Strawberry-Pepper Shrub


Strawberry Shrub

If you haven’t had a shrub before, it’s basically a fruity vinegar concentrate that can be mixed with water / sparkling water / alcohol to make a super refreshing drink.  I have also used this strawberry shrub to make a light vinaigrette dressing for a strawberry-baby spinach-candied pecan salad.  I’m sure there is a proper way of making it, but I like the method below because it is easy. You can let it sit longer or shorter in the fridge prior to straining depending on how strong you want the flavors to be. I wait until the strawberries look washed out and have lost some of their color.

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Baked Sriracha Lime Tofu


sriracha-baked-tofuI tried Trader Joe’s Baked Sriracha Tofu a few weeks ago and loved it!  It’s so versatile and totally changes the flavor of salads, sandwiches, stir fry, etc.  Some days, I just end up snacking on it straight.  However, I found myself adding a little more spice and sesame oil to the dishes I used it in… so why not make my own version at home?!  The recipe below has become a staple in my fridge since it’s so easy to prepare in a big batch and use throughout the week.  As an aside, I use the marinade left over from this recipe to make a stir fry sauce by dissolving 1/2 tsp of cornstarch in it and then cooking it on medium heat until it thickens and doesn’t have the whitish color from uncooked cornstarch.

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Chocolate Hazelnut Spread


choc-hazelnut-butter

As a kid, Nutella used to be one of my favorite spreads- on toast, on crackers, on cookies, in a spoon…  But I’m far more conscious about ingredients and nutrition now, and the fact that Nutella is so loaded with sugar and palm oil somehow makes it less appetizing.   On my quest to find a healthier chocolate hazelnut spread to satisfy my Nutella craving, the options seem to fall short.  “Sugar-free” appears synonymous with “sugar substitute added” (and I don’t like the aftertastes).  Raw and organic options were gritty instead of creamy.  Some options had too many extraneous ingredients…  Eventually, I figured I should just try making it at home to suit my preferences.  Four ingredients and 3 batches later… I settled on a recipe that I love!

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Marinated Hearts of Palm


hearts-of-palm

I know you can buy marinated hearts of palm in a jar, ready to eat, but I just don’t like the flavor as much as marinating them myself at home (sans preservatives!).  The recipe below takes about 5 minutes, and is totally worth the effort.  I make the marinade so that I can use it as a salad dressing.  A quick lunch idea is to chop up romaine, add a handful of nuts or pumpkin seeds and these marinated hearts of palm (without draining them).

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Keto Pumpkin Cheesecake


 

keto-pumpkin-cheesecake

This has been my breakfast for the last week- and I’ve loved every bite! It’s perfect for the season, and all the spices and flavors totally make up for not adding sugar.  I really dislike the idea of using synthetic sugar substitutes, and I don’t enjoy the aftertaste of the ones I tried. That’s why I am always trying to come up with sweet recipes that don’t require sugar at all.  The flavors and textures in this cheesecake, combined with the natural sweetness from the pumpkin and dairy, make this satisfying enough that I don’t miss the sugar.  If want to add sugar, I’d go with a little maple syrup or brown sugar.

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Chocolate Avocado “Mousse”


avocado-chocolate-mousse

I’ve been really craving a chocolate dessert lately.  I was walking around town, and none of the restaurants had chocolate desserts that were sugar-free (including no sugar substitutes) and gluten-free.  So… I decided to play around with making one at home.   Based on what was in my pantry, I came up with this super-easy “mousse.”  I poured the mousse into these Hazelnut Coconut crusts.  The final product is a rich, decadent, thick filling in a thin, nutty crust.  As you can see in the photo, it sliced beautifully.  I added a small amount of vanilla whipped cream before serving to lighten it up.  As a result, one small slice was so incredibly satisfying =)

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Hazelnut Coconut Pie Crust


nut-coconut-crust

This is a quick and simple crust that I use as the base for tarts/pies.  I love the texture because you can press it thin, and when it’s finished,  it still holds together, but is crumbly and easy to cut with you fork/spoon.  It’s also neutral (no sugar, pinch of salt), so it can be used for both sweet and savory tarts.  You can also add flavors to the crust if you want (cocoa powder, Italian seasoning, etc.).  The recipe below makes a thin crust for 2 4-inch tart tins or a medium thick crust for 1 6-inch tart tin.  You can scale up as needed for bigger tarts.

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Zucchini Noodles in Light Cream Sauce


zucchini-noodles-in-light-cream-sauceThanks to my vegetable spiralizer, this whole dish took less than 10 minutes! Spiralized zucchini is an awesome substitute for spaghetti. I like it in light sauces that don’t weigh down the zucchini. The best part of this dish is that it is so versatile.  I used basil to add flavor since it’s growing on my balcony, but mint, oregano, rosemary, etc would also taste great. You can also add chopped nuts (pine nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, etc) if you want more flavor and texture.

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Coconut Butter


coconut-butter

I feel silly even posting this recipe since it’s only one ingredient, but the end product is so amazing, it’s worth it just to have people try it!  I was very thankful to have my Vitamix for this recipe since it really works the motor.  I imagine it would work in a blender or food processor, but may just take longer or be grittier.  Also, I made it unflavored so it can be more versatile, but feel free to add vanilla, chocolate, cinnamon, sea salt, etc. to make whatever flavor you want.

Side note: I couldn’t bear the idea of cleaning out and wasting the coconut butter stuck to the sides of the blender container, so I made this Almond Milk right after the coconut butter in the same blender.  The residual coconut butter resulted in a slightly thicker and sweeter almond milk- delicious!

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Karela (bitter gourd) in Coconut-Tamarind Gravy


KarelaEvery now and then (especially after I get back from traveling), I just don’t have the produce I need to make a full meal.  Luckily, I keep an assortment of sauces, stocks, and gravies in my freezer for these occasions!  I normally make karela with onions, garlic, and tomatoes.  But, since I had none of these in my kitchen, I decided to use a Coconut-Tamarind Gravy instead (it has onions, garlic, tomatoes and much more!).

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Coconut-Tamarind Gravy


This recipe is one of my staples.  I love the tartness of the tamarind, the creaminess of the cashews, and the tropical feel of the coconut.  I’m posting this as it’s own recipe because it really is worth making a double batch and keeping it on hand for a quick meal.  You can add this gravy to fully cooked veggies and it makes them so much more satisfying!  I like to go on the drier side when i use it in dishes, but you can thin it out with a little water when you add it to veggies to make it more saucy.

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Roasted Pumpkin Seeds


Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkins seeds are possibly the best by-product of pumpkin season.  For a little bit of extra work, you’ll seriously reconsider throwing away the seeds next time you carve/eat a pumpkin. The recipe below is a mix of techniques I’ve read on the internet, numerous discussions with friends about roasting seeds, and playing around all season. And, yes… sometimes I buy pumpkins solely for the seeds.  =)  Don’t worry- the squirrels are welcome to the pumpkin flesh.

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Espresso Vinaigrette


Espresso DressingI made this dressing for my dad’s birthday a few days ago (you’ll be seeing a few more posts from that dinner soon).  I wanted to make something with coffee since he loves it.  Since this was my first time making this, I kept adding ingredients and changing quantities till I got a taste I liked- meaning I ended up with a lot of extra dressing- I’ve made a few different salads with it, and will post my favorite next: Pear Cocoa Nib Salad.  The dressing has just a hint of espresso, so it actually is more versatile than you’d imagine.  I normally use honey in dressing, but used sugar in this one because honey was interfering with the espresso taste.

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Sriracha Lime Nuts


Sriracha nuts

I’ve been playing with a recipe for spicy nuts for a while now, and finally settled on this. I tried various combinations of spices and peppers, but ended up settling on one of the simplest ones… sriracha and lime with a little extra kick, courtesy of smoked paprika. While these are not as spicy as I was envisioning, they pack a lot of flavor so I’m happy munching on them.

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Hazelnut Milk


Hazelnut Milk

We were talking about non-dairy milks at dinner last night, and hazelnut milk came up.  I don’t know how I never thought of making this before!  I made three small batches today to test different proportions and additions, and loved the recipe below.  Toasting it really brings out a different flavor, which felt richer to me.  I also added a small bit of chocolate to one batch and it tasted like a Nutella drink.  You can also add sugar if you want, but I prefer it unsweetened.  However, the recipe below is more versatile, so I’m posting the plain version.

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Homemade Olive Oil Butter Spread


EVOO Butter

Ever get that craving for just bread and butter?  I don’t eat much bread now, but every so often, I really just want bakery-fresh bread with a layer of butter.  Today was one of those days.  Sadly, I didn’t have the foresight to take the butter out of the fridge before going to the bakery… and I wasn’t willing to  wait.   The recipe below is a twist on whipped butter.  Only 3 ingredients, but each of them matter.  I start with unsalted butter, so I can add salt to taste.  I like the slight mineral taste of pink Himalayan salt, so I used that- but you can use any salt you want and adjust the quantity to suit your taste.  I also added olive oil so that it wouldn’t harden completely when I put it back in the fridge (oil doesn’t become solid when cold).  I love the taste of olive oil, so I used a good quality cold pressed extra virgin olive oil.  If you’re not a fan of the taste, you can always use a milder olive oil.

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Grilled Romaine Salad with Grapefruit Mint Dressing


Grilled Romaine

Summer = grilling! So why shouldn’t that extend to salads? It’s amazing how something as simple as grilling can change an entire dish.  This recipe is centered around dressing up grilled romaine hearts. But really, it’s just to give you ideas… play with the dressing, cheeses, nuts, and other toppings!  I like the thinner dressings like the one below since it soaks into the romaine between the leaves.  The picture shows one romaine heart plain, and one dressed up with blue cheese and pecans.

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Mint Cilantro Coconut Chutney


Mint Cilantro Coconut ChutneyI made this green chutney for Mother’s Day since it was gorgeous weather outside and we decided to grill.  The flavors are so light and fresh that I love it in sandwiches, wraps, with roasted veggies, as a soup garnish… pretty much anything summery.  It’s also very versatile: thin it out with water to make a dressing, mix it into yogurt to make a dip, whisk it with olive oil to make a pasta salad.  It also gets bonus points for freezing well.  It’s amazing how a chutney so healthy and easy to make can be sooooo good!

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Ghee (Clarified butter)


GheeGhee, sometimes called clarified butter, is a staple in Indian cooking.  It has a very distinct taste, and a much higher smoke point than oil, so it’s useful in all kinds of dishes.  I’ve made ghee over the years the traditional way, which is to bring butter to a boil in a pot over direct heat and let it simmer “till it’s done.”  Essentially, until the fat separates from the milk solids.  Then you strain it through a cheesecloth so that you’re left with the clear ghee.  Sadly, it often yielded mixed results for me.  I’ve burned the butter, which is an awful smell… I’ve under-cooked it and the solids didn’t separate enough…. I’ve struggled with cleaning the pot, the cheesecloth, and everything else that comes in contact with pure fat!  Until now!!! Although this isn’t a “recipe,” it is a technique I feel is worth sharing.  It really simplifies the process (and clean-up), and while it’s not exactly the same end result, it’s close enough that I actually want to make it at home!  The only challenge is finding the right sized equipment in your kitchen.

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Basil Arugula Spinach Pesto


PestoI realized that I use pesto in a bunch of my recipes, but never actually posted a recipe.  Surprising, since I consider this a staple.  It a quick way to make an okay meal taste special (pasta, sandwich spread, soup, grilled veggies, etc).  Adding the other greens keeps the color nice and bright, and adds some additional flavors.  Also, if I don’t have pine nuts, I substitute cashews and it still tastes good.  This sauce also freezes well, so I often make extra and keep it.

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Almond Milk


Almond Milk

YUM!  Forget cereal, this has become my go-to snack and dessert when I am home!  Until I started making almond milk routinely, I never realized how easy and delicious this is.  I started making this at home because I noticed that almond milk from the store has different gums and flavoring additives.  The most basic recipe is to blend the soaked almonds with water and strain it, but I really enjoy a jazzed up version.  I add oatmeal for a little thickness and texture, dates for sweetness, and cinnamon/vanilla/salt for flavor. It requires a bit of pre-planning since you have to soak the almonds, but other than that, it’s quick.  I also decided to buy a mesh bag to make it easier, but cheesecloth works fine if that is what you have.

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Garlic Coconut Chutney


Garlic Coconut ChutneyThis is a really easy, versatile chutney that I use to dress up a lot of dishes.  There’s no oil and it freezes well- both reasons that it’s at the top of my list for stocking up on.  I don’t usually eat it straight since the flavor is very strong.  My favorite variation (if I’m very motivated), is to roast all the garlic in the oven before putting it in the food processor with everything else.

Cooking suggestions: Add a spoonful to rice or lentils when boiling (most common way I use it).  Use it to marinate tofu or veggies.  Mix a little into roasted veggies.  Spread a thin layer on corn-on-the cob before eating.  Spread a thin layer on dosa.  Add a spoonful into batter that you use for frying veggies.  Mix it with water or yogurt to make it more dippable/spreadable.  Feel free to share other ideas!

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Meyer Lemon Herb Butter


Meyer Lemon ButterThis is one of my favorite ways to spice up veggies- especially when they are steamed!  It tastes really great on bread too, but I’m trying to keep it healthy… It’s a fun and easy twist on butter (you can use margarine if you want too).  I make it into a log and freeze it so I always have a quick way to add flavor.   I happened to have Meyer lemons this time, but I’ve done this with regular ones too and it still tastes yum!

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Deviled Eggs


Deviled EggsI’ve made egg salad many times, and always thought it was the easy way out of making deviled eggs.  But I made these last weekend and it wasn’t too hard.  Honestly, the toughest part was figuring out how much to filling to pipe in the egg white halves!  I actually really liked the way they came out and will likely make them a potluck and brunch staple.

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Cauliflower Mash


Cauliflower MashI am SO not a cauliflower fan, but even I love this recipe!  It’s a great substitute for mashed potatoes, and can take on whatever flavor you like.  I prefer a garlic-Parmesan flavor, so that is the recipe described below.  Sometimes, if I have some nice blue cheese, I will substitute that for the Parmesan.

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Butter (in Vitamix)


Butter (in Vitamix)

Butter (in Vitamix)

Nothing like the taste of fresh cream butter… This is my method for making butter in the Vitamix- please note that it is different from what is in the Vitamix recipe book.   This is a little additional work, but I like how the butter turns out better and I feel like it lasts a little longer in the fridge.  The directions look lengthy, but in total this takes me about 10 minutes to do steps 1-5, and then it sits overnight to drain.  I tried to be as descriptive as possible, so please let me know if something is not clear!

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Roasted Vegetable Stack


Roasted Veggie StackThe last of my Valentine’s Day posts… and probably my favorite.  It’s light and easy to make ahead of time.  I broiled the veggies ahead of time, and then just baked it for 10 mins right before serving.  I used a variety of veggies, but you can mix and match any veggies you want.  It’s a great way to use up leftover eggplant, squash, mushrooms, etc.  You can serve it a variety of ways- plain, in a sandwich, on a bed of pasta, etc.  I made a Roasted Red Pepper Coulis to pour on top, which was a great compliment since I didn’t add roasted red peppers to the stack.

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Pistachio Lime Sauce


Pista Pesto

I had some leftover ground some pistachios from a different recipe, so decided to make a pistachio sauce for one of the Valentine’s day dishes.   I mixed this with ditalini  pasta, but it also tastes good on veggies, toast, and even as a pizza sauce.  Just a note, I used key limes last time to make this- and it came out more limey than using regular limes.

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