Saturday, January 5, 2013

banana-nut-bread granola

If you take a minute to read the nutrition label on store-bought granola, you might gasp at the amount of added SUGAR and high calories per serving (which is always 1/4 cup by the way.. 1/4 of a cup is a tiny amount of granola). So I decided to make a version of granola that can be sweet with NO ADDED SUGAR!

 The secret: bananas.


-2 ripened bananas (the riper (brown/black spots), the sweeter they will be)
-5 cups rolled oats
-1/2 Tbsp. raw cacao powder (optional, but adds a nice flavor and resembles more of a banana chocolate chip bread if you're into that)
-1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
-1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice (a lovely mixture of cinnamon, lemon peel, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom that I found at Trader Joes. If you do not have this, improvise with what you do have--cinnamon especially)
-1/2 cup shredded coconut
-1/2 cup millet (soaked in boiling water for about 15 minutes). Millet looks similar to quinoa and can be found in bulk in health food stores or in packages. I love it because it adds a nice crunch to the granola.
-1 tsp. sea salt

Blend bananas in blender or food processor until almost liquid in texture. Place all dry ingredients in large bowl and slowly pour in banana, while folding into oats. Line baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Spread mixture evenly onto baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes. If you think it needs a few more minutes, place it back in oven for only a few minutes before rechecking. It can burn easily, which I learned the hard way (but was also reminded that impatience has no place in cooking!)

Let cool and enjoy by itself or with some almond milk (or your milk of choice).


Holy moly. I am excited to share this one. If you happen to eat terra chips and love them the way I do, these are for you! I find myself picking out the taro chips (maybe that will be a future project) and sweet potato chips specifically so these were a real treat for me. I had a bag of small sweet potatoes from Trader Joes for, I believe, less than two dollars (!!!). I used 3 small sweet potatoes for this recipe, which covered two baking sheets beautifully.


-sweet potatoes
-coconut oil (I use a very small amount, just enough to cover the baking sheets. I'm talking less than a tablespoon for the entire batch)
-cayenne pepper
-ground ginger (powder)
-sea salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Slice the sweet potatoes in very thin slices. If you have a mandolin, more power to you. You will make fabulous chips. I don't, so I patiently sliced them with my little ceramic knife. You could probably try a vegetable peeler, especially if you want them extra crispy. Lightly coat baking sheets with coconut oil. Spread cut potatoes on baking sheets without crowding them. Lightly sprinkle with cayenne, ginger, and salt. Again, feel free to get hands dirty and massage all together.

Bake for about 15 minutes. It really depends on your oven and your taste and texture preference. I had some pieces that were thicker than others and found that they weren't as crispy, which I was ok with, but if you like them crispy, keep them in longer. These are irresistibly good. But luckily, there is only a small amount of fat (and its the good kind) and sweet potatoes have plenty of health benefits like slowing your body's absorption of sugar (great for diabetics), fiber, and beta carotene.

You can also have fun with the spices. You can stick to just sea salt, or maybe add black pepper, cumin, or paprika. Explore and have fun.

[dino] kale chips!

a real hit at parties! wooo

I realize that kale chips have been cool for a couple of years already... but to be perfectly honest, I hadn't tried one until a few weeks ago. I don't skimp on good food usually (local, organic, fresh, etc) but something about a $7 price tag on a small box of kale chips doesn't sit well. So for the past few years, I've just passed them by in the grocery stores, thinking I would just make them myself for less than $1 (three years later).

I was inspired this time because I bought two gigantic bunches of kale from Whole Foods because they were on sale and I can't resist kaaale. I ended up bringing these to a party and they were surprisingly a huge hit. One guy had to put them far away from him because he was going to eat the whole bowl! Pretty sweet. Enjoy!


-lacinato (dino) kale (stems removed, ripped into chip-sized pieces--that, my friend, is up to you)
-coconut oil (warmed, so it can be easily spread on baking sheet)
-cayenne pepper
-nutritional yeast
-ground flax seeds
-sea salt (just a sprinkle)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread coconut oil on baking sheet. Rip kale pieces and place on sheet, making sure that they are not crowded. Use more than one baking sheet or make a few batches. Sprinkle nutritional yeast, cayenne pepper, and flax onto kale. If you are up for it, use your hands (washed) to massage the oil, and toppings into the kale. Separate pieces. Place in oven for 7-10 minutes. (Make sure that they are crispy and pop off the baking sheet easily, if not, leave them in for another few minutes). Transfer to a bowl and enjoy!

Play around with toppings. I used nutritional yeast because it gives it a nice nutty, almost cheesy, flavor and is packed with B vitamins, protein, and fiber. I added cayenne for a little kick, and flax for a little added omega-3 fat and fiber.

crispy (not burned) and pop off baking sheet.  perfection.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

[yerba] mate latte

"Mate isn't just a drink, but a way for the people to gather."

Mate (pronounced "mah-tay") is a type of plant native to South America, particularly Argentina, Southern Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Paraguay. It is dried up and made into a tea. Natives usually drink it through a filtered metal straw (called a "bombilla") and out of a gourd. Traditionally, the natives will carry around the gourd, bombilla, and a thermos and take breaks throughout the day to drink mate with friends. It is a major part of the social culture of Argentina and Paraguay.

The taste itself is slightly bitter and earthy. It contains twice the amount of caffeine as black tea, but still only half as much as coffee. The nice thing about mate is that it really makes you feel energized without the jittery feeling that other caffeine sources tend to give you.

A few months ago I was in Whole Foods buying a pound of loose yerba mate and the girl that was checking me out asked me if I knew about "Mate Lattes". I said I didn't. She said it is half mate, half almond milk. Pretty much my dream beverage. Ever since, I've been frequently enjoying my mate lattes and I notice a significant difference in my energy level and mood. My energy is sustained throughout the day and I feel happy and motivated.

Besides its immediate effects, yerba mate offers many health benefits. It contains many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant properties. It can help improve focus, boost the immune system, stimulate the digestive system, and aid in weight loss.

The nice advantage of a mate latte is that you can drink it warm or cold. Yesterday I had mine over ice because it was a hot day and it was so refreshing!

If you don't have a gourd and bombilla, (don't worry, I don't either) you can brew your tea regularly and use a strainer. Typically mate is brewed in hot, but not boiling, water and it brews for about 5 minutes.

This is one of my favorite drinks in the world. You really can't beat the way it changes your day and gives you that necessary boost! Buen Provecho!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Farm Fresh Vegetable Curry with Quinoa

Every third Thursday of the month we get fresh produce from a CSA called Farm Fresh To You, which delivers all around Southern California.  The produce comes from local farms, mostly in Temecula, which is very much "local" to Orange, San Diego, and LA counties.  We get a box every month with whatever is in season and are sometimes forced to get creative with what we are given.

Last month we got rhubarb and it was quite the challenge.  I'm not a big pie maker or any kind of baker really, so I looked into savory recipes.  I didn't find even one appealing so I ended up putting it in a breakfast smoothie with frozen bananas and strawberries.  Definitely masked the flavor and I got the nutrients.. win, win.  If anyone has a good rhubarb recipe, please share!

This past Thursday we got carrots, potatoes, baby bok choy, green bell peppers, sweet peppers, carrots, onions, garlic, avocados, and some romaine lettuce.  I decided to make a Thai/Indian-inspired curry dish with most of the veggies.  Here is what I came up with:

  • carrots
  • potatoes
  • baby bok choy
  • green bell pepper
  • sweet peppers
  • yellow onion
  • garlic
  • coconut oil/any oil with high boiling point
  • coconut milk
  • indian spices: turmeric, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, cayenne pepper, garam masala, salt, and pepper
  • fresh basil
I learned from a dear friend of mine (Usha!) that in order to bring out the flavor of spices you should put them in the pot with oil before any other ingredient and wait until they make a popping noise.  The spices infuse the oil with their flavors and it makes the dish that much more savory and delicious.  After heating the spices, I added minced garlic and coarsely chopped onions.  I cooked the onions until they were almost transparent, then added potatoes, carrots, peppers, and then bok choy.  I added about one cup of coconut milk and stirred the pot.  Then I added some salt and pepper and let it simmer.  Finally, I added chopped fresh basil from our garden for even more flavor.

As the curry simmered, I cooked some quinoa to serve with it.  I boiled 2 cups of water and added 1 cup quinoa.  Let simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa is light and fluffy.

The freshness of the veggies combined with the incredible Indian spices made this such a flavorful dish!

You can make this type of dish with so many vegetables.  If you have cilantro, that would be a great addition as well!

Blueberry-Coconut-Flax Pancakes

I made these on Saturday morning for a change in my breakfast routine.  I felt like blueberry pancakes but didn't want that lethargic feeling that pancakes usually give me.  So I decided to give them a healthy spin.  There is definitely no shortage of fiber in these pancakes, that's for sure.
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 Tbsp. ground flax seeds
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 cup coconut milk (or any milk of your choice)
  • 1 tsp. oil
  • 1 egg OR 1 Tbsp. flax mixed with 3 Tbsp. boiling water (mix well and wait 5 minutes. Should have consistency of an egg... A great way to make a recipe vegan)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1/4 cup raw coconut flakes

Whisk all ingredients together and pour on greased pan. Flip when bubbly on edges. Should make about 4 large pancakes.  Drizzle with honey or maple syrup if you like.

Cedar Plank Salmon with Fresh Summer Salads

Last weekend my friend Tania and I were inspired by Food&Wine magazine (per usual) and decided to invite friends over and make dinner.  We used fresh veggies that she bought at the Farmers Market that day and went to Whole Foods for the rest.

What was on the menu:

Drinks: Moscow Mules and Red Wine (or what was left of them by dinner time)
Main Dish: Cedar Plank Salmon with Lemon and fresh dill
Salads: Orzo salad with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Raw Zucchini & Mixed Green Salad with Raw Asparagus, Corn, and Avocado
Dessert: French Yogurt Cake with Fresh Raspberries (courtesy of Bon Appetit magazine... Out-of-this-world!)

Cedar Plank Salmon
-cedar plank (comes in a pack of two at Whole Foods)
-about a pound and a half of salmon (ideally a nice wild variety)
-fresh dill
-a few lemons (cut in slices)
-2 cups Sake (for marinating)
-soy sauce
-sesame oil
-agave nectar

1. Cut salmon into two inch pieces. I removed skin ahead of time, but you don't need to.
2. Marinate salmon in sake. I placed filets in ziploc bags and poured in Sake. Leave in refrigerator for about an hour.
3. To make glaze: mix two Tbsp. soy sauce, 2 Tbsp. sesame oil, 1 Tbsp. agave in bowl, about 1/2 a cup of chopped dill, and a couple pinches of salt in a bowl.
4. When salmon is ready, place filets on cedar plank. About an inch or two apart. Spoon glaze generously on salmon. Add a couple slices of lemon to each filet and top with a couple sprigs of dill.
5. Place cedar plank in oven at 375 degrees for about 30-45 minutes, depending on the strength of your oven. It should have a nice golden-brown tint when it is ready.

Orzo Salad with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Raw Zucchini
-1 1/2 cup whole wheat orzo
-about 2 cups cherry tomatoes
-2 medium sized zucchinis
-olive oil
-lemon juice
-balsamic vinegar
-oregano (fresh would be lovely, but we used dried oregano)
- salt&pep

1. Cook orzo, drain, cool.
2. Roast tomatoes on a tray with olive oil in oven at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.. Or until bubbly and browned. Let cool.
3. For zucchini, I wanted to make ribbons using a vegetable peeler, but unfortunately our tools were a little unsatisfactory so I ended up just cutting them into small pieces. If you have a veggie peeler, try the thin ribbons, its such a nice touch!
4. Add all ingredients to bowl. Dress with olive oil, lemon juice, a little balsamic vinegar, and season with oregano, salt, and pepper.

Serve cold.

Mixed Green Salad with Raw Asparagus, Corn, and Avocado
-mesclun greens (any greens, really)
-1 avocado
-can of corn, rinsed and drained (or fresh, raw corn, if you have)
-small bunch asparagus, chopped into 1 inch pieces
-dressing: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, salt and pepper