Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies [Gluten Free]

This was my first year growing pumpkins and I was thrilled when I produced one, and only one, good-sized pumpkin. The pumpkin was gnarled and uneven, but I knew it would make an excellent puree and be the perfect base for fall baking. Even with my best intentions, my first batch of gluten-free pumpkin cookies was a complete disaster - the cookies did not spread out in the oven and instead congealed into lumpy, gluten-less balls. I hate throwing away food, but these were truly inedible. Luckily, my second batch of pumpkin cookies was much more successful and spread out nicely. I adapted the recipe from Lexi's Clean Kitchen and swapped the honey for coconut sugar (I also think maple sugar would work really well) and the butter for non-dairy Earth Balance. They're really lovely and have that perfect hint of pumpkin without being overpowering.   


2 cups almond flour
2 tbsp coconut flour
6 tbsp coconut sugar
1/4 tsp Himalayan sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp pumpkin spice 
2 eggs
2 tbsp earth balance (or regular butter)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (you can make your own)
2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup chocolate chips


1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) Mix together dry ingredients in a bowl - almond flour, coconut flour, coconut sugar, salt, baking soda and pumpkin spice.

3) Mix together wet ingredients in a separate bowl - eggs, melted earth balance or butter, pumpkin puree and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, fold in chocolate chips to batter.

4) Form dough balls. Gently pat down down each ball with fingers on a lined baking sheet to flatten the cookies and help them spread out. The batter should be a little wet and sticky.

5) Bake for 20 minutes.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Almond-Hazelnut Banana Bread Muffins with Chocolate Chips

I’m particular about the ripeness of bananas. My preference is for the slightly under ripe banana that still has a ting of green around the stem. Unfortunately, this leaves me with a very small window of opportunity to consume a banana bunch. With baking, however, the more ripe, spotty and pungent, the better.

The obvious go-to for overly ripe bananas is banana bread, and since I have yet to purchase a loaf pan, I've been whipping up lots of banana bread muffins. I found a recipe that I love on The Curious Country Cook that is gluten-free and adds no additional sweetener (other than chocolate chips), and lets the banana shine on its own.

The muffins are nutty and dense, with a perfect golden crust. I've been using them as breakfast treat for on-the-go. The original recipe uses plain almond butter, which works great, but I'm crazy for this organic almond-hazelnut butter by Riverview Orchard and I think the hazelnut adds a little sumpin' extra.


3/4 cup almond-hazelnut butter (or other nut butter of choice)
3 very ripe bananas
2 eggs
1sp baking soda
1tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup almond flour
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips


1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) In a large bowl, peel and mash bananas with a fork. Stir in almond-hazelnut butter, almond flour, eggs, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon until thoroughly mixed. Fold in chocolate chips.

3) Divide batter between muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. 
3/4 cup almond butter
3 medium ripe bananas, mashed
2 large eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup almond flour/meal
1/3-1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a 12 muffin tin with liners.
2.In a medium bowl, mix the almond butter, bananas, eggs, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon until combined. Fold in the flour and chocolate chips.
3. Divide the batter between the muffin cups and top with extra chips. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. - See more at: http://curiouscountrycook.blogspot.com/2012/08/almond-banana-chocolate-chip-muffins.html#sthash.G6va9ct4.dpuf
3/4 cup almond butter
3 medium ripe bananas, mashed
2 large eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup almond flour/meal
1/3-1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a 12 muffin tin with liners.
2.In a medium bowl, mix the almond butter, bananas, eggs, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon until combined. Fold in the flour and chocolate chips.
3. Divide the batter between the muffin cups and top with extra chips. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. - See more at: http://curiouscountrycook.blogspot.com/2012/08/almond-banana-chocolate-chip-muffins.html#sthash.G6va9ct4.dpuf

Friday, July 19, 2013

Chocolate shortcake with coconut creme and berries

Around July 4th, I started craving strawberry shortcake. My boyfriend was supportive of this baking endeavor, provided that I find a way to incorporate chocolate. To him, no dessert is really complete without chocolate. Still, I wanted to keep the dessert light and not let chocolate outshine the star of the show - strawberries. The chocolate shortcake came out light and buttery, not overly sweet, and proved to be the perfect vehicle for a mountain of coconut creme and berries.

Chocolate Shortcake with Coconut Creme and Berries
Serves 12

Dry ingredients
1 cup coconut flour
1/3 cup dutch cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda

Wet ingredients
1/3 cup chocolate chips - melted
1/2 cup butter or ghee 
6 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1 can coconut milk (full fat) - refrigerated overnight
sliced strawberries (and other berries of choice)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2) Combine the chocolate chips and butter in a saucepan and stir well on low-med heat until completed melted. Add to a large mixing bowl with eggs, vanilla and maple syrup. Stir well.
3) Add dry ingredients to the mixture, stirring until completely mixed.
4) Grease a cupcake pan with butter or ghee and add shortcake batter (should have enough to make 12 shortcakes). Cook for 40 minutes.
5) Open can of coconut milk that has been refrigerated overnight. The thick, more solid, white part of the milk should have separated at the top from the bottom milk which is more clear and liquidy.  Separate and add the thick, solid milk to a bowl and beat with a blender until it's the consistency of whipped creme.
6) Slice the shortcakes in half, and add coconut creme to bottom half of the cake with berries.
7) Sandwich with top of the shortcake and more berries.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Before + After: Vintage File Cabinet

After: File cabinet makes a perfect side table in the living room

I've become hooked on HGTV. Flea Market Flip is my ultimate vice, where two teams go head-to-head at a flea market by purchasing three items to flip at another flea market. I love the idea of taking something old, with good bones, and using a little creativity to give it a new life. When I found a vintage file cabinet at the Alameda Antiques Faire (likely from the 1940's), I had a hunch that it would make a great side table in my living room. My dad helped me take the cabinet apart, piece by piece, which we then sanded and primed. We also applied rust remover to the wheels and chrome handle to shine them up. I spray painted each piece of the cabinet separately to get an even blue coat. The file cabinet has become a great addition to the living room and a place to tuck away unsightly exercise equipment. 

Before: Rusty file cabinet purchased from Alameda Antiques Faire for $35

Friday, May 24, 2013

Before + After: 1930's Vanity Makeover

 After: Girly vanity of my dreams
I'm a sucker for a good makeover. This is probably why Cinderella was my favorite movie as a child and Clueless as an adolescent (Tai's makeover, obvi). Now, as an adult, my love for makeovers has evolved from people to furniture. I love finding a unique piece, either discarded (and loving rescued, as I like to think of it) on the side of the road or a swap meet and giving it a new life. It seems to satisfy a creative itch as well as desire to get my hands dirty (sanding, priming, painting). When decorating my room, I found the perfect makeover project in a 1930's vanity at the Alameda Vintage Fair. Luckily, this was a pretty easy makeover - the white vanity was in good shape and just needed some paint to spruce up. I choose purple, because hey, it's a vanity....doesn't get much more girly than that, and I loved that I could accentuate the piping details around the drawers by using a contrasting white paint.
Before: I purchased this vanity at the Alameda Vintage Fair

Friday, May 17, 2013

Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad with Tahini-Maple Dressing

While planning out winter seedlings, I went a bit overboard on kale. By early spring, I had ten abundant kale plants (a mix of red russian and curly kale varieties). That's a lot of kale for one person. I started to keep a jar of pre-washed kale leaves arranged in an enticing bouquet by my sink (nagging me to add a little green to my morning juice and meals throughout the day). I also started volunteering to bring kale salads to friend and family gatherings -- with the bragging rights of having just cut the kale from my garden that morning. One recipe I discovered, that I now love, comes from Cookie and Kate. It's savory, has great texture and is crazy healthy (kale and brussels sprouts, whoa).

Curly kale from the garden

1 bunch kale (any variety), chopped
12 brussels sprouts, thinly sliced and chopped
1/2 cup roasted almonds, chopped
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan (optional)  

Tahini-Maple Dressing
1/4 cup tahini
2 Tbs. brown rice vinegar
2 tsp. miso
2 tsp. maple syrup
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2 Tbs. water

1) Cut out spines of kale leaves and chop into small pieces. Transfer chopped kale to large serving bowl.
2) Chop off ends of brussels sprouts, slice thin horizontally, then chop and break apart with fingers into little pieces. Add sprouts to serving bowl.
3) In a small bowl, whisk together tahini, vinegar, miso, maple syrup and red pepper flakes. Stir in the water until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Pour the dressing over kale and sprouts, add almonds and Parmesan and mix well.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Roasted eggplant with almonds and goat cheese

Eggplant is like vegetarian meat -- it's fleshy, hearty and you can even throw it on a grill. I've surely received eye rolls for saying this to my non-vegetarian friends, but I stand by this claim. When I dine out, I get cranky when I'm offered tofu (or other soy "meats") as a meat sub, really never liked the stuff. But offer me an eggplant sub, and I'm happy as a clam. Today's recipe was adapted from theKitchn, and has become my go-to for potluck dinners.

2 large eggplants, cubed
1/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbs. cider vinegar
1 Tbs. honey
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. cumin
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 lemon, juiced
1 Tbs. tamari
1/2 cup almonds, chopped
2 oz. goat cheese, crumbled (I like this one by Cypress Grove)
1/4 cup scallions, chopped

1) Heat oven to 400°F. Cut eggplant into small cubes, divide and spread onto two large baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with salt and set aside.

2) Whisk together olive oil, cider vinegar, honey, paprika and cumin. Dab away water that has beaded up on eggplant, the toss eggplant with marinade. Stir in garlic. Roast in oven for 40 minutes (Stir every 15 minutes to make sure it's evenly roasted and not burning.)

3) Whisk together lemon juice and tamari. Add eggplant and lemon juice mixture to a large bowl, and stir in chopped almonds and goat cheese. Top with chopped scallions and serve.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Lilita Likes

 Lightly sweet and refreshing - House Kombucha - Hibiscus Sunrise (Oakland, CA)

In the Bay Area, there's no shortage of local, artisan food. We seem to take a lot of pride in supporting local businesses and farms, while we reap the rewards of getting food that is fresh and close to the source (not to mention, minimizing our carbon footprint). It's a win-win. When I grocery shop, I work like a detective - scrutinizing food labels for what ingredients are used, whether they're organic and where it's made. Every now and then, I stumble upon a true gem and find myself becoming an evangelist. Since I get no greater joy than sharing great food with the people I love, "Lilita Likes" will become a reoccurring feature on the blog. I hope you enjoy this week's finds.

So good, I tried to create my own...and failed miserably - Grindstone Bakery Dark Chocolate GF Cookie (Rohnert Park, CA)

Puts other nut butters to shame - Riverview Orchard Organic Almond Hazelnut Butter (Orland, CA)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Vegetarian Chili

Is there anything more cozy than curling up with a bowl of chili on a windy night? I’d have to say that chili is already pretty high up on my list of comfort foods – I love the different textures of beans and veggies and kick of spices. I also love that you can easily put your own stamp on the recipe by varying the proteins. I’ve tinkered with my chili recipe quite a bit from season to season and I think I’ve finally nailed it –  a harmonious blend of quinoa, black beans, harissa and a little yam strikes the right balance of savory, sweet and spicy. But feel free to put your own stamp on it!

1 cup dried black beans, soaked overnight
1 cup dried quinoa
2 cups water

3 garlic cloves, minced
2 shallots, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup carrots, diced

1 Tbs. harissa
1 Tbs. oregano (fresh or dried)
2 tsp. cumin
28-oz. can roasted crushed tomatoes (I prefer Muir Glen)
32-oz vegetable stock
1 yam, peeled and cubed
4 green onions, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Add soaked beans to a soup pot and submerge completely under 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer and cook until beans are tender (about 1.5-2 hours). Once beans are thoroughly cooked, add a few pinches of salt to the water and set aside.
2. Combine shallots and garlic with olive oil in a soup pot and saute over medium heat for a few minutes until shallots start to become translucent. Stir in fresh tomatoes, celery, carrots, harissa, oregano and cumin and saute for another few minutes. Stir in beans, crushed tomatoes, stock, yam, quinoa and season with salt and pepper. 
3. Cook on medium heat for 30-45 minutes, stirring frequently, until potatoes are cooked and the chili has thickened. 
4. Ladle into bowls and top with green onion.  

Monday, January 7, 2013

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Sometimes it feels like I'm the only person who truly gets excited about tabbouleh. "Did you see they have tabbouleh!" I'll exclaim to a friend as we dig into the menu at a Mediterranean restaurant. "Oh....nice," responds friend with feigned enthusiasm. Tabbouleh is never the star of a meal — it gets outshined by hummus, baba ghanouj and falafel among other Middle Eastern delicacies. But what I love about tabbouleh, and what many people overlook in my opinion, is that its both refreshing and satiating. The chopped tomatoes, cucumber and parsley give it a satisfying crunch while the wheat bulgur provides a hearty balance. Since the recipe for tabbouleh is more or less the same across the board, the key to a making a great tabbouleh is having high quality ingredients to begin with (it may seem like a no brainer, but I've seen many get it wrong with a mealy tomato or soggy cucumber). I decided to do my own twist on the dish by substituting quinoa for wheat bulgur which provides some extra nuttiness and texture.

Quinoa Tabbouleh 
Serves 6

1 cup dried quinoa

1 English cucumber
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 bunch parsley
1 garlic clove
1/3 cup olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring the quinoa, a few pinches of salt and 1 1/2 cups of water to boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer until quinoa has absorbed all of the water and is tender (about 15 minutes). Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
2. Chop tomatoes and cucumber slices into quarters. Combine with chopped parsley and quinoa in a large bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, mix together lemon juice, olive oil and garlic.
4. Toss lemon dressing with chopped quinoa salad. Season with salt and pepper to taste

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Black-Eyed Peas and Yam Veggie Burger

As a longtime vegetarian (going on 22 years!), I've had my fair share of veggie burgers. For the longest time growing up, I came to associate veggie burgers with those cardboard-like discs you buy in the frozen section. At barbeques, I'd usually declined the veggie burger in favor of pasta salad or other veggie side dishes. Those dense little pucks really gave vegetarians a bad rap. Since moving to the Bay Area, I've discovered the art of the veggie burger—crispy on the outside, tender on the inside and filled with plenty of protein. What I realized is that people make the mistake of trying to make veggie burgers taste like beef or other meat products. Veggie burgers should be made with fresh vegetables, legumes and spices, not soy protein and preservatives. You can be so creative with veggie burgers and they're truly satisfying and hearty—I've even seen my carnivorous friends favor them over traditional meat burgers (for reals). I adapted this recipe recently and it turned out great. Instead of a sesame bun, I used a gluten-free Bavarian Bread and turned it into an open faced sandwich. Also, I cooked my own black eyes peas instead of using frozen peas and topped it off with arugula pesto, wild greens and halved grape tomatoes. Delish!

(Note: Instead of frying the patties, I baked them in the oven for 15 minutes on each side to get them golden and crispy on the outside without using oil).

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Coconut-Cacao Frosting

I hate seeing good produce go to waste. So when a coworker with a surplus of home-grown pumpkins needed help unloading her family's Halloween rejects, I readily jumped at the opportunity. The great thing about pumpkins (and most other squash varieties) is that they last a long time and make festive house decorations while you're deciding what to cook. With my father's 63rd birthday coming up, I wanted to make a seasonal cake that was decadent yet healthy (yes, you can have both!). I found the prefect recipe on My New Roots and added my own twist by adding unsweetened cocoa powder to the frosting (I probably added 3/4 cup, but you can start with 1/4 cup and adjust depending on how chocolatey you want your cake). I finished it off with roasted hazelnuts and chopped dark chocolate. The cake turned out subtly sweet yet spicy and the coconut-cacao frosting was light and velvety.

Mornin' Groats

As a vegetarian, who doesn't eat eggs, I'm often limited to a fruit cup and side of hash browns when I go out for brunch. Of course, there's the occasional granola bowl (like my favorite at La Boulange in San Francisco). At home, I like to get creative with my breakfast options and I'm constantly looking for new inspiration. This weekend, my father introduced me to whole oat groats, which are basically minimally processed oats (the oat kernel with the hull removed). Groats not only have a high nutritional value, they also have a wonderful nutty flavor and creamy texture. They're also a labor of love (if you want super creamy groats, you'll need to cook them for at least an hour and a half) but are well worth the wait. They taste great with a little chopped banana, blueberries, pepita seeds and walnut pieces.

Whole Oat Groats
Serves 4

1 cup whole oat groats
8 cups water
drizzle of honey or maple syrup (optional)
chopped fruit, handful of chopped nuts and seeds (optional)
splash of nut milk (optional)

1. Combine groats with water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for required time, stirring often until desired consistency is reached.
2. Top with a splash of hemp milk, chopped fruit, nuts, seeds and a drizzle of honey.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Recently, I've developed a small crush on Fred Astaire. He's balding and thin-as-a-rail (not to mention he's been deceased for 20+ years), but his iconic dance moves and debonair style is enough to make me swoon. I also have to give props to his spunky female counterpart, Ginger Rogers. Watching the duo in part prompted my enrollment in weekly tap classes, and for inspiration, I love to re-watch Fred and Ginger's famous tap (or "hoofing" as they called it back then) routines.

Some of my favorite movies featuring the pair include Top Hat (1935), Swing Time (1936) and Shall We Dance (1937). I'll admit that they're a little campy, but the dance numbers, original songs and glam fashion make them irresistible classics. Here are some peeks at my five all-time favorite Fred and Ginger moments. Enjoy!

Swing Time, "Pick Yourself Up" (1936)

 The Barkley's of Broadway, "Bouncin' the Blues" (1949)

Roberta, "Too Hot to Handle" (1935)

Shall We Dance, "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off" (1937)

Shall We Dance, "They Can't Take That Away From Me" (1937)