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October 2015



Pomegranate and Purple Basil Iced Tea

Written by , Posted in Breakfast, Brunch, Cocktails, Dairy-Free, Drinks, Fruit, Gluten Free, Herbs, Vegetarian


When I think of basil, I think of things like pesto, soup, risotto… even french toast. I love basil so much that I grow it in my garden – I can never seem to get enough. It’s one of the best things about summer (and fall, at least around here). The smell is intoxicating. So when purple basil came in the weekly Abundant Harvest Organics box, it seemed like the perfect time to try something new with it. I made tea.


While basil is one of the stars of this tea, it has some pretty powerful co-stars: pomegranates and ginger. I like this combination for a few reasons.

  • It’s fun to find something new to do with pomegranates. I sometimes have trouble using them up. This recipe used two whole pomegranates. Perfect!
  • Ginger – spicy and flavorful, but that’s not all. Did you know that ginger is good for you? It’s great for the tummy and intestines. It’s anti-inflammatory, can help with nausea, and is said to reduce pain levels for individuals with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. Ginger tea is diaphoretic (warms from the inside out), so it’s great if you’ve got a cold, or if you just want to warm up.
  • On the healthy note, there are lots of studies going on about the many health benefits of pomegranates. They are being researched to find out their effect on things like free-radicals, memory, and even the common cold. Basil is also known to be a digestive aid, to help with headaches, and poor circulation. It’s also said to be an antioxidant, anti-viral, antimicrobial, and a stress reliever.

Great tasting, great for you.


To begin, those pomegranate seeds need to be removed from the pith or membrane (for a refresher on how to do this, check out last year’s post on deseeding pomegranates). Once they’ve been removed and the skin and pith discarded, the rest of the ingredients are added.


The seeds, ginger, basil, and honey are covered with boiling water and left to steep for a while.


Once the tea has come to room temperature, it’s mashed (to extract as much pomegranate flavor as possible) and strained.


After cooling completely in the fridge, it can be drunk as is with a sprig of basil for garnish.

Some fun twists: To serve it hot, either reheat the chilled tea, or just let it steep for a bit and then strain. I have a cold today, so I turned the leftover cold tea into a hot therapeutic tea. I added some more fresh ginger, a pinch of cayenne (helps me with congestion), and a bit more honey (soothes my throat) On a day when I’m feeling better, I might consider turning it into a cocktail (it could be used as a mojito base). Fresh lemons could also be added for a yummy take on lemonade.

Happy Sipping!

Pomegranate and Purple Basil Iced Tea

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Pomegranate and Purple Basil Iced Tea


  • 8 C water
  • 2 pomegranates, seeds removed from peel and pith
  • 2-3 t fresh ginger, diced
  • 1/4 C purple basil
  • (could also add mint or lemons)
  • 1 T + 2 t honey (or more, to taste)


  1. Boil water.
  2. Place pomegranates through honey in a heat-proof container. Pour boiling water over. Let stand until room temperature (unless serving hot - in that case steep until flavorful enough). Mash, then press through strainer and cool completely in the refrigerator. (Could freeze some in ice cube trays to use in place of ice for serving.)


Some fun twists: To serve it hot, either reheat the chilled tea, or just let it steep for a bit and then strain. Or, to drink when I have a cold: I turned the leftover cold tea into a hot therapeutic tea. I added some more fresh ginger, a pinch of cayenne, and a bit more honey. It could be used in a cocktail (it could be used as a mojito base). Fresh lemons could also be added for a yummy take on lemonade.

Possible health benefits are my opinions and ideas, based on the research that I’ve done, but are in no way intended to replace the advice of a qualified health care professional.
The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, N.D., and Joseph Pizzorno, N.D., with Lara Pizzorno, M.A., L.M.T., Atria Books 2005
Reader’s Digest Foods That Harm Foods That Heal, The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc. 1997



August 2015



How to Go Vegan

Written by , Posted in How To, Thoughts, Vegan

We’ve addressed meat a few times in my Kitchen Basics posts. In Eating Well on a Budget and Eating Vegetarian I talked about how we enjoy meat, but it’s expensive. Our grocery budget is tight, so we don’t eat a lot of it. We’re fine with that. We get plenty of protein from other sources. But, as we’ve been going along on this journey, I’ve realized how often we’re not just eating vegetarian, but vegan. And I’m seeing how organically it happens.


If I were to tell Tim that we were going to eat exclusively vegan or vegetarian, there would be a revolt (ok, from both of us). We love cheese and milk and eggs. But, we will happily and regularly eat vegan food and won’t feel like anything is missing. Take this Vegan Tofu Fried Quinoa for example. The tofu is scrambled and mimics the eggs in a typical fried rice dish. The quinoa replaces rice for a bit more protein. There are tons of veggies. Et voîla, a fabulous meal, sans animal products. Easy.


These days it really is simple. There’s so much more awareness about dietary restrictions, resulting in a wide array of alternatives to animal products. I know that there are soy cheeses, but tofu can also be used, like in the Eggplant and Summer Squash Tacos that I made the other week. Instead of feta, extra firm tofu can be crumbled. Same thing goes for one of my new favorite ways to enjoy cantaloupe in this Melon and Feta Salad. On the other end of the tofu spectrum, silken tofu can be used in place of yogurt in dips, for topping tacos and burritos, and as a side for Stone Fruit Chips.

Here are some other substitutions that we enjoy:

Olive Oil, Canola Oil, or Coconut Oil in Place of Butter or Bacon Grease


We’ve always got olive oil on hand, which is usually what I use for sautéeing or drizzling on a salad. But, when it comes to baking it’s a science. So, if the recipe calls for cold butter, room temperature oil will give you a different result. But, for example, coconut oil has a higher melting point than olive oil does, so it can be a good substitution. There are also vegan butter substitutes that can be found at your local market if you want to take some of the guesswork out of substituting.

Maple Syrup Instead of Honey

This one’s easy, since they’re both a liquid at room temperature. For my taste, 1/4 C of honey can be replaced with 1/4 C of maple syrup, like it is in this Vegan Fruit Crisp.

Coconut, Almond, Soy, or Hemp Milk instead of Cow’s Milk

We have friends who are dairy-free, so I’ve experimented a bit with baking with alternative milks. So far I’ve just tried coconut and almond milk and have had good results. I’ve used them in soups and have had them in smoothies too, and all have been fabulous.

Flax Seeds instead of Eggs

I read on the Joy the Baker website that you can use 1 T of ground flaxseed mixed with 3 T water to replace one large egg. Let it sit for 30 minutes, or until it’s thickened. Add a pinch of baking powder to the recipe just before adding the flaxseed and water mixture. I’ve done this once when baking, although I can’t remember what I used it in. I do remember that it turned out great. I’ve also suggested it as an option for making a vegan version of my Whole Wheat Parsnip Cookies.

All Vegan Dinner Meal Plan

Here are some of my favorite vegan meals. Some are vegan as they are, some require a bit of tweaking (see the recipes for details).



Spicy Summer Squash and Tomato Soup


Sautéed Snap Peas and Summer Squash with Mint Pesto and Brown Rice


Vegan Fruit Crisp



Crispy Tofu with Black Bean Purée and Microgreens


Succotash with Cornbread


Salted Chocolate and Roasted Fig Pudding



Eggplant and Summer Squash Tacos


Melon Salad


Whole Wheat Parsnip Cookies



Roasted Stone Fruit with Bulgur and Fennel


Fresh Herb and Dried Tomato Bruschetta

Green Salad with Cherry Tomatoes Almonds and Figs with a Maple-Balsamic Vinaigrette



Spring Rolls with Spicy Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce


Pan Seared Tofu topped with Bean and Veggie Melange


Vegan Tofu Fried Quinoa


A great resource for paring vegetarian and vegan foods is The Vegetarian Flavor Bible.

Happy Eating!



February 2015



How to Feed Picky Eaters

Written by , Posted in How To, Kid-Friendly


I usually add as many veggies as I can, no matter what I’m cooking. I will often consult The Vegetarian Flavor Bible if I’m not sure about a paring. But, the more I cook and eat, the better I am at knowing what works and what doesn’t (except when I tried to make a puréed beet soup a few weeks ago with far too many turnips). Sometimes I grate them into a sauce, or blend them along with a soup. I find that, especially in things like soups, chilis, stews, sauces, and smoothies, you can hide many an un-loved food.


Of all of the ingredients to hide, I think squash is one of the easier ones. In the summer the thin skinned, more delicate summer squash will be available, like zucchini and crooknecks. When it’s colder, we will have the denser winter squashes like butternut and spaghetti squash. My mom used to grate zucchini into “Zoo Bread”. We loved it and had no idea what we were eating.


Second to squash, I’d say that greens are a good one to hide. They’re packed with nutrients and most are mild in flavor, so they will be easily hidden (maybe work your way up to stronger flavored mustard greens and arugula). Their color is a bit more noticeable, but they can go in just about anything… even a smoothie.

Two of my very favorite places to hide veggies are in soups and pasta sauces. They offending parties can be blended up and added to a tomato sauce, or to the broth of the soup. They can also be grated, diced, or chopped, depending on the level of pickiness.


Some of my favorite dishes for hiding squash include:

Rotini Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Vegetarian Lasagne

Summer Chili and Black Bean and Butternut Squash Chili

Three Cheese Corn Chowder and Spaghetti Soup

They also work well in things like Basil and Summer Squash RisottoBeef and Bean Enchiladas and could almost pass for hash browns in Squash au Gratin.

Winner winner squash for dinner.


Some of my favorite dishes for hiding greens include:

Summer Pizza and Kale Pesto

Ham and Greens Chowder and Loaded Chicken and Rice Soup

Deconstructed Lasagne and Shepherd’s Pie of the South

In any of these, the greens could be blended up beforehand and added to the pizza or pasta sauce, soups, or shepherd’s pie, if there are those who prefer smaller pieces of green.


Another thing that I’ve heard is great to do with kids is to plant a garden (it doesn’t have to be overwhelmingly large – a potted basil plant on the balcony will do just fine). Let them help with the entire process from seed to table. When the plants have matured, let them select some for a dish, and, keeping with the basil idea, they could tear the leaves up and sprinkle them on some pasta. They may be more inclined to eat something that they’ve had a hand in not just preparing, but growing.

Happy Eating!



February 2015



Eating Vegetarian

Written by , Posted in How To, Thoughts

We try to keep to a diet that’s full of real whole foods that are unprocessed or minimally processed, full of plants, good proteins, fats, and some meat.

Yes, I’m talking about meat in a post about eating vegetarian. Stay with me.

In our home, we eat meat because we like it. We like the taste, what it adds to a dish, the protein it provides. However… it’s not our only, or even main source of protein. I mentioned this in my recent post How to Eat Well on a Budget. While we love meat, it’s expensive, so we’ve cut way back on our consumption. And I think that our meals have been just as hearty, nutritional, and tasty as they would be if we were eating meat more often. Out of the 21 meals we eat each week, maybe 4 or 5 contain meat (and 1 or 2 of them are usually leftovers).

If you’re looking at it from a strictly need for protein perspective, there’s plenty of other foods out there with protein. No need to worry on that front. I rely on things like quinoa, lentils, beans, nuts, nut butters, eggs, dairy, tofu, grains, fruits, and vegetables. I’m confident that we’re not lacking.

For example, I’ve looked at the numbers for nuts and seeds before. But, looking again today was a good reminder about one of the many reasons that nuts are so good for us. If you look at the protein content alone, some of them may surprise you. Sesame seeds have 27.3g in one cup – sprinkle them on to your favorite Stir Fry for an extra boost. Sunflower seeds have 34.8g of protein in one cup. They’re awesome on salads, in granola, or just eaten raw. And, did you know that pumpkin seeds have a whopping 40.6g of protein in just one cup?! I’ve been adding them to my granola for some extra goodness, and snacking on them raw, in a mixture with almonds and sunflower seeds. (1)

Recommended Dietary Allowance for Protein (2)
Grams of protein needed each day
Children ages 1 – 3 13
Children ages 4 – 8 19
Children ages 9 – 13 34
Girls ages 14 – 18 46
Boys ages 14 – 18 52
Women ages 19 – 70+ 46
Men ages 19 – 70+ 56

A Typical Day 

Here’s what my protein intake might look like on a typical day:

Breakfast 8g: I really enjoy smoothies. They’re an easy way to incorporate fruits, veggies, and protein into a meal. This Summer Smoothie, for example, has close to 8g protein per serving. (1)

Lunch 16.21g: Squash ‘n Eggs (13.54g), fresh fruit (0.27g), and a slice of whole grain toast (2.4g protein) with butter. (1)

Dinner 22.35g: Vegetarian Soft Tacos on a whole wheat tortilla (14.74g), 1/2 C Spanish Rice (brown rice) (7.4g), glass of red wine (0.21g). (1)

Snacks 5.62-12.07g: Stove top popped Popcorn topped with olive oil and sea salt, (0.99g) apple/orange/banana/peach/pear/plum/berries/grapes (average of about 0.93g), 1/4 C nuts and seeds (3.7-10.15g). (1)

As you can see, I’m getting plenty of protein in my diet. In fact, according to the above chart, which states that I need about 46g/day, I’m getting more than I need at 52.18 – 58.63g.

More Vegetarian Meals

You’ve seen what a day of my vegetarian meals might look like. Here are some examples of even more foods that we love to incorporate into our protein rich diet: 



Radish and Feta Toasts

Deconstructed Lasagne

Summer Smoothie

Veggie Pizza with Artichoke Hearts

Lentils on Crispy Sweet Potatoes



Heart Healthy Chard Wraps

Mediterranean Quinoa

Lentil Quinoa and Carrot Supper

Slightly Sweet Granola with Quinoa

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad



Dilly Eggs with Lentils

Lentils on Crispy Sweet Potatoes

Lentil Quinoa and Carrot Supper

Mediterranean Quinoa



Vegetarian Soft Tacos

Cannellini and Beet Green Soup with Feta

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

Mediterranean Quinoa

Nuts, Seeds, and Nut Butters


Fresh Fruit and Basil Stuffed French Toast

Massaged Kale Salad with Radish and Apple

Basil Pesto

Red Choi Stir Fry with Tofu and Almonds

Slightly Sweet Granola with Quinoa



Squash ‘n Eggs

Winter Frittata

End of the Week Pasta

Hearty Winter Salad

Fresh Fruit and Basil Stuffed French Toast

Dilly Eggs with Lentils



Red Choi Stir Fry with Tofu and Almonds


Red Choi Stir Fry with Tofu and Almonds

Fresh Fruit and Basil Stuffed French Toast



Summer Smoothie

Fresh Fruit and Basil Stuffed French Toast



Vegetarian Lasagne

Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Spicy Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

Winter Frittata

End of the Week Pasta

Hearty Winter Salad

Roasted Winter Vegetable Soup

Lentils on Crispy Sweet Potatoes

(1) Nutrition Almanac, Mc Graw-Hill 2001, Fifth Edition, Lavon J. Dunne

(2) From, who used: Source for Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) reference and RDAs: Institute of Medicine (IOM) Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids. This report may be accessed via*



February 2015



How To Eat Well on a Budget

Written by , Posted in How To, Menu Planning, Storage/Prep, Thoughts


Sometimes the word “budget” is enough to make me want to hide under the covers. It can be tricky to manage to eat well, whilst keeping the budget in check. When we were first married, we had a very small grocery budget. I started planning our menu in advance, so that I could go to the grocery store with a detailed list, knowing how much I would be spending. I got pretty good at it, and found that I really enjoyed it. In the years since, I’ve tried to keep to it, regardless of the state of our bank account.

It’s not always been easy, but it’s definitely one thing that has helped us to keep our budget a bit lower. (It’s so important to me that I wrote a three part series on it, for the Kitchen Basics section. Have a look! Here’s a link to part 1, part 2, and part 3.)


I’ve been eating organic since before it was trendy. It’s always made sense to me. We’re thankful that Abundant Harvest Organics is so affordable. But, since other organic food is often a bit more expensive than conventionally farmed food, it’s not always possible to stock the pantry with all organic ingredients. The advice that I try to follow, is to do the best that I can. So, we eat as much organic food as possible, but during the leaner times, some foods take priority. For me, the foods that I try not to budge on are: fruits and veggies (but even there, there’s some wiggle room if needed – produce with a peel enables you to peel away the chemical laden skin, things that are sprayed directly – think berries, are not as easy to remove the pesticides, even when washed), milk, and meat.


Speaking of meat, this is an area where we have cut waaaay back. We love meat. It adds great flavor to soups, it’s so yummy roasted, and the protein it provides is wonderful. But, it’s expensive, especially when you’re choosy about getting the best quality, like I am. So, here’s what we’ve done. We eat meat maybe 2-4 times a week. And when we do, it’s in small portions. For example, I like to buy a whole chicken, and then it will often feed Tim and I for 4-6 meals. The first meal, he might have a thigh and half of a breast, I’ll have the other half of the breast. The rest of the meat will be cooked, portioned out, and frozen, to be saved for 3-5 more meals. I can make it stretch by adding things like lots of veggies, rice, and beans to a dish or a meal. And with the remaining meat, I might be able to make: Chicken Pot Pie, Chicken Bean and Rice Enchiladas (add rice and sub chicken for the beef in the recipe I’ve linked to), Chicken and Rice Soup or Chicken Noodle Soup, Chicken Chili, and Chicken Stir Fry. For the other meals that don’t contain meat, I rely on protein from other sources (legumes, quinoa, dairy, veggies, nuts) to help to fill us up.


When cooking meat, I try to not only make the most of the meat itself, but also to stretch it even further and save the bones to make chicken stock. It’s not even necessary to use veggies in there (although veggie scraps are great). Just some bones, herbs, water and an hour or two will result in a flavorful stock. Same goes for scraps from our veggies. I keep a compost bucket in the fridge, but I also keep a gallon ziptop bag or two in the freezer, to collect anything that’s worth saving (which is usually most of it). Then about once every month or two I dump the contents of the bag into a big pot, cover it with water, and let it simmer for an hour or two. Then, voilà, veggie stock! At about $4 for a 32 oz. box of stock at the grocery store, the savings adds up quickly.


Other things that I like to make rather than buy: tomato sauce, dried tomatoes, pesto, hummus, pie crust, baguettes, pizza dough, biscuits, and jam. Soon, I’m going to attempt to make sandwich bread. Wish me luck. 😉

There are definitely things that I can’t make, grow, or produce on my own (although some I’d love to try making, just haven’t gotten up the courage yet). So, I keep these staples on hand: brown rice, lentils, quinoa, pasta, nut butters, balsamic and rice vinegar, olive oil, dried or canned beans, eggs, cheese, milk, butter, yogurt, salt, dried spices, garlic, honey, maple syrup, soy sauce, all purpose flour, and whole wheat flour.

It’s a journey, for sure. There are ups and downs, failures and successes, lean months and months with more than we need. But, following all of these self-set guidelines has really helped us to stay within an affordable budget while we continue to strive to eat well, no matter what the situation.