Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Hello fellow foodies, I'm sorry I have not been around much the past two months, but life has kept me away temporarily! But guess what? My computer is filled with "food" waiting to be blogged about! If only I can remember what I did exactly...hehehehe....but here is one I do remember!

This is a "NOT 4 HEALTH COOKING" as stated in the title! It is simply because it's the cutest "food thing" my hands ever made :)

My daughter celebrated her very first birthday 11/11/11, pretty cool, eh? I chose the party theme to be the "Look Whoo's One" that features a little owl. Against all family opposition (since in Brazil "owls" are not a positive symbol, but a negative one) I stuck to the "owl" theme, since I think they are so stinking cute, and here in the US at least, they symbolize wisdom, which is something I wish upon my child all of her life! 

A great part of being a parent is that you actually get to do as YOU wish fit!!! :D At least as long as you can endure peer/family pressure and disapproval, because I tell yah, they are SURE to come!!! And you thought you left that in high school, huh? OH NO...that will follow you as long as you live! It just changes the areas and the ways that it creeps in.

So in my pursuit to decorate her party I came across these cake pops, and just couldn't get them off my mind. Just so so cute! I wasn't sure if I could replicate them, since I'm not the "artsy" type, but I decided to give them a try and I think it worked beautifully!!!

So here it goes, what you'll need:
  • A cooked and cooled cake of your choice
  • 1-2 tablespoons of frosting 
  • Chocolate Chips for ears
  • Reese's Pieces for wings
  • Candy from Candy Necklace for eyes*
  • Chocolate candy melts*
  • Wilton brownie-crunch rainbow chips for beak*
  • Flower shaped sprinkles*
  • Styrofoam board*
  • Lollypop sticks*
*You can find these things at Michaels or at Wilton's website

What you'll do:

  • First you'll need to crumble the cool cake. You can do that by either putting it in a food processor, or like I did, by just breaking large chunks of the cake and rubbing them against each other. I used a strawberry cake mix for the cake because of the pink color.

  • Once you got the crumbled cake, you add 1-2 tablespoons of frosting and mix it with a spoon (GENTLY!) until you have the consistency of play-dough. It must stick together well and not be too dry! I used vanilla frosting.

  •  Once you've got the dough ready, you make them into ball shapes! Easy, easy...then just put them in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.

  • Once they are ready, you get them  out and shape the balls into triangles, but maintain the bottom of the triangle rounded! Loot at the picture for reference. Put them back in the fridge for 10 more minutes and get them out again! Yes...the one problem with making these pops is that it's very time consuming!

  • Then you're ready for the next step. Melt the candy melts as directed, and add a little bit of candy melt onto the lollypop stick, then insert it into the "top" part of the triangle (look at the photos for reference). Then stick them into the Styrofoam board and back to the fridge-10 more minutes.

  • Once time is up, get them out again, and now add the ears. Use the candy melt as your glue to stick the chocolate chips on. Back to the fridge!!! You know it...10 more minutes!

  • Now you're ready to give these pops a bath! Dip them into the melted chocolate. Make sure the chocolate is well melted, and into a deep bowl. Use a spoon to cover all the areas of the pop, and then beat the stick on the side of the bowl, GENTLY please, until all the extra falls back into the bowl. Then stick it into the Styrofoam board again and BACK TO THE FRIDGE! Yep...10 minutes should do it!

  • Now finally to the decorating time. You just use the melted chocolate as your glue, just like before. Then you add each part. The candy from the candy necklace for the eyes, the brownie-chips for the nose, the Reese's pieces for wings, and flower sprinkles for feet! Than before you know it, TA-DA!!! You got yourself a very adorable owl cake pop!!!

 I also did a few pops as the original ball shape, and just used pink sprinkle on top. And for the pink ball I dipped it into pink candy melt! Had to stick with the birthday party color theme: pink and brown!

 My mom made my daughter's first birthday cake, which turned out beautiful! Little one didn't have that one either since she is still growing out of some food intolerance. By next year I'm hoping to have learned some great tasting, healthy to the body, cake recipes so I can feel comfortable with her indulging in it! :) We'll see where life leads.

I had made these pops mostly for display, since they are not something I would feel comfortable feeding my 1-year old daughter, and something that didn't attract my palate! But after many guests telling me how "awesome" they tasted, I decided to give them a try. To my surprise they tasted PRETTY good!!! The strawberry cake (that I picked only because of the color) with the chocolate cover created a perfect flavor combination. 

But I would still dip some real strawberries into some REAL dark chocolate instead!!

;) Cheers! 

To give credit where credit is due, here is where I first came across these cutest treats: Mrs. Fox Sweets and Making Owl Pops

Saturday, November 5, 2011

EAT OUT: Baba Ghannouj @ 2200 W Main St - Durham, NC

A couple of Sundays ago was my birthday and I happened to be craving some Mediterranean food! So I went to my good friend Yelp to search for a local Mediterranean restaurant, and this is where it lead me to. I chose the vegetarian plate because I LOVE baba ghannouj and falafal! My husband chose the lamb shawerma, but unfortunately my hunger surpassed my blogging desires, and I quickly dug in and started eating before I got a chance to get his plate intact! 

The food was good, but not spectacular. I thought the menu was a little limited, without a wide range of options. The falafal was good, the grape leaves were wonderful, but the baba ghannouj I've definitely had better! Which is kind of ironic given the name of the restaurant :-/

The restaurant is cozy and more of a deli feel than a restaurant per se. When we arrived (around 1pm) the place was empty. At first I didn't know if this was a good thing or not. But it actually worked out perfectly for our very active 11 month old daughter, who just walked none-stop all over the place, exploring every corner of that restaurant, and making the ladies at the counter smile!   

I'll continue to be on the  look out for  mediterranean restaurants in the area to try out, since this one was not quite what I was looking for.  But this will probably be a good to-go place with our little one! Very child-friendly, and will satisfy your cravings for basic mediterranean dishes in a jiff! ;) 

Ohhh, but how I miss the restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area!!!   

 Cute Middle Eastern Decoration

 Outdoor Patio 
Little one loved looking at the squirrels eating the "leftovers" on the ground!

 The counter where the friendly ladies were. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Awesome Healthy Carrot Cake Cupcakes/Muffins

My daughter's first birthday is next week, and I'm SUPER excited about it! 
This has driven me to look for the perfect cake to bake for her. She's had all kinds of food intolerance since she was born. Wheat or gluten (never quite figured out which) and dairy being the big villains! Recently I found out that little amounts of lime juice in her food will give her bad rashes, and coconut yogurt seems to have done it as well! But the Doctors and studies assure that most kids  grow out of these food intolerance by age one, and if not, by each year they greatly increase their chances of growing out of them. So I decided to try the one year "mark" and make this carrot cake cupcake recipe and test it out! So far little bits of it has not caused any apparent issue! YAY!

What I loved about this recipe is that it's very healthy and I would feel very comfortable giving it to her (although I will decrease the amount of sugar, I thought it was a bit on the sweet side). 

Based on my "thorough research" with Dr. Google ;) it seems that pastry flour is lower in protein content and higher in starch, which in her case, if she is gluten sensitive, it will have less gluten. Something for us to check out!

As for the icing, I tried a cashew butter recipe I found online that turned out pretty good, but I didn't follow the recipe exactly because I halved the  amount just to have a taste for it. Also didn't have Earth Balance butter, so I used the Earth Balance margarine. Still tasted amazing! But I have to say that cashew butter by itself was just as good. I still need to try out the cashews with her this week to make sure she's fine with them as well.
As you can see I ended up making them as mini muffins instead of cupcakes, which worked out great! Perfect bite size...but I end up having to eat 5 of these! heheheheh.... Impossible to eat just one.

Few things I loved about this cake:
Super moist
Healthy ingredients
No Dairy (Vegan)
No oil (except for icing-optional)
No eggs (still unsure how she tolerates them)
No Cholesterol
Taste GOOD!


For carrot cake cupcake: Happy Herbivore
For the cashew icing: Cashew Butter Buttery Icing

The shredded carrots on top added texture to the bites, SO GOOD!!!

Bake it!
You have nothing to lose...oh wait, substitute a regular cupcake for this and you may actually do!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

FREE COOKING: Vegan Creamy Linguini

Did I tell you that I LOOOOOVE free cooking??? It's just simply AWESOME! The most amazing things are discovered when we do free cooking. If you asked me last week, I would have said free cooking sucks! I cooked some whole wheat linguini and started working on a vegan sauce (since that's the new thing in the house). I've done vegetable only pastas in the past, and they all turned out awesome, but I don't know if this whole "vegan" thing just threw me off! I feel like I'm stepping in an unknown world, and now even doing something simple, feels complicated just because it's all new to me! Perhaps because of the known restraint that dairy (my long best pal in the kitchen) is no longer welcomed.

So after reading about vegan eating and reading different recipes, I decided to try out different spices, like cumin, together with some of the spices I already love, like ginger and turmeric. All I know is that I got WAY carried away with the spices, and the result was simply AWEFUL! It had all the veggies I love in it, like zucchini, carrots, kale, onions...but I messed up so badly with the spices that I couldn't even get myself to finish eating it without getting nauseated! YES, it was THAT BAD! So luckily I had not  mixed the pasta with the sauce as I normally do, so I was able to save it. But since this experience I told my husband (whose wise response to the dish was, "you're trying too hard, just keep it simple") that from that point on I would stick to the recipes! At least until I mastered vegan cooking.

So that's how I came across  Chef Cloe's Mac 'N' Cheese recipe! I thought it looked good, and I happened to have all the needed ingredients. BUT, as I organized myself to make it, I remembered of the poor, forgotten linguini in the fridge. If I didn't do anything with it, it would have to be tossed out...and we don't want to do that!

I figured I could stick to the recipe, and just change the pasta! That wouldn't cause any harm, would it? So I made the sauce EXACTLY how the recipe called for, and it looked BEAUTIFUL!!! Okay...not exactly, exaclty...I used whole wheat flour instead of the all purpose. But then once I looked at that creamy, thick, beautiful looking sauce, I just couldn't resist adding the new smoke paprika spice I just bought! I had never tried it, and it smelled sooooooooooooo good! That was the  point on of no return...free cooking kicked in, and the most amazing thing happened! Yes...the most amazing thing!

After adding lots of smoke paprika, I added some dry basil and black pepper. Then I remembered I had some frozen peas and fire roasted corn! So added that as well (made sure to defrost it a little in the microwave before, and didn't cook it too long in the pan, so the peas keep their bright green color and don't get too overcooked). At the very end I thought, well..it would be awesome with some grated parmesan cheese on top, but why not grated carrots? You add the benefits of raw, with the beautiful color and some crunchiness to the dish. My absolute favorite combination in food is creamy, crunchy and spicy! Yum! 

Lastly I remembered I had some fresh mint, and that ALWAYS goes well with some fresh carrots. So I cut up a few pieces and garnished on top!

Seriously...one of the BEST creamy linguini I've had!!! NO KIDDING!!! Sooooo creamy, rich, fresh....and best of all, 100% vegan! WOW...who would have thunk? :-P

You know you wanna try me!!! 

Thanks Chloe, you're awesome! 
And thanks free cooking, I knew you were still there ;)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Artisan Herb & Olive Bread

So I finally attempted at baking my own "artisan bread" from scratch! It didn't turn out looking as pretty as I wanted, and I did have a little trouble following the recipe, but things turned out okay! Actually, it was a big hit in our home :)

(Ignore the onion please!)

The recipe is a "modified" version of the "Sensational  Herbed Bread" in the Forks over Knives book. It wasn't my intention to modify it, but circumstances ended up leading me to it, and also that "free cooking spirit" came in, and I had an urge to add some kalamata olives to it-which I didn't have-so I ended up making a trip to the store. So glad I did!

So the recipe calls for 3 cups of whole wheat flour, BUT I only had about 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour left (which shows you how good I've been at switching to whole wheat cooking :) and a bag full of unbleached all purpose flour (you see!? ;)  and since my "urge" for the kalamatas only came after the dough was already made, I had to do half and half! 

So here it is! 1 1/2 cups of Whole Wheat Flour and 1 1/2 cups of Unbleached (please!) All Purpose Flour

Then I couldn't take any more pictures because my hands were a big sticky mess!!! 

But basically next step after adding 3 cups of flour is that you mix in the herbs. 
  • 1/2 Tbsp sage
  • 1/2 Tbsp thyme
  • 1/2 Tbsp oregano
  • 1/2 Tbsp basil

I just added a little more of the thyme & basil, because I thought they smelled SO GOOD! Then you just mix it all up!

Next comes adding the liquids and mixing it...or "kneading" I should say. 

First I had to deal with the yeast! The recipe called for 1 1/2 tsp of dry yeast, which asks to mix with the dry ingredients (flour & herbs). But I've had enough "mixed information" about this to get confused.  I'm not sure what the right/best way to do is. I've heard recipes where they ask to first dissolve the yeast with a little bit of water, then add to the flour, and others that says to make a well and then add the yeast at the center with all the liquids, and now this new way: just mix it with the flour! I was totally confused! Since last time I baked a pizza dough I had done the "add it to the well" approach and the crust didn't turn out great, I decided to dissolve in the water this time and see what happens. So that's how I did it! If anyone knows the best way to do it, PLEASE tell me! :)

As for the wet ingredients, you'll need:
  • 2 Tsp of molasses
  • 1 3/4 c lukewarm water
And this is the messy & sticky part! I had no clue what to do with so much stickiness....I mean, it said to "knead" it, so I put my hands in trusting that I would be able to knead something! But the thing was so gooey and sticky that it was impossible to knead anything! So I started adding more and more flour until I was at least able to knead somewhat. I think I may have added a whole extra 1/2 cup to 1 cup! Seriously! Not sure if this damaged the bread and made it denser than it was meant to be. But I just don't understand how one can knead that thing otherwise :-/ I'm new to this whole thing! 

So eventually it looked like a bread dough, and I let it rest in a warm place as the recipe called for. And that's no other place than my yard right now. Here in NC is still warm and humid, although I'm sure it will change any day now.

Recipe called for an hour rest covered with oiled plastic wrap, until it doubled its size. Oh...and it's important to add the cornmeal underneath it so it won't stick to the cooking sheet.

This is when I finished "kneading" it. Looked decent!

Between caring for my 10 month old, and household stuff I ended up letting it sit much longer than called for. Then I had that "urge", so I still had to go to the store.

About 4 1/2 hours later, this is how it looked like! Then I sliced the olives and added on top, then folded the dough on top of the olives, thus why the cornmeal on top (not intentional!). 

 Finally I decided to slice some garlic and brush with some olive oil for taste.

Looked more attractive in the "before" part than after...but looks are overrated anyways, and this was OH SO TASTY!!!

The amazing thing about this bread is that it tasted great for days! It seemed to taste even better the next day, because the garlic flavor seemed to spread to the rest of the bread. It was soft, chewy, and rich! It was really delicious! We loved it straight out of the oven with some balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. We ended up eating half of it in one sitting for dinner! The intention was to be an appetizer, but we couldn't stop eating it. Then we realized if we didn't stop we were going to eat the entire bread, so we closed it in a big ziplock bag! 

We've had this a few weeks ago, and my husband is already asking me for some more :)

Thanks Forks over Knives! 

Monday, September 19, 2011

What's for breakfast?

Oatmeal with rice milk, figs and granola 
& mate lemon green tea

 Since starting this new plant-based lifestyle we've had to change our mainly animal-based meals! The first question we both had was: "what can we eat for breakfast?" Most of our breakfasts included some sort of cheese, milk, turkey or eggs.

This motivated me to research on wholesome, plant-based recipes that would provide a good kick-start for our day! Surprisingly I found a lot more than I expected. I'll be sharing some of those as I begin to try them myself, but so far I'll share the few adaptations I've made the past few days that worked well for me.

 I've always enjoyed my oatmeal, my husband on the other hand has never been interested in even trying. But, he said he is now willing! Woohoo to that!!! :)
So the adaptation I made was to switch cow's milk to fortified rice milk to cook my oatmeal. Of course you could cook it with just water, but I like it better with milk, and rice milk cooked with oatmeal doesn't bring much difference in the taste. Then of course you can add your favorite toppings. I added some figs-LOVE them, and just got some organic ones on sale the other day! And I added some granola on top for some crunchiness. Enjoyed that with a glass of hot mate lemon green tea.
organic whole grain oat bread

 Another great option for a wholesome breakfast is a fresh wholegrain bread loaf (either freshly baked at the store or at home). This one I got it at the store in the morning, so it was still warm when I arrived at home, but the next one I plan on making it myself! You can prepare the dough ahead of time, so that in the morning all you have to do is place it in the oven. If you need to leave early for work and don't have the time to deal with fresh bread, you can always cut them and freeze them in a ziplock bag when you buy them. Then you'll only need to put it in a toaster in the morning. If you keep it wrapped in a plastic bag it will last fresh for a few days. Mine I bought yesterday morning, and this morning was still just as good!

Mine was an organic oatmeal bread!!! SOOOO delicious I have to tell yah!!! Anything made with oat flour is usually my favorite, because they make everything so soft! Baking a cake with oat flour makes it so soft it crumbles. 
So instead of my much loved cheese spread, with jam and a sliced cheese on top, I just used a very good quality fruit spread with a slice of fig on top! Let me tell you, when you have good quality ingredients, you don't need a lot of things to make things taste fabulous! I could eat this bread by itself and be fully satisfied...that's how good it tasted! Adding this wonderful apricot spread and the ripen fig was just the icing on the top! :) So yummy!!!

 Along with this I made my husband and I a juice smoothie with orange juice, 2 cubes of a chlorophyll blend (parsley, mint & collard greens blended together and frozen in ice cubes), 2 cubes of carrots (pureed carrots frozen in ice cubes), 2 cubes of red beets (pureed beets frozen in ice cubes) and some frozen berry mix (blueberries, strawberries and raspberries). This may sound gross to those not used to mixing fruits and veggies, but it tastes awesome!!!

 So refreshing and energizing! Will get you going a lot more than your morning coffee. 

Let's not forget about our fresh fruits!!! They make a great addition to any breakfast meal or could even go solo in a fruit salad mix.Some ideas I love are the famous fruit smoothies, you can substitute cow's milk with a plant-based or nut-based milk. I love smashed bananas with raw honey and oats.
Oatmeal with banana is like a desert to me...love it!

delicious paired with a hot cup of apple cinnamon tea!

Lastly I've done of course the most famous American "meal": peanut butter and jelly! 

But this version is SO much better than the traditional highly processed ones, on processed and refined breads, and processed peanut butters with processed sugary jams! Try buying some good quality, wholesome ingredients, with very short ingredient lists, and taste the difference yourself!

This peanut butter spread I got was the best peanut butter I've ever tasted! So fresh! You look at the ingredient list all you see is: "organic roasted peanuts"! How's that for wholesome? If you check the most popular peanut butter SKIPPY's nutrition facts, it says: "roasted peanuts, sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oils (cottonseed, soybean and rapseed)to prevent separation, salt." Check here yourself!

So that's some of the simple changes we've made, and I feel that these new breakfasts are taking me much longer than the previous ones! I feel satisfied longer and with a lot more energy than before. Now I can't wait to try out the new recipes I've discovered, such as scrambled tofu and baking my own whole grain bread!!!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

FREE COOKING: Red Chard & Sweet Potatoes

  I've always seen red and rainbow chard at the store, but felt hesitant to buy it, because I didn't really know how to cook it. So this time I decided to buy and give it a try! It was actually not as hard as I expected. I approached it as I would collard greens or kale, because they sort of look alike. And it worked! 

So first I cleaned each leaf.

Then I cut off the stems and chopped the leafs. I did chop a little bit of the stem too because it looked so pretty :)

Then I chopped a red onion, a sweet potato and some garlic

Crushed the garlic. I like lots of garlic flavor! :)

Sautéed the onions with a little bit of canola oil on medium/high heat, then added the garlic and seasoning of choice (this time I felt like adding a little bit of ginger powder, cayenne pepper & salt. Sautéed for few more minutes.
(Gotta keep adding little bits of water as needed so it won't burn)

Added the sweet potatoes, sautéed for a little bit then closed the lid to let the potatoes cook a little.
(Gotta keep adding little bits of water as needed so it won't burn)

Once I saw the potatoes were starting to cook, I added the chopped chard & a little bit of water...YES, so it won't burn! Hehehe...trust me, I've burned food MANY times until I finally learned the trick!

Closed the lid and let the chard cook.

 Once I saw the chard was cooked, but not overcooked (the color should still be vibrant and not too dark), I removed from heat and added some sliced almonds and golden raisins for garnish...just because I had some around and thought would add a little "somethin' somethin'" to the dish!

That's it! 
Hope you like as much as I did.