Fight Colds with FIRE!

The weather has been fickle, 50’s and thunderstorms on Monday and below 30° with snow today!  The cold, the wet and the sudden change in temps may leave you sniffley, headachey or simply feeling blek.

Start your day with this FIRE-Y tea to help kick the common cold out of your system.  It is said that ingesting spicy herbs warms the body, causing it to perspire, which could be beneficial in fighting of the first signs of a cold.  So nip the maladies of chills, runny nose or fever in the bud with the following:



Yes, common kitchen ingredients that naturally stimulate and strengthen the body.

I don’t know about you but when I’m sick, especially with a sore throat, I crave spice.  Well, wouldn’t you know, capsicum aka cayenne or chili pepper is a stellar anti-viral—fighting colds, aches and pains with its HOT herbaceaus power!

A classic immunity tonic that provides relief of fever, sinus congestion, sore throat and stomach ache. It’s the oils in ginger we should credit for its healing prowess and because they are so strong a little goes a long way.

Not only will lemon juice enhance the taste of this fire-y concoction it also helps in speeding up the healing process.  Just 1 lemon contains over 80% of the daily recommended value of Vitamin C.  Vitamin C is another immune booster and will help shorten the duration of the pesky cold.

In a pot, over medium heat, boil water (enough for 1 mug of tea) and add a generous squeeze of Sriracha (you may also use a generous shake of powdered cayenne or a fresh cayenne pepper, slice it in half, toss it in the pot of water to steep.)  Slice a 1-inch piece of ginger and add that to the pot.  Let steep for 5-10 minutes then strain and pour into a large mug.  Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into the tea and drink.


Black Bean + Avocado + Goat Cheese Tacos with a Hint of Honey-Lime

Black Bean, Avocado + Goat Cheese Tacos with a Hint of Honey-Lime
Black Bean, Avocado + Goat Cheese Tacos with a Hint of Honey-Lime

This taco recipe is simple, quick to prepare and satisfying.  Filled with real food and notes of sweet, sour and spicy paired with buttery textures of avocado and goat cheese.  The honey compliments the tangy-ness of goat cheese while the lime, coriander and cumin lend a zing to the palette.  This will be a go-to meal again and again.

Black Bean + Avocado + Goat Cheese Tacos with a Hint of Honey-Lime
adapted from Naturally Ella
serves 4

1 1/2 Tablespoons Ground Coriander
1 Tablespoon Ground Cumin
Generous pinch of Crushed Red Pepper
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 cup Black Beans with liquid (can of beans)
2 Avocados, sliced
1/2 bunch of Cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 Lime
1 Tablespoon of Honey or Agave
3-4 oz Goat Cheese, crumbled
Corn or Flour Tortillas

Black Bean, Avocado + Goat Cheese Tacos with a Hint of Honey-Lime
Black Bean, Avocado + Goat Cheese Tacos with a Hint of Honey-Lime

*Optional brown rice to add to the tacos (Rice should be prepared ahead of time)

1. In a dry skillet, over medium heat begin by toasting the spices (coriander, cumin and crushed red pepper) until fragrant.  To the same skillet add the black beans with the liquid and garlic.  Over medium-low heat allow the beans, spices and garlic to cook together until the liquid has dissipated and the beans have thickened, about 10 minutes.  If you like your beans a bit mashed (which I do) grab your potato masher and smash some of the beans a bit.

2. While the beans are simmering, in a small bowl or pitcher whisk together the juice from the lime along with honey or agave, set aside.

3. Slice the avocado, chop the cilantro and crumble the goat cheese, set aside.

4. Just before the beans are done warm the tortillas for serving. This may be done over a gas burner flipping the tortillas over the flame until soft and warm or via the microwave.

5. To assemble tacos, place ¼ of the black bean mixture in the center of the tortilla (if using brown rice add this next), layer avocado, cilantro and crumbled goat cheese on top and lightly drizzle the lime honey/agave mixture over taco filling.

Washing Dishes: An Art Form

Where I come from dishwashing is serious business.  I grew up in a house that had an actual, mechanical dishwasher but my mother never approved of its dishwashing capabilities.  The phrase, “but you’re the dishwasher” was a typical answer to, “but Moooom why can’t we just use the dishwasher?!”

So you see, I grew up mastering the art of hand washing dishes.  If you have visions of free form dance flowing through your head switch gears to something more akin to printmaking—a systematic approach.

Dirty Dishes

The 3 keys to successful dishwashing: Organization, Heat and Muscle.

Rinse Cycle

The dishwashing process begins by rinsing all the dirty dishes with scalding hot water, eliminating grease residue and stubborn bits of encrustulated food, down the drain.  After rinsing, remember to wipe out the sink BEFORE washing, the process can’t begin with a dirty sink!

Sorting Cycle

Next we methodically stack our dishes in the order of washing; glasses, cups and silverware followed by plates, bowls and then pots and pans (saving the greasiest and dirtiest dishes for last.)  Plug the drain and fill that side up with more scalding hot water and a swirl of dish soap.  The other side of the sink is used for rinsing which is done with cooler (less scalding) water— my mother would approve of adding vinegar for good measure. To the right of the rinsing station is the drying station.

Washing Cycle

Here is where the brawn and muscle come in, don’t just swipe the dishes with a twirl of the dish rag, get in there and really scrub on all sides—fork tines, the very bottom of drinking glasses and even the bottom of pots and pans.

*I should also mention to refrain from those scrubbing brushes and rubber gloves. These items deter the sensation of residual bits of food and grease that may be gripping to the dish.  Also sponges are not recommended as they soak everything up and store the food bits and bacteria inside their crevices.

Rinse Cycle x2

The systematic approach to washing applies to rinsing as as well e.g., once all the cups are washed rinse and stack, repeat with silverware, then plates and bowls and so forth.

Drying Cycle

Once the soap is rinsed away stack the dishes in an orderly manner on a clean dishtowel (because we wash dishes in an orderly fashion, stacking is a cinch!)  If you have one of those fancy dish racks then by all means use that.  Dry with a clean dishtowel then put away your sparkling, dry dishes.

Final Spin

Wash down the countertops and sink, rinse the dishcloth and hang it to dry, viola!


∆ If the water becomes cloudy or grimy at anytime during the washing process, drain it and continue with fresh water.

∆ If you break a dish, your master plan of getting out of doing dishes ever again will foil—be prepared to never hear the end of how you shattered Mom’s favorite trifle bowl!

∆ An SOS pad, steel wool, or tin foil are acceptable tools for scrubbing those extra stubborn stains and grime.

Seitan Gyros + Cucumber Tzatziki


No matter the pronunciation how can anyone pass up such delish street food fare!
These gyros are vegetarian— swapping in seitan cutlets for the lamb and beef.

The recipe can be broken down into 3 steps:
1. Seitan (may be prepared a few days ahead of time)
2. Cucumber Tzatziki (may be prepared a few days ahead of time)
3. Assembling the Gyro

Once the seitan and the tzatziki are prepared these pitas can be rolled up in no time!

Marinating Seitan Coriander Cutlets for Mediterranean recipe
Marinating Seitan Coriander Cutlets

Seitan Gyro Roll Ups
Makes 4 sandwiches
inspired from Vegan Eats World

1. Gyro Roasted Seitan
2 cutlets of Seitan Coriander Cutlets
or use commercially prepared seitan
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup vegetable broth or white wine
3 Tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a 9x13x2-inch ceramic or glass baking dish, whisk together all the ingredients except the seitan.

Slice the seitan into strips 1/4 inch wide.  Add to marinade and flip strips several times to coat completely. Set aside to marinate while oven is preheating.

Roast the seitan for 25 minutes, turning the strips frequently with long-handled tongs.  Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Seitan Gyros
Seitan Gyros

2. Cucumber Tzatziki
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
1/2 cucumber, grated
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Pour yogurt into a small mixing bowl and set aside. Using a mortar and pestle grind together the garlic and salt to form a smooth paste, then stir into the yogurt

Grate the cucumber on the large holes of a box grater, then sprinkle the cucumbers with a little sea salt. Layer a few strong paper towels on top of one another, pile in the cucumber and gently twist the top of the towels together to form a bundle.  Squeeze the cucumber sachet over the sink to remove as much liquid as possible, taking care not to tear the paper towels.

Stir the grated cucumber into the yogurt sauce along with the dill and olive oil. Pour into a dish and chill until completely cold.

3. Garnishing
Pita bread
Sliced red onion
Sliced cucumber
Chopped tomato
Sliced pickled turnips (found in grocers and mediterranean grocers, Meijer carries the Ziyad brand)

Okay, you now have the seitan made and cooked, the sauce is ready and the garnishing is prepped and ready to go.  All that’s left is assembling the gyros!

Brush both sides of each pita lightly with olive oil.  Preheat a cast iron skillet over high heat, then grill each pita for about 1 minute on each side until the bread is soft and surface is gently toasted.  Alternatively you can heat the pita directly on a gas burner for about 8-10 seconds each side.

Next brush one side of a pita with a little Yogurt Sauce.  Fill with a few strips of seitan and top with the tomato, cucumber, red onion and pickled turnips.  Drizzle more yogurt sauce on top as desired, roll the pita into a sandwich and eat immediately.


Fix Chapped Lips with Kitchen Ingredients

Do chilled temperatures and cold, dry air have your lips peeling away? Forget about smearing them a million times a day with that tube of chapstick. All you need are a few kitchen ingredients and an exfoliation regime to smooth that pucker out!

Coconut Oil and Brown Sugar Exfolient
Coconut Oil and Brown Sugar Exfolient

What you NEED:
2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
1 Tablespoon Organic Local Honey 
1 Tablespoon Pure Coconut Oil (don’t have this on hand you may substitute extra virgin olive oil, but coconut oil is better!)

Mix it UP:
For best results before using the coconut oil pop it in the fridge for 20 minutes or so, to thicken up. Gather a small bowl and scoop in 1 tablespoon of the oil along with the honey.  Mix until well combined.  Add the sugar and continue to stir.  Place in a sealed glass jar and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

How to APPLY:
Get exfoliating! Your choice either day or night grab your lib scrubbing concoction from the fridge and apply it to your lips, gently rubbing in a circular motion.  You’ll feel the sugar granules dissolve as they scrub away the flaky dry skin. Rinse off with a damp wash cloth.

**for extremely dry lips, with the lip scrub applied to your lips, try rubbing them with a toothbrush or mascara wand in a circular motion.

Why it WORKS:
Brown sugar in all its gritty goodness exfoliates the dead skin away.
Coconut oil is natural and you can eat it, unlike petroleum jelly!  It is slow to oxidize so it keeps well and the fats in coconut oil moisturize your skin.
Honey has proteins which act as an antiseptic and an antibacterial, healing dry cracked lips.

Nutritional Yeast Popcorn

Sometimes dinner may consist of popcorn + red wine and it’s perfectly okay!

Nutritional Yeast Popcorn and Red Wine
Nutritional Yeast Popcorn and Red Wine

The idea of nutritional yeast flakes and popcorn stemmed from a friend who exclaimed its goodness in pairing.  It makes sense, nutritional yeast has a flavor described as nutty, creamy or cheesy, a perfect popcorn topping!  On the plus side nutritional yeast is a complete protein and high in B vitamins, which are great for helping our bodies use energy from food.

For an added flavor boost try adding a drizzle of tamari or soy sauce with cayenne pepper to spice things up!

Nutritional Yeast Popcorn with Tamari and Cayenne
Nutritional Yeast Popcorn with Tamari and Cayenne

Nutritional Yeast Popcorn
2 cups

1.5 Teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons popcorn
1 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
Sea Salt to taste
Paper bag for shaking

Heat 1 teaspoon of oil and place a few kernels of popcorn in a pot with a lid over medium heat.  When you hear the tester corn pop, add the rest of the kernels, cover and shake.  Continue shaking the pot over the heat until the popping slows down.  Take off heat, remove lid and dump popped corn into the paper bag.  Add 1/2 teaspoon oil, nutritional yeast and salt. SHAKE IT UP!  Pour into a large bowl and eat.

***If you would like to add soy sauce, omit the salt and simply drizzle it over the popped corn (for those who enjoy buttery, soggy popcorn, this is for you!)  Then sprinkle on some cayenne pepper and serve.

Gluttony The New Black?

Gluttony. Images of barbarians gnawing on giant turkey legs, navels hanging below their belt buckles upon pillaging small villages. Gluttony. Present-day modern America bigger, better, faster. The new black?

As the holiday season decelerates, stress and excess lbs melt away and bank accounts bounce back upwards, we dedicate a day to reflect and make drastic, life-altering changes.

Beginning in October, as children’s bellies are stuffed with treats we promptly welcome Thanksgiving, a day of gratitude for…indulgence in mass quantities of jellied, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.  Before Thanksgiving is thought of big-box stores string Christmas all up in yo’ face, radio stations drone out carols until our ears can’t take anymore. Tobogganing full-force into the jolly, Christmas season, our wallets emptied on gifts piled high under the tree.  New Year’s arrives as an exasperated, relief, an excuse to bury stress and put the unbuttoning of tight pants behind us, Huzzah!

An optimist at heart, although, the above account isn’t reflective of my shining, positivity and goodwill charm, but really, is gluttony the new black?

Years from now, on Halloween kids could waddle around too fat for costumes gorging on giant, candy corn. Feeding-frenzy Zombie Apocalypse anyone!!?  Thanksgiving could bring together a table-full of lard-asses, inhaling food, falling into gluttonous-induced comas, indigestion taking its toll.  When Christmas-time comes around forget about the f#$*ing Christmas tree bring on the gifts, the more the merrier!  New Year’s just may determine, who survived the season by not succumbing to a premature, gluttonous death.

Pull up your glutton pants, ‘tis the season and hopefully, HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Seitan Coriander Cutlets

I’ve never made seitan before much less knew what its ingredients consisted of. Upon research I’ve discovered that its simply vital wheat gluten, the natural protein (75%) found in wheat.  Vital wheat gluten is known as the “meat” made from wheat, a vegan/vegetarian cutlet with the consistency of meat and the versatility of grilling, steaming or simmering.

When making homemade seitan it is important to purchase vital wheat gluten flour and not just wheat gluten flour. This is because vital wheat gluten flour contains a higher consistency of protein, at least 75%, whereas wheat gluten flour has slightly more gluten than regular flour and produces a texture similar to that of chewy bread and not seitan.

Bob's Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten Flour
Bob’s Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten Flour

Commercially prepared seitan can be found at grocers and natural food stores in block or strip form. Making your own isn’t too difficult, if you can knead dough you can make seitan.

Packaged Seitan
Commercially Packaged Seitan

For my first attempt with homemade seitan I chose, Seitan Coriander Cutlets to use in a Mediterranean recipe.  These cutlets blend well with Middle Eastern, African, and Indian cuisines too.

Coriander Seitan Cutlets
Coriander Seitan Cutlets

Seitan Coriander Cutlets
makes 4 large cutlets, enough for 2 entrée recipes
Terry Hope Romero

1 1/2 cups cold vegetable broth

2 cloves garlic, peeled, pressed or grated with a Microplane grater

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 3/4 cups vital wheat gluten flour (Bob’s Red Mill produces consistent results)

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1/4 cup chickpea flour

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Preheat oven to 350°.  In a 1-quart measuring cup or bowl, whisk together vegetable broth, garlic, soy sauce, olive oil, and tomato paste. In a separate mixing bowl, stir together vital wheat gluten flour, nutritional yeast, chickpea flour, coriander, and cumin. Form a well in the center and pour in the broth mixture

Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to stir the ingredients together; as the flour absorbs the broth, a moist dough will rapidly form. When all of the broth is absorbed, use both hands to fold the dough in a kneading portion for 2-3 minutes. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes, then divide into four equal pieces.

Tear away four pieces of foil about 12 inches wide. Spray the dull side of each piece of foil lightly with olive oil or canola oil cooking spray. Shape a piece of dough into an oval on the oiled side of the foil and pat it down to a thickness of about 3/4 of an inch. To seal a packet for steaming bring the two opposing ends of the foil together and fold over the top by 1/2 inch, then fold once more to form a tent over the dough. Fold and seal tight the remaining ends; the result should be a foil pouch with an ample amount of space above the dough. The seitan will expand as it steams, so it’s important to leave some space in each foil pouch.  Repeat with the remaining seitan portions.

How to seal a packet
How to seal a packet

Place the foil packages side by side directly on a baking rack positioned in the center of the oven. Bake for 32-34 minutes; seitan should be firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and cool, still wrapped in foil, on the kitchen counter for 45 minutes before using. For best flavor and texture, cool the seitan to room temperature, keep it wrapped in the foil, store in a tightly covered container, and chill overnight. If desired, freeze seitan and use within 2 months; to defrost, leave in the refrigerator overnight. This recipe takes well to variations. Omit the ground coriander and cumin and add the following when mixing the dry ingredients.

Seitan Coriander Cutlets, Sliced
Seitan Coriander Cutlets, Sliced

Herbes de Provence Seitan: Add 1 tablespoon of dried, crumbled Herbes de Provence blend.

Curry Seitan: Add 2 teaspoons of any curry powder.

Garam Masala Seitan: Add 2 teaspoons of garam masala spice blend, wither purchased or homemade

Mediterranean Seitan: Add 2 teaspoons of dried crumbled oregano plus 2 teaspoons of dried crumbled rosemary.  Increase garlic to 4 cloves total


Borscht is what comes to mind when talking about Russian cuisine, however shchi is just as distinguishable.  Shchi is a hot soup with cabbage as the main ingredient and even more favorably sauerkraut, lending it an appealing sour taste.  With a myriad of recipes shchi can be made with meat or without, with cabbage or with sauerkraut but one thing remains the same, the soup should cure before eating.  Most cooks wait at least a day or two before serving it hot alongside rye bread and butter.


Take note from the Russians and cut the cold of winter with this hearty soup brimming with vegetables and tangy sauerkraut.  Sauerkraut may not appeal to every palette but for those who do enjoy it  you’re in luck because pickled cabbage is a superfood.  Fermented or pickled foods can be found all over the world and many cultures believe it is important to include these foods in their diets;  Kefir, natural pickles, kimchi, tempeh, miso and sauerkraut.  Sauerkraut is known to boost the immune system, possesses cancer fighting properties, aid digestion and can fight the flu.

Most commercially made sauerkraut is actually ‘dead’ meaning it is void of the probiotic qualities that make it a superfood.  To reap the benefits of nutrients, look for fresh sauerkraut in the refrigerated section of the grocery store or make your own, it’s not too difficult.  The best recipe that I’ve used for homemade sauerkraut is from Sandor Katz author of Wild Fermentation, find his recipe here.


Schi with Dilled Sour Cream
Vegan Eats World, Terry Hope Romero

2 cups cremini mushrooms, stems removed and caps wiped clean

1 large leek, root and dry leafy ends trimmed, cleaned and finely diced

1 cup finely diced carrot

2 stalks celery, finely diced

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1/2 cup dry white wine (or vegetable broth)

2 cups diced parsnip or potato, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

6 cups vegetable broth

2 bay leaves

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional, but very good)

2 teaspoon dried marjoram or oregano

2 1/2 cups sauerkraut, with juices

1/2 cup sauerkraut juice (or more vegetable broth)

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

A few twists cracked black pepper

Slice mushroom caps in half, then slice the caps into quarters to create bite-size mushroom pieces. In a 4-quart soup pot over medium-high heat, sauté the leek, carrot, and celery in vegetable oil for 6 minutes. Stir in garlic and mushrooms and sauté for another 6 to 8 minutes, or until mushrooms have reduced in size and released most of their liquid.

Pour in the wine and simmer for 2 minutes, then stir in parsnip, vegetable broth, bay leaves, allspice, caraway seeds (if using), marjoram, sauerkraut, sauerkraut juice, and ground black pepper. Increase heat and bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat, stir occasionally and cover.

Simmer the soup for 35 to 40 minutes or until the parsnips are tender. Remove the bay leaves, turn off the heat and season with cracked black pepper and salt if necessary and garnish with parsley. Allow soup to cool 5 minutes before serving. Top each bowlful with a generous tablespoon of sour dilly cream, recipe follows.

For garnish:

Shchi with Sour Dilly Cream
Shchi with Sour Dilly Cream

Sour Dilly Cream

1/4 cup plain yogurt

1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise

1 clove garlic, minced

Pinch of sea salt

3 tablespoons finely chopped dill

In a food processor or in a large measuring cup using an immersion blender, pulse together the yogurt, mayonnaise, garlic and salt until smooth.  Pulse in the dill a few times.  Keep chilled until ready to serve.