Thursday, February 27, 2014

coconut crusted salmon with lemony quinoa

This scrumptious meal is light but nourishing and makes me think of Spring. The herbed coconut crust on the salmon is so delicious and carb-free. Pine nuts and spinach round out the quinoa and make it a perfect side dish. Salmon recipe adapted from Trim Healthy Mama and the quinoa from kale&chocolate

Let's talk about some of the health benefits first:
Salmon is high in protein. It is extremely important to supply our bodies with enough protein because our muscles, organs, bones, cartilage, skin, and antibodies are composed of protein and need enough to repair themselves and prevent cellular breakdown. Salmon is packed full of omega-3 fatty acids which are necessary for cardiovascular and cognitive health. It is an excellent source of selenium, a powerful antioxidant that protects the body from free radicals which damage cells and leave them vulnerable to cancer, infection, and disease. Salmon also contains high levels of B vitamins which are vital for a healthy metabolism and good mental health.
Coconut contains lauric acid which helps raise the high density level cholesterol which keeps arteries free from plaque accumulation. It is packed with B vitamins and copper, zinc, magnesium, manganese, iron, and even calcium. Using this in place of breadcrumbs boosts the nutrition value and cuts out carbs.
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is a nutrition packed seed that cooks like a grain. It contains all eight essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. It is gluten-free, high in B vitamins, and has iron, zinc, potassium, calcium and vitamin E.
Pine nuts are really seeds from certain pine trees. They contain essential minerals and heart friendly mono-unsaturated fatty acids that help reduce cholesterol levels, vitamin E and vitamin B.


for the salmon:
4 Salmon filets (I like skin on, wild preferably)
mayonnaise (see below for home made) or eggs
1 cup dried coconut
sea salt
garlic powder and/or onion powder
dried parsley
cayenne pepper if you like some spice

for the quinoa:
1 cup uncooked quinoa
sea salt
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
2 cups raw spinach, thinly sliced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
pepper to taste

1. To make the salmon "breading", place coconut, herbs and spices in blender and blend until fine. Pour onto large dinner plate.
2. Rub salmon fillets with mayo or dip into a couple whisked eggs. Then press into coconut mix and coat generously. Place in greased baking dish
3. Bake at 350º until fish is done and coating is crispy. Check after 10 minutes. Fish is done when outer layer is opaque and inside is still a darker pink. If you want the outside more crispy then place under broiler for 1-2 minutes.

1. Rinse quinoa for a few minutes to make sure all the bitter-tasting chemicals called saponins are removed. Transfer to a saucepan and add 1 tsp. salt and 1 1/4 cup water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. If they seem to firm after 15 minutes add a tad more water and cook for a few more minutes. Remove from heat and let it sit, covered, for an additional 5 minutes.
2. Transfer quinoa to a serving bowl and add toasted pine nuts, spinach, lemon zest and parsely. Place the sliced spinach on top.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, cumin, salt and pepper. Slowly add olive oil to form an emulsion. Pour dressing on top of quinoa tossing to blend all ingredients. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or room temperature.


I tried making my own mayo from scratch quite unsuccessfully before. This recipe made a beautiful mayo: golden, creamy and free of soybean* oil. It was very simple and quick.

1 egg plus 2 egg yolks
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. sea salt
dash of pepper
onion powder (optional)
dash of vinegar (optional)
dash of sweetener (optional)
dijon mustard (if you want more kick)
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

**update March 2015:
If you would like to end up with a more traditional tasting mayo, I have been playing around with ingredients and find that the following is pretty close:
besides the eggs I add lemon juice, a dash of vinegar, a pinch of sweetener, a dash of salt. Then I add 1 cup avocado oil (it has a pretty subtle flavor)

1. Put eggs in blender. Add lemon juice, salt, pepper and additional flavorings if desired. Blend well.
2. With blender running, slowly add the coconut and olive oil. Mix until thickened.
3. Chill before serving.

*soy beans have a high level of phytates which leech minerals out of the body. Soy affects the body's estrogen levels by converting testosterone into estrogen. It also suppresses thyroid function and can cause sterility (it all sounds kind of nasty!)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

better butter tart

Who says that eating a delicious treat has to be unhealthy? If you have had a butter tart you know how unbelievably tasty and addicting they are; melt in your mouth buttery crust with a sweet gooey mouth-watering center with plump raisins. The problem is that they are not even remotely healthy (well, except for the raisins). These better for you butter tarts are made with naturally processed sweeteners, oats, and brown rice flour instead of white flour and sugar/corn syrup. Recipe adapted from

I think that what we put in our bodies should be wholesome fuel. What are we giving our bodies when we fill it with highly processed, artificial "junk"? Not to say that we can never indulge in an occasional unhealthy treat but those times should be balanced with a majority of wise, health conscious choices. When we are aware of what is in our food and how it affects our bodies it will be easier to choose foods that give instead of take. That being said, despite the challenge, eating well can be so fun. What could be better than something being delicious and nutritious? OK, there is my little spiel :) Now for a little explanation:

Sweeteners like white sugar and corn syrup aren't that great, nor is white flour. Why is that? God created food the way it is for a reason. Our bodies thrive on "whole" foods. When foods are processed they are stripped of important minerals and other nutrients. Obviously they aren't adding anything beneficial. Also, when we eat these things they draw out the necessary minerals for digestion from our cells and bones. Kind of not so good. 
For those that are trying to maintain or loose weight empty carbs and sugars are enemies. Our bodies are made to handle only so much blood glucose so the insulin secreted to store everything in our cells is overworked and deposits excess blood glucose in our fat cells (which are never picky and always hungry for leftovers).

What is different about whole grains and unprocessed sweeteners? Obviously our bodies aren't made to fill up on only grains and sweets, even if they are the natural and unprocessed kinds. As a special treat these are great (not as an overindulgence...sigh). Brown rice syrup and barley malt are grain-based sweeteners which are naturally made from fermented grains. They are made of 50% maltose which is 1/3 as sweet as sugar and at least half of their content are the nutrients found in the original whole grains. These are complex sugars which take longer to digest than processed sweeteners so blood sugar levels don't dip and soar but maintain a healthy balance.

Now, finally on to making these treats...

makes 12 large or 24 small tarts


2 cups rolled oats
1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 tsp. sea salt
6 Tbsp brown rice syrup
5 Tbsp. coconut oil

1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup barley malt
2 Tbsp. arrowroot powder (this thickens without making the filling cloudy)
2 Tbsp. baking powder
2-3 Tbsp unsalted butter or ghee, melted (coconut oil works too, but you loose the buttery taste)
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped (plus 1 tsp. vanilla extract)
1/4 tsp. baking powder
sea salt, couple pinches
1/3 cup raisins (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 325º.
2. Make the crust: in blender or food processor process rolled oats until you have a rough flour. In a large mixing bowl combine the oat flour with brown rice flour and salt. In a small saucepan melt the coconut oil and brown rice syrup together. Pour over dry ingredients and mix/kneed with your hands.
3. In a standard size (or mini) muffin pan, press golf ball sized amount of dough firmly into each cup, pressing up the sides as well until you have a thin even crust. 
4. Bake for 10 minutes until just turning a light golden color on the edges. Remove from oven.
5. While shells are baking, make the filling: melt the butter (or ghee or coconut oil) in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the vanilla seeds and vanilla.
6. In a medium bowl, pour in brown rice syrup and barley malt. Pour in the melted butter and whisk to combine. Sift in arrowroot and baking powder, add salt and whisk until smooth. Fold in raisins.
7. Divide filling between all shells, keeping filling below rim of crust. Place in oven for about 20 minutes, until the filling is bubbling and browning around the edges. Remove from oven and cool, then place in refrigerator until completely chilled. This will crystallize the sugars and will make it easy to pop them out.
8. Using a small sharp knife, insert the tip down the side of each tart to break the sugar seal. You can keep them at room temperature in a tightly sealed container. Warm them up before serving if you like them nice and gooey.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

chocolate turtles

These chocolate turtles are a delicious and fairly healthy indulgence when you are in the mood for something sweet. You can substitute pecans for the almonds if you like.
recipe adapted from (and photo courtesy of)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
4 Tbsp. coconut oil
3 Tbsp brown rice syrup
1 Tbsp honey (raw if possible)
72-84 raw almonds (6-7 almonds per turtle)

1. Add cocoa powder to melted coconut oil. Stir until smooth. Add brown rice syrup and honey and stir until smooth.
2. On a sheet of wax or parchment paper, arrange almonds in a turtle shape: head, legs, middle, and tail.  Spoon a dollop of chocolate over each cluster, rearranging pieces as needed and smoothing chocolate with fingers if you want a neater finish. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Store in refrigerator.

It doesn't take much imagination to see these as turtles. Kids will love them too.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

spinach and bacon white pizza with cauliflower crust

I have been a fan of white spinach pizza since I was a kid. I love how the creamy ricotta complements the yummy melty cheese and tender spinach. When I saw a recipe I knew I had to make it. I have also been wanting to try a cauliflower pizza crust. This recipe takes regular pizza to a new level because you replace carbs with vegetable while retaining the absolute creamy and gooey deliciousness that pizza should have. toppings adapted from howsweettreats and crust adapted from Trim Healthy Mama.


16 oz cauliflower, cut into florets
3/4 cup egg whites (about 5 eggs)
2 cups mozzarella cheese
italian seasoning
garlic or onion powder
sea salt

6 slices bacon, roughly chopped
8 oz fresh spinach
2 garlic cloves, minced
olive oil, about 1 Tbsp.
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup freshly grated provolone cheese
1/3 cup freshly grated fontina cheese (can substitute gouda or mild gruyere)
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese


1. Lightly steam cauliflower. Put into colander and press out as much water as you can by pressing down with a plate, squeezing with hands, and blotting with paper towel. The drier you get it the crispier the crust will be. Preheat oven to 450º
2. Add to blender or food processor and pulse a few times until you have rice-sized pieces.
3. Add egg whites and pulse a few more times.
4. Add cheese, and seasoning and mix until combined.
5. Line a 9 x 15 cookie sheet with parchment paper and grease well.
6. Dump the cauliflower mixture into the middle of the sheet and spread out evenly.
7. Bake for 20 minutes. You can flip over the crust at 15 minutes, including the parchment paper, then removing the parchment paper from the top. Then bake 5 more minutes. This allows both sides to get crispy.
8. Cool while you prepare toppings and reduce oven to 375º.

pizza toppings
1. Heat large skillet over medium heat and add the bacon. Cook just until the fat has rendered because it will get crispy in the oven. Remove bacon and drain on paper towel. 
2. Reduce heat to low and add spinach and garlic, stirring well until spinach is wilted.
3. Brush pizza "dough" lightly with olive oil. Cover evenly with dollops of ricotta. Evenly sprinkle other cheeses on top. Add spinach and bacon. 
4. Bake for about 25 minutes, until cheese and crust are golden and bubbly. Oh yum!