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.


Malaysian Curry Tuna Sandwich

A few years back, a good friend of mine brought a house warming gift when she visited me at my new home. It was a simple gift, but perfect in selection, since she new I loved to tinker in the kitchen and try new things.


It was a jar of Malaysian Seven Seas Curry made by Spice Appeal, which she found at a craft and specialty food event. I absolutely LOVE the flavor, and often put it in my chicken or tuna salad, which I thought I would share today.

The contents of the little jar have long been gone, but I managed to snag two industrial sized jars of it online to make sure I never run out again. Weighing in at a pound a piece, my replacement jars will make a ton of Malaysian Curry Tuna Sandwiches.

For this spicy sandwich, I like to mix in celery, grapes, green onions, and cashews,



Along with mayonnaise and a generous amount of the curry.


You might think the grapes are an odd addition, but they add a nice sweet compliment to the heat of the curry.

Once it is stirred together it gets served in pita pockets, and then you let your family rave about your delicious lunch.


Can’t wait to try it? Stop on by – once you taste it I’m sure you will run out to find some for your spice collection!


Malaysian Curry Tuna Sandwich

(2) 7 oz. Cans of tuna packed in water, drained
1/3 cup cashew halves
½ cup diced red seedless grapes
½ cup diced celery
2 green onions, diced
¾ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Malaysian Seven Seas Curry
4 Pita pockets, cut in half and opened to make 8 pockets

In a large bowl, mix together the tuna, cashews, grapes, celery, green onions, mayonnaise, and curry. Stir until well combined and them evenly stuff the pita pockets. Serve immediately.


Cappuccino Chia Seed Pudding

I know, I know, chia seed pudding is an “in” thing right now, but have you tried it? It is definitely worth the hype, since it has the trifecta of great taste, easy prep, and good-for-you benefits.


Chia seeds are a power house of nutrition, with a high fiber content, protein, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids. One of the other amazing attributes of chia seeds is their hydrophilic tendency – they can hold on the order of 10 times their weight in fluid! This fact means I can turn a few simple ingredients, such as almond milk, cappuccino powder, and chia seeds into a pudding once the chia seeds expand and form a gel.


I added a bit of extra flavor with some caramel sauce and raspberries. Eating this for breakfast makes me feel like I am cheating and eating dessert, but I can’t think of any better way to get the nutrient boost mentioned above.


OK, I agree, having the raspberries sit in a pool of caramel probably doesn’t count as a “healthy” breakfast, but it sure is tasty!



Cappuccino Chia Seed Pudding

6 tablespoons powdered French vanilla cappuccino mix
2 cups original flavor almond milk
1/2 cup chia seeds
caramel topping

Stir the French vanilla cappuccino mix into the almond milk until smooth. Stir in the chia seeds and refrigerate for at least one hour. When ready to serve, evenly divide between four small bowls and top with caramel sauce. If desired, serve with fresh berries.


Cocoa Peanut Squares

Do you have a favorite treat from your childhood? Sometimes the simplest ones – like Rice Krispies Treats® and brownies served on hot dog day at school – are the treats that you can’t wait to eat. The extra special Cocoa Peanut Squares my Grandma use to make were something I really looked forward to when we visited her.

Over the Labor Day weekend I visited family and my mom made the Cocoa Peanut Squares for our family barbecue. I’m pretty sure I ate a sizeable portion of the pan by myself. I don’t know the origin of my Grandma’s recipe, and it varies from a version shown on the Rice Krispies® website. Google and Pinterest also pull up quite a few variations, so I encourage you to have fun with this super easy recipe.

Simply heat up corn syrup and brown sugar in a saucepan until bubbly and then stir in peanut butter.


One smooth, add your Cocoa Krispies®.


I also decided to stir in some raw chocolate bits.


Finally, pat into a 8 x 8 inch square pan or a 9 ½ inch diameter pie pan, then let cool and cut into squares (or wedges).

I guarantee these will disappear at lightening speed.



Cocoa Peanut Squares

1/3 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
3 cups Kellogg Cocoa Krispies®
¼ cup raw chocolate bits (optional)

Combine corn syrup and sugar in medium sized sauce pan. Cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently until mixture bubbles. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter, stirring until smooth. Add Cocoa Krispies® and raw chocolate bits, stirring until well coated. Press into a buttered 8×8 inch pan or pie pan, cool, and cut into squares or wedges.



Chile con Queso with Fresh Roasted Chilies and Cashew Cheese

I have been waiting all summer for fresh roasted chilies from my local farmers market. While I could roast peppers myself, you just can’t beat the chilies roasted over coals in a hopper. Last week I was informed that there was only one more week of waiting, so I put my name down for two bags of their medium Anaheim roasted chilies, assuming it was the quart sized bags they had last year.

What I hadn’t been told was that the list wasn’t for small bags of chilies, it was for bushels. BUSHELS. I had ordered TWO bushels of roasted chilies. I ended up leaving the market with one bushel, with the assurance that the other would go fast (which I have no doubt, seeing as how many people ask for them).

In case you are wondering, this is what a bushel of roasted chilies looks like . . . Getting through the entire fifteen pound bag may take a while, and will be why chilies may be a frequent ingredient in future postings.


The first thing I wanted to make with my chilies was Chili con Queso, surprisingly with a cheese substitute – Cashew Cheese. Cheese makes up a generous portion of my diet, which is why eliminating dairy from my diet temporarily to rule out a food sensitivity was difficult, and the few dairy-free cheeses I tried didn’t satisfy my craving. Thankfully, my cheese famine was short lived, though I’m always on the lookout for a good alternative, since some of my good friends have had to maintain a longer dairy hiatus.

Imagine my surprise when at a food event this April I stumbled upon cashew cheese.The unique aspect about the Beyond Better® product I picked up is that it is the only dried version on the market, making it a simple option to pack with you that requires only water for reconstitution. It is a diary-free, gluten-free, organic cheese substitute that actually tastes like cheese!


To make my Chili con queso, I cooked ½ pound of ground beef , then added the cashew queso dip and water,



then I added a bit of the diced freshly roasted chilies and some diced cherry tomatoes . . .



for a hearty, kid & husband approved, lunch of queso and blue corn chips.


Now I just have to figure out what to do with the remaining 14 ½ pounds of chilies. . . .


Chili con Queso with Fresh Roasted Chilies and Cashew Cheese

½ lb ground beef
4 oz package of Beyond Better® Spicy Queso Dip
1 ½ cups water
½ cup freshly roasted chilies, diced
½ cup diced cherry tomatoes

Cook beef in a skillet over medium heat until fully cooked and browned, breaking it into small pieces. Add the queso dip and water and stir until no clumps remain. Heat for 1-2 minutes longer, until thick and bubbly. Stir in the chilies and tomatoes, and then remove from the heat. Serve with corn chips.


Tisane Punch

Having a refreshing drink prepared ahead of time and ready to serve is one of tips you will often see from party planners. My Tisane Punch is a variation of a the classic Arnold Palmer and just what you need to add to your Labor Day celebration.

An Arnold Palmer is equal parts lemonade and unsweetened iced tea, perfectly blending the sweet and earthy tastes. While you can’t go wrong with this drink, why not mix-up the lemonade and tea choice?

To give my drink a fruity background I have went with a tisane – an infusion of herbs and spices that doesn’t included any tea leaves, creating a non-caffeinated (usually) tea-like drink. I used a wild berry tea, and used four tea bags steeped in 2 cups of boiling water. Once it was finished brewing, I removed the tea bags and added another 2 cups of cold water.


For the other main ingredient, the lemonade, I departed with yellow lemonade and instead have used a raspberry lemonade.


Finally, I mixed the two beverages together in equal parts. To serve, I place a few frozen berries (instead of ice cubes) in a glass, poured the drink over the berries, added a fancy straw and let my guests sip away.





Tisane Punch

4 cups raspberry lemonade

4 cups of berry flavored iced tea*

1 bag of frozen mixed berries


Add some frozen berries to a tall glass, then add equal parts of the lemonade and berry iced tea. Serve immediately.

* To make the berry flavored tea, use 4 bags of your favorite berry flavored tea, steep in 2 cups of boiling water for the recommended time, then remove the tea bags and add 2 cups of cold water


Key Lime Bites

Key Lime Pie is one of the decadent treats my husband loves and can’t resist when he sees it on a menu. I think it reminds him of sea & sand filled vacations, and all the great associated memories.

Despite his adoration for this dessert, I can’t remember the last time I made it for him. So as a special treat I made him Key Lime Bites, for a small dose of citrus-infused sugary goodness.

I started with a package of powdered sugar donut holes and cut them in half.



Then, I mixed together some sweetened coconut and lime zest.

Next, I channeled my inner Sandra Lee and her semi-homemade skills and dug into a jar of key lime pie filling . . . . putting a bit on the cut side of half of the donut holes. I recommend having something like a cutting board with a ridge to hold the holes in place before the next step, otherwise they can get a bit top-heavy.

Finally the key lime pie filling gets topped with some of the coconut, and the other half of the donut hole is placed on top to finish off the bite.


To keep them from rolling around, I like to thread them on a kabob skewer, which also makes for easy serving.


The quick and easy bites were a hit, and may have been eaten for breakfast as well as dessert.


Key Lime Bites

½ cup shredded, sweetened coconut
1 teaspoon lime zest
18 powdered sugar donut holes
9 teaspoons key lime pie filling

Mix together the shredded coconut and lime zest, set aside. Cut donut holes in half. place ½ teaspoon key lime filling onto one cut end, add some coconut and then sandwich with the remaining donut hole half. Set down on a ride in a cutting board or skewer with a kabob skewer. Refrigerate until ready to serve.