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April 21, 2014
by Emily Klopstein
2 Comments

Earth Day Cocktails with Organic Tequila

This post was supposed to have photos.

OK, so several weeks ago, Casa Noble tequila sent me some samples and a gift card to Whole Foods to help me come up with a great cocktail recipe for you guys for Earth Day, because Casa Noble tequila is all organic!

Cool, right?  I mean, you guys know I am all over that.  An organic, Margarita-esque experience?  Bring it on!

Check this out:

Casa Noble ultra premium tequila begins with carefully selected mature Blue Agave plants, which have met our strict requirements for water and sugar content.

We employ only traditional methods and slow cook our rich agave piñas for 38 hours in stove ovens. Then, using only the core and heart of the agaves, we extract our sweet nectar. Our fermentation process is 100% natural, followed by triple distillation. The result is a tequila so pure and full of Agave flavor that it has elevated the concept of tequila to new levels around the world.

And they’re absolutely right: This tequila is very fruity—almost sweet in and of itself.  It didn’t need anything too cloyingly sweet, so I decided to mix it up a bit with some exciting flavors.

And I did!  And it was REALLY pretty.  I mean, really pretty.  Pink fizz.  Green freckles.  Pretty!

I set up my photo shoot, and took pictures!  Because all blog posts (or at least the ones about food and PRETTY COCKTAILS) are better with pictures, right?

And they have disappeared.

*SIGH*

So here is the tequila:

tequila

(Super cute tiny bottles, right?)

And here is the grapefruit juice, all ready to turn my cocktail a frothy, beautiful pink:

grapefruit_juice

And here’s the finished cocktail!

 

 

 

*SIGH*

Just make it and see for yourself.  It’s as tasty as it is pretty.

Ruby Fizz

Ingredients

  • 1 T tarragon leaves
  • 1 oz Casa Noble Reposado tequila
  • 2 oz fresh squeezed grapefruit juice (Ruby Red is best!)
  • 2–3 T simple syrup or agave nectar, to taste
  • 3–4 oz La Croix grapefruit-flavored soda water or club soda
  • salt and ice to serve

Instructions

  1. Rim glass with salt if desired. In a glass, muddle the tarragon leaves. Add tequila, juice, and simple syrup and stir to combine. Add ice, then pour soda over the drink. Garnish with additional tarragon if desired.
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Make your own Yogurt from LaughingLemonPie.com

April 14, 2014
by Emily Klopstein
1 Comment

Make your own yogurt (Really!?)

Make your own Yogurt from LaughingLemonPie.comSeems like every food magazine or cookbook I open these days touts the ease and joy of making your own yogurt. Wait – What? WHY? I couldn’t see the logic so I thought I should try for myself (and for you!) to answer some basic questions: Is it worth it? Does it taste good? Is it safe? What’s the cost relative to buying in-store?

I’m going to move the bottom line up here to the top, since the rest of the post (spoiler alert!!) gives all the details and is intricate, technical, and honestly probably a bit underwhelming.

Bottom Line:

Yes, it does “work” – you can make something approximating yogurt. And definitely at least you can easily make something kinda like kefir.

No, it won’t kill you (or, I should say, it hasn’t killed me…yet!).

No, it’s not as simple as “they” would have you believe.

No, I don’t have all the answers (on this or any other matter frankly).

No, I doubt I’ll be doing it again soon.

Yes, it was a fun experiment. Thanks for asking.

Cost effective? Yeeeaaah…about half price or more if you commit to recycling your starter. Price depends on the milk and yogurt you use (organic or not, on sale or not), and how many failed attempts and experiments it takes to get it close to your personal yogurt ideal. Since it is so hands-off I’m not counting the cost of time – it is very labor un-tense. The savings here comes if you are a religious yogurt-eater. The worth comes into play if you are super committed to knowing exactly precisely what you are eating. If you eat yogurt daily and like the piece of mind knowing that it is made with the milk of your choice (and not much else) it might be worth your while to try. The savings on a weekly basis weren’t compelling enough for me personally, but of course if you extrapolate a week’s worth of yogurt savings across a year…well then you might get a number that’ll motivate you to DIY.

And of course, let’s not forget that making your own yogurt benefits the planet in that there’s no shipping, packaging, recycling, etc.

Luckily I don’t live with a scientist — Lacy says: “I don’t think I’m ever going to make my own yogurt unless the zombie apocalypse comes and I can no longer buy my favorite Greek yogurt at the store.  My husband is a scientist, and his courses on immunology, parasitological, and microbiology turned him into something of a germaphobe. He has put his foot down: no fermenting milk products on the counter.” Ah ignorance! It’s bliss.

There are 101 different recipes and techniques out there, I used 2 – one from a Jamie Oliver cookbook and ultimately had success with a recipe from IFR Daily. I’d recommend googling or searching pinterest and you’ll find a wealth of ideas, opinions, and recipes. Find one that doesn’t seem too far out to you, or one for which you already have the equipment.

And here comes the fine print….

Cost analysis: 32 ounces of DIY yogurt starts with 1 quart of milk (4 cups) and 3-4T yogurt. After you get your first successful batch your cost is only 1 quart of milk if you keep it going by recycling the last 4T of batch 1 to incubate and create batch 2. In the Denver-metro milks range from $.77 pq (per quart) up to $2.24 pq. Yogurt prices range from 12-24 cents per 4 Tablespoons. So cost per 32 ounces could be anywhere between $.89-$2.48. Detailed milk and yogurt price comparison is waaaay down at the bottom in case you enjoy that kind of thing.

Skeptical Homemade Yogurt from LaughingLemonPie.comAttempt #1 – I Can’t Believe it’s Not Yogurt!

For starters I followed a Jamie Oliver recipe – heated the milk (2% lucerne non-organic quarts on sale $1) to boiling, then let it cool to 107degrees. Whisked in 4 heaped Tablespoons yogurt (mountain high non-organic plain lowfat), put a lid on the pot, then let it sit on the stovetop. Started at 9:15am. After 6 hours it looked the same as at 9:15. By 5:30pm (8.25 hours) you could see something happening – thin yogurt on the bottom, milky top. Same look after 9 hours at 6:20pm. 8:33pm same thing, smelled like yogurt. By 10:30pm (13.25 hours) I had to go to bed so put the lidded pot it in the fridge. The result? It ended up like keifer in consistency. And I used it like keifer – in blueberry smoothies. The 4 cups milk resulted in 4 cups of keifer. $1.15 expenditure.

Attempt #2 – Debatable Yogurt

I foolishly still and again followed Jamie Oliver’s recipe, though I didn’t boil the milk rigorously – I let it heat to just below/before a boil (175 degrees). Then let it cool down to 106 degrees. I used Longmont Dairy (non-organic) 2% milk and FAGE greek plain yogurt. The FAGE was on sale for $1, not organic. The 4T needed used almost the whole little container’s worth. 4 cups of Longmont Dairy (non-organic) milk costs $1.44 plus the $1 yogurt and this attempt cost nearly as much as buying 32 oz of non organic yogurt from the store. This time I did the overnight method. Mixed in the yogurt at 6pm, and put it up on the stovetop til 6:30am. After those 12.5 hours the yogurt was much firmer than attempt #1, but still just on the bottom. On top was a milky layer. The yogurt beneath held together much better, seemed much yogurty-er. At 8:15am (14.25 hours later) I put it in a container and then into the fridge. The result? Still keifer-y. Used it mostly in smoothies, it wasn’t quite thick enough to stand up to granola/berries, etc. $2.44 expenditure.

Make your own Yogurt from LaughingLemonPie.comAttempt #3 – SUCCESS!

This was the first attempt with organic milk, and a different method thanks to inspiration and advice from IFR Daily. Safeway O Organics ultra pasteurized 2% milk for $5.50 (on sale, with coupon). So the milk cost was $1.37 for the 4 cups needed to make 32 oz yogurt. Got a small tub of Stonyfield Organic for 89cents. This time I used 4 cups milk to just 3 heaping tablespoons of yogurt. Other innovations – glass jars, using the microwave to heat the milk, and using the oven light to keep the culture warm overnight. Microwaved the milk in a big glass bowl for 7 minutes – in 1 minute intervals, stirring between minutes – it came out at 149 degrees. Let it cool to 114 degrees. Whisked in the 3T yogurt. Put in oven on a cookie sheet, in pre-warmed glass jars (I filled them with hot water first) with lids at 9:50pm in the back of the oven right up next to the (on) oven light. 6am check up – jars still very warm! And things looked very yogurty in there! Left them in another few hours, removed to frig. The result? Tasty tasty stuff. Very much like store-bought. $1.85 expenditure (approximate).

Milks range from $.77 pq (per quart) up to $2.24 pq:

Sprouts non-organic Milk $3.49/gallon, all kinds = .87 per quart, Sprouts Organic gallons all $5.69 = 1.42 pq. Organic Valley at Sprouts $4.49 1/2 gallon = 2.24 pq. Safeway O Organics $5.49 sale gallon, 1/2 gallon 2.99 = 1.37-1.49 pq, Safeway Lucerne quarts (non organic) on sale for $1 each, Lucerne 1/2 Gal $2.19, gall $3.39 = .84-1.19 pq. Longmont Dairy (non organic but delivered and comes in glass bottles that get washed and reused…)$1.44-2.24 pq. Target house brand Simply Balanced Organic $2.54 per 1/2 gallon (coupon for $1 off dropped that down to $1.54 – a steal!) = .77-1.27 pq. Target non-organic gallons $3.29 per = .82 pq. Horizon Organic: at Sprouts 1/2 gall $3.49 sale, Gallon $6.49 = 1.62 pq; at Safeway $3.99 1/2 gallon = 1.99 pq; at Target $2.79 1/2 gallon, $7.99 per gallon = 1.4-1.99 pq.

Yogurt prices (in cp4T – cents per 4 Tablespoons) – ranges from 12-24 cp4T:

Mountain High (non-organic) at Safeway $2.99 on sale plus a doubled 50cent off manufacturer coupon makes 32 oz $1.99 = 12 cents for 4T. Safeway’s Lucerne (non-organic) yogurts $2.09 per 32 oz = 12.5 cp4T. Safeway O organics plain lowfat $3.29 per 32 oz = 19.7 cp4T.  At Vitamin Cottage/Natural Grocers Straus Organic on sale $3.29 = 19.7 cp4T; Wallaby Organic $3.45 = 20.7 cp4T; Stonyfield Organic $3.49 per 32 oz = 21 cp4T. Horizon Organic 32 oz at Costco $3.59 = 21.54 cp4T. And finally Nancy’s Organic at Vit Cott/Nat Groc $3.99= 24 cp4T.

Thai Beef Salad Gluten-Free & Paleo | Laughinglemonpie.com

April 7, 2014
by Lacy
0 comments

Thai Salad (Gluten-Free and Paleo)

When I was a college student in Santa Fe, I worked for a local kitchen store and cooking school called Las Cosas. There were lots of perks of working in a kitchen store for a budding foodie, not the least of which was that, if one of the cooking classes didn’t sell out, and we weren’t already scheduled to be working, we could attend that class for free.

Cool, right?

One of my favorites was a Southeast Asian cooking class where we learned to make this Thai pork salad that I made for my first-ever Google hangout video!

Love that recipe.  It’s super easy and impressive.

And I just figured out how to make it BETTER.

How, you ask?  Why, by using leftover meat (in this case, beef, but pork or chicken would also work) to make it EVEN FASTER.  Check it out:

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Freezing Avocados on LaughingLemonPie.com

March 31, 2014
by Emily Klopstein
3 Comments

Freezing Avocados…Whole!

Didja know you can freeze avocados?

I garnered that tidbit many moons ago from Martha Stewart. Avocados have such a high fat content so, like butter, they freeze superbly. Now, she and everyone else on the internet suggest freezing them in bags without the skin or pit – either halved or pureed/smushed like for guacamole. Avocados are a big time grocery store flyer sale item here – when they were on sale last week I did an experiment…could I freeze one whole?Freezing Avocados on LaughingLemonPie.com

I’ve seen a lot of posts about folks freezing the scooped out halves in ziptop bags, or freezing pureed or smashed avocado in bags which I’ve done in the past myself. But I’ve been trying to cut down on plastic bag use around here and I thought how simple would it be to just plop them whole into the freezer!

The good news is that it worked! After about a week in the freezer, I pulled the avocado out and let it sit on the counter for perhaps an hour – then I lost my patience, couldn’t wait any longer! The outside felt super soft and squishy, I was worried it was a bust. But in fact the avocado was still frozen in the center (making it hard to halve, as evidenced by the avo-massacre photo to the right). Freezing Avocados on LaughingLemonPie.comMy daughter ate half on the spot, scooped out with a baby spoon, with gusto. I had the other half shortly after in a burrito bowl type lunch concoction. It was great!

Now, it would never be mistaken for a fresh avocado. It would make a sub-par guac. But it was simple, convenient, and a great way to stock up on a sale item. So for the purposes of chopped salad, burritos, tacos, and the like I say go for it! Next time avocados are on sale in your neck of the woods give this a try! No baggie needed – just toss the whole ripe glorious fruit in the freezer.

PS: you do know that you can put them in the fridge too, right? If you have an avocado that ripened faster than you anticipated you can refrigerate it until you are ready to consume. Refrigerated avocados come out just as scrumptious as the fresh ones in your fruit bowl.

You know that saying that beer is proof that God loves us? I’m pretty sure avocados fall into that category as well.

Lentils in Your Rice Cooker from LaughingLemonPie.com

March 17, 2014
by Emily Klopstein
0 comments

Lentils in the Rice Cooker!

Confession — I can’t make rice.

I can cook you Beef Bourguignon, great scones, posole, and even stellar Chinese food (thanks Grace Young!) — but rice? Nope. Maybe that’s because I have a rice cooker? If I didn’t I would have figured it out by now…right? Maybe. I’m doubtful. Maybe my stovetop rice isn’t that bad – it’s imperfections are probably within the realm of normal. But after years of every-grain-perfect-every-time…well, you lose perspective.

So, yes, I have a rice cooker and use it often. However, I use it 3 times as often now that I’ve discovered I can use it to make lentils. Another confession — I don’t know how to make lentils. Except in the rice cooker. The world is indeed a topsy turvy place — but if you find a hack why learn it the long way round?

Quite simply — you can cook lentils in your rice cooker! Or…I should say I cook lentils in my rice cooker and highly recommend that you give it a try.

Each machine is different and God knows they don’t make my last-century model any longer. But I say give it a go! It costs pennies. (Unless it somehow messes up your rice cooker. In which case…I’m sorry!) Brilliant and simple. Takes time, but no effort.

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Apricot & Carrot Oatmeal Cookies from LaughingLemonPie.com

March 3, 2014
by Emily Klopstein
2 Comments

Apricot & Carrot Oatmeal Cookies

We all have our own opinions of hidden/hiding vegetables…but we can agree these are just yummy! Whether you advertize the addition of carrot or don’t even mention it, they’re simply scrumptious and a great way to add a fruit and veg to snacktime, breakfast, dessert, whenever.

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake | LaughingLemonPie.com

February 21, 2014
by Lacy
2 Comments

Gratitude Friday: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake

We got some amazing news this week: The results from my dad’s first bone marrow biopsy post-transplant shows NO remaining cancer!!!  Apart from the birth of my child, this is the closest I’ve ever been to a real live miracle.

Also, my little monkey had her first ballet class this week. I swear—is there anything cuter than a toddler in a ballet outfit? I’m not sure there is! ;)

What I’m reading:

Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating with More Than 75 Recipes.

It’s Bittman’s “vegan ’til 6pm” plan, in which the veteran food writer didn’t give up his foodie lifestyle of eating out, testing recipes, and reviewing restaurants, but rather made it a rule that he eats mostly vegan (a little milk in coffee or butter in a recipe is OK) during the day, and then eats “normally” at night.

I’m trying it out for a while!  So far I’m really liking it.

 

What I’m cooking:

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake | LaughingLemonPie.com

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake with Chocolate Glaze — I made this beauty as a Valentine’s gift for my hubby.  It went over pretty well. Super grateful for this! ;) Not hard, but lots of steps! The key to a cheesecake that doesn’t crack: have all your ingredients at room temperature when you start.

Eggplant Couscous Salad — Eggplant’s on sale this week in my neck of the woods, and I wanted something different from my traditional ratatouille or Chinese eggplant.

Chicken and Spinach Casserole — This was our Valentine’s Day supper (had to save room for that cheesecake!).  It was very creamy—and you could easily substitute fat-free half and half to cut the calories—but I agree with one of the comments on the recipe that was a tiny bit bland. I might add red pepper flakes next time.

So what’s up in your world? What are you eating or reading or doing? What are you grateful for? I’d love to hear about it!!

Kale & Sausage Soup from LaughingLemonPie.com

February 17, 2014
by Emily Klopstein
1 Comment

Economical & Expeditious: Greens, Beans, & Sausage soup

Kale, Italian Sausage, & White Bean Soup. Collard Greens, Andouille, and Kidney Bean Soup. Spinach, Chicken Sausage, and White Bean Soup. Get it? Sound good? A very easy and budget-friendly dinner option.

I thought about titling this “quick & cheap,” but greens have such a reputation to uphold these days! Any variation featuring this health foodie darling du jour will run you just about $1.30 per serving depending on how many ingredients you get on sale, whether you go organic, if you use canned or dried beans, and if you use your own homemade chicken or vegetable broth. Once this recipe is in your toolkit you can just stock up on the ingredients as they go on sale and always have them on hand.

It takes only about 15 minutes start-to-finish if you chop the onion and garlic while the sausage browns. Then again, if you want to make it at 5pm and keep it on the stove til 7pm it holds up to that as well. This is such a winter go-to for us, and a freezer-filler-upper. Have some little grilled cheese sandwiches on the side, or just a plain old crusty loaf of bread!

Kale & Sausage Soup from LaughingLemonPie.com

Greens, Beans, & Sausage soup

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 6 servings, more or less

Ingredients

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2-8 cloves garlic, chopped - your preference, and depends how garlic-y your choice of sausage is.
  • some kind of herb...thyme? Depends on the flavors you enjoy, and those already in your sausage.
  • 1-1.5 lb sausage, bulk or links
  • 2-4 cups broth – chicken or veg broth…Stretch 2 cups of broth by adding 2 cups of water, use as much or as little liquid to achieve your vision of ideal soup/stew consistency.
  • 10-20 oz greens, fresh or frozen. Wash fresh green, cut out the ribs, then chop or cut into ribbons.
  • 2 15 oz cans beans, rinsed
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Optional add-ins: barley, pasta, more/other beans, additional fresh or frozen veg

Instructions

  1. Heat 2 glugs of olive oil in a soup pot or sauté pan (saute pans have high straight sides, I like to do the whole recipe in a large sauté pan).
  2. Squeeze sausage out of casings if using links. Brown the sausage, and break it up into as big or small of chunks as you prefer - about 8-10 minutes.
  3. Add the chopped/sliced onion & garlic, and any herbs or seasonings. Let them all get it on for about 5 minutes on medium heat.
  4. Add broth – scrape/rub the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release all that flavor.
  5. Add the beans and greens.
  6. Turn the heat down and let the whole mess marry for anywhere from 5 minutes to however long it takes for your dining companion to come home. If using barley or pasta don’t let them sit in the soup longer than their cooking time. For maximum flavor you could cook the pasta or barley in the soup so it absorbs the flavor - but then be sure not to overcook pasta in soup or it'll eventually dissolve. Of course you could cook them separately (or use leftovers) and add 5 minutes prior to eating so they have time to heat up and be incorporated.
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For me this recipe amounted to 6 servings – we ate 2, then froze two bags of two servings for later enjoyment.

A few notes on sale prices:

Frozen organic kale is available at Whole foods for $2.69 per 16oz bag. I paid 99cents per 8oz fresh non-organic (inorganic?) kale while fresh organic kale bunches were on sale 2/$3 at Sprouts. So the 16oz frozen organic costs less than $3 for fresh organic kale on sale. All grocers carry frozen spinach, some better than others. Frozen collard greens can be found at major grocers, and frozen organic collard greens at Whole Foods. Using frozen greens? No prob – you don’t have to thaw them in advance, just drop ‘em in and give them time to reclaim their yumminess.

Around here chicken sausage goes on sale for $1.99, and pork sausage for $2.99 per pound. Use as much or as little sausage as your budget and palate dictate.

I routinely buy cans of beans on sale for about 60cents a can, you could potentially save more by using dried beans and soaking overnight ahead of time.

To stretch this recipe and make it even more economical consider adding pasta, barley, maybe even some rice. For me the beans are starch enough, but that’s just me. Don’t like beans? Skip them and substitute pasta, barley, etc. Make it work for you!

Random Note: My Dad gifted me a ground meat browning tool. It is by far the most ridiculous thing, I am loathe to recommend it. And yet…what tool do you suppose gets used at least once a week? Wouldn’tcha knowit?!The Chop Stir via Amazon I can’t even remember how I browned ground meat before. Honestly.

Found a better deal on any of these ingredients? Please post below to share with the community!

Can you come up with another combination? Let us know so we can share the yum!

February 10, 2014
by Lacy
2 Comments

Eating for Health and Pleasure: The Pleasure Diet

I have a big problem whenever I’m faced with the idea of going on a “diet:”

I’m just not willing to give up entire food groups.

For a long time, I thought this was a flaw in my personality.  I thought that I just didn’t have the willpower to want to give up brownies, or sugar, or gluten, or butter, or meat, or whatever.  I thought there was something basically wrong with me that I didn’t want to eat fake “replacement” foods like banana “ice cream” or healthy cookies.

Then, after my daughter was born, I decided that I was going to try to lose weight and still eat all my favorite foods.  And I did it. I lost 36 pounds on Weight Watchers eating butter and chocolate chip cookies and reviewing restaurants by watching my portions and exercising.

And then a lot of stuff happened in my life. It got easier to slip back into old habits than to count points.  And I’ve gained back about 8 pounds.

Not the end of the world, but enough that I found myself, once again, looking at diets.

Diets.  Ugh.

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