Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Quinoa (KEEN-wah) is a grain originally from South America. In fact, it was the Inca's main food. When I serve quinoa, most people mistake it for couscous. Unlike couscous (which is actually a wheat pasta), quinoa is a whole grain. Nutrient-dense and full of protein (10.5 grams per cooked cup), it is a great food for nursing moms and growing kids.

To cook quinoa:

1 c quinoa
Pinch of sea salt
1 3/4 c water

Rinse quinoa well with warm water and drain (it rinses off a bitter flavor in the coating). Place quinoa, salt, and water in a pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer 15-20 minutes until all the water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork before serving. Makes 2 1/2 - 3 cups. It is an excellent "first" food for babies 6 months and older when blended with water or breast milk.

What's a Jicama?

"Jicama (HEE-kuh-muh), a rounded tuber indigenous to Central America, has a thin, light brown skin and mild, crisp, juicy white flesh. It's also known as a "yam bean" because it is the bulbous root of a leguminous plant."

That's the Moosewood cookbook definition. But "yam bean"??? That doesn't sound tasty at all!

It is light brown and looks like a big turnip or potato. It has very little flavor of it's own, but provides crispy juiciness--kind of like an apple.

Lemon Garlic Quinoa Salad

Courtesy of "Feeding the Whole Family" by Cynthia Lair

With lots of protein and other nutrients, this delicious salad is a sure energy booster!

1 c dry quinoa
8 c water
Pinch of sea salt
1/2 c carrots, chopped
1/3 c parsley, minced
1/4 c sunflower seeds

2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 TB olive oil
2 TB tamari (or soy sauce)

Rinse quinoa with warm water and drain through a fine strainer. Place quinoa in a 3 quart pan and dry roast on a low heat for about 5 minutes. Stir constantly until it smells nutty. Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add salt and quinoa. Boil for 10 minutes. Drain quinoa through a large strainer (like pasta).

Prepare dressing and place in a large bowl. Add carrots, seed, and parsley. Add cooked quinoa and toss well. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Jicama Orange Salad

This sweet, crunchy, tangy salad finishes with a hint of spice. It keeps and travels well.

1 small jicama (about 1/2 pound), cut into matchsticks
4 oranges, peeled and sliced or sectioned

1 TB fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt

Mix well, cover, and refrigerate.

Camp Food Revisted

Ahh....the roasting of hot dogs over the fire, the crackle of the Cheetos bag, the long satisfying belch after a can of Coke, followed by the zing of tooth decay in that molar after biting into your ooey-gooey marshmallow (and the ubiquitous unmelted Hershey's bar!). Not to mention that tub of red vines and the bag of trail mix (you know...to increase your energy as you read your book in the lawn chair).

This was the camp food I grew up with. But when I was planning a family camping vacation for my own young family, I was suddenly horrified at the amount of junk I used to eat! Could I really check my "healthy food mom conscience" at the tent flap door? Certainly not! Of course, I also didn't want to endure rolled eyes and whining that generally accompany the "healthy mom freak" I desired to be. Could there be a happy medium?

Actually, with a little planning ahead there are many tasty choices out there.

1. GET OUT YOUR KNIFE! It's time to chop and slice. Bring along some favorite veggies. Have your family eat a few at lunch and dinner. It will lessen your guilt when you see them munching on some Doritos later and it'll provide some much needed fiber to counteract all that sugar (nobody wants constipated kids when camping).

~~"Baby" carrots (or slice up some "grown-up" carrots---they still sell them regular size--and for cheaper)
~~Sugar snap peas
~~Sweet red (orange or yellow) peppers, sliced into strips
~~Cherry tomatoes
~~Cucumber wheels, peeled if you like

2. PREPARE SOME TRAVELING SALADS. If the word "salad" conjures up images of iceberg lettuce and Ranch dressing, you're in for a surprising treat. Two great salads to make ahead of time are:

~~Jicama Orange Salad (borrowed from the Moosewood Restaurant cookbook)
~~Lemon Garlic Quinoa Salad (borrowed from Cynthia Lair's cookbook "Feeding the Whole Family")

I'll post these recipes next.

3. FORGOE THE NITRATES. Honestly, my son loves hot dogs more than anything in the world. With that in mind, I reserve them for a special treat. And I only buy Uncured Nitrite/Nitrate-Free Hot Dogs. If that title sounds unappetizing, never fear. These are not soy dogs or some other tricky bean impersonating a hot dog. They are actually meaty and delicious (to hot dog connosieurs like my son)--they just lack all those terrible-for-you added chemicals. Check out your local health food store--or even Trader Joes where you can also buy Nitrate-Free lunch meat (my daughter's favorite lunch is a ham sandwich).

4. DITCH THE SODA. We all know we should drink more water. Bring a refillable 5 gallon water dispenser in lieu of all those landfill-clogging bottles. Bring along a water bottle for each family member. Kids love to fill their own.

And, honestly, wouldn't you rather spend your empty calories on a cold beer when you're camping?

5. DESSERT--TO SMORE OR NOT TO SMORE. Mmmmm...smores are good, but I'm always disappointed by the unmelted chocolate chunk. Instead, peel a banana almost all the way down, stuff in your marshmallow and chocolate chunks, refold up the peel and wrap everything in a bunch of foil. Throw it in the hot coals for a few minutes and let everything melt into delicious goodness. Hey, you get some potassium out of the deal!

Have a delicious and healthier vacation. Your intestines will thank you.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Chocolate Macaroons

Try this yummy chocolate macaroon recipe for a chewy treat!

2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 c flour
2 TB unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 tsp salt
2 1/2 c lightly packed flaked coconut, sweetened (if unsweetened, add about 1/4 c of sugar to recipe, to taste)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment or buttered foil.
3. Melt chocolate in microwave for 1 minute. Stir to completely melt it.
4. Combine flour, cocoa, and salt.
5. Add coconut, mix well. Stir in melted chocolate, vanilla, and milk. Mix well, batter is stiff.
6. Drop by Tablespoons onto baking sheet. Bake 45 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then on wire rack.

May be frozen, but separate with waxed paper in an airtight container.

Makes approx 3 dozen (yeah right!)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Other Highly Recommended Books

Here are some other books I recommend.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Age-Old Question: What Should I Make For Dinner???

It's 4 p.m. Dinner time is fast approaching. The kids are hungry promptly at 5:30. You are tired and have lost your creative edge for the day. In fact, your own blood sugar is starting to dip and you know what that means---the witching hour has begun. Mrs. Crankenstein is inhabiting your body sucking all ability to cope much less come up with something for dinner.

You stare into the freezer wishing you'd defrosted that chicken earlier. The refrigerator isn't much more help...some mustard, a couple of tortillas, some limp carrots. You've been asked to help the family save some money, so you can't suggest going out.

Why, oh why, didn't you just make a MENU so everything would be thought out beforehand and the right ingredients would be right in front of you???

If you are drowning every afternoon in this reality, then keep reading!

If your family has eaten toast and eggs for dinner more than three times last week, then keep reading!

If you are actually sick of take out pizza because you've ordered it so much lately, then keep reading!


1. Pen and paper (or Excel spreadsheet, if you prefer)

Make yourself a nice little calendar grid with enough spaces to get you from one pay day to the next. Go ahead and cross out any nights when you are sure you'll be out. Put a star on the nights that you know will be crazy (lots of errands, or soccer practice, or church night, etc.) Those are the nights you definitely want to be prepared with something simple.

Leave a space at the bottom of the menu or use another piece of paper to make your shopping list.

2. Research

Everyone has a cookbook or two lying around. When was the last time you actually opened it? Or looked past the one recipe you've used from it? Your homework is to spend a little time getting familiar with your cookbooks or food magazines. Now, we all have that urge to make some fantastic gourmet feast from a fancy cookbook, but resist the urge--especially if you have yet to master the basics of cooking!

Choose one or two new recipes and pencil them in on days when you'll have time to think in the kitchen. As you begin to fill in the days of your menu, record all the ingredients that you need to buy as you go. Also, write in the initials of the cookbook title and also the page number of the recipe on the menu for easy reference. If you have a photocopier, make a quick copy of the recipe and use a magnet to hold it to your stove hood.

Make a list of your family's favorite meals. Begin to assemble a cookbook of your favorite recipes. These are your quick "go-to" meals for your menu. Is Tuesday night always frantic because soccer practice goes until 5:30? Then make that night recurring spaghetti night. Keep a couple of bags of meatballs (I like Trader Joe's Turkey Meatballs) in your freezer and buy pasta sauce in bulk for your pantry.

It can be hard to come up with two weeks worth of meals. So leave a few days blank. For example, I usually leave at least one weekend day open to allow for some wiggle room---a night for leftovers, to go out, or to let your spouse take a turn (that usually means fried rice for us!).

3. Menu and Shopping List

I suggested before that you make your list simultaneously with your menu. If an ingredient comes up more than once, you can decide how much you really need--do you really need two bunches of parsley, or will one take care of two different meals? If a meal calls for 2 Tablespoons of tomato paste, you can always freeze the rest in an ice cube tray (lined with plastic wrap) for another meal.

I usually shop a couple of times for my two week menu because, frankly, those green onions are not going to make it for your Asian dinner planned for day 14! After your whole list is made, separate it into those things that will keep for 2 weeks and those things which you need to buy later in your meal cycle (produce, fresh bread, certain cheeses).

Put your menu on your fridge with a magnet and reference it daily! If you need defrosting reminders, write yourself a note on a day or two previous to the night which you will need it. (E.G. DEFROST FLANK STEAK)

4. Shopping List Extras

I have often made the mistake of only buying food meant for the dinners I planned. Don't forget that your family eats Breakfast and Lunch, too. Add to your shopping list the other things you need--cereal, peanut butter, snacks, veggies, etc.

There is great relief in your heart when you glance at the clock an hour before dinner time and think:

OOOOoooo, I can't wait to have Tilapia with sweet and sour sauce, blanched julienned veggies, and sweet jasmine rice!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Recommended Reads

Here's a list of some books I highly recommend.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Low and No Sugar Jams

Any artificial sweetener may be substituted for sugar or honey in jam. Simply follow the substitution directions on the sweetener you choose (it may not be a 1:1 substitution ratio).

Juice concentrates may also be used in place of sugar. The recipes I have call for about 3 cups of fruit to 1 cup of juice concentrate (plus about 1/4 c lemon juice).

The strawberry jam recipe previously submitted calls for about 4 cups of fruit to 1 cup of sugar. The sugar can be adjusted down slightly according to taste.

Episode Two: Banana Bread

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Do I need a canner to can???

Excellent question.

My strawberry jam video features a WW2, Montgomery Ward, doubles-as-a-bomb-shelter canner. I recently inherited this from my Grandmother who literally canned her food for the winter (it took a lot to feed 10 kids!). She was given this canner by her sister in 1953 who had picked it up at a yard sale some years before.

While this antique is fun to use and handy for all types of canning (veggies and other low-acid foods require a pressure canner like this, but more on that later), a big "C" canner is not required for processing things like jams, chutneys, and whole fruits.

You will need a large stock pot--large enough to fit your jars with approximately 3 inches to spare. I would suggest using half-pint (8 oz.) jars in a stock pot. This will allow you to fill your pot with water at least one inch over your jars and bring it to a rapid boil without overflowing the pot.

Another consideration....the canning rack. Jars need to be lifted up off the bottom of the pot so that water can completely surround the jars. If you buy a canning kit, the pot usually comes with a rack to lift the jars off the bottom. If you are using a stock pot, you can make your own rack. Simply take several canning rings and twist tie them together. Then your jars can rest on them while processing.

Jars and canning utensils can be found at places like Target (so I've been told). I purchased my utensil set at Fred Meyer's for around $9. Jars range from $7-$10 per dozen (including lids and rings) depending on size.

***NOTE: New lids must be used each time you process a jar. Never reuse lids. Jars and rings may be reused if in good condition (i.e. no cracks, chips, or rust).

Lots of Spotted Bananas???

If you have more than 3 ripe bananas....

1. Double your recipe and
~freeze one loaf
~take a loaf to that neighbor you should have introduced yourself to months ago


2. Peel remaining bananas, break into chunks and freeze. Put 2 or 3 in a zip lock bag, then you can easily thaw and bake for your next banana bread craving or use frozen in a smoothy for added creaminess in place of dairy products!


3. Send them to my grandpa in Iowa who swears by black bananas. (Yuk! I think he just likes to gross us out!)

Julie's Banana Bread

Drum roll please....

There is another video in the works, this time I'm making banana bread. Most banana bread tends to be on the dry side. But by adding a brown sugary crust and perhaps an extra ounce or two of bananas and replacing the white sugar with brown sugar, my banana bread disappears into eager mouths.

Here is the recipe, with the video to follow shortly.

1/3 c. softened butter
2 eggs

In a mixing bowl, cream sugar, butter, and eggs.

1 3/4 all purpose flour (unbleached, of course)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp baking soda

In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients. Slowly incorporate dry ingredients into wet ingredients (you don't want a flour face!)

1 c mashed bananas (2-3 soft & ripe)

On a low speed, add bananas (and walnuts if preferred).

Pour into a greased loaf pan and sprinkle top generously with brown sugar. Bake approximately 1 hour. Add little pats of butter to the top after you take it out of the oven. This will create the yummy sugary crust. Let your bread cool for 10 minutes in the pan and then turn it out onto a wire wrack to completely cool.

This bread is great with butter or cream cheese. Or, for a really yummy treat, saute a slice in a little butter and top with chocolate sauce. Mmmm...

Monday, July 14, 2008

What the heck is calcium water?

Fair question.

Calcium water is a mixture that helps the Pomona's pectin gel without the tons of sugar required in conventional pectin brands. It comes in a little packet inside the Pomona's box. You simply mix the contents of the packet with the required amount of water. It stores in the refrigerator for a number of months. But with all the jam you could make this summer, it probably will get used up before it expires!

Now, on to sing the praises of Pomona's Pectin...

It is made of 100% citrus pectin, derived from that bitter white pith stuff under the peel. Many fruits have natural pectin (apples are also high in it). Some fruits are very low in pectin (peaches, apricots), and as such, require more to gel the jam. In other brands of pectin, copious amounts of sugar are also required to set the gel. I recently read a recipe calling for as much as 7 cups of sugar for 5 cups of mashed apricots. With a Pomona's recipe, as little as 3/4 cup of sugar is required for 4 cups of fruit. You can also use 1/2 cup of honey or other alternative sweeteners such as stevia.

Whatever brand of pectin you choose, please follow the directions in the box exactly, or you may end up with runny jam suitable only for ice cream topping (not a bad thing, though).

It's chemistry, people ... and you thought you'd never use it after high school!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Youtube link

Friday, July 11, 2008

Episode One: Strawberry Jam

My Strawberry jam.  Detailed instructions to follow.  

julie.jams' items Go to julie.jams' photostream

Food Candy