Sugar Ban

Last week in the midst of Unique LA craziness, I proclaimed that I was giving up refined sugar for one month, until our trip to Hawaii. Did I mention Gary and I are going to Hawaii?! A good friend of mine is getting married and we are so excited to attend. It’ll be our first time there so it’s a little vacation for us too.

Anyway, where was I? So I decided to give up white sugar. I know what you’re thinking, “How can a baker give up sugar?” I’ll still taste things, but nothing more than a spoonful. For the past month I’ve been going to the gym 2-3 times a week, but what’s really holding me back is all the sweets I consume. For many people a treat is just 2-3 times a week, and even that’s on the high end. For me it was 3-5 a day. Yeah, like two cookies, a slice of cake, and another snack here and there. After logging what I ate for a couple of days I knew I had to make a change. I cut back to about 1 sweet a day and survived (haha), but why not just all together?

It’s been day 4 and I’m doing alright. I’ve also changed my gym schedule to 4 time a week, too. So far so good!

I know I said I’d post a cake this week but I couldn’t bring myself to make it. It was going to be a chocolate souffle cake but just reading the recipe got me salivating! You might see an influx of healthier recipes around here in the coming weeks, but hopefully I’ll be able to share recipes using honey or agave instead.

Here’s one of my recent favorites that satisfies my sweet tooth and stomach at the same time. Does anyone else have a horrible snacking problem? Healthy or not, I can’t seem to stop snacking on anything every 20 minutes.

Easy Green Smoothie
makes 1 large smoothie

5 ice cubes
1/2 c water
1/2 juice or milk
3/4 c frozen fruit (I like pineapple and mango)
1 full cup of greens, such as spinach or kale
1 tsp flax seed/meal
4-7 almonds

Combine everything in a high powered blender for 30 seconds until smooth. I like to add flax and almonds for extra nutrients and to give it more body, but it’s not absolutely necessary.

I use a Vitamix which prevents any grittiness from the almonds and vegetables. Not sure how tasty it would be in a regular blender, unfortunately. A Vitamix is around $400 but think of all the money you’re saving instead of buying a smoothie all the time! Plus it’s perfect for pureed soups and sauces, too. I make a smoothie almost every day and it’s certainly helped me consume more vegetables.

Eating Healthy: Roasted Beet Sandwich

I was never a fan of beets until my last trip to San Francisco. We went to Chez Panisse Cafe for dinner and one of us (I can’t remember who, but it wasn’t me) ordered a delicious beet salad that was just about perfect. After that first bite I couldn’t even remember why I disliked them in the first place. Shortly after that I came across a photo of someone’s beet sandwich on instagram and I was instantly flooded with memories of that perfect beet salad. I knew I had to recreate it somehow even if I had no clue what was inside.

The original plan was to pair it with goat cheese but I forgot to pick some up at the grocery store. I should be restricting indulgent purchases anyway because our food bill is starting to get a little out of control. So instead, I made a white bean spread (from some beans I accidentally overcooked) seasoned with some rosemary and lemon.  I roasted a few beets in the oven and toasted a baguette in the broiler. The resulting sandwich was so good I ate two in a row (one to photograph, of course!). I paired it with a simple spinach salad and iced honey green tea.

Also, do you remember this post where I mention my frustration with my photos? I’m happy to share that these photos weren’t styled and that our dining table actually looks like that right now. This made taking photos so much easier and my meal much more enjoyable. I made a little tablecloth/runner from some remnant linen fabric by just ripping it to get a raw edge. The flowers are leftovers from our housewarming party, the candle is by OUI from Myrtle and sitting atop my Herriott Grace mini cake stand. That’s my favorite candle right now, by the way. It’s patchouli rose scented but don’t let the description scare you off. I often move it to my nightstand so I can smell it before bed (unlit, of course). It looks like it’s sold out in her shop right now, but if you’re lucky Myrtle still might have some!

Roasted Beet Sandwich

2-3 roasted beets
white bean spread (recipe follows)
1 clove of garlic
olive oil
salt and pepper
lemon zest (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°. Wash and cut tops off beets and wrap them together in an aluminum foil packet. Place in oven for about 45 minutes or until beets can be pierced with a fork. Once cooked, run under cool water and using your hands, slip the peels off. Thinly slice beets then set aside.

Slice baguette in half and drizzle with olive oil, then rub with garlic clove. Place in broiler or toaster until it’s turned a bit crispy and has slightly browned. Rub with garlic clove again if you like.

Place a generous amount of white bean spread on bottom half of baguette, then layer beet slices on top. Finish off with a sprinkling of salt and pepper and lemon zest if you like.

White Bean Spread
all measurements approximate

1 c white beans
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tbsp lemon zest
2 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Place white beans in a blender and slowly drizzle in olive oil. Add more olive oil if necessary to create a smooth paste. Place in a small bowl and mix in remaining ingredients until combined.

Eating Healthy: Potato and Celery Soup

Some days no matter how good of a mood you’re in or how well you’ve planned your day, things just won’t go as planned. Today was one of those days.

This morning I hopped out of bed determined to get a few nagging things off my to do list, but by 10 am I was already in tears. (Though, if you ask my family, I will cry for just about anything). It was still early enough in the day to turn things around so I attempted baked sweet potato fries to cheer myself up. Unfortunately they didn’t turn out like I expected. Admitting defeat for the day, I hopped back into my pajamas and took a little nap.

By the time I woke up (I won’t mention how long my nap was), I was well overdue for something to eat. Our CSA box was filled to the brim and I knew I had to make a dent in it. But with everything going awry the last thing I wanted was to waste our organic veggies on a failed meal. Instead, I went with my gut and made something simple. Not too many ingredients, not too many seasonings, not too much to mess up. And since I had no recipe or any real end result in mind I knew I couldn’t be too disappointed. After a saute and simmer of potatoes, celery, chicken broth, and a few other things here and there, I ended up with a simple yet cozy warm soup to comfort me. Just what I was hoping for.

Days like today remind me that I can’t plan my life to a T. Things will inevitably go wrong, but I just have to get up and keep going. And sometimes when you least expect it, things will turn out even better than you imagined.


Also, I must mention that I made this in my Vitamix, which has been amazing. The soup came out smooth and creamy without any milk or cream involved! If you are on the fence about getting one I’d highly recommend it.

There isn’t much of recipe, but if you’d like to try this all I did was dice some potatoes (about 1 cup worth), chopped up 3 celery stalks and sauteed over medium high heat for 5 minutes with salt, pepper, thyme, and 2 crushed garlic cloves. Then I poured in 1 1/2 cup of chicken broth and simmered for about 10 minutes. Poured it into my Vitamix and blended until smooth, finished off with a bit more thyme, olive oil, and some fennel.

Eating Healthy: Kale Salad with Honey Lemon Dressing

So, my original plan was to post healthy recipes on Thursdays so you can buy the ingredients over the weekend and have a healthy meal for the following week. But I soon realized it’s the beginning of the week that I need encouragement to eat better to recoup from the not so healthy stuff I ate over the weekend (like Sunday brunch).

I came up with a vague idea of a massaged kale salad last Thursday but was so surprised by the results that I knew I wanted to perfect the recipe. Massaging oil into the kale softens it up quite a bit so you’re not left with dry, coarse leaves.  It was light and hearty and the same time and the sweetness of the honey dressing was a nice change from my usual balsamic vinaigrette. You can cut the rib out of the kale if it’s too tough, but I don’t mind eating it. If it’s really thick I’ll save it for one of my smoothies.

I added the radishes on a whim because we just received them in our CSA box. Before this, I don’t think I’d ever prepared them myself. I was expecting them to be bitter and unpleasant but found them to taste like the Chinese radish cakes that I grew up on. Roasting them into chips added a nice texture and I liked the hint of red it gave as well.

Kale Salad
serves 2

1 bunch, about 6 cups kale, chopped/torn
5-7 radishes, sliced
4 tbsp pine nuts, or any nut of your choice

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp honey

2 tsp honey
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 350° F.

2. Chop kale into bite sized pieces. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp honey. Pour over kale and massage into leaves for about 2 minutes. You will notice the kale getting a bit softer and settling down into a smaller bunch. Set aside.

3. Thinly slice radishes, then place in the previous small bowl (with your marinade above) and toss in residual olive oil mixture. Separate each slice on a baking sheet and bake for about 15-20 minutes, turning the radishes halfway through, until crisp.

4. Make your dressing by whisking together 2 tsp honey, 2 tsp lemon juice, and 1 tsp olive oil. Right before serving, toss pine nuts, dressing, and kale together. Season with freshly cracked pepper and top off with radish chips.

Eating Healthy: Edamame Dip with Almond Sesame Crackers

Last week as I was grocery shopping a bag of frozen edamame beans caught my eye. I quickly snatched them up without a plan in mind. Then as I was driving home I remembered coming across a hummus-like dip online. I’m always looking for a healthy snack to have on hand and a quick glance of recipes showed it wouldn’t be too difficult.

The edamame dip came together in a matter of minutes, but then I was stumped on what to eat it with. Instead of pairing them with chips or pita bread I thought I’d try my hand at making gluten free crackers. I don’t have a sensitivity to gluten but I know a few people who are, and I always like a bit of a challenge in the kitchen.

After reading a handful of recipes, my first attempt was a simple combination of almond flour, water, olive oil, and a bit of seasoning. Let me just say they left much to be desired.  I did a little more research and ended up making up my own recipe. They were a success! Even Gary, a self proclaimed meat eater/lover, really enjoyed them. He couldn’t believe that it was gluten free and vegan. I’d say that’s a pretty good compliment.

It turns out when you combine ground flax seed with hot water it turns into a thick paste. A lot of cracker recipes I came across used egg as a binding agent but I knew I could make them vegan somehow, and the solution wasn’t difficult at all. I also used almond flour I made from making almond milk. Just spread the leftover meal on a baking sheet and bake at a very low heat to dry it out. The only ingredient I had to specifically buy was the edamame itself! You could even make tahini at home if you have a strong enough blender. Next time I run out I’m going to try that out in my Vitamix. I’m sort of obsessed. Do you see how smooth the dip came out?!

Edamame Dip
adapted from Food Network

1 1/2 c shelled edamame
1/4 c tahini
1/4 c water
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/4 c lemon juice
1 garlic clove
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
4 tbsp olive oil
pepper to taste

1. Bring a pot of water to boil, then add edamame and cook until done, about 5 minutes. Strain and let cool.
2. Combine edamame and the rest of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree. If it’s too thick add 1 tsp water.
3. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of pepper.

Almond Sesame Crackers

1/2 c almond flour
1/4 c sesame seeds
3 tbsp ground flax seed
1 tsp soy flour
4 tbsp hot water
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp thyme

1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. In a medium bowl combine almond flour, sesame seeds and salt.
3. In a separate bowl combine ground flax seed, soy flour, then stir in hot water. Let stand for a few minutes to absorb and thicken, it will turn into a very thick paste.
4. Add flax seed mixture to almond flour and stir well to form a ball.
5. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and place dough on top. With another piece of parchment on top, flatten and roll out dough to as thin as possible. Slowly peel off top parchment. (I put mine in the freezer for a few minutes to help peel it off.)
6. Cut lines into the dough to make individual crackers, then bake for 15-20 minutes or just until it starts to brown.
7. Let cool then separate crackers.

Eating Healthy: Whole Wheat Biscuits with Grapefruit Curd

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but most days I can barely get myself out of bed early enough to make it to work on time. Most mornings I am running out the door grabbing whatever I can eat on my drive over. Some days it’s an apple and almonds, other days it’s a couple of cookies. Rather than trying to change my sleeping habits, I thought I’d make something at the beginning of the week and have my breakfast ready to go.

Whole wheat biscuits fit the bill of being quick, easy, and filling, but it needed something more. I thought I’d try my hand at making grapefruit curd mostly because I didn’t have any lemons at home. It turned out to be a nice change from lemon curd with a slightly bitter after taste. Plus I couldn’t resist adding some of my beet food coloring to give it a hint of pink!

Let’s be real here, the star of the show is the grapefruit curd. But really, the biscuits weren’t so bad! I even ground up some uncooked quinoa to make my own flour. (We just got a Vitamix and I’m sort of in love with it). Next time I’d even add some wheat germ or flax seeds to add more nutrients in.  Most importantly though, it’s so easy to grab and go and keeps me satisfied until lunch.

Or, you could just eat the curd with a spoon. I won’t judge you.

Continue reading

Eating Healthy: Roasted Cauliflower

Before last week I’ve never cooked cauliflower. I wasn’t even quite sure what was the proper way to cut it. But for some reason I can no longer remember, roasted cauliflower was stuck in my head and I knew I had to attempt it. I’m so glad I did because it’s such a delicious vegetable dish with hardly any prep work. I can eat a whole head in one sitting, so if you are making it for your family or just want leftovers I’d definitely use two or 3.

This is hardly a recipe but more of a rough guideline. Feel free to add whatever seasonings you’d like!

Roasted Cauliflower
serves 1 or 2

1 cauliflower
2 tbsp olive oil
salt + pepper
other seasonings are optional, but I’d try rosemary, thyme, cumin, or oregano.

Preheat oven to 400.
Wash and roughly cut cauliflower into bite size pieces. They don’t have to be uniform, but try not to make them too small.
Place cut cauliflower onto a baking sheet. Drizzle over 2 tbsp olive oil and season with salt and pepper, about 1 tsp or so each, and any other seasonings you’d like. Toss together with tongs directly on the sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until cauliflower starts to brown. Finish off with a squeeze of lemon juice if you like!

Brussels Sprouts Salad

I’ve got a pretty bad sweet tooth and I’m at the point where it’s time to do something about it. I crave sugar like a drug and often carry a bit of candy around “just in case.” So in an effort to curb my addiction I’ve decided to dedicate Thursdays for posting a healthy recipe. It can get tough seeing so many beautiful treats and cakes all over blogs, but I hope to not only keep myself accountable but to encourage others to eat healthier as well.

Brussels sprouts have gotten pretty popular over the last few years but I’d yet to eat them any way other than roasted.  As I was flipping through the Power Foods cook book for inspiration, shredded sprouts piqued my interest and I promptly stopped by the grocery store for ingredients. Part skimming through various recipes and part making things up along the way, I courageously/foolishly decided to experiment. I am not known for dishes that require tasting and seasoning along the way. Instead, I love measuring flour and sugar down the the ounce, plop it in the oven, and hope for the best.

I know I shouldn’t go around tooting my own horn, but this salad surpassed my expectations. I could go on about the combination of texture and flavors but instead I hope you try making it yourself. It was incredibly quick to throw together (20 minutes or less!) and surprisingly filling.  My recipe measurements are approximate, so feel free to add whatever else you’d like, such a paprika, cumin, or even pomegranate seeds. Continue reading

Almond Milk

Soaked almonds

Dry, raw almonds

It’s been a little over a month of living on my own and I’ve been searching for ways to live more economically without giving up the little pleasures in life. One such indulgence was shopping at Whole Foods and Sprouts where I was able to buy all my favorite organic and healthy goods. Now that we’ve got more expenses my usual grocery bill had to get a lot smaller. But just because I can’t always get my organic, fresh, unpasteurized orange juice doesn’t mean I have to give up eating healthy all together, I just have to put a little effort into it.

Almond milk always seemed feasible but too much of a hassle. Why make it if the store bought version is a million times quicker and is has the added perk of being shelf stable? I also thought it would be more expensive. How many pounds of almonds would I need just to make a cup of almond milk? Then I finally stopped procrastinating and the effort was well worth it. All my assumptions were demystified and the final product was leaps and bounds tastier than any store bought version!

There are so many reasons to make your own almond/nut milk that it makes me feel foolish for putting it off for so long. The main advantage is that you know exactly what you’re drinking: almonds, water, and your sweetener of choice. Secondly, you eliminate packaging waste. In my old city they didn’t recycle tetrapaks and I always felt so guilty throwing them away. Third, it tastes like almond milk should! Like almonds!

I know this is quite a few paragraphs to go on and on about a simple drink, but to me it is more about taking control of what goes into my body. It’s about staying healthy, especially on a budget. It’s about understanding where my food comes from and how it’s made. So yes, it’s just almond milk, but it’s also a reflection of the choices I make to live a sustainable and healthy lifestyle.

Almond Milk
1/2 c raw almonds
2 c water
sweetener of choice, to taste (honey, sugar, maple syrup, agave nectar)

1. Soak raw almonds in water overnight.
2. Rub or peel skin off.
3. Blend almonds thoroughly with 2 c water.
4. Strain mixture through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth.
5. Add more water and sweetener to taste.

Notes: The ratio of almonds to water  I use is about 1:4, but feel free to add more or less water to your preferences! Keeps in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Caprese Sandwich

I really wanted to try making a sandwich with all the bread I’ve been baking, rather than just eating it hot out of the oven with butter (which is how I eat it nine times out of 10).  This is the master recipe from Artisan Bread in Five, tomatoes and basil from my container garden, and olive tapenade and fresh mozzarella from Trader Joe’s.  There’s also a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar in there.  I lightly toasted the bread but it in turn made the crust a little too crisp for my liking.  Next time I make this I’d like to make my own mozzarella as well.  Soft cheese is high up on my list of things I’d like to attempt.