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20 Nov Peppers

I’m always looking for foods that contain calcium. One new product is a cream cheese, the other is an old standby, buttermilk.

Let’s do the new product first. Green Mountain Farms has created “Greek Cream Cheese & Greek Yogurt” for the conscientious consumer: you and me!  Where most cream cheese has only 2 – 4% calcium (I know, you would think there is more calcium in cream cheese), Green Mountain Farms’ cream cheese contains 8% calcium.

NOTE: In case of any confusion, this cream cheese contains Greek yogurt. It is one product. The full name is Green Mountain Farms Greek Cream Cheese & Greek Yogurt.

Bonus: when you buy Green Mountain Farms Greek Cream Cheese, the package contains a $.55 coupon inside so be careful when you open it. I’ve torn the coupon each time and had to tape it together. An 8 oz bar costs $2.18 at Wal-Mart. Make sure you use your coupon!


Coupon for Greek Cream Cheese

Two tablespoons of Green Mountain Farms Greek cream cheese is only 60 calories. Compare that to butter where two tablespoons is 200 calories! The cream cheese is a much healthier choice.

I couldn’t tell you what it tastes like plain because I “doctor” it up. Here is a delicious dip recipe that I created using most of the ingredients from the Philadelphia Jalapeno Cream Cheese label.


8 oz bar of Green Mountain Farms Greek Cream Cheese

¼ teaspoon onion powder

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

1 finely chopped Serrano pepper (I prefer Serrano to Jalapeno)

1 teaspoon vinegar

dash salt (optional)

dash sugar (optional)

Mash all together well. If the consistency is too thick, add a bit more vinegar. I didn’t add the salt or the sugar the first time I made it. I did the second time I made it and didn’t think there was any improvement so I will be leaving them out from now on. If you like things very hot, add the ribs of the Serrano pepper. When you’re done chopping, wash your hands very well. I washed my hands twice after making this dish. Later on, while watching TV, I rubbed my eyes and yes, they started burning from the pepper! I continuously rinsed my eyes with cold water until the burning stopped. Boy, that was a surprise! So heed the warning!

This cream cheese dip goes great with Sweet Potato and Onion Brown Rice Triscuits.

Now for the buttermilk news.

Did you know that a one-cup serving of Kroger’s Low Fat Buttermilk contains 40% calcium? I don’t know about you, but I don’t think of calcium when I think of buttermilk. And yet, I should! We should!

Alas, even low fat buttermilk contains 120 calories in a one-cup serving, more than Deans fat free milk which contains 90 calories. But the flavor can’t be matched. This product contains 25% Vitamin D, the same amount in Deans Fat Free Milk. But Deans Fat Free milk contains only 30% calcium, 10% less than the buttermilk.

What can you do with buttermilk? You can make buttermilk biscuits. You can make buttermilk pancakes. (Oh, yum!) You can soak chicken in buttermilk which will tenderize it. And, you can make my Irish Soda Bread with it. Lately, I have been omitting one cup of flour from the Soda Bread recipe and adding 1 cup of Old Fashioned Oats instead. The oats have less calories than the flour and the taste is better. It’s also better for you with more fiber and more vitamins.

I now make the Oat Soda Bread recipe weekly. When I slice it, I slice 14 slices from one 9×5 loaf. Yes, I now use a loaf pan to make it. The calories vary depending on how much flour and buttermilk I use. This last time I used about 4 cups of flour, 1 cup of oats, and 2 cups of buttermilk. I buttered the pan with ½ T of butter. So, each slice was approximately 156 calories. I want to get the calories down on this recipe so I will be using less flour and less buttermilk next time and omitting the tablespoon of sugar.

It’s fun to play around with recipes, especially when it improves your health! I hope you enjoy good health with these calcium containing foods!



16 Oct Slimcado

I’m always on the lookout for new food products and I came across this one at my local Kroger. For those of you who love avocadoes but hate the fat and the calories, this Slimcado has 50% less fat and 35% less calories than a regular avocado. Therefore, it is my choice for this month’s NEW FOOD FRIDAY FLASH.

A Slimcado tastes just like a regular avocado. It looks just like a regular avocado.


Slimcado Lite

But it is much bigger than a regular avocado. The skin stays green, it does not turn black like other avocadoes.  I paid $1.00 for this “medium” sized “avocado.” The cashier must have keyed it in wrong because there is no way this is a medium avocado.

Once home, I let it ripen for four days. In my haste to try it, apparently I didn’t let it ripen enough so it was still a bit too firm even though it had some give when I pressed it. I decided to wrap the remaining Slimcado in plastic wrap to see if it would ripen further.

Here are the nutrition facts from the website:

 1 cup             276 calories

Total Fat:        23.1g

Sat Fat:            4.5 g

Mono Fat:       12.7g

Poly Fat:         3.9g

Omega 3:        221mg

Omega 6:        3634mg

Cholesterol:    0

Sodium:           4.6mg

Carb:               18.4g

Fiber:               12.9g

Sugar:             5.6g

Protein:           5.1g

Vitamin C:       40mg

Potassium:      807mg

I know people like to add sliced avocado to their sandwiches and salads, or to make guacamole, but I like to eat avocado straight from the skin with a spoon as a snack. I halve it lengthwise, cover the remaining avocado with the pit still intact then wrap it in plastic wrap for another day. I won’t be doing that with the Slimcado. It’s too big!

Slimcado Avocado

I cut about 1/4 of the Slimcado to try it but you can see how big it was compared to my garden gloves!

However, a Slimcado would make an ideal vessel for stuffing! An ice cream scoop of shrimp or crab salad perhaps? Their website gives detailed instructions on how to cut up this Slimcado including photos. Click on the How to cut up a Slimcado link.

Keep your eyes peeled for a Slimcado. I think these are going to become a big hit!

If you would like more information about the Slimcado, go to




18 Sep Baked Lamb Pizzas

I hope you don’t get tired of my excitement with James Beard’s bread book, but every recipe I’ve tried is very good. Here’s another one. It’s called Lahma bi Ajeen and as you might guess, it’s made with lamb. I love lamb and I love pizza so it sounded like a unique combination and I wanted to share it with you for this month’s New Food Friday Flash.

Beard’s recipe calls for pine nuts but I substituted pecans that I had on hand and they were a very good substitution. It also called for tomato paste but I had two tomatoes that were going to go bad if I didn’t use them so they were also a good substitution.

Beard wrote that these “pizzas” were fun to make. I have to disagree; they are more fun to eat! My only criticism of his book is that his instructions aren’t always crystal clear although it’s never ruined my finished product so I can’t complain too loudly. For example, he writes that these pizzas make 8 servings and that you should divide the dough into walnut-sized balls. Well, he must use some pretty big walnuts because I ended up with 16 walnut sized balls.  

Pizza Dough

Pizza Dough Balls

Did he mean that each person should get two pizzas? I don’t think so. At any rate, if you’re going to go to the trouble of making pizza, it’s much better to have 16 than 8 of them.


For the Dough:

1 package active dry yeast

pinch of granulated sugar

scant 1 cup warm water (100° to 115°)

1 pound all-purpose flour (about 3 ¾ cups)

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

Dissolve the yeast with the sugar in ½ cup of the lukewarm water and allow to proof for 10 minutes. Put the flour and salt in a large, warm mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and add the oil and the yeast mixture. Work the dough vigorously adding the remaining lukewarm water gradually to make a soft dough. Knead in the bowl about 15 minutes (I thought I was the only one who kneaded in bowls!) until the dough is pliable and elastic. Cover with a damp cloth and set aside in a warm place for 2 – 3 hours or until doubled in bulk. (I use my microwave turned off.) Lightly oil the top of the dough to prevent a crust from forming.

For the Filling:

1 pound finely chopped onion

olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 ½ pound finely ground shoulder of lamb

½ cup pine nuts

½ six-ounce can tomato paste

1 teaspoon granulate sugar

¾ teaspoon ground allspice

1 tablespoon lemon juice

4 teaspoons salt, or to taste

1 teaspoon cracked peppercorns

2 dashes of Tabasco sauce

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Sauté the onions in 1 Tablespoon olive oil until wilted but not browned. Remove from heat and add garlic. Then add it to the ground meat along with the rest of the ingredients and blend well. Make a small sample patty, fry in ½ teaspoon olive oil and taste. Correct the seasonings if needed. Set aside while you roll out the dough.

Turn out the dough on a lightly floured board and knead a few times. Divide into walnut-sized balls and allow to rest for a few minutes, then roll each piece with a lightly floured rolling pin into a circle 5 to 6 inches in diameter. Spread the prepared filling generously over each piece. Transfer each piece to a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake in a preheated oven at 450° to 500° for 8 – 10 minutes. The patties should be well done but still pale in color.


The other interesting thing to note is that even though I spread a generous serving of the lamb mixture on each pizza dough as he says you should do, I still had about ¾ of a cup of the lamb mixture left over. AND, I didn’t use 1 ½ lbs of lamb as the recipe suggests; I only had a 1 lb package. Go figure! As usual, I baked them in my convection toaster oven.

Lamb Pizzas

Lamb Pizzas in my Convection Toaster Oven

With the leftover lamb mixture, I added it to some store-bought Classico basil and tomato sauce and poured it over pasta. It was very good! If you have leftover as I did, you could also stuff zucchini or an eggplant with it.

Lamb mixture

Lamb Mixture Cooking

Beard says you can cut these pizzas into wedges and serve them with cocktails. I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing worse than eating cold, ground lamb – it’s too greasy. I wouldn’t recommend them for eating with cocktails or as hors d’oeuvres. These pizzas are best eaten hot.

Baked Lamb Pizzas

Baked Lamb Pizzas Hot from the Oven

I ate 5 and froze the rest. They freeze well and reheat in a toaster oven very well.

Storing Lamb Pizza in Container

Storing Lamb Pizza in Container for Freezing

Also, they cool off pretty quickly. If I make them again, I will be sure to really load on the lamb mixture so I don’t have any leftover and so that the pizza will stay hot longer. Those are my words to the wise. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!



21 Aug Hair style

As I wrote about in last month’s New Food Friday Flash, I would be writing more about foods to put on your body and not just in your body for good health. This month’s post is for a recipe for a great shampoo that you can make yourself with simple ingredients. You can find these ingredients in a health food store or online at for example. I was able to find all the ingredients at my local Meijer supermarket and that is why I selected it for this month’s New Food Friday Flash.


Black Tea Shampoo Recipe

1 cup distilled water

6 bags black tea (regular tea)

½ cup liquid unscented, baby mild Castile soap

1 Tablespoon vegetable glycerin

10 drops Ylang essential oil



Boil water and steep tea bags 30 minutes.

6 Black Tea Bags

Boil 6 Tea Bags

Cool. Combine with remaining ingredients. Put in a clean, bottle (an old washed, shampoo bottle works well). Label the bottle. Shake bottle before each use. Shampoo, and let sit in hair for 2 minutes. Rinse. You will not get as much lather with this shampoo as with store-bought shampoos. Condition as usual.


I chose not to use Ylang essential oil and instead used Peppermint essential oil. The Peppermint oil has more uses. Many times these essential oils are interchangeable – but not always! Lavender essential oil could also be used in this shampoo as it is beneficial in fighting dandruff and stimulates hair growth.


NOTE: Black Tea shampoo is for brunettes. Blondes can substitute chamomile tea for the black tea as it has a natural blonding effect. However, I did not test the chamomile myself.

Chamomile flowers

Chamomile Flowers


I created a list of all the recipes I thought I could use from all the books I had read. I also selected ingredients that were most often used. I did not want to spend a fortune making my own shampoos, conditioners, laundry detergents, body lotions, cleansers, bath soaks, makeup removers, lip balms, insect repellents, car washes, tub and tile cleaners, window washes, and a few others! This was research I wanted to do to find a way to avoid allergy-causing ingredients that manufacturers use in their products. Their ingredients also cost us more. In theory, making your own products should cost less in the long run.


One of the benefits of using this shampoo that was not mentioned in any of the books I read is that it makes your hair more manageable. When I use it, I don’t use a conditioner afterwards. My hair has never looked so good! I don’t curl it; I don’t blow dry it. If that doesn’t make it all worth it, then I don’t know what does. How’s that for an unsolicited testimonial?


As much as I like this particular shampoo recipe, I have found another that I like that contains the juice of a grapefruit. As soon as I finish this Black Tea Shampoo, I will be making the grapefruit shampoo. If it is as good, I will be reporting back here to you!






17 Jul Hair style

You may have noticed that I recently posted a New Food Friday Flash a week earlier than usual. That’s because I had allergy brain, otherwise known as fog brain due to allergies. My allergies have really been acting up lately and I’m not just talking about my respiratory allergies. Let me tell you how I got Angelina Jolie lips due to an allergic reaction.


Angelina Jolie Lips

Sunscreen Lips!

I always wear lipstick outdoors to keep my lips moist and prevent cracking and bleeding. I’ve been wearing Chapstick with sunscreen to do the same when I’m doing yard work. Over a gradual period of time recently, my lips began to swell. Then they developed cuts or ulcers at the corners of my mouth. It hurt when I ate and they bled. I thought, “What the heck is going on here?” I finally figured out it was due to the sunscreen in my Chapstick. I stopped using the Chapstick and the next day, no more ulcers. My lips returned to normal although I rather enjoyed their puffiness!


The moisturizer I use on my face when I’m outdoors also contains sunscreen. When I stopped to think about it, I had seen a dermatologist six years ago for red blotches on my face and a scalp rash. He gave me all kinds of drugs which helped my scalp but didn’t do anything for my face. The blotches were still there. After the recent lip incident, it dawned on me that my moisturizer also contained sunscreen and that it was probably what caused the blotches on my face. I stopped using the sunscreen moisturizer on my face. No more blotches on my face. Now I use a non-sunscreen hydrating moisturizer.


I felt good about finding the causes of these allergic reactions until I developed yet another allergic reaction and rash on my arms and legs! This happened at the same time that a Measles outbreak occurred in Indianapolis which worried me even though my inoculations are up-to-date and I had Measles when I was young.


I suspected my laundry detergent because I had bought a new one – one I had never heard of before. I had also been adding more detergent to the wash than I usually do. So, I stopped using that brand altogether. I bought a mild, perfume and dye-free detergent. I’m sure you’ve heard of it: ALL. I also now use less detergent than the manufacturers recommend. I’ve had this rash about three weeks at the time of this writing and still have not rid myself of it although it is much improved. I cut back on the detergent due to the advice from one of the authors listed below.


Right around this time, I had been watching a program on the Livewell Network called Steven and Chris. I have to commend them on their wonderful, knowledgeable guests. Nutritionist Joy McCarthy caught my ear on one of their programs. I was lucky in that my local library had her book, “Joyous Health.” She was the spark that ignited my desire to find the underlying cause of my recent skin reactions.


Cancer-causing Ingredients

Her book lists ingredients to avoid in cosmetics, such as: BHA, BHT, DMDM, (a formaldehyde-releasing preservative; formaldehyde causes cancer) and PEG (may cause cancer), and many others. These ingredients are not only harmful to us, they are harmful to fish and other wildlife.

Fish and Wildlife

Save the Fish!



She also writes that people with asthma or who suffer from allergies, are especially sensitive to sulfites, commonly found in:



dried fruits

potato chips

frozen fries

fruit snacks

frozen dinners

Nitrates and nitrites (which cause cancer in animals)


I had written a post a while back about sulfites. They can also be listed as celery root extract in an ingredients label. The good news on dried fruits: she says you can soak the dried fruits in filtered water and then use them without suffering a reaction! 


After I read her book, I went back to the library and reserved books on natural products. I learned a lot and am still reading and learning!


A Growing Intolerance to Chemicals

According to author, Melinda Coss who wrote, “Natural Soap,” there has been a sharp increase in the number of people suffering from skin allergies due to our growing intolerance to chemicals in household products. So, this is not just a female problem. Men use household products and cosmetics too. Men wear sunscreen and men do laundry! Isn’t that right men?

Incredible Hulk

Strong Men!


Hair Care

Each of the books I borrowed and read had something to offer, including one that was focused more on African-American women, written by Lisa Akbari, “Every Woman’s Guide to Beautiful Hair at Any Age.” Although her tone was scolding, I figure I needed to be scolded! I am much gentler to my scalp and hair thanks to reading her book.


Other changes I am making due to my readings are to use natural products on my hair like coconut oil instead of store bought cream rinses and shampoos which contain harmful ingredients like sulfates, parabens and artificial fragrances that cause inflammatory skin reactions and are suspected to cause cancer.


Coconut oil is useful not just for sautéing foods, but also as a conditioner for your hair, a lip balm, and a shaving oil, just to name a few things. It conditions and soothes skin, so says DK publishers of the beautifully artistic book, “Natural Beauty.” You can find coconut oil in the same aisle as the olive oils. Buy the organic, oil-pressed jar.


A Light Bulb Moment

  • All these years I have been a fervent believer in caring about what I put into my body without enough thought as to what I put ON my body. What can I say? It’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks! Arf!


Food for Face

Bananas and avocados will not just be going in my mouth; they will be going on my face, in my hair, and on my hands. A mixture of avocado and honey makes a great hydration hand mask for dehydrated hands according to author Elizabeth Tenhouten, author of “Natural Beauty Homemade Recipes for Radiant Skin and Hair.” Bananas contain pantothenic acid which strengthens the hair.


Hair Growth

Mix half a banana with one egg, a tablespoon of coconut oil, and one tablespoon of honey. Shampoo then apply the banana mixture to your scalp and hair; leave on for 20 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and condition. Author Annie Strole claims this mask is great if you want to grow your hair and prevent it from breaking. Promise me you won’t ring my doorbell when I’m doing this! 


Hair Buildup

Kelly Reno, author of Soaps, Shampoos & Other Suds says you can remove soap build-up from your hair by combining ½ cup water and two tablespoons of lemon juice in a bottle. Shake thoroughly and gently massage it in. Then rinse with warm water. There are many variations to this recipe. Some authors recommend apple cider vinegar instead of lemon juice.


More in Future Posts

More on this topic will be posted on my blog in the future. These books have really enlightened me. I have already made my own shampoo and lip gloss. Some of these ingredients were not readily available in supermarkets although they did have many of them. It has taken me about a month to get all the ingredients that I need without breaking the bank.


An Investment in Safe Products

I should be able to make my own laundry detergent, hand lotion, shampoos, rinses, conditioners, facial masks, hand masks, lip gloss, lip balm, and more. I am in the process of extracting the best recipes from each book using the most popular ingredients like avocado, lavender essential oil, castile liquid soap, and aloe vera gel just to name a few. I stayed away from the harder to find, more exotic ingredients like calendula oil or apricot kernel oil or the endless variety of oils that are either online or at health food stores (even though I did find a health food store nearby that stocks EVERYTHING!) I don’t know how involved I will get into this. If I see more promising results as I did from my homemade lip gloss, I may invest in more of these products.


An Investment in Time

I haven’t seen any noticeable results from my homemade shampoo except that my hair looks thicker and is easier to manage. I know, those are good results, but the shampoo is hard to work with when my hair is wet. I’ve tried two different shampoo recipes with one being better than the other. I have a third that I want to try before deciding that homemade shampoo can take the place of unsafe, store-bought shampoo. I’m also having trouble with homemade hair conditioners. They seem to be too oily. The third recipe for shampoo I want to try, contains some oil whereas the other shampoos didn’t. That might be the one! Third time’s the charm! Stay tuned!




New Food Friday Flash – Sweet Potato Rolls to Die For!

19 Jun Pull apart Sweet Potato Rolls

Can we all agree that we all love hot, buttered rolls? But they’re not the best for our health or waistline. Since I am always looking for ways to improve my diet, I have tried another James Beard bread recipe that I am addicted to! Again, it’s from the “old” book I found at the library. The man knows bread! I’ve also read his book on fish. It wasn’t nearly as good and disappointing in comparison. But I wasn’t disappointed with his Sweet Potato rolls recipe!


Has anybody not heard that we should stay away from white potatoes? Why? At the risk of repeating what you already know, they’re not as nutritious as other vegetables; they contain a high amount of pesticides (they’re in the “bad” 15 category), and we tend to fry or slather them in butter or sour cream which is not good for us. What’s a potato-loving girl (or guy) to do? Substitute your potato craving with a sweet potato.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes


Sweet potatoes have more nutrients, they’re high in fiber and they’re low on the pesticide scale (they’re in the “good” 15). We can make a “pumpkin” pie with them. We can bake them in the skin and serve with a pat of butter. And, we can make sweet potato rolls with them! I’ve tried several recipes making rolls with white potatoes and they have hardly any flavor and little nutrition. You’ve got to try these sweet potato rolls!


I’ve made sweet potato rolls five times now. When I’m down to my last one or two rolls, I start baking a sweet potato. I like the sweet potato skin to show some blackened areas from baking because that caramelizes the potato and brings out the sweetness.


I knew that yesterday I was planning to do lots of yard work and would be too tired to make the rolls, so I started the night before. I put the dough ingredients and sweet potato together (I had baked the sweet potato the night before that) and put it in the fridge overnight. I wasn’t sure this would work, but happily, it did!


The next morning before I went out in the yard, I took out the bowl of dough. It had risen beautifully as you can see in the photo.

Sweet Potato Dough

Sweet Potato Dough well-risen

 I rolled the dough into 24 balls and put them in two cake pans as I usually do. I placed them in my microwave oven (turned off) with a hot cup of water, and left them there to rise while I did my yard work. When I came in exhausted, at 4:00 pm (I began at noon), I checked on my rolls. Look at how much they rose! 

Sweet Potato Dough Rolls

Big, Puffy, Sweet Potato Dough Rolls


I then baked the rolls in my convection toaster-oven. For me, it takes 17 minutes at 350° but I will give you the original recipe below.


They say we “eat” with our eyes. Look at the color on these beauties!! They’re gorgeous! They’re moist! They’re fluffy! When you put them in cake pans, they pull apart like cotton candy! 

Pull apart Sweet Potato Rolls

Beautiful Color on these fluffy Sweet Potato Rolls


The final result: they tasted the same as the sweet potato rolls I made without putting the dough in the fridge. The only difference is that they raised more, and were bigger than usual. What’s not to love about that? Isn’t it great to know that you can do this recipe in steps if you’re short on time? Plus, if you use the refrigerator method, you don’t have to knead the dough at all.


I enjoy them with breakfast and with dinner. They reheat very well in the microwave and they keep in the fridge very well. I keep them in the cake pan.  After they’ve cooled on a rack, cover them with aluminum foil. I also put the foil-covered rolls in a clean, plastic bag in the fridge just to ensure that they don’t get stale. This works very well. I keep the other cake pan with rolls covered the same way, and put them in the freezer. So, when the first batch is nearly all eaten, I take out the frozen batch and put them in the fridge. Easy-peasy.


Beard says you can substitute the sweet potatoes with canned sweet potatoes (without the liquid), or winter squash, like butternut squash or acorn squash. I tried acorn squash rolls yesterday but I prefer the sweet potato.  Either would make an excellent substitution since they are equally nutritious, high in fiber, and low in pesticides and a good way to sneak a vegetable into your family’s meal.


Sweet Potato Roll Recipe

2 packages dry yeast

4 Tablespoons sugar

½ cup water (100° – 115°)

3 Tablespoons melted butter

1 Tablespoon salt

2-3 eggs (one for basting rolls)

3-3 ½ (or more) cups flour

½ – ¾ cup cooled, mashed sweet potato

2 Tablespoons cream


Combine the yeast with 1 Tablespoon of the sugar and the ½ cup water in a bowl. Let it proof 5 minutes. Add the remaining 3 Tablespoons of sugar, the melted butter, salt and 2 eggs. Stir well to blend. Stir in the flour one cup at a time with the potatoes. (I prefer to add the potatoes before adding the flour.) Knead 2-3 min. Add enough additional flour to prevent sticking. Dough will be soft. Shape it into a ball. Put in a buttered bowl, turning to coat all. Cover with plastic wrap and keep in a warm place about 1 hour. Then punch dough down, shape into a ball again and let rest 2 minutes. Form into golf ball size balls and place on a buttered cookie sheet or 2 cake pans. Let rise until doubled in size. Brush with the last egg mixed with the cream. (I prefer using only an egg white mixed with 1 Tablespoon water and 1 Tablespoon powdered dry milk which I always have on hand. I never have cream in the house!) Also, I brush the rolls before I let them rise. If you brush dough after it has risen, it tends to deflate the dough.


Bake at 375° for 20 minutes depending on your oven. Makes 24 rolls or two loaves. Bet you can’t eat just one!



New Food Friday Flash – Irish Soda Bread

15 May Irish soda bread side view

I have been on the hunt for an easy to make, quick, delicious bread recipe since the year of the flood. I think I found it! This is not the usual recipe for Irish Soda Bread. Most recipes I’ve seen contain raisins. This one is raisin free. If I want bread with raisins then I’ll also want cinnamon in it. Then it wouldn’t be Irish Soda Bread, it would be Cinnamon Raisin Bread. I also have a recipe for Irish Soda bread using yeast. This is not that recipe. I started making this bread at 8:00 pm one night when I craved bread. It was on a cooling rack at 9:00 pm. That’s what I’m talking about and that is why this month’s New Food Friday Flash focuses on Irish Soda Bread.


The story: I was searching the book shelves at my library for baking books and came across a book by the famous chef, James Beard. When I tried to check it out using the computer checkout station, I couldn’t find the library number on the book. I asked the librarian about it and she said it was an old book so the number would be on the inside cover instead of on the outside of the book. Sure enough, it was inside. I hesitated for a moment when she said “old book” but I thought I’d check it out anyway. Boy, am I glad I did!


James Beard’s “Beard on Bread” is a treasure trove of bread recipes. I’ve made two of his breads so far and both were very delicious. The Irish Soda Bread caught my eye because it had no yeast or raisins in the ingredients and when I scanned the recipe, it said to knead for 2-3 minutes. There is no waiting for the dough to rise. His ingredients list did not include any sugar but his directions said to add the sugar! Aaargh! I thought, too many obstacles! This recipe can’t be any good! There is no waiting for the dough to rise? There is no 10-minute kneading as I am used to? Should I add some sugar? Should I leave the sugar out? But I was desperate for a piece of bread! Desperate I tell you. I left the sugar out even though my other Irish Soda Bread recipes contained sugar in the ingredients list. It would only go to my waistline anyway.


Here is the recipe:

3 cups whole-wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon double-acting baking powder

1 ½ to 2 cups buttermilk


Beard also included another version of this recipe using all white flour instead of whole wheat flour. I used half white bread flour and half white all-purpose flour. If you use all white, decrease the baking soda to ¾ teaspoon.


Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly then add enough buttermilk to make a soft dough, similar to biscuit dough but firm enough to hold its shape. Knead 2-3 minutes on a floured board. Form into a round loaf and place in a well-buttered 8-inch cake pan or a well-buttered cookie sheet. Cut a cross sign on the top of the loaf with a very sharp, floured knife. As it was baking, it rose and kept rising! It was beautiful bread, decorative because of the necessity to cut a cross on the top with a sharp knife before putting it in my convection toaster oven. It browns nicely in 35 – 40 minutes at 375° in your oven.

Irish Soda Bread in one hour!

Does this bread look like Santa Clause or it is just me?


Beard says to cut the bread in paper thin slices. I like it thin, I like it fat, I like it any which way but loose. He likes it buttered. Its great buttered but it is also good with blackberry spreadable fruit. It is very good as garlic toast (slathered in butter, topped with Italian herbs and garlic salt). It would also be good as sandwich bread. You have to try this bread. It’s good for novice bakers, old-hand bakers, what the heck, a kid could make it.


It keeps well in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. One-hour bread. I think I died and went to heaven!

Irish Soda Bread T-stand

Yipee! I love this bread!




New Food Friday Flash – Crystallized Ginger

16 Jan Crystalized Ginger

I have come across a few recipes using crystallized ginger and I became curious about this product. I found a jar of diced crystallized ginger in the spice aisle at Meijer but it was too expensive. Around Thanksgiving, Meijer put out their biggest display of candied fruits that I’ve ever seen. Among them was a small container of crystallized ginger.Crystalized Ginger

The pieces were big and looked delicious! $2.99 for 4 oz. You know me, I couldn’t resist. Plus, one of my favorite cookies, when I have a cookie or two, is Ginger Snaps. Unfortunately, they just don’t make the ginger snaps that I like in these parts! So, lucky for you, I decided to make my own using crystallized ginger. Two recipes came inside the container: ginger snaps and ginger bars. I opted for the ginger snaps. That is how this post got selected for this month’s New Food Friday Flash.


But how did cookies get to be on a blog that purports to be about getting and maintaining good health? Give me a minute; I’ll come up with something.


OK, this cookie recipe calls for molasses. I use blackstrap molasses and it’s extremely high in iron. I don’t think there is anything out there that contains more iron. The recipe also calls for an egg. Eggs get a bad rap. They are good for you, especially Eggland’s Best eggs which I always use because they contain more vitamins and minerals than in regular eggs with double the Omega 3. Also, ginger is good for you. According to WebMD, Ginger contains chemicals that may reduce nausea and inflammation. Researchers believe the chemicals work primarily in the stomach and intestines, but they may also work in the brain and nervous system to control nausea. Click the link to learn more. The recipe also calls for cinnamon which adds sweetness and is good for you. There are no preservatives or unpronounceable ingredients in this homemade cookie recipe as you will undoubtedly find in a store shelf cookie.


Satisfied? Good! Here is the recipe:


Ginger Snaps

¾ cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

¼ cup molasses

1 egg

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 cups flour

½ teaspoon ground cloves

2 teaspoons cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

4 oz. Paradise Crystallized Ginger, chopped coarsely (came with a 50¢ coupon)



Preheat oven to 375°. Combine softened butter, sugar, molasses and egg, beat well.

Ginger Snap Batter

Ginger Snap Cookie Batter

Add chopped crystallized ginger pieces.

Diced Crystalized Ginger

Crystalized Ginger Diced

Mix dry ingredients together, add to wet mixture, mix well.

Crystalized Ginger added to Batter

Crystalized Ginger added to Batter

Chill for 1 hour. Form into 1” balls, roll in sugar, and place on greased cookie sheet, 2” apart.

Cookie Balls Rolled in Sugar

Cookie Balls Rolled in Sugar

Bake for 8-10 minutes.

Cookie Balls on Tray

Cookie Balls on Tray

Makes 36 cookies.

Ginger Snap Cookies

Ginger Snap Cookies Cooling

I think they taste great dunked in tea with honey and lemon.









New Food Friday Flash – Lasagna with Mustard Greens and Garbanzos

19 Dec Tall Lasagna Slice

There are a lot of lasagna recipes out there and many of them have spinach as an ingredient. I didn’t have spinach on hand but I did have mustard greens growing in my vegetable garden as of November 1, 2014. The question was would their strong, peppery, mustard flavor overpower my lasagna? I was up for the challenge. My lasagna with mustard greens is the New Food Friday Flash recipe for this month. They may not be new foods, but they are a new combination! Its red and green colors make for a festive holiday dish!


Lasagna is a great dish loved by all and there are many versions of it such as lasagna with sausage, with zucchini, with precooked noodles, with spinach noodles, with cottage cheese instead of ricotta cheese, with meatballs, and the list goes on. The problem with a basic lasagna recipe is that there is little fiber in it. Vegetable lasagnas help Americans who eat little fiber. I wanted to create lasagna with a good amount of fiber.


I had two jars of tomato meat sauce with garbanzos in it in my freezer. The reason I put garbanzos in the sauce was for when I got tired of putting the sauce on pasta. By just adding a few tablespoons of chili spice I could easily make a chili out of the garbanzo meat sauce! I did and it was wonderful! I had plans for the two remaining 8 oz jars of meat sauce with the garbanzos. They were going into my lasagna!


I went out into my vegetable garden after we had a mild frost and picked a bowl of all the baby-sized mustard greens. They looked good! I rinsed them carefully and put them in a pan with about ½ cup of water and cooked them until the water evaporated. Then I minced them. I gave them a taste expecting a strong flavor. To my surprise, there was hardly any flavor! Maybe the frost had something to do with the lack of flavor, maybe because the leaves I picked were all small, maybe my taste buds went on strike – who knows? I knew the mustard greens wouldn’t overpower my lasagna. The combination of garbanzos and mustard greens added a good amount of fiber to this dish. All the cheeses added a good amount of calcium.

Lasagna with bits of Mustard Greens and Garbanzos

Lasagna with bits of Mustard Greens and Garbanzos



8 oz of regular cooked lasagna noodles (1/2 box)

16 oz ricotta cheese

1 egg

1/3 cup minced mustard greens

1 ½ cups grated parmesan cheese

8 oz mozzarella cheese sliced

2 8 oz jars of tomato meat sauce

1 cup (8 oz) tomato sauce (for bottom and top of dish)

1 teaspoon sugar

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

salt & pepper to taste



Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix ricotta, minced mustard greens, egg and spices until smooth.


Pour ½ cup of the 1 cup tomato sauce on bottom of an 8” x 8” baking pan. Cover sauce with a layer of cooked lasagna noodles; a layer of the ricotta mixture; a layer of the sliced mozzarella (about 9 thin slices); a layer of the meat-garbanzo sauce. Repeat until all the ingredients are used. The top layer should be your remaining ½ cup of the 1 cup of tomato sauce and the parmesan cheese. This makes a 5-layer lasagna. It weighs a ton! Bake 35 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes for easier serving. This dish stays hot for about an hour and stays warm for several hours. It slices better the next day. It serves 6.

Lasagna Topped with Grated Parmesan

Lasagna Topped with Grated Parmesan


Meat Sauce Recipe

My meat sauce recipe is never the same so I can only give you a basic recipe. I use two 32 oz cans of Dei Fratelli tomato puree. If there is a sale on Carmelina San Marzano canned tomatoes, I will substitute it with one of the Dei Fratelli cans. You can taste the difference. I don’t eat beef and instead use ground turkey and brown it the same way you would beef in a little olive oil. Sometimes I add diced carrots, celery, onions, sometime not. Usually I add one clove of minced garlic. Sometimes I add bay leaves, or dried basil leaves and/or dried oregano. Sometimes I add thyme from my garden. If I have red wine on hand, I will add ½ cup to deglaze the browned meat. Usually I add a teaspoon of sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, some black pepper, and a dash or two of cayenne. Sometimes I add a chopped Serrano pepper. The main difference this time was that I added a can of rinsed garbanzo beans. They don’t add any flavor but they are creamy in texture and high in fiber.


Note to novice cooks: I once went to a potluck where a man brought homemade lasagna. He didn’t know that there was such a thing as pre-cooked lasagna noodles and regular noodles. He bought the regular noodles and didn’t boil them first. He put them in the lasagna dish and needless to say, it ruined the dish. The noodles were hard and the dish was inedible although some did their best to eat it so as not to hurt his feelings. I wasn’t one of them! Make sure you look at the packaging. The pre-cooked  noodles are less work, but you have to make sure you have a lot of sauce (extra) on hand because they absorb more liquid than regular lasagna noodles. The regular noodles have to be boiled and are slippery to work with. Sometimes they stick together so be sure to stir the pot often when they are boiling. I drained them and then rinsed them with cold water and left about ¼ cup water in the pot. I had no problems with sticking. I didn’t add any oil. I’ve used both types of noodles for lasagnas and don’t have a preference.


I divided the lasagna in portions and put three of them in the freezer for future meals. It freezes well and makes all the effort and pots worth it!

Tall Lasagna Slice

Tall Lasagna Slice or, The Leaning Tower of Lasagna





Tags: cooking, recipes,baking , vegetables, mustard greens, garbanzo beans, fiber, calcium, lasagna







New Food Friday Flash – Passatelli

21 Nov Passatelli pasta

This recipe has been a long time coming because I have wanted to make my own pasta for years and now I have finally done that! Hooray! You know how it is, you have to have the correct ingredients on hand, you have to have the time to do it, you also have to have the right equipment/tools to make the pasta. Everything but the stars and the moon have to be aligned! Having the right equipment/tools was actually the biggest holdup for me. Plus, I wanted a recipe that sounded good. Passatelli pasta was all that I dreamed of and that is why this post is my choice for this New Food Friday Flash.


To whom do I owe my thanks for this recipe? Mary Ann Esposito of the Ciao Italia! program on PBS. Thank you Mary Ann!


Here Are the Tools You Don’t Need

You don’t need a rack to hang these pastas up to dry.

You don’t need a pasta machine to make the dough paper thin.

You don’t need a rolling pin to roll out the dough

You don’t need to buy a special stamp to stamp special designs on the pasta.

And gloriosky, you don’t need to knead the dough!


Here Are the Tools You Need

A Cheese Grater


I’m assuming you have a bowl, a spoon, and a pot!



½ cup + 2 tablespoons flour

¾ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 cup toasted bread crumbs

2 eggs

1 ½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice

zest of 1 lemon

1/8 – ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg

Salt and Pepper to taste


Grate the cheese. I ended up grating too much but can you ever have too much Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese? I think not.


Add the flour. I made this recipe on a very damp, rainy day and had to add 3 tablespoons more flour to make a “rough” dough.


Add the bread crumbs. I grated bread crumbs a few days prior to making this recipe from an Italian artisan boule that I bought at Meijer.

Defrosting Artisan breadcrumbs

Artisan bread crumbs that I froze

It was very good and chewy, just how I like it but I had to sacrifice half the loaf so that I could make breadcrumbs out of it. It wasn’t easy because I wanted to smear it with butter and devour the entire thing! After I grated it, I put it in the freezer knowing that I would use it for something!


Add the lemon juice and the zest. I didn’t have a whole lemon to zest so I added a teeny bit more lemon juice.


Add the nutmeg. As you can see from the photo, I have enough nutmeg to last the rest of my life.

Grating nutmeg

Nutmeg and nutmeg grater

I bought this nutmeg online a few years ago and this is what they sent me along with all the other ingredients I ordered from an Italian supermarket in Cleveland called Gallucci’s. OK, I lied. You also need a tool called a nutmeg grater. But really, you could get away with using a regular grater or, heaven forbid, buy nutmeg already grated.


Add salt and pepper to taste. You don’t need much salt because the cheese is salty (and so is the bread) and we’re watching our salt intake, aren’t we? I only added ½ teaspoon. I don’t remember what Maryanne said was needed for the salt or for the nutmeg for that matter. I used only 1/8 of a teaspoon of nutmeg. (I’m saving them because I want to take some with me when I go. You know, like the Egyptians.) I’m kidding! Nutmeg is a strong flavor and I didn’t want it to overpower the Passatelli.


Gather all the ingredients into a ball. It will be “rough.” (Mary Ann’s words.) I took that to mean a shaggy dough. My dough was sticky so I slowly added up to 3 tablespoons more flour until it looked more “rough” to me. Cover it and put the dough in the refrigerator for 6 – 7 hours.

Ball of Dough to make Passatelli

My ball of Passatelli dough


After 5 hours I took the dough out of the refrigerator. (I’m sorry. I couldn’t wait.) I got my grater and using the BIG holes, grated some of the cold ball of dough. Now I ask you, how fun is that? I suppose it doesn’t have to be a ball shape. You could probably form it into a rectangle. Whatever is easier for you! When you have a pile of grated Passatelli, slide them into boiling homemade chicken broth and boil 3 minutes OR until the pasta floats to the surface.


I had 3 jars of homemade chicken broth on hand but you need 8 cups of broth and I only had 6 cups so I made more.

Frozen chicken broth defrosting

Frozen homemade chicken broth

I had some chicken bones I was saving in the freezer and I also had some meaty chicken backs and bellies, and made another pot of chicken soup. Now I had more than enough broth.

Broth for my Passatelli

Making more chicken broth


If you don’t want to cook the grated Passatelli right away, you can grate them and then put them in the freezer. If you do it that way remember NOT to defrost the Passatelli when you put them in the boiling broth. Just dump them frozen into the boiling soup broth and boil for 3 minutes OR until they float to the top.

Passatelli boiling in chicken broth

Boiling chicken broth with my Passatelli


Homemade pasta doesn’t need to cook as long as store bought pasta so don’t boil it too long or you will have mush.


Prior to putting my ball of dough into the refrigerator, I was thinking how to make other versions, such as:


Use other flours like semolina flour

Add other herbs like minced parsley or powdered dry sage

Add one more egg

Use one LESS egg

Add minced prosciutto (is that a possibility?)

Use a different cheese like Asiago

Add cooked, minced spinach or butternut squash

Boil/cook the Passatelli then scoop them out of the broth and sauté them in butter


It seemed my luck was holding out for this recipe because the weather was taking a temperature tumble. If I had made it one day sooner, I wouldn’t want to have eaten hot Passatelli in 79 degree weather! Last night cold winds blew all the heat away and today is damp and cold with temperatures expecting to go into the 20’s by the weekend, perfect for a hot bowl of Passatelli! Sometimes being a slave to the weather is a good thing!


The Surprises in this Recipe

When I grated the ball of dough, it looked as though it was too soft and that the Passatelli would all clump together in the pot of broth. Surprise! They separate and rise to the top when they are cooking! I was eager to taste the Passatelli and took a spoonful of the broth and pasta. Surprise! I had forgotten there was lemon in the Passatelli! It was a nice, light-flavored surprise taste. I also wasn’t prepared for the softness of the pasta. Surprise! This recipe would make a great soup for when you are sick in bed with a cold. A hot, nourishing chicken broth with soft homemade noodles that slide down your sore throat will make you better in no time! This medium size ball of dough makes A LOT of pasta so surprise! I thought with all the cheese I put in the recipe (remember, I put in too much?) it would taste cheesy. SURPRISE!


I think I remember Mary Ann saying that this was an “old” recipe and that she wanted to keep recipes like this alive. I’m all for that. Sometimes the old ways are better. Like heirloom seeds for the gardener, this recipe is a keeper for the cook! Let me know if you make this! Your kids will enjoy watching you grate the round ball of dough into pasta!

I grated all of it then cooked and ate half and I froze the rest.

Passatelli pasta

A delicious bowl of Passatelli pasta




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