Tag Archives: snacks

Recipe: Caramelized Onion, Rosemary & Olive Focaccia – Virtual Vegan Potluck Edition

What is your ultimate comfort food?

Give us this day our daily bread..

Welcome to all my regular IPOM readers and those joining us specially for the Virtual Vegan Potluck today! I hope you enjoy this stop on the journey through – there are some great contributions out there today so I hope you’ve got your printer ready…here goes!

There is an old saying that wheat is the staff of life. Have you heard this before?

I grew up enjoying home-baked bread, and neighborly potlucks featuring homemade pizzas with whole wheat dough.

Many comforting childhood memories come from pieces of warm fresh bread, and nothing satisfies the soul quite like it to this day, (maybe it’s the Virgo in me, that’s what my mom always told me).

I am so excited to present this wonderful recipe shared with me by my chef brother that can double as both pizza dough, and a ridiculously good focaccia.

Well done is better than well said.

~ Benjamin Franklin

Olives, Caramelized Onions, Rosemary, Olive Oil, and more Olive Oil.

Along with good bread, pizza is also a super staple in our house for successful vegetarian entertaining. It’s always great, no matter what you put on it.

So after years of outsourcing dough (to those wonderful delis who do it so expertly), I am so proud to say that yeast and I are now officially good buddies (it hasn’t always been that way).

So with that, let’s get started on this most amazing recipe that is sure to become an instant party or potluck favorite!

The Less:

Less store-bought bread means less plastic and preservatives. Less bakery bought treats means you can make these treats for cheap. Less wondering whether you can do it means more champion-like confidence, so you can get going on pretty much anything, and what’s better than being a champion of action?

The More:

More confidence in the kitchen means knowing you can do just about anything. More ways to impress guests means more satisfaction from having them. More tasty fresh foods means less craving for taste and flavor elsewhere, and more yummy delicious recipes like this means you’ll always have lots to share 🙂

Caramelized Onion, Rosemary & Olive Focaccia:

~ makes two focaccias or 4 pizza doughs

The Dough:

  • (2 tsp) active dry yeast
  • (2 cups) warm water – about the temperature of a child’s bath
  • (3 tsp) sugar
  • (3) tsp salt
  • (4) cups flour all-purpose
  • (4 tbsp) olive oil

The Toppings:

  • (1) medium yellow onion or(1/2) a large sweet onion, sliced lengthwise thinly
  • (1 tsp) salt
  • (1 tsp) sugar
  • (1 cup) of large black olives (Giant or Kalamata) – about 10 – 12
  • (2-3) sprigs fresh rosemary
  • plenty of olive oil (1/4-1/2 cup)

Ready to make bread? Yeah you are!

To get started, gather up all of your ingredients for the dough and commandeer your favorite large mixing bowl.

In the bowl, add 2 cups of warm water (not too hot, not too cold) to the bowl. Add the sugar and stir. Next, add the yeast, but do not stir. Let sit for 5 minutes or so.

After a few minutes, add half the flour and the salt to the mixture in the bowl (about 2 cups) and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture is nice and smooth.

Next add the olive oil and mix until the mixture is a bit pasty. From here, you can go ahead and dump the rest of the flour into the bowl and mix – start with a wooden spoon and then switch to the hands – it’s so much fun!

My brother says to mix this until it ‘pulls from the bowl’. This seems to work well, and I mix this way until it seems ready to come out and be kneaded on the counter.

Once the dough is ‘pulling from the bowl’, remove it and set on the counter to prepare for kneading.

To knead, dust the counter with a sprinkling of flour and knead…this to inject the dough with air – and truthfully I have never enjoyed this process, or really applied myself to it either – but I am actually learning to love this part!

Just set the CD player to your favorite new dance CD and watch the time fly by…

Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, until you have a lovely round ball of dough.

Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.

~ Edmund Burke

Set your dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl (feel free to wash and oil the same bowl you mixed in). Cover with a clean tea towel and set in a warm place to rise.

Hint: I turn the oven on and set on to heat up top of, or right beside the stove. It seems no matter how nicely you talk to the yeast, it will not rise unless it is in a warm place (go figure!)

It has risen!

Let the dough rise for about 1 – 1.5 hours, until you have a nice little rise happening (you will know!).

Now for the best part.

Remove the tea towel and punch the dough down with your fist to release the air. Your dough will pop and fall in a beautiful fashion, and it is now ready to settle in for a bit while you prep the rest of your ingredients.

Remove the dough from the bowl and re-shape on the counter or cutting board. Cut the dough in half. Ideally, let sit for 30 minutes before using. Any leftover dough not being used immediately can be frozen or refrigerated for future use, and I find it super handy to have some dough to bake off during the week for unexpected guests, or just for kids 🙂

So. Very. Awesome.

The Onions, Olives, and Rosemary:

While you wait for the dough to rise, you can prepare the magical part of this recipe – the tasty toppings.

Slice your onion in long thin strips and heat a large skillet to medium-high. Add a nice splash of olive oil to the skillet and add the onion, salt, and sugar. On medium to medium high heat, cook the onion for 25 minutes, stirring often to prevent sticking. By slow cooking the onions in the sugar and salt, they will get brown, sticky, and heavenly. Just be sure to stir often. Once ready, remove from heat and let cool.

Pit and half the olives and set aside. Remove the leaves from the rosemary sprigs and chop with a knife finely.

When ready to assemble the focaccia for baking, start by heating the oven to 400 degrees. Oil generously a large flat rectangular baking tray (or two if you are cooking them both off).

Oil your hands a little and stretch the room temperature dough to fit the length of your tray – this should be easy and the dough should keep it’s shape when pulled. If you need some help, you can keep a little bowl of flour to the side and use a little help this process.

Once you have your shape, add the olives, then the onions, and finally the rosemary. Finish this off with a generous pour of olive oil across the entire surface of the bread (don’t be shy!).

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, until the sides are golden and the smell is heaven in the kitchen. Let cool and slice as desired!

Keep this stored at room temperature wrapped in foil, it’s great warmed up a bit in the oven the day after 🙂

Blues is to jazz what yeast is to bread. Without it, it’s flat.

~ Carmen McRae

Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all.

~ Nelson Mandela

This bread is stunning on its own, or served with a light dip, or alongside a salad, or really, anything!

It’s so tasty.

Honestly, it’s got all my favorite things. And the best part is I can now make it myself (and so can you!).

I hope you’ll enjoy this whether you are already great friends with making bread and dough or not!

This recipe can be altered in so many ways to suit your mood.

Men can starve from a lack of self-realization as much as they can from a lack of bread.

~ Richard Wright

Bite off more than you can chew, then chew it.

~ Ella Williams

So, whether you are a seasoned dough expert, a newbie, or an ‘outsourcer’ like I’ve been, I hope you will enjoy this recipe as much as we did this week.

I think I’ve discovered the secret of life — you just hang around until you get used to it.

~ Charles M. Schulz

To continue to follow the offerings in the potluck , you can click on the links provided at the end of the post to see either the previous dish on the journey or continue through to the next dish. To start at the very beginning and see them all, go here to Vegan Bloggers Unite.

Huge kudos to all for their fantastic contributions, and a giant congrats to Annie for pulling this off!

I am so stoked to see all the rest of the wonderful offerings this weekend.

To read the original post that got all of this started, visit the original post here at an unrefined vegan.

  • Are you a seasoned bread or dough maker?
  • What are you favorite toppings for focaccia or pizza?

Thanks for stopping by, and wishing you all a fabulous weekend, and a Happy Mother’s Day!

Yours in Less,

135 Comments

Filed under Cooking, Food, Photography, Recipes, Rich & Simple, Savory, Snacks, Vegan, Vegetarian

On Mindfulness & Thoughts like Popcorn

Does anyone love popcorn as much as I do?

Miracles come in moments. Be ready and willing.

~ John Muir

Ever tried to meditate?

As in, sitting quietly, breathing mindfully (no where to go, nothing to do), clearing your mind of your thoughts? It’s a giant challenge, and one I don’t do often enough for sure.

Now imagine in that harried moment a boisterous loud popcorn popper, bubbling over with abundant, freshly popped (thoughts) and corn. Many of you might relate to this as we try to slow the pace of our minds, and the thoughts that keep ‘popping’ faster as we try harder to slow them down.

Eventually, if you sit long enough, those popcorn thoughts will slow down. Eventually, with practice, they do stop.

“Stress is caused by being in the now but wanting to be in the future, reducing the present to a means to an end.”

– The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

I don’t think I know a soul in this life who doesn’t benefit from taking some time to slow down, to breathe, and to simply be.

With that, I dedicate today’s post to popcorn, and to mindfulness.

Quiet. Peaceful. Present.

Pardon me for the (perhaps even slightly corny, okay, alot!) metaphoric post, but I couldn’t help it!

Popcorn is a long time personal favorite and I think it can help anyone wanting to practice mindfulness in a few small ways.

First of all, if you are an avid snacker, then it is likely you already know the virtues of being the proud and shrewd owner of a popcorn popper.

Last I checked, you can pick one up for about $20. Popcorn poppers don’t break, or require any cleaning, or take up any space (really) either.

They produce fresh, warm, and good-for-you popcorn in minutes.

Popcorn is literally the cheapest snack on earth – last I checked in it clocked at less than a quarter or so per large batch (to satisfy 2-3 people), and it also happens to be the healthiest, too.

“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”

– Omar Khayyám

So, if you love snacking, chances are you love popcorn (though I have met those who detest it).

Fresh popped is far superior to anything microwaved (in taste, economic, waste, and health factor), and also gives fried, salted, and over-processed snacks like bagged and boxed chips a serious run for their money.

So, if you don’t have a popper yet, they can be found easily at a bigger drug store, or cookshop.

I buy large bags of popcorn at a time a store it in a jar for easy access and scooping. My girls adore it, and so do I.

Many a meal has been made of popcorn, carrot sticks, and re-run marathons of Friends. Precisely why we *sometimes* look forward to the husband’s business trips.

But we don’t tell him that. We wouldn’t want to upset anyone now, would we?! 😉

Hope is a waking dream.
~ Aristotle

The Less:

Less salted, fried, and packaged snacks, means less salt, oil, fat and empty, fattening foods in your life. Less worry about snacking means more enjoyment of those moments, and less guilt later about cravings, snacking, and eating in general. Less cost and less prep means snacking well is super easy, just breathe deep while it pops, and remember to stay present (or not).

The More:

More clean eating snack food means worry is banished. More tasty clean toppings means fresh flavor is abundant. More fresh homemade snack foods means the grocery snack aisles are history, and more high fiber popcorn means 100% satisfaction guaranteed.

Homemade Popcorn:

  • (1) electric Popcorn Popper
  • (1) scoop popcorn kernels (organic if possible)
  • (3-4) tbsp olive oil (feel free to also use melted butter)
  • sea salt to taste
  • other toppings to taste: nutritional yeast, chile powder, chile flakes, seasoning salt, black pepper, tamari, garlic powder…what are your faves?

Start by plugging in the popper and heating it for a minute or so to get it ready. Get a large clean bowl ready. Add the popcorn kernels, breathe deeply….exhale. Breathe deeply again……..exhale. Repeat until the popcorn starts popping! Add the oil in small bits as the popcorn comes out (yes, it is very interactive) – this will ensure even coating of all the kernels as best as you can.

Add your salt and seasonings as you add the oil. Once the thoughts, er, popcorn, are done cascading from the mouth of the popper, unplug and take one last mindful deep breath (or not).

Mix all with your hands. Choose your favorite show or movie, and enjoy!

Of course, if you don’t eat a lot of salt, or oil, or butter, you can eat popcorn completely naked too. It’s still delicious.

You can use one or all of these.

Sea salt,  nutritional yeast, olive oil.

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”

― Thich Nhat Hanh

You can also try these: chili flakes, garlic powder, and seasoned salts of all kinds.

Another one of my favorite bloggers also tipped me off to one of her favorite childhood snacks a while back. I’ve yet to try this (mostly because I think it will be just too good), but she grew up enjoying cubes of sharp cheddar cheese cubes in her popcorn – thanks to Sharyn at thekalechronicles for that tip – one of these days I am surely trying that as the kids will love it, that I am sure! 

Have any of you enjoyed popcorn this way?

The power of imagination makes us infinite.

~ John Muir

Enjoy popcorn well, and revel in the simplicity of such an easy and economical way to scratch the snack itch.

After all that mindful deep breathing (or not), make sure to check in that you are not mindlessly scarfing the fruits of your labor. I think popcorn has an ever so valuable added layer of benefit for us – to make sure we are staying in the present moment long after the popper stops and we sit down eat it.

The present piece, the present bite, the present laugh.

I have observed this from years of popcorn eating experience, of course! 😉

“Few of us ever live in the present. We are forever anticipating what is to come or remembering what has gone.”

― Louis L’Amour

That was a moment (or two) well enjoyed.

“The real pleasure,the real peace,  the real enlightenment is to give. The more you give the more you get. If you give 10, you get 100.”

– Bikram Choudhury

  • Are you a popcorn fan too?
  • What are your favorite popcorn toppings?
  • How do you meditate or stay mindful?

I’d love to share with you on this as it is a matter very dear to me (both popcorn and mindfulness), I’m always looking for ways to improve my ability to practice and enjoy both!

Let us know and share your tips if you will! Here’s wishing you all a super wonderful weekend!

Yours in Less,

70 Comments

Filed under Cheap, Children, Cooking, Family, Food, Lifestyle, Photography, Recipes, Rich & Simple, Savory, Snacks, Vegan, Vegetarian

Recipe: Super Ace Artichoke & Sunflower Spread

Anyone for a little dip with friends?

The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook.

~ William Jame

Hello super fabulous IPOM readers and friends!

Today’s post is dedicated to new friends and old, those who support us through all the tough times in life.

Those who believe in us, and see something in us that makes them want to hang with us (or just eat our delicious food, I am totally fine with either or both).

Friendships are special, as folks are busy and time is tight. Friends kind of make this girl’s world go ’round and I love any chance to win someone over.

What better way to do that than with super homemade food?

A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds

~ Francis Bacon

This recipe was recently inspired by the creamy texture of canned artichoke hearts. Blended together with a few winners like the protein-loaded sunflower seed and made rich & sophisticated by the addition of roasted pepper, this spread is dressed to impress – it can be made totally vegan as the cheese is optional – and is full of delicious and healthy ingredients!

The Less:

Less store-bought dips means less wasteful containers and high cost for not a whole lot. Less additives for preserving means leaner nutrition and straight up satisfaction. Less high fat, high sodium dips mean you can eat without guilt, especially if you pair this with fresh veggies or bread instead of chips.

The More:

More seeds in place of nuts means those with nut allergies are in the clear with this one – same for those who don’t tolerate beans! More fresh veggies hidden in your snacks means added vitamins without really trying. More protein packed goodness means you win with real fuel, so you can get out there and do what you do best.

Super Ace Artichoke & Sunflower Spread:

  • (1) cup raw sunflower seeds
  • (2/3) cup olive oil
  • (1) clove garlic
  • (1) tsp salt
  • (1) tbsp fresh thyme
  • (1/2) bunch chives (about 2 tbsp)
  • (1) red pepper, roasted, charred and peeled
  • (4) tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • (1) 398 ml can un-marinated artichoke hearts (5 each)
  • (1/4) cup good parmesan cheese (totally optional!)

Begin by roasting the red pepper – this is so easy and fun! Turn the oven on to broil and prepare the pepper by washing it and slicing it in half (no need to do anything else!). Without any oil, add the pepper halves, seed side down, to a flat cookie sheet and pop into the hot oven, on the second rack from the top.

The pepper will start to char in the skin after 10 minutes or so – keep roasting under the broiler for 25 minutes or so until the skin is black and has popped off the flesh. Your pepper should begin to smell wonderful too at the finish of this process – enjoy!

Remove from oven and allow to cool. Once cool, remove the skins, the top, and the seeds with your hands. They will just fall off easily as the pepper will be well cooked and ready to use!

Next, toast (or roast) about a 1/3 of the sunflower seeds either in the warm oven for a few minutes or in a dry skillet on the stove top. Add the remaining raw seeds to your blender along with the lemon juice, chives, thyme leaves, garlic, and the roasted pepper flesh.

Drain the artichokes and save the liquid from the can. Add artichokes to the blender along with the oil, salt, and optional cheese.

Once the seeds are toasted perfectly, add them (still warm) to the mixture.

Blend all on a pulse blend and stop here and there to agitate the mixture with a spatula or wooden spoon. Do not do what I do and put it in while it runs! Ooooops!

Blend until thick and well incorporated, using additional artichoke water if you need to facilitate better blending. Transfer to your favorite container (this recipe makes a generous amount) and refrigerate.

This will keep at least 5 days in the fridge and makes a generous portion!

Happiness resides not in the possessions and not in gold; the feeling of happiness dwells in the soul.

~ Democritus

Enjoy this yummy spread as a base for your next sandwich, as a dip for your next celery snack attack, or to start an evening or gathering with friends and family off on the right foot!

We enjoyed this week with a bit of broiled toast – just drizzle a few pieces of old toast with olive oil and pop under the broiler until brown. Another great way to jazz up stale bread!

However you choose to enjoy it, do it well, do it with friends or loved ones, and enjoy!

I am grateful for friends and family everyday.

So I like to feed them well. A good bite of food and a nice drink can really set the tone for great conversations and connections that don’t just come along any old day.

A priceless look at the inner workings of a 7 year old (not mine)....what are you good at?

On a slightly different note, I was touched by strolling the hallways of my daughter’s elementary school this week…here is a little snippet of the artwork that caught my eye (and jabbed at my heart).

It’s not everyday that we celebrate the little things like thinking, is it?

I’ll be sharing more of this in my next post.

  • What’s your secret to a great friendship?
  • Got a favorite dip to share?

I’ll be toting this delicious spread to parties of all kinds this year – it disappeared in all of about 15 seconds at my office this week, at 9 am! There were more than a few garlicky phone calls and convos floating around after that…

I hope you all have a Super Ace day – let us know how your week is going, will you?

“I get by with a little help from my friends.”

~ John Lennon

I love to hear from friends, and whether you eat what I put in front of you (in person), or make one of these recipes in a country on an entirely different day and time zone, it’s all the same to me:

Super Ace and Super Awesome.

And that’s no lie 🙂

Yours in Less,

59 Comments

Filed under Cooking, Food, Gluten Free, Photography, Recipes, Rich & Simple, Savory, Snacks, Uncategorized, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Finding More in (just a little) Snacks & Magic.

Do you believe in magic?

Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen.

~ Goethe

I think it’s safe to say there’s no shortage of magic in our household these days.

Evidence of this over the weekend was made by a visit by not one, but two of our (reasonably) regular household visitors – the Leprechaun and the Tooth Fairy (she’s been around A LOT lately).

I would say that one of the best parts about having kids is keeping up with all the magic.

There’s been a lot of other magic around these parts too of late, that being the wonder of the flowers that are (once again) poking their heads out of the cold earth to bring us cheerfulness and a renewed sense of possibility.

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

~ Albert Einstein

A few peeks at the garden waking up.

For those of you who visit IPOM regularly (for which I am so grateful!), you have probably noticed the penchant over here for quotes and inspirational tidbits.

Keeping magic alive is a big part of the mystery (and fun) of life (IMO) and I am always game to look for (just a little) of the make believe here and there.

Part of it has to do with this:

There is no lack of creative juices in our household..there is a lack of desire to clean up though (another story entirely).

Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can?

~ Sun Tzu

Another part is to do with this:

The Leprechaun leaving a trail behind..

I mean can you blame me?

I spent the weekend keeping up a bit of magic on St. Patty’s Day, making green chocolate bark (thanks to the ever creative genius of Cara over at Fork and Beans), and enjoying the simplicity of kid friendly snacks, and a long, looooong, walk in the fresh air.

The classic Ants on a Log.

I mean, with all the pressures we face to keep fit and exercise (run! ski! yoga! gym! bike!), the bottom line is our shoes are always there at our back door, ready to be laced up and taken for a walk.

That’s a magical and empowering thought (or reminder) in itself now isn’t it? Something so simple can be so special.

Not such a bad place to be on a walk about, hey?

Magic is always just right out your front door.

So with that, dear IPOM readers, I’ll leave you today (I’ll be getting saucy on my next post). What I’d really like to know is:

  • Do you believe in magic?
  • What gets your imagination going?
  • What are you favorite snacks from your childhood?

I’d love to know how you keep the magic alive!

Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!

~ Dr. Seuss

Thanks (as always!) for stopping in!

If you want to find out how the peppermint bark is made, simply have a gander over to Cara’s website – I made the minty delicious filling to her confection (white chocolate, green food coloring & peppermint extract, that’s IT!).

This week I’ll be posting more magically delicious recipes, starting with Cilantro Jalapeno Sauce (and friends!).

Happy Monday to you all!

Yours in Less,

33 Comments

Filed under Aspirations, Children, Family, Inspiration, Photography, Rejuvenation, Snacks