Philz Coffee I ❤️ You


Philz Coffee, I ❤️ you so much more than I ever thought possible. Starting out the 3 day weekend with a morning walk with Mom, I noticed people through the window of Pasadena’s new Philz Coffee location. Could it have opened without me noticing? With a few 70+ work weeks under my belt at the hospital, it seemed quite possible. Telling Mom she had to try the coffee I’d previously flown out of town for, we walked through the door to find ourselves not in a newly opened store but in the middle of the Philz executive board meeting planning the store’s opening! Mortified, we apologized and started to back away but before the words “I’m so sorry!” could exit my lips, the CEO himself had welcome us in and Daniel, one of the leadership team beckoned us to the counter and began making us perfect cups of Tesoro. I was so impressed and touched I sat myself right down outside and wrote this post while drinking my perfectly crafted cup of coffee. Philz, you’ve won a fan for life. Friends, please check out this location when they officially launch on June 2nd. You can register for their soft opening at



Latkes on latkes

IMG_4312Frying up latkes, a tradition that my mother taught me, and her mother taught her, marks the official start to my holiday season. There’s something magical about the sound of sizzling, golden potatoes in a hot cast iron skillet. Making latkes side by side with my Mom makes it a truly special experience.

Tonight, inspired by a Huffington Post article extolling the virtues of Julia Child’s potato galette, a French latke, of sorts, we tried out a new technique: pre-steaming our potatoes. Keeping the rest of my recipe the same, the addition of a pre-steaming step was a huge success.

In case you’re considering whipping up a batch of latkes yourself, you’ll need:

  • 4 large russet potatoes
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp of salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 cup of Panko bread crumbs or finely crushed matzo crackers
  • approximately 1 cup of olive oil


Scrub potatoes clean. Steam until potatoes are firm, but you can easily insert a knife (anywhere from 15-20 minutes, depending on your potatoes) . Special thanks to Food52 for showing me how to steam without a steamer.


Once the potatoes are steamed. Remove from your steamer (or makeshift steamer) and place on a plate. Let them thoroughly cool. I started mine out on the counter top for about 2 hours and then popped them in the fridge to speed up the cooling process (I simply couldn’t wait for my latkes  any longer).



Peel your cooled, steamed potatoes. The potato skin should slide right off without difficulty with the aid of a knife. Next, grate your potatoes on the large side of your cheese grater (too fine and you’ll lose the crispy, crunch latke edges I love so much).


Crack and beat three eggs. Stir in salt, black & cayenne pepper. Combine the egg mixture with your grated potatoes and bread crumbs.



Heat approximately 1/4 inch of olive oil in a cast iron skillet. While the oil is heating, you can start shaping your potatoes latke mixture into pancakes. I make each pancake with about 3 Tbsp of mixture, keeping the the pancake to 1/2″ or less in thickness. They fry up best this way.



Once the oil is hot, fry one pancake until brown on both sides. Remove from the oil and drain on a paper towel lined plate. Once cool, taste to ensure that you’re happy with your salt & pepper ratio. If not, now’s your chance to add a bit more spice. Once you’re happy, form pancakes one at a time and place into the hot oil, making sure not to crowd the pan. This recipe should yield 25 potato latkes.


You can either serve latkes immediately, or keep them in the oven until they’re all fried and ready to serve. Sour cream, apple sauce and a side of Israeli salad are my accompaniments of choice, but potatoes go well with just about everything. Enjoy!




Falafel Pitas with Tahini Sauce

homemade falafelI LOVE a good falafel sandwich. Over the past year I’ve had the pleasure of discovering some of the best falafel around: Falafel’s Drive In in NorCal and Amsterdam Falafelshop in DC. Today, I just couldn’t get falafel off of my brain. Short of buying a last minute ticket to San Jose, CA, I figured the best thing I could do was set out to make my own. To my elation, the results were successful. Here’s a recap of tonight’s falafel adventure.

Falafel sandwiches were the goal. I already had a fresh pack of whole wheat pita on hand. My tomato garden is in full swing and with the cucumber in my fridge, I knew I could generate a generous amount of Israeli salad. The falafel was the intimidating part. Fortunately, I came across an approachable recipe on epicurious.


3 cups of drained canned chickpeas

1/2 sweet onion (or white onion if that’s what you have on hand)

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 Tablespoon crushed red pepper

4 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon baking powder

5 Tablespoons all purpose flour

Grapeseed oil for frying

Step One:

Rinse and drain the canned garbanzo beans. If you can, spin them in a salad spinner to remove any excess liquid before adding them into your food processor. Rinse and spin dry your cilantro and parsley before adding into the food processor with the garbanzos. Roughly chop the 1/2 onion and 4 cloves garlic and add them in as well. Measure out and add your salt, red pepper and cumin and add to the food processor.

Food Processor

Layered ingredients in the food processor

Step Two: 

Pulse the beans, herbs and spices until they form a coarse sandy texture.

Before the flour

Before adding the flour

Now add in the baking powder and flour. You’ll see the dough smooth out as the flour mixes in.

After adding the flour.

After adding the flour.

Remove the falafel dough from the food processor, place in a container with a lid and refrigerate, preferably for a few hours. If you’re impatient like me and can’t wait, pop it in the freezer while you continue your prep of the tahini sauce and salad.

Step Three:

Remove dough from the fridge and use a cookie scoop (or tablespoon if you don’t have a scoop) to form walnut sized balls of falafel dough. Roll them in your hands gently to form round spheres. You should get about 20-30 falafel balls.

Step Four: 

Heat your grapeseed oil in a deep heavy pot (I used my Le Creuset). The recommended frying temperature is 375 F. I didn’t have a thermometer, so I eyeballed my oil and placed a test falafel ball in the oil once I thought it was hot enough. Fortunately, I got lucky on the first try.

Step Five:

Your test falafel ball will tell you if your dough is the right consistency. It should stay together in a nice sphere as it fries to a rich brown. If it crumbles or falls apart, you likely need another tablespoon of flour. Keep an eye on you falafel. They fry quickly! Once they’re fried all around, remove them from the oil and set them on a paper towel lined plate to dry.


1/4 cup tahini sauce

4 Tablespoons lemon juice (about one large fresh lemon)

1 clove pressed garlic

4 Tablespoons water

Pinch of salt

Step One (the only step!):

Press the garlic into 1/4 cup of tahini sauce. Add in the lemon juice. You’ll see the tahini stiffen and almost become gritty. Don’t worry. Add the water and you’ll see it smooth out into a creamy smooth consistency again. Add a dash of salt to taste and boom! You’re done.


Falafel platter

Falafel platter

I like a loaded falafel sandwich. In addition to the tahini sauce, I add in Israeli salad (cucumber, tomato, red pepper and lemon juice), pickled turnips, hot sauce and a slice of avocado (not exactly traditional, but it works). If you’re eating with a group, consider serving these condiments on a platter and encouraging each guest to assemble their own pita. It’s fun, and you’re sure to get exactly what you want the way you want it. Bon appetit!

bon appétit!

bon appétit!

Sriracha BBQ Tofu with Spicy Stir Fried Cabbage

I had a random head of cabbage and carton of extra firm tofu on hand in the refrigerator today. You may or may not have found yourself in a similar predicament at some point. Even if not, I think you’ll enjoy hearing what I did with this ingredient odd couple.

On its own, cabbage is a far from exciting vegetable. Asparagus, broccolini, brussels sprouts, even cauliflower are all vegetables with some spunk. Cabbage? Not so much…The plus side of being so bland, is that cabbage makes for an excellent spice vehicle and can absorb just about any flavor you’d like. The flavor of the day, as it so often is in my house, was Sriracha. Not just any Sriracha, though, Sriracha barbecue. Trader Joe’s demoed their new take on BBQ sauce in the store last week and I couldn’t help but bring it home. Today’s cabbage stir fry seemed like a good opportunity to try it out.


  • Medium sized head of cabbage (if you’re feeling lazy, you could get away with 2 bags of pre-shredded cabbage)
  • 1.5 teaspoons of grapeseed oil (if you don’t have grapeseed, olive oil or canola will do)
  • Carton of tofu (roughly 19 oz)
  • 1 bowl of hot salt water
  • 1/4 cup Sriracha BBQ Sauce (I used Trader Joe’s version, but if you can’t find it or aren’t near one, you can use 1/4 cup BBQ sauce with 1-2 tablespoons of Sriracha)
  • 3 tablespoons of Bragg’s liquid amino acids (soy sauce or Tamari is an acceptable alternative but both are saltier, so I’d cut down to 2 Tbsp)
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

Step 1: Pre-treat your tofu

I recently learned that pre-treating my tofu with hot salt water makes for a crispier, firmer consistency. After draining your tofu and cubing it into 1 inch sections, place it in a bowel of hot salted water for 15 minutes. When the 15 minutes are up, drain the tofu and pat it dry.

Step 2: Prep your cabbage

Shred your head of cabbage. I quartered my cabbage and then chopped each section into 1/2 inch strips. Of course, if you’re starting with pre-shredded cabbage, you can skip this step.

Step 3: Stir frying the cabbage

Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of grapeseed oil into your skillet on medium high heat and gradually add in your cabbage (I added mine in 3 portions, waiting for the heat to wilt each portion to make room for the next). After adding each third of the cabbage, drizzle in a teaspoon of Bragg’s amino acids. The Bragg’s helps the cabbage to soften. Once all the cabbage is in the pan, you can add in your cayenne to taste. Keep an eye on the skillet and continue to cook on medium heat until the cabbage is soft, but still has a bite, or about 10 minutes.

Step 4: Fry the tofu

You’ll need 1 teaspoon of grapeseed oil in a hot skillet, preferably cast iron. Place your tofu into the skillet and cook until browned, approximately 5 minutes. Next, pour in the spicy barbecue sauce and toss to coat.

Step 5: Assemble and eat

Lay a bed of spicy cabbage in your bowl and top with your barbecued tofu. That’s it! All in all, I was done within 30 minutes and the flavor was worth every second.

sriracha tofu

Breakfast Lavash Wraps


Breakfast Lavash Wraps

Have I mentioned that breakfast is my favorite meal? At the start of the day, full of possibilities, and eggs and cheese and hot sauce, of course, breakfast always puts a smile on my face.

This morning, breakfast was quick and easy to prepare and exceptionally tasty, so I thought I’d share.

I’m a big fan of breakfast wraps. Having had a spinach and feta wrap at Starbucks yesterday, I set out this morning to make a spicier version of my own. This is how it went:

You’ll need:

Lavash wraps (I use California Lavash. At 140 calories they’re just the right size and not too heavy)

Cheddar cheese – 1/2 to 1 oz per wrap

Spinach – 1/4 cup per wrap (about a handful)

Diced fresh red bell pepper – 1 Tbsp per wrap

Egg whites – 3 egg whites per wrap

Sriracha (I used Sosu barrel aged Sriracha for its smooth, spicy kick)

Oil (I like grape seed for its higher smoke point)

Step One:

With a bit of grape seed oil (or olive oil if you prefer) in your pan, sautée bell pepper and spinach together. You can add a pinch of garlic powder to taste at this point, if you like. Once the vegetables are tender, pour in the egg whites. Let them cook on low heat. Once they start to opacify, drizzle on your Sriracha.

Step Two:

Now that the egg whites are semisolid you can layer on your cheddar cheese. Once topped with cheese, place the whole pan into the broiler. This is going to allow your cheese to melt and develop that bubbly crisp that makes cheesy eggs so delicious.

I also add more Sriracha here, because I like the extra kick, but I’ll leave that up to you.


Step Three:

You’re now ready to assemble your lavash wraps. Place your cheesy eggs into the wrap and roll. For an extra special finish, place the rolled wrap back into the skillet to let the wrap brown and crisp. This is also a great way to keep the wrap warm as you assemble more for friends and family.










Lightened Up Sriracha Mac with Sosu’s Barrel Aged Sriracha

“Healthified” Sriracha Mac – featuring Sosu’s Barrel Aged Sriracha

I’ve lusted for months over Sosu’s Barrel Aged Sriracha. From the moment I saw their Kickstarter campaign and realized I’d missed the deadline to participate, I’ve been searching for ways to get my hands on the stuff. On a recent trip to San Francisco, I scoured the city for a jar, but came up empty handed. Everyone was sold out! Finally, it turned up on Food52’s store and about a week later, I was opening my very own bottle. 
I immediately drizzled some onto my omelet for breakfast and loved the the warm rounded flavor and heat the kicked in at the end. Included in the box was a recipe for the Sriracha Mac at Homeroom. In the midst of training for a marathon, I’m trying to be extra good about what I eat. Determined to make this recipe work for me, I set out to create a lower calorie version of the recipe with a little more fiber and protein. Here’s what I did:


Bechamel Sauce:

3 Cups FairLife Nonfat Milk
3 Tablespoons Smart Balance Margarine
2 Tbsp Kosher Salt


2 Tbsp Grated Fresh Ginger
1 Tbsp Smart Balance Margarine
8 oz. Creamy Havarti
8 oz. Light Havarti
2 scallions 
4 Tbsp Sosu Sriracha
Now, first, a little about my modifications:
I chose to use FairLife Nonfat Milk instead of whole milk. This was my first time trying FairLife and I’m pleased with the results. The milk is ultra filtered to keep protein and calcium while cutting down on fat. What’s not to like about that?

Nonfat milk and high fiber, high protein pasta

Secondly, I used Barilla Plus for my pasta. I’ve used this pasta for many a mac and cheese dish and love how it’s higher protein and higher fiber, keeping me full and satisfied. It holds up well and never gets that starchy glutinous texture I dislike about white pasta.
I cut used a vegan margarine instead of butter (and much less of it), substituted half of my havarti with a light version and used King Arthur‘s Whole Wheat Flour, instead of white flour.

King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour

And now, a step by step guide:

PREP WORK: Start out by investing a little time in your prep and save yourself stress during those critical moments later on!

1. Grate your Havarti
2. Grate your ginger and mash it into 1 Tbsp Margarine
3. Chop the 2 scallion tops

Prep work : havarti, ginger, scallions


STEP ONE: Making the bechamel sauce 

Gently heat your 3 cups nonfat milk in a heavy pot. Whisk occasionally to make sure that it doesn’t stick!

Heating the milk gently and stirring frequently


Melt the 3 Tbsp margarine in a heavy metal or ceramic pot. Add in the flour and stir vigorously for about 3-5 minutes until the flour is toasty. If it looks too thick, you can add a tablespoon of olive oil, or in my case, avocado oil.


Browning the flour (clockwise)


Now, you’re ready to gradually add the heated milk into the flour. Once you do, you’re going to have to stir and whisk like the life of this dish depends upon it….because it does. The last thing you want is a lumpy bechamel!

Poor gently and whisk til you can’t whisk anymore

Slowly, the sauce will thicken. Keep stirring and stirring for about 5 minutes. This is a nonfat milk so there’s a good bit of water that needs to cook off. Don’t lose faith, and keep a close eye on it, because when you think it’s not gonna happen, the sauce quickly thickens and you’re in business!
Test your sauce by dipping your spoon into it and making sure it’s forming a thick coating like you see here:

To the left, almost. To the right, alright!

STEP TWO: Mac and Cheese Magic

Now for the super fun part, adding in the cheese and everything else!

Throw in the havarti and stir

Next goes the scallions and pasta:

Mac and scallions

Now for that glorious Sriracha for color and kick:

Mmmm sriracha

Stir it all together and poor into a Pyrex baking dish. About 13×9″ will do it. Top with your Panko crumbs and pop it into the oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. I stuck mine under the broiler for about a minute at the very end to brown the bread crumbs.

Sprinkle with Panko

 When it comes out in all its bubbly, cheesy, spicy goodness, top liberally with Sriracha and eat it up. Logging the ingredients in myfitnesspal, I got 9 servings for 550 calories each with over 30g of protein per serving. Not exactly a diet food, but not too shabby, if you ask me. 


 I served mine with garlic Parmesan green beans and Gardein fried “fish,” but there are so many possibilities. Try it out and let me know what you think!

Gardein, garlic greenbeans and Sriracha mac


Eat your vegetables….for dessert

Eat your vegetables…for dessert

My family loves baked goods. Seeing how appreciative they are whenever I make desserts, I’m tempted to make them all the time. If it weren’t for my pesky nutrition based conscience, I’m certain that I would! Fortunately, I’ve started to collect some healthier dessert recipes that I can feel good about making (and EATing!) regularly. The most adventurous of these healthy desserts? Chocolate….wait for it….zucchini muffins!
I can’t take all of the credit for this recipe. I was inspired by, and modified, a recipe I discovered on the Spark People forums here:

Zucchini Chocolate Muffins

  • 2 c shredded zucchini
  • 1.5 c whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c cocoa
  • 3/4 c Splenda baking sugar substitute
  • 1.25 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of nutmeg (optional)
  • 1/2 c fat free vanilla yogurt
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 tsp vanilla + a splash more (I love vanilla so I always add a tad more than called for)
  • 2/3 c mini chocolate chips

Step 1

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. While it’s warming up, you can grate your Zucchini. Two medium sized squash will yield the 2 cups that you need for this recipe.

grate zucchini using a cheese grater

Step 2

Combine all of your dry ingredients: flour, cocoa, Splenda baking, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg (if you like it, like I do. You could also try a pinch of allspice if you prefer).

Step 3 

If a little vanilla is good, a little more must be better, right?

Combine your wet ingredients: yogurt, egg whites, vanilla 

Step 4

Add your grated zucchini to your wet ingredients. This is where you’ll really start to wonder if any of this will amount to anything. Hang in there! 

Step 5

Add the zucchini mix into your dry ingredients. Stir until the all the dry ingredients have incorporated into a moist, but stiff, batter.

Yup, that’s really zucchini and cocoa powder. You can do this. It’s gonna work!

Step 6

Add 1/3 cup of chocolate chips to your batter. You’ll start to feel hopeful again, because anything with chocolate chips is good. Even zucchini! 

Chocolate chips = magic

Step 7

Spoon your batter into your lined muffin tin. Sprinkle the rest of your chocolate chips on top of each little muffin in the making. 

Ready to bake

Step 8

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick placed into the center of one of the muffins comes out clean.

See? It all worked 🙂

Step 9

This is the most important step of all. Do NOT eat them right away. Seriously! Why? When these muffins first come out of the oven, they taste a little, well, green. Like zucchini. But if you have patience, as the dough cools, something really unexplainable happens. Every bit of zucchini essence disappears and you’re left with a delightfully chocolatey, spicy, sweet muffin. Serve with a little cool whip and you’ll be quite pleased with yourself. I know I was 🙂
I think this recipe allows itself a lot of variations. I’m sure with a little effort, I can figure out a way to make it vegan (banana as an egg substitute, perhaps?) and possibly gluten free (oat flour should work just fine). If you happen to try a variation on the theme before I do, I’d love to hear about it.