Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Recipe of the week: Bran Muffins

This past week two people have emailed me about the bran muffin recipe I used to make for the coffee bar, so I told them I’d post it on my blog. I also thought it to be very serendipitous timing since the friend who gave me the recipe has a birthday tomorrow on Leap day. (We call these the Infamous Bran muffins). The original recipe came from an eighty-something year old nun who serves at a silence and solitude retreat center somewhere in Minnesota. I’ve made a couple of changes (what else is new!), the original was twice the ingredients but I no longer have a second refrigerator so I halved it, and I use the organic bran cereal from Trader Joes instead of All Bran, which has HFCS in it. We love it with the date mixture and walnuts but I’ve also made it with pineapple and flaxseed and it was very good as well. Let me know what you think. A Votre Sante and Happy Birthday, my lovely friend Lisa Marie Nygard I wish I was there to spend the day with you xoxo!

Bran Muffins

Part 1: 1 cup Bran cereal (I use Trader Joe’s organic)

1 cup boiling water

Combine, stir, and set aside to cool. Stir occasionally to dissolve

Part 2: 2 cups Bran cereal

2 1/2 cups flour (half white, half wheat)

Combine in large container.

Part 3: 1/2 quart Buttermilk (at room temp to fully acivate soda)

2 1/2 tsp Baking Soda

Combine and let stand a bit before mixing

In a very large bowl add:

2 large eggs and 1 egg white, beat well (if you double it use 5 eggs)

1 1/4 cups white sugar (vary as desired), beat well (if you double it use 2 1/4 cups)

1/2 cups cooking oil (I use half olive oil, half veg.), beat well

1/2 tsp Salt

1 tsp vanilla, beat well

Add part 1, beat well

Add part 2, beat well

Add part 3, and guess what? — Yes, you must beat well!

Pour mixture back into bowl, and store in fridge overnight before baking. It keeps up to 6 weeks in fridge.

Pour muffin mixture into large muffin tins, spread a line of date filling on top, sprinkle with walnuts.

Backe at 350-375 degrees about 15-18 minutes depending on size and filling.

Makes approximately 3 dozen muffins.

Date Filling:

Combine equal parts of dates, water and sugar. I like using Mejool dates, you have to pit them first but they are sweeter and plumper than the other kinds. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring often, until well cooked (approximately 3-4 hours) Add vanilla and store in refrigerator (keeps for months).

Other additions: raisins, pineapple, or anything else you want to try.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Recipe of the week: Vegetable soup

All around the world tonight people are partying like rock stars because it's Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday.  Which means that tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.  In years past I've done a Daniel fast for Lent, which you can read about here, this year I'm doing something different but I thought I'd share a vegetable soup recipe I came up with a couple of years ago.  Sometimes I double or triple this so that I have it, one part of fasting that I've found difficult is having something quick to eat when you're hungry.  This is good hot or cold, it has a V8 juice kind of taste to it cold.  A Votre Sante!

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2  chopped onion
1 clove garlic
3 stalks of celery chopped
5 carrots chopped
1 small head of broccoli
1 zucchini
1 large can of diced tomatoes
2-3 cups of vegetable broth
1/2 yellow bell pepper chopped
1 tsp Italian seasoning or basil
salt and pepper to taste

In a large soup pot saute onion and garlic in olive oil, add carrots and celery.  After about 2 minutes add the can of tomatoes, broth, and the broccoli.  After about 5 or 6 minutes add the pepper and zucchini (they don't take as long to cook and I don't like mine mushy).  Simmer for about 20-25 minutes.  (You can easily throw everything in the crock pot instead)  Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Recipe of the week: Chocolate Covered Strawberries

What's better on Valentine's day than chocolate covered strawberries. They are so much easier to make than most people think. I really should have posted this earlier...if you still want to make them for later, it doesn't take that long, about 30 minutes is all. Use the best strawberries and chocolate you can find. Happy Valentines and A Votre Sante!

Chocolate Covered Strawberries


1 container of strawberries
6 oz (1/2 a bag) semisweet, bittersweet, or dark chocolate


Line a baking sheet or cookie pan with waxed paper or foil.
Wash the strawberries and pat dry thoroughly with paper towels; set aside. You want them room temperature so if they're cold let them sit out for 3o minutes or so. Make sure the strawberries are completely dry. Even a drop of water in the melted chocolate can cause it to "seize" and turn the entire mixture into a grainy mess.
Using one of the below methods, melt the chocolate chips:

Double Boiler:
In the top of a double boiler over hot water, not boiling water (don't let the bottom of the bowl touch the water, melt chocolate, stirring until smooth.
If you don't have a double boiler you can improvise one by placing a glass or stainless steel bowl over a pot of simmering water (don't let the bottom of the bowl touch the water).

Microwave Melting Chocolate:

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips for 30 seconds then check and stir. If you need more time, do it in 10 to 20 seconds intervals (check and stir after each addition of microwave time).
Remove the bowl from the microwave and stir the chocolate until completely melted. Baking chips and baking chocolate may appear formed and un-melted after heating but will become fluid after stirring.

How To Dip Strawberries in Chocolate:

Grasp the stem or green leaves of the strawberry and dip into the chocolate and swirl in chocolate to partially cover.  Give the strawberry a little shake as you withdraw it from the chocolate (this will fill in all the cracks and leave a nice even line of of chocolate at the base.) When the strawberry is completely withdrawn from the chocolate, swirl it in a quick, clockwise motion to let the excess chocolate drip off.  Place on the prepared cookie sheet. Repeat with the rest of the strawberries.
Put strawberries into refrigerator and allow the chocolate to harden, about 30 minutes.

Body image, helpful or harmful?

I don’t know any woman who hasn’t struggled with their body image. I’m not sure that pictures like this help. What are your thoughts?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Things I learned from my dad...

A couple of days ago was my dad's birthday and since then I've been thinking about what I learned from him.   

Because of my dad I have an eclectic taste in music, I have everything from Eminem to Carrie Underwood on my iPod.  As a kid we drove thousands of miles up and down highway 395 always listening to something.  I remember singing along to John Denver, Linda Ronstadt, Carly Simon, Elton John, Supertramp, Barbra Streisand and Pink Floyd.

I think I learned to see beauty in everything from my dad.  He is an amazing photographer and had his own shop/studio when we lived in Mammoth.  He took pictures of ski races for both Mammoth and June mountain, did portraits and weddings and lots of landscapes.  I can't tell you how many times he'd see something forming in the sky and yell to grab the cameras because we were heading to shoot the sunset.  I have fond memories of watching the film develop in the darkroom.

I think the most important thing I learned from my dad was to think for myself.  Growing up with two households for any kid is at the very least difficult, but when the two households are extremely different it's even more-so.  My dad's philosophy was question everything, don't take my word for it, make your own mistakes  (which I did and plenty of them!).  One of his favorite sayings is "everyone has a constitutional right to be stupid".  We often disagree on things but hey, we agree to disagree.  

I love my dad and hope he had a great time celebrating his birthday!

Until next time, Ciao.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

How Many Christians Does It Take to Change A Light Bulb?

First, let me start off by saying this is not meant to offend anyone.  I got this in an email yesterday and thought it was hilarious, so please take this as it's meant...just to be funny =)

How Many Christians Does It Take to Change A Light Bulb?

Charismatic: Only one. Hands are already in the air.

Pentecostal: Ten. One to change the bulb and nine to pray
against the spirit of darkness.

Presbyterians: None. Lights will go on and off at predestined

Roman Catholics: None. Candles only.

Baptists: At least 15. One to change the light bulb and three
committees to approve the change and decide who brings the
potato salad.

Episcopalians: Three. One to call the electrician, one to mix
the drinks, and one to talk about how much better the old one

Mormons: Five. One man to change the bulb and four wives to
tell him how to do it.

Unitarians: We choose not to make a statement either in favor of
or against the need for a light bulb. However, if in your own
journey you have found that light bulbs work for you, that is
fine. You are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance
about your light bulb for the next Sunday service, in which we
will explore a number of light bulb traditions, including
incandescent, fluorescent, three-way, long-life, and tinted, all
of which are equally valid paths to luminescence.

Methodists: Undetermined. Whether your light is bright, dull,
or completely out, you are loved. You can be a light bulb,
turnip bulb, or tulip bulb. A church-wide lighting service is
planned for Sunday. Bring a bulb of your choice and a covered

Nazarene: Six. One woman to replace the bulb while five men
review church lighting policy.

Lutherans: None. Lutherans don't believe in change.

Amish: What's a light bulb?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Recipe of the week: Baked Potato Soup

I've seen lots of potato soup recipes over the years, I've been making this for quite a while.  I think I started out with a recipe a long time ago and just kept changing it.  I used to use chicken broth but I don't anymore for the vegetarians in my house.  I also don't use any flour in it either so it's gluten free.  If your comes out too thick you can add a little more vegetable broth or milk.  It shouldn't be too thin as long as you leave the potatoes a little chunky.  Let me know what you think.  A Votre Sante!

Baked Potato Soup

8-10 medium russet potatoes baked and cooled
3 Tbsp butter
1/2 large brown or white onion diced
2 gloves chopped garlic
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp dried parsley
4 green onions chopped
3 cups vegetable broth
2 cups low fat milk
1 cup shredded cheese
1 cup light sour cream

Bake the potatoes at 375 degrees for about an hour, remove from oven and let them cool.  Peel half of the potatoes and chop.  Leave the skins on the other half and chop .  In a large pot melt the butter, saute the brown or white onion and garlic.  Add the chopped potatoes and vegetable broth, salt, pepper and parsley.  Cook on low for about 15 minutes.  Add the 2 cups of milk and 2 chopped green onions.  If you have an immersion blender, use that to make the soup somewhat smooth, other wise you can use a regular blender.  Scoop the soup into the blender in a couple of small batches and blend on the chop setting, you don't want mashed potatoes.  Return to the stove and simmer for another 10 minutes, stirring often so it doesn't scorch. Taste and add more salt and pepper if you need to.  Turn the heat off and add the cheese and sour cream.  Serve with the remaining green onions, more cheese and sour cream if you like.  Enjoy!  (You can always add bacon or bacon bits).

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Working on my Bucket List...

So, this year I decided I’d make a bucket list, this is by no means complete or in any particular order. It’s been very fun brain storming, dreaming and writing things down. Here’s what I’ve got so far….do you have a bucket list, if so I’d love to hear it!

Until next time. 


Ride in a hot air balloon

Drive a 356 Porsche

Own another convertible, this time a BMW or Mercedes would be nice instead of a jeep

Go back to the Virgin Islands

Ride and sleep in a train in Europe

Tour Italy and go wine tasting

See Vatican City

Crush Grapes with my feet in a vineyard

Visit the Grand Canyon

Own a pair of Louboutin's

Go horseback riding on the beach

See the Eiffel Tower

Go whale watching

Visit my friend in Boston

Swim with dolphins

Visit my friend in Minnesota, so that I can hear the tornado sirens on a Wednesday

Go see my aunt and uncle in Chicago

Live at the beach again

Spend a week in New York and see a Broadway musical

Friday, February 3, 2012

Recipe: Greek Seven Layer Dip

I think this is what I'm going to make for the Super Bowl.  What's your favorite game day snack?

Greek 7 layer dip

1 1/2 cups hummus
1 cup tzatziki
1 cup tomato (diced and mixed with 1 tablesoon lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon oregano)
1/2 cup cucumber (cut into small pieces)
1/4 cup red onions (diced)
1/4 cup feta (crumbled)
1/4 cup kalamata olives (pitted and coarsely chopped)
1 handful mint (chopped)
4 whole wheat pitas (cut into triangles and toasted until just crispy) or pita chips and cut vegetables.
 Assemble dip starting with the hummus and stacking each ingredient on top of the last on a tray or in a pie dish and serve.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Recipe of the week: Oven Roasted Cauliflower

I love roasted vegetables and I love cauliflower, I don't know why I didn't think of this sooner.  Now it's my new favorite thing.  My daughter tells me I go on these spurts and I burn everyone out on my newest recipe.  So, I'm trying to only make this once a week.   Last week there was leftovers that I was looking forward to and the next morning they were gone...guess who ate them! Oh well, hopefully there will be leftovers tomorrow.  You can add any kind of seasoning you'd like depending on what you're serving it with, sometimes I just like neutral flavors to go with whatever I'm serving and this is now a staple.  As always let me know what you think.  A Votre Sante!

Oven Roasted Cauliflower

1 large head of cauliflower
1 lemon
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Chop cauliflower into small pieces, when you're done put in a bowl and  add olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Toss well.  Pour into a 9 X 13 pan and place in the oven for approximately 45 minutes or until fork tender.  Enjoy!