Meatless Monday – Coconut Ginger Quinoa


Coconut Ginger Quinoa8


Somehow 2013 came and went without my knowing that I was missing “The International Year of the Quinoa”  as officially  declared by The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. (The World’s Healthiest Foods)  I didn’t ‘discover’ quinoa until December, almost completely missing the superfood’s official year.  I’m on board now, though and always looking to include interesting seeds and grains in my diet.  Interestingly, Quinoa is not a grain but a seed (a Chenopod to be specific) related to  beetroot and spinach.  It is a complete protein and nutrient rich, including a source of calcium. Quinoa is gluten free and easier to digest than many other grains and pseudo-grains.

Coconut Ginger Quinoa is a flavor packed dish, the combination of onion, ginger and coconut providing a great balance of savory and sweet.  In addition to the quinoa, edamame and almonds give it a protein boost.  The apples and raisins add a natural sweetness and help make it kid friendly.  Younger kids might have fun shelling the edamame while you cook the quinoa.   This is a very forgiving dish that can be served warm or at room temperature, making it perfect for making ahead or bringing to a potluck. You can even make the quinoa ahead of time and assemble the ingredients at the last minute. Enjoy!

Coconut Ginger Quinoa

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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2 tsp. coconut or olive oil
½ cup onion, chopped (optional)
2 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
1 cup quinoa
1 ½ cups vegetable broth

1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds
1 cup edamame, shelled
1 medium apple, diced
1/4 cup raisins, currants or cranberries (optional)
1/2  cup unsweetened coconut flakes or shreds (I used half and half)
Dressing (optional):  1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 2 tsp honey
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  • Toast almonds in dry pan over medium heat for several minutes, or until fragrant and golden brown. Remove from heat and let cool. If you are using flake coconut, you can dry toast it as well for a nice nutty flavor.  Set aside.
  •  Sauté onion in oil 2 to 3 minutes, or until translucent.

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  •  Add vegetable broth, quinoa and ginger.  Simmer, covered for 15 to 20 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed. (Note:  Rinse quinoa to remove any last remaining saponin, a naturally occurring but bitter covering.  If you don’t have a fine mesh strainer, just put quinoa in a bowl , fill with water and pour out as much water as possible without pouring out any quinoa.)
  •  Let partially cool and pour into a large serving bowl.

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  • Shell the edamame and boil in salted water for 4  minutes. Drain.  (Or you can add the edamame to the quinoa for the last few minutes of cooking)
  • Add edamame, almonds, apple, raisins and coconut to quinoa and toss to mix. Salt to taste.  Drizzle with dressing if using. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Meatless Monday – Avocado Toast with Coconut ‘Bacon’


Avocado Toast 1

BACON – NEED I SAY MORE? I stopped eating meat last June and I must say I don’t really miss it. BACON, however, which really should be it’s own food group, is a different story… There is something about bacon’s crispy, fatty, salty deliciousness that is just so irresistible! I know people who are vegetarians, except for bacon.  I mean, there is a Bacon of the Month Club!   So when I stumbled upon a recipe for Sweet Smokey Coconut Bacon on Pintarest (via ), I realized a stroke of brilliance was before me, bacon without the guilt.

I have been hooked on Avocado Toast for breakfast these past couple of weeks. I’ve been trying to recreate my favorite appetizer, Avocado Bruschetta, from Picco Restaurant in Larkspur, which has chorizo crumbled on top. I have been substituting dry toasted pine nuts and flakes of Maldon Sea Salt which I was pretty happy with -Until I heard about COCONUT BACON! I let my fingers do the walking (thank you google) only to find that there are many, many recipes for coconut bacon on the internet. How did I not know this? Two of my favorite flavors together sounds like a match made in heaven. The recipes call for varying combinations of coconut flakes, maple syrup, smoked paprika, cloves, Braggs Amino Acids, Liquid Smoke or Soy Sauce. For those, unenlightened folks like me, Braggs Amino Acids is a gluten free soy sauce substitute that has beneficial amino acids.  I tried one batch with liquid smoke and one without and I liked it better without, but that is a personal taste. I know a lot of men people love that smoky flavor .  So does it really taste like bacon?  Not really, but it makes a tasty substitute that is  mostly monosaturated fat and Omega-6 fatty acids, which are extremely beneficial for  the body.  For nutritional info on coconut click here:  (

Avocados have gotten a bad rap as a high fat, high calorie food when they  are actually quite healthy and are nutrient dense. (Calories that Count).   ‘Nutrient density is a measure of the amount of nutrients a food contains in comparison to the number of calories. One-fifth of a medium avocado (1 oz.) has 50 calories and contributes nearly 20 vitamins and minerals, making it a nutrient-dense food choice.  They are naturally sodium and cholesterol free and contain mono and poly unsaturated fats (good fats).’  For more information on the benefits of amazing avocados click here. (

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Avocado Toast with Coconut 'Bacon'

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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2 slices good bread (sourdough, ciabatta or whole grain )
1 Tbsn olive oil, coconut oil or butter (optional)
1 half ripe avocado
Salt (I like coarse or flaked sea salt)
2 Tbsn pine nuts (optional)
2 Tbsn coconut ‘bacon’ (recipe below)

  • Brush tops of bread with oil and broil for a few minutes until golden.  Or you can toast in a toaster and then brush with a bit of oil.
  • Dry roast pine nuts in a medium fry pan until golden.  Remove from heat.
  • Pit, peel and half avocado.  Slice.  Place half of slices on each piece of toast. Or you can ‘smash’ it on the toast with a fork.
  • Top with coconut bacon and pine nuts.  Sprinkle with salt.  Enjoy!

Coconut Bacon 5

Coconut ‘Bacon’

1 cup  coconut flakes
1 Tbsn liquid aminos (or soy sauce)
2 tsp liquid smoke (optional)
1 tsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
4-6 cloves ground (or 1/4 tsp pre-ground cloves)
2 tsp  water
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  • Mix the aminos, syrup, paprika, cloves, liquid smoke and water together in a bowl until well combined.  Gently stir in the coconut flakes, trying to coat them each thoroughly and soak up the liquid.  Let sit for 5 minutes, then stir again gently.

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  • Preheat over to 300°F, then bake for 20 to 25 minutes.  Store them in a plastic bag or container.  Does not need to be refrigerated.

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Wheatless Wednesday – Oat Nut Bars


Oat Nut Bars

WARNING – HIGHLY ADDICTIVE!  I am often looking around the kitchen for something quick to eat with my morning coffee without making a whole production.  Most  convenience foods are not very good for you, even if the packaging tells you otherwise.  So when I saw this recipe in Bon Appetite (January, 2014) I thought it could be just the thing.  Boy was I right (or wrong)!  These are so delicious that its hard to eat just one.  Luckily, they are loaded with nutrition.  They are made with 100% whole grains, seeds and nuts which means the bran and the germ are left intact which is where most of the nutrients are. I used whole almonds, sesame seeds and added coconut flakes, since I love all things coconut, and really like the result.  I would also recommend having coconut oil in your pantry as one of the ‘good’ oils with many health benefits.  The maple syrup, even though it’s natural, is mostly sugar, but unlike white sugar it is also a very good source of zinc and Manganese and the dates add multiple vitamins and minerals.

When I first tasted them, I thought chewy was the way to go, until I re-baked half of the slices and tried them crunchy.  Wow, they got even better!!  My taste testers also preferred the crunchy over the chewy by a slight margin.  I can easily see these oat nut bars becoming an easy breakfast go-to as well as a great energy boost to get through the afternoon slump.  Try them toasted and topped with yogurt or cream cheese or my favorite way, just on their own.

Oat Nut Bars

  • Servings: 16-18 bars
  • Difficulty: easy
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Oat Nut Bars 9

Oat Nut Bars with Coconut

Nonstick vegetable cooking spray

6 large Medjool dates, pitted and finely chopped

1 cup pure maple syrup

2 Tbsp unsalted butter or coconut oil

2 cups old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup raw almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts or cashews

1/2 cup shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

2 Tbsp amaranth or sesame seeds

1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (optional)

1/2 tsp kosher salt

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly coat an 8 1/2×4″ loaf pan with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on long sides. Spray parchment.

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  • Bring dates and maple syrup to a boil in a small saucepan, reduce heat to medium-high, stirring often, until dates are very soft and maple syrup is slightly reduced, 8-10 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in butter/coconut oil until it is melted.  You can mash the dates with a fork or blender if desired.

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  • Toss all other ingredients in a large bowl.  Pour date mixture over the top and mix until evenly coated.  Scrape half of the mixture into prepared pan and press very firmly and evenly with a wooden spoon or spatula to compress it as much as possible (Important)
  • Add remaining oat mixture and press until very tightly packed into pan.
  • Oat Nut Bars 2 Bake until loaf is darkened in color and firm around the edges, and center gives just slightly when pressed, 45-50 minutes. Tent with foil if browning too quickly.

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  • Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool in pan before turning out (it can even sit overnight).  Cut into 1/2’thick slices with a serrated knife.

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  • For crisp bars, lay slices on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees until golden brown 8-10 minutes (turning once), or toast in a toaster oven.
  • Makes about 16 bars.  Bars should keep five days, tightly wrapped at room temperature (if they last that long!)

Meatless Monday-White Bean & Swiss Chard Soup, Arugula Salad and Dark Chocolate Bark


White Bean and Swiss Chard Soup

Looking for a great NFL Playoff Game dinner idea? I had the pleasure of trying this lovely soup at a football party last week, compliments of Barbara McCrum. It was really delicious.  I know I went back for seconds! Barbara served the soup with an arugula salad with toasted marcone almonds and crumbled goat cheese tossed in vinaigrette. To top it off, Dawn O’Dell made the most decadent dark chocolate bark with coconut, dried fruit and sea salt.  We were all licking every last bit of chocolate off our fingers, it was that good.   I am off to Cuba this week so will not be in my kitchen, however, I am featuring Barbara and Dawn as my guest chefs today.  Thank you Barbara and Dawn for sharing!

The White Bean & Swiss Chard Soup is vegan, low fat and loaded with nutrients and protein. It is surprisingly creamy even though there is no milk or cream (due to pureeing some of the beans). You can substitute any dark leafy green for the swiss chard.  The chocolate bark is also vegan and using a 70% chocolate makes it super rich in antioxidants and considered a superfood.  The nuts and fruits add good oils plus vitamins and minerals, so this is a yummy dessert you can feel good about eating!

Of course after that fun party and delicious meal, I had to run out and buy the cookbook that both of these recipes came from, “It’s All Good” by Gwyneth Paltrow. This is a great cookbook for those on special diets, like vegan, gluten free or elimination, or even just for people who want to eat well.  It is not vegetarian but features really healthy and fairly simple but delicious recipes.  If we can all look like Gwyneth Paltrow, even better!   I’m sure GMD will be seeing more from this cookbook…

White Bean and Swiss Chard Soup

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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2 Tbsn olive oil

2 leeks, thoroughly washed and finely chopped

1 large yellow onion, finely diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 bay leaf

Coarse sea salt

4 cups vegetable stock

14 oz can cannellini or gigante beans

1 bunch swiss chard, leaves roughly chopped and stems discarded

Freshly ground pepper

  • Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat.  Add the leeks, onion, garlic and bay leaf along with a heavy pinch of salt and cook, stirring now and then, until softened but not browned, 10 minutes.
  • Add the vegetable stock and the beans to the pot and turn up the heat.  Once the soup comes to a boil, lower the heat and simmer until everything has completely softened and the soup is wonderfully fragrant, about 20 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf.
  • Carefully puree 2 cups of the soup in a blender or food processor and return it to the pot.  Add the swiss chard and cook over medium high heat just until they’ve wilted, about 3 minutes.  Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve with a fresh tossed salad.
White Bean & Swiss Chard Soup

White Bean & Swiss Chard Soup

Dark Chocolate Bark

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Chocolate Bark

Dark Chocolate Bark with Coconut, Almonds & Sea Salt

7 oz good quality dark chocolate (like Green & Black’s 70% bars), roughly chopped

2 Tbsn sliced almonds, roasted

2 Tbsn combination dried apricots, cherries and golden raisins, chopped

2 Tbsn unsweetened coconut flakes

1 tsp Maldon sea salt

  • Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Bring a small pot of water to a boil, then lower to a simmer.  Put the chocolate in a glass or stainless steel bowl and set it over the pot of water.  Stir the chocolate until it’s completely melted and immediately pour it onto the prepared pan.
  • Evenly sprinkle the rest of the ingredients over the chocolate.
  • Put the pan in the freezer until the chocolate sets, about 15 minutes.  Break the chocolate into pieces and eat immediately, or store at room temperature in an airtight container if your house is cool or in the refrigerator if its summertime.

Chef’s Tip:  The more you stir or whisk the chocolate, the shinier it gets.  Feel free to use other dried fruits and nuts like cashews, hazelnuts, dried cherries, spicy red chili flakes,