banana cardamom shake

If you know a banana is about to go over the hill, you have two options: plan on making banana bread, or peel and freeze. Frozen bananas make smoothies thick and creamy, and can serve as the primary sweetener. If the banana in this smoothie isn't frozen, the result is goopy rather than thick and creamy, and is less refreshingly cold. Coconut butter (blended young coconut meat) makes this smoothie even richer and thicker. You can replace it with raw almond butter, although this will result in a slightly more bitter, earthy, and less decadent smoothie (which may not be all bad).

Serves 2

1 cup nondairy milk
2-3 pitted soft dates, chopped
2 tablespoons coconut butter (not coconut oil)
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 large frozen banana (140g)
2 ice ( g) ice cubes

Blend the milk, dates, coconut butter, and cardamom until the dates are completely broken down. Add the banana and ice cubes and blend until just creamy. 


lemon tahini dressing

Tahini is made of hulled, lightly roasted sesame seeds ground to a smooth paste, and has been used for centuries as an essential ingredient in many Middle Eastern recipes such as hummus and baba ghannouj. It provides a creamy base for lemon tahini dressing, a recipe I see fairly often but which varies widely from restaurant to restaurant. This version is not only one of my favorites in flavor but is incredibly healthy and simple to make. If raw tahini is used, this can be a completely raw salad dressing.

Makes 4 generous servings
Prep time: 2 minutes
Cook time: 0 minutes

1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon Bragg's Liquid Aminos (or tamari or soy sauce)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

Combine ingredients in a bowl, stir together until uniform, and adjust ingredients to taste.

Toss with greens in a large bowl or pour over individual salads (which looks prettier). Garnish with freshly ground black pepper, sesame seeds, avocados, grated beets or carrots, sliced onion, cucumbers, or tomatoes. Any dressing that is not immediately used can be stored in the refrigerator for several days.

bashed neeps (mashed rutabaga)

Rutabagas, also called "swedes" in Europe, or "yellow turnips", are believed to have evolved from a cross between a wild cabbage and a turnip sometime before the 17th century. They became popular in Scandinavia, especially Sweden, due to their ability to thrive in colder climates. In Ireland they were carved with faces for Halloween, and this tradition was brought over to America where, in the absence of rutabagas, Jack-O-Lanterns were carved into pumpkins. Rutabagas were cultivated in America starting in the late 19th century.

Rutabagas are found year-round here in California at the local farmers' market, and they keep very well (in the refrigerator up to one month, although I've used some much older than that). They can be used much the same way as potatoes in soups and stews or eaten raw chopped in salads and such. Although the rutabaga remains relatively unknown in America, it's impressive nutrition profile and delicious light sweetness and spiciness make it my favorite among root vegetables.

"Bashed neeps" (mashed "turnips") are a traditional Scottish accompaniment to haggis. The name alone is reason enough to try them, but bashed neeps are surprisingly tasty; the rutabaga is flavorful enough to be eaten on its own as a side dish, and like mashed potatoes is also delicious served with gravy. If cooked in the microwave, they are very easy to make. The original recipe calls for a bit of butter to add creaminess, but this can easily be omitted or replaced with almond or soy milk. Most recipes call for peeling the rutabagas, but I usually don't bother because I can't notice a difference and the most nutrients in vegetables are usually in the skins anyway.

Serves 4 as a side dish
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

2 smallish or 1 very large rutabaga
1-2 tablespoons unsweetened soymilk
1-2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
salt and pepper to taste

Chop the rutabaga in uniform pieces, place in a glass bowl (I use a large liquid measuring cup) with about 2 tablespoons of water. Cover the bowl but allow a small crack for steam to escape. Microwave on high for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the ginger. Microwave for several more minutes, until they are soft and slightly yellow. Alternatively, cook in boiling water for 15 minutes, until tender, then drain.

Mash with a potato masher until smooth, adding the remaining ingredients to taste. Serve simply with freshly ground black pepper or top with chopped green onions, caramelized onions, or vegan gravy.

pudla besan (gluten-free Indian chickpea flatbread)

Pudla is a savory pancake made from besan (chickpea flour) and native to Western India. It has many variations which use all different kinds of vegetables and spices, but here onion and ginger are the dominant flavors.

Chickpea flour can be found at health-food stores and Indian grocers.

Serves 2-4
Prep time: 5-10 minutes
Cook time: about 30 minutes (including rest time)

1 cup chickpea flour
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and crushed
about 1/16 teaspoon ground cayenne or chili powder (add more if you like spicy food)
1 cup water
1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped

Mix together the flour, cumin, cayenne, and salt. Stir in the water until there are no more clumps. The consistency should be slightly thicker than heavy cream. Stir in the ginger and onion. Let the batter sit for 15-30 minutes. This supposedly lets the flavors intermingle and allows the besan to swell up, absorbing the water.

Heat a well-oiled skillet over medium heat. Pour about 1/4-1/3 cup of the batter at a time, spreading a bit with a spatula. Cook for several minutes on both sides, until golden brown and cooked through. Serve hot with chutney, baba ganouj, or an Indian curry.

oats and oatmeal

Oats are a healthy comfort food, rich in protein, B-vitamins, calcium, iron, and beta-glucan, an especially healthy form of fiber. Raw, unprocessed oats are gluten-free, although many oat products are cross-contaminated with gluten. Some oats are labelled gluten-free, indicating the oats were processed in facilities where there is no chance of contamination with wheat or wheat products.

From left: steel-cut oats, rolled oats, and quick oats

Oats come in many forms. Steel-cut oats, also called pinhead, Irish, or Scottish oats, are toasted oat groats that have been cut into several pieces. Every cup of steel-cut oats takes about 4 cups of water, and must be cooked on the stovetop for 35-40 minutes, resulting in a distinctive chewy texture and nutty flavor. Due to their long cooking time, they cannot be used in baked goods or cooked in the microwave. Rolled oats, or old-fashioned oats, are groats that are steamed and rolled flat for quicker cooking. They work the best in baked goods and are my personal preference for oatmeal. Quick-cooking oats are oat groats that have been chopped into smaller pieces and rolled thinner so they will cook even faster. Instant oats look much like quick oats but are precooked and need to only be rehydrated with a hot water.

I've read that all these different types of oats have about the same amount of fiber and nutrients (except instant oats, which are ultra-processed), but I've also read that because steel-cut oats are slightly less processed, they retain more fiber and take more time to digest so keep you fuller longer. Who knows how big the difference really is, but I don't have time to make steel-cut oats in the morning so I'm happy with rolled oats.

For the winter months when hardly any fruits are in season, frozen blueberries become one of my staples at breakfast. I try to avoid frozen foods whenever possible because of the excess packaging and energy, but lots of recent studies show that frozen produce retains more of its nutrients than produce that has been shipped long distances. So when the options at the farmers' market are sparse, I eat oatmeal with frozen blueberries everyday, for breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner. It's so satisfying that I never get tired of it, and I like to think it meets some of my daily nutrition needs, as blueberries are supposedly rich in antioxidants, and flaxseed and walnuts provide omega-3s.

blueberry walnut oatmeal:
Makes 1 small bowl
Prep Time: 1 minute
Cook Time: 2 minutes

1/3 cup rolled or quick oats (see above)
scant 1/2 cup water
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
dairy-free milk or yogurt (I use almond milk)
2-3 teaspoons ground flaxseeds

Put oats in a small bowl and pour in a little less than 1/2 cup of water, or until the water just barely covers the oats. Sprinkle on cinnamon and blueberries, and microwave on high for about 2 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed and the berries are thawed. If desired, top with nuts, milk or yogurt, and flaxseed.


Above from left: ground flaxseeds and whole brown flaxseeds

Not only are these miraculous seeds useful to replace eggs in baked goods due to their binding properties, but are the most concentrated source of omega-3 fatty acids. They are an abundant source of many other important nutrients, such as B vitamins, manganese, magnesium, fiber, and contain plenty of antioxidants. Nutritionists recommend eating 2-3 teaspoons of flaxseeds daily, though they must be ground for the nutrients to be bioavailable (usually I eat mine on oatmeal or cereal). Flaxseed oil supplements are also available, but they lack the fiber and nutrients of real flaxseeds and are much more expensive.

You can buy flaxseed meal in packages from stores, but flaxseeds become rancid much faster once they are ground. So for a longer shelf life and to reduce packaging (not to mention money), buy whole flaxseeds from the bulk section of a natural foods store. The two varieties, golden and brown, are very similar nutritionally, but golden seeds supposedly have a more nutty taste. I prefer using golden flax meal for baked goods because it doesn't speckle them with healthfood-looking flecks. Grind the seeds in small batches using a coffee or spice grinder and store the ground flax in the freezer for only a few weeks at a time. Whole flaxseeds can be stored for up to a year at room temperature in a cool, dry place, but to be on the safe side, you can also refrigerate or freeze them.

Because flaxseeds have a nutty taste, they particularly benefit baked goods that do not have a delicate flavor, such as pancakes, french toast, waffles, bran muffins, whole grain breads, and oatmeal cookies.

1 tablespoon of ground flax whisked with 3 tablespoons of water roughly equals one egg in most recipes. I usually whisk these together vigorously by hand, but they can also be blended. The high quantities of soluble fiber in flax adds structure to baked goods.


mushroom escargot and carrot butter

These are the best fancy toppings for toasted baguette slices, and pair together phenomenally.

Mushroom Escargot
2 tbs balsamic
1/4 cup red win
2 tbs minced garlic
1/2 cup wter
2 tbs olibe oil
1 tso groung tosemary
2 tsp brown mustard
1/2 tsp salt
4 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced

Puree all ingredients but mushrooms, until smooth. Marinate mushrooms overnight. Preheat broiler to highest setting. Place mushrooms and a couple spoonfuls of the marinade into a thin roasting pan, and broil 8 minutes or so.

Carrot Butter
3/4 lb carrots (1 large bunch), diced

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup brazilnuts, macadamia, or cashew nuts
2 tbs maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup coconut milk or almond milk

Sautee carrots until browned, cover, and cook until very soft and sweet. Puree all ingredients until smooth, adding salt and syrup to taste. Thin with almond milk if needed.



These fluffy, lightly spiced pancakes are an easy morning treat. The spices, however, can be omitted to make traditional, plain American pancakes. For something beyond plain pancakes, I also recommend adding chopped bananas, pecans, walnuts, or chocolate chips. It is best to leave these out of the batter until after the pancakes are poured on the griddle, when they are sprinkled on the uncooked pancake.

Different forms of the pancake can be seen throughout the world: France has crepes and galettes, South Asia makes poori, China has the boa bing, and Scotland has the drop-scone. One of the earliest known version of the pancake was made in the 4th century BCE in China, where they were popular due to their short preparation time. Pancakes later spread through the Middle East and made their way to Europe, where they evolved into the variety we see today. Now a classic American breakfast, the American pancake is most likely an alteration of the French crepe suzette, imported to America in the early 20th century. American pancakes, also called griddle cakes and flapjacks, were originally eaten with a sauce of butter, sugar, citrus juice, and liqueur, but this was superseded by the tradition of maple syrup.

Makes 8 4-5" (10-13cm) pancakes
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg and/or ground clove
zest of 1 orange
1 cup almond milk
2 teaspoons ground flaxseed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons agave nectar or maple syrup
2 tablespoons sunflower or olive oil

In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Mix the wet ingredients in another bowl and stir in (careful not to over-stir or there will be too much gluten development; a few clumps are okay). If the batter is not runny enough to pour easily, add more milk one tablespoon at a time. The more liquid is added, the thinner the pancakes will be.

Heat a lightly greased griddle or frying pan over medium-high heat (about 375F). You can tell if it's hot enough if you flick water on the pan and it immediately evaporates. Pour the batter onto the pan or scoop using a 1/4 measuring cup. Wait a few minutes until the edges start to look dry and the top is bubbly, then flip and cook for another few minutes, until browned. Serve immediately with maple syrup, fresh fruit, or sauteed bananas.


coconut-rum sautéed bananas

When bananas are cooked they caramelize, quickly turning from a practical fruit to an incredible dessert-worthy confection. Dipping them in a coconut-rum batter before sautéing adds extra texture and interest. These can be served for desert over coconut sorbet and drizzled with a caramel-rum sauce, or for breakfast over pancakes with syrup. If short on time or ingredients, the batter can be skipped entirely and the sliced bananas just thrown on the griddle and sautéed until browned and caramelized.

Makes about 4 small servings
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

2-3 ripe bananas
2 tablespoons flour (any kind works)
2-3 tablespoons coconut milk
1 tablespoon rum
1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
a dash each of nutmeg and allspice
1 tablespoon maple syrup or agave nectar
1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Whisk together all ingredients besides the banana and coconut. Mix in the coconut and transfer to a long, shallow bowl. Slice the bananas lengthwise into about 3 pieces and coat in the batter. Sauté on medium heat on an oiled griddle for about 5 minutes on each side, or until browned and slightly soft.

hummus ghannouj

Hummus, one of the oldest known prepared foods, is traditionally made with cooked, mashed chickpeas, tahini (sesame paste), olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. Hummus means "chickpea" in Arabic, so the full Arabic name for the dish is "hummus bi tahini" meaning "chickpeas with tahini."

Baba ghannouj (also spelled ghanoush or ghannoug) is another Arab dish of eggplant eaten as a dip or added to other dishes. The eggplant is often roasted, then mashed and usually mixed with tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and spices such as cumin, mint, or parsley. Hummus and baba ghannouj are two of my favorite dips, and this recipe combines them in a creamy spread. Spending a couple extra minutes toasting and grinding the sesame seeds yourself rather than buying pre-made tahini makes a remarkable difference in the flavor.

Makes 2-3 cups
Time: 1 hour

1 large eggplant
2-3 large garlic cloves
1 (15 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup raw sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin
3/4-1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon water, or more as needed

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Prick the eggplant with a fork and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for about 40 minutes or until it collapses on itself. Slice it open to cool, and remove the skin of the eggplant with your hands.

Meanwhile, toast the sesame seeds in a saucepan or skillet over medium-high heat, shaking often, until slightly darkened, fragrant, and smoking slightly. Place the seeds, eggplant flesh, lemon juice, oil, water, salt, and cumin in a blender, and blend until smooth. Add garlic and chickpeas and blend, adding water a tablespoon at a time if it is too thick.

Garnish with olive oil, paprika, pine nuts, and/or chopped herbs such as parsley or basil.


citrus zest

Zest is the peel of citrus fruits used to flavor food, most often made from oranges, lemons, or limes. I use orange zest all the time, such as in my blueberry orange compote and orange cranberry scones. The zest should only be made from organic fruits because it is the outer layer you're peeling off. You can get the zest with a grater or peeler, but is worth investing in an actual zester (as pictured above) if you use zest very often because they are extremely easy to use. Gently grate the outer layer of the peel, being careful not to scrape off any of the white bitter part underneath (the pith). Also be careful to keep your knuckles out of the way (I have made this mistake more than once). If I use an orange and don't have immediate use for the zest, I freeze it for later baking use. Where I live, it is orange season right now, so I've zested dozens of oranges and put the zest in the freezer to last me the rest of the year.

blueberry orange compote

While maple syrup complements waffles and pancakes wonderfully, this flexible and easy compote is much more flavorful and not overpoweringly sweet. If you wish, you can substitute blackberries for the blueberries—the recipe just requires a change of name.

Serves 4-6
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10-15 minutes

3-4 cups frozen blueberries
1 chopped orange (or if not available, 1/2 cup orange juice)
1/2 cup applesauce (optional)
1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup or agave nectar
zest of 1/2 orange

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil, then simmer on low for about 10 minutes until the liquid is reduced to a syrup. Serve warm over fresh waffles, pancakes, or french toast.