Monday, November 21, 2011

Peanut Butter Cookies vs. My Excellent (ha!) Portuguese

Yesterday I got a little bored (not that I am complaining -- I like being bored once in awhile, it means I have a moment of nothing to do AKA nothing stressing me out).  That October Unprocessed really got to me, I think, because I actually decided to bake.  Yes, me who started with the fear of baking decided to bake.  But this time I wanted to make something I couldn't make during October Unprocessed:  Peanut butter cookies. 

How can I explain the joy that is one of the greatest baking inventions known to the human species, specifically those of the americana influence?  Sweet, crispy, peanut-buttery.  Basically delicious sums it up, right? 


(And I am hearing hearty "Amens!" ring out across the land, from sea to shining sea.)

Well, not everyone likes peanut butter cookies.  And one of those "not everyones" is, you guessed it, Mr. Brazil. 

This is what I don't get.  There is this little peanut candy in Brazil that tastes JUST LIKE peanut butter cookies.  JUST LIKE IT.  I kid you not, it is basically a peanut butter cookie with a different texture.  And I know he likes the cookie texture because he sure is willing to eat other cookies.  So I asked him about it --

"But Babe, it tastes just like pacocinha {pako-seen-ya}."

"Like what?"

"You know, pako-seen-ya."  (Putting it in phonetic spellings for all of you non-Portuguese speakers...)

He erupted in laughter.  "That's so cute!  But there is nothing called pako-seen-ya.  You mean pacoquinha {poss-oh-keen-ya}."

"Yeah, that, poss-oh-keen-ya.  It tastes just like that, right?" 

More laughter.  No answer to my question, just a "You are so cute!"  Just one more time when my brilliant Portuguese language skills get in the way of my communication, even in English.

So, maybe peanut butter cookies are out for him, but I am not giving up on the Brazilian people at large.  I am off to see my amiga Dani, and I will let her try.  Maybe she will like them, maybe she won't, but it is worth the try. 

Besides, I have a LOT left and I can't eat them all, so I better find somebody who likes peanut butter cookies because there is no way I can eat two dozen by myself.

Or maybe I can... hmm...

PS - November is national Peanut Butter Month.  Just thought you might like to know.  Maybe you too should hop into the kitchen and make some celebratory cookies :)


1/2  cup granulated sugar
1/2  cup packed brown sugar
1/2  cup peanut butter                              
1/2  cup butter or margarine, softened
1  egg                                         
1 1/4   cups all-purpose flour                                       
1/2  teaspoon baking soda   
1/2  teaspoon baking powder
1/4  teaspoon salt
  • 1 Mix sugars, peanut butter, shortening, butter and egg in large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate about 2 hours or until firm.
  • 2 Heat oven to 375ºF.
  • 3 Shape dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. Place about 3 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten in crisscross pattern with fork dipped into sugar.
  • 4 Bake 9 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 5 minutes; remove from cookie sheet. Cool on wire rack.
Recipe from Betty Crocker, the queen of the cookies.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Praline-Topped Sweet Potatoes {Guest Post}

One more great Thanksgiving idea for you, this time from Justine at Full Belly Sisters.  When she said she had a great sweet potato post, I thought, "Hmm, ok, sweet potatoes.  I guess I like sweet potatoes enough."  But my husband responded differently.  "Sweet potatoes?  YES!  Please have her share so you can make some so I can eat it."  So, there you have it.  We need more sweet potatoes in our lives.  I tried some the other day, thinking they weren't all that exciting, but you know what?  I love sweet potatoes!  I had confused them with yams.  Oops.  Thankfully Justine is here to save the day. 

Actually, Justine and her sister save the day for me many times.  There is so much about being a mom someday (not yet!) that I have questions about and they have the answers.  Friends, if you need info on raising healthy little one through pregnancy and afterwards, they are a wealth of good information.  Check them out at there website by clicking on any of the pictures or HERE

As a certified health coach, I generally steer my clients and blog readers toward nutrient-dense and low-calorie foods (read: tons of veggies and fruit). They really should be the bulk of your diet in order to maintain your weight and to achieve optimum health. But I do sometimes eat foods that don't exactly fit that bill. And that's okay.

One of the rules I try to live by is "eat all the junk food you want, as long as you cook it yourself" (from Michael Pollan's Food Rules). The fact is that indulgent, rich and/or sweet foods have gotten so inexpensive and easy to buy that we don't consume them just for special occasions anymore; now we see these foods as part of our everyday diets.

Additionally, if we make our own "junk food," we control the quality and quantity of our ingredients. I cut the sugar in pretty much every recipe I make. And we can and should use the best ingredients we can afford, such as organic vegetables and grass-fed dairy; pastured eggs; real maple syrup (not that maple-flavored sugar water); and whole grains.

This recipe - a favorite for many years at my family's holiday dinner table - is rich and sweet. It's high in calories, too. However, it's also packed with vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, good fats, and protein. So, while it's not something I'd recommend eating every day, this dish is a real treat that is perfect for a special holiday dinner; it is a wonderful accompaniment to the more savory Thanksgiving fare. The fact that it also packs a nutritional punch is just a really great bonus.

(serves 10-12)
   6 large sweet potatoes
   1/2c half and half (whole milk works fine, too)
   1 egg
   3T real maple syrup
   2T orange juice
   1 1/2tsp salt
   1t vanilla

   2/3c packed brown sugar
   2T real maple syrup
   1 1/4c pecan pieces
   1/2 t cinnamon
   7T unsalted butter, softened and cut in pieces
   1/2 cup white whole wheat flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash sweet potatoes and poke each one a few times with the tines of a fork. Place them on a rimmed baking sheet covered in foil or parchment (as they bake, they will ooze some sweet syrup - you want to catch it before it gets in your oven!). Bake for about an hour, until they are tender to the touch. Remove from the oven and let cool. (Make-ahead note: You can bake the potatoes a day or two beforehand; just keep them in their skins and refrigerate.)

Halve the potatoes lengthwise and peel off the skins; you should be able to do this with your hands, or you can scoop the flesh with a spoon, as you would an avocado. Place the flesh into a large mixing bowl. Add half and half, egg, maple syrup, orange juice, salt and vanilla. Beat until potatoes are mashed and mixture is light and fluffy.

Spoon into buttered two-quart casserole dish and spread into an even layer.

In a separate bowl, combine sugar, syrup, pecans, cinnamon, butter, and flour. Mix with hands until all ingredients are fully incorporated and the mixture is crumbly.

(Make-ahead note: You can cover the mashed potatoes and the crumbly topping separately and refrigerate for a day or two; assemble when ready to bake.)

"Spread topping over the top of the mashed sweet potatoes, covering all the potatoes. Bake the dish, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes. The topping should be hot and bubbling.

Let sit for about 10 minutes; this allows the topping to come together and get a bit crispy. It should crackle a little like a crème brûlée when you spoon into it.

Scoop and enjoy.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Can-Free Green Bean Casserole {Guest Post}

You know what I love about this little (or rather large) food blog thing?  I have discovered there are so many others out there like me -- people who are working hard to improve their food-lives.  Many of them started out when they were young, but even more started out as an adult after some kick-in-the-pants happened.  For me it was marrying a Brazilian who had only eaten "real food" in his life that opened my eyes to what I could be having AKA something other than top ramen every night.  For my guest blogger today, it was something different.  So although our stories have different starts, the journey is surprisingly similar.  I am so excited to try this recipe, guys!  I love green bean casserole.  And now I know how to make it sans-cans.  Woot-woot!  I hope you get inspired to try some yourself :)

Meet Jackie.
(Photo borrowed from her website)
For see more of Jackie's recipes/stories/pictures, visit her at or click on any of the pictures.

Hi, I’m Jackie, from Domestic Fits.

I love to make food from scratch. How can I possibly indulge myself in in scratch food making? I must have all the time in the world, tons of money, and no job. And servants. Lots of them.

Nope. Working Mom. Full time even. And I run a social work program, so the Big Bucks have yet to roll in. I just think it’s really important, and we find time for those things in our lives that are in that golden circle.

It started when I was pregnant with my daughter (in 2009) and my Splenda addiction was in full force, poised to take over my body. I took one look at that little yellow packet, with it’s completely unknown contents and had a revelation: What In The Crap Will This DO To The Brain I Am Growing In My Guts?

Because, it wasn’t until I found out that I was growing an actual brain that my daughter became real (if you really want THAT store you can read this).

It all spiraled from there, and I became obsessed with knowing what was in my food before I fed it to the brain and it’s attached adorable fetus body.

I never really stopped this, although I have lightened up a bit with my OCD version of Farm to Table.  But the core is there. Cook foods that you know what all the ingredients are, better yet can SEE all the ingredients, i.e. Green Beans. Real, fresh ones.

My husband has the obsession with this here American favorite: Green Bean Casserole. It only calls for 4 “ingredients,” however, 3 of them come from cans and who know HOW many ingredients are in those things. Plus mushy green beans are yucky. Clinical term: Yucky.

SO here is my grown up version of this. Husband even liked it better than his mom’s Three Can Wonder. Don’t tell her, she’ll never know.

2 leeks
1 large white onion
1 tbs olive oil
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 tbs salt
5 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and cut in half
2 tbs butter
4 cups Crimini mushrooms (baby bella), washed and chopped
3 large cloves of garlic, chopped
1 cup of chicken broth
2 tbs flour
1 cup cream

Preheat oven to 400.

Cut the leeks (white and very light green portion only) into thin rings. Cut the onion into thin slices. Place in a small bowl and toss with the olive oil to coat. Add to a baking sheet and add the Panko breadcrumbs and salt, toss to combine.

Bake at 400 for about 30 minutes, tossing about every 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven when a golden brown color is reached.

Place the green beans in a pot of rapidly boiling water. Boil for 5 minutes and immediately drain by pouring into a colander, rinse with cold water for 2 minutes to stop the cooking.

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes, or until they turn a dark brown. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.

In a separate bowl, add the chicken broth and the flour, stir to combine. Pour into the pan through a mesh strainer to remove any flour lumps. Stir until thickened, about 3-5 minutes.

Remove from heat, add the cream and stir until combined. Return to heat and allow to cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the green beans and 1/2 cup of the onion/leek mixture, stir. Pour into a 2-quart baking dish.
*Time management tip: If you want to make this the day before Thanksgiving, this is where you stop. Cover the baking dish and put it into the fridge. Put the cooled onion/leek mixture in a separate container of Ziplock bag to prevent them from getting soggy from sitting on the top of the casserole all night. 

Top your casserole with the onion mixture and place in your 400 degree oven. Reduce heat to 375 and bake for 15 minutes or until warmed all the way though (note: if you are cooking this after removing from the fridge, as in the above Tip, the cooking time will be longer, approximately 22 minutes).

For a printable version, Click here

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Garlic and Mushroom Mashed Potatoes {Guest Post}

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and if you are anything like me, you are excited.  Excited for the good food, excited for the time with friends and family, excited for a few days off of work.  Speaking of good food... I have asked several fellow food-blogger friends to share their favorite Thanksgiving recipes with us.  Why?  Because although my food is good, it is always the same and I want to see what else there is out there! 

The following (AMAZING) recipe is from Amanda over at Give Me Flour.  I have mentioned her before (in fact, she has a whole post dedicated to her...) because of her beautiful pictures, great tasting recipes, and the fact that she is a Brazilian woman learning English -- my counterpart, as I am an American woman learning Portuguese.  We are both navigating this American/Brazilian world at the same time, and it is fun to see it happen from the other side.  Be sure to stop by her page and give her some love (click on any picture and it will take you there).  You will not regret it!


The first time I made mashed potatoes (or thought I was making it), I was 10, 11, no more than 12. I simply put a bowl of smashed potatoes on the table and told everybody lunch was served. No salt, no butter, no pepper, no cream or even a drop of milk. Fortunately, my mom saw my mistake in time and nobody had to eat my insipid attempt. 
Ironically, I’m here in charge of a mashed potato recipe for the most important American food-related holiday.  Good thing I’ve learned from my mistakes and my mashed potatoes grew from that insipidness to a much more tasteful side dish. Garlic and mushrooms, come on, what could go wrong with that?
Well, potatoes are some of the most versatile ingredients I know and they go along with a bunch of good things but, when the matter is mashed potatoes, if you don’t have a good base, no other ingredient will do the job for you.
For a good base I mean a good quality, properly cooked and well smashed potato. And I have my preferences for that -- the Yukon gold potato. First because I care about the color, there’s something about a yellow “purée” that really stands out to me.  Second, it gives me the consistency I expect with mashed potatoes, smoothness without lumps.
So, for 6 to 8 servings you are going to need:

First of all, grab a large pot, add the potatoes in, and cover them with cold water. One of the first things I learned about cooking is we should always place potatoes in cold water and let everything heat together. It helps them to cook more evenly.
So, add bay leaves and 1 tbsp of salt to the pot and bring it to a boil. Cook until potatoes are tender or until they fall apart easily when pierced with a fork.
Meanwhile heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan; add garlic and thyme and sauté until lightly brown. Scoop out the garlic and set it aside.
Using the same frying pan with the thyme, heat the last two tbsp of olive oil and sauté the mushrooms in a high heat for 2-3 minutes. Scoop and set them aside.

As soon as the potatoes are tender, dry them in a colander and let them rest for about 5 minutes. That’s just another good trick to get rid of the extra humidity and the water that can make our base soggy.
Place potato in a large bowl and mash them with a potato masher. If you have a food mill, go for it, it is just the best tool for making a smooth base.
Add butter, parmesan, black pepper and milk, a bit at a time, until you get the consistency you desired. I set a limit of 1 ½ cups of milk but the quantity can vary according to the quality of potato you are using too. Add more salt if needed and mix well.
Add sautéed garlic and mushrooms to the base; mix well and place in a serving bowl. Pile some extra garlic and mushrooms on top and serve immediately. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Night of Simplicity and Gratefulness

I am a blessed woman.  Everyday I wake up next to a man who loves me (and is quite the looker, by the way!), head out to a job that fulfills me, and spend time with coworkers that are more like family than their official title of "coworkers".  I then get to come home to a house that is warm, eat healthy and delicious food, take a warm shower, sleep in a bed that keeps me cozy.  If I feel hungry it is because I was too lazy to get food; if I am cold it is because the heater hasn't kicked in yet; if I am tired it is because I was busy doing other things that sleeping.

I am also blessed with the gift of friends.  They come in all shapes, colors, and sizes.  Definitely they come with different temperaments and interests, hobbies and things that make them tick.  But one thing I can say about the friends in my life is this -- my friends are the kind of friends you want.  Why?  Not because they are oh-so-funny (although some of them are), not because they live in big fancy houses and drive nice little cars (very few of them do), and for sure not because we live in a fantasy world where we are always happy and nothing goes wrong (yeah -- not true for ANYONE).  The thing about my friends is this: they care.  Pure and simple.  Not just about me, not just about the ones they know, but I am blessed to be surrounded by people who genuinely care about the needs of other people.  Let me give you an example:

This little poster you see here is the result of friends sitting around a table at a restaurant one night, enjoying our food and conversation.  There was laughter here, funny stories there, and then talk of bigger, bolder things. 

"Guys," one asked, "have you been hearing about the famine in Somalia?"  Heads nodded and conversation started taking place about it.  The usual.  But this, this is what I love:  "What can we do to help?"  And so our Night of Simplicity and Gratefulness was born.  Two months ago.  And it just happened last night.  Yes, these things take time.  But the time was worth it! 

It was an evening of food, music, and visiting with people we knew and people we didn't (yet).  Bread was shared while plates beans and rice with cabbage salad was passed out.  Simple, so incredibly simple.  Each plate -- get this -- cost 50 cents to make.  That's it.  But you wouldn't be able to tell by the comments that were made.  Many asked me for the recipe, young and old were discussing how good it was.  And then we shared the news:  something so simple to us, so cheap to us, could feed a child in Somalia for two days.  TWO DAYS.  How?  Twenty-five cents a day is all it takes to provide balanced meals to a child.  Twenty five cents. 

Next week, most of us are going to be sitting around a table that looks something like this...

... while millions will be praying for this:

Once again, I realize that I am blessed.  There have been times in my life where we didn't have a lot of food, but we always had something.  It may not have been the most exciting or the prettiest, but I have never truly felt hunger.  As a kid I would whine that I didn't want what was being served, and my mom would say, "Tiffany, there are children in Africa..."  You know how it goes; you have heard it and said it yourself, I am sure.  My response was this, however.  "Then let's mail them food."  In my little five year old mind the solution seemed so easy, but nobody else agreed.

Guess what?  It really is that easy.  There are tons of places that given the money to do it will get the food into the right hands.   Grateful hands. 

Back to last night.  We ate, we listened to some music, we reflected on the blessings in our lives and shared.  And then we asked people to open their wallets.  If you honestly want to know, I didn't think we were going to get all that much.  Originally I did.  But then I saw how many kids were there, and yadda yadda yadda, and I got a little negative about it. All these hours of cooking beans!  When I agreed to cook beans to feed somewhere between 50 to 75 people, I agreed to do it, no strings attached.  Suddenly though, all those hours in the kitchen seemed like a lot of work if we weren't going to raise a lot of money.  I had been secretly hoping to raise $1,000 / had openly (with my speaking) hoped to raise $800 / had at the end of the night hoped to just cross $300, at least.

$1254.  That's the number we reached.  Above and beyond even my secret hope.  You want to know how many quarters (meals) that is?  5,016.


And here is the even greater part.  Because it is Thanksgiving time, the orginization we were supporting (which has an A+ charity grade -- we checked) has donors who are matching everything times seven.  Times seven.  That $1254 automatically is turning into $8778, or 35,112 meals. 

That's a whole lot of bellies that will be filled, for at least a little while. 

My little group of friends may not be able to wipe out world hunger by ourselves, but we can do our part.  We are, after all, so blessed.

For more information on how your gift can be multiplied by seven, visit

(Thank you Nathania and Tim for the pictures!)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Trash the Dress - Pam & Austin

It has been over a week since I have posted.  It has probably been that long since I have done something fun in the kitchen.  Sure, we are eating (of course) but I think I am recovering from the October Unprocessed.  I loved it, don't get me wrong, but I also love pasta with pasta sauce, stuffing, and other really easy and yummy foods.  So yes, I have been taking it easy in the kitchen, but I have not let my creativity just float away on the wind.  I have just directed it in other ways this week.  See for yourself.

Trash the Dress, San Francisco Style

What a fun day!  These two love birds have been married for one year and wanted to take pictures in their wedding clothes one more time before they got packed away for good.  She, being Brazilian, is not camera shy at all, which made my job so easy!  And he was such a good sport, doing whatever we told him to do :) 

Now I want my husband and I to have fun pictures like these.  I love being the behind the lens of the camera, but I am thinking I need to find a way to be on the other side for once...
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