Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Here in northern California, we’ve been experiencing the full wrath of Mother Nature, who is clearly fed up with the overall lack of respect and abuse humankind has given her. In addition to devastating fires and intense heat, we’ve had seriously bad air quality since mid-August. Well, we did have a few days reprieve last week, where we all went outside, rubbing our eyes unaccustomed to bright sunlight, looking like people emerging from underground bunkers after a blitzkrieg.

Unfortunately, the reprieve was short-lived, another fire sprang up, and we find ourselves advised to stay indoors once more. It’s also very warm, again, so I’ve been hesitant to use the oven. It’s not like I can just open the windows to cool down the house at night—due to the bad air quality, and since hot temperatures are historically unusual for my area, almost no one has AC in their homes.

I try to cook dinner in a skillet whenever possible, and we’ve been consuming a lot more salads. Good news is, I have several new favorite salad recipes to share! However, those salad recipes will need to wait because right now, I want to share a delicious recipe for peanut butter and chocolate rice crispy treats! My kids–like so many others, love traditional rice crispy treats, but I can’t stomach all the sugar found in regular recipes nor do I like the fact that there is nothing remotely beneficial in them.

I’ve been tinkering around with making a peanut butter chocolate version, but was struggling to get the flavor profile right along with the right “glue” to hold the rice cereal together. One version used honey, which overpowers in flavor. One version had the chocolate blended in with the peanut butter, which helped to hold the rice cereal together, but I prefer it when the chocolate gets to hold its own, so if you’re a peanut butter and chocolate lover like me, you get two distinct flavors. I also wanted a recipe where you make your own chocolate layer from scratch instead of just melting down a bunch of chocolate chips. For one, you can better regulate how much sugar is in the chocolate.

These bars are super easy to make, super yummy, and they don’t require you to turn on your oven!


3/4 cup creamy organic peanut butter

1/4 cup coconut nectar

1/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp pure maple syrup, divided

2 tsp pure vanilla extract, divided

1/4 tsp sea salt, divided

4 cups organic brown rice crisp cereal

1/2 cup raw cocoa

1/3 cup full-fat coconut milk

1/4 cup coconut oil


Line a 9-inch x 11-inch baking pan with parchment paper, folding the paper in the corners and making sure the paper comes up the sides.

In a large bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, coconut nectar, maple syrup, 1 tsp of the vanilla, and 1/8 tsp sea salt. Fold in the cereal and stir until thoroughly combined. Scoop the mixture into the pan and press it down firmly and evenly. If you don’t press enough, the the bottom of the bars may crumble when you’re eating them. Place the pan in the fridge.

In a small saucepan, over low heat, whisk the raw cocoa powder, coconut milk, and coconut oil until everything is smooth and glassy. Add a little more coconut milk if the mixture looks too thick to spread over the cereal mixture. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla extract and 1/8 tsp salt.

Spoon the chocolate over the cereal mixture and spread evenly with a rubber/silicone spatula. Return to the fridge until the chocolate is hardened. Cut into squares–I usually cut mine into 9-12 squares. You can store these cookies for 4-5 days in an airtight container in the fridge.


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I was so excited to get that last post out that I forgot to include the recipe for the Spiced Pepitas! If you go to my site, you’ll see it’s been updated now. Many apologies!!

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paleo waffles above

paleo waffles


Some people embrace the Paleo diet and seem to happily shun breads, muffins, pies and all other bread-like foods. I seriously doubt if I will ever be one of those people. My love affair with baked goods and all things breakfast-like continues and shows no sign of weakening. Fortunately, I am not completely Paleo as I’ve mentioned before. I am 85/15 most weeks, allowing a little dairy–usually in the form of goat cheese or sheep feta, and a little grain into my meals once or twice a week.

That said, I am always on the look out for great grain-free options to some of my favorite foods. This waffle recipe is incredibly simple, and the waffles come out light and fluffy with lightly-crisped edges. You will be amazed–even dubious, that they’re grain-free. And I’m sure you’ll appreciate how you can literally make the batter, and have your first batch of waffles in about 10 minutes. That means these waffles aren’t just for weekends. (Note: The success of this recipe does require a high-powered blender, such as a Vitamix. A regular blender can’t pulverize the nuts to fine powder.)

This recipe is from Danielle Walker’s Against all Grain, although I’ve reduced the amount of sweetener called for in the recipe.



3 large eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup coconut milk

1 tbsp raw honey or maple syrup

3 tbsp coconut oil, melted

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 cup raw cashews or macadamia nuts

3 tbsp coconut flour (I use Bob Red Mill’s)

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/2 cup fresh blueberries



Preheat a waffle iron to low. (I set mine on 3 out of 10.)

Place all the ingredients (except the blueberries) in a high-speed blender, in the order listed. Blend on low for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to high and continue to blend until completely smooth, about another 30 seconds.

Poor the batter into the waffle iron so that it fills evenly to just below the tops of the grid. Sprinkle a small handful of blueberries over the batter. Close the lid and cook for approximately 1-2 minutes or until the steam stops rising from the waffle iron and the waffles are a nice golden color.

Serve immediately with extra blueberries and a little maple syrup or honey.



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If you’ve ever had padron peppers, you now love them, and await–with great anticipation–the arrival of their cruelly short growing season. And if you eat them regularly (while they’re in season), you undoubtedly already know how to prepare them–unless, of course, you simply don’t cook. But if you’ve never tried padron peppers, look for them at your local farmer’s market or grocer, and prepare them as described below. The peppers have a deliciously subtle flavor, and become addictive after just the first couple tries.

Here in California, some genius–and for once, I mean that as the truest of compliments, has found a way to extend the growing cycle from about two weeks to closer to three months. Not only can they be found at all our area farmer’s markets, but they’re even available in Whole Foods.

Like other peppers, padrons are a great source of Vitamins A and C as well as folic acid, potassium and fiber, and they’re low in calories. They also contain capsaicin, which studies suggest boosts metabolism and suppresses appetite. What’s not to love about them?!

A word of caution… Many places, including restaurants, try to pass off shishito peppers as padrons. They are not the same! Shishitos run much hotter, and can’t claim the same subtleness of flavor and texture. If you buy padrons in season, you can expect less than 20 percent of your batch to have a little heat. It’s very rare to encounter one that actually gives any burning sensation. In fact, even my close friend who has been entirely “heat” averse for decades has grown to love padron peppers.

Serve padrons as a light appetizer with chilled white or rose wine or a nice cold beer.



1 pint padron peppers

1-2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Coarse-ground sea salt



Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Heat the oil and add in the peppers. Shake the pan slightly every few minutes until the peppers are nicely blistered on all sides. Transfer the peppers to a small bowl or plate and sprinkle with the coarse-ground salt.

Eat immediately (because if you don’t, you’ll find there won’t be any left).



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If you’ve never visited the southern area of France known as Provence, put it on your list. The area is unbelievably picturesque with medieval villages perched upon mountaintops and bluffs of solid stone surrounded by gently sloping hills of lush vineyards and orchards. Nearly all the homes are made of the pale gold limestone from the region, and with pale blue or green shutters to keep out the sometimes intense heat.

Oh, Hello! Yes, it has been rather quiet here, but only because I couldn’t manage to get my act together to put a few posts in the queue before my family and I left for a two and a half week holiday in Europe.

You’re probably expecting some amazing recipes of the culinary delights we experienced while in France–a few pictures at the very least since this is a “food” blog! However, two things that do not go together are eating out in France with young children, and taking careful photos of food as soon as it is served fresh from the kitchen. This failing was furthered by the fact that my husband absolutely hates it when I photograph food in restaurants. So there you have it!

And to be quite honest, the food we ate in Provence wasn’t always spectacular, as I find it usually is in Paris. The two delicious dishes I wish I’d photographed were a monkfish tail cooked in a sauce Provencal and some deliciously sweet red mullet also cooked in a sauce Provencal and served in a small tureen. We also had the distinct pleasure of eating the most delicious baguette we’ve ever tasted–think crunchy, slightly salty crust and tender, perfectly textured inside, fresh from the oven of a tiny bakery in the 14th Arrondissement in Paris. The baguettes from this little bakery in a very modest area of the city are called “le meilleur de Paris” (the best of Paris) and are delivered to the palace of the President of France each morning.

So while you’ll have to rely upon your imagination or experience to savor the food of Provence, I did manage to capture some of the incredible beauty of the two countries we visited, the Netherlands and France. And since I am as passionate about travel as much as I am about food, I hope you’ll indulge my wanderlust feelings by looking over this not too terribly long collection of images from my holiday abroad.

We first visited Amsterdam and then worked out way to the south of Holland, passing through the lovely little town of Wijk bij Duurstede…



After Holland, we traveled on to Provence, visiting the medieval towns of Gordes, Venasque, Les Baux and Chateauneuf-du-Pape among others. During our time in Provence we also kayaked 8 kilometers down a clear, lazy river between the towns of Fontaine le Vaucluse and Isle Sur La Sorgue and visited the stunningly beautiful Les Calanques  near Cassis on the Mediterranean. (Les Calanques are narrow “fingers” of water surrounded by white limestone only accessible by boat or on foot.)



My love affair with France continues, although it’s tempered at present by my children waking at 3:00am (local time)–due to their jet lag, only to inform me that they’re no longer sleepy and are, in fact, hungry and wanting breakfast.

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skin savers


Like many other places around the country, we are already experiencing beach weather and the kids have been spending most of their time (outside of school) playing outdoors–including in pools.

These basics will help keep your skin moisturized, protected and nourished without breaking the bank!

First, a word about sunscreen.

With skin cancer rates on a dramatic rise, it’s more important than ever to protect ourselves–especially our children–from the sun’s damaging rays. Did you know skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States? And each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon. In fact, 1 in 5 of us is expected to get skin cancer.

Burn Out sunscreen ($13) continues to be my favorite for the third year in a row. It’s light, lotion-like consistency makes it easy to spread, and of course, it’s SPF 35 and mineral-based, not chemical, using only zinc-oxide (18.6%) in a non-nano form which has zero “casper” effect. It comes in three formulations, KIDS, Ocean Safe and Sensitive. They’re all great and vary only a little in formulation. I use Burnout on my face and body, but if you want something specially made for the face, try one of the BB creams below.

Beauty Balms are all the rage now, and I searched and tested high and low to find a natural BB product I liked. Andalou Naturals came out on top, and I’ve been using it daily for over a year. In addition to an impressive list of ingredients, this cream is also SPF 30, and uses only non-nano zinc-oxide. It comes in two formulations–a beautiful moisturizing sheer tint which is yellow-based instead of the weird peachy-pink hues you usually find, and a moisturizing but oil-controlling formulation. Both are excellent products and smell wonderful!

Get your skin glowing for beach weather by sloughing off the dead skin cells from winter. A body brush feels invigorating and when used in quick, light strokes helps your lymphatic system function properly. If your skin is more sensitive, use a natural loofah mitt or delicious-smelling body scrub. My favorite is the Cocoa Butter Body Scrub by Queen Helene Naturals. It leaves my skin soft and silky smooth, and it’s a bargain at $7 a tube! You can also make your own scrub at home by mixing 1/2 cup evaporated cane juice with 2 tbsp coconut oil and 1 tbsp honey.

Three additional items to have on hand this summer include aloe, coconut oil and a good hat. Aloe plants are drought-resistant, easy to grow and the juice treats any number of ailments including sunburn, rashes, insect stings and dry skin. Coconut oil is an excellent, incredibly inexpensive moisturizer with anti-microbial properties. I cook with it regularly, but I also keep a little bowl of it near the kitchen sink to quickly moisturize dry hands. As for the hat, shielding your skin from the sun’s rays with clothing that has an SPF 50 or higher is the best protection against skin cancer and premature aging. Whether it’s a floppy beach hat, a smart-looking fedora or a baseball cap–anything is better than nothing!


Welcome summer!

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Another use for yarrow blossoms!


Mothers. Before I became one myself, I didn’t fully appreciate them–my own, my friends’, random ones I encountered in the checkout line at the grocery store, etc. Quite frankly, I’d see some–with their hair unkept, practically still in pajamas trying to control a screaming, flailing child, and I’d think: Wow! She needs to get her act together.

And then I became a mother. Evidently a pretty lucky one because I’ve never gone to the store in pajamas, I believe in wearing a ponytail on a near-daily basis, and my kids have only screamed and flailed once or twice (publicly) in their combined 14 years of life.

If you’ve never been a mother, it’s difficult to describe how great your mental and physical fortitude is tested. If you are a mother, you will know exactly what I’m trying to say. You can feel the most incredible, overwhelming love for a child–distinctly different from the love you feel for your partner. Mother love is truly bottomless, truly unconditional and fiercely protective, primal actually. But on the flip side, children can also send you desperately low–just the knocked out and dragged down low you can get at moments of motherhood. Those moments tend to occur when you’re already on the edge–when you’ve been sleep-deprived for days if not weeks or months, and the normal frustrations and trials of life occur, such as your car breaking down, learning your friend has cancer, etc. and your child has a “moment,” becomes ill or too frustrated for words, and the whole combination can literally bring you to your knees. But instead, you rise up, hold and try to calm your screaming, flailing child, and later, make his (or her) lunch and dinner, gently bathe, and then rock your baby to sleep with a lullaby or soothing words.

Becoming a mother has brought me the greatest joy in life, and has made me appreciate my own mother much more as well as every mother I encounter. Being a mother comes naturally to many, but I’ve known many mothers who struggled with the role–struggled with the responsibilities, the sacrifices, the inevitable change in identity.

What all of them shared though is a fierce determination to be a good mom, to be the best mom they could be given their circumstances and their own individual natures. Some appear to do a better job than others. Some are more visibly and physically loving to their children, while others operate quietly behind the scenes. Some seem strict while others seem to overindulge their children. Some appear to sacrifice themselves for their children. Some indeed do.

I hope you will join me in honoring all mothers today.


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Our daughter marveling at the famous rock at Playa de Balandra outside La Paz.

Our daughter marveling at the famous rock at Balandra.

I haven’t posted for over a week because we went to Baja during the kids’ spring break week where we forced ourselves to unplug, or as the case often was, couldn’t “plug in.”

In honor of Earth Day, here are some photos from our trip to the Sea of Cortez in Baja Mexico. You might wonder what Baja has to do with Earth Day, but read on.


Fifteen years later, still one of my favorite places in the world.

Playa de Balandra outside of La Paz, Mexico.

Our deserted beach.

Our deserted beach.

When I tell people I went to Baja, they often think of Cabo San Lucas, but that’s not the Baja we visited (nor the part of Baja I’d want to visit). We spent the first few days up and around the town of La Paz, about a 2 1/2-hour drive from San Jose del Cabo. I used to visit this area years ago (about 15), before I met my husband and had children. It was nostalgic returning to this relatively sleepy university town, and while some of my favorite restaurants no longer exist (or at least I couldn’t find them), I was still in awe of the beauty of the area. Yes, my favorite beach–Playa de Balandra, has been discovered. It used to be you would find at most only a handful of cars in the parking lot, and ours would be the only rental car. Now, the lot fills up fast and you can rent umbrellas and kayaks and buy snacks right on the beach. But if you start walking or paddling, you can still find deserted beaches and remarkably clear waters teaming with sea life.

It was the first reminder that despite the fact countries are drilling deep into the bowels of our earth and pumping millions of gallons of toxic chemicals into the ground in order to extract natural gas, using plastic bags, bottles and packaging as if the earth can absorb and decompose all those things at the same rate they’re manufactured, utilizing toxic chemicals on farmlands that alter the reproductive systems of our most sensitive fauna and perhaps even ourselves and our children, there are places that still remain pure and relatively untouched.

From La Paz, we drove a small two-lane highway across the mountains and south, and then on a seemingly endless bumpy and twisting dirt road to an off-the-grid, eco resort a colleague had recently visited. Here was another example, proof if you will, that we can live on this earth without simultaneously destroying it. The Villa del Faro resort is powered by a solar-powered microgrid with a battery storage system. They buy organic produce and meat from a local farmer, and grow only native plants (e.g., cactuses, thorny ocotillo, etc.). Instead of one large building, the “resort” is comprised of several buildings nestled in the gently sloping hillside and separated by small areas of desert, further reducing the impact on the environment.


baja vdf2

View from one of the casitas at Villa del Faro, Baja Mexico.

View from one of the casitas at Villa del Faro, Baja Mexico.

I realize this posting might read like an advertisement for Baja, but this trip gave me hope that the earth will withstand our ravages against it. And even in a developing country with relatively minimal education and few laws protecting the environment, even with incredible population growth, there are people trying to set the right example by demonstrating how we can live, and often live well, off-the-grid and in balance with nature.

Happy Earth Day!


baja vdf



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I don’t believe I’ve ever reblogged another blogger’s posting before, but there are many other wonderful, like-minded health-obsessed bloggers in the blogsphere, such as Emma Nutrition. I found this posting particularly interesting. I hope you find it worthwhile, too!

Emma Nutrition


Scientists have discovered a link between high numbers of E. coli bacteria and colon cancer as well as the inflammatory bowel diseases Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis. Not only are E. coli levels high but they encode a toxin that damages the DNA in the cells of the gut lining. Approximately 66% of people with inflammatory bowel diseases and colon cancer carry E. coli compared to 20% in those who have a healthy colon. This isnt just any old E. coli though. Its E. coli that contains pks genes.

Dr Barry Campbell, co-author of the research at the University of Liverpool, said: “The research suggests that E. Coli has a much wider involvement in the development of colon cancer than previously thought. It is important to build on these findings to understand why this type of bacteria, containing the pks genes, is present in some people and not others.”

What is…

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Nourishing Mung Dal

indian meal aboveThe weather here in Northern California has started to turn. Sure, it might reach into the mid-70s  this weekend, and we’ll drive to beach to jump in the waves, but now there’s a distinct chill to the air every morning and evening. It’s been creeping up on us slowly, but I notice it most when I leave just before 8:00am to walk the kids to school. My son used to protest putting on a jacket, but now he welcomes it and keeps his hands shoved deep in his pockets while we walk.

The cold weather makes me crave warmer, heartier meals. I’ve started making a lot of simple curry dishes (which I’ll post soon), as well as some Indian favorites, like saag and masala. I also like cooking Indian food regularly now that the cold and flu season has started. All the turmeric, onions, chilies and ginger are great for boosting immunity.

This recipe is adapted from Julie Sahni from a New York Times Magazine article last December. She shared her recipes for four different dal dishes, all of which are delicious, incredibly nutritious and easy to prepare. Part of what makes them so good are the corresponding tadkas — heated ghee or oil with spices. You add the tadka at the end, and it imparts even greater flavor and warmth to the dish.

indian meal back upindian meal spicesindian meal closeChilkewali Mung Dal (Split Green Mung Beans), Mumbai-Style


1 cup split green mung beans*

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp minced garlic

1/2 tsp minced and seeded hot green chili (I use serrano)

3/4 cup chopped onions

1 cup chopped tomatoes (I use canned)

1 1/2 tsp brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp sea salt

2 tbsp sunflower or other neutral oil or ghee (clarified butter) if you have it

1 tsp brown mustard seeds

2 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

12 curry leaves (optional, and if you can find them)


Drain the dal and comine it with the turmeric, garlic, chili, onions, tomatoes, brown sugar, salt and 4 cups water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles gently, and cook covered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Partly uncover and continue cooking for another 15 minutes, until the dal is tender. Turn off the heat. Here, Julie recommends using an Indian mathani (wooden beater) or whisk to puree the dal for a minute. However, I skip this step and prefer the somewhat chunkier consistency.

To make the tadka, heat the oil in a small saucepan over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds and cover the pan. Listen for the seeds to pop and sizzle. When the popping begins to subside, add the ginger and cook until lightly browned, about 15 seconds. Add the curry leaves if you’re using them. Turn off the heat and stir in the cumin.

Pour the tadka over the dal and stir gently to combine. Garnish with cilantro and serve immediately over basmati rice or with naan. Note: I love Indian raita, but I’m usually too lazy to make it, so I simply stir in a little plain yogurt.

Happy Fall!

*If you can’t find split green mung beans, you can use the whole beans. Just soak them for 12 hours or overnight covered in water to which you’ve added a little apple cider vinegar. Drain them before starting to prepare the recipe.

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