Month: November 2013

Maple Glazed Pumpkin Doughnuts

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2013-11-22 08.28.07

Jewish holidays have been falling out ridiculously early this year. Thanksgiving and Hanukkah coincide this year and therefore has been dubbed Thanksgivukkah. The title seems catchy and cheesy all at once but it does invoke interesting menu ideas for both holidays. Several people I know proposed the idea of serving turkey potato pancakes with cranberry sauce. Others suggested deep-frying a whole turkey. I even came across a recipe for cranberry sauce turkey filled doughnuts. That is already entering the realm of food porn – an idea knocked off from  There is a limit to being adventurous and I am only willing to go that far. Oven baked doughnuts seem like a safer and healthier resort. Although I don’t eat doughnuts frequently (Lord have mercy on my waistline if I ever do), they are a traditional Hanukkah treat available in many different flavors around this time of year. Doughnuts are generally made of flour and yeast and are deep-fried in copious amounts of oil. While the concept of oven-baked doughnuts seemed contradictory a couple years ago, many people now prefer that method. Anything oven-baked is healthier compared to anything deep-fried. Plus it’s not nearly as messy or cumbersome. You can find a variety of oven-baked doughnut-recipes online. I decided to throw in a Thanksgiving twist using pumpkin puree. Not only is this dessert low in fat and sugar content, it’s vegan friendly and a great way to conclude a heavy Thanksgivukkah meal. Someone had success testing a similar recipe using gluten-free flour but don’t take my word for it. If you don’t like pumpkin puree, you can use applesauce or soy milk instead. Otherwise, this recipe will work well with sweet potato or carrot puree. You can use cocoa powder if you want to make chocolate doughnuts but somehow the flavors of maple syrup and chocolate seem incongruent with one another. I included a maple syrup glaze recipe as well for your disposal. Doughnut baking tins are essential for this recipe. You can find them at the baking section of any cookware store or you can order them online.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 cup of spelt, all-purpose or self-rising flour
  2. 1 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
  3. 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  4. 1/2 teaspoon of ground gloves
  5. 1/2 teaspoon of ginger
  6. 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  7. 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
  8. 2/3 cup of pumpkin puree, applesauce or milk of choice
  9. 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
  10. 1/3 cup of packed brown sugar or honey
  11. 3 tablespoons of coconut or vegetable oil

For the maple syrup glaze:

  1. 1 cup of sugar powder sifted
  2. 1 tablespoon of oil or lemon juice
  3. 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  4. 3 tablespoons of *grade B maple syrup


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and grease your doughnut baking tins. Whisk the first 6 ingredients in a large shallow bowl. Set aside. Mix the last 5 ingredients in another bowl till well combined. Pour wet into dry and immediately pour into the pan. Bake 15 minutes, then allow to cool before removing.

For the glaze, whisk all the ingredients together until smooth. Add more water or sugar if necessary. Drizzle glaze over doughnuts or dip the doughnuts in the glaze.

* There are two types of maple syrup; grade A and grade B.  Grade A syrup is light amber colored and very mild in flavor whereas grade B is dark and richly flavored with almost floral undertones. I prefer to use grade B maple syrup on my baking for that reason.

Yields 12 doughnuts



Thanksgiving Themed Shepherd’s Pie

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1384509988572Thanksgiving is just a week away and I still don’t have any plans. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite American national holidays. I am going to sorely miss having an authentic American celebration with my family. The image of family members debating with each other on who gets to carve the turkey still resonates in my mind. I almost thought that they were going to get into a duel with each other using the carving knife and the fork. Honestly, celebrating Thanksgiving overseas doesn’t feel the same. For starters, whole turkeys are available at every supermarket in America. You would have to order a whole turkey a week in advance where I live which is ironic considering the exorbitant amount of turkey that is being used in schwarma. Since it’s imminent that I’ll be celebrating Turkey Day at home with hubby, I find it pointless purchasing a whole turkey as much as I hope to cook one sometime in the near future. I feel that learning how to cook a whole turkey is one the many unwritten rules in a marriage. I hope to honor that rule one day. For now I can offer you a Thanksgiving themed shepherd’s pie recipe. While there are many variations of shepherd’s pie, this traditional English dish includes ground turkey and a pumpkin puree.  This beloved recipe has added the delicious taste and nutritional value of pumpkin, making it a hearty and nourishing dinner that’s perfect for Thanksgiving (if you are not going the traditional route).

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 cup of pumpkin puree
  2. 1 large russet potato peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  3. 1/2 teaspoon of salt divided
  4. 1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper divided
  5. 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  6. 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
  7. 1/3 teaspoon of nutmeg
  8. 1 onion chopped
  9. 2 cloves of garlic minced
  10. 2 large carrots peeled and chopped
  11. 2 large celery stalks chopped
  12. 3/4 lbs of ground turkey
  13. 1 tablespoon of corn starch dissolved in 1 cup of reduced sodium chicken broth
  14. 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce


potato chunks in medium saucepan. Cover with water; bring to a boil. Cook over medium-high heat for 10 to 15 minutes or until tender; drain. Return potatoes to saucepan; add 1 cup pumpkin, cinnamon, ground cloves, nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Beat with hand-held mixer until smooth. Cover and set aside.

Heat oiled large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, celery and carrots; cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until vegetables begin to soften. Stir in ground turkey, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes or until beef is no longer pink. Stir in broth and Worcestershire sauce; bring to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes or until mixture has thickened slightly.

Preheat broiler. Spoon turkey mixture into ungreased 9-inch deep-dish pie dish or other broiler-proof casserole dish (1 1/2- to 2-quart). Spoon pumpkin-potato mixture evenly over beef filling, spreading gently.


Carrot Kohlrabi Slaw

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Slaw is not popular among my social crowd. What revolted me about slaw the most, especially store bought slaw, is that the grated cabbage and assorted vegetables were  practically drowning in mayonnaise. That is partially the reason why I sometimes seek a mayo-free recipe. Salads and slaw are meant to be healthy, light, and delectable; not heavy and caloric. I was in need of a salad recipe similar to that of coleslaw but more Hubby-friendly. For instance, hubby claims that eating raw cabbage upsets his digestive system. I willingly omitted shredded cabbage from this recipe. He generally doesn’t take a particular interest in any type of slaw for that matter. I somehow managed to persuade him to give this carrot kohlrabi slaw recipe a try. We both are salad fanatics but a diversion from the routine garden salad is always welcome from time to time. Speaking of cabbage, kohlrabi is a member of the cabbage family that’s firm and round — not a leafy head. It’s crisp and juicy and makes a fantastic creamy slaw. The biggest concern that people have towards kohlrabi is its bitter flavors when raw. A while ago, I helped myself to a couple of raw kohlrabi slices at an event. They begged for a dipping. Luckily, there was a bowl of ranch salad dressing in the vicinity of the kohlrabi slices and I helped myself to a generous amount of those.  Likewise, citrus vinaigrette is necessary for making a delightful salad out of kohlrabi and shredded carrots.  Grated carrot salad is ubiquitous in France. I find that adding kohlrabi to the mix really improved the flavors with its peppery, crisp edge. This slaw may taste different but it practically goes well with anything. This recipe makes a perfect slaw for a light lunch or as a healthy side to sandwiches or burgers.  You can also sprinkle in some goat cheese if you like. I thought about adding toasted walnuts and dried cranberries but those ingredients were vetoed. You can guess by whom. But I will leave those options available for you.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 2 bulbs of kohlrabi peeled and shredded
  2. 4 carrots peeled and shredded
  3. 3 scallions thinly sliced
  4. 3 tablespoons of walnut oil or olive oil
  5. Juice from one small lemon
  6. Juice from one orange
  7. 1 tablespoon of honey
  8. 1 tablespoon of whole grain or Dijon-style mustard
  9. 3 tablespoons of fresh dill
  10. 1/3 teaspoon of ground pepper
  11. 1/2 cup of walnuts (optional)
  12. 1/2 cup of dried cranberries (optional)


Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Season to taste with, pepper and honey. Serve cold. To toast the walnuts, bake them on a sheet pan in a 350°F oven for about 10 minutes until fragrant.

Yields 4-6 servings

Morning Berry Boosting Ricotta Shake

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2013-11-20 08.17.55

As I am minimizing my intake of sugar, I have been exploring breakfast ideas that are simple, sugar-free, and tasty. Behold, the Morning Berry Boosting Ricotta Shots! After a while, I grow tired of eating oatmeal and tend to venture for other suggestions. Sometimes, I will whip up a batch of muffins and sometimes I will make myself a smoothie. This shake was inspired by a recipe that I have been meaning to try out from a book on nutrition I changed the ingredients and modified the original recipe a bit. I used ricotta cheese instead of cottage cheese. The recipe also asked for raspberries but I’m sure that other wild berries would work just as fine. In this case, however, I used frozen strawberries that have been sitting in my freezer since last winter. I created a sauce using unsweetened applesauce.  This recipe can be converted into a no-bake cheesecake recipe.  If you are not in a hurry, just let the cheese filling set in the refrigerator for an hour. Most people are discouraged and scolded at for eating cheesecake for breakfast. Perhaps this recipe may be more forgiving. I served these shakes in glasses because they give a more presentable and appetizing appearance. Let’s face it. We are not our most pleasant when we first wake up. I am not always thrilled to be dragging my weary body out of bed. The sunlight glaring in my face doesn’t exactly brighten my mood. An energy and metabolic boost is needed to keep us sustained throughout our day.  This wild berry ricotta shake is the perfect solution to help you get a jump-start to your day. It suppressed my appetite till lunch. I like to sprinkle some flax seeds and grounded nuts on top for some additional protein and crunch. The choice is yours though.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 cup of low-fat or non-fat ricotta cheese
  2. 1/2 cup of plain non-fat yogurt
  3. Zest from one lemon
  4. 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  5. 1 tablespoon of maple syrup or honey
  6. 1/2 of of wild berries fresh or frozen
  7. 1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce
  8. Crushed walnuts, almonds or hazel nuts
  9. Flax seeds or Chia seeds


In a bowl, combine ricotta cheese, yogurt, zest, vanilla and maple syrup.Whip till smooth. Fill two glasses evenly with cheese filling. Place applesauce and berries in a blender and blend till smooth. Fill sauce evenly in each cup. Top with nuts and flax seeds. Serve chilled or allow it to set for an hour.

Yields 2 servings


Farfalle Winter Squash Alfredo

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2013-10-24 18.11.39

I like to dub Thursday Pasta Day because that is what I routinely serve for dinner on Thursdays. A bit of carbohydrates offsets the soups, fish, and light vegan dinners I have during the week. As a pasta fanatic, I always look forward to Thursday. While cheese is the most popular accompaniment farfalle dishes (or in any pasta dishes), I sometimes like to pair them with seasonal ingredients for a more wholesome meal. For instance, I sometimes serve pasta with tomatoes, eggplant, asparagus, summer squash, and corn during the Spring/Summer time. While some of those vegetables are still available during Autumn/Winter, heartier winter squashes make their way into farmers markets as well. I feel that autumn and winter produce makes some of the best inspiration for seasonal pasta dishes. When I recently started making an off-the-cuff farfalle dish such as sautéing onions and garlic in olive oil, I also sprinkled in some cinnamon and nutmeg along with a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes for a kick. Then I will create an Alfredo sauce from leftover winter squash soup that I made earlier in the week. This shaped pasta made this pasta dish more intriguing to me.  If you are in need of pasta dinner ideas, give this autumn themed farfalle squash Alfredo a try.  Top it with some chopped walnuts for a bit of a crunch. Alfredo sauce is generally dairy but you can use non-dairy milk for a vegan friendly version.  If you felt that my Mac N Cheese recipe was a success, you are bound to enjoy this recipe.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 12 oz box of whole wheat farfalle (you can use any type of pasta you like)
  2. 2 cups of leftover winter squash soup or pureed squash/pumpkin
  3. 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  4. 8 sage leaves chopped (optional)
  5. 1 onion chopped
  6. 2 cloves of garlic minced
  7. 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  8. 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  9. 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg
  10. 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  11. Salt and pepper for taste
  12. Handful of chopped walnuts (optional)


Cook farfalle according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat until surface is shimmering slightly. Add sage leaves, onion and garlic and sauté until soft, 3-5 minutes.  Add winter squash soup. Stir in the Parmesan cheese. Season with cinnamon, nutmeg, salt,  red pepper flakes and pepper. Add the pasta and stir until pasta is well coated. Serve pasta with additional Parmesan cheese and chopped walnuts.

Yields 6 servings


California Avocado Tuna Salad

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2013-11-11 09.10.27Until recently, I never understood the appeal of tuna; let alone tuna salad. The smell is very putrid and the flavors are very much bland. I tried tuna steaks and they weren’t much of an upgrade from canned tuna. Ever since I’ve been exposed and taught many creative techniques to enhance the flavors and appearance of tuna, I occasionally treat myself to a tuna salad for lunch. After all, tuna salad is a lunchtime comfort food.  No matter how creative or spontaneous or inventive I try to be with my weekday lunches (which normally consist of Israeli salad or a garden salad. It doesn’t take extensive culinary experience nor knife skills to chop up a few vegetables), at some point I always end up craving for simple low-fat tuna salad. Only this time, I decided to throw in an exotic California twist. Normally, tuna salad is drenched in a liberal amount of mayonnaise. This recipe doesn’t require any. It has enough natural fat from avocado. I borrowed this recipe from a California grilled chicken salad recipe. I swapped chicken for canned tuna. Perhaps I should have called this recipe Cheater’s Avocado Tuna Salad. I contemplated about using tuna steaks but I was on the run and had no time to marinate the tuna steaks, grill them, and clean up the mess. I needed something quick with limited hassle. Canned tuna had to suffice for now. If you would rather use fresh tuna steaks, by all means do so. Just marinate them in fresh lemon or orange juice and mustard for 30 minutes to an hour. Season them with salt, pepper, a bit brown sugar, and cayenne pepper. Sauté each side on a preheated grill or grill pan for 2 minutes on each side. Cut them into cubes and toss them in a salad bowl with the rest of the vegetables. Truthfully, that idea sounds more appetizing. But the flavors in this tuna salad recipe are just as vibrant and exotic.  If using canned tuna, I highly recommend using the water-packed canned starkit tuna.  It has a cleaner tuna flavor and it’s lower in sodium content as opposed to the brine-packed canned tuna. If you don’t like eating tuna salad on it’s own, you can make a sandwich out if it or toss it in with some cooked pasta. I stuffed mine in a pita just the other day. Tuna salad doesn’t have to be mundane and soggy. While I have settled on this particular combination of ingredients for my tuna salad, the beauty of this dish is how different and delicious it can be when you are creative with the ingredients you use. I welcome you to share your tuna salad ideas 🙂

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 2 5 oz. cans of water-packed starkit tuna
  2. 2 small cucumbers diced
  3. 1 red bell pepper diced
  4. 1 large ripe avocado diced
  5. 1 scallion chopped
  6. Handful of seedless raisins (optional)
  7. Juice from 1 lemon or orange
  8. 1/4 cup of grape-seed or olive oil
  9. 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  10. 1/4 teaspoon of ground pepper


Drain tuna of liquid. Transfer to a salad bowl and mash with a fork.  Add vegetables. In a separate bowl, whisk juice, oil, and spices together. Pour over salad and toss lightly. Throw in some raisins if you like. Serve.

Yields about 2 cups


A Very Nutty Smoothie

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2013-11-11 08.00.11

I don’t have smoothies that often. When I do, it’s a treat and a great break from cereal. There are many different ways to make a healthy smoothie. I am sure you’ve encountered a myriad of smoothie recipes. Smoothie drinks can be made from almost any ingredients, but a banana nut oriented smoothie is a favorite among most people – including myself. While bananas add substance to smoothies, nuts are the heroes in this drink. I have been trying to detox as of late and am cautious as to what I decide to put in my mouth. While you can make a healthy and balanced smoothie using fruits and vegetables, I find that adding a little fat can make the smoothie more satisfying. It also can keep you energized until lunchtime.  I used a couple tablespoons of almond butter and hazelnut milk (follow instructions from my almond milk recipe).  I also added flax seeds as they are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids which studies have linked to a variety of health benefits. I sometimes like to sweeten my smoothies with a miniscule amount of molasses. You can use any natural sweetener of your choice. After slurping down one cupful of this morning delightful drink, I intended on setting aside the remainder for later. I was too impatient to wait that long so I subsequently guzzled down the rest. Its hopeless for me. In my defense, however, that’s all I had for breakfast. And it kept my cravings at bay for a couple of hours.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 large ripe banana chopped (you can use mango if you want to try something different)
  2. 1 cup of hazelnut milk (you can use any non-dairy or soy free milk of your choice)
  3. 2 tablespoons of almond buter
  4. 2 tablespoons of flax seeds
  5. 2 teaspoons of molasses
  6. 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract


Place all ingredients in a blender and blend till smooth. Serve cold.

Yields approximately 2 cups