Celebrating Freedom

Image 1Happy Birthday America!

Independence day, as so poignantly displayed by fireworks exploding in the sky, sparks feelings of exuberant freedom.  It reminds us of the liberties we are so blessed to enjoy because of our ancestors passionate quest for independence. Celebrating our heritage with friends and family is one of the highlights of the year.

But freedom isn’t just about being able to do whatever we want.  Real freedom is about being true to ourselves and doing things that free our spirit.

Sometimes there’s an illusion of freedom with indulgence.  Often the center of celebration focuses on food and tempts us to indulge because it’s our right. When really choosing not to indulge can give you more freedom.

Image

Opening up to the same feeling of independence through things other than food can be extremely satisfying and much more rewarding, so much so that you forget all about the food.

Now I’m not saying to not enjoy some good food this holiday.  I’m just suggesting to shift the perspective away from food as a way to celebrate our freedom.

One way to start by freeing yourself from any emotional burdens.  Forgive someone even if you don’t like their behavior, past or present.  Let go of expectations and comparisons and find your own sense of contentment and peace within.  Celebrate accomplishments based on your own measurements that align with your core values and desires.

Have some fun today and let your spirit run free!

Dance.  Sing.  Play.  Honor. Hug.  Love.

xo

 

Almond Flour Pancakes (Gluten and Dairy Free)

IMG_1010

Pancakes make the perfect breakfast for a Sunday morning or any time during the lazy days of summer.  My husband loves pancakes more than anyone else in our house.  He grew on pancakes for weekend breakfasts.  In fact, his dad still insists on making pancakes or waffles when we spend the night at their house.  Unlike the fluffy Bisquick pancakes I had as a kid, his dad’s pancakes are thin with crispy edges and smell amazing! Hot off the griddle, there’s almost no better comfort food!

For years, my daughters and I envied my husband (their dad) gobbling stacks of his dad’s pancakes. One daughter couldn’t eat them because they gave her migraines.  The other daughter has celiac disease so they were not an option for her, plus she only recently started eating eggs again.

When she was able to tolerate eggs, I made this recipe.  It opened up a whole new normal for weekend breakfasts.  Best of all, the pancakes came close to looking like his dad’s even though they are made with a completely different set of ingredients.  As an added bonus, this recipe won’t leave you feeling like there’s a brick in your stomach or ready to go back to bed!

What’s your favorite weekend breakfast?

Almond Flour Pancakes

1 cup almond flour
1 tablespoon honey
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons coconut or other milk
pinch of cinnamon
1 -2 tablespoons coconut oil, for cooking

Stir all ingredients except the coconut oil together in a small bowl.  Let sit for 5 minutes.  Heat oil in a large non sick frying pan or griddle over medium high heat.   Once a drop of water sizzles in the pan, it’s ready for pancakes.  Add batter, two tablespoons per pancake.  Cook over medium heat about three minutes per side, flipping once pancake is formed.  Add more oil to the pan as needed.  Serve with fresh berries and melted honey or maple syrup.
Fun extras:  add 1/2 cup frozen blueberries or chocolate chips to the batter :)

Creamy Cashew Cheese (Vegan and Paleo)

IMG_0984As soon as it hits your tongue, you will know it tastes nothing like real cheese. But nut cheese is still a delicacy to be revered.  It’s complexity of texture and flavor leave you wanting more but in a different way than a hunk of havarti.  That is, in a good way.

Dairy cheese is both comforting and addicting, making it one of the hardest things for many people to part with.  Yet, dairy can be the root cause of many nagging issues like sinus problems, chronic pain, skin irritation or acne, tummy troubles such as constipation, bloating and gas.  Years ago when I decided to give up dairy, many of these issues improved for me, and I’ve seen the same thing happen with many of my clients too.

IMG_1040

The first time I had nut cheese I was at a raw foods restaurant in Miami.  It was one of the most amazingly delicious meals I’d ever eaten.  Then I had it again at Pure Food and Wine in New York.  Let me just say their lasagna is to die for;  I dream of going back for more!

Nut cheese was just one of those things I loved but assumed I’d have trouble duplicating. Finally I got up enough courage to make some.  On my first try, I used macadamia and pine nuts.  It was a recipe from Silvana’s kitchen.  Silvana called it dairy free ricotta, which sounded delicious especially for the gluten free lasagna I planned to make.  But I gotta be honest, I didn’t love it.

Then I remembered the cashew cheese I’d fallen in love with at Natural Products Expo. Directly across from our booth was the booth for Treeline cheese, which makes vegan cheeses made from tree nuts and cashews.  Their cheese is an amazing work of art.

So I decided to give making nut cheese another try, this time with cashews.  Mine turned out more like a dip, but it is a delicious topping for a burger, zucchini pasta, grilled chicken or salmon.

IMG_1059The nutritional yeast gives it it’s cheesy taste.  Nutritional yeast is not to be confused with active yeast for baking bread.  High in B vitamins, it’s a very popular ingredient in vegan cooking to boost protein and nutrient quality of foods.

IMG_0966After you get over the fact that you have to soak the cashews, its actually super easy to make.  There is no real science to exactly how long you need to soak the cashews.  At least two hours and up to twelve is a good guideline.  I usually place mine in water in the morning when I’m making breakfast.  Then I process them for milk or cheese later in the afternoon.

Ingredients

1 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup filtered water (for better taste)
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon raw organic apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Soak the cashews in a glass container or bowl, covering them completely with water.  This step is super important because it makes the cashews blendable and gives smoother results.  After anywhere from two to twelve hours, drain the cashews and rinse.

Add cashews and all the other ingredients to Vitamix or other high speed blender.  A food processor will work too.  Blend or process until smooth.  Makes about a cup of cheese.

Add more water if want it to be runnier for a sauce. Add more nutritional yeast if want your cheese to be thicker and more spreadable.
For a delicious salad dressing, blend with a tablespoon of dijon mustard and a clove of garlic.

Use as a sauce in wraps or sandwiches, a dip for veggies or as a topping for grilled chicken burgers or salmon.  Chill in a cute little mason jar or other container for several hours before eating.  Keeps for up to a week in the refrigerator.

IMG_1009

Purple Asparagus, A Rare Gem

IMG_0975

Purple asparagus is not something you see everyday.  Actually, I’d never seen it before until last Sunday when I was at the West Reading Farmers Market.   A few purple stalks were delicately placed in the bunch of organic green asparagus I bought from B&H Organics.

It was love at first sight.  Purple asparagus is so beautiful in it’s uniqueness and depth of color, like a rare gem.  Being a sucker for organic fresh produce from local farmers, I bought two bunches.  It cost a small fortune, but was well worth every penny.

Mostly, I was excited to indulge in and play with a beautiful “new” food.  Finding a new ingredient always adds pizzazz to my usual repertoire of repetitive choices and builds joyful anticipation over planning a meal around the new thing.   This creative spark shifts the perspective on making dinner from a chore to a creative endeavor that pampers the soul.

IMG_0984

Unfortunately like purple green beans or snow peas, the purple color disappears once you cook purple asparagus.  So if you want to preserve the purple color, serve it raw with some hummus on a veggie tray or in salads.  I ate some of my purple asparagus raw dipped in cashew cheese,  some raw in my kale salad and then some cooked in a stir fry.

It was delicious every way I tried it.  To me, it’s flavor varied a bit from regular old green asparagus.  Purple asparagus has a unique nutty, slightly sweeter taste than it’s green counterpart.

IMG_0991

The purple color is not only pretty — it’s what makes purple asparagus a nutritional powerhouse.  The color comes from a high level of a particular antioxidant in the asparagus.  It is known for it’s anti-inflammatory benefits as well its detoxifying properties.  Another interesting fact about it is that purple asparagus has double the protein of green asparagus.  But you can’t go wrong either way, green or purple.  They are all edible magical miracles :)

Flourless Blonde Brownies (Paleo, Gluten and Dairy Free)

IMG_0856I’ve been having so much fun baking ever since we successfully reintroduced eggs back into our diet (my daughter Kelly and me).  Gluten free and grain free baking is extremely difficult without eggs.  It can be done, and we have some favorites like my Black Bean Brownie recipe.  But with eggs, cookies are fluffier, and bread well let’s just say it’s a miracle.  Bread without eggs is nearly impossible.

For our gluten free, grain free baking, I use a lot of nuts.  Almond flour is the main ingredient in many of my recipes because for years Breaking the Vicious Cycle, was my bible.  That is going back ten years ago before all the amazing cookbooks and blogs that have been published because of the Paleo movement.

Since my sister’s two kids both have nut allergies, peanut and tree nut, I like to have a few recipes that I can make that we all can eat.  Or at least that we can eat around them without worrying about them having to use the epiPen because of a crumb or cross contamination issues.

IMG_0980

So, I adopted this recipe from Breaking the Vicious cycle using sun butter instead of peanut butter.  I like sun butter a lot.  It’s my favorite go to nut butter.  For this recipe, I also added some chia seeds for a little extra dimension and nut free crunch.  These brownies are naturally sweetened with honey in classic SCD (specific carbohydrate diet) style.

IMG_0981

Flourless Blonde Chocolate Chip Brownies
(Nut free, gluten and dairy free)

1 cup organic unsweetened sun butter
1 egg
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup Lily’s or Enjoy Life dairy free chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an eight inch by eight inch pan with palm shortening.  In a medium bowl, mix the sun butter together with the egg, baking soda, and honey.  Stir until smooth.  Add chocolate chips and chia seeds gently mixing until evenly combined.  Pour into pan and bake for 20 minutes.  Let cool before cutting.  Keep in an airtight container in the fridge or freeze.  YUM!

 

Roasted Foot Long Green Beans

IMG_0673

One of the wonders of summer is these giant green beans.  I don’t know their official name. My organic farmer friend, Donna, tells me she calls them foot long green beans.

Donna encouraged me to try her organic foot long green beans, promising me they would be tender and tasty.  I just assumed they’d be tough and tasteless since they are much larger than regular green beans.

IMG_0872

Once produce grows larger, when both the color and flavor seem to fade, the perception or belief is that taste is compromised.  For example, I love the sweet delicate taste of haricot verts, the smallest of all the green beans.

These foot long green beans aren’t just overgrown green beans, they are meant to be this size.  Fun and flavorful is how I would describe them.  Once they are roasted, the beans get crispy and at the same time deliciously tender.  They have a salty sweetness which I find addicting!

IMG_0875

When I was a kid, I hated green beans.  They made me gag when I felt their fuzzy skin in my mouth.  So I hid them in my napkin and snuck off to the bathroom where I’d flush them down the toilet!

Now that I’m a grown up, I love green beans!

Even kids will love these roasted green beans which can be made with giant beans or regular size green beans.

IMG_0876

I got these at my favorite farmer’s market stand Country Lane which is overflowing with beautifully colorful fresh local organic produce right now. It’s such an exciting time of year for food. The bountiful selection of colorful fresh delicious veggies and fruits is one of my favorite things about summer.

What’s one of your favorite things about summer?

Keep it simple and cook with love!

xo

Roasted Green Beans

1 pound green beans
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
Fresh ground pepper

Snap ends off the beans. If the bean is hollow, I snap off that portion too. Place beans on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Pour oil over top and toss with your hands to coat the beans with the oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and place in the oven. Roast at 425 for about 10 minutes. Serves 2.

IMG_0878

Chicken Burgers (Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Paleo)

IMG_0841Oh my goodness, this was the best lunch I’ve had in a while. It totally hit the spot on a cool dreary day. Warm, quick, easy, satisfying and oh so delicious! And was a nice change from the salad thing I’d been doing the past few weeks.

I had some leftover black beluga lentils and a chicken burger in the fridge. So I just sliced a tomato put it on top of the burger and then added some cashew cheese. The cashew cheese was amazing on both the burger and the lentils.

Do you ever get sick of chicken or feel stuck with the same old recipes? A few weeks ago, one of my clients asked me to teach her some new recipes that weren’t chicken because her husband was sick of chicken.

The tricky part was that she tries to avoid red meat and doesn’t like fish; so chicken is the easiest choice for her. I decided to give these chicken burgers a try. I thought to myself, still chicken, but a different kind of chicken maybe worth exploring. She loved them. He loved them. I think everybody loves them! I made them with another group cooking lesson the next week, and again they were a huge home run.

IMG_0836

The meat I used was from my local organic butcher, Dundore and Heister, which I think makes a big difference in taste. Before I bought it for the first time, I had heard their ground chicken was amazing. Wow, seriously, it is to die for, much better than any other I’ve tried.

I’ve been tweaking the recipe ever since trying things like grated zucchini, carrots and spinach. It’s a whole new take on a burger! The morale of the story is that burgers don’t have to be made with beef to be mouthwatering good :)

Play around with this recipe and let me know what you come up with – cook with love and have fun with food!

xo

IMG_0766

Organic Chicken Burgers

1 pound ground chicken
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1 tablespoon fresh chopped sage or parsley
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced onion
sea salt
fresh ground pepper

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Form into burger patties. Grill or saute until cooked through, about 10 minutes depending on the size of the burger. Be careful not to overcook or the chicken meat will get dry. Top with sliced tomato and avocado, cheese, hummus or pesto. YUM!
Serves 4

(The burgers I cooked in these photos were sautéed in red palm oil which gave them an orangish hue….)

Paleo Moroccan Spice Rub (Sugar Free, Gluten Free)

IMG_0710Keep it simple, cook with love.

Those are two mottos I live by in my kitchen.

Since most of my cooking is from scratch, it’s much easier and quicker to use as few ingredients as possible.

Focusing on the food’s inherent natural flavor and enhancing it with herbs and spices is my favorite way to cook.

One of the things I don’t like about sauces and rubs is the added unnecessary ingredients like sugar, starches and thickeners.  So I never buy them.

It’s easy enough to make your own once you have a good recipe and all the ingredients.  Simply mix the spices and store in an airtight container or baggie.  I use mason jars which come in cute little mini sizes.

This recipe’s unique combination of spices, tangling Indian and Mexican flavors together with deliciously tasty results.

IMG_0720

Moroccan cuisine is usually known for it’s mouthwatering lamb dishes but this rub goes great with any meat or fish.  Try it on salmon, chicken, skirt steak, pork tenderloin or butterflied leg of lamb.  To use the rub, simply spray a little oil on the meat or fish then spoon the spice rub all over.  Press down to absorb into the meat which will also cook into a delicious crust once grilled or roasted.  Delish!

What’s your favorite spice or rub?

 

Moroccan Spice Rub

2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon coriander
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt

Mix all in a small bowl.    Store spice rub in airtight containers in a cool dry place.  Use frequently and cook with love!

Sunday Dinner: Braised Beef Brisket

IMG_0623This recipe is melt in your mouth delicious.  It’s a perfect Sunday dinner that cooks by itself in the oven all afternoon while you weed, watch a soccer game, play golf or read a book.  On a rainy day, it’s a fabulous alternative to grilling a steak.  Not to mention, it makes scrumptious leftovers.

Funny, I’d never had brisket until a few months ago.  Brisket never seemed too appealing to me.  It sounded like a chewy dry piece of some kind of meat that may be not even edible.  And besides how would you possible go about cooking a brisket?  Boy, was I wrong!

My inspiration to give it a try came from one of my favorite farm to table restaurants, John Jeffries in Lancaster, PA.  While out to dinner there a few months ago, I asked the waiter for a recommendation on what to order.  His glowing description of how the brisket cooks all day in its juices convinced me to get it.  Wow, was I amazed by its tender, delicious, plate licked clean goodness. We are talking food orgasm good!

When I went to my local organic butcher, Dundore and Heister, to inquire about brisket, they didn’t have any available at the time. Then a month or so later I got my hands on some from another local farm, Country Lane.   Since then, I’ve bought it from both sources and always keep one in the freezer.   By the way, locally pasture raised, grass fed meat is the way to go, I will write more about that on another day :)

What’s your favorite Sunday dinner?


Image 2Braised Beef Brisket

3 pound piece of beef brisket
1 leek
1 bulb fennel
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme
4-5 fresh sage leaves
1 tablespoon coconut or palm oil
2 cups red wine or beef broth
sea salt
fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 250.  Cut off bottom end of leek and slice the white part of the leek into thin slices.  Rinse well under cold water to remove any grit.  Cut off bottom of fennel bulb.  Then cut in half and remove the center core using a sharp knife.  Slice fennel into thin slices.  Add fennel, leek, carrots and herbs to a large roasting pan with a lid.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Place brisket in the pan and brown on each side, about 3 minutes per side.  Place beef on top of the veggies and season with salt and pepper.  Pour wine or broth over the beef and veggies.  Put the brisket in the oven and bake for 3-4 hours.

Serves 6

Red Quinoa Buddha Bowl

When I first heard the term Buddha bowl I wondered what it meant.  What made a Buddha bowl a Buddha bowl?  It wasn’t a bowl in the shape of Buddha.

No, essentially it is just a cute and clever name for a salad, a super colorful, healthy, appealing and appetizing salad.

A Buddha bowl is really just a trendy name for a fun way to serve a bowl of veggies.  I love it.

But the buddha bowl is more than just a bowl of veggies.  Energetically it’s supposed to lift your spirits and to enhance feelings of gratitude and goodness.  It’s meant to be eaten with mindful attention to what you are putting in your body and why.  Honor your food, honor your body and you will feel amazing.  Now that’s why I like the Buddha bowl.

So I say put whatever you want in that Buddha bowl, get creative have fun with color, texture taste and make it your own.  This one I made with quinoa and whatever veggies I had in my refrigerator.

Quinoa, pronounced keen wah, is an ancient grain relatively new to our gluten free markets.  In its native country of Bolivia, it’s known as the mother grain and has been a staple in diets there for thousands of years.

Red quinoa is beautiful to look at and delicious to eat. Quinoa comes in three varieties – red, black and white.  It has a mild slightly nutty flavor and is an ideal gluten free alternative to pasta.

Wheat, rice and other grains are missing one or more essential amino acids. Whereas, quinoa has them all – making it a complete protein.  Amino acids are often referred to as the building blocks of the body. We need amino acids to build muscle and repair tissue, plus they play many other important roles in our health.

Not only is quinoa naturally packed with protein, but it also contains a healthy amount of fiber, iron magnesium and omega 3 fatty acids.  Quinoa is a feel good food –  it tastes great and also energizes and nourishes the body.  A win win!

Red Quinoa Buddha Bowl

1 cup quinoa
8 ounces fresh spinach leaves
2 cups broccoli florets
1 cup chopped carrots (sliced in rounds or on the diagonal)
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt fresh ground pepper

Cook quinoa according to the instructions on the package.  Place 1 inch of water in a sauce pan and add steamer basket.  Steam spinach until wilted.  Remove spinach from steamer and add carrots and broccoli.  Steam for 3 minutes or until tender, as you like it.  Whisk vinegar and oil together in a small ball to make the dressing.   Place quinoa and veggies in a large bowl.  Pour dressing over top and gently toss to combine.

Makes 4 servings