Sunday, July 16, 2017

Perfect Guacomole

Guacamole is one of those "love/hate" dishes for some people.  I used to hate it until I tried actually GOOD guac and not some runny and bland Mexican fast food versions.  It also is full of healthy fats so even if watching calories, it's a great nutritious snack with some veggies or baked tortilla chips.

Unlike many popular recipes for this dish, I leave out the tomato and garlic  (though I might use a little tomato for photo garnish ). You can also leave out the onion if you don't eat onions.  The key is using the grocery store avocado (Hass)  which are ripe but not so ripe they are mushy.  The avocado should yield to a gentle squeeze of your hand. Friends don't let friends buy mushy avocados.  If all the store has are hard ones, take them home and put in a bag with a couple of bananas which will help ripen them in a day or two.)

4 medium ripe avocados, halved and pitted
1/2  cup finely chopped white onion
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 small jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped
3 tablespoons lime juice (about 1 and 1/2 limes)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin OR coriander
1 teaspoon salt
dash of black pepper
4 dashes hot sauce (optional - I love Scoville Brothers Singing Smoke brand)


Use a spoon to scoop the avocado flesh into a medium sized serving bowl, discarding any browned bits.  Promptly add remaining ingredients (except hot sauce) and mash using a  fork, or potato masher until it's at your preferred texture. If using hot sauce, gently stir in after mashing - to taste

I often add a pinch more salt, but taste first and add extra salt after.

Store leftovers in a tall narrow container to reduced the top surface area that may brown.  Cover well with plastic wrap (note, if you use onions in yours, placing a good chunk on top of the guac will help reduce the browning, though you will wish to remove any small areas that do brown before serving leftover.)

Friday, July 7, 2017

Reduced Fat Crockpot Sloppy Joes

I decided to do something different than our usual pizza night as my husband had been fed pizza  several times lately while working late in a plant in another city that needed the advisory engineer.

I also had a busy work week and didn't want to fuss in the kitchen OR heat up the stove when it was 90 degrees out.

Crockpot Sloppy Joes!

But I wanted to make a lower fat version that, other than sweetener, had simple ingredients.

I know you can buy a can of the sloppy joe sauce at the store.  But have you ever looked at the ingredient list of the most popular brand?

Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Distilled Vinegar, Less than 2% of: Salt Sugar, Dehydrated Onions, Dehydrated Red and Green Bell Peppers, Chile Pepper, Tomato Fiber, Spices, Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum, Dehydrated Garlic, Carob Bean Gum, Natural Flavors. 

I think I will pass. This went together as the ground beef cooked and smelled wonderful cooking in the crockpot.  You can also make this with cooked lentils, TVP, or Gardein "beef" crumbles for a veggie version.

In a cast iron pan cook ground sirloin or ground turkey breast with 1/2 chopped onion (or a small handful of chopped celery) until cooked.  Do not add seasoning as you are going to rinse when done to get rid of as much fat as possible.  When meat is cooked, spoon into a colander and rinse thorough under cool water.

While meat is cooking or after mix in a crockpot:

1 and 1/2 cups ketchup (or use tomato sauce if you are cutting back on sugar)
dash of salt and pepper
3 shakes crushed red pepper
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic (optional)
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon Molasses
2 and 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (I use Braggs, with the "mother")
3/4 cup water (note:  this makes a fairly "sausy" sauce, if  you like it nice and thick reduce to 1/2 cup)
2 Tablespoons tomato paste.

Add in protein/onion mix and a large handful of chopped red, yellow, and green peppers

Cook on low until heated through and the veggies have softened, at least 4 hours.  Serve on toasted buns with salad.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Perfect Reheated Pizza - Just Add Cast Iron

Everyone loves pizza it seems - whether it's thin, thick, or Chicago style, regular or gluten free, meaty toppings or veggie.  Even while watching your calories, pizza makes a delicious meal, simply request that any high-calorie toppings be applied lightly and consider getting all or half of the pizza with extra vegetables. I also have the pizza cut in squares so I can get some smaller slices out of it and serve on a salad sized plate so it just LOOKS like a have a huge plate of pizza  (honest this tip of serving on small plates works).

I also love having leftover pizza, when the local pizzeria has an extra large size on sale.  But microwaved reheated pizza is just limp and heating it in the oven dries it all out.

What to do?

Get out your cast iron skillet.  

Heat the unoiled skillet on high for one minute.  Add pizza slices, making sure there is some space around them.  Heat for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes (this was a pizza with medium thickness).  Add 3-4 drops of water total to the bare parts of the pan and immediately cover with a heavy lid, turning heat down to medium-low and heat an additional 2-3 minutes.  (You'll soon learn what times work for your stove and favorite pizza).

The result of the quick heat on high followed by steam on lower heat while covered  is a very crisp perfect crust and moist cheesy pizza.  If you want to see more, click on the photos to enlarge.

If doing multiple batches for a family, put finished pizza slices on a cookie sheet, lightly tent with foil and place in a warm, not hot oven

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A Review of CVS Gluten Free Cookies

I don't know if any of you have been into a CVS store and noticed they have their own line of gluten-free snacks/cookies.

Because I love both vanilla and shortbread I immediately snagged a box of  CVS brand Abound Gluten-Free Vanilla Shortbread Cookies. I regularly buy the CVS brand of various cosmetic and skin care products and am MORE than happy with them.

Plus I'm a big fan of cookies. Even the sometimes rock hard Dare Coconut ones. But let's just cut to the chase on my personal opinion of the CVS Gluten Free Shortbread Cookies.

The squirrels wouldn't eat them either.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Canadian Shake and Bake - Et j'ai aidé

Any of you over 50 who grew up in the US remember that Shake and Bake Commercial with the little girl with the thick Southern accent making dinner with her grandma with the words "And I helped!"

I've used Shake and Bake coating mix throughout my life on those nights as it's sort of a "comfort food" memory for me that the family likes.  I've even made my own DIY version to save money.  But there was one Shake and Bake product that was out about 10 years ago I really missed.  It was a GLAZE that was honey/mustard. It was really good on chicken and awesome on wings - only to be discontinued. I HATE mustard so the mustard flavor was beyond subtle, to me it tasted more like honey garlic.

I was seriously bummed.  My friends even requested it when coming over for cookouts where there would be wings.
Then this week, I'm over at the Canadian Favorites website ordering my quarterly fix of such products as Kraft Dinner (KD in Canada, a product that is way better than the U.S. versions of Kraft mac and cheese), Billy Bee Creamed Honey, Dare Cookies, and Canadian Coca Cola (which is made with sugar NOT High Fructose corn syrup like in the US) and I saw it -  Shake and Bake Honey Garlic Glaze.  A box of that SO went into my order.  I was afraid it would taste totally different than the original honey mustard, so I only bought one box, but it was just like the glaze I loved, though no mustard in the ingredients.  PLUS, absolutely NO fat and it's low in sugar.There's no MSG (though there are trace amounts of wheat, barley, and soy) and it didn't have a lot of chemicals or preservative type ingredients either. (that's another difference with the Kraft Dinner, the Canadian version doesn't have near the amount of "science experiment" sounding ingredients the US blue box version has).
The glazed chicken was a hit with my husband.  Working hard staining the new front steps, he's eaten four pieces of chicken in the last 18 hours and asked if there were any left. And even though I overcooked it slightly waiting on some stubborn cornbread to finish cooking it was still incredibly juicy!

Just like regular Shake and Bake you just put the seasoning in the provided bag, moisten your chicken (or veggie protein substitute) and bake until done. Directions are there in English and French.

Check out
I've always had great service from them, the products arriving UPS ground fresh and in good condition, and their prices are reasonable. I'm not Canadian but have a family member and two good friends who are so I developed some favorite products when visiting.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Acne and You - Reviews dot Com wants to Help

If you are like me  - you've bought many nutritional or beauty products due to a flash ad or hype or just on a whim, only to throw them out as it was either ineffective or aggravated acne, dry skin, or whatever skin issue you have. So you decide to do more homework next time which means valuable time from your day lost in Google.  I don't know about you but I have better things to do with what little free time I have.  Look, I'm an author which means book signings and interviews and tours and I have a full-time job as a federal agent (like on TV but without all the private jets and cleavage).  Plus I have two grandkids, an elderly dad, AND a millennial husband (which means time spent explaining to him things like "what the rabbit done died" meant in that 70's Aerosmith song).

So I want information that helps me make a good purchase in an easy to use format

There's a great website called that takes some of the guest work out of that as their team of experts are your unofficial "research partner" guiding you to the best products for your buck.

Everything they review they've tried themselves like I do with products I feature on my blog. They don't have fancy testing facilities but they do get their hands on the products, sometimes hundreds of them before making a determination of quality.  If that means brewing 500 cups of copy they are willing.

It saves ME having to brew 500 cups of coffee. (I have red hair - you do NOT want to see me with that much caffeine in my system).

For example  - let's say you have adult acne.  I don't but I DO use some salicylic acid products to help exfoliate.  Trust me, I threw away several before finding a Paula's Choice one I liked that didn't burn my very sensitive skin ("ow ow ow  - I think this has SADISTIC acid in it, not salicylic!")

What's worse than acne is those of you who are (ahem) older that don't want to turn your face into a desert in the treatment of it.

Research dot com did a great page of research on what the best products are for acne. You can see it

Wasn't that easy? So whether you are looking for acne treatment, sunscreen, whey protein powder or other health and beauty products check out their review dot com's website first.  It will save you a lot of time AND money. (You know so you can go meet your favorite author at a book signing :-)

Friday, June 9, 2017

Montreal Bagels - A Package from St.-Viateur

 MMMM.  My Montreal bagels have arrived.  What is that? you may ask.

The Montreal bagel is a distinctive variety of handmade and wood-fired baked bagel. In contrast to the New York-style bagel, the Montreal bagel is smaller, thinner, sweeter and denser, with a larger hole, and is always baked in a wood-fired oven.

Montreal bagels are still produced by hand and are usually baked in full view of the patrons.There are two predominant varieties: poppy seed and sesame seed.
Montreal bagels, like the similarly shaped New York bagel, have their roots in the Jewish communities of Europe. Food historians have allegedly traced the invention of the Montreal bagel to a trio of bakers who sold from a horse-drawn cart and eventually parted ways, only to end up founding the city’s two most venerated bagel shops, both still in business today. St.-Viateur and Fairmount. Montreal citizens are hardcore about their bagels to the point when a New York Style bakery opened up in Montreal it was out of business within a year!

The bagel dough includes egg and honey. Honey is also added to the water used for poaching the bagels before baking. I love honey and understand why jars of honey that are thousands of years old have been found in ancient excavated tombs in Egypt and at one time was considered a form of currency. When bagels are poached in this slurry of sweet honey and water, it adds something magical to the overall chewiness of the Montreal bagel as well as giving it its distinct color and crust.

The bagels are baked in a wood-fired oven which gives them their unique taste and texture, the fire licking each one gently so that each batch has its own unique hue, never overdone, never underdone. I like the handmade part as well, as we know the New York Style grocery bagels are made by giant machines with neither personality or souls (though my mechanical engineer husband would probably disagree).
Montreal-style bagel shops have opened in Vancouver, Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, Calgary and US cities such as Chicago (Reno Restaurant and Bakery), Seattle, Houston, Portland, LA, and Burlington Vermont (home to Myers bagels), though outside of that location you aren't going to find them many places in the Northeast US due to the popularity of the New York style bagel.
I discovered Montreal bagels when work took me to that beautiful city and I happened upon St-. Viateur Bagel Bakery, loving the slightly sweet, almost smoky flavor from the wood-burning oven they are baked in that you wish you could bottle up and sell on Etsy and the chewy texture that wasn't like biting into a big ball of carbs (my experience with most store bought bagels). Lightly toasted, I have one for breakfast almost every day.  Both area Bakeries, St. Viateur and Fairmount have their devoted fans, but I'm partial to the slightly plumper though still nicely smoky St. Viateur bagels.

They are also significantly less in calories, sodium, and sugar than grocery store bagels and a Montreal bagel with a simple smear of cream cheese or sugar-free jam keeps me full until lunch. Although they are available in Chicago, the restaurant/bakery that makes them is a pretty good drive from where we live and parking for my extended cab long bed truck in that very popular shopping and restaurant area is really difficult. So I was SO happy to see that St.-Viateur in Montreal now sells the bagels online to BOTH the USA and Canada. Sure, the shipping was a bit pricey but even so, they were a dollar less per bagel (even with shipping) than the local bakery that makes them and 50 cents less than a bagel with cream cheese at the local donut chain. To order - click on the link below.

St.-Viateur just advertises the poppy seed or sesame seed on the website, but if you call for a quote, they can also ship Whole Wheat, Flax Seed, No Seed, All Dressed, Rosemary & Sea Salt and Multi Grain bagels. (call toll free 1-866-662-2435)

Comparing a very popular grocery store New York Style Brand to the St. Viateur seed bagel.

Calories:   260           120
Fat:               1 gr.          2.5 gram
Carbs          52 gr.        20 gram
Sodium     460 gr.         5 gr (yes, only 5 grams, no salt is added)
Fiber              1 gr.        2 gr.
Sugars            6 gr.        1 gr.

They don't ship to the US every day so check their website when the next order day.  Certainly, if you are in Montreal fresh and hot IS the way to go and the neighborhood the original store is in is worth a trip. It's a safe, clean area where classic Montreal mingles with the contemporary energy surrounding Quebec’s major metropolis. The distinct spiraling staircases, old-school cafes and colorful alleyways offer an altogether unique look into the cultural tapestry that is Montreal.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Veggie Sandwich with a Twist

A Veggie sandwich can be more than cheese and cucumbers and sprouts.

Create with some sliced roasted chilled sweet potato, avocado, tomato, a slice of sweet onion (optional), a few sprouts, AND some mayo (or Vegan Veganaise)  to which you've added a pinch or two of lemon zest and poppy seed.  On a dense whole grain, lightly toasted bread, it's 3 degrees of yummy.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Veggie Shepherd's Pie

It's almost summer-  but sometimes you want a nourishing "comfort food" meal.  This one is isn't "low fat" but made with fresh and leftover roasted veggies it has a LOT less fat and calories than traditional Shepherd's Pie.

6 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced (or substitute celery)
3 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 bunch baby turnips, halved or quartered if large
(I also added in a small handful of leftover roasted asparagus)
6 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 bunch fresh parsley, leaves chopped (stems reserved)
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup chopped veggie burgers or vegetarian protein crumbles (optional)
2/3 cup low-fat milk
Grated parmesan cheese, for sprinkling (optional)


Preheat the broiler. Cover the potatoes with water in a pot; season with salt, cover and boil until the potatoes are fork-tender, 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a stovetop casserole dish or shallow enamel pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, turnips and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the vegetables brown, 8 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups cooking liquid from the potatoes to the casserole dish. Lower the heat and scrape up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Tie the parsley stems with twine and add to the casserole. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender, 8 minutes. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, 2 tablespoons butter and the chopped veggie burgers and warm through, 5 minutes. Remove the parsley stems and stir in the chopped parsley. Keep warm.

 Drain the potatoes and mash with the remaining 3 tablespoons butter and the milk; season with salt and pepper. Place the casserole in a single dish or individual serving side dishes.  Spoon potatoes over the casserole (s). Sprinkle with parmesan, if desired. Broil until golden brown, 5 minutes.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Healthy Recipe Cooking Tip:

Sautee your kale in 2 teaspoons of organic coconut oil.

That makes it easier to slide the burned, slimy mess into the trash while you get pizza.  :-)
Salami and spicy honey on woodfired crust - Chicago may have its negatives but bad pizza is not one of them.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Tornado Alley - Playing Chicken With Dinner

Before the storms hit, I had to make a dash to the local grocery for two things I'd forgotten. Partner in Grime was driving back from O'Hare where he was arriving after a week on the road and I wanted to make him a nice "not Subway" meal.  He looked at my purchases, lemon juice, and foil, raised an eyebrow and said: "so, making batteries for supper?"

Most of you have seen at least the lower front of his shirt over a dinner table. For those of you that haven't met him, Partner in Grime is my husband,  but also that fellow I share a last name with (trying to look all serious for me, vinegar and yes, he has blue eyes)
No batteries for dinner!  I was going to try and make supper out of just what was on hand (emergency rations not counting).   I had a few chicken breasts.  There was also some odds and end bits of frozen veggies, some leftover chicken stock, and the usual herbs, and vinegar.

Plus, with the tornado sirens going off to our south, I needed something that could get interrupted with no ill effect. Abby was NOT leaving the closet and showed no interest in what I was making.

Champagne Balsamic Chicken - It's not the most photogenic dish in the world, but it was really good.  I made it with a champagne balsamic vinegar I picked up at Artisano's  the last time I was in Indianapolis and hadn't tried yet. For those that don't live in Indiana, they ship, and if you order something -  get a 1 or 2-ounce sample of the applewood smoked salt, ghost pepper salt (hot!) and espresso sugar.

It was pretty simple, cooked on the stovetop in my favorite Red French Oven (you can use any big, sturdy pot.

In the pot mix:

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup champagne balsamic vinegar (or any good quality balsamic)
3/4 cup plus 3 Tablespoons chicken stock (or canned broth)
3 generous teaspoons of jarred minced garlic
2 dashes of sea salt
1 bay leaf
1/2 heaping teaspoon mixed dried herbs (I used a mixture of chives, basil, tarragon, chervil and a tiny bit of dill, but just tarragon or basil would work).
a couple grinds from the pepper mill

Add 3-4 skinless chicken breasts and bring to and maintain, a low boil.  Cook for 15 minutes, flip chicken pieces over then reduce heat slightly and cook at a gentle simmer until internal temp is 165 F. on a meat thermometer, (around 30-40 minutes for the pieces I had), keeping lid OFF so that the liquid is reduced to better caramelize the chicken pieces, still leaving enough for you to drizzle on other things.

When the chicken is about 160 degrees F., remove the bay leaf, lower the heat slightly and put some bread in the oven.  What's good?  Popeovers, (Moosewood Kitchen recipe)  always good on a cold, blustery day.]

The popovers were 1/4 of the cost of packaged frozen rolls and much tastier. Between gust fronts, they went in, as those are a little more temperamental cooking wise, but they were worth it, tall, buttery custard-like texture inside, flaky layers on the outside.
Dinner was easy and good, the chicken staying really moist and the garlicky champagne balsamic sauce, absolutely wonderful drizzled over the sweet potatoes (there was also broccoli). Even better, we didn't have to hunker down in the basement when the sirens went off, watching the radar on the computer and seeing the cells with rotation potential going well south of here.

I hope all of you out there are safe, warm and happy and if you're going to play chicken, do it in the kitchen, not with the weather.

OK, I'll come out of the closet for a piece of chicken.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

What's In YOUR Beauty Bag

Sorry, it's been a while since I posted.  My husband has been on the road for work a LOT, and when he's gone I don't really "cook", I just eat bagged salads, smoothies, and pizza which doesn't make for very interesting diet and fitness posts.

But I did update my beauty products based on new finds and a couple friends recommendations.  Today, I'm going to show you three collections and the reasons for them.

(1) This is the stuff I spoil myself with at home.  Makeup wise, I'm pretty minimal, but I like some really nice organic skin care for my at home regiment.

Starting at the upper left - Eminence mineral foundation.  I have super dry skin and this is the FIRST mineral foundation that didn't look like I had talcum powder on my face.  It's great light coverage that looks very natural.

Next to that is my favorite mascara - Benefit Bad Gal Lash. (has over 3200 five star ratings on Sephora).  A simple black mascara with a huge brush - it builds beautiful big lashes.

Below that is my newest find. Rodan + Fields Lash Boost.  A clear serum you apply to the lash line at night - it gives you visibly longer lashes in a month without some of the nasty side effects (such as eye color change) earlier prescription lash products had.  I found that if I used it nightly, my eyes were a little itchy.  An R + F rep suggested using it every other night and it worked perfectly.  I can eve skip mascara now my lashes are so long.

On the left Paula's Choice Resist Weightless Body Treatment with 2% BHA with Salicylic Acid and Antioxidants.  As I hit middle age I started getting this itchy bumps on my face and back.  The dermatologist said it's common and they're called keratosis pilaris.  This product zaps them in no time and leaves my skin overall much smoother (I even use it on my face).

To the right of that is my Honey Girl Organics Skin Care,  some full size, one a travel size.  I LOVE Honey Girl - organic, smells wonderful and SO moisturizing and made of such pure ingredients you could eat it.  They are also moderately priced given the ingredients and the owner always throws in free travel sized samples. The detoxifying Hawaiian blue-green algae, honey, and French clay mask is incredible.

The light blue tube to the right of them is a new try - First Aid Beauty mineral sunscreen.  I think it might be a little heavy for summer (for which I'll wear my Rodan + Fields Sooth Mineral sunscreen) but it was great during the cold weather and didn't break me out.

Eyes and Lips at the bottom - A Mac and a FitGlow (Canadian organic line) in light and dark pink, and a MAC shadow and highlighter.  To their right is Victoria's Secret pink lipgloss (purchased when I was getting some V.S. Heavenly - one of my favorite inexpensive perfumes).

That's pretty much my products at home. I do use other organic skincare lines - Frangipani Organic and Meadowlake Farms bee products, for blemishes and other issues that pop up with hormones and weather.  Their products are awesome and mix and match well with anything, but what you see above is what's in my cosmetic and beauty tray in the bathroom right now.
(2)  What I keep at Dad's so I'm not hauling stuff back and forth.  Mostly cheap, with an exfoliating product that's TSA size to transport out there since I buy it on the internet only. From left to right.

Paula's Choice 1% Retinol Treatment. With rosacea I have to avoid any manually exfoliating products and this works really well, just a couple times a week keeps my skin smooth and it does smooth those really fine lines.

Next up is Alba Kids Mineral Sunscreen.  It's pretty thick so I wouldn't use it on my face every day at home, but it's super cheap and is a great all over chemical free sunscreen for when I have a lot of yard work to do when tending to Dad's place.

Makeup is just a drugstore mascara. whatever lipstick is in my purse, and a Boom color stick for cheeks and eyes.

For cleansing and moisture all over you can't beat the Ceravie cleaners and the giant tub of CVS cream (their version of Cetaphil).

(3)  What I keep in a small overnight bag (with some personal care items and jammies and fresh clothes) in my locker at work, just the basics for a short-notice meeting in DC or elsewhere.

The products are the priciest of the group but they also pack an incredible "bang for the buck" giving me excellent anti-aging with only a handful of products. The larger jar is individual little capsules of retinol - I just put those in a sandwich bag.  The larger square is Rodan + Fields facial and eye cleansing clothes - as well, a few go into a baggie.  That allows me to put everything in just a tiny makeup bag.

From left to right.

NARS tinted sunscreen.  It actually has a shade light enough for me (called Alaska, how fitting).  It leaves a luminous finish (not shiny) and provides light coverage AND sun protection that doesn't break me out.

Next,  BOOM by Cindy Joseph Color and Glimmer sticks with another Bad Gal Mascara lurking in the background. The "Color" one can be used as eyeshadow, blush, and lip color and the "Glimmer" stick provides highlighting to bring out your best features.

For skin care it's simple.  Rodan + Fields Redefine night cream (which when traveling I use day and night as flying dries out my skin) and a travel sized eye cream (hidden in the picture), their retinol capsules, and a sunscreen stick that's part of a two part hand treatment I use, perfect for hands and neck.  Rather than haul a cleanser that may leak I use the R F Makeup Removers, then just wipe my face with a warm washcloth (in the winter I'll replace the clothes with a small R + F Sooth cleanser for extra moisture)

The red thing?  Well, that's a clown's nose - you never know when one will come in handy at a meeting.

For product link for items you can't get at the local drugstore:: note: (none of the products were provided to me, all were purchased)

Paula's Choice:

Honey Girl Organics:



Sephora : (mascara and First Aid Beauty sunscreen):

Eminence makeup and Skincare:

Fitglow Cosmetics:

Victoria's Secret"

Rodan Plus Fields - One of the Lab Rescue volunteers is a consultant:  Her contact info is below. Jane's a good friend and a very caring consultant. (my consultant is actually in Chicago but I could NOT find her contact info today).  Jane is in Maryland but the products can be shipped anywhere.

Jane Slavin
Consultant ID: 1432479
Market: United States
Location: Columbia,MD

Saturday, April 22, 2017

When You Just Want a Bowl of Goodness

This recipe was an experiment made by taking the best part out of three veggie soup recipes I had and combining them.  It's a very filling and nourishing soup with just the right amount of heat and sour.  Note - if you wish it sourer, add 2 additional Tablespoons apple cider vinegar.

Hot and Sour Vegetable Soup

3 Tablespoons sherry or rice wine
2 tablespoons cold water
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce (or substitute coconut aminos for soy, gluten and vegan option)
2 Tablespoons cornstarch

1 ounce dried Chinese black mushrooms
8 cups water

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2  chopped onion (or substitute 1/3 cup celery or water chestnut)
1 and 1/2 teaspoons dried ginger
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 jalapeno, seeds removed and chopped fine
1/2 sweet potato -  diced into small pieces
1/2 cup chopped carrots

1/2  zucchini - chopped
1/2 bell pepper  - chopped or sliced thin
1/2 cup tofu, cubed or chicken cut into thin strips

a small  handful of baby boc choy
8 ounces diced tomatoes (small can)
salt to taste (no more than 1 tsp).

Whisk together the soy sauce, water, rice vinegar, salt, white pepper, and cornstarch in a separate bowl. Set aside.

 Heat two cups of the water to boiling and pour over the mushrooms in a dish.  Cover with a plate and let rest 30 minutes.

Drain the mushrooms, squeezing out the liquid (save) and cutting off the hard stems.

In a dutch oven heat mushroom liquid and remaining six cups of water to a full simmer

While the broth heats, saute the onion, ginger and jalapeno pepper in a little oil until softened (2-3 minutes).  Add sweet potato, cabbage, and carrots and cook covered for 4 minutes (cabbage should be starting to wilt).

Add softened veggies to fully simmering or gently boiling broth. Reduce heat slightly and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the zucchini, bell pepper, and protein and simmer until the veggies are tender the protein cooked through (about 10 minutes).

Add in the soy sauce mixture and cook until soup is thickened (about 7-8 minutes)

Stir in the tomatoes and boc choy, raise heat slightly and bring back to a full simmer.

Stir in sesame oil and serve.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Pineapple Curry - Thai This on for Size

I've been doing real well with the IBS symptoms this week by adding in a bit of lean protein at each meal (some vegetarian sources, some animal), reducing the bean and grains (not eliminating, just reducing to a serving a day) and cutting back on nuts (a favorite snack but lots of fat, even if the good kind). Getting rid of soy and US franken- wheat has helped immensely, and I keep my carb servings small and whole grain except for white rice which I just love. I also do better with smaller portion sizes adding in some 250 calorie snacks morning and afternoon.  Big meals are definitely a trigger.

We do Thai every month but it does get expensive eating out so I tried making curry and it was a hit with my husband who loves it.  I'm normally not a big curry fan but I really enjoyed this.

2 – 15 oz. cans light coconut milk
3 Tbsp red curry paste
1 Tbsp curry powder
dash of crushed red pepper
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp garlic powder
1 teaspoon of brown sugar or honey
a dash of salt
15 oz. can pineapple chunks, well drained
1/2 green bell pepper, sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
1 large chicken breast diced

rice as a side


Cook the rice, as directed. I cook mine in a tray that sits inside my steamer and it's always perfect.

In a large saucepan, whisk the coconut milk, curry paste, curry powder, crushed red pepper, ginger, garlic powder sugar or honey, and salt.

Stir in the pineapple, bell pepper slices and pieces of chicken. Cook until the chicken is done (about 20 minutes). Taste and add more crushed red pepper if you wish it "hotter".

Makes four generous servings.

Serve with rice.

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Day of Eating Challenges and the Discovery of Vegan Parmesan Cheese

Today was going to be a bit of a diet challenge.  It's Friday in Lent which for me means no meat.  But I recently ditched dairy, beans, and wheat in hopes of helping my IBS symptoms.  So what to make?
Breakfast was super easy to whip up, even on a work day.  Coconut flour "pancake".  It's not a true pancake in taste, much more shape but it had a tender, eggy taste that was very filling and filled me up until almost 1 PM.  It made two good sized pancakes  I just ate one and it was quite filling. Less than 250 calories and no gluten or sugar (I used some sugar-free syrup on it though).

 3 eggs
 1/4 cup coconut flour
 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
dash of salt
splash of vanilla extract
Whisk until smooth and cook  in a fry pan or griddle on medium/high in a Tablespoon of Ghee for two minutes flip and cook 1 to 2 more minutes.

Ghee is a class of clarified butter that originated in ancient India and is commonly used in South Asian, Iranian and Arabic cuisines, traditional medicine, and religious rituals.  Ghee is prepared by simmering butter, which is churned from cream, skimming any impurities from the surface, and then pouring and retaining the clear, still liquid fat, while discarding the solid residue that settled on the bottom. It packs a lot more health benefits than butter. I make my own.
Then for my packed lunch (picture is from dinner) some leftover pasta with non-dairy "Parmesan" cheese.

3/4 cup RAW cashews (not roasted)
3 Tablespoons nutritional yeast (I think it's made of ground up hippies) and is Vegan and full of nutrition
3/4 teaspoon Penzey's roasted garlic powder (or your favorite garlic powder)
1/4 sea salt

Pulse in a food processor or powerful blender until the consistency of cheese (for me - pulsing a few seconds at a time for a minute).
Store refrigerated or in the freezer for longer term use.  Makes about a cup.
Served on some quinoa gluten free pasta yesterday with some olive oil and herbs this tasted EXACTLY like regular parmesan but NO dairy! I also fed a bite to my husband when he got home from a business trip without telling him and he couldn't tell.  SCORE!.

I had the leftovers for lunch today.

For an afternoon snack, some Kitchfix grain-free granola, made with nuts, coconut oil, and shredded coconut, with a coconut milk yogurt.
And dinner (for me, anyway) was just a plate of roasted veggies. Drizzled with some WHITE balsamic vinegar (a different taste) and rosemary they were awesome with a bit of salad.

Especially with a glass or two of  Frey Organic wine (my favorite white wine right now)
Honestly, I wasn't  hungry at all today.  I got plenty of protein and variety.  I'd say this meat/wheat/sugar-free day was a hit.

Then time to curl up with a friend's book that Amazon delivered today.  Her delightful pet blog is

Foley Monster, Pocket, and River Song

It's a warm-hearted book of stories of so many wonderful little souls.  A good day to remember them.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Gluten Free Coffee Mug Muffin

My IBS was doing better with the great reduction in wheat and dairy. The extra beans from adding in more vegetarian meals, was taking that progress away from me and my gut does NOT like soy products as I get older.

So I'm going to be adding in more lean grass fed and free range animal protein and paleo protein shakes, still doing at least one vegetarian (no soy or beans) meal once a day, and a veggie only day with high protein vegetables, some ancient grains or gluten-free bread with a little nut butter for protein twice a week. I've got a grass fed, ethically raised, had its own smart phone and personal trainer, chuck roast from Whole Foods that cost as much as a small car in some countries in the crockpot with some garlic, beef stock, and balsamic vinegar reduction to have for dinner with mashed cauliflower and some steamed carrots on the side.

But today, after a lunch of coconut yogurt with a Tablespoon of berries and an apple, I was hankering for both bread and sweet and modified a recipe I found online to make this.

An easy, super moist muffin in less than 4 minutes, with NO wheat flour and white sugar
Apple Cinnamon Coffee Mug Muffin

Spray a coffee mug with nonstick spray.

In a cereal bowl melt 1 Tablespoon butter or coconut oil
Stir in:
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons applesauce
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon honey (or use sugar if you want a vegan version)
1 egg or equivalent vegan egg substitute.

Whisk in until smooth:
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 Tablespoons almond flour (do not substitute)

On top sprinkle:
heaping tablespoon of finely chopped apple
pinch of finely chopped walnuts
two small pieces of a thin shaving of butter or vegan buttery spread

Pour into mug and microwave 1 minute 15 seconds to 1 minute 45 seconds (microwaves vary, when it's done, it will be puffed up but other than the sheen from the butter it won't look wet).  

Let sit at least 3 minutes and enjoy. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Gluten Free for your Chocolate Craving

I made these for a friend with Celiac, using a recipe another friend shared (the photo is hers as I left my camera at work) and they were a hit! They are obviously not low far - but they are low carb and rich enough you just need a little bite to satisfy your chocolate/dessert craving.

Chocolate Raspberry Dessert Bars (gluten free, no flour or white sugar)
3/4 cup coconut oil, melted;
1/2 cup coconut butter (comes in a mayonnaise style jar, found at most health food stores or online)
1/2 cup maple syrup or raw honey;
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder;
1/2 cup fresh raspberries;
1/4 cup dark chocolate, thinly chopped;
1/4 cup roasted almonds, chopped;


Combine the coconut oil and butter, maple syrup, and cocoa powder over a double boiler, and whisk until blended and smooth.

Add in the dark chocolate bits, raspberries, and chopped almonds, gently stirring.

Line a 9×9 or 8 x 8 square baking pan with parchment paper and pour the chocolate in evenly.

Place in the freezer and freeze 15 to 20 minutes.

Slice while the mixture is still cold, and serve at room temperature. Store in refrigerator.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Boom Stick Review and a Look at the Kitchen Remodel

I was looking at a video on Cindy Joseph's  Saturday's with Cindy video series (of Boom Stick Beauty fame).  This one showcased her 118-year-old Dutch Victorian house.  Amazing house!  But what made me grin from ear to ear as she has my sink!  The one we found at auction and replumbed the entire kitchen ourselves to move it to a different wall so I have counter space. (and I also grinned ear to ear when the old metal cabinets covered in sparkly contact paper were taken off to a recycler).

Seriously, try her products - you'll ditch the giant bag of makeup in no time.I got some as a gift and I had to order refills. There's a sheer tint for cheeks and lips, an illuminator to highlight your best features and a moisturizing stick to add some healthy glow to where you need it. They're made out of all natural ingredients and are perfect, before, during and post workout for a healthy beautiful look. She also has a line of honey-based skin care products I'm going to try and review next. At age 58, I think "less is best" as far as looking great.  Too much makeup is more aging than paring it down and these products are great for that.

Here's the kitchen remodel - to make it look like an OLD kitchen. (I still have to finish the plaster work but was waiting for warmer weather).

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Natural Laundry Soap - Finally, No More Itchy Skin

I tend to have drier skin in the winter but over the winter I developed almost a rash on my arms, back, and lower legs. Even using a good lotion I was constantly itchy and would get little pimples that wouldn't go away. I thought it might be a reaction to the laundry soap as we had just changed to a cheaper brand, but switching to a non-fragrance one made no difference. But since all my other skin care is pure and natural, I figured it was something in the commercial laundry detergent.

Face it - conventional laundry-care products often contain chemicals with negative health effects ranging from skin and throat irritation to carcinogenicity. Because laundry care product manufacturers are not required by law to list all their ingredients on packaging, it can be difficult for buyers to make an informed choice. Laundry detergents are often derived from petrochemicals and contain synthetic fragrances, (even the “fragrance-free ones). The term “fragrance” alone may refer to a combination of hundreds of chemicals, many of which can be hazardous. Many detergents also contain added optical brighteners. Those are additives that emit blue light, which makes the whites APPEAR more white, as they trick the eye. Such additives also stay in the clothes after rinsing, like fabric softeners do, causing potential irritation by lingering chemicals that come in contact with the skin. I figured my skin issues was due to one of the many synthetic ingredients in the brand we were using and decided to find a more natural solution.

When placing an order for "bath bombs" at one of my favorite soap places

I saw they had natural laundry detergent. $7.99 seemed like a lot for the small box, but then I read it only takes 1 TABLESPOON to do a large load with a high-efficiency washer (and only 2 if you have an older type of washer).

Measuring it out I determined this box would be 40 large (full) loads in an HE Washer, and 20 in a regular washer. My old store bought detergent advertise 32 or so loads for about the same money but then I looked at the label carefully. My old detergent bases the load on a medium load. If you are doing a large load it's only 16 washes and 11 for a full load (which is what we always do). 

So the SACS & Company product is actually CHEAPER than the store bought since it is concentrated. Simply add the powder to the water as the washer fills and go find something more fun than laundry to do.

There are several scents as well as unscented. I chose lavender. They also list cashmere, unscented, Yuzu, and country apple. The dried clothing doesn't have a strong perfumy smell, but a very subtle clean smell that was extremely light and more natural smelling than those "springtime fresh" chemical laden products. I had my husband give it a sniff - and he agreed it just smelled "fresh".  If you want a stronger scent on your clothes you can add a note to your order as owners and artisans Marta and Lauri will gladly customize it.

They will also enclose a frequent buyer card. It's punched with a star for each $10 you spend.  When you get 10 stars, you simply take a photo of your card(s) and email it and they will give you a code for $10 off of your next order.  Good online or in their store in Indiana.

The best part - no more itchy skin! Crafted from SACS & Co. line of goats milk with pure essential oil soaps the laundry detergent is free from all petroleum or preservative ingredients and comes in a resealable bag within the box

I will definitely be purchasing more.  Better for me, better for the environment.