Category Archives: Recipes – Condiments

Cinnamon Applesauce is Fit for Fine Dining or Casual Dinners

Greetings everyone! I hope that you are enjoying the holiday season. Even though I have not blogged much lately, I have continued to bake and cook – some old favorites as well as some new creations. I hope that you have had a chance to do what you enjoy as well.

The U.S. Census has put together an interesting collection of facts about the holiday season. I was surprised to learn that more than one half of the potatoes produced in the U.S. come from two states – Idaho and Washington. Also, it is estimated that the value of retail sales by electronic shopping and mail-order houses in December 2012 across the nation was more than $39 billion. In terms of mail, almost 15 billion pieces of mail is expected to be delivered between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve by the U.S. Postal Service. The busiest mailing day was December 16, and December 18 was the busiest delivery day. I think it’s fascinating to think about all of the ways that holiday preparations affect the economy.

I have been collecting some statistics of my own. Thanks to all of you who gave an opinion in my last poll – how do you like to enjoy apples and pears? Nearly 30% of the respondents enjoy these fruits just the way they are, with no alterations necessary. Approximately 20% of the respondents enjoy the pie variety, and another 20% prefer them in tart form. So I think that many of you will enjoy this very easy recipe for Cinnamon Applesauce, because it tastes very fresh and similar to pie filling.

applesauce1Start with about 12 apples. I like using Macouns because they are crisp and sweet, but you can use your favorite variety for the applesauce. The most time-consuming part of the applesauce process is peeling, coring, and slicing the apples. However, if you have a trusty Apple Corer-Slicer-Peeler, then this step takes about five minutes. If you enjoy making applesauce or any other apple recipe, you will enjoy cooking even more if you have this great gadget.

applesauce2After the apples are peeled, cored, and sliced, place them in a large skillet or saucepan, and cook on medium high heat until the desired consistency, stirring occasionally. Since my apples were sliced rather thinly, and I prefer the end result to be a chunky applesauce, the cooking time was about 20 minutes. However, it can take 30-45 minutes if you have large slices and prefer smooth applesauce.

applesauce3Once you have the desired consistency, stir in 3/4 teaspoon of cinnamon. The approximately two cups of applesauce is now ready to eat, and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.

I find applesauce to be a very comforting and satisfying accompaniment to my dinners, especially meals that involve pork roast. I hope that you enjoy this dish too, fit for either a fancy dinner or a regular one.

Speaking of comforting foods, what is your favorite comfort food? This question is the subject of my latest poll, which can be found on the middle of my blog’s home page. To respond to the poll, simply choose one answer from the list (or write in your own) and click ‘vote.’ You will then see how your answer compares to the ones already recorded. I am interested to see what will be the favorite comfort food!

Fall Equinox Favorites: (Gluten/Sugar/Nut Free) Pesto and Watermelon Granita

rosesHappy Fall Equinox, everyone! Our weather is absolutely spectacular and we are enjoying a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables. SensitiveHusband and I are stretching out the summer feeling by being outside and making some fresh foods that freeze well. These roses are from my garden – they smell like honey and look pretty and delicate.

pestoOne of the summer foods that we have been consistently eating is pesto. We like fresh pesto as a replacement for mayonnaise or mustard on a sandwich, and it’s also great on a cracker or carrot stick. Pesto is really quick to make although the first time I felt like making it I did not have any pine nuts, a common ingredient, on hand. So I found inspiration from the Farmers’ Almanac – and used chickpeas instead! Here is my interpretation of a summer favorite that can easily be frozen and savored throughout the cooler months.

Nut-Free Pesto (or Pistou) Ingredients:
1 cup fresh basil, washed
1/4 cup chickpeas, rinsed
1/3 cup grated cheese (I like Parmesan and Pecorino Romano)
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup canola oil
pinch of kosher salt
juice from 1/4 lemon

To prepare, place all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until desired consistency. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week or freeze for later use.

granitaAnother way to prolong the summer foods is by making a granita, which is similar to a frozen ice. The results for this next recipe is from you and everyone who shared an opinion to the poll question: What is your favorite summertime food? The results were close, although watermelon won out with 27% of the votes. I found a recipe for a watermelon granita from Ellie Krieger, and instead of using cane sugar I used agave nectar. This is a nice way to sweeten watermelon that is not quite as flavorful as it was during the height of the summer, and you can keep it frozen for awhile and enjoy as the temperatures turn cooler. The first time I made the granita, I thought the flavor of the mint was overwhelming so the recipe below tones down the amount used.

Watermelon Granita Ingredients:
4 cups seeded, cubed watermelon
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/8-1/4 cup mint, finely chopped, plus more for garnish
1/3 cup agave nectar

To prepare, puree watermelon in a food processor. Strain puree through a sieve and strain out solids, forcing liquid out with a wooden spoon. Discard solids. Combine the watermelon puree, lime juice, mint and agave nectar in a 9 by 13-inch metal pan. Place mixture in the freezer, scraping thoroughly with a fork every 30 minutes for about 2 1/2 hours, or until the granita resembles coarse crystals. Scrape 1 last time and spoon into parfait glasses or bowls. Top with a mint sprig.

Since it is the Fall Equinox and the season for apples and pears, it is time for a new poll! What is your favorite way to enjoy apples and pears? Do you like to eat them straight from the tree, or do you prefer to indulge in a pie or other dessert? Please vote for your favorite treat by clicking on my home page, choosing your answer, and clicking ‘vote.’

Minding the Vitamix – Part 2: Fresh Green Hummus

green hummusThe alternate title for this blog post is: Top of the morning – and the balance of the day – to you!

MIL’s Vitamix blender continued to sit on my counter, so I thought I would try my hand at one of my favorite snacks, hummus. Hummus is an Arabic word meaning “chickpeas” and is made by mixing mashed chickpeas with oil, lemon juice and other seasonings. I had never made my own hummus before, preferring the convenience of a store-bought package. I now realize how easy it is to make and how creative I can get with the seasonings.

Since today is St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I would try making hummus seasoned with spinach so that its hue would match the official color of the day. If you do not have spinach on hand, other green, leafy vegetables like parsley, basil or kale would do well. My inspiration for this recipe is from Just a Pinch’s White Bean Green Hummus.

Ingredients:
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
2 oz fresh spinach leaves, rinsed (about one large handful)
2 tbs dried parsley
2 cloves garlic, peeled
juice from 1 lemon
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation:
Using a food processor or Vitamix blender, pulse all ingredients until desired consistency is reached. Serve with pita points, crackers, or vegetable slices.

May you always have walls for the winds,
a roof for the rain, tea beside the fire,
laughter to cheer you, those you love near you,
and all your heart might desire.

I am sharing this recipe with Simply Sugar and Gluten Free.

Kristi’s Homemade Pumpkin Hummus

I am happy to share the following recipe and story from my friend and colleague, Kristi. Thanks for writing a guest post, Kristi! I had an opportunity to sample some of these hummus leftovers, and the delicious factor is quite high. If you are looking for a yeast-free and sugar-free pita, check out Chatila’s Bakery.

PumpkinHummus.aspxBefore the Thanksgiving holiday, I came across some pumpkin hummus in the store made by one of the well-known hummus producers – but was disappointed to find that it contained sugar (which of course, made it very yummy – but not so healthy). So I was so excited to come across this recipe for homemade pumpkin hummus that is super easy to make – and just in time for the holiday season when pumpkin, whether fresh or canned (just make sure it doesn’t have any additives) is abundant. PS – We recently found out my husband has a sensitivity to garbanzo beans, so it’s an added plus that this recipe is made without them – and he still gets to enjoy the hummus experience!

Ingredients
4 (6-inch) pitas, each cut into 8 wedges
Cooking spray
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon pumpkin seed kernels, toasted (optional)

Preparation
Preheat oven to 425°.

Place pita wedges on baking sheets; coat with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 6 minutes or until toasted.

Place tahini and next 7 ingredients (through garlic) in a food processor, and process until smooth. Add parsley; pulse until blended. Spoon hummus into a serving bowl; sprinkle with pumpkinseed kernels, if desired. Serve with pita wedges.

Exclusive! Interview with Wholesome Creations Founder

Last week I met the founder of Wholesome Creations, a company that makes a very special line of salad dressings. The dressings are 100% natural, vegan, and gluten free. I tried the Lemon Paradise and Mediterranean flavors, since both are void of vinegar, sugar and mustard, and I must say that they are delicious! I left our meeting with a new bottle of salad dressing under my arm! Below is a Q&A between Ani Tirpan and me about her company, how she has had success, and a few other topics including how you can get involved with an upcoming event. I think you will really enjoy her story; it is truly inspirational.

–When did you start Wholesome Creations, and why?
I started the company in 2008. I’d been making my Lemon Paradise dressing for my family since my children were old enough to eat ‘people’ food. I developed it based on their own tastes to encourage them to eat vegetables. It soon became a staple in our home and we used it on everything. As the kids got older, friends and family regularly pushed me to market the dressing but I didn’t take them seriously. And one winter Sunday, while I sat in my apartment on the 18th floor flicking through 1000 cable channels with nothing to watch, my daughter thought it would be a perfect day for me to take some time and check into how one goes about marketing dressing. I started to surf the internet to see about the feasibility of adding yet another dressing to the ridiculous selection that was already on the shelves. After a short search, I chose the brands that would be my competitors and realized that my dressing was the only recipe that called for all fresh ingredients that didn’t include any preservatives, added colors or flavors. It was delicious just as it was. After a little more research, I found that our dressing was gluten free, all natural, vegan and antioxidant rich. This combination added to a fresh squeezed lemon juice base just didn’t exist out there. I realized that I had a recipe to be able to create a niche within the specialty dressing market. Once I decided that we had a good chance for success, we began to do some market analysis. I wanted to make sure that the general public would love the dressing as well. So we went to street fairs every weekend during the summer of 2009. And the dressing was a HUGE success. 90% of the people who tried it loved it and purchased it. But they all had the same question: Is this your only flavor option? So I set about creating other dressings with the same healthy attributes. I was still working full time as COO of a textiles importing company so it was a night/weekend effort at that time. Meanwhile, my brother worked with me to find our current office/manufacturing location in North Haven, CT and set about getting all the necessary permits and licenses. I quit my job at the end of 2010 and decided I was ready to put all my efforts into growing the business. We didn’t sell anything to anyone until March 2011 to one Whole Foods store in Hingham, MA. From there, it’s just history.

–What has inspired you to create the salad dressing flavors?

I chose ingredients that were in line with today’s health trends: pomegranate, cranberry, green tea, ginger, chick peas and sesame paste. It took time to develop the recipes that would coordinate well with the Lemon Paradise. I wanted the first 4 flavors to cover the pallet spectrum. After thousands of trials (with my kids as guinea pig taste testers), we ended up with Mediterranean (chick pea based and a little on the spicy side), Green Tea/Ginger (unique and light) and Pomegranate/Cranberry (like a smoothie for your salad).

The inspiration for everything I do in my life are my children. I work hard every day to be an example for them and make them proud of me. Up until now, my goal was to raise good, caring human beings who would make a positive impact on the world. I am proud to say that I couldn’t be prouder of any of them. My daughter Taline in completing her residency for a doctorate in Psychology. My son David will be graduating from Medical School in June and beginning his residency. My son Eric is currently working with me but once the business is strong enough, he plans to join the New Haven Police Department. Both my sons have been volunteer firefighters and EMTs. Having reached my goal as a mother, I felt that I was ready to do what I wanted to do: follow the American Dream of being a business owner.

–What has been one of the best outcomes of starting your own business? What is a challenge?
The very best outcome of starting this business was the fact that I get to work with my son Eric every day! There is no way that we would have come as far as we did in such a short time without him. He’s the power behind my dream. When I lose my motivation or get a setback, he’s right there to put be back on track. Each and every day, I feel blessed to have him by my side, tirelessly pushing forward. He works several overnight shifts driving a tow truck to make some extra money so that he doesn’t have to be a financial burden to the business. He’s amazing and I adore him!!

I was tired of working 80 hour weeks for the success of other people’s businesses. Now I work that hard for my own business and get the satisfaction of knowing that my own family will reap the rewards of all that hard work. And creating products that are healthy and affordable is the greatest satisfaction of all. I knew that I could make the company successful without cutting corners or being greedy. Using chemicals of any kind is not necessary to succeed. That was the easy part. Getting into the food industry was nothing like I thought it would be. There are huge financial hurdles to overcome. Unlike other retail industries, the supermarkets want tremendous amounts of money to put your product on the shelves, kind of like purchasing the shelf space. But other large retailers, like Whole Foods are very supportive of local businesses and we were not required to pay any slotting fees to them. Because of these fees, we’ve not been able to pursue large placements.

–Where are your salad dressings available for purchase? How can someone get your dressing in his/her local store?
You actually can’t purchase the dressings on line any more. The shipping charges makes the internet sales unfeasible. But today, we do have a good selection of stores where they can be purchased. We are in most of the Whole Foods in the North Atlantic Region (MA, RI and Northern Connecticut), King Kullen on Long Island, McQuades Stores in the Mystic, CT area, Donellan’s in MA, Camomille Natural Store in Danbury, CT, New Morning in Woodbury, CT, Thyme and Season in Hamden, CT, Haggen’s in Washington State and New Seasons in Oregon State. There are several other smaller independent stores in CT and MA. Anyone interested in having their local grocer carry our dressings should speak directly with the grocery buyer or team leader in their stores and request that they carry our dressings. That’s the fastest and best way to get us into the stores and co-ops.

–What is one of your favorite recipes using your salad dressing?
The dressings are all so versatile that we call them ‘Meal Magic in a Bottle’. They can be used for marinating anything from fish to tofu, as a mayonnaise substitute for your sandwiches, as a dressing for your vegetables and a million other things. But my personal favorite is Salmon, marinated and baked with the Lemon Paradise. It’s the easiest and most delicious dinner ever! Marinate the salmon in a ziplock bag with the Lemon Paradise dressing overnight in the refrigerator (or you can keep it in the freezer until you’re ready to enjoy it). Place it on a cookie sheet, including all the dressing from the ziplock bag and cook it in the oven on low heat, 275-300°F for 30-35 min (for about 1 lb) until it’s tender and juicy. You can make some coordinating garlic bread by slicing your favorite baguette or Italian bread down the center, spread the Lemon Paradise dressing and toasting it. A little tomato and arugula salad with some Mediterranean dressing, you’ll be licking your plate clean and sorry that the meal is over. If you prefer a vegan meal, replace the salmon with a healthy slice of tofu. Instead of putting it in the oven, you can fry it on the stove top, a few minutes per side until it’s a golden color.

Our dressings are all made without any yeast or dairy products. Our Lemon Paradise and Mediterranean have NO added sugar at all. The Pomegranate/Cranberry and Green Tea/Ginger have only small amounts Agave Nectar and NO cane sugar at all.

–Is there anything else you would like to share with this blog community?

It’s NEVER too late to follow your dreams. Life is short and when you leave this world, you want to leave looking forward to the next step in your journey, not back to what you wish you had done. We all arrive in this world butt naked and we are going to leave butt naked (except for our funeral garb). Don’t be afraid to lose it all for a CHANCE at it all. It’s more rewarding to reach your dreams when they are for YOURSELF and YOUR pleasure, not necessarily to make loads of money; that should just be a fringe benefit of living your dream. Each day that passes that your dreams stay only in your thoughts is one less day that you could have made the dream come true.

I’ve followed my dream of owning my own business and making it successful. It may not be a huge financial success yet but I’ve accomplished the goals I set for myself for 2011. To help me fill my next dream, Wholesome Creations has just begun a non-profit organization, Wholesome Creations Cares dedicated to raising awareness about the many benefits of healthy eating and living and eco-friendly lifestyle. We are hosting the First Annual Connecticut Vegetarian and Healthy Living Festival on April 28-29, 2012 at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. All money raised will be used to help fill local food banks, homeless shelters and continue to promote healthy eating and living. We are currently looking for volunteers, sponsors and vendors. We are in the process of developing our websites, http://www.wholesomecreationscares.org and http://www.CTVegFest.org but until they are ready, we are happy to send a vendor/sponsor packet to anyone who is interested in being a sponsor or a vendor. We would love all our vegan/vegetarian and Healthy living friends to contact us to be on our committees to make this event like no other, anywhere. For the time being, you can email your inquiries to CTVegfest@wholesomecreations.com. We need all the help we can get our hands on I promise that you will be proud to be part of this event.

Creating a Yeast-Free, Sugar-Free Hamburger – Part 2: The Ketchup

In Part 1 of my hamburger saga, I had successfully created a yeast-free, sugar-free bun. Now I just needed some ketchup without vinegar (being yeast-free includes avoiding vinegar), onion or cane sugar in it because a burger just isn’t a burger without that condiment. First I started by checking out supermarkets and health foods stores…although I struck out with finding a brand that met my criteria. So back into the kitchen I went. I started with a recipe without vinegar and gave it a try although the consistency did not turn out the way I wanted. So I tried again, changing the amounts of liquids yet keeping all of the flavors. My second attempt was successful!
That night SensitiveHusband grilled us each a hamburger. I loaded mine with lettuce, tomato and ketchup, all sandwiched between a fresh, homemade bun. My meal tasted so good, and I was proud of myself for not letting these food sensitivities get in the way of my summery treat.

Yeast-free, Sugar-free Ketchup
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon soy sauce (or tamari sauce)

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and serve.

I am also sharing this recipe with Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, Everyday Sisters, This Chick Cooks, Lady Behind the Curtain, Miz Helen’s Country Cottage and Food Trip Friday.

Fresh Ideas for Dressing Your Salads

Below are three salad dressings to try whether at home, at a restaurant, or on the go.

The first idea, shown in the picture, comes from a supportive reader of this blog who regularly makes her own salad dressings to use throughout the workweek. She got creative and made one without balsamic vinegar (so it is free of brewer’s yeast) and cane sugar. Here is the recipe:

Natalie’s Lemon Honey Dressing: Mix 1/4 cup water, 1/2 cup lemon juice, 3/4 cup canola oil, and 2tbs honey together. Add seasonings such as garlic, garlic powder, salt, pepper, or fresh herbs. Keep in a sealed container and refrigerate until it is time for a salad course.

The second idea came to me when sensitivehusband and I were out to dinner last week. I wanted to order a salad before my meal but could not select a dressing because each either had balsamic vinegar, cane sugar or both. I am not sure whether it was a moment of clarity or just a strong desire to not eat dry lettuce, but I came up with an idea. I asked our server to bring me some olive oil and a wedge of lemon with my salad. Add a little pepper to that combination and you have a tasty and refreshing accompaniment to your greens.

And last, but certainly not least, is a delicious store-bought salad dressing. Annie’s Organic Green Garlic Salad Dressing can be found at health foods stores, major grocery stores in the organic section, and online. It is a wonderful mixture of vegetable oil, spinach, garlic, parsley, lemon and other seasonings, along with being a vinegar and cane sugar free option.

I hope you find these ideas to be useful. If you have other tips for salad dressings, please share them!