Gluten-Free Pie Crust

Gluten Free Pie CrustI was never a pie baker. Why bother when your mother and sister-in-law are masters of the art? But, when spending the holidays away from the family, the idea of baking my own gluten-free pie crust seemed a bit daunting, risky, and downright uninspiring.

This gluten-free pastry crust recipe from Marth Rose Shulman changed my mind and made a pie baker out of me. Although I must admit that I do not own a rolling-pin. A wine bottle works just fine. This crust is flakey, slightly nutty and pretty much fail-proof. I love the recipe for these reasons: Continue reading “Gluten-Free Pie Crust” »

3 Reasons to Love Sunchokes

Jerusalem ArtichokesSunchokes might not be on your radar —but for both culinary and health reasons, you may want to check out these tubers! They look a bit like ginger and come in a variety of sizes, shapes and even different colors, depending upon the soil in which they were grown. They are generally smooth, but can be very knobby, as in the heirloom variety. Not exactly the star of the farmers’ market, they are in the shadow of the more colorful fall and winter vegetables. But, here are three reasons you’ll want to bring them home. Skip the squash. It’s not going anywhere!


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Pumpkin Curry Soup

Pumpkin Curry Soup The most festive and celebrated of gourds, pumpkins, enjoy a near celebrity-status in our apartment. By late September, the scouting begins, first for prospective jack-o-lanterns, then centerpieces and window adornments. Sadly, by early November, the carved ones have been decommissioned and the uncarved ones start giving hints that our time together is coming to a close. Their skin, once bright orange, leathery and taut, begins to dull and wrinkle. Their bodies soften, losing their denseness and familiar “thump” when tapped. Clearly, none of them will make it to Thanksgiving. Soup must be made. Continue reading “Pumpkin Curry Soup” »

Black Bean Chipotle Bisque

Chipotle Bleack Bean Soup

It’s soup and sweater time! This soup, like one of my favorite sweaters, is warm, dark, and comforting —with a little sass. In this version, I added some coconut milk to make it even creamier and cozier. Rich in protein and fiber, it tastes like an indulgence, but it’s not. Bring on the cold. I’m ready.

The chipotle pepper really sets this recipe apart from other bean soups, providing a hint of heat and smokiness. The dried peppers can be found in the ethnic section of most larger grocery stores. You can create your own chipotle powder by simply grinding the dried peppers in a spice or coffee grinder. But, remove the seeds first if you want more smokiness than heat.

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Baked Cinnamon Apple Chips

Baked Apple ChipsNo special equipment is needed to make apple chips. Dehydrator? Mandolin? Nope. A low-temperature stove, a sharp knife and some time are all you need. Healthy, full of fiber, sugar-free and just two ingredients; apple chips might be the perfect whole foods baked treat. Caution: the aroma of cinnamon apples wafting from your oven is almost as addicting as the chips. Continue reading “Baked Cinnamon Apple Chips” »

How to Make Chia Gel -in 45 Seconds!

Spoon in Chia Gel

The How to Make and Use Chia Gel has been one of this site’s most popular posts since first published over a year ago. This post’s popularity is no doubt been due to chia gel’s versatility. Add it to drinks, use as a thickener or an egg-replacement to make healthy vegan options, such as smoothies, jam, pudding or other baked goods.

To celebrate, I decided to make my first cell phone video! While the video is only 45 seconds long, the process actually takes 15 minutes. Check it out!

Like videos? Send me your requests!

10 Tips for Cooking Grains

10 Tips for Cooking Grains

Does this picture look grainy? I couldn’t resist….

In case you missed it, The Natural Gourmet Institute was the site of Grain-Fest 2015 (also known as the chef training program grain practicum). We steamed, boiled, pressure-cooked, toasted, pan-fried and baked everything from bulgur, couscous, Kasha, millet, polenta, varieties of rice, soba noodles and of course, wait for it…quinoa.

We cooked up some old and new favorites. Which dishes were the biggest losers and which were pleasant surprises? What did we learn? Check out the tips below!


Losers – Pan-Fried Millet Croquettes. These cute little round guys are millet croquettes. The ones in the front were baked and they were delicious. But, the ones hiding behind them off to the right were pan-fried, as in about a half-inch of oil. Pan-frying is a required skill in any chef training program. But, it’s not a technique I would use at home. Ditto for Alena, my partner that day. We were both a bit timid about all that oil. Alena’s burned and mine were soggy, full of oil. Fail. But, I will try the baked version at home.


Winner – Polenta. Polenta was a big hit, both the fried and baked versions. No surprise here. After all, who doesn’t love polenta especially when cut into cute heart shapes?

Biggest Surprise – the Kasha Potato Loaf (shown below). Most vegetarian loaf recipes I’ve contemplated seem a tad on the heavy and rich side, made mostly of nuts and cheese. This one had neither and despite its subtle flavor profile, was a satisfying keeper

Grain Practicum

10 Tips for Cooking Grains

  1. Prep Tip – To Wash or Not?
    Whole grains, such as millet, quinoa and brown rice should be washed in water before cooking. Multiple washes may be needed, until the water runs clear. Processed grains, such as bulgur or couscous do not require rinsing.
  2. Prep Tip – Roasting. Roasting grains before cooking will give them a nutty flavor and aroma. You can roast grains in a pan with or without oil.
  3. Cooking Tip –  Salt the Cooking Water Properly.
    For every cup of uncooked grains, add 1/4 teaspoon sea salt per 1 cup of grain. The cooked grains will end up lightly seasoned. More salt can be added, as desired, toward the end of cooking.
    For cooking pasta, add 1 tablespoon sea salt per quart (4 cups) of boiling water. The cooking water should ‘taste like the sea’.
  4. Cooking Tip –  For Fluffy Grains: Hot Grain, Hot Water.
    The temperature of the water will affect the texture of the cooked grain. Fluffy grains result from toasting grains first in a pan as well as the shortest cooking time. So, for fluffy grains, add hot toasted grains to boiling water. Also, go lighter on the water. Use 1 3/4 liquid per cup of grain.
  5. Cooking Tip –  For Moist, Sticky Grains: Cold Grain, Cold Water.  Moist, sticky grains result from a longer cooking time. So, sticky grains, add cold grains to cold water, then bring the liquid to a boil and cook as usual. This method is ideal for porridge or for dishes where you want the grains to mesh with the other ingredients, such as a garden burger. Also, go heavier on the water. Use 2 or 2 1/4 cup liquid per cup of grain.Note the different results below from my highly scientific experiment conducted at the Whole Foods Explorer test kitchen.Cold or Hot water?
  6. Cooking Tip – Don’t Lose Steam!
    Is it ready? Take a VERY quick peek to see if all the water has been absorbed. Take the lid off and use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan to see if any water remains. Then, replace the lid within 30 seconds. If you see water in the bottom of the pan, let it cook for another 5 minutes, then test again.

    Cooking hearty grains, such as long-grain brown rice or bulgur require one extra cooking stage. When no water remains and the grains are done cooking, remove them from the heat and let them rest covered 5 minutes. Do NOT open the lid during this time, which will cause the steam to turn into water.

  7. Digestion Tip – Soak Grains Before Cooking.
    Soak grains at least 7 hours in warm, acidulated (some lemon juice works fine) and salted water to neutralize the phytic acid which exists in the outer bran layer of all whole grains. Phytic acid can block absorption of certain vitamins and minerals.
  8. Digestion Tip -Cook Grains in a LOT of Water.
    Rather than use the recommended water to grain ratio for a given grain, simply cook the grains like pasta. Boil them in ample water and cook for the recommended amount of time. When the grains have reached the desired texture, simply drain off the water as you would do when cooking pasta.
  9. Economic and Storage Tip – Buy Grains in Bulk
    Buying in bulk saves money. Whole grains will last up to 6 month if stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.
  10. Time Saving Tip – Cook in bulk!
    Cook for multiple meals at a time. Cooked whole grains stored in an airtight container will last up to 5 days in the refrigerator and at least 3 months in the freezer.

Trivia: Quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat are not actually grains at all. They are considered ‘pseudograins’ in that they resemble grains from an eater’s perspective. But, they belong to a different botanical family.

Curious about the health benefits of whole grains? Read my prior post, ‘Grains: Friend or Foe?


Quinoa Breakfast Bars
Vegan Quinoa Breakfast Bars
Black Bean & Quinoa Salad
Why Oats Are An All-Star Grain
5 Ways to Upgrade Your Oatmeal


Wood, Rebecca.The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York:  Penguin Group, 2010.

McGee, Harold. On Food and Cooking. The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. New York: Scribner, 2004.

What is your favorite grain tip? Please share below!


Grains: Friend or Foe?

Are Grains Evil?Are grains evil? Muahahaha….. Of course not! But, You might think so considering that some folks have black-listed this whole food group from their diet. But, the question begs some discernment regarding the health concerns or benefits of whole grains versus their refined counter parts.

What is the difference between refined grains and whole grains?

In a word, processing. The difference between whole grains and refined grains is night and day from nearly every perspective —the sensory (taste, texture, smell, appearance) to the logistical (shelf-life, cooking requirements, etc.). Continue reading “Grains: Friend or Foe?” »

Culinary School: Beans, Beans, Beans!


We’re all about beans right now! The legume family has over 15,000 species including beans, lentils, peas, and peanuts. Rich in fiber and protein and low on the glycemic index, beans are excellent for blood sugar and weight management and are a budget-friendly protein source. Further, their somewhat neutral flavor makes them a versatile kitchen staple. So, while beans are a key player in my kitchen, I was excited to expand my bean know-how.

Continue reading “Culinary School: Beans, Beans, Beans!” »

How to Make Refrigerator Tea

Refrigerator Brewed Herbal Tea

Don’t say goodby to sun tea simply because summer is ending. Make refrigerator tea instead! Refrigerator tea is just as easy and an arguably safer way to enjoy your favorite cold teas year-round and at a fraction of the cost of bottled beverages. I’m hooked on the organic Hibiscus High Tea from Mountain Rose Herbs. The vibrant color and floral fragrance make it a treat for the eyes, nose and taste buds.

Is Sun Tea Safe?
Sun tea can be made safely. However, precautions must be taken to avoid growth of bacteria in the tea or those commonly found in water, such as Alcaligenes viscolactis. To ensure proper food safety, the water needs to either be heated to 195° for three to five minutes or kept at 40° or lower. But, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the sun’s rays used to steep tea in a jar won’t heat the water hotter than 130° Fahrenheit.

How to Make Refrigerator Tea
Making refrigerator tea is the same as making regular tea, but with cold water and with a longer steeping time. Into a glass container, add about 1 tablespoon of dried tea per quart of water. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight. Then, strain and serve straight up or over ice.

You can bump up the flavor and health benefits by getting creative with your cubes. For example, consider adding ginger juice cubes or turmeric ice cubes for an immune and anti-inflammatory benefit. No subtlety here. Pun intended!

Rose Mountain Herbs Tea

Add tea to a glass jar full of filtered water.

Sun Tea Brewing

Place the container in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours. Steeping time will vary with different teas and the tea to water ratio. Then, strain and serve.