Posted by: 4whateveritsworth | August 24, 2012

Quinoa and Cocoa: The Perfect Pairing

Almost a year ago, I wrote a post called “Quinoa for Breakfast: It makes the perfect hot cereal.  It continues to be a personal favorite, and is also enjoyed by my husband and plenty of house guests.

I am constantly changing the fruits, nuts, and other additions, but the basic recipe remains the same.   Nowadays, I always add chia seeds, the “new” go-to food for omegas.

Hardly a week goes by without yet another article touting the benefits of dark chocolate and cocoa.  It doesn’t take much convincing for me to enjoy a daily piece of dark chocolate.  Last week, I read an article suggesting the addition of unsweetened cocoa to your cup of Joe.  Unsweetened cocoa is packed with flavanols, beneficial to heart health.  So now we’ve been adding a rounded teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa to our morning coffee. The unsweetened cocoa has approximately 15 to 20 calories, so it’s virtually guilt free.

While making a new batch of quinoa for breakfast this week, I decided to add unsweetened cocoa to the recipe.   I doubled my recipe, adding one rounded teaspoon for each serving – – in this case, 4 teaspoons.  This is clearly my favorite addition so far, and was a huge hit with my husband, too.  In addition to the cocoa, I added a small amount of dried cranberries, chia seeds, walnuts and lots of cinnamon.

In the morning, I portion out a serving, cover it with a small amount of milk, and probably less than a 1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar, and heat it in the microwave.  A healthy indulgence and so satisfying.  I think I’m on to something here. I have a feeling this will become a regular addition to my morning quinoa.

Until my next post, 4 whatever it’s worth…..

Posted by: 4whateveritsworth | July 16, 2012

What to do with all that corn


While running my errands the other day, I noticed an abundance of fruits and veggies on the “reduced” shelf in the corner of the produce section.  I couldn’t resist the bag of 8 corn for $1, and 2 containers of brussel sprouts for $1. Both were a steal.

My initial thought was that I’d roast the corn, and share some with a friend.  Instead I decided to use it all at once and make a corn salad.

It’s very easy to cut the corn off the cobs. You can roast or boil them first. If you’re roasting the corn, you’ll need to let them rest until they are cool enough to handle. If you boil the corn until fork tender, then you can easily plunge the ears in an ice bath to stop the cooking.  They should be cool to the touch fairly quickly.  Once cooled, hold the cob vertically, and using a large knife, shave the corn off the cob. I watched a video the other day which suggested balancing the cob in the hole of a bundt pan.   As you shave off the corn kernels, they fall directly into the bundt pan below. Clever.

The 8 corn cobs were of average size.

Now, what to do with all that corn…..

I decided to go with a simple dressing.

After I shaved it from the cob into a bowl, I tossed it with the following: approximately 6 tablespoons of cider vinegar, 2 to 3  tablespoons of olive oil, 1 chopped red onion, a generous amount of freshly ground pepper, and approximately 1/2 cup of freshly chopped basil.   If you prefer, you can substitute cilantro for the basil.  Mix well. Place in the fridge and stir periodically.

This recipe can easily be adjusted depending on the number of ears of corn you choose to use.  You can also consider adding other veggies, like chopped red pepper. I might even add a can of black beans next time, turning it from a side dish into a main dish.

Needless to say, this made a huge quantity. I shared some with my parents, and, a few days later, we still have more to enjoy  in the fridge. It also tastes more flavorful with each passing day, therefore making it an ideal recipe to bring along to a picnic. I especially like the idea that it can be made a day or 2 in advance.

Since I used 8 ears of corn, I’d guesstimate that this recipe would easily serve 8 to 10 people, assuming one average ear per person.

Until my next post, 4 whatever it’s worth…..


Posted by: 4whateveritsworth | July 14, 2012

Kick Up Your Popcorn A Notch

Tired of the same old popcorn? Popping it with an air popper and need a little more flavor, without adding butter? Or are you eating it straight from the bag, but it just needs a little something more to liven it up?

I love popcorn, especially Trader Joe’s Organic Olive Oil Popcorn.  My only pet peeve is that when you get through about 2/3 of the bag, the popcorn is broken into tiny little bits, and no one is interested in finishing the bag.

Give this recipe a try.  It turned the bottom of the bag of popcorn into something that you won’t easily forget.

Whoa Mama, My Mouth’s On Fire Popcorn

Sprinkle a batch of already popped popcorn with a mixture of cayenne pepper, Parmesan cheese and cinnamon.  Go slowly with the cayenne pepper or risk a bit of fire in your mouth.  Next time I will heed my own advice – – whoa, my mouth is still on fire!  You can always add more cayenne pepper, but once it’s added, you can’t take it away.  We started the batch by just adding the cayenne pepper and the Parmesan cheese.  Adding the cinnamon helped balance out the spiciness perfectly.

What are some of your popcorn favorites?

Until my next post, 4 whatever it’s worth…..

Posted by: 4whateveritsworth | July 7, 2012

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers


Quinoa has become my go-to grain.  It’s so versatile. I’ve been known to eat it for breakfast and dinner many days in a row.  It’s so satisfying, and, of course, nutritious! Just Google it to read more about the benefits.

I decided to create a recipe using whatever I had in the fridge.  There’s more than one way to make this recipe, so be creative and add your personal favorites.

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

1 cup of quinoa

2 cups broth (chicken or vegetable) or water

6 peppers (I bought a 6 pack at Costco – – 2 red, 2 yellow, 2 orange)

Grapeseed oil (or any other oil you prefer) (Since we like our food spicy, I also added a drizzle of hot chili oil in addition to the Grapeseed oil)

onion, one whole, chopped (red or yellow, even Vidalia, which are available this time of year)

mushrooms, 8 oz, sliced or chopped

jalapeno pepper, 1 or 2, seeded and chopped (careful not to touch your eyes after you’ve touched the seeds) This can be omitted if you aren’t partial to spicy foods.

carrots, 2, chopped

celery, 2 stalks, chopped

zucchini, 1 medium, chopped

scallions, 4, chopped

garlic, chopped (we LOVE garlic, so I added about 6 cloves)

corn, frozen, fresh or canned, about a cup

tomatoes, a can of diced

salt (optional)


Boil 2 cups of water or broth. Add one cup of quinoa and follow the directions on the box/bag. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes.  Set aside.

Wash the peppers and remove the seeds and stems.  I cut them in half  lengthwise.  Using a large pot, fill it with enough water to cover the peppers.  Bring the water to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Add the peppers and submerge them for about 5 minutes until the peppers have softened.  While still firm, but softer, remove the peppers and shake off excess water.

Using a large skillet, drizzle a small amount of oil to coat the pan. I use  Grapeseed oil which can be heated to a higher temperature for browning the veggies.

Clean and cut all the veggies listed above, and any others you may enjoy.  Gradually add each veggie to the pan, beginning with the onions.  Once the onion softens, add, the mushrooms, followed by the jalapeno pepper, carrots and celery. Continue sauteing the veggies until soft. Next add the zucchini, scallions and garlic, until they begin to soften.  Add the corn and tomatoes until warm.

Add the quinoa, blending the ingredients until well mixed and warmed. Add salt and pepper, as desired.  At this point, you may add any other seasonings or fresh herbs that appeal to your taste-buds.

Now the fun part.  I lined a pan with parchment paper.  Fill each half pepper with the quinoa and veggie mixture.  It was pure luck, but I had the right amount of mixture to fill all 12 pepper halves, mounding the mixture in each.

Bake at 350 degrees until the peppers are soft, and the quinoa mixture is browned and crunchy. This can take 30 minutes to an hour, depending upon your preferences.

Needless to say, this recipe can feed quite a few people.  I found one half was plenty for me, with a side salad. My husband enjoyed 2 halves.  I shared some of the peppers with my parents, and froze some for later use.

Unlike my usual recipes, this one was time-consuming.  The filling is delicious by itself, so when my time is limited, I will skip using the peppers to save a step and some time.

Give it a try. Be creative and let me know what you think.

Right now I am soaking black chick peas. Have you ever used them? I came across a bag of them, and having never heard of them, I decided to give them a try.  Supposedly the shell is a bit tougher. I’m planning to make a batch of hummus. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Until my next post, 4 whatever it’s worth…..

Posted by: 4whateveritsworth | April 29, 2012

Zucchini Bread: A Tried and True Recipe

This recipe is tried and true, one that I’ve been making for 30+ years, given to me by my lifelong friend, Beth.  Typically I make zucchini bread in the early fall when zucchini is abundant, but there’s no reason not to make it all year round. I’m posting this now since my daughter requested it this past week.

As usual, I change many recipes to suit my tastes, so you’ll see the changes noted.

Zucchini Bread

3 eggs
3/4 c. oil (recipe calls for 1 c)
1 1/2 c sugar  (recipe calls for 2 c)
2 tsp vanilla
2 c. coarsely grated zucchini (note – –  2 c = 1 extra-large zucchini)

3 c flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c chopped nuts
(1/2 c raisins or cranberries if desired)

Beat eggs, add sugar, oil, zucchini and vanilla.
Mix well, but lightly.
Add flour sifted with dry ingredients.  Mix to blend, add nuts and raisins.

Bake in either 4 small loaf pans, or 2 long bread pans, or 1 large bundt pan.
You can also make them as cupcakes.
Bake for 45 – 60 minutes at 325 degrees.  The smaller the baking pan, the sooner they are usually done.
With cupcakes and small pans, begin checking at 25 minutes.

*** NOTE: As with most baked goods, you can try using whole wheat flour, part whole wheat and white, adding ground flax meal or almond meal (and similar) in lieu of some flour, etc. This bread freezes well.

Happy nibbling!

Until my next post, 4 whatever it’s worth…..

Posted by: 4whateveritsworth | February 25, 2012

St. Patrick’s Day Is On The Horizon: Time for Irish Soda Bread


With St. Patrick’s Day around the corner, it’s time to share a recipe for Irish Soda Bread. Over the years I have amassed a number of recipes for this delicious cake-like treat. Each recipe is fairly similar, with subtle changes, like substituting buttermilk for milk, increasing or reducing the sugar or salt, incorporating eggs or not, and adding or omitting raisins and caraway seeds. In the end, they are each delicious. Personally, I love incorporating buttermilk (it adds to the richness of the dough) but, if you prefer not to add buttermilk to your grocery list, milk works well.  I also prefer including raisins, and omitting the caraway seeds, but that’s strictly a personal taste. (I recently learned that leftover Buttermilk can be frozen in ice cube trays or by the cup. While it separates slightly when frozen, it is fine when used for baking.)

Quick and Easy Irish Soda Bread

2 c. flour
2 T. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
6 T. butter or Smart Balance
2/3 c. raisins (dark or golden or a mix)
1 c. milk or buttermilk
2 t. caraway seeds (optional)

Combine dry ingredients and mix well. Use a pastry blender or your fingers to incorporate the butter until the mixture resembles the consistency of small peas. Stir in the raisins (and caraway, if desired). Add buttermilk slowly, just enough until the dough is moistened and holds together. It may not require the full cup of buttermilk. Mix thoroughly using your hands (dusted with flour).

Shape the dough into a round loaf on a prepared (greased) cookie sheet. Cut an “X” about 1/4 inch deep and 4 inches long into the batter from edge to edge. Bake at 375 degrees about 40 to 45 minutes until golden brown and the center is firm.

If you do not have the time to bake, check with your local bakery for Irish Soda Bread.  Many bakeries sell them this time of year, and some even carry them year round.


Until my next post, 4 whatever it’s worth…..

I am a traditionalist. There is always at least one recipe that I have to make for each holiday, season or celebration.  The Jewish holiday of Purim is just a few weeks away (March 7th this year), so it’s time to pull out the recipe for hamentashen to be sure we have all the ingredients.

Hamentashen bring me back to my childhood, but probably even more so to when my children were growing up.  We always baked batches of these delicious, triangularly shaped, fruit or poppy seed filled cookies, to share with friends and family. We often invited friends to bake with us. This is a recipe with a number of steps, so we generally created an assembly line. Nowadays, as empty nesters, my husband and I have become a team of two, but we have managed to streamline the process.

We fill our hamentashen with apricot, cherry, prune, chocolate chips, poppy seed, etc. Anything goes.  (Today I read about someone who uses Nutella as a filling. That sounds amazing. Possibly add in some chopped walnuts or hazelnuts.) I usually make my own apricot and prune filling by heating them on the stove, covered with water, until the water is absorbed and the fruit mixture resembles jam. The clear favorites, by far, with family and friends, are the poppy seed hamentashen; we never have enough.

And, by the way, these freeze beautifully.

Feeling ambitious? Give these a try.  If not, you’re bound to see them in the bakeries this time of year.

Hamentashen (triangularly shaped cookies)

4 c. flour
1 c. sugar
3 t.. baking powder
¼ t. salt
4 eggs (blended)
2/3 c. oil
¼ c. orange juice
1 t. lemon extract
Fillings (Please note: While you can easily make fillings from scratch, to cut down on the prep time, you may choose to purchase cans of ready made poppy seed, apricot, cherry, prune, etc in the baking aisle.)

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Add remaining ingredients and stir until smooth and fully incorporated.

Form four balls. Roll out one ball of dough at a time on a lightly floured board until about 1/8 inch thickness. If the dough becomes too soft, store remaining balls in the fridge to firm up. Cut into 3 inch circles using a cup or pastry cutter with a 3 inch diameter. Place 1 heaping teaspoon of filling in the center of each circle. Pinch 3 edges of dough together resulting in the shape of a triangle. Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes until golden.

You’ll be hooked, once you give these a try.

Until my next post, 4 whatever it’s worth…..

Posted by: 4whateveritsworth | February 20, 2012

Cold Sesame Noodles In A Flash

I had a large amount of leftover soba noodles in the fridge and was debating how to make use of them.  We are huge fans of cold sesame noodles, so it seemed like the perfect solution.

Cold Sesame Noodles

12 to 16 ounces of soba noodles, or any whole grain or whole wheat spaghetti
2 tsp sesame oil
3 tbsp natural peanut butter
1/4 c. reduced sodium chicken broth
1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce (add more if needed)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
a sprinkling of red pepper flakes (to taste, optional)
1/2 cup sliced scallions (optional)
snow pea pods or sugar snap pea pods (optional)
black pepper to taste

Cook the soba noodles or spaghetti according to package directions. Drain the soba noodles, and toss with sesame oil.

In a small bowl, stir together peanut butter, chicken broth, soy sauce, sugar, and rice wine vinegar. Add red pepper flakes, if desired. After the sauce is mixed thoroughly, add other optional ingredients and pepper to taste.

Pour the sauce on the pasta and mix well to coat. Serve hot, cold or at room temperature.

These are a winner every time!

Until my next post, 4 whatever it’s worth…..

Posted by: 4whateveritsworth | February 7, 2012

There’s Nothing Like Homemade Gifts

If you are a lifetime crafter, like I am, it’s often hard to justify purchasing items I admire while shopping.  I often hear myself saying, “I can make that”. Not that I always do, but if it really catches my eye, I might “borrow” or re-invent the idea.

My mother turned 85 recently.  Just what could she possibly need at her stage of life?  Generally, whatever I make for  myself or someone else, she often requests that I “whip one up” for her.  So this time, I focused on her particular tastes and created a necklace with a leopard print. She can’t get enough of those animal prints.  It’s a bit of joke, but honestly I can’t think of an item of clothing that she is lacking with an animal print, especially leopard. She has them all, pocketbooks, shoes, coats, jackets, shirts, scarves, you get the idea.

I happened upon a silk-like scarf with a leopard print while walking through Target.  I had no clue what I’d make, but it seemed like a good starting point.  I looked at some of my favorite crafting websites and blogs, and perused Pinterest and YouTube.

Eventually I decided to try my hand at making rosettes.  I’ve always wanted to experiment, and they certainly didn’t appear to be particularly difficult.  Leopard rosettes, huh? Well, whether you or I are fans, or not, I knew someone would be ecstatic.

So, after a few tries, and ultimately polishing my technique, I created a number of rosettes, choosing 3 for a necklace.  Since I hadn’t used up all the scarf remnants, I was able to cover a curtain tie back with the remaining fabric, and use that for the base of the necklace. I needed something sizable to firmly support the rosettes.

Needless to say, it was a huge hit.  What do you think? (Be nice now.)

Until my next post, 4 whatever it’s worth…..

Posted by: 4whateveritsworth | February 1, 2012

Chili: A Super Bowl Sunday Crowd Pleaser

I have countless recipes for chili: all bean, all veggie, with meat, with turkey, you name it. I like each recipe, but this one, which we are constantly tweaking, is always a winner. The best part about chili is that it is hard to ruin, easy to prepare, and it feeds a crowd. It can easily be doubled. And, if you find yourself with leftovers, freeze and enjoy them for a time when your schedule is keeping you too busy to cook.

Chocolaty Chili

2 T. canola oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 lb. ground beef or ground turkey (I use turkey)

One 16 oz can kidney beans, drained

One 16 oz can tomato puree

One 6 oz can tomato paste

1 c. corn (frozen, fresh, or canned – – more is fine)

One 4 oz can chopped green chili peppers, seeded and drained, OR 2 whole chipotle peppers, OR 1/2 tsp ground chipotle peppers (I prefer the ground chipotle peppers)

1/2 c water

3 T unsweetened cocoa (add more to taste)

2 T chili powder (add more to taste)

Chips (optional)

Brown rice (optional)

Shredded low-fat cheddar cheese (optional)

In a large skillet, heat the oil and sauté the onion and garlic until tender. Add ground meat and cook over medium heat until evenly browned. Drain excess fat.

Stir in kidney beans, tomato puree, tomato paste, corn, ground chipotle peppers (or other choice), water, cocoa, and chili powder. Mix well and simmer for 30 minutes uncovered. Adjust seasonings to taste.

This chili can be prepared a day ahead or early on Super Bowl Sunday and later reheated. The flavors are enhanced with time. Eat it by the bowlful. Serve with chips or rice, sprinkled with grated cheddar cheese.

Now, get ready for some terrific Super Bowl commercials – – oh, and the game, too!

Until my next post, 4 whatever it’s worth…..

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