Popped Amaranth Breakfast Pudding

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I’ve had a bag of amaranth in my pantry for some time now. I bought it to test how it pops in comparison to quinoa, and I’ve played with it from time to time in various recipes, both popped and un-popped. We use it at work in muffins and baked goods, soaking it for hours prior to use. Because it is such a hearty seed, there are textural and nutritional benefits of soaking, and if I don't pop it, I always soak it to soften and hydrate the seeds. Last week, I had an itch to make some breakfast cereal. I had thought about it the night before, but had fallen asleep without soaking my amaranth. I was initially disappointed that I had forgotten to soak it, but then I remembered why I had bought the seeds in the first place – to pop! I'd never actually cooked popped amaranth before, I'd just used it in recipes similar to my quinoa bon bons. I figured I'd give it a try, I toasted and popped the amaranth and simmered it in water and coconut milk. I was pleasantly surprised with the result — the cereal was light and creamy. Because amaranth is a hard seed it maintains a toothsome texture even after being cooked, but popping seemed to soften the seeds much more than soaking. Popping amaranth makes the seeds much lighter and softer and significantly decreases the cooking time. The process is similar to popping popcorn, just place it in a dry pan over medium heat and gently swirl the pan around as the little seeds pop away. The final consistency of the cereal was somewhere between chia pudding and oatmeal, with a bit more of a crunch. It's nearly impossible to pop every grain which results in a pleasant texture and bite.

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Many refer to amaranth as a grain, and although it does have grain like properties and nutritional value, it is actually the seed of a plant that was cultivated by the Aztecs.  As a seed, amaranth is naturally gluten free and nutritionally dense.

It is known for its high manganese content, a one cup serving boasts 105% of your recommended intake. Manganese is a trace mineral that plays important roles in bone and skin health, blood sugar regulation and protects against free radical damage. Amaranth also has higher amounts of minerals including calcium, iron, phosphorous, and carotenoids, than most vegetables. It is a complete protein, meaning it has all of the amino acids that body needs to function, with approximately 26 g of protein per cup. Amaranth is a great source of lysine, an important amino acid with protein content comparable to that of milk. Lysine plays a major role in the absorption of calcium and in muscle growth and recovery, and boosts the body's production of hormones, enzymes and antibodies. 

Amaranth Breakfast Pudding
Popped Amaranth Breakfast Pudding

Serves 2

  • ½ c amaranth
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ c coconut milk
  • 1 t honey
  • pinch of salt
  • berries/dried fruit

In a dry 6-8" skillet, without oil, toast amaranth until at least 50% of the seeds have popped. To do this, heat your pan on a medium-high flame, add amaranth, and gently swirl your pan to prevent burning. The cooking time will vary depending on how hot your pan is but it should happen within minutes. Be careful not to burn the seeds and quickly transfer them to a bowl to cool if they begin to burn. They should look similar to the photos above. If using a smaller pan, pop amaranth in batches for even popping.

Return all popped amaranth to your pot, and lower heat. Add 1.5 c water and simmer on low for about 10 minutes, or until soft, adding more water as needed. (Amaranth absorbs a lot of liquid so you will likely need all 2 cups). Stir in coconut milk, a small pinch of salt, and honey and top with berries or dried fruit.

Gluten Free Hazelnut Cake with Orange Syrup

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Although I personally fully enjoy foods containing gluten, I have clients and friends who have gluten sensitivities, and have trouble digesting the protein. When creating recipes for specific diets, I work towards cooking something that uses natural ingredients, not manufactured substitutes that trick the palate. I do my best to create dishes that are delicious as they are, rather than ones that try to emulate something they are not. This cake is not a recreation of a glutenous counterpart, it was created to showcase the rich nuttiness of hazelnuts. The cake itself has 3 ingredients, highlighting the clean, simple flavors of real food. 

Hazelnuts are a rich source of vitamins, minerals and protein. They contain magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, copper, iron, manganese, calcium, and selenium. Hazelnuts are also are rich in vitamins K and E, and heart healthy fats such as oleic acid that have been shown to reduce cholesterol.

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I choose to pair this cake with orange, but it's simplicity makes is incredibly versatile for all seasons and flavors. I have also served it with roasted rhubarb, rhubarb simple syrup and whipped ricotta. It is light and nutty on it's own, and pairs wonderfully with something creamy such as ricotta, yogurt, marscapone or whipped cream.

Gluten Free Hazelnut Cake with Orange GlazeFor the syrup
  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • zest of 1 orange

In a saucepan, combine sugar and orange juice and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is thick and syrupy. Remove from the heat and stir in the zest.

For the cake
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup cane sugar
  • 2 cups hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8” or 9” round baking pans and line with parchment paper.

In small batches, grind hazelnuts in a food processor until light and sand like—be careful not to over process or you will end up with hazelnut butter (see photo above). In a bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Fold the hazelnut flour into the yolk mixture. In a separate, clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff and glossy, then gently fold them into the hazelnut mixture. (You can also use a hand mixer or stand mixer to whip the egg whites.)

Pour the batter into the two prepared pans. Bake for about 20 minutes, until lightly golden. Remove the cake from the oven and evenly pour the cooled orange syrup over the top. Allow cakes to cool, and gently remove from pans, and stack cakes. Serve with sweetened greek yogurt or frozen yogurt. To sweeten yogurt, fold in some of the orange syrup or some honey.

Lentils, Shaved Carrots and Pesto

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It's rare that there isn't a pint of pesto in my fridge or freezer. It is my favorite condiment, hands down. It's versatile, fresh, tastes good on on just about everything, and you can make it with such a wide variety of ingredients. It's the perfect way to use up wilting greens and leftover herbs. Once you've made it a few times you realize it's the type of condiment that doesn't need a recipe. Most greens are great in pesto, I love adding basil, mint or chives, and most nuts and seeds compliment the rustic sauce. If you are new to making pesto and are still figuring out proportions and ingredients or if you are looking for fresh ideas, here are a few tasty recipes.  My kale pesto and spring pesto are vegan pestos. Love and Lemons is a great resource if you're looking for pesto inspiration — she has several takes on the traditional, and Happyolks gets resourceful and uses carrot tops in her pesto. What are your favorite pesto ingredients?

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It's spring in our apartment! We picked up a few new plants at the farmers market last weekend. It's so refreshing to have live plants and a light filled space to relax in this concrete city. I'd like to say I helped to beautify our space with greenery, but all of the credit goes to Daniel on this one. I don't seem to have the greenest of thumbs, so for now he can continue to grow the greens and I'll continue to cook them. This salad was the perfect lunch to enjoy in the sun with our new farmers market finds.

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Lentils, Shaved Carrots and Pesto Salad

This is a perfect lunch for one, it packs well, and is fresh and filling. Lentils keep well after cooked so cook a little extra and throw them in other salads throughout the week for a little extra protein. Check the above links for tasty pesto recipes. 

  • 1/2 cup brown lentils
  • 2 carrots
  • a few spoonfuls of pesto
  • salt and pepper to taste

Rinse lentils and cover with water in a small pot. Gently simmer until tender, about 20-30 minutes. Add more water if needed while simmering. When the lentils are cooked, drain and toss with a generous pinch of salt.

While the lentils are cooking prepare your pesto (there are several recipes above). To shave the carrots, peel lengthwise with a vegetable peeler and place in a bowl of ice water. Ice water makes the carrots curl. Before serving, drain the carrots and pat dry.

Combine lentils and pesto, toss with carrots. Season with salt and pepper to serve.

My Spring Socca Recipe is a Finalist on Food52

I'm so excited and honored that my vibrant spring socca recipe was chosen as finalist on Food52's contest for the best recipe with chickpeas. I would be so grateful for your vote. If you'd like to share this with friends, on facebook, twitter or instagram it would make my heart swell. This is a great recipe for spring and makes a great appetizer for dinner parties, if you try it be sure to let me know how it turned out. Thank you for following my cooking adventure and cooking with me along the way. Click here to cast your vote!

cauliflower couscous with mint, feta and currants

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My apologies for being so sporadic with my post lately. I can’t complain about the things that have been pulling my focus away from here; friends in town, my birthday, a promotion at work, the sunshine - all superbly exciting things. None the less, it’s time to realign my focus, and to use this new spring momentum to carry me into a positive rhythm of gratefully grazing. Spring is here and nature is on my side, it's hard not to be inspired to cook and eat everything in sight as the produce starts to roll into the green markets and the isles of fruits and vegetables become evermore vibrant and beg to be devoured.

As this transition from Winter to Spring continues to linger, I choose to spruce up my dishes with the bits of spring flavors that are available. The mint in this dish adds an immense punch of freshness that makes this otherwise winter-esque salad bright and refreshing.

It fascinates me when I am able to transform a food enough to trick the mind without altering its fundamental nutritional value. You’d never know this is cauliflower by looking at it, or even tasting it, but that’s all it is...cauliflower, pulsed to resemble a fine grain. Pretty groovy in my opinion. It’s fun to play with vegetables and create something that satisfies your craving for something it is not. This take on cauliflower transforms the vegetable into something that so closely resembles the texture, appearance, and flavors of couscous that it feels like you are eating a more hearty carbohydrate.

Cauliflower Couscous
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • ½ cup currants
  • 1 bunch mint
  • ¼ cup fresh feta
  • 1 t curry powder
  • knob of coconut oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • pinch of red chili flakes (optional)
  • salt

Cut the cauliflower into small florets. In batches, pulse the cauliflower in a food processor until it is about the size of couscous. It doesn’t take much, just a few pulses and you’re there. Set aside.

Crumble the feta. Pick the mint leaves from the stem, wash, dry and roughly chop them.

Heat a large skillet. Add coconut oil and swirl the pan to coat it evenly. Allow the oil to get hot before you add the cauliflower. You want the cauliflower to be lightly golden when cooked, but it cooks quickly so you need to start with a hot pan to achieve this. Add the cauliflower, after about a minute give it a stir. Let it cook for another minute, add curry powder, red chili flakes and salt, mix to coat, cook for another minute, and remove from pan. If your pan isn’t large enough, do this in batches, you only want a thin layer of cauliflower in the pan at a time.

Place the cooked and seasoned cauliflower in a bowl. Toss with mint, currants, feta and lemon juice.

Spring Carrot Cake & Vanilla Bean Frosting

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Happy Spring Equinox! I love planning parties, baking cakes, celebrating, wrapping presents... for friends, family, clients, anyone really.... But when it comes to my own birthday, I retract into my shell and down play the day as much as possible. This year I've decided to get over that silly habit and bake myself a cake. Happy Birthday to me. I find baking incredibly therapeutic and relaxing, and creating something that others are excited to dig into brings me immense joy; I should have been baking my own cake for years. Here's to a new tradition, a jovial birthday, and most importantly, the first sun soaked day of spring!

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Frosting is the best part. Homemade, cream cheese frosting that is. Carrot cake has always been a favorite, and in all honesty a large percent of that love can be attributed to the silky, cheesy, vanilla streaked frosting. This recipe is a little healthier than most. I whipped the cream cheese and folded in thick, greek yogurt rather than butter. I also cut the sugar down quite a bit, but adjust this as needed depending on what yogurt you use. If you can get your hands on it, Wallaby's whole milk vanilla bean greek yogurt is a current obsession. I've only been able to find this brand at Whole Foods and a few local specialty grocers, but it's worth searching for. I'm generally not even a fan of yogurt, but their vanilla bean products are creamy, sweet, tangy and perfect for this recipe.

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As Spring graces us with its presence I hope to load as many baked things, quick breads, sammies, pastas, pitas ... you get the point ... with an array of shredded vegetables. This carrot cake is just the beginning...

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Whole Wheat Carrot Cake
  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup organic raw sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • ¾ cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 cup vanilla greek yogurt
  • 3 cups carrots, grated
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t salt

Pre heat you oven to 350 F. Line 2, 8” cake pans with parchment, grease and set aside.

Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Whisk eggs, and fold in remaining wet ingredients. When wet ingredients are mixed, add them to the bowl of dry ingredients, add carrots and walnuts and mix until evenly combined.

Divide batter between pans, and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick can be cleanly removed from the cake. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Vanilla Cream Cheese and Yogurt Frosting
  • 8 oz organic cream cheese
  • ½ cup organic whole milk vanilla greek yogurt
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • ⅓ cup confectioners sugar
  • juice of 1 lemon

Allow the cream cheese to soften at room temperature. When soft, smash with a fork, add in yogurt, vanilla beans, sugar and lemon and beat with a whisk until very soft and creamy.

Creamy Cashew Milk

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If you’ve made fresh nut milk before, you know it blows the carton stuff away. It is rich, creamy, and light all at the same time. It’s incredibly refreshing on it’s own and can be used to replace dairy milk in almost all recipes. Make it once and the fresh, clean flavor will sell itself. It takes a little more effort than buying it in a carton, but like all food, it's far superior when fresh. And, you'll be amazed by the minimal amount of effort that it takes to make. Soak, rinse, blend. That's it. A secret about making cashew milk is that you really don't need to strain it. You can, of course, if you are looking for a perfectly silky texture, but if you blend it well enough you can attain that texture without the hassle of straining the milk. Not only does this save you time, but it also means you're eating the whole nut, fiber and all. You tend to lose a lot of fiber when making nut milks such as almond milk. Even after soaking and blending, almond milk needs to be strained with a nut milk bag or cheese cloth for a silky smooth consistency.  So, if you are cutting dairy out of your diet, or just wanting a refreshing, healthful drink, give this recipe a try!

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 Creamy Cashew Milk

This recipe yields a thick, creamy consistency similar to whole milk, if you'd prefer something similar to 2% milk, use half the amount of cashews. Yields about 1 quart of cashew milk.

  • 2 cups raw organic cashews
  • 4 cups water + more for soaking
  • 1 T maple syrup or honey
  • 1 t vanilla
  • pinch of sea salt

Soak the cashews in cold water for at least 4 hours or overnight. When you are ready to make the milk, drain the cashews and rinse until the water runs clear.

Add cashews and 4 cups of water to a blender and blend until very smooth. This can take several minutes in a traditional blender so be patient. If desired, strain milk through a fine mesh sieve or nut milk bag, but as I mentioned above this is not necessary with cashew milk.

Add sweetener, vanilla, and salt. Refrigerate for 2-4 days.

Winter Reprieve Salad with Roasted Garlic & Tahini Dressing

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We had a 24-hour reprieve from this hellacious winter last weekend. It was a glorious 50 degrees. Never in my wildest dreams would I imagine that one day I would say 50 degrees is glorious. Everything is relative. That brisk preview of spring made for a lovely Sunday run in the park, a perfect brunch with a dear friend, and inspired this salad. I’ve been too cheap financially responsible to join the gym this year, so any time the temperature is above 40 and the sun is shining, I feel the urge to get out and run. The sun is a cure-all... this winter is teaching me just how much I need sunshine in my life.

The greens I used are still pretty hearty and winter-esque, but the addition of mint, and the light creamy dressing added a freshness that felt like spring. Don’t get intimidated by the recipe. It looks like a lot of steps, but they can all be done quickly, and there is a fair amount of down time. Down time in which you can relax, drink some wine and read a book near a fireplace, or something along those lines.

Cook off your chickpeas ahead of time, or used canned. This is the most time consuming part of the recipe, but it requires almost no active time. Soak your chickpeas overnight, drain the soaking liquid, cover with fresh water and simmer until tender. For the best results, the onions should also be pickled at least 4 hours before using. If you are in a pinch, forget the pickling and add currants to the salad. Currants will provide the same sweet addition that the onions do without having to fuss with the pickling. But, if you’ve never pickled onions you should give it a go - they are delicious.

When you're ready to make the dressing, start with roasting the garlic. While it is roasting, season your chickpeas and pop them in the oven. Clean and prep your greens while the garlic and chickpeas are in the oven, and pull out all of the ingredients that you will need for the dressing. When the garlic is done, allow it to cool for a few minutes, blend the dressing and you’re ready to dress and serve.

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The Salad
  • 1 bulb fennel
  • 1 head bibb lettuce
  • 1 small head radicchio
  • 1 bunch mint
  • ½ c pickled red onions (recipe below)
  • smoky roasted chickpeas (recipe below)
  • dressing to coat (recipe below)

Thinly slice the fennel. A Japanese mandoline works wonders here. Wash, dry and chop the bibb and radicchio. Remove the mint from the stem and give it a rough chop. Mix all ingredients together, toss with the dressing and top with chickpeas and more fresh pepper.

Creamy Roasted Garlic & Tahini Dressing
  • 1 head garlic
  • 2 T tahini
  • 2 T greek yogurt
  • ¼ c olive oil
  • ¼ c water (or as needed)
  • ½ t sugar
  • ½ t salt
  • lots of fresh cracked pepper
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the whole head of garlic in half, cutting along the equator. Place in tin foil, drizzle with olive oil and wrap tightly. Place in oven and roast for 45 minutes. When you remove it from the oven, the cloves should be golden and very soft. Allow to cool slightly and squeeze the garlic cloves out of the peel.

Add the roasted garlic cloves, tahini, lemon and yogurt to a food processor. Pulse until combined and creamy. While the machine is running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. You should have a very thick dressing at this point. Thin slightly with up to ¼ cup of water. Season with salt, sugar and pepper to taste.

Note: You will get a thicker, creamier dressing if you use a food processor but you can also whisk all of the ingredients together by hand.

Smoky Chickpea Croutons:
  • 2 cups cooked and drained chickpeas (or one can)
  • 1 T coconut oil
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1 t smoked paprika
  • a generous sprinkling of sea salt

Gently remove excess water from cooked chickpeas. Toss with oil, spices and salt and spread out on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 F for 20-30 minutes, until golden and lightly crisp. They will continue to crisp once you remove them from the oven, so don’t leave them in the oven until fully crisp.

Quick Pickled Onions
  • 1 red onion, slivered
  • 1 c vinegar (white, apple cider, champagne)
  • 1 c water
  • 1 c raw sugar

Heat vinegar, water and sugar in a small pot until the sugar has completely dissolved. Pour over onions and set aside.