As far as I know, fried okra is mostly a Southern thing. And since I do live in Texas, I happen to like it. Okra comes in season right about now, so cartons of local organic okra are on display at the grocery store. But I’m not big into frying my foods, which other than pickled is the only way I’ve eaten okra. I don’t even own a fryer, and I don’t pan fry much either. So I decide to give baking okra a try – and turns out it’s pretty darn good!!
Okra is a green pod of a vegetable with lots of little white seeds tucked inside. Also known as gumbo pods, okra is a very low calorie vegetable at 30 calories per serving and contains lots of fiber and vitamin A, actually the highest amount of the antioxidants beta-carotene, xanthin and lutein. Okra also provides vitamins B, C, and K and minerals like iron, magnesium, calcium, and manganese. Honestly, I was surprised to learn how healthy these little green pods are – I’d kind of written them off as a pretty empty food. I’m happy to report that is not the case.
The first step in baking okra is to get the pecan crust ready. I combined a cup of toasted pecans, a cup of coconut flour, salt, pepper, and a pinch of cayenne in the food processor and processed until a homogenous grainy mixture formed.
I transferred the pecan mixture to a large plate, and dredged each whole okra in the mixture, pressing down on each piece so as much coating as possible would stick. I then placed the coated pieces of okra in a greased baking pan.
I baked the okra for about 30 – 35 minutes, until they were good and crispy, and then let them cool before removing from the pan, so the pecan crust wouldn’t fall off immediately. These passed the taste test – in fact, I think they turned out delicious! I have to say I am surprised at how much I like them! Pecan crusted baked okra makes an easy, healthy, and tasty appetizer, snack, or side dish for the summer.
- 1 pound okra
- 1 cup toasted pecans
- 1 cup coconut flour
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- pinch of cayenne
- coconut oil
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Combine pecans, coconut flour, sea salt, pepper, and cayenne in a food processor, and process together until an even grainy mixture forms.
- Transfer pecan mixture to a plate, and roll each piece of okra in the mixture, pressing the mixture into each piece of okra to coat.
- Grease a baking pan with coconut oil, and place each coated piece of okra in the baking pan.
- Bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until crispy.
- Cool slightly before removing from the pan and serving.
I love avocados and I love grapefruit, so when I saw a recipe for grapefruit guacamole in a recent Living Without magazine, I naturally decided to try my own version. Making guacamole is something my whole family does regularly because it is so darn easy. To shake things up, we are always looking for ways to experiment with our guacamole. This time, adding grapefruit segments was the new twist.
Every guacamole starts out the same way – with perfectly ripe avocados. I used two of them in this recipe. In a medium sized bowl, I mashed the avocados with the juice of a lime, sea salt, and a minced clove of garlic. Next I chopped white onion, cilantro, jalapeno, and pecans and added them to the bowl. A local restaurant by Rob’s work that is a favorite of our family includes chopped pecans in their guacamole, so for years we have too.
If ever there is a food I crave with intensity, it is grapefruit. When I was pregnant – watch out. I ate them nonstop every night. My son is now almost as big of a grapefruit fan as I am. To add the grapefruit segments to the guacamole, I started by cutting the grapefruit in half. I ran a small knife around each segment to loosen each one from the peel and membrane. I tried to remove as many seeds as possible while segmenting the grapefruit. Using a grapefruit spoon, I gently scooped out each segment and folded them into the guacamole. I squeezed a couple of spoonfuls of grapefruit juice out of the remaining grapefruit and added the juice to the guacamole as well.
Guacamole can be eaten in so many ways! Of course there is the typical chip and dip appetizer, or try slicing crisp veggies to use for dipping like radishes, cucumbers, or celery. My family likes to use guacamole as a condiment, and spread it on wraps, sandwiches, or burgers. One of my favorites is to top a couple of scrambled pasture raised eggs with a scoop of guac. Let me know your favorite way to eat guacamole!
- 2 avocados
- juice of 1 lime
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ cup chopped onion
- 1 small jalapeno, chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 2 tablespoon chopped pecans
- 1 grapefruit
- In a medium bowl, mash together avocados, lime juice, garlic, and sea salt.
- Add onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and pecans.
- Cut the grapefruit in half.
- Using a small knife, remove segments from the grapefruit and gently fold in the guacamole.
- Squeeze two spoonfuls of juice from the remaining grapefruit and stir into the guacamole.
- Serve with your favorite chip or sliced veggies, or use as a condiment on a wrap, burger, or sandwich.
I think one of the most frustrating things about meal time with my children is getting them to eat their vegetables, especially green ones, beyond the obligatory two bites. Vegetables taste and look exactly the opposite of anything that is remotely appetizing to a child thanks to all of the fun, colorful, sweet, and flavorful packaged convenience foods they like so much. But these perfectly crunchy asparagus fries are ready to take on the kid taste test challenge, as they combine two aspects in food that at least opens the door for kids to try and maybe even like (?) a green vegetable.
First, asparagus fries are a finger food! All kids (even big ones) like foods they can eat with their hands. Any time you can package a food in a way that looks less intimidating is a step in the right direction. The thin green stalks of asparagus, when hidden by a little gluten free breading and spices, make a decent attempt at mimicking an all time kid favorite – the French fry.
Second, asparagus fries can be dipped. Condiments work miracles on any food. To a kid, ketchup makes everything taste better. Plus, dipping his or her food in the condiment of choice allows a kid to personalize the taste and have a say in how he or she is going to enjoy the food. Every parent knows that kids love have a say in just about everything, including what and how they want to eat their food.
Asparagus is one of the many green vegetables that comes in season during spring, and like other green vegetables, asparagus is loaded with all kinds of nutrients like vitamins A, C, E, and K and folate plus some trace minerals like chromium, which helps regulate blood sugar. Asparagus is also particularly rich in the “mother of all antioxidants” – glutathione – a strong detoxifier and immune system booster. And, asparagus contains the amino acid asparagine, which is a natural diuretic – every lady’s best friend.
To make asparagus fries, I first dusted some clean asparagus stalks with a couple tablespoons of almond flour.
Next, I prepared a breading for the fries by combining almond flour, flax seed meal, and homemade vegan parmesan cheese. To make my parmesan cheese imitation, I processed together some pine nuts, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper.
I cracked an egg into a long enough bowl to fit the asparagus and dredged the stalks in the beaten egg until they were completely coated.
I then rolled the egg-coated asparagus in the breading and placed the stalks in a single layer in a greased baking dish. Another option would be to lay them out flat on a parchment lined baking sheet.
I baked the asparagus fries for about 22 minutes and made sure to taste test for desired crunchiness before turning off my oven. Although my kids prefer to dip theirs in ketchup, my dip of choice is a lemon hummus I picked up at Whole Foods.
- 1 bunch asparagus, washed and ends removed
- 1 egg
- ½ cup almond flour, plus 2 tablespoons
- ¼ cup flax seed meal or finely ground flax seed
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- On a large dish, lay out asparagus and dust with 2 tablespoons almond flour.
- In a food processor, process together pine nuts, onion powder, garlic powder, sea salt, and pepper to make a vegan parmesan cheese.
- In a small bowl, combine this vegan parmesan cheese, almond flour, and flax seed meal to make the breading for the fries.
- Transfer the breading to a large plate.
- Crack the egg into a long bowl, and whisk with a fork until beaten.
- Dredge asparagus stalks through the beaten egg.
- Then roll each egg-coated stalk in the breading mixture.
- Lay the breaded asparagus stalks in a single layer in a greased baking pan or parchment lined baking sheet.
- Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until desired crunchiness is achieved.
- Enjoy with your favorite condiment.
This past weekend, I did my first 3-day juice cleanse with a good friend of mine – the kind where you buy the juices from a company and they arrive via FedEx at your door the day before you start the cleanse. I chose to go with a local Dallas company call Roots Pressed Juices for the cleanse, and they sent me 6 fresh juices to drink each day.
The idea behind a juice cleanse is that you fill your body with fresh juices that are pressed in a way that preserves the most nutrients – vitamins, minerals, and other phytonutrients and enzymes. By just drinking the juice, you omit almost all of the fiber, so your body doesn’t have to digest the food. All of the fresh goodness then absorbs straight into your bloodstream. Since your body doesn’t have to mess with digesting food, the idea is that your body will use that extra energy plus all the added nutrients and enzymes to do a super good detox in all of your systems. Also, since no sugar, gluten, dairy, or any other processed foods (or any food at all!) is going in, you detox from all of that congesting junk as well.
I have heard stories of the detox symptoms people experience while on a juice cleanse, and I have to say that I didn’t experience any uncomfortable symptoms. But what I did experience was HUNGER! I had read that most people aren’t that hungry on a juice fast, but I was not one of those people. The first day was really quite enjoyable, as I liked trying each of the 6 juices. I was hungry throughout the day, but not miserably hungry. I woke up the morning of the second day and felt really, really good. I was in a good mood, not hungry or thinking about food, and felt very “clean”. About halfway through the second day and throughout the third day, I was really quite hungry. Really. So the juice fast became more of a mental mountain for me, and one that I ended up being very glad I climbed. The biggest thing I’m taking away from the 3 day experience was the continual reminder to only focus on what is immediately ahead of me and not stress out about what is coming the next day, or even the next hour. I had to live in each moment, just make it through that piece of time.
Would I do it again? Yes, but honestly, I felt the best on the morning of day 2. I would happily do 1 or 2 days, but 3 days nearly pushed me over the mental edge. I like to eat!
Coming off the juice fast, it was recommended to focos on eating vegan raw foods for the first few days. Plus, with spring upon us, leafy greens are in season, and I’m ready to trade in the heavy, warm, cooked foods for some light and easy raw creations. I say creations because I love the creativity that goes with raw food preparation. My first big meal after my cleanse was at Be Raw, a vegan raw restaurant (the only one!) in Dallas. The coconut kale enchiladas are my favorite! My mom, my brother, and his two friends also joined us for this raw experience, which was their first.
Today, I am making raw lasagna rolls using zucchini, sundried tomatoes, and macadamia nuts. This recipe can just as easily be made into a traditional lasagna by laying the zucchini lasagna “noodles” flat, spreading the macadamia nut “cheese” over them, and topping it with the sundried tomato marinara. Then repeat the layers.
To start, I got my zucchini lasagna “noodles” ready. Pretty simple – I just cut as slender of strips as I could lengthwise out of the zucchini. There is probably a great tool for this, but I don’t have it, and a good sharp knife worked just fine for me.
Second, I made the macadamia nut cheese. Again, don’t be intimidated because this is very simple as well. I used a recipe from Nuts.com (great place to buy nuts by the way) and made a few changes so it would taste like I wanted. In a food processor, I processed together the macadamia nuts (don’t soak them), lemon juice, sea salt, herbs de Provence (could use Italian seasoning), and a little water. I started out with no water, then added tablespoon by tablespoon until a big ball of “cheese” formed in my food processor. I ended up only adding 2 tablespoons of water, but adjust as you need to. Taste your “cheese” to make sure it is flavored like you like. This stuff is very, very good and can be eaten on seed crackers or spread on other veggies or substituted for ricotta cheese in many recipes.
Next, I made the sundried tomato marinara based on a recipe by Alissa Cohen that I learned in a raw food preparation class. I quickly wiped out my food processor, then added a tomato, soaked sundried tomatoes (soaking water discarded), olive oil, a date, garlic, salt, basil, and a splash of cayenne. I pulsed until a marinara formed, and then tasted it to make sure I liked the flavor.
The last step is assembly. I just spread a little of the “cheese” along each “noodle”, leaving a ½ an inch at the ends, and then rolled up the “noodle” with the “cheese” inside and set it in a serving dish. You can use toothpicks to hold your rolls together if needed. I repeated this step until all my “noodles” were used up. Lastly, I spooned a little marinara over each lasagna roll. This recipe makes about 16 to 18 rolls.
- 3 small zucchinis
- 1 cup macadamia nuts
- juice of ½ a lemon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon herbs de provence
- 2 – 4 tablespoons of water, to taste
- 1 tomato
- ½ cup sundried tomatoes, soaked for at least 30 minutes and water discarded
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 date
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon basil
- dash of cayenne
- Cut zucchinis lengthwise into very slender strips.
- In a food processor, add macadamia nuts, lemon juice, salt, herbs, and process until smooth. Add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until a ball of “cheese” forms.
- Remove the “cheese” from the food processor and wipe it out.
- In the food processor, add the tomato, sundried tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, salt, date, basil, and cayenne, and process until a marinara forms.
- Spread a little “cheese” on each “noodle”, leaving a little space on each end.
- Roll up each “noodle” with the “cheese” inside and place in a serving dish. Use toothpicks to hold the rolls together if needed.
- Spoon marinara over each noodle, and serve.
- Makes 16 – 18 rolls.
I was first introduced to Nutella when my family spent three weeks in Italy a couple of years ago. I’m not sure how I missed it before because I know all grocery stores in the U.S. carry it. We rented a villa in Italy, so we needed to stock it with food to eat during our stay, and that’s when we picked up the Nutella. It is ridiculously good and not at all like any other nut butter. I would say it more closely resembles cake frosting than a health food – it is that yummy.
We are a very active family, so I’m always trying simple recipes that we can snack on between meals for a quick energy boost. One of our favorites is gutty putty. My mom used to make them for my brother and I growing up all the time. This recipe is a similar idea but using the flavor of “nutella” or hazelnuts and raw cacao instead of peanut butter.
These “nutella” energy bites are not made with actual Nutella, just the Nutella flavors of hazelnut and chocolate. They aren’t nearly as rich and indulgent; however, they can be enjoyed without all the sugar and guilt. I ever so slightly toasted the hazelnuts before adding them to the food processor to help bring out their flavor.
I processed the nuts until they were coarsely ground and then reserved ¼ of a cup to roll the bites in. Without this step, the “nutella” bites end up oily and frankly unappetizing, as they look like brown balls of you know what.
I call these energy bites because I used several “superfoods” known to be a good source of nutrients and energy: cacao, maca, honey, and hemp hearts.
Raw cacao contains the highest concentration of antioxidants of any food in the world! (according to David Wolfe) Cacao is also high in many minerals like iron, which is necessary to make the hemoglobin part of our blood, the part that carries oxygen to all parts of our bodies – our brains, our muscles, our organs…everything! Cacao also contains endorphins, tryptophan, and serotonin – all of which are feel good substances that boost our mood.
Maca is known for being an aphrodisiac. It’s been grown for centuries in South America as food for warriors to make them superhuman strong for battle. Maca increases blood oxygen and activates our endocrine glands to give us a big boost of energy.
Honey is known for its sweetness and for helping those with seasonal allergies, but it is also a huge enzyme source, so it increases muscle reflexes and mental focus. I choose raw honey from a source close to where I live for the most benefits.
Hemp hearts are one of my very favorite foods and one of the most nutritious and energizing you can find. These little seeds are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are so important to regulate inflammation in our bodies, and contain a healthy omega 6 to omega 3 ratio of about 3:1. They are also a good plant source of protein, containing all nine essential amino acids. Protein is the building block for pretty much everything – muscles, bones, hair, skin, nails, glands, hormones, neurotransmitters, immune system antibodies.
These energy bites are as easy to make as gutty putty. After coarsely grinding the hazelnuts and removing ¼ of a cup, I added the remaining ingredients to the food processor and processed until a dough formed. Important step – taste the dough to make sure it is sweet and chocolatey enough for your taste. Add more cacao and/or honey and process further until you reach the desired taste.
I removed the blade from the food processor and, using my hands, formed balls out of the dough. I rolled each ball in the coarsely ground hazelnut, and now I have a quick energizing snack when the need arises.
- 2 cups hazelnuts
- 12 medjool dates
- ⅓ cup honey (more or less to taste)
- 3-4 tablespoons cacao, to taste
- 2 teaspoons maca
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup hemp hearts
- Very lightly (no more than 1-2 minutes) toast hazelnuts to bring out their flavor.
- Transfer to a food processor, and process until coarsely ground.
- Remove ¼ cup of coarsely ground hazelnuts, and set aside.
- Add the dates, honey, cacao, maca, vanilla, and hemp hearts to the food processor, and process until a dough forms.
- Remove the blade of the food processor, and using your hands, form balls out of the dough.
- Roll the balls in the coarsely ground hazelnuts.
- Store in the refrigerator.
What’s Easter brunch without a plate of deviled eggs? Eggs have long been a symbol of Easter, as they represent new life. Eggs and baby chicks also stand for the rock tomb out of which Jesus emerged when he rose again. Easter marks the beginning of spring, which is the season of new life, as nature starts blooming all around us. Even though we’ve had a recent cold snap (hopefully our last!) here in Texas, I still see my backyard coming to life again when I take my puppy outside every morning: new leaves are beginning to grow on the rose bushes and the grass is starting to wake up as well. What a testimony in all of creation of new beginnings and second chances! I love this time of year!
I also love adding Asian flavors to recipes – especially the spicy kick of wasabi, the Japanese horseradish that is actually a root with a burn your nose hairs kind of strong flavor. You can buy it in a powder form, which is the ground up root, or in a ready to use tube or condiment form, which is the kind I used for this recipe. I chose this Roland wasabi paste because it is made with all natural ingredients and no artificial food colorings. Because the wasabi root is a member of the Brassicaceae family along with foods like cabbage and broccoli, it has anti-cancer properties as well as anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Most deviled egg recipes call for a generous helping of mayonnaise, but for this recipe, I first processed together apple cider vinegar, a little agave nectar, olive oil, and raw cashews for a healthy homemade mayonnaise substitute. I then added the other ingredients to make my deviled egg filling: egg yolks from the hardboiled eggs, Dijon mustard, wasabi, juice from ½ a lemon, and a little salt and pepper to taste.
To complete the Asian touch in these deviled eggs, I sprinkled these toasted sesame seeds that I picked up at Whole Foods on top as a garnish. Toasted sesame seeds are a super versatile condiment that is handy to have around the kitchen. From sprinkling them as a garnish on coleslaws and salads to dredging chicken and fish in them before baking, toasted sesame seeds contribute flavor and crunch to all kinds of dishes. Recently, I added them to a homemade hummus, and today I’m using them to top my deviled eggs.
Ever have trouble peeling your hardboiled eggs? Does the shell ever stick to the white of the egg resulting in a mess when you try to peel them? Or what about green yolks? Ever notice the yolks of your hardboiled eggs turning green? Try these three steps to make perfect hardboiled eggs that are easy to peel and have pretty yellow yolks:
1. Place eggs in a large pot, and cover with 1 inch of cold water.
2. Place over medium heat until water comes to a full boil, and then cover and remove from heat for 12 minutes.
3. Remove eggs and place in an ice bath for 10 minutes.
The result is these perfectly hardboiled eggs that can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. Enjoy them throughout the week as snacks topped with your favorite condiment or make them into egg salads or deviled eggs.
- 6 eggs
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon agave nectar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons raw cashews
- 1 – 2 teaspoons wasabi paste, to taste
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- juice of ½ a lemon
- sea salt and pepper to taste
- toasted sesame seeds
- Place eggs in a large pot, and cover with 1 inch cold water.
- Bring to a boil over medium heat, and then cover and remove from heat for 12 minutes.
- Transfer to an ice water bath for 10 minutes.
- Peel eggs, and cut eggs in half lengthwise.
- Remove yolks, and set them aside in a small bowl. Put egg halves on a plate and set aside.
- In a Vitamix or food processor, process apple cider vinegar and agave nectar.
- Slowly drizzle in olive oil, and then add cashews and process until smooth and creamy.
- Add egg yolks, wasabi, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, and salt and pepper, and process until smooth and creamy.
- Using a small spoon, spoon egg yolk mixture into the hole in the egg halves.
- Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds, and serve.