Friday, July 26, 2013

Cracking the Coconut Code

You may have already noticed I use a lot of coconut in my baking. Any objections?  Didn't think so. Coconut is the perfect ingredient to sweeten up your recipes. I love buying unsweetened coconut strips from Trader Joes to have as a little snack after a meal. Being the coco-nut that I am, I have been spoiled here in Hawaii. 

I arrived in Maui yesterday and was driving to my hotel when I spotted the absolute cutest fresh coconut stand. I ordered Sal (my dad) to stop the car at once... and am I glad I did! A pile of fresh, whole coconuts laid there... waiting for me. One coconut please. Cha Ching. I was one happy lady. The store owner first drilled a hole into the coconut so, I could drink the water. Mmm...mmm...good! It didn't taste like anything you find in the store. Now, time for the oh so good...too good to be true...coconut meat. He took back the coconut, grabbed an ax, and split it in half. Time to dig in!

According to the Coconut Research Center, coconuts are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Around the world, coconut is used to treat a variety of health conditions and diseases, like asthma and influenza. Stock up on coconut strips for a snack, blend into a smoothie, slice onto a salad, or mix into cookies for a sweet summer treat.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hanging loose in Hawaii

Aloha! White sand beaches, clear blue oceans, palm trees, and ohama (family). I'm in paradise! If you're looking to hang loose and leave all your worries behind, Hawaii is the place to be. The Hawaiian culture is focused on the many meanings of "aloha"- greetings, love, enjoying life, laying back, and having fun.

Not only do the people of Hawaii know how to have a good time, but they know good food too. I discovered this after visiting a luau in Honolulu which consisted of a pig roast, dancing, and talking story. This was my kind of party. The night started off with freshly sliced pineapple. A buffet-style dinner included roasted pig, chicken, poi (a potato paste), haupia (a coconut milk jell-o), and mixed vegetables. Everything was delicious! Most other nights, my dinner of choice was ahi tuna. The tuna was either served raw or seared in a sesame seed teriyaki sauce. It got better and better at each restaurant I dined in.  Is it obvious I couldn't get enough? 

What I love most about Hawaiian culture is that the natives know how to kick back and relax. Back home in New York, we are always on the move. Not even speeding taxis or city buses can slow us down. Here in Hawaii, "we get there when we get there."  People sit and talk to each other  without an agenda in mind. They savor their meals and accept the traffic...since there is only one freeway on the island. Life is precious and theirs to enjoy. I spoke with a man who's job is to sit on the beach and organize sail boat rides. He moved to Hawaii 10 years ago, had made little money since, and is the happiest he's ever been in his life. This conversation really put things into perspective. 

So, my advice to you all when life gets stressful and just too much to handle is sit back, relax, take in each breath, smile with your loved ones, enjoy life, and hang loose. 


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Day at the Local Farmer's Market

Last Saturday, I moved to Highland Park, LA, where I will be spending the remainder of my summer. I'll admit I'm your typical girl- obsessed with finding the cutest coffee shops, cafes, restaurants, and farmers markets.  As I was eating breakfast at the Highland Cafe, I came across a flyer for the Old LA Farmers Market. Located just minutes away from my apartment, the market is held every Tuesday year-round.  

Did I mention I live with 3 guys?  Me, the captain, marched down to the farmers market with my army of men to show support for the local farmers. The market was filled with rows of beautiful fruits and vegetables, baked goods, arts and crafts, and much more! One stand consisted of several different varieties of hummus.  Mmm...sun-dried tomato, spinach and pesto, and roasted bell pepper.  So tasty! Another stand was selling an assortment of homemade fruit tarts and cookies- caramel apple, raspberry, oatmeal... all my favorites.

As we made our way around, I spotted...Horchatas!  After listening to the song "Horchata" by Vampire Weekend, I've always wanted to try one!  My moment is finally here. Horchatas (or orxata) originated in Spain and are made of ground almonds, sesame seeds, rice, and barley.  They are a traditional drink in several Latin American countries and have grown in popularity here, in the United States.
If you haven't heard the song "Horchata," I highly recommend you listen right now!

Farmers markets are a great way to spend the day with family and friends. It feels even better knowing you're buying fresh food and supporting local farms. Get out there and visit your local farmers market!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Pancakes Please!

Pancakes are the mother of all meals. Am I right or am I right?  There is nothing better than digging into a stack of pancakes smothered in maple syrup.  Too bad, there's a lot of refined carbohydrates and sugar- or else I'd have them every day! So, this is how I ended up in the kitchen.

Brittany and I put on our aprons and were ready to stand the heat.  Lets see, we have almond meal, eggs, and milk.  Looks like we have the perfect pancake base.  A little cinnamon couldn't hurt. Simple. Satisfying.  Yes! This feels right.

Almond Meal Pancakes
1/2 cup almond meal
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup bananas or berries, sliced (optional)
dash of cinnamon

1. In a mixing bowl, combine almond meal, egg, and milk.  Mix well.
2. Add cinnamon. Stir.
3. Spoon batter onto a hot skillet.  Let cook until golden brown.
4. Place sliced berries onto top of pancake. Flip and let opposite side cook until golden brown.

Serve with maple syrup and chopped walnuts for a delicious and savory breakfast.

Yield: 4 (4") small pancakes

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Breakfast Today: Date-Nut Cookies

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 egg, beaten
1/2 avocado, mashed
5 dates, chopped
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, mix flour and egg.
3. Add the mashed avocado to the bowl and mix well.
4. Combine dates, walnuts, applesauce, and coconut with flour mixture. Stir until a dough is formed.
5. Place 1 inch cookie dough balls on a nonstick baking pan.  Let cook for 15-20 minutes.

Serve warm and dip into your morning coffee.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Fire up your Fourth of July

Today, there will be MILLIONS of backyards filled with MILLIONS of hungry mouths to feed. After all, the 4th of July is about being with family and friends and eating hamburgers right? ...and maybe a beer or margarita too. I don't know bout you, but I've been salivating over one all week. My goal for the holiday is to take this heavily desired and longed after meal and add a little something...well, healthy.

So...we're talking cheeseburgers. Why not add some tasty sautéed mushrooms? Not only do they provide you with essential vitamins and minerals, but they have a meaty texture which makes the perfect pair. If you're feeling exceptionally daring, replace the beef patty with a grilled portobello mushroom. (I doubt you'll be disappointed).

Ditch the cheese and pick up a succulent slice of grilled fruit for your burger. The sweetness of the fruit paired with the savory piece of beef all wrapped in a toasted bun will leave your mouth watering. Try grilled peaches with an onion Bubba burger. Your taste buds are in for a real treat!

For all you hot dog lovers, don't be afraid to try these same tips. Add sliced vegetables like, peppers and onions for a semi-sweet crunch. Be creative! It's Independence Day so, make it your own.

Share your holiday ideas with Noms McGee!
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