Betcha’ thought I forgot about you… oh and here’s a nice pasta salad

pasta salad

I know, I know. It’s been a while since I posted. Betcha thought I forgot about you. Or about health. Or being healthy. Not at all, my friends. I’ve been working on walking the walk, as they say, and forgot about talking the talk. The holidays, winter and spring have been a lot of fun, honestly. So fun that I did occasionally lame out on my health. I went a little nutso with coconut ice cream, for instance, and hard cider with a Fireball chaser. I was a little lax about exercising. And I paid the price with a little winter weight gain and a few sugar-induced migraines. But I also skied and did some rock climbing, and dusted off my elliptical machine. So we’ll call it a wash.

But now it’s spring – the time of renewal. Of starting over. Of green shoots bursting from the ground. And of a million vows to start exercising and eating right again. I don’t know why New Year’s Eve is considered resolution time – everyone I know re-starts in the spring.

This lovely pasta salad is a nice spring renewal offering. I was inspired by a recipe in a health magazine. Mine includes organic brown rice and quinoa pasta (gluten-free), grilled salmon, olives, a LOT of spinach, red onions, and a simple dressing of olive oil, lemon, toasted sesame oil, tahini (sesame butter) and tamari (wheat-free soy sauce). Oh and garlic and sesame seeds. Mmm. It was so good it was hard to stop eating it. Give it a try!

Sondra’s Salmon Pasta Salad

What’s in it — add or subtract whatever sounds good to you, it’s your salad 🙂

  • 2 cups uncooked GF pasta
  • 2 cups grilled salmon, cut up
  • 4 cups raw spinach
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped, pitted kalamata olives
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. tamari (wheat free soy sauce)
  • 1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp. tahini (sesame butter)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated or crushed
  • 1 tbsp. sesame seeds

How to prepare it

  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions – leave al dente (a little firm, not limpy)
  2. Drain pasta, transfer to large serving bowl
  3. Add spinach, stir and allow to wilt a little
  4. Stir in salmon, onions, red onion
  5. Mix dressing – combine olive oil, tamari, tahini, toasted sesame oil, lemon and garlic, stirring well
  6. Combine dressing into pasta salad, then top with sesame seeds
  7. Stir, serve, and enjoy!

Chocolate Cinnamon Coconut Chia Pudding


Last summer I got into chia pudding in a big way. I’d just discovered that chia seeds are food, not just pets, and started adding them into smoothies and sprinkling them on salads. Chia seeds are high in protein, fiber, and Omega 3’s, and don’t need to be ground before using. What’s not to love?


My obsession started with a pumpkin chia pudding recipe on The Naked Avocado and snowballed from there. Her pudding is super easy–no cooking!–and delicious. I made it every week through the fall, until pumpkin season was over. Leaving me with a hole in my repertoire. And perhaps my heart. After using up all of my canned pumpkin, I moved on to other squashes and even tried using sweet potatoes. I tried fruit, and applesauce, and cinnamon. It just wasn’t the same. But then it hit me – chocolate!

Two great tastes that taste great together. Well, ok, one great taste, and another that'll soak it up.

Two great tastes that taste great together. Well, ok, one great taste, and another that’ll soak it up.

I’ve been on a no-sugar kick, which makes desserts a bit of a no-no. Anything I can make that’s chocolaty and sugar-free is a big win. And I had scaled back on my Chocolate Coconut Tahini Balls because of all the fat, so this was an even bigger win.

If you haven’t tried it, chia pudding is a little like tapioca in consistency. Which isn’t a great comparison, because I hate tapioca. I promise this is better. Chia seeds are small and black, smaller than sesame seeds. When you soak them in coconut milk, or any other liquid, they swell into fat black drops. Cool! Science! Then just add any sweet flavors that strike your fancy. The chia is neutral, it’ll pick up the coconut and other flavors. In fact, Chia Pod has productized chia pudding, so look for Chia Pods in natural markets near you. But my recipe is better. 😉

Chocolate Cinnamon Coconut Chia Pudding (gluten/diary/sugar free + vegan)


  • 1 + ¼ cup light coconut milk, divided*
  • 1/3 cup chia seeds
  • 2 Tbsp raw cacao
  • ½ Tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ Tsp Stevia


  1. Stir chia seeds into 1 cup coconut milk in a bowl or sealable container.
  2. Cover and store in refrigerator overnight or at least 4 hours.
  3. Open container and stir – consistency should be pudding-like. If too thick, stir in additional ¼ cup coconut milk.
  4. Stir in raw cacao, cinnamon, and stevia. Taste, and adjust to your liking.
  5. Enjoy!


*”Divided” means you’ll use the 1 cup and ¼ cup coconut milk at separate points in the recipe

Stone Soup


When I was little I was entranced by the tale of Stone Soup. The story, if you’ve never heard it, goes something like this…

A dusty, road-weary man reaches a small village where he knows no one. He has few belongings, just the clothes on his back and the shoes on his feet and a large cooking pot. He goes to the town pump and fills his cooking pot, then plops down in the village square announcing “I think I’ll make my world famous stone soup. Oh boy is it good. I am so excited to eat it. All I need is water and a nice big stone, and I’ll heat me up some delicious soup.”

The locals are wary but interested. Times are hard in this village. No one wants to feed a vagrant, but if he can teach them how to make a satisfying meal out of rocks, they’re willing to learn. So they start to listen in, keeping their distance and trying to look busy.

The wanderer sees them starting to gather around the edges of the square.  “Gotcha!” he thinks.

He finds a nice sized stone, about as big as his hand, rinses it off, and plops it in the pot. He makes a little fire, puts the pot over it, and as the water starts to heat he rhapsodizes about this soup.

“I once entertained a King,” he says, “with only this stone soup. Oh and an onion – this soup is even better with an onion.”

“An onion,” one of the eavesdroppers thinks. “I can spare that. If it’ll teach me how to make something from nothing.” So he brings the wanderer an onion, which makes its way into the pot.

“Fantastic,” says the wanderer. “This will be even better than the stone soup I prepared for the Maharaja. Oh now that was a soup, I tell ya. A soup anyone would love. Oh though I do believe that soup had a little bacon grease in it.”

“Bacon grease,” thinks another villager, “I can spare a little of that.” So she brings a small scoop of bacon grease to the pot and adds it in.

I’ll spare you the blow by blow account from here, we’re on internet time after all, but suffice it to say that before the soup was done, every villager had contributed some small thing – an egg, some greens, a little meat, some herbs – until it was soup that a king could, in fact, love.

This story has stayed with me my entire life. Like the soup itself, everyone brings something different to this tale. If you’re a socialist, it’s a heartwarming example of the many creating something better than the few. If you’re thrifty, it’s the dawn of pot luck dinners. If you’re a schemer, this is the playbook for getting others to do your work for you.

As an eater, my take-away is different. Soup Is Good! Eat more soup!

I was thinking of this the other day as the weather turned cold. Soup *is* good. I wanted soup. So I looked through my cupboards and threw together an ad-hoc Thai-inspired soup that would satisfy a Maharaja, I am sure. I didn’t measure; I just threw in some of this and some of that. Measurements were approximated after the fact. Use whatever you’ve got. Leave out stuff if you hate it. Throw in other stuff if you love it. I’m sure it’ll be good!

Sondra’s Stone Soup

No stones were hurt in the making of this soup

No stones were hurt in the making of this soup

What to use:

  • ½ can Coconut milk
  • 1 package of low-sodium Vegetable broth
  • 3 Tbsp Fish sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Lime juice from the little green plastic lime or the juice from ½ fresh lime or a few drops food-grade Lime essential oil
  • 1 packet Stevia (replaces the brown sugar found in most Thai soups)
  • 2 slivers of fresh ginger (I always have ginger!) or a few drops food-grade Ginger essential oil
  • A chunk of frozen spinach (about 1 cup)
  • ½ package of pre-prepared Trader Joe lentils (about 1 ½ cups)
  • Optional – 4-5 pieces of dried Lemongrass (I had some dried on hand – fresh is better) or a few drops food-grade Lemongrass essential oil

If you decide to use essential oils, I recommend doTERRA.

What to do:

  1. Warm the coconut milk and veggie broth over Medium-High heat until boiling
  2. Reduce heat to Medium
  3. Add the fish sauce, lime juice, stevia, ginger, and lemongrass. Stir and let simmer for about 5 minutes for the flavors to develop
  4. Add the spinach and lentils. Raise the heat back to Medium-High. Let bubble on the stove for about 10 minutes. House smells good, right? If it’s bubbling too much, reduce heat to Medium.
  5. Serve and enjoy!

Hope you like your first stone soup. Oh and don’t forget to take the stone out before you eat it. 😉


Food (Processor) Love IV: Chocolate Coconut Tahini Balls

Chocolate Tahini Balls

Lest you think I had forgotten about my shiny new Cuisinart in all of the excitement about my shiny new health coaching career, I have yet another gem to share with you. These amazing Chocolate Coconut Tahini Balls come from our friends at Addicted to Raw.

I love this recipe. It’s a sugar free frozen desert with a satisfying dark chocolate peanut butter cup taste. It kind of reminds me of the Halva candy I ate growing up–the neighborhood delis in Philly sold it by the pound, and my mom could always be counted on to buy a chunk.

Like the last three food processor recipes, this is easy to make. Fun, even. As you may have guessed, this dessert contains nuts–it can’t really be made without them, sorry. I usually double the recipe and leave them in the freezer until the snacking urge hits. This is basically a frozen treat – they get all gooey and melty if left out too long. If that happens, just refreeze.

Chocolate Coconut Tahini Balls
Gluten free, dairy free, sugar free.  *Not* nut free.
Yield: Makes about 6 balls.


  • 2 heaped Tbs of almond butter
  • 2 heaped Tbs of tahini
  • 4 Tsp of raw cacao
  • Pinch of good quality salt
  • 4 Tsp of ground chia seeds
  • Stevia, honey or agave to sweeten to your liking
  • 1/2 cup of unsweetened dried coconut
  • 2 Tbs of hemp seeds or flax seeds
  • 1/2 – 1 Tsp of spirulina (optional but why not get some green in there when you can)
  1. Grind your chia seeds fresh.
  2. Add all ingredients into a food processor and mix well. You can also use a bowl, but I’ve found the food processor works better. When the ingredients turn into a nice ball that looks like dough, it’s done.
  3. Scoop out a tablespoonful, roll it into a ball (I use my hands), and then roll in coconut, sesame seeds or hemp seeds. This is the fun part!
  4. Freeze for about 20 minutes, till they firm up.
  5. Store in freezer and eat straight from there.  Well, this part is fun too 😉

That’s it!  I hope you enjoy them as much as I have. And don’t forget to check out Addicted to Raw – lots more good stuff there!


Hand Rolls: Another Way to Play with Your Food

Wondering what to do with all that wonderful pesto, hummus pesto hybrid, and roasted red pepper tapenade? After you’ve exhausted using them as dips, spreading them on sandwiches, and topping roasted veggies, grains and pasta with them, how about wrapping them into hand rolls?


If you’re not familiar with hand rolls, they’re one of the healthiest ways to eat sushi. No rice, just fish and veggies rolled in a seaweed wrap. They’re the original* wrap sandwich. But you don’t have to fill them with fish – you can use anything. They’re fun to eat, easy to make, and packed full of minerals. Seaweed is super healthy, in fact many natural health books suggest adding seafood to your diet to aid in detoxification, improving moods, and gaining strength. But the fact that it’s fun and yummy is reason enough!

Easy Hand Rolls
Gluten and dairy free, unless there’s gluten or dairy in your spread. Makes 4 hand rolls.


  • 2 sheets roasted Nori seaweed, the kind they use for sushi
  • 1 cup spread, whatever you feel like eating
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed greens – kale, spinach, basil leaves – whatever you have on hand
  • 1/4 cup matchstick vegetables – carrots, zucchini, cucumber, anything crunchy
  • Sesame seeds

I used SUSHIHANE brand Yaki Nori Sushi Roasted Seaweed sheets
nori seaweed   



  1. Place one sheet of seaweed on a cutting board or plate and fold it in half on the diagonal, and tear it in half along the fold. Don’t worry if it’s not a clean tear.  I figured this out after I took the pictures, so just imagine the sheets are torn in half along the diagonal 😉
  2. Spoon ¼ cup of spread in the center of one of the triangular pieces, making it into a little log. Don’t put it too close to the pointy tip, or it will fall out when you roll it.
  3. Sprinkle sesame seeds over the spread.
  4. Arrange a few spears of your  crunchy vegetable around the log of spread
  5. Cover it with a few pieces of your leafy green
  6. Roll ’em up – fold one end of the seaweed over the log of spread, then start rolling from the log until you’ve incorporated the rest of the sheet of seaweed

handroll making2  handroll making1


And that’s it! They make an adorable presentation for parties or just for yourself. Why not make eating fun? I’d love to hear what you think of them, feel free to comment.

Happy eating!


*Okay I may be making this up, but they’re pretty ancient!

Food (Processor) Love III: Hummus Pesto Hybridy Goodness

While working on the third installment of my spread series I started out focusing on hummus, an oldie but a goodie. But after the excitement of the Roasted Red Pepper Tapenade and the Mint-Basil Dairy Free Pesto, everything I tried seemed a little bland. Until I realized I was missing exciting flavors I was doomed to failure. Doomed I tell you. But once I started adding in delicious elements from the pesto it all came together. This exiting combination provides the substantial-ness of a hummus with the brightness of a pesto. I am extremely happy with how it came out.

hummus pesto hybrid 2
As pretty as it is delicious

Unlike the last two, this one is all mine, I have no reference recipe to share. But just like the last two, this one is super delicious and so easy to make that you’re going to want to make it a lot. I promise.

Hummus Pesto Hybridy Goodness
Gluten and dairy free. Contains nuts, but you can leave them out and it’ll still be yummy.
Yield: Makes about 2 cups


  • 3/4 cup garbanzo beans (chick peas)
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1” chunk of fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (approx ½ a medium lime)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup unsalted sunflower seeds, walnuts, or pine nuts
  • Sesame seeds, raw or toasted
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper


  1. Rinse and dry the fresh basil and mint, put into food processor, and give it a whirl until they’re rough chopped.
  2. Add the garlic and ginger and chop.
  3. If using canned garbanzo beans/chick peas, pour them into a strainer and rinse well before using. They put a bunch of additives and preservatives in canned foods, you want to get rid of what you can. Add them into the machine and chop well.
  4. Add the sunflower seeds or other nuts, and a few shakes of sesame seeds. Pulse until well mixed.
  5. Add the lime juice, olive oil, and pepper and continue pulsing to mix. You should see the mixture emulsify and deepen in color.

And that’s it! Give it a taste and tinker as you like, adding more of any of the spices or seeds/nuts until it’s perfect for your palate. I didn’t include salt because the lime is salty enough for me, but feel free to add some if you like.

Happy pureeing!

Food (Processor) Love II: Mint-Basil Dairy Free Pesto

Food (Processor) Love II:  Mint-Basil Dairy Free Pesto   

Ah pesto, what can’t you make better? With your creamy crunchy texture, luscious umami mouth feel, and garlic aftertaste, you are the chocolate of condiments. But alas, pesto was a pleasure I thought I had to live without due to my dairy intolerance. Until the day I realized just how easy it is to make at home. Now I can indulge in this green goodness with all of the flavor I love and without any dairy at all.

Still high on my food processor after my success with the Roasted Red Pepper Tapenade, I trolled the internets for easy to make pesto recipes. My favorite is from Food Network’s favorite Italian, Giada De Laurentiis. I adapted my version from her Rack of Lamb with Mint-Basil Pesto recipe. Not only is it delicious with lamb, natch’, but the mint adds a wonderful flavor surprise to fish, in salads, and as a spread.

Like last weeks’ recipe, this is super delicious and so easy to make that you’re going to want to make it a lot. In fact it’s even easier to make than the Roasted Red Pepper Tapenade because there’s nothing to roast. Just pop it all in and blend away!

Mint-Basil Dairy Free Pesto:  Inspired by Giada De Laurentiis’s Rack of Lamb with Mint-Basil Pesto recipe. Gluten and dairy free. Contains nuts, but you can leave them out and it’ll still be yummy.
Yield: Makes about 2 cups


  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 3/4 cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup roasted unsalted sunflower seeds, walnuts, or pine nuts
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (approx ½ a medium lemon)
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (leave out if you used salted nuts or seeds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper


  1. Rinse and dry the fresh basil and mint, and give a few chops to larger basil pieces to make it easier for the machine. Add in small amounts, around an inch (vertical), pulse until chopped. Add in more and repeat until all of the herbs are chopped.
  2. Add the seeds or nuts and the garlic cloves and pulse until chopped.
  3. Add the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and continue pulsing to mix. You should see the mixture emulsify and deepen in color.

And that’s it! Give it a taste and tinker as you like, adding more salt, pepper, mint or lemon until it’s perfect for your palate.

Happy pureeing!

Food (Processor) Love: Roasted Red Pepper Tapenade

To paraphrase the Buddha, or maybe Confucius, my home contains many treasures. Some are obvious, like the sunlight-filled kitchen with its gas range and granite counter tops. Some are hidden gems waiting to be discovered, like spices pushed to the back of my cupboard.

Last week I re-discovered one such gem, a Cuisinart mini-prep food processor. I don’t remember buying it, but I vaguely remember seeing it in the lower cabinet near the fridge where I store ice cube trays, a blender, extra candles, and other little-used paraphernalia.


(Picture credit: Meat Processing

Farmer’s Market season had started on the Eastside, and I had discovered Skip’s Dips – gluten free, healthy dips that are lower in calories than hummus because they are made without the tahini. They are also made with white lima beans instead of chick peas (garbanzo beans) because Skip is allergic to them.

While luckily that’s one allergy I don’t share, I love that Skip took matters into his own hands and found an alternative, and made it so delicious that everyone would want some. People line up to pay $5.00 a pop for his dips. And now that I’m all handy in the kitchen, once I tried them I realized “hey, I could make this!” My next thought was “If only I had a food processor. Hey wait, maybe I do.” After a whirlwind tour of my kitchen, the Cuisinart mini-prep was reinstated to active duty and it was time to get to work.

And I was seeing dip recipes everywhere – the PCC circular, Food Network sites, gluten-free sites. After trying quite a few of them and some tinkering I am ready to share my favorites, along with the original recipes that inspired me. Get ready, these are so easy to make and so yummy that you’re going to want to make them a lot! Today’s favorite is a roasted red pepper and olive tapenade. Teaser—I’ll share a few more in the coming weeks, including a dairy-free Basil and Mint Pesto and a Chick Pea and Garlic spread.

Roasted Red Pepper Tapenade:  Inspired by Full Circle’s recipe
Gluten and dairy free. Contains nuts, but you can leave them out and it’ll still be yummy.
Yield: Makes about 2 cups


  • 2-3 medium-sized red and/or orange peppers
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup roasted sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup capers
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes (optional)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Roast the red peppers:
    • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
    • Cover baking sheet with aluminum foil, place whole peppers on the foil, and place in center of oven. The foil is important or you’ll end up with a blacked baking sheet. You’re welcome.
    • Cook around an hour or until skin is completely blistered and black, turning every 20 minutes.
    • Place on a plate and cover with new foil, let sit for 5-10 minutes.
  2. When cool enough to handle run under cold water and remove outer, blackened skin. Cut off stem, seeds, and white ribs.
  3. Place in a food processor with olives, capers, sun dried tomatoes (optional), sunflower seeds, and garlic. TIP: If your food processor is small, like mine, start with about an inch (vertical) of ingredients, pulse until chopped, add more and repeat until everything’s in there and mixed.
  4. Add olive oil and continue pulsing to mix. Salt and pepper to taste. If it doesn’t seem “spready” enough, add more olive oil until it’s to your liking. I like it a little drier.
  5. Let mixture cool allowing flavors to mix for 20 minutes, then use as you would any spread with gluten free bread, crackers, or vegetables. Also excellent in salads and on fish, chicken, pasta, and steak.

Happy pureeing!

Not your mum’s cucumber sandwiches

The British may have colonized an Empire, but with independence comes reinvention. Americans are renowned for putting our own spin on all things English, from driving to dialect. So it was only a matter of time until we reinvented the most classic of afternoon snacks, the cucumber finger sandwich.

This most English of sammies is traditionally thin, crustless, and cream-cheesie.  As a high tea devotee I’ve enjoyed them in endless variations until I was diagnosed with wheat and dairy allergies. No more bread, no more cream cheese, no more English finger sandwiches. Time for an intervention.

The easy way out would be gluten-free bread and some kind of vegan spread. But re-invention is cooler than substitution. So get ready for a radical make-up.

What makes a cucumber sandwich so great? Is it the crunch? The creaminess? The cushiony pillows of bread? Um, yes please. Together they create umami, the Japanese ideal of savory taste and mouthfeel.

First up, preserving the crunch. Cucumbers can be more than just a pretty filling. They can carry the sandwich—literally.  Look for cukes around 12 inches long and 3 inches wide.  Rather than peel them, square them off (cut off the ends and the rounded sides), then cut thick slices and you don’t need no stinkin’ bread.

Next, add a little complexity and a delightful smell with some fresh basil.  I’ll take that over pillowy softness any day!

Lastly, recreating the creaminess. Why suffer through some substitute spread when smoked salmon adds the perfect soft texture and smoky taste to complement the cucumber’s slight bitter tang?

The British may be known for hats, haberdashery and high tea, but let’s make America the home of the new and improved cucumber sandwich!

Homemade Gazpacho—easier than you’d think

Nothing is better on a hot summer day than a chilled soup—crisp gazpacho, rich borsch, decadent berries with mint.

As much as I love them, I’ve never made any of them. Too intimidating. Something so delicious must be hard to make, right? As it turns out, no! Chilled soups are dead simple if you have fresh produce and a food processor. Don’t get me wrong, there is a fair amount of peeling and chopping involved. But trust me, you can do this.

What helped me get over my fear? TV, of course. Cooking shows, especially the challenge ones, are a constant source of new ideas for me. On my latest guilty pleasures, Master Chef Australia, one of the contestants threw together a gazpacho as an extra bit of flair on her starter dish. It seemed to take no time at all, using tomatoes, cucumbers, olive oil, salt and pepper. I figured if she can do a gazpacho as a garnish, I can probably do this at home.

So I picked up a giant heirloom tomato (or heritage tomahto), some cucumbers, a few limes, and a little basil. The lime and basil were my idea—both flavors I love with salads, alone and together.  The tomato was gorgeous—orange and yellow, weighing in at almost two pounds. Perfectly ripe. Juicy and flavorful. So perfectly ripe that I didn’t need to use a tomato knife—my chef’s knife worked just fine.

After cutting them into rough cubes of about an inch, I gently pulsed ¾ of them in my food processor into something that looked more or less like salsa. I saved the remaining cubes to mix into the soup for a little texture.

Next up, the cucumber. A couple of online recipes suggested peeling and de-seeding them, so that’s what I did, followed by cubing and a trip into the processor. I was rewarded with a gorgeous fragrant mash. I left some of it a little rough for some crunch.

Next up, combining the tomato and cucumber mashes. How beautiful!

Next I added a dollop of olive oil (1-2 tablespoons) and the juice of a small lime. I cut the lime into quarters and squeezed in each and tasted so I didn’t over-power the flavors. Then I added salt and pepper, tasted, and added a little more. For a final touch I chopped the fresh basil and sprinkled it on top.

As good as it looks, it tastes even better. Eating the first few spoonfuls I could feel the coolness travel down my spine. I instantly felt healthier—righteous, even.

So give gazpacho a try this summer. It’s easier than you’d think!