Sunday, April 21, 2013


One issue I have with going "vegan" is that a lot of times you end up substituting "real food" for  processed ones! Especially when it comes to dairy and cheese alternatives. It may be that the long list of ingredients is at the end "harmless" to you, but my gut feeling still tells me that this isn't real food, therefore it must be eaten with caution!

This is part of the reason I prefer diets that focus on eating REAL FOODS, such as Dr. Fuhrman's nutritarian one. But eating REAL FOODS (straight up from nature) can be a very difficult thing to do, especially nowadays when life is constantly on the move, and when most people spend more time outside than actually inside their homes. Add to that a toddler and a baby, then you're really in trouble! :)

So yes, I fail at this "real food only" thing! I end up adding some processed stuff to my meals daily, with dairy alternative milk being a staple at our home. I would LOVE to make my own almond milk, but it's simply not practical with my daily life...I guess making breastmilk is all I can do for now ;) hehe...  But as any "health conscious" person out there, whenever getting a processed food, I always shoot for the one with the least amount of ingredients in it, and hopefully all things I can pronounce!

The Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread that I normally purchase to enjoy on occasion or in recipes that calls for it (I usually get the soy free version), can have a quite extensive list of oils, natural flavors and natural coloring ingredients. So when my nutritionist cousin gave me this 3 ingredient margarine spread recipe, I couldn't wait to try it!

Of course it's so simple that you keep wondering, "why didn't I think of this before?"

Here goes the RECIPE:

So basically all you do is blend (I use my Ninja Bullet, but any blender will do) Extra Virgin Olive Oil with fresh basil leafs (you can actually use any herb you like!) and a little bit of salt to taste. After you blend it, you just put in a glass container in the fridge and wait for it to turn into a margarine-like consistency! Simple, eh? 

I didn't add measurements because I didn't get any, and just eye balled the entire process. You can't go wrong here! Keep tasting it and adjusting to your liking of the herb taste and salt. 

Very yummy on a piece of bread!!! :)


Sunday, April 7, 2013

NOT 4 HEALTH COOKING: A Little Piece of Heaven...or not??? has been a long while since I've last posted here! 

What happened you may ask? Well...first came Valentines Day (remember that unexpected valentine surprise at the end of this post?), then came pregnancy, then came horrible sickness for 8 months, then came the best gift ever: our second little girl!!! :)

Now 5 months after my sweet baby has arrived, I finally feel ready to start blogging about my many food adventures again! 

I decided to start with this one because it is literally the most AMAZING food experiences I've had  in my life! After baby was born, I had some wonderful friends bring me meals, and one of them brought me some slices of this dessert along with the meal. When I took the first bite, I immediately knew that this was the best dessert I had ever tasted! Creamy, crunchy, sweet....simply heavenly! 

Since then, I've made this dessert three times, and every single time it is a HUGE hit! I've never had a person eat it and not ask for the recipe. Now I give the recipe and tell people if they are going to make this for others, bring the recipe along! They will for sure ask for it.

I made it first for Thanksgiving, and when my mother-in-law took her first bite of it, the first thing she said was: "Uhmmm....dos deuses" (translation: "Yummm....of the gods") but she really meant "of God!" For Christmas I made this dessert again, and as soon as my sister-in-law took her first bite, immediately she said: "um pedacinho do ceu!" (translation: "a little piece of heaven!") And that is what I have been calling this dessert since! 

But to be honest, a more accurate description would be "a little piece of hell"...hahaha...because eating it, feels very much like a sin! The Bible says that sin leads to death, and that even though it may taste or feel wonderful while you're doing it (in this case, eating it), the consequences are always destructive! Same with this dessert! For someone who was doing a "mostly vegan diet" before pregnancy, trying to follow Dr. Furhman's nutritarian that actually "leads to health," or one could say, "a diet that leads to life," this dessert is anything BUT vegan! It is a little bomb of cholesterol & refined sugar! It's NOT real food. It's NOT good for our bodies and health! But it tastes oooohhhhh soooooo good!!!!

Recently I have experienced a gallbladder attack (if you've ever had one, you know it is NOT FUN!!!), I'm guessing as a consequence of all my Holiday indulgences that just would not end once the Holiday season was over! So I have now, FINALLY gone back to my "almost vegan" nutritarian diet! I've decided that this "Little Piece of Heaven" will only be indulged once a year, either during Christmas time or Easter, so I can enjoy it in remembrance of Christ! Celebrating the fact that He has conquered death, and that I will one day have a glorified body in Heaven, that shall not perish in the presence of Cholesterol, Dairy or Sugar! :-D AMEN to that!

Without any further ado, here is the recipe for this life changing gastronomic experience:

Butter Brickle Frozen Delight

Adapted from Allrecipes

Yield: 8×8-inch springform pan


  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup chopped nuts
  • 1 (16 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (8 oz.) tub frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 1 (14 oz.) jar caramel dessert topping

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, 6 tablespoons melted butter, white sugar, and cinnamon. Press gently and evenly into the bottom of a lightly-greased 8-inch springform pan. Bake in preheated oven for 6 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.
  2. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees F. Using the same bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, 1/2 cup melted butter, and nuts. Spread in a thin layer across baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown. Crumble while hot, and set aside to cool.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together condensed milk and cream cheese until smooth and fluffy. Fold in frozen topping. Spread half of the mixture on top of cooled crust, then sprinkle half of the butter brickle crumb over this layer. Cover evenly with half of the caramel dessert topping. Repeat layering.
  4. Freeze until firm (best overnight), then remove springform pan sides before serving. Serve with additional caramel if desired.  
This is the recipe I got, but instead of the caramel I used "Dulce de Leche" from a La Lechera can (usually you find this at the Spanish food aisle or Spanish Supermarkets). SOOOOO much better and richer than caramel! I also added some cinnamon to the crumbs. And two other times that I've made this, I used the ready made Graham Cracker crust, and just placed the whole thing inside of the springform pan, and it works wonderfully! I actually liked that crust better than the one that came out with this recipe above. But feel free to use whatever crust recipe you like.

I will make it my culinary mission to find a way to veganize this dessert so that I can enjoy it more often without the guilt! And if someone has already done it, PLEASE let me know!

 Without the mention of names, I have to say that some people after eating this dessert have gone as far as saying that, "it is better than sex!" Try it, and you be the judge of that 



Saturday, March 10, 2012

"Empadinha Integral" (vegan & whole wheat pie crust)

This traditional Brazilian appetizer dish was a huge hit at our home the other day! My husband said he even "dreamed" about it that night after he ate it! hahaha.... And this coming from a man who has always been a professed non-foodie, and never cared much about what food he ate! 

This dish was an attempt into making one of my favorite traditional Brazilian appetizer, "empadinha" into a healthier one! 

Empadinhas would be translated as something like "mini-pies". I adapted the crust recipe to become vegan and whole-wheat, just to experiment and see if it would work...which it did AMAZINGLY! But for the filling I used a mixture of some leftover chicken sauce I had from a previous dish and leftover sweet potatoes. So not a vegan dish as a whole, but easily turned into one if you use a vegan filling. Definitely a versatile crust that can be used with any pie filling you like, and even used to make a big pie dish. You'll probably need to double or triple the recipe depending on how large of a pie you want. 

This pie crust is called "massa podre" in Portuguese, which translates into "rotten dough"...hehe...probably because it's so crumbly! It's my absolute favorite pie crust. And now being able to have it without cholesterol, saturated fat and refined flour, it just got even better! :)

The traditional "empadinha" is filled with a chicken sauce made with tomatoes, onions, garlic and herbs like parsley or cilantro. Some will use a sauce made with mini shrimps, tomatoes, onions and corn. Another popular filling for this appetizer is a sauce made with hearts of palms. That's the one I'll be trying next.

This dough is a little hard to work with since it's very crumbly, and for that reason not a "quick & easy" recipe! It's very quick to get the dough ready, but molding it into the pan is the tricky part. You gotta make sure the dough is not too dry. If it is, add a little more milk or water to it.

Here is what you'll need for the crust:
  • 1 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup oil 
  • 3 Tbsp almond milk (or any milk of your choice)
Here's what you'll do: 

  • You'll basically mix all of these ingredients by hand (you can start with a fork) in a large bowl until very crumbly.
  • Then you add the dough into a greased  mini-muffin pan by pressing the dough down with your fingers until it molds each spot on the pan (look at photos below for reference).

  • Then you add the filling (sauce) of your choice, and cover with the dough. Now this is the tricky part! When I used to make these with my mom, to make the "lid/top" part, we used to press the dough with our hands onto a cutting board or stone surface and then use a circle cookie cutter about the same size as the circle shape of the mini-muffin pan. Then we would cut it, remove with a spatula and place it on top of the filling and press the edges with our fingers. For this one I had NO patience for all of that, so I just put all the crumbled dough on top of the filling and pressed all of it with the palm of my hand. Even though it didn't look as "smooth" and pretty, it still stayed put once cooked!

Another way I liked EVEN better, was a topless one I did because I had run out of dough! I think it looked even cuter, and it tasted just as good. So I may start doing this way from now on :)

Check it out:

 So cute!

  • Then cover it and bake on 350F until it looks crisp and ready! Sorry I don't have a better measurement for cooking time. I really can't remember how long it took, I just kept checking on them once in a while and removed once they "looked" ready! Dough looked crisp enough.

Here are my cuties:

The one with the chicken sauce I also added the zesty Italian dipping oil in it for some heat and spice flavor! MMMMMMmmmmmm!

Above is the one with the sweet potato sauce....SO creamy!!! The benefit of having the top part is that the filling stays moist. When you do it "topless" (for a lack of better word...hehe), the filling gets much drier.

LOVED every bite of it! :)

My husband came home from work the next day and as soon as he opened the door, he asked if I had made more of these! Unfortunately I had not. 

But will be making these again very soon ;)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Brazilian Flan with an American Twist!

Oh flan, sweet flan!!! 

Flan is probably one of the oldest and most traditional Brazilian desserts. You can't live in Brazil and not know what a flan is. It's like living in the US and not know peanut butter & jelly, french fries or cheesecake! Flan is a staple in the Brazilian cuisine, and I've just discovered it's ridiculously easy to make! 

In my 27 years of being Brazilian, I've eaten flans countless times, but had never made one myself! Inspired by a cousin who is currently living in Sweden, and whom in her attempt to manage her homesickness keeps making all kinds of traditional Brazilian dishes; I decided to venture into making one myself! 

She had mentioned to me about a flan she made that turned out amazing, and as she explained how she made it, I was dumbfounded by how simple and easy it sounded, that I just had to make one myself! And I had the perfect occasion for it: Super Bowl Sunday! (YES, totally not posting dishes in chronological order here...hehehehe)

From all the flans I've eaten, my absolutely favorite was one made by a Brazilian friend in Chicago. Her flan is simply the creamiest one I've ever tried! And her secret? Adding an American twist to it! Key ingredient?  Cream-cheese!

So I decided to try her recipe out! Here are the ingredients you'll need:
  • 1 can of condensed milk
  • 2  cans (use empty can of condensed milk for measure) of milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 oz of cream cheese
  • For sauce: 1 cup of sugar

Oh, sweet condensed milk! It was one my edible passions growing up. In fact, it's most kids passion in Brazil. They now even make little cans for you to drink like a soda, can you believe it? Little did I know all the harm underneath this heavenly creamy sweetness! Definitely NOT something I would let my child drink off a can, but definitely something to enjoy in moderation once in a while in different recipes! And there is no place better to enjoy it than in a flan.

So you basically add all the ingredients (eggs, condensed milk and milk), except sugar to a blender and blend it all! That's the custard part-new English word I just learned the meaning!

You'll need a bundt pan on top of a round baking dish with water in it.

Then make the sauce! Which is basically melting 1 cup of sugar and placing it in the bundt pan. Move pan around so sugar syrup will stick to all sides of the pan. Look at photo for reference:

Cover bundt pan with two foil papers. 

Place under 340F for about two hours or until you stick a knife and it comes out clean.

It was a big hit at the party!!!  
Definitely making this again ;)

Monday, February 27, 2012

FREE COOKING: Leftover Lasagna

So this dish was one of those pleasant surprises to me! :) 

It started out as I was making a lasagna, and ended up having some leftover lasagna pasta. It was just enough to make one more small lasagna, but I had run out of the sauce or filling (whatever you call it) I was using for the other one! So I remembered I had some leftover sauce from the Brazilian Style Hot DogYes, this lasagna should have been posted way back then, but I have so many different things to post about, that I get a little carried away and lose track of the "chronology" of things! hehehe...

When I first learned how to make a lasagna, with my dear friend M. from south of Brazil in California, I learned a pretty delicious recipe, that is quite heavy on the cream and cheese, but a guaranteed success! 

I'm not sure if I ever shared this here, but as much as I love cooking and entertaining friends, I dread cooking for guests! It has more to do with my own insecurities than anything else (hoping to be done with that soon...hehe)! I'm a total people pleaser, so when I'm cooking for people, I want everything to turn out perfect, and I fear so much things going wrong, that they often do. Or at least I think they do!:D

Mostly I think this is due to the way I cook. Free cooking is great and all, but it leaves more than enough room for big disasters! And when people are coming over, I have to constantly tame my urge to free cook. I remember having a friend visit from Indiana, and as I started doing a beef stew, I felt like adding red wine to it just to see what happened! I had never cooked with wine before...well...I spent a LONG time fixing the damage so things would be edible! Big disaster....hahaha. whenever I have to cook for people, I have a few recipes I always use, because they are a sure success. And the lasagna recipe I learned from my friend is definitely one of them.

This lasagna I'm posting about today was SO SO easy to make, that I kept thinking I should definitely make lasagnas more often! It tastes great, it's a one dish meal, and did I mention easy? Okay...I have to give credit to the leftover sauce I had in the fridge. So let's say this is the perfect thing to do with leftover sauces you may have around :)
How did I make it? Given I didn't have A LOT of sauce left, I just did the "old trick" of adding water to increase volume! Yes, that's what I did! hehe. Yes the sauce did look and taste pretty watery, and I kept thinking this was probably not going to be a super tasty lasagna! But I was on a mission to not waste any of my leftovers, and little did I know what was about to come out from that!

So after "increasing" the sauce [see here for sauce I used], I added sauce to the bottom of dish, than layered whole wheat oven-ready lasagna, added sauce on top and some fresh spinach, sprinkled a tiny bit of cheese (I used maybe 1/2 cup in the entire lasagna, because it was all I had left and it worked great!), and added some pitted kalamata olives as well. I kept layering it like that, and ended with whatever I had left of the sauce, olives, spinach and the rest of the cheese. So basically once you have the sauce already, all you do is layer things in the dish, and pop in the oven!

Believe it or not, this turned out one of the best lasagnas I've ever made! And I learned that a lasagna does not need a heavy sauce and LOTS of cheese to taste awesome!!! My leftover sauce barely had any hot dog left, so it was mostly the tomato sauce and the vegetables, so it tasted more like a veggie lasagna.

SO good! I just hope I can replicate this :)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

FREE COOKING: Quick & Easy Tortilla Pizza

In the mood for something fast, easy and tasty? Or in the mood for something crunchy, cheesy yet healthy? Well...I got something for yah! The quick & easy tortilla pizza!!! 

It's the type of dish I'll make on those lazy days I'm really NOT in the mood for chopping or sauteing anything, but not willing to compromise too much on health either! 

One thing about tortillas though, is that most of them are highly processed. If you want something closer to "real food", I would encourage you to check labels and find one with the least amount of ingredients in the list, and with nothing you can't pronounce! 

The other day as I walked through a Target aisle, I saw some tortillas and thought of getting one, since it's the type of thing I like having around for days like this. But as I started doing what I always do before placing something into my food cart: read the labels, I was shocked to see how ALL of the ones they offered had a huge list of ingredients, and most of which I could not pronounce! I just could not get myself to buy one.

A few days later I found Ezekiel 4:9 tortilla (something that comes from the Bible has to be good for you! ;) at the frozen "health" section at Kroger. 

And check this ingredient list out: 

organic sprouted wheat, filtered water, organic sesame seeds, organic sprouted soybeans, organic sprouted barley, organic sprouted millet, organic sprouted lentils, organic sprouted spelt, sea salt.  

That's it! Not even oil or yeast in them! Only actual real foods. Wow! Definitely too much to ask for these days.

Pretty cool, eh? And then when you research about the benefits of sprouted grains, you get even more excited about them!!! We usually consume most of our bread products from them. And little one loves it too!

Here are the ingredients I used for this dish-but feel free to use whatever you like as a topping! The great thing about cooking is that you DON'T have to follow what someone else likes, you can add what YOU like!
  • Roasted garlic tomato sauce (ready from jar)
  • Thawed frozen corn
  • Sliced onions
  • Fresh spinach leaves
  • Part-Skim mozzarella cheese. For my vegan friends, you can use a vegan cheese of your choice! I prefer to eat cheese less often and eat the real thing, since vegan cheese is highly processed and doesn't seem to fall into a "whole food" category.

So let's get started on the "how-to":

  • First spray a large skillet with a oil spray.
  • Place tortilla on skillet.
  • Spread tomato sauce on the tortilla.
  • Add veggie toppings, I used just corn, onions and spinach.
  • Top it with shredded cheese

    • Cover skillet and keep tortilla there until cheese melts.
    • Once cheese melts, remove pizza from skillet and place on a round oven/pizza dish and place in oven under 400F just until cheese browns. It browns pretty fast, so stay tuned!

    Looks great, doesn't it?!


    Wednesday, February 22, 2012


    If you are a true greens lover, you will LOVE this hamburger!
    This burger came to me today as I looked at my leftover vegan eggplant parmigiana, and a bunch of collard greens and purple kale that were about to go bad if not used! I had the awesome idea of eating the leftover eggplant with these two greens, inside this delicious Ezekiel 4:9 sesame bun!  

    If you've never tried these, you should!!! Not only are they super healthy for you, but they taste pretty awesome too :)

    The vegan eggplant parmigiana I made for dinner last night, but I didn't have all the ingredients required, so I wasn't able to try it as it's "supposed" to be. To me it turned out good (given that I LOVE eggplants), but definitely did not impress me. It was a little bland to my taste. BUT, in this sandwich, it was AMAZING!!! 

    Here is the recipe for the eggplant parmigiana [here]. I'm sure if you plan ahead and buy all the needed ingredients, the end result will be a lot more interesting in flavor, but in case it's bland...don't worry! You can always turn them into this:

    I guess the ideal thing would be to make eggplant parmigiana for one meal, and use the leftover in this burger, if you wanted to try this out. TOTALLY WORTH IT, if you ask me! Especially if you happen to be a veggie lover like me :) 

    So to make this was quite simple! First I prepared the greens:
    • Washed leafs(1 bunch of collard greens & 1 bunch of purple kale), removed stems and finely chopped them. Set it aside.
    • Chopped one onion and put in a large skillet with some sprayed oil, then added lots of minced garlic (used about 5 cloves) and let it cook until golden, adding a little water as necessary so it wouldn't burn.
    • Once onion and garlic were translucent and golden, I added both chopped leafs and let it cook under medium-high heat for a couple of minutes and then turned heat off. I have an electric stove top, so it takes a while for the heat to be completely off. 
    • Added a little bit of sesame seeds, onion powder, ground ginger & smoked paprika (but you can use whatever you like)
    • Added liquid aminos (can use soy sauce) to taste.
    This by itself is already SO good! Simple, quick and delicious. I like to leave the leafs a little undercooked and with its color bright. It's better for you, because the less they are cooked, the higher their nutrient content. I also find it tastier a little crunchier.

    Next, I toasted the buns, and spread that amazing zesty Italian dipping oil I ALWAYS talk about! If you haven't seen it yet, here it is again:

    If you like thyme, garlic and hot pepper, you will totally dig this! My husband is in love with the stuff. He spreads everywhere, including in his morning toast. So inspired by him, I spread some of this oil on the toasted buns, then added the leftover eggplant parmigiana (heated) and freshly cooked greens. 

    I'm telling yah! This became TOTALLY awesome. My husband could not stop complimenting it with every bite!  

    Just how I like it :)

    I understand this is NOT an easy dish to make, because the eggplant parmigiana is a bit time consuming (I found it to be!), but as a leftover fix, it's quick, healthy and SO tasty that I just could not resist sharing!!! 

    I'm filled with "drafts" of dishes to post about, but this one earned its bump! ;)

    Bom Apetite! !!