It’s not easy to love a minimum wage job at a mall. But, I loved my part-time job at Pasta & Co. In the 80′s, fresh pasta was a retail novelty. While Pasta & Co was one of Seattle’s first retailers to offer fresh pasta, it was their specialty sauces and prepared foods which captured my imagination. The owner, Marcella Rosene put a creative twist on everything in that store, from selecting unique and defining recipe ingredients, such as black sesame oil to her beautifully hand scripted product labels. In her stores, something as simple as croutons were memorable. Pasta & Co. The Cookbook, the first cookbook I ever bought myself, is still with me today, dog-eared and splattered. The book is now out of print. But, I noticed a few new copies available on Amazon for $215! Continue reading “Quinoa & Black Bean Confetti Salad” »
It’s not summer without the occasional nostalgic, cool treat. Fudgsicles were a childhood favorite of mine. There was something about the way they slowly morphed from a frozen solid into creamy, chocolate pudding. Unfortunately, three of the top six ingredients in those fudgsicles are sugar, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup. Keep reading the label and you will find other goodies, such as cellulose gum and polysorbate 80. Continue reading “Healthy Fudgsicles” »
A gluten-free, grain-free, vegan brownie? You might wonder – why bother?! The Minimalist Baker convinced me otherwise. Here, I have adapted her black bean brownie recipe to make it sugar-free as well.
Beans, being a magical fruit in more ways than one, make a healthy brownie possible. Here, beans replace flour with pure vanilla and raw cacao camouflaging the bean flavor. Date paste replaces sugar. The result is a firm outside encasing a moist, dense and rich chocolate pudding-like texture inside. Only slightly sweet, this is an adult-style brownie. Think flourless chocolate cake, but healthier and antioxidant rich. Continue reading “Black Bean Brownies” »
Dates are naturally moist and sticky with hints of carmel, brown sugar and often vanilla flavor. These qualities make dates an excellent alternative to processed sugar in smoothies baked goods, such as breads, cookies and bars or as a spread.
Adding sweetness with dates means adding nutrition without refined sugar’s roller coaster ride. The natural sugar in dates, invert sugar, is easily absorbed and assimilated by the body. Yet, their high fiber content makes them a low-glycemic index food. So, dates or date paste, not only support healthy blood sugar levels and elimination, but also helps you stay full longer. Dates are also high in iron, calcium, are even richer in potassium than bananas. Dates are also a rich source of minerals, such as chlorine, copper, magnesium, sulphur and phosphorus. Continue reading “How to Make and Use Date Paste” »
Also known as Mexican Lemonade, Chia Fresca is simply lemon water with chia seeds and sweetener. This version is sugar-free and only ever so lightly sweetened with liquid stevia or maple syrup. Super refreshing, you can sip this all day long, keep hydrated and gain the nutritional benefits of the chia seeds. Winning.
- 3 cups filtered water
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon or lime juice
- 1/2 cup chia gel or seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon liquid stevia or 1 tablespoon maple syrup (or sweetener of choice)
Simply combine all ingredients, shake, and you’re done. The seeds will settle to the bottle of the container. Shake intermittently if you want to keep the seeds in suspension. Just like a summer snow globe…
Have chia seeds been massively over-hyped as a ‘superfood’ by marketers? It seemed that way to me. As a result, I was a bit slow to warm up to them. But, learning that the word “chia” means strength created intrigue in these seeds.
Grown in Mexico since the era of the Mayans and Aztecs, chia seeds have been known for centuries for their energizing and hydrophilic properties. Chia seeds are able to absorb up to 10 times their weight in water. As such, these sponge-like seeds became a favorite among ancient, and now modern athletes, for their hydrating as well as endurance properties. This absorbent quality also makes chia-containing liquids very filling, creating a following among dieters. However, researching the culinary uses for chia seeds, they seemed little more than a substitute for ground flax seeds.
So, how do chia and flax seeds compare nutritionally? Both chia and flax seeds are high in fiber, calcium, phosphorous, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Of note, chia seeds score bonus points for being a complete protein, of which flax seeds are not. Also, unlike flax seeds, chia seeds don’t require grinding to render the nutrients bioavailable and they are less prone to rancidity. Hmmm.
The next question, naturally, was how do chia seeds taste compared to flax seeds? My informal taste test involved topping a salad with chia seeds instead of my usual ground flax seeds. Instead of flax seed’s nutty flavor, the chia seeds tasted …almost tasteless. Boring? Perhaps. But, their neutral taste is what I now love about Chia seeds, in particular when made into a gel.
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 1 cup filtered water
Chia seeds, water, a mason jar and about 15 minutes are all it takes to make a chia gel. Simply add the chia seeds to water and stir well. If using a mason jar, secure the lid and shake intermittently to make sure the seeds don’t clump together into a gelatinous mass. Or, stir with a fork. After about 15 minutes the gel will be thick enough to hold a spoon upright (if using the ratio for an egg replacement). Chia gel will keep refrigerated for about two weeks.
WAYS TO USE CHIA GEL
- Use as an egg-substitute in baking.
1 egg = 1 tablespoon chia seeds + 3 tablespoons water = about 1/4 cup gel
- Add to smoothies. Yes, you can add the seeds directly into smoothies, without creating a gel. But, the little seeds tend to stick to the sides of the blender. Clean-up is easier when you add the seeds in gel form.
- Make your own boutique juice beverages. You’ve seen them at the grocery store, now make them at home. Simply add some gel to your freshly juiced beverage to make it even healthier and more festive.
Shown below: Ginger Beet Juice with Chia.
NOTES & MORE CHIA IDEAS:
- If you have food allergies or are on high blood pressure medications or blood thinners, you should ask your health care provider before adding chia to your diet.
- Chia Seed Nutritional Information
- Nutritional Comparison: Flax vs Chia Seeds
- How to Make Chia Fruit Jams
- Chia Pudding Primer
What are your favorite ways to use chia seeds and chia gel?
September through May, good quality, freshly ground coffee and my French press are all I need when I’m in a coffee state of mind. But in the summer, my efforts failed to satisfy the inner coffee elitist inherent in us Seattle natives. My DIY iced coffee attempts (serving a concentrated brew over ice cubes, regular strength brew over coffee ice cubes) proved less than satisfying; watery and sometimes leaning towards bitter. The horrors. Continue reading “Cold Brew Coffee” »
Believe it or not, there is something more irresistible than coconut milk. That would be whipped coconut milk. Airy, light and slightly tropical, coconut whipped cream is about to become your topping of choice for desserts, fresh fruit or licked straight off the beaters. Isn’t that the best way to eat any kind of whipped cream?
The process is as simple as whipping regular heavy cream with just a few tips to consider. The main ingredient is full fat coconut milk, chilled overnight. Do not use light coconut milk. I repeat, do not use light coconut milk. Not ever. Not for anything. Use full fat coconut milk.
I prefer organic, GMO-free coconut milk, ideally in a BPA-free can. But, my buying preferences and full fat requirement aside, the brand you select does matter. But, more about that later.
1 13.5 ounce can of full-fat coconut milk
1 tablespoon maple syrup (or agave or sugar)
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
1. Place your can of coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight so that the thick coconut cream will separate from the liquid. Chilling the beaters or whisk and mixing bowls is also helpful.
2. Turn the chilled can of coconut milk upside down, so that the liquid is at the top. Open the can (removing the bottom) and pour off the liquid. Set it aside for other use. This is prime liquid for smoothies and can also be used in baking or cooking. Note: If the solids have not separated from the liquid, use the coconut milk for something else as it will not whip up.
If you removed the top of the can, simply scoop out the solids on the top and place them in the bowl you will use for whipping.
3. Using a mixer or immersion blender, mix on high-speed until the cream is fluffy and forms soft peaks, about 4 or 5 minutes. Keep an eye on it. It may not become as light and airy as whipped heavy cream. But, like heavy cream, you can whip it too much.
4. Add the sweetener and extract of choice and whip again until blended.
5. Whipped coconut cream will keep refrigerated for at least a week. If it separates or loses its mojo, simply whip it up again.
HEALTHY USE OF WHIPPED COCONUT MILK
Whipped coconut cream lends itself to enjoyment in all the same ways you would enjoy traditional whipped cream. However, most individuals should feel free to indulge more liberally in coconut cream than in its dairy cream cousin. True, this is a high-fat item. But, coconut milk is full of healthy fats, which give us a sense of fullness and satiety. True, the fat in coconut milk is saturated fat. But, not all saturated fats are equal. The saturated fatty acids in coconut oil are predominately medium-chain fatty acids or MCFAs, also known as medium chain triglycerides.
MCFAs are transported directly to the liver. In the liver, they are immediately converted into energy, rather than being stored as fat. So, MCFAs may help promote weight maintenance without raising cholesterol levels .
WHICH BRAND OF COCONUT MILK IS BEST?
Does it really matter? It turns out it does matter, quite a bit. I’ve been making whipped coconut cream since finding Oh She Glow’s tutorial. I loved the idea, not only for its simplicity and delicious taste, but also because I always have a can of coconut milk on hand. Now, I always keep one in the back of the refrigerator, ready for action. Doesn’t a whipped topping make any treat a little more special?
Excited to share this treat via a blog post, I was less than thrilled when my most recent attempt was a wimpy FAIL. No soft peaks here. Not so thick. Instead, it was a droopy, wet mess. What happened?
I typically buy Native Forest or Thai Kitchen Organic coconut milk. This time, I used Native Forest, but did not get the usual satisfactory results, which led me to do a little research.
Beth of Tasty Yummies to the rescue. Her comparison of different coconut brands pointed out that brand differences in stabilizers and origin of the coconuts may greatly affect their whipping potential. Check out her site to see how gorgeous your desserts can look with whipped coconut cream. She too had experienced inconsistency with trying to whip up the Native Farms brand. Native Farms – it’s you, not me.
Frustration and culinary ego-bruising behind me, I purveyed a few more cans of Thai Kitchen coconut milk and deposited them directly into the refrigerator. The result was the top photo in this post. That’s what I’m talking about. Now, I’m ready for the 4th and hope you are too!
 “Physiological Effects of Medium-Chain Triglycerides: Potential Agents in the Prevention of Obesity”. J. Nutr. 132(3): 329–332. 1 March 2002.
This dish is all about the creamy chipotle avocado dressing. Silky avocado and zesty lemon dance with the smoky, kick of chipotle pepper. You won’t miss the mayo.
Customize the vegetable and fruit blend to make it your own. Savoy cabbage is particularly good for slaw salads. Savoy cabbage is more tender and less bitter than the green or red cabbage most of us typically select. As such, there’s no need to salt it before serving it uncooked. Dice, grate, slice…it really doesn’t matter much. But, keeping the produce sections thin will ease even dressing coverage. Customize the volume as you like. But, who doesn’t like having a salad ready to go in the fridge? Chop now and be veggie-ready for days!
Costco is responding to demand for organic packaged foods as well as produce. You never know what you will find! Here, my newest discoveries, a deep greens blend and baby beets are tossed with red onion and my favorite lemon vinaigrette. Simple. Delicious. Easy.
Earthbound Farm – Organic Deep Greens Power Blend
Earthbound Farm’s Spring Mix is fantastic, but Deep Greens is a welcome change. This blend of triple washed tender baby greens; kale, red and green chard and spinach is ideal for juicing and smoothies as well as salads. Deep Greens is a power dose of vitamins A and C in a 1.5 lb bag for $5.99. This goes on my perennial Costco shopping list.
Love Beets – Pre-Cooked Organic Baby Beets
You’ve got to love the name. These are true baby beets, none more than 2-inches in diameter and at their most nutrient-rich stage. Love Beets are available plain or dressed in vinaigrette, making them a great add-in for salads or other sides. But, for a feature dish, I would probably opt for fresh beets. Twenty baby beets are conveniently packaged in 4 units of 5 beets each for $7.99.
What are your favorite organic finds at Costco?