I have to admit, even though I was able to master cooking brown rice this year, this item from Costco comes in very handy on busy days. A standby easy meal for us is a take off on a Chipotle veggie bowl: rice, beans (I use organic canned pintos, which I season), sauteed bell peppers & onions, guacamole & salsa. My pantry is never without these.
Our friends turned us on to this wonderful product. We call it "choffee" and it's roasted cocoa beans. It brews like coffee in a press pot and is naturally caffeine-free (though it has a natural stimulant, theobromine, that boosts your metabolism but doesn't disrupt sleep). It's chock full of health benefits, like antioxidants, and minerals, and is considered a "super food." Most of all, it smells like deep, dark chocolate and tastes fantastic. It looks like coffee but tastes like chocolate... I describe it as hot chocolate without the milk and sugar if you can imagine that. We drink it most evenings (even my coffee-hating husband loves it). And here's a bit of trivia while we're on the subject: did you know that cacao beans are called "cocoa beans" after roasting?
The table salt and cooking salt that most of us use are devoid of any nutritional value. That is why we have switched to Himalayan Pink salt. HP salt is obtained from mines that are rich in crystal salt which are located on Himalayas foothills, and is considered to be one of the purest salts on earth (it does not contain the chemicals and pollutants found in sea salt). Just google "Himalayan Pink salt benefits" and learn more about it. Costco carries a grinder bottle like the one above and it is very reasonable in price.
Emma turned me on to Kombucha tea this year. She would pick it up at Whole Foods and often a bottle of it would be found on our kitchen table. She kept raving about it, and so I decided to try it. Thanks, Emma... now I'm completely hooked. Forget all the health claims, this stuff just tastes phenomenal and is such an enjoyable drink. And if you've ever been fortunate enough to have some homemade Kombucha, you'll know why I've turned to making my own. Yes, it's crazy and the terminology Kombucha makers use is downright repulsive and strange (Scoby is now a household word around here, and a weird, science-experiment-looking jar has a permanent home on the kitchen counter). I'll post more on the process later - I'm excited to share it with you.
And speaking of tea, my friend Julia introduced me to this tea and it became a new favorite. I've always been a fan of Aveda tea but it's quite cost prohibitive so I would limit myself to the cup my stylist offers me at my monthly visits. :-) This tea tastes EXACTLY like it! It contains wonderfully healthy things like organic licorice root and cinnamon bark. I just love the flavor and it's naturally decaffeinated. I like it strong so I double up on the tea when I'm brewing. For a good black tea, my favorite is Numi organic decaf black vanilla.
I prefer not to not consume much dairy (I do make an exception for good cheese, and I wholeheartedly believe in raw dairy products). But I do love milk for all different things like smoothies or lattes. Since acquiring a Vitamix this past summer, I've been able to make my own almond milk and I love it! Here's the recipe I follow- it is so nutritious AND delicious. I do sweeten mine with Medjool dates and put a little vanilla extract in. I get raw, organic almonds for this, so I don't really save money making my own... but it's SO much healthier and tastier than the processed, boxed kind (or "fresh" refrigerated kind).
One use for my homemade almond milk is in this delicious kale smoothie, which I drink quite often (I use the Vitamix which does good work of the greens):
-1 large (or 1 1/2 small) frozen banana (I freeze them whole and unpeeled, then thaw 30 sec. in microwave, cut off peel and chunk)
-1 cup cold almond milk
-1 tsp. vanilla extract (you can omit if using vanilla flavored milk)
-2-3 dates, pitted
-a good handful of kale (membranes removed) or spinach
-a handful of ice
But HEY! You can't be healthy all the time! Life is not all brown rice and kale smoothies. :-) Most of you know that I'm a hopeless bakery addict...and I admit I've been a regular for (ahem) decades at my favorite little bakery Berolina's in Montrose. This year, I was fortunate to discover two wonderful new bakery spots. The first is The Backdoor Bakery.... which was formerly in Silver Lake and strangely came to Sunland (the owners live by me here in Shadow Hills and wanted a place close to home). This place is MONEY! The best croissants that I've EVER tasted....hands down! Seriously, amazingly good stuff here. Backdoor is located in a junky strip mall (about a mile from the 210 freeway exit at Sunland Blvd.) but you should really try it. The owner Deborah is an amazing baker. There is not a huge selection, but everything she makes is incredible. She really specializes in croissants and baguettes, but is super creative. I recommend on your first visit just getting a plain croissant and a latte (they even make almond milk lattes - yes!). Even though she makes crazy good pain au chocolat, and even a salted caramel croissant... to appreciate Deborah's skill as a baker you should just sink your teeth into a plain one to begin with. Perfectly golden crust and the softest, melt-in-your-mouth interior, you'll be blown away. Here is their facebook page.
8658 Sunland Blvd., Sunland
The other place I discovered was on a tip from a Pasadena friend. It is Euro pane. Now, I'm not exactly into egg salad sandwiches, I probably would never order one or be raving about one for that matter. But, this bakery makes an amazing egg salad sandwich on rosemary currant bread. The eggs are not completely hard boiled, so they are tender, and I'm sure the mayo is house-made. It's served open faced- it's messy, but oh-so-good. They also have good coffee and pastries. Next time you're in the Pasadena area do yourself a favor and go.
950 E. Colorado Blvd. Pasadena - this is the location I've been to. They have an additional, larger & newer location at 345 E. Colorado, but the parking isn't as easy.
Well, as for the upcoming year, at the Harasick homestead we are trying our hand at organic vegetable gardening. We've been tomato growers for years, but I've always wanted to grow more. Recently my sweet husband took on the project of designing a large gardening space in our front yard. We removed a few fruit trees to do so, but I think it will be well worth it. The project currently still in progress and should be ready for a spring planting. It will soon house 8 raised beds, each 4x4 feet. We are following plans from Square Foot Gardening. We don't know much about growing vegetables or composting so I'm sure we'll be learning a lot! Most things we hope to grow from seeds.
What you see below is the gardening space after we removed 4 trees and grass, dug out old soil, and added decomposed granite 4" deep. Around the edge is a planting border with soil, which I'm thinking may be fun to use for herbs since they grow so beautifully, and I really enjoy having an abundant supply for my cooking. There will be a white picket fence with a gate in center, between the DG and the planter to help keep critters out and look like a cute garden. :-) At first I was a little taken aback at how much space Rich wanted to devote to the garden, but now I'm really glad as we'll be able to grow much of our own organic produce.
And here's Rich building the first beds! That's MY man. :-)
Happy 2013 everyone!!
Happy 2013 everyone!!