Category Archives: Blog

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.

INGREDIENTS

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

PREPARATION

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.

 

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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!

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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.

INGREDIENTS

  • 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

PREPARATION

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.

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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!

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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.

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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

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Author Thursday: Why Try Being What You’re Not?!

In the big world of authors, I tried to be someone I wasn’t, for years. What does that do? It can burn you out, frustrate you, and lead you farther away from what God really intends for you.

From the Land of Milk and Honey AuthorMany authors have very impressive professional profiles. They’ve graduated with honors, majored in some kind of journalism, and/or written articles for “real” magazines (as opposed to online ones). Not me!

And most authors who are serious about success will spend a lot of time branding themselves, marketing, generating interest through their blog and social media. I don’t have time for most of that. Sometimes, I just want to garden, clean up the house, and hang with the fam. After working my day job, that doesn’t leave much time for all that “author stuff”!

A lot of authors also have an agent to represent them. Those agents present their authors in the best possible, professional light. They help an author figure out their “gimmick”- the hook that makes them stand out above the rest.

I do not have an agent!

Some ten years ago, my husband and I decided we didn’t want to invest way too much time, money, and effort in a book publishing campaign. After all, most of our New Deli customers really just wanted our food, not a recipe to have to make themselves. But there was a vocal handful of those who did really want the recipes, which started me on my book-writing quest.

I submitted my book proposal to a website supported by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA). I got only one response, from a “Christian” publisher- Winepress Publishing. Whoa- that’s a whole other story. Winepress had been overtaken by a cult-sort of figure… years later, after many lawsuits and closure of that Winepress business, I’m still brushing the dust off. My only hardcover book was published through them. Despite the difficulties, you can still get the book though- “From the Land of Milk & Honey” is on Amazon, for under $10.

But back to staying true to oneself. To being who we are, and not trying to be someone else. My “list of credentials” doesn’t seem that impressive by professional author standards, but here it is:

1. I graduated early from high school, which made it easier to move in with my husband (then boyfriend) when I met him that summer. The folks weren’t happy. But I wasn’t Christian at that point either, so I personally saw nothing wrong with this. I was 17 at the time. Wild and crazy, I guess…

2. I was glad I’d graduated early. Enough high school time had already been spent doing dumb things like smoking cigarettes and skipping classes to sit with friends at coffee shops getting loaded on caffeine. Given another year, no telling what I might’ve done!

3. I never went to college.

4. I was going to make ceramics for a living, but I couldn’t stand to put in the time to get professional at it. I was a pretty impatient young woman!

5. Replace “ceramics” with “silver jewelry”, in above sentence.

6. Replace “ceramics” with “music”.

7. I cooked meals from scratch as a young bride, but money was scarce. So I bought “Chef’s Delight” to add to soups. (It was a notch below “Velveeta” processed cheese product.)

8. I once bought past-dated bologna on sale and made Sweet n’ Sour Bologna. It was the low point of our newlywed dinners.

9. I worked as a busgirl at Cooper’s Arms (a fancy restaurant in Rochester, Michigan at the time), the Elephant Butte Disco (where I realized my lack of cocktail knowledge), the Sizzler (who wanted me to move up to manager, but my heart wasn’t in it), and at a Mexican restaurant in San Jose. I learned more about food. The cooks and what they did was always the most fascinating part of the job!

10. Still in the kitchen, a few years later, I started a vegetarian burrito business out of my home and simultaneously got pregnant. The business turned out to be an ideal work situation for a new mom who still needed to make a few bucks, and for a creative cook who needed some guinea pigs!

11. Three years later, husband Tom and I went legit, turning a space at The Del Monte Plaza in Pinole into “The New Deli”. We cranked out vegetarian burritos in the wee hours of the morning, to deliver to natural food stores throughout the Bay Area. By noon, we were gradually developing a customer base at the deli, serving the locals something besides the prevailing fast food.

12. I learned how to cook healthy, cook fast, and cook well, over the past thirty years at The New Deli, and started sharing recipes in a few published cookbooks. I’m still not one of those popular, sought-after authors, known nation-wide. But, for a few of us, it’s enough to just know how to make one recipe or another from Jen’s repertoire!

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“AuTHUR” Thursday: KDP UNselect

I was so excited to finally get my ebook out on Amazon. And it was real, real exciting that, in the first five days of offering free downloads, the book shot to #58 in the Kindle free books category. Almost seven thousand downloads. I guess when things are free, folks respond!

After publishing the book, I opted into Amazon’s KDP Select program. But… that prohibits ANY duplicate content, even on my own website. So I had to pull duplicate content off the world wide web. Even though I’m the author, I couldn’t even post the recipes on my website.

I finally removed my book from that program, so now I CAN post all those recipes here. They’re still in the “Soup’s On, Made From Scratch” cookbook, but they’re here too. Yay!

Author Jennifer CoteMeanwhile, the ebook was NOT flying off any shelf. In the virtual book publishing world (ebooks, that is), it won’t collect any dust. But it might disappear into oblivion! Ah, the problem with the glut of writings in this information age, right?

Maybe the book could sell if I devoted more time to marketing. But, like many authors, I’m not as into marketing as I am into creating a book. I have a “real” job, and it’s in the real world, at The New Deli, not in the virtual world!

I still occasionally dream of creating a book like the one I want for myself. What would that look like? It wouldn’t be digital, because I want a hard copy in my greasy little floured-up hands, to add notes to, to access when I’ve turned off my electronics. You know?!

That book would still have color photos, since it’s easier to be inspired to make something if you see an actual picture. (Not to mention, the photo can remind you of how the recipe’s supposed to look…) To make it available to others would be difficult though, since color printing still is pretty cost-prohibitive.

That book would also have ALL my fave recipes, in one place. I did publish a small version of that book (“From the Land of Milk and Honey“),  back in 2006, but I’ve developed a lot more recipes in the past ten years… I need to get those all organized!

Alas, all our hungry deli folks would probably rather that I just MAKE the stuff, and sell it to them, haha. So, for now, back to my real job :)

 

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Jen’s Top Six Chocoholic Recipes

Here we go- a bunch of chocolate recipes of one category or another: Either EASY, or HEALTHY, or JUST DELICIOUS, or all three!

We’re all pretty busy, right? I mean, who even has time to read all the messages in our inbox?! Or to research which “Valentine’s Day Recipes” to try, in the many articles all over the web right now, in any cooking section?!

So let’s boil it down. Maybe some of these recipes will make it into your arsenal of “Go-To Chocolate Recipes”.

Chocolate Chips, Butter, Strawberries- Good!1.) Among the easiest of recipes: Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries! You only need to melt a cup of chocolate chips to a quarter cup butter, to make a delicious dip for some beautiful strawberries. If the strawberries are organic, this is practically a super-food, right? These won’t hold up for long (it’s best to make them day-of), but it’s easy to eat quite a few of these!

Candy dish full of Red Palm Oil Fudge Truffles2.) On the healthy side, and also on the easy side, are Easy Chocolate Truffles that are quite simple to make- just some melted coconut oil mixed and a few other simple ingredients, rolled in cocoa powder afterward. (Saves that dipping step). When red palm oil was all the rage, I tried a version of these subbing the palm oil for coconut oil. It was definitely an acquired taste. (The coconut-oil version has proved more popular!)

Grateful-Table-Strawberry-Coconut-Truffles-No-Sugar3.) On the healthy side, but a little more involved to make, are these Chocolate Strawberry Truffles. Frozen strawberries are pureed and mixed with coconut butter and honey. Formed into balls, they get dipped into a bittersweet chocolate mix that’s just cocoa powder, coconut oil, honey, and butter. One can save time by using melted chocolate chips and butter for dipping into, but the non-sugar version is pretty easy! (And healthier, of course.)

Eggs, Butter, Chocolate, Coffee: Easy Chocolate Torte4.) On the easy side- this “Chocolate Truffle Cake” was my Go-To-Cake-Recipe for years, when I was so busy raising kids in the midst of running The New Deli. It was so easy to just microwave a few ingredients, stir in eggs, and put it all into a lined pan. The toasted pecans added before baking helped the dessert to look even better. Nom… I was digging this recipe before gluten-free was even a thing! (Oh, here’s the “Kahlua Chocolate Truffle Cake Version” too- the other one is sans alcohol.)

Quinoa and chocolate cupcakes in polka-dot cupcake liners5.) Now, back to the healthy side. “Quinoa Chocolate Cupcakes” has been a popular choice lately. Even the kids at the last birthday party were chowing down on ’em, to our surprise! There are a bunch of versions of this recipe- mine’s not much different, except that I usually streamline the methods and simplify ingredients whenever possible. Note to self, and others: Process the quinoa AFTER it cools, or it’ll get too glue-y!

Grateful-Table-Chocolate-Cake-Pistachio-Marzipan6.) This “Chocolate Genoise Cake w/Pistachio Marzipan” is at the bottom of the list, not because it’s not as tasty, but because it’s more complex to make. If you’re up for a challenge, go for it. It looks beautiful and tastes delicious. The beauty of the sponge cake is that the cake itself is light and airy, since it’s lower moisture, but because it’s dry (and light), it takes a nice soaking from a sweet syrup poured on the finished cake.

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Pinterest: A Few of Jen’s Pics, in One Place

I have a few miscellaneous Pinterest ideas that I’ve posted on Pinterest, but the picture might just be for an idea- not that it warrants a whole post devoted to that picture alone.

So I’m going to start an ongoing post, that I’ll add to, that has pics I’ve shared on Pinterest, that don’t really belong anywhere else. “Orphan Pinterest Pics”, I guess you could say!

Carve beets, so slices make hearts“Heart Beet”: Cook beets by wrapping in foil and roasting in oven until tender, or by simmering in water to cover. Then just carve ’em a bit, so slices make heart shapes. Perfect for Valentine’s Day, right?! Beets are loaded with nutrients, and lots of easily-assimilated iron, so it’s a great way to show someone you care :)

 

 

Organic Paprika (Cuz Peppers R Dirty Dozen)Organic Paprika: Peppers are on the “Dirty Dozen” list, since typically, they’ve tested fairly high in pesticides. This is one of those veggies that’s worth getting organic. Paprika, which comes from peppers, can be found in organic form at the health food store (or here on Amazon). I got the one pound size and keep it in the freezer, since that size is a good value. Now the fam can get a lot of the nutrients peppers are so rich in, even when the fridge is bare and my cooking options that day are minimal! (Paprika makes a killer red sauce for enchiladas and such…)

 

Just soak almonds 24 hrs., pop skins off. Easy "blanching"!“Blanched Almonds”: Maybe I get a bit OCD about organic. I believe there are more nutrients in organic foods, and buying organic supports those farmers. Fast can be nice though, and if you want blanched almonds with NO work, just pick ’em up at Trader Joe’s. But, if you’d like organic almonds, and don’t want to go to the bother of adding boiling water, in order to pop the skins off, just soak the almonds for 24 hours. The skins will pop off this way too!

 

 

 

 

“From the Land of Milk & Honey”: My first cookbook’s still on Amazon, but after Winepress Publishing went under, amidst shrieks of fraud, lawsuits, and cult management, I opted to have them ship my cookbooks to me while they still existed. That explains why my book is no longer available through major book suppliers, but it is still available from me!

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