This was originally published in January 2014, but I have been making it again on the regular and thought the website needed updated photos!
You know what is just the worst? Getting sick. Life is great until you feel horrible. I think most of us run around like maniacs until we’re so wiped out while our poor bodies are trying to tell us to slooooooow down and get some rest. First it’s a little whisper like feeling so tired. But we don’t listen. Then we get a sore throat. We don’t listen. Then our bodies have to whack us over the head with a crazy cold and body aches until we have no other choice but to stay in bed. A friend of mine who came down with a bad cold said to me the other day,”If I just spent a little time in bed resting when I wasn’t sick, maybe I would have stayed healthy!” I think she’s onto something.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.
Everyone in my family has drunk my Kool-Aid, so to speak. My husband and my teenage daughters all have bought into my way of eating for the most part, understanding the connection between what they eat and how they feel (and in the case of my daughters, how they look.) Although my 11-year-old son, whom I lovingly refer to as Mr. Picky, has been a little slow coming around. My son quietly wishes I was a “cool mom.” You know, the kind that buys “unhealthy food,” as he calls it.
Believe me when I say that he is not deprived of treats. I know enough not to be one of those parents who prohibits her children from eating a grain of sugar or a not-homemade graham cracker. But there are certain food substances that do not cross my front door. Ever. One of those is artificial colors. So when my son asks me “why can’t we have ____?” (insert disaster-packaged-food-marketed-to-kids), I usually go on about why those food-like impostors are bad for our health or I just say, “because I love you too much.” And he rolls his eyes. There is less eye-rolling than he did a year ago, but that still annoys him.
So just before dropping my sweet boy off at sleepaway camp for 13 whole days, my husband was reminding him to shower (going in a pool or a lake doesn’t count) and brush his teeth, use sunscreen and keep hydrated. As soon as I opened my mouth, Mr. Picky looked at me and said, “Don’t worry, Mom. I got it. Don’t forget to eat protein. No high-fructose corn syrup and not too much junk food.” Of course, I was like, “What? I wasn’t going to even mention food. Have the best time! Love you so much!” Busted.
Because Mr. Picky will be at camp on the 4th of July, I surprised him the other day with these red, white and blue popsicles. Of course they are all natural. But really natural, not like the “natural” food companies liberally use when marketing many products. I had no idea if they were going to turn out good or boring or what. I mean after all, they’re made out of …fruit. What a concept. And some coconut milk sweetened with honey. Zzzzzzzzzzz…….
I personally think these are very exciting and the perfect answer to Bomb Pops, especially if you use these cool stainless steel popsicle molds which you can find here. I tasted each mixture before freezing to make sure the sweetness was just right, otherwise these are very straightforward and you can make them today for the 4th if you want.
They were a huge hit with all my kids, including Mr. Picky! My girls thought they tasted like a really fresh-tasting sorbet. My son gave me such a nice compliment when he said, “Wow, Mom. These are actually pretty good.” And then he had a second one. I miss him already.
Red, White and Blue Popsicles Recipe (fruit-based, all natural)
7 ounces hulled strawberries*
½ cup full fat coconut milk ( I like Aroy-D)
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ Tablespoon honey (or more to taste)
1 ½ cups blueberries*
Place strawberries in blender or food processor and blend until you achieve a liquid consistency. Pour into bottom third of popsicle mold. Insert stick. Place in freezer for approximately 1 hour, or until frozen solid.
Combine coconut milk, vanilla and honey in a measuring cup or a bowl with a spout. Remove popsicle mold from the freezer and pour the coconut layer on top of the frozen strawberry layer leaving the last third of the mold empty. Place back in the freezer and freeze for about 30-45 minutes until coconut mixture is firm, but it doesn’t have to be frozen solid. Place popsicle sticks in coconut mixture and put back in the freezer until completely frozen.
Place blueberries in a blender or food processor and blend until you achieve a liquid consistency. Remove popsicle mold from the freezer and pour blueberry mixture into top third of mold, over the frozen coconut mixture. Place back in the freezer for another hour or until completely frozen solid.
To remove from popsicle mold, gently run mold under warm water to release.
*Make sure to taste your fruit mixture first, if your fruit isn’t super sweet or you prefer a sweeter popsicle, feel free to add honey (or sweetener of choice) to taste to the fruit mixtures.
My friend Alex sent me an email a few weeks ago with the subject line: “new obsession”. Alex and I have very similar tastes in food and she is also not one for melodrama, so I knew this was an email I was interested in reading. She proceeded to write: ” I have a new obsession. Full out obsession” with the recipe for a delicious-sounding “Turmeric Tea.” Thank you, Alex! Right up my alley. Print!
I don’t know what has taken me so long to wind down an evening, any evening, with a cup of warm, anti-inflammatory turmeric tea or latte. It’s everything I love — soothing, nourishing, delicious and might even help me sleep better to boot. The same day I received Alex’s email, a text came through from another girlfriend, whose husband was instructed to follow and anti-inflammatory diet. “Can you tell me what foods are anti-inflammatory? Need to get on this pronto!” First thing I wrote back was … turmeric.
I love turmeric in curries, stews, juices and I even add it to my homemade taco seasoning. Because turmeric runs bright, flaming yellow, I also use it in place of saffron sometimes (like in Mediterranean fish stew and paella.) It is truly one of the most healing, powerful foods on earth. I already mentioned turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties, but it is also an antioxidant, wound healer, digestive stimulant, liver detoxifier, helps to lower cholesterol, and has a warming thermal nature. I use fresh turmeric in juices, and ground in everything else for practical reasons. Turmeric has a very distinct, but mild flavor. Since it is related to ginger, it does have a faint hint of ginger, but also a bitter, tart, chalkiness, too. A little is nice, but a lot can be offensive. It also stains like crazy — from clothing to countertops — so be careful!
Since Alex’s email, I have made this beverage many, many times and guess what? I’m OBSESSED! It’s my new favorite drink, just in time for winter when I don’t really drink cooling juices as much. However I’m calling this a Turmeric Latte, since the base of it is milk. I use almond milk, because it’s my go-to and I always have homemade on hand. Of course you can use regular milk or your favorite alternative milk, or a combo of milks. I recently started playing around with adding a little cashew milk to almond to add a thick, creamy richness. More on that another time!
This turmeric latte is beyond delightful and the perfect way to settle into a restful evening. It is also quite easy to prepare and you might even have all the ingredients on hand. I would start with the basic recipe below and then change it to suit your taste/needs. For example, it would be perfectly easy to use a few drops of stevia to sweeten instead of the maple syrup. Or a couple pinches of ground ginger instead of fresh. If you love turmeric, feel free to add more.
As we near the end of 2014, I know many of you have resolutions of better health and adopting new habits on the brain. I hope this post catches you in time, as I think drinking a turmeric latte a few times a week is a resolution I can stick to. How about you?
Did you know that Chicken Tikka Masala is the most popular dish in Indian restaurants in the US and it’s not even Indian? Nope, you won’t find families in India sharing Tikka Masala recipes because as the story goes, this dish was created in a London curry house. Interesting, no? Did you know I had the most difficult time trying to make this dish look appetizing in these photographs? Just needed to get that off my chest.
Regardless of what it looks like, I love this recipe and so does my family. It is so full of flavor and very easy to make. Chunks of chicken are smothered in a rich sauce of tomatoes, spices and some coconut milk to balance it all out. Normally heavy cream is used in tikka masala, but coconut milk is the perfect substitute and I actually like it here better than cream. Yum. For you do-aheaders, you can make the masala sauce the night before and then cook the chicken right before dinner, heat up the sauce and you’re done! Prepping in advance like that is my ace in the hole, allowing me to pull together a delicious and healthful dinner on a busy weeknight with no stress. It’s like having a jar of tikka masala sauce from Trader Joe’s in the pantry. But before you think about doing that, as much as I like Trader Joe’s, this sauce blows theirs away. Fact.
We eat this with my Indian Basmati Rice and Peas recipe and a green vegetable, either green beans, spinach or even a green salad. You can go even simpler by making some plain steamed rice and that is perfect here too. The only ingredient you’ll need for this recipe that you might not have is garam masala, which is a sweet and spicy (not hot-spicy) spice blend that contains coriander, green and black cardamon, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves, nutmeg, ginger, pepper, and cumin. All awesome anti-inflammatory and warming spices which are great for your health and perfect for this time of year as the weather starts to cool off a bit. Of course you can make your own by toasting the whole spices and grinding them up and I am sure that would make a world of difference in your cooking, BUT…I kind of don’t have time for that so I think store-bought garam masala is perfectly fantastic. All the markets in my area carry garam masala, but you can order it here if you can’t find it.
I am also very excited that my Whole Foods started carrying organic tomatoes in a glass jar by Jovial Foods. Very excited! Remember, canned tomatoes contain tons of BPA which is toxic, especially in large doses for kids. You already consume BPA in places you can’t control (water, eating in restaurants), so try and avoid it when you can. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a company that doesn’t use BPA in their canned tomatoes. Pomi is what I normally use since the tomatoes are boxed in BPA-free tetra-paks, but the tomatoes are not organic. Not ideal, but Pomi says they don’t use pesticides. Anyhow, now my tomato dreams have come true with Jovial Foods and you can also find them on amazon. Is there anything you can’t find on amazon? Just a random thought.
While we’re talking about making our lives easier, the classic way to make the chicken in tikka masala is to marinate it in yogurt, which tenderizes it, and then broil or grill it. I know some of you are not going to want to use yogurt on chicken and I know others will not want to grill. No problem. If you want this to be authentic, you’ll follow the recipe. If you’ve never had this before and won’t know the difference, by all means grill or roast plain chicken seasoned with salt and pepper or roast a whole chicken and cube up the meat. The tikka masala police are not going to get you in trouble. Can you tell I am giving you every excuse to make this?? Let me know if you do!
2 Tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) or unrefined coconut oil
1 large onion, finely diced (you can do this in a food processor)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 ½ Tablespoons garam masala
2 pounds fresh, peeled and seeded tomatoes, diced (or the equivalent of boxed or jarred tomatoes, about 28 ounces)
1 Tablespoon maple sugar, coconut sugar or natural cane sugar
1 cup coconut milk, preferably full-fat (you can use the whole can if you want the sauce to be creamier)
Place chicken in a dish. Mix 1 teaspoon salt, coriander and cumin together in a small bowl. Sprinkle the chicken breasts with spice mixture and pour the yogurt over the spiced chicken breasts. Turn to coat well. You can do this several hours in advance and refrigerate until ready to cook.
Preheat broiler to high and set the oven rack on the second level. Line a baking sheet with foil.
Place a metal cooling rack on top of the foil-lined baking sheet and arrange the chicken on top of the rack. Broil for 5-7 minutes on each side until charred but not burned. Chicken should be cooked through. Remove from oven and set aside.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the ghee. Add onions and cook until tender and slightly browned. Stir in garlic, ginger, 2 teaspoons salt and garam masala.
Add diced tomatoes and continue cooking and while scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
Add sugar, lower heat and simmer for about 5 minutes or until sauce has thickened. Pour in coconut milk.
Cut chicken into chunks (remember, it should be cooked through) and stir into sauce until heated through. Taste for seasoning. Serve with basmati rice.
I don’t know what has taken me so long to share my favorite breakfast with you. Although I haven’t really been holding out on you since I did snap a picture of this delectable millet porridge a few months ago and posted it on Facebook. But I know most people want a recipe, they want DETAILS. So here it is – my most favorite, comforting, hug of a breakfast, made with a grain (really a seed) that is so underappreciated and low profile that I am ready to shine some more light on it.
I have posted two other millet recipes on this site, a pilaf with mushrooms as well as a mash with cauliflower. Neither of which has received much love in the way of comments even though I promised deliciousness, but I’m back to try again. Coincidentally, Phoebe Lapine posted a lovely millet salad with fennel and tomatoes on her site this week and I thought this is the time. Millet’s got some buzz.
I know it’s a risk to try something new, but millet is easy, non-offensive, as well as super nutritious, gluten-free and alkalizing. And when you make it taste like dulce de leche meets horchata meets chai tea, I know you’re going to love it. LOVE. I actually make a big batch of millet every Sunday so I can have this yumminess every morning no matter how busy or time-crunched I might be. Just like any other grain, you can freeze millet in batches and defrost whenever it strikes your fancy. I have a feeling most of you aren’t big on over-the-top desserts or sweets, but with a little extra sweetener I think this could even pass for a dessert, like rice pudding.
I absolutely must top something creamy with something crunchy, so a nut of sorts is always in the picture. And I am mad crazy for toasted coconut so I’ll add that too, if I have some. I wrote “optional” in the recipe next to the pistachios and toasted coconut so that you wouldn’t freak out over so many ingredients for a breakfast dish, but people, live it up and add them on!
Today’s the day to give millet a shot. No more excuses. If you don’t live near a natural foods store, you can order it from Bob’s Red Mill, Amazon or Vitacost. And if you do try this creamy, dreamy porridge, make my day and let me know about it!
In a medium saucepan whisk together almond milk, coconut milk, vanilla, honey, maple syrup, salt, cinnamon and cardamom. Stir in millet and 3 Tablespoons coconut flakes, breaking up any clumps of millet.
Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, and lower to simmer. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, breaking up any remaining clumps of millet, until thickened.
Remove from heat and serve with pistachios and toasted coconut flakes, if desired.
*I cook millet in a ratio of 1 part millet to 2 ½ parts water for about 30 minutes.
You can really adjust the amount and type of sweetener to your liking. For breakfast, I am fine with no sweetener or just a smidge of raw honey and maple syrup. You should try it with a little at first and then increase only if you need it. Or use your sweetener of choice, such as stevia if that suits you. I also very often eat this with goji berries and/or raw cacao nibs!
When I was a little girl, I loved any holiday where candy was involved. I was crazy about sugar and my mother didn’t allow many sweet treats in the house, so I really looked forward to those “special occasions.” Lucky for me, my auntie was all too happy to satisfy my sweet tooth whenever possible. She was and still is an unbelievable baker as well as a top customer at her local chocolate shop. You name the holiday, she had the matching sweets, especially on Easter, which was like sugar-on-steroids. There were small little foil-wrapped bunnies for our baskets, large chocolate boxed bunnies, jelly beans in every color of the rainbow, chocolate eggs and the best one of all — a ginormous chocolate-covered coconut egg. Imagine a moist, dense, sliceable orb of sweetened coconut covered in milk chocolate — I was obsessed with this confection! Believe me, I’m not trying to tempt you here. It was so sickenly sweet, I am sure if I had a bite of it today, I would be nauseous. Definitely not worth it!
I’m no longer obsessed with that coconut egg (or candy, for that matter.) But since then, I’ve always associated Easter with coconut, which is funny because it’s really a season-less food. And in the last decade since I’ve been on the health food path, coconut has found it’s way to me in many forms, none of which is sweetened with sugar nor coated with chocolate-flavored sugar. Today I rely on unrefined coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut water and unsweetened shredded coconut and my body is much happier with me. So when I was coming up with a new Easter dessert a few years ago, coconut immediately came to mind. But since I also celebrate Passover with my husband’s family, I wanted something I could serve on that holiday, too, so no grains or flours allowed. Lastly, I wanted a delicious dessert that wouldn’t make me feel sick after I ate a slice. And this is what it really boils down to for me. I rarely eat sweets and when I do, I’m not looking for dessert to take care of my nutritional needs. So whereas it’s nice in theory to know I may be getting a few extra minerals from unrefined sweeteners and unprocessed ingredients, I just want a tasty treat that doesn’t make me feel like hell afterwards. Like this coconut tart!
This tart is so delicious and light, but it also happens to be gluten-free, vegan (if you use coconut oil), Passover-friendly, and adaptable to the fruits of the season. I love making this tart with strawberries now since they are absolutely everywhere and super luscious. But I’m sure you can picture this like a traditional fruit tart with raspberries, blueberries, kiwis, ripe peaches and/or apricots. If you don’t like coconut (seriously?), you probably won’t love this, but you can always swap your favorite (hopefully not too toxic) crust for this one. The coconut custard is very subtle and not overly sweet, so do give it a chance. For those of you looking to get a jump-start on your holiday baking (I love the way you think), you can definitely make both the crust and the pastry cream 2-3 days in advance and keep both covered in the refrigerator. You can even wash, dry, and slice your strawberries the day before and keep them covered in the fridge, if it makes your life easier. It’s best to wait until the day you serve it to spread the cream on top of the crust to avoid it becoming soggy. Leftovers (what leftovers?) should be kept refrigerated otherwise you’ll run into the same soggy crust issue. For my other two favorite go-to Easter and Passover desserts, check out my Lemon Ice Torte, which I’ve been making since 1991 (gasp!) and Coconut Macaroons. With desserts like these, you won’t be tempted by your kids’ Easter baskets!
¼ cup melted coconut oil or unsalted butter plus additional for greasing pan
¼ cup 100% pure maple syrup, preferably Grade A
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup almond meal or almond flour
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
½ cup coconut milk (not light)
1 ½ Tablespoons 100% pure maple syrup, preferably Grade A
pinch fine sea salt
2 ½ Tablespoons non-GMO cornstarch, such as Bob’s Red Mill or Rapunzel
⅓ cup cold water
1 dry pint strawberries, sliced
Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously coat a 9 ½ -inch tart pan with removable bottom with butter or coconut oil. Whisk together coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla until well blended. In a mixing bowl, combine almond meal, coconut and salt. Add wet mixture to the mixing bowl and stir to combine. It will be quite sticky. Press into bottom and up sides of pan. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
Make the filling: Scrape vanilla seeds into a small saucepan, and add pod. Stir in the almond milk, coconut milk, maple syrup and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Discard vanilla pod.
In a small bowl, combine the cold water and cornstarch and whisk until smooth. Pour into the coconut milk mixture and simmer, whisking constantly, until mixture is thickened like pastry cream. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Transfer cream to the refrigerator and chill.
Just before serving, pour custard into crust and spread evenly. Arrange berries decoratively on top and serve immediately. Best kept refrigerated.
Before I started teaching so much, I used to do lots of pantry makeovers and kitchen re-organizations for other people. Recently, I was helping my friend Jenni organize her pantry and I was completely envious of how it turned out. It was like perfectly-labeled-Weck-jar-bliss. Sigh. I’m ashamed to say my own pantry is less than photo-worthy, which should not be the case. So last week I finally became motivated to tackle my own pantry and turn it into a beauty queen instead of a wanna-be. Perhaps I’ll blog about it when I’m done (I hope you’re patient).
My first step was determining how many containers I would need for the multitude of dried fruits, nuts, seeds and grains I have accumulated. What blew me away was the number of different varieties of rice I have — 10! When I thought about it, though, it makes perfect sense since each type that I have really does have a purpose. I use arborio rice for risotto and sushi rice for (obviously) sushi. I prefer the flavor of brown rice, but I love the convenience of white rice, so I have several varieties in both white and brown.
More importantly, my family loves rice in all forms, so I cook it often. After finding not one, but two bags of brown jasmine rice, I decided to make coconut rice for dinner. Coconut rice is one of my go-to stand-bys which I love to pair with anything spicy, gingery or saucy, like chicken curry or maple-soy salmon. To cook the rice I use both water and coconut milk, which is incredibly rich and adds a lovely silkiness to the rice, as well as a subtle sweetness. Plus coconut milk has lots of health benefits to boot. I use Native Forest organic coconut milk because it’s the only one I have found that is BPA-free. You can use any kind of long-grain rice, but I tend to use fragrant jasmine and basmati, either white or brown. Don’t forget my kids’ favorite part — the toasted unsweetened coconut. It makes the rice almost meaty, and more substantial. I love the big flaked coconut, but if I can’t find it in my jumble of a pantry, I’ll use the thinner, shredded variety. Wait — two more jars. Check!
1 ½ cups long grain rice, such as jasmine or basmati (white or brown)
1 ½ cups water
1 ¼ cup coconut milk (shake can before opening)
¾ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup flaked or shredded unsweetened coconut
Rinse rice to remove excess starchiness (you can soak it, too if you’re into that). Combine rice, water, coconut milk and salt in a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid.
Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer and cover with lid. Cook until liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes for white rice or 50 minutes for brown rice. Remove from the heat and allow to sit, covered for 10 minutes.
Place coconut flakes in a medium skillet over medium-low heat and toast until golden. Don’t walk away from the pan. The coconut can burn easily!
Transfer rice to a serving bowl and top with toasted coconut.
You can add diced, fresh mango or freshly grated ginger to the rice, too.