Dolmas: Stuffed Grape Leaves w/Rice, Mint, Pine Nuts…

This Greek appetizer, often referred to as Dolmas, keeps well for a week or so. Around the holidays, bring them to potlucks, or serve when company drops in. They also come in handy as part of the meal on days when there’s no time to prepare anything, and are gluten-free–another plus!

For those whose gardens are graced with grape vines, the grape leaves themselves can be easily processed at home. Collect 36 or so large grape leaves during the summer months, wash the leaves, and roll up piles of twelve. Three rolls of twelve will fit in one quart jar. Just add a mixture of 3 c. water and 1 TBS. salt; weight the leaves down if necessary to keep them covered in brine. Let sit at room temperature for 3 days, then cover and refrigerate.

Makes approx. 30 pieces.

Dolmas- stuffed grape leaves with rice, dried fruit, mint


  • 30 grape leaves (approx. one small jar, net dry weight 8 oz.)
  • 2 c. brown rice
  • 4 c. water
  • 1/3 c. dried apricots
  • 1/2 c. raisins
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 c. fresh parsley
  • 4 sprigs fresh spearmint (1/2 c. or so)
  • 1 green apple, peeled and cored
  • 1/2 of a medium onion
  • 1 c. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. salt


Earlier in day, or night before, bring to boil, then let simmer on low for 45 min. or so with the lid on: > 2 c. brown rice > 4 c. water

Refrigerate the cooked rice without stirring it, until cooled. Process the following in processor, or hand chop: > 1/3 c. dried apricots

To chopped apricots, also add and process/chop: > 1/2 c. raisins

Last of all, add to chopped dried fruits in processor, pulsing until finely chopped, but not pureed (or, again, hand chop): > 3 garlic cloves > 1/2 c. fresh parsley > 4 sprigs fresh spearmint > 1 green apple, peeled and cored > 1/2 of a medium onion

Finally, add all the above to the cooked, cooled rice, along with: > 1 c. olive oil > 2 tsp. salt

Why I LUV Bone Broth (even Gelatin…)

Bone broth has really helped improve my health. If there wasn’t time to make that, gelatin might do the trick.
Gelatin fights inflammation- thumbs up!Growing up in the sixties, a few friends had heard that packets of gelatin mixed in warm water might help with hair and nail growth. Even back then, I had some health concerns, and my nails were the pits. So… I tried it. Did my nails become awesome? Did my hair become luxurious? No! I hadn’t yet resigned myself to the fact that I did not genetically inherit the lushest of hair, or exceptional nails. So, like many other teen fads, that one faded. It didn’t solve all my problems, so I figured it bordered on useless. (Kids…)
But, as I got older, inflammation became an issue. Bone broth to the rescue! (A simple recipe for that here.) The gelatin in bone broth fills in the gaps to help make more complete proteins out of other foods. Did you know this?! Apparently, muscle meats (beef, chicken, etc.), when not balanced by other proteins (eggs, fish, dairy, organ meats, shellfish, bone broth) can contribute to inflammation. (Here’s the source for that info) Gelatin can help balance that protein out, helping us fight inflammation.
Oh, and gelatin’s got plenty of glycine, which might help suppress tumors linked with breast cancer. (See more info here.) One more great reason to add it to our diets.
The folks at Great Lakes use grass-fed cows, and good processing techniques to make this gelatin product. If I didn’t make my own bone broth, I’d get this stuff!. Or, another product of theirs: Collegen Hydrolysate. For that, the gelatin is processed a bit more, making it more digestible- perfect for those with weaker digestive issues. Another plus about this form of gelatin is that it will mix well with cold foods, unlike straight gelatin, which is best mixed into hot foods. So it’s great in smoothies!
I’m gonna have some of my bone broth for lunch today, now that I’ve reminded myself of how great this stuff is. Homemade is ideal, since it even has minerals too. But, if time is short, check Great Lakes’ gelatin out!

A Time For Every Season Desktop Wallpaper

Find more of the wallpapers I’ve worked up, by clicking “Desktop Wallpapers“, under “Recipes” (at the bottom of the page).

Just when the last dahlias of summer were finished blooming, a few fall berries started ripening. I threw everything together in a vase and realized: there really IS a season for everything, and “a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Even when we grieve the ending of one thing, there is a a new thing to rejoice in.

Below is the desktop wallpaper I’ve put on my own computer for this season- a good reminder of Ecclesiastes 3:1- “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven”!

There IS a time for all things

If you want to use the picture for desktop wallpaper, you can click the links below, which are sized to fit wide or short monitors. Left click on the monitor size you want, which brings you to the actual picture, then right click and choose “select (or set) as desktop background”.

Background for wider monitors

Background for shorter monitors

Quest Bars (& Vitafiber): Recipe, Review

Like Tom and me, our nephew grew tired of Michigan’s weather and thought he’d venture to California. Ah, a millennial following in our footsteps! We had a place for him at The New Deli, and a spare room, so it’s worked out well.

It’s been especially fun to discover that our nephew Nolan is about as weirdly frugal as us. Back in 2013, when Nolan first moved in with us out here in California, he asked me if I could look into a product called “Vitafiber”. He was hoping to make his own Quest bars with the stuff, which would save him considerable money.

I’d never heard of Vitafiber. Or Quest bars. I don’t run with the crowd that works out at the gym and buys muscle-building supplements! But I do get a lot of exercise, and hitch a ride on the Paleo bandwagon often enough, so Nolan’s interests and mine do intersect at points. Not to mention the frugal quality- saving money can be a driving force for me!

ISO Vitafiber + Whey = Paleo Goodness

So I looked into it. My nephew warned me- the product was fairly new and hadn’t quite hit the mainstream. I concluded that it seemed a bit pricey at that time. But it did just become available on Amazon this spring, so- I guess it’s mainstream now!

And while not everyone will want to spend the extra dollars on VitaFiber, some might want to check it out, to see if it works for them. It’s been known to improve sleep, glucose tolerance, to lower blood sugar, and aid digestion. I was glad I tried it!

Homemade Chocolate Quest Bars

Quest bars are the beloved snack of much of the muscle-building clan, and other paleo sorts trying to avoid an excess of carbs. Quest bars are super low-carb, since they’re only sweetened with a “prebiotic fiber” commonly known as VitaFiber. It’s also known as “ISO”, which stands for a long, scientific name (isomalto-oligosaccharide). Sounds man-made, but it’s basically just starch (from various starchy food sources) that has been fermented to yield this somewhat-sweet product.

I made the following small batch of bars, which will come in handy on an upcoming trip. Hey, far better than airplane food, and much more convenient than trying to make a smoothie while I’m on the road (or in the air)!

You might dip these in bittersweet chocolate and roll ‘em in some chopped nuts, which would no doubt increase their popularity. Makes 4 small bars.


  • 1/4 C. VitaFiber Syrup
  • 5 TBS. whey powder
  • 2 tsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt


1. Oil measuring cup before measuring out syrup. Use: > 1/4 c. VitaFiber Syrup
2. Heat the syrup in a pan, bring it to a boil.
3. Remove the pan from heat; stir in the remaining ingredients, mixing heartily until smooth. Use: >5 TBS. whey powder > 2 tsp. cocoa powder > 1 tsp. cinnamon > 1/4 tsp. salt
4. Oil a small square loaf pan (4” long or so), or use silicon molds (available on Amazon). Add mixture to pan and refrigerate.
5. Cut into 4 bars. If desired, dip into melted bittersweet chocolate and roll in nuts. Other flavor ideas: Use mint extract instead of cinnamon. Or substitute Matcha green tea powder for the cocoa powder and cinnamon. Use vanilla or almond extracts too, depending on your personal tastes.

Fresh Beets Beat Packaged- Pickled, Runner Up

OK- I really wanted to believe those super-handy, packaged beets would rate about as good as fresh, even if they are a bit more costly. A lot of us won’t buy canned beets, but Trader Joe’s has some “steamed and peeled”, packaged beets in their fresh vegetable section. They’re perishable, so they must be pretty natural! No extra anything, just beets. And- they’d be so much easier to serve.

Difference Between Fresh-cooked Beets and Trader Joe's PackagedAn 8-ounce package of Trader Joe’s steamed beets cost $1.49. Not baa-a-a-d… Of course the fresh beets were cheaper- $1.49 for a whole pound. But the fresh would be a lot more work. So… would the packaged ones taste all right?

They DID taste all right. The first time. But next time, I bought both fresh and packaged, to do a side-by-side taste test. The fresh ones had much better flavor, color and texture. Also, the juice of the fresh-cooked was intense, deep fushia colored; the packaged ones had a much wimpier, browner colored juice.

After home-cooking my fresh beets, the yield of “beet meat” was a third less. So, it cost $1.49/lb. for what ended up being 2/3 lb. Oh well. They were delicious. I suppose if you’d rather save time, and flavor/nutrition/texture isn’t your biggest concern, get the packaged ones. They are probably better for you that a bag o’ chips fried in PUFA oil!

I’ll be going back to steaming, roasting, or simmering my own. They’re just so much better.

More in my beet quest: I also experimented with fermenting beets. Naturally fermented raw beets, not like the canned pickled beets available. (I wanted my probiotics!) So I got my gloves on, prepped a big bunch of beets, added salt, and let ’em ferment. I added sauerkraut juice to the mix to speed things along. They still didn’t ferment as quickly as sauerkraut. But I finally ended up with a jar of “pickled beets”. They’re good! I’ve used them in an occasional batch of Borscht, and on salads. There was the initial time investment (peeling, slicing), but the fermented beets last a long time. I shouldn’t be needing anymore packaged beets. Ever.

Side Note About Beets: Maybe THAT’s why some Russians have lived long, healthy lives? Among other things, beets contain polyphenols and betalains (antioxidants); also- betaine, which encourages the liver to eliminate toxins. Oh. Plus, then taste good!

Baklava Bars: Healthy Granola Bars with a Twist

The deli girls were craving another batch of granola bars. I must admit, I welcomed the idea- after all, we don’t live on bread alone! Tom does rely on a nice chunk of whole wheat sourdough bread for snacking on almost every day, so this would be a nice change of pace. I opted to change up the ingredients in the energy bars I often make, since I wanted to do something with pistachios. I was thrilled to discover the bars tasted a lot like baklava!

Baklava Bars w/Pistachios, Honey- HEALTHY!A hint of almond extract, mixed with the honey and toasted pistachios, makes these energy bars taste almost like the buttery Greek confection, baklava. Only healthier! Makes 20 small bars.


  • 3 1/2 c. oatmeal (1 lb.) (gluten-free if necessary)
  • 2 c. toasted hazelnuts (or sub almonds, or cashews)
  • 1/4 c. coconut oil
  • 1/4 c. butter
  • 2/3 c. honey
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. almond extract
  • 4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 c. toasted pistachios
  • 1 rounded c. pitted Deglet Noor dates


  1. In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the oatmeal until a bit golden, stirring constantly. Or, toast it in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or so, until golden.
  2. Process approximately half the oatmeal into flour in a blender (or food processor). Use: > 1 1/2 c. oatmeal
  3. Set toasted oat flour aside in separate bowl. Process the other half of oatmeal a bit coarser, to give the bars some texture. Use: > 2 c. oatmeal
  4. Add coarse-chopped oatmeal to the bowl of oat flour. Process the toasted hazelnuts in a blender (or food processor) until it turns into nut butter. Use: > 2 c. toasted hazelnuts
  5. To the hazelnut butter in blender/processor, add: > 1/4 c. coconut oil > > 1/4 c. butter > 2/3 c. honey > 1 tsp. salt > 2 tsp. almond extract > 4 tsp. cinnamon
  6. Add the hazelnut butter mix to the oats in bowl. Lightly process to coarse-chop: > 1 c. toasted pistachios
  7. Add chopped pistachios to bowl; coarse-chop dates in blender next. Use: > 1 rounded c. pitted dates
  8. Add dates to bowl of other ingredients. Mix with hands until blended. Press into 9″ x 9″ pan or dish; chill until firm (about an hour) before cutting. If desired, slice and wrap in wax paper; store in jar in fridge.

Artichoke Frittata, Gluten-Free

I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t NOT put a little starch in the frittata I was making for a bridal shower this weekend. Because… I love how adding some kind of starch (typically, flour) makes it so much easier to cut. It holds up and is much more manageable. I originally thought I’d make the frittata spontaneous-style, but I ran out of time. “Spontaneous” as in like an open-faced omelet, topped with pretty veggies and cheese, broiled to a golden hue. I didn’t have time for that- I wanted to visit too!

I also knew a few of us were gluten-free, so I opted to try potato starch instead of flour. It worked! And we all really enjoyed it. Recipe below :)

Gluten-Free Aritchoke FrittataThe beauty of this dish for a brunch, tea, or other festive party occasion is that it is easy to make, bakes nicely at the last minute, AND is easy to serve! A little potato starch in the mix helps it to stick together so that slicing into serving pieces is easy. Trader Joe’s makes it easy too, since they have frozen artichoke hearts with nothing else on ’em. (Some of us would rather skip those weird ingredients found in marinated artichoke hearts. Plus, TJ’s are a better value!)

Makes one 13 x 9″ dish, to serve 15 or so.


  • 12 eggs
  • 1 lb. grated jack cheese, divided
  • 4 oz. goat cheese, ricotta, or other creamy cheese
  • 1-12 oz. package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
  • 1-2 TBS. Italian dressing
  • 1/2 c. potato starch
  • 3 slices tomatoes, if desired


1. Stir eggs well. Use: > 12 eggs

2. Add half the grated cheese, plus all but the tomato slices. Stir well, using: > Half of grated Jack cheese > 4 oz. goat cheese (or other) > 1 package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed > 1-2 TBS. Italian dressing > 1/2 c. potato starch

3. Pour into buttered 13 x 9” dish, topping with: > 3 tomatoes, sliced

4. Top with: > The other half of Jack cheese

5. Bake at 375 degrees 30 minutes until golden on top. Let cool a few minutes before slicing.

Anemia: Do You Have “Iron-Poor Blood”?

Let’s not obsess-  I’m not going to stop eating foods I love. And some vitamin C-rich foods, taken in conjunction with even a high-phytate, iron-blocking meal, can improve iron absorption. But I do think I’ll SUPER-charge my morning smoothie, and take a few of these beef liver tablets on the side!

Absorbing Iron- AnemiaI have a tendency toward anemia. My iron levels were incredibly low at the onset of my first pregnancy, though the iron pill my doctor recommended did not work well. I didn’t absorb it! And thus began my battle against “iron-poor blood”. (Remember those Geritol commercials, older friends of mine?!)

 I’ve learned a lot since. The internet makes research easier. So I boned up on iron facts. For starters, there’s heme iron, found in animal muscle meat and fish. It’s absorbs by the body quite well. Non-heme iron, on the other hand (from plant foods, eggs, milk, and meat too) does not absorb as easily. Also, the plant food sources usually contain phytates, which messes with absorption. Example: Cooked spinach is high in iron, but less than 2% of it is absorbed. (Compare that to the meat-sourced iron, of which up to 35% is absorbed.)

There are a few foods that can help us absorb more iron, when eaten in conjunction with iron-rich foods. A lot of us know that drinking a glass of orange juice along with that iron supplement, increases absorption. (Vitamin C does just that!) And apparently, adding meat to a meal can help too. Beef in particular can give us up to about 4-x as much absorbed iron. Whoot! Bring on that grass-fed cow, nom nom…

Despite a “healthy” diet, despite our best intentions, there are also those foods we might unwittingly consume, that inhibit the absorption of iron. As mentioned, phytic acid reduces absorption. I guess that’s part of why so many of us like to soak our beans, grains, nuts- that reduces the phytates in such foods. Sourdough fermentation helps too. When I make our weekly loaves of sourdough whole wheat bread, the phytates have been reduced by over 60%. Oh, and the fermenting helps make magnesium more readily absorbed- no wonder I love that bread! (Yeah, it’s that magnesium, right?!)

Another iron-absorption-inhibitor is eggs. Not that we don’t want to eat eggs, but we might not want to take an iron-rich food in conjunction with an omelet breakfast. On that same list of inhibitors are: Minerals (calcium, zinc, magnesium, copper), tannic acid (found in tea), peppermint, chamomile, coffee, and cocoa. Again, it’s not that we don’t want to eat those things (believe me, I WANT my chocolate), but when we are taking efforts to eat our iron-rich food of the day, we might not want to top it off with chocolate, coffee, and mint. At least, not all the time!

Making Invitations: Tea Party, Bridal Shower…

The tea party I’m hosting for a good friend is coming along. I found this sample on Joy Ang’s website, which gave me the idea for the DIY invitation below.

Tea Party Bridal Shower InvitationWild Rose Petals- Dry 'em for TeaNow, this IS for a bride named “Rose”, and I DO have a lot of essential oils on hand, so I took Joy’s idea a step further in the tea department. I had a nice bulk tea on hand, and had access to some beautiful wild rose petals that had just finished blooming. So I took a handful of the rose petals, laid them on a paper towel, and microwaved them on low power (“1”, or lowest setting) for five minutes at a time. It took several rounds in the microwave (replacing paper towel when damp), plus sitting out overnight, for the petals to completely dry. You could also use a food dehydrater for this, or low-heat oven.

Oh, note to self: I tried some larger rose petals from our yard, but they didn’t dry well at all. They seemed thicker and maybe too “fresh”. Maybe wild roses are the best for drying. I suppose heartier petals would make a fine “tisane”. (“Tisane” is, basically, tea without the “tea” in it- that tea species known as “Camellia sinensis”.)

Once dried, I added the rose petals to a glass jar along with a few drops of essential rose otto oil (from my favorite place: Nature’s Gift), plus some of my favorite bulk black tea. After several days/weeks, the tea and petals get infused with the beautiful rose oil fragrance. How perfect for the invitations! I brewed some for us too- super tasty!

I was excited about making my own rose-infused tea. I had found something at the health food store called “Romance Tea” (or the like). It had rose petals in it. It cost a small fortune. I got one box for a special, romantic treat for my husband and I, but… making my own is much more economical!

Now, back to those invitations: If you want to make something like this for an upcoming tea party, bridal shower, or other exciting occasion, I have a few tips.

Grateful-Table-Invitation Tips#1. I used standard-sized vellum paper from Michaels’ (8.5 by 11 inches)

#2. I can’t quite afford Adobe Photoshop, but was able to create the invitations using Broderbund’s PrintShop, a cheaper alternative!

#3. I turned the print upside-down so I’d be able to fold it right.

#4. My fave fonts were “Fountain Pen”, “Batang”, and “Browalia New”. (“Black Adder” is another fancy one that could work.) I don’t have a typography degree, but I appreciate that things like this use carefully-selected fonts for total effect. I tried to duplicate what Joy had on her website :)

5. A fine-guage embroidery ribbon at Michaels, for $2 or so for a small amount, worked well for the tea bag string.

6. I used scrapbook paper (with small, simple design on ’em) in the colors of Rose’s wedding, for the tags attached to string on the tea bags. Joy Ang printed brewing instructions on her tags (“cut corner of the invitation and dump contents into a tea ball), but I’m not sure my lady-friends will care that much about brewing the contents of their invitations. And I don’t think they would dip the whole invitation into a tea pot. At least, I hope not!

The ladies were quite excited to receive their invitations, and I had so much fun making them.

Fruit of Self-Control, Harvest of Righteousness!

There seems to be a painful period in the first thirty days, before establishing a habit. But after doing the groundwork, denying the cravings or whatever it is for a month or so, a habit settles in. Self-control starts being second nature. Ideally, we even start enjoying what we are blessed with, instead of craving what we don’t have.

A few friends shake their heads, thinking I must be an incredible stoic or something, when I pass on the generic dessert. But God blesses me with an enjoyment and appetite for the best of foods, and I don’t feel like I’m missing out if I pass on the lesser foods. I thought Hebrews 12:11 applied here…Discipline's no fun at the time, but produces righteousness!

Wallpaper: Desktop Backgrounds w/Verses

The following are a couple of backgrounds you can use to remind yourself (that the struggles get better!).

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11

(To use for desktop wallpaper, left click on appropriate monitor size, then right click and choose “select :

Click here for Background for wider monitors

Click here for Background for shorter monitors