Monday, February 28, 2011

I Want to Let You in on
a Little Coconut Secret

I'm all about coconut! (One could say I'm quite cuckoo for coconuts!) Slather me in coconut oil, bake me some coconut cupcakes, let me slosh them down with a tall glass of chocolate coconut milk, pass me the French vanilla coconut creamer for my red rooibos chai tea, and please dollop some coconut milk yogurt
all over my bowl of fruit. (You get the picture.)

And then there's Coconut Secret. Hats off to my friend, Bryan Au, for turning me on to these wonderful raw coconut products. I'd heard of coconut flour, but coconut vinegar, coconut nectar, coconut crystals, and coconut aminos were all brand new to me, and I was quite eager to try them all!

As much as I adore the flavor of coconut, coconut vinegar, nectar, crystals, and aminos don't taste at all like coconut. That's because they're made from the nutrient-rich sap that exudes from coconut tree blossoms, rather than the coconut fruit. (This makes them perfect for those coco-phobes out there!) What you do get are raw enzymatically alive products that are grown without chemicals, pesticides, or herbicides, and taste as good or better than the alternatives. 

I've been enjoying the delightful earthy flavor of Coconut Crystals in place of sugar with my morning grapefruit and Coconut Nectar instead of agave with my afternoon herbal tea. Both are low-glycemic and sweetly delicious.

A broiled grapefruit sprinkled with ginger, cinnamon, and
Coconut Crystals brings a bit of sunshine to the start of my day! 

I fell in love with Coconut Aminos Soy-Free Seasoning Sauce. It's a blend of aged coconut sap and sun-dried mineral-rich sea salt that boats a smoky, much lighter-than-soy-sauce flavor. I preferred it with sushi over tamari or soy sauce, as it has a wonderfully mellow flavor that does not overpower with its saltiness. 

I tried cooking with Coconut Aminos in place of soy sauce, and I was delighted with the flavorful results. It worked beautifully in the Unfried Fried Rice and Lettuce Wraps with Hoisin-Mustard Tofu from Appetite for Reduction. And I was thrilled to see that my local Market of Choice carries Coconut Aminos Soy-free Seasoning Sauce, as it will now be a staple in my pantry.

I added little bits of "tofu egg" to the fried rice to remind me of the rice we used to order at the Dragon Seed Restaurant in Jackson Heights, NY every Sunday night when I was growing up. I recall that we always had to order everything without bean sprouts, because my mother would be horrified if a bean sprout came within 100 feet of our table.  

Coconut Vinegar was a nice departure from other vinegars. I like the idea of using it instead of apple cider vinegar to make "buttermilk" for baking, by mixing it with So Delicious Coconut Milk. 

I love to cook and bake with Coconut Flour. Chocolate Chip Coconut Flour Pancakes with Raspberry Sauce seemed like the perfect way to treat myself after a long, hard week at work.  So we had these for Sunday brunch!

Now that I've let you in on my little coconut secret, you can explore Coconut Secret's website, share, and enjoy!

Chocolate-Chip Coconut Flour Pancakes
adapted from a recipe on


1/3 cup Coconut Secret Coconut Flour
2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour -or- gluten-free flour mix
2 tsp baking powder
1 Tbs evaporated cane crystals
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbs canola oil -or- coconut oil (thank you, Karen!)
1 1/4 cups So Delicious Original Coconut Milk Beverage
1 Tbs pure maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips


Heat a large skillet or pan for 2-5 minutes. Lightly spray the pan with cooking spray.

Mix dry ingredients until well combined. Make a well in center, and fill with wet ingredients. Add chocolate chips, and mix until combined, but still a little lumpy. Spoon batter onto pan. I use 3 tablespoons per pancake. Cook until bubbles appear on top, about 3 minutes, then flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes until golden brown. Serve with raspberry sauce. Makes 8 pancakes.

Simple Raspberry Sauce


4 cups raspberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup Coconut Crystals
1 Tbs cornstarch or arrowroot mixed with 2 tablespoons water

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, for about 15 minutes until the sauce is thickened. (If using frozen raspberries, it will take a little longer.) Remove from heat, and let stand for at least 10 minutes before serving. Makes: 3-4 servings.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Random Musings and Shatter-Resistant Glass Water Bottles!

My Christmas Cactus finally decided it would bloom—on Valentine's Day! It gifted me with just a single solitary flower, but boy, is it spectacular! 

My galangal plant, which I received as a 6-inch single stalk in a tiny 3-inch pot is now almost 3 feet tall,  bushy, and breathtakingly beautiful! I'm still waiting for it to flower, as I'm told the blooms look just like orchids. And I don't have the heart to dig up the roots to make Thai coconut soup. It's time for a bigger pot, don't you think?

I finally broke down and bought myself a pair of Vibram Five Fingers barefoot shoes. They're vegan, of course, and crazy comfortable, once your toes figure out how to wiggle themselves into each little toe slot. I saw someone wearing these last summer and thought they looked insanely ridiculous. But when I tried on a pair on, I was totally hooked! While trying to snap a photo of them, Chaya decided it would be better if the photo was more about her than the weird-looking shoes!

Chaya and Thelonious sometimes get into little skirmishes. They never stay mad at each other, and it's wonderful to watch them rub up against each other when they make up. It's also nice to see them quietly hanging out together.

I'm on this glass kick. I'm loving glass jars, glass straws, glass bowls. I mean, what's purer and cleaner than glass, right? So I recently got these wonderful glass water bottles. I know, you're thinking, "Glass water bottles? Aren't you worried about them breaking?" But here's the thing: Pure Glass Bottles have a non-removable, shatter-resistant coating that is also BPA-free. So your beverages are happy inside the glass, and you'll be happy, too, because if you happen to drop the bottle, it probably won't break. (And even if it does, you won't end up with shattered glass everywhere.) I dropped my 17.5-oz Traveller bottle filled with water on my wood floor, and it didn't even crack! (Even more impressive, the floor didn't get damaged, either.) Stainless steel bottles are a great improvement over plastic, but I love these glass bottles, because now I don't have to deal with the metallic taste anymore. It's just pure, delicious water, smoothies, lavender lemonade, and iced herbal tea. 

What new products have you recently discovered that are making your life more delicious?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Book Review: Asian Fusion~A Culinary Odyssey of Vegan Recipes
by Chat Mingkwan

I'm a huge fan of Chat Mingkwan's earlier book, Buddha's Table: Thai Feasting Vegetarian Style. Its pages are well-worn and separating from the spine, because it's been propped open with weights on my kitchen counter so often. I seemed to have completely missed the release of his second book, Vietnamese Fusion: Vegetarian Cuisine, so now I'll have to track down a copy. But how exciting it was to learn that he's now created a third book filled with recipes from countries throughout Asia!

In the preface to Asian Fusion: A Culinary Odyssey of Vegan Recipes there are translations of the phrase "thank you" in ten Asian languages, only five of which I am familiar with. After tasting many of the recipes in this book, I 'd like to learn how to say thank-you to author Chat Mingkwan in all ten!

At the beginning of the book, you will familiar yourself with all of the special ingredients used in the recipes that follow. I quickly discover how cleverly Mingkwan utilizes plant-based seasonings to recreate the flavor-enhancing characteristics of many non-vegan ingredients—like shrimp paste and fish sauce—that are typically used in Asian cooking. With exotic names like salam leaves, shiso, and lesser ginger, and recipes from Burma, Sri Lanka, and Laos (to name but a few), I was quickly expanding my culinary horizons!

Since I can honestly say that I've never eaten Filipino food, I decided to delve right into Mingkwan's recipe for Pancit Noodles (Pancit Guisado). This flavorful dish heavily emphasized the Asian influences of Filipino cuisine (which also has Spanish influences). I loved working with pancit noodles, and the sauce was quite different from anything I've eaten before. Fermented bean curd was also new to me. Although an optional ingredient in this recipe, I'm really glad I used it, as it added a layer of complexity to the finished dish.

Of all the mouthwatering photos in this book, the one that really caught my eye was the Singaporean Sweet and Sour Plate (or Peal Wan Puk). And since Mark and I are both huge fans of Thai sweet and sour dishes, I decided to see how this one might compare. Well, as you can see, it served up beautifully:

The sauce was sweeter than Thai sweet and sour, with just a hint of citrus. It far exceeded both of our expectations, with Mark commenting that this was the best sweet and sour he'd ever eaten. I loved frying up the slender slices of tofu and found that I only needed to use half the oil called for in the recipe. 

I am looking forward to making at least one recipe from each of the thirteen countries represented in Asian Fusion, especially some of the yummy-sounding desserts like Sri Lankan Spiced Coconut Custard, Chinese Braised Pears in Sweet Wine, and Indian Baked-Spiced Bread Dessert. If you enjoy Asian food and have a yen to expand your own culinary horizons, then this book is just for you! 

Following is the for recipe Singaporean Sweet and Sour Plate from Chat Mingkwan's Asian Fusian excerpted by arrangement with Book Publishing Company. Copyright © 2010.


2 Tbs light soy sauce, or more to taste
2 Tbs vegetarian or mushroom stir-fry sauce
1/3 cup sweet chili sauce
3 Tbs rice vinegar
2 Tbs sugar, or more to taste
2 Tbs cornstarch
1 Tbs tomato paste (for red color; optional—but I used it!)
1 Tbs sambal oelek (Indonesian hot chile sauce) or sriracha sauce (I omitted this ingredient)
1 small orange, zest and juice
3 Tbs vegetable oil (I used 1 1/2 Tbs)
2 cups julienned tofu (3/4 - 1 lb)
3 Tbs minced garlic 
1 cup finely diced water chestnuts
1 cup finely diced onion
1 cup finely diced pineapple or apple
1 cup finely diced colorful bell peppers
Salt and ground pepper, to taste
1/2 cup roasted cashew nuts (optional—I used raw)
1/2 cup sliced green onions, both green and white parts, cut into 1-inch-long strips
4 springs fresh cilantro, leaves only, for garnish


Combine the soy sauce, stir-fry sauce, sweet chile sauce, vinegar, sugar, cornstarch, optional tomato paste, optional sambal oelek, and orange zest and juice in a small bowl. Stir to mix well. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok over high heat. Add the tofu and cook for 2-3 minutes, until light brown and crispy all over. Add the glaric and cook and stir for 1-2 minutes. Stir in the water chestnuts, onion, pineapple, and bell peppers. Cook and stir for 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the mixture from the wok and set aside.

In the same wok, stir in the soy sauce mixture. Cook and stir for 2-5 minutes, until the sauce thickens into a gravy. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add a little water if the sauce is too thick or too dry. Adjust the seasonings to taste.

Stir in the reserved tofu mixture and toss to coat evenly with the gravy. Just before removing from the heat, stir in the cashew nuts and green onions. 

Transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with cilantro. Serves 6.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

No Calories, No Fat, No Carbs,
No Kidding!
Oh, and a Winner!

If you're counting calories, fat, or empty carbs and you're passionate about pasta or nuts for noodles, then this post is for you!

Have you heard of Miracle Noodle? I first learned about it from my Facebook buddy, fitness coach Sincere Hogan. Because of his enthusiasm, dedication, and commitment to empowering people to achieve their health and fitness goals, Sincere is an inspiration to me. He often shares photos and recipes from his collection of "New Warrior Grub," and I am always excited when he posts something vegan. So when I happened to catch one of his posts featuring a high-fiber, calorie-free, fat-free, vegan noodle, I had to take a closer look.

A calorie-free noodle? Get outta here! But here's the scoop: Gluten-free, soy-free shiratake Miracle Noodle is made from the root of the konjac plant, also known as Devil's Tongue.

Seriously, is this not the most provocative-looking plant you've ever seen?

Known as konnyaku in Japanese, konjac is grown in the warm subtropical to tropical regions of China, Japan and eastern Asia. It has been used for centuries to make flour and jelly and has more recently been used to make a plant-based substitute for gelatin. Konnyaku noodles, known as shirataki in Japan, are filling, because they're made from water and a highly soluble fiber, called glucomannan. It makes you feel full, without adding calories, empty carbs, or fat. You'll be surprised how much like your everyday Miracle Noodles are. But a word of caution: you don't want to overeat this stuff. After all, your body does need nutrients other than fiber! But replace your pasta and noodles with shirataki, and you won't have that weighed-down, heavy feeling the morning after you consume it.

When I received my first bag of Miracle Noodle (angel hair style), I prepared it according to package directions, first draining and then rinsing the contents in cold water to remove their somewhat odd aroma, and then drying them on a clean kitchen. Drying the noodles is an essential part of the preparation, to remove the bitterness, or "aku" as it is referred to in Japanese. Then I blanched the noodles in boiling water for 1 minute, drained them again, and set them aside while I prepared the sauce for the Hot or Cold Sesame Noodles recipe found on Miracle Noodle's website. You definitely do not want to overcook these babies, as it would change their texture and make them too chewy.

Granted, this was basically an all-fat meal, so it's not one I would eat everyday. But it was very easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. It even brought back fond memories of the cold sesame noodles I used to enjoy at one of my favorite Chinese restaurants in New York City, T.S. Ma. (We're talking 25 years ago, and I still remember it!)

I next decided to get a little inventive. I threw together some ingredients I had on hand and created a tasty Mexican Pasta. As luck would have it, I just happened to have a jar of Nacho Mom's Vegan Fire-Roasted Queso in the cupboard! If you haven't yet tried Nacho Mom's Queso, get your hands on a jar. (You can also see some mouth-watering photos and read my earlier review here.)

My colorful Mexican Pasta concoction was scrumptious and a snap to prepare! And for all the Weight Watchers out there, it may not look like it, and sure didn't taste like it, but this was a completely zero-point meal!


1 3.5-oz bag Miracle Noodles
1 small onion, diced
1/4 cup vegetable broth
1 cup spinach, packed
1 tomato, diced
2 heaping Tbs Nacho Mom's Ultimate Vegan Queso


Prepare Miracle Noodles according to package directions, rinse with cold water, and set aside.

In a large skillet, sauté onions in broth for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add tomatoes and then spinach, stirring to combine. Cover, and heat until spinach is wilted, about 5 minutes. Add queso to pan , and stir all together, heating through for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, add noodles to vegetables and sauce, serve, and enjoy!

Miracle Noodle makes several varieties of shiratake, including fettuccine and angel hair, and they even make rice! I can't wait to try the rice. What about you?

My heartiest thanks to everyone who entered my Glass Dharma giveaway. The lucky winner is Anna of GreenTalk! Congratulations! You'll soon be receiving an email confirmation from me and your gift certificate will also be emailed to you from Glass Dharma. Please let me know when you receive your straws.