Asian Noodle Pork with Bok Choy

– johanna | January 27th, 2012

Filed under: RECIPES - Main Dish, RECIPES - Sides

Normally when I go to the grocery store I stick to my shopping list; the one exception being loss leader items (sale items we use often). During a shopping trip I found the bok choy too tempting to pass by. These mini green lettuce type vegetables looked so beautiful I just had to alter the week’s menu to accomodate them.

I never gave bok choy a second look until I met a friend of mine, Daravahn, who is from Loas. She used them all the time in stir-fry and soup. Bok Choy is a type of cabbage often used in Chinese cooking. It is believed to be one of the oldest vegetables in the Chinese diet.

To prepare the bok choy for cooking, start by trimming the end of the stem off. Separate and wash. Cut the green leaf parts from the cream colored stem. Because the stem takes longer to cook always cook the stems first.

4 pork chops
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 baby bok choy
6 cups chicken stock, or equal parts vegetable and chicken stocks
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch Cayenne pepper
1 pound noodles

Season 4 chops with salt and pepper. Cut into strips.

Heat oil in a wok or large skillet. Cook pork chops 3-5 minutes (depending on how thick they are) each side. Remove.

Add onions. Cook 3 minutes or until tender.
Add baby bok choy stems; cooking until tender. Add leaves, cook until wilted. Remove bok choy.

Add 6 cups broth, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp ginger ground, pinch cyanne pepper, and 1 tsp seseame oil to hot pan. Bring to a boil, add 1 pound noodles. When tender return pork and bok choy to pan. Serve with green onions.

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Shanghainese Wonton Soup

– johanna | January 20th, 2012

Filed under: RECIPES - Soup / Salad

Wonton soup is always on the menu for Chinese New Year mostly because it is my favorite. The simple broth with a small wrapped up surprise is delicious and comforting on a cold winters day.

Dinner time topic? What would you wish for if you could have one wish?

Source: Joylicious

Makes 48-55 wontons

7 oz shrimp, shelled
14 oz ground pork
1 package wonton wrappers
1/2 egg white
1 tablespoon corn strach
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon rice wine
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
1 teaspoon sugar

6 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon sesame oil
cilantro and green onion, chopped for garnish
1 teaspoon salt

Wash the shrimp, squeeze out the excess moisture and chop coarsely. Mix together with the ground pork, egg white, cornstarch, sesame oil, salt, sugar, rice wine and ginger. Take your wonton wrappers and wrap them in a moist towel, this keeps the wrappers from drying out. Wrap one teaspoon filling in each wonton wrapper. You can fold them as the way I’ve shown or just gather and twist the edges together to form a little purse.

Bring the chicken stock and salt and white pepper to a boil and pour into a soup bowl. Bring 5 cups of water to a boil and drop in the wontons. Cook until the wontons rise to the top, about 5 minutes. Remove the wontons from the water and place in the prepared chicken broth. Top with scallions, cilantro and drizzle with sesame oil. Serve immediately.

***** A trick my mom would always use to adjust the flavorings for the filling is she would make a wonton and cook and taste it first. That way you’re able to adjust the flavorings according to your taste (i.e. add more salt to the filling or more sugar or more wine).

***** My mom use to steam the wontons and then place them in the broth. This keeps the wontons from falling apart and becoming over cooked. If you choose to steam the wontons you can use a bamboo steamer (as pictured) and steam for 10 minutes on high heat. You can also eat the wontons plain without the broth and serve them alongside a dipping sauce.

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Chicken Chili

– johanna | January 13th, 2012

Filed under: RECIPES - Soup / Salad

Photo: Property of “Not Without Salt

Chicken chili is what you get when chicken cacciatori is on the menu, but the masses demand chili. My children tend to shy away from soups with excessive amounts of broth. They would much prefer a heartier stew or chili.

As with most chili recipes this one also has some kick to it. It is just perfect for my milder taste buds. However, if you think it is not hot enough increase the red pepper flakes to 1/2 – 1 teaspoons.

Source: Not Without Salt
2 large yellow onions, medium dice
2 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and large-diced
2 yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded, and large-diced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 (28-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans
1/4 cup minced cilantro stems
3 cups chicken cooked, shredded

Cook the onions in the butter over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the bell peppers, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, cayenne, and salt. Cook for 1 minute. Add diced tomatoes and their juice to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add cooked chicken, black beans and cilantro stems to the chili and simmer, uncovered, for another 20 minutes. Serve with the cilantro and sour cream.

– Add 2 diced celery sticks
– Replace the black beans with white beans and kidney beans.
– Omit the bell peppers substituting 3 stalks celery finely chopped.
– This recipe works great with leftover turkey from the holiday.
– For a vegetarian version omit the chicken and add 1/2 cup lentils.

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Spinach Cobb Salad

– johanna | January 6th, 2012

Filed under: RECIPES - Soup / Salad

Cobb salads have always been my favorite. The egg, bacon, lettuce and dressing taste so satisfying and filling. We were in the rut of serving lettuce with carrots and celery for so long salads became really boring. I have since tried to remember that a salad is just another way of eating a sandwich. Anything you would put on a sandwich could be combined to make a salad.

Cobb salads traditionally consist of boiled egg, meats and cheeses. I love a sprinkle of blue cheese and a couple slices of beets.

Egg, sliced
Red Onion, sliced
Bacon, chopped
Ham, chopped
Mushrooms, sliced
Pine nuts
Salt and pepper

Place spinach in a large bowl. Top with egg slices, onion rings, ham, bacon, mushrooms, and nuts. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with a little vinegar and oil.

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December Website Review: Dianne Craft

– johanna | January 3rd, 2012

Filed under: THE BOOKSHELF

Clipart Source: Unavailable

Dianne Craft was the key note speaker at a local two day conference for educators back in July. Many had not heard of her before. Surprisingly after the first 15 minutes she had everyone mesmerized and enthusiastic, so much so that attendance had doubled the next day.

Dianne (with two N’s) holds a Master’s Degree in special education and is a Certified Natural Health Professional. She has 35 years of experience working with children of all strengths; many of whom are labeled Autistic, Asberger, ADHD, ADD, OCD, behavior problems and those with sensory dysfunctions. Rather than mask the problems these children experienced with medication or excuses, she looks for viable methods of treatment to help them succeed.

Dianne discovered there was more going on in the little brains of each child she worked with. Slowly she started to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Children who hate to write or read. Children who seem lazy or too tired, who refuse to sit up in their chair to do their work, those labeled difficult or lazy, and those deemed a problem child. Dianne realized that these children through no fault of their own, or their parents, lacked the normal sensory input/output that enables us to function in normal everyday routines.

When we go to tie our shoe the action is automatic. The act of tying ones shoe is a struggle and usually takes longer for someone with a sensory deficiency issue. Many times a child who appears to have great difficulty with focusing and attending to a task is really struggling with a sensory processing problem. Examples of errant signals due to sensory dysfunction would be a bothersome tag on a shirt, the line at the toe of a sock, bright sunlight, covers ears to block out noises, the inability to focus, hates to read or write, and transitions. Dianne notes that instead of learning to compensate for the before mentioned struggles we can all learn to make sensible corrections that will inadvertently open up a that particular “learning gate” thus reducing the stress.

The Four Learning Gates:
A. Visual Processing
B. Visual/Motor (Writing)
C. Auditory Processing
D. Attention/Behavior

Dianne works with children all over the country teaching them how to correct these glitches, rather than focusing on methods of compensating. Dianne refers to a compensation as, “making learning a task easier while the correction reduces the stress in the child’s learning system so that learning can flow.” Dianne calls this “opening up the child’s learning gate.”

A child who hates to write has more going on inside his brain than we realize. While we may see defiance, Ms. Craft believes the child’s mixed eye/hand dominance inhibits their “ability to easily think and write at the same time.” The writing process is not automatic, therefore the child is forced to think about letter formation rather than the subject matter he or she is writing about. A child who struggles with writing is taught to compensate by using a keyboard, oral dictation or limiting the amount of required writing. A correction exercise would include perceptual motor skills that strengthen the essential muscles along the spine and shoulders, in addition to a daily writing exercise, as seen below in the picture. Neural-pathway exercises teach the brain how to write the letters requiring less energy.

Dianne’s Daily Exercise: Use a large sized crayon, paper removed, to trace the figure-8 three times. Place three fingers on the bottom center space marked with the picture, lining the center line up with the midline of your body. This allows the hand to cross the body’s midline. Motion must be slow enough to stay within the 1/4 inch space between the circle line and the arrow. Beginning at the dot in the center line move the crayon up and to the left, around and up to the right around and back to the dot. Repeat three times for one set. After each figure-8 set practice writing a letter following the samples given on the top and bottom of the page. Write the letter three times then move back to the figure-8 three times. Play calm classical music during the exercise. Duration- 15 minutes.

The Dianne Craft website has available to purchase nutritional supplements (also found in local stores in most cities) and books that address sensory dysfunctions. If sensory issues and blocked learning gates are a concern begin with the book on Brain Integration Therapy. It is a step by step guide to get the those neuro-pathways running like a super highway rather than a country road with potholes. There are several edited videos to view on her website and youtube. Lesson plans with exercises in the areas of reading, math, and writing are also available.

Other children thought to have ADHD or Spectrum Disorders faired well with a change of diet. The CD “The Biology of Behavior” focuses on overcoming glitches through nutrition. The book outlines recommended changes to diet to combat the residual effects from illnesses, antibiotics and a sensitive digestive system. Research is discovering that the lack of good gut flora contributes to behavior issues and sensitivities to foods. Dianne recommends cleansing the body of yeast with a daily regiment of vitamins, omega fish oil pills, primadophilus 3 times a day, and Grapeseed extract by Nutri-biotics for the yeast and fungus. To achieve the most success Dianne’s diet can be combined with the Feingold plan and must be followed exactly.

Helping these children feel more comfortable in their skin makes home life all the more enjoyable. If you know of someone with sensory, behavioral, or spectrum disorders pass it on.

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Gluten Free Pancakes

– johanna | December 30th, 2011

Filed under: RECIPES - Breads, RECIPES - Breakfast

In our home pancakes are more than just a breakfast food drenched in syrup. They are a quick snack with cream cheese or peanut butter. Or a sweet dessert with chocolate or butter and cinnamon sugar. And, they had better hold up under the sharp scrutiny of the little guy, our carbohydrate connoisseur. So you can imagine my delight when the switch from wheat to gluten-free pancakes went unnoticed.

These gluten-free pancakes are light and fluffy just like a buttermilk pancake should be. I love them best with sauteed sliced banana in real maple syrup. They also taste scrumptious with a smear of butter and a drizzle of honey.

Source: Artisanal Gluten Free Cooking by Kelly Bronski and Peter Bronski
1 cup Artisan GF Flour Mix (see recipe below)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons GF baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon GF vanilla extract
2 tablespoons salted butter, melted

Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.

Add the egg, milk, and vanilla and mix. Add the melted butter and mix just until the ingredients are combined.

Heat a griddle or skillet to medium-high heat. Grease with butter. Pour batter into rounds on the hot griddle using a two-ounce ladle. Cook until bubbles have formed on the surface of the pancake. Flip and cook other side until golden brown. Serve with real maple syrup, honey, peanut butter, or berries.

Makes 12 pancakes

Artisan Gluten-free Flour Mix: Makes 3 cups
1 1/4 cups brown rice flour
3/4 cup sorghum flour
2/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup potato starch
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon potato flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum

Combine all the ingredients and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
To use: stir flour then pour into measure cups using a spoon. Level off with a knife. Do not densely pack the measuring cup.

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Herb Salad with Orange Vinaigrette

– johanna | December 30th, 2011

Filed under: RECIPES - Soup / Salad

Salads can be an impressive addition to a dinner party menu. I brought this salad to a Christmas party recently to rave reviews. I love the contrasting red, green and orange colors in this wintery orange salad. I tried a simple oil and vinegar dressing the first time I bought the salad mix. The garlic The salad mix has a bitter bite so the dressing did not win me over. I like the sweetness of the orange vinaigrette much better. The dressing is subtle but adds just enough flavor to compliment the herbs.

1 package mixed baby greens and herb salad mix
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
1 large orange
Orange Vinaigrette

Spread walnuts out on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes.

Pour salad mix into a large bowl. Sprinkle with cooled walnuts, blue cheese, and seeds. Arrange onion rings and orange wedges on top. Toss with vinaigrette before serving.

Orange Vinaigrette:
1/2 cup juice from 1 to 2 oranges
1 shallot, sliced
1-1/2 cups olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

In a small bowl, add orange juice and shallot. Slowly drizzle the olive oil, whisking constantly to emulsify. Season with salt and pepper. Mix again before adding to salad.

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Turkey A La Pasta and Peas

– johanna | December 23rd, 2011

Filed under: RECIPES - Main Dish

A creamy white sauce mixed with green peas and chopped chicken, or in this case turkey, is my version of a cheap, super fast, totally yummy kids friendly meal. Pasta with ‘white sauce’ is a family staple in our house. I am bound by law to make pasta with white sauce at least once a week. Even our pickiest eater has graduated from only eating plain pasta, to adding just a little white sauce to his noodles.

2 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 pound cooked pasta
1 cup fresh or thawed frozen peas
2 cups cooked turkey
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

2 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoon flour
1 cup milk
1/4 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onions, garlic and celery. Saute until celery is soft and onions translucent. Remove vegetables from heat.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in the same pan. Cook garlic in butter until fragrant about 1 minute. Whisk in the flour, stirring until smooth. Carefully pour in the milk constantly whisking until sauce is smooth. Cook sauce until thickened about 3 to 5 minutes. Add grated parmesan. Stir until melted and well blended.

Toss in cooked pasta, turkey and peas. Heat through.

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Santa Wish List Ornament

– johanna | December 13th, 2011


The idea for the Santa Wish List came from a ‘Breakfast With Santa’ event we recently attended. Santa so graciously cleared his schedule to come mingle with the children as they dined on breakfast casseroles, fruit and sausage. A young couple loitered by the piano casually leading the congregation in merry song. It was the very picture of a classic Cary Grant film.

The children were lead to a craft table to make a wish list before lining up to sit on Santa’s lap. The kids were so happy with their Christmas wish list ornament they wore them as bracelets for the rest of the morning. They are so adorable. I thought they would make a fun family tradition. I could see us years from now laughing over how silly our wish list wants were year after year. Then sharing treasured memories about the gifts we actually received.

This is the materials list from the party. The ladies were avid scrapbookers so they were well equipped with all the fancy paper, specialty punches and brads. I have spotted spools and punches at the dollar store. You can even forego the the extra embellishments and they will look just as amazing.


  • Wooden spools
  • Red Paint
  • Paint brush
  • Thin ribbon 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness
  • White cardstock
  • Decorative hole punch- star or Christmas tree
  • Rubber bands
  • Double sided tape or hot glue
  • Fine tipped black ink pen
  • Tiny star brads
  • Scrapbook paper


1. Paint the spools red. (or use desired color)

2. Cut out strips of cardstock the same width as the inside of the spool and long enough to wrap around the spool twice.

3. Hot glue or tape one end of the cardstock to the spool. Wrap the paper around the spool once; secure with hot glue, leaving a good size tail.

4. Wrap the rubber band around the spool to hold the paper in place until dry.

5. Write wish list on the paper using fine tip pen. Write name at bottom of paper. Embellish paper with a decorative punch or stamp (optional).

6. Cut a small tag of cardstock, about 1/2-inch long and 1/4-inch wide. Write the year or person’s name.

7. Thread a strip of ribbon, about 5-inches, through the middle of the spool and tie it together. Attach tag using a decorative brad.

8. Remove the rubber band and hang it on the tree.

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Gluten Free Breakfast Cookies

– johanna | December 9th, 2011

Filed under: RECIPES - Snacks, RECIPES - Treats

When I saw this recipe for gluten-free breakfast cookies, I was excited because it only calls for one type of flour and the results were amazing. Switching to a gluten-free diet is very difficult, it is not just replacing a cup of wheat flour with coconut flour, there is an entire new baking formula to go by. Even then, the results can be less than satisfactory.  Those who suffer from celiacs disease and gluten sensitivity deserve to have that perfect crunch of bread or moist light muffin, it is one of those simple pleasures many of us take for granted.

With Celiacs disease, the gluten attacks the lining of the intestines; once gluten is removed from the diet, the symtoms of the disease go away. Gluten is found in wheat, rye, and barley (there is some debate as to oats being included in the mix). Those with a sensitivity to gluten may feel run down, bloated, and risk developing other types of autoimmune diseases. However, you need not have Crohns disease or Celiacs disease to experience a sensitivity to gluten.

Today, the gluten content in wheat is 90% more than 70,  or even 100, years ago. Many doctors are advising patients with unknown chronic illnesses to lay off the gluten until their system recovers. Some individuals discover that they feel healthier and have more energy once the gluten is removed from their diet. All in all, I would not rush out and start buying gluten-free products, as it seems to be the craze now-a-days. Moderation is the key in all things.

Often times gluten-free recipes can be somewhat overwhelming with all the unfamiliar products. With recipes like this one, we can easily incorporate more grains into our diet. And, your gluten-free friends will be so shocked. Just remember to use uncontaminated baking equipment.

Source: Comfy Belly
2 1/2 cups of almond meal or almond flour (any nut flour will work really)
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (or 1/2 cup of coconut oil or vegetable shortening, melted)
1/2 cup of honey (or other sweetener)
1 egg
1 tablespoon of vanilla
2 cups of nuts, dried fruit, seeds, chocolate (in any variation)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Whisk the flour, salt and baking soda in a bowl. Stir in the 2 cups of desired nuts and fruits.

Stir in the melted butter, honey, egg, vanilla. Blending well.

Drop by tablespoonfuls on greased cookie sheets. Space them about 1 inch apart.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until brown around the edges. Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 25. Store in a sealed container.

– For a crunchier cookie, leave them in the oven at 200 degrees F for another 15 minutes or so, or in a dehydrator on a fairly low temperature for about 2 hours.
– Fall spice blend: 1 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg and ground cloves. Add with dry ingredients.

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