Thursday, July 24, 2014

Best Kids Lunches: Baked Raviolis

I don't know about you, but I am always on the run. From work to travel to spending time with friends and family, planning out lunches for my son is always the last thing on my mind. That is, until I get to daycare and realize I've packed him the same macaroni and cheese for the third day in a row. #parentfail

Enter The Best Homemade Kids' Lunches on the Planet. This amazing cookbook for busy parents shows us all how easy it can be to give our kids healthy, homemade, and fun lunches. Like this one below. If you haven't picked up your copy yet, what are you waiting for?

Baked Raviolis
Excerpted from The Best Homemade Kids' Lunches on the Planet by Laura Fuentes of MOMables

There is a popular restaurant that serves fried raviolis as an appetizer. My daughter tried them once and loved them. Not wanting to eat fried foods at home (not to mention the mess of frying anything), I decided to bake them instead. This recipe was an all-around success!

1 1/2 cups (175 g) plain Panko bread crumbs
3/4 cup (90 g) plain bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons (4 g) Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon (5 g) grated Parmesan cheese
3 eggs, beaten
24 frozen cheese raviolis
Olive oil spray

Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C, or gas mark 7), and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a shallow bowl, mix the bread crumbs, salt, Italian seasoning, and Parmesan cheese. In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil, cook the raviolis for 3 minutes, drain and allow them to cool for 5 for 10 minutes.

Begin the breading process by adding 4 raviolis at a time to the beaten eggs, and flip to coat. Transfer to the Parmesan and breadcrumb mixture, and toss to coat well. Place on the baking sheet.

Repeat the breading process with the remaining ravioli. Coat lightly with the olive oil spray and bake for 15 minutes.

Serve with ¼ cup (60 g) Veggie Tomato Sauce (see below)

For a school lunch: Make these ravioli for dinner the night before. Double this recipe if necessary. In the morning, lightly warm the ravioli and pack in a lunchbox. They are meant to be eaten at room temperature.

YIELD: 24 baked raviolis

Veggie Tomato Sauce

This is my go-to recipe for all things tomato sauce. With extra veggies and the option to make it in the crockpot or on the stovetop, it’s perfect for pasta, pizzas, school lunches, and dipping!

1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 medium zucchini, chopped
1 rib celery, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon (16 g) tomato paste
2 cans (28 ounces, or 1.6 kg) tomato purée
1 tablespoon (13 g) sugar

Crockpot directions: Place all ingredients in a crockpot and cook for 4 to 6 hours on low. Using an immersion blender, purée the sauce so that no veggie chunks remain. Add water if needed for a lighter sauce consistency.

Stove-top directions: Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the bell pepper, carrots, zucchini, celery, onions, garlic, and salt. Sauté until the veggies are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute more, stirring constantly.

Add the puréed tomatoes and sugar, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and purée with an immersion hand blender until smooth. Return the sauce to the heat and simmer until thick, 10 to 20 minutes. For a thicker sauce, simmer for an additional 30 minutes.

YIELD: Approximately 5 cups (1.2 kg)

Kitchen Note
If you don’t have an immersion blender, cook the sauce thoroughly and allow it to cool. Mix in your
blender (in small batches) so that no chunks remain.


The Best Homemade Kids' Lunches on the Planet

We all know that kids need to eat right and get the nutrition they need to be their best all day long. So why not make lunches that will power their growing brains and bodies? Making lunches at home is a great way to keep your child healthy. Not only does it allow you to nourish your child with the most pure and wholesome ingredients, but it also gives you the peace of mind of knowing what has gone into every bite your little one takes. Full of recipes to suit every age and stage, The Best Homemade Kids' Lunches on the Planet shows you how simple and easy it is to prepare food that'll be the envy of the lunch table. The 200+ adorable and inspiring recipes in this book are just as much a joy to make as they are to eat! There are even entire lunchbox meals that are gluten-, soy-, and/or nut-free. Make your own super-delicious, super-nutritious homemade lunches today--it's guaranteed to be at the top of the class!
Blogger Tricks

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Blueberry Muffin Streusel Mug Cakes

In my humble opinion, there is nothing more collectible in the world than a good, fun mug. I have a preposterous amount of mugs in my home and yet every time I travel and see another adorable mug, I can't help but bring it home with me. Laura knows all about this. She loves Starbucks mugs. hehe

Friends... Laura... Did you know you can make CAKE in your MUGS? This life-changing realization has made me one happy camper. It also made me feel that it was absolutely necessary to share a sneak peek recipe from the not-yet-published book 5-Minute Mug Cakes. Once you make this recipe at home (in less than 5 minutes!) and it blows your mind, go preorder your copy today. And then send your proof of purchase into the author and she'll sign your book for you. Amazing news? We think so.

Blueberry Muffin Streusel Mug Cakes
Excerpted from 5-Minute Mug Cakes by Jennifer Lee

I am a strong believer that streusel makes everything taste better. This muffin cake is studded with blueberries and then covered with a generous amount of streusel. The cake takes a little more effort if you want to add the topping, but streusel is always worth it, at least in my book!


4 tbsp (30 g) all-purpose flour
1⁄8 tsp baking powder
1⁄16 tsp baking soda
2 tsp granulated sugar
3 tbsp (45 ml) fat-free milk
½ tbsp (7.5 ml) vegetable oil
8 fresh blueberries

Streusel Topping (serves 2)

½ tbsp (7 g) cold butter, chopped into tiny pieces
¾ tbsp (5.6 g) all-purpose flour
1 tbsp (12.5 g) plus 1 tsp (4 g) light brown sugar
1⁄16 tsp ground cinnamon

For the Muffin: Combine all muffin ingredients except blueberries in an oversized microwave-safe mug. Mix with a small whisk until batter is smooth. Stir in blueberries.

For the Streusel Topping: In a separate small bowl, mix streusel ingredients until butter pieces are completely coated in the flour, sugar, and cinnamon.

Sprinkle crumbles of streusel on top of muffin batter, spreading out evenly across surface of batter.

Cook in microwave for about 1 minute. If cake is not done, heat an additional 15 seconds. Let cake cool a few minutes. Cake is best consumed while still warm or within a few hours of it being cooked.

Skip a Step!
If you don’t care for streusel, you can just exclude it and save some time. Or you can sprinkle coarse sugar on top as an alternative.


5-Minute Mug Cakes

Don't think you can make a warm, gooey homemade cake in under five minutes? Think again! 5-Minute Mug Cakes is the perfect gift for anyone with a mug, a microwave, and a dream. With nearly 100 delectable recipes for cakes, brownies, cookies, and more, every single recipe can be made in an ordinary, microwave-safe mug in just a few minutes. Author Jennifer Lee, creator of Kirbie's Cravings, guides you through simple recipe favorites like:

-2-Ingredient Flourless Nutella® Cake
-Salted-Caramel Chocolate Cake
-Funfetti Cake
-S'mores Cake
-Strawberries & Cream Cake
-Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
-Red Velvet Cake
-Lemon Dream Cake and dozens more!

Featuring special chapters like Skinny Mug Cakes (all under 200 calories!), Gluten-Free Mug Cakes, and even 4-Ingredients-or-Less Mug Cakes, there is no excuse for eating tasteless, packaged desserts anymore. Every recipe in 5-Minute Mug Cakes is simple, fast, and delicious. The best part? If you mix your ingredients right in your favorite mug, there is next to no cleanup!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Peach Pie

Are you planning on attending the Iowa State Fair this year? If so, why not enter a pie in our Ms. American Pie Contest on August 13th at 2 PM? Simply download this chapter from Beth's book on Pies to Compete in the Iowa State Fair and choose one to compete with.


1st place - $150 plus Beth’s new cookbook Ms. American Pie
2nd place - $100 plus Beth’s new cookbook Ms. American Pie
3rd place - $50 plus Beth’s new cookbook Ms. American Pie
Honorable Mention - Beth’s new cookbook Ms. American Pie
Each entrant will receive a discount coupon for books published by Quarto Publishing


Choose a recipe from the chapter “Pies to Compete in the Iowa State Fair” in Beth’s Ms. American Pie cookbook. There are 10 kinds of pie. You can do a variation on the recipes in the book. The crust must be homemade. Entries will be judged on flavor, consistency, crust, and appearance (pie should look ‘homemade’).

Class: 798 Ms. American Pie

Good luck! And in case you need some inspiration, here is one of our favorite pie recipes from Beth's book. Peach season is right around the corner, so here's to some amazing pies.

Peach Pie
Excerpted from Ms. American Pie by Beth Howard

My peach pie didn’t used to turn out very well. I had been using flour to thicken the filling and because the
peaches were so juicy I just kept adding more and more flour until I ended up with a gluey, mealy, inedible
mess. What was I thinking?! When I moved to Eldon, Iowa, the mayor of the town, Shirley Stacey, brought
me a slice of her peach pie. It was not gluey or mealy. It was so incredibly tasty and perfectly thickened, I had to learn her secret. In one word, it was this: tapioca. I’ve dubbed tapioca the Super Power of Thickeners because it always saves the day—and the pie.


Basic Pie Dough for double-crust pie (recipe here)

8 to 10 ripe peaches, peeled and sliced (number of peaches depends on size of fruit and size of your pie
dish, but have at least 3 pounds on hand)
1 cup sugar (if your peaches are super ripe and sweet use less)
¼ cup tapioca
½ tsp cinnamon (optional, but I love it)
1 tbsp butter, to pat on top of filling
1 beaten egg, to brush on top crust

I have three words for you: Vanilla. Ice. Cream.

Prepare the Basic Pie Dough for a double-crust recipe (recipe here).

Prepare the Filling: In a large bowl, combine peaches, sugar, tapioca, and cinnamon. Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes to let tapioca activate, then pour into pie shell.

Place pat of butter on top, then cover with top crust. Trim, crimp, brush with egg, and poke vent holes.
Bake at 425 degrees F for 20 minutes to set and brown crust, then turn oven down to 375 degrees F and bake for another 30 minutes. Filling should be bubbling and thickened.

My neighbor, Allen Morrison (the same adorable guy who supplies me with rhubarb), brings me crates of peaches from the Dutchman’s Store in Cantril, about 45 minutes away from the American Gothic House. He’s the one who insisted—and, as it turns out, rightly so— that blanching the peaches helps tremendously in removing the skin. Instead of peeling the peaches, the skin slides right off in one layer! To blanch, boil the peaches in a pot of water for just a few minutes to loosen the skin, then dip in cold water to cool them enough so you can handle them.


Ms. American Pie

Beth M. Howard knows about pie. She made pies at California’s Malibu Kitchen for celebrities including Barbra Streisand (lemon meringue), Dick Van Dyke (strawberry rhubarb), and Steven Spielberg (coconut cream) before moving back home to rural Iowa. She now lives in the famous American Gothic House (the backdrop for Grant Wood’s famous painting) and runs the hugely popular Pitchfork Pie Stand.

With full-color photos throughout, Ms. American Pie features 80 of Beth’s coveted pie recipes and some of her own true tales to accompany them. With chapters like Pies to Heal, Pies to Seduce, and Pies to Win the Iowa State Fair, Beth will divulge her secret for making a killer crust without refrigerating the dough and will show you how to break every rule you’ve ever learned about making delicious, homemade pie.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Comfort Food: Banana Bread with Pecans

Banana Bread With Pecans
Excerpted from Grit Magazine's Comfort Food Cookbook
Post written by Reggie Macon

I try to eat a banana every day to help maintain a good potassium level. I'm a fan of bananas but they always seem to ripen way before I can eat all of them in a hand. (If you did not know, a cluster of up to 20 bananas is called a hand. Hey, I try and teach when writing my blog posts.)

Anyway, this past weekend I had three very rip bananas I did not want to toss in the garbage. I looked for recipes that required bananas and decided to make a banana bread. When I think of banana bread, I think of fall or the holidays but I wanted it, so I made it.

This delicious banana bread recipe can be found in Grit Magazine's Comfort Food Cookbook. The book recommends you use very ripe bananas for the best flavor. The bananas I used must have been very ripe because the bread tasted amazing!

I don’t think I know of anyone that doesn't like banana bread. Make it for the holidays, as a treat for the kids on a rainy weekend, or bring it as a dessert to a cookout; it's a guaranteed party pleaser!

1½ cups self-rising flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
3 to 4 ripe bananas
2 eggs
½ cup pure lard or butter
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup chopped pecans

Heat oven to 350°F (180°C, or gas mark 4). Grease and flour a 9 x 5 x 4-inch loaf pan; set aside. In a large bowl, combine flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a separate bowl, mash the bananas; set aside. In another bowl, beat the eggs until light; set aside. In a large bowl, cream the lard or butter with the brown sugar for 3 minutes. Add vanilla and eggs and mix well. Fold in the mashed bananas and pecans. Add the combined dry ingredients and mix just until moistened. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.


Comfort Food Cookbook

This cookbook contains the best comfort food recipes from the files of Grit magazine. The recipes in this cookbook are a guide to simple and delicious comfort food, from a centuries worth of cooking. Comfort Food Cookbook brings together recipes for traditional comfort food with nostalgia for the kitchen of another era. Cook your heart out with 200 recipes--home-style favorites for each meal--illustrated with full-color photos and pages full of old recipe cards and letters from cooks of years past. With guidance from the editors of the popular Grit magazine (who personally selected these recipes from the magazine's archives), your favorite meals, along with your mom's, and even her mom's, will live again. Bring the best of Grit's comfort food recipes into the modern, twenty-first-century kitchen. Comfort Food Cookbook offers 200 recipes, organized by dish (breakfasts, soups and stews, sandwiches, breads, casseroles, sides, main dishes, cookies and bars, desserts, and preserves), as well as guides to measuring, storing, and entertaining.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Summer Cocktail Sunday: National Ice Cream Day! Plus, a Recap of True Blood S07E04

Happy National Ice Cream Day, Truebies! I'm celebrating by making a sweet, summer, ice cream pie from Heather O'Connell's Paleo Sweets and Treats. Or if you're looking for some other ice cream recipes, we have several right here!

I've also added a delicious Daredevil cocktail that will go perfectly and is super easy to make! But first, enjoy this spoilery goodness!

While Sookie phones Jackson, Alcide's father, to let him know the news, Jason has called Hoyt to tell him about his mother's death. It's nice to see these two characters come back to the show if only for a few moments and in a pretty heartfelt way. But the greatest part of this scene is to see how Jason and Sookie have changed since season one. Sookie used to be the one who felt more emotions, and she's turned hard, whereas Jason seems to have a lot more emotion and empathy than the rascal that we first met.

The best part of this episode is the Fangtasia Origin Story. The Magister is back and I missed how awesomely no-bull he was! After arriving from the Rhone Valley, Pam and Eric are forced to take over a video store with porn in the basement.

I would have to say that Pam's gasp made me laugh out loud but not as loud as when the Magister tossed the keys at her.

We, of course, got some obvious foreshadowing of the raid with the Underground Railroad tunnel (because, you know, we can't make it easy and just go through the front door). And then. You guys, and then we meet Ginger. She was smart, in college, a brunette?!

I love this. And then Eric blows in as a Jason Priestley impersonator and charms her into working the day shift at the video store.
Flash forward to a gothic Ginger, driving a hearse and hefting an old chair into the store, we learn, maybe one of the best things about the history of Fangtasia. It was ALL. GINGER'S. IDEA. Oh my god, yes. And even better, is that Pam, so thirsty for Eric's approval, pawned it off as her own scheme. This is just amazing.

Sookie, Jason, and Sam head over to visit Holly. Before going in, Sookie stops to have a chat with some more tertiary characters, Coby and Lisa. She promises that she's going to get Arlene back for them, a promise that she isn't sure she can keep. Which she willingly admits to Andy as she blows by him to read Holly's mind. Lauren Bowles does a wonderful job being totally freaked out (remember from Season 3/4, that Holly is a rape survivor). Sookie, true to her hard exterior, isn't rattled and heads over to Bill's with her new information (finally!). In an all-business-no-pleasure visit, she rails on Jessica for her self-pity, and then makes Bill feed from her. I pretty much love no-nonsense Sookie. She gets things done.
 In a totally charming scene, Lafayette shows up and talks Jessica (Redbone - love it) into finally eating. There isn't anything special about the scene. No great revelation, but Lafayette admitting to Jess, and himself, that he murdered Jesus, gets deep about death.

In some serious frustration, Sam threatens to go after Nicole himself and Jason talks him down. WHAT. Jason is the level headed one, now? Whoa. Things must really be crazy. So they head to Rosie's house to let her know about Kevin and then willie-nilly tell the woman who was part of a lynch mob, where they are headed to find the rest of the hostages. Gah. The stupidity.

So in the third act, we head into our Normandy (I was terrified that it actually would be- "History's a bitch.") Eric and Sookie chat while he waits for Willa to arrive. This feels like a goodbye. I know a lot of people wanted Sookie and Eric to be together, and honey it woulda been sweet, but we know it could never happen. So let's take this now-friendship and enjoy it as it is.
In one of those tv tropes where we follow the rat through the tunnel to the captives, the rat then turns into Sam (awesome) and then he promises that they'll get them out. Meanwhile, Arelene becomes a snack. Back outside, Sick!Eric is punching the wall like "Reagan Smash" in that episode of Family Guy:

And then Bill steps in and takes over. I think this is pretty symbolic of their power struggle throughout the series. We're just going to hit the audience over the head with how powerful Bill has become (Billith not withstanding).

The ambush starts, but before our heroes can finish their plan, the lynch mob decides to serve up some Molotov cocktails and everything devolves into chaos. Let's round up the carnage shall we?
- 5 Hep-V vamps get shot coming out the front.
- 1 Hep-V vamp gets impaled by a rifle.
- Vince's right hand lady gets chopped in half by a car door.
- Rosie hides behind a 1994 minivan.
- Our vamps are outnumbered 2:1, but Jess manages to stake one.
-Arlene is heading toward the light and as Sookie pleads for a healthy vampire, Bill stakes a Hep-V Vamp going after Eric.
- Pam kills a human and sets him on fire.
- Another Hep-V Vamp down.
- Jess is chained in silver by Vince, who gets a glass bottle jammed into his head by Bill. (YES!)
 - Aww! Terry and Arlene have such a sweet moment. Yeah, I might have teared up a bit.
- British vamp gets shot by Jason,
- Kieth finally feeds Arlene, who decides to live... for her keeeds!
- Jason says what we're all thinking, again. "Jesus Christ, that was intense."
Back outside, our heroes win with no casualties except we can't find Eric and for a minute there, I thought that we were going to loose him, but he was just out to lunch and feeding from some poor soul (Rosie?) in the minivan.

Soooo that happened....

Who want's ice cream?! I've got a gorgeous ice cream pie for you, as well as a cocktail that will go perfectly!

Grilled Pineapple Ice Cream Pie
Excerpted from Paleo Sweets and Treats by Heather O'Connell
As a child, I visited Hawaii with my family, and ever since, I have loved the sweet taste of pineapple. It takes me back to those beautiful islands and all the wonderful memories created on that trip. This pie is a refreshing and cool treat, especially on a hot summer day.

2 cups (100 g) Graham Cracker crumbs
3½ tablespoons (48 ml)
extra-virgin unrefined coconut oil, melted
3 dates, pitted and finely chopped
3½ cups (500 g) Vanilla Coconut Ice Cream (recipe to follow)
1 pineapple, peeled, cored, and sliced into ½-inch (1.3 cm) rings
4 ounces (112 g) dark chocolate (85% cacao or higher), melted

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C, or gas mark 4).
2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the graham cracker crumbs, coconut oil, and dates and process until the mixture forms wet crumbs and the dates are broken up completely. Press the mixture into a 9-inch (23 cm) pie plate, going up the sides of the pie plate. Bake the crust for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool completely, then spread the ice cream in the crust. Freeze for 4 hours.
3. Before serving, grill the pineapple slices (be sure to start with a clean, lightly oiled grill pan). Top the pie with hot-from-the-grill pineapple slices and drizzle with the melted dark chocolate. Cut into slices and serve.
4. Store the pie, covered, in the freezer for up to 1 month. Allow to sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes before cutting and serving.
Makes one 9-inch (23 cm) pie

Vanilla Coconut Ice Cream
Excerpted from Paleo Sweets and Treats by Heather O'Connell 
This ice cream is a creamy alternative to the traditional vanilla ice cream.

1 can (13. ounces, or 400 ml) coconut milk
¼ cup (60 ml) maple syrup
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped, and pod discarded
3 egg yolks
Pinch of sea salt

Combine the coconut milk, maple syrup, vanilla bean seeds, egg yolks, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a low boil over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon.
Remove the mixture from the heat, strain into a medium bowl, and cover with plastic wrap.
Refrigerate the mixture for 2 hours, or until completely cold. Place the mixture into an ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Remove the ice cream immediately from the ice cream maker to ensure the ice cream doesn’t freeze to the sides. Serve or freeze until ready to enjoy.
Store the ice cream in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 weeks.
Makes 1 pint (285 g)

Finally, here is your cocktail in honor of our favorite baby-vamp, Deborah Ann Wohl being cast in the new Daredevil movie!

Excerpted from The Daily Cocktail by Dalyn Miller and Larry Donovan

1 oz Bacardi 151 proof rum
1/2 oz dark rum
2 oz orange juice
1 oz cranberry juice
1 oz pineapple juice
1 splash 7-Up

Combine the ingredients in a Collins glass filled with ice.

Come back next week for another Summer Cocktail Sunday and True Blood recap! For now, snag a copy of this amazing book:

The Paleo diet has swept the nation as a huge nutritional and lifestyle trend that many have embraced. The question is what is the modern dessert lover to do when traditional baking ingredients such as flours, grains, dairy, and sugar are off the table? Never fear--you can have your cake and your Paleo lifestyle too! Written by Heather Connell, author of the popular blog, Multiply Delicious, Paleo Sweets and Treats shows you how to bake delicious treats using fresh, seasonal produce, natural sweeteners, and nutritionally dense, grain-free flours. You won't miss out on anything with treats such as: Dark Chocolate Pot de Crème with Roasted Cherries, Sweet Potato Tarts, Orange Pomegranate Cupcakes, and Mango Coconut Sherbert. This paleo diet dessert cookbook gives you easy-to-make indulgent treats to let you stay the Paleo course. This collection of seasonally-focused recipes gives you Paleo-friendly options for any dessert craving.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Morning After Smoothie

The fun has been going on in New Orleans at Tales of the Cocktail for two days now and we thought some of you could use some relief from all of the fun. If your head is pounding and you're wondering how you're ever going to have another cocktail, why not give this Morning After Smoothie a try?

Here's to another wonderful day! Cheers!

The Morning After Smoothie
Excerpted from Superfoods for Life, Fermented and Cultured Beverages by Meg Thompson

You are unlikely to make this one in advance, and you would most likely be in need of this in a hurry, without too much thinking involved. What you need on the morning after is alkalinity and some liver assistance, so I have aimed to pack in as much of this as possible! Cucumber is one of the most alkaline vegetables, and it’s paired here with the avocado and spirulina for more alkalinity plus B vitamins, good fats, and protein, and the apple for added glutathione—this should set you back on the straight and narrow.

2⁄3 cup (160 ml) water
1⁄3 cup (80 ml) Basic Kombucha (recipe follows)
1 (3-inch, or 7.5-cm) piece cucumber
1⁄2 green apple (preferably organic)
1⁄4 avocado, pitted and peeled
1⁄8 to 1⁄4 teaspoon spirulina powder, or as much as you can handle
2 or 3 ice cubes

Place all of the ingredients into a blender, and blend on high speed until smooth. Sip slowly for maximum absorption.

Yield: 1 1⁄2 cups (335 ml)

Basic Kombucha

If this is the first time you are making kombucha and you don’t have any tea left over from a previous batch, use the liquid that came with your SCOBY when you received it.

4 cups (946 ml) water
1⁄4 cup (50 g) organic sugar
2 organic black tea bags
1 kombucha SCOBY
1⁄2 cup (120 ml) kombucha tea from a previous batch

Equipment you will need :
Wide-mouth glass jar (no lid required), plus a jar with lid for storage
Clean kitchen towel

Place the water in the saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat. Add the sugar, stirring until dissolved.
Place the tea bags into the saucepan and leave to brew until the tea cools to room temperature.

Once cool, remove the tea bags and transfer the tea to the wide-mouth glass jar. Add the SCOBY and the kombucha tea from the previous batch. Cover with the clean kitchen towel or an unbleached coffee filter or paper towel, and place in a warm spot away from sunlight (ideally 70 to 85°F, or 21 to 29°C). The top of
the refrigerator is a great spot!

The time it takes your kombucha to ferment will vary slightly depending on the temperature; the warmer the temperature, the faster the process. Also, the longer you leave it, the more sour your tea will become,
as the bacteria are consuming the sugar. Be aware that the SCOBY can move around in the jar. It may sit at the bottom, float in the middle, or hang out on top and fuse to the second developing SCOBY. All of this is fine. The end result should be slightly sour and a little fizzy.

After 5 to 7 days, you will notice the beginnings of the new mother forming on the top of the liquid. You can start tasting your brew at this point with a straw, so as not to disturb your developing SCOBY. Don’t poke
at it; the more you move it, the more likely it is to break apart, and the longer it will take to develop into a pretty new mother. You may choose to leave your kombucha for up to 14 days or longer, depending on the
ambient temperature and how sour you like it. Once it is ready, with clean hands, carefully take out the mother and baby SCOBY, set aside 1⁄2 cup (120 ml) of the mixture to culture your next brew, and transfer the finished kombucha into the lidded glass jar. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

To make a new batch, you can use the original mother or the new mother. Each time you culture, you will grow a new SCOBY, and your original will grow another layer and thicken slightly. How amazing is that?

Second Fermentation 
As with your kefir, you can put your finished kombucha through a second ferment, which is where you can get creative and fancy with different flavorings. Simply decant your kombucha into a jar with a lid. Add your flavorings, pop the lid on tightly, and allow to ferment at room temperature for another 1 to 2 days. This
process will also allow your kombucha to become fizzy, as the bacteria and yeasts feed on the flavorings that you have added. Be sure to check on your ferment, as you will need to burp your bottle from time to time
to make sure you don’t acquire exploding kombucha wallpaper. To do this, simply open the jar and let a little air out. Just like burping a baby, really! Once your second fermentation is complete, you can store
your kombucha in the refrigerator, and this will slow down the fermentation process.

How to look after your SCOBY
You can reuse the same SCOBY for years. Here are some hot tips to keep your SCOBY beautiful:

• Always use clean hands when handling it. If you notice black or green patches, you have contamination, and you will need to throw it away and get a new mother.
• Don’t wash or rinse your SCOBY between uses.
• Always use glass jars for storage. The acids in the kombucha will leach out chemicals from plastic.
• If you want to slow down your culturing factory, pop your SCOBY along with some kombucha into an airtight glass jar in the refrigerator. The cold temperatures will slow down the fermentation process. You
can leave your SCOBY here safely for a long time if needed. Some have reported not using their SCOBY for years, and then using it again with no problem.
• You may use honey in place of the sugar if you prefer, but because it has antibacterial properties, it has the potential to compete with and damage your growing friendly bacteria. Make sure you always have another SCOBY that has only been fed sugar as a backup.

Makes about 4 1⁄4 cups (1 liter)


Superfoods for Life, Cultured and Fermented Beverages

Maintaining good bacteria in the body is critical to achieving a healthy gut and a healthy immune system. Fermented beverages are brimming with hard-working, beneficial bacteria that work to improve your digestion, fortify your immune system, assist detoxification, and contribute to a radiant complexion and balanced mind. Healthy bacteria is sensitive to everyday habits such as sugar, caffeine, processed foods, and toxins, and fermented beverages provide some insurance against this. It's time to get back into balance with Superfoods for Life: Cultured and Fermented Beverages. Harness the powerful benefits of this amazing traditional superfood.

Drink fermented and cultured beverages for a natural antiviral and antifungal tonic that is a great preventative for colds and flu.

Sip kefir to improve lactose intolerance and protect and nourish intestinal cells.

Make fermented and cultured beverages part of your beauty regimen for healthy, glowing skin and their natural detoxification benefits.

Enjoy 75 recipes for cultured drinks such as kombucha, kefir, herbal and medicinal ferments, and cultured smoothies you can brew at home, including Cayenne Lemon Kombucha, Blueberry Basil Kefir, Beet Kvass, Kiwi Soda, Ginger & Turmeric Fermented Tea, Morning Liver Tonic, Berry Rooibos Kombucha, and Sweet Potato Soda.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cranberry Lime Gin and Tonic Cookies

We thought we'd switch it up today and share a recipe for a vegan cookie that you put gin into. Pretty perfect for Tales of the Cocktail, if you ask us. And if you're not at Tales this week, you should still give these delicious cookies a try. After all, look at them. They're mouthwatering!

Cranberry Lime Gin and Tonic Cookies
Excerpted from Cheers to Vegan Sweets by Kelly Peloza

This moderately sweet cookie teeming with tart lime and gin-soaked cranberries is a great finale for a sophisticated, low-key meal.

Yield: 24 Cookies

For the cookies:
¾ cup (90 g) dried cranberries
¼ cup (60 ml) gin
1 tablespoon (15 ml) tonic water
2/3 cup (150 g) vegan margarine
1½ cups (180 g) powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon (15 ml) lime juice
½ teaspoon lime zest
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups (250 g) flour

For the glaze:
Up to 2 tablespoons (30 ml) gin
½ cup (60 g) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon (5 ml) lime juice
Extra powdered sugar for sprinkling

To make cookies: Coarsely chop the dried cranberries and place in a bowl or glass container. Pour the gin and tonic over the cranberries and let sit for at least 4 hours, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries absorb most of the liquid. Strain the cranberries, reserving any leftover liquid.

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C, or gas mark 5). Cream together the margarine and powdered sugar with electric beaters in a medium-large bowl. Add the vanilla, lime juice, zest, and salt.

Gradually sift in the flour, stirring after each addition, then add the gin-soaked cranberries and incorporate them into the mixture. Roll into 1-inch (2.5 cm) balls, place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, and bake for 12 minutes.

To make glaze: Measure out the leftover liquid from the cranberries, and if it’s less than 2 tablespoons (30 ml), replenish it with more gin. Stir in the powdered sugar and lime juice. When the cookies are cooled, drizzle the glaze on the cookies. Sprinkle powdered sugar over the glaze.


Cheers to Vegan Sweets!

This innovative vegan baking book features 125 deliciously fun drink-inspired dessert recipes. It’s a cookbook that takes readers on a delicious tour of cafés, cocktail bars, and lemonade stands, where all the drinks come in dessert form. Imagine your morning vanilla hazelnut mocha re-imagined as a muffin, or relax on the beach with a margarita biscotti, or stop by the bar and order your brew in Guinness cake form. Instead of sipping your drink, now you can indulge in it!

Author and vegan baker extraordinaire Kelly Peloza has carefully formulated each recipe to deliciously highlight the flavors of its drink counterpart. From Apple Cider Doughnuts to Chai Spice Baklava to Gingerbread Stout Cake, you’ll be amazed at how deliciously well your sips transform into sweet, satisfied—and vegan!—bites. And with alcoholic- and non-alcoholic recipes, you’re sure to find something perfect for every party and special occasion.