I took a little break from posting both here and on social media but I’m back. And with a GOOD one! This is one of those recipes that will reward you if you’re open-minded. There will be some of you who will look past this Japanese vegetable pancake, also known as Okonomiyaki, and think it’s nothing special. You need to trust me here and make this. Not only am I obsessed with this, Hubs and my son fight over every last scrap. This is very filling as a light meal, or sometimes I’ll add a slice of smoked salmon on top for extra protein.Continue reading
If you didn’t notice that Thanksgiving is basically around the corner, I am here to remind you! I am teaching a Thanksgiving bootcamp starting next week (!) which will get you so prepared, you will actually be EXCITED and LOOKING FORWARD to hosting and enjoying the Thanksgiving of your dreams. For my community, I always like to entice you with a good discount. Take $100 off with code TDAY100. You don’t have to watch live. I have payment plans available. You don’t have to use PayPal. You can watch the videos over and over and over again. You can ask me any and all questions. I’m like your personal Thanksgiving consultant until the day of. Menu suggestions, how to deal with different types of eating styles, limited resources in the kitchen, no oven, how to deal with the worst in-laws ever. Just kidding! Sign up today. We are going to have so much fun and you’ll be able to use these tips and systems forever!Continue reading
I was talking to some friends the other day about our college-aged daughters, some of whom already live in off-campus housing and are no longer on meal plans. That is, they have divorced themselves from dining hall food and have embraced the world of kitchenettes and home cooking. I remember my first semester off meal plan. I had visions of cooking up all sorts of wondrous things like lasagne or chicken Marbella or homemade bread and flourless chocolate cakes, my specialities in 1989. But alas, I actually had to study night and day so that one day I might be employable. No time to fuss in the kitchen since there was no way I would be making a career in the food industry. Good gracious, no. The irony.
Alas, when I do think back to that era, anytime I did cook up something, it had to be fast, reasonably nutritious and budget-friendly. I made A LOT of stir-fries. I made so many stir-fries, I owned a wok. I was 20. So as I was talking to these other mamas about our girls and my possibly do a little cooking class for them this summer, I thought I would definitely start with a stir-fry.
I love summer rolls — crunchy, fresh, and flavorful all wrapped in a delicate rice paper wrapper. Summer rolls are one of those things I never thought I could make at home. The wrappers, the rolling, the sauce! Not only are they way easier than I imagined, but they can be quite the nutritious dish to boot. Filled with loads of raw veggies and herbs, a summer roll is like a salad all wrapped up in a neat little package. In the video above, I go a pretty traditional route with avocado, cabbage, carrots and herbs, but also I use less traditional roasted sweet potato sticks and shredded Brussels sprouts. Rice paper is so neutral. Who says you couldn’t put a cobb salad in there or poached chicken, corn, cabbage and barbecue sauce? I say the sky’s the limit and can we talk about perfect these would be for school lunches?! Per-fect!
If you want to make these in advance, cover them with a damp paper towel and refrigerate for ideally up to one day, but I’ve even kept them 2 or 3 days.
8 (8-inch) rice paper rounds, plus additional in case some tear
1 large sweet potato, (peeled if desired) and cut into ¼” matchsticks
unrefined coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
sea salt and black pepper to taste
4 medium brussels sprouts, thinly sliced or shredded
¼ head of small red cabbage, thinly sliced or shredded
2 medium carrots, shredded, grated, or julienned
1 large avocado, cut into thin slices
handful each of fresh mint leaves, basil leaves and cilantro leaves
Other possibilities: cooked shrimp, chicken, tempeh or tofu, cooked rice noodles
To make the sauce: whisk together all of the ingredients in a bowl or a glass jar and set aside. *
To make the summer rolls: Drizzle the sweet potatoes with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 18-20 minutes until tender.
Fill a shallow baking dish or a skillet with warm water. Soak 1 rice paper round (make sure there are no holes) in warm water until pliable, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove from the water and transfer to a plate or cutting board.
Spread 2 teaspoons of peanut sauce on the rice paper (or omit and use as a dip once rolls are assembled) and top with 2-3 large mint leaves, 1-2 large basil leaves, a pinch of cilantro leaves, a
pinch each of the Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and carrot, a few sticks of sweet potato, and a couple of avocado slices, taking care not to overstuff. Roll up rice paper tightly around filling, folding in sides and continue rolling.
Transfer summer roll to a plate and cover with dampened paper towels.
Make the remaining rolls in the same manner. Serve rolls halved on the diagonal.
Store in the fridge covered with a damp paper towel 2-3 days.
* Sauce can be refrigerated for up to 5 days. Bring to room temperature and re-emulsify before using.
You are going to have so much fun making these summer rolls!
I’m squeezing in another recipe before Mother’s Day in case you need a surefire hit for your lunch or brunch this weekend. I taught this roasted carrot recipe in my March classes and I didn’t get one bite the entire month because there were never any left! I made a huge quantity every time and it was never enough. Everyone flipped for these. So I know if you make them, they will be an instant hit. Plus, this is the easiest recipe so I know you will have success!
The inspiration for this recipe came from a guide we met while we were in Turkey last summer. We had the loveliest guide, a very intellectual professor who was quite serious about the ruins he was showing us. And then he asked me what kind of work I did and when I responded I was a cooking instructor with a food blog, he stopped in his tracks. “I would love to be a food blogger,” he responded. I thought that was so cute and endearing. So of course, the history lessons went out the window because all our guide wanted to talk about was food, Turkish food especially. This was fine with me because I am fascinated with cuisines from all over the world. I always learn so much when I travel and our trip to Turkey was no exception.
Long story short, our guide convinced me there was an easy and delicious Turkish recipe I had to share with my American students. He told me to quickly sauté grated carrots and top them with a thick garlic yogurt. “That’s it! And it’s so good,” he proudly exclaimed.
I tried it shortly after we returned home and it was indeed an easy recipe and it was indeed delicious. I loved the contrast of the sweetness of the carrots and the tartness of the yogurt. But it was rather unattractive, especially after mixing the grated carrots with the yogurt. I’m sure you can imagine. So the recipe I am posting today is, I hate to say it, a more attractive twist on my Turkish tour guide’s recipe. But it is just as delicious and just as simple. I have served this for many a dinner. It is delicious alongside roasted chicken or lamb, as well as salmon. But I think this would be delicious on a brunch menu with a quiche or frittata and a green salad.
Carrots are incredibly delicious roasted, if you haven’t tried them this way. Even standard orange carrots develop an incredible sweetness when roasted. I love to use unrefined coconut oil when roasting because it just enhances the natural sweetness of the carrots and it has a higher smoke point than unsaturated fats, but you can use olive oil, too. I very often see purple carrots at my farmers market and Carnival heirloom carrots at Trader Joe’s. Those are especially beautiful to use for this recipe! If the carrots are thin, I don’t even bother to cut them. The larger ones I slice in half.
The one question I was asked more than any other was about the raw garlic in the yogurt and if there was a substitution. There really isn’t that much of it and I personally don’t think the garlic flavor was really that pronounced, but for those people who really don’t like it, I would say to omit it or blend roasted garlic into the yogurt. Roasted garlic is much more mellow and sweet than raw. Check this link for how to roast garlic. I also think there are other roasted vegetables that would be delicious with the yogurt, like eggplant or cauliflower, even curried cauliflower. Here’s hoping someone makes this for you this Mother’s Day!
I just had to squeeze in this last recipe before Easter (and Passover) in the hopes that some of you are still looking for inspiration! I taught this salad all last month in my classes and it was THE salad I seemed to make all the time last year when I had people over for dinner in the spring. Spring is the operative word here since there is no mistaking in what season this salad lives. I mean just look at it! It is everything spring should be — bursting with lightness, color and a breath of fresh air! And full of veggies that come into being in the spring. Plus it’s beautiful and it will go perfectly with whatever you’re making. Leg of lamb, perfect. Baked ham? Perfect. Roast chicken or fish. Perfect.
The key with this salad is the balance of textures and colors. You want to keep everything somewhat delicate which is why I love Bibb or Butter lettuces. I found this beautiful red-leaf butter lettuce at my farmers market and used it for every class. But then you need to do your best to slice all the hard and crunchy stuff as thinly as you can, again to keep things light. I used my food processor to thinly slice the cabbage, carrots and radishes. If you have a 2mm or 1 mm slicing disc for your Cuisinart, I would use that. My new Breville has an adjustable slicing disc, so I turned it to just under 1 mm. I especially like bitter vegetables like radishes to be on the thin side. If you don’t have a food processor and your mandolin scares you (I don’t blame you), then just get out your sharpest knife and do your best. You can even do matchsticks for the radishes and grated carrots.
See if you can find beautiful heirloom carrots in purple or yellow and watermelon radishes like the ones here which are so dramatic! I was able to find such carrots at my farmers market as well as Trader Joe’s. My Whole Foods has had these radishes for the last three weeks. Stunning! They will make you look so good. Your family and friends will be so impressed with whatever dish is graced with sliced watermelon radishes! Truth be told however, my favorite component of this salad is the fresh chives. Light, grassy with a very mild onion flavor, chives are like the most delicate green onions. I just love them in this salad and others, too. You know how much I enjoy shallots in my salad dressings, but I don’t add them here because the shallots offer enough of that flavor. Even if you don’t make this recipe, consider adding chopped fresh chives to your next salad. I know you won’t be disappointed!
You can do so much with this salad including adding feta, mint leaves, walnuts, avocado, oranges or kumquats. There’s plenty of dressing for you to add in any of these. Speaking of dressing, since there’s nothing in this one that can spoil, feel free to make this well in advance. I’m sure it would do just fine in the fridge for 2 weeks. It will firm up though because of the olive oil, so remember to pull it out of the fridge at least 20 minutes before you wish to serve it.
I hope you have a beautiful holiday, shared with the ones you love! xoxo
I think I was 19 years old when I tried avocado for the first time. No joke. In my defense, I was living on Long Island and we ate according to the seasons, and fairly locally, in the old days. I don’t remember ever even seeing an avocado in our supermarkets, let alone my mom buying one and knowing what to do with it. Even when I went to college in Philadelphia, I don’t recall any Mexican restaurants on campus or avocado at the dining hall salad bars.
But I do remember visiting my college boyfriend in LA over Christmas break sophomore year. There was a new fast-food-style Mexican restaurant that had just opened up in his neighborhood called Baja Fresh. I was open-minded even though I had never had Mexican food before. I didn’t eat meat then, so I ordered a rice and black bean burrito with salsa and guacamole on the side. (I seriously can’t remember where I put the new lip gloss I bought on Saturday, but I always remember food.) LIFE CHANGING MOMENT. It was like the time my son tried a Slurpee at 7-Eleven when he was 4 years old and said to my husband, “Why I not have this before?” Exciting, but at the same time, a little depressing to think of all that you have missed out on.
Since then, truly since then, I have become obsessed with Mexican food. Not gross, greasy, cheesy, heavy Mexican food. I am more drawn to fresh flavors, salsas, rice, beans, cilantro, and one of my favorite foods EVER, avocado. Maybe I didn’t move to LA after college graduation to be in the same city as my boyfriend. Maybe I did it for the Mexican food. I was young and crazy. Who knows. Crazy enough that I’m still here 20+ years later and I’ve never said no to a taco.
Long story short, I am always looking for new and different Mexican recipes to try on my family. There are only so many fish tacos and chicken fajitas that they’ll put up with. When I saw a recipe for Caldo Tlalpeño soup, I knew right away that this would be a keeper. There are so many variations on this soup, which I think of as a slightly spicy, smoky Mexican chicken soup. Chipotles, which are dried, smoked jalapeño peppers, are always the star of the show. Without them, this would just be a chicken and vegetable soup. Although the ingredients in Caldo Tlalpeño vary from region to region and restaurant to restaurant, you cannot make this soup without the chiles. I have also seen versions with diced zucchini, green beans, chayote, or rice. Epazote is a traditional herb used in this soup, but it’s not easy for everyone to find, so I often use orgeano in its place. Not an exact, perfect sub, but good enough.
One of my favorite things about Mexican food is adding all those great toppings and condiments. So many of my favorite dishes are incomplete without salsa or guacamole or cilantro or radishes or all of the above. The topping bar is also my secret weapon with Mr. Picky. He’ll eat almost anything if he is allowed to top it with corn tortilla chips or diced avocado. Caldo Tlalpeño is great on its own, but I make this a full meal with a little cooked quinoa (not at all traditional, but amazing here), a pinch of sheep’s milk feta (also nontraditional, but delish,) and a squeeze of lime and some fresh cilantro. So light, fresh, healthful and delicious.
Cinco de Mayo is coming next Monday, why not make this fabulous soup with a side of quesadillas or my Mexican chopped salad? For some other great ideas for the perfect fiesta, try these recipes:
1 15-ounce jar diced tomatoes (I like Jovial tomatoes in glass jars.)
4-6 whole dried chipotle chiles (use fewer for less heat*), or 2 canned chipotles in adobo (I much prefer the dried chiles.)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas or 1 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed
Sea salt (1-3 teaspoons according to whether or not your stock is salted)
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade
4 cups baby leafy greens
Optional accompaniments: lime, fresh cilantro, crumbled cojita or feta cheese, cooked quinoa or rice, shredded and cooked chicken, diced avocado
In a large saucepan warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots and garlic and sauté until tender, about 6 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, chiles, and oregano and sauté for 2 minutes.
Stir in the chickpeas, sea salt and stock. Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer. Cook covered until carrots are tender, about 20 minutes.
Stir in the greens and turn off the heat. Taste for salt and adjust accordingly. Serve with suggested accompaniments if desired.
*4 chiles makes this soup about a 2-3 on a heat scale of 1-10. Eating them whole however, is quite spicy. You can dice them up or puree them with a little broth when the soup is finished and serve them with the other condiments/toppings for an extra kick.
You know what makes me laugh about Passover? When I was growing up (in a very Italian-Catholic home,) my mother was always quite excited when Passover was imminent because matzoh would hit the shelves in the supermarket. And my grandmother was even more excited. I remember Grandma visiting once during Passover and gifting us 3 boxes of Streit’s matzoh that she received with a coupon at Shop Rite. We didn’t need any matzoh, of course, because my mom had already used a similar coupon at Pathmark and stocked up. But we were happy to have it, because once Passover was over, matzoh would be nowhere to be found.
What’s the point of this story? We actually bought matzoh because we liked it! Who likes matzoh? We did and we ate it with a schmear of Breakstone’s whipped butter, cream cheese or sometimes peanut butter. Now, many years later, I am married to a nice Jewish guy and we observe Passover. We don’t eat any grains or legumes or anything that can leaven for those 8 days. And I buy matzoh because it’s traditional and we use it like we would bread, spreading it with almond butter and jelly or using it to sandwich roasted veggies and goat cheese (that’s for me) or turkey and avocado. I make a veggie “lasagne” with matzoh and a very delicious matzoh brie too (you should check out my recipe for Tex-Mex matzoh brie.)
But let me tell you, I don’t love it. None of us in this house does. But pickings were always slim during Passover, unless one resorted to boxes of cake mix made out of sugar, preservatives and matzoh meal. Fast forward to 2014 when blanched almond flour has become as common as quinoa (which is ok to eat during Passover believe it or not.) So I have been able to enjoy delicious, “normal” baked goods which just happen to be grain-free. Just by using almond flour. Game changer!
A few years ago I posted a recipe for some delicious almond flour muffins with banana, chocolate and chia seeds. I will for sure make a batch or two of those next week, but I will also be making these amazing banana-carrot-coconut muffins. I found this recipe in Andrew Weil’s True Food cookbook and made a few adjustments to make them even more healthful. These muffins are a great cross between carrot cake and banana bread and have a nice, subtle sweetness. I actually make one batch as a 2-layer cake for the seders and spread my vegan frosting in between. I’ll make another batch and freeze them for breakfasts and lunchboxes, since I think these can serve as a meal-in-a-muffin.
Ironically, my mother still buys matzoh, although the options are far more interesting than they used to be including spelt, onion and even gluten-free. For me, I’ll enjoy Passover much more with these muffins!
Author: Pamela, adapted from the True Food Cookbook
2 cups blanched almond flour (not almond meal) I use Honeyville.
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
3 large eggs, at room temperature
3 very ripe bananas*, mashed
2 Tablespoons raw honey
¼ cup (4 Tablespoons) unrefined coconut oil or unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
1 cup dates, pitted and chopped (or raisins or dried cherries)
2 medium carrots, peeled and shredded
¾ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
In a large bowl, mix together the almond flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and coconut. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, bananas, melted coconut oil, honey, vanilla and vinegar together, making sure that the oil is well incorporated into the other ingredients.
Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ones. Fold in the dates, carrots, and walnuts. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. You will fill the cups to the top since these muffins don’t rise very much.
Bake for 40 minutes, until golden brown or a skewer inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. (Since there is no actual flour, the muffins will not rise significantly.) Cool in the pan or on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then turn out the muffins onto the rack and let cool to warm or room temperature.
*Or substitute ¾ cup unsweetened applesauce + an extra 2 Tablespoons raw honey This recipe calls for blanched almond flour, which is much finer and lighter than almond meal. Bob's Red Mill "almond flour/meal" is not fine enough. You can use almond meal in this recipe, but the results will be heavier and coarser.