Homemade Yogurt Cheese – 3 flavors

Homemade Yogurt Cheese

 

 

“I received a gift card to offset the expense of my ingredients. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the California Milk Advisory Board and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.”

Today I’m sharing my recipe for homemade yogurt cheese with you. TheRecipeRedux and the California Milk Advisory Board are sponsoring a contest to celebrate the theme “dairy good”, and have asked the members of TheRecipeRedux  (this includes me) to come up with a lightened version of a favorite recipe using real California milk and cheese products.

Homemade yogurt cheese is simple to make and it’s a great way to add flavor to fruit, veggie sticks, breakfast toast, sandwiches, bruschetta, and whatever else you can think of. Occasionally, my kids love getting bagels from the corner bagel shop. Thirteen bagels come in a bucket along 2 containers of flavored cream cheese—your choice of flavors. The prepared cream cheese spreads taste good, but they have too much added sugar, and the cream cheese spreads are loaded with more saturated fat than I want for myself and for my family. Homemade yogurt cheese is less sweet and has only about ¼ the saturated fat than cream cheese ounce per ounce; and it has less than half the calories. So to eat healthy you can make your own yogurt cheese using one of your favorite yogurt brands (mine are Brown Cow Farms and Straus Family Creamery), and then buy the bucket of bagels minus the cream cheese.

For my yogurt cheese I bought 3 quarts of California yogurt of different flavors; Brown Cow Maple, Brown Cow Vanilla, and Straus Lowfat Organic. We enjoyed eating half the yogurt from each container and I used the other half of each container to make 3 different flavors of cheese. You can also add your own flavorings to the cheese, as I did with the Strauss Plain Organic; I added garlic, parsley, salt and chives. You might want to add fresh fruit to the vanilla and maple flavors. It’s all up to you and your tastebuds. Enjoy!

Related Article: Yogurt is a Winning Healthy Food Choice

Reference: YouTube Video

Homemade Yogurt Cheese – 3 flavors

Prep Time: 24 minutes

Total Time: 17 hours

Yield: (3) 3/4 cup final products

Serving Size: about 2 to 3 tablespoons

Homemade Yogurt Cheese – 3 flavors

I recommend starting to strain the yogurt about noon and then placing the strained yogurt into the molds around 10:00 p.m. They will be ready to unmold in the morning. When I refer to a strip of cheese cloth it is understood that it is two pieces —this is the way they are made. See below **Notes for materials needed.

Ingredients:

  • 3 pints California yogurt of different flavors
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon minced chives
  • pinch of salt
  • Possible Garnishes:
  • Berries
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup

Procedure:

  1. Place the strainer over or in a large bowl. Lay a 17 inch strip cheese cloth in the sieve with with edges hanging over the sides of the sieve. Place a second strip in the sieve crossing the first piece on the perpendicular.
  2. Place two cups of yogurt in the sieve.
  3. Gather up the edges of the cheese cloth and tie it closed with a rubber band, as close to you yogurt as you can go.
  4. Pass the chopstick through the rubber band and place the chop stick and dangling yogurt bag the top to a jar or tall bowl to drain. Discard the whey, or liquid, that strains through the bag.
  5. After eight to ten hours remove the bag from the stick.
  6. Prepare (3) 1-cup molds by lining each one with a piece of cheese cloth about 9 inches long.
  7. For the Garlic Parsley Cheese:
  8. Remove the strained plain yogurt from the bag and mix the yogurt with the garlic, parsley and pinch of salt.
  9. Place the yogurt in the mold.
  10. For all the molds:
  11. After spooning the strained yogurt into each of the molds top each with a small piece of plastic. Leave the cheesecloth flaps open and then place the card board cut out on top of the plastic.
  12. Place a can on top of the cardboard to act as a weight.
  13. Next morning or afternoon unmold the cheese and garnish.

**Notes - you will need: 2 packages of cheesecloth (2 yards each pack), a sieve, 3 containers for draining,3 rubber bands or string, 3 chopsticks or long pencils, 3 pieces of cardboard cut to the size of the mold (for pressing), and 3 cans (for weights).

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Homemade Yogurt Cheese 2

This recipe is posted at at Hearth and Soul, SimpleSupperTuesday, Tuesday’s Table, Totally Tasty Tuesdays,  Wonderfully Creative Wednesday, Full Plate Thursdays and Thriving on Thursdays

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Flourless Pecan Sandies Cookies

Flourless Pecan Sandies Cookies

 

This is Ina Friday which falls on the first Friday of the month when a group of bloggers come together to blog about one of Ina’s recipes and make the food from the original recipe. Another option we have is to create or modify one of her recipes after being inspired by it. I’m taking the second road and developing a healthier recipe based on one of Ina’s.

 

This week the members of the Ina Garten blog group are making a dessert, or something sweet and this worked out perfectly for me because the other day I saw some flourless cashew butter chocolate chip cookies on Sue’s site TheViewFromGreatIsland, so when I saw Ina’s recipe for Pecan Sandies in her book Barefoot Contessa Foolproof, I had an Eureka moment; I could make flourless pecan sandies cookies!

Do you know how good pecans are for you? The ORAC rating system was developed by the National Institute on Aging and it rates foods by the amount of antioxidants they have. Antioxidants are what clean up the free radicals in our bloodstream, making us healthier, and among the nut family, pecans rate the highest on the scale.

Due to the amount sugar in most cookies, they are not a good choice for maintaining in a healthy body. But in this recipe for flourless pecan sandies cookies, by choosing pecans as the main ingredient, eliminating the butter, lowering the amount of sugar, and eliminating the flour—which converts to sugar, you can enjoy a couple of cookies and not feel guilty about it.

And the taste? They were an all round hit with everyone at my house. Both my sons loved them! Think pecan pie in the form of a cookie, but only healthier and still having great flavor. Need I say more? I should also add that they are dairy-free, grain-free, and gluten-free. Try them and let me know what you think.

References: 

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/eating-antioxidants-for-a-better-you/

http://www.phytochemicals.info/list-orac-values.php

Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links. I use all of the products listed below and recommend them because they are products that I find useful.

Flourless Pecan Sandies Cookies 3

Flourless Pecan Sandies Cookies

Prep Time: 7 minutes

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: (48) 3-1/2 inch cookies

Serving: 2 cookies

Flourless Pecan Sandies Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 cups pecans, or 2 cups pecan butter plus 1 cup pecan halves
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil, flax seed oil, or avocado oil

Procedure:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 325°
  2. Reserve 48 pecans to decorate the top of the cookies.
  3. Spread 4 cups pecans on a jelly-roll pan, or a roasting pan, and place it in the oven to toast them for 5 minutes.
  4. Place 2 cups of the toasted nuts in the food processor with 1 teaspoon olive oil and process until the nuts are smooth and creamy like peanut butter. Repeat with the remaining 2 cups of nuts and 1 teaspoon oil.
  5. In a mixing bowl, add the sugar, salt and the baking soda. Stir well. Whisk in the 2 eggs and then add the nut butter and stir until the nut butter and eggs are well incorporated.
  6. Use a small ice-cream scoop to measure out the cookies and place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. (The ice-cream scoop should measure, or have a diameter of 1-inch from side to side.)
  7. Bake for 12 to 13 minutes. They will be soft when they come out of the oven but they will firm up. Allow them to rest for a couple of minutes before transferring them to a cookie rack to cool.

These cookies taste best on the first day they are made. I recommend freezing any cookies you don't plan to eat the day they are baked, and then pull them out of the freezer about 30 minutes before you want to eat them.

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Flourless Pecan Sandies Cookies 2

Weight Watchers Points: 6 per serving. One serving is 2 cookies.

Nutrition Facts Flourless Pecan Sandies
Be sure to check out what the other Ina Friday bloggers have come up:

Alyce @ More Time at the Table, Anna @ Cheese with Noodles, Ansh @  Spice Roots , Barbara @ Moveable Feasts,   Bhavna @ Just a Girl From AAmchi Mumbai, Chaya @  Bizzy Bakes, Linda,  @ Tumbleweed Contessa, Mary @ The     Egg Farm, Minnie @ The Lady 8 Home, Mireya @ My Healthy Eating Habits, Patti @ Comfy Cuisine, Peggy@ Pantry Revisited, Rocky Mountain Woman @ Rocky Mountain Woman, Veronica@ My Catholic Kitchen

This recipe is also posted at Full Plate ThursdayWeek-end Re-treat, Thriving on ThursdaysFoodie Friday and Foodie Friday 2

Sweet Potato Patties with Egg

 

Sweet Potato Patties

 

Today I’m making some delicious sweet potato patties. Did you ever make patty cakes when you were little? You might have even sung the pat-a-cake, or patty cake song as you made them. “Patty cake, patty cake, baker’s man. Bake me a cake as fast as you can. Pat it, and roll it, and stick it in the oven, and bake that cake for baby and me!”

Making any kind of patty always takes me back  to those childhood memories. I really enjoyed making them as a little girl, but now when I make them they are with real, and delicious food and what could be more enjoyable than that? I was going to tell you about big muddy messes my little brother used to make when he was little but my son Gabriel told me it would be better to leave it out. You wouldn’t want people mixing that image with delicious food.

Sweet Potatoes are considered a power food. They are high in vitamin A and C, and they are also a good source of manganese, copper, vitamin B6 , potassium and fiber. They also have anti-inflammatory properties and blood sugar regulating benefits. Consider that when you eat sweet potato patties you’re doing your body a lot of good. Maybe if kids were allowed to make sweet potato patties they might forget about those nasty old mud pies.

Sweet Potato Patties with Egg

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

3 cups

1/2 cup

Sweet Potato Patties with Egg

This recipe is gluten-free and dairy-free.

Ingredients:

  • ½ C. finely chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup organic cornmeal
  • 2 pounds oven roasted sweet potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons coconut flour
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon chipotle powder, or cayenne
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • 6 eggs
  • Pinch Spanish paprika to sprinkle on eggs

Procedure:

  1. Sauté the onion and garlic in 1-1/2 teaspoons olive oil until the onions are transparent.
  2. Mash the sweet potato and then add the cooked onions, coconut flour, salt, chipotle powder, cumin and parsley. Combine well and then place the mixture in the refridgerator for 2 hours.
  3. Pre-heat the flat grill.
  4. Form the mixture into (6) 1/2 cup patties. Dip each side of the patties in the cornmeal. Spread 2 teaspoons olive oil on a flat grill or skillet and place the patties in it. Cook for 5 minutes on medium heat and then flip the cakes over for another 4 to 5 minutes. Once you have flipped the patties you can start cooking the eggs.
  5. Use the remaining oil to fry the eggs easy over style. When they are ready place one egg on top of each patty.

This dish is best to make when you already have leftover baked sweet potatoes on hand. Add another hour for baking if you don't have any cooked potatoes on hand.

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Sweet Potato Patty 2

Weight Watcher Points: 6 per serving and there are 6 servings

Nutrition Facts Sweet Potato Patties

This recipe is posted at at Hearth and SoulSimpleSupperTuesdayTuesday’s TableTotally Tasty Tuesdays,  and Wonderfully Creative Wednesday

Blackberry Almond Smoothie – a Powerfood Beverage

Blackberry Almond Smoothie

 

This week I made a blackberry almond smoothie with 2 power foods: blackberries, and almond, as you might have guessed.  It’s not the first time a smoothie has been posted here. There have also been Ph Green, Blueberry, and  Swiss Chard, but this is the first time I’ve added a nut butter to the mix and it really makes a difference! The nut butter adds creaminess so instead of thinking you’re having a smoothie, it feels like you’re having soft ice-cream—so buttery and smooth. Bear in mind that this is the only smoothie I’ve added a sweetener to, but it is a much better option than ice-cream. This icy treat has no preservatives, it’s much lower in sugar than ice cream, it uses a natural sugar, and it’s got fiber, potassium, vitamin E, and magnesium. The idea of adding nut butter came after seeing and making this awesome chocolate milkshake from TheDetoxinista.com. You’ve got to try it!

In reference to a six-month study, James Clear wrote in an article for the Huffington Post that environment designs can have an influence on your eating habits. The study was done in a hospital cafeteria. No one said anything to the cafeteria customers, but the researchers place water in strategic locations throughout the cafeteria, making them more visible to customers. Soda sales dropped by 11.4% over a 3 month period and water sales rose by 25.8 percent. This is why grocers place the more expensive items  at eye level in the grocery market, because a person is more likely to choose it because it is more visible.

James Clear, suggests that if you want to change your eating habits change your environment. Place the healthier foods toward the front of the refrigerator. And I would say place your ice cream, if you have any, hidden from view; place peeled frozen bananas, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and frozen spinach in an easy to reach spot.

Blackberry Almond Smoothie – a Powerfood Beverage

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 5 minutes

2 cups

1 cup per serving

Blackberry Almond Smoothie – a Powerfood Beverage

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup blackberries
  • 1 banana, frozen and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon agave syrup
  • 5 ice cubes

Procedure:

  1. Place the blackberries at the bottom of you blender and top with the remaining ingredients. Process until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
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Blackberry Almond Smoothie 2

Weight Watcher’s Points: 4 per serving and there are 2 servings

Nutrition Facts: Blackberry Almond Smoothie

This recipe is also posted at Full Plate Thursday, Week-end Re-treat, Foodtastic Friday and Foodie Friday

 

Mediterranean Garden Lasagna

Mediterranean Garden Lasagna

 

Last week we had family in town and I felt inspired to make a vegetarian dish that my husband appropriately named Mediterranean Garden lasagna due to of all the vegetables in the dish that are typically used in the Mediterranean region. Winter is not the same if I don’t make at least one lasagna, and this year, despite the warm weather we’re having in AZ, I managed to make two of them. This because the men in my family were calling out for la-sa-gna! la-sa-gna! La-sa-gna!

The thing about lasagna is that if you have a really really big pan, say 11.5 x 16, you can make a meal for about 16 people. Depending on how many times the relatives go back for a seconds you may have leftovers for another one or two meals. I know it’s time consuming to make a good lasagna. That’s true. But, consider that you won’t have to cook at least one other day, you’ll enjoy a wonderful meal, and you’ll get to reap the rewards of praise for the extra tasty dish you made. And if you have more lasagna left-over than you can eat you can just freeze it until a day comes along when you don’t feel like cooking—(yay, reserves!)

Some of my readers like to know the nutritional fact about the recipes that I make and post, so I have started to use the calculators on caloriecount.com and WeightWatchers.com to help my readers know if a dish is right for their diet. This information will always be posted at the bottom of each post. How about you? Is there something you would like to see on this blog? Perhaps you have a particular dish you would like to see me post? Leave a comment telling me.

Mediterranean Garden Lasagna

Prep Time: 2 hours

Cook Time: 1 hour

Yield: 16 pieces

Mediterranean Garden Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • 2 boxes of lasagna noodles – I use the Barilla brand with the curly edges
  • ½ large onion, chopped into 1/3-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing or spraying on the vegetables
  • 1-1/2 pounds mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • ½ pound fresh spinach, washed, stems discarded
  • 1 pound zucchini
  • ½ pound asparagus (See **notes; use an extra ½ pound of spinach if you don’t want asparagus)
  • 4 red bell peppers, roasted (recipe follows)
  • 1-1/4 pound 2% cottage cheese, or ricotta (the nutrition facts are figured with cottage cheese)
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 pound part skim mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 6 cups white sauce (recipe for béchamel sauce follows in procedures)
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • For the Béchamel Sauce:
  • 6 cups non-fat milk, or 2% milk
  • 8 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup flour
  • ¼ cup minced shallots
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Procedure:

    Roast the Bell Peppers:
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400° F. Slice the red bell peppers in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Line a jelly-roll pan, or a bar cookie pan with tin foil. You many need to join 2 sheets of foil together. Lightly spray the foil with olive oil, or brush the oil on. Arrange the peppers on the pan cut side down and bake for 25 minutes. After this time flip the peppers over and bake another 25 to 30 minutes, or until the peppers are tender and the skin comes off easily. Remove them from the oven and place them in a plastic bag for 20 minutes. This will make it easier to peel them. After 20 minutes remove and discard the peels. Slice each ½ pepper into 2 or 3 pieces.
  2. Cook the Mushrooms:
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. When the oil is hot onions and cook them until they are nearly translucent. Add the garlic and stir for 2 minutes, and then add the mushrooms and cook them until they have released their moisture and they are fully cooked. While the mushrooms are cooking you can start heat the grill for the zucchini.
  4. Grill the Zucchini:
  5. Slice the zucchini lengthwise and brush them lightly with olive oil, and then sprinkle them with a little salt. Arrange them on the grill and cook them until they have nice grill marks but they are still a little firm. Flip them over and continue cooking until you see the grill marks, but they are only three-quarters cooked. They will finish cooking in the lasagna.
  6. Steam the Spinach:
  7. Wash the spinach and discard the stems. Place the spinach in a large skillet with 2 tablespoons of water, and lightly salt it. Cover with the lid and cook until the spinach is cooked, about 3 to 4 minutes. You will have to repeat this process at least one more time, even more times if you are omitting the asparagus and using twice as much spinach. When the spinach is thoroughly cooked rinse it under cold water and then squeeze the spinach into a ball making sure you have squeezed all the moisture out. Let the ball rest for 2 or 3 minutes and then squeeze again the get all the moisture out. Set the spinach aside.
  8. Cook the (optional) Asparagus:
  9. You can either steam or grill the lightly salted asparagus until it is three-quarters cooked and then cool it under cold water, or plunge it into an ice bath of water and ice. Set it aside when it is ready.
  10. Combine the Cheese mixture:
  11. Crack the eggs into a medium bowl and discard the shells. Add the cottage cheese and 5 tablespoons parmesan cheese. Stir well and set this aside.
  12. Make the White Sauce:
  13. Heat the olive oil and the shallots to medium low heat in a large thick-bottomed saucepan and cook the shallots until they are translucent. Add the flour stirring it frequently, until it turns a golden sandy color, about 4 to 5 minutes.
  14. Turn up the heat to medium and whisk in milk a little at a time. After all the milk has been added, drop in the bay leaf and continue whisking the sauce. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue cooking, stirring often for about 15 minutes, or until the sauce is medium thick and no longer tastes of gritty flour. Remove the bay leaf and season with the salt and nutmeg. Keep the sauce cover until you are ready to layer the lasagna.
  15. Cook the Lasagna Noodles:
  16. Bring 4 to 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Since you will be cooking nearly two boxes of noodles it’s best to cook them in 2 batches—18 noodles in each batch. Cook the noodles until they are about three-quarters of the way done. They will finish cooking in the oven. The cooking time on the stove top will take 6-7 minutes once the water comes to a boil. Place them on a tray and spray them lightly with olive oil so they don't stick together before you can get them into the pan.
  17. Pre-Layer the lasagna, and preheat the oven to 400°:
  18. Spread 2 cups of tomato sauce in the bottom of an 11.5 x 16 inch pan
  19. Layer 1:
  20. 7 lasagna noodles topped with 1 cup white sauce, and then ¼ the cottage cheese mixture, ¼ of the mozzarella, and ½ of the cooked spinach
  21. Layer 2:
  22. 7 lasagna noodles topped with 1 cup white sauce, ¼ the cottage cheese mixture, ¼ of the mozzarella and all the cooked mushrooms
  23. Layer 3:
  24. 7 lasagna noodles topped with 1 cup white sauce, ¼ the cottage cheese mixture, ¼ of the mozzarella the red bell peppers and the optional asparagus
  25. Layer 4:
  26. 7 lasagna noodles topped with 1 cup white sauce, ¼ the cottage cheese mixture, ¼ of the mozzarella and the remaining spinach
  27. Layer 5:
  28. 7 lasagna noodles topped with 2 cups white sauce sprinkled with 3 tablespoons parmesan cheese.
  29. Bake:
  30. Cover the lasagna with tin foil and place the lasagna on the middle shelf of the oven. Bake 35 minutes, remove the foil, and then bake another 25 minutes.

**Notes - If you decide to use asparagus please be advised that it can be a little tricky. Look for an asparagus bunch where the stalks are all of a similar length and circumference. You will pre-cook them until they are 3/4's done, but if they are of different sizes some may not be cooked to the right point and then they could be undercooked in the final product.

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Mediterranean Garden Lasagna 2

Weight Watchers Points: 14 points per serving and there are 16 servings.

(Points are calculated using the Weight Watcher’s Recipe Builder.)

Nutrition FactsThis recipe is posted at at Hearth and SoulSimpleSupperTuesday,  Tuesdays Table, Totally Tasty TuesdaysTuesday Talent ShowFreshFoodsWednesday, Food of the World, and Wonderfully Creative Wednesday

Homemade Chai Tea

 

Homemade Chai Tea

 

 

Have you ever had homemade chai tea? It’s delicious and if you’ve never had it now’s the time to get out a pot and get it going. This month members of  the Recipe ReDux group are blogging about a healthy beverage. I love chai! But I’ve been pretty lazy and have just been buying the prepackaged tea bag versions from Tazo or Trader’s Joe’s. They are both good but they are not as good as homemade chai tea.

I guess you could say that I really started liking it last summer while I was in Barcelona for a few days.  A friend of ours from the city took us on a fantastic walking tour all over town. She talked to us about the architecture, politics, food and so on. Isn’t it great when you can see a place with a person who lives there? You get to learn little details that you’d never learn on your own. Anyway, it was a hot afternoon and when we were good and tired she took us to a small tea room. It was my first experience of going to a tea room and it was also my first time to drink homemade chai, and they were both great first time experiences. I will visit a tea room again, and as you can see, I am drinking chai again.

Being inquisitive, I asked the tea maker what she put in the tea and she said there are six ingredients: black tea, cardamom, cinnamon, black peppercorns, fresh ginger, and star anise. I later learned that there are many variations of chai and in India they make if different from city to city.  But these combined 6 ingredients tasted very good to me so that’s what I’m sticking with for now. Later on I might try adding a quarter stick of vanilla and some orange peel—experimentation is always fun. And you can adjust the spices as you like. You don’t like cardamom? Use less of that and more of something else. It’s all good. Make it to suit your own taste.

Resources: Food Network and Chai-tea.org

Homemade Chai Tea

Prep Time: 3 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 23 minutes

Yield: About 7 cups

About 1 cup

Homemade Chai Tea

Ingredients:

  • 10 cardomom pods
  • 1 large stick cinnamon
  • 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced into quarters through the cross grain
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 3 star anise
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons black tea, or 7 teabags
  • 7 cups of water
  • 1 cup milk, soymilk, or other type of milk
  • Honey or agave syrup to taste

Procedure:

  1. Place the cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, peppercorns, and star anise into a pot with 7 cups of water. Bring it to a boil and allow it to boil gently for 5 minutes. After this time cover the pot and let it steep for 10 minutes.
  2. Add the tea and bring the mix to a boil. When it reaches a boil turn down the heat and let it simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Strain the tea and then add the milk. Add the honey or agave to taste.
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Homemade Chai Tea 2

This recipe is also posted at: Whimsy WednesdaysFull Plate ThursdayShowcase Your Talent ThursdayWeek-end Re-treatFoodtastic Friday, and Foodie Friday

 


7 Health Benefits of Mint – my favorite is #6

7 Health Benefits of Mint

 

The other day as I was thinking of writing a post about tips for losing weight I came across a couple of articles about mint and decided to write about mint instead. Mint has long been known for it’s uses in cooking. You can check out a couple of my delicious recipes that use mint here: sweet potatoes with apples and mint, and grilled lamb chops with yogurt mint sauce, but mint also has many beneficial properties for health and grooming. There are many purposes for this herb—too many to outline here. The following are just 7 health benefits of mint:

  1.  Breathe Easier – Have you ever seen people inhaling steam when they have a cold or congestion? This is a traditional medicine cure to help clear symptoms of cold and congestion. The procedure is to make an herbal steam bath by pouring boiling water over herbs in a bowl and then covering your head with a towel, closing your eyes, and leaning in over the bowl to breathe in the steam through the nose for 5 to 10 minutes. See these suggested recipes at LovetoKnow.com. Dr. Joseph Mercola says mint is a good expectorant and decongestant. He suggests rubbing the essential oil on your chest to clear congestion, or inhaling it through a vaporizer to relieve cough and cold symptoms (Mercola).
  2. Muscle Pain – Peppermint extract can be used to rub into sore muscles. Simply rub the extract into the muscles to relieve the pain.
  3. Mint to Lose Weight –In an article for Lifehacker, Mikael Cho wrote that he had the tendency to overeat at meals so he used mint to help suppress his appetite after the meal. He chewed on a piece of gum because the mint acts as a natural suppressant. His reasoning for this comes from a study at the University of West Virginia which found that people in the experiment who inhaled mint throughout the day consumed about 3000 less calories per week. At Livestong.com Erin Beck suggests that mint tea may cause some people to loss weight because it reduces bloating.
  4. Keep Your Mouth and Teeth Healthy – Have you ever noticed how clean your teeth feel after chewing on mint gum or brushing your teeth with mint flavored toothpaste? Tip #2 was the lead into tip #3 because when you’re chewing on that piece of mint gum after your meal the mint helps to inhibit the growth of bacteria and it leaves your mouth feeling fresh and clean.
  5. Help Relieve the Symptoms of IBS – Mint seems to be a safe and effective way of treating Irritable Bowel Symptom, a disease which symptoms may include abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, or constipation. Dr. Mercola points out that some doctors use Peppermint oil capsules as drug of first choice in IBS patients (Mercola).
  6. Headaches – This is my favorite use for mint. I don’t get headaches very often but now when I do I reach for a Mygra Stickwhich is a peppermint and lavender extract roll-on that works quickly to relieve or clear my headache symptoms. I roll in on the temples and behind the ears works fast at making me feel better. Next time you have a stress headache instead of taking aspirin try dabbing mint extract on the temples
  7. Reduce Stress – Next time you get all worked up take a whiff of mint extract. It works to cool and energize you. Dr. Mercola suggests taking a bath and putting a few drops of mint into the water, or putting the essential oil on an herbal oil burner to relieve the symptoms of stress.

Have you found mint to improve your well-being in any area? Tell me about it in the comment section below. I like to keep track of these things. In fact I’ve started my own little book of folk remedies, so please let me know how you are using mint, or any other herb that you take comfort from.

 

 

Gourmet Pizza with Ahh …mazing Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Gourmet Pizza with Ah...mazing Cauliflower Crust

 

Today’s recipe is for a gourmet pizza with an ahh …mazing cauliflower pizza crust. A few weeks ago after I posted Coca—a Healthy Pizza, one of my Facebook friends sent me a this link for cauliflower crust pizza. I’d never even heard that you could do that, but I thought it might be worth looking into. It turns out that this vegetable crust isn’t such a big secret. It seems like everyone is making this crust and someone just forgot to tell me about it. That’s why I’m telling you about it, in case someone also forgot to tell you about it, too. But look at the list of bloggers and cooks who are in on the secret: TheLuckyPennyBlog, SavoryLotus, Hungry Girl, Detoxinista, Recipe Girl, Paula Deen, and many others.

Cauliflower pizza crust is also much faster to make than regular pizza crust. My Tex-Mex pie takes about 3 hours with a regular crust. With this vegetable crust I can get the whole thing done start to finish in just 1 hour and 15 minutes. Now that’s what call progress. And talk about healthy. This pizza earns 5 stars for My Healthy Eating Habits. This recipe is vegetarian/vegan, diary-free, grain-free, great for weight watchers, and other dieters, and the taste is excellent. And if you like meat you can have your pizza and eat it too. Just like traditional pizzas you can top top it with tomato sauce and pepperoni, ham, sausage, whatever you like, knowing you’re doing your body a little good with the healthier vegetable crust.

Amazon Related Items: Tea Towels, Pizza Stone, Large Spatula

Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links. I use all of the products listed below and recommend them because they are products that I find useful.

Gourmet Pizza with Ahh …mazing Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Prep Time: 40 hours

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Yield: 3 large slices

Gourmet Pizza with Ahh …mazing Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1-1/2 pounds raw cauliflower, broken into flowerets
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound raw onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon dry oregano
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried unsalted onion flakes
  • 2 teaspoons Balsamic Glaze, Trader Giotto's (Trader Joe’s)
  • 3 tablespoons dry roasted pistachios, Flanagan Farms
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes, oil packed
  • 1-1/2 cup arugula, washed

Procedure:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to °400 F.
  2. Process the cauliflower in 3 or 4 batches for a few seconds until is has a texture similar to sand, rice, or snow, as these are some the ways the texture is described. Do not over process or it will become soggy.
  3. Place the cauliflower in a pot with 2 tablespoons of water. Put the lid on the pot and steam on medium low heat until the water is absorbed, about 8 minutes. Watch it carefully, and add a bit more water if necessary. It should be cooked but not mushy.
  4. Open a tea towel on the counter top and take half of the steamed cauliflower and shape it into a mound on the long side of the tea towel facing toward you. Keep the cauliflower row 3-1/2 to 4 inches from each end.
  5. Roll up the tea towel from the cauliflower side to the other side, as you would jelly roll cake. Twist the towel to squeeze out the water. Open up the towel, fluff up the cauliflower, and then roll it and squeeze it a second time. Place the squeezed cauliflower in a bowl.
  6. Repeat the roll and squeeze process with the remaining cauliflower, and then place it in the bowl, too.
  7. Add the oregano, nutritional yeast, garlic salt, onion flakes and stir well. Add the egg and stir until everything is well incorporated.
  8. Get out a piece of parchment paper about 15 x 15 lightly oil it with olive oil. Shape the cauliflower into a pizza pie about 12 to 13 inches in diameter, and about 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick. Bake it 30 minutes, or until it is golden.
  9. While the pizza is in the oven it’s time to carmelize the onion. Pour the oil into a skillet and gently cook the onions until they are golden. This should take about 25 to 30 minutes.
  10. Remove the crust from the oven and place the caramelized onions on top followed with ½ of the sun-dried tomatoes and pistachios. Top with the arugula and then sprinkle with the remaining sun-dried tomatoes and pistachios. Finally, use the balsamic glaze in a zig zag pattern over the top, just about 2 teaspoons worth.
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Cauliflower Crust 2

 Weight Watcher’s Points: 7 points per Serving and there are 3 servings.

Points are calculated using the Weight Watcher’s Recipe Builder.

Cauliflower crust Nutrition Facts This Recipe is posted at at Hearth and Soul, SimpleSupperTuesdayTuesdays Table, Totally Tasty Tuesdays, and Tuesday Talent ShowFreshFoodsWednesday, and Wonderfully Creative Wednesday

Whole Wheat Penne with Vodka Sauce

Whole Wheat Penne with Vodka Sauce

 

It’s hard to believe we’re already a week into February. This calls for whole wheat penne with vodka sauce. I don’t know—any excuse will do, right? It’s also Ina Friday and that’s the real reason I chose to make this recipe.

Ina Friday falls on the first Friday of the month when a group of bloggers come together to blog about one of Ina’s recipes and make the food from the original recipe. Another option we have is to create or modify one of her recipes after being inspired by it. I’m taking the second road and developing a healthier recipe based on one of Ina’s, that she got from Chef Joe Realmuto, of Nick and Toni’s restaurant in East Hampton. It’s called penne alla vecchia bettola, but I call it whole wheat penne with vodka sauce, a vegetarian meal. Find the original recipe in Ina’s book Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust.

Some of my friends have asked me to come up with dishes that taste like you’re cheating, but have less calories and fat. What did I do with this recipe to make it healthier? I cut out the cream, and reduced the Parmesan cheese by 75%, used fresh vegetables instead of canned, reduced the olive oil by 50 percent, and used whole grain pasta instead of white. You might be wondering it if a dish could still taste good after all the cuts—believe me it does. The freshly cooked vegetables add a lot of flavor, and the pine nuts I add to the recipe add good fats the body craves. The flavor of parmesan is important too, to make you feel like you’re indulging, so I mix a small amount of the cheese with bread crumbs for more volume. It’s delicious. Serve it along with a big green mixed salad.

Related Amazon Products: Lodge Enameled Dutch Oven, and Collapsible Colander Large
Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links. I use all of the products listed below and recommend them because they are companies that I have found helpful and trustworthy. 

Don’t forget to check out what the Ina Garten food bloggers have come up with.

See the links after the recipe.

Whole Wheat Penne with Vodka Sauce

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 5 servings

About 1-1/2 cup

Whole Wheat Penne with Vodka Sauce

Ingredients:

    For the Pasta and the Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-½ cups chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons oregano, dried
  • 1 tablespoon flour (white or whole wheat)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 tomato, about ½ pound
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 2 cups water
  • Salt
  • For the Topping:
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 5 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 13.25 ounce box whole wheat penne (I use Barilla)

Procedure:

  1. Heat the olive oil to an 6-quart pot and then add the onion and celery and sauté for until the onion is transparent. Next, add the garlic and stir for one minute.
  2. Add the ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, and then add the flour and stir for 2 to 3 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon.
  3. Add the vodka and cook 5 to 7 minutes, or until it is reduced by half. Next, add the oregano, chopped peppers, chopped tomatos and the 2 cups of water. Cook until the peppers are very tender, about 20-25 minutes. Stir frequently.
  4. Blend the pepper/tomato mix. I like to use an immersion hand blender, but a regular blender works fine, too. Blend until the sauce is creamy.
  5. Cook the pasta following the manufacturers directions on the box, and then place it in a large serving bowl. Pour the sauce over the pasta and stir well.
  6. Mix the parmesan cheese with the bread crumbs and sprinkle this over the pasta along with the toasted pine nuts and the parsley.
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Weight Watcher’s Points: 14 per serving

Penne Nutrition Facts

Be sure to check out what the other Ina Friday bloggers have come up:

Alyce @ More Time at the Table, Anna @ Cheese with Noodles, Ansh @  Spice Roots , Barbara @ Moveable Feasts,   Bhavna @ Just a Girl From AAmchi Mumbai, Chaya @  Bizzy Bakes, Linda,  @ Tumbleweed Contessa, Mary @ The     Egg Farm, Minnie @ The Lady 8 Home, Mireya @ My Healthy Eating Habits, Patti @ Comfy Cuisine, Peggy@ Pantry Revisited, Rocky Mountain Woman @ Rocky Mountain Woman, Veronica@ My Catholic Kitchen

 

Whole Wheat Penne with Vodka Sauce 2

This recipe is also posted at: Whimsy WednesdaysFull Plate Thursday, Showcase Your Talent ThursdayWeek-end Re-treatFoodtastic Friday, and Foodie Friday

Mediterranean Indulgence: an in-shell pistachio pairing

Mediterranean Indulgence: an in-shell pistachio paring

 

 

“By posting this pairing I am entering a contest sponsored by Pistachio Health Institute and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.”

 

Mediterranean Indulgence: an in-shell pistachio pairing is my entry in a contest sponsored by the Pistachio Health Institute in tandem with the RecipeRedux. The idea is to come up with a winning combination of in-shell pistachios with other food and drink. There are 4 categories and a winner is chosen from each one. The categories are: Mediterranean, reduced calorie, kid friendly, and indulgent. My pairing fits into the categories of Mediterranean, and indulgent.

The Pistachio Health Institute wants people to know that pistachios make a great healthy snack. They inform consumers that a one-ounce serving is about 49 nuts, and that a reduced serving of 30 nuts is around 100 calories. Here’s what the Institute says about the nuts: “Crack ‘em, Chew ‘em, Love ‘em, Leave ‘em.” So after you’ve cracked, eaten and enjoyed the nuts, leave the shells on the table. This will be a good visual reminder for you about how many you’ve eaten. One study showed that “People who consumed in-shell pistachios ate 41 percent fewer calories than those who consumed pistachios without shells.” So leave the empty shells on the table or in a dish.

For this pairing contest I knew my entry had to be Mediterranean, but it also turned out to be sensuously indulgent:

 

In-Shell Pistachios + Calimyrna Dried Figs + Lightly Aged Manchego

+ Osborne Cream Sherry = YUM!

Notice there are 2 salty items (Sa)—the pistachios and the Manchego, and there are 2 sweet items (Sw)—the figs and the Cream Sherry. I had enormous fun trying different combinations of these bites and sips: SwSwSaSa, SwSaSwSa, Sw+SwSa+Sa, SaSwSaSw, etc. Here is my favorite way (Sw+SwSa+Sa): I start with a little sip of sherry, and then I bite into a fig atop a small slice of Manchego. The soft jelly texture of the figs gushes out over the tongue and mixes with the dry Manchego for the pleasing sweet ‘n salty, soft ‘n firm experience. After that I crack open (nice sound effect here) and chew on a few pistachios, which add a new crunchy dimension to the mix, they clean the palate, and then I start the process over. YUM! 

To serve the pairing, place the figs, cheese and pistachios on a plate in the center of the table. Use additional  plates for more than 4 or 5 people. In a family setting, just leave the shells on the table. If you have guests you many want to provide each person with a small bowl for the empty shells. Enjoy!

 

1. Painter, J. “The Effect of Pistachio Shells as a Visual Cue in Reducing Caloric Consumption.”  Appetite. 2011, 57(2):418-420.

2. Honselman, C.S., Painter, J.E., Kennedy-Hagan, K.J., Halvorson, A., Rhodes, K., Brooks, T.L., & Skwir, K. “In-shell pistachio nuts reduce caloric intake compared to shelled nuts.” Appetite. 2011, 57(2):414-417.

Pistachio Paring 2

This Recipe is posted at at Hearth and Soul, What’s for Dinner, Tuesdays Table, Totally Tasty Tuesdays, and Tuesday Talent Show,