Sunday, December 11, 2011

DESSERT: Jazzy Chocolate-Chip Cardamom Gingerbread Man Cookes

I added a fresh twist to my classic gingerbread man cookies recipe by using chocolate chunks, nutmeg, ginger paste, chopped whole cardamom and cloves.
  • I replaced the all-spice in my previous recipe with 1/2 tsp of nutmeg powder and a single chopped cardamom
  • Ginger powder was replaced by 1/2 tsp of ginger paste - you can also finely chop ginger and run it through a garlic press
  • Instead of clove powder, I finely chopped approximately 4-6 cloves
  • Finally, a whole dark chocolate bar was chopped into small pieces and added into the batter

Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes and enjoy - bake longer if you prefer crispy cookies.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pizza as a Vegetable

“We are not saying pizza is a vegetable,” said Corey Henry, the spokesman for the American Frozen Food Institute, which supports the bill. “What we are saying is if you serve a slice of pizza with 2 tablespoons of vegetable paste, it can be an important way to deliver a number of vegetables that children will actually consume.”

Source: ABC News,

Monday, November 7, 2011

DESSERT/CRAFT: Bakri Eid Diorama

DESSERT: Dark Chocolate Glazed, Toffuti, and Brown Sugar Cake Pops

Servings: 20-24 Cake Pops

  • Cake mix
  • 12 oz of Toffuti cream cheese (or your favorite low-fat cream cheese) - this is approximately a tub and a half of cream cheese
  • 1 cup of brown sugar (or confectioners sugar if your not counting calories)
  • 8 oz of semi-sweet or dark chocolate (try baking chocolate, such as the Ghirardelli baking bar)
  • Lollipop sticks
  • Large Styrofoam square (or multiple pieces)
  • Large cookie sheet with wax paper
  • Bake the cake (using the mix), let the cake cool and refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours
  • Use a mixer to blend the cream cheese and sugar.  Refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours
  • Crumble the cake and mix in the cream cheese mix
  • You should be able to make a ball shape with the mixture - if not, add in more cream cheese
  • Stick the balls of cake mixture on a cookie sheet, stick in the lollipop sticks
  • Let cake balls chill - if you plan to make them right away, stick them in the freezer for an hour or so
  • Heat the chocolate in a double boiler setup - try high heat first, and reduce to low-medium heat within 7-10 minutes (TIP: You can also use this technique for chocolate dipped strawberries - see the picture to the right)
  • Quickly dip and swirl the cake balls in the mixture - swirl away any excess chocolate, and stick in the styrofoam to dry (and drip)
  • Be sure to decorate with sprinkles, eyes, etc. while the cake balls are still wet
  • For other extensive decorations, let the cake balls dry first and then decorate with frosting or fondant
  • Enjoy!
  • If you are presenting these as a gift, consider covering them with treat wrappers (Walmart and Target carry them - try the Wilton brand) and using a ribbon to tie them

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

DINNER: Presto Pesto Sauce

Pesto is one of those food items (like cupcakes and macaroons) that has been the subject of overkill over the last few years; nevertheless, I love this played out ingredient every time I have it.  I finally had to make it for myself, and have to say it was super easy to make.

Serving Size: 1 Pasta Dish

  • 1 whole garlic bulb, pressed
  • 2-3 cups of fresh basil leaves (stems removed)
  • 1/3 cup of walnuts or pine nuts
  • 1/4 - 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • Dash of sea salt
  • Note: no parmesan cheese is used - see the recommended preparation below
  • Grind nuts, garlic, and 1/2 of the oil in the food processor
  • Mix in basil leaves and continue to grind in the processor
  • Add in pepper and salt and pulse in food processor until the sauce is smooth
  • Recommended Preparation:
    • Heat pesto sauce and add in 1/4 tbsp of cayenne pepper and an additional 1/4 tbsp of black pepper
    • Add in 16 ounces of non-fat sour cream (try the Trader Joe's version)
    • Add in cooked spiral pasta (3/4 to a full standard package depending on how much you would like the pesto sauce to stand out)
    • Consider adding seasoned cooked chicken cubes to the pasta

Sunday, October 16, 2011

BREAKFAST/DESSERT: Awesome, amazing, easy-to-make, low-fat crepes

I had an unnatural fear of making crepes; I couldn't possibly figure out how to make the thin, chic-er, and tastier version of the pancake - it turns out I was very wrong.  This recipe is easy, healthy, and can be turned into a savory crepe by simply omitting the vanilla and sugar.

 Serving Size: 4 crepes

  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour (try the Trader Joe's version - or just use whole wheat flour)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1-2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • dash of salt 
  • Mix wet ingredients and dry ingredients seperately
  • Mix wet and dry ingredients together 
  • Heat medium sized pan on medium heat
  • Lightly grease pan (I prefer cooking spray)
  • Pour 1/4 of batter into pan
  • Swirl batter around quickly to ensure that the crepe batter is spread out as thinly as possible
  • Wait approximately one-two minutes, or until you can visually see that the batter is not soft
  • Use a flat spatula to carefully lift the crepe from all sides - flip and let the other side cook for 30-60 seconds
  • Enjoy!
  • My favorite toppings include a thin layer of cream cheese spread on 1/2 of the inside of the crepe and chopped strawberries and syrup on top of the folded crepe

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

DESSERT: Amazing, easy, dark-chocolate, agave-sweetened mousse

I've attempted a chocolate mousse before , but this is a better alternative for those of us who don't have the time or patience to monitor buttermilk on the stove. 

Servings: 4-5

  • 1 cup of skim milk
  • 8 ounces of dark chocolate (try the bittersweet pound plus Trader Joe's bar)
  • 3 tablespoons of agave
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 large eggs, seperated
  • 3 tablespoons of vanilla (or coffee)
  • Melt the chocolate in a medium sized bowl - I recommend a double boiler setup (place the chocolate in a bowl in a pan full of water over medium heat)
  • Beat the egg yolks and mix in the salt and the vanilla
  • Vigorously whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form
  • Wait until the chocolate visibly starts to melt - pour the milk into the chocolate - whisk vigorously 
  • Pour the agave into the chocolate and whisk
  • Mix in egg yolks one at a time into the melted chocolate concoction - whisk
  • Take the chocolate bowl off of the stove
  • Mix in the egg whites slowly - whisk
  • Set the mixture aside to cool
  • After about 5-10 minutes, place the bowl into the fridge for 30-45 minutes
  • Garnish with strawberries, whipped cream, or a sprig of mint
  • Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cheater's Guide to Ramadan

I know it's already more than half way through Ramadan 2011, but thought I would share some of my quick tips and trips to make sure you stay healthy and nourished the whole way through.  Apologies in advance, none of these tips involve changing time, visiting Alaska or Egypt, or sneaking in food:

  1. Always, always wake up for sehri (pseudo-breakfast before starting the fast)

    • I know a lot of people who opt to skip this essential part of fasting; I'll skip the spiritual benefits here, and stick to the ain't easy to fast for 15-16 hours without food or drink.  Skipping sehri just makes your fast longer and harder

  2. Carb and protein load at sehri

    • Eating complex carbohydrates coupled with proteins will help you to remain fuller longer, and ease your fast

      • Make sure you pick the right carbs, since complex carbs take significantly longer to digest than simple ones: think steel cut oatmeal, multi-grain bread, whole-grain cereals, brown rice, or even hummous

      • Eggs are always a great option for protein; if you're not a fan, try a nice greek yogurt coupled with granola and berries

  3. Flax seed never hurt nobody

    • While the oil format of flax is a bit harsh, try drizzling ground flax seed meal over your meal; this is just another way to keep you fuller longer

  4. Reserve citrus for evening meals

    • Citrus fruits tend to breakdown your food even faster and increase digestion - this is not what you want when eating sehri

  5. Don't count calories

    • Embrace some slightly higher calorie options, especially for sehri; again, you're trying to stay fuller longer.  For instance, sub your non-fat milk or yogurt with low-fat substitutes

  6. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

    • Don't drink all your water at once, but rather try to split up your daily water needs; try 3 glasses in the morning and another 3 in the evening (throughout dinner and before you go to sleep)

  7. Avoid extra-curricular activities

    • Fasting is exhausting, and fasting and working is especially tiring; try to limit activities that can wait until after Ramadan: shopping, traveling for leisure, and if it's not a must, working out

  8. Fruit may be painful

    • If you open your fast with fruit (besides dates) or fried foods, you may find that you're in a bit of pain upon eating

      • Try opening your fast with a date, water, and some kind of carb (bread, light pasta, etc)

  9. Sleep

    • Do not underestimate the value of sleep during this month; do what you need to do in terms of prayer, etc, but limit other activities (TV/chatting unnecessarily on the phone, etc) so that you can get a good number of hours of sleep prior to sehri (this should make waking up significantly easier as well)

    Thursday, June 23, 2011

    DRINKS: Condensed-Milk-Free, Agave-Sweetened, Avocado Shake (Sinh to Bo)

    The first time I heard of an avocado shake; I wasn't sure what to expect.  Once I had it, I was in love.  This genius Vietnamese sweet drink, is typically made with condensed milk (which is incredibly sweet and rich), avocados, and milk.  The traditional preparation is phenomenal, but I fear, highly fattening. My alternative uses homemade evaporated non-fat milk (am I the only one who doesn't have this stuff lying around) and agave, which allows you to enjoy this great drink with alot less guilt.

    Servings: 2-3

    • 2 ripened avocados (store tip: buy the avocados with a "mush" factor at the store - go ahead and squeeze them to make sure they're not rock hard), peeled and halfed
    • Agave syrup or brown sugar
    • 2 cups of non-fat milk - this is for the evaporated milk
    • 1 cup non-fat milk
    • 3-4 ice cubes (optional)
    • Simmer the 2 cups of non-fat milk in a small pot for 25-35 minutes - the goal is to reduce the milk's volume by about 60%
    • Stir in at least 2-3 tbsp of brown sugar or agave syrup to the milk while still warm
    • Pour milk in a small bowl and freeze for at least 25 minutes
    • In a blender or food processor, blend avocados and milk mixture
    • Add in an additional cup of milk and continue to blend
    • Blend in an additional 1-2 tbsp of agave if you want a sweeter drink
    • Add in ice cubes or refrigerate for an additional 20-30 minutes
    • Enjoy!

    Monday, June 13, 2011

    HOTSPOTS: Top San Francisco and Peninsula Dessert Finds

    In general, I think of myself as a healthy eater...there are some exceptions, however.  I have a huge weakness for sweets.  While I give in to my sweet tooth on a daily basis through some fairly innocuous items (e.g. Trader Joe's dark chocolate covered almonds, So Good 80 Cal Coconut  Chocolate Ice Cream bars, etc.),  every now and then, I feed the half-ton woman that lives inside of me, and when I do, here's what I enjoy:
    • Kalafia Cafe, Palo Alto - the menu here is amazing all around, especially dessert; don't leave here without trying the Kalafia version of a banana split: carmalized bananas, homemade ice cream, etc, etc
    • Cocolo Cafe, Palo Alto - while the food items here are average at best, the macarons are something to write home about - my favorite is the pistachio macaron
    • Cocolo Cafe, San Jose - do not leave Santana Row before having a chocolate roulette - absolutely phenomenal - perfect ganache, moist cake interior, and just the right amount of cream to bind it all together 
    • Patisserie Philippe, San Francisco - these guys know how to do macarons - pistachio and rose are especially amazing
    • Candy Bar, San Francisco - absolutely love this place - lounge and dessert bar in one- drop by and try it all; the best part is they have games lying around...indulge in a lavender honey creme fraiche semi freddo while playing Connect 4 - perfection!
    • Holy Gelato, San Francisco - move over Creamery, Holy Gelato's homemade gelatos are absolutely amazing: fresh, homemade, and come in flavors like Darth Vader Chocolate - enjoy!
    • Tart to Tart, San Francisco - this is an all around great French-style bakery - I took tarts and various other desserts to a dinner party, and they were a huge hit
    • G:m:me bakery, San Francisco/Peninsula  (by order only for a custom cake and they also have a stall at the Sausalito Farmer's Market) - by far the best classic chocolate cake I have ever had - I ordered custom decorated Le Chocophile Gateaux cake for my husband's birthday, and it was a huge hit - luscious, rich but not overwhelming, and just amazing
    • Dessert Republic, San Mateo - late night, Hong-Kong themed Chinese bakery/restaurant; if you're a bubble tea fan, crepe fanatic, or Chinese dessert afficionado, this is the place for you; try everything 
    • Sweet Breams, San Mateo - amazing little spot that serves fish shaped cream puffs (think Beard Papa, but more fun) - they have vanilla, chocolate, red bean, and usually one weekly/daily flavor - btw a "bream" refers to one of several species of freshwater fish...
    • Cafe Pascucci - the next time you're at the AT&T ball park, stop by this unique and very modern cafe - they have great desserts and unique coffee drinks (some have a pistachio swirl)
    • Teacake Bake Shop, Emoryville/Burlingame - go here, get a coffee and a chocolate whoopie pie - absolutely amazing
    • Kara's Cupcakes - San Francisco/Palo Alto/San Jose - I know the whole cupcakes trend is over, but this place is a reminder that cupcakes should not be forgotten - any and all flavors are amazing (chocolate velvet is a little piece of chocolate heaven)...also, note that the S'mores cupcake has a gelatin-free frosting
    I hope you enjoy my picks - you'll note that I didn't include any SF touristy/popular spots (e.g. Ghiradhelli, the Creamery, Miette, Bouchon, etc) - I was hoping to dive a little deeper than the usual suspects.

    Sunday, April 24, 2011

    DINNER: Indian Style Mushroom Chicken

    Indian chicken dishes don't often feature mushrooms, but I took a chance, and this recipe turned out pretty well...fungi away:

    Serving Size: 4-6

    • 1.5 tsp cumin, whole or ground
    • 1.5 tsp coriander, whole or ground
    • 2 cloves
    • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 2 tsp pepper
    • 1 tsp red chili pepper flakes (optional)
    • 1.5 tsp dried basil, or a fresh basil, chopped
    • 1 onion, diced (I prefer red, but it's up to you)
    • 1 pd chicken breast or thigh filets, chopped into small-medium size pieces
    • Place onions, coriander, cumin, garlic and cloves into a pan
    • Saute onions for at least 3-4 minutes on medium heat until golden brown (use at least 2 tbsp of canola oil)
    • Add mushrooms and allow to cook until mushrooms decrease in volume
    • Add chicken, black pepper, salt, cayenne pepper, and cover
    • Add basil and chili pepper flakes after the chicken has mostly cooked through
    • Serve over brown rice (and with a side of daal)
    • Enjoy!

    Thursday, April 21, 2011

    SIDE DISHES/DINNER: Easiest Indian Yellow Daal Recipe Ever

    I love Indian daal, but for some reason, always thought it was very complicated to make, and based on the recipes I came across, never had the right ingredients already at home. I made this last night, and it was incredibly easy, and delicious.  I recommend serving this over brown rice (I also like it with a protein - see "Indian Style Mushroom Chicken".

    Serving Size: 2

    • 1 cup yellow split peas, uncooked and rinsed
    • 2.5 cups water 
    • 1 tsp turmeric
    • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, ground
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 onion (red is best), diced
    • 1 1/2 tsp cumin, whole seeds or ground
    • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 1/2 tsp pepper, ground
    • 1 small tomato, diced
    • Place the peas and water in a medium pot, and bring to a simmer
    • Add the tomatoes, turmeric, cayenne pepper and salt, and cover
    • In a separate pan, saute onions, cumin, chopped garlic for 5-7 minutes (until onion is browned and soft)- you can use low fat butter or a tablespoon of canola oil
    • Add onions to the split peas
    • Add pepper and salt
    • ***If you like your daal to be more blended rather than seeing the individual split peas, let the split peas simmer longer before adding in onions - you should also use more water (maybe 3 cups)
    • Enjoy!

    Sunday, March 20, 2011

    LUNCH/DINNER: Cherry Tomatoes and Garlic Tofu

    I recently rekindled my love affair with cherry tomatoes, with a little twist: I try to cook them a bit as recent research indicates that the cooked tomatoes contain more lycopenes than the raw variety. I made this tomato/tofu combo the other day, and served it over a bed of mixed greens - it was a great dinner:

    Serving Size: 1-2

    • 1/2 container of extra firm tofu, cubed
    • 1/4 pd chopped cherry tomatoes (about 1/3 small basket of cherry tomatoes)
    • 2-3 cloves of fresh garlic, pressed or chopped finely
    • 1/4 onion, chopped finely
    • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp black pepper
    • Pinch of salt
    • 1/4 tsp of thyme, cayenne pepper, and coriander
    • Coat pan with olive oil
    • Saute garlic and onions for 1-2 minutes
    • Reduce heat and add in tomatoes and all spices, salt, and pepper
    • Toss in tofu
    • Let cook for at least 3-5 minutes
      • If the pan starts to dry out, feel free to add in liquid from the tofu or a bit of water - this lets you continue to cook your tofu without adding in additional oil
    • Serve over bed of greens or brown rice
    • Enjoy!

    Sunday, February 13, 2011

    HOTSTUFF: Skin Fix

    I recently ended up buying waxing strips from CVS (by the way, Nads is a very bad idea), because my local beauty supply store closed a few minutes before I arrived (Peninsula Beauty, please stay open later - some of us wolverines need premium products after 7).  A few days later I ended up with red, itchy, hive-like bumps all over my calves, ankles, and even feet!  This was not a good situation. I was miserable. I tried hydrocortisone creams, and there was no change; in fact, it only made the rash more angry. I finally came up with an interesting combination that started working almost immediately:
    • Clean the area first with witch hazel or a 1:4 apple cider vinegar - water solution
    • Mix and apply a combination of AloeLife Skin Gel and Dessert Essence Pure Australian Tea Tree Oil (both available at Whole Foods) to the area
      • I recommend adding only a few drops of the tea tree oil to the aloe vera as pure tea tree oil is very potent
    I would also recommend this solution post-threading or electrolysis.  Of course, you know your skin better than I do; if you have a serious situation, go to the doctor!  Good luck.

    Friday, January 21, 2011

    SIDES: Chicken Kabobs

    I came up with these a few weeks ago as I was preparing for a dinner party; I was expecting to make grilled chicken, until I realized I thawed ground chicken instead of chicken filets.  These make a great side dish to accompany a light Mediterranean or Indian meal.

    Servings: 6-8

    • 1 pound ground chicken breast
    • 1/2 onion, finely diced
    • 3/4 tsp black pepper
    • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced or put through garlic press
    • 1/4-1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
    • 1 egg 
    • Beat egg and mix in ground chicken
    • Thorough blend egg and chicken together
    • Mix in spices, garlic, and onions
    • Once spices are well distributed, form flat oval disks out of ground chicken mixture
    • Continue to form disks and place on plate
    • Heat canola oil in a skillet (ensure skillet is well coated with oil)
    • Pan fry several ovals at a time, ensure you turn over every few minutes - for every new batch, flip over 2-3 times every 2 minutes, and then reduce heat to low; cover pan for an additional 5 minutes
    • Continue the last step until all ovals are cooked
    • Enjoy!