Category Archives: Condiments

Whole 30

whole 30 sm

Discovered Coconut Cream, Coconut Aminos and using more fresh herbs and homemade condiments

I’ve been aware of the Whole30 program for several years but was never interested in doing it, because it sounded so intense. In a nutshell, if you aren’t familiar with it, the founders, Melissa and Dallas Hartwig call it a “reset”, not a diet. The Whole30 focuses on changing lifestyle habits related to food, by means of eating whole foods only and eliminating all foods that could be contributing to compromising one’s total health. Basically, they argue that you should eliminate these foods for a minimum of 30 days to see if there is a change in your health. Then you gradually reintroduce those foods back into your diet, paying close attention to how they affect you physically or emotionally. The foods in question are: Sugar, alcohol, soy products, legumes, dairy, and some additives, such as sulfites. Also, they want you to avoid baked goods, junk food or treats made with “approved” ingredients (this was the hardest for me!) More detailed information and the arguments in favor of trying such an elimination process can be found here. There is tons of information on the website.

This post is just my experience with it. I think it is different for everyone. I like that it its heart, it focuses on the individual and doing a “science” experiment on yourself to see what foods make you feel good and which don’t.

A lot of people lose a ton of weight. Jamie’s squash coach lost 30 pounds in the summer. I, on the other hand, lost a negligible 2 pounds. Since our weight can fluctuate a lot even during the day, this isn’t saying much. I did lose a lot of bloat though. But, the Whole 30 is explicitly NOT a weight loss plan, and they encourage you to not weigh yourself or track that kind of thing, because the focus is on the food and nutrition and overall health. Another term they use for this is “non-scale victories”, of which, I’m happy to say I had quite a few.

Some of these include: Sleeping way better every night; having more energy without caffeine during the day (it is not required, but I cut out all forms of caffeine while doing the Whole30, including cacao powder and black tea!); ending my sugar, chocolate, peanut butter addiction, reducing the general aches and pains I had all over my body (arm, back, shoulder); surprisingly, a new appreciation for cooking and trying new ingredients and vegetables. I already enjoy cooking, but it took it to a whole new level for me! I cooked every single meal except for one the whole month, and I actually LOVED it. I started using way more fresh herbs and now must have a variety at all times. I started browsing the produce aisle with renewed curiosity and marveling at the beauty inherent in fresh vegetables and fruit.

shopping cart

My shopping cart at Trader Joe’s these days is heavy on the produce.

So I definitely count those as wins. And the one reason why I decided to tackle the Whole30 was to “healthify” my life! After my hellish year dealing with injury after injury and dental issues, all stemming from stress and over working (written about in more depth here), I made a commitment to make adjustments in my lifestyle across the board. arm 72

During this process, I realized that the only time I had made a concentrated effort to take care and truly nourish my body in my adult life was when I was pregnant with my son 14 years ago! I took a tally of all the injuries I have sustained since having him: Broken foot, two sprained ankles, sprained thumb, frozen shoulder, chronic back pain, torn elbow tendon, torn hamstring tendon, tendonitis in knee, all due to over training and probably not eating well. Kind of crazy. When I started cooking all my meals and being so careful about my ingredients (sugar is in everything, people – I’m looking at you Sriacha), it reminded me of how careful I was when I had pre-gestational diabetes during my second and third trimesters. It is such a nice feeling to feed myself with the focus of nourishing my body and making it feel good, rather than other reasons (oh that’s fattening, or oh, that food reminds me of x,y,z), mostly mental/emotional or just removed, and going through the motions.

typical breakfast now

Typical breakfast these days: Lots of vegetables (roast yam, steamed zucchini, mushrooms), protein (eggs), healthy fats (avocado), condiments (homemade ketchup), fresh herbs (chives)

I think that the Whole30 is not for everyone. Denis was NOT going to do it, and that is fine. I think it would be really hard and feel restrictive if you weren’t coming from a place where you believed that changing your eating habits would improve your life. It would just feel like a bunch of rules that you’d be dying to break.

Now, I’m slowly reintroducing foods. So far I’ve learned that dairy is not so great, especially cheese. I already knew I was lactose intolerant, so this is not surprise. I occasionally eat Greek yogurt and that seems OK. I still avoid caffeine and sugar, though I’ve had a little bit of the latter in cough drops and some honey. Legumes are fine. Bread is fine, but I don’t really care for it. I really missed rice though. And some soy, just because it is more convenient (soy is also in everything! Even as another ingredient in some of my vitamins). I figure being ethnically Japanese, soy is fine. Surprisingly, I haven’t had a drop of alcohol, and I totally don’t miss it. I was aware before that it was messing with my body as I get older anyway.

I still have a sweet tooth, so that’s annoying. But plain fruit tastes so sweet to me now, that’s all I eat. Even some vegetables like sweet potato and delicata squash taste like dessert to me now.

delicata squash

Delicata, my new obsession. Someone on Instagram said it’s like “butternut squash’s hot older brother”. I wish I could remember who it was so I could credit her!

 

The seeds are also great!

delicata seedsjpg

Toss in or spray with olive oil, roast at 400 F for about 10 minutes.

Some tips for food prep if you decide to do the Whole30:

  • Have a lot of prepped foods in the refrigerator so you don’t have to think when pulling together a meal – I like to always have roasted vegetables, steamed vegetables, sauteed vegetables, different forms of protein (eggs, sauteed, grilled, and roasted meats), lots of condiments and fresh herbs

 

  • You can make a bunch of condiments at once, like on a weekend. Then you have it all week or longer. My favorites are: clarified butter, flavored butter, pesto, homemade ketchup, homemade mayo, Sunshine sauce (see recipe below), guacamole, salsa, tomato sauce, fresh squeezed lemon and lime juice with kosher salt.

 

  • Make the slow cooker your new best friend. It’s so easy to cook a lot of meat and vegetables and stews and curries for leftovers. Even though Jamie and Denis weren’t doing the Whole30, I was able to make meals for all of us, and just swap out rice, bread, pasta, cheese, with more vegetables on the side.

 

  • Easiest, no thinking required meals were: Salads and hot bowls made out of the above items – a palm size of protein, a thumb size of healthy fats, a ton of vegetables

Things I would do differently would be to limit my nut, dried fruit, and seed consumption. It is so easy to overdo it! Also I would try to keep a better record of how I was feeling physically during the month. It is so easy to forget after a week. When I read how I was feeling the first day (in pain) and how I was feeling the last week (pretty great), it is pretty cool to see it in writing. Also, I had blood work done near the end, and my blood sugar levels were lower than last year, and everything was really good. 🙂

Would you ever try the Whole30? Have you already done it? If so, what were the best things for you? And what would you do differently if you did it again? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear about your experiences!

I was enjoying plating my new kinds of foods so much, I started another Instagram account here: https://www.instagram.com/healthywholefooddaily/

Some recipes I adapted based on Whole30 recipes:

Ketchup

1/2 cup tomato paste

2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

  1. Mix together.

Note, the Whole 30 version uses cider and the mixture is cooked. I found I liked it raw, and I couldn’t find apple cider that didn’t cost an arm and a leg just for ketchup.

Sunshine Sauce (adapted from Melissa Joulwan)

1/2 cup tahini

1/2 cup coconut milk

juice of 1/2 lime

1 tablespoon coconut aminos

1 clove of garlic, finely minced

1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

  1. Mix together.

This sauce is SOOO good with raw vegetables, or thinned with more coconut milk and drizzled over roasted vegetables or salad.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Books, Condiments

Creamy Pesto Sauce

creamy pesto ravioli


When it comes to gardening, my thumb is pretty much black.  The one thing I have success with every summer, though, is basil.

This is only a fraction of basil leaves on my plants!

This is only a fraction of basil leaves on my plants!

And everyone knows, the best way to use copious amounts of basil is to make PESTO!  I make a lot during the summer and freeze it for future use.  When freezing, the one thing you want to remember to do is omit the cheese — it messes up the texture.  Then after the pesto is thawed and heated, add grated parmesan to it.

Traditional pesto is made with pine nuts, which can be really expensive. I buy the Chinese ones instead of the Spanish ones.  Also, you can substitute walnuts for the pine nuts if the price is too great in your area.

Mmm.  Toasted pine nuts!
Mmm. Toasted pine nuts!

You just process the nuts with basil, garlic, parmesan, salt, and olive oil, and you end up with a great sauce.  You can also thin the sauce with some hot pasta water (from the pot you boiled your pasta in).

pesto with pasta

With some extra grated parmesan of course!

I also love pesto on sauteed zucchini “pasta”.  You may like this low carb alternative.

pesto with zucchini slices

Another great pesto sauce is a creamy version.  Heat cream cheese and milk in a sauce pan, whisk until smooth, and then whisk in about 2 large spoonfuls of pesto.  It makes a wonderfully creamy pesto sauce that is not as rich and fattening as one made with heavy cream.

creamy pesto ravioli2

Which do you prefer?  Regular or creamy pesto sauce?

Pesto Sauce

1/4 to 1/2 cup  pine nuts

a huge bunch of basil leaves, washed and dried

2 garlic cloves, smashed

about 1/4 cup olive oil or more as needed

grated parmesan to taste

kosher salt to taste

1.  Toast pine nuts.  I use my toaster oven.  Watch carefully, because they brown quickly!  You could also toast them in a skillet on the stove.  Keep stirring and watch them so you don’t burn them.  Remove from heat and let cool.

2.  Wash and dry basil leaves.

3.  Process basil in a food processor until chopped up fine.  Add garlic and pine nuts and process until fine.  While processor is running, add olive oil until the mixture becomes smooth.  Add grated cheese if you plan to use immediately, rather than freezing the pesto.  Taste.  Add salt if you think it needs it. Or more olive oil.

4.  Cook pasta until al dente. Dress with the pesto sauce — thin if you need to with pasta water.

Creamy Pesto Sauce

1/2 cup light cream cheese

1/4 cup milk

2 large spoonfuls of regular pesto sauce (see above)

1.  Heat cream cheese and milk in saucepan over low to medium heat.  Slowly whisk together until smooth.

2.  Whisk in dollops of pesto sauce.

3.  Serve over you favorite pasta.

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Filed under Condiments, Dinner, Pasta, Uncategorized, Vegetarian

Guilt-Free Potato Chips and Onion Dip

Last weekend was the fabulous City Harvest sponsored 1st annual Brooklyn Local.  It was a complete success — over 2,400 people attended and over $100,000 was raised to help fight hunger in NYC!

Here’s some snap shots of what I did that day:

I read my book, Soup Day.

Did collage crafts throughout the day with children and little “creatures”.

Played a drawing game with the kids.

Met some nice clowns, Tudie and Sammie.

We found out the next day that Jamie's 2nd grade teacher is married to the lead singer!

Listened to the beats of the Deedle Deedle Dees.

Wandered among aisles and aisles of artisinal local foods, and tasted quite a bit too with new foodie buddy, Esther, but didn’t get photos!   😦  We had many pieces of chocolate, nitrite free beef jerky, cheeses, granola, marshmallow treats, crackers, hotdogs with kimchee.  Everything was amazing!

With Billy Strynkowski, executive chef of Cooking Light

Got to see some familiar faces. 🙂

In my last post which featured potatoes, I didn’t get a chance to share two recipes I’ve been loving for a long time now:

Guilt-Free Potato Chips and Onion Dip

They are both “guilt-free” because the chips are baked, not fried, and are basically fat free. The dip is virtually fat free and packed with protein because it is made with my dairy go to —whipped cottage cheese.

Did I mention they are full of crunch and flavor??

The one key kitchen tool you need is some kind of vegetable slicer that you can use to slice the potatoes into paper thin slices.  I use my trusty “Benriner“, which is a plastic, cheap, Japanese version of the more expensive stainless steel French one.

By all means use the guard!   It is so easy to slice the tips of your fingers off if you don’t…  I’ve unfortunately witnessed this!

raw potato slices -- paper thin!

Spray with non-stick spray, bake at 400 degrees, checking every 3-5 minutes or so.

This is one potato!

Seasoned with a bit of salt, they are delicious and crunchy as is.  But of course, they are even better with the onion dip! 

Guilt-Free Potato Chips and Onion Dip

3 large onions, sliced vertically into thin slices

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

salt to taste

1/2 cup whipped cottage cheese

However many potatoes you’d like to bake — one large russet potato yields two big bowlfuls of potato chips

non-stick spray (I use Trader Joe’s olive oil)

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2.  Whip container of cottage cheese in food processor for 3 minutes.

Unwhipped new container of cottage cheese.

After processing -- silky smooth!

3.  Slice onions while heating a large cast iron skillet or other large pan on stove (do not use non-stick or it won’t caramalize!)

4.  Melt butter with oil in pan.  Toss in sliced onions.  Turn heat down to low.  Stir to coat with butter and oil.  Season with salt.  Stir every few minutes or so.  Then cover and let cook for about 30 minutes, largely unattended while preparing the chips.  I stir every 5-7 minutes or so.

5.  Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Spray lightly.

6.  Slice some potato with a slicer.  Lay pieces on parchment.  Spray again and season with salt.  Repeat with other baking sheet.  Bake in oven for about 10 minutes, checking every 3-5 minutes and flipping chips halfway.  They don’t cook at the same time, so remove them when they look brown and continue cooking the rest.  Add new slices to pan as you removed cooked ones.

These are half baked -- watch closely -- when they are mostly brown, taken them out. They crisp up as they cool.

7.  After about 30 minutes of sauteing onions, remove cover and turn up heat.  Stir every minute or so, watching closely so onions don’t burn.  They should just brown evenly.

This is how much they reduce!

8.  Remove onions and let cool.  Stir in 1/2 cup of whipped cottage cheese.

Enjoy!

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Filed under Appetizers, Art Related, Children, Condiments, Vegetarian

Roasted Potato, Tomato, and Cheese Stuffed Zucchini

This is one of my husband’s favorite meals, and considering he only ate brown food before he met me (peanut butter, bacon, meat, bread, etc.), that’s saying a lot.  I’ve been making it for years and have experimented with it along the way.  Sometimes I add mushrooms to the saute. I’ve also added ground meat.  It’s a very forgiving recipe.  Basically you roast the zucchini “boats” and potatoes (I’ve also tried sweet potatoes) in the oven while you saute the onion and other ingredients.  Then you pull the whole thing together by throwing in the roasted potatoes with the sauteed ingredients and add some cheese and fresh herbs (I like basil).  You stuff the “boats” with this mixture, top with cheese, heat until it melts and garnish with more herbs.  It’s a really vibrant and healthy vegetarian meal!

Who knows the best way to store unused basil?  The green market guy told me to place in a glass of water and leave out — DO NOT put in the refrigerator! he commanded.  So I didn’t.  It makes a lovely bouquet, but it wilted within a day and made our kitchen smell like “a pizzeria “, according to my husband.  I’ve also tried washing the leaves, spinning them as dry as possible in a salad spinner, and storing them wrapped in paper towel in a ziploc bag in the refrigerator.  The basil seemed to last longer, but some edges of the leaves still turned brown.  If anyone has a fool-proof method, by all means let me know!

Instead of risking it going bad, I usually just wash the whole bunch and make pesto.  I toast some pine nuts, crush some garlic, and process it with the basil.  While it is processing, I add some olive oil, then taste it and add salt.  If I’m using the pesto immediately, I also process it with grated parmesan cheese.  But if I’m freezing it to store, I omit the cheese and add it later after it’s been defrosted. I can’t remember where I read about this tip — I believe it was in a Mark Bittman column when he used to write for the New York Times.

pesto without cheese

The pesto can be used to flavor pasta, steamed or roasted veggies, as a dip or sandwich spread.  You can add water or more olive oil to thin it out.  For me, this has been the best way to avoid throwing away an ugly bunch of brown basil that never got used!  It’s just a matter of having the other ingredients on hand (if you don’t have pine nuts, other nuts such as walnuts, almonds, even hazelnuts can do the trick, altering the taste a bit, but the pesto is still delicious– it’s fun to improvise) and taking the time to make the pesto.  It is well worth it!

Roasted Potato, Tomato, and Cheese Stuffed Zucchini

4 medium sized zucchini

3 medium red or Yukon potatoes, cut into small cubes

kosher salt and pepper to taste

4 teaspoons olive oil, divided

non-stick spray

1 medium onion, chopped, about 1 cup

2 cloves of garlic pressed through garlic press, about 1½ teaspoons

1 plum tomato, cored and deseeded, chopped

1 ½ cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1/2 cup chopped basil, divided

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Place two foil lined baking sheets in oven, one on top rack and one on bottom rack.  Cut zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out interior flesh with a melon baller or spoon creating a zucchini “boat”.  Reserve flesh for another time.  Cut off a sliver from bottom of each zucchini “boat” so that it can rest without wobbling.  Brush cut halves with 1 teaspoon of olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt.  Roast in oven for 10 minutes on top baking sheet, cut side down.
  2. Toss potato cubes with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Gently remove heated empty baking sheet from oven.  Spray with non-stick spray and transfer potatoes onto sheet, spreading into one even layer.  Return to bottom rack in oven.  Roast for 12 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking period.
  3. While zucchini and potatoes are roasting, heat remaining olive oil in large non-stick skillet.  Sauté onions, stirring constantly, until onions are soft.  Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add tomatoes and the roasted potatoes.  Cook until tomatoes are soft.  Off heat, add ½ cup cheese and 1/3 cup of the basil.  Stir to combine.
  4. Turn zucchini halves over and divide potato filling among them.  Sprinkle each with remaining cheese (about 2 tablespoon per zucchini half).  Return to oven and roast for about 5 minutes on top rack, until cheese has melted.  Garnish with remaining basil.  Serve immediately (2 halves per serving).

Yield: 4 servings.

Note:  I used to throw out the extra zucchini flesh I scooped out.  Now I save it in a container in the refrigerator and steam it later or throw it into a stir fry.  There is a lot of it, so it’s really no point in throwing it away when you can use it in something else!

Pesto

A bunch of basil

Kosher salt to taste

About 2 heaping tablespoons of pine nuts, toasted (or other nut)

Clove of garlic, smashed

1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil, depending on taste

Grated parmesan cheese to taste

1.  Process basil, pine nuts, and pinch of salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Scrape down edges.  While processor is running, slowly pour in olive oil through feed tube.  Season with more salt to taste.  If using immediately, add parmesan and process again.  If freezing, omit and add parmesan after defrosting.

Makes about 1/2 pint.

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Filed under Condiments, Dinner, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Trader Joe’s Roasted Seaweed Snack and Miso Soup

True story:  A few months ago at our local Trader Joe’s, I spied a young woman sitting on a bench at the entrance of the store in a trance-like state eating something from a hurriedly ripped open green package.  With a faraway look in her eyes, she was munching on thin sheets of roasted seaweed, one after another without stopping.  I glanced at her two shopping bags propped up in front of her.  They were filled to the brim with the same green packages–perhaps 20 per shopping bag?  I was intrigued.

They come in paper thin strips.

I grew up eating seasoned roasted seaweed.  My relatives from Hawaii would send large canisters of it every year.  My family never seemed to finish all of it, and most of the strips would always turn soft in defiance of the little white packets of desiccant that came in the container.  I believe they were loaded with MSG so it is probably just as well we never ate the entire batch.

“Was there something different about the Trader Joe’s roasted seaweed?” I wondered.  I decided to see for myself.

What I discovered is that these strips are less salty than the ones I have had in the past, and they are made of only natural ingredients (seaweed, safflower and sesame oil, and salt).  And because they come in a small container of two servings, it is easy to finish it in one sitting with another person when the seaweed is at its peak of crunchiness and freshness.  I have to say that these seaweed snacks are addictive.

Though I don’t sit eating them trance-like, I do love them.  It has even caught on with my son who previously would never eat dried seaweed.  He eats these seaweed strips by the stack full like potato chips.

Recently he’s taken to combine them with his other favorite foods, creating truly Asian-American fusion meals.  He urged me to post it on this blog.  Hee hee.

I present to you — Jamie’s Pizza Sushi (pizza piece rolled in seaweed):

This one is his latest:

Open faced PB and seaweed sandwich

Believe it or not, these inventions of his taste really good!

I’m more of a purist though.  My favorite way to eat them is with hot rice.  The clean flavor and combination of crunchy and soft and sticky textures brings me back to when I lived briefly in Japan.

Paired with a freshly made hot bowl of miso soup and salad, it makes a nice light meal.

Miso Soup

Note:  If you want to make the dashi (Japanese stock) from scratch, kombu (dried kelp) and katsuo boshi (dried bonito flakes) can be found in Asian stores.  You can also make dashi using instant dashi powder– just add water!

Kombu (dried kelp), Wakame (dried seaweed), Katsuo boshi (dried bonito flakes)

Dashi:
4 cups water

1 to 2-inch piece of kombu

Large pinch of katsuo boshi

1.   Heat water and kombu in a saucepan.  Just before water boils, remove kombu and discard.  Add katsuo boshi.  Boil for 30 seconds.  Turn off heat.  Let flakes settle to bottom on pan.

2.  Strain liquid into a bowl or measuring cup (I use the same one I used to measure the water), pushing down on solids to remove as much liquid as possible.

Makes 4 cups.

"shiro" (white) more mild than "aka" (red) -- the darker the miso paste, the stronger the flavor

Miso soup:

4 cups of dashi

4 tablespoons miso paste

Pinch of wakame (dried seaweed — also found in Asian stores)

1 ounce of tofu cut into small cubes

1/2 scallion, finely sliced

1.  Pour about 1/4 cup dashi into a small bowl.  Add miso paste to bowl and whisk until mixture is free of lumps.

miso whisked in a bit of dashi

2.  Pour remaining dashi into sauce pan.  Add whisked miso slurry to pan.  Add tofu, wakame, and green onions.

wakame, tofu cubes, and sliced green onion

3.  Gently heat miso soup over low heat until it is ready to be eaten.  Do not let it boil or simmer.

Makes about 4 servings.

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Filed under Children, Condiments, Lunch, Sides, Soup

Experimenting with Trader Joe’s Peanut Flour

Update:

Unfortunately, Trader Joe’s has discontinued peanut flour since the end of January.  It seems that every time they come out with a product I love, they do this, and it is infuriating!  I heard about it on Peanut Butter Boy’s Twitter feed and stockpiled a box of their peanut flour.  But when it is all gone, then what!?

I’ve been looking online, and there are other places you can buy it.  I haven’t tried yet — I’ll have to do so when I run out, but other people have recommended this place:  http://www.byrdmill.com/gourmet_peanut_flour

They sell 1 lb.  ($5.03) and 5 lb. bags ($22.45), and they have light and dark varieties.

Another one recommended on chowhound.com is Spices etc. though I didn’t see it on their website…  The roasted flour here was described as “very strong”, and I’m not sure how that compares with the Trader Joe’s peanut flour.

Two readers have told me that the one at Southern Grace Farms is exactly the same as the one as Trader Joe’s.  One reader wrote (see below) that Trader Joe’s had been getting it private labeled from Protein Plus. The Protein Plus flour is in Harvey’s grocery stores, southerngracefarms.com and netrition.com.  Thanks you guys!

Every once in awhile Trader Joe’s comes out with a product that I go ga-ga for and this time it is their peanut flour.

It comes vacuum packed.

I am a peanut butter addict and can go through a jar in no time!  I love the peanut flour because the nutritional stats are so great.  You get the benefits of the peanuts without all the fat:


The equivalent 30g of peanut butter is 176 calories, 15g fat, and 7.5 g protein v.s. peanut flour's 110 calories, 4.5g fat and 16 g protein!

I’ve started supplementing my peanut butter habit with the peanut flour, so that I get a larger serving, great peanutty flavor, and extra protein without the extra fat.  I usually mix creamy peanut butter with the peanut flour with a bit of milk (alternatively, you could use almond milk to keep it vegan), increasing my peanut butter serving three-fold.

1 teaspoon of creamy peanut butter

...plus a heaping tablespoon of peanut flour and a tablespoon of milk

...equals volumized peanut butter that tastes so good!

You can also make a lovely version of what I call “Peanut Nutella” by mixing the peanut flour and cocoa powder with sweetener, such as sugar or stevia.

Another favorite Trader Joe's favorite -- unfortunately, it is seasonal!

Two tablespoons of regular Nutella is 200 calories, 11 grams of fat and only 2 grams of protein.  My version is 69 calories, 3.1 grams of fat and 4.1 grams of protein.  That makes me smile.

Another way I’ve used this Peanut Nutella is to just adjust the liquid amount so that it is a little less, creating a consistency of cookie dough.  I roll these into balls and dust with unsweetened cocoa to make Peanut Chocolate Truffles.  My son and his friends love these, and they make an easy snack.

Just as you can use peanut butter to make savory dishes, the same is true with the peanut flour.  I reworked my Sesame Peanut Sauce recipe to include the flour, making a healthier version of it. It is just as delicious.

Peanut Sauce over Roasted Spaghetti Squash and Steamed Broccoli

I have barely begun to experiment with this wonderful flour with baking projects.  I’m sure you could make delicious cookies and bars with it that are healthier alternatives to their regular peanut butter counterparts. I made a tasty batch of mini (only because I love all things small and they are easier to flip!) pancakes using a combination of all purpose flour and peanut flour– these are delicious with jam!

I just hope that Trader Joe’s doesn’t decide to stop offering it in their stores.  I hate it when they pull a loved item off their shelves (we are still mourning the loss of their Seaweed Sesame Balls, which we were addicted to…!)

Have any of you tried this wonderful product?  Do you have any cool recipes to share?  I’d love to see them!

Peanut Flour Peanut Butter

1 teaspoon peanut butter

1 tablespoon peanut flour

1 tablespoon milk or other liquid

1.  Mix all ingredients together, creating a larger amount of peanut butter.  You can adjust consistency by adding  more liquid or flour.


Peanut Flour “Nutella”

1 teaspoon peanut butter

1 heaping tablespoon peanut flour

About 1 tablespoon milk or other liquid

1-2 teaspoons of cocoa, to taste

½ teaspoon or so of sweetener, to taste

1.  Mix everything together.  You made want to add more liquid to thin spread.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Truffles

1 tablespoon peanut butter

¼ cup peanut flour

about 2 tablespoons milk or other liquid

1-2 tablespoon sugar, to taste

2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, divided

  1. Mix peanut butter, peanut flour, milk, sugar, and 1 tablespoon of cocoa together until it has the consistency of cookie dough.  You may want to add more milk or cocoa or sugar to adjust.  Taste it – there is no raw egg in it, so it is like eating cookie dough with abandon!
  2. Roll into small balls.  Wetting hands with a bit of water helps to keep it from sticking.
  3. Roll balls in the remaining 1 tablespoon of cocoa until completely coated.
  4. Chill for about 3 minutes to firm up, or eat immediately for softer truffles.
  5. Store in the refrigerator.

Makes about 8 truffles

Asian Peanut Sauce with Peanut Flour

1 tablespoon peanut butter

½ cup peanut flour, sifted

2-3 tablespoons water

½ teaspoon grated ginger

1 – 2 small garlic cloves, pressed through garlic press

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon brown sugar

  1. Mix peanut butter, peanut flour and water together to form a thin paste.
  2. Add remaining ingredients, stirring to break up any clumps.  For a smoother sauce, throw into food processor.

Makes about ¾ cup of sauce.


Peanutty Pancakes

¼ cup peanut flour

¼ cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

½ cup milk

1 tablespoon plain yogurt

1 egg

1 ½ teaspoons Earth Balance or butter, melted

  1. Sift dry ingredients together.
  2. Mix milk and yogurt together.  Alternatively, you could use about 1/3 cup buttermilk.
  3. Separate egg.  Mix egg white with milk mixture.  Mix egg yolk with melted butter.  Combine the two.
  4. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients while whisking to break up clumps.
  5. Heat skillet and pour in circles of batter.  Flip and cook other side.

Makes about 18 mini pancakes.

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Cruise Aboard ms Veendam Ship to Bermuda and Whipped Cottage Cheese

Somewhere in the Atlantic

Last week, to celebrate their 80th birthdays, my mom and her friend, Tom, took all their kids and grandkids on a 7-day cruise to Bermuda.  We set sail on the ms Veendam of the Holland America line Aug. 1 and docked at St. George’s and Hamilton ports during the week.

Front St., Hamilton from Deck 6


In front of the ms Veendam

We had never had any interest in cruising, but my mom has been doing it for years and insisted that everyone come.  Needless to say, we all had a blast.  We saw the sites, enjoyed the food, got to wear formal clothes we never get the chance to wear, and best of all, enjoyed each other’s company.  Thanks Mom!


Windowless cabin with fake window

Being a on cruise ship was like living in a floating hotel with extra amenities like free room service, 4-course sit down meals for lunch and dinner (if you wanted), lots of events onboard, stores, a café, a theatre, a casino, a spa.  Every evening, they would leave us a “towel sculpture” of an animal and chocolates on our beds.


One of the many amazing folded animal towels

Jamie loved his breakfast on the cruise.  Every day he’d have a “Sunshine Parfait”.  I’ve been making it for him since we’ve been back with plain yogurt sweetened with honey and vanilla, blueberries, and Kashi Go Lean Crunch cereal.

We got the glass at on of the midnight food fests on the ship – a Luau Barbecue.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos of food on the ship– which is crazy because there was an endless supply of it!  My nephew, Sam, took some of the cool desserts they offered. The cake is part of a white chocolate castle with a marzipan bird on top that was featured in the Dessert Extravaganza that took place one night at 10:30 pm. to midnight.


Sam's white chocolate cake and remains of his chocolate dipped strawberries.

Swan is puff pastry filled with ganache cream. Served with a dollop of cream and strawberry sauce.

Unsurprisingly, I gained a couple pounds!  So it is good to be back and eating normally again.  Unlike Jamie, I really missed the breakfast I usually eat every day.   On the ship, they would never toast my bread enough – even if I requested it to be “burnt”.  I missed my peanut butter, my single egg white, and my whipped cottage cheese.

1 egg over easy, 1 egg white, whipped cottage cheese, 1/2 piece burnt toast cut in half with peanut butter and jelly.

Whipped cottage cheese is a staple of mine. I eat it every day.  When I buy a container, I immediately process the whole thing in the food processor to have on hand.  Cottage cheese is really high in protein and low in fat.  But I’ve never cared so much for the texture of the curds.  When it’s whipped, the texture is more like Fluff.  I use it in place of sour cream or along with smaller amounts of mayonnaise in spreads and salads and dips.

Unwhipped new container of cottage cheese.

After processing -- silky smooth!

Whipped Cottage Cheese

Process one container of cottage cheese in food processor for about 2 minutes or until texture is silky smooth, like whipped cream.  Return to container and store in refrigerator.

Creamy Avocado Dip with Pita Chips

Three whole wheat pita rounds

Non-stick spray

Kosher salt

1 cup whipped cottage cheese

1 ripe avocado

2 tablespoons minced onion

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

Kosher salt to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut pita rounds into eighths, then separate these into single layers so there are sixteen triangles per pita.
  3. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray.  Place triangles on sheet.  Spray triangles with more spray and sprinkle with Kosher salt.  Bake for about 5-6 minutes in oven watching closely.  When triangles are golden brown around the edges, remove sheet from oven, transfer pita chips to a plate and set aside.  Chips will harden as they cool.
  4. Mash avocado with a fork in a medium sized mixing bowl.   Mix whipped cottage cheese with the mashed avocado.  Stir in onion, lime juice, and kosher salt.
  5. Serve with cooled pita chips.

Makes 48 pita chips and about 2 ½ cups of dip.

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Granola Fun with Kids

Being a native Californian living outside the state, I’ve had to endure teasing from friends for being a “tree hugger”, “valley girl”, “granola-eater”, etc. over the years.  I don’t mind – I’m all of the above and proud of it. 🙂   And truth be told, there is a special place in my heart for granola.  I used to eat bowlfuls of the stuff in one sitting.  Granola is considered a “health food” by some, and true – it is better than snacking on a processed candy bar, but it’s pretty calorie dense.  These days, I eat it a little more judiciously, sprinkling it on yogurt, ice cream, and oatmeal for an added crunch and extra layer of flavor.

I started baking my own granola years ago when I was pregnant because I wanted a healthier version than I could find in stores.  The great thing about homemade granola is that you can customize it to suit your tastes.  Similar to nut butters, it is easy to make, costs less, and is a very kid-friendly snack to make with kids.


I get my son involved at the very beginning of the process by letting him help choose what kinds of dried fruits and nuts to put in our creation.  He likes to help spoon them into bags at the store.

The basic recipe is this:

A.  Base ingredients:

Oats , raw nuts, seeds, sometimes I add dried coconut here – you can also add different spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, etc.

B.  Fats:

Oil, butter (you could probably omit this if you have enough of the sticky stuff to hold the base ingredients together, but I haven’t tried it yet)

C: Sweeteners:

Honey, Maple Syrup, Rice Syrup, Molasses, Agave Syrup, Brown Sugar, mashed banana, applesauce

D.  Add Ins:

Other roasted nuts and seeds, Dried fruit, chocolate chips, anything you can think of!

Directions:

  1. Mix Base Ingredients together in a bowl.
  2. Mix Fats and Sweeteners together in another bowl until emulsified.  Pour over Base Ingredients and mix until coated.
  3. Bake in oven.
  4. Let cool.  Eat.

There are so many recipes out there to try, and the ratios of A, B, C, and D vary greatly.  I suggest playing around with it to find what you like best.  This is the recipe my son and I came up with.  The ratios and ingredients are based on this recipe from The Barefoot Contessa, but I lowered the temperature, reduced the oil, added maple syrup and brown sugar and cinnamon and changed the ratios of the add-ins.

Granola

3 cups oats

1 cup chopped raw almonds

1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds

½ cup dried coconut

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/3 cup honey

1/3 cup brown sugar

¼ cup maple syrup

¼ cup canola oil

½ chopped dried figs

¾ cup dried cranberries

½ cup chopped dried apricots

½ cup roasted, salted cashews

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Mix oats, almonds, sunflower seeds, coconut and cinnamon in a large bowl.

3.  Whisk honey, brown sugar, maple syrup and canola oil together in a small bowl until emulsified.

4.  Pour honey mixture over oat mixture and mix until all the dry ingredients are coated.

5.  Spread on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer and bake for about 20 minutes.  Stir granola and continue baking for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until granola is golden.

6.  Remove sheet from oven and allow granola to cool, stirring occasionally.  When cooled, mix with remaining dried fruits and cashews.

Makes just under 2 lbs. of granola





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Two Dips: Starring and Co-starring Cilantro

It’s funny how one’s tastes can change over time.  Fortunately, for most of us, they broaden with age.  When my husband was a boy until early adulthood, his diet consisted of only “brown food” (peanut butter, bacon, potatoes, bread, meat, etc.)  Though he’s still a pretty major picky eater, he will try new things, and he has increased the palette of colors he will eat to include red, orange, yellow, purple, and most importantly, green.

When I was young, I remember my mother making Salsa Cruda as taught to her by a Mexican-American friend.  I hated it because it was raw and had cilantro in it, which I thought tasted vile.  Now, I love cilantro and often eat it raw in salads.

These days, this salsa is not only one of my favorites, but my husband’s as well.  We eat it with soft tacos, corn chips, eggs, and as a dressing for salad.  I’m hoping by the time my son is an adult, he will love it too (he doesn’t do raw veggies or cilantro at this point in his life either!).

Salsa Cruda

About 4-5 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded, cored and chopped

1/3 to ½ cup finely chopped white onion, or to taste

1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, chopped, or to taste

1 to 2 wedges of fresh lime juice

Kosher salt

Optional:  Finely diced jalapeno or serrano pepper to taste *

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.  Makes about two cups.  Can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days.

*I usually make a batch without, then halve the salsa and add a pepper in one half so we have one spicy and one non-spicy to choose from


When I buy cilantro, I wash the whole bunch when I get home and store it in a container lined with a paper towel in the refrigerator.  I’ve tried keeping it on the counter in a glass of water in the past, but I find it wilts quickly.  The Salsa Cruda doesn’t have much cilantro in it, so with the leftover cilantro, I often make this dip on the same day.  It is great plain with cut veggies, as a condiment for roasted shrimp, or mixed with some whipped cottage cheese for a sandwich spread.  I entered this recipe in a blog contest last year and won some cool treats.  🙂

Cilantro Soy Lime Dip

About 2 cups of cilantro, loosely packed

1 clove of garlic

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon soy sauce

½ cup cottage cheese

¼ cup plain yogurt

Process everything in a food processor.

Makes about one cup.

Cilantro on FoodistaCilantro

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Ridiculously Easy Almond Butter

A couple of years ago I started making my own nut butters.  I’ve found there are many benefits:

1.  They are usually cheaper than the jarred butters you find in stores—especially if you can buy the nuts in bulk.

2.  You can make exotic nut butters that may be hard to find in stores (e.g.     macademia nut butter, pine nut butter, walnut butter, cashew butter, etc.).

3.  You can make up your own flavors and season them according to your taste, such as choosing between salted or unsalted or roasted or raw nuts.  You can add spices such as nutmeg or cinnamon, or combine nuts.  You could go savory with the addition of dried herbs such as thyme or rosemary.  The sky’s the limit.

4.  It is so easy to make, and a fun way to involve your kids in the kitchen (assuming there are no allergies!).

The basic recipe is this:  Depending on the size and power of your food processor, throw some nuts in the bowl of the processor and puree.  It’s that easy!  Some nuts are drier than others, and may require a tablespoon or so of oil to smooth them out (e.g. I’ve had this experience with hazelnuts and cashews).  Others need nothing added (e.g. almonds).

Almond Butter

Ingredients:

2 cups roasted, salted almonds

Directions:

Pour nuts into bowl of food processor.  Puree until nut mixture is finely ground and looks like coarse sand.

Scrape sides of bowl with a rubber spatula.  Then keep processing until mixture is smooth and creamy.

Makes a little over a cup of almond butter.  Store in refrigerator.

My son loves it on whole wheat bread with a bit of cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top.

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