Sunday, April 05, 2015

Kale and Maple Water Juice

Kale is one of the ubiquitous leafy greens, the darling of food bloggers, culinary food magazines and top chefs. It is claimed to be loaded with vitamins A, C and K and with minerals like iron, potassium and phosphorus.

I started making my kale juice years ago, a hot and humid summer in New York. I just bought some bunches, added cold mineral water, enhanced with almond butter and added drops of maple syrup to bounce off the minor bitter flavor.

But as I recently discovered the maple water from Canada, I gave my kale juice a makeover. I replaced the water with maple water and the entire kale juice got a “taste lift”. 

Here is a very simple recipe for you to enjoy.

Tip: Serve it in a flute and let your friends, colleagues or guests to guess what it is or in a retro Coca Cola glass.

You need:

2 cups of Kale
1 cup of Maple Water
1 tbsp. cashew butter

Put all ingredients into a blender and mix them until liquefied and smooth. You don’t need to add maple syrup because the maple water has approximately 4g of sugar per serving. You can always play around and give the recipe a twist by adding more maple water to make it lighter or more kale for a greener color.

For more information where to buy maple water, click here:

For information about maple syrup, read here:

Friday, February 20, 2015

My first two weeks on Paleo diet

The Paleo diet seems easy. Just take out of your pantry -and plate all foods- that everybody likes; those include cookies, muffins, donuts, pizzas, pastries, sandwiches, pad Thai, sushi and brownies. Then add also beans, lentils and chickpeas, potato chips, Japanese rice snacks, wasabi peas, breakfast cereals and your favorite cheeses and you are all set. Sorry I forgot peanuts and peanut butter. You can pretty much eat everything else.

Right. I am not trying to be funny. The Paleo diet consists of foods that are ancestors ate, aka the cavemen. Wild meat and wild poultry, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts. Some oils. Some drinks. So this is what you should eat if you really want to try this out. Grains and legumes are out all together with potatoes and dairy. And rice.
As I don’t like legumes really and most of the flour-based baked goods mentioned above, it wasn’t difficult to start my experiment which I want it to last for at least a month.

A few of the notable days: 

Day 2. I was in Portland for the Future of Food Conference. This was pretty cool but for lunch I realized that paleo may not be included in the future of food. The buffet lunch provided four different gluten free salads with pasta which I couldn’t eat as they are still grains; tufurku meat that I am not allowed to eat as it is made from soy; some tuna sandwiches and cheese omelette. So I could only eat the green salad and kimchi. But there were many food exhibitors at the Marketplace so I thought I could munch my paleo diet around. I had some luck. I enjoyed the wild salmon at one of the stands; the Kuli Kuli bars made with nuts and moringa; almonds and seeds and few nut butters. But I passed on burritos, cheese, bean salads, hummus, peanut butter sandwiches and all the gluten free items available from pasta to cookies. I realized that paleo is a tough choice even at such a unique conference….

Day 5. It was interesting as it was the “cheat” day starting with plain Greek yogurt mixed with flax seeds and fruits. Lunch was a big green salad with salmon and for snacks the newly discovered Honey Mama’s fudge nectar made with coconut oil, organic cocoa and almonds. Dinner was probably a blend of nuts and some greens paired with a glass of Syrah…

Day 8. I was working out the entire morning and early afternoon so I had the Kuli Kuli paleo-friendly energy bars with me and some Garden Herb Crackers from the two Moms in the Raw, both great for snacking. Of course I brought an apple as well so not a problem.

Day 10. It is almost impossible to eat out without asking for “hold  this” and “hold that”. I had lunch at the Pop Pop Thai Street restaurant and I had to try their amazing grilled chicken but  I had to ask them not to bring me the rice. The waiter looked at me in a strange way but I insisted. 

Day 11. Invited at an evening reception, I could only eat meat or fish. I had to decline all Italian hors-d’oeuvres - pasta, rice, bread, cheese and to get rid of the bread from the mini sandwiches with pulled pork. I also asked for rice-free sushi. Japanese will never forgive me!


1.       1. It is easy to eat paleo at home with minimal preparation. Prepare a salad and add some protein –meat, fish or eggs. Experts recommend grass-fed meat, wild fish and antibiotics-free chickens and eggs. I can’t say that I always fulfill this parameter but overall I don’t buy the cheapest I find in the super market aisles. I also eat only seasonal vegetables and fruits.
2.       2. If you like nuts, you will love your snacks.  Raw almonds, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts and Brazilian nuts together with raw seeds are my daily snacks which are healthier than potato chips but are very high in calories.
3.       3. The paleo experts are not very much into calories and strict portions so this affected me because I didn’t keep an eye on the portions of the nuts I had, probably more than I should. 
4.       4. I had decent amounts of dark chocolate which I like.
5.       5. I cheated a few times for breakfast. I don’t like eggs early in the morning so I alternate the grain free granola or the nut butter on fruits with some plain Greek yogurt and kefir. The moderate paleo experts allow that because Greek yogurt and kefir have little lactose. 
6.       6. I kept drinking wine.
7.       7. It is tempting to cheat when you cook for others. I made a nice cheese soufflé and I was so close to try it out but I didn’t. 
8.       8. I did not bake anything nor I used coconut flour or oil. Coconut may not be my preferred ingredient. I definitely didn’t like the coconut yogurt I bought and I usually use olive oil for my cooking needs. However, the So Delicious Coconut Milk Cherry Amaretto Non Dairy Dessert is really … delicious. I had it only once during the first two weeks.

 Paleo-friendly on-the-go snacks

Kuli Kuli –energy bars made with the moringa plant and fruits 

(generously offered by the food producer)

Two Moms in the Raw Garden Herb Crackers (generously offered by the food producer)

Betsy’s Best Whole Food Rounds – paleo friendly bars -purchased at Whole Foods

Honey Mama’s Nectar Fudge -purchased at Whole Foods

The discovery of the week:
Cappello’s Grain and Gluten Free Lasagna Sheets (made with almond flour) - purchased at Whole Foods

Terribly missing: Sriracha flavored chips. I don’t care if they are made with real potatoes, brown rice, corn, beans or chips. I like them all. Can I only have a bag? 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Eating at Pop Pop

Pop Pop Thai Street Food is a hidden, rather small Thai restaurant in Seattle's north side (also known as Aurora). Not visible from the main street but easy to find, it is located in a strip mall between a T-mobile store and across an LA Fitness gym. 

As I had done my research before going and wasn't too hungry, I knew that I would get the number 12 on the menu. This was the "grilled chicken" that came with red chili sauce and a brown sauce which I think was made with fish sauce, soy, lime, scallions, and other spices. The chicken was grilled over charcoal in its skin and was marinated in coconut milk and lemongrass, spices and garlic which gave the caramelized flavor. I dare to say that this grilled chicken was probably the best chicken in my entire tasting life as it tasted almost like pork, was juicy and paired handsomely with both  sauces. I held the rice that comes as a side because I wanted to have it plain and unspoiled from grains. I only had the iced Thai coffee, a perfect blend of coffee, milk and sugar that couldn't get enough of.

I will definitely go back to try other dishes, noodles, pad thai and the papaya salad. For sure. Very soon. 

Pop Pop Thai Street Food
13242 Aurora Avenue North #104, Seattle, WA 98133

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

The Bitter Lunch

Bitter is an interesting, thus unexplored taste but author Jennifer McLagan had persistence, a keen interest and enthusiasm to write a book about it. In a lunch presentation at Book Larder, she explained why she likes bitter taste, what the most common bitter items and ingredients are and how we can add them in our daily cooking and eating habits. 

All guests experienced a mini-lunch comprised of  a Belgian endive and radicchio salad with anchovy dressing, a Brussels sprouts with chickpeas dish and an orange and oil olive pound cake as a dessert. I found the salad bitter enough but pleasant all the same; the Brussels sprouts less bitter and blending nicely with the chickpeas; the cake was not bitter really but I couldn't taste the sugar either. 

I appreciate and like a lot the bitterness in a country that everything has more than enough sugar -natural and artificial. I am glad to find out McLagan's insights and tips on cooking with bitter vegetables and ingredients.

Yes, you guessed it right, I am staring with Negroni, the quintessential bitter cocktail. 

Friday, January 02, 2015

My favorite foods and destinations of 2014

As the new year has nicely entered our life, I reiterate my annual tradition of listing my favorite items of the previous year -all of them related to food. This year's favorites include dishes, specialty foods and destinations that were bold, influential and had an impact in my personal food world.

My first time at the largest food trade show in the world, SIAL was impressive, overwhelming and amazing. I documented my experience through this post on the Huff Po which says everything:

Doing tapas at Calle del Laurel, Logroño’s famous tapas street
Mini fish bites, grilled mushrooms and cheese and ham tiny sandwiches, Logroño's street food has everything. Highly recommended when you visit this part of Spain. Pair it with a glass of Rioja wine and you are all set while you do your tapas pilgrimage.

Cyclades islands, Greece
After a few years of absence, I returned to Syros and Paros, two wonderful Cyclades islands. Except for their Mediterranean beauty, the islands are known for their traditional local food of notable cheeses, capers, fava dishes, sweet delights and local wine varieties among others. Try an “envelope” of San-Mixali cheese with grape syrup and sesame on top or a fennel cheese pie with yogurt.

Savory energy bars
Strong & Kind from the well-known for bars brand Kind, it is a tasty surprise for those who like savory and need a break from the chocolate peanut-y bars. I love the Thai Sweet Chili Almond Protein bar, a nice combination of sweet and spicy and the Jalapeno bar for a more grown up taste.

The Wild Hibiscus Flower Pyramid Salt Flakes
This gourmet finishing salt is made from a blend of hibiscus flowers and delicate Australian pyramid salt. Great taste and flavor that pair well with almost any food, from salads and soup to your margarita cocktail.

The Angel’s Share 2009 Petit Syrah and Albariño Burgáns, 2013 Rias Baixas are my top two wines of the year for their sophistication, balance and freshness. For the sparking effect, try the Marqués de la Concordia Reserva de la Familia 2010 Brut Millésime Rosé Wine, a limited edition Cava.  

The new look from Terra Chips. Those colorful pieces of happiness are sweet and salty and pair nicely with your favorite beer. You can also eat them just plain out of the bag instead of dinner.

Sexy Pop popcorn. Light, low in calories and loaded with antioxidants, this popcorn will be in my snack pantry for a long time. I love the cheddar flavor but also the banana for a unique taste.

The RAP protein gummies  
They may have a texture that is different and not always likable, but those gummies have plenty of protein to satisfy you during the day or before the gym. My favorite is the orange citrus.

The Kettle Brand Thick+Bold Dill Pickle Potato Chips are free from gluten and trans fats. Crunchy, thick and bold, they do have everything, including many calories but they are so delicious! 

The Crisp melon cutter. Melon and cantaloupe are my favorite fruits for the summer so the Crisp knife is a must-have. The knife is extra long, has a sturdy blade and provide an easy slicing with its ergonomic handle. It also comes with a detachable seed removal scoop which gives this knife an edge.  Get it here:

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Tiki Cocktail Contest and Everything You Need to Know about Genever

In a buzzy room of Monsoon restaurant, bartenders, cocktail judges and gin enthusiasts came together for the Gindonesia Tiki Night last Sunday. Organized and sponsored by the Seattle Gin Society and by Lucas Bols USA, some of Seattle’s best bartenders went indeed head-to-head in a showdown for the most authentic Tiki cocktail contest. Judges had to rate balance, complexity, taste, presentation and garnish for a total of 25 points.

Bartenders are indeed creative personalities and can turn a simple mix into a fun glass with colors, garnish, fruit and flowers ready for a photo shoot. From spice to punches, we tasted many Gin concoctions during the evening including the Bols Genever punch. Additionally, Monsoon’s Vietnamese dim sum dishes that included vegetarian and beef rolls, rice noodles, chicken skewers and grilled bò la lot were the perfect pairing for the evening full of Gin and Genever!

Here are the winners:

Aaron Kimmel from Ocho (cocktail name "The Dutch Bomber")

Second Place: Brady Sprouse from Oliver's Twist and Rob Roy ("The Sprouse House Sling")

Third Place: Jack Sanders from Ba Bar

For the history: Genever is the juniper berry-flavored  liquor also known as Dutch Gin from which the Gin evolved. The Dutch were probably the first European nation to develop a large-scale commercial distilling industry. Between 1500 and 1700 every sizeable town had several distilleries making jenever, spirit or liqueurs. As they ruled the seas and owned colonies in West and East Indies –Indonesia today- they could import spices and exotic foods.  Amsterdam and Rotterdam were prominent ports for sugar, spices and grains. Many of today’s leading Dutch Genever distillers can trace their origins back to the 16th and 17th centuries as Bols (founded 1575). 

Gin is a juniper berry-flavored grain spirit is an English shortening of Genever, the Dutch word for juniper. Although the origins of Gin are rather murky, it seems that the first time that the spirit was found in the late 1580s in Holland by British troops who were fighting against the Spanish in the Dutch War of Independence. They gratefully drank it to give them what they soon came to call "Dutch courage" in battle.  The English brought the idea of making and drinking gin back with them. It would take another 150 years before they would have their own version.

What is inside? Traditionally the base of Genever had a high percentage of malt wine (15%-50%), resulting in a spirit that had malty notes like whiskey and an herbal component that is common with gin.  This is the style of Genever that we know as Oude or Old, meaning that it is made in the old style. A newer style of Genever is called Jonge, or young in which there is a much lower malt wine content (up to 15%) which results in a much lighter style of Genever. With both styles, the spirits can contain sugar, adding to the richness on the palate.

Gin: This is a juniper-flavored spirit made by simply adding approved natural flavoring substances to a neutral spirit of agricultural origin. The predominant flavor must be juniper. All gins include juniper as an ingredient: other botanicals used are coriander, angelica, orange peel, lemon peel, cardamom, cinnamon, grains of paradise, cubeb berries and nutmeg. Typically a fine gin contains six to ten botanicals. Like all gins, London gin should have a predominant juniper flavor

For more events about the Gin Society click here:
For Lucas Bols, click here:
For Monsoon Seattle, click here:

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The Gluten-Free Madeleines

The French Madeleines - the small cakes from the Lorraine region- may have become famous from French author Proust and his sensational descriptions in his palate. Now, they are available in their gluten-free form as well. I just saw this while visiting Paris at the Naturalia health store, offered from the Nature & Cie food company. I wonder that Proust would have said about it.