Fitness, Food, Wine & Travel

coconut oil

Sweet Potatoes with Dukkah

This is another side dish we had during our Easter feast over the weekend. It’s just potatoes sautéed in coconut oil (Tropical Traditions is the best!) and sprinkled with a nut and spice blend called dukkah.

If you missed the recipe before, allow me to introduce you to dukkah… the nut and spice blend that is to meat and vegetables as sprinkles are to ice cream. A magical little topping that makes everything taste irresistible. 🙂 Below is how to make enough for this recipe and also enough to store in your cabinet and use on other things like fish or sautéed vegetables.

You can modify/change-up these ingredients to your liking:

1/4 cup ground coriander
5 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons dried mint leaves
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 cup raw hazelnuts
1/2 cup raw pistachio nuts
1/2 cup raw almonds
3/4 cup cashews

It’s easiest ( I think) to roast all the nuts in the oven first, until they are golden brown. I do this on a sheet pan at 350° until they turn color. Be sure to watch closely, they will burn fast.
While the nuts are toasting in the oven, toast the herbs, spices, and seeds until they are brown/toasty/aromatic. Allow each of them to cool completely.

Place the nuts and seeds, along with the mint and salt, into a food processor and pulse into a coarse consistency.

This is the finished product…
Now that you have your spice blend, you will want to slice the potatoes into disc shapes… thin enough so that they will cook through without taking too long (see picture above). A good tip is to microwave them for a minute or so to get a jump-start on their cooking.
Next, heat up some coconut oil in a frying pan/skillet and put the potato slices in (don’t stack them up… just cook them one layer at a time). Pan fry them until tender and sprinkle them with the dukkah. Use as much or as little as you like. Cover the pan with a lid and cook until they are fork tender.
When you plate the potatoes, you can sprinkle them with a little more dukkah as a garnish if you desire.

Paleo Recipe: Gingersnap Crusted Ham

I’d like to start this post with a big thank you to Tropical Traditions. They sent me a huge jar of coconut oil to try out in my Paleo recipes. I ended up using it in the Paleo Gingersnaps that I used to crumble up and coat the ham below. Here’s a picture of their product. It’s not only good in cooking (use it in the place of –and in the same ratio as–any butter or oil), but excellent as a moisturizer!

So look at the crusty beast below! Can you believe it is gluten free? 🙂 This Gingersnap Crusted Ham was a “side” for our Paleo Easter Meal. I snagged the idea for it from the Alton Brown recipe I first made years ago.

What You Will Need:

One 2 pound”City” Ham (I used an Uncured, Nitrate Free, Hormone Free, Vegetarian Fed Ham)
You will find that 2 pounds of ham is actually only about 1/4 of a normal sized ham. 🙂

3/4 Cup Dijon Mustard

1/2 Cup Maker’s Mark Bourbon (in a spray bottle)

2 Cups Paleo Gingersnap Crumbs (To get the crumbs, you have to make the gingersnaps themselves.)

Paleo Gingersnaps
1.5 cups Blanched Almond Flour
1 tablespoons ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp clove
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1/8 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 Tbs fresh ginger or ginger paste

1 omega 3 Egg
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/8 cup molasses

1/4 cup Coconut Oil (Tropical Traditions for best results!!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients (including lemon zest).
In a small mixing bowl beat eggs, honey, molasses, and vanilla extract with a hand mixer.
Pour wet ingredients into dry and beat with hand mixer until combined.
Add coconut oil into batter, and continue to blend until combined.
Press the dough out flat on a parchment lined baking sheet, about a tablespoon in size. Bake cookies for 15 minutes at 375.

Let cool completely then break the cookie into crumbs and set aside.


1. Place the ham in a glass baking dish and paint the dijon mustard on it with a pastry brush.

2. Then take the gingersnap crumbs and coat the ham until it is completely covered in crumbs.

3. Spray the ham with the bourbon to seal the crumb coating.

4. Bake the ham in the oven at 350° for about 10 mins, then take out the ham and lightly spritz the it with more bourbon. Return the ham to the oven and bake it until the crust is golden brown, or if you are like me, you can get the crust a little more brown than that. Let rest about 5-10 mins and then carve to serve.


Chicken Larb in Cabbage Cups


1 head of cabbage

2/3 cup fresh squeezed lime juice (about 3 limes)
1/3 cup fish sauce
2 teaspoons Thai roasted chili paste

1 1/2 pounds ground chicken
1 cup thinly sliced green onions
3/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
3 tablespoons minced fresh lemongrass
1 tablespoon thinly sliced jalapeño pepper
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves

Separate the cabbage into individual leaves.

Mix the first 3 ingredients together with the garlic, set aside.

Melt some coconut oil in a skillet and sauté the green onions, pepper shallots, and the lemongrass until tender. Transfer to a different pan, then cook the ground chicken in the same skillet used for the shallots/onions. When chicken has cooked most of the way through (make sure you have broken it up with a spoon into small pieces while cooking). Pour in the sauce mixture and add the cooked vegetables. Add the cilantro and mint.

Spoon into cabbage pieces. This recipe feeds 4 as an appetizer and 2 as a main course.

Serve with a white wine such as Le Casque’s 2008 Roussanne. You can find it at their winery located in Loomis, CA. For more information, you can visit their website here.

My Audition for Cupcake Wars… and things that were edited out of my audition… ;)

In February of this year, I applied to a television show on Food Network called Cupcake Wars. I was unemployed at the time and was supplementing my income by baking treats on the side. I figured an appearance on Cupcake Wars would be just what I needed to launch my career and perhaps even buy a food truck (or at least invest the money in my baking business). I had big plans. Paint the sucker pink and drive around to all the sugar fiends in Sacramento just as addicted to buttercream as I was!

Then there was my little weight problem. By March of this year, I was tipping the scales at 150ish. (I am 5’1″). Though this is not an obese number by any means, this was heavier than I had ever been since my early twenties. The tipping point is when I got in my Smart car and the tires went flat. JUST KIDDING! It was when I couldn’t FIT into anything but TWO dresses in my closet… Things had to change and fast.

I decided I should stop baking completely. I needed to break up with sugar. It was fun while it lasted. I turned down at least 40-50 people requesting cakes or wanting me to make food for their event or fundraiser. I have to tell you it was really hard for me to say no, but I just didn’t want the temptation to distract me from my path–The path to looking RIDICULOUS!! (see Urban Dictionary definition #2).

I began a style of eating called Paleo, the Paleo diet encourages taking in meats, vegetables, fruits, and nuts and eating to satiety. I cut out all refined foods, and mostly anything that comes from a box.
I combined this with an exercise routine I kind of just formed myself. I call it ghetto crossfit. The exercise routine involves hard cardio for short intervals, followed by resistance training that incorporates the entire body in the movements, followed by more hard cardio. In the fitness world, this is also referred to as HIIT or high intensity interval training. I listened to several podcasts to learn as much as I could about nutrition and really, to get my head right. To get me thinking positively about myself. I really love Jillian Michaels, Latest in Paleo with Angelo Coppola, Mark Sisson’s website, and more recently there is an Everyday Paleo Podcast (Sarah Fragoso and Chrissy Gower) and Being Primal TV (Dean Dwyer).

I feel like I have only just begun to live!! I can’t believe I did it all over again and lost the weight and kicked the sugar! I am in the best shape of my life thanks to the Paleo diet and proper nutrition combined with the right amount of exercise at the right intensity and frequency.

So, last week, I got a call from Food Network. And when Food Network calls, you pick up! It was a casting agent from Cupcake Wars. He said he received my application from a few months ago, and they wanted to invite me to submit a video application. Wow. But I didn’t really bake anymore. Hmmm… what to do? I wanted this chance to prove myself, to represent Sacramento, a city I love so much… If I was going to bake again, I wanted to do it my way. 

Everything I made for the audition was Paleo. Gluten-free, no refined sugars. All organic ingredients, down to the coconut oil and the small amount of (clarified) butter I used for fat.
I made Gluten Free Carrot Cake with Avocado and Honey Frosting, a Chocolate Cabernet Cupcake with Chocolate Date Filling and Chocolate Ganache Frosting, and a Vanilla Almond Cake with Chocolate Almond Butter Frosting. All the cakes were sweetened with honey or stevia, or even just the dates and their natural sweetness. The “flour” in the cakes was either almond or coconut or a combo of both. And they all turned out really well, as this was my first attempt at gluten-free baking without a gluten-free mix. I love that. I didn’t put ANYTHING in those treats that was a chemical or had a preservative. There were no food colorings or dyes used. There were no trans fats. Just all REAL food. When you eat REAL food with real fats, it gives you genuine energy and not a sugar high. You stay fuller longer. 

I recruited someone to work with me that I had worked with before, Moriah Piper, of Moriah’s Marvelous Cakes. I felt she would make a great team member if I were selected for the show.
Together we devised a few cupcakes that stuck to my organic, local theme, even though they contained sugar. People should have a choice, even though I feel really strongly about not wanting to sell a treat I would not eat myself. 😉

Here are some pictures from the audition taken by Debbie Cunningham:
  Gluten Free Carrot Cake with Avocado and Honey Frosting
Chocolate Cabernet Cake “Kettlebells” with Date Filling and Chocolate Ganache Frosting

And now the audition itself! It was shot and edited by Marsh Wildman. There is a cameo at the end by the wonderful Scott Fenner, a local chef recently profiled in the Sacramento Bee. The video was shot at House Kitchen & Bar (thank you Chris Nestor). And all of the ingredients I used to make the cupcakes came from Nugget Market in Roseville.

If you could watch this and “like” the video on You Tube, share it with your friends, leave a comment, etc… I would be so very happy!

UPDATE!! Here is the new video!!

Thank you to Donahue Photography 😀