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Turkey Taco Salad

For dinner on Day 1, I had created this Turkey Taco Salad.

I have a philosophy about salads:

  • They can be “one bowl” meals.
  • They should have a lot of raw greens.
  • They should contain sufficient protein for a meal.
  • They are a great way to make a healthy version of almost any food you love.

I love the flavor of Mexican tacos. And this has all the flavor of a taco, without the fried corn shell or the cheese. It’s all in the seasoning of the turkey. And then you make it into a big salad.

I made enough turkey for four salads. As long as I’m cooking, I might as well make enough for later. Then all I have to do is heat it up or nibble it cold. I make a point to always have a protein ready to eat in the refrigerator.

Now I have to tell you, at lunchtime yesterday my friend David came over at lunchtime. He didn’t come for lunch, he just was riding his bike past my house and stopped in. I was making lunch and he hadn’t eaten, so I offered him some of this turkey I had cooked the night before. He loved it so much he asked me how to make it. (And, he loved that I was eating a big salad. He wanted one too and happily munched a big bowl of lettuce and kale and whatever else he found in my refrigerator. He commented that he loved this big salad and I had transformed his thinking about what he might eat.)

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My Easy Sugar-Free Chocolate Superfood Drink

super-food-chocolate 
The idea for this recipe I think must have started one day—maybe ten years ago—when I was in a natural food store and saw a chocolate bar that contained greens. I thought this was odd because I didn’t want people to eat a chocolate bar with sugar in order to get the benefits of greens, and to me, adding greens to chocolate was just unthinkable.

But for some time I’ve been considering how to get the health benefits of chocolate without adding sweetener. And today I suddenly figured it out.

My Easy Sugar-free Chocolate Superfood DrinkFor several months I’ve been drinking an organic wholefood nutrition product from Touchstone Essentials called Super Green Juice. It contains 44 organic superfoods to alkalize, detox, energize and strengthen immunity, with no added sugar. Organic raspberry and apple flavors make it take sweet instead of like greens, which makes it a lot easier to drink.

I was wanting some chocolate and it was time to make my Super Greens Juice for the day. So I decided to just add the cocoa powder to the drink and see how it would taste.

Delicious! Tasted like a chocolate shake! I could drink this every day and probably will now.

I’m giving you two versions. One you can just mix in a glass with water and the other to make in a blender like a smoothie.

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Date Sugar, Date Water, and Date Paste

Date Sugar, Date Water, and Date Paste

From left to right, date water, date paste, date sugar. Fresh dried dates in foreground.

Beyond being delicious to eat, dates are an excellent sweetener for many dishes.

Dates have a long history. They have been a staple food in the Middle East since at least 6000 BC. Ancient Egyptians used them to make date wine. So dates are a whole, natural source of sweetness that is deeply rooted in human culture.

And they are also low glycemic. Nutrition Journal has a study in which date consumption was tested on diabetics. The study shows that while dates contain high amounts of natural sugars, they are actually a low-glycemic index food and did not significantly raise blood sugar levels after they were eaten. If you are diabetic, you should test for yourself to see how dates affect your blood sugar, but dates are a good sweetener to try if you are looking for an alternative to the recommended artificial sweeteners.

Here are some other benefits of eating dates.

There are many ways to use dates in cooking. Today I want to show you how you can use dates as a sweetener.

DATE SUGAR, DATE WATER, AND DATE PASTEThe easiest way to use dates as a sweetener is to purchase date sugar. This is simply dehydrated dates ground into a powder. It functions very much like brown sugar in taste, but does not dissolve like sugar. So it’s good to sprinkle on top or use in granola or cookies, but it won’t dissolve in your tea very well. I began using date sugar years ago, when it wasn’t widely available, but now you can buy it in most natural food stores and online. The disadvantage of date sugar is that while it starts as a whole food, once the water is removed, it makes a concentrated sugar.

But I actually prefer a different form of dates that I learned from reading raw food cookbooks: date paste. This is simply the whole date soaked in water and pureed into a paste. You can easily make it yourself at home (see recipe below) and it costs much less than date sugar.

I’m just starting to use date paste, so I don’t know the exact replacement for sugar in recipes, but what I’ve learned from using natural sweeteners over the years is to simply find out what is does and how to use it to create new recipes rather than try to make them behave like white sugar.

I made muffins with date paste and they were wonderful. I think date paste would be great in cookies, cakes, smoothies, puddings, sauces and any food where the paste can be incorporated into a dough or batter. You could also just spread it on gluten-free toast instead of jam. I’m sure I’ll be writing about this more.

I’ve also seen recipes for making date syrup, which is basically making date paste and adding more water.

A side benefit of making date paste is that you also get date water. This is simply the water leftover from soaking the dates. It has the wonderful flavor of dates and is pretty sweet. It reminds me of “simple syrup,” which is sugar dissolved in water. Once I was having lunch at a wonderful little French restaurant in San Francisco and they brought simple syrup to sweeten my ice tea. So the first use I thought of for date water was to sweeten ice tea, smoothies, or any other beverages.

An interesting thing about date paste and date water is they both are sweet. Soaking dates obviously pulls some sweetness from the date but not all, so there must be some reduction of carbohydrates, but I don’t know what it is.

Anyway, I’m intrigued now with dates as a sweetener. This very ancient source of sweetness may be the best sweetener yet.

 

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Organic Deli Meat- Why You Need To Read The Label

Organic Deli Meat Turkey BreastI’ve been seeing commercials on TV for Dietz & Watson organic deli meats, so I went to their website to check it out.

Their turkey breast is USDA Certified Organic, no added hormones.

But it contains water, salt, and carrageenan.

That doesn’t sound bad, but we don’t know anything about the water and it’s pollutants, it’s probably refined salt, and…carrageenan?

Carrageenan is a soluble fiber extracted from seaweed. It is a stabilizers, offering benefits in texture, structure and physical appearance to processed foods. The FDA says it’s safe, but new studies show links to inflammation, cancer, and diabetes.

Just because the turkey is organic, doesn’t mean the other ingredients don’t have health effects.

If you want to eat organic turkey, buy organic turkey. Not deli meat.

 

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Stuffed Chard Leaves (Armenian Sarma aka Dolmas)

Stuffed Chard Leaves

 

A few weeks ago a friend and I were talking about food, and she happened to mention an Armenian restaurant in Los Angeles that was one of her favorites.

I hadn’t thought about Armenian food in a long time. But, in fact, I am half Armenian, so I know something about Armenian food.

When I was very small, like under 5 years old, I used to spend my summers in Fresno, California with my Armenian grandparents. They lived on a big wide avenue where everyone was Armenian. Everyone spoke Armenian to each other. Everyone cooked and ate Armenian food. My grandfather would put on records of Armenian music and pick me up and dance around the living room.

And so I began to eat—and prepare—Armenian food at a very early age.

My grandmother had a high stool in the corner of the kitchen. She would bring it close to the counter while she was cooking and put me in the chair. And she would give me little bits of food to prepare.

And that is where I learned to roll grape leaves. It’s so a part of me, I still remember, 55 years later.

Stuffed Chard Leaves

My grandparents had grape vines, so making stuffed grape leaves (which we called “sarma,” the proper Armenian name) began by going out to the garden and picking the leaves off the vines. Then my grandmother let them sit in hot water for a few minutes until they were soft, and then we started rolling the leaves around the filling. She had a big aluminum pot with a steamer insert in the bottom and we would pile the sarma up to fill the pot.

Now, I hadn’t made sarma in about 50 years, so I looked in the Armenian cookbook my grandmother gave me called Treasured Armenian Recipes, got the general idea, and mixed it with my memories. These are my 21 century sarma, made with ingredients I have on hand, so we’re using swiss chard leaves instead.

If you have ever eaten stuffed grape leaves in a restaurant or delicatessen, forget them. These are MUCH better and very easy to make. And fun!

 Stuffed Chard Leaves

NOTE ABOUT CHOOSING SWISS CHARD LEAVES :  

A Swiss chard leaf has a stem running up the middle that gets narrower and narrower as it gets toward the top of the leaf. To make sarma, we are going to use the top of the leaf only, where the stem is narrow.

 

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Magic Cloud Bread

magical-cloud-bread

If it looks like bread and tastes like bread, is it wheat?

Not necessarily.

I came across this recipe as one of those random ads that appear on pages and had to click through.

It does look like bread and taste like bread but it’s made from eggs! Entirely gluten-free and low-carb.

And you can make sandwiches with it (use two pieces, they are too thin to cut in half.

It’s all protein instead of being all carbs. Amazing. And easy to make.

It’s just eggs, cream of tartar (to help the egg whites hold their fluff), cream cheese, and a bit of sweetener.

You can use any sweetener, even stevia. I used a teaspoon of coconut sugar. So each piece has only 1/6 teaspoon of sweetener.

They are a bit crisp right out of the oven but soften as they sit. I just keep mine wrapped in a cotton towel and they are perfect.

I am so happy to be able to make sandwiches again.

Now I haven’t tried this yet, but it seems to me that you could sprinkle any flavorings you like on top before baking and they would bake in and be delivious. LIke cinnamon and coconut sugar, or garlic granules with parmesan and parsley/ Any seasoning mix. Chia seeds. You can make them any flavor you want.

magical cloud bread

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Balinese Coconut Chicken Salad

Balinese Coconut Chicken Salad
I eat a lot of salad, especially in the summertime. And I also love to read Saveur magazine , which is all about “how to cook and eat the world.” So much so that I subscribe to their daily recipe newsletter. And a few days ago the recipe was Ayam Jeruk, a grilled chicken and toasted coconut salad in a coconut milk sauce, served over rice, from Bali.

Now traditional recipes can be quite complex, but what I look for in them are the essential flavors, which I then make into a simple dish with the foods that are best for my body.

And that was my philosophy behind this salad. Flavors of Bali, but not in the traditional dish.

It was delicious! Just changing a few spices made my everyday foods taste completely different and exotic. Very refreshing on a hot Florida evening.

Ginger Limeade would be the perfect drink to serve with this salad, and uses ingredients you already have on hand for the salad.
 

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10-Minute Zucchini Fettuccine

10-Minute Zucchini FettuciniXtrema Cookware

When I was a little girl, my mother worked in a department store and after school  I went to a neighbor’s house until my mother got home.

Mrs. Sainsbury was Sicilian and she would make a dish she called “fettacini.” I didn’t know until many years later that fettacini was a cut of pasta. Mrs. Sainbury’s “fettacini” was made with spaghetti, butter, garlic, eggs, and parmesan cheese. It’s not an omelet. Bits of egg just stick to the spaghetti.

It must have been really delicious because it made a big impression on me. It was totally different from anything served at my house.

And every once in a while I remember this fettacini and make it for myself. This week I made it with gluten-free zucchini noodles and it tasted even better.

Now that it’s zucchini season, give it try. You’ll love it.

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Sugar-free Raw Strawberry Chia Jam – The Easiest Jam Ever

Sugar-free Raw Strawberry Chia Jam - The Easiest Jam Ever

 

I love this jam recipe because it’s easy, quick and requires no sugar—just the sweet goodness of summer fruits—but you can add any sweetener you like, if you want. I would probably add a bit of raw honey to contribute to stickiness, but it really depends on the sweetness of the fruit.

I made this with frozen strawberries because freezing breaks down the structure and makes it easy to mash the thawed berries with a fork into the required pulp. But you can use fresh fruits as well, and freeze and thaw them as the first step.

The ingredient that makes this fruit into jam is…chia seeds! Chia seeds have this magic ability to thicken anything, and thus they are perfect for jam. You should be able to get them from your local natural food store, if not, they are available online.

You just mash the fruit, add the chia seeds, put it in the refrigerator, and an hour later you’ve got jam. It’s that easy.

This is great to mix with yogurt to turn plain yogurt into fruit-on-the-bottom variety.

Or make jam cookies, or put it over ice cream, or anything else you would do with jam.

Be creative with this jam. Feel free to mix different types of fruits and add flavorings. Have fun with this!

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Best Gluten-Free Cookies Ever!

best-flute-free-cookies

 

I took a plate of these cookies to a meeting last night and put them on the table.

I went and sat down and suddenly I heard, “Oh my God! Who made these cookies!?!!?!”

When I said I had made these she said, “These are amazing!”

“Damn fine cookies,” said another attendee.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

These actually are not the best gluten-free cookies, they are the best cookies. Period.

The basic recipe is so versatile, you can make any flavor you want. I made

  • Fresh Ginger Cookies
  • Zesty Fresh Lemon Cookies
  • Firecracker Chocolate Cookies with Cinnamon and Cayenne

I had to stop myself from continuing on with toasted coconut and chocolate chip and toffee bits. I meant each of these in separate cookies, but wouldn’t they be divine all in one cookie!?!?!

This is now my go-to-cookie recipe.

Here’s why.

First, these cookies are CRISP if you eat them right out of the oven. Exposed to air they soften a bit into crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. The thinner you make them, the crisper they are. Crispness doesn’t happen with most gluten-free cookies. (After I wrote this I opened one of my new snaplock glass containers from IKEA in which I had stored the ginger cookies overnight. Huge whiff of ginger jumped out when I opened the container and the cookies were very crisp and flavorful.)

Second, the flavors POP in your mouth and linger long after you eat the cookie, so you don’t have to eat so many. They satisfy.

Nobody will know this is not a wheat-sugar-butter cookie unless you tell them.

I am dancing around the kitchen and clapping my hands these are so good.

I have to tell you what inspired this.

About a month ago I was walking through Costco and they had a free sample of a very thin, crisp Meyer lemon cookie. Now as a rule I don’t eat wheat or white sugar, but I LOVE Meyer lemons and could not resist this. It was incredible and I vowed to figure out how to make this cookie (and my Zesty Fresh Lemon Cookies are even better).

Then I ate a coconut sugar sweetened chocolate bar from Rawclates called “Firecracker” that contains cinnamon, cayenne, and orange. This is now my favorite flavor combination for chocolate. And agin I wanted a crisp cookie.

Now I really had to figure out how to make a crisp cookie. I found a recipe for crisp cookies and changed it a lot and…voila!

I’m giving you a the recipe for a “small” batch of about 18 cookies. It requires splitting an egg, but that’s OK. Just save the other half for the next batch.

For a party or a family, double the recipe and use a whole egg.

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