Big O’s peanut butter snacks

When I was a kid we had a children’s cookbook filled with recipes designed for grade schoolers.  I can picture the book exactly: yellow cover, line drawings and a red plastic spiral binding.  As vivid as that image is, I can remember only one recipe we made from that book.   I can’t actually be certain that it wasn’t the only one we tried, but I recall the taste perfectly.  Essentially they were no-bake peanut butter balls, in which peanut butter and honey held O-shaped oat cereal together (okay, fine, I’ll say it: Cheerios).  We used a health food brand called Oatios (which I just confirmed still exists and is sold through Amazon, what a trip!), so my sister and I dubbed these Oatio balls.  The recipe also called for powdered milk, which I assume was mainly for the nutritional boost.

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I had several reasons for recalling these recently and attempting to make them with my son (who is nearly 3). Continue reading

DIY all-natural skin care: Orange-coconut body butter

My make-the-best-of-the-sour-orange-harvest extravaganza continues.  Today the recipe is for a body lotion that’s so natural you can eat it.  And that’s a good thing since what you put on your skin goes into your body the same as if you swallowed it.  It requires just two ingredients that you may already have in the kitchen: coconut oil and an orange.  Here’s the story behind it and the instructions for making it yourself.

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Several years ago I vowed to clean up the body products we use in our home (e.g., shampoo, lotion, etc…).  I favor paraben-free, sulfate-free, etc….  But last year I went one step further and started making lotion out of edible oils, namely coconut, shea and olive.  The blend was nice: gentle, soothing, and with a texture ranging between kefir and whipped butter, depending on the room temperature.  It was fine, but not really worth the trouble, as I didn’t really care for the scent (think suntan oil and antipasto mixed) unless I added a ton (and I mean a ton) of essential oils.

This summer, rather than make a new batch of the blend, I just cut to the chase Continue reading

Cranberry-orange bread, or What to make when life gives you sour oranges

I’m back.  Sorry for the hiatus.  There were colds, holidays, travel, life, yada, yada, yada.  Anyway, I’m back, and I have lots of ideas for new posts.  Today’s is about oranges.  And baked deliciousness.

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This time of year my mind turns to citrus.  There’s something magical about the sunshine a Florida orange or Texas grapefruit represents on your breakfast plate when the weather in your neck of the woods is dark and dreary.

Growing up in New England, we relished such treats from faraway lands.  When I was young, my great-grandfather wintered in Florida and every year he’d ship a box of grapefruits to us.  I can still picture where the case sat on the bench in our mudroom, just off the kitchen.  My mother would ration them, reminding us each time she prepared one for us (all those little cuts being a true act of love, wouldn’t you say?), that this was a treat to have them shipped to us.  I can’t explain why that makes them superior to those that had been shipped to the grocery store, but I still (perhaps irrationally) agree.

Alas, this is not a recipe inspired by exotic treats shipped from distant groves by a loved one.  No, it’s an updated version of a family favorite, busted out to use up our sadly sour oranges.

Allow me to share a bit of background.  Continue reading

What I’m reading: Salt Sugar Fat

Hold on to your barf bags, folks. This book will make you sick. And then mad. Mad enough to get even, or at least take a stand, and get healthier in the process.

Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss was named one of the best books of the year (2013), and for very good reason. This is a stunning tome on the processed food industry. Thorough and well researched. Shocking and compelling.

I thought I was pretty well-informed cynical about the dark side of processed food, but this book shocked me. Did you know that several decades ago the processed food industry began pushing cheese to off-load all the fat leftover when low and nonfat milk became the norm? Pretty soon cheese, or more precisely, “cheese food products” – which should give you a clue right there – began turning up everywhere. A prime example: Continue reading

Green eggs, no ham: A post-holiday restorative breakfast

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After a major food-focused holiday sometimes I like to eat a bit lighter for a spell, trying to focus on the veggies and lean proteins that may have been conspicuously absent from my carb and gravy laden plate.  Eggs nestled in sautéed greens is one such recipe.  Perfect for restoring order to your body while still fueling you through the morning.

And I don’t know about you, but I feel mighty accomplished if I’ve eaten dark leafy greens before noon.  It leaves me with one less thing to worry about over the course of the day.  Like exercising first thing in the morning.  You get to feel healthy and righteous all day long, never worrying you might not get around to it later.   But this is easier and yummier than working out. Continue reading

Thanksgiving dinner turkey pot pie

My favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal is leftovers.  In fact, for several years when my family had gone as guests to someone else’s house for the holiday, my sister and I would make a second Thanksgiving dinner on Friday.  It worked out well because our neighbors worked on Thanksgiving.  With a bonus round on Friday, they got to celebrate the holiday, and we got to have their company and all the leftovers we wanted (with the food exactly as we like it: traditional herb stuffing, gallons of gravy, multiple pies…oh, and turkey, too).

I love a good turkey sandwich with stuffing, gravy, cranberry, and mayo all crammed in some good bread.  But I can only eat so many of those.  For dinner on the Friday or Saturday following Thanksgiving, it’s got to be turkey pot pie, using as many different leftovers as I can without turning it into a meat trifle (remember that episode of Friends?). Continue reading

Thanksgiving day wishes

On this holiday, let us give thanks for all the blessing in our life.  Let us reflect on that for which we are most grateful, especially the people and gifts we most take for granted.

If you are moved to say grace or a blessing at the table tonight but don’t have one in mind, consider the (mostly secular) prayers that spoke to me, which I’ve compiled below.

Whatever your traditions are, I wish you health and happiness for you and yours.  Happy Thanksgiving! Continue reading

From thankful to thoughtful: Conscious consumption on Black Friday

As November marches on, we get ever closer to the holiday frenzy that peaks December 24th, when the stores finally throw customers out to go spend some time with the precious family members for whom they’ve been shopping like mad.  It seems that the “Christmas season” starts earlier and earlier each year in retail-land.  And Thanksgiving seems to be the only pause in the action.  If we’re fortunate, for one precious day we get to spend time with our loved ones, enjoying a meal and giving thanks for all we have.

While you rest for a moment in that space of love and gratitude, I urge you to extend your thoughtfulness to the holiday shopping you may have planned later this week.  Retail giants are clamoring to attract every last dollar they can.  They use door busters, coupons and extended hours to lure us in.  And it works.  We’ve all seen the footage of parents gone wild trying to be the first one to get their hands on the flavor-of-the-year toy, fellow humans be damned.  It’s funny, but it’s also sad.  Less than 24 hours after giving thanks for all that we have, we are fighting over stuff with the intensity refugees might bring to a food drop.  Really?  Are we that desperate? Continue reading

Thanksgiving side dish: Beet salad three ways

My mother has always said that the Canadians have it right: Thanksgiving should be in October.  The harvest is so much more bountiful a month earlier than American Thanksgiving.  However, there are some great vegetables that are in season this time of year.  In our area, that includes many varieties of winter squash, carrots, kale, chard, and beets.

While beets haven’t featured often in our Thanksgiving line up of side dishes, there’s no good reason for that.  Except perhaps that we have them with dinner regularly. If you do too, consider preparing them a different way for Thanksgiving (check out the three options below).  If you don’t make beets, give them a try.  My husband swore he hated them until about 3 years ago, when a good preparation won him over.  I’m still working on our son, but he will eventually join us on the bright side, too.

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I love beets for their distinctive taste, nutritional value, and flexible preparation.  Allow me to elaborate. Continue reading