Pantry Basics: What's the Deal with Organic?

We've all seen the buzz words and the mountain of information about whether to pay more for organic and natural foods and the possible health benefits of them. But the more I hear about organic vs. natural foods, the more I feel like I don't quite understand. So, if I'm going to pay more for something I put in my body, I want to learn about why I'm paying more and whether it is worth it. This post is dedicated to shedding some light on the mystery behind organic foods and educating ourselves to be able to make an informed decision on whether or not to start incorporating organic foods into our diet. We'll also briefly touch on the difference between organic and natural foods at the end to make sure we're all clear on that one (I was surprised when I found out).
What is Organic?
Lets start things off right - what does organic really mean? In the context of food there are two meanings to the word organic. First is in regard to the agricultural practices used to produce the food and second is in regard to the food itself.
According to the Organic Trade Association agriculture meeting the standards of organic production is a system of farming that maintains and replenishes the soil fertility without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers. The Whole Foods website indicates that this type of farming emphasizes renewable resources, conservation of soil and conservation of water. These products are produced through agricultural management processes that promote environmental health and prohibit the use of GMO seeds or crops, sewage sludge (yep, some food production uses these products... its gross!), long-lasting pesticides, herbicides or fungicides. Rather they focus on planting crops that actually belong in the terrain they're being planted in and focusing on raising healthy plants that can protect themselves from disease or insects rather than having to treat those conditions with nasty chemicals (similar to how if we eat well, exercise and generally lead a healthy lifestyle, we can fend off many illnesses we would have otherwise contracted).
In addition to those farming practices, organic products are raised with priority being placed on raising healthy, humanely treated animals through giving them healthy feed, open air conditions and no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is simply products raised and produced in the above described environment. According to the Organic Trade Association,
"Organically produced foods also must be produced without the use of antibiotics, synthetic hormones, genetic engineering and other excluded practices, sewage sludge, or irradiation. Cloning animals or using their products would be considered inconsistent with organic practices.  Organic foods are minimally processed without artificial ingredients, preservatives, or irradiation to maintain the integrity of the food."
What do the different Organic Labels Mean?
There is a lot of uncertainty regarding what the different organic labels mean. See below for the USDA and the Canadian versions of the labels.
Certified organic means that an item has been raised in line with strictly enforced production standards that are verified by independent organizations (in fact, the USDA verifies approximately 90% each year). Certification involves inspection of farm fields, processing facilities, detailed records, and periodic testing of soil and water to ensure that growers and handlers of organic food are meeting and maintaining compliance with the strict standards set out for organic food producers.
In the USA, the USDA sets out three main categories for organic foods:
  1. 100% Organic - only made with organic ingredients. No antibiotics, hormones, genetic engineering, radiation, synthetic pesticides or fertilizers may be used. These items are allowed to display the USDA organic logo along with a logo stating who certified the particular producer as organic.
  2. Organic - Contains 95% organic ingredients. The remaining 5% coming from ingredients on the approved National list (there is some controversy surrounding this list - check out the OTA for more details).
  3. Made with Organic Ingredients - Made with at least 70% organic ingredients, 3 of which must be listed on the package with the remaining ingredients being on the National list of approved ingredients. These products may display the certifier's logo, but not the USDA organic label.
Are Organic Foods Free from Pesticides and Chemicals?
So - we've established that chemicals and pesticides aren't added during the production of organic food. Does that mean that organic foods are free from chemicals and pesticides? Nope! Due to the prevalent use of chemicals in North American farming practices and also in development of society, there are chemicals that occur in soil and in water. Organic produce may be inadvertantly exposed to these chemicals during the production process. What this does mean though is that organic produce has significantly lower levels of chemicals and pesticides than crops produced using conventional farming methods.
This picture below shows the results of a survey of American families regarding organic foods:

What's the deal with how Expensive Organic Food is?
Organic food is more expensive than conventionally farmed food. This is just a fact. But lets make sure we understand why this is the case. According to the OTA, there are additional costs associated with becoming certified organic. These costs support ensuring compliance with the rules to protect the consumer (such as inspections, regulatory functions, etc). Farmers obtaining and maintaining their certification tend to have more labour and management intensive operations due to the increased monitoring and different farming practices required by this method which result in smaller scale operations which in turn results in less economies of scale in production as are experienced in bigger farms. All of these factors contribute to higher prices of organic produce. Lets look at whether this organic food is really that much better for us to justify paying higher prices for it.
Is Organic Food Really Better for Us?
There have been a number of studies done on whether there really are more nutrients in organically produced food. Studies are beginning to emerge that indicate that this is the case! In a number of studies, higher levels of some nutrients, antioxidants and beneficial fatty acids occurred in organically produced food vs. non-organically produced food. You can check out links to those studies here if you're interested. The general concensus among researchers though is that more research needs to be done before concluding that these claims are in fact representative of all organically produced foods.

What we can say though, is that limiting our exposure to unnecessary chemicals and harmful agents can't be a bad thing. Paying a few cents more for organic food is hardly a high price to pay for limiting our exposure to such things.
More Reasons to Go Organic
If the above information didn't convince you that going organic (or eating more organic food) is a good thing. Here's some more reasons:
  • Organic food tastes great! I used to scoff at this one - "who can even taste a difference?" then I tried organic bananas. Its a night and day difference! Try it, you'll be convinced.
  • Organic agriculture results in less chemicals and contaminants being put into our eco-system.
  • Organic agriculture builds healthy soil instead of depleting it as conventional farming tends to do.
  • Organic farming helps keep rural communities and small farms healthy. By producing a market segment for these farmers to compete, smaller operations are able to farm in an eco-friendly way while charging fair prices for their produce. If they had to compete with conventional, large-scale farming, there is no way they could cover their costs.
  • Health of farmers and farm workers. High occurrences of cancer and other health issues have been noted in farm workers on conventional farms due to high exposure to pesticides and chemicals. Farming without these substances will result in decreased exposure and in turn decreased health risks for these workers.
  • For future generations. If farming practices are sustainable and work in harmony with the land, we will preserve the land so that future generations can benefit from it and continue to produce healthy food for themselves.
Those all seem like pretty good reasons to me! Those reasons were taken from the Whole Foods website and the Daily Green.
Organic vs. Natural
One last topic I wanted to touch on is the organic vs. natural topic. I was under the impression that natural was a similar label to organic and that it was always a healthier option than "regular" food items. The label "natural" or "100% Natural" is supposed to mean that the product is free from artificial colour, flavour or synthetic substances. However, since this food label is not governed by any government body as Organic is, there is typically very little consistency in the natural label on products. When an item is labeled as organic (see above discussion) you know you can trust that the product truely is produced without those substances and has met strict standards to carry that label.

I'm not telling you not to buy naturally labeled products. What I'm telling you is that it is even more important to read and understand the labels, ingredients and nutritional information of those products labeled as natural in order to ensure it truely is natural and free from unhealthy ingredients. Don't pay more for an item labeled natural if it isn't truely free from artificial ingredients!

The Verdict - Final Words of Wisdom
The above info seems like a fairly strong case toward starting to consume as much organic food as we can. I understand it can be a big adjustment in the budget department, but some foods are worse than others regarding chemical absorption. Here is a list of the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen. The dirty dozen consists of a dozen produce items that absorb more chemicals than their counterparts the Clean Fifteen. If faced with a choice of which organic produce items you can afford, stick to ensuring the dirty dozen are organic to minimize the health risks associated with the chemicals in non-organically produced food. Switching to organic is a gradual process - a little bit at a time is a great approach! It makes it manageable and less overwhelming. Remember - every little change you make in your lifestyle is a step in the right direction!

If you're interested, here is some more reading you can do on the organic topic and some great resources:

I hope you found this post useful and informative! If you have comments on this post or have other great resources, please leave me a note below or send me an email! I would love to hear from you.

Let me know if there are any topics you would like me to cover in upcoming pantry basics posts. Happy Cooking my Friends!


Black Bean and Brown Rice Casserole

Monday always seems to roll around far too quickly, but this week I'm happy to see it arrive - it means I'm that much closer to leaving on vacation on Friday! Woohoo! I seriously can't wait for a break from work and real-life responsibilities. Despite the anticipation I have for this week to begin and pass by, Monday still comes with the reality of needing a quick, nourishing meal to whip up for hubby and I after work. This Black Bean and Brown Rice Casserole is just thing! Comes together in under half an hour, its super healthy and oh so flavourful.

Black Bean and Brown Rice Casserole
Minimally adapted from Thrifty Veggie Mama

  • 2 cups cooked brown rice (about 1 cup uncooked)
  • 2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes with basil (you may want to squish the tomatoes to break them up a bit)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 cup applewood smoked cheddar, shredded
  • hot sauce to serve
  1. Combine all ingredients except the cheese and hot sauce and place in an 8x8 inch pan. Top with cheese.
  2. Bake at 400F for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted. Drizzle with hot sauce to serve if desired. Sour cream would also be delish!

A super simple recipe that comes together so quick on a rushed weeknight. Hope you enjoy this as much as we did... leftovers disappeared quickly in our house!

Happy Cooking my Friends!


BBQ Madness with Elite Kitchens and Baths!

Happy Friday friends! I hope you have some sweet plans this weekend. I am hanging out with my Mom and my Sister who I haven't seen for a few weeks. We'll do some cooking, maybe take some walks and of course share a bottle of wine.

A couple of weeks ago, Elite Kitchens and Bathrooms in Langley BC hosted a contest for an amazing gift basket prepared by Well Seasoned. I entered the draw and was the lucky winner! I was a little shocked since I never, ever win anything. But none-the-less an amazing surprise! When I went to pick up my gift basket I had the pleasure of meeting Ken who is the owner of Elite (pictured above). He was kind enough to tour me through their facilities and their show room! What a cool operation - they make all the cabinets in-house and work with their clients to design the kitchens and bathrooms of their dreams. The show room was beautiful and had so much inspiration; especially for a foodie like me! Thanks so much Ken for the lovely gift basket and for sharing a bit about your business with me.
Hubby took some pics of all the amazing goodies in this gift basket... wow, I hit the motherload. So many different sauces, marinades and spice rubs. But I think the best part about the basket was the cooking classes I won at Well Seasoned. :) I can't wait to take those in!

I decided I should start using up some of the yummy stuff I received in that gift basket, so I thought what better opportunity to try out the rotisserie attachment on our BBQ. I used some Smoke on Wheels marinade and marinated a beautiful pork tenderloin roast in it for about 3-4 hours. Then I removed it from the marinade and rubbed it all over with some House of Q seasoning.
Next up, I threaded the roast onto the rotisserie and heated the BBQ. If you have a temperature gauge, try to aim to keep it between 350-400F. You'll need to cook the pork for about 20 minutes per lb. So for this small roast, it was less than an hour til it was done. Try not to overcook it - use a meat thermometer if in doubt.

Serve with some roasted garlic mashed potatoes and some maple roasted veggies and you've got a delish summer meal. To make the maple roasted veg, just chop your favorite veggies, toss with some olive oil, maple syrup, salt, pepper and garlic powder and roast in an oven preheated to 450F for 20-30 minutes or until tender. I used zucchini, carrots, mushrooms and cauliflower this time.
So thats what I've got for you today! Nothing too formal, just thought I would share my awesome basket with you and some of the things I've created with it so far. Happy Friday! Hope you all have a great weekend.

Happy Cooking!


Pantry Basics: Coconut Oil

This week's Pantry Basics post will focus on Coconut Oil. I have just started using coconut oil recently and really didn't know much about it other than that I really liked the taste of it. So, I decided to do a little research and see what I could find out about it to share with you. We'll look at general information about coconut oil such as how it is processed, types of coconut oil available, health facts about coconut oil, and recipes to put it to good use. That's a lot to cover in one post, so we better dive in!
How Coconut Oil Is Produced
I did a little online reading and the general consensus among a number of different websites is that there are two main methods for producing coconut oil. The first method is the wet process and the second is, you guessed it, the dry process. Here is a brief description of each method:
  1. The Wet Process: For the wet production process, oil is extracted from fresh coconut meat using a variety of processes including boiling, fermentation, centrifugal force and other processes. The highest quality type of coconut oil (see types of coconut oil below) is made using a wet extraction process and then cold pressed to extract the oil without the addition of heat or chemicals.
  2. The Dry Process: For the dry production process, coconut is first dried to produce a product called Copra. This copra is then pressed and solvents are added to extract the oil from it. This oil often needs to be refined further to be fit for human consumption and is often hydrogenated in order to raise the melting point further (regular coconut oil has a melting point of approximately 24 degrees C, hydrogenated coconut oil's melting point can be raised to 36-40 degrees C).
That above is the most basic method of processing coconut oil for human consumption. Lets talk about the main two types of coconut oil produced using the above methods that are available for purchase.
Types of Coconut Oil
There are two main types of coconut oil on the market - Extra Virgin Coconut Oil (can be cold pressed or not) and Refined, Bleached, Deodorized Coconut Oil (RBD).
Extra virgin coconut oil is made using the wet process of production as this typically produces the highest quality coconut oil. This oil has a fresh, mild coconut flavour. Cold pressed is the highest quality since it doesn't have any heat or chemicals applied during production which means minimal flavour change or loss of nutrients. Either way, you will notice that extra-virgin coconut oil is the most expensive because using the wet process yields far less oil than the dry process and as a result more coconut goes into the making of extra virgin coconut oil.
The second type of coconut oil is RBD. This oil is highly processed to the point where the coconut smell and flavour are removed from the oil. This oil is often used for cooking where the coconut flavour is not desired. This oil is also often used for cosmetic and other industrial applications.
Moral of the story: Based on the above information, in most cases extra virgin coconut oil is best - it has superior flavour, is processed less and if you buy cold pressed it doesn't have chemicals applied during processing. Especially from a health perspective, I would go with the extra-virgin oil.

Cooking with Coconut Oil
When you're cooking or baking with coconut oil, the substitution ratio with butter and other oils is one-to-one. That means if a recipe calls for one tablespoon of olive oil, you can use one tablespoon of coconut oil. Coconut oil can make a great substitute for olive oil, butter, shortening and canola or vegetable oil.
Coconut oil has a high smoke point - 350F for regular coconut oil and 320F for virgin coconut oil. This makes it great for most cooking and baking related applications! Remember that oil shouldn't be used at temperatures past its smoke point.
Health Facts about Coconut Oil
There are a lot of claims out there about the miraculous coconut oil. I don't really buy into most of them because there doesn't seem to be a lot of scientific research to support those claims, but what I do know is that there are some great things about coconut oil and some not so great things. Here's what I know:
  • Coconut oil has a significantly higher level of saturated fat compared to most other oils which can lead to increased cholesterol and other health issues if consumed in large quantities on a regular basis (saturated fat per serving of coconut oil is 91% saturated fat compared to 13% of olive oil). If you want to read more about that, you can look at this article.
  • Using coconut oil on the skin or hair can improve condition of them - providing added moisture to skin and making hair very shiny.
After doing some reading online, there has been a small amount of research done on coconut oil's health benefits, but there has not been much in the way of conclusive results. According to the Mayo Clinic website:
"Although eating coconut oil in moderation for a short-term diet probably won't harm your health, it may not help you lose weight. And keep in mind that coconut oil actually has more saturated fat than do butter and lard. For successful, long-term weight loss, stick to the basics — an overall healthy-eating plan and exercise."
That seems to be the general consensus among researchers and medical doctors that are science based. Any other benefits that may be experienced may be legitimate, but the benefits so far haven't been able to be reproduced over the general population. 
Recipes using Coconut Oil
Despite the inconclusive results regarding the wild health claims made about coconut oil, its no worse for you than any other type of oil when used in moderate quantities, and it has great flavour, so you may as well try it out! Here are some recipes and ideas for incorporating it into your kitchen routine:
Hope this gives you a good start! Do you already cook or bake with coconut oil? If so, what is your favorite thing to make with coconut oil? Please feel free to share in the comments. :)

Happy Cooking my Friends!


BBQ Halibut with Mango Salsa

I love summer! It is my absolute favorite time of the year - the sunshine, the bright colours, the warm air and the general feeling of happiness and lightness in the air. I love to transfer those colours and feelings onto my plate at meal time - anything bright, light and fun and I'm in! That's exactly what this dish is all about. Summertime on a plate!

BBQ Halibut with Mango Salsa
Recipe by A Tale of One Foodies Culinary Adventures


  • Two pieces of fresh halibut
  • 1 tsp each: cumin, garlic powder, chili powder, ground coriander, sugar, salt and pepper
  • 1/2 an avocado, diced
  • 1 mango, diced
  • 1 small jalapeño, diced
  • 3 tbsp. fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 4 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • Arugula
  • Sprouts (any kind will do)
  • Pea shoots
  • a handful of tortilla strips
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • drizzle of olive oil
  1. For the halibut - preheat your grill. Sprinkle spice rub evenly over both sides of the halibut. Pat the spice rub into the fish. Grill seasoned halibut on the grill until just cooked through and remove from heat.
  2. While the halibut is cooking, combine the salsa ingredients and stir well. Set aside to let the flavours marry.
  3. Divide arugula, sprouts and pea shoots between two places. Drizzle with lime juice and olive oil. Sprinkle with tortilla strips. Top with grilled halibut and spoon salsa over liberally. Enjoy!

What's your summer cooking philosophy? Do you have a favorite meal that you only make during the summer? Feel free to share in the comments below. Thanks for stopping by!

Happy Cooking!


Weekend Wines: 14 Hands Chardonnay

Its been a while since I've put together a wine suggestion blog post for you. So I thought we would kick the weekend off right with a delicious wine suggestion. I don't drink a lot of wine that isn't from British Columbia, but a work friend gave me a bottle of Chardonnay from 14 Hands Vineyards in Washington, USA.

Keith Kenison is the winemaker at 14 Hands and has a really interesting philosophy on wine making that clearly works well for them. His philosophy is to "let the fruit express itself" which in my opinion, it truly does. I loved the fruity yet dry taste of this chardonnay and how unique it is from other chardonnays I have tasted in the past. Keith also says  "I guide the wine [it] to its final destination with as few manipulations as possible, making every decision by taste because, ultimately, that's what matters to the person buying a bottle." Who wouldn't want to taste a wine made with that particular philosophy?

Here are the tasting notes from the 14 Hands website for the 2011 Chardonnay:

"Aromas and flavors of fresh apple with subtle hints of vanilla and buttery caramel. On the palate, notes of sweet oak and spice give way to a soft, lingering finish."

I would recommend this wine to anyone who likes a relatively dry and oak-y tasting wine. It is a unique twist on a typical chardonnay while staying true enough to the traditional chardonnay flavour that it is sure to please lovers of chardonnay! Have you tried this wine before? Have you tried other varietals from this vineyard? Let me know in the comments below! I would love to hear from you.



Pantry Basics: Olive Oil

 Its Wednesday and that means its time for another Pantry Basics post. This week the theme of our pantry basics post will be Olive Oil. Check out last week's post on what makes a Well Stocked Pantry for the kickoff to the Pantry Basics Series.

Olive oil comes in a lot of varieties and I think there are a lot of misconceptions and confusion about what the various grades and varieties are or what the differences are. Here is a bit of information I found on Wikipedia:

First - the USA doesn't follow the same grading standards as other countries which is no surprise since they usually have their own system in place for most things (imperial vs. metric anyone?). I am going to talk about the standards the rest of the world follows which are in line with the International Olive Council (IOC). For more info on the USDA naming conventions and grades, see the Wikipedia page linked above.

The following grades of Olive oil are available:
  • Extra-Virgin Olive Oil: The lowest level of acidity and judged to be the most superior tasting Olive oil. It is typically used in applications such as salad dressings, dipping or other uses where the oil flavour is the star of the show.
  • Virgin Olive Oil: Slightly higher acidity than extra-virgin olive oil and judged to have a good taste, though not as superior tasting as extra-virgin.
  • Pure Olive Oil: Typically a blend of virgin olive oil and refined olive oil. The flavour will not be as good as virgin olive oils and will not be suitable for culinary uses where the flavour of the oil is intended to be the star. Olive oil connoisseurs do not think highly of any products using refined olive oils and as such, wouldn't recommend such an oil grade to be used for any culinary exploits unless using at higher temperatures (see more information about this in post below).
  • Olive Oil: Blend of virgin and refined oils. Acidity level is higher than that of it's primarily virgin counterparts and the oil is judged not to have a strong olive flavour. Also considered to be a sub-par option by olive oil connoisseurs. 
The remaining grades are non-food grades and as a result won't be discussed here. 

You may have noticed the terms virgin and refined and been wondering what they mean. I know I was! According to Wikipedia:
  • Virgin Oil indicates that the olives have been pressed to extract the oil and that no heat or chemicals have been applied in the process. No surprise that virgin processed olive oil contains the highest levels of polyphenols and antioxidants and therefore has more health benefits than its refined counterpart.
  • Refined oil means that the extraction process is controlled by chemicals which is typically done to improve the taste and smell of lower quality oil.  
Oils labelled cold-pressed retain the most nutrients and antioxidants because during the extraction process they are not heated above 27C. This ensures the nutrients degrade the least amount possible.

One other thing to be aware of is that bottles containing the labels Pure, Light and Extra-Light olive oil are all terms to describe refined oil types. The light and extra-light labelled oils do not have less calories or fat than regular olive oil contrary to popular belief. They are simply light on flavour due to a being chemically refined oil.

Moral of the story: Look for cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil. It is the best option for cooking because it tastes the best and doesn't contain chemicals or other processing techniques that cause the nutrients or quality of the oil to breakdown. It is also healthier because it retains the most antioxidants and nutrients despite the processing of the olives during the extraction process.

 Now that you know what type of olive oil is healthiest and best for cooking, here's the nitty gritty of how to cook with olive oil and what to use it for.

Olive oil is best used for applications that do not require much heat application such as salad dressings, drizzling on finished pasta dishes or for dipping fresh bread into. The taste of olive oil is impacted mainly by three things:
  1. Freshness of the oil - fresh oil tastes significantly better than older oil since the oil degrades over time. The best place to get fresh olive oil is from regions that produce the oil because the freshness can be guaranteed!
  2. Varietal of olives - selecting olive oil is like selecting wine - the taste varies greatly depending on the type of olives, the extraction process, ripeness when harvested etc. You may have to taste a few different olive oils before you find the one you love.
  3. Heat application - the higher the heat applied to olive oil, the more the taste breaks down or changes. The reason for this is that the application of heat to the oil actually burns the unrefined particles in extra-virgin oil and the result is a bitter, burned tasting oil or dish. Olive oil has one of the lowest smoke points.

So, how about some ideas for using olive oil in recipes! Here are some of my favorites:

Salad with Pears & Candied Pecans
Blackberry Avocado Salad
Spaghettini with Oil & Garlic (Lidia Bastianich)
Marinated Tomato Salad (Rebuild the Blog)
Classic Hummus (Queen Creek Olive Mill)
Sea Salt and Olive Oil Brownie Cookies (Something Swanky)

What is your favorite Olive Oil recipe? Feel free to share it in the comments section below.

Happy Cooking my Friends! I hope you found this pantry basics post informative and useful and if you've made it all the way to the bottom of my post, I'm assuming that you did. Thanks so much for stopping by - I hope you'll be back soon. If there are any pantry ingredients you would like to see featured in my pantry basics posts, just leave me a comment or send me an email and I will be sure to add it to the list of items I plan to feature.


Crazy Gourmet Hot Dogs!

Oh Monday... why do Monday's have to be so hard? Do you feel like you're seriously dragging your behind on Mondays? Because I sure do!!! So, to make myself feel better, I checked out some of my recent food photos and came across these babies! If these don't cheer you up on a blah Monday, I'm afraid nothing will!
I came across the idea for these in the magazine Everyday with Rachael Ray (July/August 2013 issue). Normally I'm not a fan of Rachael Ray or her recipes, but I'm glad I gave her another chance - this magazine was jam packed with great ideas and recipes. I will definitely be buying this magazine again. You should check it out!

 Be sure to start with some amazing, all natural hot dogs and some oversized, extra-fresh buns. Then you can go hog-wild with the toppings! Seriously! Go crazy! Some of the craziest sounding flavour combos are often the most delicious.

For our gourmet dog night, we picked two flavour combos to try out.

The Natcho Dog: Sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese, top with guacamole, pickled jalepenos and crunched up tortilla chips.

Pimento Cheese Dog: Spread with store bought pimento cheese, then sprinkle with crushed ritz crackers, drizzle with some franks red hot. (Note-Pimento cheese wasn't available where I live, so I took a package of imperial cheddar and blended it with some cream cheese and some red jalepeno pepper - it did the trick!)

They were delish, but I think the Natcho dog was my favorite!

Some other flavour combos listed in the magazine that sounded soooo good to me were:
Deli Dog: Top with egg salad, fresh diced pickles and freshly cracked black pepper.
Hummus Deluxe Dog: Spread with hummus then top with sliced roasted red peppers, sprinkle with smoked paprika.

Yep, we'll probably be making these again soon - just an excuse to try out some more flavours. :) Hope this brightened your Monday night! You can do it!!!

Happy Cooking my Friends!


Nutella Banana Smoothie

Yesterday was such a beautiful and sunny day here in Southern British Columbia! We have been so blessed to have such a beautiful July and I hope this amazing weather continues through August as well! When the weather is this warm, we usually wait until later in the evening to walk the dog so he doesn't get overheated (and maybe so we don't get overheated too!!). After we went for our dog walk, I was craving something cold and creamy... something that was refreshing but could also substitute as dessert. After a quick check of what I had on hand, I came up with the idea for a Nutella Banana Smoothie! It is mostly dairy-free except for the small amount of dairy in the Nutella. You could substitute one of the dairy free nut butters or spreads for a truly dairy free beverage though (note I haven't tested this option though, so I'm not sure how it will taste).

Nutella Banana Smoothie
Recipe by A Tale of One Foodies Culinary Adventures

  • 1 banana
  • 2 tbsp. Nutella
  • 6-8 ice cubes (add more if your smoothie isn't thick enough)
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup almond milk (or more if your smoothie is too thick)
  1. Combine banana, Nutella, coconut milk and almond milk in blender. Blend until smooth. Add ice cubes to blender a few cubes at a time blending until smoothie reaches desired thickness. Top with dairy free whipped topping if desired & enjoy!

I love how quickly this smoothie came together and it literally tasted like a decadent milkshake! I can tell this is going to become a regular beverage in our house. What is your favorite kind of smoothie to make? Feel free to share your favorite recipe or flavour in the comments below!



{Dairy Free} Chocolate Cappuccino Biscotti

Whew! What a week its been so far. Despite being a shorter week than usual, it seems like it was so much more exhausting than it usually is. Part of it is that two of my four days this week were attending training seminars all day and the fact that my car broke down on my way to said training seminar. I think I was also coming back to reality after such a fantastic yoga retreat last weekend which made this week seem even tougher! You know what you need on weeks like that? Delicious and flavourful biscotti. That's what will make it allllll better. Especially biscotti you can indulge in nearly guilt free - these have no added fat (some fat in the chocolate chips, but no oil or butter products added to this dough) and they have no dairy (I substituted almond milk for the milk).

Chocolate Cappuccino Biscotti
Recipe minimally adapted from Joy of Baking

  • 2 cups all purpose flour (or you could substitute 1 cup whole wheat for one cup of white flour)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 cup strong coffee
  • 1 tbsp finely ground coffee
  • 1 tbsp almond milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking trays with parchment paper, set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk coffee, ground coffee, almond milk, egg and vanilla.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer beat flour, sugar, soda, powder, salt and spices until combined. Gradually mix in coffee mixer until combined. Add chocolate chips and incorporate without overmixing.
  4. With floured hands, divide the dough in half. Roll each portion of dough into a log about 10 inches long and 2 inches wide. Transfer logs to prepared baking sheets (one on each sheet).
  5. Bake in preheated oven until firm to the touch. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack 10 minutes.
  6. Reduce oven temperature to 300F. On a cutting board, cut the logs lengthwise on a diagonal into 3/4 inch slices. Place cut side up on a baking tray. Bake five minutes, flip over and bake five minutes on the other side. Remove from heat, let cool. Store in an airtight container.
These were really yummy with all the spices and with the strong coffee flavour. We really enjoyed them dipped in coffee or tea or even just eaten as a snack. What is your favorite kind of biscotti?
Here are a few of my favorites:
Happy Baking my Friends!


Pantry Basics: What Makes a Well Stocked Pantry?

Hi Friends! This past weekend I went to a yoga retreat. At the retreat I had the opportunity to really ground myself and refocus. I have decided that I really need to spend more time nurturing the areas of my life that bring me joy. And you guessed it, my blog is one of those areas of my life that brings me joy. This year it has really fallen aside as I have spent time focusing on other areas of my life that don't make me as happy and as a result haven't been feeling as inspired or motivated in some really important areas of my life; my blog being one of those areas. So, I have made a plan to revamp my blog and refocus my efforts. The change will be gradual, but I plan to try to post more regularly on a variety of food and wine related topics.

One of my ideas was to have a post once a week on Pantry Basics. What those posts will be comprised of are information regarding how to stock your pantry (the topic of this post actually), ingredient studies where we look at one ingredient in particular and think about what it is, what nutritional benefits it may have and how you can use it in your day-to-day cooking and baking. If you have any items or ingredients you would like me to feature, please let me know!

For my first pantry basics post I thought a fitting topic would be a discussion on what constitutes a well stocked pantry! Here's my thoughts on what a well stocked pantry would include so that you're prepared for anything. If you have anything to add to my list, feel free to add it in the comments! I'm always curious what others keep on hand and consider to be essential. I've broken my list down into categories to make it more manageable.

Photo credit to Blisstree.com

Fats/ Oils:
Olive oil (preferably extra virgin), coconut oil, canola oil, sesame oil, butter

Red and white wine vinegar, rice wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar (organic tastes way better than regular - Braggs is my favorite brand so far)

Spices & Seasonings:
Sea salt, black peppercorns (none of the pre-ground nasty stuff), red chili flakes, dried basil, thyme leaves, cinnamon, mustard seeds, nutmeg, oregano, granulated garlic, chili powder, smoked paprika, regular paprika (aka sweet Hungarian paprika), cumin (whole seed and ground), ground coriander, turmeric, cloves, bay leaves, garam masala, curry powder

Bottles & Jars:
Dijon mustard (I like the really grainy stuff or the stuff with chardonnay in it), Asian chili paste (aka sambal oelek), mayonnaise, curry paste (thai and indian), barbecue sauce, pesto, apricot jam, maple syrup, soy sauce, ketchup, tabasco or other hot sauce, peanut butter, tahini, honey, vanilla

Canned Goods:
Chicken, beef and vegetable stock, canned tomatoes (preferably good quality, whole tomatoes), black, red and white beans, tomato paste, kernel corn, plain tomato sauce, chickpeas, chipotle chilies in adobo, sweetened condensed milk, light coconut milk, canned salmon and tuna

Frozen Goods:
Nuts (almonds, pecans and walnuts), peas, assorted fruits

Dry Goods and Other Miscellaneous Items:
Good coffee, loose-leaf teas, assortment of good quality dried pasta (fettuccini, penne, spaghetti, rice noodles), bittersweet chocolate, dried apricots, dried cranberries, flour (unbleached and whole wheat), sugar (granulated, brown and icing sugar), oats, cornmeal, rice (basmati, brown and Arborio), lentils, popping corn, tortilla chips, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, dried yeast, unsweetened cocoa powder, cous cous, quinoa

Photo credit above: coffeeproductionandstuff.blogspot.ca

Seems like a super long list doesn't it? But it really is amazing how far the above ingredients will go. Really all you need are your fresh ingredients to supplement those items and the odd specialty item and you're set! I hope you have found this post useful and informative. Let me know what you think about the pantry basics series I'm starting on and what you would like to see in the future.

Thanks for stopping by!