Cherry, Walnut, & Dark Chocolate Bites

These are low in fat, high in fiber, and packed with antioxidants.

A perfect little snack for an hour of reading and a nice cup of tea.

Cherry, Walnut, & Dark Chocolate Bites

1 1/2 Cups Mama’s All Purpose Almond Flour

1/2 Cup Gluten Free Old Fashioned Rolled Oats

1 teaspoon Kosher Salt

1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda

1/4 teaspoon Xanthan Gum

4 Tablespoons Dairy Free Butter

1/2 Cup Packed Dark Brown Sugar

1 Large Egg

1/4 Cup Unsweetened Applesauce

1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract

1/2 Cup Walnut Halves, crumbled

1/2 Cup Dried Cherries

1/2 Cup Dairy Free Dark Belgian Chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine all of the dry ingredients (minus the nuts, cherries, & chocolate) in a medium bowl and whisk together. In a mixer, beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add the egg, applesauce, and vanilla, mix thoroughly.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet mixing on stir setting until just moistened. Add the nuts, cherries, and chocolate and mix on low until thoroughly combined.

Place by heaping teaspoons onto baking sheets and bake for about 12-15 minutes depending on your oven. I use convection.

*This recipe was adapted from Health magazines’ Supercharged Cherry Almond Cookies.

Grilled Cheese with Spinach, Chicken & Pesto

I’ve been trying to stick to salads for lunch to up my daily veggie intake, but yesterday I had almost an entire vegetable day purely by accident. I love vegetables, but all day? I must have had a lot going on because typically I’m a protein lover.

After walking the dogs late this morning I couldn’t get my mind off of a grilled cheese sandwich. I also had chicken breasts that needed to be grilled and leftover vegan pesto from the sandwiches I made over the weekend. After the dogs got their “you were good on your walk” treat, I rummaged around and also remembered I had organic tomatoes and a nice bunch of organic flat leaf parsley. I’m crazy for parsley. I don’t know why, but I’ve been that way since I was a kid. I used to eat everyone’s parsley off their plate when we went out to dinner.

So, once I realized I had the makings for a delicious sandwich, I shoved the salad I made yesterday to the back of the fridge and told myself I would eat it for dinner instead.

Grilled Cheese with Spinach, Chicken, & Pesto

2 Slices Gluten Free Bread (I used Udi’s Whole Grain)

Slices of Grilled Chicken Breast

Spinach Leaves

Vegan Pesto

Diaya Cheese

Dairy Free Butter

Fresh Tomatoes

Flat Leaf Parsley

Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Pepper

I’m sure you know how to make a grilled cheese so I will just give the basics. Grill the chicken first, or use leftovers, your preference. Spread pesto on the insides of both pieces of bread. Place the cheese on the bottom piece of bread, closest to the heat. Layer everything else however you like and cook until nice and toasty.

Vegetable Stuffed Portobello For One

A very long time ago I said we were going to go to “Meatless Mondays” . We never quite made it. Although, we have cut back on our red meat consumption dramatically, I find it hard to stick to one thing on a specific day of the week. Partly because I haven’t put much effort into figuring out enough meatless meals and also because my husband travels so much that I rarely exert a lot of energy into figuring out what I’m going to make myself for dinner when he’s away.

Last night, it was black bean re-fried beans, dairy-free cheese, and Tabasco that I heated in the microwave. Then I ate it while reading a book.  Don’t scoff, it was quite enjoyable.

But, tonight, in an attempt to get my daily recommended allowance of vegetables, I thought I’d put in a tad more effort. But not so much that it would be too complicated to eat while reading my book.

Grilled Vegetable Stuffed Portobello with Sautéed Rainbow Chard

1 Portobello Mushroom

1/2 Orange Bell Pepper

1 Small Sweet Onion

About 3/4 Cup Broccoli

About 6 Sugar Peas

Rainbow Chard, about 8 leaves, stems removed

Olive Oil

Garlic Powder

Kosher Salt

Diaya Cheddar Style Cheese, optional

Drizzle the mushroom with a little olive oil and rub to coat, set aside. Add the cut vegetables to a bowl, drizzle with a small amount of olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and garlic powder, and toss to coat. Add everything to a grilling pan and grill on medium-high until mushroom is cooked and moist and vegetables are tender and browned on the edges.

While vegetables are grilling, coat a saute pan with a little olive oil. Heat on medium-high and saute the chard until it is wilted. It will wilt a lot, just like spinach does, so if you’re cooking for more than one, you’ll need to use a full head or more.

If you would like to top yours with dairy-free cheese, you’ll need to melt it under the broiler or in the microwave.

Bits & Bites

I keep trying to imagine Fall in New Hampshire.

We’re hoping we can get there in time to see it in its full splendor and glory. 

Another week and weekend have sped by at what seems like a million miles an hour.

Our house is still for sale and my husband is still traveling extensively. I am still having to live moment to moment in case someone wants to see the house…at which time everything has to be spotless, all pet evidence hidden, every light in the house on, and the dogs and cat and I have to drive around aimlessly or invade my mother’s house while waiting for strangers to critique our home.

We are still trying to cram everything my husband wants to do, everything I want to do, and everything that needs to be done that I can’t do myself into a tiny, 28-30 hour period of time. I will use the word “adventure” to explain how it feels, but really, we’ve come up with a lot more colorful verbs and adjectives lately, because frankly, we’re tired. We’re feeling a little old and worn out and we’re ready to get this show on the road.

So worn out in fact, that my memory seems to be shot. When my husband left for his 6:00 AM flight this morning, I thought, “I am just going to lounge for a while and catch up on all of the blogs I haven’t had time to read and comment on and put-put around the house.” It was all lollipops and rainbows until 8:00 rolled around and I realized someone was parked in front of our house…

Oh yes, and then it dawned on me.

“OH, NO, NO, NO!!!” I yelled running around the house, locking dogs in crates and trying to find pants. I had forgotten that I have two appointments for estimates with moving companies today. One at 8:00 and one at noon. So when the doorbell rang I had to answer it with raccoon mascara eyes, a rat’s nest on my head, my nightgown tucked into a pair of sweats, and a sweatshirt with the pulley thing that had gone missing that I had replaced with a large safety pin.

Classy.

And the worst part…to add insult to injury, it was already hot, so I was already sweating, breathless from running around like a maniac, and…bra-less.

Luckily, our weekend wasn’t quite as hectic. Saturday I was coming off of a four day migraine (horrible!) so we didn’t do much. I was able to rally enough to go out to lunch with my husband after his hang gliding lessons, thank goodness. Then we did a little shopping, and headed home to watch the Olympics for the evening.

Sunday it was supposed to get up to 100 degrees so we headed out early to a street fair in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho. It’s a lake city, fun and gorgeous, and just a really nice place to mill around, take some time, and see what’s what.

This is a picture that proves that there are still wonderfully kind people in this world. As we were headed to the kiosk to pay for parking a lady yelled after us asking if we wanted her all day parking pass. She had come to the fair first thing for one specific item and had only been there for 30 minutes. So this lovely lady, handed us her pass and told us to have a great day. That’s Tony headed to our car with our free pass. It’s the little things in life and it’s amazing how one kind person can make such a difference in your day and your view of mankind.

There were lots and lots of vendors. Some of the usual and some new ones. I bought a few items at Blue Creek Apothecary. All lovely, all natural, pamper yourself, smell good, kind of things. You can find her on Etsy & Facebook.

Loved this…it’s SO true! Well, for those of us who love to read anyway… This booth belonged to Sassy-Sisters. You can find them on Facebook.

There were so many beautiful booths with different types of glass-work and sculptures that would have made for gorgeous pictures, but some of the vendors wouldn’t allow me to photograph them and show them to you. Guess they thought I’d run home, blow my own glass, get my blow torch out and fashion some metal for sculptures and copy their creations…

And of course, along with street fairs comes some interesting people watching. There’s always at least one that has the ability to crack you up.

We opted to forgo the street fair food, which I can’t eat most of anyway, and headed home with our treasures to relax and nibble on fresh veggie sandwiches with homemade pesto & goat cheese spread.

You can find the recipe for my homemade vegan pesto here. Then, simply add two Tablespoons of it to a small package of creamy goat cheese and two Tablespoons of olive oil mayonnaise to make an unbelievable sandwich spread.

Next you’ll need a beautiful tomato, an English cucumber, a ripe avocado, and a few slices of gluten free bread, toasted.

Then, you just lovingly slather, spread, and layer until you have something that makes your mouth water and your significant other “ooohhhh and ahhhhhh”.

Bird’s Nest

I thought it was a good idea to eat something somewhat “healthy” for dinner last night after indulging in fried chicken livers three meals in a row…

This is an incredibly simple and gorgeous meal.

It looked so pretty I hated to poke my fork into it…

But that didn’t last long.

Bird’s Nest

Gluten Free Spinach Pasta (I use Tinkyada)

Vegan Walnut Pesto

Organic Red Chard, sautéed with organic olive oil

Squeeze of Lemon

Organic Egg (s), over easy

Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Pepper

Saute the chard in olive oil until wilted, squeeze about a Tablespoon of lemon over it, and set aside. Take the finished pasta and place it in a saute pan over medium high heat and toss with the pesto. I used about 1 1/2 Tablespoons for one serving.

Arrange the pasta on the plate in a “nest”. Top with the wilted chard. Top with an egg, over easy, and finish with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

Fried Chicken Livers & Smashed Potatoes with Pan Gravy

A meal like this is just where all of those bacon drippings you’ve been hoarding come in handy. You do that too, right?

This is how I keep my bacon drippings in the fridge. It lasts a very, very, long time and then you always have it handy for those special occasions when you’re making something extra delicious.

You MUST have a splatter lid when frying the chicken livers. Number one, because it makes clean up of your stove much easier, and number two and most importantly, because you do not want exploding chicken liver all over your kitchen ceiling. You need a splatter guard, which is a mesh screen, because if you cover the liver with a lid, it won’t crisp.

When you flip the livers, hold the screen in front of you and your face. Hot bacon grease and exploding chicken liver is painful.

Fried Chicken Livers

1 Container of Chicken Livers, organic if possible, rinsed

Organic Almond Milk

1 Organic Egg

Mama’s All Purpose Almond Flour

Organic Garlic Powder

Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Pepper

Bacon Grease/Drippings (from all natural bacon)

First, let’s remind ourselves that this is a special meal. An indulgence meal…I only make it about once a year. So we won’t be counting calories or worrying about our hips and thighs. We will simply enjoy the comfort and memories of childhood that these types of meals bring with them.

Melt a generous amount of bacon grease in a large skillet. I used about two heaping serving spoons full.

In a medium dish or dinner plate, add about 1 cup or so of the flour and generously season with the garlic powder, kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper. Remember, it’s just a dredge so the majority of the coating stays on the plate. You want what ends up stuck to the liver to be flavorful!

Pour about 1/2 cup almond milk into a cereal sized bowl and whisk in the egg.

Once the bacon grease is heated on medium to medium high, dip each chicken liver into the milk and egg mixture and then into the flour mixture. Coat well, shake off, and lay carefully into the bacon grease.

Cover with the splatter shield. Allow to brown thoroughly before flipping. I would say about 6-7 minutes on each side or more, depending on the heat in your pan.

Smashed Potatoes with Pan Gravy

Both the smashed potatoes (basically the lazy cousin of the mashed potato) and the pan gravy are a no brainer. I’ll just give you the ingredients that I used. You can go here for pan gravy instructions if you’ve never made it. It’s SO easy!

Organic Yukon Gold Potatoes, skin on

Almond Milk

Dairy Free Butter

Kosher Salt

For the pan gravy:

Leave drippings in the pan

Mama’s All Purpose Almond Flour

Dairy Free Butter

Organic Chicken Broth

Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Pepper

Fig Pillows & An Eye Opener

Remember the book I told you I started the other day? Well, it’s packed full of all kinds of interesting information. I have only made it to Chapter 5 (there are 16) and I am already loving it. Much of the medical information I already knew or at least had heard of, but nonetheless, it’s all still very interesting. Xenoestrogen in particular. Lorraine Pintus, the author of Jump Off The Hormone Swing, refers to Xenoestrogen as Estrogen’s evil twin sister. “She looks like estrogen but she comes into your body from a foreign place.”

If you’re a male and you’re thinking this post isn’t for you, hold on a minute, because even though we’re talking about “estrogen”, it involves you too. Everyone is exposed to xenoestrogens through our environment. They are in the air we breath (chemicals, pollution) the water we drink (plastic bottles, pollution), the food we eat (non-organic foods, animals being given hormones and being fed GMO products), and the products we use (anti-aging creams, lotions, cleansing products, makeup, laundry detergents).

Lorraine says everything from diabetes to infertility are being linked to the “evil twin sister”. Also, many women who suffer from sever PMS and perimenopause symptoms are estrogen dominant. Xenoestrogens are a big part of that dominance problem.

If you would like to learn more about xenoestrogens in particular,  here are a couple more websites. Or, you can just Google “Xenoestrogens” and you’ll find all kinds of information.

http://flowinghealth.org/xenoestrogen_patient_handout.pdf  http://endojourney.wordpress.com/2009/07/31/a-list-of-xenoestrogens/ .

So, without getting completely obsessive and hyper about it, let’s look at it logically. Lorraine uses the 80/20 rule, which I think is a great idea. 80% of the time we can pretty easily control what we use, how we use it, what we eat, and what we are exposing ourselves to. If you leave your house, which we all do, then it makes a lot of sense that 20% of the time, you can’t control it, nor should you worry about it. Life is meant to be enjoyed. So approach this with the attitude of, I’m going to take control of what I put in and on my body and expose myself to, as much as possible. A little awareness and action is better than none.

Lorraine lists a website in her book with a database of all of the common cosmetics, cleansers, and lotions we use. What’s so cool about that you might ask? Well it has a number rating for each item based on how toxic it is. Yep. And let me tell you, it was an eye opener. Even the “natural” things you are buying might shock you. The ratings include reproductive organ toxins as well as cancer toxins, allergies & immunotoxicity, and overall health hazards.   http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/

Here is a quick look at their toxin number rating system:

0-2 Low Hazard          3-6 Moderate Hazard          7-10 High Hazard

Just to give you an idea, here is a list of things that I use on a regular basis that I researched on their website and their toxicity number level:

Organix Shampoo & Conditioner  = 4-5

Aveeno Positively Radiant Brightening Cleanser = 5

Simple Smoothing Facial Scrub = (new on the market, not listed yet)

Dessert Essence 100% Pure Jojoba Oil = 0

Yes To Cucumbers Sensitive Skin Calming Night Cream = 2

Kiss My Face Olive & Aloe Lotion (I use it for body lotion) = 5

Colgate Optic White (They didn’t have the specific one, but all of the other whitening toothpastes are the same score) = 5

Bare Minerals Foundation in Medium = 2 

Bare Minerals Mineral Veil SPF25 = 7

Bare Minerals Blush = 2

Bare Minerals Eye Shadow = 4

Almay Line Smoothing Concealer for the Eye = 9

Maybelline Lash Stiletto = 4

(If you have trouble looking up your specific item, just type in the brand name click on the brand, go to the left and click on what item it is..and then scroll down the list to see if it is rated.)

So, before you go gather all of your toiletries and cosmetics to check how awful they are for you, remember the goal is to minimize your exposure to unhealthy things, because truthfully, it is impossible to avoid them 100%.

When you’re finished looking everything up  you can go to the upper tool bar on the website and click on whatever you like to find lists of products from different companies that are non toxic. You can order them online, or print them out to see if you can find them locally.

And just in case you aren’t freaked out enough by the toiletries you’re using, here’s another website she listed so you can look up all of the chemicals in the other every day products you use.

http://www.niehs.nih.gov/

*But even before you do that, you may want to self medicate with a nice cup of soothing tea and my Fig Pillows. Because we all know that pie crust pretty much makes anything better.

Fig Pillows with Fig Glaze & Almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

*Makes 30

2 Portions of Gluten Free Pie Dough

GF Flour For Dusting & Rolling

Trader Joe’s Fig Butter

Powdered Sugar

Almond Milk

Pure Almond Extract

Raw Almonds, finely chopped

Roll out one portion of dough and slice into 30 squares with a sharp knife.

Add about a teaspoon of the fig butter to each square. Then, roll out the second portion of dough and slice into 30 squares.

Using a flat knife (I use a frosting spatula), take one square of plain dough, pat it out just a little with your fingers.

Take the patted out piece of dough and cover the fig jam carefully pressing down around the sides. Score each side with a fork, poke once in the middle so air can escape, and place the fig pillow on a parchment lined baking sheet. Continue with the remainder of the dough until they are finished.

Bake in a preheated oven for 22 minutes and remove to a cooling rack.

While the cookies are cooling, make a glaze with the powdered sugar, fig butter, almond milk, and pure almond extract (about 1/2 tsp.), and finely chop about 1/4 cup raw almonds.

Leaving the fig pillows on the cooling rack, drizzle with glaze and sprinkle with nuts.