Instant Pot Steel Cut Oats with Golden Apple Raisin Compote

Living in the Bay area makes you a bit immune to what might be seasonal shifts around the rest of the country. October typically fans the warmth of summer with the mornings and evenings taking a dip into cooler temperatures. We jokingly tell friends and family who come visit to bring layers, knowing that inevitably, sweaters go on and jackets come off throughout the dance of the day. I gravitate toward bowls of creamy steel cut oats in the autumn months, topped with toasted nuts, fruit (either dried or chopped fresh), a drizzle of maple syrup or honey, and a splash of cold milk. This breakfast is the only one that can supplant my eggs and tortilla tradition most days and really helps me feel a shift in the season even if outside, it still resembles a long summer. I leapt at the chance to share Jane Bonacci and Sara De Leeuw’s instant pot steel cut oats from their Gluten-Free Instant Pot Cookbook because I figured that long cooking grains would be a great place to start and also because the apple compote aligned with all the apple bins at the farmer’s market. I also will admit the addition of Golden Delicious apples made my brow wrinkle in a good way–it’s not often you see that nostalgic apple variety from childhood called out in a recipe, and it really does, along with the Granny Smith apples, make this compote exceptional.

Instant pot steel cut oats may just be your new winter breakfast. This recipe makes enough for breakfasts all week.

A note here from Bonacci and De Leeuw— for this recipe, don’t think about substituting rolled or old-fashioned oats–you really want the sturdiness of steel cut to stand up to cooking at high pressure in the instant pot. Also, they call out the apples as tart and sweet, so use what you like, though they provide varietal suggestions too. You can certainly use whatever milk you prefer here too– I used Califia Farms almondmilk because aside from me making my own, its texture and mouthfeel is thickest and creamiest. Also, those golden raisins are initially called out as optional in the cookbook recipe, but I wasn’t so generous and and omitted the optional element. Their sweet and tart flavor really plays off the apples and I think the compote would be lacking without them, so think of this as an oatmeal cookie deconstructed into a bowl of oats. I bet dried cranberries might work well here too, and add a pop of color, but give sultanas a chance, even if you (like me) don’t really love cooked raisins. If you also happen to be vexed with instant pot cooking or wanting to give it a go, read my unbridled The Gluten-Free Instant Pot cookbook review. I ate this oatmeal for a week and didn’t tire of it. There’s a fresh pot of steel cut oats cooking away on my countertop in the instant pot as a break-ahead breakfast for a week leaning deeper into fall. 

Instant Pot Steel Cut Oats will make you a fan of your instant pot for easily and quickly cooking whole grains.

Instant Pot Steel Cut Oats with Golden Apple Raisin Compote

Course Breakfast


Golden Apple Raisin Compote

  • 1 tart apple, such as Granny Smith
  • 1 sweet apple, such as Golden Delicious
  • 3 tablespoons golden raisins or sultanas
  • 1/2 cup orange or apple juice
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

Steel Cut Oats

  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups almondmilk
  • 2 cupa steel-cut oats
  • Pinch kosher salt


For the Compote

  1. Peel and core the apples, and cut into small chunks. Place in a saucepan. Add the raisins, orange juice, lemon juice, brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, vanilla, and lemon zest. Stir to combine. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the apples are fork-tender and the liquid is syrupy. Transfer the compote to a bowl and set aside.

For the Oatmeal

  1. Lightly butter the bottom and lower sides of the inner pot to help avoid sticking. Add the water, milk, oats, and salt, but do not stir. Close and lock the lid, making sure the steam release handle is in the sealing position. Cook on high pressure for 9 minutes. When it is finished, release the pressure naturally, which will take about 15 minutes. Turn the steam release handle to venting, releasing any remaining steam. Unlock the lid and open it carefully.

  2. Scoop the oatmeal into bowls and top with a tablespoon or two of the apple compote. Serve immediately.

Reprinted with permission from The Gluten-Free Instant Pot Cookbook by Jane Bonacci and Sara De Leeuw (published by Harvard Common Press, an imprint of The Quarto Group, 2018).


Tomato Rye Berry Breakfast Casserole

Winter mornings call for something hearty like Tomato Rye Berry Breakfast Casserole.

When the end of September arrives, my pulse seems to quicken. Is it possible that certain seasons offer greater productivity? I’ve been writing behind the scenes. In coffee shops. At midnight. On napkins. On the phone. In my writing notebook. Sometimes writing requires certain parameters to get started. Other times, there is no road. All flat surfaces are fair game. The thing is don’t give up. Write through the rough patches until the street gets smooth.

Heirloom tomato season is never long enough for me. I like adding tomatoes to this rye berry breakfast casserole.

Years ago, I made a Tomato Basil Oatmeal Bake and as the calendar flipped to October, I craved the heartiness available in whole grains. Have you ever cooked whole oat groats, wheat or rye berries? The toothsome chewiness of those long sturdy grains make a fiber full addition to your day. You can find rye berries in the bulk section of some natural food stores and co-ops or from Bob’s Red Mill. Cooking the rye berries is a cinch. When you’re batch cooking or doing meal prep for the week, make a pot of rye berries. Reserve two cups to make the rye berry breakfast casserole below. Hang onto the rest of them to toss into salads for a bit more whole grain heft. 

Some mornings call for steel cut oats, but rye berry breakfast casserole is another great way to go whole grain first thing in the morning.

Tomato Rye Berry Breakfast Casserole

Makes 4 to 6 servings

3 large eggs

¼ cup heavy cream

¼ cup almond milk

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

2 cups cooked rye berries

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (a mix of Sun-Gold and red is pretty)

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Preheat the oven to 375F. Grease an 8×8 pan. Whisk the eggs, milk, cream, olive oil, salt, and pepper together. Stir in the rye berries, tomatoes, Parmesan, and thyme. Pour into the pan, finessing a few of the tomatoes into place, but nudging them into the batter if needed. Bake for 50 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the custard has set / is not jiggly. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Food Poetry Poetry

Chocolate Hazelnut Earl Grey Granola

chocolate hazelnut earl grey granola- anneliesz

This is where you write something pithy.
This is where you tell a funny joke.
Or where you share a photo to awaken
an urge inside for just one bite.
Life comes to us, a whole pie, lattice intact.
We share one slice. We take one for ourselves.
We feast in quiet corners on the crumbs or lick
the juice pooling by the fruit so none of it is waste.
This is where I try to make you like me.
This is where I pretend it doesn’t matter if you don’t.
This is where I tease you with something sturdy
like oats, wickedly bathed in oil and simple
syrup, hazelnuts knocking into chocolate chunks.
And I take out one bowl for you and I take out
one bowl for me that we might sit in the silence
of our thoughts, knowing all we can do is feed
the need to be known even if we appear
as composite photos of our actual selves online.

chocolate hazelnut earl grey granola- anneliesz

Chocolate Hazelnut Earl Grey Granola

You can find the Earl Grey syrup recipe and several other ways to use this simple sweetener in Steeped. The hazelnuts make this granola great, coated in Earl Grey syrup. I’m already a fan of hazelnuts and citrus, so this pairing continues the love affair. I detest the flavor of canola oil and do not find it neutral in flavor. If you don’t have safflower, try using grapeseed instead. I add the chocolate at the end so it doesn’t melt into the granola but instead keeps its girlish figure. I like to eat this with almond milk or cow’s milk. And let me just say if you like to slurp cereal milk, you will find the dregs of this granola subtly redolent of sweet Earl Grey.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup chopped hazelnuts

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons Earl Grey simple syrup

¼ cup safflower oil

2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped or ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 275F. Line a roasting sheet pan with parchment paper. Stir together the oats, hazelnuts, salt, sesame, syrup, and oil in a large bowl with a wooden spoon until coated. Dump and flatten the Earl Grey oat mixture into a thin layer on the prepared pan. Cook for 40 minutes, removing the pan in eight minute intervals, to stir the granola and flatten it back into a thin layer before putting it back in the oven. Cool the granola for 10 to 15 minutes before mixing in the chocolate. Store the granola in a sealed container in your pantry.

chocolate hazelnut earl grey granola- anneliesz


Good Morning Muesli

Good Morning Muesli The Food Poet_3571

Coming home after a work trip, it’s hard to get back into the regular routines. I find myself gravitating toward wanting to continue the cycle of eating out and having someone else clean up after me. One thing I never miss when traveling is the traveler’s breakfast. The goal when traveling for work is to nourish thyself and then get going to whatever meeting, event, conference or meet-up has brought me to that fine city. Working warrior breakfasts are all about efficiency and not really about lingering. Save that kind of breakfast to leisurely loll about at a destination brunch restaurant on a personal trip.

Breakfast on the go while working can be particularly dicey. Have you ever tried a “complimentary breakfast” at a hotel? I can help you out here. You will find the usual suspects of cereal flakes slick and shiny from sweetener peeking out from clear plastic tubes from which they slide so easily into bowls. Next up, the toaster and his consortium of friends: sliced white bread, bagels and the ever-present danish or pastry that never saw anything close to Danish relations. Near them, you will find small packets of peanut butter, cream cheese, butter and jelly which don’t taste like anything found in nature. If you’re lucky, there might be a big bowl of fruit like cubed pineapple and honeydew with strawberries, grapes and watermelon hovering in a liquid colored the sum of its parts. In winter.

“Hey now,” you say, “surely there is yogurt available.” Why yes, small tubs of “raspberry” and “peach” yogurts jut out from their icy hovels mocking me with possibly the same amount of sugar as the pastry. And I can’t forget the receptacles of waffle batter posted right next to the piping hot waffle irons. None of this really works for me. I would rather indulge in a swirl of frozen yogurt or a few squares of chocolate later in the day to entice my sweet tooth finding sugar where expected. The chump of all chumps though, in that continental breakfast- the one that makes me want to wag my finger in defiance is none other than the cartons of quick oats. You know the ones- tubby little containers filled with rolled oats, freeze-dried fruit bits and sugar. They get me riled up as they put on airs about being healthy when I would posit that a hard boiled egg could run circles around these impostors.

A girl can dream… of a breakfast bar loaded with carafes of chilled kefir, bowls of plain yogurt and preserved fruit next to a mise en place of toasted walnuts and dried fruit. A pot full of steel-cut oats would be nearby with a toothsome quality and near small bowls of flax seed, chia and hemp for added texture and crunch. For the crunchy cereal lovers, fresh batches of granola would be cooked up and there might even be homemade scones for those that want to indulge, except the scones would be made of whole grain flour and studded with ginger. In my hotel breakfast bar, there would be egg options always available and cold-pressed juices with specific recipes tackling specific intent. If we’re going to reach for the stars, the hotel buffet would also boast a good tea selection, not just English Breakfast and Chamomile. Coming back to earth now, I fully understand that this ideal would be cost-prohibitive with costs being turned over to guests making it a hotel I wouldn’t be able to afford.

So, what is a girl to do? Pack her own Good Morning in the guise of Muesli. I mulled over this recipe having returned from a recent tradeshow where I did the unthinkable the first two mornings and unintentionally skipped breakfast after surveying the breakfast bar. The third morning I assailed the breakfast bar with the ferocity of two mornings and all the grazing that followed. I knew better but found myself disheartened by the options. One morning I even had hummus for breakfast with pretzels- not a breakfast of champions. Fresh on the heels of returning from the show, I decided to take matters into my own hands, and mixed up my own Muesli. As I considered ingredients, I wanted it to be hearty and oats stay with you. I sought to fruit-sweeten it with fiber-full dried fruits and reached for my cherished figs. Then, because I know I usually crave protein in the morning, knew it needed some walnuts and sunflower seeds. Lastly, the cinnamon and ginger would highlight the rest of the ingredients playing up the sweetness of the sultanas and currants. I had jarred a winner.

Continental breakfasts say nothing about the continents to me or for that matter continence. Instead, they seem like a cheap response to marking a hotel room up because there appears to be added benefit. So, next time you are booking your travel arrangements, don’t fall for the free breakfast promotion- opt to bring your own and waggle for free WiFi.

Good Morning Muesli



If you are planning to eat the Muesli at work, you are in luck. The large wide mouth variety of Mason jars holds about a work week’s worth of muesli inside. Take it with you on a Monday and you should be set for homemade breakfast through Friday. Then again, if traveling, pack several servings of it in a small mason jar to tuck into your carry-on. It won’t take up that much room, plus it will be a welcome reminder of home and the goodness of homemade food. When serving the muesli, I like to use around 1/2 cup of milk- cow’s, almond or hemp. If you prefer sweeter muesli, add a drizzle of maple syrup. 

YIELD: 5-6 1/2 cup servings


  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup dried currants
  • 1/4 cup dried sultanas (golden raisins)
  • 1/4 cup dried figs
  • 1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger


1. Pour rolled oats into a large bowl. Then toss in the dried currants, sultanas, and sunflower seeds. Set aside.

2. Quarter the walnuts. Lop off the stems from the dried figs and cut the figs into halves. Toss the chopped walnuts and figs into the big bowl. Add the cinnamon and ginger. Stir all ingredients until coated and well combined.

3. Scoop your muesli into a large wide mouthed mason jar.



Grief Spirit

Sally’s Pumpkin Bread and #HatDay

Sally's Pumpkin Bread

Today: Sally’s first anniversary.  Tuesday: Tio Z’s second anniversary. Sunday: a friend’s grandfather’s passing. This week is mired in remembrances of lives well lived and yet also, death pocking the days.

It’s a curious thing trying to accept our own mortality, isn’t it? It’s an incredible thing to think of death as a gift, which it sometimes is. But that’s something I found in my own experience that can only be uttered when on the other side of the grief. It’s like trying to edit a poem you think to be your greatest masterpiece. You have to put it away for a few days to see it for what it is, a work in progress, full of editable bits.

Time brings that sense of perspective.



Here’s what you need to know about Sally: she had a voracious appetite for living and an incredibly mischievous side. She possessed a generosity and candor that few exhibit. Her tongue might be sharp, but her kitchen knives were even sharper.  She entertained moose and men, and could command attention or men to do her bidding. In short, it’s hard to come by someone with her tenacity of spirit. I, for one, am grateful for the tenderness she doled out on a grief-inducing Mother’s Day several years past, and for all of the love, support and steel words she spoke to me when I felt like limestone. Sally and I shared a fondness for instigating- either for good or for prank. When playing dominoes, she might win or I might (or we might pretend, when her daughter Olga swept the match).

At her funeral, Olga positioned hat trees near Sally’s coffin with a bright array of her hats ranging in color from the red of a California poppy or the pale slip of blue in a spring sky. Today, on Sally’s anniversary, I’ve declared it to be #hatday. It’s simple, wear a hat, upload it onto Instagram, Facebook, twitter (or email it to me), use the hashtag, #hatday and tag me so I can see it. What I’m hoping for is an equally bright collection of smiles beaming out under fabulous hats, a fitting tribute to an indomitable woman and perhaps in its own quirky way, a bit of balm for any of us who have someone’s life to celebrate in their absence. This too, is part of grieving.

And, when one season slips into another, fall will come back to us, just like the very best stories that sometimes spill out between laughter and tears. When fall returns, make a few loaves of Sally’s Pumpkin Bread and you just might find it to be warm and nurturing like her.

Sally's Pumpkin Bread



I like to slice and freeze one of the loaves so I can pull out a slice at a time to warm up. This recipe is perfect for baking gifts for people you love. The fall isn’t complete until the aroma of Sally’s Pumpkin Bread permeates the kitchen. (Note: I love this recipe so much, I tweaked it and included it in Steeped: Recipes Infused with Tea and also because I wanted a piece of Sally to be in my first book. She was a cookbook author and I think that would have tickled her.) If you go the route of gift-giving, consider using the recipe below and using 4  prepared mini loaf pans.

YIELD: 2 loaves

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon nutmeg
3 cups sugar
3/4 cups safflower oil
2/3 cup cold water
5 eggs
1 (16-ounce) can pumpkin puree
Optional: 1 cup chopped toasted pecans or chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375F. Spray two 9×5 inch loaf pans with nonstick spray. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix together the wet ingredients in a medium-sized bowl until combined. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined. Pour into prepared loaf pans. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out dry.




Buckwheat Huckleberry Pancakes with Plum Ginger Compote


When looking for ways to quell pain, to stanch the source, people do interesting things. I know someone who signed up for a half marathon as a way to let her body know how really strong she is after something traumatic happened. Other people retreat into themselves and the comfort of their own company, even if one submersed in the waters of turmoil.

Then, there’s a matter of pancakes.

I’ve never really understood the lure of pancakes for breakfast probably because my Mama tried to keep our home relatively free of sugar. Like any good, enterprising child, though, I found my ways to break out of that rut and get the sweet fix. But pancakes in all their bready circular glory were lost on me. Even smeared with a pat of butter giving up the ghost or the rivulets of maple syrup meandering across the broad expanse, around and down the edges of the pancakes, I could never quite submit to the idea of this being my breakfast choice. French toast has suffered a similar fate and don’t get me started on bread pudding.

A few weeks back, we trolled the farmer’s market at Pike’s Place in Seattle. Between sampling chocolate noodles (bizarre) and locally made jam, my eye caught baskets of huckleberries, their tiny round reality brought me hither. And, like a delicious reminder of our weekend escapade, they bobbed in my carry-on, in the “travel-proof” packaging that had been fashioned from scraps.

Now, I’ve never eaten a huckleberry. The closest I can claim to having partaken of them would be a cocktail, concocted by Scott Beattie at a fundraiser earlier this year. His drink featured pickled huckleberries. I trusted my lips to that glass because Msr. Beattie has earned that right and I found those berries to be the tart cousin of the blueberry, but the one with all the swagger.

I considered folding these safely ensconced food souvenirs into homemade scones. I then thought about making a new batch of shrub or perhaps trying my hand at a specialty chutney.

Somehow, we ended up at pancakes.

Pancakes- that dark breakfast horse in the running came in first place as the winning steed. Go figure. I knew that their bold, sassy flair needed something as equally compelling and here my noble fascination, some might even say obsession with buckwheat came into play. Here, at last, I had found a suitor suitable for my heroine. And to take it up a notch, I had free leftover cereal from work that I thought might do something interesting texturally.

Cue a phone call from a friend bound in personal strife. As our conversation about one thing began devolving into terrain that took her almost to tears, I ushered an invitation to come over and enjoy a home-cooked meal that Friday.  I found myself mulling a variety of menu ideas, weighing them and looking for the right combination of elements that would compose a meal of healing and nourishment. I had a hunch pancakes might be a part of that equation and began sourcing ingredients.

Friday arrived and not too soon. In the process of trying out one recipe for a project, time elapsed more quickly than I could have imagined. Waiting by the stove, the bowl of pancake batter had been mixed and was ready to be spooned onto a hot pan. I let it wait thinking I would let her do the pancake-making honors.  The doorbell buzzed and before long, she was suited up in an apron.

The routine went something like this: brush oil onto the hot pan and ladle pancake batter onto its sizzling surface. Watch for holes to begin pocking the face of the batter as if the man in the moon had descended from on high. Lift a corner to check for doneness. Flip and watch for the few minutes it took to ensure the other side had cooked. Remove from the pan and repeat.

We chattered about current projects and life, then plunged into silence, as the simple task began to take on new form. I began to understand the role pancakes can play in one’s repertoire of recipes.

I don’t usually set a guest to work but kind of understood this consecrated time of talk baking into silence was exactly what would bring restoration to my highly creative friend. I knew the cooking, conversation, even the luscious pancakes would not change her circumstances. But perhaps the rote movements, the simplicity of task and meditation of being fully present might be breeding grounds for renewal. We had quickly settled on the idea that the pancakes would be rustic- no need for perfect rounds here.  And so, as we slid them onto their plates, she showed me how to serve them Swedish-style and I dripped yogurt and ginger plum compote on mine. We sank into the happy silence of solitude that good friendships and good food can bring on a dime. When she left, I knew I had unlocked a great truth through a humble breakfast food. I now had an ace up my sleeve.






These pancakes smell and taste reminiscent of the fall with their bold flavors and comforting presence. Do note that these are not the sturdy buttermilk pancakes made of all-purpose flour but do have more heft. I would encourage you to try them as my creative friend enjoyed them- Swedish-style with a spritz of fresh lemon juice and sprinkling of powdered sugar. If you’ve got an itch though to crack open the door to fall, go for the version as lined out below. I would heartily suggest not skimping on your yogurt and using a plain whole milk yogurt. Then, if you have sad plums, nearly bursting at the seams with juices. Neglected plums work well in this compote and you will certainly give them a second life. I find that a little bit of the compote and yogurt end up working their way into one another from the heat of the pancakes.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
YIELD: 16 pancakes  & ½ cup of compote


1 cup buckwheat flour

1 ¼ cup buckwheat and hemp cereal, coarsely ground (yields 1 cup once ground)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon real salt

3 tablespoons maple sugar

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup buttermilk

2 cups plain kefir

1 cup huckleberries


Plum Ginger Compote

6 very ripe plums

¼ teaspoon freshly grated ginger

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

¼ teaspoon cinnamon


Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and maple sugar. Then whisk in the ground buckwheat and hemp cereal a stroke or two. Next, stir in the eggs, buttermilk and kefir until just combined and then gently stir in the huckleberries.

Prepare your large pan by brushing it with safflower oil and setting it on medium high heat. Add ¼ cup of pancake batter to the pan and let cook for about 2 minutes before flipping. Let cook on the other side for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and start a stack of pancakes on a large plate.

Chop up your plums and begin to cook them down with the brown sugar, ginger and cinnamon over low medium heat. I kind of gently mashed them in the pan with the back side of my spoon to draw out all of the water from the plums. Cook them for until most of the liquid has been cooked out, about 5-7 minutes. Now, you can certainly cook them for the earlier side of the time for more liquid but you don’t want the compote to be runny, unless you do. Your choice.

Serve your pancakes with a dollop of whole milk yogurt and a spoonful of the ginger plum compote.




Green Tea Granola


This past Saturday, early in the morning, we decked out tables with pink and coral tablecloths in front of Noe Valley Pets and nearby Omnivore Books. As San Francisco food bloggers arrived with their freshly baked goods, we assembled them into categories by price and hugged the participating bakers or in my case tackled them with iPhone instagram photo-taking.

san-francisco-food-bloggers-bakesale san-francisco-food-bloggers-bakesale-tableomnivore-books

A box of cherry chocolate macarons flanked a box of mini macarons on one table. On another gorgeous loaves of sprouted wheat sourdough and miso rye bread sat near a dark chocolate earl grey tart. Dispersed over the tables we positioned s’mores cookies near bubblegum marshmallows and gluten free chocolate chip cookies.

allison from bake your heart outstephanie-shih-desserts-for-breakfastariel-jutkowitz

Peanut butter chocolate dream bars schemed with nearby peanut butter and jelly cheesecake bars. Chocolate raspberry sables were situated near strawberry tarts. From the cheery presence of a table well filled with sweet treats, passersby began meandering over to the San Francisco Food Bloggers Bake Sale before we opened.


Throughout the day, a steady stream of people popped by the table as bakers mingled, catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. This is truly one of the joys of participating in something like a bake sale.

From the desire to do good in our community comes community. This is priceless.


I have enjoyed working with Anita, Irvin and Shauna the past few years to organize the bake sale. In fact, I still remember befriending Irvin that first year as we both were the only bakers to bake gluten free. New friendships have been a bake sale perk. All of the amazing volunteer food blogger bakers make the bake sale one happy event. Aside from this, our reason to bake is bigger than us. At Taste of the Nation, there was a prevailing attempt to keep front of mind the reason for the fete and likewise, we had some good opportunities to talk with people at the bake sale who walked by, interested in baked goods as much as the cause at hand. It surprises me still to hear the statistic that 1 in 5 children in the Bay Area are at risk of hunger.

Being a part of the nationwide Great American Bake Sale and joining hundreds of home cooks baking across the United States for Share our Strength is something that reminds us that the issue is much larger than just something occurring in the Bay Area. The work being done to bring awareness and resources to the issue is far bigger too. I’m happy to report raising $1140 for Share our Strength was a sweet way to spend a Saturday in Noe Valley this April.



A healthy food blogger friend and I chatted recently and he lamented that bake sales never have healthy choices from which to choose. I apparently decided to take that as a challenge and whipped up a batch of granola with just enough oil and a hint of sweetener. I had a tendency of munching on a few tendrils of Gyokuro tea leaves at my desk with their walnut flavor and had been toying with baking them into granola for a while now. I’ve baked it into shortbread cookies for the Bake Sale for Japan last year. This is not a particularly sweet granola. Instead, you’ll find it to be slightly roasted in flavor  from the amaranth, sesame and oats with a delightful nutty accent of the walnuts and green tea mingling with just a hint of maple syrup and agave. I give some suggestions of how to modify this recipe in a few end notes.

YIELDS: 7 pint sized mason jars (perfect for a bake sale fundraiser – cut out colorful labels listing the ingredients so shoppers with food allergies can be informed.)

4 cups rolled oats

2 cups chopped walnuts

1/4 cup sesame seeds

3 tablespoons amaranth

1 cup sultanas (golden raisins)

2 tablespoons Gyokuro green tea

6 tablespoons grapeseed oil

3 tablespoons agave

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon cardamom

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt


1. Preheat oven to 350. Place a sheet of parchment onto a four-sided baking sheet.

2. Place a pan over medium high heat and let the pan get hot. Test that the pan is hot enough by putting a drop of water in the pan. If it sizzles, then the pan is hot enough and you’re ready. Pour the amaranth in your hot pan 1 tablespoon at a time. The amaranth pops quickly, so take heed for they will burn quickly.

3. Pour the popped amaranth after it’s popped, into a bowl with oats, walnuts, sultanas and sesame seeds. Stir the mixture.

4. In a small sauce pan and over low heat combine the grapeseed oil, maple syrup, agave, cardamom, salt and Gyokuro tea leaves. Stir until heated through and combined. The green tea leaves will tinge the sweetened oil slightly.

5. Stir the green tea oil into the oat mixture until coated. Pour the green tea granola onto the baking sheet and spread it out evenly. Bake for 25 minutes in the oven and stir twice during the baking. Place the baking sheet of granola on a rack after it’s done to harden and cool.

MAKE IT GLUTEN FREE: Use certified gluten free oats in place of regular rolled oats. Also, if you’re going this route, make sure all equipment used is thoroughly washed down if it might have come in contact with gluten. Keep all wheat products and products with gluten segregated from your work surface and away from ingredients you’re using to make your granola.

LIKE IT SWEET: Add another tablespoon of maple syrup. That will still only give you a slight maple flavor. If you really want it sweeter, my suggestion would be to top some vanilla yogurt or other flavored yogurt which are typically pretty high in sweetener with an ounce of granola.




Winter Wheat Berry Porridge


In the fall, I find myself waking up and craving something hot for breakfast. I wish I could say that means I wake up early enough to make steel cut oats every morning, but that would be far too organized for this night owl turned day worker.

You can imagine my delight the other morning when I cooked a ridiculous amount of wheat berries for a work project and found my new favorite oatmeal alternative. Ladies and gentlemen, introducing whole wheat berry porridge. There’s nothing new about this. Porridge is a term that might conjure up Goldilocks and some bears, but in essence involves whole grains cooked in water or milk and eaten hot. My version involves silky vanilla yogurt matched with the mildly tart flavor of apricot and accented with walnuts. Served warm, this hits the spot.

My suggestion is to cook the batch size below and it will feed you all week long and then some. The recipe below involves two parts: cooking the wheat berries in advance and then the second part is the process involved for the daily portioning. You can chop up all the apricots and walnuts in advance and keep in glass containers, prepped and ready for the mornings coming up or try different toppings throughout the week.

Any way you cook it up, this is a breakfast for champions in those darkened winter months.

  cooked whole wheat berries


YIELD: Makes enough to create 9 Porridge Parfaits
TIME: 1 hour
From Eating Well

  1. Sift through wheat berries for any rocks and then rinse.
  2. Place wheat berries in a heavy pot with the water and salt.
  3. Bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, reduce heat to simmer and cover.
  4. Steam for an hour.
  5. Then drain in a colander.
  6. Measure out ½ cup warm wheat berries into small bowl. Place remaining cooked wheat berries in a sealed container.

whole wheat berry winter porridge parfaits recipe

Winter Wheat Berry Porridge

NOTE: If you’re not a fan of flavored yogurt and want more of a porridge experience swap in 1/2 cup milk and 1 tsp. raw honey for the vanilla yogurt below and warm the wheat berries in the honeyed milk. Scrumptious.

YIELD: 1 serving
TIME: 5 minutes (10 minutes for the morning disinclined)

  • 3 dried apricots, chopped
  • 5 walnuts, chopped
  • ¼ cup vanilla yogurt
  • ½ cup cooked whole wheat berries

1. Warm up your wheat berries in the microwave if you have one or in a colander with hot water running over them. I’m sure you could also reheat them on the stovetop- the key is to warm them up, however you like best. In our non-microwave house, I opt for the hot water in a colander method. Very scientific.

2. Add wheat berries into bowl and then pour yogurt on top. Mix in chopped apricots and walnuts.

3. Stir and serve.

NOTE: You can always blend the cooked wheat berries, apricots and walnuts in a to-go container to take to work with the yogurt on the side, for you to pour in and stir after you’ve heated it up at the office.




Hunger Challenge Day 5: Green Smoothie Recipe

Green Smoothie

Beck and I are living off of $4.72 per day per person this week as part of the SF Food Bank’s Hunger Challenge. This includes  preparation and time… With a restricted budget, there are foods that don’t make it in and there are cravings. I’m blogging my ramblings of the challenge this week.



The alarm blared against the edges of my sleep yesterday, and truth be told, the day before that, shaving off too many minutes. I can’t explain it well, but I’ve been tired and in need of pepping myself into energy, go-tackle mode. I blame it on our mattress and possibly the rumbling thing that is my stomach. Going into this, we knew we needed to balance our proteins and veggies with grains. Wednesday in particular had me running on low but quite energetic. Friday was one of those days of pulling myself to catch up with the clock.

Not good.

So I wonder what fatigue is like for people on food stamps. And beyond them, what is it like for the ultra poor in third world countries. Yes, it is difficult to live on $4.72 per day, but this challenge is showing me what it looks like. A taste only. As I write these words, I feel exposed. I do not live on food stamps. The best I can do to garner a semblance of understanding this is consider my meals and food budget for the week and tailor it to the amount proffered to Californians living on food stamps. To talk about my experience this week might be to actually offend someone living on food stamps but that is not my intent.

My eyes are wide open and I am learning.

I wonder about the mothers and fathers who take half of their portion and give it to their child. I wonder what bedtime and the growling thing that is their stomach looks like for them. And then I think back to a slum in East Delhi… my friends bestowing great acts of hospitality in the form of dusty but chilled bottles of cola and Limca. I can imagine the fatigue, that dull sense of being tired is something you have to push through. I think of our homeless friend Thomas, sleeping in the park and what dinner and bedtime look like for him. And I am inspired by their facial lines and edges, their tenacity to keep going in the midst of hardship I cannot appreciate.

When I interviewed Chris of Incanto earlier this year for my work with SOS, he said something that really stood out to me. He cited one reason that he chose to participate as part of Taste of the Nation involved being a dad and knowing that at his child’s school, he knew kids who counted on the food they’d get during school hours. He wanted other kids to have an opportunity to build childhood taste memories. I am reminded how that’s also true for the adults.

Hunger, to those of us especially in the food industry is something we want to address naturally. Feeding others and ourselves and doing it well is a gift that we enjoy bestowing on the people around us. It is disconcerting to encounter a problem so big that can threaten to dissolve possible action.

It can cause inertia. It can make a person awfully tired.

And I would reckon that this might be the best reason to take the hunger challenge. Even though the SF Food Bank’s hunger challenge officially ends on Sunday, there’s nothing to stop you from trying it for a week and sharing your perspective. Awareness happens one conversation at a time.

Awareness and change are borne through people with passion. Sounds like something worth getting tired over, right?

Green Smoothie

Green Smoothie recipe

On the mornings we had the most pep, you can bet this smoothie had something to do with it. You can’t taste the spinach but you reap all of its great nutrients. We added oats for extra heft and the peanut butter gives a dose of protein. Naturally sweet bananas round out this popular smoothie combination. Our ice cube tray makes small cubes, so I’d encourage focusing on texture of the smoothie rather than a specific amount. I like my smoothies thick but fluid enough to drink, but maybe you like yours thinner?

TIME: 5 minutes
SERVES: 2 portions
COST: $1.04 per person


1/2 cup almond milk

1 cup spinach leaves, washed and dried

2 bananas, peeled and sliced

1 tablespoon peanut butter

2 tablespoons rolled oats

1 cup ice


Add the milk, spinach, banana, peanut butter, and oats into the blender. Start the blender on slow speed, working up to a high speed until pureed.  I like to add the ice after the blender has begun working, starting with three ice cubes at a time, continuing to add ice, a cube at a time until it’s frosty and thick, about 1 cup of ice.


Hunger Challenge Day 3: Spinach Quiche Cups

Spinach Quiche Cups

Nathan and I are living off of $4.72 per day per person this week as part of the SF Food Bank’s Hunger Challenge. This includes  preparation and time… I’m blogging my ramblings of the challenge this week.



Sometimes, there’s an itch you really want to scratch and you can’t quite scratch it. A spot under your shoulder blade. Orangettes from Fauchon. My cravings are typical and exotic at the same time just like anyone else. This week though, they’ve taken on a more commonplace tone.

In hearing the clink of coffee cups, the swoosh of cereal in a bowl, I’m Pavlov’s creature. All of a sudden, I feel a need for dark coffee tinged with organic milk and raw honey. I hear my heart’s desire say the words “Corn” and “Flakes”. Oh dear.

Hunger does interesting things to a person.

In a room full of my peers who know me, like me and usually let me lead our motley band in sun salutations in the afternoons, I feel left out. This challenge is my choice for the week, but it gives me a small perspective on what it might feel like else-wise. I may be taking this challenge too far by not drinking the free coffee at work, but I think one of the aims is to stretch beyond my comfort zone. Interestingly, I am drinking more water than I have thought to put down in a day and that is itself a great boon. It does something to the spirit and attacks  self-worth. There are moments when I want to throw in the towel, want to join in the festivities and yet that is not my path this week. I’m feeling distracted and slightly edgy, which means to say ornery with a capital O. Yesterday the idea of a chocolate malt made with Double Rainbow Ultra Chocolate took root and I spoke it aloud, hoping its power would subside.

Eating on a restricted budget the way we are doing it chez nous, is a lot like dieting. A lot of no’s.

Would you like to come over for dinner?
Do you want to go grab lunch after our meeting?

Dieting as I knew it in my earlier years involves restriction too albeit different restrictions. Saying no with carte blanche abandon. For a week I am forced to ignore my pantry, my company foodstuffs and blithely go on the way of food set aside and purchased for this week’s consumption.

This is not easy folks.

So where I am today, what I am choosing to linger on is goodness. Boy, this kale tastes like the fields. The brightness of the flavor of lemon. The nuttiness of brown rice grains.  Crispety crunch of nature-sweetened apple slices with roasted nut butter. And so on. I’m redirecting the ship by thinking about what is possible. What I can have.

And that makes a world of difference.

Spinach Quiche Cups

Spinach Quiche Cups

  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups spinach, shredded
  • 1/4 cup onion, minced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a six-tin muffin pan. Place a medium-sized saute pan over medium low heat. Once hot drizzle in the oil and swirl to coat. Add the onions and saute, stirring occasionally until almost translucent, about 8 minutes. Stir in the spinach until cooked, about 2 minutes. Cool the vegetables for 5 minutes. Whisk the eggs, adding in the milk, salt, and pepper to combine. Add the vegetables to the eggs, stirring to integrate. Pour the egg mixture into the muffin tin about 3/4 of the way full. Bake until the eggs are cooked through, around 25-30 minutes depending on your oven.


Elberta Fay Peaches with Ricotta & Mint

DESSERT RECIPES- Elberta Fay Peaches with Ricotta & Mint

There are times when you want something simple.

Perhaps that entails coming home after working a Monday, which really means Saturday, Sunday and Monday rolled into one long cigarillo that’s got you slightly lit up. Maybe you’re like me with a sweet tooth that runs deep and you’re trying to find healthier ways to sate the beast.

This recipe is simply good.

The key is starting with great ingredients, but you do that anyway, right? Recently, we made a batch of fresh homemade ricotta which is unbelievably lush and silky. I snuck a spoonful and licked the spoon clean. I eyed a peach in the fruit bowl and the mind started playing its tricks of tasting without tasting with the tongue. Creamy. Sweet with that tang of sunshine in forgiving flesh. Bright mint. Yes, this trio tasted like summer.

What I planned for dessert ended up becoming an afternoon treat.

elberta fay peaches

You can use nectarines, peaches found in the produce section of your store or if you happen upon some Elberta Fay Peaches, watch out. These beauties are best unadulterated. And that’s the key to summer anyways, isn’t it? It is the season for simplicity if ever there was one.  It is the best time to enjoy cool thick ricotta with juicy slices of peach and mint. It is a season for more people time and less kitchen time.

Peach, meet ricotta and mint- I think you all will be fast friends.

ricotta and peach recipe



Elberta Fay Peaches with Ricotta and Mint

(VARIATION: This combo would work well on a crostini. If you go that route, add your peach slices and sliced mint leaves to 1 T organic butter in a saute pan and saute over low heat for a few minutes or until peaches begin to fall apart slightly. Smear ricotta on crostini and top with a spoonful of peach.)


1. Cut your peach into slices and then layer in a small bowl.

2. Spoon in the fresh homemade ricotta.

3. Add the mint leaves whole or you could also slice them up.

(Optional: You can also sprinkle a dash of Saigon cinnamon on top and that is a lovely addition. Or enjoy as is.)




Blueberry Cream Pie Overnight Oats

Blueberry Overnight Oats

Sometimes I’m late to the party. And this would be one of those times.

Overnight oats is an online blogging creation and like all good things online, it does feel a bit crowdsourced. Some people like it with nut butter. Others with chia. I’ve been personally drooling on a variation with cacao nibs but for this particular recipe of breakfast decadence, I went the route of pie.

Blueberry cream pie.

blueberry overnight oats in a jar recipe

I’m not sure about you, but I go through spurts of ingredient obsession and this is the year smitten by blueberries. They are my sweet treat in bite-sized morsels. And sometimes they like to get dolled up.

I make my overnight oats in small mason jars and they really are the perfect take-to-work breakfast for those days when something more indulgent is called for. I’ve made it with non-fat cow’s milk yogurt and with goat’s milk yogurt, but sometimes you don’t want the tang. Sometimes you want to splurge.

And this friends, is the recipe to make my non-morning self excited to get out of bed.

You’re still getting oats and lovely probiotics from yogurt, but what makes this recipe fall in the category of decadence is sugar and fat. We’re talking whole milk yogurt here, the kind you might bypass in favor of something less fattening. Then add to that shredded coconut and coconut milk–  this is one creamy dish  to get your week started on an unexpected celebratory note.

Because let’s be honest. Monday needs a bit of oomph sometimes.

overnight oats in a jar recipe



Blueberry Cream Pie Overnight Oats

(Here’s the thing. I love oatmeal by itself and most overnight oats recipe use a ratio of 1 part oats to 1 part yogurt and 1 part milk (nut / soy / cow’s). I’ve had it that way and wanted more oats. So to compensate, I let my oats and goodness gel a whole day longer and added another 1/4 cup coconut milk the next day. The result was silkiness and a ridiculously creamy texture. They might be more aptly named Double Overnight Oats but lest there are too many descriptors already, so we’re staying as is. *You can try this recipe below without the extra day factored in and using the ratio mentioned in the beginning of this pre-cursor cum diatribe if you’re wont to. )

YIELD: Makes 1 decadent little jar of goodness

  • 1/2 cup rolled organic oats
  • 1/4 cup Straus whole milk organic vanilla yogurt
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon shredded coconut, unsweetened
  • 2 tablespoons organic blueberries, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon pecans, chopped or broken by hand
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground Saigon cinnamon
  • 1/2 sheet organic honey graham, crumbled

1. Place the oats, yogurt, 1/4 cup of coconut milk, shredded coconut, cinnamon and rinsed blueberries in your small mason jar. Stir and then seal. Let sit overnight.

2. The next morning add in 1/4 cup of coconut milk. Seal and let sit overnight.*

3. Add crumbled graham cracker and pecan bits to your oats and stir.