Saturday, April 30, 2011

Being a Bit More Careful Now . . .

So we had quite a week.  First, on Monday morning, my 2 year old daughter woke up puking noodles.  And I mean - literally.  She was throwing up undigested rice noodles in her pillow.  Poor little thing was so confused.  It was the first time she'd ever experienced throwing up.  She was fine after a few hours - and back to normal later that day.  However, it was an unusual occurrence.  Then Wednesday, I had been feeling fine all day.  All of us ate the same dinner, at home.  Middle of the night Wednesday night/very early Thursday morning, I was up tossing my cookies all night long.  My husband had to go out to the market and buy some ginger ale for me - just so I could get my stomach settled enough to go back to sleep.  I slept for a bit - but felt really sick.  Thursday - I laid around most of the day because Adam was off work and I needed some rest.  I was fine Friday and still feel just fine.

However - today is when it all came together for me.  My sweet two year old and I were making a pie.  I was assisting her in making the pie crust .  I was out of the canola oil that I normally use in that recipe and I thought we'd just substitute grapeseed oil - one of my favorite oils to use for all-purpose cooking.  I had purchased a large, 2 quart bottle of grapeseed oil from the wholesale store just about a month ago.  It had been stored in my pantry and I never really gave it much thought.  Normally, when I use it, I am juggling my 11-month old baby and redirecting my two year old as I'm trying to throw dinner together.  I don't really think about my oil and it's condition.  Anyway - today, when I was hovering over my girl - to make sure she was not making a huge mess out of the pie dough - I noticed the unmistakable scent of rancid oil.
It all started to make sense.  I had used the grapeseed oil when I made the sauce for her rice noodles the night before she had gotten sick.  Then I had used the same oil the night before I'd gotten sick when I ran out of the other oil I had used to make dinner for the rest of the family.  And I was the only one that ate from the affected batch.  I thought it tasted funny - so after I had tried it, I didn't serve it to the rest of the family.  Fortunately, they all ate from the first batch - the batch made with fresher oil.  Without knowing it - I had been very close to serving rotten oil to my 11-month old son.  He ate the same dinner as the rest of us that night.  I'm just so glad he didn't eat from the bad batch.  I can't imagine that he wouldn't have had to be taken to the ER if he was vomiting all night and becoming dehydrated.
I'm posting this story because it is something that could happen in anyone's kitchen.  A bottle of oil is used time and time again - and most of us never think to smell it once in a while to be sure it isn't spoiled.  We check other ingredients for freshness - milk, eggs, fish - but rarely even think about the oil.  At least, I never used to think about the oil.
Today - after the first pie crust was ruined from my rancid oil, I gave it some good thought . . . and I did a  small amount of research to find that many oils we buy at the market are somewhat rancid when we buy them.  They go through a lot of refining and that removes much of the odor and taste we normally associate with rancidity.  One exception is olive oil - because it is mainly a monounsaturated fat (as opposed to a polyunsaturated fat).  However, olive oil should still be refrigerated and used up within a month.  And get this - many doctors and other nutrition experts recommend not using vegetable oils (soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil) at all.  The oils that are said to be more healthful for us include, palm oil, coconut oil and even butter.  This all may sound a little crazy - but do a little reading, and comment on this article if you have any helpful fat tips. 
As for me - I think I will be more careful about storing oils.  I also think that I will do more cooking with olive and coconut oils. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


I used a random number generator to select a winner.  Mary Beth won our package of Trader Joe's Taco Seasoning Mix.  Thanks to all who entered.  Stay tuned for more great recipes and giveaways.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

GIVEAWAY - prize info.

So I've decided to give away one of my favorite secret seasonings.  It is a versatile blend that I use in hummus, chili, Pad Thai, black beans and countless other dishes.  It is called Trader Joe's Taco Seasoning Mix; however, I have yet to use it for tacos.  :)

Anyway, comment on the yogurt post here for your chance to win.  

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Plain Yogurt Recipes??? GIVEAWAY

So I sorta goofed.  My 2 year old daughter eats plain yogurt twice a day - once before her nap and once before bed.  So - when we buy plain yogurt, we buy a lot of it.  Last month, we ordered it through our natural foods co-op, because it was a bit cheaper that way.  We ordered 12 quarts.  When they came, they had about a one month shelf life.  Perfect - we had ordered about a one month supply.  When I ordered for this month, we weren't as fortunate.  My co-op order came in on March 21.  The sell-by date on the yogurt was March 29.  That gave us 12 quarts of high quality, organic, full-fat, plain yogurt to use in eight days.  So - here it is, March 29th and I still have eight of the twelve quarts to use.  They don't freeze well - I've tried.  I can't be certain - but my guess is that I have about a week to ten days to use them. 

So this is where I need your help.  Do you have any creative ways to use up plain yogurt?  Any recipes that call for it?  PLEASE leave a comment, including your recipe or a fun way to use this stuff.  If you post a comment, I will enter you into a random drawing to win something fantastic.  I haven't decided what I'll give away yet - but I promise it won't be an expired quart of plain yogurt.  :)  Please send me your ideas by April 5th.  Thanks for your help.  I will post an update - with the prize details - within the week.

The Mammoth Mangoes

So we got mangoes with our CSA box last week.  They must be of the extra large variety.   I had to take a picture because these things are HUGE.

I also thought I'd post my very favorite mango recipe - just in time for your Spring get-togethers.

Mango Avocado Salsa

2-3 large mangoes
1 small red onion
juice of one lime
                                                                                        2-3 avocados
                                                                                       1/2 c. chopped cilantro

Chop the mangoes into bite sized pieces and put into a large bowl.  Include all juices.  You can also use a 16 oz. bag of frozen, chopped mangoes - thawed.  Then chop the avocados into bite sized pieces and toss them with the mangoes.  Chop the red onion into very small pieces and toss that, along with the cilantro into the bowl.  Add the lime juice and stir everything together.  You may want to add a little salt - depending on your preference.  Serve this with tortilla chips and watch it disappear.  I like to use blue chips with this salsa.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Sometimes, my everso handsome, vegan husband has a hankerin' for fries.  Here's my best method for making fries that taste good enough to calm the cravings. 

6 potatoes, medium sized
1/4 c. oil
garlic powder
any other seasonings you like

Cut the potatoes in half - longways - and then into long wedges, about 1/2 inch thick.  Try to make all your wedges about the same size.  Then put them all into a large bowl and toss with the oil.  Add spices and salt and then toss again.  Spread out the spuds on a cookie sheet and bake at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes or until done.  Cooking time will vary according to the freshness and thickness of your potatoes - so keep an eye on them.  When they are done, take them out and put them on a paper towel on a plate and serve.  My husband likes them with BBQ sauce.  I like them with ketchup. 

Tip - these fries freeze very well.  I like to make extra and freeze what we don't eat in a zipper seal bag.  Then, when we want fries again, I heat the frozen fries at 425 for about ten minutes or until they are crispy.  I think they are even better and more crispy the second time.

Also - I like to season these with Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute. 

Beautiful Soup

Ah the butternut squash.  So big, so pretty, so difficult to cut.  I got quite a large supply of butternut squash in my CSA box recently.  Here's a soup that I made.  It turned out just delectable.  First, enjoy this poem about soup.  We read it aloud lastnight before we ate this soup for dinner. 

Beautiful Soup
Beautiful Soup, so rich and green
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, Beautiful Soup.
Soup of the evening, Beautiful Soup.

Beau-ootiful Soo-oop!
Beau-ootiful Soo-oop!
Soo-oop of the e-e-evening,
Beautiful, Beautiful Soup!

Beautiful Soup!  Who cares for fish,
Game, or any other dish?
Who would not give all else for two
Pennyworth only of Beautiful Soup?
Pennyworth only of Beautiful Soup?

Beau-tiful Soo-oop!
Beau-tiful Soo-oop!
Soo-oop of the e-e-evening,
Beautiful, Beauti-FUL SOUP!
                          -Lewis Carroll

So here's the recipe for Beautiful Butternut Squash Soup:

2 large or 3 small butternut squash
1 large onion
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground ginger - or 1 Tbsp. ground fresh ginger
2 Tbsp. butter
1 can (14 oz.) coconut milk
5 cups water
1 tsp. cinnamon

Cut squash in half and seed them.  Then place them, flesh side down, into a large, oiled, shallow pan.  Add a couple of Tbsp. water.  Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees for about an hour. 
While the squash are baking, chop the onion into very small pieces and saute in the butter until the onions are soft and clearish.  Then add a cup of water, the garlic, pepper and ginger and simmer - covered for about ten minutes.

When the squash is tender - remove it from the oven and allow it to cool a bit.  Once it has cooled, it will be easy to remove the flesh from the skin.  You will be able to peel it right off.  Put half the squash in a food processor - and add half the can of coconut milk.  Process until smooth.  Then add it to the pan of onions and spices.  Put the rest of the squash and the rest of the milk into the processor and repeat.  Add in the remaining four cups of water, the chili powder and the cinnamon - then stir, over low to medium heat, until hot.  Add salt - if you wish and any other spices that you like.

I really never measure much when I make this soup.  These are all approximate measures and I encourage you to add a little of this and a little of that until the soup tastes good to you. 

You'll love this soup.  I add about a cup of cooked lentils to the soup and call it a meal.  It is also nice served with some good bread.  It is even more fun if you read the Lewis Carroll poem aloud before you eat it - and I think that makes it taste better too.