Tag Archives: Comforting

Squash is the Reason for the Season (and an Excuse to Make Quesadillas)!

butternutsquash_quesadillaThese butternut squash and feta cheese quesadillas made a comeback at my home for dinner recently. They were just as yummy as eva!

In case you’ve never seen the episode on how to make these and two more delicious and easy kid-friendly snacks, here it is!

And here are the recipes to follow yourself!

Thank Heaven for Turmeric Ginger Tea

 

Photo Sep 14, 3 48 31 PMThere’s a heat wave in LA. And this refreshing drink is my saving grace. It is also a bit of an apothecary, as this tea, made with gorgeous golden turmeric and ginger root are both known for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Besides the health benefits, I drink this tea all day, because it is so good! I make it in concentrated batches, and dilute them with water and ice. Though this tea would be wonderful warm as well, with a little almond or coconut milk. I know the black pepper is kind of a weird ingredient in this recipe. The simple answer is that black pepper helps the body absorb turmeric. I didn’t want to bog down this blog post with a lot of healthy talk – but there’s plenty of information on the internet about how super healthy these ingredients are and why.

Now onto the recipe.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2-1 tspn turmeric powder, or freshly grated turmeric
  • About 1 inch chunk of peeled and sliced ginger root
  • A few dashes of black pepper
  • Honey to taste


PREPARATION:

Combine the water, turmeric, ginger and black pepper in a pot. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for about 10 minutes. Let cool slightly, add honey to taste. Pour the concentrate through a tea strainer into a container, such as a mason jar. For a cold drink, add a little of the concentrate to cold water (ice optional). It’s really up to you to choose the water to tea ratio. I make it with about a quarter cup of tea to 1 ¾  cups of water. Once the concentrate has cooled, you may store it in the fridge. One large mason jar lasts me a couple of days, and then I quickly make more. Sip and enjoy!

Photo Sep 14, 3 51 25 PM

Just the Right Spice Makes this Veggie Burger So Nice

Chickpea Cauliflower Patties

This week, I was tantalized by a recipe I stumbled upon on The First Mess, a beautiful blog filled with many wholesome and delicious recipes, and wonderful food photography. The thing that really caught my eye, was the word “Old Bay seasoning” in the title of the recipe. Old Bay seasoning has a dear place in my heart, as my boyfriend turned me onto it, and then then I discovered it in my Christmas stocking from him that winter. :) It is great on roasted potatoes, eggs, beans, and anything with a mild taste (It was originally invented as a crab boil; my boyfriend attests it’s excellent on shellfish as well as chicken).

The photos on the blog were so tantalizing, and I am a sucker for a good veggie burger, plus my friend Stephanie was coming over for dinner this week, and I knew she would love for me to try the recipe out on her.

It is a bit involved. But the directions seemed more complex than the experience making them. Put on some good music, have a lovely beverage to sip on and have fun making these Chickpea & Cauliflower Veggie Patties with Vegan Cashew Lemon Spread. I made some personalizations to the original recipe by adding cayenne and turmeric for added flavor and a healthful boost.

Eating is the greatest reward

 

Chickpea & Cauliflower Veggie Patties with Vegan Cashew Lemon Spread
Makes 4 patties

Patty ingredients:

  • 2 cups cauliflower florets
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas (I used canned)
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 tspn turmeric
  • dash cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • squeeze of lemon juice
salt + pepper to taste, keeping in mind Old Bay is pretty salty
  • 1/4 cup + 3 tablespoons chickpea flour
  • 1/2 of a shallot, chopped (original recipe called for 1/3 cup chopped chives)

Cashew Lemon Spread ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 4 hours
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • splash of vinegar (original recipe called for white wine vinegar, I used rice vinegar)
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard (I used hot horseradish mustard)
  • 2 tbsp-1/3 cup filtered water
  • dash cayenne pepper
  • salt to taste

Sandwich ingredients:
Feel free to customize to your taste. I made mine with whole wheat pita bread, sliced cherry tomatoes, avocado and fresh arugula.

* The original recipe called for 1/4 cup chickpea flour and 3 tablespoons oat flour, with the option to use all chickpea flour – which is what I did. But if you’d like to use 3 tablespoons oat flour, you can easily grind oats in a food processor, vitamix or spice grinder to make it. Also, if you don’t have Old Bay seasonings (I’ve seen it sold at Target and Cost Plus World Market fyi), here is the link to make it yourself!

Preparation:

  1. Steam cauliflower florets in a steamer basket over a pot of shallow water for 7-8 minutes.
  2. Remove and run some cold water over it to stop the cooking process.
  3. Dry the florets lightly and place them in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the “S” blade.
  4. Add the chickpeas, garlic, Old Bay seasoning, turmeric, cayenne pepper, olive oil, lemon juice, salt + pepper.
  5. Pulse until you have a meal that clumps together when you squeeze it, trying not to blend up all of the chickpeas.
  6. Put the chickpea and cauliflower mixture into a large bowl, add the chickpea flour and chopped shallots until the ingredients are well mix and the flour is absorbed. Adjust the seasonings accordingly, if needed.
  7. Divide the mix into 4 equal portions and form patties with your hands. (This was my favorite part of not using eggs to form patties – no mess!) Wrap the patties tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
  8. In the meantime, make the cashew lemon spread. In a blender, place the cashews (that have been drained and rinsed), lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, salt, and 2 tablespoons of water.
  9. Blend scraping the sides and adding more water if necessary.
  10. The mixture should be a creamy mayo-like consistency. Place the spread into a container, cover, and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.
  11. Heat the pan over medium high heat, then lower the heat and add some oil in a pan (I used my cast iron pan, but you can certainly use any non-stick pan).
  12. Place a couple of patties in the pan at a time. Flip to the other side once they are lightly browned (this should take a few minutes on each side. Use your spatula to lift and move the patties as they’re browning, to make sure all the underside gets browned. You may keep the patties warm on a parchment lined baking sheet in the oven on a low temperature. I only made two, and kept my unmade patties wrapped in plastic, until they were ready for eating. You can certainly cook them all up at once and reheat as well.
  13. While the patties were cooking, I quickly warmed up pita bread over a medium flame on the stove. This only takes a few seconds – you just have to keep an eye on the pita so as not to burn it.

The first time I made the patties, I cut one patty in half and one pita in half. The second time I made it, I cut the top third of the pita and put an entire patty in. These are options depending on your appetite! It is a lovely, satiating, satisfying meal. Enjoy!

 

My New Favorite Morning Muffins

Muffin

I was attending an all weekend, all day seminar that I wasn’t too excited about. I knew I needed to prepare for my early mornings, with a quick and filling breakfast, full of fiber, protein and good grains that would give me sustained energy. And this whole grain, gluten-free, blueberry, chia seed, flax seed, walnut muffin is what I came up with. I used very little coconut sugar in it. In fact, next time, I would add in a couple of chopped dates for added sweetness. I took a basic recipe and customized it with all of these goodies. That’s sometimes a bit tricky to do with baking, because ingredient proportions need to be exact. My grade school arithmetic skills didn’t fail me this time.

Check out the recipe below:

This recipe made 6 muffins. Simply double it for a full dozen. Easy to freeze and defrost!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Dash cinnamon and cardamon (optional)
  • 1/4 cup oats (can use gluten free oats if you prefer)
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons flax seeds
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (or any of your favorite nuts)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted (can substitute with oil)
  • 1/4 cup cream (can substitute something lighter if you prefer)
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup blueberries (frozen are best, but fresh work too, and you can also use raspberries)
  • Optional: a couple of chopped dates

Directions:

  1. Place 6 muffin liners into a muffin tin. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the wet ingredients. In a larger bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (but not the berries). Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined (do not beat). Finally, add the berries and briefly mix again.
  3. Divide the mixture between the 6 muffin liners (I like to use a big ice cream scoop to do this) and bake for 20-25 minutes until the muffins are golden brown and set in the middle (If a toothpick comes out clean, they are ready). Leave the muffins in the tin on a cooling rack for 5 minutes, and then loosen carefully with a knife before turning out to cool completely.

 

When An Old Reliable Friend Moves Away

When I heard the news that my local Trader Joe’s would be closing its doors at the end of August, I can honestly say, I got a pit in my stomach. TRADER-JOES-largeAnd I’m not alone, as others, like LAIST are writing about it too. Ever since I moved into my beloved condo in West Hollywood in 2005, this TJ’s has been my reliable neighborhood companion.

I know, I know, it’s just a friggin’ store, why get so dramatic?!

When I lived in NYC, I shopped everywhere by bicycle or by foot. It was great! And in a new home, in a new city, having a TJ’s walking distance away was a real comfort, and I knew that anytime I just needed one or two things (although let’s be real, you never leave a TJ’s with just one or two things), it was just a few minutes away. Not to mention, having been to the other Trader Joes’ around town, this one had the best parking.

I was out of town when the store closed, so I didn’t say a proper good-bye, and when I returned to LA, it was gone. At first, I felt like someone died. Where would I shop? I tried the Hollywood TJ’s on Vine, one night after the gym, and the unpleasant experience began as soon as I turned into their underground parking garage (My Trader Joe’s had an easy and convenient outdoor lot), and took my ticket from the automated ticket box, a guy on a scooter whizzed through the open gate, and it shut on me before I could follow. Now with a line of cars behind me wondering what the hold up was, I had to get out of the car, and walk back to the box to get another ticket. Once I entered the store, it was filled with people, Hollywood people. I longed for the elderly West Hollywood Russians who walked too slowly down the aisle, and would stand way too close to me in the checkout line, or the super friendly staff who knew me and were more than willing to look in the back if I couldn’t find what I wanted on the shelves, and who I could count on to recommend their favorite beer or wine. That night as I drove home from the Hollywood Joe’s, I missed my neighborhood companion. A couple of days later, I went to the local Whole Foods store, where I already shop at occasionally, but which costs me about triple what I pay at TJ’s for my regular groceries.

Then something happened. On my way home one afternoon, I remembered I needed to buy a plant as a gift, and again cursed that I couldn’t go to TJ’s to get one of their wonderful orchid plants. Then I remembered a local plant store, Moe’s. I worried that it would be more expensive, but I didn’t have time to figure something else out. To my surprise, I could find some very affordable and healthy plants on sale, and even decided to buy myself a beautiful fern as well. So, as the reality that my local reliable store has moved on is sinking in, I am beginning to open up to what my neighborhood still has to offer.

Farmers Market 2
On Monday, I shopped at my local farmers market, where I became lazy about going to on a weekly basis because I could always go to TJ’s if I missed it that week (even though the produce is far superior (and cheaper) at the farmers market). There are also plenty of local Eastern European delis and grocery stores in the neighborhood that carry the things I may need on a moments notice, like cream for my coffee.

Farmer Market 1

And actually, the small stores and the farmers market are what I love about living in a neighborhood, where the locals all go. The Trader Joe’s was an incredible convenience, but sometimes it’s good to expand one’s view to what else is out there.

 

 

 

Mint Tea

Herby Delight

Mint Tea

This tea is ridiculously good and easy to make!

All you need are fresh herbs, hot water, and a vessel to steep them in.

This afternoon I’m sipping on a simple mint tea, but you can use just about any herb. When I have them on hand, I like to combine mint, a bit of sage, a chunk of ginger and some rosemary. Just steep the herbs a few minutes and pour yourself a glass. And it goes great with a bit of honey.

Herbs and honey are filled with healing properties, so your mouth and body will thank you!

Quinoa "Grits"

Healthy Quinoa “Grits”

Quinoa "Grits"

One of the curses and blessings of looking at and reading about food all the time, is it makes a gal hungry!

I saw a photo of cheesy grits this morning, and could not get the image out of my mind. It’s Monday. I had an ice cream sundae last night, and I try to keep my diet clean and healthy during the week. Then I got inspired to make a healthier version of the cheesy, grainy creaminess I was craving. Here’s what I did:

I cooked quinoa in salted water. When the water cooked through, I added some olive oil and closed the lid a moment to let it steam through. The olive oil added a nice layer of flavor and also kept the quinoa from sticking to the bottom of the pan. While the quinoa was still hot, I cracked an egg into the pot, and stirred vigorously to let the egg cook through. That added the creaminess I was craving. If you’re nervous about eating raw egg, you can keep the pot over a very low flame on the burner. And finally, to complete the need for a little more salt, fat and cream, I stirred in a small amount of grated Parmesan. So, while it’s not corn, with heaps of butter, cream, and cheese, which I save devouring on special occasions, it did the trick. And then to make it more healthy, I tossed the quinoa “grits” with fresh arugula, tomato and avocado. And the whole thing took me about 20 minutes to prepare, and really only about 5 minutes of active work.

I don’t know if they’re cowboy approved. But it sure made for a healthy and delicious lunch!

Ingredients:
(Serves 2)

  • 3/4 cup quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • About 1/4 cup shaved or grated parmesan
  • salt and black pepper
  • big bunch of arugula
  • 1/2 – 1 whole tomato, cut into quarters
  • 1/2 avocado, cut into chunks

Directions:

  1. Toast the quinoa dry in a pot. When it starts to smell nutty, add water and salt, lower flame and cover for 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Once the water cooks through, turn off the heat, add olive oil and cover pan to steam.
  3. After a minute or two, crack an egg and stir vigorously. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you’re concerned about the raw egg, you can keep the pot over a very low flame while stirring the quinoa and egg mixture.
  4. Stir in parmesan.
  5. Place arugula, tomato and avocado into a bowl. Add quinoa and toss to coat. Taste, and season more to your liking.
Homemade Tomato Sauce

Mmmmm…marinara

Homemade Tomato SauceWanna know the secret to this homemade tomato sauce?

San Marzano tomatoes. When a friend of mine shared the secret to a great tomato sauce is canned San Marzano tomatoes, I made sure to buy a few cans the next time I was at the store. And after researching basic marinara recipes, I realized that this very simple sauce is very easy to make. I bought fresh basil and parsley at my local farmers market. The fresh herbs really infuse the sauce with a lot of dimension. So here’s what I did:

 


Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 24 oz can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 big bay leaf
  • big bunch of fresh basil, chopped
  • handful fresh parsley, chopped
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, cayenne or red pepper flakes

 

Directions:

  1. Add olive oil to hot medium sauce pan. Add onions and cook over medium heat 2-3 minutes, until translucent.
  2. Lower heat, add garlic, and cook 1 minute.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir, cover pot and simmer for 20-30 minutes. You can just leave it alone, or stir from time to time and check to see if the flavor is developing. Don’t be afraid to use the salt! The tomatoes love it. Go to town with all of the spices – except the cayenne or red pepper. Just a pinch will do, if you like an extra kick. The spice will continue to deepen as the sauce cooks.
  4. Remove the bay leaf, and use an immersion blender to puree the sauce. Or you can leave it alone if you like a chunky sauce.
  5. Serve with your favorite pasta (Tonight, I made quinoa pasta, which is my favorite gluten-free pasta). Top with fresh basil and freshly grated parmesan. Mangia!
Homemade Coconut Milk

Look, Ma! Homemade Coconut Milk!

Ever since I was introduced to the art of making my own nut milk, I couldn’t bare to buy the boxed variety in stores. The main reason, other than the cost, is that preservatives are added to these milks, to retain freshness for much longer. The only thing I was bummed about was that I didn’t know how to make my own Coconut Milk – until now! This heavenly milk has a pretty short shelf life – 3 to 4 days, so I don’t make a lot at a time. But oh boy, it’s delicious!

Ingredients: coconut_milk

  • 4 cups warm filtered water (water should not be too hot, to retain the natural enzymes found in the coconut meat)
  • 1 cup raw unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup (or sweetener of choice, or no sweetener!)
  • Dash vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Add ingredients to your blender or vitamix. Blend for about 2-3 minutes, until milk is frothy. Keep your hand on top of the blender while blending, to avoid any messy explosions (yes, that’s what happened to me).
  2. Place a nut milk bag or cheese cloth over a large liquid measuring cup or a bowl. Pour contents in the bag or cheese cloth, and with your hands, squeeze out all the liquid from the pulp. Discard the bag with pulp (or use it for your baking or in your smoothies!), and pour the milk into a glass jar or bottle. Tightly seal and store in the refrigerator. Will keep 3-4 days.

What are the benefits of Coconut Milk, you ask?

Coconut milk is high in enzymes and vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate and panthothenic acid.

It is high in Lauric Acid, a a medium-chain fatty acid that is otherwise only available in human breast milk. Lauric Acid converts into Monolaurin in the human body, which helps destroy fungus, bacteria and viruses.

And most importantly, it’s delicious, and will make you go, Mmm!
Enjoy!

 

 

Sneaky Greens

Sneak your greens in a fix, with a bunch of other delicious and nutritious goodies, in this lovely shake I often make before my morning run. Don’t fear the green. You will hardly notice it’s there, among the coconut and fruity deliciousness. This smoothie makes me feel soooo good!

Ingredients:
4 oz Coconut Milk (any alternative milk will do)
4 oz Coconut Water
4 oz Aloe Juice, or low sugar juice of your liking
About 1 Tablespoon Flax Oil (high lignan is best)
Half Banana
Big handful of greens, like swiss chard or spinach
Other fruit you have handy – fresh and frozen

Combine into a blender (I use my beloved-can’t live without it immersion blender), blend and enjoy!