Monday, July 29, 2013

Refreshing Honeydew Mint Sorbet

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Just when I thought there was no way we would make it to the beach this Summer, the universe surprised me with an opportunity to spend a few days on a beautiful island.  It was pure bliss.  As a child I took it for granted that every Summer we went on a beach holiday.  Now as an adult, I see how special it is to find time in our busy schedules and money in our limited budgets to spend time together in such an idyllic place as the seaside.  For that I am overwhelmingly grateful.

One blissful thing about the coast is the plenitude of fresh produce.  The warm, moist climate means tons of local fruits, veggies, and herbs.  And in the summer sun and heat, produce is exactly what I want.

To stay cool I made this incredibly simple and refreshing Honeydew Mint Sorbet.  The ingredients can't get any simpler: purely honeydew and fresh mint.  The result is an amazing and cooling dessert with absolutely no guilt.  I kept thinking to myself while eating it that maybe I had added a touch to much sweetener.  Then I remembered I had added none! The honeydew was just that divine.

The fact that this dessert recipe has no added sugars is enough to convince me to make it, but the benefits of honeydew and mint are persuasive as well.  Honeydew is rich in Vitamin C and copper which are both important for healthy skin (amongst other things).  And mint is an excellent source of Vitamins A and C.  Another reason to eat mint after a meal is that it can be soothing to the digestive system.  Plus, if you are at the beach, the honeydew will rehydrate while the mint cools - the perfect Summer combination.

So embrace the simplicity and enjoy this sweet healthy treat!

Refreshing Honeydew Mint Sorbet


1 honeydew melon, sliced
1 oz. fresh mint leaves

1. Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

2. Either follow the instructions on your ice cream maker (the house we stayed at had one) or put the mixture in a container in the freezer.

stirring occasionally for a few hours until desired texture is achieved.  If left too long, it will become too solid.  In this case, either scrape with a fork for a granita style dessert or put the bowl in the fridge to thaw a bit. 

I should add:
I'm not much of a drinker but my boyfriend, Sam, added a pinch of coconut rum to his and it was delicious.  I still prefer the unadulterated version, though.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

One Crust Two Ways! Strawberry Basil Tarts + Tomato Ricotta Tart

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Today is a two-for-one! Using this one crust recipe you can decide to make sweet Strawberry Basil Tarts or a savory Tomato Ricotta Tart.  Or both!  And if you are gluten-sensitive, this is your lucky day.  Both delicious options are gluten-free.

As you may have noticed by now, I like to find ways to swap out white flour for more nourishing foods and this particular swap adds tons of flavor to the tarts.  The magic behind the recipe is the almond meal crust.  Because almonds are high in fat, they create a rich, buttery tasting crust and a more complex flavor than white flour.

Almonds are high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats.  Many people, especially dieters, stay away from high fat foods because they are high in calories and people think they led to weight gain.  On the contrary, healthy fats like the ones in almonds help prevent weight gain and promote healthy skin and hair.  Almonds are also high in Vitamin E, riboflavin, and trace minerals.  Another great thing about almonds is that they taste great sweet or savory, which is why I'm sharing with you one tart crust recipe two ways.

Strawberry Basil Tarts + Tomato Ricotta Tart

Note: These can be made into mini pies (about 8) in a muffin tin or as a whole tart in a tart or pie pan.  I made the sweet ones as mini pies and the savory as a whole pie, but the choice is yours.  The mini tarts bake for 20 minutes while the large tart bakes for 30.  Also, this recipe is for enough crust to make either the sweet or savory tarts.  To make both, double the crust recipe.



2 cups almond flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
2 tbsp melted coconut oil

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine almond flour and salt in a large bowl and stir.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together egg and coconut oil.
3. Add egg/oil mixture to the flour and stir.  Using your hands, knead mixture until dough is uniform.
4. Press dough into tart pan or muffin tin.  This dough will fall apart if you try to roll it out. Trust me.  So just press it into the pan to create a crust.
5. For the berry tarts: Divide the berry mixture amongst the muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes.  Allow to cool and pry out using a spoon.

For tomato tarts: Spread cheese evenly over the crust.  Spread tomatoes out on top.  Bake for about 30 minutes.  Top with chopped scapes.  Slice and serve warm or at room temperature.

Berry Mixture:

1.5 cups sliced strawberries
2 tbsp coconut palm sugar
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh basil

1. Stir all ingredients together and set aside to allow flavors to combine.

Tomato Topping:

1 cup sliced cherry or grape tomatoes 
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
4 oz. sheep's milk ricotta
1 tbsp chopped scapes (if you can't find scapes try green onions or an herb of your choice)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Fig and Turmeric Paradise Shake

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I had just bought some amazing local raw honey and fresh non-homogenized milk when I thought of this recipe.  I wanted to make something that incorporated these two divine foods: milk and honey.  Being that it is Summer in Atlanta I chose to make a cool shake that is sweet and delicious enough to call a dessert yet healthy enough to be a breakfast.

I can't help but feel a sense of reverence about this recipe.  Milk, honey, turmeric, and figs are ancient foods frequently mentioned in religious writings.  The history associated with these foods gives them a sacred quality I had in mind when making this drink.

I'm sure you're all familiar with milk and honey, but turmeric is less common in American cooking.  Turmeric has long been used in the Ayurvedic tradition as a healing food and is a staple in Indian cooking.  It is now gaining popularity in the West for its medicinal properties.  Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is the root of disease, so turmeric has been shown to help with health problems ranging from Arthritis to Alzheimers and beyond.  It's time for us to listen to this ancient wisdom and give turmeric a chance.

The flavor is intense and earthy.  If you don't like it, try it in a curry where the other spices balance it.  I personally like the flavor and love its golden hue.

The land of milk and honey is the land of plenty.  This drink reminds me to see the abundance in my life and exude gratitude everyday.  Plus, it is delicious!

Fig and Turmeric Paradise Shake


1 cup milk or milk alternative
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp honey (I don't like it very sweet.  You may want to add more especially if you're new to turmeric)
3 large figs or 5-6 smaller figs
1 cup ice

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  Makes 1 large shake.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Raw Pudding Parfait

The Naked Fig: Raw Pudding Parfait

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This recipe is a three layer parfait of chocolatey chia pudding, blueberry jam, and sweet vanilla cashew cream.  I love making elaborate dishes because I enjoy making food that is beautiful to look at and because time spent preparing food is like therapy for me.  But this recipe is also great if you are in a hurry for a handful of reasons.  One reason is that you can make a couple of these parfaits ahead of time  in mason jars and just pull one out when you are ready to eat or to take with you to work.  It should last 3-4 days in a sealed container in the fridge.

Another reason this recipe works if you're busy is that it is very adaptable.  You could just make the chocolate pudding part and throw some berries on top.  Or just make the super quick berry jam and put it on toast.  You don't have to make all three components if you have limited time, but it will be really delicious if you do.  You can also play around with different ways to customize this recipe.  I used blueberries because I had some on hand, but you can swap them out for another fruit or add different toppings to make your parfait unique.  I'd recommend fresh fruit, nuts, seeds, coconut flakes, or cacao nibs.

The superfood that makes this recipe possible is chia seeds.  Chia seeds are great for raw pudding and jam because when added to liquid they form a thick gelatinous texture.  Chia seeds are a great energy source as well.  They are truly a "superfood" because they are full of fiber, anti-oxidants and Omega-3s.  And unlike flax, chia seeds dont need to be ground in order for the nutrients to be digestible.  For more on chia seeds check out my post on chia for the Food Optimist.

Raw Pudding Parfait


Raw Chocolate Pudding:

1/2 cup plant-based milk (for a recipe read my post on Food Optimist-
1 heaping tbsp chia seeds
2 tsp raw cacao powder
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp organic grade B maple syrup

Raw Blueberry Jam:

1/2 cup blueberries
1 heaping tbsp chia seeds

Raw Vanilla Cream:

1/2 cup cashews, soaked at least 5 hours
1 tbsp melted coconut oil (to make the recipe raw, melt by putting in a bowl over warm water rather than on the stove)
1 tbsp melted cacao butter (this can be hard to find, but is SO worth it.  I get it at Whole Foods.  If you can't find it, substitute with more coconut oil)
1 tbsp water
1 tsp maca powder
1/4 vanilla bean, scraped
1 tbsp raw honey


1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

Makes 2 large parfaits.

1. Whisk together all pudding ingredients and put aside to allow chia seeds to gel.

2. Put berries and chia seeds in a food processor and pulse to puree.  If your berries are not very sweet or if you switch them out for a less sweet fruit you may choose to add a little sweetener.  Put aside to gel.

3. Put all Vanilla Cream ingredients into the food processor and mix until smooth.  

4.  Once the pudding has achieved a desirable texture, begin assembling the parfait.  I put pumpkin seeds between the layers in mine.  Add any toppings you like. Because the vanilla cream is a bit runnier, I like to put it on top.  Enjoy as a dessert or an indulgent breakfast or snack!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Plantain Porridge

Plantain Porridge

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Throughout my life I have had a love affair with grains.  As a teenager I would have a bagel for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and pasta for dinner.  Okay, maybe it was more than an affair.  It was an addiction.  And I was eating the least nourishing grain of all - white flour.  During this time I suffered from depression and low energy.  Changing my diet to include more fruits and vegetables and nearly eliminating white flour has me feeling the happiest and healthiest I've ever felt in my life.

I still have a love affair with grains; I just choose nourishing whole grains and pseudo-grains like quinoa, amaranth, farro, and spelt.  And since I know I'm inclined to eat a lot of grains, I try to look for opportunities in my cooking to swap a grain out for produce without sacrificing the integrity of the dish.  This recipe makes that healthy swap seamlessly.

Plantains are an especially starchy fruit, so they provide that hearty, stick-to-your-ribs feeling you may crave if you are cutting back on grains.  Plantains are high in vitamins A, C, and B6 as well as potassium.  One of the best things about plantains though is the price.  I'll admit, sometimes my recipes can get a little pricey.  Not this one though.

So if you have trouble digesting grains, or if you, like me, want to replace some of your grains with fruits and veggies, try this simple and affordable breakfast recipe.

Plantain PorridgePlantain Porridge


2 plantains
1 can coconut milk (check to see that the can is BPA free)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup coconut sugar (or sweetener of your choice)
1/8 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Dash of salt
Lemon Zest

1. Cut off the ends of the plantains and peel them.  Using a cheese grater, shred the plantains and put them in a medium saucepan.

2. Add all of the other ingredients except the lemon zest to the saucepan and bring to a boil.

3. Reduce heat to low and continue to simmer until desired thickness, about 25 minutes, stirring often.

4. Serve with lemon zest.  This is optional, but it really compliments the flavor and is easy to do so I encourage you to take this extra step.

Enjoy as is or top it as you would other breakfast porridges with nuts, seeds, or fruit.

Plantain Porridge

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Baked Vegetable Pockets + Orange Peanut Dipping Sauce

Most days I wake up craving fresh fruits and vegetables, raw foods, and earthy flavors. They energize me and leave me feeling pure and on top of the world. But other days…I really miss junk food. That is to say I miss the warm salty flavors and reassuring feelings I get from eating familiar foods. What I don't miss is the inevitable can't-move, bloated, sick feeling that comes along with junk food, not to mention the unseen havoc it causes my digestive and immune systems. 

Vegetable Pockets + Orange Peanut Dipping Sauce

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It was on one of these junkfood-minded days that I came up with this recipe. My perspective is that eating should be fun and intuitive and not about deprivation so when I feel like I need comfort foods, I embrace it. I wanted to make something comforting to satisfy my craving without the heavy feeling and negative repercussions. With this criteria in mind I came up with Vegetable Pockets stuffed with eggplant, mushrooms, cashews and more. It's not quite Indian, not quite Chinese, although it hints at both dumplings and samosas. Usually stuffed foods are wrapped in white flour based pastries or noodles which offer little to no nutritional benefits. White flour also spikes your blood sugar (hello, disease fuel) and is one of the most common triggers for people with food sensitivities. Instead I used rice paper because they are light and gluten free. Rice paper wraps hold everything together without adding much to taste, allowing the vegetable flavors to shine through.

 Hopefully this recipe will find you when your body and mind are at odds over what to eat. It offers a humble compromise of comfort and nourishment. Enjoy.

 Baked Vegetable Pockets + Orange Peanut Dipping Sauce
Baked Vegetable Pockets

Makes 15-20 small pockets

1-2 tbsp coconut oil for cooking plus 1 tbsp for brushing
1 small eggplant, diced
2/3 cup diced crimini mushrooms
1/2 cup shredded cabbage
1/3 cup peas, fresh or frozen
1/3 carrots, shredded or finely sliced
1/2 onion diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp minced ginger
1/3 cup cashews
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
A pinch of salt
15-20 sheets of rice paper, depending on how full you make them
2 tbsp sesame seeds

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large frying pan or wok, heat coconut oil. Once the pan is hot, sautee eggplant, mushrooms, cabbage, peas, carrots, onion, garlic, and ginger over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes or until tender. While the veggies cook break the cashew into small pieces. What works best for me is to place them between to sheets of parchment paper or in a bag and use a rolling pin to break them up. Once the veggies are done, transfer to a large bowl and add cashews, thyme, and salt and stir.

 To make the pockets take a sheet of rice paper and submerge it in a tray of warm water for about 15 seconds to soften it. Then lay it flat and cut it down the middle. Place a heaping spoonful of filling in the center of your half-moon rice paper. Now, fold one corner across and to the widest part of the circle. Do the same with the other corner. If you have any over hang fold it over as well. Don't get too hung up on making them the perfect shape. As long as all of the vegetable stay contained in the rice paper the pockets will come out fine. Or if you are overwhelmed by this process you can simply eat the vegetable combination in a bowl and skip the pockets all together.

 Place the finished pockets on a parchment paper lined backing sheet and brush the tops with coconut oil. Bake for 12 minutes on each side or until lightly golden and crispy. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with dipping sauce.


1/4 cup tamari sauce (any soy will work)
1/4 cup peanut butter, heated until runny
Juice of 1/2 orange
About 1 tbsp Sriracha or other hot sauce (more or less to desired heat intensity)

Whisk all ingredients together and serve.

This is a great dish to serve for company who are perhaps not as open to health conscious foods or to make believers of people that don't think they like vegetables.