Triple Chocolate Granola

Humility aside, I think this is my best granola yet. And granola is my thing – you know that one dish you are awesome at making pretty much every single time. What makes this a standout is (1) the layered chocolate flavor coming from a triple hit of cacao from the raw cacao powder, cacao nibs and semi-sweet chocolate chunks, and (2) the extra crunchy pop of texture from the quinoa puffs. Sure it’s more dessert than breakfast, but you do get an antioxidant power up from all the cacao, sustained energy from the oats, and the mct benefits of coconut oil – not to mention the joy from enjoying something so delicious. Dive in!

Ingredients:

  1. Rolled oats – 2 cups
  2. Quinoa – 1/3 cup
  3. Coconut sugar – 1/3 cup
  4. Coconut oil – 1/2 cup
  5. Raw cacao powder – 1 tbsp
  6. Sea salt
  7. Cacao nibs – 1 tbsp
  8. Semi-sweet chocolate chunks (I like Enjoy Life brand) – 1/3 cup

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 320 and line a large baking tray with parchment paper
  2. In a large mixing bowl, add the rolled oats, quinoa and coconut sugar
  3. Separately, in a small saucepan, combine the coconut oil and cacao powder and warm over low heat until melted and combined (about 1 minute)
  4. Pour the coconut / cacao mixture into the large bowl with oats, quinoa and coconut sugar and stir well to combine. Add a sprinkle of sea salt. Taste the mixture dry and adjust to your liking – you may want to add a hint more coconut sugar if you want it sweeter.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes
  6. Once cool, top with cacao nibs and chocolate chunks and enjoy
Ingredients 1-6 combined and ready to transfer to parchment paper for baking
Enjoy with your fave non-dairy milk or on its own as a delicious snack!

Chocolate Covered Dates

I’ve always loved Medjool dates. Growing up in the Westwood area of Los Angeles where there is a sizable Persian community and many Middle Eastern grocery stores, my dad would always stock our house with the largest, moistest Medjool dates. Medjool dates are sweet enough on their own, but to take their decadence to the next level for an over the top sweet treat, I decided to stuff them w/ nut butter and coat them in chocolate. The result is an indulgent yet healthy(ish) sweet treat that I think is best enjoyed with coffee or espresso as an afternoon pick me up. They’re easy to make, look fancy and would be nice as a homemade gift as well. Enjoy!

Servings: 6 dates

Ingredients:

  1. 6 medjool dates
  2. Almond butter or nut butter of your choice – about 1-2 tbspn
  3. 1/2 cup of chocolate chips/ chunks or bar – I used vegan brand Hu chocolate gems
  4. Optional toppings: Coconut shreds, nuts, cacao nibs, sea salt

Directions:

  1. Open each medjool date and stuff it with nut butter as pictured below
  2. Put the stuffed dates in freezer for 10-15 minutes
  3. In a small saucepan on low heat, heat the chocolate and stir frequently. You should get a delicious melted chocolate in just about 1 minute.
  4. Line a plate or container with parchment paper
  5. With a fork (or with you hand but careful as the chocolate is hot), dip each stuffed date until it’s fully coated in the chocolate and place on parchment paper.
  6. Coat with toppings of your choice such as any nut, coconut shreds, seeds, cacao nibs etc.
  7. Place in fridge for 10-15 minutes for chocolate to set.
First step is to stuff the dates and briefly freeze before dipping in melted chocolate
Get creative with toppings! Add nuts, seeds, coconut shreds, cacao nibs and more!

Matcha Chocolate Chunk Granola

I’ve been making batches of this granola every day for the past week and it’s addictive. The naturally slight bitter taste of the matcha is balanced by the delicious sweet mix of maple syrup, coconut sugar and some chocolate chunks. It’s quick & easy to make and is great on its own as a snack, in a big bowl with non-dairy milk of your choice and it’s also delicious over vanilla ice cream (especially coconut dream).

Prep time: 10 minutes

Total time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  1. Rolled Oats (not instant, GF if needed) – 2 cups
  2. Coconut sugar – 1/4 cup
  3. Virgin Coconut oil – 1/3 cup
  4. Maple syrup – 1/4 cup
  5. Matcha powder (recommend culinary grade since ceremonial is often a lot more expensive and not needed for baking -it’s easy to find on Amazon such as this one) – 1 tbpsn
  6. Chocolate chunks (recommend Enjoy Life mega chunks) – 1/3 cup
  7. Optional: 1/3 cup raw nuts of your choice – I’ve tried with both almonds and walnuts and both have been great, Pecans would likely be delicious too.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 340 and line a baking tray with parchment paper or foil
  2. In a large mixing bowl, place the dry ingredients: rolled oats and coconut sugar. If you are adding optional nuts, add them to this bowl too.
  3. In a small saucepan, add the coconut oil, maple syrup, and matcha and warm over low-medium heat until the coconut oil is fully melted and matcha is fully mixed in too (about 2 min). Stir a few times while it’s warming. Once warm, pour this mixture over the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl. Stir well so the oats are evenly coated in this sweet coconut oily matcha mixture.
  4. Transfer the coated oats to parchment paper and spread oats evenly in one layer.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes
  6. Remove from oven and let cool. Add chocolate chunks once cool.

Notes:

  1. 1 tbspn of matcha powder may seem like a little but it’s a lot b/c it’s a concentrated tea powder – this will allow the matcha green tea flavor to shine through even after baking. If you want a subtler green tea flavor, try less
  2. If you add the chocolate too soon it will melt into the hot granola, but that’s okay and in fact even tasty as once it cools down these will form delicious chocolatey granola clusters

Truffle beet hummus

I recently hosted my first plant-based potluck of 2019, an event I’m hoping to do once a month with friends and family, and this truffle beet hummus was a hit.   The surprising trick to this hummus is the beet flavor is actually from organic beet powder (vs. roasted beets) so you can make this really quickly.  I’ve been pairing it with Simple Mills crackers – both w/ the Everything flavor and w/ the classic almond flour crackers.  For some added nutrition and flavor, I top it off with some micro-greens for a healthy and somewhat sophisticated snack.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  1. One can of organic garbanzo beans
  2. One garlic clove
  3. 1/4 cup olive oil
  4. 1/4 cup organic beetroot powder
  5. 2 tbpsn tahini
  6. A few squeezes of lemon
  7. 1 tbspn of truffle oil
  8. Himalayan sea salt

Directions:  

  1. Drain garbanzo beans and place in food processor.  Add ingredients 2-7 and pulse until you get to creamy consistency.  If it’s thicker than you like it, try adding 1/4 cup of water to get to desired creamy thickness.
  2. Top with a drizzle of truffle oil and sea salt.  Optional: top with some micro-greens for a pop of extra color and flavor.

Creamy Basil Cashew Dip / Sauce

My husband has been growing some fresh basil in whisky barrel planters he made, and the abundant basil that was ready to use inspired this recipe.  I have made raw vegan cashew dips before, but almost always made either a classic garlic or red pepper version and this was my first time experimenting with an herb forward flavor profile.  The creamy cashew base + fresh & herbaceous basil complement each other beautifully.  This dip / sauce is very easy to make and can be used in so many ways — as a dip for veggies/ chips / crackers, as a pasta sauce on classic pasta or zoodles or even just eaten by the spoonful.

Ingredients:

  1. 1 cup of raw cashews
  2. 1 cup of fresh basil
  3. 1-2 garlic cloves (1 if large, 2 if smaller or if you like more garlic flavor in general)
  4. 1/4 cup olive oil
  5. 1/4 cup water
  6. 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast (I used Foods Alive version since it is totally soy free)
  7. Himalayan Sea Salt – adjust amount to your liking.  I add about 5 generous sprinkles to start and then adjust as I taste.

Directions: 

  1. Soak the cashews in a bowl of water for at least 2 hours
  2. Once the cashews are soaked, drain the water and add the cashews to the food processor followed by all the ingredients.  Process until smooth and creamy.  Play around until you get the flavor to your desired liking: If you’d like it to be even more creamy, slowly add a bit more oil and / or water.  If you’d like it to be even more ‘cheesy’ add some more nutritional yeast.
  3. Suggested optional toppings:
    • Sprinkle some hemp seeds
    • Add a swirl of olive oil
    • Add some other chopped fresh herbs on top including basil, cilantro, etc.

      Basil in our garden

      On Zoodles with some sauteed veggies

High Protein Chickpea Pasta & Vegan Pesto

Inspiration can come from anywhere, and the inspiration for this particular simple dish came from a delicious sample I tried yesterday at Costco.  This was my first time trying Banza pasta, and I really liked both the taste and the fact that each serving has 25 grams of protein and 13 grams of fiber!  As a brand marketer, I also applaud their bright, simple and clean packaging.  For this dish, I made the pasta w/ a classic vegan pesto w/ some fresh summer basil from our local farmer’s market.  It’s a great easy and healthy summer dish and can also be jazzed up w/ some veggies if you like.

Ingredients:
Pasta:
1. 1 packet of Banza pasta (makes 4 servings)


Pesto:
1. 1 bunch of basil (I used Tomatero Farm’s organic basil)
2. 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
3. 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast
4. 3/4 cup of walnuts
5. 1 large garlic glove
6.  Squeeze of lemon juice
7. Himalayan sea salt – generous sprinkles, and taste and add more to your liking

Directions:
1. For pasta, just follow the instructions on pack (boil water + add pasta for 7-9 minutes and then strain).
2. For pesto, put all ingredients in a food processor for about 1 minute.  Taste it and adjust to your liking (if it’s thicker than you like, add more olive oil, if it’s not salty enough, add a few more sprinkles).  Note that when you store the pesto in the fridge it can thicken and I like to add a little more olive oil and mix after storing.
3.  For each serving of pasta, add  a couple heaping spoons of pesto and mix well.

Bliss Balls with a Ginger Twist

While I was recently traveling in Portugal with my husband, our dear friends, Sugar and Shwa were house sitting for us and caring of our garden, and not only did they take amazing care of our home, but upon returning I was gifted a massive bag of homemade crystallized ginger.  Sugar, also known as Ilana, has been a dear friend of mine since we were 14, and she and I have both been big ginger lovers for as long as I can remember so she knew I would love this.  Inspired by this generous heap of delicious ginger candy, I made classic bliss balls but with a ginger twist, and these are now my favorite bliss balls that I’ve made.  These can be a sweet energizing treat for you, or given it’s mother’s day, it’s an easy gift to make for your mama too!  I like to store these in the fridge and have them before work outs.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
Bliss Balls:
1. 1 cups of dates (I used honey dates, other date varietals work well too) soaked for 1-2 hours in water to soften
2. 3/4 cup of walnuts
3. 1/4 cup of crystallized ginger
3. 1 tbspn unrefined coconut oil (preferably raw & virgin too)
4. 1 capful of vanilla extract
5. A few sprinkles of cinnamon 
Coating:  You can really get creative w/ the coating – they key is to have ingredients that are dry and ideally not to sweet so they can cut the sweetness of the date balls.  Great coatings include chopped/ processed nuts, seeds (e.g. hemp, chia, etc.), unsweetened diced coconut chips, and raw cacao nibs.  I also like to take all of the above and mix it up, which is what I did here:
1. 1 cup of walnuts, almonds or pecans – processed in food processor until in very small chunks (not all the way to powder)
2. 1/4 cup of hemp seeds
3. 1/4 cup of raw cacao
4. 1/4 cup of raw unsweetened coconut chips
Directions:
1. Take all the bliss balls ingredients and process in food processor until all ingredients form one large ball of dough-like consistency.   Transfer from food processor to a large plate.
2.  Process the nuts for the coating.  For the coating you can then choose to mix the nuts with the other ingredients like I did in a bowl or choose to keep separate and make bliss balls w/ unique topping.  
3.  On a large plate, take small chunks of the date dough and form into about a quarter sized ball, and then roll the date ball into the dry coating of your choice.  Continue this process and you should get about 15 date ginger bliss balls 🙂
And a shoutout to the lovely Sugar, my fellow ginger lover and a dear friend for life, who inspired this recipe.  

Scoping out the Veggie scene in Encinitas

This past weekend my hubby and I went on a quick jaunt to Encinitas for the inaugural half marathon and in gearing up for the race, we fueled up with so much delicious vegan food. For those who will be in the Encinitas area looking for vegan meals and treats, here are a few of my favorites:

  • EVE (#1 favorite)!:  Eve is a beautiful, peaceful all vegan spot with comfy couches, goddess artwork, a gorgeous vertical succulent garden, and it even has a large and beautiful yoga studio in the back.  They do lots of healthy options and from reading Yelp reviews it sounded like the Buddha bowls were the way to go, and boy was that an amazing choice. We had the ‘Legendary Hero’, which seems so simple to make w/ rice, brussels sprouts, kale, carrots, and beets but the magic was in the tahini sauce!  The tahini sauce and the way the veggies were perfectly cooked made this bowl incredibly tasty, and next time I’m in Encinitas I definitely plan to return.   They also have an ample library and it is a cozy spot to read, write, or do some work.
  •  PeacePies:  This raw vegan spot (believe the only fully raw vegan spot in Encinitas) has a nice outdoor patio w/ a vibrant mural backdrop.  I’ve been there twice now for desserts and the first time I got doughnuts, which weren’t that great, but this time I returned for the Cosmic Coconut pie, which was creamy coconut deliciousness.  Raw vegan is not for everyone, but if you tend to like raw vegan like me, would recommend you try it.  They also have lots of savory options like nori wrap, ‘farawfel’ and more.
  •  SucculentCafé (Carlsbad): This is a café – not a vegan joint – but it is oh so beautiful and inspiring with creative succulent creations everywhere and the entire large space is surrounded by succulents.  It’s got great little nooks and benches to hang out in the sun and the soy chai latte is the perfect mix of spicy and sweet.  This spot is a gem, especially for succulent lovers!
  • UnionKitchen & Tap: This is more of a classic very lively brewery, and by no means specifically vegan (in fact believe they are known for burgers), but the sweet potato fries are amazing.
  • LePapagayo: Didn’t get to try this one yet but the menu looked great and there was very lively music on Sat. night.  The line was too long w/out a reservation so next time we’re in town we’ll be sure to make a ressie and try out this romantic, hopping spot.
Feel so blessed that this was our third time in the Encinitas are in the past six months and it always feels like such a refreshing, sunny, laid back, coastal vacation.  Look forward to returning soon!

Sriracha Hemp Seed Pesto

Just got back after two amazing, jam-packed days at Expo West, and starting to play around with all the 50+ samples I brought back. As a first timer, I admittedly might have gone a bit overboard and brought back half a bulging suitcase of yummy samples & swag.

Will be trying them out over the coming weeks, and one that I tried at the show that I absolutely loved was Manitoba Harvest’s Sriracha Hemp Seeds.  I first tried these classically hempy, nutty, slightly spicy and salty seeds on avocado toast (amazing), and I just tried infusing them in vegan pesto, which also turned out very tasty and with a nutty twist on a traditional vegan pesto w/ a kick of heat. 

Ingredients:
1. 2 cups of fresh basil leaves – de-stemmed
2. 1 garlic clove
3. 1/2 cup walnuts
4. 3/4 cup olive oil (if you prefer less oily, thicker dip consistency, use 1/2 cup)
5. 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
6. 3 tbspn Sriracha hemp seeds
7. Sprinkles of sea salt to you liking

Directions:  Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth and dippable / spreadable.

Serving suggestions: Spread on whole wheat toast, mix into Zoodles for vegan pasta, use as a dip w/ veggies or wherever your creativity leads you.

Enjoying this w/ my hubby in our sunny garden now as he is planting our spring flowers in the pretty turquoise planters he made from reclaimed pallets.   The show was chalk full of amazing new companies, entrepreneurs, so many people I knew from all walks of life, but like all trade shows, came back physically exhausted, and happy to be relaxing in our sunny casita and garden.  More Expo inspired recipe to come soon :).

Recharging post Expo in our zen garden

Coco Oil Fried Maitake Mushroom topped Hummus

I recently was reading a book on health benefits of mushrooms, and upon reading about Maitakes, I loved learning that these are considered ‘dancing mushrooms’ due to ancient lore that monks stumbled upon maitakes in a forest and were so overjoyed by these beauties that they starting dancing with abandon.   I get it.  Maitakes can make you dance.  They are these gorgeous, delicate mushrooms that crisp easily when fried and can make so many dishes elegant and more ‘dancy’.  For those local to the Bay Area, Far West Fungi, which has a home in the Ferry Building and is at so many farmer’s markets (w/ steep discounts at the Friday Chinatown Oakland farmer’s market) offers excellent Maitakes.  This time I fried them in coconut oil with a dash of Bragg’s amino acids and topped them on a classic Hummus recipe.  We ate it both as a dip and on toasted whole wheat walnut bread.  Enjoy + happy dancing!

Ingredients for hummus:
1. 1 can (organic) garbanzo beans, drained
2. 1 garlic clove
3. Tahini – 1/4 cup
4. Olive oil – 1/4 cup
5. Sea salt to your liking
6. Optional – dash of cumin

Ingredients – Fried Maitakes:
1. 1/2 cup of Maitake
2. 1 tbspn of coconut oil
3. Dash of Bragg’s amino acid

Directions:
 1.  For the Hummus, place all  hummus ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth (tip: I have tried to make this in my Vitamix too but food processor is much easier).
2. For the fried maitake toppers, heat a skillet with coconut oil and once hot add a dash of Bragg’s amino acids (if you don’t have this, you can replace with a few sprinkles of salt).  Once hot, add the maitakes and fry  on medium heat until crisped (about a few minutes).
3. Top the hummus with the maitakes and enjoy! Serve with crackers, toast, veggies, etc.