Peanutty Energy Balls

What does nutritional yeast, green powder (alfalfa, spirulina, etc), oats, flax meal, and raw cocoa powder all have in common? I’m not sure about you, but when I first saw some of these ingredients together I wasn’t thinking that it could be something delicious. However, I happened to taste these “Nutty Power Balls” in a PCC Cooks class called SuperFoods by Fernanda Larson, and they were quite good. In addition to the ingredients mentioned above, they also contained almond butter, agave, coconut oil, wheat germ, and goji berries. Definitely some wonderful super foods!

Due to some allergies, I had to revamp the original recipe to a version that I could eat. Try them out for yourself and let me know how you like them.

  • ½ cup natural peanut butter
  • ¼ cup raw honey
  • 1 ½ teaspoons coconut oil
  • ¾ cup gluten-free oats, ground
  • ¼ cup ground flax meal
  • 2 tablespoons raw cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon green powder of your choice
  • 1 tablespoon water (or milk)
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup goji berries

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl until well mixed, you may have to use your hands.  Once mixed, shape into small balls and place on parchment paper. Refrigerate to set.

What is so great about this recipe is how much you can change and mix things around. Feel free to omit the green powder if you like (I’ve tasted it with and without and didn’t even know it was there). Swap out the peanut butter for almond butter, cashew butter, pumpkin butter or your favorite nut butter. If you do not have an allergy to wheat/gluten, the original recipe called for wheat germ (add about 2 tablespoons raw wheat germ for extra B-vitamins and vitamin E…you may need an extra tablespoon or 2 of water or milk).

I added in cinnamon but I think next time, I would also add a pinch of nutmeg or cardamom. Or for a spicy kick, a pinch of cayenne powder.

*The goji berry, also know as wolfberry, is a nutrient dense fruit with high antioxidant value, which helps to decrease inflammation in the body. Goji berries are not as sweet as other dried fruits, contain fiber and protein, and are excellent sources of vitamins A and C, along with important minerals including iron, potassium, and calcium! In addition, they supply plenty of carotenoids, essential fatty acids, and phytosterols. Instead of goji berries, feel free to substitute your favorite fruit such as dried blueberries, cherries, apricots, or raisins.


Chicken, Spinach, & Mushroom Quesadillas

Having trouble deciding what to have for dinner? Perhaps you need something that is easy, fun, and tastes great? Quesadillas are a perfect choice, as they not only use up any leftovers you may have in the fridge but are so versatile! You can choose to make them vegetarian by adding your favorite beans with vegetables including spinach, diced summer squash and tomatoes, or chopped bell peppers with a bit of your favorite cheese or vegan by mixing some delicious nutritional yeast to your filling. Other options include chopped chicken, ground turkey, or fish with endless options of seasonings from Mexican (chili powder, cumin, oregano), Indian (turmeric, coriander, ginger, cumin, cayenne), an Italian blend, or a mixture of allspice and thyme. Here is one recipe that I enjoy and feel free to experiment with different vegetables, seasonings, and fillings.

 Chicken, Spinach, & Mushroom Quesadillas

  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon jalapeño, minced
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups crimini or white button mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves, sliced into ribbons
  • 2 cups cooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
  • 4 brown rice tortillas
  • 1 cup Cotija cheese
  • ¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • ½ cup salsa

In a large sauté pan, add coconut oil and heat until warm over medium heat. Add onions and sea salt and sauté until onions are soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add jalapeño, chili powder, cumin, and oregano and stir to combine. Add garlic, mushrooms, and baby spinach. Sauté until mushrooms are tender and spinach has wilted, about 2-5 minutes or until water from mushrooms has evaporated. Add chicken, stir to combine and turn the heat off.

Place brown rice tortillas on a cutting board or a flat work surface and cover one-half of each tortilla with ½ cup vegetable and chicken mixture, 1 tablespoon cilantro, and ¼ cup of cheese. Carefully fold each tortilla over in half.

Grease a skillet with a small amount of coconut oil and turn the heat to medium. Place the folded tortillas on the hot skillet and cook for approximately 2-3 minutes. Using a large spatula, gently flip the quesadilla over and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until tortilla is lightly browned and the cheese is melted. Repeat this method with the remaining tortillas.

Slice each quesadilla in half. To serve, place two halves on a plate and top with 2 tablespoons salsa and serve warm.

Yield:  4 quesadillas

Copyright 2009, J. Usdavin, Original recipe


It’s always hard when someone has to alter their diet whether it’s from food allergies or intolerances or for personal or other reasons. Dairy sources work so well in many dishes providing a creamy texture, a salty flavor, or in the summertime, a sweet treat! Well, I hope to provide you with a few tips on eating dairy free and how to add flavor and richness back to some of your favorite dishes.

One common question I hear after eliminating dairy from their diet is how one can ensure they are getting adequate calcium and/or vitamin D into their diets. Dairy is a great source of calcium, but there are many more wonderful foods that have this important mineral. To start off, the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) is 1000 mg for adult males and females and those over the age of 50, 1200 mg/day is recommended. Children, pregnancy, and breastfeeding mothers require higher amounts.

*Some great sources of calcium include:

  • Sesame seeds (1/4 cup = 351 mg)
  • Fortified orange juice (6 ounces = 378 mg)
  • Collard greens (1 cup, cooked = 226 mg)
  • Tofu (4 ounces = 100 mg)
  • Kale (1 cup, cooked = 94 mg)
  • Broccoli (1 cup, steamed = 74 mg)
  • Summer squash (1 cup, cooked = 48 mg)

and Spices

  • Basil, dried, ground (2 tsp = 63 mg)
  • Cinnamon, ground (2 tsp = 55 mg)
  • Thyme, dried, ground (2 tsp = 54 mg)

In your dairy free dishes, non-dairy milks work well as a substitute. These milks are also fortified with calcium, vitamin D, and other vitamins. Soymilk (unsweetened) has higher protein compared to other milks, while coconut milk has great flavor and a richness that can enhance your dish. There are also great non-dairy yogurts on the market…coconut yogurt, almond yogurt, rice yogurt, or coconut kefir. Instead of using butter to stir-fry or sauté with, try coconut oil.  In baking, when using coconut oil use ¼ cup less than you would of butter (ex. 1 cup butter, use ¾ cup coconut oil). For a salty flavor, try experimenting with nutritional yeast. It has a great cheesy, salty flavor. For a sweet treat, Tempt ice cream is delicious!

*Food sources of calcium from © 2001-2011 The George Mateljan Foundation.

Iron Rich Teff

Teff is an ancient grain originating from Ethiopia, South Africa, and India and deserves some special attention, as it’s rich in vitamins and minerals, along with being a gluten free grain. Traditionally, teff is fermented into a bread called Injera but can also be cooked in the same way as other grains or cooked as a porridge with fresh fruit, nuts and/or seeds and your choice of milk or dairy alternative to enjoy in the morning.

Even though teff is an extremely small grain, its nutrition content is quite high as it’s a wonderful source of iron, calcium, magnesium, copper, zinc, as well as protein and fiber. Just a ¼ cup of uncooked teff has 8 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein with 21% of your daily value of iron!

I wanted to bring this unique grain into attention, specifically for it’s iron content, as individuals with Celiac disease or those who avoid gluten grains can be low in this vital mineral. Iron is important for immune and antioxidant function, along with oxygen delivery. To enhance the absorption of this mineral, pair iron rich foods such as grass fed beef, black-strap molasses, prunes, lentils, and cashews with foods high in vitamin C including the amazing berries currently in season, red bell peppers, lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit juice.

As iron is essential for children, here is a great recipe that the whole family will enjoy.

 Teff Porridge

  •  ¼ cup whole grain teff
  • 1 ¼ cups unsweetened hemp milk (decrease amount if you would like it thicker)
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • ¼ cup banana, sliced (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts (optional)

In a small pot, combine teff, hemp milk, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer. Continue to stir to prevent sticking on the bottom of the pan. Simmer about 10-15 minutes or until teff is done and porridge is desired consistency. Add banana and walnuts and enjoy!

This serves 1 to 2 people, double the recipe for the family to enjoy. For a thicker porridge, decrease the milk to ¾ cup.

Stuffed Zucchini

As I browse around the farmer’s markets, I can’t help but notice the abundance of fresh zucchini. It takes me back to memories of growing up with tons of zucchini right from the garden. Somehow zucchini would make it into every dish whether it was zucchini muffins, fresh steamed zucchini, or a zucchini casserole with carrots, tomatoes, and a homemade cheese sauce. Unfortunately, I don’t have a garden of my own right now (but hopefully in the future), but I am lucky enough to have local, fresh zucchini straight from the farmer’s market.

I decided to stuff several large zucchini I purchased with a wild canned salmon salad, along with fresh spinach, carrots, and a bit of jalapeno peppers. The amazing, wild  salmon was won through a blog contest courtesy of Karista’s Kitchen.

Wild Salmon Stuffed Zucchini

  • 1 – 2 large zucchini’s
  • 2 cans wild salmon, drained (I used Pure Alaskan Redhead)
  • 1 bunch fresh spinach, washed and chopped
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, minced
  • Juice & zest of 1 fresh lemon
  • Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash the zucchini, cut and remove the ends and then cut each zucchini in half lengthwise and then slice each piece through the center. Sprinkle each zucchini halve with salt, pepper, and thyme. Place the zucchini skin-side down in large baking dish with a bit of water on the bottom. Place into preheated oven for 45 minutes or until zucchini can be pierced easily with a fork.

While the zucchini is cooking, mix together the canned salmon, spinach, carrot, garlic, jalapeno pepper, and lemon juice/zest. Stir to combine. When the zucchini is done, allow to cool. Then, using a spoon, remove the soft flesh from the inside of the zucchini (reserve this) leaving a 1-inch border around the zucchini. With the zucchini that was removed, stir this into the salmon salad.

Spoon a 1/4 to a 1/2 cup salmon salad into the zucchini. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Place back into the oven for 10 to 15 minutes to heat through or enjoy room temperature.