Archive | January, 2012

Spinach, Zucchini, and Mint Tart- Gluten-Free and Delicious

30 Jan

As I mentioned a few posts ago, my cousin Joanna is brilliant.  A few weeks ago she treated me to an incredible lunch that really got my wheels turning: she used shredded potato to create a gluten-free base for a tart.  Inspired, I used the same idea to present one of my most successful original recipes– a gluten-free spinach, zucchini, and mint tart with a sweet potato base.


  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 2 zucchini
  • 1/3 lb spinach (this is one of those 150g plastic containers), washed
  • 1/4-1/3c fresh mint leaves
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2c plain yogurt (Greek is best, naturally)
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced (you can use half of one if you don’t like spice)
  • 1.5 tsp grated ginger (a huge piece of ginger costs $0.37– be serious, just buy it)
  • 1 TBS honey
  • 2 TBS olive oil, plus more for pans
  • 1 tsp lime juice


1. Preheat oven to 400.  Liberally grease either two 8-inch pie pans or one 9×13-inch metal casserole dish.  Shred your sweet potatoes- this is most easily done with a food processor, but you could also use your peeler and just use what I will call “layered shavings.”  Once you have your pieces, squeeze out the excess water.  Arrange in greased pans and so that you have a base that covers the bottom and about 1/2 way up the sides of the pan.  Push down to make as dense as you can.  This will not be pretty.  Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes, until dry and browned, even burnt-looking.  This will be even less pretty.

2. Decrease oven temp to 375. Combine yogurt, minced jalapeno, 1 minced garlic clove, grated ginger, honey, 2 TBS olive oil (use only 1 TBS if you’re not using Greek yogurt) and lime juice. Stir until mixed, set aside.

3. Puree zucchini, spinach, mint, and remaing 3 garlic cloves until smooth but not juicy.  I lightly grilled my zucchini first using very thin slices, but you can probably forgo this for a faster meal.

4. Combine vegetable and yogurt mixtures.  Pour into pre-cooked potato bases.  Cooking time will be somewhere between 25-40 minutes, depending on which dish size you used.  Middle should be set and not jiggly– it is really hard to burn this, so if in doubt, give it another 2 minutes.

Resolutions in Action: Applesauce!

20 Jan

I was making this applesauce while writing yesterday’s post about doughless pizza.  If I had finished the applesauce before the post, I would NEVER have wasted my Swagu joke on the pizza because this sauce has me swearing never to storebuy applesauce again–but, alas, you could only use a bad joke once.  

In the spirit of some serious multi-tasking, I was also mid-way through the BEST pep talk from my mom, who always seems to know when I need some tough love and when I just need my mom to tell me that I’m great.  So, it’s only fitting that today you get a recipe PLUS a kefi story about MamaKef, making today’s post a… kefcipe?

Every year, my mom would strap the KefSiblings, our friends, their siblings, and whoever else happened to be around into our cranberry Toyota Camry and schlepped us past the 8 apple farms within 10 miles of our house to THE BEST apple farm in our neck of the woods: Wright’s Apple Orchard. We would wander the orchard for a few hours, compete over who found the “most perfect” apple, and inevitably recreate the rotten apple fight scene from The Wizard of Oz.  At this point, my mother would remind us of the sign we passed upon entering the orchard, which promises (and I quote) that those who steal fruit will be “shot on sight.”  Not wanting to die at the hands of an overzealous apple farmer, we’d mosey back to the farm stand, eat some homemade apple-cider donuts that were made for us while we watched, get some homemade pumpkin ice cream to bring home, and then hit the road, the Camry all the heavier for the 10 pounds of apples and the 7 really-full kids we were now towing.

And then the kefi would REALLY get going.  My mom would get right to cooking up some apple crisp, and soon the house would smell like apples and cinnamon.  I don’t think apple crisp was really ever anyone’s favorite–the real fun was trying to steal a cinnamon-coated apple while MamaKef’s back was turned (the butter and sugar topping didn’t hurt, either).  To this day, the smell of baking apples ALWAYS makes me think of those afternoon cooking sessions post-orchard (and, frequently, post-being-sent-to-my-room-for-being-bad-at-the-orchard). 

Now that I’ve gotten all Little House on the Orchard on you, this one goes out to MamaKef, the original Apple Whisperer.  

Apple Sauce So Good You’ll Smack Your Mama*


  • 8 apples ( I used 4 Granny Smith and 4 Fuiji- but would have substituted the latter Macintosh if I could have found them this time of year) 
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 TBS honey (feel free to use more or less. Sweeter your apples, less honey you need)
  • 1/4c water 


1.  Preheat the oven to 425. Peel and core the apples. This is easier than it sounds– I used a potato peeler and a knife and it took about 8 minutes. They do not need to be pretty.

2. Mix the lemon juice in with the apples, then mix the spices, then the honey, and then pour the water in. Mix everything around again. 

3. Pour apples into 9 X 13 glass baking pan.  Bake for 40 minutes, stirring apples at halfway point to avoid burnt tops.  Apples will be mushy and more liquid will have formed in pan.

4. Remove from oven, let cool for ten minutes.  Either manually mash apples for a chunkier sauce, or throw everything into the food processor and puree to the consistency you like. (Beware though– I was LITERALLY licking my food processor because this was so good and those blades are sharp!)

(*unless your mama is like my mama… then maybe you just want to high-five her)

A Grainless Dream Come True: Cauliflower Pizza with Sweet Potatoes and Kale

19 Jan

Prepare yourself, friends– what follows is simply dripping Swagu. (If you don’t know…you don’t know.)

Look at that puppy!

Let me break this pizza down for you: a cauliflower/cheese crust covered in smoky marinara sauce, balsamic kale, sweet potato “fries” and then some MORE damn cheese.  Is this a joke? No. But is sure as shootin is delicious.

Several months ago, I gave up a group of foods I loosely refer to as “grains”– no flour, rice, quinoa, couscous, bulgur, wheatberry, etc.  I will give you the full scoop another day, but since that day in June I have been pretty-much grain-free and feel GREAT about it.  But the one thing I was missing big time was pizza… and then I found out about the “doughless pizza.” Prepare to be amazed!

The last time we worked with cauliflower I gave you ChefKefi’s Food Philosophy #1: Healthy food does not have to be hard. Today brings you CKFP #2: A little prep work goes a long way.  It ain’t a quick recipe, but it is easy. I like to make this on Sundays and try to pretend it will last til Monday.


  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into thin rounds, about 1/4-inch thick
  • 1/2 bunch of kale, cleaned and stemmed
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 1 TBS balamic vinegar
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1-2 eggs, beaten
  • 16 oz of cheese of your choice (I used mozzarella.)
  • Fresh herbs, as desired (I had some thyme left over and used about 2 TBS in the crust)
  • Tomato sauce of your choice (I used my favorite: smokey marinara )


1. Preheat oven to 400. Toss sweet potato rounds with olive oil and arrange on greased baking sheet in a single layer (you may need to do two batches). They can touch, but they should  not be on top of one another.  Bake in oven for 25-30 minutes, flipping once. They should be soft and tender but not mushy when they’re done.

2. Toss kale in balsamic vinegar. Set aside.

3. Chop off the “tree” parts of the cauliflower from the stem. Put them in a big pot with enough water to cover them.  Bring to a boil, remove from heat.  

4. “Rice” the cauliflower in a food processor– this means to blend it until it is mashed but not really pureed.  Transfer the puree to a strainer and push out any excess water.

5. Re-preheat oven to 450. Mix 1 c cheese, whatever herbs you want, and a beaten egg into the cauliflower until it takes on a batter-like consistency.  If you want it to be a little more congealed, you can add another egg (although I find that this makes it taste a little too omlette-y for my pizza palate).

6. On a greased cookie sheet or pizza stone (if you are a fan of that parchment-on-one-side, aluminum-on-the-other stuff, that would be great too) spread out the batter to make your pizza base. It should be spread to where you can’t see through it but that it is not a lump o’ cauliflower, either.

7. Bake “dough” for about 15 minutes.  For a crispier crust, cook longer.

8. When dough is how you’d like it, put on however much sauce you like (just remember that this dough is already a little more water-based than a flour one, so I’d go on the light side).  Then arrange prepared sweet potatoes and kale however you’d like them, THEN add the other 1c of cheese (or more, or less…however you like it!).  

9. Put the prepared pizza BACK in the oven on the highest shelf for about 5 minutes, until cheese is melted.

This is filling, so there is enough for at least three people. I, however, think that anything plant based means I can eat it in its entirety, so I usually eat half for Sunday lunch and the other half for Sunday dinner.

My Cousin is Better Than Your Cousin

11 Jan

There are some things I don’t do often. One is travel north during the winter. The other is eat tofu for dessert.

Today I had the extreme pleasure of doing both, and lived to tell the tale.  I took up a trip up yonder to visit my cousin Joanna at her lovely home with an enviably-stocked kitchen and three BEAUTIFUL dogs and, in exchange, she cooked me the best meal of 2012 thus far.  She’s soon to be a Master of Nutrition (how do you like THEM apples?) and has recently taken on a 30-day Vegan Challenge.

The meal she made was seriously inspiring – check out the whole vegan, gluten-free shebang– mushroom fritatta, home-made roasted tomato soup, and tofu-based chocolate mousse– and even more drool-worthy food at

But, um, you can’t like her blog better than my blog, ok?  🙂

Cauliflower "mashed potatoes" and Wasabi-Sesame Salmon

9 Jan

Big big big big BIIIIIG news in my culinary life- 12 cup big news, in fact!  Thanks to Mama Kef and JimmyKef, I am now the very proud new owner of a grown-up food processor!

My cat is jealous of the new baby in the house.    

No more trying to make soup in three batches, no more cleaning up leaked chick pea juice because I tried to make 3 cups of hummus in a 2-cup mini-processor, no more having to wash it out 6 times for one recipe.  This year, 15 April isn’t just tax day; it’s the day my Greek Easter game goes on some next level ish because I have this hot lil mama!  

Ok, ok- enough cheesing over this little gem and onto some cooking.  BF Kef has been raving over this cauliflower mash I made months ago but haven’t made since because it was too much of a pain in my little food processor.  Eager to see what this machine could do, I decided to give the mash a whirl again.

Now, I am often accused of calling everything I make “easy.”  I think this is a false accusation, and this recipe is a great example of how a few really simple steps can make a delicious meal without too much time or effort.  If you don’t believe me, know that I prepped this meal while getting dressed, threw it in one of those insulated shopping bags, enjoyed a date at the National Sympony Orchestra with my boo (excuse you!), and then cooked the meal at his house.  So imagine how easy this would be if you cooked it all at once, in the same kitchen, and weren’t trying to puree cauliflower while pulling on your pantyhose. (Granted I was MUCH aided by my fancy new food processor, but if yours is bigger than 2 cups, it will do the trick…even if yours is only a 2-cupper, it will just take like 3 batches-which isn’t actually bad, I am just lazy).  My point is:  Healthy food does not need to be time-consuming food, people!

 Ok- without further ado, an easy date-night recipe for two:

Cauliflower “mashed potatoes” and wasabi-sesame salmon

Cauliflower Mash

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1 TBS Olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 white onion, chopped
  • 1/4-1/2c feta cheese


  • 2 fillets of salmon
  • 1/4-1/2 c wasabi peas
  • 3 TBS sesame seeds (I just bought a sesame bagel and took them off)
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 2-3 tsp olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 350. Cut caulifower from stem so only “trees” remain and place in a pot of water, let boil and immediately remove from heat. Sautee garlic and onions in oil until fragrant (2-3 minutes).
2. Put in food processor and mash to consistency you like.  
3. Mix mash, onions, garlic, and feta together.
4. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until edges of mash start browning.

1. Crush together wasabi peas, sesame seeds, and pepper.  You can do this by throwing them in a food processor or by putting them all together in a ziploc bag and crushing them with a rolling pin or wine bottle-whatever you have available.
2. Grease your fingers with olive oil and run them over both sides (if skinless) or non-skinned side of salmon.
3. Coat the fish in your wasabi-sesame-pepper dip.
4. Cook for 10 minutes at 350, or until you like how “done” it is. I like it medium-rare.

Resolutions in Action: Spicy Kale Coconut Soup

8 Jan

Every so often, the literati get together and decide the superlative pre-fix du jour.  For a while it was “hyper-” — hyperactive, hypersensitive, hyperextended.  Then it was mega– megachurch, Megatron, MegaBus.  Currently, “super-” is enjoying its hayday: Citizens United gave birth to the super PAC, complete and utter Congressional dysfunction created an ironically-named Super Committee, and Oprah (aka: SuperWoman) has brought to my attention the SuperFood.
As you may recalll, I pledged that 2012 would be the year I would eat more of these so-called superfoods.  When I made that resolution I was only vaguely aware of what that phrase meant–something about antioxidants and vitamins blah blah blah.  I spent more time pondering whether the word should be written superfood, super food, Super Food, or SuperFood than thinking about how I could incorporate them into my diet.  To be honest, what sealed the deal for me was the realization that if I simply added acai berries to my regular ol’ breakfast smoothie  I could start calling it a SUPERSMOOTHIE–and why in God’s name would I keep drinking regular smoothies when I could be drinking supersmoothies? (I’m an easy sell… I’m not proud of it.)

Well– turns out that there is something to these superfoods other than the chance for some extra alliteration in your day.  These bad boys are defined as foods that are calorie sparse and nutrient dense, so they pack about as much punch as can be expected of naturally-occuring sustenance (that is, of course, until they discover the HYPER-MEGA-SUPER-foods).  You can find a full list of green superfoods, fruit and nut superfoods, seaweed superfoods, and herb superfoods here (plus bee-product superfoods.… who knew?).

This week I added 4 bunches of kale to my cart and decided to take these superfoods for a little test drive.  Nutritionists indicate that leafy greens like kale boost our immune and lymphatic systems, stave off heart disease, help cleanse our kidneys, and provide important components for our brain and blood.  

I tried it a few ways: roasted, as part of a frittata, in a soup, and as part of a grain-free pizza.  By far, the soup came out the best on the first try, so today I will share that recipe with you and work to improve outcomes on the rest.  A note about kale: make sure to THOUROUGHLY clean and dry it– it can get gritty and soggy if you skip that step.

Spicy Kale Coconut Soup with Tofu “Croutons”
I was inspired by this recipe, but made an audible to switch the base into a soup.


  • 1 package extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/4 Cup white vinegar (although I bet apple-cider vinegar would also be delish)
  • 2 TBS olive oil 
  • Zest and Juice of 1/2 Lemon


  • 2 TBS Coconut Oil (olive oil will probably work just as well!)
  • 1 large white onion, chopped 
  • 1.5 TBS ginger, grated or minced 
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped 
  • 2.5 tsp cumin 
  • 1 tsp garam masala  
  • 3/4 tsp turmeric (this WILL stain everything yellow, so don’t use your fancy white cookware!) 
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper 
  • 3 c vegetable stock (I did 2.5 c stock and .5c red wine- just to mix it up) 
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and  chopped  
  • 1 bunch of kale, stemmed and chopped 
  • 1 c lite coconut milk


1. Preheat oven to 350.  Toss all the “crouton” ingredients and arrange onto a lightly greased baking sheet so that they do not touch.  Cook in oven for 30-40 minutes, until edges are golden brown. Set aside.

2. In a medium-large saucepan, allow the oil to heat up over med-high heat. Throw in the onions and sautee until fragrant (2-3 minutes), then add garlic and cloves.  Saute until onions are soft and just turning light brown (about 6-7 minutes more), then add spices and sautee for 3-4 more minutes.  You want the onions to be soft and mixed in with all the spices, but don’t want anything to burn.  

3. Add in the liquids, then the potato.  Cover the pot and let boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 15 minutes.

4. Add the kale, a bit at a time, and stir around so the kale is absorbing some liquid. Cover again and simmer for another 15 minutes. 

5. Transfer the soup to a food processor and blend until smooth.  Allow soup to rest for at least 10 minutes, as it will thicken.  Pour into bowls and top with tofu “croutons.” Refrigerate and reheat whatever is left- it is as delicious the next day.

A Friendly Warning: Don’t Tangle Your Rope in My Rope!

8 Jan

While the whole world coos over Jennifer Hudson’s weight loss, I holdfast to the one truth I know: thick girls will never go out of style. Jennifer, I will be here in the size 10/12 section waiting for you when you get tired of eating for weight loss and want to start eating for health.

That being said, I am a HUGE Jennifer Hudson fan (pun perhaps intended) and JetSet Kef is a HUGE Dr. Oz fan and it is not often that those worlds intersect.  So here’s a quick clip of Jennifer doing her in a big way and showing Dr. Oz a thing or two about some jump rope.

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