Tag Archives: Easy

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

She’s So Fresh Watermelon Fresca

watermelon_aqua_fresca3

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need something other than water to quench my thirst. This cooling watermelon fresca, made with mint and coconut water is hydrating, filling, thirst quenching and really, really yummy. I used the eye ball method to make it, but I’ll try to recreate the experience in a formal recipe.

Ingredients:

  • Watermelon (I used half of a mini watermelon, which was about 2 cups, and made about 2 servings worth. If you use an entire 6-8lb watermelon, you will have many servings worth.)
  • About 1/2 cup coconut water (obviously if you are using more watermelon, use more coconut water)
  • A bunch of mint – I used about 6-10 leaves

Preparation:

  • Cut Watermelon into cubes, toss into blender.
  • Add coconut water and mint leaves and blend.

I really did not find a need to add sweetener. The watermelon is plenty sweet. Lime juice would be a nice addition either as a garnish or in the actual drink.

And since it’s Friday morning, and happy hour somewhere, make it into a cocktail and add 1-2 oz of vodka!

That’s it! Happy drinking!

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.

 

DIY Carrot Ginger Dressing

I spent my late teens and early twenties consuming so much carrot ginger dressing, that my clothing and hair smelled of it. It was served at dirt cheap venues throughout the East Village in Manhattan, where I lived. Eventually, I wanted nothing to do with it. Now, *cough cough* years later, I suddenly got a hankering for it. So, I decided to give making it a try, and I have to say, it tastes much better than I remember! It had a bite, a perfect amount of nuttiness and tartness, and I think I have a favorite newfound/vintage dressing!

Carrot Ginger Dressing 2
Here’s the recipe that inspired me. And here’s what I did, based on my personal taste preference, and the ingredients that I had in my fridge and pantry:

Ingredients:

  • 1 shallot, roughly chopped
  • 1 big chunk of ginger (about an inch)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • About 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • About 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • About 1/8 cup olive oil
  • A dash or two of Salt, Pepper and Cayenne Pepper
  • About 1-2 tablespoons water, to desired consistency

Directions:

Combine all ingredients but the water in a food processor or powerful blender. After everything is blended, add 1 tablespoon water. If you desire a runnier dressing, add another tablespoon of water.

I added the carrot ginger dressing to a salad I made with a couple of chopped radishes, a few slices cherry tomatoes, a chopped Persian cucumber, chopped hard boiled egg, a quarter avocado, sprinkled with crumbled feta cheese and toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

photo 4Carrot Ginger Dressing

Scared of Squash?

If you are equally intimidated by the hard, funny shaped gourds, know that you’re not alone. I didn’t grow up eating or decorating squash or pumpkin, but having lived in the US for over 30 years now, I decided to embrace them as treats and decor, and even tried my hand at my own recipe, featuring an easy to cut one, delicata squash.

I incorporated black beans into my squash stuffing for the protein, and Brussels sprouts and mushrooms for the vegetables. You can certainly customize to your liking. I made them at my boyfriend’s place, and totally forgot to bring over onion, which I think would have deepened the flavors. Three cloves of garlic definitely helped. I also feel it was missing a fresh element. In the future, I may add fresh green onions as garnish, or incorporate a fresh herb into the vegetable sauté, like thyme, and/or make some thyme or green onion infused sour cream to dollop on top. But here’s what I did:

Ingredients:

  • Two delicata squash, halved and de-seeded
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 can black beans (I like to use Eden beans, because they are cooked with Kombu, for added nutrition)
  • About 10 oz Shaved Brussels Sprouts (I used a package of shaved sprouts from Trader Joe’s)
  • About 8-10 Mushrooms, chopped (I used cremini)
  • 1 slice cheddar cheese, sliced into thin pieces and handful shaved Parmeggiano Regiano (Or cheese of your choice)
  • A bit of olive oil for the squash roasting
  • Salt, black pepper, cayenne, smoked paprika, dash of nutmeg (or any herb or seasonings you enjoy)

Herb Infused Sour Cream or Greek Yogurt

  • A few Tablespoons of Sour Cream or Greek Yogurt
  • A big pinch of fresh herbs of your choice (my choice would be thyme, green onions or chives), chopped

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F. After you’ve halved (with a good, sharp knife) and gutted your squash, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, a bit of salt and a bit of nutmeg.
  2. Place them face down onto a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes. The squash should be a bit browned and caramelized on the edges. Flip the squash over and let cool slightly. Lower oven temp to 350F.
  3. While squash is baking, sauté onions until translucent on medium heat. Add garlic. When garlic is fragrant, after 1-2 minutes, add shaved Brussels sprouts. Sauté until the sprouts start to brown a bit. Add mushrooms and black beans. Make sure to season a bit more with each addition of ingredients. Continue to sauté on a medium-low heat until the squash is out of the oven, and cooled slightly.
  4. Scoop the sautéed veggies into the squash halves. Top with the cut cheddar and shaved Parmeggiano Regiano.
  5. Place stuffed squash into oven and bake for 5 minutes, or until cheese on top has melted.

And here is my second annual hand at pumpkin carving. Mine is the guy with the stitched mouth. We had a great time making these, and roasting the seeds after!

Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

 

PS Don’t forget, November is actually Movember!

During November each year, the organization, Movember is responsible for the sprouting of moustaches on thousands of men’s faces, in the US and around the world. With their Mo’s, these men raise vital awareness and funds for men’s health issues, specifically prostate and testicular cancer initiatives. Let’s raise some awareness and grow them staches, gentlemen!

movember_egg_stache

 

Oh Controversial Coconut Oil – Shall I Love Thee?

coconut_oil

Note: If you get to the bottom of this post, you will find a very yummy recipe!

 

 

 

 

My friend Marieke Klosse-Beeler has a wonderful company, Pamperosity, all about pampering yourself with all natural products. She asked me to share my knowledge in her blog this week about cooking with, as well as the health benefits of coconut oil. She was also kind enough to plug my blog and The Healthy Delectable Web Series, and announce the latest news, my upcoming Cookbook, that I plan to release on kindle later this Fall!

Check out Pamperosity and Marieke’s post about coconut oil HERE!

Coconut Oil went from being the “bad” oil in the 90’s to being hyped as a “cure-all” today.
So, what’s the truth about Coconut Oil?

According to a WebMD article, “Coconut oil contains an unusual blend of short and medium chain fatty acids, primarily lauric (44% ) and myristic (16.8%) acids. It is this unusual composition that may offer some health benefits.”

What does this mean? Because they are smaller, they’re absorbed intact, as opposed to long-chain fats, that have to be broken down in the small intestine.  Smaller and medium-chained fatty acids are delivered directly to the liver to be used for energy.

The other good news is, medium-chain fats don’t store in fat cells to the same extent as long-chain ones. Studies show that medium-chain fats appear to increase calorie burning in the body.

The WebMD article article also states, “Coconut oil, like all saturated fats, should be limited to 7%-10% of calories because it can increase risk for heart disease, according to the AHA and 2010 Dietary Guidelines.”

From my research, coconut oil shouldn’t be replaced with other important oils, such as extra virgin olive oil and grapeseed oils, for our diet, both of which are unsaturated.

Everyone loves a virgin, and according to a 2011 NY Times article, the key to the healthiest variety of coconut oil, is extra virgin. Generally speaking, anything that hasn’t gone through a chemical process is best, and easiest for your body to break down. The “bad fats” are trans fats, which was the proudest of food labels, before gluten free showed up on the market. The lauric acid in coconut oil, (also found in breast milk, by the by) is said to increase levels of good HDL (the good cholesterol). While researchers are skeptical, lauric acid is also said to have possible antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral properties. While there is no scientific evidence to prove it, the natural foods community believes these properties can help weight loss, treat digestive issues, skin problems, and perhaps also viruses, like H.I.V.

As for cooking with coconut oil, it has a wonderful mellow, nutty, slightly sweet flavor, and enhances sautéed and roasted veggies, has a high smoke point, and can withstand hotter temperatures, and makes an excellent substitution for baking with animal fats, such as butter and lard. As I stated in the Pamperosity post, coconut oil lends to an excellent flaky pie crust, makes baked good moist, and makes my favorite latest treat, a magic shell for ice cream sundaes (see recipe below).

It is also an excellent moisturizer for skin and hair.

Whether you air on the side of science, or keep up with the latest in the nutritional world, it seems that coconut oil is definitely good for you, in small amounts.

Homemade Two Ingredient Magic Shell magic-shell-2-james-ransom-for-food52(Recipe adapted, and photo borrowed from Food 52)

This is a simple recipe. All you need is 2 parts oil to 3 parts chocolate. So, for 1 cup of magic shell, you will need:

  • 160 grams (about 1 cup) of good quality chocolate chips
  • 100 grams of coconut oil
  • Pinch of salt (optional)

Directions:

  • Combine chocolate and oil into a microwave safe container. Microwave in 30 second intervals until the chocolate melts. Stir to combine all the flavors. (You can also combine ingredients and melt over low heat in a bowl placed over a pot of simmering water) Allow the mixture to cool slightly, and then pour onto your scoop (or scoops) of ice cream!

Enjoy (in moderation)!!

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!

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!