Shanghai Cucumbers

One of my favorite dishes that I’ve had at a restaurant is PF Chang’s Shanghai Cucumbers.  The first time I had them, I went home and recreated them.  It is a quick and easy recipe that is delicious with a number of dishes.  All you need is a cucumber, toasted sesame oil, tamari or shoyu, and gomasio (toasted sesame seeds).  I found out recently that PF Chang’s also adds a small amount of white vinegar to the sauce, but I don’t tend to do that when I make it, although it does add a slight amount of tang (that isn’t unwelcome) to the dish.

Shanghai Cucumber ingredients

I believe that cucumber choice is the key to success with this recipe.  I am a huge fan of the local Dominion Organics Middle Eastern (or Persian) cucumbers and feel that this variety tastes the best, especially for this recipe.  English cucumbers are my second choice, when the Middle Eastern ones are not in season, and the nice thing is that those are generally local year round (they are grown in BC in a hot-house).  If neither of these varieties of cucumbers are available to you, then you can of course use your standard cucumber!

Another key ingredient that I use is the Ohsawa brand organic gluten-free tamari.  We don’t carry it at the Co-op, but owners can special order it in quantities of 3 (it works out to be about $9.60 a bottle – I saw it for as much as $21 a bottle on Amazon!).  It is much pricier than other tamaris on the market, but it is vastly superior so it is worth the extra cost.  We carry Ohsawa Nama Shoyu at the Co-op (if you can tolerate wheat) which is also pricier than other shoyus, but again, it is vastly superior.  It is the only unpasteurized (and therefore raw)  shoyu on the market – and neither the shoyu or the tamari is made with grain alcohol.

Anyway, back to the recipe!  Start by peeling strips off the cucumber – this is more for looks than anything else!

Once you have done that, hold your knife at a 45° angle to the end of the cucumber and slice into bite-sized chunks.  Rotate cucumber a 1/4 turn and slice again – repeat until you can’t cut any more off!

Next, mix your sauce ingredients in a small measuring cup or in a small bowl.  Pour over your cut cucumber, sprinkle with gomasio, and you’re done!

This dish takes about 5-7 minutes to make (depending on how quick you are with your knife!) – if you make it ahead, I like to reserve the sauce and add it right before serving.  If you have leftovers, they will still be delicious (and slightly more intense!) the next day, although they won’t look as pretty.  I make these at home to go with steak, Asian cuisine, and just for a snack.

Shanghai Cucumbers


  • 1 Middle Eastern or English Cucumber
  • ~ 2 T GF tamari or shoyu
  • 1/4 t toasted sesame oil
  • Gomasio (to taste)
  • Optional—1 t white vinegar


  1. Wash your cucumber of choice.  With your vegetable peeler, peel strips off the cucumber, being sure to leave some of the skin.
  2. Holding your knife at a 45° angle to the end of the cucumber, slice cucumber into mouth sized pieces, rotating a 1/4 turn after each cut.  Place cut cucumber into a bowl.
  3. In a small measuring cup or bowl combine tamari/shoyu and toasted sesame oil.  Add vinegar if using.
  4. Toss cucumber with the sauce.  Sprinkle gomasio to taste.
  5. Enjoy!

To make your own gomasio:

  1. Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat.
  2. Add raw sesame seeds to pan, and shake continuously until the seeds become slightly browned and become very aromatic, about 2 minutes.
  3. Remove from pan; Optional—sprinkle sea salt (to taste) over seeds and mix well.
  4. Keep in airtight container in the fridge.

You can use any kind of cucumber in this dish, but Middle Eastern/Persian and English cucumbers work the best.  If you use a regular cucumber, then you will need to peel the whole thing and deseed it first.

Shanghai Cucumbers PDF

Gluten-free Granola

Last October at the Bellingham Gluten Intolerance Group’s Annual Community Awareness Event at St Luke’s Community Health Center, Seattle-area author Karen Robertson spoke.  She stopped by the Co-op’s table, introduced herself, and gave me a copy of her gluten-free granola recipe.  When I was looking for a good granola recipe to demo, I remembered I had gotten one from her and contacted her about using it.

Karen wrote a gluten-free cookbook filled with great recipes a few years ago that is available for purchase on her blog in a digital format (the books are out of print, but you can still find them on Amazon).  She teaches cooking classes at South Seattle Community College, has taught at Puget Consumers Co-op (PCC), and posts recipes and tips on her blog.  Check it out and support another great local author and cook!

Her granola recipe was very simple to make (and smelled divine as it was cooking) – simply mix all your dry ingredients (I used Bob’s gluten-free rolled oats, unsweetened shredded organic coconut, chopped organic almonds and walnuts, and organic cinnamon – you can also add ground flax seeds) and heat up the wet ingredients in a small saucepan (organic canola oil, local raspberry honey, and organic vanilla extract).  Mix them together until your dry ingredients are fully moistened, and then spread evenly in a large jelly roll pan or baking sheet with ridges.  Cook at a low temp for 1 1/2 hours (stirring every 30 minutes or so) and you are good to go!

The granola was very popular (one of my most popular demos) and would be very easy to adapt to your specific diet.  Not gluten intolerant?  Just use regular oats.  Don’t like to use canola oil?  Substitute with grapeseed oil, hempseed oil, or your favorite cooking oil.  Are you vegan?  Well, omit the honey and use agave syrup (or brown rice syrup) in its place.  A customer said they were going to make the granola and add some diced dried apricot and pineapple to it (after it had cooked) and that sounds yummy.  I’m going to make a batch for myself this weekend, and I plan on adding peanut butter to the oil and honey mixture.

I served the granola with Fresh Breeze Organic Dairy’s 2% milk (it’s on sale right now) from up the road in Lynden, and Karen recommends eating it with Greek yogurt.


Gluten-free Granola Photo © 2011 Sassy Sampler

 New Gluten-free Granola

from Cooking Gluten-Free! by Karen Robertson (used with permission)


  • 2 c unsweetened coconut
  • 2 c Bob’s GF Rolled Oats
  • 2 c finely chopped almonds
  • 1 c finely chopped walnuts
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 2 T finely ground flax seed (optional)
  • 1/2 c honey
  • 1/2 c canola oil
  • 2 t vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 225°F.
  2. Lightly oil a jelly roll pan (12 ½” x 17 ½”) or a large, rimmed baking sheet with a bit of canola oil.
  3. Combine coconut, oats, almonds, walnuts and cinnamon in a large bowl.
  4. In a small saucepan combine the honey, oil and vanilla.  Heat until the honey is as thin as the oil.  While mixture is on the heat source, watch it very closely as it can bubble up and boil over.
  5. Pour honey mixture over oat/nut mixture and stir until it is mixed evenly and is thoroughly moistened.
  6. Spread mixture in an even layer on your prepared pan.
  7. Bake for 1 ½ hours, stirring every 30 minutes.
  8. Let cool and store in an airtight container.

Gluten-Free Granola PDF

5/10/11 update – I made the granola this weekend at home, but I went for a sweeter version.  I threw a small handful of chocolate chips into the honey/oil/vanilla mixture and let them melt (once it was off the heat, stirring frequently) and then tossed in a few more chocolate chips when I mixed it all together.  It made delicious chocolate granola, much like the one from Erin Baker’s (of Baker’s Breakfast cookies fame) that we have in bulk – a granola I have missed since finding out I was gluten-intolerant!  I’m going for the peanut butter version next…

4-H Super Saturday and Healthy Snacks for Kids

Today I taught a healthy snacks cooking class for our local 4-H kids.  Every year our local 4-H organization, run by the Washington State University Extension Office, holds a “Super Saturday” – a day full of fun classes that participants can take that is held at Meridian High School.  They can choose four classes (each a one hour “period”) ranging from decorating rocks, learning to tie fishing flies, bicycle safety,  how to raise backyard poultry, and of course, my Healthy Snacks class.

4-H kids (and parents) making their own trail mix

Those of you who have read since last year know that we made granola bars when I last taught this class, and while the kids loved it, it made for a very hectic hour.  This year I wanted it to be a lot less stressful (for me) but still fun, so I decided that trail mix would be a good alternative.  I also made a couple healthy dips for them to try, and then sent them home with the recipes so they could recreate them at home.  I had thirteen kids in my class this year, and some of them took the class last year, so it was fun to see them again.

First we made the trail mix –  I had organic almonds, walnuts and roasted peanuts, as well as organic raisins, banana chips and rolled dates.  I also supplied some organic sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and because trail mix is always more exciting with a little sweet stuff, I also had some organic dark chocolate chips and some blueberry yogurt covered raisins.  They had fun concocting their own mix, and everyone happily munched away!

4-H kids (and parents) trying the healthy dips.

Next I brought out the dips for them to try – the first was the “Raw” Caramel Dip from a past post, and the other was a Ranch-style dip that could easily be made at home.  I served the caramel dip with Lady Alice apples – grown in Washington, they are the most delicious apple I have tasted in a long time – you should definitely get into the Co-op to try these apples while we’ve got them!  I cut up some English cucumber (grown in British Columbia) and organic green and red bell peppers, and we had some organic baby carrots to taste the ranch-style dip with (recipe is below).  It was fun to hear all their comments on the caramel dip – one taster said it tasted like cookie dough (which she loves) and the kids gobbled it right up.  I of course waited until they had all tried it to tell them that it was made from cashews and dates!

All in all, I think the participants all had fun, and I know I did.  One student even gave me a painting she made of a tiger in a boat, which I thought was really sweet.  I will definitely be on board for Super Saturday next year!

Ranch-style dip


  • 2 teaspoons granulated or minced garlic
  • 3 Tablespoons dried onion flakes
  • 2 teaspoons ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
  • 1—1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt


  1. Combine all ingredients in a jar and shake to combine.
  2. Combine 2 t mix with 1/2 c Greek yogurt.
  3. Store leftover mix in the jar and use as needed!

Healthy Snacks for Kids of all Ages PDF

5 a Day handout for 4H PDF

Roasty-Toasty Black Beans

Black beans (or turtle beans) are tasty and healthy – they are packed with protein and dietary fiber, and are loaded with antioxidants.  They are a great choice for diabetics, and could help lower anyone’s risk for cancer and heart attacks.  All in all, a lot of goodness is packed into that small package!

I ran across an article in last month’s Real Simple magazine about the top foods you should eat, and of course black beans were on the list.  They suggested roasting them in the oven for a crunchy and healthy snack, and I was intrigued – I’ve worked in the natural foods industry for almost 15 years, and I had never heard of anyone preparing beans this way before – I had to try it!

The method is simple – rinse and dry cooked black beans, toss them with some olive oil (a fantastic healthy fat) and your favorite spices, and bake them until they are crispy and dry.  Through a little research, I found that they are a popular snack in Korea – you can buy them pre-packaged and seasoned and are popular because they are mild-tasting.  If you are looking for big, bold flavors, then this isn’t the snack for you, but if you are looking for a tasty snack that is packed with protein and fiber and is allergen-free (unless you can’t eat legumes!) then look no further.

Photo © 2011 Sassy Sampler

I found that you can make this recipe using any bean, you just may have to adjust the cooking time.  I also found that they soak up a ton of spices – I wanted to make a Cajun version, but that didn’t work out quite like I had planned.  I added spice to it before cooking, during cooking, and after cooking, and they never exceeded the “mild” rating from tasters, with the exception of the few “surprise” beans that were eye-watering!  If you like spicy snacks, then I would recommend blooming the spice in the oil first to try to amp up the heat.  To bloom a spice, you would heat the oil and the spice in a pan over medium heat for just a couple of minutes (until it is fragrant).  Let the oil cool before adding them to your beans.  I will note that I put about a Tablespoon of granulated garlic (I do love the garlic!) over a couple of cans worth of beans, and they were delicious!

Everyone who tried them liked them, and quite a few tasters went home with cans of beans (it helps that the Westbrae beans are on sale this month!).  You can also use dry beans, just be sure to cook them first!  These are also great on salads and in burritos.

photo roasted black beans

They may not be pretty – but they are pretty tasty! Photo © 2011 Sassy Sampler

Roasty-Toasty Black Beans


  • Black beans (or your favorite bean) – either a 15 oz can, drained and rinsed OR any amount of soaked and cooked black beans
  • Olive Oil for coating beans (about 2 t per can of beans)
  • ~ 1-2 t Spices of choice — Garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, Cajun seasoning, chili powder,   sea salt, cumin, etc.


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Dry cooked beans with a paper towel.
  3. Place them in a bowl and drizzle olive oil over them.
  4. Add desired spices to taste.
  5. Toss beans with oil and spice(s).
  6. Spread in an even layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes.  Take out baking sheet and toss beans.  Bake for another 15-20 minutes, until beans are crispy.
  8. Store in an air-tight container for a few days.

This mild-flavored snack is a favorite in Korea, and you can also use it to top salads, etc.  Use your imagination!

You can use almost any bean in this recipe — they don’t have to be black beans!  Garbanzos, or chickpeas, are the only ones that could be a little too hard (because of their size) to turn into a crunchy snack, but some enjoy that aspect.  Cook for closer to an hour if you give them a try.

You will need to use a lot of spices if you want a bolder flavor — be prepared to use more than you think will be necessary!  Blooming the hotter spices in oil first will help achieve a stronger flavor.  To bloom the spices, add them to the oil and cook over low heat for a couple of minutes.  Let oil cool before mixing it with the beans.

Roasty-Toasty Black Beans PDF

Candy Bars – gluten-free and vegan, but noone will ever know!

As I stated in an earlier post, Wynne, our Produce Manager at the Cordata Co-op, really wanted me to make candy bars for a demo, and today she got her wish (just in time for Valentine’s Day).

I found a recipe for “Three Amigos” candy bars on – think Three Musketeers, except way better and more truffle-like.  This recipe looked super easy, and I was not disappointed!

I only used two ingredients: chocolate chips and a container of Suzanne’s RiceMellow Créme.  It took about 10 minutes (including melting the chocolate chips on the stove) to prepare the inside of the bars, and then you have to wait for it to set (at least 4 hours or overnight).  Then I just melted some more chocolate chips, dipped the bars in them, refrigerated them for about 10 minutes and voilá, I had super delicious candy bars that tasted like I’d slaved all day in the kitchen!  People couldn’t believe how simple they were to make and I gave out a ton of recipes to customers today – I have a feeling there are going to be some sugared-up households in Bellingham this weekend!

I used the new SunSpire Chocolate Dream Chocolate Chips, and with Suzanne’s “marshmallow” creme these candy bars are vegan (no dairy or eggs), nut-free, and gluten-free (there is soy in both the chips and the creme).  I used two forks to dip them into the melted chocolate – I made about 100 little cubes instead of cutting the filling into 10 bars (for sample purposes) – and found that it worked well to cover the bar/square in chocolate in the bowl and then gently push away the excess chocolate before moving them to my parchment lined baking sheet.  It’s a little cumbersome at first if you aren’t very experienced with dipping things in chocolate, but they’ll taste just as good even if they’re not pretty.

If you can’t find vegan marshmallow cream where you live, you can substitute regular marshmallow cream (and they still make Marshmallow Fluff!).  You could probably even throw plain marshmallows into the melted chocolate to get a similar result (you may want to add a T or two of water to the mixture).

I highly recommend that you whip up a batch this weekend.  In no time at all you will be everyone’s best friend!

photo homemade candy bars

Three Amigos Candy Bars © 2011 Sassy Sampler

“Three Amigos” Candy Bars


  • 2 pounds semi-sweet chocolate chips (or 3 10 oz. packages of chips will work)
  • 1 container Suzanne’s RiceMellow Créme


  1. Prepare an 8×8 pan by lining it with aluminum foil.  Spray the foil with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Put half of the chocolate chips in a double-boiler with simmering water and melt (you can use a heat-proof bowl on top of a small saucepan if you don’t have a double-boiler).  You can also place the chips in a microwave safe bowl and melt them in 45 second bursts (stir in between).
  3. Once the chips are melted, add the container of RiceMellow Créme and stir until the mixture is smooth.  Pour it into the prepared pan and smooth it to an even layer.  Refrigerate until chilled thoroughly, at least 4 hours or overnight.
  4. Once the nougat is completely set and firm, melt the rest of the chocolate chips  using the same method as in step 1.  Let cool slightly before starting step 6 (about 5 minutes).
  5. While the chocolate is cooling, remove the candy nougat from the fridge and pull up on the foil to remove it from the pan.  Place on a cutting board, and using a sharp knife, cut the candy in half, then cut each half into 5 bars.  Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
  6. Using two forks or dipping tools, submerge one bar at a time into the melted chocolate.  Remove the bar from the chocolate, allowing excess chocolate to drip back down in the bowl (I found it worked well to lightly scrape the bottom of the bar on the side of the bowl to remove the excess).  Place the bar on the baking sheet.
  7. Repeat with remaining bars.
  8. Place the bars in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to set the chocolate.  Once set, the bars can be served immediately.

Three Amigos Candy Bars PDF

Roasted Garlic Hummus

Is there a better savory smell than roasting garlic?

“Garlic has been used as both food and medicine in many cultures for thousands of years, dating at least as far back as the time that the Giza pyramids were built”, according to Wikipedia. It has been thought to lower cholesterol, ward off heart disease, and could prevent certain types of cancer. It has both negative and positive spiritual connotations, as every major religion has some kind of reference or myth involving garlic.

So guess what my main ingredient was this week…garlic!

I decided to make a roasted garlic hummus to spice up the dreary day. Hummus is incredibly easy to make, and isn’t very time consuming. You do need a food processor to make quick work of it, however.

This week’s recipe comes from Cook’s Illustrated, my all-time favorite cooking magazine. I’m never concerned that one of their recipes won’t be fantastic because they do all the testing and experimenting for you. I looked at many hummus recipes, but ended up choosing theirs because I knew it would be tasty.

Start off with two nice sized heads of garlic – Cook’s recommends that you wrap your garlic in foil before roasting, and I had never done this before. It worked great and made for super easy clean-up. While that is cooking, you slice up another couple of cloves and make some fragrant garlic chips (you’ll use the garlic oil that is created as a result in the hummus).

You can choose to use dried chickpeas – soak them overnight and then cook them while your garlic is roasting (both will need to cool before you make the hummus). I chose to use a can of organic Field Day Garbanzo beans, for the convenience.

Customers really liked the hummus, and many had tips from their own hummus making experiences: a co-worker “sprouts” his dried chickpeas in hot water overnight and then doesn’t cook them; another recommends adding a shredded cucumber to the hummus, which would add a refreshing flavor to it; another adds grated fresh ginger.

Hummus is actually a pretty healthy snack when made from scratch – it is high in protein, iron, Vitamin C (especially if you use fresh lemon), and dietary fiber. Eating it with vegetables instead of chips or pita bread make it a healthy lunch for students or as an after-school snack.


photo roasted garlic hummus

Roasted Garlic Hummus © 2011 Sassy Sampler



  • 2 heads garlic + 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 3 T juice from 1-2 lemons
  • 1/4 water
  • 6 T tahini, stirred well (I prefer roasted tahini for it’s fuller flavor)
  • 1 (14 oz) can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 t sea salt
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 2 t chopped fresh parsley


  1. Remove papery outer skins from garlic heads and discard.  Cut top quarters off heads and discard.
  2. Wrap garlic in foil and roast in a 350°F oven until browned and very tender, about 1 hour.
  3. Meanwhile, heat oil and 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves in a small skillet over medium-low heat.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 15 minutes.  Using slotted spoon, transfer garlic slices to paper towel lined plate and set aside; reserve oil.
  4. Once roasted garlic is cool, squeeze cloves from their skins (you should have about 1/4 c).
  5. Combine lemon juice and water in a small bowl or measuring cup.  Whisk together tahini and garlic cooking oil in second small bowl or measuring cup.
  6. Process garbanzo beans, roasted garlic, salt, and cayenne in food processor until almost fully ground, about 15 seconds.  Scrape down bowl with a rubber spatula.
  7. With machine running, add lemon juice water mixture in a steady stream through the feed tube.  Scrape down bowl and continue to process for 1 minute.
  8. With machine running, add oil/tahini mixture in a steady stream through feed tube; continue to process until hummus is smooth and creamy, about 15 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed.
  9. Transfer hummus to serving bowl, sprinkle toasted garlic slices and parsley over surface, cover with plastic wrap and let stand until flavors meld, at least 30 minutes.  Drizzle with olive oil and serve.  If you do not plan on serving immediately, refrigerate hummus and garnishes separately.  When ready to serve, stir in approx. 1 T of warm water if the texture is too thick.

Roasted Garlic Hummus PDF

Raw Caramel Dip – Yum!

Apple season is upon us, and it sure seems like they had a good growing season. All of the new crop apples I have tried have been crisp and delicious. For this week’s recipe demo, I wanted to be sure to include them for that reason. I check Ali Segersten’s blog (of Whole Life Nutrition cookbook fame, written with her sweetie Tom Malterre, which you can find at the Co-op) from time to time, and came across her post for a raw “caramel” dip recipe and it sounded so good (and easy!!) that I had to try it.

I was not disappointed. The recipe calls for fresh Medjool dates, raw cashews, and a little bit of maple syrup, vanilla and sea salt. You soak the dates and cashews (separately) for 2-3 hours and then throw everything into a blender or Vita-Mix and presto – a delicious vegan, gluten-free dip that smells like cookies and tastes like caramel!

I sampled the dip with locally grown Bellewood Acres Jonagold apples – they are slightly tart and very crisp – a perfect complement to a locally created recipe! FYI – they give farm tours at Bellewood September 1st – December 31st between 10am-6pm. I spoke with a customer who just went out there with her kids and she said that they had a lot of fun, and so did she!

photo honeycrisp apples raw caramel dip

Raw Caramel Dip © 2010 Sassy Sampler



  • 1 c raw cashews *
  • 1 c medjool dates, pitted (about 8-10 dates)
  • 1/4 c maple syrup
  • 2 t vanilla
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Date soaking water as needed

* cashews are technically not raw because they are heated to remove the shell.


  1. Place the cashews into a small bowl and cover with water.  Let soak at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours.
  2. Place the pitted dates into a separate small bowl and cover with water.  Let soak for 2 to 3 hours.
  3. Drain and rinse the cashews, then place them into a blender or a Vita-Mix, along with the drained dates (save the date soaking water).
  4. Add the maple syrup, vanilla, and salt.
  5. Add about 6—8 T of the date water and blend all ingredients until ultra smooth, scraping down the sides if needed.
  6. Scoop into small bowls and serve with sliced, fresh apples.

Raw Caramel Dip PDF

Tom Malterre and Ali Segersten wrote the Whole Life Nutrition cookbook.  Tom is the Co-op’s nutritionist — you can find him twice a month at the Co-op. Check the most recent Co-op newsletter for dates/times.  He will be here to answer your questions about healthy eating, nutrition, and diets.  We are lucky to have them so accessible – a customer told me today that she learned about Tom and Ali while she was living in Arizona and followed her blog, and was so excited when she moved here and found out they were local!

Alissa Segersten received her Bachelor’s of Science from Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington. She is the previous owner of a Personal Chef business in Seattle, Washington that successfully addressed the health and lifestyle needs of many families with her delicious, healthy cooking. She is currently a cooking instructor and author of the food blog, empowering people with cooking skills and knowledge of whole foods so that they may reconnect with the pleasure in eating delicious, nourishing food.

Tom Malterre received both his Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science in Nutrition from Bastyr University and is licensed by the state of Washington as a Certified Nutritionist. Tom travels throughout the United States and Canada lecturing at conferences on topics such as Vitamin D, Gluten Intolerance, and Digestive Health. He empowers people through classes, seminars, and private counseling with his insight and depth of knowledge on the biochemical interactions within our body and their relationship to our diet .

“Buckeyes” (Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls)

For this week’s demo, I wanted to make something sweet. If you notice the ratio of desserts to entrees that I tend to sample, you’ll see that I do have a bit of a sweet tooth, although I try to keep a balance of recipes. I haven’t demoed a sweet treat since late August, so I felt it was time!

Buckeye tree nut

Buckeye tree nut

I trolled the web and found numerous recipes for Buckeyes that sounded promising – who doesn’t like peanut butter and chocolate? Well, actually one mother daughter duo professed to me yesterday that they didn’t, but everyone else I talked to sure did! If you are not familiar with Buckeye trees (as probably many in WA state are not), here are a few facts: Buckeyes are nuts from trees of the same name, which are very closely related to Horse Chestnuts. They grow all over the world but in North America, they grow mostly in the southern half of the continent (you’ll find them in CA, TX and of course in OH, which is called the Buckeye state). Buckeyes and Horse Chestnuts were historically used to aid circulation in both humans and horses (hence the name).

Homemade buckeye treats are very easy to make, and taste like a really, really good peanut butter cup. I used Santa Cruz organic dark roasted peanut butter in my batch, as well as organic dark chocolate chips for the coating. Some organic powdered sugar, butter and vanilla rounded out the ingredients. This is a recipe that does not shy away from sugar, and believe it or not, I used less sugar than the original recipe called for (by about 2 cups!).

A customer and I chatted about substitutions for the recipe, and you can of course use margarine in place of the butter if you want a vegan version, but she was going to try using coconut oil instead and I thought that might work out pretty well. She was also going to replace the powdered sugar with Rapadura sugar (both powdered and the crystals) but I wouldn’t recommend that unless you know what Rapadura tastes like – it does have a stronger flavor than regular white sugars, but I think in this recipe it could work.

This is a great recipe to make with kids, as there is no oven involved – as long as there is supervision melting the chocolate (although that can be done in the microwave in a pinch, but I think it tastes better done on the stove). You can also easily halve this recipe and still have a decent amount of treats. Enjoy!

photo of buckeye peanut butter balls

Buckeyes © 2010 Sassy Sampler



  • 16 oz jar of peanut butter
  • 1 c butter or margarine, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • 1# powdered sugar
  • 4 c semi-sweet chocolate chips


  1. In a large bowl, mix together peanut butter, butter, vanilla and powdered sugar.
  2. Roll into 1” balls and place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
  3. Press a toothpick into the top of each ball (to be used later as the handle for dipping them).  Chill in freezer until firm, about 30 minutes.
  4. Melt chocolate chips in double boiler or in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water.  Stir frequently until smooth.
  5. Dip frozen peanut butter balls in chocolate holding onto the toothpick.  Leave a small portion of peanut butter showing at the top to make them look like Buckeye nuts.
  6. Place Buckeyes back on the cookie sheet and refrigerate until served.  Remove toothpicks before serving.
  7. Buckeyes (Peanut Butter Balls) PDF

    adapted from

Uncle Bill’s Microwave Potato Chips

I was surfing around the web for a recipe for this week and came across this one on  I have never heard of making potato chips this way, and I figured it was worth a try.  I was intrigued because it called for such a nominal amount of oil, and I couldn’t work out in my head how you could make anything resembling a potato chip in the microwave – the recipe got rave reviews on the website so they couldn’t be that bad, right?

Right!  They turned out crispy and light and delicious – it’s a total science experiment where you get to eat the delicious results.  Whoever Uncle Bill is, he is a genius!

I got to work – I bought a few organic red potatoes (new crop!) as well as a Japanese sweet potato.  I didn’t notice that anyone had tried using sweet potatoes in the comments about the recipe, but the chips are so easy to make I thought it wouldn’t hurt to give it a go.  Although they didn’t turn out as crispy as the potatoes, they were sweet and crunchy and I thought they were delicious.  They didn’t take “as long” to cook either (only about 2 minutes and 40 seconds vs. around 4 minutes for the potatoes).

I used a mandolin slicer and made quick work of the potatoes and got to microwaving (I just used a couple sheets of parchment paper to cook them).  I made some plain ones with a little sea salt, and some with Cajun seasoning.  I loved the look on customers faces when I told them that I had made them in the microwave!  They were as surprised as I was that they were so good.  It kind of makes me wish that I owned a microwave (maybe we’ll have to get one when we buy a new house next year – our kitchen is way too small for any more appliances right now!)…

As long as an adult does the slicing, this is a perfect recipe to cook with kids – they can choose what flavors to make the chips and will love getting involved making “junk food”.  They don’t have to know that because there is next to no oil in them that they are healthier than they may think!

Uncle Bill's Microwave Potato Chips Photo © 2010 Sassy Sampler

Uncle Bill’s Microwave Potato Chips


Potatoes—Russet, Yukon, White or Red, or you can use sweet potatoes

Your choice of spices—granulated garlic powder, seasoning salt, cayenne pepper, dried dill, dried parsley, cracked black pepper, parmesan, Cajun seasoning, etc.

Vegetable oil, to oil dish/parchment paper


1. If the potatoes are old, peel and slice paper-thin with a mandolin slicer (or as thin as you can get them with a knife).  If you are using new potatoes, then don’t bother peeling them, just clean them well and slice thinly.

2. Place potato slices in a bowl and sprinkle with salt (if desired).  Cover with cold water and let sit for 10 minutes.

3. Remove potato slices in batches and pat dry with a (paper) towel.

4. Choose a microwave safe dish—either a microwave bacon tray, casserole dish or you can use parchment paper.  Coat dish/paper with oil.  Lay potato slices on dish/paper in a single layer.

5. Sprinkle with your choice of seasoning, or just leave them plain.

6. Cover potato slices with a lid or another piece of parchment paper.

7. Microwave on HIGH for 3 –5 1/2 minutes, until they start to curl at the edges and are a very light brown color.  Cooking time may vary due to the wattage of your microwave and the thickness of the potato slices. Err on the side of caution.  You do not have to turn the slices over.

8. Continue to cook the rest of the slices as described in steps 4-7.  Note that you shouldn’t need to add any more oil to your dish/paper after the first batch.

Note—if using a bacon tray, you should be able to decrease the cooking time of each successive batch.

If using cheese, try sprinkling it on the chips right after they come out of the microwave.  Pop them back in for a few seconds to melt the cheese.

Trio of Dips/Dressings

Ahhhhh…spring in the Northwest!  My favorite thing about spring is the weather.  Yup, I’m talking all of it – the rain, the beautiful afternoon sun breaks, the random wind storms…all because it is the lead up to what will hopefully be another bountiful year for locally grown produce!

Photo © 2010 Sassy Sampler

You know spring is really here when luscious green vegetables start showing up at the Co-op.  We’ve had local bulk spinach and salad mix for a little while now, and this week brought our first deliveries of asparagus from Devine Gardens in Custer and English and Mediterranean cucumbers (my favorite local produce item!) from local grower Dominion Organics greenhouses (they supply us with fresh, local wheatgrass all year).  Devine Gardens is harvesting a couple acres worth of organic asparagus this year (they will have up to 9 acres in the next couple years) and is also distributing organic asparagus grown in Eastern Washington.  This is great for everyone because no distributor is involved, so it the produce is essentially still farmer direct and super fresh!  Devine is  also at the Ferndale Farmer’s Market and they have a produce stand in Custer (check out the Farmer’s Market blog here).

Inspired by these first bounties of spring, I put together a trio of dips/dressings to serve with fresh local produce all summer.  It’s amazing how many dip recipes out there call for mayonnaise, and I don’t have anything against that, but it is fun to mix it up with something a little unexpected, so I used garlic aioli and So Good! brand Miso Mayo as alternatives.  They are both vegan (no eggs or dairy) and naturally gluten-free, so all can enjoy them.  I did add sour cream to the Tomasil (say “toe-may-zel”) dip, but you can add a non-dairy sour cream alternative to make the dip vegan.  I used 3 t of homemade wasabi paste to the Wasabi Miso dip, and most thought that it had the right amount of punch to it without leaving too much wasabi flavor behind.

Trio of veggie dips Photo © 2010 Sassy Sampler

TOMASIL DIP (Tomato/Basil Dip)


1 c garlic aioli

1/2 c sour cream (you can use non-dairy sour cream as well)

1/2 c chopped, fresh basil

1 T tomato paste

1 t grated lemon rind

Whisk together all ingredients.  Cover and chill for up to 2 days (if desired).

Note: This was very popular with the asparagus!!!



1 container So Good! Miso Mayo

1/2 t sugar

2 t fresh lemon juice

2-3 t wasabi paste (see note below)

Whisk together all ingredients.  Can be made one day in advance.  Cover and refrigerate.

Note: To make wasabi paste, combine equal parts water and wasabi powder in small bowl (in this recipe, use 2-3 t dry powder).  Mix together and let sit for 15 minutes.



1 c olive oil (high quality)

~1/2 c balsamic vinegar (depending on quality of vinegar)

3 to 5 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and fresh pepper, to taste

Whisk together vinegar and garlic.  Add oil in a steady stream while whisking constantly, until thickened.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

All of these dips/dressings are great with seasonal vegetables—blanched asparagus, cucumbers, peppers, carrots, cauliflower, etc.

To blanch asparagus:  Bring salted water to a boil.  Cook asparagus in boiling water for 1-2 minutes, until it turns bright green, but is still crisp.  Transfer to a colander and rinse under cold water immediately to stop cooking, or plunge in an ice water bath.  Drain well, pat dry, and refrigerate for up to two days.

Trio of Veggie Dips PDF