2 Things You Will Never Have To Buy Again

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There are two things you never ever need to buy from the grocery store: salad dressing and pesto sauce.  It’s not that the ones you buy from the shop will harm you in anyway.  It’s just that the freshly made ones are far more superior in taste, and they are super easy and fast to make.  Maybe there will be a little washing and chopping, or maybe not.  Maybe it will involve some stirring, or maybe just turning on a button on the food processor.  It’s done in a matter of minutes and you feel so accomplished and talented having done that. I didn’t know that until I began searching for healthier and tastier salad dressing to help me and my family eat better.

Since the weather warmed up, we have been eating a lot of salads and the whole family finds them delicious and satisfying — largely because of the homemade dressing.  It could be as simple as just fresh lemon and olive oil with a little salt and pepper.; no store bought dressing, no matter how fancy, could beat the taste of it. 

Today, I tried this simple pesto recipe from Epicurious and am now convinced that I will scratch pesto sauce from my shopping list forever.  It was as if I had never had pesto before in my life — that’s how wonderful it tasted compared to any pesto I had ever bought in any store.

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INGREDIENTS

2 cups fresh basil

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/4 cup pine nuts

1 garlic clove

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup olive oil

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PREPARATION

Place all ingredients except basil in a food processor and puree until almost smooth. Then add basil and puree some more.  Adding basil last keeps it from turning brown.

Serve.

Note:  One important thing is to buy the best and freshest ingredients when it comes to this recipe.

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Pesto Cauliflower Salad

Ingredients:

Cauliflower florets from 1 head cauliflower

3/4 cup to 1 cup fresh pesto sauce depending on the size of the cauliflower.  I used 3/4 cup.

Preparation:

Steam florets for 6 minutes and let cool completely in a large open container or colander. Mix the fresh pesto sauce with the cauliflower to coat.  Serve at room temperature.  

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Lemon Almond Souffle & Vegetarian Taco by Audrey

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Audrey cooked dinner for us tonight.  She opened a package of wheat protein called Seitan and made delicious vegetarian tacos.  A dash of this and a dash of that.  She claimed that it was a secret recipe, but I think she was just improvising as she went.  She enjoys the kitchen almost as much as I do.  She is fast — turning out a meal in a matter of minutes, leaving behind a mess as if the hurricane has swept through the kitchen.  She looked so cute and sweet in her apron that I couldn’t get mad at her.

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In April, Audrey and I filmed at this lovely little cafe theater in Las Vegas called Inspire Theater.  On the magazine rack I saw a stack of Vegetarian Times Special with “5-Ingredient Recipes” on the cover and I immediately swiped one copy.  This 5-ingredient soufflé recipe is grain free, dairy free, paleo-friendly and deceptively easy to make.  It is melt-in-your-mouth light and airy.  Most importantly, it is absolutely delicious!

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Lemon-Almond Souffles

Ingredients:

2 teaspoon coconut oil

4 large eggs, separated

3 tablespoon honey, softened or Joseph’s sugar free maple syrup

3 tablespoon fresh organic Meyer lemon juice + zest from 1 lemon

3 tablespoon almond meal

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Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease 6 4oz. ovenproof ramekins with coconut oil up to the rims.  Chill ramekins in refrigerator.

Whisk together 3 egg yolks, honey, lemon juice, lemon zest and almond meal in medium bowl. (Discard or use the extra yolk another time.)

Beat 4 egg whites with electric mixer until stiff peaks form.  Fold meringue into egg yol mixture with spatula.

Fill Ramekins two-thirds full, and bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until puffy and golden brown. (I baked it for 12 minutes.) Serve immediately. 

We made the first batch with honey and a second batch with Joseph’s sugar-free maple syrup.  Both came out great.

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Rainbow & Black Rice Salad with Mango and Peanuts

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On today’s New York Times, there was an article by columnist David Brooks titled Small, Happy Life.  When asked to share about their purpose and meaning in life, many readers submitted essays about what Brooks calls the pursuit of the “small happy life” instead of the lofty ideals and goals we usually hear about in graduation commencement speeches. 

When I was young, I was plagued by the free-floating existential angst about life’s ultimate meaning.  Having a family quelled that, mostly.  Life’s goal became extremely simple after I gave birth to my children: feed them, love them, raise them and give them the best I can give.  To rear the young has been the purpose of every mother from the beginning of time — be it birds or cats or monkeys or humans.  In my small happy life, I have a family, great books, great food, mostly great children, a lot of headaches, occasional crises and most importantly a lot of love  — everything I need to have meaning.

Audrey has been doing a school project called “My Life” which is presented in photos and videos.  They are supposed to talk about their dreams for the future at the end.  As she was putting the presentation together, she called out to me, “What do I want to be in the future, mommy?” I thought it over for a beat and said, “Anything you want to be, darling.”  And I meant it.  And she became a little frustrated, “That’s the problem.”  She finally settled on “Action Star.”  I hope in this small happy life that I strive for, my children can reach for the rainbow.

Speaking of that, here is a salad with every hue of the rainbow.  I saw it on epicurious and was immediately drawn to it by the vibrant colors of the salad.  I have always enjoyed the combination of sticky rice, mango and peanuts in Southeast Asian dessert, and this salad reminds me of the times I have spent in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

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Black Rice Salad with Mango and Peanuts

Ingredients:

2 oranges

1/4 cup (or more) fresh lime juice

1 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon sesame oil

2 teaspoon fish sauce

2 teaspoon soy sauce

2 cups black rice (preferably Lotus Foods Forbidden Rice)

Salt to taste

2 just-ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted, cut into 1/2″ dice

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves

1 cup finely chopped red onion (about 1/2 large onion)

1/2 cup dry-roasted peanuts

6 scallions, thinly sliced

2 jalapeños, seeded, minced

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Preparation:

Remove peel and white pith from oranges. Working over a medium bowl to catch juices and using a small sharp knife, cut between membranes to release orange segments into bowl. Squeeze membranes over bowl to release any juices. Strain juices through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl; reserve orange segments.

Add 1/4 cup lime juice, oil, and fish sauce (if using) to bowl with orange juice; whisk to blend. Set dressing aside.

Bring rice and 2 3/4 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Season lightly with salt. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until all liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, about 25 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let stand, covered, for 15 minutes. Spread out rice on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with dressing, and season lightly with salt; let cool.

Place mangoes and remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Add rice and toss gently to combine. Season lightly with salt and more lime juice, if desired.

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Fifty Shades of Green

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I didn’t come up with the name, I have to admit.  (I never read the book either.)  Sometime ago, I saw a similar salad on a food magazine in a doctor’s office and thought it would be a fun idea to try making a salad with all spectrum of the color green.  It’s amazing how this homogeneous looking salad is so richly diverse in taste from bite to bite — each shade of green is its own unique flavor and texture.   

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Fifty Shades of Green

Ingredients for the salad:

3 packed cups torn butter lettuce

1 packed cup mixed spring greens

1 packed cup Arugula

1 cucumber, sliced

2 avocados, sliced

1/2 cup shelled pistachio nuts, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped

Ingredients for the dressing:

Juice of 1 Meyer lemon

1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste

1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt (I used nonfat Fage)

2 teaspoon chopped dill

1 teaspoon honey

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Preparation:

Mix all the ingredients for the dressing in food processor.

Mix all the leaves in a salad bowl. Pour the desired amount of dressing and toss to mix.  Add avocado and gently toss with the rest of the salad.  Top with pistachio nuts before serving.

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Poached Halibut in Shiitake Soy Broth

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Angela left on her own for Boston on a 6 AM flight.  I was surprised by her decision to fly back to Andover to visit her friends, many of whom will be graduating next month.  Angela has always hated to travel.  When we took her on a 3 week trip to Europe two years ago, she said we were “force feeding her caviar.”  When I wanted her to join me in Hungary, Malaysia and New Zealand this summer, she said emphatically, “No.  Why would I want to go there?  I hate traveling.  I will only fly when it’s necessary.”  No matter what I said, she could not be persuaded to go to these wonderfully exotic places to visit me.

Going to Andover to see her friends before they leave for college seems to be very important for Angela.  This is a new side of her that I didn’t know before — that she really cherished her ties with friends.  When she was in elementary school and middle school, I tried to organize playdates for her to develop stronger friendships, but she never wanted that.  I was afraid that she might take after me and be awkward and uncomfortable with people all her life.  In this sense I am happy and relieved that she is not like me.

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Angela (in red coat) with her friends in Andover from her first year there

When I asked her what she was going to do tomorrow with her friends, she said she would shadow them at their classes.  Angela is a true nerd who loves the classroom.  This is her way of bonding and spending time with her friends here at UHS, too.  She goes to their classes with them when she has a free period.  What kind of kid would want to go to classes that she didn’t have to go to?  But that is Angela for you. And I miss her terribly.

For dinner, I made this really delicious poached halibut. 

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Poached Halibut in Shiitake Soy Broth

4 6 ounces halibut

6 to 8 large dried shiitake mushrooms, or 12 to 16 fresh ones, sliced

1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce

1/2 cup Shaoxing cooking wine, or other Asian cooking wine

1 1/2 cup water

2 tablespoon goji berries (optional)

1 tablespoon xylitol or brown sugar

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

2 stocks green onion, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon ginger, thinly sliced + 4 thin slices for the broth

1 red jalapeño, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon cooking oil or sesame oil

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Preparation:

If you are planning to use the dried shiitake mushrooms, soak them in warm water for an hour and then wash them.  Save the soaking water, but not the sediments in the bottom.  Boil the shiitake in the soaking water to make them soft before slicing them.  Save the broth. 

If you are using fresh shiitake, wash and slice them and set aside.

In a cooking pan, on medium heat, heat up 1 1/2 cup of shiitake water, the sliced shiitake, the soy sauce, xylitol or sugar, goji berries, 4 slices of ginger and wine.  When the broth begins to boil, add the fish in and close the lid to cook for 6 to 8 minutes until the fish turns opaque.  Do not overcook; the fish meat will break apart and toughen if overcooked.

If there is not enough broth, add a little more water.  If the broth gets too deluded add a little more soy sauce.

When the fish is cooking, set a sauce pan on medium high.  Add 1 tablespoon of oil.  Test it with a slice of green onion or ginger to see if it sizzles.  When it does, add the sliced jalapeño, ginger and scallion in the oil and let it sizzle for about 45 seconds to a minute.

Separate the fish into 4 deep plates with equal amount of broth.  Pour the ginger, scallion jalapeño and the oil equally onto the 4 pieces of fish.  Serve immediately.

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Cilantro Lime Prawns

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My friend Betty, who loved my Healthy Cherry Garcia Ice Cream Pie, just emailed me a photo of the Xylitol that she bought from Amazon.  The email read, “Am so excited. I wonder if this means I will start cooking??!!!”  I love it when I can get my friends to cook and share their results with me.  It’s funny how people unabashedly share so many photos of their food everywhere. Food porn is definitely an undeniable part of mainstream American culture that all ethnic groups participate in – from all the food channels to blogs to Facebook sharing to Instagram to text messages etc. etc. – nowadays even eating alone can be a social event.  Food has been bringing people together for centuries; now virtual food is bringing people together in a different way.

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So here it is:  Cilantro Lime Prawns

This flavorful dish goes well with yesterday’s corn salad, or the corn chowder that I have shared in February.  I can’t wait to cook the chowder again with fresh corn.

Ingredients:

1 pounds peeled and deveined prawns or jumbo shrimp

1/4 teaspoon teaspoon ground cumin

Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

5 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tablespoons lime juice (from 1 medium lime)

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

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Preparation:

Season the shrimp with cumin, and salt and pepper to taste.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to the pan, then shrimp. Cook them undisturbed for about 2 minutes. Turn the shrimp over and cook until opaque throughout, about 1 minute.

Add crushed garlic and stir for 30 seconds, and then add the 1/4 chopped the cilantro and stir for another 30 seconds.

Squeeze the lime juice over all the shrimp. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Cook in batches if you want to double the recipe.

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Adapted from Skinnytaste.com

Against All Grain

I am traveling this weekend and regrettably will not be in my kitchen, but I want to share with you the wonderful dishes from my guest blogger, New York Times Bestseller cookbook author Danielle Walker, who overcame debilitating disease through healthful eating.  I found her story and her cookbooks inspirational and hope that you will enjoy these recipes.

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Hello Hungry Empress readers! I hope you enjoy my new recipe collection. Each recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free and Paleo-friendly.

Eating a nutritious diet focused on meals and snacks prepared at home doesn’t have to be intimidating. While it does take a little extra work to prepare things from scratch, I think you’ll find that you’ll not only enjoy the food, but also the process.

I’ve included a few of my favorite tips for easing nutritious eating and cooking into your regimen—if you haven’t already!

·         Planning meals and cooking ahead is key to keeping up a good habit, like eating and snacking healthfully

·         Never waste fresh produce, repurpose it! For example, if you start to notice your bananas ripening and you are not ready to enjoy them, simply peel and throw them in a plastic bag and place in the freezer

·         Use Mason jars for portable and compact lunches

Feel free to stop by my blog Against All Grain for more tips, recipes and information about my cookbooks.

Enjoy! Danielle

The new recipes include:

·         Chocolate Almond Cherry Power Cookies

·         Almond Matcha Superfood Smoothie

·         Thai Shrimp Salad with Spicy Almond Dressing

·         Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken with Chopped Almonds, Apricots and Cauliflower Couscous

·         Layered Chia & Almond Pudding Parfait

Danielle Walker's Chocolate Almond Cherry Power Cookie

Chocolate Almond Cherry Power Cookies

Yields 16 cookies

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons ground chia seeds

1/2 cup unsalted natural almond butter, unsweetened

1/2 cup ground flaxseed

1/2 cup arrowroot powder

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup unsweetened dried cherries, chopped

1/4 cup dark chocolate pieces (80% cacao)

1/4 cup sliced almonds

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk together 1/2 cup hot water and ground chia seeds and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes to thicken.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the almond butter, flaxseed, arrowroot, applesauce, maple syrup, cinnamon, lemon juice, nutmeg, ginger and sea salt. Mix on medium speed to combine fully.

Add the thickened chia mixture to the bowl with the baking soda and beat again until fully combined. Stir in the cherries and chocolate pieces.

Using a cookie scoop or a large spoon, drop dough onto the lined baking sheets. Wet fingers slightly with warm water and gently press the mounds down to flatten slightly. Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with sliced almonds.

Bake for 15 minutes, until golden brown around the edges and the almonds are lightly toasted. Cool on a wire rack completely before serving.

Danielle Walker's Almond Matcha Superfood Smoothie

Almond Matcha Superfood Smoothie

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk

1 cup baby kale, packed

3/4 cup frozen pineapple

1/2 cup frozen mango pieces

1 medium frozen banana

2 tablespoons unsalted natural almond butter, unsweetened

1 tablespoon matcha green tea powder

2 teaspoons chia seeds

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender. Blend on high until smooth. Serve immediately.

Danielle Walker's Thai Shrimp Salad with Spicy Almond Butter Dressing

Thai Shrimp Salad with Spicy Almond Dressing

Serves 6

Ingredients:

For the Spicy Almonds

1/2 cup whole natural almonds

3/4 teaspoon maple syrup

1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon coconut aminos

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1/8 teaspoon paprika

For the Dressing

2 tablespoons unsalted natural almond butter, unsweetened

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped

1 tablespoon lime juice

2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the Salad

1 pound wild shrimp, tails removed, peeled and deveined

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt and pepper

1 cup mung bean sprouts

1 cup carrots, julienned

1 cup red cabbage, shredded

1 cup cucumber, julienned

4 cups arugula

4 cups mixed baby greens

1/4 cup fresh chopped basil

1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro

1/2 cup dressing

1/2 cup spicy almonds, chopped

Directions:

To make the spicy almonds: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Toss all of the ingredients together in a bowl, then spread the almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and drizzle with any remaining sauce. Bake for 10 minutes, turning once halfway through. Cool completely, then roughly chop.

Meanwhile, make the dressing: Place all of the ingredients in a blender except for the olive oil. Blend until smooth. With the blender running, slowly drizzle the olive oil into the blender in a steady stream. Add one tablespoon of water, to help keep the dressing liquid when refrigerated.

To assemble the salads: Toss the shrimp in the olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Heat a grill pan or skillet to medium-high heat and cook the shrimp for two minutes on each side, until pink throughout. Set aside to cool.

Divide the dressing between six 24-ounce Mason jars or bowls. Divide and layer the remaining salad ingredients in the four jars or bowls in the order they are listed, with the lettuce and shrimp at the top. Leave 1 inch of space at the top of the jar.

Garnish each with about 1 tablespoon chopped spicy almonds, cover and refrigerate until ready to enjoy. When ready to enjoy, shake the jar vigorously to mix the ingredients and dressing.

Danielle Walker's Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken with Chopped Almonds, Apr...

Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken with Chopped Almonds, Apricots and Cauliflower Couscous

Serves 6

Ingredients:

For the Chicken

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 pounds bone-in chicken thighs, skins removed

Salt and pepper (to initially season the chicken)

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon cracked pepper

1/2 cup unsalted chicken stock

1/4 cup unsalted natural almond butter, unsweetened

6 ounces unsweetened dried apricots

1 pound baby carrots

For the Cauliflower Couscous

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3/4 cup yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon cracked pepper

2 tablespoons unsweetened dried cherries

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Zest of 1 lemon

For the Garnish

1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

1/4 cup fresh cilantro

Directions:

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper then add half of the chicken to the pot. Cook for 5 minutes, browning on all sides. Transfer the chicken to a slow cooker and repeat with remaining chicken.

Return the pot to the stove and add onion and garlic and sauté for three minutes or until tender. Add the ginger, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cayenne, salt and pepper and sauté for 30 seconds or until fragrant.

Stir in chicken stock and almond butter, scraping pot to loosen any browned bits. Pour contents of pot over chicken into the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for five hours.

Add the apricots and baby carrots to the slow cooker, cover and cook an additional hour.

Meanwhile, prepare the cauliflower couscous. Rice cauliflower by running the florets through a food processor with a grating attachment or use a box grater to create rice-like pieces. Pick out any large fragments that didn’t get shredded and save for another use. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onions and garlic for 2 minutes, then add the cauliflower, salt and pepper. Sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender. Stir in the cherries, basil, cilantro and lemon zest.

Garnish the chicken with toasted, sliced almonds and fresh cilantro. Serve over cauliflower couscous.

Note: To toast almonds, spread them in an even layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for 5 minutes.

Danielle Walker's Layered Chia & Almond Pudding Parfait

Layered Chia & Almond Pudding Parfait

Serves 6

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin powder

2 cups unsweetened almond milk

6 ounces pitted dates

1/2 cup unsweetened raw cacao powder

1/3 cup chia seeds

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 medium bananas, sliced

1/3 cup unsalted natural almond butter, unsweetened

1 cup mixed berries of choice

1/4 cup roasted almonds, chopped

Directions:

Pour 3/4 cup water into a saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin over top. Turn the burner to med-high heat and whisk until the gelatin is fully dissolved. Set aside.

Combine almond milk, dates, cacao powder, chia seeds, vanilla, cinnamon and sea salt in a blender. Blend until very smooth, about two minutes. With the blender running, slowly pour in the gelatin liquid. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.

To assemble the parfaits: Divide the banana slices between six 8-ounce Mason jars or bowls. Spoon equal amounts of almond butter into the jars, then top with equal amounts of the chilled pudding. Top with berries and almonds and serve immediately or refrigerate covered for up to three days.

Avocado-Yogurt Dip

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Angela is cramming for finals this week — there have been a number of papers due and a final exam coming.  The poor girl is sick and pulling all nighters.  I don’t see her much other than the time when she needs food — either meals or snacks.  I prepare a variety of healthy snacks that I believe are good for physical energy and mental clarity and wait patiently for her to emerge from her room.

This creamy and nutrient-packed avocado yogurt dip is deliciously satisfying.  If you need to stress eat, this tasty dip with a platter of vegetables and some baked yam fries is your best bet.  It will quench your need for eating without adding any guilt.  If you need to stay up past the wee hours and find your head becoming heavy, add a little punch to it — Tabasco sauce, chipotles or Sriracha, just to name a few. 

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Avocado-Yogurt Dip

Ingredients:

1 ripe avocado

1/2 cup Greek yogurt (I used non-fat Fage)

1 clove garlic

2 tablespoon chopped scallion

1/3 cup packed cilantro

1/4 teaspoon salt

Smoked paprika to sprinkle (I sprinkled quite liberally)

Spicy sauce (optional)

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Preparation:

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Simple as that!  Sprinkle smoked paprika.  Season with spicy sauce of choice if desired.

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Baked Yam Fries

Ingredients:

1 yam (cut into 1/4 inch slices and then 1/4 strips)

Olive oil spray to coat the yam strip

Salt to taste

A few dashes of paprika or cinnamon

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Preparation:

Preheat oven at 450F.  In a baking pan, coat yam strips with olive oil and sprinkle on salt and paprika.  Do not over crowd the pan.  Each strip should be separate from the other.  Bake for 20 minutes.

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Healthy Cherry Garcia Ice Cream Pie

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I like it very much when friends could surprise me with impromptu visits and share a dish or a dessert that I’ve made.  Today Betty was able to come by and share the healthy Cherry Garcia Ice Cream Pie with me. 

Betty’s family has deep roots in Chinatown, where they have owned several landmark buildings for many generations.  Since her recent retirement, Betty has been on full throttle to reinvigorate Chinatown by organizing jazz events, dining events or hiring mural artists to beautify the walls of the buildings.  When Angela wanted to write her AP history thesis on Chinatown architecture, Betty told her how the existing chinoiseries style came about. 

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It turned out that after the 1906 earthquake and fire, there was a racist movement to chase the Chinese people out of Chinatown and relocate them to Hunter’s Point.  The goal was to move it from valuable land next to the central business district. The Overland Monthly proclaimed: “Fire has reclaimed to civilization and cleanliness the Chinese ghetto, and no Chinatown will be permitted in the borders of the city.”

Keenly aware of racist sentiment, Chinese leaders sought to rebuild in a way that would let Chinatown overcome its reputation as an overcrowded, diseased bachelor’s slum full of gambling and opium dens.

Look Tin Eli, a prominent Chinese merchant, envisioned a city of “veritable fairy palaces” and hired American architects, who stuck pagoda-inspired rooflines and other Asian motifs facades on Western buildings, to create an “Oriental” streetscape, which would attract tourists from around the US and the world.

This was the first time I learned that the style of architecture was not at all inspired by Chinese nostalgia for the old country, but by survival.  This faux Chinese atmosphere was the ingenious vision that kept Chinatown where it is.  When I first arrived in the US and felt homesick, I went to New York Chinatown looking for familiar things to quell my longing.  It was no wonder that I felt just as much a stranger in Chinatown as anywhere else in New York.

However, having lived in the US for more than 30 years, Chinatown has grown more dear and appealing to me as a Chinese American.  Its beauty is a part of Chinese American history.  I come here often to get my Chinese vegetables and spices.  And where else would I get fresh sweet cherries for under 2 dollars a pound?

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Cherry Garcia Ice Cream Pie

Ingredients for Healthy Chocolate Pie Crust:

2 tbsp cocoa powder or cacao powder

1/2 cup raw walnuts (you can also use cashew, pecans, or macadamia nuts)

1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

1/8 tsp salt

scant 1/2 cup pitted dates (I used 6 large Caramel Naturel fresh Medjool dates.  They are soft and sticky.)

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Preparation for Crust:

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend. Then transfer to an 8-in baking dish or aluminum pan. Using a piece of wax or parchment paper, smush into the pan and pour desired filling on top or refrigerate until ready to use.  I used saran wrap to line the baking dish for easy transferring of the pie after it is done.

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Homemade Cherry Garcia Frozen Yogurt Pie

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups plain yogurt of choice (I used non-fat Fage)

1/16 tsp salt

Sweetener to taste (I used 5 tablespoon xylitol + 2 packs stevia)

1/2 cup milk of choice 

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup to 1 cup chopped pitted cherries, diced (fresh or frozen) 

4 tbsp shaved chocolate (you can either use knife or vegetable peeler)

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Out of all the healthy ice cream that I’ve made, Cherry Garcia is Audrey’s favorite.

Preparation:

Blend the first 5 ingredients in food processor (I used vitamix).  Pour into ice cream machine and let churn for about 5 minutes.  Add chopped cherries and shaved chocolate.  When the ice-cream is the right consistency, pour into prepared pie crust. and Return to freezer for 30 minutes to a hour.  If the pie gets too hard in the freezer, let it thaw for 15 or so minutes before serving. 

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Adapted from Chocolatecoveredkatie.com

Carrot Lemongrass Soup and Watercress Salad with Sesame-Garlic Dressing

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A few days ago, I received a box of Smart Soup. There were five different flavors and today I tried the Vietnamese Carrot Lemongrass Soup.  It’s remarkable that this low-sodium, vegan frozen soup could be this flavorful and satisfying.  I enjoyed it even more than the Santa Fe Corn Chowder from the other day, which was also quite delicious.  I’m definitely going to stock more Smart Soup in my freezer.

This soup can go well with many of my Asian recipes, such as Asian peanut noodle with chicken, healthy pineapple fried rice, Thai lemongrass chicken or vegetarian aloha spring rolls

The soup complemented perfectly the salad that I made today.  Soup and salad made a perfect meal for a warm day like today.

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Watercress Salad with Sesame-Garlic Dressing

Ingredients for Dressing:

Juice from 1 large lime

1 tablespoon fish sauce (if you don’t have fish sauce you can use soy sauce)

1 tablespoon brown sugar or xylitol

2 teaspoon 100% pure sesame oil

1 teaspoon finely minced garlic

1 minced jalapeno pepper

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Ingredients for Salad:

1 1/2 cup trimmed watercress or arugula

1 1/2 cup torn butter lettuce

3 to 4 radishes, thinly sliced

1 avocado, sliced

4 boiled eggs

1/4 cup finely chopped green onion

1/4 cup cilantro

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

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Preparation:

To make hard-boiled eggs, place in a small saucepan and cover with enough water to submerge the eggs.  Bring to boil and turn off the stove and let sit on the stove for 10 minutes before rinsing in cold water.  Cut into quarters.

To make the dressing, mix all the ingredients in a bowl.

To make the salad, mix the lettuce, watercress, radishes, green onion and cilantro in a salad bowl.  Separate equally into 4 dishes.  Top each place with 1 egg, 1/4 avocado.  Pour the dressing over the salad and sprinkle with sesame seeds.