Toasted Nut Crunchers

One of my favorite foods is nuts. They’re healthy, tasty and add a great crunch to pasta, salads and cereals. Here is a quick recipe to give your pasta dishes more crunch. Not all nuts go together and not all nuts are tasty toasted, but feel free to experiment!

Toasted Nut Crunchers

Toasted Nut Crunchers

Ingredients

2 Tbsp Sliced Peeled Almonds (Raw or Unsalted, Not Roasted)

2 Tbsp Sesame Seeds (Raw or Unsalted, Not Roasted)

2 Tbsp Sunflower Seeds (Raw or Unsalted, Not Roasted)

Instructions

Mix the nuts together and place on parchment paper in the toaster. Toast at 300 Fahrenheit (150 Celsius) until the nuts start to brown. Remove the nuts, let them cool on the parchment and then transfer to a jar for storage. Use on pastas and salads liberally.

Roasted Nuts TIP: Choose unsalted nuts – salted ones will dry out quickly. Roast nuts of similar size together, otherwise they will turn out unevenly.

Crete: Things to Do in Every Season

It’s my first travel post and it’s on Crete! Here are 10 things you can do in Crete – off season and in season. Most of them are free, but require a car. I highly recommend a trip to Crete and we would definitely go back.

1. The beach. It’s not the most glamorous beach, but it does the trick. British tourists seemed to love swimming in it. I took a pass and enjoyed the sun, which even in off season is not so bad.

2. Visit the cave of Zeus. Whether you believe the legend or not, this trip offers a nice drive into the Lasithi Plateau, a short hike and a lovely cave. Ignore the sign – if you’re physically fit it’s a great hike to the cave! We were there off season and there were no donkeys.

3. Zeus’s Cave. Cough up a few Euros for entry into this smaller, but worthwhile cave. You must be in good physical condition for this!

4. Go for a drive into the mountains.

5. See the flower fields. Crete has lots of them all over. Don’t pass by quickly – stop and enjoy a moment!

6. Go Greek Orthodox. So it’s not the best picture, but you get the idea. The Greek Orthodox Church holds many festivals and it’s something different to see. Look around for posters in the town announcing festivals or events. This one was Greek Orthodox Easter and they were taking out a Jesus statue for a parade.

7. Cat Watching! The Cretans love cats, who linger near butcher shops and roam freely on the island. It’s just one more reason to slow down, pause and watch daily life.

8. Visit Agios Nikolaos. It’s a touristy port and the food is relatively expensive, however it has unique shops, a festive atmosphere and is a welcome urban stop. There are also short boat excursions (from the marina). One day or a long afternoon is enough to see this place unless you want to do a boat trip.

9. Catch a rainbow – or two! Don’t know if it was our luck or what, but this is what we saw on our climb up into the mountains to visit Zeus’s cave.  Keep your eyes peeled – it seems like this moist & mountainous island is just ripe for a rainbow or two.

10. Buy furs! While it’s really not my thing, there are tons of fur stores on the island. I couldn’t help but share this one that offers furs at factorial prices. Which is funny for my fellow math nerds. If you don’t like furs, rename this suggestion laugh at bad English translations – also free, also fun;)

Spicy Middle Eastern Eggplant Slices

Eggplant is a staple in our house, but can get a bit boring.  Here is a fun, easy, quick and tasty way to do eggplant – without turning your house into a smelly mess!

Eggplant Slices

Spicy Middle Eastern Eggplant Slices

Ingredients

Eggplants (classic Italian, though you can use other large ones)

Parsley

Spicy Red Peppers

Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper

Instructions

With a very sharp large knife, very carefully slice the eggplant vertically into 1/4 inch slices. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper and bake on parchment paper.  Turn the eggplant over once it begins to brown.  Cook until soft, but still slightly firm.  While your eggplant is cooking, in a jar with a lid mix 1/4 cup of quality olive oil with diced hot peppers and finely chopped parsley.  Shake vigorously and pour the mixture on the eggplants when they are finished cooking.

Eggplant TIPS:

1. Choose a firm, if not hard eggplant.  While many believe it’s seeds that make them bitter, it’s actually over ripeness eggplants.

2. Never store it in the refrigerator – eggplants are a warm weather veggie and do not do well refrigerated.

Read more on eggplants.

Spicy Broccoli with Mushrooms and Carrots

Broccoli is one of the tastiest vegetables if you cook it right.  The key to broccoli is flavor. In this recipe, I use aromatic spices, Sriacha sauce and the unami of mushrooms to make a delicious and healthy dish.  I added the walnuts for a bit of bitterness and because walnuts are healthy!

The finished product!
The finished product!

Spicy Broccoli with Mushrooms and Carrots

Ingredients:

Spices: 1 pinch of cumin/to taste, 1 tsp cardamom

Sriracha sauce to taste

Natural gray salt, fresh ground pepper

Broccoli

1 Carrot

1 Shallot (or more if it’s really small)

Coconut Oil

Walnuts

Instructions:

If you're on a raw diet - season and eat it now:)
If you’re on a raw diet – season and eat it now:)

Heat the coconut oil.  Dice the shallot semi-fine and put it into the oil.  Slowly mix the broccoli into the mix and cover it with a bit of oil and then stir in more.  Cut the mushrooms into 1/2 inch pieces and add them once the broccoli has started to cook.  Cook until the broccoli is cooked to your liking.  I like mine about half cooked:)

If you like broccoli very lightly cooked, take it out when it looks like this!
If you like broccoli very lightly cooked, take it out when it looks like this!

Walnuts TIP: Walnuts are one of my favorite nuts.  They’re so darn healthy and so tasty.  Walnut nutrition is here.

Puffed Quinoa with Pineapple, Apricot and Walnut

Running out of ideas for what to do with your quinoa puffs?  Here is a really great flavor combination for puffed quinoa – pineapple apricot with walnuts.  I like using dried fruit in the quinoa puffs because it adds sweetness and flavor to my plain puffs.  While it seems like any old idea would work, I’ve definitely tried some combinations that just do not work;)  Here is one of my favorites!

Puffed Quinoa Pineapple Apricot Walnut

Sweet Potato Hash Brown Patties

Who can’t resist a bit of fried food now and then?  A big weakness of mine was hash browns (nom nom!), but with a new healthy way of living, these guys had to go.  Now while I don’t regularly eat these sweet potato patties, they are a healthier alternative to potato patties or hash browns.  Sweet potatoes are more nutrient dense than regular potatoes and these are pan-fried and not deep fried.  Not exactly guilt free (it’s still fried), but certainly less guilt!

All Finished!  Sweet Potato Patties

Sweet Potato Hash Brown Patties

Ingredients

1 Cups Coarsely Grated Sweet Potatoes

1/4 Cup Breadcrumbs

1-2 Eggs

1/4 Cup Finely Diced Onions

Sunflower Oil

Salt & Pepper

Instructions

Peel and grate your sweet potatoes.  Lightly salt and let stand for 10 minutes while you finely dice 1/4 cup of onions.  Drain excess water from the sweet potatoes and pat them dry.  Add the onions, breadcrumbs, eggs and salt & pepper to the sweet potato shreds and stir.  If you find there is still water, pat dry again or press and drain.  Your mixture should be about the consistency of a hamburger – and should stand firm when made into a patty.  Too wet?  Add some breadcrumbs.  Too dry?  Maybe another egg.  See the picture below – they should be about this texture.

Sweet Potato Patties Cooking

Shape all of the patties and put them aside.  Add the oil to a frying pan and heat.  When the oil is hot, start cooking!  Since these are healthier versions, they are NOT deep fried.  Simply fry on each side until they’re browned.

Sweet Potato Hash Browns

Cinnamon Stick Kebab

Kebab is the burger and hot dog all-in-one of the Middle East.  It’s made from meat, fish or veggies (type varies based on tradition) mixed with herbs and spices, and then grilled or baked on a stick.  Take any kebab recipe or just make up your own and try something new: cinnamon stick kebab!  The cinnamon stick adds a wonderful flavor and a bit of fun to a classic dish.

Cinnamon Stick Kebab

Doner Kebab TIP: There are more kinds of kebabs than you would ever think.  Each country, region and ethnic groups has its own traditions.  One thing to know, however, is that the doner kebab is much different.  In many places it’s called a shwarama.  If you order a doner kebab, expect sliced up meat, not a stick of meat (pictured below).

Doner Kebab

Kebab TIP: You can put anything on a stick and call it a kebab. In our house, we like to eat a lot of different organ meats. Organ meats are inexpensive, healthy, holistic and ecological. We try to eat all parts of the animals, here is a more “exotic” selection of items we have used on kebab: chicken hearts, chicken liver, chicken kidneys, turkey testicles.

Vegetables are also great, just be sure to coat in a bit of olive oil or fat. Brain, sweetbreads and tripe are not good candidates for kebab! Read more on organ meat here.

How to Cook Millet

There is no one right way to cook millet, but this is my tried-and-true go-to recipe when I’m in the mood for a tasty gluten free hot breakfast cereal.  And it’s nutritious!  Check out the millet nutrition information at the end of the post.

Roast until it smells delicious and not a second more!
Roast until it smells delicious and not a second more!

Millet

Ingredients

1/2 Cup Millet

1.5 Cups Water

1 Cup Water

Butter

Salt

Instructions

In a small pot, heat the butter.  Add the millet to the butter and brown.  You will know it’s ready when it starts smelling toasty!  Add 3 parts water for 1 part millet, in this case, 1.5 cups of water and 1/2 cup of millet.  Bring to a boil and cover for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, add an additional 1 cup of water, a dollop of butter, cover and cook for 5 more minutes.  After 5 minutes, turn the heat off and leave the millet sit covered for 10 minutes.

Enjoy!  You can pair millet with all kinds of dried fruits, berries, nuts, seeds or anything else you might put into an oatmeal.  It’s a bit sweet on its own and I don’t add any sugar, but you probably could if you like sweeter things and some flavor combinations work with sweeteners.

Your pot should be small enough that water covers the millet well.
Your pot should be small enough that water covers the millet well.

Flavor Ideas for Millet

Cinnamon & Brown Sugar

Apples & Cinnamon

Maple Syrup & Pecan

Goji Berries & Walnuts

Cooked millet paired with pecans and dried blueberries.
Cooked millet paired with pecans and dried blueberries.

Millet Nutrition

Not only is it gluten free and tasty, millet is also healthy.  In only 1 cup of cooked millet (174 grams), you get a whole lot of good stuff!  It’s not low calorie, which is fine with me – I don’t think breakfast is the place to go low calorie:)

207 Calories

2 Grams of Fat

41 Carbs, 2 Grams Fiber

6 Grams of Protein

Vitamins and Minerals (over 10% DV):

Thiamin, 12%

Niacin, 12%

Magnesium, 19%

Phosphorus, 17%

Zinc, 11%

Copper, 14%

Manganese, 24%

References:

Self Nutrition Data on Millet, Taken from FDA Database

Healthy Loaded Baked Potato

Baked potatoes have long been touted as a healthy alternative to fries – and they are.  But why should you make it so loaded that it becomes worse than fries (bacon, sour cream, cheddar cheese anyone)?  Here is my recipe for a still-indulgent, still a little loaded, sorta-loaded baked potato.

Healthier Potato

Sorta Loaded Baked Potato

Ingredients

Baked or Boiled Potato

Frozen Spinach

Butter

Salt, Pepper & Seasoning

Instructions

Defrost and heat your spinach – leaf spinach is much better for this recipe.  Place your hot and cooked potato on the spinach and tear it open.  Slather with butter, sprinkle with salt, pepper and seasoning (I use Old Bay) and enjoy!

Butter TIP: For most people, butter is a healthy fat when consumed moderately.  The presence of butter in dishes has consistently been shown to lower the glycemic index of carbohydrates (more than any other fat).  The fats in butter also help digest the vitamins in vegetables and offer benefits of their own like Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin K and Vitamin E.  When paired with a high GI starch like potatoes, butter mitigates the effects of the carbohydrates – and tastes good:)

Serbian Snack Tray

It’s game time!  Are you bored with typical snack offerings?  Try making a Serbian snack tray.  It’s easy to do, cheap and adds an interesting cultural twist to any party food.  It’s also a great late night treat and helps settle a stomach after drinking:)

Serbian Snack Tray

Serbian Snack Tray

Ingredients

Lunch Meats (pepperoni, roast beef, ham, your choice)

Pimentos (olives stuffed with peppers)

Hard Boiled Eggs

Feta Cheese

Peperoncini (the little spicy green peppers)

Instructions

On a large serving plate or tray, lay down a thin layer of meats.  Generously toss on the pimentos (stuffed olives) and the peppers, being sure to drain them of any water first.  Placing them on a towel will do the trick.  Add small cubes of feta (smaller than 1″ x 1″) and wedges of hard boiled eggs.  Place ample toothpicks for snacking and serve!

Lunch Meat TIP: Yes, lunch meats have nitrates, which are proven to cause cancer.  You can, however, select lunch meats that also contain sodium erythorbate, which is said to temper the effects of nitrates.  If you’re totally anti-nitrates, you can try meat cured in celery juice OR make fresh sausages & chicken or turkey and slice it up.  To each his (or her) own!