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Shortbread cookies hold a special place in my heart for many reasons. I have been eating them my whole life. They remind me of my parents–who are entering their twilight years, and who both love shortbread over all other cookies. I used to relish opening a new tin of Walkers assorted shortbread cookies, carefully selecting different shapes. And I like shortbread because I generally distrust sugar and love butter.

I also like that I don’t mind giving my children a shortbread cookie as a sweet treat since they’re relatively low in sugar (emphasis on “relatively”), yet my kids still see it as a cookie, a treat. They also enjoy helping me make the cookies, which can be whipped up in 30 minutes. Well, full disclosure here, it is currently so hot in Brazil, that by the time I incorporate the butter with the dry ingredients, it has melted so much that I have to chill my dough before rolling, cutting and baking it. But in most parts of the world, shortbread cookies can be made quickly and easily with so few ingredients.

Perhaps the best part about shortbread is that you can add just about anything you want to the dough. Here, the recipe is with fresh-grated lemon zest, but you can add chocolate chips or chocolate chunks, grated orange zest, ginger, lavender, or chopped nuts and dried fruit as seen in my holiday recipe for pistachio cranberry shortbread.

 

Ingredients

8 tablespoons (112 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature or slightly cooler

1/3 cup sugar (also good using just 1/4 cup)

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

zest of one lemon (finely grated)

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup (140 g) all-purpose gluten-free flour, I like this brand 

1/3 cup almond flour

 

Preparation

In a medium-size bowl, or food processor, combine the butter and sugar until evenly incorporated. Stir in the vanilla extract and lemon zest.

Whisk together the flours and salt in a small bowl and add to the butter mixture. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Turn out onto a floured surface and roll into a rectangle that’s approximately 3/8-inch in thickness. Cut into bars roughly 1.5 inches by 3 inches or use cookie cutters to cut into different shapes. Place cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake at 325F for 20-25 minutes or until lightly golden brown on the edges. Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for at least 5-10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack or munching. These cookies keep for several days if you store them in a airtight container after they’re completely cooled.

Enjoy!

 

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I thought that after moving to Brazil I would be trying all sorts of local dishes and generally cooking up a storm. However, between work, and my oven, which doesn’t have a broil function, and my burners, which don’t allow any simmering, I have reduced my cooking ambitions enormously. Add this to the fact that everything I do here in Brazil takes longer than it did in California. For example, I used to ride my bicycle to take my son to school, which roundtrip amounted to approximately 20 minutes. Now I go by car to take my children to school and it takes 50 to 60 minutes–and another 50-60 to collect them in the afternoon. So my cooking has suffered, but we are making the most of living here by visiting some beautiful beaches.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the beaches we’ve visited thus far, along with a few photos of each.

Porto de Galinhas – The town itself is fairly touristy with only so-so food, but the area boasts expansive beaches, clear water and natural pools in which you can safely snorkel. We stayed at the beautiful Nannai resort outside of town, where we overate at every meal since the buffet spreads (I posted a a few pics on my Instagram) were out of this world and just too tempting to resist. The area is easy to access by flying into Recife then taking a one hour car ride south.

 

Praia dos Carneiros – We first visited this beach just for a day as part of our trip to Porto de Galinhas (it’s about an hour’s drive south), but we immediately wanted to go back. So a few weeks later, we made a special trip Praia dos Carneiros and stayed in a modest pousada.

We love this beach because it has a very sleepy, underdeveloped, and even still wild aspect to it. Everywhere you see jungle that looks impenetrable even though it’s probably not. There’s a fairly famous (at least to Brazilians) restaurant, Beijupa, right on the beach.

 

 

Buzios – Often referred to as the St Tropez of South America, Buzios is a charming town with great little boutiques, amazing food (many of the best restaurants are owned by Argentines), and crystal clear water for snorkeling and diving. Twenty-eight beaches surround the town, some of which are easier to access than others. I saw incredible sea creatures I’ve never seen before, and coral that looks like giant red potatoes. (Too bad I don’t have an underwater camera, and that the waterproof case I bought for my iPhone is impossible to use in the water!) I celebrated my birthday at Rocka Beach Club and Lounge which has a picture perfect view overlooking the beach.

Buzios is slightly more difficult to get to in that you have to fly into Rio de Janeiro then make a 4-5 hour journey by car to the actual town, but I loved it. We stayed in a modest but comfortable pousada on the hill above one of the beaches, and even though Brazil is a long, long way from home (California), I can envision having a home to retire to in Buzios.

Happy trails!

 

Orange almond muffins

 

I should rename my blog, “Muffin Mama,” since it seems I bake muffins at least twice a week. Baking is stress-relieving for me. In California, I baked muffins and breads regularly, but I because I haven’t bought a loaf pan yet here in Brazil, I’m all about the muffin. Unfortunately, because I can’t figure out the temperature on my oven in Brazil, there have been many muffins batches I wanted to share but couldn’t because they cooked too hot to be worth photographing.

I like making muffins because they’re simple to prepare, fun to eat, easy to make gluten- or dairy-free and low-sugar, and possess some element of nostalgia (possibly from the 80s–or was it the 90s when muffins became so popular that offering “muffin tops” even became a thing?). My kids love them, too, and I can put in all sorts of ingredients, such as carrots, zucchini, wheatgerm, and nuts, while keeping everyone happy.

This recipe is slightly more sophisticated than the banana or blueberry muffins I usually bake. These muffins you might serve when you invite someone over for tea or coffee, or as part of a brunch spread. They have a moist, delicate, cake-like texture, and the orange and almond combination make them just a tad sophisticated–if I can be so bold as to suggest muffins can have any sophistication. These would make a great companion to a leek and gruyere quiche or tart or an herb omelette if you’re inviting friends for brunch.

I’m crazy about almond, so you’ll appreciate the subtle almond flavor in these. If you don’t like almond, just use vanilla extract–just make sure it’s good quality, pure vanilla. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.

 

Ingredients

3/4 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour (I like this brand)

1 cup almond flour

2 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp sea salt

2 eggs

1/2 cup sugar

zest of one orange (roughly 2-3 tsp)

1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice

1/3 cup plain yogurt

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp almond extract

1/3 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted

 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare a 12-muffin tin by either greasing the cups with a little olive oil or lining them with paper muffin cups.

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs until mixture is even in color. Whisk in sugar, orange zest and juice, yogurt, oil, and extracts.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder and salt. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet mixture and stir until combined. (Don’t over stir.) Spoon the batter evenly into the muffin cups.

Lightly toast the sliced almonds under just lightly golden. Sprinkle evenly over the batter-filled cups. Place in the center of the oven and bake 18-22 minutes or until the edges turn gold and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool 5-10 minutes before serving. Once completely cooled, muffins can be stored in an airtight container for up to four days.

Enjoy!

 

Salmon with soba noodles

 

Salmon regularly gets rated as one of the top 10 foods in terms of nutrition and health benefits. Salmon is one of the best sources of Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which studies have shown decrease inflammation, and reduce risk of heart disease and cancer. Salmon also boasts high levels of vitamins critical to maintaining the healthy brain functioning, including B-6 and B-12, as well as potassium, selenium and niacin.

I’m constantly trying to invent ways to get my kids to eat more salmon (important for those growing brains!). They love it in sushi, but I don’t trust myself selecting, buying and preparing raw fish, and we don’t eat out often enough. I regularly put smoked salmon in crepes because my kids will eat anything wrapped in a crepe, but when you want a very tasty dish that’s a bit more sophisticated, this makes a good choice.

I can’t remember where this recipe came from… It remains a dog-eared page torn from a now nameless magazine, but it remains one of our favorites. Quick and easy to prepare, you can’t go wrong serving this dish, and you can dress it up or down.

 

Ingredients

4 fresh salmon fillets (6-8 oz per person)

3 tbsp light soy sauce

3 tbsp dark soy sauce

Juice of 1 lime

3 tsp honey

1 clove garlic, crushed or finely chopped

1-inch piece of fresh ginger, finely grated or chopped

1 package soba noodles (cooked per package instructions)

2 tbsp toasted sesame oil

 

Preparation

Whisk soy sauce, lime juice, garlic and ginger in a small bowl. Place the salmon fillets in a glass baking dish and spoon the soy mixture over evenly. Allow to rest for 20 minutes.

Heat a grill or turn on broiler function in the oven.

Boil a pot of lightly salted water for the noodles. When the water comes to a boil, add in the noodles and cook per the instructions on the packet (usually 5 minutes). Drain and rinse with cold water. Toss with the 2 tablespoons of sesame oil.

Remove the salmon from the marinade and place in a baking dish. Drizzle each piece with 1/2 tablespoon of honey and grill for approximately 10 minutes or until the salmon is just cooked and beginning to flake. Place the marinade in a small saucepan along with the remaining honey and cook over medium heat until reduced and slightly thickened.

Serve the salmon on top or alongside the noodles with a drizzle of the marinade.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

I did not drop off the face of the earth, but it has been ages since I’ve posted anything here. The past few months have challenged me physically as well as emotionally. Making the decision to move from my comfortable life in northern California to the massive city of Sao Paulo, Brazil, in order to support my husband’s work was incredibly difficult. Convincing the children to go along with the decision was equally difficult. Packing up a significant part of our home (where the expression “pack-rat” got redefined) took far more time than I could have imagined. Getting all the paperwork in order and loose ends tied up–bank accounts, visas, residence permits, nearly drove us insane. Finding homes for some of our beloved pets–since we only brought two to Brazil, I found particularly difficult, and at the end, heartbreaking, since I consider our animals family.

Fortunately, the expat community in Sao Paulo, although relatively small, is wonderfully supportive, and Brazilians in general are friendly and kind. We live adventure nearly every day, and grow from it–personally and as world citizens. On top of requiring me to learn another language, the move has required dietary changes, such as regular servings of pineapple, papaya and watermelon instead of my daily helpings of blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. Chard remains elusive, and rice and beans abound. My cooking has not been spectacular, but a few dishes, and some of my travels definitely warrant sharing.

This dish I made back home, but never got around to posting until now. I call this my “breakfast (or lunch) of champions” because it is full of fiber, protein, and healthy fats, and it’s packed with flavor. In reality, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend eating bacon right before you head out for a 6-kilometer run. But if you have an important meeting, need to run a few hours worth of errands, or are going on a big hike and want sustained energy for 4-5 hours, this dish is perfect.

Like many people, my body doesn’t tolerate most types of beans as well as I would like, but garbanzo beans appear to be the exception, and garbanzo bean flour is the main ingredient in the crepes. I couldn’t be more thankful, because garbanzo beans are a great source of insoluble fiber (important for keeping our colons healthy!), protein, and several vitamins and minerals including iron, potassium, manganese, magnesium and folate.

 

Ingredients

For the crepes, whisk together the following until you get a smooth, runny batter consistency:

1 cup sprouted garbanzo bean flour

1/2 cup tapioca flour

3/4-1 cup water

Pinch of sea salt

1 tbsp of avocado oil, plus more for the pan

 

Preparation

Swirl a little oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Pour in half of the batter and swirl the pan gently to spread the batter evenly across the bottom of the pan. Cook until set and the bottom is just starting to turn golden brown–approximately 2-3 minutes. Carefully flip the crepe over and cook another 2 minutes.

Repeat. This recipe makes 4-6 crepes depending on how thick you make them.

 

Ingredients

For the wrap I call “breakfast of champions,” I place the following ingredients on each crepe and fold in half or in thirds for serving.

2-3 strips of bacon, cooked

1 egg, fried sunny side up

Two leaves of curly kale (tough stocks removed, and lightly braised)

1/2 an avocado, peeled and sliced

Coarse-ground sea salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste

This combination tastes insanely good and flavorful, but you can experiment with whatever you like. I cook the bacon in a cast-iron pan first. After removing the cooked bacon, I drain off the excess fat and lightly braise the kale leaves in the same pan so they pick up all the delicious bits and pieces left from cooking the bacon.

Note: These crepes are super easy and quick to make, but you can double or triple the crepe batter recipe and make a batch so you have them handy. Just be sure to put a sheet of parchment paper between crepes and store them in the fridge in an airtight container. Please note that they are best fresh and warm, as can stiffen slightly if refrigerated or left out for any length of time.

Enjoy!

 

Green Paleo Pancakes

 

I’m in the midst of moving, surrounded by boxes, so I won’t spend too much time writing here. However, several people who follow me on Instagram have asked me to share my recipe for the green paleo pancakes I’ve shared pics of several times.

My sister made these for me while I was visiting her in May. I tweaked the recipe just a bit for better consistency (sorry, Sis!), and more consistent results. Several other bloggers have shared green pancake recipes, but many include small amounts of greens, where the greens are used more to color the pancakes as opposed to providing real nutritional value. I’m always looking for more ways to incorporate greens in my mornings, and if you’re like me, you can only handle so many green shakes.

These pancakes blend up easily in any high-powered blender (e.g., Vitamix). They’re packed with protein, fiber, minerals and anti-oxidants. These pancakes also use tiger nut flour (made from tubers, not nuts), which is an excellent source of prebiotics–the energy source for the good bacteria in our guts which keeps our health humming.

 

Ingredients (per person)

1 ripe banana

1 organic egg

2 leaves of leafy greens (such as chard, collards, kale)

1/8 cup almond flour

1/8 cup tigernut flour

1 tbsp ground flaxseed

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/2 tsp baking powder

Pinch sea salt

 

Preparation

Blend everything together in a high-powered blender.

Put a non-stick pan or well-seasoned cast-iron pan on medium to medium-high heat. Melt a little coconut oil or butter in the pan, and pour the pancake batter in approximately 4-inch diameter circles. Cook until browned and any bubbles around the edges have popped, roughly 3-4 minutes. Flip over and cook another 3-4 minutes until browned. Place on a plate and allow to sit at least 3 minutes. (The pancakes will continue “cooking” while they sit.)

Serve with raspberries or sliced strawberries. These pancakes are plenty sweet due to the banana, but if you want a little more sweetness, drizzle raw honey over them. Do not use maple syrup. As much as I love maple syrup, the flavor does not go with the pancake!

Makes 3-4 pancakes.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello World! It’s been ages since I’ve posted anything, but for those of you who follow me on Instagram, you know I’m still around–cooking and eating. On top of working my “day job”–empowering communities with renewable energy, I decided to move to Brazil with my husband and children. That’s right, at an age when most people plan to stay put at least until their children have graduated from high school, I am moving to a place I’ve only ever visited once (just last month!). And yes, I do wonder if I’m crazy–regularly, these days. There is an insane amount of work involved in moving to another country, particularly when you’re moving as part of a start-up, not as part of taking a new assignment abroad within a large multi-national corporation (that handles all the nitty gritty details for you). I’ve been filling out pages and pages of paperwork in order for our children to attend school in another country, and trying to declutter a house I had no plans of moving out until two months ago, and packing and sorting, packing and sorting, repeat, repeat again. However, my husband and I have always wanted to live abroad with our children–even for just a year or two. We firmly believe it dramatically helps children become world citizens, not just little privileged beings growing up comfortably in their little American community.

Not surprisingly, I’ve been somewhat stressed out, so for those of you who know me well, you know I’ve been baking up a storm. Nothing fancy–just the usual. Fast and easy, gluten-free muffins or breads. The mixing and stirring relaxes me, and the eating of warm, cake-like bread comforts me–at least for a short while.

This recipe for Coconut Sesame Almond Muffins came about because I’ve also been trying to incorporate more seeds into our food. Seeds, particularly pumpkin, sesame and chia, are so nutritious, but I always feel like a bird eating seeds on their own. Lately, I sprinkle them on every salad, and in this recipe, I bake them in!

These muffins use so little added sugar, but they come out sweet, incredibly moist, and with a cake-like texture (“crumb” as my English friends say). You can whip them up in about 10 minutes plus cooking time, and they keep well stored in an airtight container (once they cool completely) for at least 3 days.

 

Ingredients

2 eggs

2/3 cup coconut milk

1/4 cup coconut oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup almond flour

1/2 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour (I like this brand)

1 cup desiccated coconut

1/3 cup cane sugar

1/4 cup white raw sesame seeds

1/2 tsp kosher salt

2 tsp baking powder

 

Preparation

Heat oven to 350F. Grease a standard, 12-cup muffin pan or line with paper muffin cups.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until even in color. Whisk in the milk, vanilla extract and oil.

In a separate bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and fold in using a spatula until just blended. Spoon evenly into the muffin pan. Put in the middle of the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until muffins have just a hint of gold, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow to cool at least 10 minutes.

Enjoy warm or at room temperature (although these are so delicious warm, that you may devour immediately and share the still-warm muffins with friends and neighbors!). Store for up to 3 days in an airtight container.

I love the natural whiteness of these muffins, but for fun, you can fold in 1/4 cup of mini dark chocolate chips before baking.

Enjoy!

 

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