Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Miracle at Whole Foods & Kale Chips Recipe

roasted kale chips
A couple of weeks ago I was standing in the produce section at Whole Foods. Two ladies came up next to me and were clearly new to the store...or at least the produce section. One of them said,
"We need kale....what IS kale, exactly? What does it LOOK like?"

Since I was standing right next to them (and in front of the kale!) I couldn't resist helping them out:
"Here it is...this is the green kale and this is the purple kale."

But this didn't end their confusion. "Which one's better...the green or purple?"

I told them they both taste the same to me, and both have the same nutritional content, so it was just a matter of personal preference.

Their questions weren't done. "So how do YOU cook kale?" (I am now the resident kale expert, apparently.)

I told them about a couple of different ways I like to prepare kale...making kale chips and braising it with garlic and onions for a while. I gave them specifics on oven temps and cooking times, and they were most grateful. Off they went to bravely face cooking kale for the first time.

This whole scenario was a complete miracle. Why, you ask?

Because less than six months ago, that was ME. I was the one who bravely entered the organic section of a grocery store for the very first time and had to humble myself and ASK someone "What in the world is kale?". I desperately wanted to SEEM like I knew, but of course I did not. In fact, the first time I even shopped at a Whole Foods I felt like a complete fish out of water. There I of very few overweight people in the whole a produce section bigger than my house...purchasing all kinds of veggies I'd only ever seen before on the Food Network.

Fast forward six months, and not only have I cooked kale...a lot...but I LIKE it. And I can make it a few different ways without so much as a recipe. Oh. My. Word. Who is this person???

It just goes to show. Miracles can still happen. Even at the grocery store.

To celebrate, here's a simple recipe for kale chips. These are now like potato chips at my house. They look TERRIBLE but taste AWESOME and are quite addictive. But it's okay because they are a complete superfood. So go ahead, have some more!


1-2 bunches kale (any variety)
olive oil to drizzle (maybe about 2 tablespoons or so?)
coarse sea salt (fine works too)
freshly ground black pepper

Wash, rinse, and dry kale. Make sure you get the kale REALLY dry. Remove the leaves from the stems (which are kind of woody and hard to chew). Chop the kale into smaller pieces (I do rough squares/rectangles, a couple of inches across.) Lay them out in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. (Or not, if you don't have parchment paper...that just helps them not stick to the pan.) Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle to taste with sea salt (I like the coarse stuff) and fresh ground black pepper. The biggest mistake I always used to make when cooking is that I was very timid when seasoning things, and therefore they often seemed tasteless. Depending on what kind of diet you're on, perhaps you can handle salt or perhaps not. If you need a lower salt recipe, perhaps add a liberal amount of garlic powder and black pepper in place of the salt.

Bake them at 325 degrees for about 15 minutes. They will be the ugliest little things, but SO tasty! You can modify this recipe with whatever spices you have on hand that sound good...cumin and chili powder with some red pepper flakes would be a nice spicy version!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Balsamic Roasted Chicken

photo courtesy of The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen
I don't know why, but for some reason, I've always been intimidated by roasting a whole chicken. Perhaps because the sight of a raw chicken carcass kind of freaks me out, and certainly having to TOUCH the thing really freaks me out. But I've decided it's worth it because the end result is so amazingly tasty. My family has been eating a lot of lean proteins lately, so obviously chicken breast is a huge part of our repertoire. A whole chicken has more dark meat and fat to it so I wouldn't recommend eating it really frequently, but what a treat! And even though I purchase organic chicken, I have to admit that it's way more economical to roast a whole chicken than it is to cook enough chicken breasts for the family.

Last night I made The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen's Balsamic Roasted Chicken with Figs and Sweet Onions, and Oh.My.Goodness. my family and I were In Love. As is often the case with me, I hadn't really planned ahead and so didn't have all the proper ingredients for the recipe...but it still turned out amazing. I didn't have any figs or sprigs of rosemary. I just roasted that puppy with onions...added a couple of cloves of garlic to the onions I stuffed inside the cavity. I seasoned it just like the recipe recommended and within the first ten minutes of it being in the oven, the whole house smelled HEAVENLY. My son's physical therapist was here at the time and was waxing eloquent about the amazing aroma of balsamic emanating from my kitchen.

By the time the whole thing was ready to eat, the family had such a high level of anticipation because they'd been smelling awesome-ness for a couple of hours. And then you could tell from the silence and fork-thrusting-towards-mouths that they were happy. When they finally came up for air,  my seven-year-old said, "This feels like Christmas! Or Thanksgiving!" I tried to pass it off like, oh yeah, I slaved over this for hours...when really it was SO easy and just made me look good.

The onions are practically like a dessert by the time they are done. I served a big old green salad with it and everybody was happy. The best part? I always try to make enough dinner to have leftovers for lunch the next day. So I get to eat it again today. :-)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Easy Southwest Sprouted Bean Soup

Okay so I didn't have fresh cilantro on I used dried parsley for garnish...I never said I was a professional!

For me, fast food used to mean a greasy burger and fries. Tasty at the time, but made me feel terrible afterwards. Not only did I feel guilty while eating it, but for me, there was pain afterwards and it lived on in my body fat. Awesome.

“Fast food” has taken on a whole new meaning for me. Take this soup for example. It’s a quick and easy soup to throw together. It’s also a good way to use up whatever veggies you happen to have on hand. I’ve used leeks before, and I’ve thrown in broccoli florets or kale…anything goes. You could also add a dash of cayenne pepper if you like it extra spicy. 

If you like your soup veggies to be super soft and mushy, just simmer the soup longer than the recommended 15-20 minutes. I happen to like my veggies to still have a bit of firmness to them, so this recipe is perfect for that. Nice and warming on a cold day!

(Also, as always, this soup is free of gluten, wheat, yeast, corn, soy, dairy, and eggs. I use all organic veggies and broth and gluten-free spices. Make sure your chicken stock is labeled gluten free!)

Easy Southwest Sprouted Bean Soup
gluten free, wheat free, dairy free, egg free, corn free, soy free

2 TBS olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
3 TBS cumin
1 TBS chili powder
1 can diced tomatoes
2 ½ cups sprouted bean trio (TruRoots)
8 cups chicken stock*
Salt & pepper to taste
Fresh cilantro & avocado for garnish

Start by heating 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large Dutch oven or stockpot. Add the diced onions and sauté until they start to get translucent. Add the garlic, celery, and carrots and sauté for a couple more minutes. Add some salt and pepper to taste.  Then add the peppers, cumin, and chili powder. Stir it all up and then add the diced tomatoes, sprouted beans, and chicken stock. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer on medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Always taste it at this point and decide whether it needs more salt and/or pepper. Top with fresh cilantro & avocado (diced fresh tomatoes would be a great topping too) and enjoy! (Please note: this soup was inspired by a recipe I LOVE, Black-Eyed Pea Soup from )

*for a true vegan soup, substitute vegetable broth

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Leila's Vanilla Cupcakes

these adorable sugar butterflies are courtesy of Sugar Robot
I've tried a few different recipes for vanilla cupcakes, but I liked these the best. This is loosely based on a chocolate cupcakes recipe in my Sophie-Safe Cooking book that I've modified to make into vanilla.

Leila’s Vanilla Cupcakes
  free of gluten, wheat, dairy, egg, corn, soy


2 cups gluten-free oat flour
1 cup organic evaporated cane juice (sugar)
¼ cup coconut flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. fine sea salt
1/3 cup melted coconut oil
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup vanilla coconut milk


½ cup Spectrum shortening
2 cups organic powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 Tb. Coconut milk (add more if you want lighter frosting, less if you want it thick and dense)

1.       Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners. Cute ones only, please! J
2.       Mix oat flour, sugar, coconut flour, baking soda, and salt together in one bowl with a whisk.
3.       Mix oil, vinegar, and vanilla together in another bowl.
4.       Add oil mixture and coconut milk to the dry ingredients and blend well.
5.       Pour into lined muffin tins, fill about halfway full. I use an ice cream scoop for this…it is the most amazing tool for cupcake & muffin batter…I don’t know what I did without it!
6.       Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, or until the top springs back to the touch.
7.       Let them cool in the pan for a minute or two, then transfer to a wire rack to cool the rest of the way.
8.       To make the frosting: soften the shortening a bit first if necessary. Cream the shortening in the mixer, than add powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk. Here’s where I do some tasting and testing as I go…some days it needs more milk, some days more powdered sugar. My daughter LOVES vanilla, so for her, I used vanilla coconut milk in addition to the vanilla extract so she could get that really obvious VANILLA flavor. Play with the frosting recipe and suit it to your liking. You can’t really mess this up. Just make sure it gets really well blended and there are no chunks or lumps of shortening or sugar.
**Frosting cupcakes tip: a good old butter knife or spatula works fine. But to step it up a notch, I use a ziplock bag with the tip of the corner cut off. I insert a Wilton pastry tip (1M), fill the bag halfway or so with frosting, and decorate away. It adds that sort of professional finish.

Peanut Butter Truffles

These make great gifts! I packaged these as a gift for someone by using a cute patterned box in the shape of Chinese takeout containers…line with parchment paper, put in a few truffles, tie with baker’s twine. Sweet and simple.

Peanut butter truffles get along nicely with coconut almond truffles...but that's for another post!

Peanut Butter Truffles
gluten free, dairy free, wheat free, egg free, corn free, soy free

1 cup chunky peanut butter
1 cup organic powdered sugar
½ tsp. GF bourbon vanilla
1 cup Enjoy Life chocolate chips

1.       Mix filling ingredients. I actually used my hands for this as it was much easier than a spoon. Nobody will blame you if you have to lick your fingers when you’re done mixing!
2.       Use a small scoop (mine is a melon- baller, about 1 ½ inches across) to scoop filling onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
3.       Cover with tin foil and place baking sheet in freezer for 20 minutes.
4.       Pull out the baking sheet and roll the scooped filling by hand into smooth little balls. When this is done, put them back in the freezer for at least another 20 minutes (although I found that freezing them a few hours or overnight was even better!).
5.       Use a double boiler to melt the chocolate chips. If you are like me and don’t own a double boiler, you can create one by boiling a small amount of water in a saucepan on the stove. Once the water comes to a boil, set a heatproof bowl on top of the saucepan (the rim of the bowl should be wider than the rim of the pan, and the boiling water should not touch the bottom of the bowl). Put the chocolate chips in the bowl and stir them constantly until they melt. (Note: Don’t walk away during this process because it’s easy to have the chocolate seize up on you. That is hard to recover from. If it happens you can add some milk and stir like crazy until it gets glossy and smooth again. This will save you from having to dump out the chocolate – but your truffle coating will be a bit softer. I don’t mind this, because chocolate is chocolate, but you might.)
6.       Drop in one of the frozen peanut butter balls. Roll it around with a spoon until evenly coated. Then deposit it on a parchment-lined baking sheet. At this point, I like to put sprinkles on top (I use the all-natural, organic ones, colored with things like beet juice.) But you could also sprinkle chopped nuts on top or whatever your little heart desires. Put the baking sheet into the fridge or freezer until firm. (This won’t take long, so hold on – you’ll your first truffle in mere moments!)
7.       EAT. LICK FINGERS. REPEAT. (Or not. These are extremely rich and dangerous for me, I can really only handle one. And even that’s a bit much, since I don’t tolerate chocolate very well. But sometimes a girl’s just gotta have chocolate.)