RECIPES & STORIES
"It's the Simple things in Life"
Our other “kid” in the family, Ziggy Stardust Marley Valentine III (yes Steve did name him that, but it’s Zig for short) has been with us for almost 9 years. Steve found him through Linda Blair who runs a rescue called "World Heart Foundation". It was love at first sight.
Ziggy is great with the kids, very playful, patient and kind, and I love to spoil him with this homemade dog food. This meal is so easy and inexpensive to make! I started preparing it for Zig long before fresh dog food chains came on the scene, and he gobbles it up eagerly every time. (check out the drool in the picture below!)
Ziggy is also a picky eater. There is only one type of treat he will eat (the chewy kind) and when I started making him this recipe, if there wasn’t just the right amount of meat to veggie ratio in this recipe, he would not eat it at all. So I refined it over time and got this final result. It’s chock full of plant based protein and the carrots are a great source of fiber and beta-carotene. If you are worried about nutrient content you can add a supplement powder of your choice to it. *
A rice cooker takes the guessing work out of preparing this food. All you have to do is add and mix all the ingredients in the rice cooker, turn it on and walk away. This simple little device eliminates worry about burning the food or the need to continually check on the dish while it’s cooking. When all the water evaporates and everything is cooked through, the rice cooker will automatically switch into “warm” mode and wait for you. A rice cooker is an essential in my kitchen. I use it a couple of times a week to prepare either food for Ziggy or to cook rice and quinoa for myself and my family.
2 pounds of lean ground turkey
1 cup of green lentils (rinsed)
1 cup of uncooked rice (rinsed)
2 medium sized carrots, shredded
5 cups of filtered water
Divide and keep half of the cooled food in a wide and shallow, glass container, with lid, in the freezer.
Keeping the homemade pet food in these types of containers allows the food to defrost quicker for when you are ready to use it.
Ziggy weighs about 15 pounds and for his weight I feed him twice a day; 1 cup for breakfast and 1 cup for dinner. One batch lasts us about 8 days.
*Always consult your veterinarian for your pets specific dietary needs before introducing new foods.
Mix all the ingredients with water and turn the rice cooker ON.
Food will prepare while you are doing your thing. There is no need to "babysit it" thanks to the rice cooker!
Keep half in a jar, in the fridge and half in the freezer until ready to use.
I caught Zig drooling in this pic.
Makes: 6 servings
Kids love popsicles and yours will never know you are secretly getting them to eat ones that are healthy. These popsicles are full of protein thanks to the nut butter and the coconut milk. The raw chocolate supplies a bit of magnesium and the potassium comes from the bananas - which also help naturally sweeten the pops.
I have a huge jar of hemp seeds on my counter and I throw them into everything: salads, oatmeal, smoothies, all my baking, and now these popsicles. I’m obsessed with how much nutrition these tiny little gems provide. Their flavor gets lost between all the nutty creaminess and chocolate, but they deliver a powerful set of nutrients, including zinc, iron, folate, magnesium, and manganese (almost 20% of an adult’s daily intake in one ice pop!).
Since discovering “Chopped Junior” on Hulu (an addictive Food Network show where kids compete in the kitchen) Evie loves to join me when I cook -especially when there are sweets involved!- and whatever Evie is interested in, little Theo is right there kicking and screaming to be allowed to do what she’s doing. I recently had to purchase this handy device: GuideCraft Kitchen Helper, so my kids are no longer pushing each other off stepping stools while helping me cook. We have a tiny kitchen and the way the kitchen helper folds flat is really useful for us.
I use Tovolo Pop Molds for making these popsicles. I like how I get 6 nice sized servings and the clever design of the handle helps catch any dripping. If you have a brand of pop mold you enjoy, please let us “Little Daily Gem” know. We always delight in the gems our readers share with us!
1 - 13.5 fluid ounce can of coconut milk or 14 ounces of half and half
1 ripe banana
4 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp peanut or almond butter
2 Tbsp hemp seeds
1 Tbsp raw cocoa powder
½ teaspoon of sea salt
1. Place the coconut milk (or half and half), banana, peanut (or almond) butter, hemp seeds, maple syrup, raw cocoa powder and sea salt into a powerful blender.
2. Blend on high for 30 seconds.
3. Pour the blended mixture into pop molds.
4. Place in freezer for at least 8 hours.
5. Remove the popsicle from the freezer and place it in a tall cup of hot water for 20 seconds to help dislodge the mold.
6. Enjoy on a nice hot day!
I have a giant jar of hemp seeds on the counter and I try to sneak them into everything; smoothies, salads, oatmeal and now these pops.
Submerge the popsicle mold into a tall glass of hot water to help the popsicle slide right out, after it comes straight from the freezer.
GuideCraft Kitchen Helper has help bring sanity into our kitchen! No more pushing, shoving and competing for a little step. It also serves as a snack bar. Sometimes Theo stands there eating berries or drinking iced tea, as Evie and I cook. And it even came in handy during an art session involving yogurt paint.
In case Theo decides to eat the yogurt paint I use natural coloring for this art project, made with hibiscus, turmeric and other plant extracts.
Things quickly got out of hand. The kids had a blast, but we are taking this outside next time.
We gave Evie our old i-pod to listen to. She feels like such a big girl. Here she is listening to some tunes and enjoying the popsicle she helped make.
Serves: 6 sides
When I was a kid, during the summer school break I would travel from my home in Magadan, Siberia to go visit my grandparents who were living in Southern Russia, where the climate is very similar to that of California. I spent a big chunk of my time with my paternal grandmother, Babushka Galia, helping her out in her garden and soaking up warm summer rays my body desperately needed after a brutally long and cold winter in Siberia. Babushaka had the most excqusite garden and I would watch her lovingly work with her plants all day long. She had everything growing in this little half an acre sized lot; walnut, hazelnut, peach and golden cherry trees, as well as many different herbs, berries and of course cucumbers and tomatoes, the must have essentials of any Russian picnic basket.
When it was time to break for lunch, my Babushka and I would venture into the garden to pick sun kissed tomatoes, red peppers and cucumbers to prepare this classic Russian summer salad.
There is only a handful of ingredients, the stars being cucumbers and tomatoes, which are at the peak of their freshness during the summer. In fact the ingredients in this salad are very similar to those that make up a classic Greek Salad, but what makes it authentically Russian is the sunflower oil and the dill used as garnish.
This salad is typically served with boiled or pan fried potatoes (which are also dressed with sunflower oil and sprinkled with dill) and “Shashlik”, a pork or beef chunks marinated in a myriad of spices, vinegar and raw onions and cooked outside over hot coals.
Whatever you choose to pair this salad with, I hope you enjoy discovering it this summer (or rediscovering it if you are Russian and haven’t made it for a while!) as much as I enjoyed sharing it with my family and connecting to my heritage.
3 large ripe heirloom tomatoes
3 small cucumbers (ones you readily find at any local farmers market)
1 green onion chopped into small thin rings
1 red bell pepper
2 small radishes, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons of fresh dill, chopped
3 Tbsp organic sunflower oil
sea salt to taste
Enjoy cucumbers, red peppers and tomatoes in the summer, when they are in season and taste heavenly.
Dressing this salad with Sunflower Oil makes it taste authentically Russian.
Check out these yearly calendars for inspiration to eat in season. Cook Smart 2017 Wall Calendar and Farm Fresh 2017 Wall Calendar. Each calendar lists in it’s own unique way what is selling at the farmers market and hence is at the peak of it’s freshness for you to enjoy.
And this article from “Real Mom Daily” blog post that gives us very compelling reasons to shop for produce at our local farmers market.
Serves 4 adults and 4 kids
This family heirloom pie recipe was passed down from my husband Steve’s grandmother, Lulu, who lived in Portsmouth, England. Steve grew up with this dish and our family still enjoys it today. Thanks to his mum June, who sent this recipe* to me, I am able to prepare it for our family and share with you. I love this dish for a number of reasons. While it’s satisfying for the adults and older kids, it’s also great for little kids who are just learning to handle a spoon. Everything in the dish is bite size and the sticky nature of mashed potatoes allows the children to have the satisfaction of feeding themselves - with the added bonus that more of the meal ends up in their mouths than on the floor!
Because this dish can be prepared ahead of time, and also frozen and saved for future meals, it's great for busy parents.
Cottage Pie is the perfect bake for spontaneous gathering of friends and family at the house and you can serve this nourishing home made, family style meal and still be a part of the party.
Just pop the pie in the oven as guests arrive and enjoy a glass a wine with them as you catch up. Simple dimple!
6 medium sized potatoes or 4 cups diced into ½ inch cubes
1 ounce of unsalted butter
1 teaspoon of salt
4 ounces of sharp grated cheddar cheese
6 cherry tomatoes
1lb ground beef or 1 pound frozen corn (if making a vegetarian dish)
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 finely chopped onions
1 – 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes *
1 pound of mixed frozen veggies (peas, carrots, cauliflower)
2 Massel Stock Cubes*
½ teaspoon of garlic powder
½ teaspoon of sea salt
½ teaspoon of pepper
½ teaspoon of paprika
1 teaspoon of Herbs de Provence
To make the mashed potatoes: bring 8 cups of water to a boil and throw in the diced potatoes. Bring back to a boil and cook for 15 minutes or until tender. Reserve 1 cup of water from the boiled potatoes and set aside. Add to the drained potatoes salt, butter, and reserved water (if needed) and mash together. Set aside to cool while you prepare the pie filling.
Pre-heat the oven to 350 Degrees Fahrenheit.
In a medium fry or skillet pan, heat olive oil over med/hight heat and saute the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and golden in color; about 10 minutes.
While the onions are cooking, boil up some water and dissolved the stock cubes in half a cup of boiling water. Add the ground beef to the pan of stir-fried onions and cook until the meat browns. Once the meat is cooked through, add the stock, mixed frozen veggies, a can of diced tomatoes and seasoning; garlic powder, salt, pepper, paprika, and Herbs de Provence. Bring pan to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer pie filling to ovenproof 13 inch x 9-inch dish. Allow the pie filling to cool for 10 minutes.
With a spatula or spoon spread the Mashed Potato Topping evenly over the top of the pie filling, sprinkle with grated cheese, paprika and decorate each corner of the pie with three halved cherry tomatoes, creating a three petal flower effect.
Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 1 hour.
Remove from oven and allow the pie to rest for 5 minutes before bringing it to the table.
A side salad would go well with this pie, but because there are already a lot of veggies in the pie filling, it’s really not necessary.
The simplest and easiest dessert to follow this meal up with is simple vanilla ice cream with berries.
Mario Batali, who grew up in a family that highly valued their time to eat together, beautifully stated in "Molto Mario, Simple Family Meals"; 'Eating together makes you confident and responsible-'. He believes his discipline as a child to be dressed for dinner, ready and seated at the table with his family, helped him appreciate the gifts of cooking and the joy of sharing food together. Mario’s spectacular success in the world of cooking is a testament to the power of these family traditions.
I’m so happy to share our family recipe for this home cooked meal. I hope it will help make entertaining and eating together a little bit easier and a lot more fun for you in this fast paced world.
As the Brits say, "CHEERS!"
*If you prefer your tomatoes to come in a glass jar, you can substitute one can of diced tomatoes for 2 cups of Bionature Organic Strained Tomatoes.
* I have tweaked the original recipe slightly by substituting 2 freshly grate carrots and 1 pound of frozen peas for 1 pound of mixed frozen veggies, which includes the carrots and the peas. As a busy mom it makes my life really easy to have this one pack of veggies in the freezer, ready to be used in this recipe.
Makes 4 servings
This lactose free Iced Chai Latte makes an exotic, immune boosting and refreshing summer drink. The cashews are loaded with tons of good fats and minerals such as magnesium and zinc, which are responsible for building strong, healthy teeth. In fact these minerals are even more important than Vitamin D and Calcium when it comes to tooth health*.
“Thieves” oil is sold by “Young Living” and has a powerful combination of cinnamon bark, clove, lemon, eucalyptus and rosemary essential oils.
The pronounced notes of cinnamon and clove are delicious, aromatic blends of healing, anti-inflammatory gems used around the world as curative spices. One drop of this blend of oils makes this drink insanely good for you and your family.
If you double the recipe you can serve this drink in a decorative carafe with an array of delicious Indian cuisine, such as Curry Lentil Soup, Slow Cooked Chicken Tikka Masala and steamed rice .
3 cups of filtered or spring water
1 cup of ice
1 cup of soaked raw cashews*
pinch of salt
5 dates (pits removed)
1 teaspoon of alcohol free vanilla extract
1 drop of Thieves essential oil*
Combine all the ingredients in a powerful blender and blend on high for 1 minute.
Feel free to use cloves and cinnamon powder found in your nearest grocery store (or already in your pantry), if you are not ready to purchase Thieves oil or want to make this drink while you are waiting for the oil to arrive in the mail. Just substitute 1 drop of Thieves essential oil for 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder and 3 freshly ground cloves.
*CASHEW NUTS: It’s important to soak the cashew nuts first before using them in the recipe as this process removes the physic acid from them. Too much phytic acid in a diet is said to be responsible for leaching minerals out of bones and teeth. If you are interested in learning more please take a moment to read this article on Westin A. Price Foundation website.
*MAGNESIUM and ZINC: Additional information that supports the understanding that magnesium and zinc minerals could be even more important than Vitamin D and Calcium when it comes to tooth health can be read in the following article.
Makes 12 servings
A big thank you to my friend Christena for sharing this super healthy, delicious and easy to make banana muffin recipe with me. Every time we meet for a play date Christena brings these freshly baked gems to treat us with and we gobble them down with great pleasure.
This recipe was passed down to Christena by her mother, and she has been making these muffins for so long now that she simply measures her ingredients by eye. I begged and pleaded for the recipe and finally Christena relented! She came over one day and in whipping these muffins up together in my kitchen we finally got all the measurements down on paper to share with you.
The recipe is so forgiving when it comes to the ingredients these muffins are great to make with young children. It allows them to practice their measuring skills (and even knife skills depending on their age). As long as you have your salt, baking powder and baking soda measured (but even that you can guide your kids through doing on their own), the amount of the rest of the ingredients really doesn’t have to be precise.
*If you want to make a gluten free version of these muffins substitute gluten free flour for the all purpose flour.
4 overripe, soft bananas
2 Tablespoons ground flaxseeds
1 heaping Tablespoon of coconut oil
1 cup of all purpose flour
½ teaspoon of aluminum free baking soda
½ teaspoon of baking powder
½ teaspoon of sea salt
½ teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of chia seeds
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cups vegan chocolate chips
Pre-heat the oven to 350 Degrees Fahrenheit.
The muffins will come out super moist and naturally sweet because of the ripe banana and a bits of chocolate.
Pack as a treat in your kid’s lunch box, enjoy with a cold glass of vegan Iced Chai Latte as an after school snack, or use muffins as the base for healthy Banana Cream Cupcakes.
These muffins also make for a great gift when you are visiting someone. Just arrange them in a decorative basket and include some organic, locally made jam, or a creamy nut butter.
I use these reusable silicone muffin liners, which I grease with coconut oil before filling with batter. Allow another 8 to 10 minutes of cooking time if you are using these to bake the muffins.
Fill the muffin liners or tins 3/4 ways full.
If you decide to make a vegan version of these muffins, by eliminating the egg and replacing the chocolate chips for vegan ones, the muffins will still be delicious, but just won't have this golden color to them.
Perfectly moist muffins. I just love these!
If your bananas ripen/brown before you have time to use them, you can place them, with skins removed, in freezer safe zip lock bags and take out and defrost as needed. It's takes a few hours to defrost and if you get impatient, like I do sometimes, you can blend the frozen bananas with a bit of water to create something that looks exactly like ice cream to use in the recipe. You will need a "pump" to help push the bananas safety down toward the blondes to achieve this.
Here Theo is enjoying "ice cream" for breakfast.
Makes 4 servings
I first tried this tea when I was a teenager, living in Toronto, Canada, and fell absolutely in love with it. A friend’s dad who grew up in Morocco made it for us one day to accompany a delicious lunch of herbed couscous and grilled veggies and it remained with me forever.
Fresh mint leaf is what makes this tea so incredibly special. The caffeinated green tea offers boldness while the mint leaf effusion refreshes the palette and the honey hints of sweetness. For a decaffeinated version, simply use either decaf green tea, or just the mint leaf tea.
4 cups of water
1 green tea bag*
½ cup of loosely packed fresh mint leaves (spearmint or peppermint)*
4 tablespoons honey (or to taste)*
Boil 4 cups of water.
Place the green tea, fresh mint leaves and honey together into a serving teapot. Pour the hot water into the serving teapot and allow the ingredients to steep for 5 minutes. After steeping, carefully remove the tea bag (or loose leaf infuser). Pour your freshly made Moroccan Mint Tea into teacups. You can use a strainer to prevent the fresh mint leaves from pouring into the teacups if you prefer it.
To make an iced version of this tea, simply brew all the ingredients with only 2 cups of boiled water, remove the green tea bag (or loose leaf infuser) after 5 minutes, and pour over 2 cups of ice cubes. Chill in the fridge before serving.
It sounds simple because it is!
Using tea bags is a wonderful convenience, but once you’ve enjoyed this quick, sweet, soothing, aromatic and refreshing fresh mint tea, you won’t believe the difference… and you may even prefer it!
Spearmint has a milder, sometimes sweeter essence, and peppermint has more bite due to the presence of menthol. Both are delicious, but if you are aromatically or pallette sensitive to one or the other just know they offer different sensations on the tongue and through the body. When serving this tea with a spicy meal your best bet is to go with spearmint leaves.
Like mint, different honeys have significantly different tastes. The taste depends on what flowers the bees gathered pollen from. Some varieties include wildflower, clover, orange blossom and many more. Do you have a preference? Whichever flavor of honey you enjoy I encourage you to buy organic, locally and ethically sourced kind to protect our healthy bee populations.
*If you utilize a loose leaf tea infuser in this recipe, replace 1 tea bag = 1Tbs. loose leaf
Servings: 2 ½ cups
My daughter is obsessed with Princesses… and when I was looking to create a Vitamin C rich smoothie for her one day, to boost her immune system, we came up with this version together. I asked her what she wanted to name in and she chose “Sleeping Beauty”. This Princess sure gets enough sleep and I imagine would have perfectly glowing skin because of it. Well now we can drink this Vitamin C rich drink in Sleeping Beauty’s honor and it will not only keep the common cold away, but also smooth out our complexion.
A study done by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that higher levels of Vitamin C intake were associated with a lower likelihood of wrinkles, dry skin and a more youthful appearance.
Citrus fruit and kale are a match made in heaven… no really. The Vitamin C rich oranges, camu camu berries and strawberries help with the absorption of the plethora of Calcium found in Kale. Dr. Christine Horner in her spectacular book “Radiant Health Ageless Beauty” reveals that one single cup of kale holds more Calcium than a glass of milk.
Juice of 2 freshly squeezed oranges (1- 1 ½ cups)
½ cup of frozen strawberries
1 cup of loosely packed kale
1 cup of ice
1 teaspoon Camu Camu Powder
Combine all the ingredients in a powerful blender and blend on high for 30 seconds. And that’s it. Simple as that. Enjoy!
I like to get as much nutrients from food as possible. This recipe uses Camu Camu Powder, made from the wild berries of the same name that grow in the Amazon. This berry is world famous for being the food source with the highest levels of Vitamin C in the world.
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
This recipe was inspired by a salad I love to order when I am visiting Toronto. You will find it on the menu at Il Gato Nero or “Gato” as the locals lovingly call it. This family-owned restaurant has been around for almost two decades and they serve the most delicious coffee, salads and pizza. During the height of summer, the Gato patio is a wonderful place to hang out and catch a soccer match. At night, the spot transforms into a happening bar and most mornings you can catch local actors, directors and writers enjoying their lattes and brain storming their next creative masterpiece. When I was filming the feature Dawn of the Dead I would always drop by Gato to grab my morning latte to enjoy during my long drive to the film set.
Peppery arugula leaves topped with balsamic-infused mushrooms and Parmesan cheese is pure heaven. The mushrooms are so good that you can double the recipe and serve them as an appetizer or a side.
6 Portobello mushrooms, sliced into ¼ inch strips
6 tablespoons of grape seed oil (divided)
2 tablespoons of aged balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons of almond flour or breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
7 ounces or 6 cups of tightly packed arugula leaves
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
½ cup shaved Parmesan cheese
Wipe the mushrooms cleaning using a dry napkin and remove the stems. In a large heavy skillet, heat 4 tablespoons of grapeseed oil on high heat. Drop in the sliced mushrooms and, using tongs, flip them around gently until they release water and wilt. About 10 minutes. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil and season with a teaspoon of salt about 5 minutes into cooking. Continue cooking on high heat and stirring occasionally. After 10 minutes the water will evaporate and the mushrooms will be a rich amber brown.
Turn off the heat, stir in the balsamic vinegar, followed by the almond flour or breadcrumbs.
Make the dressing for the salad by whisking together lemon juice, olive oil and salt.
Assemble the arugula leaves on a wide, shallow platter. Drizzle the dressing over the leaves. Gently place the warm mushrooms evenly on top of the bed of arugula leaves and sprinkle with shaved Parmesan cheese.
Serve right away.
Makes: 4 Servings
This herbal tisane is very soothing and even has a light sensation of romance about it. From the gorgeous color, to its assortment of flavor profiles—floral, citrusy and sweet—it entices all the senses. The chamomile, which has many healing properties, offers relaxation. Also just that little hint of lavender makes the French countryside come to mind. Once you get your hands on edible lavender flowers, which last forever as a little goes a long way, the remainder of this recipe uses readily available ingredients. The end product is a gorgeously delicious tisane that you can make at home at a fraction of the cost of gourmet teas.
The delightful and funny thing I have discovered is that both my kids love to drink this tea cold. It makes for a desirable substitute to sugary fruit juice.
4 cups of water
1 chamomile tea bag
1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ teaspoon of edible lavender flowers
honey to taste (about 3 tablespoons)
Place all the ingredients into a teapot and pour in 4 cups of boiling water. Let the tea and lavender flowers steep for 5 minutes. Remove the tea bag and pour the tea into teacups using a strainer (to separate the lavender flowers).
A tea cozy is wonderful at keeping tea warm for long periods of time, so I highly recommend getting one.
To make an iced version of this tisane, simply brew all the ingredients in 2 cups of boiled water, remove the teabag after 5 minutes and then add 2 cups of ice cubes. Chill in the fridge before serving.