Cocoa Yeast Rolls


When I was a child, I enjoyed reading Little House on the Prairie books.  I found it peculiar how Laura Ingalls enjoyed bread and butter sandwiches.  “Just bread and butter?” I wondered.  After all, a slice of plastic-wrapped supermarket bread with butter isn’t all that special.  However, thinking about it now, I imagine a slice of Mrs. Ingalls’s homemade bread, no doubt made from freshly milled whole grains and slathered in farm-fresh butter, would be quite spectacular.  While I can’t take us back in time, I can assure you that today’s addition of cocoa powder is enough to make this bread recipe sing with just a dab of butter.  You could just as easily form the dough into a loaf of bread, but I prefer rolls for tucking into lunchboxes.  Go ahead, have a Laura Ingalls day.

Ingredients (makes 14 rolls)

2 teaspoons yeast

1 cup lukewarm (not boiling hot) water

1 tablespoon soft (not melted) butter

1 egg

3 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups white flour

1/4 cup finely ground pecans

Cornmeal (for dusting the baking pan, optional)


picture169Step 1)  In a large bowl, combine yeast, lukewarm water, and sugar.  Stir, then let sit for a minute or so to allow the yeast to “bloom.”  The surface of the water will look a bit frothy.

Step 2) In a small bowl, combine butter, egg, cocoa powder, salt, and ground pecans.  Mix well.

Step 3) Add butter mixture to yeast and water.  Stir gently until well blended.

Step 4) Add flour.  Stir together and dump out the contents of the bowl onto a floured table or countertop.  Your dough will look like a mess at this point, and that’s OK!

picture760Step 5) This is the fun part… knead your bread dough for five minutes.  Don’t just use your fingers, but really put some muscle into it by using the heels of your palms.  Turn the dough over a few times, sprinkling the table and the dough with flour if it becomes sticky.  After five minutes, your dough should look like this:

Step 6) Grease a large mixing bowl – rubbing the paper wrapper from a stick of butter along the inside of the bowl works well.  Place your kneaded dough in the bowl, and set aside in a warm place for 60 minutes or until the dough doubles in size.  Hint:  If you turn on your oven for one or two minutes (no longer), then turn it OFF, your oven will be just warm enough to provide a cozy place for your bowl of dough to rise.

Step 7) After dough has doubled in size, use a serrated knife to cut the dough into 12 – 14 equal size pieces.  Gently pull the top of each piece of dough to smooth the roll, tucking the dough into itself underneath.  Each piece should look smooth and round.

picture761Step 8)  Set your rolls 2 – 3 inches apart on a large cookie sheet (with shallow sides) that has been greased and dusted with cornmeal.*

*Cornmeal is optional, but it helps keep the rolls from sticking to the pan and also helps create a pleasant bottom crust.

Step 9) Begin preheating your oven to 375 degrees after your rolls have been shaped and are resting on the pan.  They don’t need a full “second rise,” but will benefit from the few minutes of resting time it will take for your oven to preheat.

picture764Step 10) Bake your rolls at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, or until they sound hollow when tapped on the top with your fingernail.  Let cool, and enjoy with a simple pat of butter.

Amazing Oatmeals


I can’t think of a breakfast more devoted to overall wellness than a bowl of properly dressed oatmeal.  I really can’t.  For only 150 calories, a single cup of oats contains about 6 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber.  The soluble fiber in oats, called beta-glucan, is special.  This fiber has repeatedly been shown to lower cholesterol levels, which in turn lowers the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.  Still not convinced?  What if I tell you that the beta-glucan in oats has also been linked to more stable blood sugar levels in people with Type 2 diabetes?  It’s true.

How much of this special fiber does it take to improve your health, you ask?  Only the amount found in a daily bowl of oatmeal.  So, let’s do ourselves a favor this morning.  Let’s both agree to say “No” to preservative-laden boxed cereals, skip the donuts with our coffee, and instead enjoy properly dressed bowls of oatmeal together.



Stir together the ingredients for the blend of your choice, below, in a small mixing bowl.  Pack into a pint size mason jar.  For each serving, scoop out 1/2 cup of mixture from the mason jar and place in a microwave-safe bowl.  Add 1 cup of water and microwave for 2 minutes or until water is absorbed.  Enjoy!

Apple Walnut Blend (makes 4 servings)

1 1/3 cups rolled oats

1 tablespoon flax seed

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/3 cup chopped dried apples

1/3 cup raw walnuts

Blueberry Quinoa Blend (makes 4 servings)

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

1/4 cup quinoa

1/4 cup dried blueberries

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Cherry Almond Blend (makes 4 servings)

1 1/3 cups rolled oats

1/3 cup raw almonds

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/3 cup dried tart cherries

Coconut Almond Blend (makes 4 servings)

1 1/3 cups rolled oats

1/3 cup raw almonds

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/3 cup dried, shaved coconut

I feel better already, don’t you?

Vegetable Sound Off!

Summertime is the perfect time to eat your veggies!

***What is your favorite way to prepare your favorite vegetable?***

COMMENT below for a chance to win a copy of Annie Spiegelman’s fun book, Talking Dirt!

Talking Dirt

A few Crowded Earth Kitchen favorites (past and future):


Mushroom Matar


Asian-Inspired Brussels Sprouts


Roasted Thai Chilies


Ingredients for I-Miss-My-Garden Sauce

Roasted Grapes


I’ll be brief.  This recipe compliments our last dish, Moroccan-Inspired Lemon Chicken, perfectly.  It requires 4 ingredients, takes 20 minutes, and requires absolutely no kitchen skills.  If you don’t love it, I’ll come over and wash dishes.  Deal?

Ingredients (makes 4 – 6 side dish servings)

2 pounds grapes, whichever  variety you prefer, washed and stems removed

2 tablespoons coconut oil*



*Why are we using coconut oil?  Good question.  Emerging reports of health benefits aside, coconut oil has a higher smoke point than, say, olive oil.  This means it will hold up better (i.e., maintain its molecular integrity) in the hot oven we need for this recipe.


Step 1) Set oven to 400 degrees.  Place two tablespoons of coconut oil on a large pan with shallow sides, and set pan in oven for just a few seconds to melt the coconut oil.

Step 2) Remove pan from oven, and add grapes to pan.  Roll grapes around to coat them in oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

picture704Step 3) Roast grapes for 20 minutes, stirring gently once.  Allow to cool for one minute, and serve.



Moroccan-Inspired Lemon Chicken


Remember those Moroccan-Inspired Preserved Lemons we made not too long ago?  Well, go get a jar, because we’re going to put them to good use here!  If you don’t have preserved lemons, I’ll walk you through a pretty good substitute using a fresh lemon, below.  The taste of preserved lemons can’t be duplicated exactly, but just about any combination of lemon and chicken is darn good.

picture692Ingredients (Serves 4 – 6)

1 fresh, whole chicken, cut into pieces

1/2 cup preserved lemons, rinsed*

1/4 cup olive oil

1 clove garlic

1/2 teaspoon peppercorns

*Alternatively, use the zest and the “insides” (juice and pulp) of a whole, organic lemon – everything except the seeds and the thick white pith underneath the zest.  Also, only if you are using a fresh lemon, add 1 teaspoon of salt to the puree.


Step 1) Place lemon, garlic, olive oil, and peppercorns in a small blender or food processor.  Puree until smooth.

picture694Step 2) Score each piece of chicken several times with a sharp knife.

Step 3) Generously rub each piece of chicken with the lemon puree and set in a pan.  Sprinkle with torn bay leaves (optional) and whole cloves (optional).  Bay leaves and cloves should be removed before baking.

Step 4) Pour any remaining lemon puree over your pan of chicken, cover with foil, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but no more than 24 hours.

Step 5) Remove from fridge 30 minutes before baking, and rearrange chicken so that it can bake in a single layer.

picture698Step 6) Bake in a preheated, 350 degree oven for 1 hour, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the meat (but not against a bone!) reads 165 degrees.  Tip:  I bake the smaller pieces (wings, drumsticks) on a their own pan, as these pieces are usually ready to come out of the oven at least 10 minutes before the larger pieces (breasts, thighs).

Serve with a salad and your choice of sides.  I’ll show you my choice of a side dish in my next post!

Dark Chocolate Coconut Muffins


These muffins manage to taste like they fall into the “may as well eat a jumbo chocolate éclair” category when, in reality, they are nutritionally superior to most pastries.  Cocoa powder and dark chocolate are high in antioxidants and plenty delicious without a lot of added sugar.   These muffins freeze well, and make awesome lunchbox treats.  Go ahead, indulge.

picture767Ingredients (makes 12 muffins)

1 cup white flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1/3 cup sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1/2 cup coarsely chopped dark chocolate

1 egg, beaten

3/4 cup skim milk

1/4 cup canola oil


Step 1) Line a dozen standard size muffin cups with foil liners (preferable), or grease the muffin cups well.  Do not use paper liners, as they will stick.  Set aside.

Step 2) Combine all dry ingredients and mix well.

Step 3) Combine egg, milk, and oil in a separate bowl and mix well.

Step 4) Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until moistened.  Don’t get carried away… it’s OK if the batter is a little bit lumpy!

Step 5) Fill muffin liners or muffin cups 2/3 full.

Step 6) Bake at 400 degrees for 18 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool for a few minutes, and enjoy!

Moroccan-Inspired Preserved Lemons

picture667I can’t think of many foods that offer the versatility and flavor potency of a freshly picked, unsprayed, wax free, organic lemon.  Unfortunately, I can’t think of many foods that are more difficult to find most of the year, either!  Sure, tired looking lemons coated in shiny, slightly sticky wax can be rescued from the corners of the produce section at any time, but really, who wants those?  This recipe will help you elevate your kitchen into the realm of Great Cooks, by helping you make the most of culinary gems such as crazy-fresh lemons whenever you can find them.

Moroccan cooks have long known that lemons need only a little help in retaining their magnificent flavor.  By stuffing lemons into jars, layering them with salt, allowing them to bathe in their own juice and a few spices, Moroccans have mastered the alluring art of preserving lemons.  Months later, silky pieces of preserved lemon can simply be rinsed off with water, chopped, and added to any dish needing a citrus punch.  In North African kitchens, these dishes might include couscous or tabouleh.  In your own kitchen, the sky’s the limit – try preserved lemons in a marinade, a vinaigrette, or a pasta salad.  Let me know how these lemons inspire you, and how your meal turns out!

picture668Ingredients (for each pint size canning jar)

2 large or 3 small organic lemons (Remember, you’re using the peel!)

1/4 cup salt

1 bay leaf

1 small cinnamon stick

2 whole cloves

2 whole black peppercorns

2 whole allspice


Step 1) Wash lemons really, really well.  Trim ends, and cut lemons into chunks.  You can simply cut the lemons in half, or cut them into smaller pieces, whichever you prefer.  I cut my lemons into about 16 pieces each, because l want to just “rinse and add” bite-size pieces when I use these lemons in recipes later on.

Step 2) Stuff your lemons into sterilized canning jars.  Don’t be gentle… you want the lemons to soak in their own juice!

Step 3) As you fill the jars, sprinkle the lemon layers with salt and add your spices.  Each jar should end up with 1/4 cup of salt (a little more is fine, but don’t use less).

Step 4) It is important that your lemons are covered in juice.  If they are not, add juice from additional lemons, until the jars are full.  Leave 1/2 inch headspace.

picture676Step 5) If you are canning your lemons for long-term storage, cover with lids and bands and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  Properly sealed jars will last a year or longer on a pantry shelf.  Alternately, simply place your covered (but unsealed) jars in the refrigerator, where they will stay fresh for 3 months or longer.

Step 6) Be patient… your preserved lemons will be ready to enjoy after 1 month!  Don’t forget to rinse before using.


Maki Sushi

picture683First, let’s dispel of a common American myth… sushi does not mean “raw fish.”  The word sushi refers to food made with cold, vinegared rice.  Often this rice is topped with raw fish or other seafood… but not always.  It is perfectly legitimate to prepare sushi using other accompaniments, such as vegetables or cooked eggs.  Maki Sushi, shown above, refers to sushi rice and any variety of fillings which have been rolled into sheets of toasted seaweed called nori.  These rolls are then cut into bite size pieces, and are often served with several condiments including pickled ginger, wasabi or Japanese horseradish, and soy sauce.

If this sounds unfamiliar, take a peek at the Asian foods section of your local supermarket.  Even in small towns and tucked away areas, you may be pleasantly surprised to find sushi rice (a short grain, white rice), nori sheets, and wasabi.  Adding Maki Sushi to your kitchen repertoire is a fun and healthy way to eat fresh!  Enjoy!

picture669Ingredients (Makes 6 rolls, or 48 bite size pieces)

2 cups sushi rice

3 cups water

1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

picture6771/4 teaspoon salt

Assorted fillings, cut into long, thin strips.  Shown (left) are cucumber strips, red pepper strips, and surimi (mock crab sticks made from whitefish).  Other ideas include thin slices of avocado, carrot, and smoked salmon.  Use your imagination!


picture670Step 1) Rinse rice several times in cold water until water drains clear.

Step 2) After rinsing, combine rice, 3 cups water, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large pot with a tight fitting lid.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a low, cover, and simmer for approximately 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.

Step 3) Gently transfer cooked rice to a large bowl and spread rice up the sides of the bowl (gently!) with a rubber spatula.

Step 4) Combine rice vinegar and sugar in a small bowl.  Microwave for a few seconds until lukewarm.  Stir until sugar dissolves.  Then, drizzle the vinegar mixture all over the rice.

picture679Step 5) Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the rice over a few times to distribute the vinegar as evenly as possible without mashing the rice.  Spread the rice up the sides of the bowl again.  The rice should look glossy.  Cover the bowl with a slightly damp cloth and let sit at room temperature for one hour.

Step 6) Center one sheet of nori in the middle of a bamboo sushi roller (very inexpensive; sold in markets next to the nori sheets).  As an alternative, try using a thin, flexible silicon baking mat instead of the bamboo.

Step 7) Carefully spread 1/2 cup of rice all over the sheet of nori, except for 1 inch at the top.  I find it is easiest to drop small teaspoons of rice all over the sheet and then spread them together – this helps avoid tearing the nori sheet.

picture680  Step 8) Place your fillings over the rice about 1/3 of the way up from the bottom of the nori sheet, as shown.

Step 9) It’s time to roll up your Maki Sushi!  This takes a bit of practice, but it’s not rocket science.  Using your bamboo or silicon mat, fold the bottom of your nori sheet up until it just barely covers your filling.  Press firmly and evenly along the bamboo or silicon, to give the roll a tight, uniform shape.  Continue rolling the nori sheet, being careful not to roll the bamboo or silicon “into” your Maki Sushi.

picture681Step 10) When you get to the top inch, dip your finger in water or vinegar and run your finger along the top edge of the nori.  This will help to seal your Maki Sushi.  Set aside, seam side down, and continue with your next roll.

Step 11) Slice each roll into 8 pieces using a very shart, non-serrated knife.

Step 12) After the effort that led you to this last step, be sure to respect the Japanese tradition of presenting food in an artful manner.  Have fun with this!  Put some thought into arranging your Maki Sushi on individual serving plates or a buffet platter, and garnish as you see fit.  Remember that wasabi, pickled ginger, and soy sauce are traditional condiments, but don’t be afraid to experiment with other dipping sauces and toppings.

Last but not least… It really is OK to pop an entire piece of Maki Sushi into your mouth.  When pieces are small enough to make this feasible, eating Maki Sushi in one bite is considered proper etiquette.  If the pieces are too large, though, don’t worry about it.

Do you have questions? Ideas for combinations of fillings? Perhaps a photo of your own Maki Sushi that you’d like to share? Crowded Earth Kitchen welcomes your comments, below!

New Freebie! Share a Veggie Recipe to Win!

Submit a vegetable recipe to the Global Recipe Project by May 31st!  Each recipe counts as one entry – enter as many times as you wish!   One entry will be randomly selected to win a copy of…

Talking DirtTalking Dirt:  The Dirt Diva’s Down – to – Earth  Guide to Organic Gardening

By Annie Spiegelman, Illustrated by Maggie Agro

Who says Divas can’t play in the dirt?

If you fancy yourself to be the forward-thinking sort of gardener, you need to read this book.  If your experience with gardening books is limited to toast dry narratives of rules and instructions, you really need to read this book.  The Dirt Diva – Annie Spiegelman, that is – offers sage gardening advice in whimsical prose, injecting plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor to keep you laughing all the way from your favorite reading chair to your backyard garden.

In a very manageable sized text, The Dirt Diva walks the reader through a gardening season from beginning (“Let’s Start with a Plan”) to end (“You did it! You and Your Garden Grow Up, Finally”).  Ms. Spiegelman accommodates those of us with limited warm weather attention spans (cough, cough) by dividing her text into five succinct, convenient sections.  In the first and longest section, readers are given a comical crash course in everything from plant taxonomy, gardening tools, understanding soil, composting, irrigation, and pest control.  In this last subsection, Ms. Spiegelman’s perspective on the importance of going organic is crystal clear.  Regarding conventional pesticide use, she explains, “You’re now on an endless cycle of wasting money: weakening your plants; killing off the bird, butterfly, and bee populations; depleting your soil; and polluting the neighborhood’s groundwater.  That’s not gardening.  That’s lunacy!” (p. 57)

Subsequent sections address growing and rehabilitating your organic garden, including flowers, food crops, and an easy to understand seasonal division of labor.  Garden rehab is not to be underestimated.  In Ms. Spiegelman’s words, “You don’t want hyperactive and sugar-addicted plants. (Aren’t hyperactive and sugar-addicted children enough?) Stop being an enabler.” (p. 75)  Put that way, it sounds just crazy enough to be true.

My personal favorite chapter in Talking Dirt is Chapter 13, “Shall Hell Be Paved with Weeds?”  After all, weeds are the first excuse given by many spray bottle wielding backyard gardeners, yes?  Ms. Spiegelman is not dismissive of this reality, nor does she accept the excuse.  “It’s best to face the fact that you’ll be doing some serious hand weeding a few times a year,” she states plainly (p. 123).  From there, she goes on to provide a few pages of sensible advice on how to avoid losing your sanity in the process.

I would recommend this book for the last few pages, “Your Final Pep Talk,” alone.  But really, you may as well start at the beginning to laugh and learn your way through a few rainy days.  Then, go play in the dirt!

Guest Post: Tortilla Soup Two Ways

This post comes to us courtesy of Kristen at The Wandering Abode.  Her blog is fantastic – be sure to check it out, and enjoy the recipe below!
Tortilla Soup 1
For the first five years of our marriage, my husband and I lived in a little town on the Texas/Mexican border. It was quite a change for us from the cornfields of the Midwest where we had grown up. However, we grew accustomed to the lifestyle there and found some eateries around town that we truly loved. One of these places had the most amazing tortilla soup. Many days that we headed out for lunch we’d find ourselves at this little place ordering up a big bowl of the chicken tortilla soup. It was hearty and warm with just the right amount of spice to make us sweat a bit in the Texas heat.
When we moved away from Texas, I found myself truly craving our regular soup place. Our diets had grown a bit by then, though, and we were cooking things that were healthier and tended to be on the vegetarian or even vegan side of the spectrum. I did still want to recreate the recipe that we had grown to love in our old town and find a place for this amazing soup in our dinner rotation. After much trial and error, I think I may have just found a way to make the soup at home just as good as it was in that little restaurant on the border.
Tortilla Soup 2
This recipe can be made with chicken or as a vegan option as well. It’s so easy since all that needs to be done is to remove the chicken and substitute the chicken broth for vegetable broth. The soup is already packed with veggies and hearty beans so there’s no need to worry about getting in some protein or adding in any ingredients. All you need is in there! Now, are you ready for the best part? It all can be made in the slow cooker!
I’m a huge fan of the slow cooker for dinners. If you don’t have one, though, you could always just use a large stockpot and let it all simmer together on the stove for 30-45 minutes. The recipe really couldn’t be easier since you’re really just throwing it all into the pot. There’s minimal prep work involved, so before you know it you’ll have an amazing dinner on your hands. Enjoy!
Tortilla Soup.
2-3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts (Frozen chicken, shredded rotisserie chicken, or frozen grilled chicken pieces all work fine. This ingredient is optional.) 
2 14 oz cans diced tomatoes and green chile peppers
10 oz can mild enchilada sauce 
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
14  oz can chicken or vegetable broth
14 oz can golden hominy, rinsed and drained
15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained (or 1 1/2  cups of cooked beans if using dried)
10 oz package frozen corn
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 bay leaf
2-3 tsp dried cilantro
1 cup water (optional)
Place all ingredients in slow cooker. If needed, add a cup of water to cover the ingredients. Cover and cook on low setting for 6-8 hours or on high setting for 3-4 hours. If using frozen chicken, once the chicken is cooked through (usually with about 1-2 hours left on high), take out of the slow cooker and shred with a fork. Place shredded chicken back in the slow cooker for the remainder of the cooking time.
Remove the bay leaf and serve with rice, shredded cheese, sour cream, and broken tortilla chips.
Images by Kristen King


Dandelion “Honey”


Everyone on my Christmas list is getting a jar this December… this recipe is that fabulous.  Before we get to the recipe, I should explain a few things.  First, I am a big believer in letting my lawn grow au naturel.  Rain from the sky and an occasional mow pretty much sum up my approach to lawn care, to the chagrin of a few of my neighbors.  This means, of course, that I am blessed with a brilliant display of yellow dandelions this time a year.  Weeds, did you say?  No Way!

Dandelions were imported into the US hundreds of years ago as a nutritious food source.  Dandelions are wildly good for you, rivaling carrots and spinach in their Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, and Phosphorus.  The entire plant is edible, but today we are focusing on the pretty yellow flower heads.  A quick web search will reveal how dandelion flowers are valued for their antioxidants, their diuretic and antibacterial properties, and their use by herbalists in treating everything from headaches and depression to stomach and menstrual cramps.  Dandelions aren’t weeds… they’re nature’s own grocery store and pharmacy!

Today we are making dandelion “honey.”  The taste is spot-on identical to wild honey, without the hefty price tag.  At about 50 cents a pint (for the sugar and pectin), this “honey” is a real bargain.  It’s vegan, has practically the same glycemic index as honey, and contains pollen (which is where many of the purported health benefits of bee honey originate).  Make sure you pick dandelions from an unsprayed location!  Allow yourself about an hour in the sunshine to harvest enough flower heads for this recipe.

picture1152Ingredients (makes 9 half-pint jars)

8 cups dandelion flower heads (cut just above the base of the flower head, to get all of the yellow and almost none of the green)

8 cups boiling water

6 cups white sugar

Juice from 1/2 large lemon OR Juice from 1 whole, large orange

4 tablespoons pectin powder


Step 1) Cover dandelion flower heads with boiling water.  Cover and set aside for at least three hours or overnight.

Step 2) Carefully pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve, saving the “tea” and discarding the flower petals.

Step 3) Bring 6 cups of dandelion tea to a boil in a large pot (if you have more than 6 cups of tea, you can freeze the excess).

Step 4) Stir pectin into sugar (the pectin will dissolve more readily this way).  Add pectin/sugar mixture all at once to pot of boiling tea.  Add lemon juice or orange juice as well.

picture1155Step 5) Stir thoroughly until sugar is completely dissolved.

Step 6) Bring mixture to a full rolling boil.  Boil for 3 minutes with stirring, then turn off heat.

Step 7) Follow canning instructions to preserve your dandelion “honey.”  Leave 1/2 inch headspace, and process jars in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.



Thirsty Thursday Contest Ends Tomorrow!

THIRSTY THURSDAY:  Submit a beverage recipe to
The Global Recipe Project!  One beverage recipe entrant will be randomly selected to receive a Reader Giveaway copy of The All You Can Dream Buffet!  Contest Ends Thursday, May 15th!

Anything goes!  Your favorite bar drink, smoothie or shake, lassi or chai, coffee or punch… submit a recipe for your chance to win! 

The All You Can Dream Buffet

Barbara O’Neal wrote a book about me! OK, so it’s not really about me… but close enough. Barbara O’Neal’s latest book, The All You Can Dream Buffet, tells the story of an unlikely collection of foodie friends whose lives span both states and decades. Lavender, Ginny, Ruby, and Val – the “Foodie Four” – found each other through their passion for blogging. What’s not to love about that?

On the surface, Barbara O’Neal weaves a tale of a feisty, elderly organic farmer seeking a suitable heir for the fruit of her life’s work, Lavender Honey Farms. Under the guise of an 85th birthday party invitation, Lavender Wills lures her young(er) foodie friends to her farm to vet an appropriate successor. Ginny, Ruby, and Val each show potential, and each blossoms in different ways at Lavender Honey Farms.

Dig a little deeper, and astute readers will unearth poignant themes related to the cycle of life. Personal stories of emotional droughts and cataclysmic storms are soothed by examples of personal growth and bountiful if surprising harvests. Comedy and tragedy, drama and romance, all flank a central story of friendship between four unique women.

The pièce de résistance in The All You Can Dream Buffet is a two page chapter… you’ll know it when you read it. If these two pages aren’t the most heart stoppingly memorable pages you ever read in a work of fiction… well… what am I saying? They will be, of course they will. Go ahead, brew a cup of lavender tea and settle in with The All You Can Dream Buffet. Your soul will be warmed by this book.

Wild Salmon with Broiled Oranges


If you have only a few minutes to make yourself some lunch, you could microwave one of those soulless frozen entrees in a little plastic tray, or you could make Wild Salmon with Broiled Oranges.  If you opt for the wealth of vitamins, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids in this recipe, you’ll need to invest about $4 and six minutes of your life.  Ready?

Ingredients (makes 1 quick lunch)

1 teaspoon coconut oil

4 ounces of wild-caught salmon

Freshly ground black pepper

5 or 6 fresh orange segments, white membranes removed

2 generous cups fresh baby spinach

1 tablespoon orange marmalade


Step 1) Turn your oven broiler to a high setting.  We’ll use the hot oven in just a moment.

Step 2) Melt coconut oil in an oven-safe sauté pan over low heat.  We’re using coconut oil because of its high smoke point; it’s much safer and healthier under a picture631broiler than, say, olive oil.

Step 3) When pan is coated with melted coconut oil, add salmon fillet to pan and sear on high heat for about 20 seconds.  Flip the salmon fillet and sear the other side for 20 seconds.  Remove pan from heat.

Step 4) Season the salmon with freshly ground black pepper, and top with orange segments.  Make sure the white membranes are removed, because we want the natural sugars inside the orange segments exposed to the heat of the broiler!

Step 5) Place your oven-safe sauté pan, salmon, and oranges under the broiler.  The oven rack should be high, so that the pan is close to the broiler.

picture632Step 6) Broil your salmon and oranges for approximately 5 minutes.  Peek in the oven every minute, to make sure your oranges don’t burn.  When your meal is ready, the oranges will be just barely singed around the edges – you should see little flecks of dark color.

Step 7) Remove your sauté pan from the oven.  Arrange baby spinach leaves on a serving plate and drizzle with orange marmalade.  Set your salmon and oranges in the center of the spinach, and enjoy your quick and nutritious gourmet lunch!

Balsamic Glazed Farro with Mushrooms and Cherries


If you’ve never tried farro, you’re in for a treat.  Farro is an ancient whole grain containing 8 grams of protein, 8 grams of fiber, 2 grams of fat, and 200 calories per cup.  By any measure, it’s a wholesome, filling food!  Farro offers a chewy texture similar to wheat berries, a mild nutty flavor reminiscent of quinoa, and cooks like rice.  It’s inexpensive, and readily available in the bulk food section of many markets.

My first experience with farro was at a steakhouse, and what a pleasant surprise it was!  I’ve learned not to assume that a restaurant will offer a spectacular vegetarian meal just because it offers a wide range of highly reputed steaks – sometimes the lone vegetarian entrée on the menu is ho-hum at best.  Not this time.  My farro arrived bedecked with tart cherries and earthy mushrooms, all drizzled with a lovely balsamic reduction.  Inspired by that meal, I’ve created a similar dish for you.

picture659Ingredients (serves 4 as a side dish or 2 as an entrée)

1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

2 cups water

1 cup farro (dry)

1 cup baby bella mushrooms, sliced thick

1/2 cup dried tart cherries

picture6604 cups baby leaf spinach

1 cup balsamic vinegar


Step 1) Add 1 cup of balsamic vinegar to a small saucepan and simmer.  Continue simmering the vinegar (as you proceed with the remainder of the recipe) until it has been reduced to a final volume of 1/4 cup.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Step 2)  Add 2 cups of water to a medium-size pot and bring to a boil.  Add 1/2 ounce of dried porcini mushrooms.  Cover and remove from heat.  Let sit for 5 minutes.  After 5 minutes, remove mushrooms with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Save liquid!

Step 3) Add 1 cup of dry farro to the mushroom cooking liquid and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

Step 4) Add 1 cup sliced baby bella mushrooms, 1/2 cup dried tart cherries, and your reserved porcini mushrooms to the farro.  Stir and simmer, covered, for an additional 10 minutes or until liquid is absorbed (think of cooking rice).

Step 5)  Arrange baby spinach on serving plates.  Spoon farro mixture over spinach, and drizzle with balsamic reduction.  Enjoy!

Dessert Teas

picture650So, you’re feeling like indulging in a little something sweet after dinner, but don’t relish the thought of spending hours on an elliptical machine working off that piece of cheesecake?  Have no fear… dessert teas to the rescue!  These two blends are guaranteed to satisfy your sweet tooth, without making you wonder if someone accidentally shrunk your jeans in the dryer.  😉 If you tuck a meringue onto the saucer with your tea cup, it’ll be our secret.

picture654Chocolate Coconut Herbal Tea (makes 10 cups)

In a small glass jar, combine the following ingredients:  1 tablespoon cocoa nibs, 1 tablespoon dried coconut flakes, 1 tablespoon peppermint, and 1 teaspoon cocoa powder.  Place one teaspoon of this herbal tea blend in a tea infuser or tea bag, and steep in 1 cup of boiling water for 5 minutes.  Enjoy!



picture656Blueberry Lemonade Tea (makes 10 cups)

In a small glass jar, combine the following ingredients:  1 tablespoon dried passionflower leaves, 1 tablespoon dried blueberries, 1 tablespoon granulated lemon peel, and 1 teaspoon brown sugar.  Place one teaspoon of this herbal tea blend in a tea infuser or tea bag, and steep in 1 cup of boiling water for 5 minutes.  Enjoy!