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April 13, 2014

Roasted Bell Pepper & Rosemary Hummus

The hand-me-down food processor I inherited recently is opening up new worlds for me in the kitchen.  Last night I had a housewarming party to attend whose hostess I knew to be gluten free.  Rather than buying a bottle of liquor I took the time to make hummus from scratch.  It gave me an opportunity to use the fresh herbs from my garden and try something new.  I've been addicted lately to a soybean hummus at Costco; if I'd only known how easy it is to make it myself.  I love the wide range of flavors that one can come up with by creating your own hummus from scratch.  The soybean hummus will be next on my list of experiments.  I have a feeling I'll be making hummus more often than buying in the future!

Roasted Bell Pepper and Rosemary Hummus

1 tub (8 oz.) Trader Joe's Tahini Dip
2 Tbsp Fresh Rosemary
2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1/3 c Roasted Red Bell Pepper (I used Trader Joe's jarred version:  bonus points if you roast your own)
1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika
1 can organic Garbanzo Beans

Rinse the beans and remove their hulls.  Throw all ingredients into a food processor and pulse until smooth.  Adjust seasonings to taste, adding more lemon juice or a bit of salt if needed.  Serve with veggies, cheese crisps, or seeded bread. 

February 17, 2014

Maple-Miso Roasted Fingerlings and Potatopalooza at the Kerekesh Home

My Maple-Miso Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

I was a lucky guest at a festive Potatopalooza party thrown by Erika Kerekesh, blogger at In Erika's Kitchen, with food by Judy Lyness, blogger at Two Broads Abroad.  I love sponsored events, like this one put on by the Idaho Potato Commission.  The opportunity to spotlight one ingredient can be enlightening, especially when it's one used on such a daily basis that it often goes overlooked. 

What do I get out of attending an event like this, as a blogger?  Well, besides meeting a bunch of really cool and like-minded people, and getting food samples and new recipes to take home, I find motivation to blog.  I was still thinking about potatoes long after the party, so I decided to experiment with a glaze on roasted spuds.  These maple-miso roasted fingerling potatoes were sweetened to just the right note.  They were so tasty I forgot to photograph them, so the picture is of the chilled leftovers the next morning!  Forced to pull them out of the fridge to complete the blog post, the leftovers made a perfect filling for my egg white breakfast omelette.

Maple-Miso Roasted Potatoes

1 bag Fingerling Potatoes
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. Maple Syrup
1 Tbsp. Sherry Vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. White Miso Paste
1/8 tsp. Liquid Smoke 
Salt (to taste)

Whisk all glaze ingredients in a small bowl.  Clean, dry and dice potatoes to a roughly even size.  Pour glaze over potatoes and mix well to coat.  Bake at 450 degrees in greased 8x8 pan for about 30 minutes, till glaze is caramelized and potatoes are crispy on the outside but creamy inside.  Garnish with smoked paprika and serve warm. 

Pictures below from Potatopalooza:

Creamy Twice Baked Potatoes

Layered Pizza with Blue Cheese and Shaved Potatoes

Perfect Potato Blintzes
Bonus recipe from the Potatopalooza Party:

Potato Kale Lasagna Muffin 
Recipe by Erika Kerekes, In Erika’s Kitchen
1 bunch kale, curly or Tuscan (dinosaur)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound Idaho® potatoes, scrubbed (do not peel)
1⁄8 teaspoon salt
1 cup ricotta cheese (whole milk or part-skim)
1⁄2 cup prepared pesto sauce
1 1⁄2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1⁄2 cup grated parmesan or Romano cheese
Equipment: 12-cup muffin pan
1.  Wash the kale well and strip the leaves from the stems (discard the stems). Chop the leaves finely. It’s okay if some water clings to the kale leaves.  
2.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and kale and saute about 5 minutes, until the kale is wilted. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside. 
3.  Slice the potatoes paper-thin. (It’s easiest to do this with a mandoline, v-slicer or food processor.) Toss the potato slices with the salt and let sit about 5 minutes. 
4.  In a small bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, pesto sauce and egg together.  
5.  Preheat the oven to 350° F. 
6.  Assemble the mini lasagnas: Spray each cup of the muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray, or brush it with olive oil. Build the lasagnas in layers in each muffin cup, starting with a layer of potato slices, then adding a small dollop of the ricotta-pesto mixture, a teaspoon of cooked kale, a sprinkle of shredded mozzarella cheese, and a sprinkle of grated parmesan or Romano cheese. Continue building the mini lasagnas in this manner, finishing each one with a layer of potato slices and a sprinkle of mozzarella and parmesan.  
7.  Bake the mini lasagnas about 40 minutes, until the potatoes are tender, the cheese is golden brown and the lasagnas are cooked through. Remove from the oven and let sit 5 minutes before attempting to remove from the pan. Use a small offset spatula or blunt knife to un-mold the mini lasagnas and transfer to serving plates. Serve immediately.

February 2, 2014

Mom's Amaretto Sauce

Author Rick Bragg tells a story about making his mom's mashed potatoes:  he tried the recipe from his mom over and over, but couldn't get it just the way she made it.  He went back to her, repeatedly asking why the two dishes hadn't matched, and the only response she gave over and over was, "You have to feel it out.  You have to practice."  Finally one time he watched her prepare the potatoes, start to finish.  He witnessed the ingredient she had left out from the recipe when she'd given it to him.  His mom stirred in a large dollop of mayonnaise! 

For this month's Valentine themed meeting of Food Bloggers Los Angeles, I decided to make one of my mom's tried and true standards:  Amaretto Sauce.  She normally serves liberal amounts of this sauce over sliced strawberries.  I lightened her dessert by using the sauce as a dressing over a spinach-berry salad.  This gives the flavor, but without as much volume of sugar, as you're not using as much of the sauce, and makes a vegetable palatable while letting the berries shine through.  

I think my version does justice to the dessert I remember growing up.   It's a treat to be enjoyed in moderation, or on special holidays, like Valentines. 

Mom's Amaretto Sauce

1 c. Brown Sugar
1/2 c. Amaretto
1 1/2 c. Sour Cream

Blend all ingredients, and serve over fresh strawberries.

Spinach-Berry Salad

1 bag fresh Baby Spinach Leaves
1/2 bag frozen Strawberries
1/2 bag frozen Blackberries
Pine Nuts as desired

Thaw the berries overnight in the refrigerator.  Toss all ingredients and serve.  Dress with Amaretto Sauce above.

What family recipes have you tried to duplicate, and to what success?  How have you been able to keep the tradition but make them healthier?

FBLA Chocolate Party 2014 Recipe and Resource Links


Savory Dishes

Champagne/Sparkling Wine Recommendations

  • Jaume Serra Cristaliino Brut Cava by Eating RulesJaume Serra Cristalino Brut Cava ($7 “but tastes like $20+”) -- Andrew Wilder of Eating Rules
  • NV Presto Prosecco Brut ($10-$12), a “price performer” -- Alison Ashton of Nourish Network
  • Brut Roederer Estate Mixed Vintage ($20) -- Jennifer Daskevich of A Little Gourmet Everyday
  • Colbert Eco Brut (sugar-free organic sparkling wine; $25) -- Caren Magill of The Fit Habit
  • Barefoot Bubbly Brut Cuvée ($10.99). “When serving mimosas there is no need to buy expensive bubbly, but naturally you don't want to serve your guests headache-inducing sparkling wines or champagne either. The Brut Cuvée is Barefoot's most traditional bubbly and tastes of green apple and jasmine with hints of kiwi and peach flavors which bubble up for a crisp finish and, in my opinion, make a delightful Mimosa,” said Priscilla Willis of She’s Cookin’.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

January 28, 2014

Crockpot Oatmeal with Pumpkin and Blueberry

I'm a single girl, with a tiny kitchen.  I don't have all the utensils and appliances.  If I do, they're the smallest capacity made, and I haven't used them often.  Even though I don't have kids to cook for daily, I'm trying to learn how my kitchen tools can make my life easier, like my crockpot.  I've heard that oatmeal can be made in a crockpot, left to cook overnight and ready the moment you wake.  So I finally decided to experiment.  And it turned out wonderfully!  Brain food on a morning I was headed out to take an exam in an 8AM class (for those that know me clearly not at all, I am not a morning person, so I needed all the help I could get).  

This was also a great opportunity to test a new condiment line formulated by my friend Erika Kerekes of In Erika's Kitchen.  She makes three flavors of Not Ketchup, including the Blueberry one I sampled as a topping for my oatmeal.  The tangy sweetness added an extra dimension to the fall flavors in my porridge.

Key to using the crock pot are the Crock Pot Liners.  They make cleanup a snap!  The versatility of this recipe means this essential basic will be utilized on a regular basis.  When made in a (lidded) crockpot, whatever liquid added into the recipe will not evaporate away, so the proportions are important.  As long as the ratio of oats to liquid is constant, add in whatever combination of dried fruits, nuts, and spices sound tasty to you.  Or, vary the grain with quinoa or amaranth for a hearty morning stew. 

Winter Breakfast Porridge for Two

1 cup oatmeal
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 Tsp nutmeg
2 Tbsp coconut
1 Tbsp crystallized date bits (or 4 diced fresh pitted dates)
1 Tbsp hemp seeds
1/4 cup canned plain pumpkin
3 cups soymilk

Place all dry ingredients into the crockpot at any point during the day, covering with the lid.  Just before bed, add the canned pumpkin and milk and mix.  Turn crockpot on low and leave overnight, up to eight hours, covered.  In the morning eat as is or top with a generous drizzle of Blueberry White Pepper Not Ketchup. 

January 1, 2014

Lights! Camera! Action! ~ Burbank Tournament of Roses Assn. 2014 Rose Parade Float

I was honored to spend the week between Christmas and New Years helping out with the Burbank Tournament of Roses Assn's float for the 2014 Rose Parade.  This is the week known as "deco week," which is the most intensive period of effort for the float, though volunteers work year round to make the float a physical reality. 

The overall parade theme for 2014 was "Dreams Come True," so BTORA's float titled "Lights! Camera! Action!" fit right into the spirit of the parade as well as the character of Burbank as a community.  Home to Warners, Disney, NBC, and many other entertainment vendors and companies, Burbank has earned its title as "Media City."  The 2014 float centered around a classic movie theme, with an evil villain tying a heroine to railroad tracks, and stealing the train in an effort to dispose of her.  Our heroine's hope is a handsome cowboy on a trusty steed, who is coming to rescue her while the train's conductor frantically pursues the train.  All the expected movie props and tools, including a makeup table, lights, camera, and bullhorns, are present on the stage. 

I spent several different sessions volunteering at the warehouse.  At various times my jobs included trimming blue statice petals into a pile while discarding the stems and seed, cleaning buckets, setting up for lunch, counting water vials and lids, and prepping trays cut red carnations with rubbery floral glue.  The tangible results of my labor were the conductor's blue overalls and the red carnations that fronted the train.  My favorite part of the float was the back, where a "fake wall" revealed the movie scene to be nothing more than a staged set.  


The best part of this year's involvement were the friends that I brought along with me as first time volunteers.  My neighbor Cleo joined in for one evening and helped to make conversation with a group of people I didn't know.  And my best friend from fifth grade came into town with her husband to attend the Rose Bowl as fans of their alma mater.  I picked them up on the 29th, and was able to get them on as volunteers though normally that late in the week they are closed to new volunteers.  By the end of the day, my friend's husband was actually ON the float placing white Button Daisies.  It was fun to be the hero and give them a vacation experience they will never forget.

Burbank's float was awarded the Fantasy Trophy, an award with prestige and bragging rights!

December 25, 2013

Peanut Butter-Chickpea Blondies with Dark Chocolate Chips

The cookie exchanges held by Food Bloggers Los Angeles and by my craft group have become a big part of my holiday tradition here in Los Angeles.  I missed both of them this year, as they were held on the same day as a final for my psychology class.  Hoping beyond hope that my schedule would change, I prepared in advance anyway.  I was even able to find a friend in one of the groups to take my cookies for me and bring back a plate, so I was able to participate de facto with the craft group.  But what I've most enjoyed was the fellowship and festive spirit of the parties themselves, so my friends were dearly missed.

Each year I like to try one new recipe, though it wouldn't be Christmas without a few family traditional cookies.  In keeping with my new health studies at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, I searched far and wide for healthy cookie recipes this year.  Still working with limited space (especially counter space) in my kitchen, I was particularly looking for a bar cookie that I could make with ease in a single pan.  I was also gifted with a small used food processor recently so that opened up a lot of new possibilities for me.  I came across a post by Ambitious Kitchen that fit the bill.  Their Chickpea blondies are packed with protein but taste like the best peanut butter cookie I've ever had.  The ingredients just fit into my three-cup food processor, and the 8x8 baking pan size allows me to have a treat without being overwhelmed with the yield.

I was proud to take this to several different groups this year, including the seniors at the rehab facility where my good friend is an activity director.   It felt good to know I was providing a small seasonal treat that was good for the body as well as the soul.

Peanut Butter-Chickpea Blondies w/Chocolate Chips
Recipe by Ambitious Kitchen

Cooking Spray
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup all natural almond butter or peanut butter
1/3 cup pure maple syrup or agave nectar (I used honey, making this recipe non-vegan)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup vegan (or regular) chocolate chips plus 2 tablespoons sea salt, for sprinkling

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and spray 8x8 inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  1. In a food processor, add all ingredients except chocolate chips and process until batter is smooth. Fold in 1/3 cup of chocolate chips, I like to use dark chocolate because it has less sugar but it's up to you. Note:
    Batter will be thick and super delicious, so you could actually just eat it on it's own!
  1. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan then sprinkle 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips on top. (The batter
    may stick to your spatula, so I like to spray my spatula with nonstick cooking spray first.) Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean and edges are a tiny bit brown. The batter may look underdone, but you don't want them to dry out!
  1. Cool pan for 20 minutes on wire rack. Sprinkle with sea salt then cut into squares. Makes 16 blondies.
I also added an egg to the batter, making it more cake-like, but not vegan.
You can use your favorite nut butter, just make sure it’s all natural.
Feel free to add in other things according to your dietary needs like nuts, dried fruit, or other types of chocolate.

Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 bar (1/16th of recipe) Calories: 120 Fat: 6g Carbohydrates: 13.5g Sugar: 6.9g Fiber: 1.8g Protein: 3.5g

October 13, 2013

Lentil-Pumpkin Vegan Loaf with Tomato-Balsamic Glaze

The part of transitioning to a healthier diet that is most difficult for me is celebrating my holiday traditions.  Well, that and having to eat vegetables.  I became vegetarian as a child in the early eighties, long before "fake meats" and meat substitutes.  I taught myself to detest the odor of meat, let alone flavor.  So when told something has "real meat flavor" I am automatically put off.  Therefore, my holiday entrees generally center around pasta, such as a lasagne.  

In my quest to learn how to cook and to eat more vegetables, I have been experimenting with a few veggie loaf recipes.  But I don't generally like the texture of beans either.  This recipe for a lentil-pumpkin loaf satisfies all my concerns:  the pumpkin masks the taste of the beans, and the mushrooms add an extra meaty texture.  The walnuts add a "holiday" flavor and crunch.  The sweetness of the tomato-based glaze makes it palatable to even my sweet tooth. 

This is actually the first time I've ever cooked beans myself (though of course I ate them as a kid).  It helped to do most of the prep the night before I wanted to make this dish.  I also added a few new-to-me ingredients to my pantry:  nutritional yeast and liquid smoke.  The nutritional yeast adds a nutty, cheesy taste to a vegan dish, while the liquid smoke, though used in small amounts, adds that meaty Umami flavor.   

The Food Bloggers' Los Angeles monthly meeting gave me the excuse to try this recipe before the holiday season.  We've had a pumpkin-themed potluck before, so it was fun to do something innovative and new for this meeting.  It was also fun to do a savory main dish rather than a sweet dessert.   The meals at our FBLA meetings are often my only home-cooked meals prepared by another now that my family lives states away, so I really look forward to our group both for the company and the food.  We had about ten members show up at this meeting, actually a small group for most of our get-togethers.  The synchronicity that comes into play with no planning involved is astounding:  though our group may be as large as thirty people, there is never any duplication of dishes. 


Lentil-Pumpkin Vegan Loaf

1 cup uncooked Lentils
1-15 oz. can plain Pumpkin
2 1/2 cup Vegetable Stock, divided
1 cup chopped Walnuts
1-4 oz. can Mushroom Pieces, diced
1 medium Onion, diced
3 Garlic Cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. Nutritional Yeast
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. Tomato Paste
2 tsp. Liquid Smoke
2 tsp. fresh Thyme
2 tsp. fresh Rosemary
1 Tbsp. Salt
1 cup Oats
1/2 cup Whole Wheat or GF Flour

2 Tbsp. Balsamic
2 Tbsp. Tomato Paste
1 Tbsp. Maple Syrup
1 Tbsp. Mustard
1/2 tsp. Salt

Sort and rinse lentils.  Bring 2 cups low-sodium veggie stock to a boil, then add the lentils and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Keep partially covered and cook until very soft, about 20-45 minutes.  Add a little more liquid if needed.  Allow to cool completely.  [This step can be done in advance.  I like to do it the night before.  Also, I crush the walnuts by putting them into a ziplock bag and using a rolling pin to break them up.]

In a large bowl, mash the cooked lentils and pumpkin together.  Add walnuts, mushrooms, onion, garlic, and all other ingredients except oats and flour, mixing thoroughly.  Add the oats, then the flour, until you have a consistency close to cookie dough.

Press into a greased 8x8 dish.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Whisk together glaze and spread evenly on top of the loaf.  Bake about 45 minutes or until the loaf is cracked and glaze is dark.  If cooking in a small oven, cover with foil for the first half of the baking time.  Allow to set for a few minutes before cutting and serving.

October 12, 2013

Chocovivo Chocolate Tasting

ChocoVivo's process explained.

Another really cool activity in Los Angeles sure to please any foodie is an artisanal chocolate tasting  in a boutique chocolate factory at ChocoVivo in Culver City.  You can sample ChocoVivo's taste test menu on a walk in basis during normal open hours for just $5.   I was lucky enough to join in on a private lecture and tasting after-hours with an extensive talk from the owner and chef Patricia Tsai. 

Dark chocolate is a heart-healthy "Superfood."  Ms. Tsai uses it in its pure, unrefined form along with whole herbs and spices to make exquisite drinks and bars.  I was in heaven at her boutique, billed as the first Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Factory in Los Angeles. 

A demo grinder in the restaurant for up-close viewing.

Our luscious tasting board.

from the top down, 75% Cacao, Almonds & Sea Salt, Hazelnuts & Sea Salt, Macadamia & Coconut, Shangri-La (Black Sesame & Gogi Berries), and Mayan Tradition (Cinnamon & Hot Spices)

Proprietess Patricia Tsai spoke on chocolate sourcing and production.

A raw cacao bean.

The kitchen at ChocoVivo where the magic actually happens.

Meetup participants enjoying the event.

Cacao nibs

A dried cacao pod; the beans must be broken out from within a pod like this.

The actual grinder used at ChocoVivo.  The ingredients are pushed through up to five times to make a bar.

Rustic necklaces of cacao beans are also available for purchase.

October 7, 2013

Fun Fall Foods with Miss Kitchen Witch

Mulled Spiced Cider
While I've long been a home chef, I tend to have a narrow repertoire.  One of my personal goals since beginning Institute for Integrative Nutrition has been to experiment with new ingredients and learn to cook better for myself from scratch, so that I can model for my clients the benefits and ease of home cooking.
I've discovered a great source of cooking classes in Miss Kitchen Witch!  She's teaching three-hour vegan demo classes for only ten dollars each Sunday at the Animal Advocacy Museum in Pasadena.  The discounted rate is for paying in advance via paypal.  Her calendar can be found on her facebook page.  Our class this weekend was "Fun Fall Foods" and included a full meal's recipes.  On the menu was a mulled apple cider, brussels sprouts in a pistachio-cranberry pesto, a lentil-squash loaf entree, and baked apples for dessert.  I posted her event on an IIN forum and was excited to have a classmate join me.  It's fun to feel that I'm making friends through my studies, even though the course is an online study.

Miss Kitchen Witch is entertaining and approachable.  She encourages questions, and fills time with conversation as she cooks.  She gives background and sources on ingredients I don't yet have in my pantry, explaining the uses and why you should stock a particular item as a regular pantry staple.  I have added to my shopping list: liquid smoke (recommended from at Smart and Final), nutritional yeast, Better Than Smoke in the vegan beef broth version, and raw turbinado sugar.  Miss Kitchen Witch is also very knowledgable about food issues, and willing to discuss, but not dogmatic in pushing her views or positions.  One thing I learned this weekend is that most sugar is processed with bone char.  I'm better educated on the brands available that are vegan and not processed in that way.  She also recommended an ethnic market in Thai Town, Bang Luc market at 5170 Highland Blvd, so I'll have to have a field trip in the near future.  My favorite from the class was the baked apples for the sweetness, but the brussels sprouts were also excellent--and this compliment comes from someone who doesn't typically enjoy savory veggies, so it's a high mark!

Rosemary Pesto Brussels Sprouts
Vegan Glazed Roast with Gluten Free Gravy
Baked Apples with Caramel

October 4, 2013

Photo Essay: the Getty Villa

A friend's visit to Los Angeles recently gave me the excuse to visit a local treasure I'd never explored:  the Getty Villa.  While I've been to the regular Getty, this off-site location houses the Getty's Roman, Greek, and Etruscan treasures.  

The Villa went through a major renovation just a few years ago and was the talk of the town, but because I didn't know exactly where it was, and timed tickets are required, I haven't made it out there until now.  Tickets are requested online free of charge, and the only payment required is a per-vehicle parking fee.   Having seen it in person, the Villa is absolutely worth the investment in planning and time.  In fact, it's difficult to take it all in in a single visit.  I'll be sure to go again the next time I entertain guests.

There are docent-led garden tours and architectural tours hourly.  Inside, one can check out an iPod with an ID as deposit, and listen to self-guided art tours.  While most of the art is pulled from the permanent collection, there are traveling exhibits as well.  My friend and I unknowingly timed our visit well:  the traveling exhibit right now centers on glass! 

The Prometheus Wheel is the focal point of an open-air ampitheater

Beautiful frescoes on the ceiling

Venus, Roman, AD 100-200

Fountain in the Inner Peristyle

Relief of an African Elephant, Roman, AD 79-96

Wall fountain in the East Garden

Center fountain in the East Garden

Bronze waterspout in the East Garden

Mosaic wall fountain in the East Garden

Strawberry bush in the East Garden

Wall frescoes in the Outer Peristyle

Grape arbors providing shade cover

Bearded Irises in the Outer Peristyle

The Outer Peristyle, looking east towards the building

Fountain in the Herb Garden.  Love the colorful leaves of the lilypad!

Looking down the length of the Herb Garden

The fountain in the center of the structure, near the ampitheater, features a wall of flowing water

The Outer Peristyle, looking west toward the Pacific ocean.

Benches and pathways in the Outer Peristyle

Architectural columns and finials in careful detail

The temporary exhibit, Ancient Glass and techniques.  Mind blowing to think how old these pieces are and all they have survived!

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