Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Baked Tortellini (with Spinach & Sun-Dried Tomatoes)

This week is "Teacher Appreciation Week" at my daugher's Mother's Day Out program. I suppose paying them to get 5-10 hours as week to oneself is not appreciation enough. Did I mention that no one pays us stay-at-home-mothers? I realized I never got the memo because when I went to sign up to bring food, the only thing left was to provide an entree. I guess everyone learned from last year and didn't feel the need to share with the newbies--if you don't show up 20 minutes earlier than normal & clamor for sodas & store-bought cookies, you end up pulling the short straw and have to feed 20 people with the main meal.

Well, what does one do in this situation? One goes to Costco and then tries to find a middle ground between store-bought & homemade. Costco sells amazing tortellini in the refrigerated section. This is my favorite make-ahead dish to bring to a new mom or to bring to church potluck. I always make it lighter, but for today, my retribution was to bring the full-fat version.

This recipe has been adapted (when I say that, I mean that I've made the recipe my own) from Better Homes & Gardens--and was originally made with ravioli. Here is the original recipe.


Makes about 12 servings

2 (9 oz) containers refrigerated four cheese or spinach cheese ravioli or tortellini (or any other variety you wish to use instead)½ to one (8 oz) jar oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese (6 oz)
1 ½ cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (6 oz)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (4 oz)
8 eggs, beaten (I use 4-6 eggs and the rest Eggbeaters)2 ½ cups skim milk
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
Salt & pepper, to taste
5 oz. frozen chopped spinach (half package), well drained (optional)
1-2 Tbsp. fresh basil & Italian flat-leaf parsley (use 1-2 tsp. instead for dried herbs)

Lightly spray a 3-quart rectangular or oval baking dish, with cooking spray (okay to use lasagna-style dish--a 9X13, for example). Place uncooked ravioli evenly in dish.

Sprinkle the ravioli evenly with sun-dried tomatoes. Top evenly with cheeses. Set aside. Whisk eggs and milk together until combined. Add garlic powder, salt & pepper, and gently fold in spinach, if using. If you are using dried herbs, this is when you'd add them in.

Pour this mixture over layers in dish. Cover and chill overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake, uncovered, about 40 minutes or until top is golden and center of casserole is set.

Let stand 10 minutes before serving. If you are using fresh herbs, sprinkle the pasta with chopped basil or parsley just before serving.

Best served with a salad and another vegetable on the side.

Note: Recipe can be halved and baked in an 8X8 dish.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Springtime Pasta (with Leeks and Ricotta)

This recipe is adapted from Almost Vegetarian--a great & easy cookbook for people who eat chicken & meat, but mainly vegetarian meals.

The original recipe called for gnocchi, but when I took my stored gnocchi out, I realized they had gone bad (wheat and other whole grain products tend to go rancid quicker than white-flour products). So, orecchiette (ear-shaped pasta), imported from Italy, fit the bill quite nicely. I added peas because we needed another vegetable and they still symbolize spring to me. As you can see from my meal-preparation style, I believe a recipe to be only outstanding, if it can tolerate a few tweaks. On first bite, my husband said, "I LOVE celery"--so I hope you do too, although I tasted the buttery and mild leeks more than I did the celery.

Somehow I think Giada de Laurentis would approve of this meal....I can just see the end clip of her show as she sits in a sunlit piazza eating this pasta (yeah right, she doesn't eat!) with a glass of pinot grigio at her table (feel free to insert yourself in the picture).


1/2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 small leeks, cleaned & coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
1 cup vegetable broth
Salt & lots of crushed black pepper (according to your taste)
1 1/2 lb. cooked gnocchi or 1/2 lb. pasta-about 8-9 oz (I obviously used smaller sized pasta)
2 cups ricotta cheese (part-skim is fine)
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (I had some wonderful Grano Padano, that my parents recently brought back from Italy, insead)
1/2 package frozen peas (I think this comes out to about 8 oz)
Minced fresh chives

Prepare the peas according to the package directions.

In a large skillet, heat together the butter and olive oil. Add the leeks, carrots, and celery over medium-heat. Add 1/2 cup of the broth and salt and pepper and continue to saute, adding more as the liquid is absorbed, until the leeks become very soft (about 25 minutes). Feel free to walk away & come back at intervals to check on the vegetables or work on the pasta (see next paragraph)--a person with small children can't very well stand by the stove the entire time!

Gently mix in the ricotta and Parmesan (or other hard Italian cheese) to the vegetables. Fold in the cooked peas.

If using pasta, cook according to package directions. If using gnocchi, bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat and add salt when water boils. Add gnocchi and cook until they rise to the surfact (sign they are "done"). Reserve a bit of pasta water. Drain.

Add the pasta water to the ricotta mixture and gently stir (I'm leaving it to your discretion here to use as much as you'd wish, as we all like our sauces differently).

Mix in the cooked pasta or spoon pasta into prepared bowl & pour sauce over the pasta.

Top each bowl with freshly minced chives.

Serves 4-6.

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

This recipe is in honor of "Earth Day".

You will find that we have a huge obsession with chocolate chips in this house (unfortunately). And yes, the semi-sweet or darker kind. A few years ago, I picked up Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (author of the Poisonwood Bible). I tried to read it, but could not finish it. I just couldn't get past its agenda. However, I liked the concept & I took the recipes offered by the author.
(The concept is that this family lived for a year off all the food that they produced. Amazing!)

If I recall correctly, the author had a bumper crop of zucchini & she was looking for new ways to use it up. These cookie bars are adapted from the book. I used slightly less sugar & honey than called for below. And I kind of wish I hadn't used the cinnamon & nutmeg because I'm not sure the bars needed extra flavor--but if you like zucchini bread, then you'll really like these bars.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9X13 inch pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Combine in a large bowl (or Kitchenaid bowl):
1 egg, beaten
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
In a separate bowl, gently mix:
1 cup white flour
1 cup wheat flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
1/4 tsp. nutmeg (optional)

Slowly mix the dry mixture into the wet mixture. Then gently add:

1 cup finely shredded zucchini
12 oz chocolate chips

Mix until incorporated. Pour the mixture into the pan and bake for approximately 30 minutes. I had to guess on the cooking time because the original recipe calls for these to be cookies but I felt like "bars". When the edges turn brown and a fork inserted in the middle comes out clean, the bars are done.

Let cool and cut into bars.

Makes approximately good sized 24 bars.

Moccachino (with hidden ingredients)

On a recent family visit, we went to Costco and ran across "The Vitamix Guy". He was making these delicious moccachinos and gave us all samples. He kept mentioning how you can sneak in fiber by adding carrot, squash, cabbage or spinach without tasting it. We didn't believe him, but sure enough, when we had that sample, there was no vegetable to be tasted.

I went home & gave it a whirl (since I'm always looking up reasons to use my Vitamix). I'm sure a professional blender/stronger blender can do a good job. Here's my finding: if you make a "skinnier" version of this moccachino, you have a greater ability to sniff out the veggies. If you use half & half, you really have to hunt to taste for them. It's really good either way. (I'm sure you all think I'm off my rocker putting veggies in a frappucino-type drink)

And if you are a purist, just leave out the veggies. I made these for company & my friends were new addicts.


1 cup half & half (can use skim milk, rice milk, or soy milk)
1 Tbsp. honey or agave syrup (optional--but agave is better)
1 capful (or tsp.) vanilla extract
3 Tbsp. instant coffee (can substitute double strength coffee, coffee syrup, espresso)
1/4 cup Carnation chocolate drink (or as I've found, hot chocolate mix)
Approx. half a blender full of ice to chill & thicken

Process on high speed until thick.

Serves 2-4 depending on how whether you like talls or grandes.

*Note: if you decide to sneak in veggies, do NOT use onion, celery or bell pepper--these have really strong flavors that will most definately affect the taste for the worst.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Grilled Sea Bass and Fingerling Potatoes with Asian Slaw and Caper Citrus Sauce

This awesome meal is adapted from Sunset magazine.

I love meals that incorporate cabbage. This is only a quasi-Asian meal. Traditional cole slaw is not something we like (due to mayo & sugar), so I came up with our own version of "slaw". It's crisp, fresh-tasting, and tart. You can add mayo if you must.

Sea Bass can be VERY expensive, but I happened to come across some at Costco for a good deal. The fingerling potatoes are a fun side dish when you consider they include purple potatoes, and the caper-citrus sauce really brings the meal together while still keeping it light. Just try not to burn the potatoes like I did.


Prepare a grill for medium heat (350° to 450°).

Coat 1½ lbs. fingerling potatoes, sliced lengthwise, with olive oil. Lay a cooling rack on half of cooking grate and spread potatoes out evenly. Grill until brown, turning, then transfer to a platter and sprinkle with ½ tsp. kosher salt and some chopped flat-leaf parsley.

Rub 4 striped bass fillets (recipe says "with skin on", but I had skinless fillets- about 2 lbs.), halved, with 1 tbsp. olive oil and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. kosher salt. Grill on oiled grate, turning once, until grill marks appear, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine:

2 tbsp. chopped capers
1 tsp. each fresh lemon juice and zest (I used lime juice & zest)
1/3 cup mayonnaise (I used 1 Tbsp. only)

Serve the fish with lemon/lime wedges, potatoes, caper mayonnaise and cabbage slaw (recipe below).


1/3 head green cabbage, roughly chopped (avoid the hard core)
1- 1 1/2 carrots, grated
2 celery sticks, sliced in half moons
1/2 cup cooked edamame beans (optional-our child ate the ones I planned to use)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (or roughly 1 big handful)
1/2 tsp. grated ginger (VERY optional-but good for rounding out the Asian taste)

1 lemon or lime, juiced
Olive oil (roughly 1-2 Tbsp.---but if you want to go traditional Asian, try peanut or sesame oil)
Salt & pepper, to taste

Gently toss all ingredients together & serve. Makes approximately 3-4 servings.

Baked Oatmeal (Vegan & Non-Vegan)

I've always had a pretty negative attitude towards vegan eating...(it's just weird, right?), but then I tasted some really good vegan recipes & started thinking differently about vegan food (haven't really thought much about the reasons to eat vegan, but I plan to since I just purchased "Skinny Bitch in the Kitch").

Baked Oatmeal can be turned into a vegan recipe (as I've done below). You can make it with milk or soymilk. Also, my good friend, Betsy, taught me that a good egg replacer is 1 Tbsp. of flax meal mixed with 3 Tbsp. of water--let sit for a few minutes. It was awesome in this recipe!

This is a really good breakfast--healthy, relatively quick, and can be prepared the night before.
There are many variations to be tried with this recipe. You can try apple-pear, banana-walnut, cranberry-orange zest-ginger, any mixed berry, or strawberry-banana-nut as I've tried below.


Serves ~ 5-6

1 1/2 cups to 1 3/4 cups of oats (did not use quick oats)
2 cups skim milk (or for vegan version: soymilk)
1 egg (or for vegan version: 1 Tbsp. flax seed+3 Tbsp. water--mix & let sit a few minutes)
2-3 Tbsp. agave nectar or maple syrup (depending on how sweet you like your oatmeal)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (4 oz)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped nuts
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. baking powder (I used aluminum-free baking powder)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 banana, thinly sliced
6-8 strawberries, diced

Spray an 8X8 inch pan with some non-stick cooking spray (canola oil spray)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl (with the exception of the strawberries) & pour into the baking dish. Sprinkle the strawberries over the top.

Dish can be prepared ahead ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator overnight before baking in the morning. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Serve with a light pouring of maple syrup. Especially good with sliced oranges and some breakfast meat.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What Can A Healthier Brownie Do For You?

Double Chocolate Brownies

Ok, so I've been on the search for the perfect brownie...well, the perfectly acceptable, healthier brownie. I think I've come very close, maybe the closest I've ever come....I've seen recipes with black beans or spinach in brownies & neither of these seem to motivate me.

That is until the day I ran across a brownie recipe with prunes. That seems to make sense! Prunes can cut out fat & add to the "fudgy factor".....Here is the original recipe, courtesy of the Martha Stewart owned Body & Soul magazine.

Three testers later, we agree, these brownies are delicious. Give 'em a try & let guilt go.


4 ounces semisweet chocolate, broken into pieces
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup turbinado sugar (or raw sugar-either way, it makes a big difference from bleached white sugar)1 large egg
1 large egg white
1/4 cup prune puree (or 1/3 cup if you prefer gooier brownies)2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup oat flour (oatmeal blended up in the blender)
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp. instant coffee or espresso powder (trust me on this one, it REALLY brings out the chocolate flavor)
1/2-3/4 cup chocolate chips or mini-chocolate chips (this is really over the top, but amazing--I know, I know, it defeats the purpose)

Really Optional:
1 tsp. cinnamon for times you are the in Mexican chocolate mood
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang. (Or, alternatively, do as I did and spray the pan down with Pam!)

Combine chocolate and oil in a medium heat-proof bowl. Set bowl over a pan of simmering water; stir until chocolate has melted. Remove from heat; whisk in sugar, egg, egg white, prune puree, vanilla, and salt until smooth.

In a medium bowl, combine oat flour and cocoa. Stir into chocolate mixture just until incorporated. Then add in any optional ingredients if using (really, one must try the chocolate chips!).

Spread batter into the prepared pan. Bake until top is firm and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs. This is roughly 40 to 45 minutes. Cool completely in pan.
Using foil, lift brownies from pan. Peel off foil. Using a serrated knife, cut into 12 rectangles (And if you didn't use foil, like myself, they will still lift out just fine).

These are my changes:

Easiest thing to do is to melt the chocolate & oil in a medium pot & then successively follow the rest of the recipe by mixing ingredients in the same pot. one dish dessert :)

The dough seemed dry to me so I added around 1/3 cup milk, but I think you can add soymilk instead. Maybe those of you that try it won't have a dry dough like myself.

Makes 12 brownies


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Savory Frittata (it's not Greek to me)

I think a frittata is one of the most forgiving recipes a person can ever have in their repertoire. It is essentially a baked omelet and a vehicle for your favorite ingredients. You can do a Mexican version or an Italian version or a Denver omelette style...or as a Greek version as seen below.

Perfectly fine to serve as dinner also. Great one dish meal to make when entertaining a big crowd.


**12 eggs
1/2 cup skim milk
1 tst. dried oregano
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 container frozen, chopped spinach, drained well (approx. 5 oz)
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
3/4 cup sliced black olives (I think you can do chopped also, but the best frittata is made with Kalamata olives)
1/3-1/2 container artichoke hearts, chopped and drained well
1/2 cup bell pepper, diced (optional)
1 tsp. olive oil
1 medium sized ripe tomato, sliced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly spray a 9X13 pan with olive oil spray (I used an oval casserole dish, but really an pan will do--especially an enamel cast iron pot which can be preheated in the oven as well, but no need for this really).

Whisk eggs well and add milk, oregano, salt & pepper. Gently add the spinach, breaking it up with spatula if necessary. Fold in the cheese, olives, artichoke hearts, olive oil and bell pepper, if using.

Lightly add the sliced tomatoes on top of the frittata.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes. This is approximate because different ovens cook differently, I have noticed & often I'll get really adventurous & use my "convection" function & it throws the whole equation off. Basically, start checking it about the 25-30 minute mark.

The frittata ready when a fork inserted in the center comes out clean and the edges have stared to brown. It's perfectly fine for the center to be just a little bit moist--almost runny looking, but not where the whole middle section is a puddle. I have learned that several of the ingredients contribute to the water content in the recipe and that the dish eventually firms up.

Let the frittata stand for about 10 minutes before serving.

Great dish to serve with crusty bread, sausage (we like Morningstar), and fruit.

*Can use egg whites for a portion of this amount if desired-I usually do about a 1/3 of the eggs as egg whites.

**If you are really smart, this dish can be prepared the night before & thrown in the oven in the morning as the guests begin stirring. I've done that on a previous occasion & been pleasantly surprised.

Most Requested Recipe: Hot Corn Dip

Consider yourself blessed that I am passing this recipe along. Just kidding. It's so, so, so good!!!

This is sort of like redneck food.....half canned, half not. And so easy, even a caveman could do it.

Adjust seasonings according to your liking if you prefer spicier food.


1 (12.5 oz) can white corn, drained
1 (12.5 oz) can yellow corn, drained
a frozen bag of corn (16 oz is what I usually use)

1 (10 oz) can diced tomatoes with green chile peppers, drained (Rotel)
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened (we use 1/3 less fat)
½ tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. garlic powder
chopped fresh cilantro, to taste (we use about ½ a bunch)
1 to 1 ½ cups of shredded Mexican cheese blend (or Cheddar)
Salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium baking dish, mix all ingredients.

Bake for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Serve with tortilla chips.

NOTE: This dip makes a lot--it can serve about 10-12 people. In my opinion, it tastes better made with frozen corn instead of canned corn, but it really won't kill you to use the canned stuff.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sweet Frit-ta-ta (Banana Walnut)

In experimenting with healthier cooking, I've noticed one of the easiest thing to do is to use whole grain flours. In my search for a sweet addition to breakfast for our company (and my desire to use up over-ripe bananas), I came across this recipe on allrecipes.com & changed it around a bit.

Personally, I can't stand waiting around the range or skillet to cook up pancakes. So this was a fun little switch. This baked banana pancake is a cross between a pancake, souffle, and banana bread. Best of all? It was fast & easy.

You can also make this with apples substituted for bananas & cinnamon substituted for vanilla.


4 eggs
1/2 cup skim milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 cup oat flour (oatmeal blended up in the blender)2 pinches salt (approx. 3/4 tsp.)
1/4 cup sugar (I used brown sugar)
2 large bananas, diced (PLUS, 1 additional banana for topping after baking)
1/3 cup walnuts (optional)
Maple syrup (for serving)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray a 9-inch springform pan with non-stick spray. Wrap the pan in aluminum foil to prevent leakage. Place pan in the oven to preheat as well.

In a bowl, crack the eggs & whisk after each one until they are smooth. Add the vanilla, skim milk, and butter. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt and sugar.

Gradually fold the dry mixture into the liquid mixture, stirring constantly, until a smooth batter is formed. Fold in the sliced bananas and walnuts (if using).

Take the preheated pan out of the oven & pour the mixture in until it is evenly distriubted across the greased pan.

Bake for about 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean and the edges have just started to brown.
Slice the last banana in rounds & add to the top of the pancake. Cut in wedges & serve with pure maple syrup (do yourself a favor & skip the Aunt Jemima!).

Serves 6.
Got thumbs up all around.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Pan Fried Onion Dip (Legal Crack-Like Food)

Ina Garten is one of my favorite chefs (Barefoot Contessa on FoodTv). My sister in law through marriage, Heather Colburn, introduced me to this amazing appetizer. I'm making it again this weekend because we have friends coming through & it's a special request :)

It has become a household staple for informal social gatherings. I have to double the recipe because people stand around it and consume it at a rapid speed and then ask for more. It is usually the first thing to go off the table. Please excuse the bad picture.

I will not lie, there is NOTHING healthy about this dip. But, it's delicious & easy to make. Below is my "healthified" version (which is sort of a joke). But this is the original. Frying the onions gives them a caramel, sweet & nutty-like flavor. The dip is a bit spicy but you can adjust the heat to your liking.


2 large yellow onions
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup olive oil (I use a little less)
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (1/3 less fat)
1/4 cup sour cream (light)
1/4 cup plain, fat-free yogurt
1/2 cup good mayonnaise (light)--I like to use Vegennaise for the taste or Kraft's olive oil version
Cut the onions in half, and then slice them into 1/8-inch thick half-rounds (You will have about 3 cups of onions). If you don't like big chunks in your dip, dice the onion.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium heat. Add the onions, cayenne, salt and pepper and sauté for 10 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 more minutes, until the onions are browned and caramelized. I like to add the cream cheese at this point if you don't have it at room temperature and let the heat of the onions melt the cheese and make it easier to stir together.

Mix the cream cheese and onion mixture with the sour cream, yogurt and mayonnaise gently until smooth. Add the onions and mix well. Taste for seasonings.

Serve at room temperature with crackers, chips, and/or vegetables.

Makes two cups

Note: I have noticed that if you use fat-free sour cream or mayonnaise, you have to use more salt. The fat free versions have more sugar in them.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Healthier Chocolate Oat Nut Butter Protein Bars

These delicious protein bars are courtesy of my mother in law, Carol. I think she was inspired by her local health club & I'm lucky because she shared the recipe with me. To be honest, most of my best recipes come from her (thanks Carol!).
These taste like a decadent treat & can keep you going for hours.


Ingredients :

Non-stick cooking spray
1 cup powdered soy protein
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour (I use whole wheat pastry flour)
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (I use Turbinado)1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (up to 2 cups)
1-1/2 cups vanilla yogurt (3-6oz. containers—I used fat free & plain Greek yogurt)
1/2 cup almond or peanut butter (I used more—can use any nut butter)
2 tsp. vanilla extract


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Lightly spray a 9 by 13 inch baking pan and a cookie sheet with nonstick spray.
3. Mix together the protein powder, flour, oats, wheat germ, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl.
4. Crumble in the brown sugar, rubbing it with your fingers to break up any clumps.
5. Stir in the chocolate chips.
6. Measure the yogurt, almond butter (thin it by melting a few seconds in the microwave and stirring) and vanilla into a second bowl, stirring until well combined.
7. Add the wet mixture into the dry and mix patiently until thoroughly blended.
8. Transfer to the prepared baking pan, patting it into place with your hands.
9. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and cut into bars.
10. Place the bars on the prepared cookie sheet and bake for another 15 minutes, or until golden around the edges.
11. Remove the bars from the oven and cool.
12. Eat within a few hours, or store in heavy plastic bags in the freezer.
13. Reheat briefly in a toaster oven before serving.

Adapted from Bount Memorial Weight Management Ctr.

Banana Monkey Breakfast Shake

There are few thing more delicious, decadent, and healthier than this shake. This is truly an embodiment of "good food". Our recipe was inspired by an Oprah show I read about that featured the cast of "LOST", one of our favorite shows. Matthew Fox (the actor who plays "Jack") said this is a favorite of his (called "Kailua Monkey" in Hawaii). And now it's my husband's favorite shake.

In our house, it's called the "Banana Monkey" and it tastes like a milkshake. Ever since we've introduced this to my uncle Gabriel, he's had this shake every day.


Makes 2-3 servings

Approx. 4 oz. soy milk (we use light, Silk brand soymilk)
2 heaping Tbsp. scoop organic peanut butter (not Jif brand)
1-2 big scoops vanilla soy protein powder
2 ripe bananas (frozen bananas preferred)
1 huge glass of ice
1 tsp. honey or agave nectar (optional—can usually skip if bananas are ripe)
1 Tbsp. wheat germ (optional)

In blender (the Vitamix is awesome for this!), blend all ingredients until smooth, adding more soymilk to thin out the consistency if necessary.

Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy! We sure do.

Haystacks....you know you're an Adventist, when....

...you know what a "haystack" is. And you don't call it "taco salad".

I'm not sure there's an easier meal recipe besides ordering takeout.....this is the PERFECT casual entertaining recipe, picnic food, meal to serve to a huge crowd, or a fun meal with kids.

It's also a terrific way to use leftover chili--meat or vegetarian.

Here's what you'll need:

As you can see, the proportions are very difficult to estimate because it's a "build it yourself" meal & everyone likes more or less of one thing.


Corn chips (we use Fritos)
Chili or beans (we use Bush’s chili beans or black beans, but pinto will do well too)
Grated Cheese (we use a Mexican blend or cheddar)
Chopped onion (if you are an onion lover)Chopped Lettuce
Diced Tomatoes
Avocado or guacamole
Sour cream
Black Olives

Optional, but delicious, add ins:
Chopped cilantro
Taco seasoning

Ingredients are laid out buffet style. Everyone gets a plate and goes through line, building up their plate & layering ingredients as they see fit.

You gotta live it to understand it. Haystacks are a good time.