Healthy cookies? Hell Yes!!!

As a Personal chef, I’m always on the hunt for the newest, best recipes supporting the latest trends and diets. I cook for clients who follow certain diets and in order to make sure they stay on track, it’s my job to make their meals colorful enough. And, if you have sweet cravings, there must be something out there to satisfy your needs while staying within the dietary guidelines, right?? Right! I found this recipe on “Livin Paleo”  – I found many more treasures there, so I am sure to be coming for more later. Reading the recipe for these cookies, I loved the ingredients and immediately tried it at home.

Who said dieting has to be boring, “chewing cardboard” or “choking on salads”? If you follow the latest trends as your lifestyle change (which, honestly, any diet should be, unless you want to enjoy the famous yo-yo effect when you go off it), you can bet that soon there is enough passionate volunteers sharing exciting recipes to make it more interesting and flavorful.

The result was truly delicious, soft and flavorful cookie I can have with my coffee guilt-free. I am a big fan of cinnamon not just for its taste, but also its enormous health benefits, so I wasn’t shy with cinnamon use inside and out. Hope you enjoy it too!

Paleo Cinnamon Cookies
Paleo Cinnamon Cookies

Paleo Cinnamon Cookies

  • 1/4 cup of raw honey
  • 1/4 cup of organic coconut oil, melted
  • 1 whole organic egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla (I used Vanilla extract with Stevia from Whole Foods)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of almond flour/meal
  • 1 tsp coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon and 3 more for dusting
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • sprinkle of salt

Yield: about 14 small/medium size cookies

Preheat oven to 350˚F and put a jar of coconut oil and honey (if yours crystallized) on the (turned off) stove so it can naturally melt as the oven preheats. Mix almond flour with coconut flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, baking soda and add pinch of salt to combine.

In the cup, beat one egg with fork and add to the dry mix. Add vanilla extract (or real beans’ seeds if preferred), honey, melted coconut oil and mix well to combine. The result batter should look like this:

Healthy Cinnamon Cookies
The batter for Paleo Cinnamon Cookies


Form small balls in the palm of your hands (I used the smallest, 1/8 cup measurement spoon to make sure I have similar sized cookies), and roll in cinnamon you sprinkled on a plate. You may need more than 3 tablespoons of cinnamon powder, depends how generous you’re with dusting.


Cinnamon powder

Lay cookies on the baking sheet – flattening the balls into similar cookie shapes. I flattened the cookies already in the cinnamon “bath” so they get more cinnamon on them.


Bake for 10 minutes. After they’re done, they will feel soft to the touch. Do not move them until they cool off. Let them sit on the counter on the baking sheet for moment. By the time they cool off, cookies develop a thin, soft skin. Don’t expect a crunchy, hard cookie though. This is a soft, moist  goodness, full of flavors.

I just love them – and they’re full of healthy protein!!! Enjoy!


My super-food salad

It was one of those days when you feel like something light, refreshing, delicious …. and good for you. Easy task, right? Since I live in Florida, I feel like eating like that almost all the time. Easier said than done. But this time, I just looked around what was in my fridge, in the pantry, and whipped out this super delicious salad – I hope you would enjoy as well. I called it:

Super-food Salad
Super-food Salad

My Super-food Salad

For the salad:

  • 1 cup of quinoa
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 4 scallions
  • 1 green pepper
  • 6 Campari tomatoes
  • ½ cucumber
  • Small piece of ginger root – minced
  • Black sesame seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Feta crumbles

For dressing:

  • Organic olive or coconut oil
  • Lime juice from 2 limes
  • Cilantro
  • Mint
  • Salt and freshly grated pepper

Avocado – on top (optional)


Cook one cup of quinoa in 2 cups of chicken stock (per instructions), fluff with fork when cooked and let cool in large salad bowl.

Clean and chop green peppers, scallions, cucumber (skin on or off, whatever you prefer), clean and chop ginger root and tomatoes – everything to very small pieces.   Set aside until the quinoa is cooled off.

In dry frying pan roast black sesame seeds and chia seeds to release their flavor. Let sit and cool.

When quinoa cooled down to room temperature, add all the chopped vegetables , seeds and season the salad with salt and pepper. Sprinkle lime juice all over and add good quality organic olive or coconut oil.

Wash and chop both herbs (you can add parsley as well as chives, your own phantasy is your guide).

Add whole package of crumbled feta cheese and mix the salad so everything is evenly distributed.

I have served a bowl of the salad with half of avocado, sprinkled with lime juice and we just loved it! It is delicious on its own or as a side dish for your grilled chicken or some other delicious protein 🙂

Serve at the room temperature. I always make more – it keeps well in the fridge for another day or two. Always bring back to room temperature, mix and eventually add more lime juice.

Enjoy with a glass (or two) of crisp, refreshing citrusey (is that a word?) Gruner Veltliner, like one of my all time favorites, Weingut-Groiss


The healthiest dessert ever?

This old time family favorite is not only possibly the healthiest dessert ever, but it could also compete for a title of the simplest, yummiest desserts out there. I am not even kidding.

The healthiest dessert ever
The healthiest dessert ever

I came from family of 4 kids and my family didn’t have enough money for all the necessities. The way to cut on food cost was to grow some “food” ourselves. So we always had some vegetables and fruits planted in our back yard and as kids we were excited to help with the farming. The only bad thing about having fruit trees like cherry, plum or apple trees – or bushes of currant, or rows of strawberries and raspberries –  was the fact that they all ripe at the same time. So you go from zero to suddenly baskets of fruits that were perishable. Our mom had to quickly figure out what to do with it before it rotten and all that work is wasted. So our summer breaks were full of canning fruit, making jams, and preparing for winter. There was still plenty of fruit we can eat fresh while picking it, and plenty of desserts to enjoy.

Strawberry Snow  was one of the quickest, inexpensive, easiest to make, good for you but also some of the most delicious of fruit desserts.

To feed family of 5, all you need is:

  • 1lb of ripe strawberries
  • 2 organic eggs
  • 1-2 tablespoon of sugar (or agave or Stevia, if you want it super healthy)

Within 10 minutes you have heavenly light strawberry dessert that’s healthy protein loaded, no flour, no fat and no baking involved.

So what is it and how it’s done?

Wash strawberries, remove their stems and cut into small pieces (or pulse few times in the food processor). Don’t mush them all the way to watery substance, you will likely enjoy some pieces of fruit in your Strawberry Snow. Add sugar (to the taste) or sweetener substitute. I like to use agave nectar and leave it sweet and savory, not overly sweet. That’s everyone personal preference. Set aside.

Separate egg whites from yolks – very carefully, because if you only get a little piece of yolk into your whites, you ruin it and the “snow peaks” are not going to be firm enough. Keep yolks for your scrambled eggs in the morning (in the fridge) and beat egg whites with hand mixer on high speed until firm stiff peaks are formed – when you turn the mixer up side, the egg whites should be firm enough to stand. Make sure there is no liquid left on the bottom of your bowl.

Slowly, spoon by spoon, fold the strawberry mixture into the whipped egg whites. The foam will start to take on the strawberry color and it will be nice a fluffy. Spread into martini glasses and serve immediately. You can decorate each glass with mint if desired.

Strawberry snow
Strawberry snow

The only downside of this dessert is that you can’t keep it for later. Within 20-30 minutes of standing in room temperature or in fridge, the egg whites starts to loose its foam and will liquify again. But between two of us – this dessert is so yummy and so light, even the biggest dieter in your family will have second right away. I don’t think you will run into that problem anyway!

Are you in the mood for more?

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Have a picky eater at home?

Let’s talk about the V word here for a while. How do we get kids to eat their vegetables? Vegetables

I was raised very strict. We were four kids and my oldest sister was babysitting the rest of us. Yes, she still rubs it in my face any opportunity she gets. When I was born, my parents were DIY building their house (when they weren’t at work), so nobody had time to cater to us, kids. Nobody did my homework with me (I was just EXPECTED to bring good grates from school and stay out of trouble), nobody played with us. “Oh, you are bored? I will find you something to do!” (I hope you can hear my mom’s sarcastic voice?). We came from school and were expected to help around the house. The same applied for eating habits.

No, my mother never asked me what I wanted for dinner. She didn’t have time nor patience to cater to anybody. Now I sound like someone from the last century (which literally, I am, LOL). In my childhood, we were given a dinner. We were not allowed to complain about it. I could cry, hate something, but I had to eat it anyway. I remember how my father filled a soup plate full of spinach that I despised, and I couldn’t leave the table until that plate was empty. It was growing in my throat, I thought I wouldn’t be able to keep it in, but I did, out of fear, because I must. He was sitting there with me. Too traumatic perhaps? Well, I survived and turned all right. I think. Years later my father admitted that he hated spinach himself (If I only knew it then).

Picky eater
Picky eater

We had to eat our food, give thanks for the food provided, or go sleep hungry. The money was tide and we always heard parents talking about it, when it came to food. “What would hungry kids in Africa give for a meal like that?!” was my mom’s favorite phrase. It installed a guilt in me for not eating the food I was given. Was it an ideal approach? When I look back at it now, I find absolutely nothing wrong with it. It though me to appreciate someone’s work, the value of the food and installed some respect in me. Also, it made me understand that although we didn’t have much, we were still “rich” in comparison with some poor countries.

I know. Times changed. Is it better that we now have too much stuff, too many choices, way too many convenient solutions? So much that parents feel obligated to cater to their children’s every needs instead of teaching them good eating habits? Yes, sometimes it’s a hassle. But it’s a parent’s job to decide what’s good for kid’s diet, not the kid’s. Yes, we the adults know what’s good for them from our lifetime experience. How could your three years old possibly know? Oh yeah, I can hear some moms screaming at the computer right now – “That’s easy for you to say!”.

baby eating melon

But honestly – kids are picky because we let them. Don’t kill the messenger! Mistakes were made somewhere down the line. Parenting is hard job, and to install good eating habits in kids is super hard. One has to be inspiring, consistent and never give up.

PizzaRemember? When they were really, really little, they ate carrots, and sweet potato, and apple sauce. They ate what we gave them. So what changed? Are we too easy to give up when the kid doesn’t want something? How did pizza, hotdog, fish sticks, chicken nuggets, ketchup or macaroni and cheese became “kid’s food”? Who introduced it to them? I think that behind every picky eater is someone who just reached for the easiest solution. And then we are surprised that kids insist on whatever it is they are familiar with?

Are we too quick to offer an alternative so our precious little one doesn’t “struggle” or get “traumatized”? Or are we creating a much bigger problem for the future?! Today’s moms, feeling guilty that they had to work and don’t get so much time to spend with their kids, are not willing to use those few hours together fighting over the food. So we give them what they want.

It’s unfortunate. Families that make time to have a family dinner, no exceptions, insisting on having kids around the table every evening, eating the same that everybody else does, even have kids participating in food prep, install the best family values and eating habits in their offspring. Yes, I know families whose kids eat everything. Or at least, they have to try everything. They can’t just say: “I don’t like it”, and get something else. Because that’s what’s creating the problem. If I ever said to my mom: “I don’t like it,” first I think I will get a slap in the face (which I am not advocating here), and second she would definitely tell me: “Ok, go sleep. Guess what you’re having for breakfast!?”

Tough love, maybe, but in my mind it’s called discipline. Did I hate it when I was a child? You bet I did. But my mother was my mom, not my friend. I can appreciate it today though, when I see young moms struggling to get their kids to eat ANYTHING.

I know, when it gets to that point, it’s hard to deal with it or change it.

My friend recently asked me to come up with some ideas of a meal his daughter would eat – something that would give her a serving of vegetables. In other words, if she spotted anything green or red (like carrot) in her food, she will fish out every little tiny piece of it or refuse to eat it all together. She ate no vegetables whatsoever. Hm, although I am quite opinionated there (who would ever guess?), I am also the one who likes to find solution to any problem. Maybe now is the time to fool the kid a little. To sneak it in the food without them knowing. Yes, I have done cauliflower “mashed potatoes” that nobody would guess, even some veggie fritters that kids actually liked. But that wasn’t enough to improve diet of this poor little girl.

So I did some research and came across this website called Thesneakychef.com. This lady came up with some creative ideas – and it seemed easy enough to implement to basically any food. To put it in test, I created my sneaky “loaded” lasagna. I started the sauce the usual way – onion, garlic, celery and carrots, tiny bit of red pepper flakes. Next came great San Marzano tomatoes and basil. Marinara sauce

In the meantime I steamed 2 cups of spinach, 1 cup each of cauliflower, broccoli and frozen peas. When the sauce was bubbling, I blended the soft vegetables with little bit of the cooking water in my food processor until smooth green mush developed.

Steamed vegetables Then, the green stuff went into my delicious tomato sauce. OK, the color and taste changed a little, so I used tomato paste to adjust the color and to improve the tomato flavor. I added some pressed garlic and more basil. You know what? The sauce was delicious!

veggies goes into marinara

I then composed the lasagna the usual way. I heard my friend’s girl was licking her fingers. Little did she know what was in it. I hope she doesn’t read my blog! OK, if that’s what it takes to feed them food that is good for them, sometimes we must trick them and sneak stuff in. We adults know better what they need.

I am glad it worked. I sure will come up with more creative ideas  where the similar sneaking technique can be used. Do you have this kind of trouble with your kids? And what do you do about it? Please join  our discussion and share your ideas and comments!!


My Irish luck is … a gift

This year, I decided to take another route when celebrating upcoming St. Patrick’s Day. Instead of sharing with you yet another recipe involving Guinness (Guinness cheesecake, anyone?), Irish coffee or a recipe for that amazing Corned Beef Hash that you get bombarded with these days, I would like to share a very personal story  with you today. May I?

Irish clover
Irish clover (courtesy of Wikimedia)

What’s the symbol of St. Patrick’s Day? A green clover. Actually, as Wikipedia says:  it’s “a shamrock, a young sprig of clover, used as a symbol of Ireland. Saint Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint is said to have used it as a metaphor for the Christian Trinity.”  Somehow, we translate it as an Irish luck. Or was it the 4 leaves clover? That’s what I always thought, as those were harder to spot.

I decided to concentrate on my own “luck” this year, and the meaning behind it. Something green as money? Or something that completely enriches your life the way you never imagined? Sometimes “luck” could come to your life in unexpected ways. I have plenty of challenges but also many blessings in my life, and I chose to concentrate on the latter.

A year ago, I met our neighbor Paul. It was the day of his 89th birthday. His children chipped in, approached me and purchased a gift certificate for Paul and his wife. It was for 3 different dinners prepared by me, a personal chef.  One dinner was to celebrate his birthday, the other their 65th wedding anniversary and the third one was for Father’s Day. I didn’t know the couple then, although they lived just down the street from us.

Since his kids are all out of state, all our communication and transaction was done over the phone. I offered to deliver the gift certificate personally– on the day of Paul’s birthday. Walking in and holding the gift certificate in my hand, I proclaimed: “Hi Paul, I am your neighbor Vera and I brought you your birthday gift….”

Before I can explain more, Paul’s face lightened up with a warm smile, and the way he replied without blinking the eye changed my entire first impression of him. See?  Until that second all I saw was and old, tired gentleman, who hardly walks, with a fragile body and probably in lots of pain. But he smiled and said: “So, You ARE my gift?!  Where have you been so long?”

65th Anniversary dinner
65th Anniversary dinner

We all burst in laughter. I wasn’t his present literally, but OK, pretty close. I didn’t know that Paul used to be a successful businessman, and also an entertainer – a comedian and magician. Most importantly, they both were fantastic human beings. That’s something you don’t find in people when you just see them walking by with their walkers.  And, I was yet to meet their children – those who hired me.

Both Paul and his wife loved the gift idea. And they made sure to enjoy it to the fullest. We sat down, discussed the menu for all three evenings so they can have fully customized, unforgettable experience.

When I came to cook their first dinner, Paul presented me with a real white chef’s hat – the one he used for his magic tricks. It was such a sweet surprise and that hat holds a premium spot in my office ever since. So, “I am his gift” yet he gives me a gift?!

My Irish luck is a gift – Paul and I

I was coming back home later and later after each of those dinners. That’s because we enjoyed each others company so much. I saw pictures of their beautiful family, and as Elaine – Paul’s wife says: “We must have done SOMETHING right to deserve such a great children and grandchildren.” The truth is, they did and still do.  We naturally became friends. By now I have met the entire family and it’s easy to fall in love with all of them.

Today, Paul is just few weeks from his 90th birthday celebration. He is also in very bad shape. He needs dialysis three times a week. He is so weak that he can’t walk on his own anymore. If that wasn’t bad enough, Paul recently fell down in his bedroom, broke something in his shoulder and badly bruised his already hurting body. Because of dialysis, they can’t give him any pain killers.

When I came to see him, I could tell it was a challenge to put his signature smile on, but he managed. He could barely raise his hand to greet me.

“How do you feel?” I asked the stupidest question. What was he supposed to say? I knew how he felt. Yet Paul forgave me and responded with a light smile: ”Ehhh….”

He never complains, his kids are taking turns to help care for him. The whole family is now entertaining me, telling me how it happened, and how is Paul dealing with all this. Everybody is full of jokes and stories, although we know how serious it is. They refuse to put on sad face and be depressed.

Thinking of what should lift his spirit up, I asked: “What would you like me to cook for you?” and I already knew the answer. Paul really enjoyed one of the dishes I previously made for them, so I promised to make it for him now. When I finally brought it over for dinner, although he could hardly eat, Paul told me he was looking forward to it all day long.

“My body may be failing me, but my mind is crystal clear,” he says and it’s the truth.

Every day I am amazed where this man draws his strength from, and how he manages to entertain people around him while holding on to life with a string. It’s a gift, strong character and amazing will.

Then one day I received a phone call. It was Paul – he wanted to make sure I have a date available to prepare his 90th birthday celebration in their house. “I don’t know what exactly we are doing yet, but one thing I know for sure – I want you to do it!”

It meant a lot to me. To get to know this family, to see how Paul is happy when I swing by to see him. We are all so busy with our lives. I have a business to ran, a family to spend time with – but we should always make time for people like Paul. The last time I saw him, we planned menu for his birthday party.

Paul’s daughter said:” You know what’s going to be the biggest problem, right dad?”

Paul said:” What’s that?”

“How everybody is going to fight over who is sitting next to you!”

“Why don’t you assign seats ahead of time?” I suggested.

“OK, I will – as long as you sign in that it was your idea,” she turned to dad when he nodded to my idea.

“Or, we can rotate Paul after every course, from table to table,” I added, and we all laughed about it.

How must it feel to be loved like that? His numerous grandchildren are calling every night to see how he is doing. When I saw him the other day, all collapsed in the wheelchair, pushed by his daughter so he can get some sun – I ran outside to say hi.

“How are you Paul?”

“Fan-tastic!!!!” he lighten up again and said: “Why don’t you walk with us?”

I was in the middle of “something important”. But then it hit me. Work can wait. So I said: “Why don’t I?”

It’s just a time. None of us know how much time we have “assigned” to us. In moments like this, it’s important that we manage to stop for a moment. I dropped what I was doing and went for a short walk. Those few minutes talking about the upcoming party were important to someone. Someone quite special. After all, isn’t the whole point of having your own business to be able to manage your own time?

When I said I had to go back, Paul mentioned this old song, he remembered, and I never heard of. But I looked it up out of curiosity and the lyrics are really sweet:

It’s from Doris Day – Why don’t we do it more often?

Why don’t we do this more often Just what we’re doin’ tonight

Gee, but it’s great to get together again Why does it only happen now and then

We oughtta do this more often Don’t you agree that I’m right

We make each other laugh We make each other sing

And you can never ever Over-do a good thing So why don’t we do this more often….

It’s sad when you think about it. In our active age, we never seem to have time for anything. But at the same time someone we know, facing real challenges, may not have plenty of it left. We should use it wisely. I know that Paul holds on, looking forward to see the entire family at his 90th birthday party. Let’s make it the best party ever! After all, how often someone celebrates their 90th birthday? I am honored to be part of it.

Because Paul was wrong when we first met.  No Paul, YOU ARE my gift!

What or who is your gift worth mentioning? Happy St. Patrick’s Day everybody!!!!