Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa Book Review – Plus How to Make Dorayaki!

Earlier this year I came across a book on Goodreads titled Sweet Bean Paste which was recently translated into English. I added it right away and then received a tip from a Goodreads friend and fellow book blogger Evelina@ Avalinahsbooks that it was available on Edelweiss. Luckily, I was approved for it, because it turned out to be one of my favorite books of the year.

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Sweet Bean Paste

by Durian SukegawaAlison Watts

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The story begins with Sentaro, a man who was previously in jail and is now working in a little confectionary shop to pay off some debt. He makes a Japanese sweet called ‘dorayaki’ every day but puts no heart into it at all. He works in a depressed part of town and feels quite depressed himself. He doesn’t have much appreciation for life while spending most evenings drowning his sorrows with alcohol. He’s always wanted to be a writer, but just doesn’t know what his purpose in life is at this point.

One day, he puts an ad out for a helper. A little old lady named Tokue comes to visit Sentaro and begins to chat about his red bean paste. She wants the job, but Sentaro is hesitant to hire her because there are differences in Tokue’s appearance which make her different than other people. Her fingers are disfigured, but after Sentaro tastes some of her sweet bean paste, he begins to question in his mind how he can hire her without offending customers because her sweet, rich bean paste is like nothing he’s ever tasted, and he has to learn how to make it. As time moves on, Tokue becomes part of the shop and enjoys meeting with some of the customers, until a rumor starts and people become afraid of something they don’t truly understand.

I loved the characters and cherished Tokue’s wisdom. Besides teaching Sentaro how to make the best bean paste, she helps him on his journey of self-discovery and teaches him how to truly listen and to be patient.

“We were born in order to see and listen to the world.”

Reading about Tokue’s harrowing past was difficult, yet the unlikely friendships formed between this small group of people is heartwarming. Each of them has something to give one another and as they connect, Sentaro finally begins to see the light from Tokue’s teachings.

After reading the book, I sat for awhile and reflected on Tokue’s suggestions to Sentaro and found the book very educational because of it–from her messages about listening and seeing to also learning about Hansen’s disease in Japanese history. I absolutely adored reading this wonderful book and appreciated the author’s note at the end which explains the author’s experience with Hansen’s disease and the inspiration for this story. This is a book anyone can enjoy and I highly recommend it. My rating is 5*****

I’d like to thank Edelweiss, the publisher, and the author for sharing a copy of this book with me in exchange for an honest review.

5 Sterne

Find this book on Amazon and Goodreads

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications (November 14, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1786071959
  • ISBN-13: 978-1786071958

I was so excited to learn that this book has been adapted to film and it’s available on Netflix. I haven’t watched it yet, but plan to this weekend and I’ll share my thoughts after. Here’s the trailer…


All this reading about Dorayaki and sweet bean paste really sparked my interest. I’d never had dorayaki or even heard of it. I went straight to Amazon and ordered some adzuki beans so that I could experience this Japanese treat with my family.

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What is dorayaki?

Dorayaki (どら焼き, どらやき, 銅鑼焼き, ドラ焼き) is a type of Japanese confection, а red-bean pancake which consists of two small pancake-like patties made from castella wrapped around a filling of sweet Azuki red bean paste.


Making Dorayaki

The first thing I did was soak the beans. I put about a cup of adzuki beans in a jar with water and let them soak overnight. I rinsed them once before and then again in the morning.

 

I decided to make the paste first. I started by putting the beans in the pan with water to cover and brought them to a boil and boiled them for a few minutes. Then I rinsed them completely. I put them back in the pan again with plenty of water to cover and brought them to a boil again. This time, I let them simmer for about an hour until they were soft.

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Once they were soft, I drained the water and blended them up in my Vitamix.

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I blended them until fairly smooth.

Next, I added the paste back to the pan with a heaping half cup of sugar. I stirred it and cooked this down for about five minutes on low heat.

 

I ended up with a nice smooth paste that was thick and not runny.

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Continue reading “Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa Book Review – Plus How to Make Dorayaki!”

Saturday’s Kitchen – October 21st – Chocolate Cake with Buttercream Icing

On the weekends, I barely make it out of the kitchen. I love spending some free time cooking for my family while watching my favorite cooking shows. I thought it would be fun to do a post once in awhile to chat about some of the recipes I made over the weekend and share some of these recipes with you!

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My original plan was to start this on October 21st, and because we ended up hosting an unexpected birthday party for a little girl that we care for that day, the recipe I have to share is my all-time FAVORITE chocolate cake recipe with homemade buttercream icing. Because this was not planned, I used what we had on hand for decorating. It’s also the only recipe I’ll have to share from this particular weekend because we were so busy.

I’ve been talking about sharing this recipe for some time now and here it is! The original recipe is by Robyn Stone from addapinch.com, but I did a little modification on it. Robyn’s original recipe uses expresso power and water. I like to use straight coffee in place of these two ingredients.

Chocolate Cake:

This can be used for cake or cupcakes, whichever you prefer.

Ingredients for 24 cupcakes or a two-layer cake

  • 2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup hot coffee (decaf is fine)
  1. Preheat oven to 325º F.
  2. Place cupcake liners in muffin tin. If making a cake, lightly grease and flour the pan.
  3. Add flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk through to combine or, using your paddle attachment, stir through flour mixture until combined well.
  4. Add milk, vegetable oil, egg, and vanilla to flour mixture and mix together on medium speed until well combined. Reduce speed and carefully add hot coffee to the cake batter. Beat on high speed for about 1 minute to add air to the batter.
  5. Evenly distribute cake batter. Each cupcake liner should be about ½ full, or divide among pans.
  6. Place in the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. If making in cake pans, it takes a little longer. Check it with a toothpick to be sure it’s cooked through before removing.
  7. Remove from the oven and allow the cupcakes or cake to cool completely. A nice trick for cake pans is to use a circle of parchment paper at the bottom. Grease the bottom and top. The cake comes out perfect every time.

Buttercream Icing:

Ingredients: Icing for 24 cupcakes or a large cake

  • 2 cups butter (4 sticks), softened
  • 4-8 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted  *tip below – You can use less sugar to your preferred taste and consistency.
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla
  • Dash salt
  • 5-6 tablespoons whole milk, heavy cream, or half-and-half
  1. Place softened butter into the bowl of a stand mixer that has been fitted with the paddle attachment. Turn the mixer on a medium setting and cream the butter until it is smooth and has lightened in color, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add confectioner’s sugar, ½ a cup at a time. After each cup has been incorporated, turn the mixer onto the highest speed setting and for about 10 seconds to lighten the frosting.
  3. Add vanilla and a pinch of salt and combine until well-incorporated.
  4. Add milk, heavy cream or half-and-half until the frosting has reached the preferred consistency. For a firmer frosting, add more confectioner’s sugar, a ¼ cup at a time. For a softer frosting, add more milk or cream, a tablespoon at a time.

* If you don’t have confectioners sugar, you can make your own in a high-speed blender. I like to use my Vitamix for this. Insert a few cups of regular sugar and blend on high. It will get really hot, so give it a break after 10-15 seconds. Just keep going until you reach the desired consistency. It doesn’t take long at all! If the sugar gets hot, let it sit out on a plate to cool before using. Otherwise, it will melt the butter and ruin the icing. *


 

The birthday girl was turning three years old and she LOVES dresses. I thought it would be cool to make a dress out of cupcakes and adorn it with a crown and wand. I’ve seen them before and it looks fairly easy with just some rosettes on the cupcakes and decorations. Here’s what I did.

First, I lined a board with some purple easter wrapping. It’s all I had and doesn’t really match, but I think it worked out okay. Then, I placed the cupcakes in a dress shape like in the photo below. I did end up removing the cupcake on the bottom left side to leave only five cupcakes on the bottom. My board just wasn’t big enough.

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I wanted the dress to have an ombre look to it. I started with a very dark pink color for the top of the dress. As I moved down, I would remix a little white icing in and pipe some more. Each time, you just add a little bit of white to the dark that you had left and the result is quite amazing! You get a light color every time you mix. Continue until you’ve used all the white icing. This is so much fun.

Make your darkest color and use it. Whatever’s left, squirt it back into the bowl and add some white. Use the new color and repeat the steps above until you’re done. I had just enough icing for the cupcakes, I was literally scraping for more to do the belt and necklace.

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Watch this video to learn how to do a rosette. Lindsay Ann shows how it’s so simple, yet impressive! I ended up using an open star tip, but I’m going with Linsay Ann’s idea of using the closed star tip next time because it’s true that it looks more like an authentic rose.

 

I do wish that I would’ve had pink easter paper instead of purple, but she really didn’t care! She just wanted the tiara and the wand. I went with pinkish icing because it’s her favorite color.

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I didn’t have a necklace to add, so I ended up just some decorations and icing to make a heart necklace. I also didn’t have any chrome decorations, so I used a few silver beads. We just removed those before people started eating them. 🙂 Everything else on the cake was edible.

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The tiara and wand can be purchased at most dollar stores for very cheap. This worked out well for being a last minute cake. We used some happy b-day candles that we had and she was extremely happy with it.

Continue reading “Saturday’s Kitchen – October 21st – Chocolate Cake with Buttercream Icing”

Wednesday’s Breakfast and a Book – The Spell of the Horse – Vegan Breakfast Cookies

Hello, everyone! I caught up on most of my reading and made it back this week with a new book and recipe to share with you this morning.

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The recipe I’m sharing is a basic breakfast cookie recipe that I modified to make gluten free. These are delicious, healthy, and so easy to grab on busy mornings. They’re honestly wonderful any time of the day. I have to credit TheMinimalistBaker for this basic recipe even though I modified it. You can see the original unmodified recipe Here.

Ingredients (modified for gluten free +) – Makes about 18

  • 2 medium ripe bananas
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbsp raw honey
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats (gluten-free)
  • 1/2 cup gluten free flour (coconut, arrowroot)
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 Tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 Tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tbsp lightly chopped walnuts
  • 2 Tbsp dried cranberries or raisins
  • 1/2 cup dairy-free semisweet or dark chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 C).
  2. In a large bowl or mixer, mash the bananas, almond butter, pumpkin puree, oil, and honey until it’s a fairly smooth batter. A mixer works perfectly.
  3. Stir in vanilla, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
  4. Add oats, almond meal, and flour. Mix well.
  5. Add chocolate chips, cranberries, and walnuts. Stir until well combined.
  6. Drop cookies by large scoop size on a baking sheet and press down slightly to flatten.
  7. Bake for 15-17 minutes or until the cookies are slightly golden brown.
  8. Rest on baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Store in an air-tight container to keep fresh for up to 5 days.

Here’s how I made them: I doubled the recipe…

I make my own almond meal. In the processor, it’s so easy. Add in your almonds. About a cup or so.

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Process on high until a meal has formed. It takes about 1 minute.

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This is what I love about this Cuisinart processor. You can use the two top plastic inserts and the full processor remains clean.

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Another tip is to buy your nuts in bulk and keep them in the freezer. Then you’ll always have them when you need them. I just store mine in gallon freezer bags.

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Chop up about 3-4 Tbsp of Walnuts

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I’m using this local nut butter company in Michigan. This stuff is delicious, or you can make your own in the processor the same way you do the meal. It just takes about 12-15 minutes to make. If you have a Vitamix, you can make nut butters in that as well.

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Add in your honey, bananas, pumpkin, and coconut oil. If you’re using a mixer like a Kitchenaid, you don’t need to mash the bananas first.

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Whip it up for a minute until everything is blended and smooth.

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 Add in the vanilla, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix it well.

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Now we’re going to add in the flour. I went gluten free on this recipe using a 50/50 mix of arrowroot and coconut flour. Add it in the bowl.

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Coconut flour is very fibrous and can be tricky. Doing a 50/50 mix with another gluten free flour does the trick.

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We’re going to add the flours in the bowl with our almond meal and oats.

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Mix it in good.

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The last ingredients are dark/dairy free chocolate chips, dried cranberries, and walnuts. Mix that up and we’re ready to form the cookies.

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I’m using a regular ice cream scoop to make the cookies very large.

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Evenly space them, press them a little flat, and bake for about 17 minutes.

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These are so delicious.

Crispy on the outside while soft on the inside.

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They are so moist and aren’t dry at all!

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With these breakfast cookies, I’m having a favorite tea by Pukka called “Womankind.” The cranberry, rose, and vanilla flavor goes well with these cookies. If you’d like to see my previous post on brewing perfect tea, click HERE.

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Hope you enjoy!

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Continue for this week’s book!

Continue reading “Wednesday’s Breakfast and a Book – The Spell of the Horse – Vegan Breakfast Cookies”

Wednesday’s Breakfast and a Book – Blueberry Pancakes – The lost Boys Vol. 1 – The White Raven

Happy Wednesday! I have a delicious breakfast recipe for you all today and a few new books to share. I woke up this morning and had a taste for blueberry pancakes!

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So the original recipe is titled “Fluffy Pancakes” and it’s from Allrecipes.com. I’m making this recipe exactly how it’s listed below, except I’m tripling the recipe ingredients to cook for the eight people in my house. The original recipe you see below serves four.

Fluffy Pancakes:

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • cooking spray

Directions

  1. Combine milk with vinegar in a medium bowl and set aside for 5 minutes to “sour”.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk egg and butter into “soured” milk. Pour the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and whisk until lumps are gone.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and coat with cooking spray. Pour 1/4 cupfuls of batter onto the skillet, and cook until bubbles appear on the surface. Flip with a spatula, and cook until browned on the other side.

Sausage:

I’m using this all natural sausage I picked up from Costco. It’s made by Jones Dairy Farm. We’ve been buying this sausage for years and it’s the only link I like to buy because it’s nitrate and msg free. I’m not big on eating meat, but my family is, and I like to pay attention to the ingredients I’m feeding them as well. The ingredients are pork, water, salt, and spices. There are no antibiotics or hormones and it’s pork raised on a vegetarian diet. This company makes chicken and turkey sausage too, which is equally delicious. You can click the link above to visit their website.

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This sausage is brown and serve. I just add it to my preheated cast iron pan.

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Cook them on medium heat until they’re browned and cooked through.

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For the pancakes…

I like to make my pancake batter right in my Vitamix because there’s less mess, it’s easy to mix, and it’s simple to pour out the batter.

First, I add the milk and vinegar and let it sit for a few minutes to sour up.

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After 2 or 3 minutes, it’s ready. I added in the eggs and melted butter.

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Turn it on low and start adding all your dry ingredients.

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Turn it up to medium or so to get a nice thick batter. You don’t need to mix it much.

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Grease and heat your pan over medium heat. Pour the batter evenly, roughly 1/4 cup at a time into the pan. Immediately add the blueberries.

 

You can even use chocolate chips, nuts, or other fruits.

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Cook lightly on each side until cooked through.

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I served ours with butter, syrup, and sausage.

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Continue reading “Wednesday’s Breakfast and a Book – Blueberry Pancakes – The lost Boys Vol. 1 – The White Raven”

Pup Treats: Homemade Chicken Liver Brownies For Your Pups!

Hello friends! I’m excited to share this wonderful homemade dog treat recipe with you today! I’ve been making this one for years and my dogs always love them. They’re super easy to make and all natural!

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I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the store buying dog treats and the treats that I want to buy include ingredients I don’t want to feed my dog. Not only that, they are expensive. This recipe is a great alternative to buying store treats and it’s quite versatile. They’re cheap to make and you can switch up the ingredients if you’d like by using beef liver or even peanut butter.

Homemade Chicken Liver Brownies

Ingredients:

  • Roughly 5 cups of oat flour
  • 1 Container of Chicken Livers – about 2 1/2 cups
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • Roughly 1/4 cup cheese (Parmesan or Mozzarella, whatever you have on hand)
  • 2 TB Olive Oil

Continue reading “Pup Treats: Homemade Chicken Liver Brownies For Your Pups!”

Wednesday’s Breakfast and a Book – Unicorn in the Barn – See What I have Done – Dairy Free Biscuits & Gravy

Happy Wednesday everyone! I hope everyone is having a wonderful week so far. I have two new books to share and an interesting recipe for dairy free biscuits and gravy that’s quite delicious! 25-Inspiring-Happy-Wednesday-Quotes-To-Share-6338-9.jpg

This is a recipe that I can eat any time of the day or night. I’ve even made biscuits & Gravy for dinner recently and it’s always so delicious!

Let’s get started…

I learned how to make biscuits & Gravy from my Stepmother Laurie. Just a few weeks before she passed away, she told me she wanted to show me how to make her biscuits and gravy recipe so that I would always know how. I’ve made this recipe ever since and my family loves it. I’m going to give you both recipe versions so that you can choose which one you’d like to try.

Laurie’s Biscuits & Gravy Recipe

My Stepmom loved using Grand’s Butter Tastin’ Biscuits with her gravy. Her gravy recipe is as follows:

1 – TB Bacon Lard

1 tube of hot ground sausage

1 tube of regular ground sausage

1 cup of whole milk

1/2 cup of flour

Salt and Pepper

Additional milk for thickening

So, my version of the recipe is made the same way as Laurie’s biscuits & gravy, but using almond milk. I used to make this with traditional cow’s milk, and in my opinion, it does taste best with real whole milk and even a splash of cream. I’m always searching for dairy free versions when it comes to cooking because as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not supposed to be eating dairy and do much better without it.

My dairy free version…

Ingredients:

My favorite biscuit recipe which you will find HERE. (Omit the butter and use Crisco for dairy free! Also use almond milk which works great)

1 TB oil or lard – whichever you like

2 tubes of ground sausage of your choice (I like Farmland MSG Free)

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1 cup of almond milk (or milk of your choice)

1/2 cup of flour

Salt, pepper, and a dash of ground cayenne pepper to taste (Farmland doesn’t make hot sausage that I can find so I use a little dash of cayenne pepper)

Additional milk to use with thickening

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Directions: 

Heat your pan to medium and begin breaking up the sausage while frying until cooked through. I love using cast iron for this…

As the sausage is frying, prepare your milk by adding it to a jar or bowl. I like to shake my milk and flour in a jar because it makes it easy. You can also whisk it.

1 Cup of Milk

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1/2 Cup of Flour

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Shake it up real good!

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Once the sausage is cooked through – Drain the fat

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Now you’re ready to add your milk mixture to your drained sausage over medium heat. Pour it in and start stirring it up until it gets thick which is almost instantly.

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Add in more milk. I don’t measure on this. I just add a little slowly over time until I get to the desired thickness.

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Just keep stirring and adding in small amounts of milk over high heat. Once it starts to boil turn it down to a simmer. Don’t forget to add in your spices!

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This is why I love cast iron – It’s naturally non-stick as you can see in the picture below.

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After simmering for roughly 10-15 minutes, it’s done.

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Serve with your fresh biscuits!

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Delicious!

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Continue reading for this week’s books!

Continue reading “Wednesday’s Breakfast and a Book – Unicorn in the Barn – See What I have Done – Dairy Free Biscuits & Gravy”

Wednesday’s Breakfast and a Book – Orange Sweet Potato Smoothie – The Girl in the Tower (The Bear and the Nightingale #2)

I have to apologize for posting so late this morning, but I had my entire post typed up and ready to go, posted it, and there was nothing on the post. I’ve never had that happen before, but let’s try again!

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I’m super excited to share a new smoothie recipe and a new book this week! I had a bunch of Japanese sweet potatoes and garnet yams that needed to be used and decided to go with an orange sweet potato smoothie for breakfast. This recipe is great anytime of year, but reminds me of fall which is approaching at an alarming rate. No complaints here!

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Why sweet potatoes? 

  • They’re super cheap
  • High in vitamins A, B6, and C
  • They contain potassium and magnesium
  • They boost your immune system
  • Great for the skin
  • They taste great!

Here’s what I did below…

Ingredients:

1/2 cup almond milk

1 Japanese Sweet Potato (super sweet and white inside!)

2 Garnet Yams

1 banana (optional, but you can barely taste it)

1 Orange

1/4+ tsp of cinnamon

1/4+ tsp of ground ginger

1 TB of Honey or syrup of your choice

1 cup of ice – If you’re using frozen ingredients, omit the ice

Directions:

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Put the sweet potatoes in a pan with some water. The water doesn’t need to cover the potatoes. Bring it to a boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes.

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When they’re done, take them out and peel them. The peeling comes right off.

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I like to cut them up into chunks and cool them. In the winter, I’ll put them in hot. There’s nothing better than a warm smoothie like this in the winter…If you’d like to freeze a bunch of these, just lay them out on a cookie sheet and freeze for about 4-5 hours. Take them out and store them in a freezer bag for later use. This is super convenient!

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Prepare your orange – Leave on as much pith as you can as it’s FULL of vitamin C and adds more fiber. This works best with a sharp knife and mine is a tad dull.

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After the sweet potatoes have cooled, put everything in the blender in the order listed. It’s important to load it in the order listed by starting with liquid, adding the foods, and then topping off with ice. It makes the blending go very smooth without the use of a tamper stick.

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Blend starting on low, and increasing to high. Here’s a video of me making this smoothie this morning. I love my Vitamix because it tears through anything and makes the smoothest smoothies ever.

It’s worth every penny! It’s so easy to stay healthy when you have the right tools…

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Add in your chia seeds and enjoy!

 

Continue reading for this week’s books!

Continue reading “Wednesday’s Breakfast and a Book – Orange Sweet Potato Smoothie – The Girl in the Tower (The Bear and the Nightingale #2)”

Wednesday’s Breakfast and a Book – Egg Muffin Cups – Ready Player One – The Pull and Kick Murder

 

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Good morning everyone! I’m excited to share a new breakfast recipe and two new books that I’m reading this week. Last week my health took a little turn on me and I’m sort of catching up this week with posts, tags, and awards. I hope you’ll be pleased with this week’s post!

I decided to make something fairly easy this morning. I ended up with a ton of eggs and thought this recipe would help use them up. Let’s get started!

Egg Muffin Cups

Ingredients to make 24 muffin cups – Easy to cut the recipe down to half if this is too many. 

1 Pound of bulk sausage of your choice (I like farmland sausage because it’s MSG free)

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24 Eggs

Roughly 2 1/2 cups of finely chopped onion and bell pepper (I used green & red)

1/2 tsp of salt – less if your sausage is heavily salted

3/4 tsp pepper

1 heaping cup of shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. I used convection because I’m cooking two trays and want them to be evenly cooked. Grease your pans or add liners.

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Cook your sausage in a skillet. Break up the sausage into small little chunks. While the sausage is cooking you can chop up your onion and pepper and prepare the cheese and spices. Drain the sausage.

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Beat all the eggs in a bowl and then add everything else in.

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Measure out into the muffin cups. I used a ladle and left about a half inch space from the top of the pan.

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Bake for 22-25 minutes in the oven, or until solid and can be removed whole.

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Take them out and let them cool just for a few minutes. Remove and serve.

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I would recommend using liners with a square pan as a few of mine were difficult to remove, even after spraying.

What I love about these is that you can add what you want to. I was thinking next time I might add in some tomato. You can omit the sausage and add something else. Experiment with the ingredients you like.

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Garnish if preferred. I used some chopped green onion and fresh cracked pepper.

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Super simple and yummy!

Continue reading “Wednesday’s Breakfast and a Book – Egg Muffin Cups – Ready Player One – The Pull and Kick Murder”

Wednesday’s Breakfast and a Book – Warm Rice Cereal – Please Excuse This Poem

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This week I’m playing catch up with my reading due to the 4th of July holiday and the fact that I started reading an epic fantasy last week that demanded my full attention. So, I only have one ‘new’ book to share with you that I just started a few days ago. Let’s get to the breakfast first.

I’m excited to share with you an amazingly easy breakfast cereal that can be partially prepared the night before. It’s a simple rice cereal recipe and reminds me of my childhood. As a child, my grandfather would occasionally take us to this amazing Greek restaurant that was a hop, skip, and a jump from our home. I loved that restaurant because after my meal I knew that I was going to get a delicious cup of rice pudding afterward. It was always served with real cream and an extra dollop of whipped cream on top. I literally think this restaurant is where my addiction to rice pudding started. I’ve made rice pudding at home since, and this breakfast cereal is similar in taste, but fairly healthy.

Warm Rice Cereal –

This is actually a quite common recipe. What makes it a little different for me now is that I use almond milk with it and I prepare it in my Vitaclay cooker the night before. Here’s my recipe…

Ingredients:

1 cup of rice (I used Jasmine)

1 1/2 to 2 cups of almond milk (or cow’s milk)

1 – 2 TB Butter (Make it dairy free by using oil)

1/8 Cup Honey (Use 1/4 cup sugar if you don’t have honey)

A few dashes of cinnamon

You can make this in a pan very easily just like rice. I used my Vitaclay. I’m also doubling the recipe to feed more people. I added all the ingredients in and stirred.

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I used the regular RICE cooking mode, covered it, and set the clock to start at 5am. This way I could wake up and breakfast would already be waiting for everyone. That’s always nice!

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Here’s what it looked like this morning after cooking.

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I seemed to be a little on the dry side, so I added a little more almond milk and stirred it up.

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After adding to my bowl, I added some fresh organic cherries with a little extra almond milk added and an extra dash of cinnamon. It came out perfect and it’s a very filling breakfast!

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Continue for this week’s books…

Continue reading “Wednesday’s Breakfast and a Book – Warm Rice Cereal – Please Excuse This Poem”

What To Do With All Those Cucumbers and Zucchini!

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It’s normally this time of year in July that we have way too many cucumbers and zucchini. I love sharing with the people who live in my area, but most of them have their own gardens and they are sharing some of the same harvests with me. Every year I tell myself to cut down on the number of plants, but I’ve found multiple ways to use these two veggies up quickly. Most of the ways I use are raw, but there are a few of my favorite canning recipes I do yearly included here as well.

First, I took a trip out to the garden this morning to pick some cucumbers and a few zucchini. I had to pause to take a video because all the birds sounded so beautiful this morning. The bees were flying around and pollinating all the flowers.

It’s wonderful to be in nature and to reconnect with our natural environment. It’s too easy to become distanced from nature with our busy lives. All it takes is a trip outside to be grounded again. Even if you’re in the city, you can stop and look up at the sky and just take a deep breath and remind yourself how lucky we are to have this beautiful home we call Earth.

Cucumber Salad:

This is a simple salad that uses up a good number of cucumbers quickly. It’s not a super healthy recipe as it does contain mayonnaise, but what you’ll notice is that much of the dressing is left in the bottom of the bowl after all the cucumbers are gone and you’ll need to add more. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

5 good size cucumbers

1 cup of mayonnaise

4 tsp. Vinegar

1/4 cup sugar or 1/8 cup honey

1/2 tsp. Dried Dill weed

1/2 tsp. Seasoned salt

Make the dressing first in a large bowl. Mix up all ingredients minus the cucumbers until a nice dressing is made.

Slice the cucumbers and stir them in. It’s that simple!

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There’s always dressing left in the bottom, so cut a few more cucumbers afterwards and add them in if you need to. You can also store the dressing in the fridge for later. This is best eaten fresh when the cucumbers are crunchy. Yum!

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Now if you want, you can use a  processor to slice the cucumbers. It’s not necessary, but nice if you’re making a huge batch.

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Set the blade to the thickest slicing.

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Pile in the cucumbers by standing them straight up, and push them down through the blade as it’s turning.

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Perfectly sliced cucumbers!

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If you’re interested in buying a processor, I would recommend the Cuisinart 14 Cup Processor.  It’s a real workhorse and has worked well for me for years. I’ve even made nut butters in it. You get a shredding tool, slicing tool, and more.

Sometimes if the cucumbers are really large, you can slice them again. It really doesn’t matter.

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Continue for more recipes!

Continue reading “What To Do With All Those Cucumbers and Zucchini!”

Wednesday’s Breakfast and a Book – Syrian Cooking

Today I have a very strange breakfast to share with you and some great books! For breakfast today, I’m having stuffed grape leaves. It’s not really a breakfast food, but I eat these anytime. I’m Syrian from my grandfather’s side and stuffed grape leaves are something I grew up eating. When grape leaves are in season I try to make as many as I can because they’re fresh and taste delicious. I was always told not to cut leaves after July 4th because they are tougher. I have cooked them after this point, but they’re so much better in June. I made these yesterday and will eat them a few more times throughout the next few days. I might only get one more cutting.

Orlando1lbJar_large.jpegAs a child I never really enjoyed going out to pick grape leaves. I grew up in the city and when it was time to pick leaves we would go out and do some searching, often finding good vines on the side of roads. There was a huge area that would grow right on the edge wall of our church parking lot. I always thought this was ironic! If you can’t find them fresh, you can buy them in a jar. I’ve done this many times and they taste great.

When I moved to the country, I couldn’t understand why we didn’t have any grape leaves growing in our woods. I knew so many people around our area who would have them growing up a single tree on their properties and I didn’t have one vine. I started looking online to see if I could buy some seeds. I couldn’t find anything. Then one day while I was walking around outside, I found this vine growing up alongside this small dead tree. I couldn’t believe it. They were small and new, but the following year they would be perfect, and they were wonderful and huge that following year. As time has gone by, there are more grapevines growing all over around my house. I think this is the coolest thing. They come up every year and I look forward to it. Here’s a picture of the first vine. It’s growing beautifully on this dead tree. I think it’s so beautiful the way they grow up and then cascade down again.

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Continue reading “Wednesday’s Breakfast and a Book – Syrian Cooking”

Wednesday’s Breakfast and a Book

I have two awesome recipes to share with you today along with two great books I’m reading this week. First, let’s get started on the breakfast!

It’s strawberry season and one of the reasons I love June so much! This will be a two part process because I’m showing you how I make my fresh homemade strawberry jam. Here’s my recipe:

Ingredients:

9 cups of whole strawberries – Remove tops and rinse – Here’s my video of my favorite tool for topping strawberries! Watch how fast it works…

7 cups of sugar

2 packages fruit pectin ( I use two packages, but you can try one for a thinner jam)

4-5 pint size jars with lids and caps

Equipment: Canner with lid, jar lifter, cooling rack, canning funnel

 

Continue reading “Wednesday’s Breakfast and a Book”

Wednesday’s Breakfast and a Book

I hope everyone is having a wonderful week. I’m excited to share Wednesday’s breakfast and reads with you all!

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This morning was a bit chilly and I really had a taste for oatmeal. I know, it sounds boring, but you might actually like this recipe! It’s quite good and a healthy start to your day.

I have to admit that the way I used to make this recipe isn’t the way I make it anymore. I’ve added the original ingredients below in parentheses.

Ingredients: Serves 3-4

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 3 1/2 cups almond milk (cow’s milk preferred in original recipe)
  • Dash of salt
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • TB of Brown Sugar
  • Original recipe calls for 1 TB of butter (omitted in my version)
  • Extra milk for serving

Directions:

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Add oats and milk to a pan with a dash of salt.

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Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 5 minutes. The oats will start to thicken, so at this point add the raisins and simmer for a few more minutes. Stir a few times.

After simmering, I like to shut off the heat and let it sit for about 10 minutes. The raisins will get nice and plump and the oats will be very creamy.

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Add your brown sugar to the bowl and butter if you’re using it.

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Stir it all up in your bowl and add more milk if desired. Sprinkle on your cinnamon and your good to go. It’s a fairly easy and healthy recipe! It does taste better with butter and cows milk, but without the dairy, it’s still delicious.

 


This week’s reads:

I finished Luke Narlee’s book The Appointment which I’ll review later today. I started two new books and so far I like them both. 

First, let’s start with Tuesday’s Promise. I reviewed two other books about Tuesday and Luis Carlos Montalván last week. I couldn’t wait to get Tuesday’s promise and I also picked up Tuesday Takes Me There which I’ll review later this week as well. Their story has really touched me and I’m so glad to have learned about these two. You can see my original post on those books HERE. Here’s the blurb on this one…

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Blurb: Luis and Tuesday are winning hearts again. With his captivating New York Times bestseller Until Tuesday, Iraq War veteran Luis Carlos Montalván furthered America’s conversation about the need to care for first responders suffering from the effects of PTSD, especially highlighting the near-miraculous benefit of service dog companionship.

Now, in this spectacular follow-up, Luis and Tuesday rescue a forgotten Tuskegee airman, battle obstinate VA bureaucrats and bring solace for troubled war heroes coast-to-coast. All this, while Luis’ personal battle intensifies; while Tuesday has helped him make immense mental strides, the chronic pain of his injuries threaten to leave him wheelchair-bound. In a grave decision, Luis opts to amputate his leg, and learn how to live with a prosthetic.

As Luis regains his athleticism, 10-year-old Tuesday enters new phase in life; due to his growing age he will soon need to retire. Together, these two friends begin the tender process of welcoming a new puppy into their pack. SINCE TUESDAY is an inspiring story with an unforgettable message about love, service, and teamwork.

I had no clue what was in store in this follow-up to Until Tuesday. I’m learning a lot more about both Tuesday and Luis and the book is even more heartbreaking than the first. I’ll review later this week. 

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Continue reading “Wednesday’s Breakfast and a Book”

The Immune System Recovery Plan by Susan Blum, M.D., M.P.H. & Saturday’s Special -Stew-

A few years ago I started doing a ton of research on how I could stop my immune system from killing me. I wound up purchasing a myriad of books ranging from cookbooks to self-help books and even books by authors telling their own stories on how they cured themselves. I was on a mission and came across some really great books that helped me get my mind in order. I will have a post in the future which outlines everything that I’ve done to keep myself healthy. For now, you can read about one of my favorite books that I keep on my kitchen shelf.

The Immune System Recovery Plan by Susan Blum, M.D.,M.P.H. is the one I’ll be covering today. You can see my review below as well as my favorite recipe from the book which I make all the time.

The Immune System Recovery Plan by Susan Blum is one of a myriad of books I purchased after I was diagnosed with not one, but two serious autoimmune disorders. I was on a mission to cure myself and this book was just one of my tools.

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The book is a doctor’s 4-step plan to overcome autoimmune disease. The author, Susan Blume, was suffering from an autoimmune disease and shares with readers what she believes are the answers to living a healthy life after autoimmune disease.

The four step plan includes: 

  • Using food as medicine – I believe this is a proven method in my own case. The author offers self assessments for foods that can trigger issues with our bodies and helps create a plan for discovering these food sensitivities. She also covers the “good stuff” and highlights a healthy diet by telling readers what they should eat with recipes included.
  • Understanding the stress connection – It’s no surprise that in our world, people are stressed. It’s known to cause scads of issues including some less serious symptoms like fatigue to more serious diseases like autoimmune disease and cancers. The key is removing the inflammation from our bodies by destressing our lives, something many people could benefit from. How stressed are you? Take the self assessment to find out your stress number. This section includes some recipes to help counteract stress as well.
  • Healing your gut – This section covers the importance of intestinal bacteria and what happens when your flora is out of order. She covers leaky gut and how we can heal our digestive tracts. There are more self assessments and a treatment program included with recipes.
  • Supporting your liver – In this section you will learn all about toxins and how our livers simply can’t keep up with the amount of toxins we ingest everyday from our skin, breathing, eating and drinking. The author covers some of the most problematic toxins and discusses how to remove them from our bodies. Another self-assessment is offered which will help you discover if you’re dealing with toxic overload.

This book, in my opinion, would be good for anyone suffering disease in general. The steps that she outlines including healing the gut and supporting the liver can make anyone feel better and will also help to ward off disease before it strikes. I love most of the recipes in the book and use them on a regular basis. My rating on this one is:

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Now for my favorite recipe in the book…

Continue reading “The Immune System Recovery Plan by Susan Blum, M.D., M.P.H. & Saturday’s Special -Stew-“

Wednesday’s Breakfast and a Book

I’m back on track this week and have an awesome smoothie recipe for you! This is one that I’ve been making for years and comes from one of my favorite raw food advocates, Paul Nison. You can find him on Goodreads by clicking HERE. He’s written a handful of books. The one I’ve read is:

The Raw Life: Becoming Natural in an Unnatural World

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-Click the cover to add to Goodreads-

Blurb: This Book will help you learn about health and to achieve your goals. It will simply teach you the way to get the results you desire with the raw food diet. It’s an easy book to understand why and how to eat with simple recipes to help you on your path. Many people who start out on a raw food diet have started with this book. Others who have been eating a raw diet for many years love the interviews in this book with long term raw fooders.


Bahini Smoothie – This is how I make it…

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 Bananas peeled – Frozen Bananas are best!
  • 1/4 cup Tahini
  • 1-2 TB Coconut butter or manna – (flaked coconut works too)
  • 1-2 TB Raw Honey
  • Dash of salt – Himalayan or a salt with minerals preferred
  • Dash of Bee Pollen (optional)
  • 1 TB Barleymax Powder (optional – You can use any ‘green’ powder or fresh greens) I used a tsp of Moringa
  • 1 cup of ice or more depending on how much you want. If you use frozen bananas, you barely need any ice at all.
  • Paul uses a good amount of water, I only use about a half cup or so. I like my smoothies thicker, if you want it thinner, just add more water.

You can watch Paul make the smoothie in this video, or scroll down to see mine…

This will make roughly 40 ounces or so. 


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-Add all the ingredients in the order listed to the blender-

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-Start blending slow and then increase to high speed-

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-Blend until smooth-

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-I added in some chia seeds as well-

-Just be sure to stir the chia seeds in and they’ll become gelatinous-  Continue reading “Wednesday’s Breakfast and a Book”

Wednesday’s Breakfast and a Book

Today for breakfast I made chocolate chunk banana nut bread. It’s not a healthy version or anything, but so delicious. It’s nice to have a treat once in a while. Here’s the recipe below if you’re interested in trying it. It turned out perfect!

I started by using a basic recipe that I love in my trusty All Recipes cookbook called “Banana Banana Bread.”

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The recipe above is delicious the way it is, but I modified the recipe today. Here’s what I did. The ingredients are all the same except for:

  • Instead of butter I substituted coconut oil
  • Added a Tablespoon of Raw Honey (optional)
  • 1 tsp of added vanilla extract
  • Added an extra 1/4 cup of flour
  • Added in roughly 3/4 cup nuts (walnuts & almonds)
  • Added in some Hershey’s chocolate chunks. Roughly 1 1/2 full size candy bars chopped up

It turned out very well. Here’s how I put it together:

Mash up the banana. I used my KitchenAid, but you can easily mash them with a fork or other utensil.

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Add in the vanilla, eggs, brown sugar, 1 TB Raw honey (optional), and coconut oil. Mix until combined. Then, add in dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

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Chop up the chocolate into chunks. Chop the nuts as well by using a processor or by hand. Here’s a tip from Martha Stewart- use two knives and it helps to keep the nuts stable, plus gets the job done faster. Thanks, Martha!

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Add in the nuts and chocolate chunks. Continue reading “Wednesday’s Breakfast and a Book”

Juicing for Health!

It’s no secret that eating fruits and vegetables can help us maintain a healthy body, but would you believe me if I told you that they can save your life? It happened to me…

As a teen I remember my grandfather buying me one of Jack Lalanne’s first juicers called the Juice Tiger.

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From a young age I had an interest in health and staying fit, but my issue was always having an addiction to all the wrong foods. Even though I was trying to eat right I would sometimes fall back into old habits.

As life moved on and I started working full time jobs it was common to eat out and grab whatever I could get my hands on. One of my first jobs was right next to a Greek restaurant which was a huge curse. I was able to order fried chicken, lemon rice soup and had an endless supply of all the rice pudding with whipped cream that I wanted.

I felt healthy and happy for the most part, but started experiencing horrible fatigue. It didn’t matter how much I slept. I would walk around feeling like I had a thousand pounds on my shoulders all day long.

Years went by and I was finally diagnosed with my first autoimmune disease. I didn’t have a clue what was going on and my doctor didn’t explain to me that my disease was most likely caused by the combination of poor diet, the environment, and my family genetics.

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So, I chose to try and help myself by changing my diet. I began juicing again, eating more fruits and vegetables and making smoothies. I started feeling better, started jogging again and went on for years battling my disease which had declined in severity to a more mild form. Continue reading “Juicing for Health!”

Sandwiches!: More Than You’ve Ever Wanted to Know about Making and Eating America’s Favorite Food by Alison Deering & Bob Lentz

Sandwiches!: More Than You’ve Ever Wanted to Know about Making and Eating America’s Favorite Food is a sandwich making cookbook for middle grade kids.

The book contains recipes for over 50 different sandwiches including wraps, subs, and bagels. It covers what is a sandwich, tools used, and use of equipment including the oven and panini press. The book even explains the differences in knives.

One of my favorite elements in the book is the use of history, trivia, and facts pertaining to each sandwich. There’s so much to learn here and in an entertaining way. The instructions for each sandwich are easy to follow and include side options for each. I especially appreciated the substitutions that are included for different dressings, cheeses, and condiments. Substitutions are even given for people who have allergies.

This is a great book for kids to gain confidence in making meals for themselves. All the recipes are easy with only a few possibly needing adult supervision. This would be a nice addition to a cookbook collection. I’m certainly adding it! Continue reading “Sandwiches!: More Than You’ve Ever Wanted to Know about Making and Eating America’s Favorite Food by Alison Deering & Bob Lentz”

A New World of Israeli Baking–Flatbreads, Stuffed Breads, Challahs, Cookies, and the Legendary Chocolate Babka

 

A New World of Israeli Baking–Flatbreads, Stuffed Breads, Challahs, Cookies, and the Legendary Chocolate Babka 

Breaking Breads: A New World of Israeli Baking by Uri Scheft has become one of my absolute favorite bread baking books! Homemade bread is a staple in my family and this book contains copious amounts of recipes worth keeping.

I was very interested to check this book out because my Syrian ancestry introduced me to bread at an early age and flat and fancy breads were quite common growing up. I can still remember walking into Jid’s (Grandfather’s) house and smelling the fresh baked Syrian bread. So, when I saw this, I had to grab it!

The book starts out with challahs and a handful of different challah recipes. The very first basic challah dough recipe is wonderful and easy. Step by step photos are included which makes them so easy! The photography is wonderful and the breads are so impressive and professional looking. There are rolls, stuffed breads, crescents, and cookies to name a few.

This is a book that I’ll be purchasing to keep and enjoy in my kitchen. I’m so glad to have come across it!

Thanks to Netgalley for sharing a copy with me.

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Chef Uri Scheft

“My first love was bread. Or more specifically, the smell of bread. The smell of bread baking in the oven, the promise of its warmth, its sweetness, its supple crumb that contrasts to the browned, sometimes shiny-tender, sometimes rough and sharp-edged crust. My mother baked often – not every day, but enough for me to connect the smell of baking bread with a feeling of pure happiness. The idea of this beautiful and nourishing loaf made by hand and bringing people together around a table or even gathered around at a kitchen counter to rip off a piece and eat it with such great enjoyment – to me, this is true love. And so it has become my life’s work to re-create this feeling of anticipation and pleasure with every loaf and pastry I bake and sell in my bakeries – and this is the essence of Breaking Breads.”

Continue reading “A New World of Israeli Baking–Flatbreads, Stuffed Breads, Challahs, Cookies, and the Legendary Chocolate Babka”

A Really Big Lunch: Meditations on Food and Life from the Roving Gourmand

My Review:

A Really Big Lunch is different from any book I’ve read. Even though Harrison writes well and I found myself turning the pages rather than taking a break, the menu was most unusual and even seemed disgusting at times. I’m not into eating snake, but I still enjoyed reading about his food adventures.

Harrison’s belief is simple. Quality of life is more important that quantity and food is the ultimate pleasure.

Life’s short, so better start eating now!

Oh, and don’t forget the wine!

4-stars

Thanks to Netgalley for this copy in exchange for an honest review.


From Goodreads:  New York Times bestselling author Jim Harrison was one of this country’s most beloved writers, a muscular, brilliantly economic stylist with a salty wisdom. He also wrote some of the best essays on food around, earning praise as “the poet laureate of appetite” (Dallas Morning News). A Really Big Lunch, to be published on the one-year anniversary of Harrison’s death, collects many of his food pieces for the first time—and taps into his larger-than-life appetite with wit and verve.

Jim Harrison’s legendary gourmandise is on full display in A Really Big Lunch. From the titular New Yorker piece about a French lunch that went to thirty-seven courses, to pieces from Brick, Playboy, Kermit Lynch Newsletter, and more on the relationship between hunter and prey, or the obscure language of wine reviews, A Really Big Lunch is shot through with Harrison’s pointed aperçus and keen delight in the pleasures of the senses. And between the lines the pieces give glimpses of Harrison’s life over the last three decades. A Really Big Lunch is a literary delight that will satisfy every appetite. Continue reading “A Really Big Lunch: Meditations on Food and Life from the Roving Gourmand”