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Vegan avocado mayonnaise

When I was a kid, I loved my mayonnaise. Loved it. I mean, I would actually lick the spoon when I was done adding a ton of it to my tuna. It’s not so bad when you’re an active kid (sort of), but when you are an adult with slow metabolism, licking the mayo spoon is probably not a good idea.

Plus, it’s kind of gross.

One of my friends recently posted how she just made avocado mayonnaise and posted it to Facebook. She also mentioned that next she’ll try bacon mayonnaise, which probably means her soon-to-be hubby is thanking his lucky stars he found a girl like her to marry. But the avocado mayo had me so intrigued, I had to look up the recipe and try my hand at it.

If you’ve ever made mayonnaise before, you know how finicky it can be. Not only are you dealingwith raw egg yolk and possible salmonella poisoning, but you have to combine the ingredients just so, and then whisk vigorously until your arm is about to fall off while dripping in the oil one drop at a time.

This recipe I found was way easier than that (though you still have to drip in the oil). There are no foods that could potentially harm you by being raw, and you use a blender instead of a whisk.

I found this recipe at Food.com, submitted by Sharon123.  The total calorie count for the whole recipe is 1072 calories, which figures out to be 67 calories per tablespoon.

Avocado Mayonnaise

Vegan Avocado Mayonnaise
makes 3/4 cup

1 avocado (medium to large)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Directions:
1. Scoop out the flesh of one avocado and put it into the blender.
2. Add lemon juice, salt, and cayenne pepper, then blend together.
3. With blender running, add olive oil slowly.Stop it periodically to ensure all ingredients are blending properly.  Puree to a smooth creamy mixture.
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Microwave Chocolate Cake

The other night, Mr. W had a hankering for some chocolate cake.  Chocolate cake and me do not get along.  Or rather, chocolate cake loves me so much it wants to stay on my thighs forever despite how many lunges I put them through.  So the idea of a whole chocolate cake in the house was not exactly my favorite.  Plus it was 9pm, and the stores were closing.

However, I did remember coming across a recipe for a single cup of chocolate cake that could be made in the microwave.  This seemed like a worthy challenge to undertake, so I set to perusing the world wide web of Google and came across a promising one.  The result was about 3 minutes of mixing and 2 minutes of microwaving to come up with a spongy version of moist cake.  It wasn’t like a traditional piece of cake, but it put to rest the Mr’s chocolate craving. And he may have been slightly impressed by my “baking” skills, being that I had this in front of him within 5 minutes.

I gave Mr. W and plain piece of cake, but I bet this would taste fantastic with a little caramel drizzled over the top, or a Hershey’s Kiss placed on it to melt.  But be warned, while delicious, this dessert is extremely hot when it first comes out of the microwave.  Let it sit for a bit before diving in.

P.S. The cooler the cup, the better this tastes. That’s why we chose the stylish mug motifs of ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ and some brilliant red hearts. 😛

Microwaveable Chocolate Cake
recipe from The Food Network

Ingredients:
1/4 cup flour
2 Tbl sugar
2 Tbl cocoa powder
1 egg
3 Tbl milk
3 Tbl veg oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
dash salt

Directions: Whisk all ingredients together in a microwaveable mug until smooth, then microwave until puffed – about 2 minutes.

Paleo Coconut Pancakes

I’m constantly looking for ways to make eating Paleo more interesting.  Dairy and grains usually make up a huge part of a regular diet, and a diet that is void of them runs the risk of being bland.  So I was more than excited to find a recipe for pancakes at the Civilized Caveman (a blog dedicated to eating Paleo) that are completely grain-free (and gluten-free!).  Of course, I’ve been grain-free for a long enough time to have surpassed my addictions to carbs.  However, someone who is new to Paleo (or any other diet that restricts their carb/grain intake) will see this recipe as a Godsend.

Coconut Pancakes with Fresh Fruit Reduction
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients (Pancakes):
■6 Eggs
■8 Tbsp Coconut Flour
■6 Tbsp Coconut Milk
■3 Tsp Raw Organic Honey, melted
■1/2 Tsp Sea Salt
■Coconut Oil for pan

Ingredients (Syrup):
■12 Ounces of frozen fruit of your choice
■1/2 Cup Water
■1 Tbsp Raw organic honey (optional)

If you’re going to make syrup, I would start this first before making the pancakes so it can simmer while you cook.  Civilized Caveman preferred raspberries in this syrup, but I didn’t have any on hand.  But I did have a whole slew of strawberries which served as a delcious substitute.  I imagine any fruit would work well, though make sure to adjust ratios accordingly (i.e. blueberries might require more water since they tend to gell up).  Grind the fruit in a food processor.  I like a little bit of lumpy fruit in the sauce, so I allowed a few chunks of strawberries to remain in.  Put the fruit in a pot, then add the water.  Let it boil about 10 minutes, or till the fruit seems cooked through.  Set aside, or let it simmer on low.

For the pancakes, I found the coconut flour the most interesting.  I never knew such a thing existed!  But sure enough, there it was in my local Whole Foods, my go-to whenever I need an off-the-wall ingredient.  It’s located by the regular flours, near all the gluten-free alternatives.  While there, I also picked up some coconut butter, thinking it was just another name for coconut oil.  It’s not.  But it is very similar to something like peanut butter (well, more like tahini), and tastes so delicious I could eat it by the spoonful.

At any rate, add the first 5 pancake ingredients together until free of lumps.  Heat a griddle or pan and melt the coconut oil in it.  When good and hot, ladle the desired size pancake into the pan, letting it cook for 3-4 minutes.

Here’s where it got tricky for me.

I’d like to think I’m a pro at flipping pancakes.  Heck, it was the first food I ever cooked, and the food I taught my daughter to make when she was learning to cook.  I know when to flip them, turn them, let them sit, and remove from heat.  I can make them a golden brown color and ensure they’ll never land on top of each other.  But these ones?

Multiple Fail.

First off, they don’t bubble up like regular pancakes.  However, that wasn’t my main problem.  My biggest problem was I had the griddle too hot, and then flipped them too soon.  Then I kept them on too long.  Then I didn’t keep them on long enough.  Then liquid poured out each time I flipped it.  It wasn’t till the last pancake when I sort of got it.

However, they still produced a pretty good looking stack of pancakes.

Once ready to serve, strain the liquid through a mesh strainer, putting the liquid back in the pot and reserving the chunks of fruit left behind.  Add the honey and let it melt into the liquid.  Pour over the pancakes and then add the fruit.

Confession:  Being totally guilty of A.D.D. when it comes to following directions, I didn’t realize that I was supposed to strain it until I was typing this out.  I actually added all the ingredients together in the beginning, and then poured it on when I was done with the pancakes.  Also, I added twice the amount of honey since it still tasted somewhat sour with only 1 Tbsp.

The verdict?  These were ok.  Or they were great.  Or they weren’t good at all.  My tastebuds haven’t quite figured these out.  If you eat them expecting them to taste like pancakes, you’ll be disappointed.  My carb-loading fiance was not impressed with these at all.  Luckily I knew that going in and had already prepared him a batch of Krustaez.  My adventurous son thought they were ok, though he went for second when he was done.  He was most impressed with the sauce.  I found the pancakes to be a decent substitute with the consistency of bread, but not really a bread taste.  However, the taste was intriguing. And filling!  I ate three of them and was totally stuffed.

If you try them, let me know what you think.  If you want to know how to make them without a bunch of blog chatter, or just discover some pretty creative Paleo recipes, visit civilizedcavemancooking.com.

Brew your own Kombucha

I hopped on the kombucha boat a little late in the game in an effort to combat the cold season blues that were sapping me of all my energy. I’d heard about the pro-biotic and energy-inducing quality of kombucha, and was totally intrigued. However, fermented tea hardly sounded delicious. I’m not exaggerating when I say I had to find courage to purchase a bottle of it at Whole Foods and take my first sip.

I’m also not exaggerating when I say it had me at hello.

The stuff was delicious, and I was instantly hooked. I read somewhere that those seeking the health benefits of kombucha should drink it every day. But after my 4th day and $12 later, I realized this was hardly healthful to my bank account. So I began reading up on ways to make my own tea.

We pause here for a little Kombucha terminology lesson…

Kombucha: Sweetened tea that has been fermented by a scoby
Scoby: A mushroom-like rubbery substance of bacteria and yeast that floats on top and ferments the tea.
Mother: The part of the scoby that is actually fermenting the tea, located at the bottom of the scoby.
Baby: Layers of scoby that grow on top of the mother scoby that can be separated between brewing cycles.

There are several ways you can go when embarking on the Kombucha adventure.

– You can buy a kit that includes a Kombucha scoby. These are found on various sites and generally include a scoby, organic sugar, organic tea, and a jar for anywhere from $20-$50.
– You can beg a friend to let you have one of the baby scobies and some residual kombucha to help boost it along.
– You can create your own scoby using one of those $3 kombucha drinks, just like the blogger at PaprikaHead.com shared in a blog entry (and who was responsible for starting my own brewing adventure).

Assuming you have a healthy scoby on hand from any one of these measures, brewing kombucha is actually incredibly easy to do:

A. Starting out, place your scoby and at least 1 cup kombucha in a large jar (I use a drink dispenser that I found at Cost Plus for only $15).

B. Heat 12 cups of water to boiling. Once it’s boiling, add 1 cup of sugar and let boil for 5 minutes more until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and add 4 organic black tea bags. Let cool completely to room temperature. Add to the scoby in the large jar and then cover with a piece of cloth or paper towel, secured by a rubberband. This allows the drink to breathe while keeping out potential fruit flies. Place in a cool, dark area and forget about it for 7 days (I keep mine on top of the refrigerator).

Bottling kombucha with swingtop caps gives a safe, airtight seal

C. After 7 days, taste-test a small portion. It should have a slightly sour taste with a bit of effervescence. If it still tastes sweet and flat, let it sit for another day. Repeat every day until it’s achieved the desired fermented state. Bottle the kombucha by placing it in separate airtight bottles (I found some beautiful blue bottles with swing top caps at The Beverage People at 840 Piner Rd #14, Santa Rosa), or in a large airtight container. Notice the theme: airtight. This allows bubbles to build up in the tea. Once bottled, you can start the brewing process all over again, adding a cup of reserved kombucha from this batch and repeating the directions to create the sweetened tea for brewing.

Now for the things everyone should know about brewing kombucha:

1. Cold stops the fermenting process, heat activates it. If your kombucha is at the desired taste and effervescence, store it in the refrigerator. If you wish it to become more bubbly or sour a bit more, keep it out. I will usually keep the brewed kombucha out of the fridge for a day or two so it can become more bubbly, and then store it in the fridge to ensure it remains sweet.

2. Allow your brewed kombucha to breathe. Kombucha builds up a lot of pressure in airtight bottles, making them naturally bubbly. It can also create so much pressure that the top of the bottle will fly off and cause serious damage. If you are storing kombucha outside of the refrigerator, open the top every couple of days to relieve the mounting pressure.

3. Teas you should use: Organic teas are actually best for the process as there is nothing in there that can harm the scoby. Teas should be free of oils, so Earl Grey tea is out. And the teas need to have caffeine to properly feed the scoby. The best teas to use are black or green teas. Black tea creates a stronger tea, green tea creates a milder tea with more bubbles. I’ve heard of many combining the two types of tea bags to create a strong and bubbly tea.

4. Drink water! I learned the hard way how dehydrating kombucha can be. Actually, it’s the tea that saps the system of water. So make sure you are getting in plenty of water when drinking kombucha to avoid any signs of dehydration.

5. Start out slow. Because of the pro-biotic qualities of kombucha, it can cause…bathroom issues. Let’s just say that it sweeps out all the toxins in your body very effectively. So start with a small glass of kombucha every day and increase it as your body gets used to it.

6. Be kind to your mother. I’m not joking about this. Weeks into brewing some very successful kombucha tea, a friend of mine came to my house and spied the jar of fermenting tea on my refrigerator. She then proceeded to make fun of the mother scoby mercilessly, slamming the way she looked and how the tea probably tasted. Days later when it was ready to brew, the tea tasted so much like vinegar I had to throw it out. I gave my mother extra love the next brewing session, and in return, my happy mother gave me the best tasting kombucha yet.

7. Only brew kombucha in glass. Metal and plastic don’t react well with the fermenting properties of kombucha, and ceramic with lead can seep into the liquid. Under the same token, do not let metal touch your scoby at all – including metal spoons. If you must use a utensil, I suggest using a wooden spoon.

8. Keep things clean! If you’re going to handle the scoby in between brewing, make sure your hands are clean. Better than using soap, use apple cider vinegar to rid your hands of dirt and oils to make them safe enough to come into contact with the scoby. And when you are done handling the scoby, wash your hands again. Make sure all your brewing equipment is sanitary to ensure your scoby doesn’t grow mold. If any mold starts forming on your scoby at all, you must throw out the whole batch and scoby and start all over again.

9. Flavoring your kombucha. I prefer just plain kombucha, but some people like to add different fruits and juices to their tea. All flavoring should be added after the drink has been bottled and not to the fermenting kombucha with the scoby. Different flavors can widely vary and depends on your taste. My personal favorite is to add a few pieces of mango and some grated ginger to the bottle. Another favorite is a little pineapple juice, coconut water, and coconut extract to create a piña colada kombucha. Experiment with different juices and fruits to create a taste you’ll love.

Scoby babies won’t bite, but they do love to be shared.

10. Share the wealth. Every cycle of brewing will create a new baby scoby on top of the mother. Left untouched, the layers quickly add up. But these layers are actually baby scobies that can be passed on to others who wish to start brewing their own kombucha. Separate the layers (don’t be afraid, the scoby won’t bite), add it to a cup or two of reserved kombucha, and pass it on.

Share your kombucha adventures and wisdom in the comments.

A love affair worth mentioning.

So, you ever have some sort of food that makes you think you have died and absolutely gone to Heaven? Does it make you close your eyes, breathe in deep, and savor every ounce of flavor that has exploded in your mouth? Do you stay as silent as possible, not wanting to disturb your taste buds as they do the happy dance all over your tongue? People, I think I just had a holy moment – one of those “talked to God” moments. I think I can safely say that I have experienced the mecca of all meccas, the crème de la crème, what’s been hiding in Pandora’s box, and the ambrosia of the gods. I finally caved and realized I’m in love. And it’s the perfect time of year for this scrumptious kind of affair. I can only be referring to one thing. That’s right people.

We’re talking Red Velvet Cupcakes.

My kids’ birthdays are coming up next week.  I was one of those (un)fortunate people that had to be fertile at the same time of year.  My kids are 3 years and 3 days apart.  Because they are so close together, most years we have cake left over from one birthday when we are celebrating with a new cake for the next birthday.  To save ourselves some calories (um, yeah), I decided that this year we would do cupcakes instead.  And I’ve been hearing a lot of hype over Red Velvet Cupcakes.

Last week I went to a coffee shop (I won’t mention the name) where they were selling the little confections.  Literally, they were little – about a bite.  And it was being sold for the low price of $1 each.  But they looked so cute and pretty that I bought one for Mr. Wonderful, and talked him into giving me one little bite.  Seriously, it was nothing to scream about.  It was a cupcake.  Dyed red.  Whoop-de-doo.  So my first encounter with the so called Red Velvet Cupcakes was not love at first bite. 

But I wasn’t ready to give in.

Today I did our bi-weekly grocery shop, and after some research on the internet, found all the ingredients for a recipe that sounded pretty promising.  The author swore that this was the absolute of all Red Velvet recipes, and who was I to argue?  I took her word for it.  I bought the cake flour she said to use.  I bought TWO bottles of red food dye (two?  seriously?).  I bought a carton of buttermilk that may end up souring past Easter if I don’t make several batches of these cupcakes, or at least some buttermilk pancakes.  I even bought Baker’s Sugar instead of just using my regular sugar at home, because, gosh darn it, these were going to have every chance of really being the best.

After dinner, and when all the dishes were put away, I got to work.  She was very explicit in her directions as far as timing went and how fast or slow to add each ingredient.  I followed it to a tee.  Unfortunately, I was so in tune with making things perfect that I forgot one little detail…..

 

Be sure to turn the mixer off when you lift the top.

After cleaning up all the red goop off of me, the floor, the stove, the wall, the ingredients, the microwave, and the ceiling, I was ready to pour the batter into the cups and bake them.  They baked 10 minutes before I had to turn them, and then they baked 10 more minutes.  The result was just gorgeous.

While they cooled, I created the cream cheese frosting that goes along with it.  Note about frosting: when they say “confectioner’s sugar”, make sure that you have some powdered sugar on hand.  It was the one thing I forgot to buy at the store.  Luckily, there is a subsititute.  While frosting made with powdered sugar is way better, if you don’t have it, here’s the trick.  Take one cup of regular sugar (I used more of the Baker’s sugar) and add one Tbsp of corn starch.  Put it in your mixer, and then let it blend on high.  It will form a cloud around the mixer.  And if you just spent the last 15 minutes cleaning red batter off of everything in a 3 foot radius, it will stick to the damp surfaces.  So it is helpful if you place a towel over the mixer while it mixes.  My recipe calls for 3 and 3/4 cup powdered sugar, so I added almost 4 Tbsp to 3 and 3/4 cup Baker’s sugar.  The result wasn’t half bad.

My daughter and I each frosted the cooled cupcakes with just a knife, gently swirling on the frosting.  Yes, it can be done much fancier.  But this was just my trial run, and I actually liked the homemade look to them.  Plus, this way we could really goop it on.  And you know what, they were almost too beautiful to eat.

Almost.

Because of my stinkin’ desire to keep off all the weight I lost last year, I wasn’t about to eat one of these little treats myself.  If I even ate one, I would just want another.  So I relied on the kids to describe to me what they taste like.

“They’re really good!” the Taz told me, his mouth full of red, gooey goodness. 

“But do they taste different from other cupcakes?” I asked.

“I don’t know…” the Drama Queen said.  “I don’t really taste chocolate in them.”

“I don’t think you’re supposed to,” I told her.  “It’s more about the buttermilk and other stuff in them that is supposed to give them a lighter taste to them.  What does it taste like?”

“Mom, why don’t you just take a bite of mine?” DQ said.  I may have mulled it over for a second, but I’m not sure.  Everything kind of blurs from the moment I bit into the light cake and pulled away.  It was then that I was literally transported from the kitchen to a meadow of green grass and fresh air, sunshine that I have almost forgotten about with all this damn rain, and where they serve little red cakes in white paper wrapping on a silver platter – ready to be snatched up and savored till the last crumb.

They’re good, you get it.

Don’t ask me how I only took one bite without going in for the kill.  I think just the one out of body experience was enough.  And I know you’re dying to try your hand at this recipe.  I won’t hold out.  I’ve posted it over in the Santa Rosa Mom forums, and hope that you’ll experience the love affair with Red Velvet Cupcakes like I did.  Believe me, it’s worth it.

Thanksgiving Stuffing, minus the butter

My last Stuffing Recipe wasn’t met with much enthusiasm from people watching calories. One commenter even wondered if that was what I was feeding my kids. Only on days that end with a Y, washed down with a glass of egg nog.  Kidding!  While I’d love to have Thanksgiving dinner every night, I’d have to say no.  Stuffing is reserved for holidays, and unhealthy dinners are a rare occasion.  I will admit, however, that I rarely worry about calories in Holiday dishes. And I’m aware that other people follow this regiment as I take smaller portions of dishes and load up on the veggies. And yes, while I try to make things from scratch for the most part, as a working single mother of two I welcome the occasional help from conventional items.

For those of you who are still my friends after I tried to clog all your arteries, here’s a lower calorie Stuffing Recipe, straight from my mother’s kitchen to yours. As with all holiday foods, it probably isn’t a good idea to eat it every day.  But I give you permission to enjoy the holiday for this one day, and maybe even its leftovers on the days that follow. 

WC Mom’s Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipe

Stuffing mix – I use a shredded bread package without added spices, salt or other stuff. I’ve even used dried out French bread on occasion or mixed the two.
Mild Italian sausage – 1 lb +/-
Chopped onion & celery – I usually use 1-2 onions & 4-6 ribs of celery
Olive oil – to sauté veggies
1 beaten egg
1-2 jars mushroom gravy, turkey gravy or broth – to taste (I know the gravy mix is cheating, but it adds flavor.)
Herbs to taste – whatever you want

Sauté sausage and drain off grease. I actually put the cooked sausage in a bowl lined with paper towels to drain off more grease.

Add olive oil to same pan and gently sauté veggies until soft.

Add everything together and mix, adding broth as needed to make it moist, but not sloppy wet. Put into greased casserole and bake at 350 for about an hour or so.

Can be made the night before and refrigerated, but not inside the turkey.

Thanksgiving Stuffing

Stuffing is one of the easiest things to make for Thanksgiving, and one of the easiest to embellish. Thanks to my mom’s creativity in the kitchen, I have never made a stuffing exactly like the package recipe, but instead add to it to make it my own and create an even tastier dish for Thanksgiving.

Everyone has their favorite stuffing mix that they use. My favorite? Whatever’s on sale. This week, Mrs. Cubbison’s stuffing is on sale at G&G for $2.50 a box. To make enough for a small crowd of 24, I bought two boxes – the original recipe and the cornbread mix. Also, while some people enjoy stuffing their turkey with it, I prefer to make it into a casserole. This ensures that it gets cooked enough without fear of salmonella. If you do stuff your turkey, I hope you have heard at least a million times that you are not to insert the stuffing until just before it gets ready to cook. If not, let me be the first to tell you – DO NOT STUFF THE BIRD UNTIL JUST BEFORE YOU COOK IT.

Stuffin’ Casserole Recipe
(according to Mrs. Cubbison, including additional ingredients by Wine Country Mom and WC Mom’s Mom.)

Here’s what you’ll need:

 

Ingredients
2 boxes of Mrs. Cubbison’s Stuffing
4 sticks of butter
2 cups chopped celery (about 4 stalks)
2 cups chopped onion (about 2 medium onions)
3 cups turkey broth
1.5 lbs pork sausage meat
1 jar Franco-American Turkey Gravy

Instructions
Cook the sausage until it is cooked through and crumbly in the pan. Set the cooked sausage aside, but leave the drippings in the pan. Add the butter and the veggies and sauté lightly until the butter is completely melted. In a very large bowl, combine the butter, veggies, meat, and stuffing, mixing until well coated. Mix in the gravy. Stir broth in one cup at a time, stirring well before adding another. When completely mixed, transfer into a 5 or 6 quart greased casserole dish.

 

The beauty of stuffing is you can either make this ahead and set it in the refrigerator until it is ready to be baked, or you can bake it immediately after preparing it. Bake the stuffing, covered, for 30 – 40 minutes at 350 degrees. If you refrigerated it before cooking it, add a little more time.  Remove cover and bake for an additional 5 – 10 minutes for a crispier top. Makes 24 ½ cup servings.

The finished product:

Want more creativity with stuffing? You can add things like bell peppers, mushrooms, carrots, apples, cranberries, pecans, and even use fruit juice instead of broth to make it sweeter. The possibilities are endless. Also, lighter versions are possible by reducing the amount of butter used, and increasing the amount of liquid – even using water instead of broth.

For additional stuffing side dishes, don’t miss Diane Peterson’s blog, A full-bodied stuffing in Kitchen Talk.

Want even more recipes? Visit the Recipe Box in the SantaRosaMom.com forums. You’ll find recipes for Banana Sour Cream Bread, Butternut Squash Soup with Ravioli, Perfect Apple Pie, and more.  Or, add your own and share with the community!