, I realized I needed an additional filter to the metal sieve it was just too chalky without being filtered through both.  There are many options to using a cloth filter.  I didn't want to spend the money on cheese cloth or a milk bag (although these are the recommended methods).  Nor, did I want to take the time to go and get one.  So cloth diaper it was!  The gauze cotton kind not the regular cotton folding diaper.  A very very thin tea towel can work in a pinch as well.
  • Once 3 minutes of blending is up, turn off the blender, and pour contents through the cloth & sieve. This may take a little time. Once most of it has drained on it's own, the rest should be hand squeezed through rthe gauze. Form a sort of bag by gathering up the corners and twisting the top of the towl or diaper or guaze. (Similar to closing up a garbage bag) Then start squeezing.  Get as much moisture out as you possibly can. 
  • This can make about a liter of milk.  Pour milk into a pitcher and refrigerate.  WARNING!  This will not last long.  A couple days.  Then it will taste nasty. 

For the flour part so, now that we have our milk what do I do will all this left over coconut pulp?  Don't throw it away!!!
  • Get out a baking sheet, line with parchment and spread pulp out onto the pan evenly. 
  • Let the pulp lay out on the counter for a day or two until it's completely dry.  Be sure to break up the clumps so it will dry all the way.  If one has a dehydrator, dehydrate the pulp for faster results.  Also, one can use the oven on the lowest setting overnight.  The temperature and the general environment of the kitchen is what determines how long it will take for the pulp to dry out completely.
  • Once the pulp is completely dry, pour the contents into the dry canister of the vitamix and blend.  This creates about a cup to a cup and a half of coconut flour. 

There you have it.  For little under $2 I can produce a liter of coconut milk and 1 cup of coconut flour.  I realize that this seems tedious.  I have to admit, I don't do this all the time.  I'm fortunate enough that if I feel lazy, I have room in my budget to just go and buy a carton of coconut milk/drink at the local grocer.  But for those who don't have that option or, for those absolutely must know what is in their non-dairy milk this is a great and inexpensive option.

The same method can be applied to almond milk.  The measurements are the same.  The only difference is the almonds must be soaked over night, rinsed and then added to the blender.  It tastes absolutely phenomenal but isn't the cheapest option. I only end up with about 3/4 of a liter.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sunshine Salad

I was at Aldi the other day and purchased a bulger salad that was an "Indian" style salad.  While I love Indian food, I have trouble mastering the art of making it at home.  It was fabulous and filled with all kinds of things I was sure wasn't good for my diet.  This pre-made salad was laden with oil.  I knew I could get a similar flavor without adding all the fat and empty calories.   This was my first attempt.  A sort of mango chutney mixed with quinoa and lentils.

This Quinoa concoction is packed with vitamin C and enough protein to fill your tummy.  Feeling a winter slump?  This salad might just perk you up!

  • 1 cup Quinoa
  • 1 cup yellow lentils
  • 1 Red Onion
  • 3 Mangoes (peeled and finely chopped)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (minced or pushed through a garlic press)
  • 1 Tbsp. grated ginger root
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 finely chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 tsp. ground clove
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
    1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup orange or pineapple juice
  • 2 Tsp. Apple Cider Vinegar (this can be replaced with any other light colored Vinegar you may have on     hand or, even lemon juice)
  • 1 tsp. salt

Place mango, garlic, onion, bell pepper, ginger, raisins, clove, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, cayenne pepper orange juice, vinegar and salt into a medium/large mixing bowl. 

While this mixture is sitting, cook quinoa and yellow lentils according to package directions.  Rinse and Drain quinoa with cold water and put in the mixing bowl. Rinse and drain lentils with cold water and place these in the bowl with the rest of the ingredients. 

It will help to let this salad to sit for a little while in the fridge so that the raisins can plump up a bit before serving. Best to add almonds and cilantro before serving but won't ruin it entirely if it's added before hand.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Spanish Roasted Pepper Dip/Salad Dressing

I really really enjoy Spanish food.  Actually if the culture is "latin" I'm pretty much into it.  Spanish food is so so fun because it's such a melting pot of European, Middle Eastern and North African cuisine.  This is not strictly a salad dressing but can also be used as a sauce over a baked potato, pasta, fish or chicken.  Also, would make for a wonderful party dip.  Just watch the amount of water that's added to get the "dip" consistency.  I poured this dressing warm over my salad for lunch and it was truly wonderful.  Because I was out of paprika it wasn't used in this recipe BUT I may try it next time.  Great for the winter.  Red peppers, onions and garlic give the body lots of fighting power against colds other contagious bugs out there! This is a thick salad dressing and will make about 4 cups.  If you'd like it thinner, add more water.

  • 3 Red Peppers
  • 2 Red Onions (small size or, 1 large/med size)
  • 1 Head of Garlic
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cashews
  • 1 Tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce (or liquid amino acids)
  • 2 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp.  thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with foil and spraying it with oil/non stick cooking spray to prevent sticking. 

Cut the stem and seeds out of the red peppers, cut the top off of the head of garlic (no need to remove the skin see the below link to youtube clip), cut the red onion in half and remove the skin. Place all veggies on the prepared baking sheet. Broil in the oven for 10-15 minutes.  Until the skin is blackened on the veggies a bit.

Remove them from the oven and using tongs, transfer peppers and onions into the container of a high powered blender (a food processor may work for this as well). 

The head of garlic is a little different.  For those out there who have never roasted garlic and removed the skin afterward check out this youtube clip.

At about 1:18 of this youtube clip, it will show watchers how to remove the pod from the skin.  Once you've squeezed all the garlic out, discard the skin and place the pods into the blender container as well. 

Now just add all the other ingredients into the blender.  Blend on high until all ingredients are blended smooth or, to your desired consistency.  Voila! you've got a warm and delicious salad dressing without gobs and gobs of oil.

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Friday, August 23, 2013

Mother of Invention?

Okay, the title may be over the top but this little idea I had satisfied my craving for a $50 item.  I think the complete saying is "Desperation is the Mother of Invention".

I was skimming all my catalogs the other night and I came upon this nifty knife block.  I kinda wanted it bad.  Problem was, I already had a knife block....and, I didn't have $50 to spend.

Enter my idea.  Command hooks are just amazingly versatile.  In fact, has a great board dedicated to these nifty things. But, I don't think my idea was on there yet! Could this idea be so grand?  A gal can dream can't she?

So here goes.  The pictures are pretty self explanatory.  Is the $50 item better looking?  Of course!  But it's $50.  Verses $2.95 for a 2 pack, I think I'll take the latter.