My Top Ten

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Cocoas...Mexican Spice Cocoa and Peppermint Cocoa

Here are my two favorite cozy cocoas:
Mexican Spice Cocoa and good old Peppermint Cocoa. These cocoas are simple to make and taste so much better than the powdered stuff, not to mention they don't have any chemical fillers or hydrogenated oils. Just all natural goodness.

They're perfect for wintery evenings and of course they're here just in time
for your family Christmas celebration!

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Peppermint Cocoa:
In saucepan over medium heat, whisk:
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons cocoa
2 tablespoons sugar
2 peppermint herbal "tea" bags

Mexican Cocoa
In saucepan over medium heat, whisk:
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons cocoa
2 tablespoons sugar
1.5 teaspoons almond extract
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half

Both recipes serve (2); so just double, triple, etc to meet your party size.

Whisk the cocoa constantly to aerate the milk and make it nice and fluffy. Let the cocoa come to a very gentle boil, shut off the heat immediately and serve. Top with fresh whipped cream and a dash of cinnamon (mexican cocoa) or sugar crystals (peppermint cocoa)!

Fresh Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy whip cream
(Quick tip: One half of a pint sized carton of heavy whip cream is 1 cup, so just eyeball it)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons sugar

Beat with electric hand mixer on HIGH for two minutes or until stiff peaks form. Fresh whipped cream doesn't keep long, so make it just before serving and use it up within 24 hours.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Cilantro, also known as Chinese parsely. You may be unknowingly familiar with it's fruit: "coriander" or the coriander seed. The Chinese use cilantro in Asian cuisine like the Italians use parsley in their cuisine. As far as I'm concerned, cilantro can often be substitued for parsely in many a recipe. I happen to be one who loves this particular herb. Some have said that it has a bit of a "soapy" flavor to it, but I am partial to it. I love it on my fried eggs, it is a must-have in any fresh salsa or guacamole, seafood, chili, and curry dishes. Add this herb in at the last minute, as heat tends to diminish it's wonderful flavor. Generally speaking, when using fresh herbs, it is advisable to tear the leaves and add them in briefly just before serving, or even better, as a fresh garnish on top. Cilantro is widely available in chain grocery stores. Bonus, it's cheap and an excellent way to add fresh flavor to any meal. So, I encourage you to pick up a bunch on your next grocery trip and start experimenting. Just to get you started off on the right foot, here's an easy salsa recipe:

4-5 on-the-vine OR roma tomatoes
handful fresh cilantro;rinsed, stems & all (about 3/4 cup)
1 serrano pepper, seeds and all
1/2 jalapeno pepper (or more if you like hot salsa, 2 jalapenos would make this "hot")
1/2 of a medium sized red onion
1/2 of a medium sized green bell pepper
1 tsp cumin
salt & pepper to taste

Blend (or process) two tomatoes with the list of ingredients to a slightly chunky puree. Then hand chop the remaining tomatoes and add them to the puree to give the salsa some texture.

The longer is sits, the more robust the flavors will become. Garnish with more cilantro & serve alongside your tacos or with blue corn tortilla chips.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

toxic: ('taksik) poisonous

1) Ecover Stain Remover
2) BabyGanics Scrub a Tub, Tube & Tile Cleaner -- Lavender scent
3) Ecover Cream Scrub

Here are some of my absolutes for keeping my home clean and fresh without the lingering smell of clorox or the side affects of harsh chemicals. In my experience, each of these products have performed superior -to or as well as anything "chemical" out on the market. Ecover has made it's way into many chain grocery stores, King Sooper's carries it and of course Whole Foods. BabyGanics is stocked in store fronts at Babies R Us and Toys R Us, otherwise you can order online.

Did you know:
*Out of 80,000 chemicals that have
entered the market since 1976,
only about 200 of them have been tested.

While we're on the topic of harsh, or should I say *toxic chemicals, please take a minute and click on the link above to support Seventh Generation in their efforts to unify and represent Americans in Washington, D.C. Seventh Generation is petitioning Congress for a Toxic Chemical Reform Policy. Seventh Generation has initiated the "Million Baby Crawl" and will be marching into D.C. in January to say NO to Toxic Capitalism. I have created a "crawler" (listed under my full name Alicia plus my last name) as you'll see online, and I'd love your support and/or for you to make your own "crawler" and let your voice be heard. I have several Seventh Generation products in my home; and am elated to support a company who is taking a stand against the Chemical Industry with the interest of our health and our planet as the focal point of it's reform policy. If you think I am babbling on about the "green bandwagon" here, you are gravely mistaken. This is a fight, and it most certainly will not be a quiet one. The Chemical Industry is a trillion dollar industry, at work both here and abroad. Creating and then selling toxic chemicals to the American public, which we bring into our homes; cleaning our kicthens, bathrooms, and floors where we live and breathe in these toxins on a daily basis. Please educate yourself, take some time and read up about this important issue on the internet. I am proud to be at the front of this revolution. Join me, and together we can make a difference. One by one, as homes across America band together, we will make history.

*toxic: ('taksik) poisonous

Toxic waste is waste material that can cause death or injury to living creatures. It can be spread quite easily and can contaminate lakes and rivers. The term is often used interchangeably with “hazardous waste”, or discarded material that can pose a long-term risk to health or environment.

*Statistic from the Seventh Generation website *Toxic waste info courtesy of Wikipedia

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My new find!

I am so excited, I found a new treasure at my favorite local coffee shop. We, as a family, often enjoy a leisurely walk down to Dog Tooth Coffee (the joys of living downtown), and Garrett and I share one "bottomless" cup of joe; taking turns watching Bodhi while the other enjoys a hot cup of coffee while perusing through the little community-style library offered at the coffee shop. You can take a book home to keep, but it's common courteousy to bring one back in its stead. Well, I found a treasure, a new cookbook! I am so excited about this book, and here's why: it is naturally focused, the recipes are truly healthful, calling for ingredients that are good-for-you and wholesome. Also, there are a great variety of recipes; with many new ideas for cooking with and consuming various types of grains and legumes. Just in case you're interested, you can get one too -- for only $4.15 on In my opinion, that is a super-bargain. Welcome, Brand Name Light & Natural Cookbook, to my kitchen, we are going to have lots of fun together!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Roasted Vegetable Deluxe "adapted from" Giada De Laurentiis' Everyday Italian Cookbook

I made this dish and took it to our Thanksgiving gathering, and it got rave reviews. I did tweek the original recipe, however; I did not make enough changes to it to rightfully claim it as my own. Just for your information, it doesn't take much to make a recipe "yours". All you have to do is make (3) three distinct changes; I'm not talking about reducing the black pepper from 1/2 tsp to 1/4 tsp and increasing the parsley amount or nominal changes like that. Come on, get creative! You must add or replace or even take away to make a new creation. So happy creating! Now, back to the roasted veggie dish: Even though it's not my personal creation, I thought it was still worth sharing. It's perfect for a night when you're going to have company and you want an excellent dish alongside your meat protein that you don't have to worry about taking out of the oven at a specific time. This dish can roast for 40 minutes up to an hour, and it's not going to dry out or burn the vegetables. This will leave you free to tend to your main course and your dinner guests as they arrive. Enjoy!

The key to the success of this recipe, in my opinion, is finely slicing the red onion, zucchini and tomato which lay atop the diced veggies. Also, it's important to dice the the other veggies close to the same size so they are all "done" around the same time.

Coat the following with 3 TBspn olive oil & salt and pepper to taste:
1 potato, peeled & diced
1 sweet potato, peeled & diced
2 carrots, peeled & diced
1 red bell pepper; cored, seeded & diced

Pour into a 9X13 baking dish.

Finely sliced, 1/8 inch thick:
1 medium Red Onion (you may not need the entire onion, since you are slicing so finely)
1 small Zucchini (I peeled the zucchini, but only every other strip, leaving half of the skin on)
2 Tomatoes (beefsteak or garden)

Lay the red onion out so as to make a thin layer of onion over the diced veggies, then lay the zucchini over the onion, and finally, lay the tomatoes on top of everything. Drizzle with another tablespoon of olive oil.

In blender, blend 2 slices whole wheat bread plus 1 TBspn parsely to make fresh bread crumbs.
Spread bread crumbs over tomatoes & grate fresh parmesan reggiano over the bread crumbs.
¥ou can adjust the amount of cheese according to your liking, I probably grated about 1/4 cup.

Bake, uncovered, at 450 degrees for 45 minutes or so.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ginger Cranberry Chutney....perfect for Thanksgiving

This chutney is excellent over turkey, if I do say so myself. I did put some red pepper flakes into my chutney; which gave it a nice little "zing". You could definitely leave the flakes out and still have a plethora of flavor from the ginger & orange. I do need to mention that it's important to sort (discard any yucky ones) and wash your cranberries. Allow me to remind you of Ocean Spray's slogan about their freshly harvested cranberries..."straight from the bog". Here's the definition of bog: wetland with acid, peaty soil, typically dominated by peat moss. Ok, now that I've convinced you to wash your produce well, we can proceed. Lastly, whenever you're using the zest of something, it's really ideal to go organic.

Lish's Cranberry Chutney:

1 bag cranberries; washed

1/2 cup 100% maple syrup

1 apple; peeled, cored & diced

1 orange; zest & juice

2 inch piece of fresh ginger; peeled & grated

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1/4 cup water

In sauce pan over medium heat, pour in maple syrup and cranberries. While the cranberries begin to soften down, peel and chop your apple and grate your fresh ginger. Add this to your cranberries along with the red pepper flakes and water. Zest your orange directly into the chutney and squeeze the juice from the orange into the pan. Bring to a light boil. Immediately reduce heat and simmer until everything is melded and the cranberries have broken down. You can help them along by mashing them during this process. Be mindful of your chutney and don't leave it unattended for too long, keep it moving-- especially during the boiling stage. You can serve it warm or at room temperature.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Presenting......the Scookie!

Yes, I have a new creation to share. I call it the Scookie (which I cannot take credit for, that was my ingenious husband). Scone meets cookie. That's the best way to describe this little treat.
I was going for winter spice cookie, and the "Scookie" was born!

Perfect with a cup of herbal tea! Enjoy:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

In bowl, mix dry ingredients together:
2 c flour
1 c oats
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 c craisins (could sub raisins)
1/4 c salted sunflower seeds
2 tsp freshly grated orange peel
1/2 tsp Chinese 5 spice

In 2nd bowl, mix wet ingredients:
1/2 c grapeseed oil
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c 100% maple syrup
1 egg, beaten

Mix dry ingredients into wet; mixture will be crumbly.
Loosely press into balls and bake for 11-13 minutes.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Why I love my Microplane...

This kitchen tool is seriously amazing. It can do it all, I find myself reaching for my microplane time and time again. Thus, I have brought it before all of you to ponder the wonders of the mircoplane. Perhaps I can encourage you in your culinary skills, or inspire you to go out and get your very own microplane! Or, remind you to dig it up out of your drawer if you already own one. Here's why:

The microplane is extremely versatile. It serves as a very efficient zester, as well as an effortless grater. Let me just run you through some of my very common kitchen scenarios that involve the use of this excellent tool: zesting an entire orange peel (quickly!) for baking up some cranberry orange muffins, grating a hard cheese, such as parmesan reggiano, over a bowl of steamy tomato soup, grating some fresh nutmeg over silky, smooth & seasonal Soy Nog (yum! there's really nothing quite like fresh nutmeg), maybe the zest of a fresh lemon over your foil-baked salmon, and of course chocolate shavings, everything? Hot cocoa, whipped cream, cake, ice cream, my toothbrush. Who doesn't love chocolate shavings?

The stainless steel zester/grater is sturdy enough that you can hold it over a bowl or dish or even lay it on top of your bowl or dish and grate away, directly into your food. Bonus, the classic microplane zester/grater now comes in five fun colors.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

These are a few of my favorite things......

I have been absent for far too long..... and even now I sit typing at a computer that is not my own. I have had several brilliant blogging ideas about food/recipes, etc but currently have no internet at my house! It's a looong story, but all that to say -- I haven't forgotten about my blog. I quite miss my blog actually, the urge to just post a little something as it comes to mind. ANYHOW, the long absence all started with one yucky word - sickness. I got a nasty cold, I can say with full confidence it was the worst cold I've ever had in my life. It wasn't so much of the common "cold" things that were annoying, it was that I literally felt as if I had a sumo wrestler sitting on top of my head. I hope none of you reading this get sick this winter season, but if you do, here's what to reach for in your "natural" medicine cabinet.

ACV - my friend apple cider vinegar. Gargle with it like you would salt. 1/2 tsp in about 1/2 cup warm water. Be careful not to swallow any of it by accident as it extracts the yuckies from your throat. Can also be taken internally to help normalize your pH levels. Go to for more information on this golden liquid. It's next in line behind breast milk with it's natural healing abilities as far as I'm concerned.

SambuGaurd - a herbal mixture that is highly effective against the cold & flu. Main component is elderberry. The SambuGaurd makes a whole line of products, which has a child's version too.

Astralagus and/or Echinachea - in a liquid form as a tincture. Put two droppers fulls into juice and slam it. Down the hatch, tastes yucky but is good for you.

"Man" Tea- this is a favorite around the Gildea household and we drink it all the time.
Mix organic cayenne, organic ginger (I like it in the liquid form) and honey in hot water. It got it's name from Garrett, he used it help his stomach when he was having ulcer-like symptoms.

Also, I'd like to give some love to two new products I've discovered that I LOVE.

1) No "Pudge" Brownie Mix - all you do is add low fat vanilla yogurt (Stoneyfield Farms is my fav) Trust me, it's really yummy and comes without the partially hydrogenated oils that are in all other non-organic brownie mixes. It's sad, but true...check your box. Bye bye Ghirardelli brownie mix.....

2) Hazelnut Madhava Agave - this flavored agave is scrumptious. I've been enjoying this jewel in my morning coffee. Again, what you've got here is a "natural" version of hazelnut syrup. Sans the corn syrup that is that base for most coffee syrup flavorings.

I also apologize for the lack of photos, my camera has run it's course I'm afraid. What can I say? When it rains, it pours.

That's all for now. Until next time......which may be a week or so until I can get interet up and going again at home.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Caponata - "an Italian dish of eggplant"

This dish is a bit time consuming, but produces a very flavorful and hearty vegetable medley. It can be served along side a meat, atop toasted bread, or mixed in with pasta. The first time I made it, I mixed it in with rigatoni pasta and topped it off with crispy proscuitto and parmesan cheese. This time I served it over chicken breast. Both were excellent!

Side note: to bake off proscuitto, pre-heat your oven to 450 and bake it for 7 minutes. It crisps up nicely as it cools.

Onto the good stuff, Caponata:


1 pound eggplant, choose a firm one

sea salt to taste

¼ cup red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

1 medium onion

3 ribs celery, trimmed cut in 1-inch chunks

½ pound fresh plum tomatoes

½ cup olive oil + more for cooking

1 ½ tablespoons capers, drained

5 large fresh basil leaves, lightly chopped


Peel the eggplant. I like to partially peel them, leaving some skin on/peeling every other “row”

Slice the eggplant into 1” thick rounds, blot dry with paper towel (this helps them fry up better). Then cube eggplant into bite sized pieces.Toss with some salt and let rest.

Meanwhile pour the red wine vinegar and ½ cup water into a small pan, stir in the sugar and bring to a boil. Cook until reduced and syrupy, remove from the heat.

Chop onion, celery, plum tomatoes and basil.

Now fry the eggplant. Pour ½ cup of olive oil into the skillet and set over medium heat. Spread all the eggplant chunks in the hot oil and fry for 15 minutes or so, tossing and stirring frequently, until the eggplant is soft, cooked through and nicely browned on all sides. Lift the eggplant out of the oil with a slotted spoon and lay on paper towel to drain. Discard frying oil.

Pour fresh olive oil in the skillet and set it over medium heat. Stir in the onion and celery, season with salt to taste. Cook for about 8 minutes, stirring often. Add the capers, and then gently fold the tomatoes chunks in with the other vegetables. Cook until the tomatoes are softened but still holding their shape, about 5 minutes. Mix in fresh basil. When everything is sizzling, pour the vinegar syrup all over. Mix well, reduce heat to low, and add eggplant back to dish. Gingerly mix eggplant back into dish to warm it. Serve & Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

When life gives you watermelon......make Margaritas!

Do you ever have this same problem? I buy a big old watermelon, we eat watermelon to our hearts content, and there's still half of it left over. This has been our summer solution to using up all of the left over melon. It is T-A-S-T-Y. (I know summer is technically over, but there's bound to be a few more sunny days that are just right for this refreshing beverage. Have faith!)

Blender full of *seedless watermelon, cubed
2 ounces Tequila (What can I say, we are lightweights)
2 ounces Lime Juice (I highly recommend the Organic Lime Juice by Santa Cruz)
1 ounce Agave Syrup (If you dont know about Agave Syrup, you should. Use it anytime to sweeten anything, especially in sauces and drinks. Replace corn syrup with Agave when baking.)

Top off your blender with a few ice cubes to cool it down....and push that magical button.

Salt (or sugar) your rims, pour over ice and Enjoy!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Time for a Chocolate Chip Cookie

Here it is: my latest version of the Chocolate Chip Cookie. I try not to make the same recipe twice when it comes to the good ole fashioned Chocolate Chip Cookie. To be honest, I've never come across a recipe that truly thrilled me. So I press on in my quest to un-veil or perhaps create the Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie. But right now, today is all we have! And today this version of the Chocolate Chip Cookie produces a nice, light and crispy treat. So if you're hoping for dense, chewy and gooey -- this recipe isn't for you.

Also, I try to make recipes as simple as possible. So take the ingredients listed below and start adding them (in order) to one bowl, yes that's right Ladies & Gents, one bowl and stir them together with one humble wooden spoon.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
1/2 c grapeseed oil
1/2 c brown shuga
1/3 c granulated shuga
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup dark chocolate chunks or chips

Roll into balls and bake batches for 15 minutes

Recommended varition: I will make these again, and when I do I am going to add 1/2 cup all natural/organic creamy peanut butter at the beginning of the recipe with the oil. Yum. I might go for Milk Chocolate Chips too at that time instead of the Dark Chocolate Chips.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Temecula, California (aka Wine Country)

This glorious path that Garrett is strolling down with the little man leads to a room of delight. We recently had the opportunity to taste several wines from the Tememcula region, and it was most enjoyable. Although, there was definitely a highlight to our evening when we were given Wilson Creek's infamous Almond Champagne. Oh yum, double yum. I have never in my life tasted a Champagne that I actually liked, well ladies and gentlemen, that has changed! The Almond Champagne was amazing. Close runners up were the Decadent Chocolate Port served in mini Dark Chocolate shot glasses and the Cream Sherry Spritzer. All in all, a very pleasant evening spent in the beautiful wine country of the southern California region. Not to mention the exquisite meal we ate afterwards to help soak up the wine. We revelled in our week spent along the breathtaking California coastline, but we did look forward to returning to our Rocky Mountains! We really enjoy visiting the ocean, and are thankful we've had the opportunitiy to do so very often in our six years together. We look forward to many more vacations spent at the ocean, breathing in the fresh salty air, digging our toes into the sand, and soaking up the westcoast sunshine. Until then....Cheers! Now go find yourself a bottle of that Almond Champagne.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I heart the Create Channel

What is the Create Channel you may ask? Well, to me, it is a channel that inspires creativity. A channel that does infact help me to Make the Most of Myself. That is why I love it. It hosts programs focused on improving your skills in the areas of cooking, grilling, travel, gardening, baking, art, and home improvement projects just to name a few. It fosters an enviroment of enriching culture, in your very own living room, simply by having it on. So grab your pencil and "write this down", (in the words of George Strait, are there any country fans out there?), the Create Channel is 8-3. I hope it inspires you as it has me. Ciao!