Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil Review

I first began using Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil in the Fall of 2011 when I received a 32 oz. jar of their Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil to sample.

I was a bit confused by it at first… it seemed solid at room temperature and cooler, and I learned that in this form it is referred to as coconut butter… when gently warmed, it liquifies and becomes coconut oil.  Have you been confused by that, too?

Feb 25 coconut butter

Either way,  I liked it immediately and  I developed some new recipes in my galley just to make use  of it:

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and included them in a review of the product I published at that time.  I also submitted them to Tropical Traditions for inclusion on their web site.

Since then, Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil has replaced olive oil in my cooking and my baking on a regular basis.  I really prefer the taste and I particularly like that this coconut oil can handle the higher heat required when stir frying veggies and browning roasts.  It is great to use in frying things such as cauliflower and garlic to make ‘rice’ and prepare for pizza ‘crusts’.  It is great in muffins and loaves and breads, and I find it works very well for sauces, curries and soups as well.

And that is not to even MENTION how wonderful it smells when cooking... no matter what I might be making, The Captain always comes into the kitchen to compliment the lovely aroma and anticipate what great tasting goodie I might be cooking for him!  The aroma is much stronger than the actual taste.

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A few months ago I started using coconut oil to brush my teeth as well…. mixed with a bit of baking soda to make a paste, it brightens and whitens my teeth and gives them a smooth and shiny finish! 
I know that lots of people are also using it to condition their hair and their skin.
Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil - 32 oz.

Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil is hand crafted in small batches by family producers, and it is the highest quality coconut oil they offer. You can read more about how virgin coconut oil is different from other coconut oils on their website:

Tropical Traditions also carries other varieties of affordable high quality

You can visit their website to check current promotions, to learn about the many uses of coconut oil, and to read about all the advantages of buying coconut oil online.
If you are interested in learning about its health benefits here is the best website to read about the many health benefits of coconut oil.
Do you use coconut oil in your baking and cooking?
Do you have any non-food uses for it?
Be sure to check back next week… there is a giveaway coming up!
Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Since I did my Whole30 Paleo Challenge in January, I have a new-found love and respect for the often-neglected cauliflower…  aside from enjoying it raw in salads, and also roasted, I have made cauliflower ‘rice’ several times… and more recently, used it to make pizza crust.

I have looked at many recipes for cauliflower pizza crust lately but they all call for mozzarella cheese, and since I am not eating dairy right now, I have not been even tempted… then I came across this very timely recipe at Running to the Kitchen.

Gina’s version uses no cheese, but does make use of nutritional yeast.. and I just happened to have purchased some but have been hesitant to try it.  I made up this crust and was pleasantly surprised at the great taste.  For some wonderful mouth-watering pictures of the pizza Gina put together, and the recipe and instructions check out her post.

The first time I made it I followed the ingredient list and directions pretty much as written and calculated the N.I. as follows:

Per 1/4 of the pizza crust.
Weight Watchers P+ = 4.
Calories 140; Protein 6g; Carbohydrate 8g; Fat 12g; Fibre 4g.

To make the topping, I slathered a few tablespoons of tomato sauce over the crust and then sprinkled it with some basil and oregano. Then I mounded some leftover roasted veggies and 4 of my Spicy Meatballs, cut into chunks, on top. It was very very good.

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Ready to bake for half hour in a hot oven.

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Baked and ready to top… the parchment paper turned brown too.
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I added tomato sauce, herbs, leftover roasted veggies and chopped meatballs and then baked for a few more minutes.
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Then cut to serve.
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This is a knife and fork pizza… would never hold together to pick up and eat with your fingers….  but it is so tasty!

The second time I made it, I did a bit of experimenting… I used half of the olive oil that the recipe calls for, keeping my Weight Watchers buddies in mind.  Yes, we do love our healthy oils, but in a limited amount… and I baked the crust at about 390°F hoping it might brown just a bit less and I was right.

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With tomato sauce, basil and oregano.
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Add some roasted veggies, cooked ground beef and a few grape tomatoes and heat through.
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Mmmmm… enjoy!
The N.I. for this version with less oil is as follows:

Per 1/4 of the crust.
Weight Watchers P+ = 3.
Calories 110; Protein 6g; Carbohydrate 8g; Fat 8g; Fibre 4g.

And the third time... I was out of nutritional yeast so left it out. The crust was a bit crumblier but still worked, so if you don't have any nutritional yeast on hand, don't let that deter you from trying this recipe.  I also used 1 Tbs of coconut oil to cook my cauliflower and it worked just fine too, so it's your choice... coconut or olive oil.

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With a topping of cooked ground beef and veggies, and fresh tomatoes.

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Smaller pieces are easier to handle!

Are you a pizza fan? 

Have you tried a cauliflower crust?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Homemade Babaganoush

It has been years and years since I last tasted Babaganoush… it was in a little out of the way cafe that I visited with my younger brother when I was in LA. with him the summer he was pitching at a try-out camp for the California Angels… but when I saw this recipe on The Healthy Dynamic Duo, the taste and texture of this garlicky, creamy dip came right to mind… and to mouth! 

It is a traditional Mediteranean dish, and although it is normally served with warm pita bread, it is also very good with fresh veggies, and as a salad topper and a sandwich filling.

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I knew I had to make it.

We did a huge grocery shop recently and I made sure to pick up the ingredients for the Babaganoush that I didn’t already have on hand… 2 beautiful large eggplants and a jar of Tahini (sesame seed paste)… to go along with the freshly squeezed lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, cumin, and salt that round out the list.

I had never purchased Tahini before and was quite surprised by the size of the jar and the taste… it is kind of like bitter peanut butter, and I can see why some recipes say that you can sub creamy peanut butter if you don’t have tahini.  I couldn’t see anywhere on the jar where it says it should be refrigerated after opening, but the only ingredient is sesame seeds, so I am storing it in the fridge, just to be safe.

I went back to the blog post and followed the instructions pretty much as written, although I did use more garlic than the recipe called for as well as a few dashes of salt, and a short while later... about an hour or so, I was rewarded with had 3 cups of tasty, creamy, VERY garlicky Babaganoush.  I put it into the refrigerator and managed not to taste it again until the next day when I served it for lunch with some cut up fresh veggies.

Wonderful!  You really ought to try it.
Be sure to check out the original blog post for the recipe and the full instructions.
The nutritional information, as I made it:
Per 1/2 cup serving.
Weight Watchers P+ = 3.
Calories 146; Protein 3g; Carbohydrate 13g; Fat 10g; Fibre 5g.

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Eggplants washed, dried and skin pierced in several places with a fork.
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After baking for 40 minutes.
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Removing the peel after the eggplants have cooled.
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Reaming the lemon... this little tool has holes to allow the juice to escape, but not the seeds. 
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Everything in the food processor....
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and afer pureeing.
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Served up with fresh veggies for lunch.

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And as a sald topper along with some hard boiled eggs... delicious!

Have you ever eaten Babaganoush? 
What is your favorite dip for fesh veggies?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

My Paleo Meatloaf.. Scored a Hit

We lucked into a very good buy on some extra lean ground beef recently, so I picked up a couple of packages... brought it home and then wondered what I was going to do with it.  Do you ever do that?

Well, The Captain asked for meatloaf as he hadn't had any for some time... so I quickly agreed and then had to really think about how I was going to make one that would meet the requirements of my Whole30 Paleo Challenge... in other words, I could not use any bread or cracker crumbs, or oats in the mixture.

I used a couple of tablespoons of  Homemade Balsamic Ketchup in this dish. If you are not concerned about the Whole30 aspect, use your favorite commercial ketchup, or if you do want sugar-free, then use a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste and a dash of balsamic vinegar.

I came up with a loaf that is juicy and tasty and got a thumbs up from the hungry man, so I decided it was worth sharing!   The leftovers are in the freezer and we will be enjoying it again soon.

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My Paleo Meatloaf
Makes 4 servings
  • 1 pound extra lean ground beef
  • 3/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and minced
  • 2 large stalks celery, diced
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbs sugar free ketchup
  • dashes of salt and pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Mix all ingredients together well and place in a loaf pan that has been lightly coated with a non-stick spray.
  3. Bake for one hour and then remove to cooling rack.
  4. Cut into 4 pieces to serve.
Per serving.
Weight Watchers P+ = 6.
Calories 249; Protein 26g; Carbohydrate 7g; Fat 13g; Fibre 1g.


Do you like meatloaf?

Any ideas as to what I could do with some more of the ground beef?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Fruit and Nut Ginger Ballz for your Valentine

I have been wanting to make something sweet to have as a little tea treat some afternoons but didn’t want anything that required a lot of added sugars or artificial sweeteners. It couldn’t be cake, or cookies, or brownies…. I have not had any food cravings for about 6 weeks now and don’t want to give that sugar monster any reason to rear his ugly head….

But Valentine's Day really requires some special sweet to mark the occasion so, I came up with these Fruit and Nut Ginger Ballz and they are delicious… very similar to a Ginger Snap Larabar, in flavor, but a bit milder.  I love them.  The Trader Joe’s uncrystallized candied ginger that I used does have some sugar so if you prefer you could use about 1 Tbs of raw grated ginger root instead.  Of course that would change the N.I.

Now these are a generous size, so you could make them half the size if you want a two-bite style treat, or you could share one with your Valentine!

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Fruit and Nut Ginger Ballz
Makes 14 balls
  • 5 ounces dates (about 1 cup)
  • 4.5 ounces raw cashews (about 1 cup)
  • ounces raisins (about 3/8 cup)
  • 1 ounce candied ginger (about 2 Tbs)
  1. Place all the ingredients into your food processor and run till the nut pieces are quite small and the mixture clumps together.
  2. Run warm water over your hands and use your wet fingers to form 14 golf ball sized ballz.
  3. Keep them in the refrigerator for up to a week, or freeze them and then allow to thaw before eating.
Per ball.
Weight Watchers P+ = 3.
Calories 103; Protein 2g; Carbohydrate 15g; Fat 4g; Fibre 1g.

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Dough will clump when it has been processed long enough.
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Roll into 14 golf ball sized balls.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Using Flavored Oils and Vinegars

A couple of weeks ago I received a lovely little gift package in the mail... a sampling of a couple of different olive oils, and a balsamic vinegar, from one of my online Weight Watcher friends who lives in Ontario, Canada.

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Persian Lime EVOO, Harissa EVOO, Bluberry Balsamic Vinegar

I was thrilled that Kate thought to send these beautiful little bottles of exotic oils and vinegar to me, but I admit I have been a bit intimidated by them and was hesitant to try them out... until just recently.

The Captain and I went out for a 2 hour walk in the sunshine on Friday morning.  We kept up a good brisk pace as we trekked along the waterfront pathway above the Strait of Juan de Fuca, then around the point into the Inner Harbour, where we stopped and had a bit of a snack... apples and cashews... then carried on through the Harbour to China Town and then completed the circle back at our front door.

We were both very hungry when we arrived home... The Captain's mouth was watering for some Chinese Food, so I prepared a big saucepan full of udon noodles, cut up onions, shredded cabbage and some slivers of leftover cooked pork roast, all in a nice broth.. then set to work on a big salad for me.

I have been daydreaming about a delicous spinach salad that I had at an Ikea store in Vancouver several months ago, and I had a hunch that I could come up with something similar using the Blueberry Balsamic vinegar.  And I was right!

I mixed 1 tsp of EVOO with 2 tsp of the vinegar in a little bowl and then tasted it.  It was sweet and thick and kinda syrupy and just wonderful!

So I put togther my salad...  I started with a bed of spinach and black kale mixture, then slices of leftover baked chicken breast, some dried cranberries and a couple of tablespoons of almond slivers that I had quickly toasted in a non-stick pan on the stove while prepping the Captain's soup. Then I drizzled that EVOO/vinegar mixture over the top and sat down to thoroughly enjoy the best salad I have had in ages.

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Every bite was absolutely delightful and I oohed and aahed all the way through lunch.  The Captain even said he could smell the blueberries from the vinegar across the table!

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Now I am so excited to try out the oils, too... these little bottles have opened my eyes to a whole new world of flavors.. thanks so much, Kate!
Have you tried Persian Lime EVOO or Harissa EVOO?
Do you use flavored oils and vinegars in your cooking?  What's your favorite?

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Ham and Egg Baskets

This is the easiest, tastiest little breakfast you could put together, and it really makes a fun presentation. If you are doing brunch for someone special, do give it a try. 

It is so simple.

Just two ingredients and 15 or 20 minutes, and you have a lovely, nutritious and filling little meal that can be breakfast, lunch or dinner... or even a snack!  Make extra and pop them into the fridge to have on hand for a quick bite on the go.

I recently made up 4 of these little baskets for The Captain and I to share for breakfast and he loved them.

Jan 28 ham and egg baskets copy

Ham and Egg Baskets
Makes 1 basket
  • 1 very thin slice deli ham
  • 1 egg
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Lightly coat muffin cups with non-stick spray.
  3. Fold the ham over itself so it fits into a muffin cup.
  4. Break the egg into the ham cup.
  5. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, depending upon how firm you like your egg yolk to be.
  6. Remove to a plate and serve with salt and pepper.

Per serving of 1 basket.
Weight Watchers P+ = 3.
Calories 101; Protein 11g; Carbohydrate 1g; Fat 6g; Fibre 0g.

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Fold the ham sices and put them in the muffin cups.

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Place the muffin cups on a cookie sheet and then put them into the oven.  You can see there was a bit of spill with a couple of the egg whites.

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When they are cooked to your liking, put them on a plate and serve sprinkled with salt and pepper.

Printable Recipe

Are you a ham & eggs fan? 
What is your favorite way to cook eggs?

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Easy Lentil and Walnut Loaf... Make it Gluten-Free

I put this recipe together before the end of the year and before I started concentrating on food that would support my Whole30 Paleo Challenge. I never got around to posting it....

Every once in a while I get a craving for lentil and walnut loaf.  I really wanted to make one a few weeks ago while I still had some turkey gravy in the refrigerator left over from Christmas and also some of my Cranberry-Apple Sauce, cause I thought they would go well with it.  I made the turkey gravy with gluten-free cornstarch to thicken it only slightly, as I always prefer au jus to a thicker gravy.

In the past, the lentil loaf recipes I have used have all tasted very good, but the texture has never been that great... they all fell apart when serving them.  I was hoping the addition of some eggs and some bread crumbs would help hold the loaf together, and it worked very nicely.

I used gluten-free bread and also gluten-free tamari soy sauce in my recipe, but I think that any whole grain bread would be fine.  And if you don't have coconut oil, use your regular vegetable oil.  I used my food process to chop the onion into a fine dice, and also to make the bread crumbs and grind the walnuts.

Lentil and Walnut Loaf
Makes 4 hearty servings
  • 1 medium onion, chopped very fine
  • 1 Tbs coconut oil
  • 2 cups cooked, drained lentils (canned are fine)
  • 2 slices bread, ground into crumbs
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped finely
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  1. Place the coconut oil in a skillet over MEDIUM heat and then add the onions and saute until transparent, about 10 minutes.
  2. Remove the onions from pan and mix with all the other ingredients in a medium bowl.
  3. Place the mixture in a loaf pan that has been lightly coated with non-stick spray.
  4. Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes, then remove foil and bake for 10 minutes more.
  5. Remove from oven and allow to rest about 5 minutes before slicing to serve.

Per serving.
Weight Watchers P+ = 9.
Calories 345; Protein 16g; Carbohydrate 37g; Fat 17g; Fibre 9g.

Pat the loaf ingredients down before covering to bake.

Taking the foil off and letting it bake a bit longer gives the top a nice crunch.  Allow to rest and cool for a few minutes before cutting to serve.
Especially nice with your favorite veggies!


Is lentil loaf on your list of favorites?