Category Archives: The extras

Vanilla Sugar

Yes, you read the title of this post correctly!  I know, I know, I do not use much sugar here at 488, but using artificial sweeteners is NOT an option, and the natural sweeteners that I turn to (honey, molasses, agave nectar, stevia, maple syrup and rice syrup) instead sometimes just do not work.   So when I do bake and need to use sugar, I make sure it is fully loaded with vanilla oils to provide my baked sweets with the absolute BEST flavor!  This is so stinking simple, you will be kicking yourself for not discovering this sooner!  Remember that big bunch of vanilla beans that I convinced you to buy a couple of years ago.  I hope you still have some on hand because all you need to do is chop up a vanilla bean or two and stick them into your sugar jar.  Put the lid on and give the oils time to release into your sugar.   When I get low on sugar or when my beans seem to be losing their oil, I just chop up more! I have had my jar going now for probably 6 years (maybe more), so my jar is packed with beans.

Vanilla sugar!

I usually keep baking sugar in the jar, which has a little finer texture than regular sugar.  Mainly because I like baking with it better, but use what you like!  I am sure you could do the same with brown sugar as well!  I don’t know how powdered sugar would work, but give it a try and let me know what you find!  Anyway, experiment with it and HAVE FUN!


Chia fruit pudding

Chia seeds are such the rage right now!  I had been silently resisting the temptation to jump on the chia seed party train until I was fully convinced that they were really worth the hype…I didn’t need another trendy food item taking up space in my pantry, afterall!  Well, a few days ago after doing more research on their health benefits (omega 3 fatty acids for mitochondrial renewal, antioxidants to get rid of cancerous free radicals, seed protein with low acidity and high calcium to help build strong, long, and lean muscles and keep my large bones strong, and fiber to keep me GOING!), I finally broke down and bought a big bag from the bulk foods section of my regular grocery store.

Coincidentally, right after I purchased my seeds, I saw a recipe on Pinterest for coconut mango chia seed pudding.  You probably already know how much I love coconut and mango, so I figured this was a pretty safe place to start.  Boy, oh boy, was I right!  I whipped a modified version of this pudding together in about 3 minutes that same afternoon and in the fridge in went.  A short time later, I had to give it a try.  I must say, I liked it.  No, I did not love it–it seemed a bit boring and thin.  Feeling a little miffed and dissatisfied, I went back and read the recipe again.  I had completely forgotten that it suggested waiting overnight (or at least 5 hours) before eating.  Sooooo I stuck it back in the fridge and waited.  WOW, what a difference a few hours made!  My creation had taken on a whole new consistency and honestly, it had a lot more flavor!  I was sooo elated, I ate nearly the whole bowl!!  Since then (which was only about a week ago) I have made it a few more times, trying different fruits and adding some vanilla beans–testing it out to see how versatile it is.  I am happy to report that so far, I have loved everything I made!  Even my hubby–who isn’t crazy about these sorts of dishes– digs on this one!  He had a small bowl with blueberries at lunch today and told me “It is sooo good, it tastes a lot like tapioca”!  When I eat the seeds, I am actually reminded more of poppy seeds because of their size and texture.  Next time I make it, I might try adding some chopped pecans or walnuts to the pudding to make it a great option for breakfast.  Oh, and how about lemon or lime zest?!?  If you want to doll it up a bit more for dessert, try adding some small dark chocolate chips and/or some coconut (toasted coconut?)–I bet it would be fantastic!!  Anyway, I am pretty sure you will almost always find a bowl of this yummy pudding sitting in my fridge just waiting for a hungry tummy to call home!  Bon Appetit!

Chia Pudding

Servings:  4-5

1 c vanilla almond milk (I like Silk’s)

1 c vanilla coconut milk (ditto)

4 T chia seeds

1 c cubed fresh champagne mango (or blueberries, raspberries, peaches, strawberries, blackberries)

dash of sweetener (optional–I don’t do this, but if you like it sweeter add some agave, honey or stevia)

Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate for a minimum of 5 hours.  It will thicken up nicely if left overnight!

FRESH Spring Rolls

I struggle with multiple course meals.  Primarily because I don’t think ALL of that food is really necessary–plus, I really want to be ’empty belly’ HUNGRY when the main course arrives.  Crazy?  I say SMART!  So when you join us here at 488 for dinner you might find some nuts or veggies out to kick off the night, but it is unlikely that you will find a heavy, fat-filled, calorie-wasting appetizer.  There are a few exceptions to that rule–and this isn’t one of them!  These rolls are ridiculously easy and SUPER LIGHT — and I think they are a great way to kick off a good eastern meal or as a healthful snack.  The true beauty of this one (besides the fact that that they taste soooo good) is that they are LOW, LOW, LOW in calories, loaded with vitamins and fiber, and cool, FRESH flavor!

If you have been to Saigon 39 in KC you will get the idea of how these puppies taste.  Soft, yet crunchy; sweet, yet salty; simple, yet complex with intense, herbal flavors in every bite!!  Saigon’s are probably the best I have ever had and what I set out to make last night.  Sadly, I haven’t had one of their spring rolls since we moved, but my memory does not fail me on the way the textures, flavors, and smells come together perfectly to create this gem.  So, give my FRESH spring rolls a try and let me know how you think they compare to your favorite!

Spring Rolls

Servings:  2-3

  • 4 pieces rice paper
  • 1 c spring mix
  • 1/2 c cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 c mint, chopped
  • 12 pieces of medium size shrimp, boiled
  • 2 oz dry rice noodles, cooked al dente (3-5 minutes in a salted boil), and drained.  Allow to cool to room temperature

Peanut hoisen sauce

  • 2 T peanut butter
  • 1 T hoisin sauce
  • splash of low sodium soy sauce
  • squirt of chili sauce (sriracha)
  • 1/4 t ginger, minced
  • Water, enough to make the sauce thin enough to dip the roll into easily

Vinaigrette sauce

  • 1 T + 1 t fish sauce
  • 2 T lime juice
  • 1/2 t + chili sauce (sriracha)
  • 1 T garlic, minced
  • 1/4-1/2 t anchovy paste
  • 1/8 t ginger, minced
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 T garlic, minced
  • 1/4 c water

Soften the rice paper according to it’s package label.  Place on a moist cutting board.  Line 3-4 shrimp in the middle of the paper.  Add 1/4 c spring mix, 1/8 c cilantro, and a big pinch of mint on top of the shrimp–distributed evenly so you get some of each in every bite.  Roll the spring roll

Make the sauces by mixing the designated ingredients in small bowls.   Serve with the spring rolls.  The sauces flavors will be more pronounced if you mix them 1-2 hours ahead of time and let them sit at room temperature until serving.





Matcha Smoothie

Isn't the light green color awesome?

All you green tea lovers, be well advised to GIVE THIS SMOOTHIE a go!  I had to make an extra big batch this morning to satisfy  LARGE second helpings for both the Mr. and I!  Whew, I can’t say enough about this refreshing and healthful start to my day!  The earthy Matcha (green tea powder) mixed with the creamy frozen banana and the sweet/tart nectarines came together perfectly to make this one of my favorite smoothies yet!  As always, a big hit of protein powder and ground flax seed filled my stomach and kept me very satisfied until later in the afternoon–even after burning up all of my energy stores during an excruciating 90 minute power yoga session first thing this morning!

If you haven’t already picked up a can of matcha to make my green tea panna cotta or lattes, stop by your local asian grocer the next time you are in the neighborhood–it isn’t cheap, but don’t worry, a small amount of the powder goes a LONG, LONG way!

So the dietitian in me HAS to tell you all about the health benefits of this green powder.  I am sure you have all heard the health buzz on green tea, right??  Well, think about the fact that this powder is 100% ground green tea leaves–NOT just the water that the leaves have been steeped in–giving you concentrated exposure to the ‘good stuff’.  So what is so good about it you ask??  To start, matcha provides a whole boat load of antioxidants to help prevent aging (LOVE IT) and chronic diseases (doubly LOVE IT). Fruits and veggies are great sources of antioxidants, but matcha is unparalleled in comparison. In fact, matcha is packed with exponentially more antioxidants than even fruit’s best performers–pomegranates and blueberries!  Experts at Tufts University have uncovered that matcha possesses an amazing twenty times (yep, I said 20x!!) more so than pomegranates or blueberries.

Even better, matcha contains a unique, potent class of antioxidant known as catechins, which aren’t found in other foods. More specifically, the catechin EGCg (epigallocatechin gallate) provides super-charged cancer-fighting properties. Most importantly, EGCg and other catechins counteract the effects of evil free radicals from the likes of pollution, UV rays, radiation, and chemicals, which can lead to cell and DNA damage. Since over 60% of the catechins in matcha are actually EGCg, a daily matcha regimen can help restore and preserve the body’s integral well-being and balance.  Sound pretty good?  Just wait, there is more!

Over a thousand years ago, matcha came to Japan as an aid to meditation practice.  I know, SNOOZE-VILLE, right!??  Which is why they would routinely drink matcha — to remain alert, yet calm. Modern science has recently confirmed the lessons of centuries of tradition. Matcha is rich in L-Theanine, a rare amino acid that actually promotes a state of relaxation and well-being by acting upon the brain’s functioning. While stress can induce beta waves—an excited, more agitated state—L-Theanine creates alpha waves, which lead to a state of relaxed alertness. And while L-Theanine is common in all tea, matcha may contain up to five times more of this amino acid than common black and green teas. As an additional benefit (and maybe because of this), L-Theanine may help memory and learning ability–I am sure we can all use a little help there!  Simply put, it promotes concentration and clarity of mind without any of the nervous energy found in coffee. So a green tea latte (made with Silk’s vanilla coconut milk, of course) really does make a lot of sense as an afternoon snack/pick-me-up!!

Guys and gals you are going to LOVE THIS…one of the most unexpected benefits matcha drinkers experience is a boost of energy through the day. In one study, researchers had thought that this was from the caffeine in matcha, but they found that it was actually the combination of matcha’s natural properties. Another recent study in particular found that matcha even improved physical endurance by 24%. Even if you aren’t facing a grueling workout, matcha can help you through the everyday marathon, whether it’s that project due the next day or getting the kids from school to soccer practice.  Oh, and on top of that a recent study shows that if consumed regularly, matcha may boost metabolism and burn calories up to as much as 4 x!

Whew, I am FINALLY done!  So, can you think of anything with health benefits comparable to matcha–all for next to ZERO calories??  Me either!  Fire up your blender and get ready to FEEL the beauty of this sensible, yet delicious breakfast or afternoon drink!  If you discover different scrumptious ways to use your matcha powder please send me a note with the details–I would love to hear your ideas!  Cheers!

Creamy smooth, lightly sweet, and full of healthful ingredients!

Matcha Smoothie

Servings:  2

  • 1 fresh banana
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 c frozen nectarines or peaches (mango would probably work too!)
  • 1 scoop ground golden flax seed
  • 1/4-1/3 c ground hemp protein powder (or your favorite HBV protein)
  • 1 t matcha (add more to taste)
  • 1-1 1/2 c coconut milk (depending upon your desired consistency)

Throw it all in your blender or smoothie machine and let it rip!  Drink and ENJOY!!





Pumpkin smoothie

I know you already know how much I love smoothies, right?  I drink one pretty much everyday!  I usually load blender up with fresh baby spinach, frozen fruit, protein powder, ground flax seed and use coconut milk as my liquid of choice.  I also know that if you are reading this post you must enjoy a smoothie from time to time yourself!  Which means that at this time of year you have seen plenty of pumpkin smoothie recipes, but don’t worry, this one is not like the rest…I promise!  There is no sweetener or frozen yogurt in my pumpkin smoothie–it uses the awesome sweetness of bananas to help make it delicious (and much better for you!).  Like 30 seconds ago, my hubby had his first drink and said…”it tastes just like pumpkin pie!”.  Yep, that is exactly what I was going for!  It is super smooth, thick, creamy and so very healthful!  You would seriously think that I threw the pumpkin pie mix in the blender instead of my short list of GREAT FOR YOU ingredients.  So fire up your blender and give this one a spin.  I might just make these instead of pie this year on the big day!  If I add a dollop of whipped cream on top I don’t think anyone would be disappointed, do you?!

Holy cow, I just finished my 6 oz serving and I am stuffed!  Thanks to all of the protein and fiber in this one, I have a feeling this will power me through my 90 minutes of yoga and well into the afternoon!  Cheers to easy and delicious ways of taking good care of yourself!

Pumpkin smoothie

Makes 2-6 oz smoothies

  • 2 frozen bananas
  • 1/2 c puree pumpkin (or more, to taste)
  • 1 c Silk’s vanilla coconut milk
  • 1 t pumpkin pie seasoning
  • 2 big scoops of HBV protein powder (I use hemp protein powder, which I buy from Amazon)
  • 1 scoop ground flax seed (I use Stober Farms Natural Milled Golden Flax Seed–this stuff rocks!)

Thow it all in your blender and let it rip!  Oh, make sure BEFORE you freeze your banana that it is cut into 1-2″ pieces–leave the peel on so you don’t have to prefreeze it before bagging–this will save your blender a lot of extra work and you a lot of extra time!  Then all you will need to do is dip the banana in warm water when you are ready to use it to easily remove the peel!



Tuna artichoke melt

Tuna melt with fruit salad

I went to a diabetes cooking class (don’t worry, I don’t have diabetes) a few weeks ago and this is what we made!  I am not going to lie…I wasn’t thrilled when I got there and discovered that tuna melt was on the menu!  I like tuna just fine, but really??  At a cooking class??

I got over my menu issue pretty darn quickly–just as soon as the instructor distributed the recipe!  I hope this doesn’t freak you out, but this crazy melt tastes a lot like pizza!  The oregano, artichoke, and EVOO really make this sandwich work, and trust me it works GREAT!  This is a bright and healthful sandwich–a flavor explosion– and it couldn’t be easier to make!  This one surprised me, BIG TIME and I know it will pleasantly surprise you too!  In fact, it is way, way, way too hot here in the Ozarks to cook!  So guess what is on the menu tonight here at the casa–yep, tuna melts!   Served with a nice caprese salad, fresh melon and berries, and a glass of chilled white wine and we will have very pretty plates and happy bellies!

Lots of great color, flavor, and good nutrition! I love this dinner!

Tuna artichoke melt

Servings:  2

  • PAM cooking spray
  • 2 whole wheat sandwich thins, split open or two slices of whole grain bread
  • 3/4 c canned artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed.  Diced into bite size pieces
  • 3 medium green onions, diced (1/4 c)
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1 t EVOO
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • 1/8 t black pepper
  • 1/8 t chipotle pepper flakes
  • 1-6 oz can of chunk light tuna (in water), drained and flaked

Combine tuna, EVOO, lemon juice, oregano, pepper, onion, artichoke, and hot pepper in a medium bowl.Coat a skillet with PAM cooking spay and heat to medium.  Toast one side of the bread and flip over.  Place 1/4 of the tuna mix on each piece and top with the provolone.  Cook until the cheese starts to melt and the bread is toasted.  Serve open-faced.


Caprese salad: pineapple tomato, basil, mozzarella, basalmic vinegar, freshly ground pepper.

Arugula and avocado salad

Hydroponic Arugula

Betcha you didn’t know that I am an organic, hydroponic gardener!  Ok, stop it!  Do not go THERE–I love the show Weeds, but am not getting into THAT line of work!  I only grow arugula (spinach is coming soon) in my nutrient dense Jacuzzi tub!

Arugula is hands down my favorite green and we eat plenty of it here at the casa–which is why we decided to grow it year round in the storage room!  I can educate you on starting your own hydroponic garden later if you are interested, but this post is dedicated to the unbelievable salad I made for the first time last night.

The hot, very nutty, and just slightly bitter flavors of this Mediterranean green make it so much more interesting than regular lettuce.  Plus, it is loaded with vitamins A, B, and C, potassium, folate, calcium, iron, and it surprisingly provides a high level of protein (about 25% of its content is protein!)!  On top of that (hee, hee), it has been considered an aphrodisiac since Roman times!   Sound good??  Then get out your cutting board and start chopping!  This one will only take a few minutes to prep and will make your tummy (and significant other?) very, very happy!

Green and gorgeous!

Arugula and avocado salad

Servings:  2 large, 4 small

  • 4 c arugula, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced into rounds
  • 1 champagne mango, cubed
  • 1 avocado, pitted and thinly sliced
  • 1 large lime
  • dash of sea salt
  • 1/8 t freshly ground pepper
  • dash of chipotle pepper flakes
  • 1 T EVOO
  • 1 t agave nectar (or more, to taste)
  • 1-2 T chopped cilantro (more to garnish, as desired)

Mix together the EVOO, agave nectar, cilantro, salt, pepper, hot pepper and 2 T lime juice and let sit.  Stir occasionally to keep from separating.

Place the arugula, onion, and mango in a large bowl and add 1 T of lime juice, put a lid on the bowl and shake (if you don’t have a lid, just stir it well) to coat the vegetables with the lime juice.  Add the dressing and repeat the stir/shake.  Plate the salad and add the sliced avocado to the top.  Sprinkle with a little more lime juice and the cilantro garnish and serve.





Pea and sweet onion rice

You must use this as the base for Burmese chicken booyah.  The sweet onions and peas are the perfect accompaniment to this rich and flavorful curry!  Because of the texture and mild sweetness, it marries well with many of my favorite indian and thai dishes.  I know you will love what it does for your Asian cooking, so give it a try!

Pea and sweet onion rice

Servings 4-6 (depending upon the size)

  • 1 c jasmine rice
  • 1 c water
  • 1/2 t freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 t sea salt
  • 1/4 c frozen sweet peas
  • 1/2 c minced sweet yellow onion or shallots
  • 1/2 t chipotle pepper flakes
  • Splash of EVOO

In a small/medium stock pot add the evoo, chipotle pepper flakes, salt and pepper and heat over low.  Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the frozen peas and cook for another 5 or so minutes.  Add the rice and stir in very well to coat with the oil and veggies.  Add the water and turn the heat to high until it starts to boil. Stir the rice well.  Cover and cook for about 30 seconds and then turn the heat down to low.  Cook for another minute and turn the heat off.  The rice will be ready in about 30-35 minutes.



Smoothie love

Spinach smoothie

My breakfast!  This refreshing smoothie was the perfect way to start my day!  Remember those awesome peaches that I picked up at Gordon’s a few weeks ago?  Well many of them made it to the freezer for breakfasts like this!  Loaded with fiber, antioxidants, and protein this remarkably delicious drink left my hubby begging for seconds!  It literally takes about 5 minutes to make and will power you through even the most stressful mornings!  Give this one a try–you will be so very happy that you did!  Oh, and head to your farmer’s market and load up your freezer with peaches, nectarines and berries now so you can enjoy smoothies like this even in the off season!

Enjoy the love!

Smoothie love

Servings:  2

  • 2 big fistfuls of baby spinach
  • 1/4-1/3 c hemp protein powder
  • 1 c vanilla coconut milk
  • 1/2 c frozen peaches
  • 1/2 c frozen mango
  • splash of agave nectar
  • 2 T chia seeds
  • 1 T ground flax seed

Thow it all in your blender and give it a rip!  All of my measurements are just estimates–use as much as you need to create the perfect flavor and consistency for YOU!  Garnish with a frozen peach or mango!


Ode to summer onion tarts

Globes of smelly goodness

The garden is growing extremely well so far this season–quick break to knock on wood–and I just pulled the last of the onions.  WOW, there were soooo many globes of smelly goodness!  I love all varieties of onions…green, yellow, red!  Don’t even get me started on shallots.  The sweetness that evolves with cooking astounds me and their nutritional value does too!  These babies are full of fiber, phyto compounds for cancer protection, B & C vitamins, and trace minerals.  I am feeling better just thinking about them!

I was feeling especially creative last night, so I decided to make tarts with a few of them!  I put Andy in charge of slicing up the onions, sorry honey (hee  hee).  He smartly put on my onion goggles (thank you Niki) and made quick work of the task–wish I had that picture to share!

We decided to try several different combinations of ingredients to add some variety to our evening with onions.  What a great plan–holy cow were they good!  We tried onion/mushroom/pancetta, onion/mushroom/pancetta/egg, onion/mushroom, and  onion/mushroom/egg.  Go figure that our favorite was the least complex–onion/mushroom.

I used a muffin tin to cook the tarts and it worked beautifully. The puff pastry was a gorgeous golden brown and the layers of carmelized onion were just beautiful.  These tasty tarts would make great hors d’oeuvres at your next party.  Serve either of the egg combos at breakfast with some fresh fruit and your family will be bragging on you all week long!

Caramelized onions

Ode to summer onion tarts

Servings:  6-8 large cupcake size tarts

  • 1 box pepperidge farm puff pastry
  • 3 large onions of varying color, sliced
  • 1 t salt
  • 1-2 T EVOO
  • Butter flavor PAM cooking spray
  • 2-3 eggs, scrambled (optional)
  • 1 c finely chopped mushrooms
  • 2-3 pieces of crispy, cooked pancetta or bacon (optional)
  • 2 t fresh thyme
  • 1 t freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 c freshly grated parmasean cheese
  • 1 t chipotle pepper flakes (mandatory)
  • Splash of agave nectar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large saute pan saute the sliced onion in the evoo over low/medium heat.  Add the salt and agave nectar and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are nice and soft and carmelized to a golden brown.

If using bacon or pancetta, cook it until it is nice and crispy in a medium skillet, and then set the meat aside.  Using the same pan with the bacon grease, saute the mushrooms with the chipotle pepper flakes until nice and soft.  If not using meat, just throw some EVOO and pepper flakes into a skillet and saute until soft.

Make sure your puff pastry is thawed.  Using a round cookie cutter (or something similar) cut 3 pieces for every muffin whole you want to fill with the tart.  You will build the tarts in layers–kinda like a lasagna.

Generously coat the muffin tin with PAM butter spray.  Place a piece of puff pastry at the bottom of each muffin whole.  Add a thin layer of mushrooms, onions, and meat (if using) on top of the pastry.  If using egg, add a drizzle on top.  If not, just add the cheese and freshly ground pepper.  Repeat the next layer starting with the pastry circle.  Top the last layer with a pastry circle and then use an onion or sprinkles of pepper or thyme (or all three) to make a pretty garnish.  Give each pastry a quick spray of PAM and then bake for about 40 minutes–or until they are golden brown.  Allow the pastries to cool for at least 5 minutes before lifting them out gently with a fork.

The puffier one on the left is made with egg. On the right is just onions and mushrooms.