Living The High Life – Williams-Sonoma’s Artichoke and Lemon Pasta Sauce

I had a gift card collecting dust in my purse and we were driving by a Williams-Sonoma this weekend so Kirk pulled in and dropped me off. While wandering I saw this:

Being that it was a gift card the thought of paying $12 for a bottle of Artichoke Lemon Pasta Sauce didn’t sound crazy. If it had been my hard earned money I would never have treated us! When we got home I made a quick dinner with it and Capenlli pasta – it will dress a full lb of pasta. It was very, very delicious. I cannot fathom I would buy it regularly but as an indulgent treat it was wonderful.

Then being a smart lady I spent part of the card on something I did truly need:

A lovely made in Maine French style rolling pin. Perfectly sized for my hands!

Definitely a fun waste of time was had by me….

~Sarah

Vegan Friendly Borscht

Tonight’s dinner is a vegan friendly version of Borscht soup. Served up with a lovely mini-baguette via Dave’s Killer Bread on the side. Hearty and filling for these last cold days of early spring.

I found the original recipe in a copy of Flying Apron’s Gluten-Free and Vegan Baking Book on page 142.

I picked up a copy at the library – I have delved into new ways of baking and whatnot. The recipes for baking didn’t grab me but the soup recipes did! Vegan Borscht? I was intrigued. I grew up eating it made by my Mom but hers was full of beef and (gag) beef hot dogs. I am sure that is why my Dad and brother would eat it back then. Since then I have made Borscht a couple of times but not often enough. In its base form it is very, very healthy soup! Anyhow, I did make a couple changes but nothing major – ripe tomatoes are not something one finds in Washington in March so I used a can of diced organic ones. I used organic produce as much as I could, but don’t sweat it. The prices were close enough I splurged today.

It worked – and it tastes just like the Borscht my Mom made just minus the meat! Yum!

Borscht Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and diced (sweet or yellow)
  • 1 set beets (depending on size 3-6), washed, trimmed, peeled and matchstick cut
  • 1 medium yam, peeled and matchstick cut
  • 6 cups lower sodium vegetable broth (140 mg sodium per cup)
  • 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes (organic preferably)
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • 1 tsp dried dillweed
  • 3 cups shredded green cabbage/carrot blend (precut coleslaw mix)
  • Salt to taste, if desired (I didn’t need any)
  • Cashew Cream for topping (see recipe below)

Directions:

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large heavy pot. Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the beets and yam and sauté for a couple more minutes.

Add in the vegetable broth, tomatoes (with juice), lemon juice and dill and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook mostly covered for about 35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so.

Add in the cabbage and carrot mix, cook for 15 to 20 minutes.

Serve topped with the cashew cream.

Cashew Cream

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • 1 tsp dried dillweed
  • ¼ cup water
  • Salt to taste (I used ¼ tsp of kosher salt)

Directions:

  1. Soak the cashews for 2 hours in water and then drain.
  2. Add the cashews, lemon juice and water in a food processor and blend until creamy. You will want to process on high, scraping down often. It will take a few minutes. Add salt to taste, as desired and blend in.
  3. Store in the refrigerator tightly sealed for up to 1 week.
  4. Makes 1½ cups sauce.

~Sarah

Food Find: Honest Ade Pomegranate Blue

Another find at VegFest was in our goodie bag – bottles of Honest Ade Pomegranate Blue drink.

A lightly sweetened drink (100 calories per bottle), it is organic and sweetened with cane sugar. Refreshing and not cloying sweet. Only downside is that the company is owned by Coca-Cola – which doesn’t bother me but to others it might. On the other hand I am hoping that Costco carries it, need to see!

~Sarah

VegFest In Seattle

The past few years I have attended the annual VegFest held in Seattle, although last year I missed it due to Walker being born days before it happened. Even if one is an omnivore it is still well worth going to! The entry fee gets you inside ($8 for 13 and older, under 12 is free!) where you can nosh away – and trust me there is NO lack of food. You will peeter out of appetite before you run out of options. This year I roped Ford to come with me, Kirk and Walker ran some errands up on Capitol Hill while we checked it out this morning. Even though we got there early enough it was already packed and by the time we left….wow! This was a good year for attendance (not a bad thing!)

Now though….the deal to do every year is the membership sign up. This year it was $22 to sign up. The $22 gets you a massive re-usable goodie bag full of well, goodies! For example this year it had 2 brands of bread (full sized loaves) and you got to choose 5 cold items that included an Odwalla drink, almond milk yogurt, a container of almond or soy milk and also a container of Melt Buttery Spread. Add in tons of other items and coupons for more items (one was for my favorite Silk milk, a free container!) and you also get a one year subscription to Vegetarian Times. While it might seem pricey to spend $30 you take home way more than that in groceries and more so you get to see new brands you might not have known about – and as well get to sample them like crazy.

Speaking of new items? The Melt Buttery Spread I mentioned:

Amazing! I saw their table and wandered up. They were serving the spread on Dr. Kracker crackers (yum as always). Some of the companies will have representatives on hand to talk about their products (the majority of the serving is done by an all volunteer army of people), anyhow Meg from the company was there upfront – and she handed me a coupon and a full sized tub “a sample to take home”. Wow. Thank you! The spread is vegetarian friendly and did I say delicious?

Also being sampled were two brands of coconut based ice creams:

Made by Turtle Mountain, I tried the coconut flavor. Creamy! Oh wow! This could give rel ice cream the shivers – it gets the mouth feel and everything down right – which seems to be due to the chemistry of using chicory root. Hmmmm….high fiber ice cream? Heh!

The second one we sampled was Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss which I sampled the Naked Almond Fudge. Very delicious!

Lots more tasted and more to talk about later. But if you live in Western Washington do consider going tomorrow on its last day! It is well worth it.

~Sarah

Food and Kitchen Finds Of Late

Recent finds I have come across:

Through the end of the month Amazon has a great deal on Earth’s Best food. The code EBMARCH4 ( <– go to Amazon through the link) gives you an additional 5% off. If the item is a subscription sign up item you can then also save another 15%, getting a total of 20% off the already lower prices. Now granted we have Amazon Prime shipping – we get our money out of it yearly – so I didn’t have to pay shipping on these heavy items. Two days later and hello nice brown boxes!

Earth’s Best is not cheap baby food. Around town it ranges from 90 cents to $1.39 a jar…which is a bit rich for me to justify. I picked up a number of 12 pack cases with the sale (the Subscribe & Save is a nice deal – should you decide to not want it anymore it is easy to turn off). The average price I paid was 60 cents a jar. The boxes were well wrapped and I had no broken jars. It can be way too easy shopping online!

What I picked up:

The fruit pack is nice, they are very smooth textured: Earth’s Best Organic 2nd Fruit Variety Pack, 4-Ounce Jars (Pack of 12).

What I like about the peas in this selection is they have brown rice with them, giving them a bit better texture (and taste): Earth’s Best 2nd Vegetable Variety Pack, 4-Ounce Jars (Pack of 12).

The Earth’s Best Organic Fruit & Whole Grain Comnbo, Variety Pack, 4-Ounce Jars (Pack of 12) is good mix for breakfast time.

The dinner pack – Earth’s Best Organic 2nd Dinner Variety Pack, 4 Ounce Jars (Pack of 12) – is nice if your little one eats meats.

I had long wanted these:

And found them in a Super Jo-Ann’s last weekend. I hadn’t realized that Amazon had them as well: Wilton Bear Silicone Fun Cups. Anyhow, love the silicone baking cups (I use the Wilton Silly Feet often). I am hoping to use the bears for Walker’s birthday!

~Sarah

Yummy Pad Thai Ginger – From A Box

I came across Snapdragon Pad Thai Ginger at Cost Plus World Market last week and after reading the ingredient list I decided to give it a try.

The Pad Thai Ginger and 5 other varieties of rice pasta stir fry are offered (along with a lengthy list of other tasty items!) The meals serve 2 and have short ingredient lists with no artificial colorings or flavors – just the ingredients you would expect to find! You do need to provide a few grocery items to make it a meal. Following the directions I brought 4 cups water to a boil, though I did that in my microwave in a glass measuring cup, added the rice noodles and parked them for 3 minutes. Then I heated up a large non-stick skillet with deep sides over medium-high heat and scrambled ¼ cup liquid egg substitute (Egg Beaters©)with a tiny drizzle of oil, put it in a glass bowl to rest. I cut the called for vegetable oil for half and only used 2 Tbsp total. Then I stir fried the vegetables until crisp, added in a 13 ounce can of drained chicken breast, added the cooked/rinsed/drained noodles, the sauce packet, called for water and the egg – then continued to stir fry it till the sauce was nice and thick, all over the noodles.

Plated it up and topped it with finely chopped roasted peanuts.

For a boxed product it was GOOD. And it wasn’t overly salty. The various flavors they had at CPWM ranged from the high 200 to 600 mg of sodium for half a box of food.In most cases the “Asian” meals sold in grocery stores often have 1,000 to 2,000 mg of sodium per serving so this was a treat.

And a range of gluten free choices as well. I am considering stocking up on the meals on my next trip.

Food Find: Beanfields Bean and Rice Chips

Gluten and corn free chips that taste fantastic? And even an ultra low sodium version? Beanfields Bean and Rice Chips are a new line of snack chips, coming out soon to natural food stores and regular grocery stores. Based on a mix of navy beans, black beans and long grain rice and cold pressed oils the chips have a neat grainy appearance and a crisp texture (yet I could have eaten these when I had braces on, they don’t shatter into sharp points), when you open the bag the smell is of a fresh tortilla chip, not beans (score!) .

In 4 flavors

Sea Salt – simple flavor that lets the beans and rice shine through:

Sea Salt and Pepper:

Pico De Gallo – Crunchy, mildly spicy and full of flavor. If you like chips with Mexi-rice bowls (we do!) this is the one to try:

Naturally Unsalted – with only 5 mg of sodium per 1 ounce serving you won’t notice the salt missing – OK, well at least I didn’t. I rarely get to enjoy chips as they are so salty, this was a pure treat:

The chip’s ingredients are farmed in the US and produced in the US by a family owned company – and more importantly are non-GMO. Add in 4 grams of fiber and 4 grams protein per 1 ounce serving for a bonus along with great taste and crunch – and you have a great product! See here for the nutritional stats on the chips.

~Sarah

All Natural Red Velvet Cupcakes Part 2

As I mentioned in an earlier blog I have worked on a new version of my red velvet cupcakes. I am working on a third brighter version 3 early this coming week, so watch for the blog!

But lets talk about why and what though a bit. Red Velvet cake and cupcakes have been hot, hot, hot the past couple years. Especially around Valentines Day. But the thing is they were not always freakin’ fire engine red. At one time they were a dullish red-brown caused by the reaction of cocoa powder/buttermilk/vinegar/baking soda/etc. That changed over the years and became a dumping ground for tons of artificial red coloring. Many recipes call not just for say a teaspoon but rather and ounce (2 Tablespoons or often a bottle) or even worse 2 whole bottles. The cake is a mockery of what it once was. And of course there is the debate that never ends: a pinch of cocoa powder or a lot? That debate is an argument of its own! I was standing behind a gentleman at Costco today while checking out, he had one of the massive RV cakes that were on sale. It was so red it could have put Clifford The Big Red Dog to shame. Not only was the cake bright red but they had dusted the white frosting with even more red food dye. Y-U-C-K. Artificial red dyes are BAD BAD BAD!!!! We don’t need them, our kids especially do not need them. Red dyes were/are a major trigger for my migraines. Once I removed all artificial coloring out of my diet (thanks to the recommendation of my Neurologist) about 5 years ago the vertigo migraines stopped (of which I am forever scared will come back). But once you remove coloring out of your diet you realize how it used in so much food now.  How does eating a bright red cake make it taste any better than if it were pale red? It doesn’t. Last fall at my Brother In Law’s wedding I watched for the most part everyone there eating caustic red cake. It was a bummer. Ah well.

Anyhow with natural red velvet if you go the route I did today the cakes will never be truly red – no matter how much dye you put in. The cocoa powder will always cover it up. It does add some color though so is worth playing with. I tried out India Tree Natural,that I found on Amazon,  where as in version 1 I used freeze-dried beet powder. You can also get Seelect liquid natural dyes at Whole foods, though they are quite pricey ($15 a bottle). In version 3 coming up I will go for the tiny cocoa version and a non-cream cheese frosting.

Let me know what you think and hey, at least they contain NO BEETS! Woooo!

All Natural Red Velvet Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 container natural red dye, about 1½ Tbsp (India Tree Natural)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° and line 2 12 cup muffin pans with liners.

In a medium bowl sift the flour, cocoa powder and slat together, set aside.

In a stand mixer bowl beat the butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Add in the eggs, then the buttermilk, red coloring and vanilla and beat, then add in the baking soda and vinegar. The mixture may be a bit chunky. With the mixer on low slowly add in the dry ingredients. Evenly divide the batter between the cups (a disher is good).

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops spring back when gently pressed and a toothpick comes out clean. Let rest for a couple minutes, then transfer to cooling racks. Frost and decorate when cooled.

Cupcake cut in half:

Cream Cheese Frosting:

Ingredients:

  • 8-ounce package lower-fat cream cheese
  • ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 4 cups powdered sugar (confectioners sugar)

Directions:

In a stand mixer bowl beat the cream cheese and butter till blended, slowly mix in the vanilla. Beat in the sugar 1 cup at a time on medium until well blended and smooth. Spread on cupcakes.

Note: It is a soft frosting that isn’t the best for piping, though I did pipe a couple. Chilling it first will result in better results for piping.

~Sarah

Tasty Treats: Snikiddy Fries in Classic Ketchup

You know those treats and junk food that taste so gross yet you love them? That would be Snikiddy’s Baked Fries in Classic Ketchup flavor. I fell in love with Snikiddy’s products last summer when I got a couple sample bags sent to me – they were perfect for snacking on while hiking. Out today shopping I saw a new flavor (well to me at least!) which was the above mentioned Classic Ketchup:

What can I say? Kids love them (at least mine do) and they taste like….yep….chips dipped in ketchup ;-) Gross but good!

~Sarah

Groves Gourmet Handmade Pasta

I came across some fabulous pasta this weekend at our local Farmers Market, from Groves Gourmet. They are a local company, based out of Washington State. They sell some items online but not the pasta yet.

Very pretty pasta – I picked up Lemon Garlic and Orange Ginger flavors. They will be quite fun to play with – they are a thick, dense organic pasta.

~Sarah

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