Kaniwa, Tomato, and Basil Salad

In my opinion, eating a gluten-free diet is getting easier and easier. Not only are there many more gluten-free breads and other goodies on the market, but I even stumbled upon another wheat-free side dish option to put into rotation – kaniwa.

Kaniwa is a gluten-free “grain”, that like quinoa is actually an extremely nutritious, small seed. Similar in fashion, when this reddish-brown seed is cooked it develops a light outer ring.


My experimenting with this grain has only just begun, but I think it will prove just as versatile as quinoa.  An easy way to try kaniwa is in my simple kaniwa, tomato, and basil salad.  After boiling the kaniwa in water for approximately 20 minutes, I stirred in some basil, grape tomatoes, and diced garlic.


I then gave it a light dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and served it warm. It was a welcome change of pace from our typical dinner starches and quickly won the approval of my family. Whoo hoo! Another successful gluten-free dinnertime companion!



Kaniwa, Tomato, and Basil Salad

1 cup kaniwa
3 cups water
4 cloves garlic, minced
0.25 ounces fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt

Place the kaniwa and the water in a large sauce pan and boil over medium heat for 20 minutes or until the kaniwa is tender and chewy. Remove from the stove, drain any remaining water, and stir in the garlic, basil, oil, lemon juice, and salt. Serve immediately.


Candied Grapefruit Peels

As Christmas approaches, the urge to make all of my favorite holiday treats gets stronger and stronger. One of the things I always make is candied orange peels, which are swiftly devoured be me, my dad, and my friend Brooke. This year I thought I would try a different citrus fruit for my candied peels and settled on grapefruit.


The process is labor intensive, but well worth it for such a unique and special treat. First, you have to create the strips of peel. I have found that scoring the peel in quarters allows you to peel the fruit in four, easy, unripped sections.




The sections get cut into slices, which are then blanched three times.


Next the peels get a sugar bath, soaking up some sweetness to balance their natural pucker-up tendencies.


Finally, the sugary peels are baked at low heat to dry them out, and then tossed with some extra sugar to coat.

I enjoy my candied grapferuit peels as is, but they are equally as good with a coating of chocolate or as a garnish for other festive desserts. How do you like to eat candied citrus peels?



Candies Grapefruit Peels

6 cups grapefruit peels, cut into thin strips (peel from 3 grapefruits)
1 1/2 Cups white sugar
¾ Cup water
½ Cup light corn syrup
extra white sugar for coating

Place the grapefruit peels in a medium size sauce pan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Drain, then repeat the process twice more. In a separate, large pot place the water, 1 ½ cups sugar, and corn syrup and heat until the sugar dissolves. Add the grapefruit peels (the syrup will barely cover all the grapefruit peels) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently, or until grapefruit peels have become translucent and the syrup has been absorbed by the peels. Remove from heat. Preheat oven to 250 °F and line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Evenly spread the orange peels over the parchment paper, and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and toss with sugar to coat. Store in a sealed container.


Ninja Panini

Ah, the perils of a food blogger. Sometimes a recipe sounds better in your head, and when you try to execute the idea, it is quickly derailed. Point in case – my ninja panini.

Since Ninjas are trained in the art of stealth, I thought it would be a clever name for a sandwich that snuck in some broccoli. What better way to add some extra veggies to your kids diet, all the while fooling them with a fun name?

I started with some chopped up broccoli, diced ham, cream cheese, and shredded cheddar cheese, and stirred them all together to make a filling.




I brushed the outside of my bread slices with butter, split my broccoli-cheese filling between four slices of the bread (butter side down) and spread the filling. I topped the sandwiches with the remaining slices of bread and then grilled them in my indoor, double-sided grill ( alternatively, you can use a panini press or two heavy skillets).

The result was a golden, crunchy on the outside and deliciously gooey in the inside sandwich. I loved it, but unfortunately the kids were not fooled and didn’t eat much of it. I have actually seen them eat more broccoli serve raw AND without a dip.


The second disappointment was that the other element behind the name – the shape of the sandwich – was also a fail. I had wanted to use my ninja cookie cutters to shape the sandwiches. The cookie cutters aren’t sharp enough and the sandwich the wrong consistency, meaning I was left with more of a blob than a ninja.


Oh well. Failures are just as important to the crafting of culinary skills as successes!

Ninja Panini

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
½ cup diced broccoli
½ cup diced ham
8 slices of bread
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Preheat a panini press.

Place the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, broccoli, and ham in the bowl of a large mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix the cheese, broccol, and ham until a uniform spread is formed.
Lightly butter one side of each piece of bread. Turn four pieces of bread bread butter side down and evenly divide the cheese spread between the four slices, smearing it in an even layer. Top with the remaining slices of bread, butter side up. Grill the sandwiches in the panini press for 2 minutes each, or until the bread is golden and the cheese is melted. Remove the sandwiches (makes 4) and serve immediately.


Asparagus Frittata

This week my husband and I split the grocery shopping in preparation for our Thanksgiving meal. As you can imagine, we ended up with some overlap – in this case asparagus.


This wouldn’t have been so bad, except our holiday guests have had to cancel at the last minute due to an everlasting cold, meaning we now have 4 and ½ pounds of asparagus to eat between two adults and two toddlers. I’m sure the week ahead will be filled with all sorts of asparagus salads, sautés, and soups.

The first recipe on my asparagus pare down list was my asparagus frittata. Not only is it a deceptively easy weekend breakfast, but leftovers make for a wonderful treat before rushing out the door for work.

I started with ½ pound of asparagus (woody stems removed) and gently sautéd them, then added some leftover mushrooms and onions from dinner the night before. Next, an egg mixture which included a bit of cream and seasoning was poured on top and finally covered with a bit of feta.



A few minutes over low heat on the stovetop followed by a few minutes under the broiler resulted in a beautifully, golden asparagus frittata. The whole family enjoyed the special Sunday meal, with the baby out-eating all of us!




Asparagus Frittata

½ lb fresh asparagus
6 large eggs
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon italian seasoning
½ teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup cooked mushrooms
¼ cup sautéed onions
4 oz feta cheese, broken in pieces

Preheat the oven broiler; Break off the woody ends of the asparagus, and then cut into 1 in segments. in a medium sized bowl mix together the eggs, whipping cream, italian seasoning, onion powder, salt, and pepper and set aside.
Put the butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet and melt over medium-high heat. Add the asparagus and sauté for 3 minutes, or until softened. Reduce the heat to medium-low, sprinkle in the mushrooms and onions, and then pour the egg mixture over the vegetables. Place the cheese pieces evenly over the top of the egg mixture. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until the edges begin to firm and upon inspection the bottom of the eggs is beginning to brown. Remove from the stovetop and place in the broiler and cook for 3minutes longer, until the top is lightly browned and puffed. Remove from the oven, cut into eight wedges and serve immediately.


Asian Salad with Ponzu Dressing

When life gets busy, it is often easiest to make the same, old staples for meals – things that are quick, or don’t take much thought to prepare. While I fall into this trap myself, I think we are cheating ourselves when we walk past ingredients in the grocery store just because we have never used them. For example, have you tried ponzu sauce?


Ponzu sauce is a citrus based soy sauce that adds wonderful depth to an entree. In my opinion, it isn’t as harsh as soy sauce and can be used as a finishing touch in dishes, or as a key component of my Ponzu Dressing that tops my Asian Salad.

To make my Asian Salad, I started with some fresh, baby spinach,


and then I added some mandarins, green onions, carrots, cashews, and water chestnuts.




I mixed up some oil, rice vinegar, ponzu sauce, and dried ginger to make a dressing, poured it over the salad and tossed to coat. To serve, I topped each plate of salad with a bit of chow mein noodles – time to dig in!



Asian Salad with Ponzu Dressing

9 cups of baby spinach, washed
6 mandarins, peeled and segmented
½ cup diced green onion
½ cup shredded carrots
½ cup cashews
8oz can sliced water chestnuts, drained
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup ponzu sauce
½ teaspoon dried ginger
1 cup chow mein noodles

Place the baby spinach in a large bowl, then add the mandarin slices, green onion, carrots, cashews, and water chestnuts. In a separate, small container, stir together the oil, rice vinegar, ponzu sauce, and ginger until well mixed. Pour the dressing over the spinach salad, and toss the salad to coat. Divide the salad between eight plates, topping each plate with two tablespoons of chow mein noodles, and serve immediately.



Tomatillo Salsa

This week we hosted our church small group and the meal theme was taco bar.  I was lucky enough to get to prepare one of my favorite things to make – SALSA.  When I started cooking, a variety of salsas was what kicked off my kitchen experimenting. So much so, that people started saying, “oh yeah, you’re the salsa lady – I loved the ________ salsa you made last time”.

I love experimenting with salsa because it is so versatile, enabling both vegetables and fruit combos, and eaten with chips or as an entree topper.

My latest salsa is this tomatillo salsa, which starts with a pound or fresh tomatillos that get roasted,



and then blended before stirring in a generous amount of red onion, tomatoes, corn, and garlic (plus a bit of honey to balance the natural tartness of the tomatillos).



The salsa (and the taco bar theme) turned out to be a great hit – next time I plan on making a double batch!





Tomatillo Salsa

1 lb tomatillos, husk removed
2 tablespoons honey
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup diced red onion
½ cup diced roma tomato
½ cup frozen corn, thawed
2 cloves garlic, minced
Set oven to broil and place tomatillos on a roasting pan. Place in the oven and roast for 8-10 minutes, turning once, until both sides are slightly charred. Remove from the oven and pulse in a food processor until smooth. Add the pureed tomatillo to a large bowl, and then stir in the honey, salt, onion, tomato, corn, and garlic. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with tortilla chips.


Rambutan & Lavender Fruit Salad

The first time you see a rambutan you are sure to think, “How do you eat THAT?!?”. The fruit is covered in a hairy peel that seems uninviting.

If you simply scour the peel around the middle you reveal the white flesh in side.




Many people enjoy them as is and just chew on the fruit, eating around the center seed. The mild tasting fruit is similar to a grape with a more floral undertone.

As I chopped up the fruit my daughter ate it almost as fast as I could get the flesh off the seed, which means I was left with only enough rambutans to make a one-serving dish.




I stirred together the rambutans and a few tangerine, then drizzled a bit of sweetened lime juice and lavender over the fruit for a simple yet deliciously exotic fruit salad. My daughter nearly ate all of the fruit salad too, leaving just a few bites for the cook.



Rambutan & Lavender Fruit Salad

6 rambutans, skin and seed removed
2 tangerines, peeled and segmented
1 tablespoons sweetened lime juice
lavender (to taste)

In a small bowl, stir together the rambutans and tangerines, top with lime juice and sprinkle a few lavender buds over the fruit. Stir together and enjoy – makes one serving.


Tropical Turmeric Smoothies

Do you love smoothies but feel like you are in a rut? Why not trying an unexpected flavor to change things up?

A twist I tried this week is fresh turmeric.  Turmeric is a rhizome in the same family as ginger and is more typically used dried, though it is just as delicious fresh. To use it, simply shred a bit of the peeled turmeric and use accordingly.  For my smoothie, I made sure not to get too carried away since I didn’t want the slight bitterness of the spice to overpower my drink.


My Tropical Turmeric Smoothie was heavily loaded with fresh pineapple and freshly squeezed orange juice, and rounded out with Greek style yogurt and  of course the turmeric.



The pungent flavor of the turmeric provided a great balance to the pineapple so the drink wasn’t overly sweet and was enough of an exotic flavor to make all of my guinea pigs guests take notice.



If this colorful beverage hasn’t won you over yet, would it change your mind if you knew that turmeric:

  • has anti-inflammatory properties
  • Is considered to help with indigestion, coughs, shoulder pain and colic according to Chinese medicine
  • May prevent cancer or slow cancer growth

Even without these extra perks, a Tropical Turmeric Smoothie is a fun and healthy way to start your day!

Tropical Turmeric Smoothie

4 cups fresh, chopped pineapple
½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons freshly grated turmeric
½ cup plain Greek style yogurt

blend all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth. Pour into four glasses, garnish as desired, and serve immediately.

Note: Fresh turmeric stains clothes and skin easily (it is even used as a natural dye) – prepare with caution.


Meltology – A Review of Cheese Melting

Cheese is eaten in my house everyday, and it is a common ingredient in my recipes. Meals such as pizza and burgers are best with perfectly melted cheese, but past the more common cheeses of mozzarella and cheddar, my knowledge of how other cheese hold up to heat is a bit limited.

Hence, I decided to do another kitchen experiment. One I would like to refer to as “meltology”. I wanted to answer:

  • How long does it take to melt the cheese?
  • How long does it take to over cook it?
  • How does the consistency and color change with heat?


For this first experiment, I chose six cheeses. Starting with the upper left corner and going clockwise, they are:

  • Mozzarella
  • Cheddar
  • Cotija
  • Romano
  • Brie
  • Gorganzola

I preheated the oven to 375°F and then viewed the cheeses as 2, 4, 6, 8, 14, and 18 minutes into baking.

Two Minutes



 Four Minutes



Six Minutes





Eight Minutes



Fourteen Minutes


At 8 minutes the mozzarella was the first to brown, but it was the most forgiving in terms of consistency of texture and rate of browning over the course of heating.

This mini-experiment showed me that gorganzola has an optimal window of heating – by 14 minutes it began to turn an off putting brown.

The cheddar stayed supple, as did the brie, whereas the Romano turned crisp.

The most interesting part to me was the cotija. While I knew going into this that it was considered a non-melting cheese, I hadn’t considered that it would actually brown. The toasted cheese tasted good and had a chewy consistency.


Cheese melting is largely impacted by the curding process and moisture content.According to Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking, acid curded cheese do not melt, and low moisture means it takes longer to melt and the cheese will not “flow”.


While my cheese melting test wasn’t very extensive it did give me a better appreciation of the differences between cheese varieties.  Happy Melting!


Berry Good Finds – Triple Berry Parfait

Last week I was so excited when I received an email from the Colorado Agricultural Leadership Foundation (CALF) that they were open for raspberry picking the next day (one day only!), which happened to fall on my Friday off from work.


I had never picked raspberries and I thought it would be a fun excursion for my kids and I. We had a great time picking and eating berries right from the vine (with permission of course, and I’m sure you can guess that with two toddlers I did most of the picking and they did most of the eating), but I have to say that the most interesting part of the day was discovering YELLOW raspberries.  Not under-ripe, but actually yellow at maturity.


Personally I think they taste a bit sweeter than the red variety, though my husband says they taste the same to him.

Yellow raspberries were just the first of this week’s discoveries. I found two other new (to me) berries at a local store – kiwi berries and dried mulberries.  A kiwi berry is a small variety of the kiwi fruit that is about the size of a grape with smooth skin. You actually eat them whole, which means you get the juicy kiwi flavor without the hassle of peeling.



Dried mulberries are chewy and dense in texture, more similar to a dried currant or fig rather than a raisin.  The taste is mellow with a slightly spiced undertone. You can use them interchangeably for other dried fruit in recipes, or just eat them by the handful like me, using their “superfood status” as an excuse to hide the fact that they are just as addictive as candy.


I couldn’t choose between the three berries this week so I decided to throw all of them into a yogurt parfait.  I wanted to be able to fully enjoy the flavor of the berries, so I left the yogurt flavor light.  I stirred a bit of apple pie spice and honey into plain non-fat yogurt and topped it with a generous portion of my triple berries.  I only wish yellow raspberries were easier to find so that I could enjoy this treat more often!




Classic Banana Bread with Elvis Presley Frosting

I started collecting recipes long before I actually had the opportunity to get in the kitchen everyday and tinker. One of my early acquisitions was my grandma’s Joy of Cooking Cookbook. An odd momento for an 18 year-old to keep, but at the time it seemed such a true representation of her and the love-infused meals she created. As I turned to this trusted book once again for a favorite recipe, I realized what a perfect keepsake it is.


I have kept all of her book markers that were in the volume, which are both place holders and reflective of her character. For example, the place markers include:

  • An Easter Card with the verse “ He is Risen” (Matt 28:6) on the front, a representation of her faith that she expressed daily.
  • Scratch paper with shopping lists and recipes. Much like my grandma (and very unlike my age) I write down my shopping list and recipe interests as they hit me, often on scratch paper in my vicinity.
  • The start of a letter to a “dear friend” – who was this friend? Did they share her passion for cooking? What made her start the letter in the midst of cooking? Questions I’ll never answer, but interesting none-the-less.


One of the recipes I make often from this cookbook is the quick banana bread. There is nothing fancy about the banana bread, just flour, shortening, banana, sugar, egg, and baking powder.


While I would generally use bananas that were more ripe than the photos show, my 3 year-old heard me mention that I wanted to make banana bread. This means that I heard her ask every half hour, “Are we were going to make banana bread?” until we did, regardless if the bananas were that perfect shade.


We mashed, mixed, filled the pan, and finally baked our loaf . . .




achieving a lovely golden crust, and buttery inside.


The motivation to make banana bread was actually tied more to my kitchen experiments. I am sure you have heard of the “Elvis Presley Sandwich”, which is a fried banana, peanut butter, and bacon sandwich. Honestly, the idea of the sandwich falls in a gray area for me – it is either going to be surprisingly tasty or absolutely unpalatable. My cheater version is to make banana bread and make what I am calling Elvis Presley Frosting.

The frosting is a sweet-savory concoction of peanut butter, powdered sugar, milk, and bacon. Much to my surprise, it actually tastes good!





Elvis Presley Frosting

½ cup crunchy peanut butter
1 1/3 cup powdered sugar
¼ cup original flavor almond milk
4 slices applewood smoked bacon, cooked crisp and cooled


Stir together the peanut butter, sugar, and almond milk until smooth. Crumble the bacon and stir into the peanut butter frosting.  Serve on top of thick slices of banana bread.


Quinoa Tabouleh

A fresh, brightly colored salad is hard for me to resist. Both the vibrant hues and the variety of ingredients make me almost forget that it is in fact already October, ushering in cooler weather. A favorite in my household is tabouleh, a dish originating from the Middle East, typically consisting of mint, tomatoes, and couscous or bulgur as the main ingredients. Today I’ve substituted quinoa for the couscous/bulgur to make a more gluten-free friendly version.

Not only is quinoa a gluten free grain, it is also a great option for meat-less meals. It is considered a total protein since it packs all eight of the essential amino acids. In addition, it has a high fiber content and is touted as possessing anti-inflammatory properties.


Quinoa starts out as hard, smooth, tiny grains that after boiling become fluffy with a more translucent center and outer white ring.


In addition to the quinoa, I filled the salad with plenty of other scrumptious things, such as avocado,


red onion, tomato, parsely, garlic, and pine nuts.


A light dressing of olive oil and lemon juice is poured over the salad,


and then you are ready to eat.


One other interesting fact about quinoa is that while it is grouped with cereals (like wheat) based on it’s typical use, it is actually a member of the spinach family. Maybe in a modern day “Popeye the Sailor Man” cartoon, quinoa would be his fuel of choice!


Quinoa Tabouleh
1 ½ cups quinoa
3 cups water
1 ½ cups diced tomatoes
¾ cup diced red onion
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
3 garlic cloves, roughly minced
¼ cup pine nuts
1 teaspoon salt
1 avocado, diced
3 oz olive oil
1 ½ oz lemon juice
Place water and quinoa in a large sauce pan and bring to a vigorous boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, until quinoa is tender and chewy (white ring will apear on the outside of the puffed up grain), aproximately 15-20 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, red onion, parsley, garlic, avocado, and pine nuts, then add the salt, oil and lemon juice and stir until combined.