Tag Archives: coconut

Ch-ch-ch-chia! Cherry-Coconut Chia Seed Pudding with Pistachios

Ch-ch-ch-chia! Cherry-Coconut Chia Seed Pudding with Pistachios

Chia Pudding 1 sm

Remember that animal-shaped terracotta pottery from the ’80s that you had to smear wet seeds on which would later sprout “hair” (grass)? Who knew that you could, A. actually eat those slimy seeds, and B. over 20 years later they’d be revealed as a healthy addition to your diet? Yep, I’m referring to the Chia Pet and those little chia seeds that adorned them.

Formally known as Salvia hispanica, the flowering chia plant is native to Mexico. Its seeds have been cultivated for food since the age of the Aztecs, being as important a crop to them as maize (corn). When soaked in a liquid, chia seeds puff up — absorbing about 12 times their weight — and form a gelatinous outer shell (chia “gel”). Aztec warriors would use them as a portable food staple during battles, supposedly being able to be sustained for a whole day after consuming just one tablespoon of chia gel.

What is it about the chia seed that’s got the health food community going ga-ga for them, you ask? They’ve got a ton of nutrients packed into their tiny shells: the USDA claims that one ounce of chia seeds contains 9 grams of fat, 11 grams of dietary fiber, 4 grams of protein, and provide 18% of the recommended daily intake of calcium. They’re chock full of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids (read: the good fats), too.
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Paleo Thai Coconut Red Pork Curry with Zucchini “Noodles”

Paleo Thai Coconut Red Pork Curry with Zucchini “Noodles”
Paleo Curry 1 text

A tasty Paleo diet makeover of a popular Thai curry dish.

The Paleo diet. It’s something you’ve probably been hearing a lot about lately — as I like to say (purposely trying to sound like Paris Hilton) “It’s so hot right now.” But what is it anyway? As the name suggests, it is based on the diet that mimics what the cavemen of the Paleolithic era might have grazed upon, wild plants and animals. It includes fruit, vegetables, roots, fungi, nuts, seeds, eggs, and pasture-raised, grass-fed animal protein. Followers of this way of eating subscribe to it because they believe it to aid in healthy digestion and weight loss, and prevent blood sugar spikes, systemic inflammation, autoimmune-related diseases — among a slew of other health benefits. Many people who previously followed strict gluten- and/or dairy-free diets have taken to this diet because it nixes the foods that they cannot eat.

So what’s on the ‘NO’ list? Grains, legumes, dairy, soy, added sugars, booze, white potatoes, vegetable oils, and processed foods. Though there are quite a few dietary restrictions, it doesn’t mean that the Paleo plate must simply consist of a hunk of meat and some bland, boring vegetables. Many Paleo cooking enthusiasts have made it their mission to come up with creative and tasty ways to incorporate the Paleo rules into their (and others’) diet. My friend Melissa Joulwan, author of Well Fed, the upcoming Well Fed 2 (on store shelves later this month) and TheClothesMakeTheGirl.com, is one of those cheerleaders of creative Paleo cooking. She’s been my mentor and inspiration when dabbling in, as she calls it, “dino-chow.”

I do not strictly follow the Paleo lifestyle, but I do love the culinary challenge that it gives me to come up with dishes that are appetizing to Paleo folks and enticing to those (open-minded) non-Paleo people. That’s why I came up with the following recipe for Thai red curry with pork over “noodles.” It’s a Paleo-friendly spin on the classic Thai peanut and coconut milk sauce with red curry paste. I used roasted cashew butter in place of peanut butter (because peanuts are a legume) and substituted coconut aminos for the soy sauce and zucchini peels for the rice noodles. They were easy swapouts and, in my opinion, this dish tastes as good as the original.

In closing, this is only a brief description of the Paleo diet and just the tip of the iceberg. There are also many versions of Paleo out there and, if interested, I encourage you to read up on them and find the one that suits your lifestyle best.
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Taste the tropics in this piña colada-inspired sundae

Taste the tropics in this piña colada-inspired sundae
Pineapple Sundae logo

My current muse for a sweet sundae recipe is the tropical piña colada drink, from which I borrowed the flavors of pineapple, coconut and rum.

With warm, sweltering weather on our doorstep, I get a hankering for cool desserts like ice cream sundaes. My current muse for a sweet sundae recipe is the tropical piña colada drink, from which I borrowed the flavors of pineapple, coconut and rum (because, as is common with most of my recipes, there’s booze involved in one form or another).

In my opinion, there’s definitely a science to building the perfect sundae and every one should have these four basic elements: ice cream (which is a given), sauce, crunchy stuff, and “other stuff”.

Vanilla was my go-to the ice cream for this piña colada-inspired sundae. While I usually consider vanilla a rather boring and unadventurous choice by itself, it does serve as a wonderful canvas for a sundae where there are many other strong flavors going on. I mean, what doesn’t go with vanilla?

Next up: sauce. A sweet sauce transforms a simple bowl of ice cream a sundae. I took the rum element of the piña colada and incorporated it into a quick and easy-to-make caramel sauce. It may sound fancy and a bit daunting to some, but it is simply made up of butter, brown sugar, and rum. Heat the ingredients up together (with a few steps in between) and — voila! — it becomes a caramel rum sauce fit for just about any dessert.

To cover the “other stuff” on the sundae checklist, I chose to use fruit — my fruit of choice being pineapple — and toasted coconut. Fresh pineapple is wonderful by itself, but when roasted it becomes even more sweet and ambrosial. By simply tossing pineapple in brown sugar the exterior will caramelize, turning to a golden-brown color, taking the flavor to heavenly heights. Toasted, unsweetened coconut flakes add a final pop of flavor and tie the whole dish together to achieve the piña colada essence.

And last but not least: the crunchy stuff. There are no crunchy bits in a piña colada, but a sundae simply must have something crunchy on top — the obvious choice being nuts. I decided to use toasted pistachios for some crunch and a pop of color, but cashews or macadamia nuts would also play well with the other flavors in this dessert.

For a sweet taste of the tropics, have a go at the recipe below. I’ve also listed some dairy-free/vegan substitutions for those with special diets so that they, too, can enjoy this treat.
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Raw Ambition: Fudgy Raw Brownie Bites

Raw Ambition: Fudgy Raw Brownie Bites

What would you say if I told you that these fudgy gems (see photo) were not only utterly delicious but also incredibly good for you? They’re also quick and easy to prepare, plus there’s no heat involved in their creation — they’re raw!

These brownie bites are chock-full of chocolatey goodness, and bonus: they’re gluten-free, vegan and filled with beneficial vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and protein — thanks to superfoods like nuts, dates, raw cacao and coconut.

I know some of you might be wondering how can I give you a dish swimming in cream and cheese one week and then turn around and offer a recipe for what some would consider “earthy, crunchy hippie food” the next. It’s because life is about balance. And just because you have to get healthy foods into your diet doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice flavor.

To further sell you on these, let’s break down the health benefits in the ingredients: Medjool dates have a rich flavor and act as both a natural sweetener and a binder for these brownies. They’re used in many raw desserts and are a great replacement for sugar or honey, plus they have high levels of potassium, magnesium, copper and manganese, and are a great source of fiber. Nuts — in this case pecans — are ground up and serve as the “flour” for the brownies. Nuts contain both protein and contain healthy unsaturated fats and omega-6 fatty acids (particularly pecans and walnuts), which aid in the prevention of vascular diseases.

Powdered raw cacao is the pure, ground form of the “meat” of the cacao bean, also known as the “nib.” This is the raw form of chocolate before it has been mashed into a paste and melted down. Not only does cacao contain a natural chemical which acts as an aphrodisiac (aka: theobromine), it also has more antioxidant flavonoids (cancer and cardiovascular disease fighters) than any other food, and has up to four times more antioxidants than green tea. As for the coconut, it is rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats.

If I’ve sold you on these brownies’ salubrious benefits (or haven’t scared you off with all this healthy talk), be sure to give them a try. You’ll wonder why you ever wasted the empty calories on those standard baked ones.
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