Thursday, December 27, 2012

Foods I love: My favorite food finds from 2012

I have to admit, even though I was able to master cooking brown rice this year, this item from Costco comes in very handy on busy days.   A standby easy meal for us is a take off on a Chipotle veggie bowl: rice, beans (I use organic canned pintos, which I season), sauteed bell peppers & onions, guacamole & salsa.  My pantry is never without these.

Our friends turned us on to this wonderful product.  We call it "choffee" and it's roasted cocoa beans.  It brews like coffee in a press pot and is naturally caffeine-free (though it has a natural stimulant, theobromine, that boosts your metabolism but doesn't disrupt sleep).  It's chock full of health benefits, like antioxidants, and minerals, and is considered a "super food."  Most of all, it smells like deep, dark chocolate and tastes fantastic.  It looks like coffee but tastes like chocolate... I describe it as hot chocolate without the milk and sugar if you can imagine that.   We drink it most evenings (even my coffee-hating husband loves it). And here's a bit of trivia while we're on the subject: did you know that cacao beans are called "cocoa beans" after roasting?  

The table salt and cooking salt that most of us use are devoid of any nutritional value.  That is why we have switched to Himalayan Pink salt.   HP salt is obtained from mines that are rich in crystal salt which are located on Himalayas foothills, and is considered to be one of the purest salts on earth (it does not contain the chemicals and pollutants found in sea salt).   Just google "Himalayan Pink salt benefits" and learn more about it.   Costco carries a grinder bottle like the one above and it is very reasonable in price.

Emma turned me on to Kombucha tea this year.  She would pick it up at Whole Foods and often a bottle of it would be found on our kitchen table.  She kept raving about it, and so I decided to try it.  Thanks, Emma... now I'm completely hooked.   Forget all the  health claims, this stuff just tastes phenomenal and is such an enjoyable drinkAnd if you've ever been fortunate enough to have some homemade Kombucha, you'll know why I've turned to making my own.  Yes, it's crazy and the terminology Kombucha makers use is downright repulsive and strange (Scoby is now a household word around here, and a weird, science-experiment-looking jar has a permanent home on the kitchen counter).  I'll post more on the process later - I'm excited to share it with you.

And speaking of tea, my friend Julia introduced me to this tea and it became a new favorite.  I've always been a fan of Aveda tea but it's quite cost prohibitive so I would limit myself to the cup my stylist offers me at my monthly visits.  :-)   This tea tastes EXACTLY like it!  It contains wonderfully healthy things like organic licorice root and cinnamon bark.   I just love the flavor and it's naturally decaffeinated.   I like it strong so I double up on the tea when I'm brewing.  For a good black tea, my favorite is Numi organic decaf black vanilla.

almond milk

I prefer not to not consume much dairy (I do make an exception for good cheese, and I wholeheartedly believe in raw dairy products).   But I do love milk for all different things like smoothies or lattesSince acquiring a Vitamix this past summer, I've been able to make my own almond milk and I love it!  Here's the recipe I follow- it is so nutritious AND delicious.  I do sweeten mine with Medjool dates and put a little vanilla extract in.  I get raw, organic almonds for this, so I don't really save money making my own... but it's SO much healthier and tastier than the processed, boxed kind (or "fresh" refrigerated kind).

One use for my homemade almond milk is in this delicious kale smoothie, which I drink quite often (I use the Vitamix which does good work of the greens):

-1 large (or 1 1/2 small) frozen banana (I freeze them whole and unpeeled, then thaw 30 sec. in microwave, cut off peel and chunk)
-1 cup cold almond milk
-1 tsp. vanilla extract (you can omit if using vanilla flavored milk)
-2-3 dates, pitted
-a good handful of kale (membranes removed) or spinach
-a handful of ice  

But HEY! You can't be healthy all the time!  Life is not all brown rice and kale smoothies.  :-)  Most of you know that I'm a hopeless bakery addict...and I admit I've been a regular for (ahem) decades at my favorite little bakery Berolina's in Montrose.  This year, I was fortunate to discover two wonderful new bakery spots.  The first is The Backdoor Bakery.... which was formerly in Silver Lake and strangely came to Sunland (the owners live by me here in Shadow Hills and wanted a place close to home).  This place is MONEY!   The best croissants that I've EVER tasted....hands down! Seriously, amazingly good stuff here. Backdoor is located in a junky strip mall (about a mile from the 210 freeway exit at Sunland Blvd.) but you should really try it.  The owner Deborah is an amazing baker.   There is not a huge selection, but everything she makes is incredible.  She really specializes in croissants and baguettes, but is super creativeI recommend on your first visit just getting a plain croissant and a latte (they even make almond milk lattes - yes!)Even though she makes crazy good pain au chocolat, and even a salted caramel croissant... to appreciate Deborah's skill as a baker you should just sink your teeth into a plain one to begin with.  Perfectly golden crust and the softest, melt-in-your-mouth interior, you'll be blown away.  Here is their facebook page. 


Backdoor Bakery
8658 Sunland Blvd., Sunland

The other place I discovered was on a tip from a Pasadena friend.  It is Euro pane.   Now, I'm not exactly into egg salad sandwiches, I probably would never order one or be raving about one for that matter.  But, this bakery makes an amazing egg salad sandwich on rosemary currant bread.  The eggs are not completely hard boiled, so they are tender, and I'm sure the mayo is house-made.  It's served open faced it's messy, but oh-so-good.  They also have good coffee and pastriesNext time you're in the Pasadena area do yourself a favor and go. 

Euro pane's egg salad (and grilled veggie sandwich in background)

Euro pane 
950 E. Colorado Blvd. Pasadena - this is the location I've been to. They have an additional, larger & newer location at 345 E. Colorado, but the parking isn't as easy.

Well, as for the upcoming year, at the Harasick homestead we are trying our hand at organic vegetable gardening.  We've been tomato growers for years, but I've always wanted to grow more.  Recently my sweet husband took on the project of designing a large gardening space in our front yard.  We removed a few fruit trees to do so, but I think it will be well worth it.  The project currently still in progress and should be ready for a spring planting.  It will soon house 8 raised beds, each 4x4 feet.  We are following plans from Square Foot Gardening. We don't know much about growing vegetables or composting so I'm sure we'll be learning a lot!  Most things we hope to grow from seeds. 

What you see below is the gardening space after we removed 4 trees and grass, dug out old soil, and added decomposed granite 4" deep.  Around the edge is a planting border with soil, which I'm thinking may be fun to use for herbs since they grow so beautifully, and I really enjoy having an abundant supply for my cookingThere will be a white picket fence with a gate in center, between the DG and the planter to help keep critters out and look like a cute garden.  :-)  At first I was a little taken aback at how much space Rich wanted to devote to the garden, but now I'm really glad as we'll be able to grow much of our own organic produce.


And here's Rich building the first bedsThat's MY man.  :-)

Happy 2013 everyone!!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Merry Christmas from our family

A Christmas Card for my blog readers...

We had two pictures we liked from our desert session....we decided to go with the silly one for our card...why not?  We're just a little excited about our new daughter-in-law to be Stephanie...can you tell?



From our family to yours...we send wishes for a very Merry Christmas!  We hope Christmas has great meaning & joy for you as Jesus Christ's birth represents the fact that He came to save sinners and reconcile us to God!  We are thankful that His birth means that we can have new life in Him.  May His blessings be yours!

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

WDW - Easy dinner rolls from scratch!


My sister made these delicious rolls on Thanksgiving.  I think the secret is the addition of potato as an ingredient. They have a great, soft texture.  If you haven't had much success with yeast bread at home, try this recipe.  One trick I employ is turning on my oven for a few minutes, then turning it off.  This creates a nice warm atmosphere for the bread to rise.

These rolls really are so easy to make - the KitchenAid does all the work! In hardly any actual work time, I made three round pans of these for Christmas Eve.  It's good to make these when you're going to be home for several hours, as you work in stages between rises.

There is just something so rewarding about making homemade bread.  It feels good to work with your hands and the aroma of fresh baked bread in your home is truly a delight.  I don't do it as often as I'd like to.  I really appreciated having a quiet afternoon at home, on a chilly day, to enjoy this simple pleasure.

These rolls freeze well, so I made them in advance to avoid the holiday crunch!  You can just pop them out of the pan in one piece (somewhat like a loaf of rolls), wrap them in foil, and slip into a Ziploc freezer bag.  To rewarm, just place the thawed rolls in the oven, still wrapped in the foil, for about 10 minutes.

Thanks, sis! :-)

Honey Wheat Potato Pan Rolls

Makes 30 rolls 

  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • For topping: 1 egg, beaten, poppy seeds and coarse salt

  • In a large saucepan, bring potatoes and water to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid; cool liquid to 110° to 115°. Mash potatoes; set aside 1 cup to cool to 110°-115° (discard any remaining potatoes or save for another use).
  • In a KitchenAid bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in reserved potato liquid; let stand for 5 minutes. Add the reserved mashed potatoes, butter, honey, oil, eggs, salt and 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour; beat until smooth. Switch to dough hook and add in remaining flour to form a soft dough.
  • Knead with KitchenAid on low speed until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour(may take a little longer).
  • Punch dough down and turn onto a floured surface; divide into 30 pieces. Shape each piece into a ball. Place 10 balls each in three greased 9-in. round baking pans.  Brush each roll generously with the beaten egg, and sprinkle with poppy seeds and coarse salt to your liking.
  • Cover and put in a warm place and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  • Bake at 400° for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool.
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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Two great holiday beverages

Christmas is coming... treat your family and guests to these great drinks!

Homemade Sparkling Apple Cider

2 cans frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
1 (2 liter) bottle club soda, chilled

Mix the two together and serve.
{Yes, it is that easy}
Tastes exactly like Martinelli's the expensive stuff!  Seriously! 

Pioneer Woman's Sunrise Punch

1 cup of each:  orange juice & pineapple juice (or just buy pineapple-orange juice)
1 cup milk of choice
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. meringue powder (You can get this at any cake decorating store. Don't leave it out or this recipe won't work.)

Mix all together in blender.

Serves 4
If you like the old time Orange Julius, you'll love this!  This would be great on Christmas morning.  :-)

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

WDW - Toasted Sesame Ginger Salmon


If you're like me during the busy holiday season, you're looking for fast & easy ways to get a healthy dinner on the table.   Here's one that fits that bill that also happens to be incredibly delicious. 

We try to eat salmon at least once a week, so I am always looking for new & interesting ways to serve it.  And, since I'm a big Asian flavors fan, this one is right up my alley.  I found it on Pinterest and it's a keeper!

First of all, please use wild salmon.  Farmed salmon is full of toxins and is actually detrimental to your health.  To learn more read here.  I find that the best buy on it is at Costco (and it's Alaskan, which is preferable), but I have also been happy with Trader Joe's frozen wild salmon as well.  If you have been eating farmed salmon, the taste of wild will take some getting used to, but it is so much better for you.

I like this recipe because it's do-ahead, so I can get it ready early in the day.  You do need to marinate your salmon for at least 30 minutes (longer is fine), so do plan a little ahead.   I find it also saves time to make the marinade and the glaze at the same time, since they have like ingredients.  The glaze can just sit at room temperature until you need it.  

I like to serve this with either brown rice or quinoa to sop up all the lovely sauce.  A green vegetable like green beans or broccoli also goes very well with this.  

Toasted Sesame Ginger Salmon
serves 2-4

1 1/2 pounds wild salmon

1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoon soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 tablespoons freshly grated ginger

1-2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
4 green onions, sliced

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a wire rack over top. Spray the rack with nonstick spray.
In a medium bowl, combine olive oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, rice vinegar, & brown sugar and whisk well until combined.  Place the salmon in a ziplock bag, and pour the marinade on top.  Seal the bag and then refrigerate and marinate for 30 minutes (or longer).

Preheat the broiler in your oven. (Or preheat your grill, etc if you prefer to use something else.)

Remove salmon with kitchen tongs and place directly on the wire rack. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt and pepper, then place directly under the broiler. Cook for 4-6 minutes, depending on the salmon’s thickness, until opaque and easily flakable with a fork. 

Remove and serve immediately, with a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds, green onions and the glaze below.

Sesame Ginger Honey Glaze
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Pour over cooked salmon.

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