Book Review: Livin’ Lean with Trader Joe’s



It is hard to explain to others, when they don’t live near a Trader Joe’s store, just why the stores are so addictive. They are like crack to a foodie. So much. Food. The candy and cookie aisles require blinders on to avoid temptation. Considering that I can eat 99% of what is sold there, it is hard temptation (TJ’s doesn’t use artificial coloring in their branded products).

Now then, there is a light side, to help you eat well and still enjoy the bounty of what TJ’s sells: Livin’ Lean with Trader Joe’s. Authored by Jamie Davidson, M.S. of Healthy Trader Joe’s, she takes the store basics – the high-quality pantry staples, and incorporates them into meals that are easy to make, and tasty as well. While the book uses products from across the store, including meat and dairy, it has quite a few vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free recipes. And I found out something I didn’t know: the reduced fat mayonnaise is accidentally vegan. Normally I buy organic, short ingredient mayo…but what, egg free mayo? That Alistaire could have? Without any artificial coloring? How had I missed that in years of shopping there? So I did my monthly TJ’s visit with this in mind. An eggless egg salad filling: plant-based diet, vegan, gluten-free and my littlest could eat it!

PS: Jamie gives descriptions of the TJ ingredients so you can still make these recipes even without a Trader Joe’s nearby! Although I’d cry often if I wasn’t able to shop there! Where else would I find artificially colored free pickle relish? Dark chocolate syrup for mochas? Frozen Dim Sum? Oh, I’d be sad!


This recipe is vegan, gluten-free as a filling and is easily adaptable to what one has on hand. Add the relish and mustard to taste (I used more than called for).

Eggless Egg Salad (As adapted from page 62)


  • 1 (14 to 16 ounce) container Trader Joe’s Organic firm or extra firm tofu
  • ½ cup Trader Joe’s Reduced Fat Mayonnaise (used ¾ cup)
  • 2 red (used green) bell pepper, seeded and chopped finely
  • 4 scallions (green onions), white and green parts, chopped finely
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and finely shredded
  • 3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 4 tsp pickle relish (used 2 Tbsp)
  • 1½ tsp yellow or Dijon mustard (used 1 Tbsp)
  • 2 tsp dried dill weed
  • Ground black pepper and sea salt to taste


Open tofu, drain off any liquid. Finely crumble into a large mixing bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk remaining ingredients, pour over tofu and stir to mix. Cover and refrigerate for the flavors to meld together, taste for salt before serving.

Delicious on a hearty bread. Makes enough to fill 4 sandwiches.

FTC Disclaimer: We received a review copy.

It Feels Like Winter!




Yeah, I got excited ;-) So did two little boys who couldn’t wait to get outside! The first real snow of the winter (OK…almost winter….)


Who knew a tree stump could be so much fun?


We even spotted one of the bald eagles that live on our lake – it is hard to see, but there was a prime specimen in the middle tree, calling out.


So my morning got blown out. And that was OK. Snow Day for the oldest, play day for the two youngest. Morning blogging? Nah, not important. They are! And Christmas (er, “Winter”) Break started today as well. Recipes and reviews can wait….

So tied into Christmas coming, and this being the last weekend before, I wanted to celebrate it by giving away my most recent e-book, Sweet Treats Done Naturally, for free, for the weekend! Today through Sunday, you can pick it up on Amazon for free. Just in time to get all that last-minute candy made.


This was a fun book to put together, a compilation of some of my favorite recipes:


Head over to Amazon and pick it up: Sweet Treats Done Naturally.

Have a great weekend – and I am not sure when I will post next before the end of the year. I am taking the next week or so off, but will be around on Facebook and Twitter. Just want to let my mind have a vacation!

Happy Holidays! 3 Free Week! Craving A Hot Latte?



Today’s grab on Amazon is The Natural Barista: Latte Syrups & Drinks, which if you love lattes, coffee and flavored syrups, this is the book for you!


Want a preview of why you want this ebook?


Pumpkin Spice Lattes! Creamy, spicy, and so much tastier than the $5 a latte you’ll pay at a certain chain…and you’ll have enough to make lots of them! So don’t wait to download your copy of The Natural Barista: Latte Syrups & Drinks, it is only free on Amazon till Midnight today!

Happy Holidays! 3 Free Week!


I’ve added a new book to my ebooks!

Sweet Treats Done Naturally:


Just in time for the stretchy pants season, er, the Holidays……

18 recipes for candy without artificial coloring. Fudge, brittle, bark and many more treats.

CB2  CB3

In celebration of my latest, and of the Holidays, I am hosting 3 Free Days on Amazon of the new book’s siblings!


Monday, December 9th, Naturally Fabulous Vegan Cupcakes will be free on Amazon.

Wednesday, December 11th, The Natural Barista: Latte Syrups & Drinks.

Friday, December 13th, Oatmeal On The Go: 11 Gluten-free, Vegan & Plant-based-diet Recipes.

I’ll post links on each day on Twitter & Facebook as well, so you don’t miss out!

The Fresh 20: Vegetarian Nicoise Salad



I received a copy of The Fresh 20: 20-Ingredient Meal Plans for Health and Happiness 5 Nights a Week last month, and finally had a chance to get into it. I have been using their vegetarian meal plans on and off for the past 3 months. It has been great for getting me inspired when I have no idea what to make for dinner. As the online menus are laid out, the book is as well – 5 meals, themed together for only one shopping trip and one prep period before the week gets busy, so you can get fresh meals on the table quickly. The book is broken up into seasonal section: spring, summer, fall and winter – with each set of menus focusing on 20 seasonal items.


And while this recipe might be from the summer section, it seemed perfect for a light meal after heavy holiday meals. A vegetarian version of the fish-centric niçoise salad, that just feels right, anytime of the year!


Vegetarian Niçoise Salad


  • 8 baby Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 8 ounces green beans
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 romaine lettuce heart, thinly chopped
  • 6 ounce cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced (if desired, I left it out)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Vinaigrette dressing or Italian dressing


Place the potatoes in a pan and add enough water to cover the potatoes by half and inch. Bring the water to a boil and boil until fork-tender, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add the green beans and steam, 1-2 minutes (covered).

Drain, then rinse with cold water. Once cool, cut the potatoes in half.

Arrange the lettuce on a big serving platter. Arrange the green beans, eggs, tomatoes and red onion on top. (Or arrange on individual plates).

Grind a little black pepper on top, drizzle dressing over as desired.

Serves 4.

FTC Disclaimer: We received a copy of the book as a promotional item.

The Natural Barista: Latte Syrups & Drinks



The Natural Barista: Latte Syrups & Drinks – Last week our second e-book debuted. One for the coffee lovers out there!


I truly savor my morning latte every day. I should enjoy every sip of it, preferably with one (or more) of my handmade syrups.


The full-color digital book comes with 9 hand-crafted syrups and 6 drink recipes – to get you inspired in the morning. I also have included tips on how to make ‘cheater’ lattes if you don’t have an espresso machine. And a bonus? Syrups make lovely holiday gifts!

The book is in our bookstore or it can be picked up at Amazon – The Natural Barista: Latte Syrups & Drinks.

Naturally Fabulous Vegan Cupcakes


My newest cookbook is out: Naturally Fabulous Vegan Cupcakes -


12 vegan/plant-based diet friendly cupcake recipes, with frosting and toppings.


All indulgent, all delicious…and even a few gluten-free cupcakes as well.


It is in the bookstore for sale (PDF e-book format, sent upon purchase) or via Amazon at Naturally Fabulous Vegan Cupcakes.

Cooking Greens: 2 New Cookbooks


Day 17 of NaBloPoMo and wow, I had forgotten how nice it is to take weekends off from writing! It is interesting writing every day and realizing that yes, there can be overkill in writing, especially for food blogging. It seems too much, truthfully. That I am overloading my readers inboxes more than I should. I feel a twinge of guilt over it. Maybe these 17 days have shown me something: that yes, I can write every day, but no, I do not need to. Still, I will honor my doing this and hope no one hates/unfollows me over it.

But maybe there is more: suddenly I found myself inspired to be working on another pretty e-book the past 2 weeks. I needed to go play and let my mind wander. So… heard it: I have another book on the way! If you love coffee, you will love this – and it will have great ideas for food gifts as well!

NaBloPoMo November 2013

A few years ago I didn’t willing eat any greens outside of salad. Not even spinach. Not something to be proud of I realize now. Maybe it was the (painful and gross) memories of canned spinach in free gov’t school lunches in the early 80′s or that my Dad didn’t like them, so we never had fresh. It simply didn’t occur to me to buy and use them. Slowly I found spinach was OK, even tasty, in salads and if finely chopped, could be good in pasta dishes and similar.

Then I met my match in Swiss Chard. It was so pretty. It came in amazing colors. It was crisp! And unlike many greens, the stalks are very edible. I bought a bunch and stared at it for a long time, finally using it a meal. And then more recipes. It was great I found. Lemony Swiss Chard Spaghetti? Swiss Chard and Beets with Pasta? Swiss Chard and Carrot Mac n’ Cheese?


After that, I realized that there was something good about greens. As long as greens are prepared well, are fresh and not cooked to soggy, life is great. Maybe I am still not hooked on collard or most kale, but I have plenty of other greens we now enjoy.


The Complete Leafy Greens Cookbook: 67 Leafy Greens and 250 Recipes: When they say 67 leafy greens and 250 recipes, they mean it. I found greens I didn’t even know about! A few weeks back, Kirk was asking me if one could eat carrot tops and honestly, I had no idea if you could. Turns out you can use them like parsley. But Chrysanthemum greens? Or that I have eaten Kohlrabi for most of my life, but never enjoyed the tender leaves that grow on top.

The book is fascinating for how to buy the greens (and where to find the more unusual ones in Asian and other specialty stores), how to store them and even how to make bitter greens more palatable to the taste buds. If you want to increase the range of what you eat, this is the book – and the color photos are very helpful


The Complete Idiot’s Guide Greens Cookbook: In a similar vein, this book covers the greens as well but also devotes time to discussing a plant-based diet and gardening a steady supply of greens. Which isn’t a bad idea, growing greens is remarkably easy (and does well in raised beds and pots!), which leads to a supply of organic greens. The recipes will inspire – and are all healthy – although are less mainstream than the recipes in Leafy Greens Cookbook. If you love a little Nooch on your pasta, with a sprinkle of raw nuts on your greens, this is the cookbook for you!

FTC Disclaimer: We received review copies.

Raw is Hot: 5 New Books


Only a few years ago, finding well done books on raw foods/recipes wasn’t easy. The market has exploded! Which, to me, is a good thing. So many new ideas, ranging from out-there-hippy-fair to mainstream eating.

Kirk and I played with raw quite a bit, until we found out about Alistaire’s allergies. Due to the heavy use of nuts in raw recipes, we had to back off. Which I miss, but ah well!


Raw, Quick and Delicious!: 5-Ingredient Recipes in Just 15 Minutes is a neat take on raw: 5-ingredients recipes made in 15 minutes (or less). It is very approachable for even novices, which Robert Rose published books usually are. You won’t feel overwhelmed by unusual ingredients, the author stays away from supplements in them (which I found nice, as supplements can be expensive and hard to find).


Not every recipe in The SimplyRaw Kitchen: Plant-Powered, Gluten-Free, and Mostly Raw Recipes for Healthy Living is raw, that is fine though – living shouldn’t be about not having, but rather about being more mindful. Eater better, cleaner and make your meals count. That was on thing about raw for me – we played with it, but I cannot see giving up hot meals, so when I encounter cookbooks with options, a smile comes on. Natasha covers the basics and a lot of hands on recipes that will intrigue the mind. In her recipes, she notes at the top if they call for nuts (thank you!) and if they are served warm. Easy to find what you might want!


On the other side of the raw niche is Raw Magic: Super Foods for Super People, which is definitely treading in the hippy-side

For the definitely hippy-crunchy-granola folks, there is Annelie’s Raw Food Power: Supercharged Raw Food Recipes and Remedies. Written by an author who picked up and move to the jungles of Costa Rica with her family, if you love a nut and seed heavy diet (which I’ll admit I do miss at times) and you love supplements, baby wearing and counter-culture….you will love this book. Unfortunately, with the nut allergies I couldn’t enjoy the book, yet I have friends waiting to borrow this book!


Live Raw Around the World: International Raw Food Recipes for Good Health and Timeless Beauty -

A gorgeous, full-color book, that weaves travel and food together but smells so bad I couldn’t finish reading it. Sadly, one of the downsides of printing big, lush and full-color books is they are normally printed in China. If ink smells don’t bother you (they give me awful migraines), enjoy this lush cookbook and enjoy the raw tastes of Italy, Germany, France, Greece and Spain.

FTC Disclaimer: We received review copies of the books.

NaBloPoMo November 2013

Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats Review & Giveaway



Released yesterday is the simply gorgeous cookbook Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats: Allergy-Free and Vegan Recipes from the Famous Los Angeles Bakery by Debbie Adler. I was feeling quite happy when I opened it up – when I have an allergy-free cookbook of treats to peruse, how can I not be happy? I get so much happiness out of seeing Alistaire’s little face light up when he sees Mommy bringing him something homemade. Something he can eat with us. And that is simply gold to me.

A chance at a free copy? Yes! Enter below for your own copy – and learn to bake gluten-free, vegan and allergy-friendly! And without heavy sugar? Even better.


Another treat showed up as well – a gift bag that included Sweet Debbie’s gluten-free flour mix, sunflower butter and Plum Lemon Jam. Debbie’s recipe on page 11 for making roasted sunflower butter is easy and takes it top a level where raw sunflower butter wishes it could go. Sunflower seeds shine in taste once roasted. And since I also had a tin of the sugar-free jam, ooh….what to make?


Which led me to these simply tasty muffins (photo courtesy of Harlequin Books). My muffins might not have been as pretty, but were just as tasty. Everything my little allergy boy could have hoped for. He happily gobbled one down as soon as they were cool.



Don’t be scared by the ingredients! If you cannot find coconut nectar, substitute raw honey or raw agave nectar. Out of guar gum? Use xantham gum. I used my favorite premium liners by Reynold’s, for easy release once cooled. Wilton’s work nicely also.

Sunflower Butter and Jelly Muffins

Makes 12 standard-size muffins

Little Miss Sunflower Seed is like an A-list movie star because she contains elusive, hard-to-get selenium, which, among other wondrous things, is involved in reproductive health for men. Selenium is a trace mineral that possesses extremely powerful antioxidant properties, which help your body rebel against disease. So get ready for your close-up, Miss Seedy, because you have the lead role in this jelly roll.

Must Have

  • 12 standard-size paper baking cups
  • 2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour (see page 13)*
  • 2 teaspoons sodium-free baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon guar gum
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¼ cup grapeseed oil
  • 3 tablespoons coconut nectar
  • 3/8 teaspoon stevia powder
  • ½ cup grape jelly
  • ½ cup sunflower seed butter (see page 11)
  • 1 cup unsweetened plain rice milk

Must Do

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper baking cups.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, guar gum and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle.

Add the grapeseed oil, coconut nectar and stevia and stir to combine. Add the grape jelly, sunflower seed butter and rice milk and stir until the liquid is absorbed.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin, dividing it evenly. Each cup should be about three-quarters full.

Bake the muffins for 15 to 17 minutes, or until they are a light golden brown and bounce back slightly to the touch. Rotate the muffin tin from front to back halfway through baking.

Transfer the muffin tin from the oven to a wire rack and let sit for 10 minutes before removing the muffins to cool completely.

Keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or wrap and freeze for up to 3 months.

Nutrition Information Per Serving (1 muffin):
210 calories, 10 g total fat, 0.0 mg cholesterol,
28 g carbohydrates, 170 mg sodium, 2 g fiber,
3 g protein, 4 g sugars

Sweet Truth:

You can use the plum lemon jam from the Plum Lemon Pinkyprints recipe (see page 61) as a substitute for the grape jelly with equally magnificent results.

*Sweet Debbie’s flour blend recipe is a mix of tapioca flour, sorghum flour, millet flour, ivory teff flour and quinoa flour. It is a nutty and warm flour mix!

And oh, let’s not forget about the giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

FTC Disclaimer: We received items used in review.

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