Updates

It has been well over a year since my last post and I do apologize for the lack of posting and the late approval of several comments over the last year. My best excuse is that life happened. On December 4, 2013, I slipped on some ice while running with my dog and husband and broke my ankle. If it weren’t for my skin, my ankle would have come clean off my leg – at least, that’s what it looked and felt like. I have a plate and nine screws in my right ankle. Around the same time, we fostered an FIV-positive stray cat whom we named River. We found him sleeping on the streets. He was in an awful state by the time we were able to catch him, but with care and love, we were able to nurse him back to health.

River was an absolute blessing, but since he had FIV, we couldn’t keep him. Through the help of Fuzzy Pawz Rescue in Boise, Idaho, we were able to adopt him out (on my birthday!) to a wonderful family who already had an FIV-positive kitty. And, in true stalker fashion, I follow his mom on Facebook and get to see all his pictures proving that he’s living the life of love. River enabled all of us to understand love on a deeper level.

The beginning of 2014, was spent learning how to walk again, so my focus was taken in a different direction than I had planned, which resulted in neglecting this blog. Once spring hit, Husband and I jumped into a big project (I think I’ve mentioned on here before that we’re filmmakers) and started pre-production on our first feature film. The summer was spent in production, while at the same time I started a new job. That summer, we also found another little kitty walking on the side of the road. He still lives with us and is an absolute terror to our other three cats, and Frodo the dog, but we love him so he’s not going anywhere.

Fall arrived and life got carried away, winter hit, same story, and now here I am at the end of January 2015, attempting to reconnect with this blog. Actually, reconnecting isn’t the problem, it’s finding the time to research and post.

I am still living a cruelty-free lifestyle and have cut out all dairy. No cheese, no milk, no cheese, no yogurt, and no cheese. Did I mention no cheese? My body thanks me for these changes and honestly, I don’t even crave it any more. If I do have a cheese craving, I substitute it with nutritional yeast. And for breakfast, almond milk yogurt is AMAZING! Alternatives are out there and they taste great.

Every single product in our house is cruelty-free, so my goal is to start posting about those products again with reviews and research into the companies. I would also like to get back to posting Meatless-Monday recipes. I have some great new recipes for you! I have become a cooking queen! It’s 11pm… I’m writing about food… I must be hungry.

Posts are coming while life keeps moving forward. Happy 2015 to all of you – blessings of abundance and peace in this beautiful new year.

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Alba Botanica Facial Wash

Alba Botanica Facial Cleansers

Alba Botanica Facial Cleansers

I love a clean face. Washing my face is my own personal way of telling myself that the day is over and it is time to feel clean again. I’ve tried a couple of different facial cleansers from Alba Botanica. Their Deep Cleansing Coconut Milk Hawaiian Facial Wash and their Pineapple Enzyme Facial Cleanser, which I’m currently using, are both great products. The Coconut Milk Facial Wash is a bit “softer” and gentler on the skin, while the Pineapple Enzyme has a bit of a bite to it and you can almost feel the enzymes cleaning each individual pore when applied. I think in the end it is up to personal preference and I prefer both! So, I switch back and forth.

Alba Botanica is a great company that I found through Leaping Bunny. Their products are 100% vegetarian and they do not test their products or ingredients on animals.

Because the Alba Botanica® brand is committed to the health and happiness of all furry friends, we never test our products, or the ingredients that go into them, on animals.

Our products contain no meat or by-products of animal killing. We also reject all cruelly obtained animal ingredients, even if an animal is not killed. We limit our use of animal products to ingredients that are naturally created by and have no future use to the animal such as beeswax.

http://www.albabotanica.com/about-alba

Their parent company is Hain Celestial Group, which I wrote about earlier this year in my post regarding Jäsön Toothpaste. Hain Celestial Group is also a Leaping Bunny certified company, so we have a win-win for Alba Botanica!

Alba Botanica Face Mask

Alba Botanica Face Mask

I am a bit disappointed because I cannot find their Natural Hawaiian Facial Mask in any local stores. I used to buy this facial mask all the time, but my searches over the last several months have left me empty handed. At least I can find the product on their website, but still, I like the ease of purchasing it at a store. Either way, I love the facial mask and would recommend it to anyone who likes a clean and fresh-feeling face.

All-in-all I would recommend Alba Botanica. Their commitment to animals is refreshing and their products are top notch.

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Barenaked Ladies Cancel SeaWorld Show

Us and Barenaked Ladies, summer 2013

Us and Barenaked Ladies, summer 2013

I have been a fan of Barenaked Ladies ever since their album Stunt was released in 1998. The first Barenaked Ladies concert I ever attended was in Mountain View, California in 2001, at the Shoreline Amphitheater. Ever since then, we’ve seen them in every town we’ve lived in. Sometimes even three times and we’ll do it again when they return to Boise. We own all of their albums. Their music is incredible and their voices are pure and soothing. I can listen to their albums on repeat for hours on end. Any road trip we take, we put in our Barenaked Ladies mix and that is what gets us from point A to point B. We sing along as loudly as possible. They’re amazing. This past summer, we had the privilege of meeting them at a concert in Boise. They’re so down to earth and awesome! I got to shake their hands, and we even took a selfie with the entire band. We felt (and looked) like rockstars for a few minutes of our lives. I will never forget it.

A couple weeks ago, I saw that they had scheduled a concert at SeaWorld in Florida, and my heart sank. As an avid animal lover and huge fan-girl of Barenaked Ladies, I was disappointed that they would schedule a show at SeaWorld. I thought about it and wondered if I would attend if I lived in Florida. And the answer is NO. Although I’m a huge fan and haven’t missed a single concert since 2001, I would not be able to attend their concert at SeaWorld. Animals mean more to me than keeping my streak alive. They mean more to me than the possibility of meeting them again. They mean more to me than my favorite band.

Then it happened. The day before Thanksgiving, Barenaked Ladies announced that they were canceling their show at SeaWorld. They watched the documentary “Blackfish” and decided that a show at SeaWorld was not something that they, as a band, wanted to do. Swoon! Now, not only are they my favorite band, they are also my heroes. To cancel a show based on a documentary highlighting the animal cruelty that runs rampant in places like SeaWorld speaks volumes of the band. They listen, they love, and they create beautiful music.

Dear Barenaked Ladies,

Thank you, thank you, thank you. The next time you’re in Boise, I’ll float the river with you then buy you a drink. You guys are awesome.

Love,

AlohaStephSmile

To read the CNN article, please click here.

Here is a copy and paste from their Facebook page (I’m unable to link it from this blog, so I hope they don’t mind a copy and paste. The following is their words, not mine):

Hey everybody. We’ve talked things over, and decided not to play at Seaworld at this time. We watch movies too, ya know! Have you seen Star Trek IV? It’s quite good. Kidding… We sometimes do that.

This is a complicated issue, and we don’t claim to understand all of it, but we don’t feel comfortable proceeding with the gig at this time. The Seaworld folks have been gracious , and extended us invitations to the park to learn more about what they do, and how they do it.

We encourage anybody and everybody to get involved with a charity organization they feel passionate about. We here at Barenaked Ladies have made a decision based on what we feel. It’s not about money, or petitions, or press… But it is about our fans. We listen to them, and they’re important to us. Their sensibilities resonate with ours, and have for decades now. We’ve grown up together. Ultimately though, we made the decision that WE feel good about.

Thanks for all of your support. We’ll see you all at a mutually agreeable concert venue in the near future!

Love
Barenaked Ladies

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Lip Balm

Alba Botanical, MoistStic, and Desert Essence Lip Balm

Alba Botanical, MoistStic, and Desert Essence Lip Balm

I have notoriously chapped lips. In fact, my lips feel chapped just writing about them. And they are. I like lip balm, for the pure fact that it makes my lips feel somewhat soft and supple and helps ease the pain of dry lips. Surprisingly, there are a number of cruelty free lip balms out there. I have used Alba Botanica Hawaiian Lip Balm, MoistStic with Tea Tree Oil, and Desert Essence Lip Rescue.

Of the three, MoistStic is my favorite as it really seems to keep the top layer of my lips from completely peeling off. The only problem is that it does not have protection against harmful UV rays. MoistStic is made by Naturally Fresh Deodorant Crystal, which is Leaping Bunny certified. They have this to say about animal testing and their products:

We manufacture and distribute our own products in house, so NO animals have ever been tested with our products. We are Cruelty-Free and we have not, nor will ever test on animals. We test on friends, family, and of course the scientists working with us.

http://www.naturallyfreshdeodorantcrystal.com/naturally-fresh-deodorant-crystal

Alba Botanica Hawaiian Lip Balm is also good. I’ve only used their Coconut Cream Lip Balm, but according to their website they have a ton to choose from, even one with an SPF 25! I will definitely need to try one of their sun protection lip balms now that I know they exist. Alba Botanica is also Leaping Bunny certified and do not test their products or ingredients on animals:

Our products contain no meat or by-products of animal killing. We also reject all cruelly obtained animal ingredients, even if an animal is not killed. We limit our use of animal products to ingredients that are naturally created by and have no future use to the animal such as beeswax.

http://www.albabotanica.com/about-alba

I had no idea that Desert Essence made a lip balm until I couldn’t find MoistStic or Alba Botanica and stumbled across their lip balm by accident. I am currently using Desert Essence Lip Rescue and it is definitely rescuing my lips. Especially in this time of outdoor cold winter and indoor dry heat. My lips just can’t take that drastic difference in temperature – this lip balm is helping. Desert Essence is also a cruelty-free company certified by Leaping Bunny that does not test on animals.

We as a company and as people do not believe in animal testing of any of our products or ingredients used in making them. We require all our ingredient suppliers to abide by this same principle. Animals are Beautiful.

https://www.desertessence.com/our-core-values 

There are a great many options out there for cruelty-free lip balm. Find your favorites and let those lips shine! What cruelty-free lip balm(s) do you use?

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Meatless Monday: Enchilada Casserole

Enchilada Casserole

Enchilada Casserole

I threw a bunch of ingredients together and made what I think is one of the most delicious enchiladas I’ve ever tasted! Tweak it to make it your own, or follow my recipe. Either way, have fun with it.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1-1.5 cups cooked black beans mixed with pinto beans
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 Anaheim chiles, chopped
  • 2 jalapenos, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons liquid smoke
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut
  • 1 package extra firm tofu, cut into squares
  • 2 portobello mushrooms, cut
  • 4-5 fresh medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2-1 cup salsa
  • 1 jar green taco sauce
  • 4 soft wheat tortilla shells
  • 1 can black olives, sliced
  • Pepper jack cheese, shredded
  • avocado
  • yogurt (or sour cream)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. If using uncooked beans, cover beans with water and cook for about 2 hours, or until soft to your liking. Drain.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  3. In saucepan heat olive oil. Add garlic, onions, jalapenos, Anaheim chiles. Cook until onions are translucent.
  4. Add to saucepan cumin, liquid smoke, red bell pepper, portobello mushrooms, and tofu. Cook until mushrooms are soft and tofu has soaked up all the tasty goodness. Add tomatoes last. Slightly cook.
  5. Combine beans with veggie and tofu mixture. Add salsa. Stir to mix.
  6. In casserole dish, coat bottom and sides with olive oil. Pour about 1/4 cup of green taco sauce into the bottom of the dish. Layer veggie and bean mix with olives. Cover with two tortilla shells. Repeat veggie and bean mix, olives, two tortilla shells. Finish layering with veggie and bean mix with olives. Top with shredded cheese and the rest of the green taco sauce.
  7. Bake at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes
  8. Serve with cut avocado and a dollop of yogurt.

Serves 8. (Or serves two with lots of leftovers. YUM!)

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China to phase out mandatory animal testing on cosmetics

What Great News! Leaping Bunny released the news yesterday that China will start phasing out mandatory animal testing on cosmetics. This is a wonderful step in the right direction. Read on for the Leaping Bunny Press Release

http://leapingbunny.org/press13.php

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Meatless Monday: Vegan Spanakopita

Vegan Spanakopita

Vegan Spanakopita

On Saturday, I had coffee with a friend and although I never eat the pastry offerings at coffee shops, I do look. And my eye caught the Spanakopita sitting in the window – a Greek Spinach Pie. That was it, after a wonderful coffee date with my friend, I went home and got my shopping list together for a delicious Meatless Monday meal.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Phyllo dough
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 small onions, cut
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 pounds fresh spinach, washed
  • 10 ounces soft silken Tofu
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 3 tablespoons Tamari
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Thaw Phyllo dough. Layer a few sheets on the bottom of an oiled casserole dish.
  2. In a pan, heat olive oil. Add garlic, onion, and water. Saute until tender. Add spinach. Cover and cook until wilted (about 2 minutes).
  3. In a bowl, combine tofu, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, sesame seeds, tamari, basil, thyme, and nutmeg. Add cooked onion and spinach mixture.
  4. Spread onion, spinach, and tofu mixture onto the layered sheets of Phyllo dough.
  5. Layer a few more sheets of Phyllo dough to the top of the casserole mixture.
  6. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees F for 20-30 minutes.

Spanakopita is a spinach pie, so it’s up to you how you present it. I cannot make cute little Phyllo dough triangles to save my life, so I like to layer the dough and “fluff” it up a bit. It’s still delicious and you don’t use as much dough as most recipes call for because you’re just layering and fluffing it, so it makes the meal a little less dense.

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Meatless Monday: End of Season Harvest

Garden Harvest Meal

End of Season Harvest

The leaves have already dropped from the trees and the nights will soon bring freezing temperatures. That can only mean one thing for those of us in Idaho: gardening season is over. This past weekend, the husband and I ripped out our vegetable garden, leaving only a few onions and a potato plant. We’re planning on restructuring the entire garden next year and putting in a small fence so Frodo the Dog can’t run pell-mell through the tomatoes after a menacing squirrel. We saved seeds for replanting and are looking forward to another rewarding garden. Until then, I’ve either canned or frozen most of the vegetables and dried the herbs. I saved a few things for our “last meal” of fresh-picked-from-the-garden-today delicacies, which I prepared for Meatless Monday.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup cooked couscous
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 pound zucchini, sliced
  • 3-5 carrots with greens, sliced; 3 TBSP carrot greens, chopped
  • 2 jalapenos, cut
  • 2 small-medium onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4-1/2 cup sherry, to taste
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, to taste
  • 4 zucchini blossoms, chopped
  • Dried chives
  • Dried basil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Fresh cherry tomatoes
  • Sesame seeds
  • Baba Ghanoush for topping

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Heat olive oil in skillet or wok
  2. Add onions, garlic, and jalapenos. Heat until onions are clear.
  3. Add zucchini and carrots. Cook until soft, or to your liking.
  4. Add sherry, balsamic vinegar, zucchini blossoms, dried chives, dried basil, salt, pepper, and carrot greens. Cook until flavors blend. Add couscous to the skillet or wok and stir to absorb the liquid.
  5. Serve with fresh tomatoes, sesame seeds, and as much or as little baba ghanoush as you desire.
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Roadtripping with Dogs

Transporting Skip and Smiles to Seattle from Boise.

Transporting Skip and Smiles to Seattle from Boise.

I’ve been on a lot of road trips. We’ve driven from California to New Orleans and back; Colorado to California; Idaho to Seattle; Seattle to Oregon; Colorado to Victoria, Canada (before you needed a passport); and the list goes on. This year, we’ve done Boise to Seattle twice, one of those being the first time we’ve ever road tripped with a dog.

In our free-time the husband and I make movies, our specialties being short comedies and music videos. We submit our completed projects to film festivals in hopes that they might be accepted and then we can attend the film festivals to soak up all the film industry awesomeness that we can. On October 1st, 2013, we were slated to show one of our short comedies at a film festival in Seattle. We got time off of work and planned on driving on Monday, September 30th. Our music collaborator joined us and we booked our hotel room. It would be a quick trip, but no matter how long or short, these trips are always worth it.

The drive from Boise to Seattle is approximately eight hours and just over 500 miles. Not too bad in the whole scheme of things. About two weeks before leaving I was watching my facebook feed and a shelter rescue group that I follow posted something intriguing. I’m not sure when, or how, I started following this group, but this particular rescue group removes dogs and cats from their local kill-shelter and places them in foster or forever homes. They have only organized earlier this year and their rescue seems to be successful thus far. Cats and dogs are being saved and new families are being formed.

The particular post that I read was asking for transportation for a senior dog to go to Seattle. I messaged the rescue group and told them that if they could wait two weeks, I’d be happy to transport the dog. I figured I’d ask my husband and friend for “permission” later. Immediately I received an email back saying that they can definitely wait for transportation and the entire event was set into motion. Within a few days, I had been on the phone with a couple of people working out details on when and where we would pick-up and drop-off this senior dog. During one phone call, I was asked if we could possibly fit a second dog into our car. I thought about it for a few seconds before answering, yes!

At 6am on Monday, September 30th, we packed our bags and our dog, Frodo, into our Honda Fit. We took Frodo to a friend’s house to spend the night while we were in Seattle, and picked up our music collaborator at the same time. At 6:30am, we pulled up in front of a cottage-style home in Boise and met a woman who had housed the two dogs over night. The sun had not yet risen, there was a gentle breeze in the air, and we could feel fall setting in. We made room for the two dogs – Skip, the original transport, is a 7-year-old chocolate lab, and Smiles, an 8-year-old English Pointer with an injured leg. The two dogs cautiously got into the car and we pointed our Honda Fit toward Seattle and off we drove.

Smiles was a stray who had been picked up on the side of the road somewhere near Salt Lake City, Utah. It is believed that she was hit by a car and her leg reset itself – it now hangs limply and she can sometimes stand on it. A rescue group there had tried to find her a home in the area, but no one wanted a senior dog who was injured. She was staying at a kill-shelter and she HAD to get out. As a senior dog with an injury, she had very little time. A woman in Canada, who has been transporting dogs for six years between Seattle and Victoria, fell in love with Smiles. The problem was getting poor Smiles from Salt Lake to Canada. Smiles started her journey to her fur-ever home on Saturday, driving from Salt Lake to the Twin Falls area of Idaho. It was there that she met Skip, the chocolate lab who had also been at a kill-shelter in the Twin Falls area. The rescue I follow on facebook is the group that took him in. They found him a home in Seattle, but were faced with the same dilemma of getting him from Idaho to Washington.

Skip had been living the good life in Idaho with a caring owner who was also a senior. Skip’s owner had gotten to a point in his own life that he had to live at a senior care center that didn’t allow dogs. This owner’s family didn’t know what to do with Skip, or didn’t want him, and sent him to the local shelter. Only one thing could happen to Skip at this particular shelter if he couldn’t get adopted.  A nice family living near Seattle, fell in love with Skip over the internet.

Once Smiles joined Skip in Twin Falls, the two of them were transported to Boise on Sunday and spent the night with three other dogs in a small house. That next morning, we picked them up. They were both unsure and cautious, but they sat nicely in the car and sighed deeply as if to say, “Here we go again.”

Smiles and Skip on their way to their fur-ever homes. From Boise to Seattle.

Smiles and Skip on their way to their fur-ever homes. From Boise to Seattle.

The trip from Boise to Seattle was fairly uneventful, with the exception of traveling with two dogs we’d never met before. The two hadn’t eaten breakfast yet when we picked them up, so we stopped in Oregon and attempted to feed them. Skip, being the big chocolate lab that he is, ate hungrily, while Smiles wouldn’t even sniff her food. We let them potty in the Oregon rain, then we all jumped back in the car. There were patches of complete downpour, but most of the trip was clear and sunny. Skip and Smiles were so well behaved! It was as if they had been friends forever! As we got closer to Seattle, however, we could all tell that they were just tired of being in a car for so long. We had been stopping at every rest area from Boise to Seattle so that they could take a potty break and stretch their legs, but it wasn’t enough. They had no idea what was going on. Three strangers in a car?! That’s enough to make anyone nervous.

As we got closer to our first drop-off location, Snoqualmie Falls, we stopped for coffee. Everyone was tired and needed a little pick-me-up. The rain had also picked up and was pouring by the time we drove into the town of Snoqualmie. We pulled up to a small local coffee shop and Skip stuck his nose out of my window. The Barista saw him and offered him a dog cookie. I told her “two please! These cuties are on their way from Idaho to meet their forever families.” She was thrilled to have such honorable guests.

Skip met his new family at Snoqualmie Falls, a spot I picked. If you ever get the chance to stop by this beautiful waterfall, I highly recommend it. When we arrived, it was raining and Skip was done with his trip. We handed him over along with his paperwork, and took a couple of pictures. His new parents were beaming and were so grateful for the transportation. We wanted to stay and chat, but we had to make it to our second drop-off location for Smiles. So, the three of us passengers and one dog got back into the car. We waved goodbye to Skip and his new parents and wished them all the best. That big, goofy, chocolate lab was in good hands and intuitively knew it.

We arrived at a greenbelt park about a half-hour drive from Snoqualmie and got out, again in the rain, to give Smiles some fresh air. As we waited for her new mom to arrive, we met another woman who was sending a little chihuahua to Canada. This poor girl was shaking, as most chihuahua’s do, and she melted our hearts. Smiles mom arrived to pick up Smiles and the little chihuahua to take to Canada where she would hopefully find a new home through the rescue that Smiles’ mom works with. Although tired, Smiles was all smiles as she met her new mom and understood that she would soon be HOME. She still had about a four hour drive ahead of her, but she would never have to see the inside of a shelter again. From Utah to Canada, this beautiful senior traveled far in a single weekend.

Skip and Smiles changed my life. I have never roadtripped with a dog, let alone two dogs. And I have never had the honor of transporting a dog to meet his or her new family. The bond we three transporters from Boise and a dog from Twin Falls and one from Utah formed was strong. All three of us enjoyed encouraging the two to run at the rest areas, drink water, and take a treat from a Barista. We gave them “voices,” and laughed when they kissed our faces.

As often as we can help it, we will never take another road trip without transporting an animal to their new forever home. Skip and Smiles left our care better dogs than when they were picked up at their respective shelters. It will only get better from here.

(And yes, the film festival went swimmingly and we had a blast.)

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Meatless Monday: Garden Harvest Stir fry

Garden Harvest Stirfry

Garden Harvest Stir fry

Autumn Equinox is a perfect day to partake from your bountiful garden and we did just that. Every ingredient in this meal is from our garden, with the exception of the quinoa. It made me feel like I was one with the earth when I prepared this delicious meal.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 cups cooked quinoa (I cook my quinoa in my rice cooker and it is so soft!)
  • 1 pound zucchini, sliced
  • 1 pound yellow squash, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 bunch of kale, chopped
  • 1 bunch (about 10) green onions, chopped
  • 2 jalapenos, cut
  • fresh parsley, chives, oregano, rosemary, thyme to taste
  • fresh cherry tomatoes
  • sunflower seeds
  • olive oil

INSTRUCTIONS:

In a wok, heat olive oil. Add all the ingredients except quinoa, sunflower seeds, and tomatoes, cook to desired tenderness. Add quinoa and stir. Top with sunflower seeds and cherry tomatoes. Easy and tasty!

The point of this meal was to see if I could utilize everything from my garden and still make a tasty dinner. It was tasty, but a bit bland for my palate. I would suggest adding some garlic, possibly some sherry or red wine to add a bit of a flavor, or soy sauce. I probably could have used at least one more jalapeno and added more herbs. Play with it! The kitchen is yours to create with! We also partook in our home-brewed beer. Now THAT was tasty.

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