Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Seductively Healthy Valentine’s Dinner

What can you do to make a special Valentine’s Day dinner for your sweetie? Make it hot, make it healthy, and make it easy!

Studies show that spicy foods can raise your heart rate, cause flushing, and generally mimic some of the effects of sexual stimulation. For centuries, chiles and other heat-inducing ingredients have been added to love potions and other sensual aids to increase desire.

What’s a better aphrodisiac than showing someone that you love them enough to prepare deliciously healthy foods? Pomegranates, those exotic fruits containing a multitude of sensual, fleshy seeds inside a thick rind, not only offer a luscious crimson color but also come packed with antioxidants and phytochemicals.

Try this fabulously different recipe on your honey for Valentine’s Day. It’s sweet, spicy, inherently healthy, and couldn’t be easier to prepare or clean up.

Piri-Piri Pomegranate Chicken
“Piri-Piri” is an African term for hot and spicy. Control the amount of fire by adjusting the amount of cayenne pepper. This recipe is presented as mild-to-medium heat.

Olive oil
1 cup parboiled brown rice
1 cup water or broth
2–3 pieces chicken
1/2 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses*
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp. cayenne
Salt, to taste
18-20 Brussels sprouts, trimmed with shallow “x” cut into stem end
1-1/2 cup baby carrots, halved
1 cup oyster mushrooms, sliced thickly
Seeds from 1/2 pomegranate

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Spray or wipe the inside of a 2-quart Dutch oven and lid with olive oil.

Pour rice into pot and add liquid. Stir gently to coat grains and smooth into an even layer. Set chicken pieces on top in a single layer.

In a small bowl, mix together ketchup, honey, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, garlic, and cayenne pepper. Drizzle 1/2 mixture over top of chicken. Drop in Brussels sprouts and carrots and add the remaining mixture. Top with mushrooms and pomegranate seeds. Cover and bake for about 45 minutes or about 3 minutes after the aroma wafts from the oven. Serves 2.

You can use any combination of boneless, bone-in, skinless, or skin-on chicken pieces in this recipe.

* Look for pomegranate molasses in Middle Eastern markets or specialty or health food groceries.

Elizabeth Yarnell is author of the award-winning cookbook, Glorious One-Pot Meals: A new quick & healthy approach to Dutch oven cooking. Visit her at

Organic Chocolate Marshmallow Cream Cupcakes

Making some delectable chocolate goodness for your loved one could be the perfect route to the heart!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Here are some great drink recipes from Jay Esopenko and Melissa Gugni, owners of Drink. Event Bartending in San Francisco, to celebrate Valentine’s Day!

Love Potion #12

2 oz. organic 100% pomegranate juice
1 1/2 oz. Square One™ organic vodka
1/2 organic blood orange, squeezed
1/2 lime, squeezed
1/4 to 1/2 oz. simple syrup (50% raw sugar–50% water, dissolved)
Cranberries for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake vigorously for 10 seconds and strain into a cocktail glass. Float 3 fresh cranberries for garnish.

Raspberry Bliss (non-alcoholic)
6 organic raspberries
2 sprigs of fresh organic thyme
1/2 organic Meyer lemon
1/2 oz. simple syrup (50% raw sugar–50% water dissolved)
3 oz. sparkling water

Remove the leaves from 1 sprig of thyme and add with 5 raspberries to a shaker. Muddle. Add lemon juice, simple syrup and ice. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds and strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Top with sparkling water and garnish with the remaining raspberry and the remaining sprig of thyme.

Earthbound Farm’s Famous Maple Almond Granola

4 1/2 cups (18 ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shelled, raw, unsalted sunflower seeds
1 1/2 cups slivered or coarsely chopped raw almonds
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 1/4 cups pure maple syrup, preferably Grade A Dark Amber
1/3 cup canola oil
1 cup raisins

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F.
2. Place the oats, sunflower seeds, almonds, and cinnamon in a large bowl and stir to combine. Add the maple syrup and oil and stir until all the dry ingredients are moistened.
3. Spread the granola on a roughly 12 by 17–inch rimmed baking sheet. Bake the granola until it begins to brown, about 25 minutes, then stir it with a flat spatula. Let the granola continue to bake until it is light golden brown, dry, and fragrant, 15 to 20 minutes longer. Stir the granola at least once more as it bakes and watch it carefully during the final minutes because it can burn quickly.
4. Place the baking sheet on a cooling rack, add the raisins, and stir to combine. Let the granola cool completely. Transfer the granola to an airtight container. It can be stored at room temperature for up to 1 month or frozen for up to 6 months. You can serve the granola straight from the freezer. It doesn’t get hard and it thaws almost instantly—just pour on some milk.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Are You a Chocolate Lover?

During the Valentine season, chocolate sales increase immensely. Teach your kids and others around you the importance of buying Fair Trade chocolate. Log onto to get the details!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Cookin' Couscous

Couscous has been popular among many different cultures, one of the first written recipes for couscous is found in a 13th century Hispano–Muslim cookbook, which references the recipe as "known all over the world.” Many people think of couscous as Middle Eastern or Mediterranean in origin, but it is really from Western Africa, where details of cooking and making couscous date back to the 10th century. Today, couscous remains a staple in Moroccan, Tunisian, and Algerian cuisine.

Couscous is a relative and increasingly popular newcomer to the American family table and menus. The increasing interest in the U.S. in vegetarian and ethnic cuisines accounts for much of this new exposure. Couscous is pasta that is made from semolina (coarsely ground durum wheat). It is considered an unrefined carbohydrate, which is a great source of energy for the body. In addition, couscous is also low in fat, a good source of fiber, and contains some protein.

Couscous has a subtle taste that is slightly nutty. It is a great substitute for rice with many meals and is a nice accompaniment to many different cuisines.

Age to introduce: 10–12 months (cooked)

Toddler Treat:
Sand Castles

Just the name of this side dish is cool enough for a little kid to give it a try, and the great taste will keep ’em digging in.


  • 1/2 cup frozen peas and carrots blend

  • 1 box (5–6 oz.) of couscous

  • 1 (14 oz.) can vegetable broth

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 small ramekin or small glass cup (this will be the mold for your castle)


Cook peas and carrots according to the package directions. Prepare couscous according the package directions, but substitute the same amount of broth for the amount of water called for on the package. Add additional water to the can of broth if package instructions call for additional liquid. After fluffing the couscous with a fork, add the olive oil and the peas and carrots mixture to the couscous and mix gently.

To make the sand castles: Simply spoon the couscous mixture into the ramekin or glass cup and pack the mixture down using the back of the spoon. Place a dinner plate over the top of the ramekin and turn the plate over, gently remove the ramekin. VoilĂ , a sand castle!
Makes 4 servings.

Couscous for the Family

At the market: Couscous can be found in the rice or pasta section of grocery stores. It is also commonly sold in the bulk section of stores, too. Couscous is available in plain, flavored, and organic varieties. Common brands of couscous include Near East, Kasbah, and Rice Select.

The most-typical type of couscous is the tiny-grain form. Israeli couscous, or pearl couscous, is a larger version. If you'd like to give Israeli couscous a try, you'll find it in a specialty market.

Storage: Store couscous in a sealed container or box in the pantry.

Preparation: Couscous is a terrific rice substitute, and it prepares in about one-fifth the time. Most packages include cooking directions, but here is the basic preparation guideline. Boil water or stock. Stir in couscous. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand about 5 minutes. Remove cover and fluff with a fork. Serve.

Hint: Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the couscous to prevent it from being too dry.

Here are some quick ideas to add couscous into your family meals:

Endless variations
After fluffing the prepared couscous with a fork, you can add a few simple ingredients to take couscous from bland to gourmet. The possibilities are endless, but here are few simple suggestions:

  • Chopped black olives, chopped cashews, and halved cherry tomatoes

  • Roasted peppers and chopped fresh chives

  • Chickpeas, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, and chopped cilantro

  • Lentils, green peas, and 1/2 teaspoon cumin

  • Chopped marinated artichokes and crumbled feta cheese

  • Black beans (rinsed), cooked corn, 1 tablespoon lime juice, and chopped cilantro

Make a couscous bed

If you are grilling fresh fish or shrimp, serve it on a bed of citrus-infused couscous. Make couscous according to the package. After you fluff it with a fork, add 2 tablespoons of orange juice, a can of mandarin oranges (drained), and 2 tablespoons of chopped chives. Garnish with slivered almonds or pine nuts.

Couscous and Fresh Spinach
An excellent accompaniment to grilled lamb, beef, or portobello mushrooms, this dish is the ideal mix of sweet, salty, and crunchy.


  • 1 (6 oz.) box couscous

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1/4 cup raisins

  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts

  • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves, lightly chopped

  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Make couscous according to package directions, adding 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Fluff couscous with a fork. Add the raisins, pine nuts, spinach, garlic salt, and cinnamon. Cover for 3–5 minutes or until the spinach has wilted. Serve.

Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers are sisters, the mothers of five children and founders of Fresh Baby. Visit them at and subscribe to their Fresh Ideas newsletter. Fresh Baby Baby Food Kits and other products are available at many fine specialty stores and national chains including Target, Wild Oats, and Whole Foods Markets.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Family Dinner: Quick and Easy

Everyone enjoys homemade meals, but few of us have the time to devote to home-cooking. Preparing your own food allows you better control over the quality of ingredients that go into each meal. Cooking at home gives you the option of selecting high-quality fresh organic ingredients for you and your family. Takeout and pre-package meals are generally much higher in fat, salt, and calories than their distant-relative: the old-fashioned home-cooked meal.

So, put on a little music, do a little planning, and get in the habit of cooking at home! Here are few tips to get you started:

  • Invest in a slow cooker. This is fabulous piece of equipment for busy families. You can prepare your main dish in the morning and come home to a delicious, ready-to-eat meal.

  • Buy a few cookbooks that focus on simpler cooking techniques, such as 30-minute meals, slow cooker recipes, or five ingredients or less. These types of books are geared toward getting meals on the table quickly and easily. Look for books that offer shortcuts, prewritten shipping lists, and menu ideas.

  • Plan your menus and make a grocery list. These two steps require finding spare time, but they will save it in the long run.

  • Buy prewashed veggies in the produce section of stores. The clean and prep is often the most time-consuming part of cooking.

  • Buy “no cook” items like apples, pears, avocadoes, tomatoes. A fruit plate or veggie salad makes a terrific side dish.

  • Make extra for leftovers—leftovers make great lunches and snacks. If you’re making a family favorite, double the recipe and freeze a portion for next week.

  • Set aside time on the weekends to make foods in advance and freeze them. Connect with a friend, double the recipes, and split up the meals for both families.

  • Share the burden. Team up with a friend and have a family dinner at their house one night and switch to your house on another. For a different twist on the same concept, divide up the menu between families and share the work.

  • Don’t schedule your kids’ day out so heavily that it intrudes on time to prepare dinner. Instead invite the kids into the kitchen and teach them a few things about cooking — it’s a life skill that they will certainly thank you for some day!

  • Keep it simple. There is no need to strive for gourmet every day. It is often the simpler dishes that have the best flavors too.

Aside from having the benefit of knowing that fresh, organic ingredients are going into your meals, you will spend valuable time in the kitchen and around the table with your family—even if it is quick and easy!

Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers are sisters, the mothers of five children and founders of Fresh Baby. Visit them at and subscribe to their Fresh Ideas newsletter. Fresh Baby Baby Food Kits and other products are available at many fine specialty stores and national chains including Target, Wild Oats, and Whole Foods Markets.