california dreaming…

Hello Everyone!

I’m back from California and despite the perfect weather and sunshine, I have to admit that I was ready to be home, looking forward to my daily routine, reading all of your blogs and of course seeing the taster!

Expo West 2010 went very well. As with any big event, the glitches are quickly fixed and we served up more bread, tortillas and pizzas than I can even wrap my head around. After the show, I was fortunate enought to spend some time in LA with family and meet Lynn from The Actor’s Diet! (I had confused the dates and due to a last minute change Christy was unable to attend – next time Christy!) It was so fun to chat with her and meet the famous Julius. She is as beautiful as you can imagine!

I promised you some of the newest and most interesting products out there so here they are. Because we were so busy and the show is so huge I certainly didn’t see everything but here are some of my favorites.

Interesting & New Products:

  • Lara Bars: There are some new bar flavors like Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (there is a bit more added sugar with the chocolate) but unfortunately by the time I got to their booth they were all out of samples! I heard nothing but good things so am anxious to see them in the stores!
  • Coconut Water Sorbet: This coconut sorbet was delicious, sweetened with agave and will be so refreshing in the midst of summer – the lemonade flavor was perfectly tart, but I’m even more excited to try the Hibiscus variety.
  • Amazing Grass: I’ve been using the grass for some time but was explaining that I just can’t down it plain with water and would like to – enter in the newest variety that has a nice lime flavor and also contains matcha and mate in addition to the green goodness – trust me when I say you can drink it straight. They also have a new bar out, Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Bar that was delicious and I will be buying again.
  • Daiya Cheese: this new vegan cheese is out of this world. I obviously am VERY picky with vegan/dairy-free cheeses because I love cheese and refuse to eat mediocre cheese. With that said, it will be in my shopping cart this weekend.
  • Zhena’s Gypsy Tea: Coconut Chai with some almond milk and agave/stevia = perfection in a cup.
  • Hansen’s Natural Fruit & Tea Sticks: The natural version of Crystal Light – finally! These low-cal drink mixes are sweetened with truvia and are deliciously sweet – I know the kids at camp will love them!
  • YumNuts Naturals: Roasted, jumbo cashews with no added oils – perfect for afternoon snacking (Toasted Coconut was my favorite).
  • Hummus Chips & Dressing: I’ve had the hummus chips at other shows and always loved them but have yet to see them in the stores – this year they also had a new hummus dressing which is similar to a thinned-out hummus – perfect for any salad!

piña colada smoothie

After seeing a tweet from Luna & Larry’s about putting coconut ice cream in a smoothie, I knew something similar had to be done in my kitchen. And soon.

Piña coladas instantly came to mind – anything to bring up memories of beaches, sand and cocktails in the morning in the midst of the winter sounds heavenly and I can almost smell the salt water. This is definitely a healthier version, without the sugar, calories and of course the rum (which makes for not such a fun and relaxing drink) but one I can feel good about drinking at 10 AM on a Sunday.

Piña Colada Smoothie:

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen pineapple
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1/3 cup coconut ice cream
  • 2 drops Vanilla Cream stevia

lentils with curried tarka

A few years ago when I was in college and cooking for myself, I went on a semi-vegan kick after reading Skinny Bitch. I was a vegetarian at that time but my Wisconsin roots (aka cheese) and love for pork made the vegan, and vegetarian stints short ones.

Dal was a lunch-time staple for me and I made it on an almost weekly basis. I may have burnt myself out on it a few years ago, but after reading Mark Bittman’s article in the New York Times, Elevating Simple Legumes, Just Enough, I had added Dal to my weekly menu and couldn’t wait another week to make it. Out of the many dal recipes in the article – the Lentils with Curried Tarka caught my eyes. And my tastebuds. Lentils cooked in coconut milk? Curry, scallion and lemon zest -infused butter? Combined for one decedent bean dish. And while serving naan along side it seemed a little redundant on the starch side, what better way to enjoy the classic Indian dish. Vegetables can wait another day.

Lentils with Curried Tarka adapted from New York Times

  • 1/3 cup dried brown lentils
  • 1 1/2 cups mix of coconut milk  and vegetable stock (I ended up needing a lot more than this throughout the cooking process)
  • 2 Tbsp coconut butter (coconut oil would work better)
  • 1 bunch chopped scallions
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • chopped cilantro leaves

In a medium saucepan, combine lentils and liquid and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn heat down to medium-low so that the mixture bubbles gently, cover partly and cook, stirring occasionally, until lentils are just tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Add liquid as necessary to keep them a little soupy.

Put butter in a skillet over medium heat until it is melted (I realized that coconut butter doesn’t melt very well which is why I would recommend coconut oil) Add scallions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the curry powder and cook and stir for another minute or so. Add a large pinch of salt and some pepper.

When lentils are cooked to desired tenderness, stir scallion mixture into the lentils. Dal should be moist but not soupy; if it is not, add more water and heat through. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, and serve.


chicken satay with coconut-peanut sauce

Chicken satay is a food that everyone likes – young, old, picky and adventurous. It also just so happens to be an incredible hors d’oevre that is lean, full of protein, fun to eat (food on a stick!) and bursting with flavor! I really do think that everyone appreciates a healthy option at parties. (But most of them may never even suspect this as “healthy”)

After marinating the cut chicken tenders – recipe from Ellie Kreiger here – I grilled the chicken on the indoor grill. 2nd time using the indoor grill in about 3 years – NOT a purchase I would recommended.

I then set out to make a dipping sauce. Originally I was just going to use the recipe that came along with the satay, but I didn’t want the open can of coconut milk to go to waste so I made a few changes to incorporate it.

Peanut-Coconut Dipping Sauce

  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 Tbsp agave
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 Tbsp ginger
  • 2 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp chili paste

Blend all ingredients.