Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Best Rice Pudding Ever!

One particular dish (other than mac and cheese) comes to mind when I'm thinking comfort food:  Rice Pudding! Oh, yes! Sweet, rich, creamy and oh-so-soothing, rice pudding does the trick every time.

In a perfect world, we would just go after what we really want instead of using food as a temporary quick fix. That's sort of unrealistic. I don't think we should depend on food for comfort (this is how we build unhealthy relationships with food), but sometimes we just get nostalgic for Grandma's home cooking.  Every grandmother has a recipe for rice pudding, probably handed down through generations. My grandmother sure did. She also had rocking recipes for homemade coconut custard pie, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, potato salad drenched in mayo.......

I am not a big sweet-eater, but I've been known to cave to a dish of homemade rice pudding. Served warm and topped with freshly ground cinnamon, each spoonful transports me back in time to Grandma's kitchen. Now that I am Vegan, rice pudding is big no-no. It's made with milk or cream and those are now forbidden. The thought of rice pudding made from soy milk really turns me off.  It could never taste the same or provide the same rich and creamy consistency I crave every once in awhile.

I came across an old book I haven't read in years: Skinny Bitch in the Kitch. It's a cook-book for hungry girls who want to stop eating crap! Every recipe is made without animal products. I can't believe I forgot about this book and as I flipped through its pages, I found this recipe for rice pudding: no milk, no cream, and no sugar!  REALLY?!!

I cooked up a batch last night and it was absolutely delicious. JACKPOT!!! Guiltless comfort food just like Grandma used to make expect much healthier and tasty enough to serve to guests, even die-hard dairy devotees and carnivores.

Skinny Bitch Rice Pudding
(serves 4 - 6)
2 cups soy creamer OR one 13.5 oz can coconut milk plus 1/3 cup water) I used the coconut milk
1 cup water
1 cup medium-grain brown rice
pinch fine sea salt
2/3 cup raisins ( I like golden raisins in rice pudding but it's your choice)
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a 2 quart saucepan over high heat, combine 1 cup of the the creamer of coconut milk mixture, the water, rice, and salt.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until water is absorbed and the rice is almost tender, about 40 minutes.

Stir in the remaining soy or coconut milk mixture, the raisins, agave, vanilla, and cinnamon.  Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until raisins are plump and rice is tender, about 5 minutes. 

Spoon the pudding into bowls and let cool.  Serve at room temperature or cover and refrigerate for about an hour before serving chilled. 

If the pudding seems too thick, which can be the case if served chilled, you stir in a little soy milk or creamer.

I can't even begin to tell you how Cynfully Good this is!!!!

And....if you are a hungry girl or guy who wants to stop cooking crap, check out Skinny Bitch in the Kitch!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Mujaddara with Spiced Yogurt

I love ethnic food, especially Middle Eastern cuisine. Here is an exotic, delicious recipe for Mujaddara with Spiced Yogurt.  This particular recipe calls for butter and greek-style yogurt, but I substitute the butter with Earth Balance spread and plain soy yogurt instead of the greek variety. It tastes just as good. 

This is the only time I give the nod to white rice because brown jasmine rice can be difficult to find.  You can buy it in some natural food markets but be aware, if you do use brown jasmine rice, it will need to cook longer than the white, so be sure to adjust your cooking time. Just don't skip the jasmine rice when creating this dish.  It really makes it special.

Rumor has it that the combination of lentils, onions and yogurt in Mujaddara wields near magical powers -- especially in women. I don't know about that, but I do know this dish is always a big hit when I make it.  I serve it Cynfully Good style with soft, whole wheat flatbread or pita (to scoop up the lentils and rice instead of utensils to make it truly authentic) and platters of fresh dates, figs, olives and nuts. Everyone sits on big pillows around my coffee table (covered with a brightly covered cloth) sipping wine and eating family style.  I light unscented candles and play Middle-Eastern music. The whole experience is pure magic.............

Here's the recipe from

Mujaddara with Spiced Yogurt


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Green Beans with Toasted Pine Nuts and Sundried Tomatoes


What's in season now? Green Beans!!!!! And here is a lovely recipe for Green Beans with Toasted Pine Nuts and Sundried Tomatoes from Gavan Murphy aka the Healthy Irishman (yes....there really is such a thing!).

This recipe is on his site as a Christmas dish, but I would make this dish now..........when these gorgeously green ripe beans are at their peak!!

Green Beans with Toasted Pine Nuts and Sundried Tomatoes 

And spend some time exploring his website. It's definitely Cynfully Good..........

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Watermelon Marinated in Toasted Sesame Oil

As far as I am concerned, summer is not summer without watermelon. Who can resist those gorgeous red slices of pure and natural sweetness? I love watermelon. But none of that pre-cut, pre-sliced, wrapped in cellophane-for-convenience watermelon.  I buy watermelon whole and cut it up into big, generous slices. I hold it in my hands and dig in. My face gets covered, my chin dripping with juices. I am instantly transported back to childhood. And forget seedless watermelon. Where's the fun in that? I spit those seeds across the table at my brother or sister. They retaliate. Grown adults, having a full blown watermelon seed fight! It's not a big deal. Nothing a sponge or a good squirt with the hose can't clean up after.

I only buy watermelon in the summer. I know it's available all year 'round but to me, it just doesn't taste the same. So why bother? Besides, if I eat it all year long, I won't be as excited about it come summer-time. Watermelon is BIG deal in my house. I want to keep it that way.......

I did find this recipe for Marinated Watermelon that sounds awfully good. Perfect for those who prefer  serving and eating watermelon with a bit more sophistication.  I'll make this the next time I'm trying to make an impression and don't want anyone to know I am just a country bumpkin masquerading as a city girl. All kidding aside, this recipe is different, slighty exotic and the perfect appetizer for a Sunday evening dinner outside beneath the stars.

12 to 24 1/2-inch watermelon balls
2 sprigs fresh mint, bruised
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil (available in the Asian food section)
Coarse sea salt

Combine all ingredients except salt in a zippered bag, gently toss to coat and refrigerate 1 to 3 hours. Toss gently once or twice more.

Spear melon balls on a cocktail fork or short bamboo skewer and serve on a small plate. For garnish, arrange 3 or 4 balls on the plate before serving. In both cases, sprinkle a few crystals of sea salt on the melon just before serving.

By the way, no matter how I eat my watermelon, I always sprinkle a little sea salt on it. It brings out the flavor. I am told it's a Southern thing. I don't know about that but it sure is Cynfully Good..........

Recipe from an article by Kevin D. Weeks,  a personal chef in Knoxville, Tenn. Weeks also teaches cooking classes, is the guide to Cooking for Two at, and blogs at Seriously Good.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Do It Indian Style with Warm Flat Bread and Spicy Beans

The thing I love most about being VEGAN (no animal products) is exploring all types of ethnic cuisine. I was raised on a typical American Diet:  fast food, meat, potatoes, hot dogs, boxed mac and cheese, and canned vegetables. When I made the transition to Vegetarian (no meat, but still eating eggs and dairy) many years ago, I had no idea what to eat. I was surrounded by carnivorous family and friends. I had no guide or mentor- I just knew I wanted to be a Vegetarian and was bound and determined to do it- alone if necessary.

After a year of existing on cheese and egg-filled spinach quiche (to make sure I was getting enough protein) and steamed veggies with brown rice, I got so bored. I needed more!

I went to my local library and borrowed Vegetarian cook books.  I had no idea what to cook. All I knew was American and Italian. Now I was experimenting with Indian, Asian, African..... Meat is a luxury or served as a condiment rather than the focus of the meal in those cultures. Most of the time, they exist on a plant-based diet so they have to really work with what they've got and make it good and nourishing. I was like a kid in a candy-store once I discovered Vegetarian ethnic cuisine and every night I tried something new.

That was a long time ago and my diet has since evolved. I no longer eat dairy products- no milk, no eggs, no cheese. I love eating this way. I feel so much better. I feel so clean and healthy. My Vegan diet can get boring if I don't explore and experiment.  It can also be unhealthy if I am not disciplined and careful. Again, I rely heavily on lots of ethnic dishes to keep it exciting and balanced.

That being said, I have a delicious recipe to share: Home-made, Whole-Wheat Flatbread and Spicy Beans. It's delicious, healing, and suprisingly easy to make. The recipe here calls for butter but you can replace it with your favorite Vegan alternative.

This is an Indian (not Native American Indian- India Indian) dish and I love to create the atmosphere to go along with the meal. I light candles, play Indian music, cover my living room coffee table with a brightly colored cloth, and scatter large pillows on the floor around the table to sit on. I place a big bowl filled with the Spicy Beans right in the center of the table and guests are encouraged to use the flatbread to scoop up my glorious concoction- family style. Cooling Cucumber Raita (made with soy yogurt and lots of mint) is served on the side along with lots of fresh tropical fruit and nuts. It's so much fun to eat this way and my friends are always asking when I plan on doing another Cynfully Good Indian Shin-Dig!

Try this recipe. Even if you are not a Vegan or Vegetarian, it's a refreshing change from the same old boring meat and potatoes. If you do it up the Cynfully Good way, your family and friends will love it!

Here's the recipe:

Warm Flat Bread with Spicy Beans

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Banana Nut-Butter Spread

I LOVE bananas! I eat one every day. They are good for me, loaded with potassium, and the perfect-on-the go snack!

I try to always buy organic bananas but sometimes the cost is so outrageous I get the conventional kind. The peel (which is always discarded) acts as a shield for any pesticides. If you can find fair priced organic bananas, however, I recommend you try them. They really do taste better.

No matter how quickly eat my bananas, I always have one or two that are too ripe. They start getting soft and brown. I hate when they get like that. I like to them when they are still slightly green. But, I hate to waste anything so if I am not going to toss my overly-ripened bananas into bread or pancake batter, I make a delicious spread with them. SO good, quick and nutritious.

Here's what I do:

I take about two teaspoons of All-Natural Organic Peanut, Almond or Cashew butter and soften it. I do this a few different ways: leave it out for awhile to soften at room temperature, put it in a pan on the stove for a minute, or if I am really in a rush, I put it in a little bowl and pop it in the microwave for about 15 seconds. You don't want it to become liquid. You want it to be soft and very easy to spread.

Then I take 1/4 of a very ripe banana and mash with a fork right into my butter mixture. Stir it all really well and VIOLA! I have just created a delicious, nutritious spread!

Spread it on Cinnamon Raisin toast (I am loving Alvarado St. Bakery Organic Sprouted Wheat), on a whole grain bagel, crackers,  use it as a dip for sliced apples, carrots and celery, OR spoon it over waffles and pancakes instead of all that sugary syrup. It's naturally sweet and packed with protein so it will satisfy your sugar and fat cravings and provide plenty of energy so you can keep going for hours.

The next time you have a few very ripe bananas- try this Cynfully Good home-made spread!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Make Your Own Popsicles

What's more refreshing on a hot summer day than a frozen popsicle? Sweet, thirst quenching, fun to eat. I love them!

Did you know the most of the popsicles you buy in your grocer's freezer are nothing more than water, sugar and artificial flavoring? The label might say "fruit flavored" but there really isn't any fruit in them at all.

You can make your own popsicles. It's easier than you think. All you need is fresh fruit and some juice. If you don't have molds at home or time to shop for ones shown in this recipe, just pour your mixture into ice cube trays, insert a wooden stick in each, and toss them in the freezer. They'll be just as good this way, too.

Here's the recipe from Whole Foods.

If you get busy making these right now, your Cynfully Good popsicles will be ready to enjoy right after dinner.

Make Your Own Bath Salts

I have a slight confession to make. After hard day, I love to soak in nice warm scented bath. I am addicted to bath and body products- especially bath salts and scrubs. I just love how my skin feels after I use them.

I used to spend a small fortune on that sort of stuff and acquired quite a collection of jars of salts and scrubs:
Lavender scented bath salts to help me unwind
Citrus to wake me up
Vanilla or Chocolate scented to make me smell good enough to taste
Musk or Sandalwood when I am feeling sexy......(what can I say? Dark, earthy, woods-ey fragrances turn me on!)

Much to my dismay, I discovered that most of my beloved bath salts and scrubs were nothing more than jars and tubes of artifical ingredients. The ones that smelled good enough to eat- tasted awful. Yes..... I actually tried them. If they are made of artificial ingredients and taste god-awful, what are they doing for my body? They definitely do the job of removing old, dry skin to reveal new, fresh and lovely skin.  New, fresh and lovely skin is now covered with a film of chemicals! NO THANKS!!!

There are natural bath salts out there, but they can be expensive. I do try to buy as many natural, organic, eco-friendly products as possible, but just everyone else, I am trying to save money.  It certainly doesn't make sense spending my hard-earned cash on something I can make myself! Yeah, yeah. Time is money. My time is as precious and as limited as yours. You have to weight it out.

So, I started making my own bath salts. It takes less than five minutes. I can add whatever ingredients or scented oils I want.  In the long-run, I am saving time, money and I know exactly what I am putting on and in my body because I mixed it up myself!

Here's how to make your own! Explore, have fun, put them in glass jars, tie satin ribbons or raffia around them to make them pretty. If you're willing to part with your gorgeous creations, give a few away as gifts.


Enjoy your very own Cynfully Good, all natural, skin softening, mood-altering bath salts.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cynfully Good Balsamic Vinaigrette

People are always asking me for my famous Balsamic Vinaigrette recipe. Most of the time, I invite them to come over and watch me make it because I rarely measure anything when I cook. I just add a bit of this and a bit of that until it's exactly how I want it.

I know most of you can't just get in the car and drive over to my place at dinner time, so today I tried to measured out the ingredients as best as possible.  I must warn you, however. This recipe calls for 3/4 of a cup of olive oil. This might scare the heck out of some of you- especially if you are watching your weight.

I do not believe in no-fat, low-fat, sugar-free foods or diets.  When your overall diet is good, healthy, and well-balanced or you are following MY Weight-Release program, this dressing mixed in a healthy, fresh, tossed green salad WILL NOT MAKE YOU FAT!!  If you are still a little leery (old habits are tough to break) cut back a bit on the oil (but not too much). If you are worried about the dressing being too strong because you've reduced the oil, make up the difference with water. 

Here you go............

1/4 cup good quality Balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon (or less) organic maple syrup (this is optional but I always add it)
1 tablespoon fresh, finely chopped garlic
1/4 teaspoon of salt
pinch or two freshly ground black pepper
pinch of dry mustard (optional)
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

You will have enough dressing for one large salad to serve at least 4 guests.

Beat the vinegar in a bowl with the maple syrup, garlic, salt, pepper and mustard with a wire whisk until well blended and salt dissolves. Add the oil ( a little at a time)  constantly whisking away as you add it. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Pour over your salad and enjoy!

Avocado Salad Sandwich

My all-time favorite sandwich is egg-salad! Freshly made, mixed with lots of fattening mayo on toasted whole-grain bread! Oh. My. Goodness! Delish! There are times I wake up craving such a sandwich. I think it's the fat and the consistency of the egg-salad that I desire but since I am Vegan, eggs are no longer a part of my diet.

I have had "eggless" egg-salad. It's made from crumbled tofu and mixed with spices like tumeric (to give it that nice yellow color).  It's pretty good but I try not to rely on too much tofu and soy products in my diet.

So what's a gal to do?

Avocados! I love avocados. They have that creamy, full-fat consistency I crave. Most people shy away from avocados BUT they are full of vitamins, nutrients and "good" fat. It all you depends on how you eat them or what you eat them with. Avocado in a salad, chopped up in your bean dishes, as a snack, or served with your veggie burritos (minus the fatty cheese) = GOOD. Avocado on top of your fatty, greasy cheese-burger deluxe platter at the diner = NOT SO GOOD!

When I want something that reminds me of egg-salad, here's what I do:

I take one very ripe avocado, peel it and mash it in a bowl. I don't cream it, I want it to stay slightly chunky- like egg-salad. Occasionally I will add about a teaspoon or two of Nayonaisse (Vegan mayo without the eggs and unhealthy fat). Then I mix in some very finely minced fresh onion (about a tablespoon), sea salt, pepper, sometimes a dash of cumin. Then I pile it high on toasted whole grain bread, add a slice of fresh tomato and some alfalfa sprouts if I have them.  The avocado mixture is enough for two sandwiches or a very hearty sandwich for one!

If you don't want the bread, scoop the mixture into lettuce leaves and roll them up like tortillas or just mix it into a big, green tossed salad.

So Cynfully Good..........

Monday, August 8, 2011

Skillet Croutons

I very rarely buy or eat bread but when I do it's always freshly baked, crusty, whole-grain french bread. If by chance, every last slice isn't gobbled up at dinner, it's hard, stale and pretty much useless by the next day. Sometimes I will turn it into fresh breadcrumbs but those are useless to me, too. What am I going to use breadcrumbs for? I don't eat meat (no chicken cutlets) or fish (no stuffed flounder or baked clams) and when I make my eggplant parmigiana, it's layers and layers of marinated, grilled eggplant slices and fresh tomatoes- oozing with lots of vegan mozzarella. NO breading, no frying, no fattening, greasy, time consuming mess.  (My eggplant parm really is delicious, by the way).

One thing I do love: croutons in my salad but never the boxed kind. Those are just dried out, artificially flavored little squares of white bread.  Try making your own homemade croutons. They are very easy to make and taste so good! Cook them up in a cast iron skillet, if you have one. They will taste even better.

Skillet Croutons

makes one cup

1 cup 1/4-inch diced day-old baguette, french bread or Italian bread (preferably whole wheat)

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon Galaxy Brand Vegan grated Parmesan-style cheese or regular grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Toss all ingredients together in a bowl until bread cubes are well coated.

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add seasoned bread cubes to pan and cook, turning occasionally, until golden all over, about 5 to 7 minutes. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Recipe adapted from In Jennie's

Toss homemade croutons in salads and soups. It's a Cynfully Good way to use your day-old bread!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Home Made Ketchup

It's grilling season! No one wants to cook indoors now. It's all about barbecues and making the most of this gorgeous weather.

This is also the time we whip out all those condiments to pile on our burgers! Of course, for me it's veggie burgers and I love to add as many extras as I can- ketchup, mustard, salsa, relish, chutney....the more the better!

Ketchup seems to be the most popular of summertime condiments. What would a burger be without the ketchup?

What's in your favorite bottle of ketchup? I found a bottle of regular Heinz (the brand considered to be the best) in my mom's fridge. Here's what inside:

tomato concentrate made from vine ripened tomatoes, distilled vinegar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, salt, spice, onion powder, natural flavoring.

Do see you see what I see? Corn Syrup X 2! YUCK! If you are not aware of how bad corn syrup is for you, read this:

Why High Fructose Corn Syrup is Bad for You

Now Heinz does make Simply Heinz without HFC, but it is only available in a big 32oz. size. Hunts also has a line of ketchup without all that HFC but neither of these products are made with organic tomatoes. Organic ketchup is available, but it can be quite costly compared to conventional brands.

Why not make your own ketchup? It's fun, it's easy and the best part? You put it all in a crock pot, set it and forget it. That way, you can do other things! This recipe is slightly sweet (it calls for brown rice syrup instead of sugar) and you can add whatever you wish to it. How about adding some chili powder or a diced jalapeno pepper for a nice spicy ketchup? Or you can cut back on the sweetener and add fresh cut organic peaches at the final stage of cooking?  Get creative and have fun with it! You can even give jars of your homemade ketchup as gifts. The possibilities are endless.

Homemade Crock Pot Ketchup
yields about 4 cups
1 (28 oz) can organic tomato puree or make your own puree using fresh garden tomatoes
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup organic brown rice syrup
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
kosher salt to taste
fresh ground black pepper to taste

Place all ingredients except kosher salt and black pepper into a medium Crock Pot (3 - 4 1/2 quarts). Stir well. Cover and turn on high for 2 - 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid and puree with an immersion blender, or transfer to a regular blender or food processer and puree until smooth. Return to crock (if you used a blender or food processor) and cook on high uncovered for 30 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until ketchup has reached desired consistency. You want it to be nice and thick.
Place into clean pint mason jars. Refrigerate or freeze. This will keep in the refrigerator for about 2 months.

This homemade ketchup is so Cynfully Good--you'll want to pour it on everything all year long!

Recipe and photo from : Simply Gluten and Sugar Free.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Baby Bella Philly Sandwiches

For those of you who think eating well is boring......

For the ones who believe eating REAL food means unsatisfying, unappealing meals.....

And the skeptics who are convinced a vegan or vegetarian diet is nothing more than steamed veggies and tofu......

THINK AGAIN!!!!!  I am about to prove you wrong with this:

Baby Bella Philly Sandwiches

makes 2-3 sandwiches

1 8oz pack of sliced Baby Bella mushrooms
2 tablespoons flour, seasoned with pinch garlic powder, salt and pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, sliced thin
1 red or green bell pepper sliced thin
1 garlic clove, minced
1 pinch dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tablespoons of water, vegetable broth or red wine
4 slices of Galaxy Provolone style vegan cheese (or regular provolone if you eat dairy)
2-3 whole wheat hoagie rolls, split & drizzled with olive oil and lightly sprinkled with garlic powder
Steak Sauce, for serving

Toss sliced mushrooms with seasoned flour until lightly coated, set aside.

In a large non stick skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil and add mushrooms to pan. Cook mushrooms over medium heat until they start to brown, about 5-7 minutes. Set aside.

In same pan, add garlic, onions and peppers and season with salt, pepper and dried oregano. Cook until lightly browned and soft about 7 minutes. Add two tablespoons of liquid (water, vegetable broth or red wine) to pan to deglaze.
Stir vegetables to pick up all the flavors from bottom of pan and set aside.

Place seasoned split rolls under broiler for about 1-2 minutes until lightly toasted. Take rolls out of oven, fill with mushrooms, then onion and pepper mixture then top with provolone cheese. Place sandwiches back under broiler and cook for about 1 minute or until cheese is bubbly, watching carefully to not burn.

Serve with your favorite steak sauce

Meatless, satisfying and good for you......This is Cynfully Good eating!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Grilled Peaches

photo from

Why would you want cake when you can have Grilled Peaches?  The perfect summer dessert. This luscious treat takes minutes to prepare and is healthy and delicious. Just be sure to use a spotlessly clean grill.  You don't want your peaches to soak up left-over meat drippings from your last cook-out.

Here's what you need:

fresh organic peaches (figure 1/2 peach for each person)
coconut milk ice cream (this is vegan and made from coconut milk) OR your favorite vanilla ice cream or vegan substitute. I love the coconut milk ice cream- it adds an exotic flair.

Cut a peach in half from top to bottom, and remove the pit. Place the peaches on the grill, cut side down. Cook for one minute, turn over, and cook for another minute on the other side. Remove peaches and set in individual bowls or plates. Add a small scoop of coconut milk ice cream in each bowl. Serve immediately.