Monday, September 17, 2018

Sorry Charlie - Chickpea of the Sea

I love tuna salad sandwiches or salad and could eat that for lunch 2-3 days a week. I grew up a stone's throw from the canned tuna capital of the world, Astoria Oregon, and as school kids,  we'd visit the Bumblebee canning operations on field trips, before they suspended production there in 1980.

Tuna sandwiches and tuna casserole were staples in our house growing up, along with the Salmon and Steelhead Dad caught fresh.   But today,  that much tuna is NOT a good idea, given the amount of mercury in today's polluted oceans, not to mention the other species of sometimes endangered fish that end up being killed for no good reason as the tuna is harvested.

But how to satisfy a craving for quality albacore tuna without animal protein or cruelty?

Chickpea of the Sea 

Cholesterol free and vegan - adapted from a great little vegan cookbook called The Kripalu Cookbook, I found a nice sized bottle on amazon for only about $8 and it's great in other things such as a sauce for fish or grilled tofu  - mix 1/4 cup each of the vinegar and honey or agave, add 2 T. olive oil and simmer until it coats the back of a spoon - incredibly good as a glaze on fish or tofu or as a stir fry sauce.

My husband had already had a PB sandwich when I got home from the store with the week's groceries and the ingredients, but he took a bite of mine just to try it as he was a bit skeptical looking at what I was tossing into the food processor.

He then proceeded to make ANOTHER sandwich out of the mixture and ate it as well. It only took five minutes to make so we'll be making this weekly for packed lunches.

In food processor pulse 2-3 times

1 - 15 and a half ounce can chickpeas drained and rinsed (or two cups cooked ones - easy to do, just soak overnight, drain and add fresh water to simmer about 2 hours, store and use for dishes and salads through the week).
1 and 1/2 Tablespoons umeboshi vinegar.

In another bowl mix:
1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon Vegenaise (or mayo if you do eggs)
2 Tablespoons chopped green onion or scallions
1 large stalk of celery - chopped into small pieces
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons celery seed (SEED, not salt)
a few grinds of cracked black pepper
a tiny pinch of red pepper
a dash of James Krazy Mixed up Salt (a low sodium herb/salt blend) - optional
Add to chickpeas and pulse 4-6 times, until the consistency of tuna salad. You're looking for some texture to it to give it the mouthfeel of tuna salad., so don't process it til it's smooth.

Serve on whole grain bread with lettuce, on a bed of mixed greens or on whole grain crackers. Makes four sandwiches. My husband was right - it had the genuine taste and texture of tuna salad, but was even fresher tasting.  With whole grain bread, you can have a nice sized sandwich for around 300 calories with 16 grams of filling protein. Yummy!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Farmhouse Fresh

Some women buy lots of shoes and handbags.  Not me.  I think I own 4 pairs of shoes and one purse.  But I have the bath product collection of all times.  I love my nightly bath or shower (on days I wash my hair) and have lots of different washes, oils, and bath soaks.  But this is the first one that I came out of the shower and give my husband a hug and he said, "you smell terrific!"

The Scent is called "Fluffy Bunny" and it's the absolute best seller at a massage therapist/spa in our village. They describe it as a "mint-julep, cream, with a hint of lavender". I just think it smells heavenly.  You can order it online though from FHF Farmhouse Fresh products (link below). They have a wonderful collection of facial and body products made with natural ingredients, gentle on the skin, leaving my skin so very soft after I dry off.

They also have skin and body oils, soaps and bath soaks.

The body wash is made with aloe, vitamin E and a blend of extracts that calm sensitive skin including Green Tea, Chamomile and Arnica Montana Flower. Nourishing Green Tea Extract is loaded with polyphenols and anti-inflammatory properties for delicate skin tissue. Plus sodium PCA, a skin-identical ingredient that helps boost skin’s moisture content and prevent moisture loss.

At $19 it's a bit pricey but it takes just the tiny amount to whip up lots of creamy bubbles, so it lasts three times as long as that grocery store body wash.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Tasty AND Salt-Free

Every couple of months we invite people from our church who have been recently widowed over for supper.  They are in their late 80's/early 90's and have no children living close by.  It's fun for us all, but a challenge is making dishes that are tasty for an elderly palate but also are low salt or salt-free as I know, having a 98-year-old Dad, blood pressure issues are more common as we age.

I was so happy to find these seasonings from Mrs. Dash.  Mrs. Dash is well known (in the US and Canada) for their salt substitutes and I've used them for years.  But these package seasoning and marinades are something I'd not seen.  They weren't from my grocery (which is family owned and family small) but from

Healthy Heart Market has all kinds of salt-free products including baking ingredients, sauces, condiments, snacks, etc and the prices aren't bad. Shipping was also pretty prompt. Shipping is by Fed Ex so it's not cheap, but if I can't find the product without driving further into the city I'm happy to order online.

I quietly tried the Mrs. Dash taco seasoning last night and not only did my husband not notice it was "salt-free" but he said he liked "whatever you used" better than the big name brand taco seasoning (which is loaded with salt) that I normally purchase. I just added it to my Gardein "beef" crumbles with some water and it was ready in just a few minutes. I can't wait to try the others on some vegetarian versions of my favorite comfort foods.

They also have packaged seasoning mixes for Sloppy Joes, Chili, and Fahitas (USA only for that one) and if you use the code word NEW1 at checkout you'll get $5 off your first order.

If you are in Canada (which I know one regular reader is) you can order the products at Mrs. Dash Canada's online story.  Their web address is:

But check at your grocers first - the larger ones are likely to carry the products.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Chili is in the Forecast

Chili mac is one of those winter comfort foods, but after some recent dental work where I had to eat soft foods while I had a temporary crown on I made a small batch while my husband was away.  It was slightly different than an earlier chili mac recipe because it used Mexican Oregon and Mexican Chili Powder.

Traditional oregano is common Italian cuisine, especially pizza, with its minty undertones from its membership in the mint plant family Lamiaceae.

Mexican oregano, on the other hand, is from a different plant family altogether, Verbenaceae.  You’ll also find Lemon Verbena in this family, so Mexican Oregano has similar citrus-like undertones.  It also might taste more grassy or earthy to you. But I find it works much better in Tex Mex style cooking than traditional oregano and in dried form can be found in many grocers in their Latin section or from Amazon. It’s great in this dish as well as a pinto bean soup recipe I will share in the near future.

Mexican chili powder is more readily available in the US, and though it’s slightly “hotter” than American style chili powder, both types will work in this recipe.

But seriously, use the Mexican Oregano.

Chili Mac - serves 4-5, easily doubles just use a 13 x 9 pan if you are going to bake it

o 1 teaspoon olive oil
o 1 medium onion small diced, about 1 and a half cups
o 1 jalapeno, stemmed and minced (optional)
o 1 and ¼ teaspoons salt or salt substitute (I like Mrs. Dash and Diamond Crystal Brand) plus more for pasta cooking water
o 1 pound veggie “beef” crumbles
o 2 and ½  tablespoons Mexican chili powder
o dash of crushed red pepper
o 1 and ½ teaspoons Mexican oregano
o 1 tablespoons minced garlic
o 1 (14-16  ounce) can whole plum tomatoes, broken with your hands, with juices
o 1 can red beans, drained
o ½ pound gluten-free macaroni (I used Cadia brand brown rice macaroni)
o ¼ cup water
o 1/2 pound cheddar (optional)

Vegan sour cream substitute.

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a 6-quart soup pot. Add onion, jalapeno (if desired), and salt and cook until soft, 2 minutes. Add ground beef, chili powder, oregano, red pepper, and garlic and cook, breaking up any clumps of meat with a spoon, for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, beans, and 1/4 cup of water, stir, and bring chili to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until thickened to chili consistency, about 20 minutes. Taste and add more teaspoon salt, if needed.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

While the chili is simmering, cook macaroni according to package directions in boiling salted water, drain in a colander,

There are two ways to serve this

(1) add macaroni to prepared chili, heat through and serve with a spoonful of sour cream.  This is what I did today as I prepared this on my short lunch break.

(2) Preheat oven to 400 F.  Rinse cooked pasta under cool water and set aside.  Grate ½ pound regular or vegan cheddar and set aside. Place an 8 x 8 or other one and a half quart casserole dish on a baking sheet. Once chili has finished cooking, fold in the cooked macaroni and 1/3 of the cheddar cheese. Transfer chili-mac to the baking dish and top with remaining cheese. Bake until heated through and cheese is melted - about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Good Intentions

I knew today was going to be a busy day where I had to go to the office for a meeting so I packed a lunch.  I'm going to eat sensibly even with a crazy schedule.

I drank the rest of the refrigerator blueberry smoothie at o'dark hundred and then threw a couple oat muffins in with my packed lunch to munch when I arrived.  For lunch, there would be an Almond butter sandwich, cucumbers, an apple, and almonds and cranberries for a mid-afternoon snack  (AlpsSnack, unfortunately, went out of business with the death of its founder so this is my last one, seriously best nut/fruit bar ever).

Unfortunately, from early morning until after 2:00 I was tied up with something very important and there was NO break to grab a snack.  When I was clear, I was SO happy I had a nutritious lunch with whole grains waiting.

Too bad I didn't eat it.

I had opened it up and was huffing the almonds and cranberries when one of the people I was in the meeting with said "Potbellies" and the next thing you know I'm eating a hot turkey sandwich with cheese and mayo on a toasted bun that's to die for.  And a cookie.  This is what my midsection is going to look like tomorrow.
I got home and said "Abby, I blew my diet today, should we have diet kibble for dinner?

Abby feigns death so not to have to answer.

Sure there were "veggies" on it if iceberg lettuce counts.

OK - I'll add more fruit this afternoon.
Fruit - Fail.

We all have setbacks.  We simply make better choices the next meal, rather than writing the whole day off.  I'll eat the fruit and veggies in my packed lunch for supper and eat the sandwich for breakfast

Total:  Breakfast  340  Snacks  (fruit, nuts, single piece of candy) 365 Lunch - don't ask  Dinner 130 Calories - over 2000.  Not awful, but not good and there was WAY too much saturated fat.

Steps:  4700 but I'll do another walk before it gets dark.

Lesson learned - before an activity that has the potential to delay a meal, eat some protein, a piece of jerky, a protein bar, SOMETHING.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Slow is Good - A Primer on Baking Bread

I'm at work today, earning my daily bread so I will leave you with a little lesson in making your own.  The tasty variety.  While picking up a loaf of bread one day I paid attention to the price. It has gone up significantly in the last year, as have most other foods.

I use up to a loaf a week, sandwiches for lunch, french toast, a base for stew, toasted and smeared with roasted garlic alongside roasted veggies or pasta.  I eat primal a few days a week to keep my overall sugar and carbs down, but I still have some bread days.  I tried to do the low carb thing once and was ready to take hostages at a Dunkin Donut by day 3.  I'm fine with salads and roasted veggies with my meat, but I missed toast with my bacon and eggs.

But everything in moderation.  Still, thinking as to the cost, I wondered - ow much does it cost to bake a loaf versus buy. Using the best quality flour (I love King Arthur for breads, White Lily for biscuits, pancakes and waffles) and getting your yeast in bulk you can bake a loaf of bread (baking two at a time in the oven to reduce fuel cost) for a little more than a dollar.   If you buy cheaper an/or bulk flours, you'll save even more. Artisan breads in the store cost up to  $4-5. For myself, baking two loafs (freezing one) rather than buying a loaf of the fancy bread saves me over a couple hundred dollars a year).  That's just one person.  When I married a "sandwich guy" that doubled my savings and it was SO much better.
But if you won't eat it you won't save anything. My bread was good, but my best friend who is also my book editor makes the best bread in the world, a sweet white bread that makes up awesome sandwiches and toast. One day, she showed me how to make it and unlike her "I love you but if you share this they will never find the body" brownie cookie recipe, this one I can share. (late day low light didn't make for the best pictures but you get the idea).

Anyway - to get started. . .

You will need:
6 cups flour
2/3 cup white sugar
2 cups warm water
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
1 and 1/2 Tablespoons butter (NOT margarine)
2 teaspoons salt.
A big bowl, a board for kneading and a little extra flour to coat the board and your hands.


Measure out six cups of flour. (King Arthur bread flour was used).  Flours are different, and some brands may require less or more than the recipe calls for, some, for products like biscuits,  give a taller, more tender product (using soft wheats). I am just telling you what I've had good luck with, but you may have excellent luck with another brand that is less expensive. It's something you just learn over time. I'm also allergic to malt and malted barley flour is added to a lot of cheap grocery store flours.  For my whole grain breads, as I do both, I use Bob's Red Mill.
Anyway - to get started. . .

You will need:
6 cups flour
2/3 cup white sugar
2 cups warm water
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
1 and 1/2 Tablespoons butter (NOT margarine)
2 teaspoons salt.
A big bowl, a board for kneading and a little extra flour to coat the board and your hands.


In a very big bowl dissolve 2/3 cup white sugar in 2 cups warm water (110 degrees F. or 45 C.).  If you don't have a thermometer, test it on the inside of your wrist like you would baby formula.  If it's too HOT it will kill the yeast and your bread won't rise (door stop anyone?).  If it's too COLD you have the equivalent of yeast "shrinkage".
Stir in 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast and allow to proof until the yeast resembles a creamy foam.  (8 minutes normally)

While the 8 minutes winds down, melt 1 and 1/2 Tablespoon butter in the microwave and set aside.  When the yeast is ready, mix 2 teaspoons salt and that butter into the yeast.

Add flour, a cup at a time,  stirring with a wooden spoon.  When almost all of the flour is added the batter will look stringy like thick elastic, and want to slide off the spoon. Add the rest of the flour (but gradually, so you use only what you need) until it's too thick to stir.

Remove the dough to a clean floured board or surface and knead it by pushing with the palm of clean, dry hands.  After each push, bring the dough back towards you, gather up the sides and push again watching that you don't poke holes in it with your fingers.

 Add flour to the board to keep it from sticking but not too much, or the dough will be dry.

The more you knead, the finer texture your bread will have, but you also don't want to over work it.

Knead it til it's becoming silky smooth and doesn't stick to your hands.  If it's "shaggy" looking, doesn't hold a shape or tears,  it's NOT ready.

Almost there.
If you're not sure, shape it into a ball, and let it sit 15 minutes.  If it holds it's shape without starting to spread out like a pancake it's probably ready.

Place in a well oiled BIG bowl and turn to coat both sidesCover with a clean, damp kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place free from drafts until doubled, about an hour. You want a temperature of about 75 degrees F.  If the house is chilled, I'll turn the oven on for just a few seconds, then turn it off, to get it a little warm and put the bread inside. watching though that it's not too hot or your bread will be course textured. In the summer, just put your oven light on and put it in there.
You can also let it raise in the sun, on the counter. but don't let it get more than 80 degrees.

Now go find something to do. It's quiet, you've got an hour. Go commune with nature. .
Or check on your emergency supplies. . .
When it is doubled in size, remove dough from its resting place,  perfect
Now, punch down the dough with a fist andshape and place into 2 well oiled loaf pans. We actually got a third, smaller loaf out of these out of this batch , but remember, it will rise during baking so don't overstuff your bread pan. You definitely should get two well sized loaves out of this recipe..
Time for some fun with that third loaf.
We added some crushed red pepper, cracked black pepper and Parmesan and slightly kneaded it in. You also could do fresh or dried herbs or garlic. Then, a little bit more fresh shaved Parmesan was sprinkled on top after we brushed all of the tops with another Tablespoon (or as needed) of melted butter before that final raise.

Allow to rise for 1 hour, until double and about an inch above the pans. (OK, these weren't all exactly the same size, Yeungling may have been involved).
Bake  at 350 degrees  F. (175  C. for my Canadian friends) for 30 minutes.  For the most part, the crust should be dry, very firm, and a deep golden brown. If the crust is  pale, give it a few more minutes. You can also  use a thermometer. Bread is done baking at 190°F. Just stick a cooking thermometer in the bottom of the loaf to gets its temperature.

Remove from oven and remove from the pans as soon as possible.  (Letting it cool in the pan may result in the bottom of the bread being a bit soggy).
The pepper Parmesan bread was perfect  with dinner that night.
The remainder, as I said, world's best sandwich bread and toast (especially with Amish Bacon from Beef Mart)

Thanks, Stephanie, for the recipe and baking lesson at your lovely country home. I hope you all try it, the kneading takes a little practice but it's fun, relaxing, and the bigger your family, the more money you will save over 20 ingredient store bought bread. If the room or the water are too cold or hot and it doesn't rise like expected bake it anyway, it will make great bread pudding or croutons. If it doesn't rise AT ALL, well, there's not much you can do but launch it at a hippie with a trebuchet or bury it.  But with these hints, hopefully, that won't happen.

Some other household tips:  This has no preservatives.  If you're not going to use it in three days, keep it in the fridge.  For small households, the bread itself freezes well in a plastic bag sealed tight .  When you remove it to thaw,  let it thaw in the bag without opening. Opening the bag while it thaws adds moisture to the bread you do not want.

Enjoy - and happy baking!