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Peaches, berries and summer fare

It’s our last morning of a week-long retreat in the mountains of Lake Tahoe. As I type, sitting in front of a wide, sun-lit window, I am gazing out over the calm, glassy lake and marveling in the stillness of nature. 

I have had plenty of time to cook and bake this week. Somehow, whenever I’m on “vacation,” I am not only hungrier but I crave sweet treats much more often. I am definitely not one to ever skip dessert, but since my family is so active I wanted to make something that wouldn’t weigh us down. 

This had me grabbing peaches and berries by the armful. Fruit makes such a wonderful dessert. Inherently sweet, and you don’t need much to dress it up. I used the fruit all week long in so many ways!

Juicy peaches and blackberries made a quick cobbler. A great topping is the one here, or you could simply toss some oats with maple syrup and butter (or coconut oil) and sprinkle over.

Baked oatmeal always tastes so indulgent for breakfast. Like cold pie on the day after Thanksgiving. This one, based on the recipe here, used peaches, blueberries and almonds.

Plump and delicate raspberries were the stars of these unbelievable bars. The crust is based on the one I use for Pecan Pie Squares, only with maple syrup instead of brown sugar. With only a handful of ingredients necessary to throw them together, along with their ability to be served warm, at room temperature, or cold, I’ll be making these all summer long. 

Stay tuned for recipes in the coming posts. With the holiday weekend upon us, these next few days are sure to find me feasting some more. I’m anxious to know: What summer fare will grace your tables?


Blueberry Bread

Of all the fruits in the world, blueberries are far and away my favorite. They top my granola, fill my pies, become bubbly and fragrant beneath cobbler crust, leave swirly purple trails in my yogurt, are juicy and plump in my pancakes, and, of course, are baked into moist breads. 

These days, I find them at the market in towering displays that suggest anything but scarcity. With a stroke of luck, I discovered them on sale at Whole Foods last week and scooped them up by the armful. I ate a whole pint in one sitting. 


Since I’ve had little time for the weekend morning baking that I love so much, today’s project needed to be something special. My grandmother makes an amazing blueberry cake that she sprinkles with powdered sugar upon completion, and the smell of it baking never fails to remind me of summer and special family gatherings. A breakfast version is what I had in mind as I delicately folded the violet berries into a lighter, whole grain batter this morning. With applesauce and yogurt replacing heavier fats; a mix of brown rice, almond a coconut flours instead of wheat; and medjool dates en lieu of sugar, this bread is virtuous and completely wholesome. 

With my craving for blueberry bread healthfully satisfied, all I need now is a good dose of family. What are your favorite food memories?

Blueberry Bread :: Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups brown rice flour 1/2 cup almond flour 2 Tablespoons coconut flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 cup vanilla almond milk 2 eggs 3 medjool dates, pitted and chopped zest of 1 orange 1/2 cup lowfat plain yogurt 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries


  1. Preheat oven (see step 5) and line a greased loaf pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flours and baking powder. Set aside.
  3. In a blender, whir milk, eggs, dates, and zest until frothy. Add yogurt and applesauce and blend to combine.
  4. Gently fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Stir in blueberries.
  5. Transfer batter evenly into the loaf pan. I baked mine at 325 degrees for well over an hour, but next time I plan to try it at 350 for less time.
  6. Once a toothpick comes out with dry crumbs, remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and serve, or allow to come to room temperature and then wrap in parchment. Keep in the refrigerator for a few days. 

This month, time is of the essence

If you’ve ever skipped breakfast due to time constraints, this post is for you.

Last semester, I used to get up at 4:30 a.m. out of necessity. See, I really like getting up early; 5:00 is no big deal for me, even when I don’t have to be anywhere until 10. The morning hours are my absolute favorite time of day, and I savor them. But when I had to get up at 4:30 and rush like a madwoman just to stuff a bite or two of quinoa porridge in my mouth, I had issues. 

I watch my dad leave the house between 6:15 and 6:30 every morning, sometimes taking the time to sit down and eat, unless he’s running late, when he’ll scurry out the door with some sort of portable breakfast in hand. And this works fine for him. But if you ask me, breakfast should not only be mandatory, it should be enjoyed. Somehow I don’t think that many of us remember the importance of nutrition when we’re trying to be speedy. So I took it upon myself to teach us all how.

This month’s column focuses on easy breakfast ideas to make ahead on Sunday and enjoy all week long. You’re going to feel like such a star when you wake up Monday morning and… breakfast is already waiting for you! Read the column here

Remember this baked oatmeal recipe? It’s perfect for the new organized and efficient you. I’m sure it would be a hit with kids, too!


Quinoa Pancakes with Cranberry-Apple Compote

Encased in my new rain coat, the hems of my jeans heavy with water, I found myself trudging through the downpour last Wednesday in search of tea and chocolate. It was on this trek that ideas for a decadent weekend breakfast started flying around in my head. I often dream of hearty and warming comfort foods when trapped in less-than-comfortable situations. Wednesday was no exception.

I originally wanted to make gingerbread pancakes, because I’ve been craving its spicy and seasonal essence ever since we hit December. Gingerbread never fails to completely envelop me in holiday spirit. But as I began to measure ingredients and search the premises for compote-appropriate fruit, I found myself making something else entirely.

The batter for these cakes still contains a fair amount of ground ginger and is sweetened only with molasses, but what really shines is the addition of toasted almond meal and the way it dances on the palate with the subtly-spiced compote. Before I grind my almonds into meal, I let them roast for a bit to become fragrant and delicate. This makes a world of difference.

I also added some quinoa I’d prepared for breakfast the day before, which contributed a chewiness and unique, dense texture. It made the cakes especially filling and even more protein-packed, a perfect way to start the day.

On a different note, after Wednesday’s rainstorm we had the most beautiful sunset over the hills. The colors, like macerated strawberries fading into cotton candy, seemed to bleed out of the skyline and saturate what was left of the light. A sight like this never fails to make me feel completely alive and in awe of the earth. Gazing at it, I feel renewed.


Quinoa Pancakes with Cranberry-Apple Compote // Makes 10 small cakes


3/4 cup whole-grain spelt flour

1/2 cup almond meal

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch of salt

1/3 cup prepared quinoa

3 tablespoons molasses

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/2 cup plain yogurt

3 tablespoons melted coconut oil or butter (or substitute light olive oil)

seeds from 1-inch section of vanilla bean, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup water


1 apple, chopped (I leave the skin on)

1/2 cup frozen cranberries (not thawed)

apple juice

1 cinnamon stick

pinch of ground cloves

1 tablespoon honey (optional)


-In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, almond meal, baking soda & powder, spices, and salt. Set aside.

-In a medium bowl, whisk together the quinoa, molasses, egg, yogurt, melted oil or butter, and vanilla bean. Add wet ingredients to dry, stirring just until incorporated. Add the 1/4 cup water slowly, if needed, to thin the batter. Set aside and let rest while you make the compote.

-In a medium saucepan, combine fruit, spices and honey, then add enough apple juice to just barely cover. Simmer over medium or medium-low heat, stirring occassionally, until cranberries have burst and apples are very soft, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and remove cinnamon stick. With a potato masher or pastry cutter, slightly mash everything together. Stir, cover, and set aside until ready to serve.

-To cook the quinoa pancakes, preheat a nonstick skillet or cast-iron griddle over medium-low heat. Grease with coconut oil or butter if desired. Scoop batter by 1/4-cupfull onto the pan and cook until bubbles begin to form, about 4-5 minutes. The batter is delicate and the pancakes will be very soft, so you want to cook them low, long and thoroughly or else they will be hard to flip. Once cooked on one side, flip and cook for another 2 minutes or so. Continue until all batter is used.

-Serve pancakes with plenty of compote. I didn’t need any maple syrup!


Baked Buckwheat Oatmeal with Cranberries, Dried Figs & Pistachios

I miss my fresh figs. Each day for about four weeks in October, I fervently pluck them from our tree with fear that there won’t be any left tomorrow. We were fortunate this year that no greedy squirrels got to them. Either they took no notice of the sweet bounty hiding in our backyard, or the little fox living under the patio scared them away. At least, we like to pretend it’s a fox; it could easily just be a gopher or two, coming out of hiding in the dark to nibble at fallen fruit.

While Winter means fresh figs are unattainable, it also means that if you can find some good quality, unsulphured dried ones, your life will taste almost as good. I was able to get my hands on some of the Calimyrna variety, ones which seem to dry more plump and with a sweet, sugary residue on the outside. They were an addition to my breakfast this past weekend: A dreamy baked oatmeal, reminiscent of my favorite fruit cobbler.

The smell, upon emerging from the oven, is intoxicating and inexplicably buttery. As I was bringing some to my mom later that morning it sat, patiently, on the passenger seat next to me and filled the car with a life-altering and heavenly aroma. Half of it was already gone.

When serving for yourself, top with a dollop of creamy yogurt and a drizzle of raw honey, as I did. Scoop all the succulent juices from the bottom of the pan. Go back for seconds. Go back for thirds and call it lunch. I would also advise making it dinner, however I doubt any will remain.

If you don’t like buckwheat, or haven’t any on hand, simply use a full cup of oats instead. The result will be a tad more crisp, but no less delicious.


Baked Buckwheat Oatmeal with Cranberries, Dried Figs & Pistachios // Serves 4 comfortably

-Adapted from Seven Spoons

Ingredients coconut oil for greasing the baking dish 3/4 cup thick rolled oats (not instant)

1/4 cup roasted buckwheat “kasha”

1/2 cup shelled pistachios, chopped 4 dried Calimyrna figs, diced 2 tablespoons flax seeds 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt 3/4 cup coconut milk (full fat) plus enough water to make 1 1/3 cups liquid

3 tablespoons raw honey 1 large egg white 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted seeds scraped from a 1-inch section of vanilla bean 3/4 cup frozen cranberries (not thawed) for serving: plain yogurt and more raw honey or maple syrup


Preheat oven to 375’. Lightly grease the inside of an 8″ round baking dish with coconut oil and set aside (alternatively, you can use a square 8×8 glass pan). Line the bottom of a large rimmed baking sheet with foil.

In a medium bowl, mix together the oats, buckwheat, pistachios, dried figs, flax seeds, baking powder, spices and salt. Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together the coconut milk/water, egg white, melted coconut oil, vanilla bean seeds and honey. Set aside.

In the prepared baking dish, scatter the cranberries evenly in the bottom. Pile the oat mixture to evenly cover the berries. Carefully pour the wet milk mixture over the oats; it will not completely cover the oats with liquid; this is okay. If you use a pie plate, it will be very full.

Place on rimmed baking sheet lined with foil (to catch any spillage) and bake for 45 minutes, until the oatmeal is puffed and set, with a golden brown top.

Remove from the oven, allow to cool for a few minutes, then enjoy.

Makes about 4-5 hearty servings.

*Variations: Instead of cranberries, dried figs and pistachios, try: Grated apples with raisins and walnuts or diced persimmon with currants and buttery pecans.