Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

With spring in full swing and summer on its way, I thought I’d share with you this recipe for a fresh salsa. It’s not unlike pico de gallo—a classic Tex-Mex mix of tomatoes, herbs, onions, and (usually) hot peppers. What makes this recipe different is the chunky texture and use of little pearl onions in place of scallions or chopped red onions. Dressed lightly with a splash of olive oil and lemon juice, you could almost say that this salsa took a detour to Italy instead of Mexico.

I enjoy fresh salsa all year round, but especially in the warmer months when lighter food tastes good. Salsa is a great little condiment for grilled fish or rice and beans. For a quick salad, spoon some atop a bed of greens and top with a handful or two of chickpeas. As most fresh salsas do, this one also makes a terrific accompaniment to quesadillas or wraps. There’s something unique and different about fresh salsas that set them apart in a league of their own from the store-bought variety found in most supermarkets. It’s a brightness of flavor that just can’t be beat.

My local farmers’ market reopened for the season again on Saturday. I’m already dreaming of the beautiful heirloom tomatoes that will be piled high in the stalls in just a few months. Ripe and juicy and perfectly sweet, they’ll be knock-your-sandals-off good in this salsa!


Chunky Tomato and Pearl Onion Salsa – Makes 2 cups

10-12 red pearl onions, unpeeled

1 1/2 cups seeded, chopped Roma tomatoes (from about 2 large)

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Juice of 1/2 lemon

2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

Big pinch of sea salt

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

Bring a small pot of water to boil. When boiling, add the unpeeled pearl onions. Boil for 60-90 seconds; remove from water with a slotted spoon. When onions are cool enough to handle (this takes just a few minutes), cut off the root tips with a paring knife and discard. Rub off the onions’ skins with your fingers. Cut them in half and transfer to a small mixing bowl.

To the onions add the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine everything well. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Refrigerate until ready to serve, or up to 2 days.


Fruit salsas are another delicious and easy way to brighten up your dinner table. Check out my recipe for Spiced Black Beans and Rice with Mango Salsa. It’s one of my favorites!

Two more tasty salsa recipes…


This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.


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Carrot Cake Bites

These Carrot Cake Bites, featured in my guest post today over at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, taste like carrot cake in a snackable ball with none of the refined sugar, flour, gluten, or dairy found in most carrot cake recipes.

I love keeping a batch of these at the ready in my refrigerator during the warmer months because they have such a refreshing flavor. In addition to making a great snack or simple dessert to enjoy yourself or with your family, these are also a tasty treat to pull out when friends or neighbors stop by for an afternoon chit-chat. This seems to happen more often in the spring and summer, so it’s great to have some simple little recipes like this one tucked away in your repitoire for unexpected guests.

Be sure to visit Simply Sugar and Gluten Free today and check out my guest post on the importance of fruits and vegetables in the gluten-free diet. Big thanks to Amy for inviting me to post on her blog!


Carrot Cake Bites – Makes 12-15 balls

2 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped (about ¾ cup)

½ cup raw walnuts

¼ cup raw cashews

¾ cup dates, pitted and roughly chopped (about 5-6 large dates)

1 tsp. freshly grated ginger

½ tsp. cinnamon

Zest of one orange, optional

Sesame seeds or unsweetened shredded coconut, for rolling

In a food processor fitted with the S-blade, process carrots until finely ground. Remove and set aside.

Process the walnuts and cashews in the food processor (no need to clean it out) until finely ground. Add the dates and process until finely chopped and incorporated into the nuts. Add the reserved carrots, ginger, cinnamon, and orange zest (if using) and process until dough forms.

Shape the mixture into 12-15 small balls. Roll in sesame seeds or shredded coconut to coat. Refrigerate until ready to serve, or up to five days.


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You’ve gotta love a cookbook that makes you smile—even laugh—as you read it. Rebecca Katz’s The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen is food for the soul.

The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery

I picked it up a few weeks ago on the recommendation of some other Bauman College grads. I don’t have cancer or know anyone close to me who does, but that doesn’t matter in the least. Rebecca’s recipes for delicious, nourishing fare are perfect for anyone seeking to eat healthfully and support their immune system—whether they have cancer or not.

Along with the tasty recipes and sensational photographs in the book, Rebecca’s writing is a delight to read. Riddled with humorous stories and plenty of culinary and kitchen tips, The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen presents healthful cuisine in an engaging and “easily digestable” package. While the book caters to the physical needs of those undergoing cancer treatment or recovery, the recipes will tickle the tastebuds of foodies both ill and healthy alike.

I’m particularly eager to try the Thai It Up Chicken Soup, Middle Eastern Chickpea Burgers, and Mediterranean Lentil Salad. Before I get to any of these, however, I want to share with you an adaptation I made of Rebecca’s Anytime Bars.

In the headnotes of the recipe, Rebecca writes:

“The great thing about this recipe is that you can change the ingredients to fit your taste preferences. You can even split the batter and make half with currants and cranberries and the other half with walnuts or whatever you’d like.”

I took her advice and shook up the recipe a little bit to my tastes, including making them gluten-free. The results are scrumptious—er, were scrumptious. They’re long gone already…and it won’t be long before I’m making another batch.


Hallie’s Energy Bars – makes 20 bars

(Inspired by the Anytime Bars found in The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen)

 1/4 cup millet flour

2 tbs. flaxseed meal

Pinch of sea salt

1/8 tsp. baking powder*

1/8 tsp. baking soda*

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 cup raw, whole almonds

3/4 cup raw pecan halves

1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds

1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup quinoa flakes or gluten-free old-fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup (loosely packed) medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped

1 cup (loosely packed) dried Turkish apricots, roughly chopped

1 egg

3 tbs. honey or maple syrup

In a food processor fitted with the S-blade, process the millet flour, flaxseed meal, salt, baking powder and soda, and cinnamon until combined. Add almonds, pecans, and seeds and pulse 5-6 times to chop coarsely. Add quinoa flakes, dates, and apricots and pulse 10-15 times until everything is chopped and incorporated. (Mixture should still be fairly coarse.)

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg and honey. Stir in the nut and fruit mixture until evenly moistened. Press into an even layer in the prepared 9×9 baking dish. Bake at 325-degrees for 20-25 minutes until set and lightly golden brown on top. Cool completely in pan, then cut into 20 squares.

Bars will keep at room temperature for up to 4 days or refrigerated for 5-7 days.

*Note: I do not have an eighth-teaspoon measuring utensil—I don’t even know if they make those! So I just used half of a quarter-teaspoon and it worked perfectly.


Hungry for more cookbook recommendations? Check out my post on Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors. Find more great recipes for healthy food at Amy’s Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.


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We all have those nostalgic recipes lurking in the back of our minds that evoke a sense of the past, maybe childhood or home, when we make them and eat them. Perhaps for you it’s your grandmother’s “top secret” recipe for chocolate chip cookies or your aunt’s best-ever potato salad. Maybe it’s the first recipe you and your spouse made together or the one thing you remember eating over and over again in a college dorm.

I have more than just one nostalgic recipe that holds a special place in my heart. But today I’m going to share with you a twist on a near and dear one: all the flavors of salmon loaf turned into a dressed-up salmon salad.

Doesn’t every little kid love salmon in a loaf? I know I did. My mom always seemed to make it just right. Her recipe was simple: just salmon, breadcrumbs, an egg, chopped vegetables (usually onion, celery, and bell pepper), and sometimes mayonnaise all mixed together and baked in a loaf pan. Unmolded from the pan and cut into slices, it was a tasty supper served alongside some warm peas and roasted potatoes. I haven’t had salmon loaf for a long time now, being gluten-free and all, but I do enjoy a good salmon salad every once in a while. Not only is this healthy meal gluten-free and dairy-free, it also replaces the mayo with a bit of olive oil for richness instead.

It was thinking back on Mom’s salmon loaf that got me inspired to make this salad. I tossed together Mom’s classic combo of onion, celery, and bell pepper along with some canned wild salmon and a splash each of olive oil and lemon juice (Mom always served lemon wedges alongside her loaf). To sort of wrap the side dish of peas right into the salad, I threw in a handful of those as well for a pop of sweetness and color. Served up on a bed of greens, this delicious salad had all the flavors and colors of Mom’s salmon loaf but none of the breadcrumbs or mayonnaise that make it a bit indulgent.

When I took a bite of this salad—though it’s quite deviant from Mom’s original salmon loaf recipe—the memories came galloping back to the front of my mind: Mom in the kitchen stirring up ingredients with her trusty wooden spoon (which she still has, by the way)…reaching over the counter to give me a few strips of celery to nibble on…sitting down at the table as a family to chat about how the day went and enjoying a satisfying meal together.

Does life get much better?

I guess that’s why we have memories. To keep us mindful of what life used to be, of the simple pleasures we once savored, of the people close to us who we continue to love through the years, and of all the time stretched out ahead of us like a canvas ready to be spattered and splotched with new memories.

What are your nostalgic recipes?


Dressed-Up Salmon Salad  – Serves 1

3 oz. (half can) canned wild salmon, drained and flaked into bite-sized pieces

1/4 cup each: chopped bell pepper, celery, and onion

A few cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup fresh or dethawed frozen peas

Splash of olive oil and lemon juice

Salt and pepper, to taste

1-2 cups mixed greens

In a small bowl combine salmon, vegetables, tomatoes, peas, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Mix it all up well and spoon onto a bed of greens. Serve.

Looking for a crunchy gluten-free cracker or slice of flatbread to go along with your salad? Check out these recipes:


By the way, over the winter I devoted a whole entire post just to canned wild salmon. Head on over here to read it and find another tasty salmon recipe. It’s such a versatile and healthful ingredient. I always have some stocked in my pantry.

This post is linked to Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday.

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Have you ever given your personality a color? If you were a color, which one would you be? Blue, purple, yellow, orange, aqua, cream?

My family had a lot of fun with this color concept when I was growing up. After some thinking and lots of around-the-dinner-table discussions, we determined that my dad was silver—because he might be a little dull at first, but when you polish him up he really shines. My mom, a creative type with a keen eye for innovative design, cannot be pegged with just one color. Instead, the jewel tone palette better portrays her many depths and variations.

Me? I’m green, because I have many different shades. (This was my sister’s reasoning, by the way, which I think fits me perfectly.) Just think of all the greens out there:  the color of fresh spring grass contrasted with deep evergreen pine boughs; the murky water of a lake washing up gnarly masses of black-green seaweed; the pale hue of leeks and pistachios; the eery green light streaming across the water onto Gatsby’s lawn.

The color of this soup.

I like to think of green as the color of life, the universal shade of vibrancy and vitality. I felt like I was eating a big bowl of liquid life when I slurped down this soup for the first time. It tastes like you’re doing something good for yourself as you swallow spoonful after spoonful. And no matter what time of year or time of day, we could all use a little more liveliness in our lives, couldn’t we?

What’s your color? Give it some thought—maybe at the dinner table with your family as you eat this soup. Come on back and let me know what you find.  

Photo courtesy of Brianna Tittel


Garlicky Green Soup – Serves 4

2 tbs. olive oil

2 leeks, white and light greens parts halved lengthwise, then chopped crosswise

4 cups broccoli florets

6-8 cloves garlic, chopped

2 small red potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/3-inch dice

6 cups water or no-salt vegetable broth

4 cups spinach leaves, washed and chopped

1/2 cup parsley

1 cup frozen peas (no need to thaw)

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 tbs. lemon juice

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium. Add leek and saute until tender but not browning, about 4 minutes. Add broccoli and garlic; cook 2 minutes. Add potatoes and water. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook until potatoes are just tender when pierced with a knife, about 10-12 minutes.

Stir in the spinach, parsley, and peas. Remove pot from heat. Puree using a handheld immersion blender. (If you must use a regular blender, puree the soup very carefully in batches so that it does not splatter and burn you. Return the pureed soup to the hot pot.) Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in lemon juice and serve.


This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.

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A few weeks ago when I read Heidi’s post on Figgy Buckwheat Scones, I nearly fell out of my chair in utter adoration. They were beautiful. I could almost taste them just by looking at the pictures.

I left a comment saying that I might (timidly) attempt making a gluten-free, white-sugar-free version. And that’s just what I did. And guess what? It worked! They aren’t swirled like Heidi’s and call for some different ingredients, but I think that same concept of robust, deeply flavored buckwheat paired with earthy dried figs is still there.

It’s funny how something as simple as creating a successful recipe can send you on a high for the week. When I took my first few bites of these scones and concluded that they were good, my heart swelled for days afterward. The sense of accomplishment—“look at me! I made a gluten-free scone that doesn’t taste like a doorstop!”—really got me pumped.

Several days later, I (quite cockily, I’ll admit) attempted making a gluten-free, whole grain buckwheat pizza crust. Surely, after conquering something so monumental as a whole grain scone, a pizza crust would be a walk in the park. I’ll have you know that I was humbled—brought low, you might say—by my pizza-making experience. The look on my mom’s face, bless her heart, as she was eating the pizza with me said one thing: never again, Hallie. Never again.

So I’ve decided to stick with scones for now. And soups and salads, because they are pretty hard to mess up. I’ll leave pizza for the adventurous, experienced chefs with the minds for culinary greatness. As they knead their dough and flip rounds of crust high up in the air, I’ll be perfectly happy whipping up batches of fig butter and nibbling on these scones.


Buckwheat and Fig Butter Scones Makes 10

Note: these scones are not super sweet. They are more like a subtly sweet biscuit with bits of fig running through them. If you’d prefer a sweeter scone, add additional honey to the fig butter recipe. You may also make additional fig butter to serve with the scones once they are baked.

1 cup buckwheat flour

¾ cup millet flour, plus extra for flouring work surface

¼ cup tapioca starch

2 ½ tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

1 recipe Fig Butter (below), cold and cut into ½ inch cubes

½ cup plus 2 tbs. cream (half and half)

1/3 cup dried Black Mission figs, chopped small (stems discarded)

1-2 tbs. light or heavy cream, for brushing

Preheat oven to 400-degrees.

In a food processor fitted with the S-blade, combine buckwheat flour, millet flour, tapioca starch, baking powder and salt. Sprinkle fig butter cubes over top and pulse about 20 one-second pulses until mixture looks like wet sand with the largest butter pieces the size of small peas. Transfer mixture to mixing bowl.

With the side of a wooden utensil, scoot the flour-butter mixture to the edges of the bowl creating a well in the center. Add ½ cup plus 2 tbs. cream to the well. Gently mix into flour. When ingredients are just moistened, stir in Black Mission figs until just combined. Do not overmix.

Transfer mixture to a work surface very lightly floured with millet flour. Pat scone dough into a 10×7 inch rectangle, flouring your hands lightly if needed to keep dough from sticking to them. Cut dough into 10 evenly sized square scones. Arrange scones on a parchment-lined baking sheet spacing about ½ inch apart.

Bake at 400-degrees for 18-22 minutes until deep golden brown and crackled on top. Can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.


Fig Butter

½ cup dried Black Mission figs, cut into quarters (stems discarded)

1 cup water

1 cinnamon stick

½ cup butter, softened to room temperature

¼ cup honey

Combine figs, water and cinnamon stick in a small pot over medium heat. Bring mixture to boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until figs are rehydrated and liquid is deep maroon in color—about 8-10 minutes.

Drain figs, reserving 2 tbs. cooking liquid. Discard cinnamon stick. Transfer figs and 2 tbs. cooking liquid to food processor fitted with the S-blade. Process for 10-15 seconds to puree. Add butter and honey. Process for 15-20 seconds until mixture is fairly smooth. If a few small chunks of fig remain, that’s okay.

Transfer fig butter to plastic wrap or a plastic baggie and form a log or rectangle out of the mixture. Seal it up and chill until ready to use.


This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.

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I know that nuts really aren’t a seasonal food, but I still tend to associate different types with different seasons. Pecans and hazelnuts work their way into my holiday recipes at Thanksgiving and Christmas, while pine nuts tend to show up in the warmer months as I whip up batches of pesto and pasta salad with summer’s bounty. Walnuts and almonds are my go-to snacking nuts any time of the year. And pistachios? Well, to me, those just sing spring.

Usually I enjoy pistachios more in savory dishes than sweet. Their buttery texture and snappy crunch offer a lovely addition to salads of many kinds or platters of roasted vegetables dressed simply in lemon juice and olive oil. One of the pricier nuts on the market, I reserve pistachios for spare but savored use in only a handful of recipes. And yet, for the past few weeks on my trips to the grocery store I’ve eyed the pistachios every time, dreaming up some fancy way I could use them. Nothing came to me. Then, at least.

Last week when I was on my way to check out my groceries, I paused in the Whole Foods bakery section to peer into the glass case and feast my eyes upon all of the beautiful spring desserts. Three-layer carrot cakes, lemon curd tartlets, tiramisu, chocolate cupcakes, lattice-topped pies. And on the top shelf, tucked away in a corner as if they were too shy to take center stage, a cluster of tiny two-bite cakes almost too cute to imagine eating. Almost

If I could have, I would have bought a few of those little cakes on the spot and eaten them right then and there in front of the bakery case. But, cute as they were, the wheat flour and refined sugar in them simply wouldn’t do. While I’ll occasionally—rarely is a better word—make a treat or two with granulated white sugar, I avoid gluten completely. My body gets very upset if I don’t! But with the two-bite cake theme whirling in my head, I left the grocery store that day with the goal in mind to come up with a gluten-free, white sugar-free alternative that was tasty and, if I was lucky, just as cute as those little cakes in the case.

The two-bite cakes I came up with not only turned out adorable; they also gave me the prime opportunity to use luxurious pistachios in a new and different way. As you may already know if you’ve been around this blog for a while, I don’t like my “sweets” to be super sweet. In this recipe the actual cake batter is sweetened only subtly with a bit of honey. The real burst of sweetness comes from the chocolate. If you prefer a sweeter sweet, feel free to try bumping up the honey to your liking.

I can’t think of a better way to welcome the spring season than by popping down a few of these tasty morsels and heading outside for some sunshine. If you’re looking for more gluten-free, guilt-free treats to try this spring, check out “Go Ahead Honey, It’s Gluten Free” hosted by Amy of Simply Sugar and Gluten Free. Celebrate the season with delicious, guiltless pleasures!


Two-Bite Pistachio Chocolate Chip Cakes – Makes 16 mini cakes 

1/2 cup raw shelled pistchios, chopped

1 cup blanched almond flour

1/4 cup millet flour  

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted, plus extra for greasing the pan

1/4 cup honey

2 eggs

1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Grease 16 cups of a mini-muffin tin with coconut oil and set aside.

In a food processor fitted with the S-blade, grind 1/4 cup pistachios to a fine powder. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add almond flour, millet flour, baking soda and salt. Whisk to combine.

Separately whisk together coconut oil, honey and eggs in a small bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well. Fold in remaining 1/4 cup chopped pistachios and chocolate chips.

Spoon batter into the greased muffin tin. Bake cakes for 15-18 minutes until deeply golden brown. Cool completely before removing from pan. (For easy removal, run a sharp knife around the edges of each cake and gently lift out of pan.)

Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.



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One stretch of warm weather—by which I mean 60-degrees—and I’m already cranking out salads for every meal! With the balmy temps and sunny skies, my thoughts have turned to lighter cuisine airing on the cleansing side. Nothing tastes better than a big entree-size salad after a long winter of warming, hearty foods.

Last week I posted about greens and how they are such a delicious facet of spring. Shortly after I wrote that post I came up with the recipe for this salad featuring a tender mix of baby greens as the base. Use whatever blend of greens you like or that are in season. I made the salad with a few handfuls of spicy baby arugula, some tender spinach, and a little bit of romaine for some crunch.

Regarding the fish for this salad, feel free to use whatever is available and suits your tastes. I used tuna steaks, which I marinated in a splash of orange juice, olive oil, orange zest, and black pepper and then grilled. I’m eager to make this salad again with wild salmon or halibut, both of which I prefer over tuna but just didn’t have around at the time I first made the recipe. Of course, if you’re not much of a fish eater you could certainly swap in grilled chicken as well. But with spring on it’s way and, yes, even summer not far off, my tastebuds are asking for the light but satisfying flavor of fresh fish these days.

The dressing here is just your basic vinaigrette sweetened up a bit with some orange juice and made a tad crunchy with a sprinkling of sesame seeds. One of my biggest pet peeves is when a salad is over-dressed—in other words, swimming around in a gallon of dressing on the plate. So if the dressing here doesn’t seem like enough to you, that’s why. I air on the side of less when I dress things, especially vegetables, since I like to taste the flavor of the actual ingredient being dressed and not just a plateful of dressing. But if you prefer a more heavily dressed salad, I give you permission to double the dressing recipe and douse on as much as your heart desires. I’ll never know.


Grilled Fish and Baby Green Salad with Orange Sesame Dressing – Serves 4

For the salad:

7-8 cups mixed baby greens such as arugula, spinach, and romaine

3/4 – 1 lb. firm fish such as cod, halibut, tuna or salmon, grilled or broiled and flaked into bite-sized chunks

1 medium carrot, peeled and shredded

3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed

1/4 medum red onion, thinly sliced into rounds or half-moons

1 avocado, diced

For the dressing:

2 tbs. olive oil

Juice of 1/2 large orange

1 tbs. red or white wine vinegar

1 tbs. sesame seeds

1 tbs. fresh parsley, finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Arrange the greens on individual plates or a large platter. Top with the flaked fish, shredded carrot, peas, red onion slices, and avocado cubes.

In a small bowl whisk together all of the dressing ingredients until emulsified. Drizzle evenly over the salad and serve.


Looking for more delicious recipes as you usher in the spring season? Check out Slightly Indulgent Tuesday over at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free.


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For the past six weeks, give or take a day or two, my days have begun with a regular exercise routine. Here’s how it goes.

I roll out of bed—sometime between 6 and 6:30 usually—and head to the bathroom to splash cool water on my face and scatter any lingering dreams away with a wet wake-up call. I change (often quite sluggishly) from my snowflake patterned pj’s into stetchy work-out wear. With my eyes still squinty and tired, I tie on my shoes, grab my water bottle from the bedside table and half-sleepwalk out to the family room where I pop in a DVD and begin the insanity.

I’m not being dramatic. The exercise program is actually titled Insanity. It’s a 60-day, 6-day-a-week routine designed to increase endurance, lung capacity and cardio strength. And, as a surviving witness, I can tell you firsthand that it can truly get downright insane. They claim it’s the hardest workout ever put on DVD. I’ve never done other DVD programs before, but I’m pretty sure they’re not lying.

The first five or ten minutes of the workout is the worst part. Once I get my joints loosened up and the sleep shaken from my bones, it’s kind of invigorating. In an oh-my-gosh-my-quads-are-burning, when-will-this-ever-end sort of way.

To keep my energy up and my body nourished for the past six weeks, I’ve made a point of trying to incorporate enough protein into my diet. Adequate protein intake when you’re working out at a high intensity is critical to building muscle and staying strong. For many hard-core exercise gurus, high intensity exercise means pounds and pounds of animal protein. While lean meats like poultry and fish or something like eggs are dense sources of high-quality protein, they lack fiber and often a lot of vitamins and minerals. So as I’ve upped my protein intake, I’ve made a point of trying to incorporate as many vegetarian sources of protein as possible.

Beans and legumes top the charts for vegetarian protein while delivering an excellent amount of fiber and micronutrients. Nuts and seeds also offer protein (and healthy fats) as do whole grains—especially ones like quinoa and millet. In addition to providing protein, beans, legumes and whole grains are complex carbohydrates that help to fuel the body and give it energy. Just what you need as you power through insane workouts!

In my effort to fortify my diet with high-quality protein, I came up with this recipe for a Spicy Black Bean Ragout with Quinoa and Avocado Crema. It’s simple to make and supplies—according to my rough nutritional calculations—about 15 grams of protein per serving. Pretty good for a vegetarian, vegan meal.

Wish me luck as I continue jumping and jacking and pulling-up and pushing-up over the next few weeks! I’ll try my best not to go too insane.


Spicy Black Bean Ragout with Quinoa and Avocado Crema – Serves 3-4

For the quinoa and ragout:

1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained

2 cups water

2 tbs. olive oil

1 small-medium yellow onion, chopped

1 stalk celery, peeled and chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 small serrano chile, seeded and finely chopped

1 tbs. chili powder

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. coriander

1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes with juices

1 1/2 cups cooked black beans (or one 15-ounce can)

1 (4-ounce) can whole green chilies, drained and chopped

1 cup frozen corn (use fresh if in season)

1/3 cup water

Salt, to taste

For the avocado crema:

1 medium ripe avocado

Juice of one lemon

1/4 cup canned coconut milk (see *note below)

Pinch of sea salt

For garnish:

Chopped fresh parsley or cilantro

Chopped scallions

Start by making the quinoa: bring quinoa and water to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to very low and simmer 12-15 minutes or until water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy.

While quinoa cooks, make the ragout: heat olive oil in a medium-large pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and celery. Cook 3-5 minutes until becoming soft, then add garlic, serrano, chili powder, cumin and coriander. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add tomatoes with juices, black beans, green chilies, corn, water and salt to taste. Cook until heated through over low heat, about 8-10 minutes.

As quinoa and ragout finish cooking, make avocado crema. In a food processor or blender combine all ingredients for crema. Blend until very smooth.

To serve, arrange a bed of quinoa on large platter or individual serving plates. Ladle ragout over top and dollop with spoonfuls of avocado crema. Garnish with chopped parsley (or cilantro) and scallions.


*Note: if you do not use coconut milk often in your cooking and are wondering what to do with the milk remaining in the can, here are some suggestions:

  • Try it in smoothies as you would use almond or soy milk for a delicious creaminess and tropical flavor.
  • Stir into curries at the end of cooking to make the sauce extra creamy and luxurious.
  • Drizzle over fruit bowls of chopped mango, pineapple and bananas for a tasty dessert. Garnish with macadamia nuts.
  • Whip a few tablespoons of coconut milk with heavy cream for a tropical twist on basic whipped cream.
  • Oh, and here’s how to store coconut milk for best flavor and freshness: transfer milk from can into a glass jar or other glass container. Cover with a tight fitting lid and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.

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It seems to me that coconut has been popping up all over the place these days in recipes for everything from cookies and cakes to curries and casseroles. I think it might be one of those “vogue” ingredients that’s becoming stylish, kind of like sriracha hot sauce among gourmet cooks or green smoothies among healthy foodies. There’s even a whole blog devoted to all things coconut (which has some delicious looking recipes, by the way). 

So it’s about time I jump on the coconut bandwagon, I guess. But here’s the deal, and I’ll speak plainly: I just don’t like it. A splash of coconut milk here or there I can handle, but the shredded stuff? Eeeek. The thought of it alone makes me wrinkle my nose.

This is the stand-point I was coming from a few days ago when I stopped by the store to pick up a few ingredients for a new fig cookie bar I wanted to try. They were out of almost everything I needed from the bulk bins…black mission figs, dates, blanched almonds. Nada. What they did have was a full bin of prunes and raw walnuts along with plenty of my white, flaky nemesis—unsweetened shredded coconut.

I eyed the coconut with resistance, but in the end swallowed my fears and bought a small bag. I’ve given other ingredients a shot in the past—take black beans, for instance—and have turned out to love them. Maybe the case would be similar with coconut.

At home I whirled together the nuts and dried fruit along with some spices and orange zest to form the dough of what would become coconut-encrusted, bite-sized cookies. They’re a no-bake treat, which means I could sample one just minutes after they were formed (although I’d recommend chilling them first like the recipe says, since they hold up better that way). The verdict? A perfect blend of sweetness and spice with just a hint of coconut crunch, these cookies are tasty little morsels. Definately not over-coconut-y, which to me is a good thing.

While I don’t think I’ll ever be a coconut “nut,” I certainly think I can stomach a little here or there like in this recipe. Who knows? The more I incorporate coconut into my cooking the more I may grow to like it. I’m not sold on coconut quite yet, but this little lesson in experimentation definately reminded me that giving an ingredient a second (or third or fourth) chance sometimes isn’t so bad after all.


Zesty Coconut Cookies – Makes 1 dozen bite-sized cookies

3/4 cup raw walnuts

1/2 cup pitted prunes

2 tsp. orange zest

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ginger

1/4 – 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, for coating

In a food processor fitted with the S-blade, process walnuts until finely ground. Add prunes and process until finely chopped and incorporated into the walnuts, about 20-30 seconds. Add the orange zest, cinnamon and ginger. Process until incorporated.

Turn dough out onto a parchment-lined work surface. Divide dough in half. Divide each half in half so that you have quartered the mixture. Out of each quarter form three small bite-sized balls. Flatten the balls into round cookie shapes. Place unsweetened coconut in a bowl and turn the cookies in the coconut to coat evenly.

Chill the cookies until firm, about 15-20 minutes in the freezer or 1 hour in the refrigerator. After this intial “firming” time, the cookies can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.


This post is linked up to Fight Back Fridays.

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