The past few days I've felt some relief from the hot, sticky days of summer. I don't do a lot of cooking when it's steamy out, so I'm ready to get cookin' again. During the summer we have a lot of dinners that my family likes to call snackin' dinners. I just put out a buffet of fresh fruit and vegetables, a variety of cheeses and dips, and some wonderful crispy artisan bread that was made in someone else's kitchen.
I had a HUGE basket of tomatoes staring me down, so here's a quick dressing that I tossed together to go along with one of our snackin' dinners. Delicious!
I went to the local farmer's market today and as I passed the stands most of the produce looked absolutely perfect. The last stand I passed had beautiful produce, but I noticed something different... bug eaten leaves. I took another look and I noticed a sign on their table stating CHEMICAL FREE PRODUCE. I asked the nice woman behind the table and she told me that they don't use pesticides on their farm.
This reminded me of a conversation that I had with a friend not long ago. She told me that she bought some organic produce and she seemed a little grossed out that the produce was full of bugs. I told her that was a great sign, and she seemed a little surprised. What I was thinking was, if they were using a pesticide, then it would definitely be bug free.
I also recently visited a friend that was telling me a story about pesticide free fruit on her parent's land. I believe her dad called the fruit "ugly fruit" and so they gave it to her, because she buys organic. She said she had tried some peaches from the grocery store and they were bland and dry. The "ugly fruit" was full of flavor and so juicy she said it was dripping down her chin.
I think that I would take the ugly produce over the mass produced, blemish free produce that appears to be perfect, but is it really perfect after all?

I'll start by saying that I was not a fan of curry, or Indian food. My hubby and I were invited to a friend's house for dinner and they had roasted sweet potatoes with curry on the menu. I always try to be the best guest possible and I knew that I would have to try the dish, but I had already decided that I wouldn't like it. Well, I tried it and I was pleasantly surprised how the curry brought out the sweet, delicious flavor of the sweet potato. I realized that I needed to go home and take another look at curry.
I had heard people refer to curry as "the spice of life" and I wanted to find out more. I believe that turmeric is more commonly called "the spice of life", and turmeric is essential for making curry. The  curry powder in my cabinet contains cumin, turmeric, coriander, chile pepper, mustard, cardamom, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, red pepper, cinnamon, black pepper, and safron. Researchers are finding that curry may be useful in warding off Alzheimer's, certain cancers and possibly some forms of arthritis.
I wanted to start taking a closer look at many of the spices found in my cabinet. In the early nineties I had a friend that would make her own herbal supplements using garlic, cinnamon and other spices. She purchased the capsules at a local herbal supplier because at the time you couldn't readily purchase spices in capsule form (now you can even get odor free garlic). Her father had just been diagnosed with high blood pressure, so she wanted him to try a combination of garlic and cinnamon. Under the care of his doctor he started the capsules, along with a diet change, and his blood pressure lowered. She let me borrow a book with all natural remedies and I found it intriguing. I remember the author stating something to the effect of, "This is what the drug companies don't want you to know." At the time I remember people stating that taking herbs was "quackery", but many of the supplements I read about are now being validated with research. I also remember hearing the drug companies stating how dangerous the side-effects of herbal supplements can be, all the while, the side-effect list on many prescription drugs was growing. Just something to think about, and possibly discuss with my doctor. In the meantime, I'll continue using my all natural curry full of wonderful spices that have been in use for centuries.

About a year ago I had made the switch from fat free sour cream to an all natural full fat kind. 
Here is the ingredient list on the fat free version I had been using:
Cultured Lowfat Milk, Modified Corn Starch, Whey Protein Concentrate, Propylene Glycol Monoester, Artificial Color, Gelatin, Sodium Phosphate, Agar Gum, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Citrate, Locust Bean Gum, Vitamin A Palmitate.
I decided, now knowing what was in the fat free, that I was probably better off using the full fat and just adjusting my portion size. I liked the regular sour cream, but it was difficult to use in recipes requiring large amounts. Some fat is good, but I would cringe every time I looked at the HUGE amount of fats in it.
My next thought was to take a look at a low fat version. 
Well, here was the ingredient list of the low fat:
Cultured Pasteurized Grade A Milk and Cream, Agar, Vitamin A Palmitate, Enzymes. 
It seemed to be that in order to make the lower and fat free sour creams palatable, the more fat removed, the more additives they have. 
Then, da da da dummmm, Trader Joe's to the rescue! I found an all natural, fat free sour cream called Simply Sour Cream! 
Here's the ingredients:
Grade A Cultured Pasteurized Non Fat Milk, Vitamin A Palmitate.
This sour cream tastes great and I can use it in all of my dips and feel a lot less guilty! It's only 15 calories for a two tablespoon serving and no fat.

It was really, really expensive to find an all natural ice cream made with organic ingredients. The largest brand of an all natural ice cream was pretty pricey too! I really, really love ice cream and really, really wanted to make my own. I even tried one recipe where you mixed the ingredients together, put it in the freezer, and I went back every half hour and mixed it with a spoon. Aggggghhhh! I've always wanted an ice cream maker, but most of them seemed to be beyond what I was capable of. I didn't want to mess with salt and ice and I always pictured what a disaster I could make of that.
One day I was walking around Costco and I found a  great deal on the Cuisinart Ice-20. This ice cream maker stated on the box that you pour in the ingredients and press on. Ahhh, my kind of ice cream maker. I bought it and pulled it out the box, put the bowl in the freezer and waited until the following day. The next day I bought some organic ingredients, came home and mixed them together, put them in the maker, and voila, the most delicious ice cream that was made with my love. I know it sounds a little dreamy, but oh it was good!
I've used this thing weekly and i even make healthy treats. I've put yogurt in it, orange juice in it, and even pineapple juice in it. It makes a great healthy slushy, or you can put the slush in the freezer for later and it turns out like an italian ice kind of treat. My next plan is to try a watermelon granita!!!!
Click here for the recipe I used from Cuisinart, which could be used in any ice cream maker.

Corn Tortillas



Once upon a time I would pick up a package of corn tortillas, toss 'em in the cart and go on my happy way. The first time I checked the ingredients, I sadly came home without corn tortillas. Every package I checked that day had preservatives, and some even included artificial coloring! Now I happily buy my corn tortillas at Trader Joe's and here's the ingredients: Stone Ground Corn, Water and Traces of Lime!
One day I ran out of chips and my salsa was lonely,  so here's my recipe for homemade tortilla chips!

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