The Real Food Journal

Party with Smoky Almond Butter Popcorn and Mandarin Chocolate “Shots”

Robin Asbell's Almlnd Butter Corn and Mandarin Chocolate "Shots"

Real Food Snacks for Holiday Entertaining

Holiday entertaining is so fun, so necessary, and too often, so stressful. I know, I know, you have enough to do without having to clean the house and make food for a bunch of people.

But I promise you, it’s worth it. This is the end of the year, the big holiday season, and if I can get my gifting out of the way and find time to vacuum the house, I have plenty to celebrate.

It doesn’t have to be stressful. Really.

Even at the holidays you can wow your guests with some homemade treats, and save a little money in the bargain. Simple treats that can be made ahead of time lower your stress level to zero. These tasty snacks are perfect for serving with a glass of bubbly, and they are so easy that even kids can make them.

Real Food Snacks

To tempt my sweet toothed friends, all I did was put some juicy mandarins and pomegranate seeds in cups with lush, rich 80% cacao chocolate. A sprinkle here and there with toasted pistachios and coconut and they look bright and festive, with the traditional red and green peeking through.

For the crunch-salty side of the snack continuum, smoked salt and smoked almonds are melded with freshly ground almond butter for a sweet and salty bit of finger food. Smoked almonds and popcorn are two of the best pairings to serve with champagne, prosecco, or cava.

Both snacks can be made up to three days ahead, with no loss of appeal. That is a quality that is essential to a party recipe- because you need to be able to set up your food a day or two ahead, then spend that last day just straightening up, having a nap and making yourself look fabulous.

Nosh without Guilt

Of course, these snarf-able, share-able party snacks are made from real food. Popcorn is a whole grain, but don’t tell anybody that. Almonds are one of the healthiest foods you can eat, packed with good fats. Seriously, eating almonds is associated with living a few years longer, no matter what else you are up to. Deep dark chocolate is a health food now, it’s so blessed with antioxidants. It’s also got a little caffeine kick, so your guests won’t start nodding off two sips in. Mandarins should be in everyone’s fridge right now, to help keep colds at bay with all that juicy Vitamin C. A few sprinkles of pistachios and coconut only add to the health-promoting cred of these treats.

So indulge without worry, these snacks are the opposite of empty calories.

It’s all about treating your friends and having a good time, so take it easy. Make these, pop a bottle of bubbly, and enjoy yourself.

smoky Salty Almond Popcorn

Smoked Almonds, Almond Butter and Smoked Salt Make Popcorn Perfect For Parties

Smoky Almond Butter Popcorn

1/2 cup popcorn, unpopped
1 tablespoon canola oil

2 tablespoons butter or buttery sticks
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup apple juice
1 1/2 teaspoon smoked salt
1/4 cup almond butter
1 cup smoked almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Have a large bowl and a parchment lined sheet pan ready.
In a 4 quart pot, combine the oil and popcorn and place over medium heat. Shake the pan occasionally as it heats up. When corn starts popping, shake every minute until the popping slows. Dump the hot corn into the large bowl and allow to cool slightly.

In a 1 quart pot, combine the butter or margarine and brown sugar and stir over medium heat until the butter is melted. Keep stirring until the mixture boils and is lighter in color, about 2 minutes. Take off the heat and stir in the vanilla, apple juice and half a teaspoon of the salt, (it will bubble up and the melted sugar will harden in chunks, this is ok) then put back on the heat and return to the boil, stirring constantly. Cook until the sugar is all melted and the mixture is smooth and bubbling, about 2 minutes.

Take off the heat and stir in the almond butter until smooth, then put back on the burner and stir constantly as it comes to a boil again. When the mixture is smooth and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes, drizzle over the popcorn in the bowl, tossing the corn with a heat safe spatula. Toss the corn to coat, then spread on the prepared sheet pan.
Bake the corn for about 10 minutes, just until the peanut butter coating sets and dries. Mix in the smoked almonds. Cool on a rack completely before transferring to an airtight container. Keeps for a week.

Darrk Chocolate and Mandarin Shots


Dark Chocolate Mandarin “Shots”

Makes 12

2 or 3 small mandarin oranges, peeled and sectioned
3 ounces 80 % cacao chocolate, melted
pomegranate seeds, pistachios and toasted coconut shreds, for garnish
12 mini muffin papers

Line the cups of a mini-muffin tin with papers.
Remove as much of the white pith as possible from the mandarins. Melt the chocolate and drizzle in a spoonful in each cup, tapping the pan to get it down into the bottom. Drop 2 or 3 sections in each cup. Drizzle with remaining chocolate Sprinkle 4 of the shots with each of the garnishes while the chocolate is warm. Chill until serving.











Blender Baking? Yes You Can Make Holiday Cupcakes in The Vitamix

Pear Lemon Cupcakes by Robin Asbell

Pear and Lemon Cupcakes from 300 Best Blender Recipes Using Your Vitamix:Image credit: Colin Erricson

Jazz Up Your Holiday with Lemony Pear Cupcakes

It’s holiday time, and we are all rushing to find some fast and easy treats to serve our guests. Preferably something a little different from the standard sugar cookie. This is not the time to push anything too healthy, at least for dessert. All you need is your blender and a few lemons and pears, and you can whip up these light and tangy cupcakes in no time.

When you think about baking a cake, you don’t usually think about the blender. I’ve made thousands of cakes, and while I’ve made them in stand mixers, in bowls with an electric mixer, or with a bowl and a sturdy spoon, I really had not considered the blender as a tool.

But once you have a serious blender like the Vitamix, you find that you can use it to make a whole bunch of things that had not occurred to you before. In this case, I’m just using it to blend the wet ingredients to a super-smooth, perfectly mixed puree, then stirring it into the flour mixture.

Try Making Fresh Flour at Home

If you like using the Vitamix to buzz up a dessert, you should definitely try grinding fresh flour in it. I’ve got a whole chapter on grinding flour and baking with it in 300 Best Blender Recipes Using Your Vitamix, and I’m amazed at how well it works. You can give it a whirl with the standard blender container that comes with the machine, and if you like it, it’s worth investing in the dry grinding container, which is designed for grinding flours and mixing breads.

Once you start grinding flours, you open up a whole world of new flavors and textures. You can even make your own gluten free flours from grains or beans. As with most foods, fresh is best!

Indulge Yourself Once in a While

Of course, I’m a whole grain lover, and usually I’m posting about the joys of unrefined flour. But life is all about balance, right? So for this holiday treat, I used cake flour, which is not whole grain. It’s fun, now and again, to indulge in a sweet that practically melts in your mouth. Then the rest of the time, enjoy the fuller flavor and heartier texture of whole grains. Adding some fresh fruit gives it a little virtuousness, and I much prefer a light and lemony glaze.

These days, cupcakes seem to have become about half cake and half frosting, or at least they look that way on TV. Let the cake shine on its own, I say, and just drizzle on a touch of tangy lemon and sugar. The bonus is that it only take a second or two to stir up.

It’s Citrus Season

Holiday Baking With Citrus by Robin Asbell

Big Bowl of Citrus To Try in These Cupcakes!

This time of year you find a great variety of citrus at the store, so it’s a great time to experiment with citrus flavors. You could use Meyer Lemons, Limes, or even Blood Oranges to make these cupcakes. The dramatic red of blood oranges would be quite beautiful.

Happy Holiday Baking to you all!

Pear and Lemon Cupcakes

Courtesy of 300 Best Blender Recipes Using Your Vitamix by Robin Asbell © 2016 Available where books are sold.

These little cakes are studded with chunks of sweet pear and balanced with a touch of tangy lemon. They are so tender and delicious that you may not even need a topping, but go ahead and try the lemon glaze for an extra burst of lemony goodness.

Makes 12 cupcakes

  • Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C)
  • 12-cup muffin pan, greased or lined with silicone or paper liners

1 cup     cake flour                      250 mL

1⁄2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour 125 mL

2 tsp      grated lemon zest           10 mL

2 tsp      baking powder                10 mL

1⁄2 tsp  salt                                    2 mL

2           large eggs, at room temperature     2

1⁄2 cup plain yogurt                  125 mL

1⁄2 cup unsalted butter, softened 125 mL

1⁄2 tsp  vanilla extract                   2 mL

1 cup     granulated sugar          250 mL

1           large pear, peeled and chopped       1


1 cup     powdered sugar (see page 13) 250 mL

2 tbsp    freshly squeezed lemon juice 30 mL

1⁄2 tsp  vanilla extract                   2 mL


  1. In a large bowl, whisk together cake flour, unbleached flour, lemon zest, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  2. Place the eggs, yogurt, butter, vanilla and sugar in the Vitamix container and secure the lid. With the switch on Variable, select speed 1 and turn the machine on. Gradually increase the speed to 7 and blend for about 30 seconds or until smooth.
  3. Pour the egg mixture over the flour mixture and stir until almost moistened. Gently fold in pear just until incorporated.
  4. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups, dividing equally.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 27 to 30 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then carefully transfer cupcakes to the rack to cool completely.
  6. Glaze: Place powdered sugar in a medium bowl and whisk in lemon juice and vanilla. If the mixture is too stiff to pour, stir in more lemon juice, 1 tsp (5 mL) at a time, to make a thick glaze.
  7. When the cupcakes are completely cooled, drizzle glaze on top and let dry.



For the most accurate measurements when making baked goods, weigh your dry ingredients. For this recipe, you’ll need 137 g cake flour, 57 g unbleached flour, 200 g granulated sugar and 120 g powdered sugar.

Cake flour gives cakes and pastries a delicate, tender texture because it is very low in gluten.








Holiday Entertaining with My Lemon Thyme Vodka Slushy from 300 Best Blender Recipes

Vodka-Thyme Slushy from 300 Best Blender Recipes by robin Asbell

Lemon-Thyme Vodka Slushy from 300 Best Blender Recipes Using Your Vitamix

Your Holiday Shopping Just Got Easier

Just in time for holiday entertaining, I’m proud to announce that my latest book has arrived in bookstores. The 300 Best Blender Recipes Using Your Vitamix (Robert Rose $24.95) is already #76 in Baby Food and #87 in Blender Books on amazon, so it is off to the races!

Of course, baby food is just the beginning, as you can see by the decidedly grown-up drink in the photo above. This project was an exploration of every kind of recipe that the Vitamix makes easier.

Yes, there are smoothies, whole juices, and creamy soups, the first things most people think of when they start lusting after a powerful blender. “Mmm, I could make smoothies after I work out,” goes the thinking. But there is so much more.


Image credit: Colin Erricson

The Versatile Vitamix

We all know that the Vitamix, and other powerful blenders, are great for smoothies. But have you ever used one to grind fresh flour and make bread? Or mince vegetables for a chunky tomato sauce, before you puree the tomatoes to silky smoothness? How about make body care products, like lotions and face masks?

Oh yes, my deep dive into blending will take you there. If you want to get your money’s worth out of your Vitamix, you can find yourself using it several times a day. Grinding coffee, making powdered sugar, even whipping cream is super quick in the blender. I have a whole chapter on energy balls and bars, essentials to take to the gym or on a long bike ride. Fresh nut butters run the gamut from peanut and almond all the way to pistachio and cinnamon walnut. Alternative milks, which cost a pretty penny at the store, are a snap to make, and you can make incredibly fresh and healthful drinks like Golden Almond Milk, infused with turmeric, with my recipes.

Fresh  is Best

Grinding your own flours means that you can make just about any kind of flour, from Kamut and Spelt to gluten-free grain or bean flours. I created a fun assortment of breads, pizza crusts and other baked goods. Yes, you can even make cakes and muffins in the blender.

Using the blender to make spice blends, marinades and dressings gave me a chance to really take the blender around the globe. If you love Chiles based sauces like mole, the blender is your friend. My Ancho Chile and Plantain Mole or Green Pipian Sauce will make your south of the border menus more interesting. Ginger Mango Sriracha Sauce, Thai Blackened Chile Sauce, or Cashew Sambal may be just the sauce for your Asian food cravings. Or, blend up the Instant Creamy Spinach Sauce or Classic Swiss Fondue.

Make Holiday Entertaining a Snap

The book has a whole chapter on dips and spreads, so that you can whip up party fare or sandwich fillings in minutes. Mayonnaise, Cheesy Jalapeno Queso (and Vegan Nacho Queso) and Tapenade are just the basics, and Spicy Beet Dip or Salmon Mousse might be more your style. You can even make a whole assortment of veggie burgers and loaves- Pecan and Beet Burgers and Gyros with Yogurt Sauce are just a couple of the choices.

The book offers plenty of vegan and gluten-free options, so that you or your guests will have just what they want.

The chapter that you won’t find in most blender books is the body care one. I had a blast making scrubs, masks, lotions and skin treatments. Go ahead, read the ingredients on that bottle of lotion in the bathroom, I’ll wait. Once you look into some of those ingredients you’ll see just how much better it is to craft your own version at home, with easy to find natural ingredients. Plenty of the recipes use food you already have in your kitchen!

Make a Signature Cocktail For Your Party

But for today’s post, I’m going to help you out with your Holiday entertaining. Anybody can open a bottle of wine. You want your party to stand out with a unique cocktail. In this one, you start a day ahead to make a thyme-infused lemonade concentrate, then freeze it in ice cube trays.

And you’ll use fresh lemons and herbs, so that you get the most delicious cocktail.

Then, on the night of the party, you just blend the lemon-thyme cubes with vodka, limoncello, and tonic water. It’s like the best slushy ever, with a sweet-tart kick and a herbal note that makes it a step above your usual vodka mixer. You can easily make virgin versions for some of your guests, too, so everyone is covered.

Once you get your blender out and start harnessing the power of this kitchen tool, you won’t want to stop!

Lemon Thyme Vodka Slushy

Courtesy of 300 Best Blender Recipes Using Your Vitamix by Robin Asbell © 2016 Available where books are sold.

If you like lemonade, you will love this cooling, zesty slush. You’ll need to start a day or two before you want to drink it. Once you have the lemony syrup cubes in the freezer, you have delicious drinks in the bank, to dole out on hot afternoons, or for a party.

Makes 4 servings

  • Fine-mesh sieve
  • 2 ice cube trays
  • 4 margarita glasses

Lemon Thyme Ice Cubes

3 cups   water                            750 mL

1 cup     granulated sugar          250 mL

Strips of zest from 1⁄2 large 
lemon (see tip)

35         sprigs fresh thyme                35

11⁄4 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice         300 mL


2 oz       vodka                              60 mL

2 oz       limoncello                       60 mL

12         Lemon Thyme Ice Cubes      12

1 cup     tonic water                   250 mL

4           sprigs fresh thyme                  4


  1. Ice Cubes: Place the water and sugar in the Vitamix container and secure the lid. With the switch on Variable, select speed 1 and turn the machine on. Quickly increase the speed to 10, then flip the switch to High and blend for about 5 minutes, until the syrup is steaming.
  2. Place the lemon zest and thyme in a 4-cup (1 L) glass measuring cup or heatproof container and pour in the hot syrup. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon, pressing the zest and thyme up against the sides of the cup to release the flavors into the hot syrup. Cover and let steep at room temperature overnight.
  3. Strain the syrup through the sieve into another measuring cup or bowl, pressing on the zest and thyme; discard solids. Stir lemon juice into syrup.
  4. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze for about 8 hours, until solid. Once frozen, transfer to sealable freezer bags and store in the freezer for up to 3 weeks. (Makes enough ice cubes for 8 servings.)
  5. Slushy: Place the vodka, limoncello and ice cubes in the Vitamix container and secure the lid. With the switch on Variable, select speed 1 and turn the machine on. Gradually increase the speed to 10, then flip the switch to High and blend for about 10 seconds or until slushy.
  6. Turn the machine off and stir in tonic water. Pour into margarita glasses and garnish each with a sprig of thyme. Serve immediately.



For the strips of lemon zest, use a vegetable peeler or a sharp paring knife to pare off the yellow zest in wide strips, avoiding the white pith.

There’s no need to remove the leaves from the thyme sprigs; both the stems and leaves will infuse flavor into the syrup.












Feeding a Hungry Ghost- Ellen Kanner’s Great Book Makes a Great Gift!


51i6dgfqf-l-_sx322_bo1204203200_One of my favorite writers, Ellen Kanner, wrote a fantastic book that I recommend to everyone who is looking for some Zen and some good food. It’s funny, true, and deeply soulful.

It’s called Feeding the Hungry Ghost, please check it out.

Here’s a link to more information:”Ellen

And a bonus recipe from Ellen for taking the time to click through.

I wrote about spending time in Austin Texas, with Ellen, here.

Bonus Recipe 2016




Roasted Purple Sweet Potatoes In a Tasty Wrap Sandwich, Fuel Your Fire

Roasted Purple Sweet Potato and Tofu Wrap with Walnut Miso Pate

Yes, they really are THAT purple, and they make a sweet, colorful filling for a simple, filling wrap sandwich.

Now that the Thanksgiving stuffing and pie are all gone, it can feel as if the month before Christmas is all about shopping. But I put it to you, you still have to eat. And nothing fuels you for a round of retailing like root vegetables. Don’t get scattered and stressed. What you need is the grounding energy of some earthy roots to keep your feet on the ground.

Roast a Pan of Roots for Easy Wrap Sandwiches

This year I came across some Stokes Purple Sweet Potatoes, which are startlingly, gorgeously purple. Not some poetic pale lilac, mind you, but full on violet. I’ve written about Stokes Purples before here.

These color drenched tubers create a pretty dramatic dish, no matter what you do with them. So, since I had some various roots around from my big Thanksgiving cooking session, I thought it would be fun to roast them up with some roots and tofu for an easy to pack wrap sandwich.

Any sweet potato will work in this recipe, so if you can’t find the purples, grab some Garnets or whatever colorful sweet potato your store carries. From there on, it’s just a process of peeling and cubing. A good moment to practice mindfulness, as you peel and chop, and let all your other thoughts drop away. Practice a little kitchen meditation. Breathe.

Mindful Cooking and Mindful Eating

You’ll be glad, when you have these portable, easy wrap sandwiches to tuck in your bag on the way out the door. The focus that you put into making this nourishing food will be well worth it, when you sit down to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Promise me there will be no food court episodes at the mall. There’s nothing good there. Mindless eating gives you all the pain and none of the pleasure.

Tofu is fantastic in this, as it gets crispy on the edges while the veggies become tender, and it all marries in a sweet, savory, sage-kissed riot of flavor and color.

If you are in the mood for tempeh, that would work, too.

You May Just Want This Pate on Everything

Once the caramelized, concentrated vegetables were out, I craved some salty, umami-rich spread to hold it down. Walnuts, red miso, and parsley came together in an instant in the food processor, giving me the perfect pate for the veggies. With a hint of Japanese traditional flavors, this one is a winner, you’ll want to spread it on all your sandwiches, not just the wraps.

A sprinkling of fresh, light mixed greens and a drizzle of hot sauce made it all complete. I now had wraps for dinner and a lunch, ready to stoke the fires on the cold, wet days ahead.

Roasted Purple Sweet Potato and Tofu Wrap Sandwiches with Walnut-Miso Pate on


Roasted Purple Potato and Tofu Wrap with Miso Walnut Pate

Just crank the oven and toss some cubed veggies and tofu in a roasting pan. It all comes together in the oven, and the pate sets it off just so.

Makes 4

3 cups cubed purple sweet potatoes
1 cup cubed parsnips
1 large carrot, sliced
1 10 ounce extra firm tofu, cubed
8 large garlic cloves, peeled
3 tablespoons fresh sage leaves, minced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup red miso
1/4 cup fresh parsley
Sriracha sauce
4 9-inch whole wheat tortilla
mixed greens

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Combine the cubed vegetables, tofu, garlic, sage, and oil in a large roasting pan, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Roast, covered, for 20 minutes, then stir, scraping the bottom with a metal spatula, and roast uncovered for 20 minutes longer. Let cool.
To make the pate, place the walnuts in the food processor bowl and grind to a paste. Add the miso and parsley and process to a smooth paste.
Spread about 3 tablespoons of the pate on each tortilla, top with vegetables and tofu, and mixed greens drizzle with Sriracha as desired. Serve.









This Thanksgiving Try Coconut-Wasabi Potatoes with Miso Gravy and Crisped Sage

Holiday Sides: Wasabi Potatoes with Miso Gravy

Wasabi-Spiked Potatoes with Miso Gravy and Fried Sage

Perhaps I am stating the obvious, but, Thanksgiving is this week. Everyone here in Minnesota has been too busy enjoying the extra bonus round of Summer, oblivious to the holidays right around the corner. I never got around to raking the last of the leaves, but here we are. So if you haven’t got your Thanksgiving sides planned yet, I have a fun one for you.

Shake Up Your Thanksgiving Sides

Certain foods are required for a Thanksgiving meal. Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, stuffing, cranberries, perhaps a hot roll or biscuit, maybe green beans or Brussels sprouts. Let’s face it, the Thanksgiving side dishes are where the action is. Depending on your crowd, this is an opportunity to riff a little bit on the tried and true.

Today, I’m fooling around with that Thanksgiving staple, mashed potatoes and gravy. Potatoes are a blank canvas, and the traditional version is primed with lots of butter and salt, then painted with thick gravy. To give it a little makeover, I thought I’d go with coconut milk and wasabi in the potatoes, and make a creamy gravy from red miso and sweetly sauteed onions. Will there be riots?

I’m betting it will go over big, as everyone realizes how bored they were with the standard mash. Keep reading for the recipe.

If you’re still putting your Thanksgiving shopping list together, here’s a handy list of some of my favorite Thanksgiving appetizers, main courses, some sides, even a couple of desserts.

A Handy, Clickable List of Thanksgiving Recipes

For a fantastic veg main course that will appeal to everyone:

Savory Roasted Vegetable Strudel with Hazelnuts.

Homemade Mock Turkey (please forgive the photo-it’s delicious!) with a pomegranate salad recipe, too

For Holiday themed appetizers with a twist:

Baby Squashes Filed with Creamy Squash Hummus

Sage-Pumpkinseed Pate with Pumpkin Corn Chips

To shake up your sides:

Purple Cornbread with Sauteed Apples and Kale

Cranberry Persimmon Chutney

Maple-Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Shallots

Wild Rice and Walnut Stuffing with Apples

Yam Fries with Thai Peanut Sauce

For Dessert:

Holiday Hand Pies

Chunky Pumpkin Streusel Pie

Mashed Potatoes with a Twist

I love Thanksgiving. It’s a pure feast holiday, with none of the cards to mail or gifts to buy. Just a big meal to plan and a moment to practice gratitude. I’m glad that we take a whole day to give thanks for food, family, and friends. That’s what I’ll be doing, as I cook up a bunch of sides to take to a friend’s house. I’m the lucky one, she makes the main meal for her extended family, with turkey and all the fixings, and I can bring what I like the best. The sides. Of course, they will all add up to a more than bountiful meal for the vegetarians, and everyone who feels adventurous can have some, too.

wasabi Potatoes with Miso Gravy Holiday Side Dish

Creamy, Coconutty Potatoes with Sweet Miso Gravy and Sage

For my potatoes, I bought some purple skinned potatoes that turned out to be snowy white inside. They were delicious, but you could use your favorite potato. I’d lean toward Yukon Golds, or you can always be traditional and go with a russet potato. I always like to boil my potatoes whole, so that they retain more vitamins, and don’t absorb as much water. Wet potatoes make the mash watery, diluting the flavors. The vitamins in the potato are just below the skin, so if you strip the papery skins off after boiling, you get the nutrition without the skin.

Coconut milk is perfect for mashed potatoes. Use full fat, and don’t skimp. A 15 ounce can contains about a cup and a half, so you will have a half cup left over. It freezes well, or you can use it in the yams with peanut sauce recipe above. You can use wasabi paste in a tube, or mix powdered wasabi with water, in a 1 to 1 ratio.

For the gravy, I went with a nice slow saute of onions in olive oil, and then sprinkled in flour. If you have a GF diner coming, sub sweet rice flour for unbleached. Everyone will be too busy marveling at the miso flavor to notice.  I used plain rice milk, but you can use almond, soy, or your favorite, as long as it’s not sweet.


So to all of you, I wish a bountiful and happy Thanksgiving. Despite all that goes wrong in the World, if we are lucky enough to sit down to a feast this week, we truly have a reason to be thankful.


Coconut Wasabi Potatoes with Miso Gravy and Crisped Sage

The beauty of this is that you can make it gluten-free just by subbing rice flour for unbleached, and nobody will notice at all. I used a good local cider with a balance of sweet and tart flavors, for a hint of apple.

Makes 5 cups potatoes and about 4 cups gravy


2 pounds potatoes
2 teaspoons wasabi paste
1 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion
3 tablespoons unbleached flour or sweet rice flour
2 cups rice milk, plain
1 cup vegetable stock

2 tablespoons apple cider
1/4 cup red miso
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh sage leaves
olive oil

Boil the potatoes whole, strip off the skins while hot and put through a potato ricer or mash by hand. Whip in the coconut milk, wasabi and salt. Keep warm.
In a medium pot, heat the olive oil and add the onions. Stir over medium heat until they start to sizzle. Reduce the heat as needed to cook for about 20 minutes, let the onions get some color and really get soft. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir it in. Cook, stirring, for a few minutes. Whisk in most of the rice milk, vegetable stock, and cider, and save about half a cup. Whisk the mixture in the pan over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Whisk the miso into the reserved liquids, then whisk into the simmering gravy. Add salt to taste.
Heat the olive oil in a small saute pan over medium high heat, and drop in sage leaves, they will sizzle and crisp quickly. Transfer to a paper towel.
Serve potatoes with gravy and topped with crisped sage.









Tibetan Tsampa, Climb Your Mountain with Sherpa Foods


tibetan tsampa

A bowl of Tibetan Tsampa with Westernized Touches

Tibetan Tsampa for Spirituality?

Have you ever wanted to be a little bit more like the Dalai Lama? More serene, loving, and inspiring to everyone around you? Well, you may have a few thousand hours of meditation to get through first, but on your way, you can try eating the same thing for breakfast.

No matter where he goes, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people dines on the traditional Tibetan tsampa and butter tea breakfast of his native land.

Now, thanks to Sherpa foods, you can buy pre-roasted and ground barley tsampa, seasoned with a touch of Himalayan sea salt. Boil some strong tea, whip in some butter, and stir it into the tsampa for the breakfast of a Lama. Or, for a more Western approach, try one of the flavored varieties, like Toasted coconut, Apple Cinnamon Pecan, Cherry Almond Cranberry, or even Chocolate Almond.

Traditional Tsampa

Traditional Tsampa

Tsampa Has a Storied History

In the frigid, mountainous region of Tibet, not much grows. For centuries, barley has been a staple, because it is hardy enough to be cultivated there. The natives survived on a spartan diet, comprised of few root vegetables, milk and meat. It’s a place where staying warm and fed is about survival more than gourmet pleasures.

This ancient barley, like the quinoa of Peru, is such a nutrition powerhouse that it has served as the central source of nutrition for the Tibetan people. Toasted and ground barley flour was the convenience food of the region, requiring only hot water to reconstitute. It is still served in restaurants, and diners mix the powdered barley with tea to make a thick, moldable paste, which is eaten like bread.

Tibetan Tsampa is such a cultural touchstone that calling a Tibetan a “tsampa eater” means she is part of a growing group struggling to keep the Tibetan language and culture alive.

The Yuthok family,  brother Renzin and sisters Namlha and Tsezom, are the founders of Sherpa Foods. They come from a long line of Tsampa eaters, and are passionate about spreading the goodness of this ancient food. “Tsampa is such a unique food with amazing cultural significance and history,” says Renzin, “I felt that I had to help tell its story, preserve the traditions of the Himalayan people, and share our ancient food with the world.”

If the incredible nutritional benefits of organic sprouted barley and the tastiness of a hot bowl of goodness aren’t enticing enough, Sherpa Foods warms your heart even more by donating a percentage of sales to the Sherpa people, who have been devastated by earthquakes, poverty and oppression.

(This is a sponsored post for a product I truly like.)

Tibetan Tsampa

Climb Your Mountain with Tibetan Tsampa

Westernized Tibetan Tsampa (Pa)

Serves 2

Hot Sauce

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/4 cup water

1 large jalapeno, stemmed and seeded

1 bunch cilantro

1 clove garlic, peeled

4 scallions, coarsely chopped


2 medium blue potatoes, cubed

2 cups brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

2 small watermelon radish or part of a daikon



1 1/2 cups very strong black tea

3/4 cup Traditional Tsampa

1-2 tablespoons butter (or coconut oil)

Finely shredded Myzithra cheese, or other dry, aged cheese

Himalayan salt to taste

First, make the sauce: Place the rice vinegar and water in the Vitamix, then add the remaining ingredients. Secure the lid and select Variable Speed 1, then turn on the machine. Gradually increase the speed to 10, then High. Blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl or pitcher. Makes more than you need.

Vegetables: Preheat the oven to 425. Toss the potatoes with a little oil and place on one end of a sheet pan, toss the brussels with oil and place at the other end. Sprinkle with salt as desired. Roast for about 25 minutes, until browned and tender.

Slice the radish.

Pa: Put the hot tea in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and add the butter or coconut oil, put the lid on and hake the tea vigorously until the butter is melted and emulsified. Place the Tsampa in a medium bowl and pour the hot tea over it, stir it in. Let stand for a few minutes. Taste, if you want more salt, add it, if you think the grain is too firm, microwave it a minute or so.

Serve the Pa in bowls, with roasted vegetables, Myzithra cheese, and hot sauce on top.












American Quinoa is Here! Crank the Oven for a Roasted Broccoli Quinoa bowl with Feta

American Quinoa Bowl

American Quinoa in a Great Bowl!

Americans love quinoa. It’s the Meryl Streep of grains.

It’s been the great whole grain success story, and continues to grow. I attended the Whole Grains Council conference in September, where trendologist Kara Nielsen gave us a fascinating presentation on food trends. According to Nielsen, food go through phases of inception, adoption, proliferation, and finally, ubiquity in the marketplace. Quinoa is firmly in the proliferation phase, and because it is moving onto menus at Wendy’s and other large chain restaurants, is is poised to hit ubiquity.

In pop culture terms, ubiquity is Meryl Streep level. It’s household name level fame. Not flash in the pan famous-because-it’s-famous fame, but earned fame from a body of high-quality work. Quinoa. Meryl Streep. Maybe?

The other side of that rise to ubiquity has been the concern that our appetite for a grain that was only grown in the mountains of South America was causing problems. Stories of Peruvians who could not afford to buy the staple grain, and even violence over prime growing land gave quinoa a dark side. It created a dilemma for shoppers.

Is quinoa really sustainable, and is our hunger for it harming the people of Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador? There’s no simple answer. But a major change is in the works. We have finally cracked the code to grow quinoa in the US.

It wasn’t as simple as just planting a few seeds.

Quinoa plants

Quinoa plants

It took years of work by plant breeders, like Kevin Murphy at Washington State University, to develop varieties that could grow here. Quinoa thrived in the cold, rocky mountains of the Andes for centuries, and doesn’t do well if the temps hit 95F, or if it rains when the grains are close to maturity. With some careful breeding, there are now Quinoas being grown in the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, and other regions that don’t get too hot.

So look for American grown quinoa and give it a try. It’s being marketed by Lundberg Farms  and may even be in that bulk bin.

To celebrate this new, American made quinoa, I cranked up my oven and made a roasted broccoli quinoa bowl.

Broccoli, the brassica that took a back seat to kale in recent times, roasts fast and takes a good sear from the pan. I always want to cut it so that each piece has a flat side to make full contact with the pan. Then crank the oven to 425, so it’s really searing that surface before it’s completely limp. Add some slivered red chiles and red onions, to caramelize and shrivel to a sweet, chewy background, and you have a winning combination of veggies.

Roasted Broccoli, Chiles and Red Onion for American Quinoa

Roasted Broccoli, Chiles and Red Onion

The new quinoa has all the nutty-tasting charm that we love. To go with it, a roasted veggie medley has lots of sweetness going on,  and salty, creamy feta is a perfect pairing.

For a sauce with some weight, I went with a pesto-like puree with arugala, lots of lemon and olive oil, and thickened it with a little yogurt. Arugala is my go-to herb when basil is no longer free from my backyard plot. The leafy greens are just as flavorful as basil, but since they are considered salad, they are a bargain all winter long.

Now that quinoa is near “ubiquity,” we can breathe a sigh of relief. American grown quinoa gives is a chance to support American farmers, and take some pressure off the Andean growers. When you see quinoa bowls at Applebee’s and McDonalds, you’ll know, the Meryl Streep of grains is here.

American Quinoa Bowl

American Quinoa with Roasted Veggies and a Green Sauce

Roasted Broccoli and Chile Bowl with Creamy Arugala Sauce

Look for the new American grown quinoa and give it a try in this dish, or keep supporting economic growth in South America. It will be delicious either way.

Serves 4

1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
4 cups broccoli floret
1 medium red onion, slivered
2 large red fresno chile, slivered
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons yogurt (or non-dairy yogurt)
1 cup arugala
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (for a vegan feta click here)

Cook the quinoa in the water for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Drizzle a tablespoon of the oil on a sheet pan and add the broccoli, red onion and chile. Toss to coat. Roast for 20 minutes, until the onions are browned and shrunken and the broccoli is browned. Let cool slightly.
In the Vitamix, combine the remaining olive oil, lemon juice, yogurt, arugala, garlic and salt and secure the lid. Start on low speed and gradually increase to high, then blend until very smooth and creamy, about 1 minute.
Serve the quinoa in bowls, topped with the broccoli mixture, the sauce, and crumbled feta.















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