Saturday, May 29, 2010

Equal Exchange Giveaway - UPDATED!

In an effort to open this giveaway up to EVERYONE, not just those with a Paypal account or those willing to sign up for one, the Paypal stipulation has been removed. If in fact you DO have an account, fantastic, but if not you are still absolutely welcomed and ENCOURAGED to enter this amazingly awesome giveaway! Hope this works better for everyone, and my apologies if you felt left out because of it. THANKS! :)

You may have heard lots of buzz lately about products being fair trade certified and wondered just what the heck that's all about. The fantastic folks at Equal Exchange are pioneers in Fair Trade merchandise, and 100% of their products are fairly traded. Not only do they have a fantastic assortment of Fair Trade products, including coffees, teas, chocolate, sugars, cocoa and dried fruits, but their website is an amazing resource about Fair Trade products.

So, how about you head on over the Equal Exchange and check out their products, vision and mission?

To sweeten the deal, Equal Exchange has generously provided a $50 dollar gift certificate to their online store to one lucky SoCal Sustenance reader.

There is one teeny catch... to redeem the certificate, you MUST have a PayPal account. No worries if you don't have one, it's super easy, quick and secure to sign up. Check out how to get a PayPal account here.

How to enter:

One entry will be tallied for each of the following;

1. Comment below on what wonderful goodies you would select from Equal Exchange if you are the winner!

2. Follow SoCal Sustenance on Google Friend Connect

3. "Like" SoCal Sustenance on Facebook

4. Become a follower of @socalsustenance on Twitter

5. Tweet the following about this giveaway
"Fair Trade products Giveaway from Equal Exchange ( & @socalsustenance"

Please leave one comment for each one of the above entry methods you utilize. If you already follow on Google, Twitter, or Like SoCal Sustenance on Facebook, let me know in a comment as well!

The winner will be selected at random on Friday, June 4th. Good luck and happy browsing!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Chocolate Nutella Pop Tarts

It's hard to believe it's been nearly two years since I moved to California. Uprooting a perfectly sane, sensible life including a great job, amazing colleagues, and a house renovated by the sheer will and Irish tenacity of my mother and I seems like a leap. It's been called many things by many people.. a big change, a roll of the dice, a transition, a new chapter, all of the colloquialisms that reflect a major life event. The move was precipitated by one large piece of my life and heart being located precisely 2577 miles away.

I've been fortunate that the leap has been wonderful, challenging, life expanding, fulfilling, and eye opening all at the same time. Aside from the daily fun of cohabitating with Mr. SoCal, I've also had the joy of getting to know and spend many weekends with his two adorable nephews in San Diego. For the longest time I felt that kids and I were a match made in the depths of Dante's inferno, sheerly out of lack of little kid knowledge and experience. Having now earned a few more kid credibility notches in my Bob the Builder tool belt, we might just have a future together, kiddos and I.

The things I've learned from these two little munchkins never ceases to amaze me. If you told me three years ago that I would soon learn life lessons from a couple of toddlers, I likely would've inquired about what particular brand of crazy pills you were on. Now, I get it. Appreciating the simple joys of chasing bubbles for hours and never tiring of popping them or their infinite sticky, slippery qualities. The exuberance of a new toy, petting a puppy or mastering a new word. The power of the words please and thank you, and kindness learned between brothers.

Of all the things I've learned from these two mini men, one thing will stick me from this day forward. The true love, the excitement and the pure delight of one thing.

Wait for it.


Shocked? I KNOW! Now, I not only have love for tiny humans who often wear more food than they eat, are revered for going poopy on the potty and can watch Toy Story repeatedly like their lives depended on it, but I love this stuff as well. But in a distinctly different way. And never had I ever experienced this creamy, chocolate spoonful of heaven before before sharing it with these aforementioned wonderful little ankle biters. So I suppose I owe them a few thank yous for not only sharing the joy of kids with me, but also the mesmerizing power of Nutella.

Chocolate Nutella Pop Tarts

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tsp salt
8 oz unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg
2 Tbsp milk
1 small jar Nutella

Whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Work in the butter with your fingers or food processor until the mixture looks like wet sand, and the mixture holds together when you squeeze it.

In another small bowl, whisk the egg and milk together. Add egg and milk to flour mixture and stir with a paddle or electric mixer, until just incorporated.

Divide the dough in half and roll into flattened circles. Place in refrigerator (in zip top bag or plastic wrap) for one hour before rolling.

Remove dough from the refrigerator and allow it to soften for 10 to 15 minutes. Place one piece on a lightly floured surface, and roll it into a thin square (roughly 1/8" thick). Cut dough into 3" by 4" pieces. Reroll scraps (chill again if required) and roll and cut other half of dough as well.

Place 1/2 of cut pieces on a greased cookie sheet. Add a generous tablespoon of Nutella in the middle, smoothing evenly and leaving the outside 1/2" of each bare. Place the top piece on the filled bottom, using fingertips to firmly seal the pop tart on all sides.

Press the tines of a fork around the edge of all pop tarts. Poke the top of each tart multiple times allowing tarts to rise (I used a meat thermometer). Refrigerate the tarts uncovered for 30 minutes, while oven preheats to 350°F.

Remove tarts from fridge and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool thoroughly, then enjoy.

Makes 8-10 tarts.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Betty White's Banana Nut Muffins

In the past week, alot of serious, world changing events have transpired. There's been the nomination of the newest Supreme Count Justice Elena Kagan. A thousand point stock market plunge that took the wind out of the sails of millions of investors. An epic oil spill off the Louisiana coast that will undoubtedly have unfathomable environmental and economic impacts. A ferry crash in Staten Island causing dozens of injuries, leaving hundreds more shaken from the incident.

It's been a rough week America. We could all use a good laugh. And a good muffin.

If you didn't catch Betty White hosting Saturday Night Live this past weekend, boy did you miss out. Her appearance not only brought about astronomical ratings, but was the humorous shot in the arm that we all needed at the end of a crazy week like that one. Betty White was all things she was destined to be... crass, hysterical, and with perfect comic timing carefully crafted over her decades of work in the business. For this momentous occasion, the writers brought back one of the all time best skits in SNL history, the Delicious Dish.

A word of warning; if you have delicate sensibilities, are easily offended or don't care for obvious, coarse, deliciously crude humor, stay away. For all my fellow humor seeking deviants, proceed to YouTube pronto and check out Betty White's muffin skit.

So by now you've either gotten a good hearty laugh, or banished SoCal from your RSS reader. UNFOLLOW! Don't say I didn't warn you.

Wasn't there something about a muffin recipe in this post somewhere? Oh yeah, about that...

Betty White's Banana Nut Muffins

Tweaked from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson

1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups toasted walnuts, chopped
6 tablespoons butter, salted
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup vanilla yogurt
2-3 mashed overripe bananas
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp raw sugar (demerara) or brown sugar

Heat oven to 375 and line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and 1 cup walnuts in a bowl and whisk to combine.

In a separate bowl using a mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Stir in vanilla, yogurt and mashed bananas. Gently mix in dry ingredients until just combined.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins. Top muffins with remaining 1/2 cup walnuts and a pinch of brown or demerara sugar. You may also add a pinch of cinnamon if desired. Bake until golden, about 25 minutes. Fill cups two-thirds full for regular muffins or to brim for a big-topped version. Cool for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 12 very large muffins.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Quinoa Caprese Salad

A week ago, I saw a recipe for a gorgeous quinoa and vegetable terrine. It was beautiful, with contrasting colors and textures aligned perfectly atop one another. Between the tasty contents and the gorgeous end product, I was in hot pursuit of my first terrine.

After multiple failed attempts at the terrine, it turns out quinoa and my take on the original recipe makes a pretty darn good salad. My terrine layers slid, collapsed, and mushed into each other like melted crayons. It wasn't pretty. In fact, it wasn't anywhere close to pretty. I'm still not sure where I went so tragically wrong, but I'm happy to have wound up with this great salad as its delicious stand in.

Quinoa Caprese Salad
1 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup mozzarella, cut in cubes
3/4 cup sliced tomato
2 Tbsp fresh basil
1 Tbsp good balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup cucumber, peeled and sliced (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine cooled quinoa with balsamic vinegar in a large bowl. Mix in sliced tomato, mozzarella, cucumber (if desired) and salt and pepper. Gently stir to mix all ingredients. Chill for one hour, top with fresh torn basil and serve.


As you may have noticed, I have a shameless love for balsamic as a flavor base, as seen here and here and over here. This salad would be great tossed in a light citrus and olive oil vinaigrette, or simply with oil and fresh herbs. Get creative, have fun and as always, happy eating!