Homemade Almond Milk

aomond milkAhh the weekend. Wonderful, sweet weekend. It’s 48 hours to unplug, relax, catch up, and generally not be in an office. This was the first full week back at work after the shortened work weeks through the holidays and I won’t lie, Monday and Tuesday I was a little ‘struggles’.  But Friday was here in no time and I was actually surprised how quickly the week flew by and left me at another Friday night. Phew, MADE IT!

Saturdays are my favorite. You can stay up late on Friday if you want because it’s not a school night, and you know when you wake up that there are 24 more hours where these came from just waiting for you to enjoy! Saturday’s have a pretty regular ritual. The morning starts with a trip to my AMAZING acupuncturist, followed by grocery shopping. Then I head home to focus on food prep and house cleaning. I wash and chop all the veggies and prepare as many meals as I can for the upcoming week. Every week there is a batch of homemade almond butter, a pot of toasted quinoa in the mix and every other week Saturday is Kombucha bottling day too. I’m going to try out the continuous brew method this next batch so stay tuned for the results!

Today I got sucked into reading one of my favorite healthy living sites, Wellness Mama, and saw her recipe for homemade almond milk. We go through about a gallon of almond milk per week and Whole Foods hasn’t been carrying the vanilla kind so we’ve been stuck with the ‘original’ flavor for months. I’m a DIY/Homemade fanatic and I can’t believe I haven’t tried my hand at making almond milk myself yet! It always seemed a little daunting when I’ve read about it before, needing nut bags, sprouting, blanching, it always just seemed easier to pick it up at the store. The recipe on Wellness Mama seemed attainable and I was well over due to give it a try.

I love how she explains the reason for soaking the almonds and even gives an idea for how to use the leftover almond pulp that remains after you squeeze the milk thorough cheese cloth. Done and done!

It didn’t come out as thick as the store-bought kind I like but I’ll just try a bit less water next time. I omitted the dates on the first batch and that is a MUST (also confirmed by the mister on a blind taste test of each version). Use high quality vanilla and start with a 1/2 teaspoon (NOT tablespoon like I did). All in all, the first batch was actually good which is a win since I would have taken ‘drinkable’ as a passing grade!

Homemade Almond Milk

2 cup raw organic sprouted almonds – soaked overnight
7 cups pure filtered water (not your soaking water)
1  teaspoons high-quality vanilla extract
5 large dates  (honey, stevia if you prefer)
Nut bag to strain (Recommended Nut Bag)
You can use cheese cloth, but it’s WAY more work!
1 tsp sea salt for soaking


Soak almonds overnight (at least 8 hours, preferable 10-12) in pure water with 1 tsp sea salt. Wellness Mama says that this is an important step as it breaks down the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors and cultures beneficial enzymes in the almonds. Basically, doing this helps your body to absorb the enzymes and nutrients in the almonds.

soak almondsRinse the almonds well and add to the blender.

Add in the 7  cups of filtered water and blend on high until the mixture looks smooth.  Work in half batches if your blender won’t fit the whole batch. You’ll see that it can get quite frothy so don’t fill your blender to capacity.

If using nut bag: secure bag around the top of a pitcher or 8 cup container and pour the mixture through the bag. Squeeze the bag and wring out as much almond milk as you can from the bag. You can retain the almond mixture and make almond flour if you want.

If using cheese cloth: secure the cheese cloth (with a rubber band or string) over the top of a canning jar or large pitcher and also get a medium-sized bowl and  a spoon for the almond mixture. Make dip in the cheese cloth dip deep into the container but make sure it’s still secure. Slowly pour the almond milk through a cheese cloth and use the back of the spoon to press down on the almond mixture to press the water out. Remove the rubber band and squeeze the last liquid from the remaining almond meal and set the meal aside.




Pour the strained almond milk  back into blender and blend it again with whatever sweeteners you’d like… vanilla bean, dates, warmed honey etc.

Pour your homemade almond milk into a glass jar or pitcher with a lid and store in fridge for up to one week.

Recipe Notes

  • For the first batch, The vanilla I used was NOT high quality and you could totally taste it. That, and I put in 1/2 tbsp which might have been a bit excessive. Next time I’ll try with high quality vanilla. It seems like a waste to blend a vanilla bean just to strain it all out (they’re not cheap)
  • A few recipes call for 3 1/2 cups of filtered water versus 4 which would make a creamier texture
  • All of the other recipes called for dates to be added so I’ll have to remember that next time too since I didn’t add anything but the vanilla in
  • I poured a little of the milk into the blender and tried it with a date and it did add a little sweetness to the milk
  • Next time I’ll try blending the vanilla bean with the almonds and water, then straining the mixture and see how that works
  • Some recipes also suggest blending in a 1/4 tsp cinnamon or nutmeg
  • A nut bag might be easier than working with cheese cloth so I might try that too
Save the Pulp
Save the pulp of the almonds, put on cookie sheet and dehydrate in oven on lowest heat until completely dry. Run through blender or food processor to make almond flour, which can be used in recipes in place of flour.
I’ll be posting about this soon!

Pecan Brittle

IMG_1066 Tis the season for joy, decorations, lots of food, family and giving.  Most people these days have a good sized Christmas shopping list to take care of. You’ve got your immediate family, significant other, siblings, nieces, nephews, co-workers, friends, neighbors, acquaintances….it’s likely quite a list! Then, there is always that person who got you something and you didn’t get them something but now you have to think quick because they’re handing you a present and you have no idea how to dig out of this one gracefully.

Well, what if I told you that there is an awesome one-size fits all option that will knock out a solid half of your Christmas list and it comes with a homemade touch? It can even be make last minute or say, Christmas eve day before you head to that evening party you don’t have a hostess gift for! What to get the guy who has everything? Food. Stocking stuffers for the kids? Food. Co-workers, neighbors, that person who got you a gift and you didn’t get them one? Food. Food is a universally accepted amazing gift that, when homemade, has a perfect thoughtful holiday gifting touch! 

I count my blessings this time of  year because I truly enjoy cooking and being in the kitchen and homemade goodies are always well received! I’ve always tried to make as many of my gifts as I can. Homemade notecards, scarves, loaves of bread, cookies in a jar. Well, this year mum and I decided to try a new recipe from a friend of hers that has used it the past few years. We made pecan brittle, or candied pecans, or whatever it is you’d like to officially call it. It’s a buttload of butter and sugar mixed together with pecans. It’s Christmas crack. It’s sugary, crunchy, melty, yummy, addictive and down right deviously delicious.  And yes, I did say a buttload. It was pretty fun actually, we spent a weekend making these addictive morsels, Cranberry Grand Marnier Cake Muffins and Canned 48 jars of Cranberry Jelly. It was a gift making extravaganza!

IMG_1063These little guys hit it out of the park. They were THE perfect gift that had the thoughtful, homemade touch but could be made in larger quantities to check multiple people off the list. It’s actually a pretty easy recipe, when you start getting into candy thermometers it’s out of my league and attention span. The only thing to note about this recipe, which we learned the hard way, was that you can’t just double it or make batch after batch without cleaning the pan. Because you’re basically making caramel if you try to make a new batch with residue from the previous recipe it just messes everything up. Don’t ask me how or why… I didn’t major in science but just take it from us and quickly wash the pan after each batch, okay?!

Candied Pecans// Pecan Brittle 

8 tablespoons butter (one stick)
1 cup sugar
3 cups of pecan halves

Line a baking skeet with parchment paper and set the baking sheet to the side of stove top.


We used a stainless stele copper-clad bottom 10-inch skillet but a cast iron skillet would have worked better. Heat your pan over medium low heat. A fork works best to stir the butter and sugar mixture, and fold in pecans.

Once pan is fully heated, add 3 tablespoons of the butter and stir until melted. Add the full 1 cup of sugar to the melted butter and continue to stir until the mixture is pale and thoroughly mixed (no butter chunks or large chunks of sugar). Constantly stir the mixture, which should be thickening, so you don’t burn the butter or the sugar.


Add the 3 cups of pecan halves and fold into the mixture. Continue to cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly.


Watch for the mixture to bubble, and at that point it should start to turn a golden-brown color similar to toffee.


This process takes about 6-9 minutes to see the toffee color. Be patient and make sure you cook the long enough so you don’t have clumps or sugar or butter.

You will start to see clarified butter separating from the mixture and this indicates that they’re done.


Remove skillet from heat. Tilt the pan and spoon out the clarified butter (or tilt the pan and scoop out the mixture to the prepared parchment lined baking sheet. Using two forks, quickly separate the pecan halves and make sure they are all laying flat.   

Let the candied pecans cool completely. Break pecan mixture into small pieces and package or store in an airtight container.


These are a nice snack but are also amazing to sprinkle in salads, add to roasted beets, used when baking seasonal bread or as part of a cheese plate. You could use them as a pancake, waffle or ice cream topping or even crush a few on top of cheese cake. Are there other ways that you use candied pecans or could think of to enjoy pecan brittle?

Kombucha, Som, Pok Pok and a new Kitchen

Dear friends! As you can tell, I’ve been on a bit of a writing hiatus the past few… months! Works been busy, personal life has been busy, there’s been travel and apparently it’s important to sleep every now and then?! What a cramp on a busy gals schedule hey? But i’ve dearly miss and you and even though I haven’t been posting, I have still been cooking up a storm and gathering new recipes to share! We had the weekly staples- batches of kombucha,and almond butter.We traveled to visit our family and threw in a few beer soaked grilled bratwurst, paleo chocolate chip banana bread and Pecan Pies with fresh homemade crust (of course!). I can’t visit without baking a few pies! One of my favorite parts about visiting family is playing the role of both ‘imported resident chef’ and ‘kitchen instructor’. I have So much fun teaching the niece and nephews to cook! We had a ball in the kitchen and they do great!

photoBut, as I was saying. This entire summer has been booked SOLID with both work and play. And just when I thought things would calm down in the fall, our landlord decided to sell the condo after four years of renting so we had to find a new place. Luckily, we found a place that we just LOVE and we move this weekend. THIS WEEKEND! A matter of hours away! I’m so excited I can barely handle it! I can’t wait to unpack and organize the new kitchen! With the fast pace of the last 3 months, cooking as been more of a chore than it usually is. I’ve really leaned on simple recipes, the local pho restaurant, and cereal for dinner. But with a new kitchen comes new recipes and excitement to cook! Which brings me to my fall and winter sports.

I HATE to, and won’t, drive in snow and/or ice… so my fall/winter sports consist of cooking, baking, menu planning from the ridiculous amount of time I spend on Pinterest (A Byte of Life boards here), testing out my wine cellar, catching up on all the shows that everyones been raving about and listening to the rain falling outside. Oh, and pumpkins! I LOVE PUMPKIN!  I’ll eat slow roasted pumpkin right off the baking sheet! And Gingerbread. I LOVE gingerbread! But back to the point- my winter sports are gingerbread and/or pumpkin flavored, with a side of wine, and a good show in the background.

This year, I have a new hobby to add to the list. Pok Pok. If you’ve NEVER been to Pok Pok, you HAVE to go to either Portland or New York and experience their wings and one of their drinks with their drinking vinegar called som. Som is a drinking vinegar that has been an age old practice in many cultures around the world for it’s health benefits. Pok Pok has been serving their drinking vinegars since 2005, both as a cocktail mixer and diluted with soda as a soft drink. They use organic cane sugar for sweetener and let me tell you, while I’m not a soft drink person in the slightest, this stuff is downright addicting! You can purchase the Pok Pok Som online form both Pok Pok and ChefShop.com. A girlfriend and I just took an amazing cooking class at ChefShop.com so you can expect future blog post about them too!

Well, their chicken wings are known nation wide, and their cocktails are red-eye flight worthy. This, coming from a confirmed wine and anti-chicken wing girl. Let’s just keep this short and say that Pok Pok changed my life, as evidenced by the fact that after the first bite I waived down the waiter and asked if I could PLEASE purchase their cookbook but only if the amazing chicken wings were included. He handed me a copy to review. Each page coated in plastic which was an amazing idea because I was pouring over it as I was elbow deep in eating amazing chicken wings,The Pok Pok cookbook holds a special spot on my shelf , I personally confirmed that the chicken wing recipe is included, and it has been added to the list of fall and winter hobbies.

Tune in for more amazing thai inspired recipes from the Pok Pok cookbook, updates from this years International Food Bloggers conference (last years post) and to see how the Som Kombucha turns out! I had a bit of Som leftover and had a batch of kombucha ready tonight so I figured I’d do a little variation on my blueberry ginger kombucha and try some ginger som kombucha. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Blueberry Ginger Kombucha

photoContrary to what you might think, making your own Kombucha is NOT that hard. It’s actually QUITE easy. You simply brew some tea, add organic sugar, let it cool to room temperature and then pour into a jug with your SCOBY and let it chill for a week or two. Viola, homemade Kombucha! I’ve been making my own kombucha for almost two years now and decided that it was time to start experimenting with some flavoring. Regular brewed kombucha is completely drinkable, but it’s just that… drinkable. Not super exciting. So, it was time to add some excitement to my kombucha making routine! Watch out kids, magic is about to happen!

Remembering back to when I first started drinking kombucha I LOVED the Gingerberry flavor from Synergy Organic. Off to the inter-webs I flew and found some great tips from a website called Cultures for health. Their  Kombucha FAQ listed some delicious recipes, pointers on second fermentation and flavoring, and many other kombucha resources as well as a place to purchase your SCOBY. Well, I blueberry juice and gingered up and have been trying my hand at a few batches of homemade gingerberry kombucha. The second fermentation process is a great way to add some flavor to your brewed kombucha. “A byproduct of fermentation is that the sugar is turned into carbon dioxide giving the kombucha the fizzy texture it is often known for.” ( Quote from the  Kombucha FAQ ). I have two glass bottles that I use for my second fermentation. There is no rhyme or reason to these bottles, or pro/con of using one over the other can I can tell so far. One is the KORKEN bottle from Ikea. It’s $3.99 and is a nice round shape that should fit in the door of most refrigerators. The other is the square glass bottle from Cost Plus which is $5.99 and is a bit taller yet equally as useful. Bottle shape and size is really up to your personal preference. Just make sure it’s a glass bottle and that it has the sling top, which allows the bottle to burp (lovely description, I know!) and release the carbon dioxide as it ferments. If you don’t have a bottle that burps, you’ll have a bottle that bursts. I for one don’t need to come home to glass and kombucha scented kitchen. You can find some GREAT tips on second fermentation from Cultures for Health: Flavoring and Bottling Kombucha. They’re a GREAT resource that I’ve used many times along my Kombucha journeys. I am also lucky enough to have my very own kombucha guru on speed dial who can answer my “am I going to die if I drink this” and “should it look like that” questions. That is one of the MAJOR benefits of having friends that are also obsessed with making their own kombucha and I highly  recommend having a few on retainer! The “if flavoring with…use…” below is from the Cultures for Health website and remember, the flavor will develop during the second fermentation period so go easy on flavoring the first time you make it and adjust on the second batch. If flavoring with…use…

  • Fresh, frozen, or dried fruit…start with 10% to 30% fruit and 70% to 90% Kombucha.  Fresh fruit yields the best flavor.
  • Juice… start with 10-20% juice and 80-90% Kombucha.
  • Herbs… the variety and strength of herbs varies so greatly, experiment and come up with the best ratios and combinations for your taste preferences.
  • Flavor extracts such as almond extract or vanilla extract… start with 1/4 teaspoon extract per cup of kombucha and adjust to taste.

I’ve only used fruit juice and various types of ginger so far, so please comment and let me know what flavors you try!!! Blueberry Ginger Kombucha  1/2 c 100% blueberry juice 1 tsp chopped ginger 7 c  Homemade Kombucha 2 sling top glass bottles Mix half the blueberry juice and ginger in  each of the glass bottles and shake to mix. Add 3 1/2 cups of the homemade kombucha to each bottle, making sure that you leave room in the bottle between the kombucha and the opening. Leave on the counter for 2-14 days. Once you achieve the desired flavor and carbonation, re-bottle and keep in refrigerator to consume at your leisure.

Homemade Kombucha: A Step-by-Step Guide

IMG_3770When I first thought about making my own Kombucha at home I was a little wary. What if I do it wrong it turns out horrible and make myself sick! For those of you that are like me, all you really know about Kombucha is that is some healthy drink that you see littering the aisles of health stores and somehow helps you be healthy and has something to do with mushrooms.

The Kombucha starter, often called a “mother” or a scoby, stands for symbiotic colony of bacteria & yeast. The reference to mushrooms comes with the disc like form that the scoby grows into, which can sometimes look like a Portobello mushroom or to be more specific, a very slimy slightly yeasty smelling version of a mushroom. So, there you have it, there are no mushrooms involved in the making of Kombucha! There are a bunch of SCOBYs out there, Amazon has a bunch of options and the only recommendation I’d make is to ensure that you get one that is hydrated – the dehydrated ones are a pain!

This drink is made from a process called fermentation, which simply means that bacteria or yeast is used to chemically break down a substance. While the sounds a little gross, I’ll admit, it’s quite good for you! It contains healthy bacteria called probiotics which support intestinal health and help with digestion and elimination as well as encouraging detoxification. For an extended list of possible health benefits, please visit Kombucha Kamp.

The process of making Kombucha is actually much easier that I thought it would be! I LOVE this picture below from a the Eat Life Whole post on Kombucha.

Screen Shot 2013-09-25 at 2.41.12 PM

See it’s simple! First, you’ll need to purchase a scoby from a reputable source. Unless you have a friend that has a baby scoby to share, you can purchase the same on that I did from Yemoos or Cultures for Health.  Next, you brew some tea with sugar, which feeds the bacteria, let it cool COMPLETELY to room temperature, then pour it into the jar with the scoby and let it hang out for 5-10 days and viola, you have Kombucha! I have to lead this post with a shout out to one of my dearest friends who’s pioneering into the world of Kombucha (and responsiveness to my contestant Kombucha support line texts of “DOES THIS LOOK NORMAL!?”) really helped me in making my first few batches. If you’re lucky enough to have someone that’s also making Kombucha you can trade stories and pictures of your ever growing SCOBYS (yes, you’ll want to take pictures as gross as that might seem) but if you DON’T have someone making it at the same time as you, please consider this your Kombucha support forum! Post pictures of your scoby, ask questions, let us know your favorite flavors that you’re brewing, and anything else Kombucha that comes to mind.

One of the most important things you have to remember when making Kombucha, and most other fermentations, is that metal utensils/containers and plastic containers are not a good idea. The metal and plastic can actually harm the fermentation so it’s best to brew using plastic utensils and a glass jar, which are easily sanitized.

If possible, try to prepare your first batch of Kombucha the day your scoby arrives. You can store the scoby in a cool cabinet until you’re ready to brew your first batch. I have to tell you, I put mine in the fridge because I thought it needed to be kept cold, and THEN decided to read the direction and freaked out thinking I had already killed my little scoby. It was in there over night and I contacted the team at Yemoos right away who quickly settled my worry and said that it would likely be just fine having spent the night in the fridge. Phew, guess I should read the directions FIRST next time hey? The nice thing about this process is that the scoby is pretty resilient so you don’t have to worry too much about “messing it up”.

As far as drinking this good stuff, most people are fine starting off with a full glass but for a few people it can be a little shock for the body since it’s packed with probiotics that encourage, well, elimination and promote intestinal balance. If you find that you DO have a little tummy rumbling response to the Kombucha, back off to a half glass and work up your consumption level daily.

So, are you ready to make some Kombucha!? I got my ball gallon glass jar and sling top bottle at Cost Plus. The quart glass jar came with the yemoos Sourdough kit I ordered at the same time as the Kombucha SCOBY starter, but you can get a great gallon jar HERE on Amazon.com them or find jars of various sizes at Cost Plus.

finished kombuchaHomemade Kombucha: A Step-by-Step Guide

1 gallon glass jar
Plastic spoon or spatula
Pyrex glass measuring cup (for measuring the water)
1 Plastic bowl for steeping and cooling the tea (one with a pour spout is easiest)
3 Sling top glass bottle to store finished Kombucha
Funnel that fits in the top your sling top bottle
(Optional) Strainer, used to strain out the little strands of Kombucha if  bother you
Cover for the Kombucha- cloth or paper towel secured with a rubber band works

1 Scoby (called the “Mother) & Starter Tea liquid it arrived in
8 tea bags or 3 tbsp loose leaf tea  in a tea bag
14 cups filtered water
1 cup organic white sugar

  1. Get your large bowl and get your tea bags out, tying the strings together. Add in one cup of organic sugar.
  2. Boil your filtered water then add it to the bowl with the tea and sugar, stirring with your plastic spoon while you pour so the sugar dissolves.
  3. Let the tea steep and cool COMPLETELY to room temperature, if you pour it in with the scoby when it’s too hot it can harm the scoby cultures.
  4. While the tea is cooling, wash your hands and carefully open the scoby packet, which should also contain the starter tea. Gently pour the tea and the scoby into your sanitized jar that you will be brewing your kombucha in.
  5. Once the tea and sugar mixture is cooled, tilt your brewing jar to the side and carefully pour the cooled tea mixture into the jar trying to get the tea under the scoby. Cover the jar with a cloth or paper towel, something breathable, and secure with a rubber band. Place your Kombucha out of direct sunlight and let it brew for 7-10 days undisturbed.
  6. You can taste your Kombucha around day 5 if you’d like by dipping a straw into the Kombucha, covering the exposed end with your finger, then removing the straw so you don’t contaminate the rest of the batch. The sugar is what feeds the scoby, so if the tea still states sweet, it needs to brew longer. When you taste it, it should be a little acidic or tart first, then have a little touch of a sweet finish.
  7. When you have reached your desired taste, you’re ready to bottle! Get your sanitized swing top bottle, a strainer, and a funnel.  I didn’t actually use the strainer. This is an optional step where you can strain out the dead yeas cultures that you will see floating in the brewed tea- they’re just little pieces of dead yeast and are perfectly fine to consume. They don’t bother me but if you’d prefer to strain them out while you bottle it, you can. Place the funnel in the top of the swing top bottle and carefully pour the finished Kombucha into the bottle. Reserve about a cup of the liquid for the next batch of Kombucha and repeat the steps!
  8. Keep your finished tea in the fridge to slow down the fermenting that can slowly continued even after you’ve removed it from the scoby jar.

IMG_4118A Few Notes:

  • As the Kombucha brews, you’ll see another layer growing on top of the Kombucha. While it might resemble mold, it’s simply the start of a “baby scoby”. This is perfectly normal and actually what you will be using to keep brewing Kombucha at home. As long as the baby scoby isn’t thick, you can brew both the scobys together for your second batch. After the second brewing, you’ll want to carefully separate the bottom scoby, which is the mother, and continue to brew using only the baby scoby. You can either discard the mother scoby, or give it to someone else so they can home-brew Kombucha!
  • The scoby can sometimes sink a little, and it’s completely fine if it does. Just make sure it doesn’t completely sink to the bottom.
  • If you’re worried about the sugar, remember that this is what the scoby metabolizes, along with a good portion of the caffeine in the tea so there will be very little of either left in the final product. While it won’t completely remove the caffeine it will greatly reduce it.
  • You can use the same jar for your second batch, but make sure to separate the mother and baby scoby after the second brewing.
  • If you prefer your Kombucha fizzy, I suggest using a bottle with a sling back top so any pressure that accumulates can release itself. Simply pour the Kombucha almost to the top of the sling back bottle and set it on the counter for 2-5 days. You can also manually “burp” the Kombucha if you start to notice pressure on the lid.

You can also make flavored kombucha soda on a second ferment!

Blueberry Ginger Kombucha
Blueberry Ginger Kombucha



Red Pepper Overload…Homemade Herbs De Province Ratatouille

Ratatouille Being sick sucks . Plain and simple. Truth fact. The End. Well… okay NOT “the end” but it feels like it! The problem with being sick is that I’m a “doer”. I like to “do” things, accomplish, check off my long to DO list. Now that we’ve established this. Guess what sickness resigns you to? Yep, you guessed it… BEING! I don’t “be”… I DO! When one is sick, they’re told to “just be” and rest. Yeah, go ahead. See how well THAT goes over. This time the stupid flu won this round and I was resigned to exploring what a “be”- er feels like. Two days on the couch with the only excursion to the gym where all I was allowed to do was steam. On day three, which is today, I’m feeling a little better and my stir crazy is kicking in!

Soooo… I decided to use up the 10 Red Peppers hanging out on my balcony. What!? They were on SALE! How can someone who LOVES peppers pass up 10/$10!? Well, thankfully it was cold enough outside to keep them fresh for four days because I completely forgot them! That is, until I was So completely dying for lack of DOING anything! So, I decided use up the veggies in the fridge to make some Ratatouille and make a jar of home Roasted Red Peppers. There are still three left over, so I’m thinking of trying some quinoa stuffed peppers tomorrow night! I’ll keep you posted!

I realized, as I was chopping my veggies and already elbow deep in delicious simmering goodness of Ratatouille, that I didn’t have the Herbs de Province that I needed for the flavor of the dish. Of COURSE I didn’t have herbs de province, why would I? I use it ALL the time and added it to my “next time I’m down at Pike Place list” which has been put on hold due to FREEZING temperatures. No one wants to walk in THAT weather. ANd of course, no fresh basil either. Well, what are you going to do? Give up the whole shabang? No chance, not when I’m THIS stir-crazy! Do you think that stopped me!? No way! There are plenty of spices in my cabinet and a half bottle of red wine within arms reach, something can be done! And if not, there’s the wine! 🙂

I have to say, this was lauded as THE BEST batch of Ratatouille I’ve made yet! It’s even better when you let it

Homemade Herbs De Province Ratatouille:

3/4 sliced red onion,
a good handfuls of fresh chopped garlic
EVOO for sautéing
2 Red Peppers
1 Eggplant
1/2   c Red Wine to simmer veggies in
4  Zucchini
Homemade Herbs de Province –Mix together and add more spices to taste 
1/2 tsp each of ground rosemary, ground thyme
1 tsp dried oregano, dried basil
1 tsp + some of dried parsley
1 14 oz Can fire roasted Tomatoes
(Follow the original Ratatouille recipe for cooking instructions) 

Homemade Pizza

IMG_3399Pizza…is…DELICIOUS! With a plethora of options, toppings, styles, crusts and meals that it can be served for Pizza is pretty much an ultimate food. Eat it cold the next morning or  poach an egg on it and Viola, Breakfast! It’s the perfect brown bag lunch or picnic lunch option. It can be served flatbread style is an appetizer or tapas course, or loaded with amazing toppings and served as a dinner delight! Now, there is some debate between Pizza and flatbread so let’s review the three-step by step criteria for granted a place in the hierarchy of acceptable pies.

IMG_3383CRUST: This can be a chat of endearment or an all out fight in certain areas of the world. There are crust aficionados that take this topic very seriously. Whether you’re in thin crust camp or a lover of the thick bready crust, this is the foundation of the dish. With Pizza it seems that there can be variation in the crust whereas a flatbread will typically be a little thicker on the crust but there could be blurred lines here so let’s proceed.

BASE LAYER: Then you have the cheese vs. sauce or olive oil assessment. I call this the base layer since it seems to set the tone for how the rest of the topping architecture. With the increase in food allergies and culinary progression pizzas without cheese is no longer a cardinal sin. It is now more common to find pizzas and flatbread without cheese, topped with a traditional tomato sauce or simply brushed with olive oil. This too can be a blur in the pizza or flatbread debate, so it seems that we must proceed to the last criteria.

IMG_3603TOPPINGS: Now we have the “finitura” (finishing touch in Italian), the toppings.  If you saw broccoli on a pizza you might do a double take and wonder if your mother was in the kitchen sneaking in your daily dose of veggies. But on a flatbread, you wouldn’t think twice (I would think?) It seems that a flatbread is a trendy version of a pizza? Maybe we just needed to change the name and feel better about eating pizza with our wine, a ritual that is not only perfectly acceptable but the highlight of my week when it occurs!

So my verdict: Flat bread is to pizza what sliders are to burgers…an open interpretation depending on the chef’s whim and creativity.

With that, I give you my current recipe for the crust, now the flatbread or pizza question is up to you to decide! BON APPETIT!!


Homemade Pizza

Prepare the dough according to the directions below



Cast Iron Pizza Stone
Clean Kitchen shears for cutting
Pizza Paddle (super hand for transfering to the already HOT cast iron!)

Onion, sliced
Garlic, thinly sliced or minced
Eggplant, cut in strips or wedges
Peppadew, cut in half out of the jar (I like the flavor of this brand)
Cracked pepper
Fresh or dried parsley
Fresh Basil
Shredded Mozzarella
Scamorza Mozzarella, sliced into medallions
For Serving: Balsamic, olive oil, red pepper flakes, and arugula

Sprayed the cast iron before and pre-heat in the oven on “broil” for 15+ minutes then turn down to 475
In the meantime, chop and saute the onion, garlic, sliced eggplant and peppadew with parsley and cracked pepper on the stove.
When the cast iron is ready dusted it with flour and assemble the pizza right on the pizza stone. It will be HOT and a little hard to spread out the dough so be careful!

One light layer of shredded mozzarella, then add the sautéed onion, garlic, eggplant and seared peppadew.
Add fresh basil then the medallions of Scamorza cheese and another light layer of Mozzarella.
Cook at 475 for 8-12 minutes, until edges started to bubble up and show signs of crisping.
Remove and cut in the traditional style, with clean kitchen scissors.
Serve with balsamic, olive oil, red pepper flakes,  arugula and plates/cooking.

We loved that the cast iron kept the pizza warm even 20+minutes after we took it out of the oven!
I used too much of the dough so the crust was too thick so less dough next time and spread the topping to the outer edges.
It was perfectly seared on the bottom and the dough didn’t stick to the cast iron pan as we expected it would, it actually slid right off.

IMG_3607Olive Oil Dough
Makes 4-1 lb loaves
Originally found on http://www.mybakingaddiction.com/no-knead-pizza-dough-recipe/

2-3/4 cups lukewarm water
1-1/2 tablespoon granulated yeast (2 packets)
1-1/2 tablespoons Kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
6-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour


In a 5 quart bowl mix the yeast, salt, sugar, and olive oil with the water without kneading. Think of the motion of a dough hook working the dough and mix that way. You might need to wet your hands a little and mix by hand but I found a spatula to do just fine. (Notes: Original recipe called for using a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment but I don’t have that so I went with the old fashion handmade tactics).

Transfer dough into another large bowl. The dough will be a little sticky but will stick together pretty well. Cover (not airtight), and allow to rest at room temperature until dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.

The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 12 days.

If you like more of the deep dish style, and care to explore out of the pizza stone category, here is a cool recipe I found on Flourishing Foodie for Cast Iron Pizzas!




Roasted Garlic

I’m sick. Anyone that know’s me know that’s I’m TERRIBLE at being sick. I mean… TERRIBLE!! I’m grumpy, irritable, independent and needy all at once and just a downright mess. The moment I feel even the slightest hint of energy, I’m off running a marathon. Well, I did it again. Somehow the bug got me something fierce! It just laid me FLAT and thanks to my prince charming with patience as fortified as Knox itself, I was well cared for and starting to feel the slightest bit better today. Which of course meant that I needed to jump into the kitchen and cook up 15 pots of something-or-rather and bake this-and-that.

Made myself soup...someday I'll learn to rest when I'm sick...
Made myself soup…someday I’ll learn to rest when I’m sick…

Oh, how very wrong I was! “Simply” whipping up some home roasted garlic turned into chopping two massive leeks, a head of celery, handful of mushrooms, a large onion, a few handfuls of frozen peas and adding a can of white beans to a home prepared chicken stock base with pepper, bay leaves, cayenne and dried parsley (darn not picking up a fresh head at the store!)… see what I mean! I can’t REST! Now, I have to say…the soup smells lovely simmering in the pot but I completely over exerted myself into a grumpy bear and now  I need to go sit in the corner and put myself into what I’m now referring to as an “adult timeout” and think about what I’ve done! New mantra… MUST rest… or at least try harder 🙂

Prep: 5 minutes | Cook 30 min
Original recipe from: Simply Recipes – Roasted Garlic
Home Roasted Garlic
Home Roasted Garlic

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

2. Peel away the outer layers of the garlic bulb skin, leaving the skins of the individual cloves intact. Using a knife, cut off 1/4 to a 1/2 inch of the top of cloves, exposing the individual cloves of garlic.

 Place the garlic heads in a baking pan (you can use either muffin or small loaf pans as they both work equally well.) Use Misto spray (or you can free hand pour) olive oil on the open garlic tops.


4. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cloves feel soft when pressed.

5. Allow the garlic to cool 5-10 minutes so you can handle with bare hands. The garlic should simply slip out of the skins. If it doesn’t, simply use your fingers and peel back the skins and slide the garlic out .

Now you have some delicious home roasted garlic! Roasted garlic should last about a week in the fridge in an airtight container, but can also be frozen and used later in soups, pastas, spreads (especially with heirloom tomatoes basil and fresh potato or sourdough bread!) or any other cooking dish that might call for garlic. The only problem you might encounter, as with many other “make yourself” projects… you’ll be spoiled for the homemade and won’t want to use store bought! That’s what happened when I made Home roasted red peppers!

Garlic ready to be roasted!
Garlic ready to be roasted!


I LOVE collecting recipes and seeing how others use ingredients! How do you plan to use your home roasted garlic?

Homemade Cold Brew Coffee

If you have…

Then you too can make and enjoy some Cold Brew Coffee in the comfort of your own fabulous home!
This past weekend I attended a Creative Leadership Summit in California and like all wonderful gatherings of creative minds, I went without expectations and was blown away by the talent that I saw! There were different areas of concentration as well as one-off classes sprinkled into our weekend schedules where we could explore different industries and skills that we might not otherwise be exposed to. One of the classes on that list was “Cold Brew Coffee”. I’m from Seattle, OBSESSED with good coffee, and for those few days a year that Seattle puts on her make up and turns the heat up, I’d love to be sipping on a glass of good chilled coffee!
I’m always amazed at the different flavor of cold brew coffee. With regular coffee brewing, the hot water and the oils from the bean swiftly pressed together are what combine to provide that deep, rich, roasted flavor and the slight bitterness you might taste in hot coffee comes from the acidity in the beans. Icing coffee that is hot-brewed simply puts that same flavor on ice…surprise surprise!

BUT, the cold brew method actually brings out a different part of the beans flavor and the lengthened steeping process combined with the coarse texture of the grinds reduces the acidity which makes for a  sweeter and more syrup type flavor which is actually quite delightful even for someone who doesn’t like any sweetness in her coffee!

Apart from challenging all my urges for instant gratification, cold brew coffee is so simple to make at home and completely worth the forethought to make ahead of time.While there is a bit of science to cold brew coffee is very forgiving so you can mix up the temp, how much you layer, length of time you steep, ratio of coffee to water, etc! The method below was developed by hipster teacher/coffee guru, Mason,and  follows the Toddy method (Link directs you to the Toddy Website which lists cold brew instructions for both coffee and tea.)

So, grab a mason jar and wow your friends with you home cold brew coffee skills! These are also great frozen into a popsicle or tray for coffee ice cubes!!

Cold Brew Coffee Prep

Cold brew coffee

-yield depends on the ratios you use
-coffee lasts up to two weeks in  a sealed container the fridge

You’ll Need…
16 oz mason jar
coffee grinder (I suggest the affordable Krups, Stylish Bodum Bistro or the classic Kyocera)
Single Cup Coffee Filter like the Melitta Ready Set Joe and with filters,  ,
kitchen scale to measure the water and coffee
Small Bowl
Coffee of choice (We used the amazing Intelligenstia La Marvailla blend)

The ratio is 1 part coffee to 4 parts water, so you can mess around with the different ratios to create a different flavor if you so desire. The key in this process is that you want to be as mindful as possible and don’t agitate the coffee. Use a coarse grind, even a step more coarse than you would for a french press so that the water can have a larger surface of the coffee bean to steep with.

Making the coffee…

  • Set jar on scale and zero out the weight. Measure 125g coffee into jar and grind in a coarse texture then pour into bowl and set aside
  • Measure 80g room temp water into jar and add half the grinds from the bowl
  • Measure 240g water and pour into your jar in a slow circular motion then gently spread other half of coffee grinds on top and let set for 5 min
  • Measure out another 240g water and pour in slow circular motion over the layer of grinds and with minimal agitation, gently press sides of the grinds down with spoon to fully saturate then cover with lid and set aside at room temperature for 8-12 hours
  • Filter coffee through the single cup coffee filter (don’t forget to insert an actual filter into the strainer) by gently pouring from the side of the jar then inverting the entire jar so gravity can do its job pulling the water through the grinds in the jar
  • You can then rinse your jar and pour your cold brew right back into your mason jar or put into little bottles to share or store (just remember to refrigerate after you filter!)
  • Pour over ice or dilute with water/milk to tast











How did your cold brew turn out! Did you mix up the layers, ratio, steeping time or other variable? Would LOVE to her any tips and tricks that you discover in your homemade cold brew coffee process!!