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Monday, November 30, 2009

Ginger-Spiced Chai Smoothie - Happy Monday!

With Thanksgiving finally over, and Christmas right around the corner, I seem to be busier than ever..... and with a steadily decreasing amount of time in which to get it all done....

Every year the holiday season is hectic, what with the getting orders out in time for Christmas delivery, and making (and mailing) my own gifts to family and friends– not to mention all the traveling to see them! I am amazed each year when I manage to come out on the other side of the New Year, having actually completed all the items on my to-do list, and even survived in order to do it all over again next year.

This year though, seems even crazier than usual because on top of all the normal goings-on this time of year, my husband and I are moving some eight hours North-West, to Buffalo, NY – just two short days after Christmas! It has been a colorful juggling act, keeping on top of everything – and keeping track of all the boxes: boxes for customers... boxes for family....boxes for friends...and just boxes on top of boxes on top of boxes, waiting for their trip to a new home.

To keep it all straight, I have resorted to an almost manic use of neon-colored Post-Its and Sharpie markers. Everything labeled – color coded – for my sanity's sake. Keeping a firm foundation in my daily routine doesn't hurt either – which is why I am adamant about starting my day at the same time each morning, eating my meals at the same time each day, and maintaining a regular rotation of household chores. I find comfort in the monotony of these little things...

And, as you all must know by now, one of those little things that I love is my morning smoothie!

I know, you think it CRAZY that I am still making my icy smoothies each morning, even though outside, the dew has turned to frost, and the daily temperatures are no longer rising above fifty degrees....

But, it seems that, when I sleep, my body temperature rises dramatically. My husband calls me his personal radiator, and sometimes I even get so hot that I must crack the window... even deep into the winter when the air is frigid and dense.

So, each morning when I awake, I still find the cool beverages to be quite soothing. This gingery-spiced beverage is one of my favorites. It is sweet, but also spicy, and so has a bit of an illusion of warmth despite its chill...

Ginger-Spiced Chai Smoothie
(Serves 2)

1-1/2 cups hot water 2 bags Celestial Seasonings Chai (Vanilla-Ginger-Green Tea)

2/3 cup plain non-fat yogurt

1-1/4 cups soy milk (vanilla or plain)
1 tsp. fresh grated ginger
2 tbsp. maple syrup

1 tsp. vanilla

First, steep the tea bags in the hot water for 3-4 minutes. Remove the tea bags and transfer the liquid to a small ice cube tray and freeze. Combine these cubes with the remaining ingredients and blend until frothy and smooth. Enjoy!!



Monday, November 23, 2009

Back to Basics - Peachy Lean Smoothie

Oh no! I've disappeared from Blog-world ...... yet again!!
I admit it! I have definitely been slacking on my posts lately!


If you would go and ask any of my real-life friends, you would quickly discover that I sometimes -- ok, frequently -- drop of the radar for days -- sigh, sometimes weeks -- when I get all-absorbed in some sort of creative project.

Or, you would learn that, as a child (and then well into my teens) I would frequently be late for dinner, lost in some fantastical world of literary brilliance. I would emerge, well past dark, to rejoin the real-world after completing an entire novel in one day (taking it with me to read on the bus, at school, during classes, at home, at the dinner table.... everywhere and anywhere ... until it was completed).

What can I say? I like to lose myself in the process ... and so I do ...


Unfortunately though, last week's hiatus was not that sort of occasion....

It was, alternatively, a miserable illness that dismantled my entire life ....
for the better part of a week.

One of those nagging head colds that builds up unbearable pressure inside your skull - so you cannot focus - with the constant coughing and sneezing - endless coughing coughing coughing and sneezing sneezing sneezing - leaving you dizzy from the lack of oxygen and the brain rattling - and, let us not forget, the clogged sinuses and phlegm buildup that prevents you from breathing freely - and inevitably leads to more coughing and sneezing --> and then, oh my goodness, on top of it all, no amount of Nyquil in the world could help you get any kind of decent sleep!

So...... after lying in bed for days, sipping mugs of chicken broth, and glass after glass after glass of tea or water - watching endless reruns of Grey's Anatomy and basically being a complete baby about the whole ordeal --- I had, I'll admit it, absolutely no interest whatsoever.... in sitting down in front of the computer to write blog posts....


But.... after a few clear-headed days now to regather my wits (and get out of the house) - I am back on a .... somewhat dreary Monday morning, with a brand new smoothie recipe.

I won't go on and on about how rich in Vitamin C, potassium, and beta-carotene this smoothie is.....

Instead, let me just tell you how delicious it is!!
Simply, it as close as you'll ever get to fresh peach cobbler....
without ever turning on your oven!

Peachy - Lean Smoothie
(Serves 2)
2/3 cups low-fat peach yogurt
1 to 1-1/2 cups sliced peaches, frozen
1/4 cup Whole Fruits peach sorbet
3/4 cup plain soy milk
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of ground allspice

Combine the yogurt and soy milk in a blender.
Add all the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth.
Serve immediately!

Per serving: approximately 185 calories, 3 g fiber and 9 g protein. Also high in Vitamin C and Potassium.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

An Enchilada Breakfast Creation

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a family of four spends $80 more a month on groceries than they did two years ago.

Ok. So $80. You think, that does not seem like so much.
But.... Let us take a look at that within the current economic context.
American families today are also feeling the burden of increasing energy prices, housing market uncertainty, and growing health care costs.
And, in an alarming reversal of past progress, real household income for the typical family has declined over the last seven years!
So, how are families able to actually shop healthy but still afford what they are buying for their meals!?

Well, first of all, take a cue from the $5 Dinner Mom, and start cutting coupons, following sale trends at your local grocer, and optimizing savings with her strategic planning techniques.

Then, start making better use of your left-overs by creating new dishes, instead of just reheating the same old thing two days in a row.
Usually when you think about a meal your focus is just on that one meal.
But wouldn't life be so much easier if thinking about one meal.... led to another meal with less work?

Yes - it would!
(Plus, being more creative with the food you already have will most certainly save you more money on groceries.)

So, here is one of my favorite left-over creations: An Enchilada and Baked-Egg Breakfast. It is so simple, and totally satisfying.

Baked-Egg Enchilada Casserole
(Serves 2)First, start with two left-over enchiladas.
(Use my Mostly Mushroom Enchilada recipe or my Black Bean Enchilada recipe as a base.)
Split the servings and layer them over a bed of rice inside two serving-sized baking dishes. Now, using the back of a spoon, make an indent into the center of the enchilada and then crack a single egg into each crevice. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 20 minutes (or until the egg whites have just set). Serve immediately and enjoy!!

Per serving: approximately 469 calories, 27 g fiber and 23 g protein. Also high in calcium and iron!



What do you do to make the best use of your leftovers??

Monday, November 9, 2009

Happy Mondays - Strawberry-Passionfruit Smoothie

When you have a smoothie (or two) a day, your fruit and yogurt reserves tend to run out quickly. Unfortunately, this week, there was not much in the way of fruit sales at our local grocer, and even worse, we were running low on smoothie fixings even before our weekly trip to the market.

So, this morning when I went to prepare the morning concoction, I was a little discouraged to find our frozen fruit reserves down to one zipper-lock bag of sliced strawberries..... our yogurt supply down to the last little scoop.....and just a mere two cans of Goya nectar left in the pantry.....

But, nevertheless, I managed to create yet another tasty treat to start of the week!
This one in particular is pretty simple, and may even require a bit of extra sugar for those of you with a sweet-tooth...but it has a lot of protein and fiber.... so even if you add the little bit of extra sugar, I'd still call it a healthy breakfast treat!

Strawberry - Passion fruit Smoothies
(Serves 2)
2/3 cup plain yogurt
1 to 1-1/2 cups sliced strawberries, frozen
1/2 - 11.5 oz. can Passion Fruit Nectar
1 to 1-1/2 cups plain soy milk (or low-fat milk)

Combine all of the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.
Serve immediately, and enjoy.

Each smoothie contains approximately 235 calories, 12 g fiber and 11 g protein. Also high in Vitamin C!

Check out our RECIPE ARCHIVES for more SMOOTHIES!!


What is your favorite smoothie flavor?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Handmade Holidays

As a kid I remember my mom cleaning the house on Saturday mornings with the windows open and Shawn Colvin blaring on the stereo. Every weekend, as a family, we had to spend a few hours cleaning house before any fun could begin. I suppose, to my mom, kids were cheap labor. For ten bucks she could get me (and my friends) to do things that she probably couldn't hire a cleaning lady to do for a hundred... It had to be a real bargain.

But, as much as I dreaded cleaning day, when we worked together, it really never took us very long to get a clean house and get out the door. Now, I have to admit, I still wake up on Saturday mornings and, after putting on my ratty jeans and a t-shirt, set out to finish the laundry, vacuum, and then clean the kitchen and the bathroom. However, without a house full of little rug-rats to set to cleaning for you, the tasks tend to take quite a deal longer...

You would think that without the rug-rats there would be LESS TO CLEAN, and it would all just even out, but no, cleaning up after my husband and his bachelor brother, is practically a full-time job. So, needless to say, I was astonished when, come Friday night, I had managed to finish all the laundry (yes, even put it all away), vacuum, and clean the kitchen!

So, Saturday morning, all that was left to do was clean the bathroom, and then sit back, relax, and do anything I wanted.... Sure, I could have spent the time wisely, getting ahead on any number of projects and so forth, but instead I just made myself a hot cup of cocoa and curled up in front of my computer to do some"window shopping" at

I came across a few truly splendid items that would be perfect for making any of your holiday festivities creatively handmade and exciting!
I just had to share....
(Just click on any of the images to jump to that featured item on ETSY...)

First of all, I just adore these little paper acorn parcels. These sweet little nuts would be a great addition to your Thanksgiving table, to share treats with your guests and bring a smile to your family! The shop owner is Jessica Wolf; artist, wife, nature-lover and smartypants. All of her designs are one-of-a-kind, and she offers personal customization and bulk discounts!
How cool is that?

Next were these tangerine and chocolate linen place mats. The color scheme is right up my alley, and aren't they just perfect for any upcoming autumn dinner parties....say Thanksgiving...?
And, if you like these, the KainKain Shop has many more modern, contemporary and affordable items in home decor!

Finally, just before leaving, I stumbled upon these incredibly unique little wine glass charms. These handmade bottle cap charm's are a fabulous way to accessorize and identify your wine glass, martini glass etc. Beautiful and unique, these little accessories are a great way to add a bit of vintage-inspired flair to all of your social gatherings! Find more of Tiffini Elektra's artwork, jewelry and apparel at her shop, tartx.

Happy Monday!!

Shawn Colvin - One Cool Remove
Shawn Colvin - Steady On

Mostly Mushroom Enchiladas

Long gone are the days when the only mushrooms in the produce aisle were white button, portobello, or cremini. Some stores now display up to dozens of different varieties, including some of my favorites – shitake, morel, and chanterelle. But no matter what the variety, mushrooms are easy to prepare and will always add an intense flavor boost to your dish, in everything from soups, stews, and sauces to meats, stuffings, and egg dishes!

TIP: When buying mushrooms, try to buy them loose (rather than prepacked), and sort through looking for mushrooms with whole, intact caps and a light, springy texture; avoid those that are discolored or dry and spongy.
Visit my TIPS page for more on how to select, clean and store mushrooms.

For this recipe I really wanted to make a "meaty" feeling dish.....without the meat.

To do that, I chose to use portobello mushrooms, which have a dense, steak-like consistency and a robust flavor, white button mushrooms, which also develop a rich and meaty flavor when cooked, and shitake mushrooms, which are dense, chewy and a bit nutty in flavor. The result was a complex, sweet and nutty flavor complimented by the heat of jalapeno, and gooey goodness of melted cheese. (My favorite part --> the crispy cooked cheesey edges....)

Mostly Mushroom Enchiladas

(Makes Approximately 8-10)
1 portobello mushroom cap, cleaned and chopped
6-8 white button mushroom caps, cleaned and chopped
2-3 shitake mushroom caps, cleaned and chopped
1 - 15.25 oz. can Golden, Whole Kernel Corn, drained and rinsed
10-12 grape tomatoes, halved (or quartered, if large)
2 jalapeno peppers, de-seeded and chopped
1 large red pepper, finely chopped
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
6 oz. pepper jack cheese, shredded
1 - 10 oz. can Hot Enchilada Sauce
8-10 corn tortillas (or flour, if preferred)

In a cast iron skillet, first heat a tablespoon of olive oil and saute the onion, peppers, and tomatoes. Continue to cook over a medium heat until the onions and peppers soften, and the onions begin to turn translucent. Transfer this mixture to a mixing bowl with with rinsed kernel corn and set aside.

Add a small amount of olive oil to the skillet again and saute the thinly chopped mushroom pieces over medium heat for about five minutes, or until they release liquid. Then increase the heat to high and continue cooking until the liquid evaporates, about another 8 or so minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the heat at this point and add them to the other filling components. Mix thoroughly.

Now, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and prepare a baking dish (I used one that measured approximately 8 inches x 13 inches) by greasing the bottom and edges with a small amount of olive oil, and then pouring about 1/3 of the can of enchilada sauce into the bottom.

Next, roll up the mushroom filling inside the 8 to 10 corn tortillas and arrange them in the baking dish, topping with the remaining enchilada sauce and then the pepper jack cheese.

Since the filling has already been cooked, the baking time is quite short!
Bake for only 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese topping melts, bubbles and begins to brown at the edges. Remove from the heat, let cool about 5 minutes and then serve over rice with sour cream! Enjoy!

Per serving: Approximately 357 calories, 17 g fiber and 18 g protein. Also high in Vitamin A, C and Iron.



Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Very Veggie Breakfast

Despite our very different ideas of what constitutes a “fabulous meal,” I can always rely on my husband and I to agree on what to eat for breakfast. Whether I am just fishing for compliments on my cooking, or I am just too tired to want to argue, I can always count on a good omelet (or egg sandwich – or breakfast burrito – or, yes, even pancakes) to have us both leaving the table sated and smiling.

I suppose that is how we adopted our weekly, Sunday morning “breakfast in bed” routine. No matter what else is going on in our lives, we make sure we have that time together, just the two of us. While some couples have a “date night” routine, my husband and I prefer to sleep in late on the weekend, then whip up breakfast in our pajamas and crawl back into bed to watch cartoons. This weekend was no exception, and we may have even out-done ourselves with this super-veggie-stuffed, cheesy masterpiece of an omelet– served with a simple side of sauteed garlic potatoes and three episodes of The Venture Brothers.

The omelet, which was executed beautifully, if I do say so myself – was incredibly filling. In fact, I found it impossible to finish my portion – and my husband, after the fact of course, said he surely shouldn't have finished his... The completed dish could easily feed three - maybe four - adults (with a side of potatoes and toast). By cooking up the onions, peppers, mushrooms etc. ahead of time, their distinct flavors are made more vibrant and cohesive. The filling develops this harmonic blend of sweet from the onion and bell pepper, pleasantly pungent earthiness from the mushrooms, with a lingering hint of spice from the jalapenos and peppery cheese.

I dare you not to enjoy!

Cheesy Vegetable Omelet
(Serves 2-4)

4 large eggs + 2 large egg whites
(beaten with a splash of half and half)
3/4 cup pepper jack cheese, shredded
4-5 white button mushrooms, finely diced
1 jalapeno pepper, deseeded and finely diced
1 small red pepper, finely diced
8-10 grape tomatoes, chopped
1 small onion, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
Olive Oil, to cook

First, I sauteed the diced vegetables in about one tablespoon of olive oil.
Start with the peppers and onions for 2 minutes over a medium heat, then add the celery, and lastly the tomatoes and mushrooms. Cook for another 7-8 minutes, or until the entire mixture has softened and browned.

Now, everyone has a different technique for creating that perfect omelet, but in my kitchen, I always have the most luck with a large cast iron skillet and an evenly heated oven.

I'll lightly grease the skillet with a touch of oil, pour in the scrambled eggs (they'll cook more evenly if you have let them warm while you were preparing the filling), and cook, until just set (about 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees). Once the egg mixture has set, pull the skillet out of the oven and layer the cheese and the filling on one half of the omelet shell. Finally, use a spatula to gently loosen, and then fold over the other half to create that perfect omelet. Cut in half (or thirds - or quarters) and serve with a side of potatoes and toast! Enjoy!

TIP: Loosen the edges of the omelet with a knife before attempting to flip the omelet to prevent breaking.

Per serving (assuming 3 servings): approximately 420 calories, 6 g fiber, and 30 g protein.
Also high in Vitamin A, C and Calcium.




I have been told that confession is good for the soul. The release is thought to relieve a burden from the mind and with it, a bit of tension
(or anger – sadness – regret).

(image: Silent Confessions by WeberPhoto)

I find my husband's endless list of food dislikes to be tiresome.

He says he likes mushrooms (but only in his eggs - and only if they are cut up into itty bitty little slivers of flesh). He says he likes beef (but only if it is ground up, or shredded – oh, and overcooked and seasoned to death).

He says likes vegetables (meaning, he likes onions, bell peppers, asparagus and green beans.... but not eggplant, squash, spinach, zucchini. potatoes, celery...and on and on....

Oh, and he doesn't care for pork (unless it is bacon)...and wait, no chicken, or lamb either...
Also, no nuts or seeds in the bread. No. No. No.
There are a lot of Nos.

I acknowledge that I can be quick to anger –

and too easily offended...

When he (who happily eats Hamburger Helper - ick -
and 'ground beef mixed with ranch dressing and tortilla chips' - ew )
criticizes the dinner - I slaved over -
because the “meat chunks are too big,”
or it “would have been better with meat”
… but only if the chunks weren't “too big,” right?

I would give just about anything for him to, no matter what I serve him, think it was the most delicious thing h
e's ever eaten.
And despite the continued frustration when he doesn't... I still go on striving to create aromatic and flavorful dishes that just might one day, be his delight.

(image: Confessions II by ChristyDeKoning)

On the occasions on which I choose to discuss these short-comings, I am often brushed aside as a “food snob.” But the issue is not snobbishness - it is a deep-seeded frustration with his unwillingness to try new things or admit that he may have been wrong about an ingredient.

Slowly, I am accepting that I will forever be cooking for a picky eater.
and SLOWLY, I am beginning to embrace the challenge:
- of getting him to broaden his horizons -
- of creating dishes that are so undeniably delicious that he cannot find fault -
- of sneaking vegetables into his meals -
(right past his “there is something foreign” alarm)

Slowly, he is accepting that sometimes I just can't control my temper.
and SLOWLY, he is beginning to learn that sometimes:
- it is just easier to walk away -
- I may even concede that some things are just not worth fighting about -
(no matter how much I just want him to acknowledge I AM RIGHT...)
- And....sometimes......
- There is just nothing better than my Spaghetti and Meatballs -

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Weekly Smoothie Recipe - Frothy Iced Mocha

It is oh-so easy to get distracted when you have a lot to do! Often this is because it is just too hard to focus clearly on any single thing. When this happens to me, which it does all too frequently, I try to stop, write things down, and sketch out a to-do list to get me through the day...

Unfortunately, I still have not figured out just how to stick to the list. In fact, it is not unlikely for me to add about a million more things to it before I even finish the first thing on the list – resulting, inevitably, in most of list remaining -- still unchecked -- at the end of the day.

Indeed, it isn't so much the making of the list, as it is the tackling one thing on it at a time, and committing to completing one task before moving onto another, that keeps you on track and moving forward. As I begin to find a routine that works for me, and allows me to best get things done, it becomes easier to commit to sticking to that schedule each day!

My smoothie and breakfast routine, which I've been maintaining for well over six months now, is one of my minor successes. As small as the achievement may seem, I should point out that until this year, my first meal would not occur until well after noon. So, being able to pull myself out of bed and then pull together a meal - all before I start my daily to-dos - has been a huge lifestyle improvement, and certainly a small step in the right direction.
(The next step, certainly, will have to be adding in a regular exercise regiment, but let's not get too ahead of ourselves here....)


So, this week's smoothie is a bit of a deviation from my regular fruit-yogurt smoothies. This rich, chocolaty treat is more of a dessert than a breakfast drink, but the added coffee is a great pick-me-up for the morning. Certainly not a daily extravagance, this little delight is a great way to punch up the start of the week, especially when you need that little extra shove out of the weekend.

Mocha Smoothie

(Serves 2)

2/3 cup plain yogurt*
2-3 tbsp. chocolate syrup
1 tbsp. confectioner's sugar (or more for sweeter results)
Approx. 2 cups of brewed coffee, frozen into ice cubes
1-1/2 cups soy milk (or low-fat milk)

Combine all of the ingredients into a blender (starting with the yogurt - or tofu, then the chocolate syrup, coffee cubes and milk), and blend until smooth and frothy.

Serve immediately, and enjoy.

*The yogurt gives this smoothie a "tang" that my husband just does not appreciate. In his opinion it "taints" the coffee flavor, and so when I make these for him I'll substitute in 1/2 cup firm-tofu for the yogurt, as it has no flavor of its own...

Each (yogurt) smoothie contains approximately 277 calories, 2 g fiber and 12 g protein. Also high in Calcium!


Monday, November 2, 2009

Amidst Chaos and Distraction

(image: Finding Peace Amongst Chaos, by JessicaJoy)

We all know that even the smallest distractions can be bothersome. Whether it be the nagging little annoyances around the house (the kitchen sink is filled with dishes again, or you pull a book off the shelf only to get a face full of dust and now you are wiping down EVERY surface in the house just to be rid of those clingy little dust bunnies), or the surprises that creep up in your email, ensnaring your curiosity and driving you just a little further off course (a new sale at your favorite shop, or a note from a friend, or a fan!), there is always something lurking around the corner ready to dismantle your entire to-do list.

When you are self-employed (or, in my case, out of work and struggling to get by on freelance work until something new and better comes along) it is often too easy to let the distractions become completely overwhelming! After all, there is no one (but yourself) to keep you on track, set your hours, and push you toward a deadline! Some days, as hard as you may try to resist them, you even lose the battle with these diversions and allow yourself to be pulled astray, and then before you know it, the day has passed and you have not gotten a single productive thing accomplished! Oh no!

And, well, we all know that it is not uncommon for me to be distracted here and there by any number of things (a sudden craving for fudge brownies, an unexpected inspiration, an email – or a phone call), but over the past few weeks it has been a constant struggle to do anything but chase these distractions down. For the first few days I sank a lot of energy into resisting them, but after a while I decided to just give-in and see where they would take me.

I admit, at first, I did little more than listen to music, write emails to friends, and spend entirely too much time stalking my friends' Facebook pages.... but once that was out of my system I ended up spending the rest of the week in the kitchen stocking the fridge with hearty meals, in my workroom designing (and making) some new jewelry for Graceful Elements, and just letting my mind wander and letting all that chaos just work itself back out.

I was surprised that I did not get secondarily distracted by tidying tasks around the house, and since I didn't do much writing (obviously, you will have noticed the lingering silence here), I also managed to avoid many of the distractions I run into on the web (frequently checking email, browsing pages of handmade treasures on ETSY, or reading the most recent postings from my favorite bloggers – and envying their ability to ... stay on task). But by turning off the computer (and the TV – and my phone), I did manage to finally clear my head, develop some coherent trains of thought, and reinvest myself in my goals and aspirations.

Obviously, I have yet to find some magical cure for this recurring lack of focus, but over the past week I have discovered that sometimes it is beneficial to wander along an unplanned path, to allow yourself to be open to new possibilities and new opportunities, and that you can surely find inspiration in unexpected places …

So long as your eyes are open (and looking in all directions).


So, what little things do you do to keep distractions in check? Or do you let yourself stray from the task at hand to pursue the unanticipated adventure?
Delicious Intentions - Blogged