Sunday, May 3, 2015

Cinnamon Chocolate Swirl Banana Bread {Grain Free}

This banana bread is seriously good.  No grains, no sugar, no gluten - it's hard to believe.  You'll need coconut flour and almond butter, but the rest of the ingredients are common pantry items.

The cinnamon chocolate swirl is fantastic.  The bread is sweetened only by the bananas and a little honey in the swirl.  I think you should give this bread a try if you are needing a little treat without the guilt!

Cinnamon Chocolate Swirl Banana Bread {Grain free, Sugar free}
adapted from The Paleo Kitchen by Juli Bauer and George Bryant

Coconut oil, to grease pan
For the bread:
4 medium bananas, or one pound peeled
4 large eggs
1/4 cup unsalted grass-fed butter, such as Kerrygold, melted
1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
For the swirl:
2 tablespoons unsalted grass-fed butter
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon (I used one tablespoon)
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 tablespoon honey

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 9x5" loaf pan and line with parchment paper.

Combine the bananas, eggs, butter, and almond butter in a food processor and process until smooth.  Add the remaining bread ingredients and process until well mixed.

In a double boiler, melt the swirl ingredients until fully melted and smooth.  Pour the bread batter into the prepared pan, then pour the chocolate swirl on top.  Use a knife to swirl the chocolate into the bread batter.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle.  Allow to cool 15 minutes in the pan, then remove from the pan and allow to cool completely before cutting.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Garden Party Teacher's Luncheon Recipes

Happy Spring!  I am organizing a teacher appreciation luncheon at my kids' school and the theme is "A Garden Party!".  It is completely run by parents and the food is all donated by parent volunteers.  (Thank you parents!)  

We invite about 150 faculty to have lunch in a small theater which has been decorated for the occasion.  The teachers always love it as they have a chance to eat without distraction and to know they are appreciated.

I came up with a simple menu and one which I think will satisfy the teachers' appetites, will be easy to serve without a kitchen, and will have choices for those who are gluten-free, dairy free or vegetarian.  I am posting a few recipes here so that the generous parents who choose to cook these items from scratch will have a place online to find the recipes.  Scroll down below the menu to see the recipes.  Parents, if something is not clear in the recipe, please email me at

Wish us luck!
Garden Party Menu

Creamy Tomato Soup (recipe below)

Chicken Salad on Croissants (recipe below)
Italian Sandwiches

Tomato Feta Pasta Salad (recipe below)
Fresh Garden Salad
Quinoa and Black Bean Salad with lime dressing (recipe below)
Fruit Salad Cups
Assorted Rolls

Iced Teas, Pellegrino, Water

Plenty of Assorted Homemade Desserts

Creamy Tomato Soup

6 tablespoons olive oil
8 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 large onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 heaping tablespoon dried basil, crushed
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano, crushed
6 28-ounce cans whole peeled Roma tomatoes
2 quarts chicken broth
2 cups heavy cream
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon coarse salt or sea salt
2 teaspoons black pepper

In a large, heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add carrots and onion and lightly salt and pepper the vegetables. Cook until vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes, then add garlic, basil, and oregano and cook about a minute more.

Add tomatoes, broth, cayenne, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer 45 minutes.

After allowing soup to cool somewhat, purée in batches in a blender or food processor until smooth.  Please blend carefully - Do not fill the blender more that half full and make sure that the steam has a way of escaping.
Stir in cream and heat over low heat until the soup is just heated through. Adjust seasonings if necessary.

Chicken Salad – to be placed on croissants on site

8 cups diced chicken - see note below
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
6 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
2 cups Hellman’s mayonnaise
2 tablespoons strained freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a mixing bowl, toss together the chicken, celery, scallions and parsley. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper to taste. Add to the chicken and mix gently until combined. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

NOTE:  The chicken can come from 8 roasted bone-in and skin-on chicken breasts (see below) or from the white and dark meat from 2 large or 3 small purchased rotisserie chickens.  

To roast the chicken breasts, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Place the chicken breasts, skin side up, on a sheet pan and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through, about 175 degrees internal temperature. Set aside to cool.

When the chicken is cool, remove and discard the skin and bones and cut the chicken into 3/4-inch dice.

Tomato Feta Pasta Salad
From Ina Garten

1 pound fusilli (spirals) pasta
Kosher salt
Good olive oil
2 pounds ripe tomatoes, medium-diced
1 1/2 cups good kalamata olives, pitted and diced
1 pound good feta cheese, medium-diced
12 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped

For the dressing:
10 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
12 tablespoons good olive oil
2 garlic cloves, diced
2 teaspoon capers, drained
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan
1 ½ cups packed flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water with a splash of oil to keep it from sticking together. Boil for 12 minutes, or according to the directions on the package. Drain well and allow to cool. Place the pasta in a bowl and add the tomatoes, olives, feta and chopped sun-dried tomatoes.

For the dressing, combine the sun-dried tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, capers, salt and pepper in a food processor until almost smooth.

Pour the dressing over the pasta, sprinkle with the Parmesan and parsley, and toss well.

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

4 cups cooked and cooled quinoa (from 2 cups uncooked), cook according to package directions
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp ground cumin
4 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 red bell peppers, chopped
8 green onions, white and light green part only, thinly sliced
large handful chopped fresh cilantro

In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, cumin, lime juice, salt, and pepper.  Add the cooked quinoa, beans, peppers, and green onions and fold together gently.  Add the cilantro and gently toss.  Taste for seasoning.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

North African Butternut Squash Soup

I have found that my tastebuds are getting more adventurous as I get older.  I have my basic butternut squash soup recipe which is delicious but sometimes it's fun to switch things up a little.  I'm so glad I tried this recipe.  It is a treat to the eyes as well as the tastebuds - colorful and delicious and provides lots of healthy vegetables (some kale or lentils might be good additions too).

A note about the ingredients:  The small cinnamon stick gives it just a hint of cinnamon flavor without overpowering.  The harissa is a chili paste that can be found in middle eastern markets and gives a nice depth of flavor.  This soup also has ground turmeric.  Hopefully you've heard about the health benefits of turmeric.  It's a superfood spice that's getting a lot of press lately.  It can reduce inflammation and has many other health-protecting properties.

Feeling adventurous in the kitchen?  Give this soup a try - your body will thank you!

North African Butternut Squash Soup
from The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook by Nancy Harmon Jenkins
Makes 6 servings

2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 sweet red pepper, chopped
1/2 to 1 tsp harissa, or 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
6 cups cubed butternut squash or pumpkin (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 14.5 ounce can plum tomatoes, chopped with their juice
2 bay leaves
1 short piece of cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups water or chicken stock
1 or 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro, optional

Combine the olive oil, carrots, celery, and garlic in a heavy-duty stock pot set over medium-low heat.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft but not brown, about 10 minutes.  Add the chopped pepper,  the harissa or crushed red pepper, and the butternut squash and cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the chopped tomatoes, bay leaves, cinnamon, turmeric, salt and pepper to taste, and 2 cups of water or chicken stock.  Bring to a simmer and cover the pan.  Let simmer about 20-30 minutes or until the squash is very soft.  If desired, blend the soup with a blender or a stick blender (I left mine chunky).  Add lemon and cilantro and adjust seasoning if needed.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Mexican Wedding Cookies

When Christmas comes around, I always ask the kids what treats they most want to make for Christmas.  Here's "the list" for 2014 and it's a good one!

English Toffee
Peanut Butter Blossoms
Orange Cookies
Caramel Brownies
Cinnamon Rolls
Gingerbread Men
Pecan Butterballs

Although I have no less than 4 recipes for cinnamon rolls/sticky buns on this blog, I just realized that I am currently using a 5th recipe!  I'll have to share that with you soon.  The only cookie on the list that I haven't shared with you are these Mexican Wedding Cookies, or Butterballs.  They are a bite-sized morsels of buttery, nutty goodness... kind of like Butter Pecan ice cream in cookie form!

Mexican Wedding Cookies
Makes about 40 1-inch cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup confectioners sugar, divided, plus more for rolling
1 cup pecans (or almonds or walnuts)
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment or silicone liners.

Sift together the flour and salt and set aside.  Process the pecans and 1/3 cup confectioners sugar in a food processor until finely ground.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and remaining 1/3 cup sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the nut mixture and the vanilla and beat until well combined.  Add the flour and mix until just combined.

Using a small cookie scoop to portion and using your hands to roll, form the dough into smooth 1-inch balls and place on the cookie sheet.  Bake the cookies for 15 minutes or until beginning to lightly brown on the bottom.  Remove the cookies from the oven and immediately sift confectioners sugar on the cookies.  Allow the cookies to cool completely on the cookie sheet.  When the cookies are cool, roll them in a bowl of powdered sugar until well coated on all sides.  Store in an airtight container.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Pumpkin Pie with Oat Crust {gluten free}

We traveled to New Bern, NC this past Thanksgiving to visit my parents and to see my brothers and their families.   The family is expanding with marriages and a baby on the way and it's rare these days that we are all together, but everyone was there and that made it really special!

I made this pumpkin pie to serve alongside my brother's famous rhubarb custard pies so that the guests could have a gluten-free option.  I had no idea how it would taste until we cut into it and tried a piece.  It was so good that Mark dubbed it "best pumpkin pie ever", gluten-free or not!  Coming from a pie connoisseur, that's saying something!  The crust held together nicely and the pumpkin custard sliced up beautifully.  If you're looking for a gluten-free dessert to make for Christmas, try this recipe!  Happy Holiday Baking!

Pumpkin Pie
Adapted from
Makes one pie

2 cups pumpkin puree (I used homemade roasted pumpkin puree)
1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup honey (I might try a little less next time)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or add 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp cloves)
Oatmeal pie crust (recipe below) or crust of your choice

Prepare the crust and chill.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, canned coconut milk, and 1/2 cup honey until smooth.  Whisk in the eggs, cinnamon, and pie spice.  Pour into the chilled pie crust just below the crimped edges.  Carefully transfer to the preheated oven and bake for about 50 minutes or until the filling is no longer jiggly in the middle.  If you have filling leftover, pour it into ramekins and bake until done (no jiggles).  Cool completely and chill before serving.

Oatmeal crust
Adapted from Good Without Gluten by Jules, Lepoutre, and Yanase
Makes a single pie crust

80g (2/3 cup) oat flour
45 g (1/3 cup) tapioca starch
40g (1/3 cup) almond flour
50g (1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon) confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
80g cold butter (6 tablespoons), cut into pieces
1 egg

Place all dry ingredients into a food processor and pulse to combine.  Add the butter pieces and pulse until butter pieces are pea sized or smaller.  Add the egg and pulse until mixture holds together.  Press the dough into the pie plate using wet hands, or parchment to keep your hands from sticking (a little tricky but try different things and see what works for you).  Try not to make it too thick at the corners of the pie pan like I did (i.e. try to make it the same thickness all the way around.)  Crimp the edges and chill until firm, about one hour.  

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Banana Pecan Oat Bars

Looking for a healthier treat to take to a meeting or get-together?  These delicious banana oat bars are a great alternative to those sweeter snacks that are made with refined sugar and flour.  You could even grab a bar for a quick breakfast on the go, and they are great with a cup of tea in the afternoon.  They are also wheat and dairy-free.  Enjoy!

Banana Pecan Oat Bars
adapted from Naturally Sweet and Gluten-Free by Ricki Heller
Makes 12-16 bars

1/2 cup coconut sugar
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
1 Tablespoon finely ground flaxseed
1/4 cup coconut or almond milk
1/4 cup avocado oil or melted coconut oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon natural smooth almond or sunflower butter
2 medium, very ripe bananas
1/3 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1 1/2 cups rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup whole oat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment or coat the pan with coconut oil.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the coconut sugar, maple syrup, flaxseeds, milk, oil, vanilla, and almond butter until sugar is dissolved.

Cut the bananas into chunks and add to the bowl.  Mash the banana chunks with a fork, leaving a few smaller pieces here and there.  Stir in the cranberries and chopped pecans.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, coconut, oat flour, baking powder and salt.  Pour the wet mixture over the dry mixture and stir well to combine.  The mixture will be wet.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake for 40-45 minutes until the top is dry and a tester inserted into the middle of the pan comes out clean.  Cool completely before cutting into bars.  Freeze any portion which will not be consumed within a day or two.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Purslane - is this super weed growing in your garden?

Purslane is a common weed found in most of our yards and gardens.  I call it a superweed, not because it is unmanageable, but because it is a nutritional powerhouse!

Check out these nutrition facts:

-purslane has more omega-3 fatty acids (in the form of ALA) than any other plant food.  100 grams of fresh purslane contains 350 mg of ALA.  Increasing our intake of omega-3's has been linked to better heart health and decreased systemic inflammation.

-it is a good source of many vitamins and minerals including vitamins C and E, riboflavin, beta carotene, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium and calcium.

-purslane is also high in dietary fiber, contains antioxidants and is reported to contain compounds which help with depression.

Purslane growing among the thyme and rosemary.

In my garden, I practice selective weeding.  I'll pull other weeds and leave the purslane to grow.  It is actually beneficial to the surrounding plants as it provides a great edible ground cover which helps retain soil moisture and prevents other weeds from taking over.  It grows low to the ground so it doesn't impede my other plants from getting the sunlight they need - and it's such a cute and happy looking plant!

Purslane is an annual plant that reseeds itself each year.  The seedlings will appear when the soil warms to 76 degrees F.  The plant will grow in just about any soil conditions, even in the cracks of the sidewalk, and the seeds can remain viable in undisturbed soil for more than 30 years.  I will allow some of my purslane to flower and go to seed to ensure that I will have more purslane next year.

I think purslane is delicious.  It has a mildly tart lemony flavor. I eat purslane straight from the garden sometimes, but most of the time I'll add it to a salad along with other greens.  (Only harvest purslane in areas which you know have not been chemically treated.)  The leaves, tender stems and flowers are all edible.  Just pinch off the stems, or pull the entire plant and cut off the roots if you are trying to control the plant.  

I added olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to the bowl of purslane in the photo at the top of this post and ate it all!  It can also be added to potato salad, soups, or anywhere you would use spinach or other greens.

In the case of purslane,  I'm happy to ask my kids, "have you eaten your weed today?"

Purslane as ground cover under my tomato plants.



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