I’m a creature of habit most days. Spontaneity isn’t really my thing.

One area where I do let my hair down (metaphorically speaking of course) is in the kitchen.   I love experimenting with recipes by substituting ingredients with unexpected ones, especially if it makes them healthier while keeping them…yummy.

Birthdays provide the perfect opportunity for me to turn tradition on its head by playing with the classic cake. You name it, I’ve made it: cheesecakes and shortcakes. Devil cakes and angel foods cakes. Honey cakes and carrot cakes. My family has learned to expect the unexpected when it comes to their birthday cakes. I know; I’m a rebel.

The last family birthday was no exception. I found this great recipe from one of my favorite guilty baking pleasures, Joy the Baker, and made slight alterations including subbing in whole wheat pastry flour and greek yogurt to shave off some of the calories and fat. It was delicious and the birthday girl enjoyed her dessert even without the frosting or added cream (a remark I heard from my brother who chided, “what’s a birthday cake without frosting?” to which I replied, “the kind of cake I make and you don’t seem to mind to be eating right now.” Pssh. Family.) , but I promised myself I’d try to making this cake fully gluten free and sugar free.

This mother’s day I got a little wild. In the kitchen, that is.

Here’s what a not-so-wild-but-likes-to-think-she’s-wild baker comes up with for Mother’s Day: Upside Down Strawberry Cake completely grain free and refined sugar free. It’s got cardamom. It’s got strawberries baked onto the bottom. It’s moist and light. It’s epic.

Yup. I’m bad to the bone.


For the topping:

  • ½ tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsps coconut flour
  • 1 cup strawberries, sliced
  • Drizzle of honey (about 2 tsps)

For the cake:

  • 1 cup unblanched almond flour
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • ½ cup coconut oil, melted
  • ½ cup honey
  • ½ cup greek yogurt, 0% plain
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom
  • ¼ tsp salt


1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Add butter to an 8-inch cake pan and place in oven. Once melted, swirl butter to coat the bottom and sides of the pan and set aside.

3. Whisk all the dry ingredients in one bowl (coconut flour, almond flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, salt). In a separate medium-sized bowl, mix the wet ingredients (coconut oil, eggs, honey, vanilla) together thoroughly.

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3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients along with the greek yogurt and mix well, creating a thick batter.


4. Sprinkle the coconut flour into the pan over the butter and drizzle with honey. Place the sliced strawberries along the bottom of the pan in a single layer.

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5. Scoop the batter over the strawberries and level out with a spatula.


6. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean from the center. Remove and allow it to cool for 15 minutes before flipping the cake out onto a serving plate.


7. Serve up a slice, spoon a dollop of greek yogurt, sprinkle with cinnamon and add some berries for fun. Eat it up wild child!!! 🙂


5 New Ways to Cook with Cauliflower

Cauliflower is such a versatile (and healthy!) vegetable. Here are some new ways to enjoy them in your next meal. One of the best things about a clean diet is the opportunity to explore new foods that I would have previously turned down because I just didn’t know any better. Case in point: cauliflower.

I never had any problems with broccoli (what I consider to be cauliflower’s cousin) growing up. I remember eating them as a kid and thinking just how cool it was to be eating “little green trees” as I thought of them back then. But whenever my mom tried to stick a couple pieces of cauliflower on my plate, I’d protest. White trees were simply not cool. Plus they offended my 7-yr old epicurean sensibilities. They just didn’t taste good. Much like I did with beans, I’ll have to pin the blame on the chef (sorry Mom!) and not on the actual food.

Now that I’m in charge of my own grocery shopping and cooking, I’ve been able to revisit foods like cauliflower and give them a makeover. Once I figured out what to do with it, I realized how much I loved those little white trees cauliflower. It hits two of my must-haves right on the bulls-eye: super nutritious and versatile.

Cauliflower and Cruciferous Vegetables

I’ve spent some time talking about cruciferous vegetables in the past, but here’s a refresher.

If I had to suggest only one food to get you started on a healthy diet, it would have to be anything from the cruciferous family. The most popular cruciferous vegetables are kale, broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, bok choy, and of course, cauliflower.

These vegetables often get tagged as “superfoods” with good reason. They’re loaded with vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber. Perhaps the greatest health benefit of cruciferous vegetables is that it may help lower your risk of developing cancer by reducing oxidative stress (when excessive free radicals or unstable molecules develop to the point of damaging the integrity of surrounding cells).

Cauliflower is very high in vitamin C, providing 86% of you DV in one serving! It’s also a great source of vitamin K (20% DV), folate (15% DV), potassium (9% DV) and soluble fiber (8% DV), providing a great nutritional punch to your diet. The high vitamin K count in cauliflower has important anti-inflammatory benefits to the body’s inflammatory response which contributes to an overall decreased risk of cancer. And the amount of fiber in cauliflower makes this a good choice for digestive system support.

We’re right at the beginning of cauliflower season and it will be at peak until fall, so now is the perfect time to pick one up. Note that cauliflower comes in different colors ranging from white to purple, orange, and green.

You can do what with cauliflower?

My eyes were opened to the enormous potential of healthy foods through the genius of sites like Pinterest and Facebook. Not only could I find recipes from my go-to cooking magazines and websites, but now I can see what another blogger is doing with cauliflower in Australia or a chef in India can share their best aloo gobi interpretation. It’s a cook’s dream and it makes healthy eating that much more accessible and appetizing to everyone.

It was through one of my many hours spent wasting time researching online that I found out how versatile cauliflower can be, making it a fantastic staple to have on hand. You can cook it in so many different ways and the somewhat dense texture makes cauliflower an excellent option for Meatless Monday, gluten/grain free or vegetarian/vegan recipes as a hearty substitute for meat and breads.

You’ve likely had cauliflower steamed, sauteed, or maybe even roasted. It’s often cooked in the same fashion as broccoli where it’s cut into florets and seasoned with garlic, oil, salt and pepper. I recently made this wonderful side of roasted cauliflower with pearl onions, cardamom, lemon and parsley. Easy preparation and great flavor combinations are part of the fun of cooking with cauliflower.

Cauliflower with text

But did you know you could mash it? Turn it into rice? Make it into a pizza crust? Serve it as tortillas??? No? Well, neither did I!

Here are 5 new ways to cook with cauliflower:

1. Cauliflower Rice

I decided to try this one myself as an experimental side to a stir-fry dish featuring spring produce that I prepared several weeks ago. I rarely eat any kind of rice anymore and after hearing about the wonders of cauliflower rice (especially from the paleo community) for months on end, I thought it was time to give this a go.

This was my interpretation but you’ll find dozens of recipes online to suit your tastes. The nice thing here is that it’s really easy to switch this up by changing the seasonings as the base recipe remains the same.

To begin, remove the core from the cauliflower and chop the rest into small, evenly-sized florets. Rinse well and set aside.

Chop the florets in small batches in your food processor until you get small rice-like pieces. Heat a tsp of coconut oil in a nonstick frying pan and then add 2 tsps of finely chopped ginger, cook for a minute. Add the cauliflower rice, 2 tbsps of water, and a dash of salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and cook rice for about 4-5 minutes. Done!

cauliflower collage with text

Here’s a look at one way to make cauliflower rice a part of your next meal! You can get the recipe for my Pea Shoot Stir-Fry with Garlic-Ginger Cauliflower Rice here– trust me, it’s good stuff.

stir fry with cauliflower rice

I have yet to try the rest of these options, however they look amazing! I decided to compile some of the best cauliflower recipes I’ve seen from food bloggers and like-minded home cooks who have gotten great feedback from readers. Why not share the blog love by checking out their pages for other fun recipes to inspire you in the kitchen??  🙂

2.  Mashed Cauliflower

Tired of potatoes or looking for a healthier alternative? Give cauliflower a try instead. You can play with the ingredients to get the flavors you want, but check out this recipe to start.

Best Make Ahead Side: Garlic Cauliflower “Mashed Potatoes” – NomNomPaleo.com

One of the best paleo food blogs I’ve found to date, NomNomPaleo offers an incredible selection of recipes covering all the bases with beautiful food photography to boot.

3. Cauliflower Pizza Crust

One of the biggest hurdles for many following grain-free diets is how to enjoy pizza without a wheat-based crust. There are gluten-free pizza crust recipes out there, but if you want to try something much easier and vegetable-based, take a look at this recipe.

Cauliflower Crust Pizza (Gourmet Vegetarian Style) – YourLighterSide.com

I originally found this recipe through another blog I follow, Oh My Veggies, which offered up this great pizza recipe. They linked back to YourLighterSide for the crust and I was happy for it given all the wonderful options and feedback for both pizzas. This site also comes up again further down this list. If you’re in need of more great recipes for Meatless Monday or because you’re following vegetarian or vegan diets, than definitely visit these two blogs!

4. Cauliflower Tortillas

I rarely eat tacos (even though I love them) given the fact that tortillas are usually corn or flour, two things I don’t really eat often or at all. (Corn=GMOs!) So when I saw this recipe pop up on my Facebook feed the other day, I freaked out. Tortillas made from cauliflower? It was a moment.

Cauliflower Tortillas (Paleo, Grain Free, Gluten Free) – SlimPalate.com

This blog is fairly new to me, but I was really impressed to find out the author behind it is a 17 yr-old who lost over 100lbs and decided to share his story and recipes via this site. Truly inspirational!

5. Cauliflower Lasagna Noodles

I have to admit, lasagna is not my favorite dish in the world. But I haven’t shut the door on it completely. I think I just have to find the right combination that works for me. When I experimented with paleo last year, I noticed a number of noodle-alternative recipes that use vegetables as the base. Zucchini and spaghetti squash were by far the most popular choices, but I’ve also seen many of these paleo-friendly lasagna dishes call for cauliflower noodles. I’m intrigued enough to attempt this at least once. How about you?

Cauliflower Noodle Lasagna – YourLighterSide.com

If you spend a little time on this site, you’ll find hundreds of amazing healthy recipes. I really enjoy the author’s sense of humor throughout her posts and the creative spin with classic dishes like these lasagna noodles or her gluten-free/sugar-free girl scout samoa cookies.

Not enough cauliflower for you? There are so many recipes out there to satisfy your cauliflower fix, but here are some more sites for you to explore!

The Secret Life of Cauliflower – Damyhealth.com

Cauliflower Recipes – Cooking Light Magazine

Healthy Cauliflower Recipes and Cooking Tips – Eating Well Magazine


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Meatless Mondays: Grain-Free Baked Falafel Patties, Roasted Garlic Hummus, and Tomato-Cucumber Salad


It’s Lebanese mezze gone wild!

Okay, less wild and more, quietly appealing, especially to those not eating grains or have a gluten sensitivity. I’m an equal opportunist and I believe that everyone has the right to enjoy these delicious classics.

But really, I love Lebanese food. I mean, like, LOVE. There is this place I used to go to for lunch almost daily because they had the best falafel and hummus I’d ever tasted. Plus, it was cheap. When you work in New York near the financial district, finding inexpensive, healthy food is like hitting the jackpot. And I hit pay dirt when I landed on Baba ghanouge on Church Street last year.

Baba ghanouge, 165 Church Street, NYC
Baba ghanouge, 165 Church Street, NYC

Their food is the real deal. And even though they weren’t the most organized business, I patiently dealt with fumbled orders and some chaos each day because I just had to have one of their falafel on whole wheat or their Chicken Tawook pitas (like biting into yummy spicy heaven!) for lunch.

When I started cleaning up diet and experimenting with paleo and gluten-free, I said farewell to the nice guys at Baba ghanouge and their delicious food. Sadly, chickpeas aren’t paleo friendly and the fried falafel balls where definitely not allowed. 

As I spoke about in my last post, I left the world of paleo behind and I’ve been reintegrating some of these foods back into my diet. But I have yet to revisit my falafel paradise on Church Street. I just can’t do the fried thing.

So I had the genius idea one lazy day to just make my own falafel. And why not throw in some hummus too for good measure? This way I can still get those great flavors without sacrificing something I love so much.

Before I get started with the recipe, let me go back to my roots here and present my nutrition factoids:



Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans as they’re also called, are loaded with health benefits ranging from digestive tract support to lowering risk of cardiovascular disease. It’s a staple ingredient in Mediterranean and South Asian cuisines and can be eaten either in either cold or hot dishes. I’ve seen a number of gluten or grain-free recipes utilizing chickpea flour as well.

1 cup of cooked chickpeas has approximately:

  • Fiber: 12.5g or 50% DV. The most significant aspect of the dietary fiber contained in chickpeas is that between 65-75% of that amount is insoluble fiber which helps improve intestinal health and efficient digestion of food.  High fiber intake also helps keep you feeling full longer which can help reduce caloric intake.
  • Protein: 14g or 29% DV. This is especially important to those following vegetarian or vegan diets and are looking for plant-based sources with higher protein levels. Since our bodies do not store this macronutrient, we have to take it in through our diet. Protein is used to build and repair tissues, and it’s an important component in the making of bones, muscles, skin, and blood. So you can see how vital it is to maintain a diet that meets your specific protein needs.
  • Antioxidants and Heart Health: The seed coat or skin along with the chickpea’s inner portion are full of antioxidents, vitamins, and phytonutrients that work to improve cardiovascular health. Chickpeas are an excellent source of the mineral manganese (84% of DV!) and the vitamin folate (70% of DV), each promoting cell energy and heart health by lowering the risk for artery damage near the heart.

With all of the health benefits of chickpeas, it comes as no surprise that the Mediterranean diet, one of the healthiest diets that has consensus among most health and nutrition experts, incorporate these legumes into their cuisine. If you’ve never tried chickpeas, then pick up a can or bag (preferably GMO-free!) on your next grocery trip and throw some cooked beans in your salad. Or, you can try one of my recipes! And speaking of….

Today’s Meatless Monday recipe is broken down into 3 parts:

  • Roasted Garlic Hummus
  • Baked Grain-Free Falafel Patties
  • Tomato-Cucumber Salad

I made all three together in the style of a mezze, or a tapas-style appetizer , although note that this didn’t take me very long at all. I’d estimate about an hour at most, and that depends on if you decide to buy raw or canned chickpeas (some people swear by cooking your own from the bag), and if you decide to skin the beans. To save some time, you can make the hummus a day before and store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to make the other parts.

Most of the recipes I found for either falafel and plain hummus were pretty much identical, with some additions here or there. You can be pretty creative with hummus since it’s essentially a dip. I’ve seen edamame and pea hummus, so go with what works for your palate. Garlic sings to mine so I opted to go for roasted garlic this time around.


Roasted Garlic Hummus 

  • 1 15oz can chickpeas, no salt added
  • 1 medium head of fresh garlic
  • ¼ cup Tahini paste
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • 2-3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (extra for dressing)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2-3 tbsp warm water (for desired consistency)

Baked Grain-Free Falafel Patties

  • 1 15oz can chickpeas, no salt added
  • 1/2 small red onion, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, mashed
  • 2 tbsp almond flour or almond meal
  • 3 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Dash of ground red pepper
  • Kosher salt and finely ground black pepper to taste

Tomato-Cucumber Salad

  • ½ cup quartered tomatoes, grape or cherry
  • ¼ cup persian cucumbers, diced
  • 2 tbsp red onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tbsp Italian parsley, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

One thing I loved about making this is that it’s almost all the same ingredients being used for each dish, but the end results are so different. The ingredient list is very un-fussy with the exception of tahini which might require a bit of a search, but even that can be found online or in most grocery stores. I’m opting for canned chickpeas because it’s just much simpler and takes less time. As I said earlier, many people swear there is a big difference in the hummus if you’re making the chickpeas from scratch. If you have the time and patient, then I say, go for it! My instructions below are for the canned version.

Try to find chickpeas that have this Non-GMO certified label here to ensure you're getting the best quality beans.
Try to find chickpeas that have this Non-GMO certified label here to ensure you’re getting the best quality beans.

Let’s begin with the hummus.

Part 1: Roasted Garlic Hummus (recipe adapted from Food.com and Inspiredtaste.net)

1. Preheat oven to 425° F. Cut the uppermost part of the garlic head, revealing the tops of each clove, but keeping the head intact. Pour a bit of olive oil over the top and wrap in aluminum foil. Place on the bottom rung of the oven and roast for 50-60 minutes. Allow garlic to cool before handling. Remove each clove from the skins and set aside.

2. Rinse out the can of chickpeas in a colander and remove any excess salt. Here comes the slightly tedious part. Remove the skin from each bean. They should slide right off and the whole process lasts about 10-15 minutes. This makes for a smoother hummus, so it’s worth the extra effort.




3. Add tahini and lemon juice to the food processor and mix for 1 minutes. Scrape down the sides and process for 30 seconds. Then add the olive oil, roasted garlic, and seasonings to the tahini and process for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides and process for 30 seconds more. *All of the continual processing serves to whip up the tahini and make a creamier hummus.


4. Add half the chickpeas to tahini mixture and process for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and add the second half of the chickpeas to the food processor. Process for another 1-2 minutes, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl down, until you get a smooth consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.


5. The mixture will be very thick and dense at this point. Adding the warm water, tablespoon by tablespoon, will allow the hummus to loosen up and become even smoother. Keep processing and adding water until you’ve reached the desired consistency.


6. Scoop out the hummus onto a serving plate and leave a well in the center. Pour high-quality extra virgin olive oil in the center and dash some paprika and chopped parsley on top. Serve.


The hummus should keep well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks. Use this as an alternative to mayo or other high fat spreads and dips in your sandwiches, with vegetables, or with whole-wheat pita bread.

Part 2: Baked Grain-Free Falafel Patties (recipe adapted from Chow Vegan)

1. Preheat oven to 375° F. Spray or brush a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil and set aside.

2. Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas. You won’t need to skin these beans as with the hummus! The skin has lots of nutrients and it won’t affect the consistency of the falafel. Add the beans to a mixing bowl. Smash the garlic cloves in a mortar and pestle and set aside.


3. Mash the chickpeas with a fork or masher until they’re completely smashed. Add the garlic and the rest of the falafel ingredients to the bowl and mix well. Carefully form about 2 tbsps of the mixture into balls and place on the greased baking pan. Lightly flatten each ball until they make patties. Makes 10-12 patties.






4. Bake for 15  minutes on each side or until they’re browned. *Note that since we’re using almond meal and baking these falafel, the patties will crumble more easily. Handle with care as you’re flipping and you should be fine.


5. Remove from the oven once fully baked and browned. Serve.


These falafel were not greasy at all and they were the perfect size to add to a pita or just on their own as a side dish. Yum!

Part 3: Tomato-Cucumber Salad

There aren’t a whole lot of instructions here! Chop the tomatoes, parsley, cilantro, cucumbers, and onions and place together in a bowl. Mix well with the lemon juice, oil, and seasonings. Serve!



Traditional Lebanese mezze has a different variation of this salad called tabbouleh, which has all of the ingredients above with the addition of mint and bulgar wheat. I wanted this to be a grain-free meal so I didn’t include the bulgar, but you can adapt this according to your tastes. I’ve seen tabbouleh recipes including quinoa in place of bulgar, so feel free to experiment!

Now it’s time to put your mezze together!

Grab a serving plate and place 2-3 falafel patties on a bed of spinach. Then add about 1/2 cup of hummus and tomato-cucumber salad on the sides and you’re done!



This requires a bit of juggling, but really, it’s not that hard to throw this together on a weeknight, especially if you make the hummus ahead of time. I hope you give this a try for your Meatless Monday meal! Enjoy!

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