Thursday, May 30, 2013

No Bake Date Squares (5 ingredients! Vegan and GF!)

Hi Tartlets!  I promised you an easy recipe after the super-involved Raw Lasagna.  I hope you're ready for some sweetness!  This recipe is easy - all you need is a food processor or blender.  

Prep time = 30 minutes. BUT - if you pre-chop your dates the day before, assembly literally takes 10 minutes, tops.  Chopping the dates is the time-consuming part.  Also save time by getting pitted dates - totally worth it.  Trust me.  Pitting them is no fun!

This is easy to make Gluten-free using GF Oats.  

I give this 5 stars!




  • 1.5 cups whole raw almonds
  • 1.5 cups regular or Gluten-free oats
  • 1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
  • 10 Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil

Date Filling

  • 2.5 cups Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped (~25 dates)
  • 1/2 cup water


1. Line an 8"x8" pan with parchment paper. In food processor, process the almonds, oats and salt until a crumble forms.  Add the 10 chopped dates and process until crumbly again.

2. Melt the coconut oil and add to the mixture.  Process until sticky.  Remove from processor, set 3/4 cup of the mixture aside.  Press the remaining almond/oat mixture firmly into pan.

3. Process the 2.5 cups chopped dates and water in food processor until a paste forms.  Scrape sides of bowl as necessary.  Spread date mixture evenly onto crust with a spatula, or wet your hands.

4. Sprinkle the reserved 3/4 cup of almond/oat mixture over the date paste and gently press down with fingers. Refrigerate until firm (at least 1 hour).  Cut into squares and serve. Store in the fridge or freezer.

5. Try to eat just one!

NOTE: Sometimes Medjool dates are unavailable or very expensive.  I've purchased different varieties that are smaller and more economically priced.  I approximate 2 small dates for every 1 Medjool date.  Medjool dates are huge!

Vegan Raw Lasagna (Gluten-free)

I made this Raw Lasagna two weekends ago.  I perfected vegan pesto and found a great alternative to Parmesan cheese (Nutritional yeast!) while doing it.  I'm excited to share it with you!  Also, note that I sweetened the tomato sauce.  Tomatoes are wonderful, but they can sometimes have a tangy bite to them - I prefer mine to be more rounded and mellow, so I added some agave.  You can eliminate this if you prefer a tangier sauce. 

Please be forewarned that this is an involved recipe.  It's for special occasions or on days where you are super motivated!  I recommend working in stages - prep your veggies and take a break.  Or pre-make the sauces/ricotta one day, and assemble the next day.  I do this with many of my lasagna recipes, since they often take a lot of time.  But when you've prepped part of it the day before, assembly is a breeze!

Raw Lasagna Ingredients:

  • 2 Zucchini (one large + one small (total combined weight ~800 g/2 lbs)
  • 3-4 Heirloom tomatoes


  • 1 cup soaked cashews
  • 1 cup soaked pine nuts
  • 1 small handful of onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Tomato sauce:

  • 1 cup soaked or seasoned in oil Sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 small tomato
  • 1 small handful chopped onion
  • 1 small sprig rosemary or thyme
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp agave
  • salt and pepper to taste

Pesto sauce:

  • 1 C tightly packed basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1/3 C. olive oil (+1 extra Tbsp if needed)
  • 3 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast
  • salt and pepper to taste


1. Soak nuts at least 1 hour, or overnight.  Process all ricotta ingredients together in a good blender or food processor until creamy. Stop to push down the edges, then blend again.  The cheese is thick, but that's how you want it.

2. Process the tomato sauce in the same way as the ricotta. Again, this should be very thick. [Note: if using unseasoned Sun-dried tomatoes, you may want to add seasonings such as dried oregano, basil, or savory.]

3. Process pesto in a blender or a food processor - start with garlic and pine nuts; then add Nutritional yeast; then add basil; finish by keeping food processor running and drizzling olive oil slowly to make a sauce.  Add as much oil as necessary to make it as thin as you prefer.  [Note: for non-vegan pesto, see recipe here.]

4. Cut very thin slices of fresh zucchini and heirloom tomatoes. If you don't have a mandolin, use a potato peeler to get extra thin zucchini slices and then use two layers in each layer of lasagna. (I sliced zucchini length-wise.)  Cut the tomatoes by hand with an extra sharp knife.

5. Line a 8x12" glass dish with plastic wrap. Spread a thin layer of pesto and ricotta. This will end up being the top so this is for garnish. Arrange the prettiest tomatoes you have on the next level. Next layers, in order:
  • zucchini
  • tomato sauce
  • tomatoes
  • pesto
  • zucchini
  • all the ricotta
  • pesto
  • zucchini
  • tomato sauce
  • more zucchini
  • pesto
  • finish with a layer of tomatoes

6. Cover with the plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool. When cooled place a plate over the whole thing and invert. Remove the wrap and let sit at least 30 minutes at room temp. Cut with a serrated knife.

7. Enjoy!  You'll love it!  Tell me what you think.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

It feels good to be smart

Are you a savvy shopper?  Do you want to get the most bang for your buck?  Probably.  Most of us do.  There are a lot of small changes you can make in your behavior that can save you money - and a few dollars here and there eventually adds up to significant amounts.

I'd like to tell you a story (and start with a confession).  I am obsessed with food.  A poor meal is so disheartening, especially when I go out and and drop a significant amount on dinner.  One of my favorite things to do is go to a restaurant, deconstruct my meal, go home and replicate it.  It is a ridiculously fun game with big rewards.  

Here's the story part - I went out with friends a while back and almost ordered the daily special (and didn't).  But one person did - and it was incredible!  I was sad I didn't choose it, so the next day, I went to the store, bought an acorn squash, and was determined to replicate it (I told you I'm obsessed.)  Turns out, I made it better than the restaurant!  There's a point to this story...

I wanted to make this meal again a couple weeks ago, this time for my boyfriend.  I went to the grocery store and noticed how small the acorn squashes were.  Darn.  I wanted two large ones.  Then I went to the Brentwood Farmer's Market on Sunday - not a squash to be found.

Then the light went off.  Duh.  It's totally NOT squash season - I must have gotten the last of the large ones last time.  Then a second light went off.  Shop seasonally.  It's the freshest, healthiest, most economic way to shop.  I walked through the entire market again for inspiration.  What was I going to make for dinner that evening?  I saw beautiful berries, mounds of herbs, huge zucchini, heirloom tomatoes, peaches, beets, spring greens, colorful kale and chards.

The second walk-through helped me make an excellent decision: Raw Lasagna.  I'd recently been to M.A.K.E. in Santa Monica Place and had a wonderful vegan Raw Lasagna.  I walked away with zucchini, basil (to make fresh pesto sauce) and heirloom tomatoes for the lasagna.  And I bought all my produce for the week.

Buying fresh, organic produce from your local farmer's market is an excellent way to get the most nutritious food into your family's diet.  And when you shop seasonally, you're buying the best your local area has to offer at the best price.  This is the smart Tart-let way to shop.  You could hit one or two farmer's markets a week - the Los Angeles area has several every day of the week - you can certainly find one in your area.

I'll post and link my Raw Lasagna recipe soon - be forewarned that this is not a quick meal to make!  But it was wonderful (at least as good as M.A.K.E.'s).  My boyfriend said it might have been better (but he's also biased).

>Tip: when your produce is starting to wilt, quickly cook it up or pop it in the freezer!  Make sure you wash it first.  But sauteing your wilting Swiss chard in olive oil and garlic or Teriyaki sauce, or popping strawberries in the freezer for your morning smoothie allows you to have nutritious options available for later.  You're prolonging the life of the organic, healthy produce you brought home from the market.  And you're saving money when you don't throw your money in the trash in the form of your dying veggies.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

How do I buy time, and how much does it cost?

This article is an oldie, but a goodie.  Thanks to my friends at Zone 3 Multisport who emailed out several months ago, I can share with you the triathlete's Holy Grail: How do I buy time, and how much does it cost?

Well, that sounds enticing, doesn't it?  If you even know what it means.

Let's start with triathletes, or shall I say triath-a-geeks (I'm allowed to make fun of myself).  At the heart of most triathletes, there is a geek.  We spend a lot of time and money looking into all the new gear, nutrition, widgets, fidgets, gadgets and thingamabobs that promise to help us train and race faster, and recover more quickly.  This also allows manufacturers to capitalize on this Special Group of Spenders (compression gear, anyone?  We'll talk about that later.)  In the end: we spend a $h!+ ton of money, so we can gain approximately 32 seconds in an Olympic distance race.  It's TOTALLY worth it, yo! (or you could just practice your transitions...that's also for a later conversation).  I digress.

Entrez...this article published by VeloNews in 2010.  Now, unfortunately, as a scientist, it pains me to say this: I cannot exactly validate these results.  I don't have access to the numbers, or the methods.  But for the sake of argument, let's at least take a look at the results of this study.

Your speed on the bike is determined by (1) overcoming wind resistance, and (2) the power you're able to exert.  This group of scientists looked at several pieces of equipment, garments and accessories and the time savings gained over a 40km TT (Time Trial for my non-geek friends) compared to a control.  The results will probably surprise you.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Pesto Sauce (Traditional and Vegan recipes)

Pesto Sauce

This posting is inspired by shopping seasonally.  It's basil season in Southern California!  Now is the perfect time to stock up and make pesto sauce.  Make sure you smell your basil, as not all varieties are created equal.  I had my boyfriend smell the differences at the farmer's market in Torrance on the weekend.  Try to find Italian/Sweet or Genovese basil - these are the two best varieties for pesto, and Italian meals such as pasta or pizza.

I love pesto.  You can use it to make pasta, use it to dress up your rice, spread it on a tortilla and bake to make a quick flatbread, or use it as a base for pizza.  There are more options - be creative!

Traditional Pesto
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 C pine nuts
1 C fresh basil, packed
3/4 C Parmesan cheese
3/4 C Extra-virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

Vegan Pesto
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 C pine nuts
1 C fresh basil, packed
3 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast
1/3 C + 1 Tbsp Extra-virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. In food processor, create a paste out of nuts and garlic by pulsing together.
2. Add S&P to taste.
3. Add Parmesan cheese/Nutritional yeast, and mix using the pulse button.
4. Add all basil, and pulse.  Mixture will be dry until you add oil.
5. While keeping lid on, slowly drizzle olive oil as you keep food processor in "on" position.  Sauce will form as enough oil is added.
6. Use fresh, or freeze pesto sauce in ice cube trays.  Cover ice cube tray with plastic wrap, freeze for ~1 day.  Then quickly pop out cubes, toss into Ziploc and keep in freezer.  For pasta meals, remove several cubes, defrost in large bowl, cook pasta and add directly on top.  Toss and serve!

>I've made pesto with blanched almonds.  Since they're a firmer nut than pine nuts, soak the almonds for a minimum of one hour (20 minutes in a pinch, but longer is better).  Pine nuts are more flavorful.
>Galaxy Nutritional Foods' Vegan Parmesan cheese is absolutely delicious.  This can substitute for Parmesan in the Traditional recipe.

How to Blanch Almonds
Ideally, your nuts in pesto should be skinless.  To blanch almonds, boil water, toss almonds in for 2-3 minutes after water boils.  Drain nuts, cool in strainer, and pop nuts out of skins when cool enough to handle.  Watch out...they have a tendency to fly across rooms!

How do you manage to fit it all in?

We lead busy lives.  I don't know anyone that doesn't talk about how busy they are.  There are the non-negotiables - work, commute time, eating, sleeping.  Then there are other things we like to do - socialize, work out, spend time with the kiddos or significant other.  

When our lives are so hectic, and we work out how many hours we have to do the non-negotiables + the things we like, it turns out there is little time to insert things like planning and cooking a great, nutritious meal.  It's just easier to get take-out, or a fatty roasted chicken from the grocery store.

Personally, a healthy, delicious meal is a non-negotiable.  My days are miserable when I eat mediocre food (yes, I'm a weirdo.)  But if you consider that everything you are, and the energy you have is primarily dependent on your nutrition and ability to convert those nutrients into sustainable fuel for you to excel throughout your day - it becomes of paramount importance.  The old adage You are what you eat really is as true as true gets.

How do you manage to fit it all in?

These are the tricks of the trade:
  1. Plan ahead.  I know - sucks, right?  But take time on the weekend, go to your local farmer's market, and buy what's in season (PS - this is a great activity to do with your family or SigO, as you browse and create importance out of this activity).  Come home, and wash it all!  Sure - there are plenty of things you'd rather do on a Sunday afternoon.  But if you wash all your produce, stick it in a bag and pop it in your fridge, you'll thank yourself all week when you come home late, starving, and need a nutritious meal or snack.  TIP: spin your produce in a salad spinner, then stick a paper towel in the bag along with your clean produce.  It will absorb moisture and prolong the freshness of your greens.  Change the paper towel mid-week.
  2. Emergencies happen. Be prepared.  I often work, then get home late after training (from a swim/bike/run), and I'm starving.  And cranky.  I need to eat...pronto.  What to do?  Have at least 3-5 emergency meals + ingredients on-hand you can prepare in a snap.  Example: Pesto sauce (recipe here) is always in your freezer!  Boil some angel hair pasta, rice noodles (they cook in 2 minutes, flat) or kelp noodles.  Kelp noodles are cool - you don't even have to cook them!  Take out your clean kale (see Tip #1), and put together a lovely salad.  Voila!  Great meal in 5 minutes, flat.
  3. Go overboard, like a good Italian.  Make a huge meal when you're cooking, then portion out one or two Tupperwares of your leftovers.  Pop them in the freezer.  Most things freeze beautifully.  If you have a deep freezer - even better.  You could literally put 3 months' worth in there (I'm jealous!)  When you're in a pinch, look in your freezer for ready-made meals.
  4. Exploit electronics.  There is nothing more beautiful than things that work for you.  I love my Roomba vacuum.  I also love my slow cooker and rice cooker.  These kitchen helpers are essential.  Use them.  Abuse them.  And love the result!
  5. Read The Trim Tart.  Check in regularly for meals that will knock your socks off, and not require hours in the kitchen (but you can spend hours if you like!)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Hello? Is anybody listening?

Welcome to The Trim Tart - the place where food, fitness and fashion collide.  

I am a passionate cook, baker, food aficionada (because I'm a girl), endurance athlete, health junkie, trained scientist and lover of fashion.

Stay tuned for healthy meal ideas and recipes (most will be vegan-izable/gluten-free-izable) aimed to optimally sustain the endurance athlete, or anyone looking to stay fit and healthy.  I adhere to a few rules in cooking: short ingredient lists, the freshest ingredients, it's gotta be delicious, and most recipes shouldn't take more than 20 minutes.  Oh, and it's good for you.

Believe it or not, you can be a busy mom, executive, or young urban professional....and still find ways to create fabulous healthy meals.  I'll show you how.

Onto my sweet self... When you work and train hard, there's no reason you can't add sweetness to your life.  I love dessert!  But I don't do brownie-fudge-lava-explosions-with-yuckyfake whipped cream-to-the-ceiling-desserts-with-so-many-calories-you-should-have-skipped-the-restaurant-meal-and-ordered-straight-off-the-dessert-menu.  I grew up in a very Italian household where sweets weren't usually sweet, and were perfectly acceptable for both breakfast and post-dinner assaggio (tasting/sample).  I won't go all Italian on you - promise.  But I will focus on healthier, home-made desserts, and will include a few worthwhile splurges.

And now the fashion part.  I'm really high maintenance in this regard.  Not because I spend crazily on myself (I don't); not because I only wear designer brands (I don't); not because I own a closet-full of Jimmy Choos or Christian Louboutins (I don't, but wish I did).  But I'm afflicted with being an athlete AND a fashion-lover.  I'm always looking to push the envelope, always anticipating the next season's style, always rockin the latest trends.  But then I'm an athlete - a competitive age-group athlete - who runs (and sometimes wins) 5k's, marathons, triathlons, and everything in between.  And I like to look cute doing it!  Along with cute, I also need function - 6 hour bike rides while training for Ironman requires some seriously good bike shorts.  It's really a challenge to pull off.

Lastly...the scientist part.  I'm a hopeless geek, and will try and work out the science behind anything from bike aerodynamics to the chemical reactions going on in my kitchen.  I'll present the scientific literature behind the latest superfoods, trends, allergies, etc.  It's all science, yo!!