Wednesday, January 30, 2013

"Tomato Lover's" Heirloom Seeds Pack

Good morning!  No recipe post today but I'd like to share one of the most popular seed pack combos from Mary's Heirloom Seeds.
Amana's Orange Tomatoes
The Tomato Lover's Variety Pack is: A rainbow of tomatoes of various shapes and sizes.  A seed-saver's dream!  
Emerald Green Tomato
Includes One packet of each:
   -Amana's Orange
   -Emerald Green
   -Red Fig 

Red Fig Tomatoes

All of the seed varieties include growing instructions.  
For more info on seeds, go to Mary's Heirloom Seeds.  

For more info on growing, check out Mary's 
Growing from Seed page. 

Homegrown tomatoes make the meal! 

Almost forgot...I have a HUGE favor to ask...
Check out Vegan Mother Hubbard!  If you have a spare moment, vote for her blog HERE!  Even if you're not vegan, she has a bunch of great recipes (and 2 adorable girls).

Thank you a bunch!!  

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Bread Machine Recipe: Herb Bread

Meatless Monday #21 is Homemade Bread!
I borrowed a friend's bread machine this weekend to decide whether it's worth it to purchase one.  I usually just make bread in a bowl and bake it in the oven.  The only problem is it involves staying home for 4+ hours.

This was my first time using a bread machine and I'm impressed...This is not a review!  I'll share more about the machine later.  I decided to try an herb bread for the first run and we ate half the loaf with lunch and dinner.  Score! 

Herb Bread
adapted from
originally Rosemary Bread


1 cup warm water (110 degrees F (43 degrees C))
3 tablespoons olive oil 
3 cups all-purpose flour, organic and unbleached
3 teaspoons Italian seasoning (dry spices)
3 tablespoons white sugar or stevia
1 1/2 teaspoons salt 
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast 


Pour the water into the pan of a bread machine, then sprinkle in the yeast and sugar. Let the mixture sit in the bread machine until a creamy foam forms on top of the water, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle in the salt, then add olive oil, thyme, garlic powder, rosemary, and flour. Set the machine for light crust setting, and start the machine.

**My machine directions say to add "wet" ingredients first and then "flour" ingredients which is what I did and it turned our great!**  The house smells amazing!  Looking for more bread machine recipes now.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Easiest Sugar Cookies (from scratch)

These little guys may not be the healthiest but they're definitely easy to make!  I substituted half of the butter for apple sauce but next time I'll try all apple sauce and whole wheat flour.

Easiest Sugar Cookies
adapted from

2 3/4 unbleached, organic flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup apple sauce, unsweetened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon homemade vanilla extract

Frosting: Marshmallow Creme (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth.  Beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients. Roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into balls, and place onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden. Let stand on cookie sheet two minutes before removing to cool on wire racks.

To be totally honest, I put all of the ingredients into 1 bowl and mixed thoroughly.  The cookies turned out great and I didn't have to dirty more dishes.  These cookies are delicious plain or with marshmallow creme.  I thought about adding unsweetened cocoa to the marshmallow creme...Maybe next time!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Margarita Shot

This is such a random post. We had a really great weekend!  We're finally getting a chance to enjoy being newly-weds now that we're both not sick (at the same time).

Every now and then we just jump off and have a shot of tequila.  Why?  Totally my fault!  I love good tequila...It's like kryptonite.  So my husband made us a mini-margarita.

Margarita Shot

In a large shooter glass...
Add slightly less than 1 ounce of tequila (Hornitos), 
slightly less than 1 ounce of Cointreau 
and a splash of lime juice.

Thanks for stopping by Mary's Kitchen!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Baked Yam and Cabbage Tortilla Soup

Welcome to Meatless on Monday #20 with a special recipe! 

This is a Fantastic creation from my sister Jen.  She is a fabulous cook, talented photographer, SUPER sister and professional longboarder.  
I am very proud of her.

For Christmas I sent everyone homemade/DIY gifts.  
Remember that Fajita Mix I shared Friday?  
Jen used it in soup and I'm told it was delicious.

Baked Yam and Cabbage Tortilla Soup 
made with
Mary's Fajita Mix
Queso Fresco Quesadilla 


2 tbs coconut oil
1 large white onion, chopped
1 bulb of garlic or 2 cloves of elephant garlic, chopped
2-3tbs Mary's Fajita Mix
fresh cilantro, small pinch
5 tomatoes
1/8 lime wedge
1 head of cabbage, chopped
4 corn tortillas
4 baked yams, cut into fourths

small tortillas
queso fresco

-heat coconut oil on MED-HIGH in large soup pot
-add onions and garlic, stir so that onions and garlic are coated with oil
-turn heat down to LOW and stir in Mary's Fajita Mix then cover until soft
-turn heat up to high and add enough water to cover onions and garlic while stirring
-add tomatoes and cabbage to pot and stir to coat tomatoes and cabbage
-add enough water to cover tomatoes, cabbage, cilantro and lime wedge and bring to boil
-tear tortillas into small pieces and add to pot 
-turn heat to low and cover until cabbage is softened
-add in yams and bring to high boil while stirring
-turn heat to low and cover for a while
-once all the ingredients soft, transfer to blender in batches and blend until smooth
-return to pot and heat on low until you are ready to serve

-heat a skillet on medium heat
-heat tortilla on both sides
-place queso fresco on tortilla
-fold tortilla in half to close the cheese in
-cook until both sides are golden brown




Friday, January 18, 2013

Slow Cooker Spicy Fajita Chicken

One of the most raved about Christmas gifts I gave this year was my DIY Fajita Mix.  It's a great spice mix for just about anything (including fajitas).

My sister made a delicious Baked Yam and Cabbage Tortilla Soup.  I'll share the recipe Monday.  I have even sprinkled the fajita mix on Ramen noodles instead of the super-salty package of spices (2 teaspoons per package of noodles).

I made a huge bowl of the fajita mix and then added the mix to cute little jars as gifts.  The recipe below is the original recipe if you just want to make a small amount of mix.

originally posted at Back to the Basics

Steak Fajita Spice blend
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon paprika (for more kick, use hot paprika)
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

To Make: Mix all ingredients in jar or food processor and store in an airtight container.

Spicy Fajita Chicken

8 Chicken Breast
1 can tomato paste or 2 cans tomato sauce
4 cups water
3 tablespoons Fajita Spice Blend

Mix tomato, water and fajita mix.  Place chicken in your slow cooker and cover with mix.  Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8 hours.

The chicken is fantastic over brown rice, in tacos and burritos OR in Healthy Chicken Taco Soup (below)

Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Soup
Adapted from

*Use ingredients above* PLUS:
(canned, fresh or home-canned)
1 can black beans
1 can chili beans
1 can whole kernel corn
1 carrot, chopped
2 cans tomatoes with green chiles
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
cheddar cheese, optional
light sour cream, optional
tortilla chips, crushed

Use half of the chicken from above.  Combine chicken, beans, corn, carrot and tomatoes in your sow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 5 hours.  Remove chicken and shred.  Add the chicken back in and cook on low for 2 more hours.

To serve, top with cilantro, sour cream, cheddar cheese and tortillas chips.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Slow Cooker: Pulled Pork, DIY Sauce

I love using my slow cooker.  Most of the time I just throw everything in and turn it on.  This is one of those recipes.  I prefer to make my own BBQ Sauce.  It takes a bit more time but it's so much tastier!

Pulled Pork with Homemade BBQ Sauce

14 ounces beef broth (or homemade veggie broth)
3 pounds boneless pork ribs (or Boston Butt roast)
18 ounces bottle barbeque sauce (or Homemade)

Pour can of beef broth into slow cooker, and add boneless pork ribs. Cook on High heat for 4 hours, or until meat shreds easily. Remove meat, and shred with two forks. It will seem that it's not working right away, but it will.

Place pork back into slow cooker and add BBQ Sauce.


Maple BBQ Sauce

2 teaspoons grapeseed or olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup reduced-sodium ketchup,
1/2 cup Southern Comfort liqueur, or apple juice
1/4 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, or reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons hot sauce, such as Tabasco
5 cloves garlic, minced

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until softened but not browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add ketchup, Southern Comfort (or apple juice), maple syrup, mustard, Worcestershire sauce (or soy sauce), hot sauce and garlic and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 30 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes. Transfer to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. (Use caution when blending hot liquids.)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Meatless on Monday # 19 Chickpea Cakes

Chickpeas, or Garbanzo Beans, are are an excellent source of fiber, folate and manganese.  They also contain protein, iron, copper, zinc and magnesium.  Diets high in fiber can help lower cholesterol and improve blood sugar levels.

I wasn't sure about making this dish / appetizer.  I like chickpeas but have only made them from scratch a few times in large batches.  I freeze in small packages to use in the future.  I'm doing my best to stay away from canned or processed food. I found this recipe at

Chickpea Cakes
Makes about 16 small cakes
Vegetarian (vegan if you use an egg-replacer)

3 cups cooked chickpeas (two 15 oz. cans, drained and rinsed)
1/2 cup green onions, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 t. minced rosemary leaves
3/4 t. salt
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup homemade breadcrumbs 
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
oil for shallow frying
sea salt (ideally Maldon or fleur de sel) for finishing

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and buzz until you have a fairly uniform mixture, but before it is completely pureed. We want some texture left. You should be able to form it into a ball that holds its shape. It should be neither crumbly nor a batter. Add liquid or breadcrumbs as necessary to find the right moisture level. If you don’t mind tasting raw egg, taste a bit and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large skillet, preferably cast-iron, over a medium-high flame. Take a golf-ball sized piece of dough, press it in your hands into a flattened 3-inch patty and place in the skillet. Repeat with as many as will fit comfortably. Fry on one side until golden brown, about 3 minutes, then flip and brown the other side. Remove to paper towels and finish with a little bit of sea salt.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Upcoming Days of Appreciation

I have a confession to make...I don't like Valentine's Day!  Yep, it's true.  I decorate our office because our patients like to see festive decorations but I just don't get into it.  I'll make a few pink snacks but you won't see too much about the holiday on either of my blogs.
Purple Opal Basil in my garden
On to the Days of Appreciation...There are SO many special days out there to appreciate people in your life.  Even if they are made up holidays or just a random day to say "Thank You" just because, you have to start somewhere.

Appreciation Days
Employee Appreciation Day: First Friday in March
National Agriculture Day: March 19
Administrative Professionals Day: April 24
Cinco De Mayo: May 5
Teacher Appreciation Day: May 7
Parent's Day: July 28
Grandparents Day: Sept 9
Bosses Day: October 16
SO MANY MORE here!!!

I was making a point but I almost forgot...Grow something or create something and make someone's day!  I started by planting Basil seeds in Peat Pellets.  
Once those seeds grow into tiny plants I'll transplant them into a small decorated container and give someone a Gift that Keeps on Giving!  Before I give the gift, I'll attach a recipe card for my favorite Homemade Pesto.  Yum!

Here are some ideas:


Personal Herb Garden

If you'd like to get started on DIY gifts for appreciation days or Holidays, check out Mary's Heirloom Seeds.
-Peat Pellets = 25@ $8.00
-Herb Seeds 35-250 seeds @ $4.00
That's a great deal...AND, Until January 25th all orders $10-$25 will include and additional packet of seeds for FREE!

Actual Holidays: (I may have missed a few)
Valentine's Day: February 14
Pesident's Day: Feb 18
St. Patrick's Day: March 17
Easter: March 31
Earth Day: April 22
Mother's Day: May 12
Memorial Day: May 27
Father's Day: June 16
Independence Day: July 4
Columbus Day: Oct 14
Halloween: Oct 31
Veteran's Day: Nov 11
Thanksgiving: Nov 28
Christmas Dec 25

Happy Planting/Gifting!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Cookbooks to get Inspired

I mentioned the other day that I just wasn't feeling creative in the kitchen possibly because of a little stress over Baby Lucy.  She's fine, just a little surgery.  Her stitches should come out in a few days and she'll be back to climbing all over everything, pestering our 2 older cats and just being a kitten again.

To get motivated I thought I'd share a few of my favorite cookbooks...Not that I stick to the recipes all of the time...But I love a good cookbook.

First is my own cookbook, Mary's Real Food Cookbook.  It was my first attempt at something bigger that my blog.  I had a great time creating the book and look forward to making another (only this time bigger and less expensive).

Next is a cookbook that I won in a giveaway,

Check out my recipe post: Hot Wassail

Organic Cookbooks:

Gluten Free Cooking:

Canning and Preserving:

Slow-Cooker / Crock Pot Meals:

Raw Food:

Are you inspired yet?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Fed up and Tired!

This is definitely NOT the way I wanted to start the new year.  The truth is my kitchen is tiny, my patience at the moment is thin and I've been stressed.

Baby Lucy was spayed on Friday and I was so upset about having to leave her.  Most people just think "It's just a cat."  Not us!  Our cats are our children and surgery is a big deal...Not to mention expensive!  We could have gone to the {insert local clinic here} and saved a bunch of money but the truth is we trust our vet, we are comfortable with her and we know that she will be treated with love and care.

This has nothing to do with food but I just had to share.  I have not had the energy or the creativity to cook or come up with anything worth blogging about in the food arena.  I have been VERY busy at Back to the Basics.  I'm on a serious garden kick...HUGE stress reliever for me!

Here's baby Lucy covered in the blankets (she loves being under warm laundry).  My husband called her Darth Lucy with her e-collar.
Yes that's duct tape.  She is incredibly limber and was able to reach her stitches so we improvised and made her collar longer.

We ate pizza!  {Gasp}  We have lived on baked ziti I made and froze last week, ham sandwiches, scrambled eggs and salad for the last week.  BUT...Not to worry I'll get out of this cooking funk soon.  We might be moving in February/March into a place that's just a bit smaller with a HUGE yard and a bigger kitchen.  I can live with a regular size living room (instead of a football field) in exchange for a bigger kitchen.  Priorities people!!!

I totally understand that my issues are so minor compared to others.  I'm allowed to vent every now and then!  On a positive note...My family is healthy, Lucy is healing and we had a beautiful day today.

Until next time, check out one of my go-to dessert...
Vanishing Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Coconut Cookies

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Cowboy Cookies for my Texan

No, my husband is not a cowboy but he did grow up in Texas.  I found this recipe for Cowboy Cookies and they are similar to my  Vanishing Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies.  {Deliciousness}  But I substitute Apple Sauce and Coconut Oil for the butter.  Also, if you substitute regular apple sauce you might want to cut out a bit of sugar.

We have a joke in our house these days.  My husband calls his old blue jeans his "Apocalypse Pants" because unless there's an Apocalypse, he won't fit into them!  LOL  But seriously, I love to cook and he loves to eat so we'll both just deal with it (and work out more).

Cowboy Cookies
from Simply Recipes


1 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 sticks butter (6 ounces, 12 Tbsp), at room temperature

3/4 cup white sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 large eggs*, beaten

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats

1 cup sweetened flaked coconut (we used shredded)

1 cup chopped pecans

*This recipe is a half recipe of the original, which calls for 3 eggs. To get half of 3 eggs, you can either just use only one egg, or beat two eggs and remove about 2 Tbsp.


Preheat oven to 350°F with racks in upper and lower third. Line two large baking sheets with Silpat or parchment paper.

In a large bowl, vigorously whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

Place butter in a standing electric mixer and beat on medium speed until smooth and light, about 1 minute. Slowly add in the white sugar and brown sugar, and beat to combine, about 2 more minutes.  Add half the eggs, beat, and then add the other half and beat again. Add the vanilla extract and beat again.

Lower the speed of the mixer to low and slowly add the flour mixture, until just combined. Add the chocolate chips, oats, coconut, and pecans, mixing until just combined.

If you want large cookies, drop about 1/4 cup lumps of the dough onto the prepared cookie sheets, separated by 3 inches to allow for enough room for the cookies to spread as they cook. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes, then rotate the cookie sheets front to back and top to bottom, and bake for an additional 7 to 9 minutes. For smaller cookies, use about 2 Tbsp of the cookie dough per cookie and cook for 13 to 16 minutes, rotating half way.
Note that if you are using a dark baking sheet, it will absorb more heat, and you won't need as much baking time. Also, the top rack will bake more quickly because heat rises. 

Remove from oven and let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes.  Then remove the cookies to a rack to cool completely.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Easy Baked Ziti but I ran out of Ziti!

You read that right.  I started out making Baked Ziti thinking I had a multi-pack of Ziti sitting on a shelf.  Wrong!  So what's a girl to do mid-recipe?  Improvise!  I used a pack of Whole Grain lasagna noodles instead and the recipe came out amazing!  2 thumbs up from the hubs!

Easy Baked Ziti
adapted from Simply Recipes

1 pound ziti (or penne) pasta 
(I used lasagna noodles)

Olive oil

1 pound bulk Italian sausage or ground beef or pork
*I used Italian sausage*

1 large onion, chopped

3-4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 Tbsp fresh rosemary (or basil), minced

1 Tbsp Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 large jar of marinara sauce (about 32 ounces) or make your own tomato sauce

1/2 pound of mozzarella cheese, grated

1 heaping cup of ricotta cheese

1 cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
*I omitted the parmesan cheese*


Bring a large pot of water to a strong boil. Add about a tablespoon of salt for every 2 quarts of water. Add the pasta and boil, uncovered, until the pasta is al dente—edible but still a little firm. Drain the pasta through a colander. Toss with a little olive oil so the pasta does not stick together while you make the sauce.

Pour a tablespoon or so of olive oil into a large sauté pan on medium-high to heat. When the oil is hot, add the bulk sausage or ground meat. Do not crowd the pan (work in batches if needed). Break up any large chunks of sausage as it cooks. Brown well. Don't stir that often or it will be more difficult for the meat to brown. If you are using ground beef or pork instead of sausage, add a little salt.

When the meat is mostly browned, add the onions and stir well to combine. Sauté everything until the onions are translucent and beginning to brown, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic, rosemary or basil, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes and stir to combine. Cook 1 minute, then add the tomato sauce and stir well. Bring to a simmer.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of a 9x13-inch casserole pan, then dot the surface with half the ricotta cheese. Ladle in some sauce with the pasta, mix it well and add the pasta into the casserole.

Pour the rest of the sauce over the pasta, dot the remaining ricotta cheese over the pasta, and sprinkle on top both the mozzarella and the Parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven until the top is nicely browned, about 20 minutes.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Old Fashioned Pancakes and Happy New Year!

Good Morning and Happy New Year!!!

Today is a fantastic day for Pancakes.  Don't you think?  I found an easy recipe at  However, after making it I have to say that I prefer my pancakes a bit sweeter and less doughy.  SO, when I make this again I'll substitute the butter for applesauce which should give me a lighter, sweeter pancake.  Also, I like to add a generous sprinkle of cinnamon to my pancake batter.

Enjoy and "tweak away"!

Old Fashioned Pancakes
I'm lucky I took a picture before they vanished!
Make 8 servings

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups milk
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon white sugar


In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Make a well in the center and pour in the milk, egg and melted butter; mix until smooth.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.