Cooking Class at Grace’s Marketplace

If you’re like me, you probably grew up on store-bought tomato sauce. My mom used to buy Paul Newman’s. Don’t get me wrong, it’s delicious in its own way. But after learning how to make my own in a recent class at Grace’s Marketplace, I just don’t think I could ever go back. (At least when I have enough time!) Executive chef Joe Trama led the class, teaching us several different sauce recipes, including:

  • Tri Color Cherry Tomato-Basil Sauce
  • Hollandaise Sauce
  • Warm Bourbon Sauce

(I’ve included all of the recipes at the end of this post!)

Cooking Class at Grace's Marketplace

First up: tomato-basil sauce. This was by far the highlight! I really never knew how easy it was to make. Best of all, as chef Joe explained, it doesn’t really require a recipe. A little of this, a little of that — it just comes down to your personal preference. “Cooking is a passion,” he reminded us. It’s true, and I’ve definitely been guilty of focusing too much on recipes and less on experimenting / cooking to-taste!

This was some of the best tomato sauce I’ve ever had, and the freshness made all the difference. (Side note: we used heirloom tomatoes, which made for a truly beautiful presentation. SO much color!)

Tomato Sauce at Grace's Marketplace Cooking Class Tomato Sauce at Grace's Marketplace Cooking Class

Next up: hollandaise sauce, aka the famous eggs benedict topping. (Which I learned also tastes delicious with asparagus!) This one requires a bit more skill than tomato sauce, and it really comes down to whipping the egg yolks to the right consistency. I was excited to finally learn the technique behind it.

Hollandaise Sauce at Grace's Marketplace Cooking Class

And for the grand finale: warm bourbon sauce! Now, you may know by now that I have an incurable sweet tooth. So (obviously!) this was another class highlight. There’s just something about pairing bourbon with desserts. It makes them less coyingly sweet, but all the more decadent! We drizzled the sauce over a rich, fluffy bread pudding. Ahh, bread pudding — dessert comfort food at its finest.

Bread Pudding at Grace's Marketplace Cooking Class Bread Pudding at Grace's Marketplace Cooking Class

As I mentioned, Grace’s Marketplace hosted the class. Grace’s is a family-owned gourmet grocery store, featuring a variety of specialty products and locally sourced produce. For those interested, they will be hosting several upcoming classes, which I’ve listed below. (For reservations or further questions, email

  • August 6th – “Eat Like a Locavore” (Hands On)
  • August 27th – “Low Salt and Heart Healthy Techniques” (Demo Class)
  • September 17th – “Italian Cooking from the Puglia Region of Italy” (Hands On)
  • October 8th – “Kitchen Basics” (Hands On)

And here are all of the recipes!

Tri Color Cherry Tomato-Basil Sauce by chef Joe Trama (serves 4)

  • 4 cups tri color cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp blended olive oil (we used a blend of olive oil and canola oil, which has a higher smoking point than straight olive oil)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp red chile flakes (optional)
  • 1 lb preferred pasta


  1. Heat a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add 2 tbsp of olive oil.
  2. Add minced garlic and cook until light brown. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper.
  3. Cook tomatoes for approximately 10 minutes while delicately pressing them with a wooden spoon.
  4. Once tomatoes are saucy, add fresh basil.
  5. Remove from heat, toss with 1 lb of your preferred pasta (cooked). Drizzle with remaining olive oil. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Hollandaise Sauce by chef Joe Trama (serves 4-6)

  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp tobasco sauce
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup of clarified butter


  1. Heat clarified butter in the microwave to 160-170 degrees.
  2. Combine all other ingredients in a stainless steel bowl. Whisk until the volume doubles.
  3. Slowly and evenly, add heated butter while continuing to whisk. (Eggs will start to thicken.)
  4. When finished, serve immediately over asaparagus.

Warm Bourbon Sauce by chef Joe Trama (serves 4)

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp bourbon


  1. Melt butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat.
  2. Add remaining ingredients. Slowly simmer, whisking until the mixture thickens.
  3. It will coat the spoon when done.
  4. Pour over warm bread pudding.

Half Marathon Training Plan

I officially started training for my second half marathon last week. I’m SO excited and eager to hit the pavement. Let the games begin! Ever since my first marathon last November, I’ve taken a break from long-distance running in order to concentrate on overcoming knee pain. My knee is finally feeling better and I’m ready to get back at it! 😀

Half Marathon graphic 5 6-23-2015

I’m using a very similar training plan to the one that I followed last April. However, I adjusted it slightly based on a few key learnings from last time. I added in dedicated time for foam rolling and yoga — super helpful for recovering tightened / tense muscles.

Will I follow this 100%? Definitely not. Like anyone else, I’m human and things come up in life that will make me miss some of these workouts. But I do plan to stick to this as much as possible. Gotta get race day ready!

Half Marathon Training Plan I’ll be sharing more updates throughout this journey both here on my blog and on Instagram. Stay tuned… 😀 (Week 1 of my training plan = this past week).


Trader Joe’s Coconut Sugar

I’m in love with the coco…..nut sugar! Just picked up Trader Joe’s organic coconut sugar for the first time. It’s a great natural sweetener option. Admittedly, I used to be a serious Splenda and diet soda addict. But over the past few years, I’ve come to realize the downsides and overall crappiness of artificial sweeteners. Chemicals = no bueno. I go for the real deal now. You are what you eat. 😉

Trader Joe's Organic Coconut Sugar

I first learned about coconut sugar from nutritionist Peggy Kotsopoulos in a Whole Foods healthy brunch cooking class last January. It’s made from the sap of the coconut palm. It actually tastes NOTHING like coconuts. Think brown sugar, but less sticky. It almost has a burnt marshmallow flavor — a good thing in my book! 😀 You can use it just as you would regular sugar as a 1:1 replacement. I like it in oatmeal, but it would also work well in baked goods and even coffee!

What do you think? Would you try it? What is your favorite natural sweetener? (Maple syrup is another one of my go-to’s!)

Trader Joe's Organic Coconut Sugar

Trader Joe's Organic Coconut Sugar

Trader Joe's Organic Coconut Sugar


Lemon Blueberry Bread

Is it just me, or does anyone else think about food when they’re at the gym? Haha! I watch the Food Network to pass time on the treadmill. Naturally, I get really hungry — but also a lot of great inspiration. Even from shows I don’t usually watch!

I recently flipped on Trisha’s Southern Kitchen. Now, her recipes are delicious — don’t get me wrong. But they’re very “Paul Deen.” A bit too rich for my taste. In this episode, she was making a lemon blueberry bread with glaze (recipe here). I couldn’t peel my eyes off of the TV. It looked SO incredible! I immediately started craving the bread. Then — light bulb moment! I did a little Pinteresting, and voilà — found a healthified version from Pidge’s Pantry. I adjusted her recipe slightly, and you can see all the pics and the final product/recipe below!

Healthy Lemon Blueberry Bread Healthy Lemon Blueberry Bread Healthy Lemon Blueberry Bread Healthy Lemon Blueberry Bread Healthy Lemon Blueberry Bread

Lemon Blueberry Bread (adapted from Pidge’s Pantry)

  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup almond milk
  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup organic Greek yogurt (I used vanilla)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup white flour
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts


  1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Grease loaf pan, set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the banana and maple syrup. Then add the eggs, vanilla, almond milk and Greek yogurt and mix well to combine.
  3. Add the salt, baking powder and flours and mix to combine. Fold in the blueberries and lemon zest.
  4. Pour into greased loaf pan, then top with chopped walnuts. Bake 50-55 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

*Note: this bread is very moist. You may want to store in the fridge, at least by day 2 or 3.


“Clean Green Eats” Cooking Class at Whole Foods

When it comes to burgers, sweet potatoes probably aren’t the first thing that come to mind! But they were the absolute highlight of my recent “Clean Green Eats” cooking class at Whole Foods. Professional chef and cookbook author Candice Kumai led the session, which focused on four healthy recipes:

  • Chocolate Kale Smoothie
  • Sweet Potato Avocado Burgers (my favorite!!)
  • Roasted Kabocha Squash Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette
  • Pumpkin Mochi Tea Cake

All of the dishes were based on her latest book, Clean Green Eats, which launches June 23rd (currently available for pre-order!). Read on for the recipes…

Clean Green Eats Book

First up: we learned how to make this chocolate kale smoothie. Definitely a “don’t judge a book by its cover” situation. Really! Don’t let the color fool you. This was every bit as tasty and chocolatey as pudding!

Chocolate Kale Smoothie Whole Foods Cooking Class NYC

Again, don’t judge a book by its cover! Here are the sweet potato burger patties.

Sweet Potato Burgers

We also prepped a squash salad, starting with some roasting action! If eating squash in the summer is wrong, then I don’t want to be right. Something about the combo of roasted veggies and raw greens just WORKS. The contrast of flavors, textures, temperatures. It just makes for the taste of comfort food without the BLAH factor of salad.

Roasted Acorn Squash Roasted Squash Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette   IMG_0518

Dessert was this amazing pumpkin mochi cake. It looks like more of a bread, tastes and feel of cake, with a nice, mild sweetness. Candice’s mom used to make this for afternoon tea. That sounds perfect, doesn’t it? Makes me long for the days when I lived blocks away from Alice’s Tea Cup! 😀  Pumpkin Mochi Tea Cake Sweet Potato Burger Sweet Potato Burger

Chocolate Kale Smoothie (Yields 18 oz)

  • 1 1/2 frozen bananas (peel before freezing)
  • 1/4 cup raw walnuts
  • 3/4 cup kale, stems removed, chopped
  • 1 scoop pea protein powder (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon spirulina powder
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk

How-to: combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Sweet Potato Avocado Burger (Yields about 15 patties)

Wet Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons reduced-sodium tamari
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups organic rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup raw walnuts, crushed
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 3/4 cup flaxseed meal
  • 2 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil


  • Whole wheat or gluten-free buns
  • Ripe avocados, thinly sliced (2 to 3 slices per burger)
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce per burger
  • Red onion, thinly sliced
  • Torn lacinato kale leaves per burger
  • Dijon mustard and olive oil mayonnaise

How-to: Preheat oven to 375° F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. In a bowl, combine cubed sweet potatoes with 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon granulated garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Toss to coat and place on sheet tray; roast for approximately 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.

In a food processor, add the roasted sweet potato, tamari and Worcestershire; pulse on medium-high speed. Add onion and chickpeas, and pulse until fully combined, periodically stopping the food processor and using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to move the mixture around. Mix just until the chickpeas and onion are fully incorporated; look for the consistency of mashed potatoes. Do not over-mix.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine oats, walnuts, chia seeds and flaxseed meal. Remove sweet potato mixture from food processor and fold into dry ingredients until well combined. Using a measuring cup to ensure equal portions, form mixture into burger-like patties with clean hands.

Roasted Kabocha Squash Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette (Serves 6)

  • 1 kabocha squash, halved, quartered and sliced into 1/2-inch moons
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 2 cups curly kale leaves, tough stems removed, finely chopped
  • 1 Honeycrisp or Fuji apple, cored and sliced into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)


  • 1/4 cup unfiltered apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon manuka honey

How-to: Preheat oven to 375° F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

To make the dressing, in a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients until well combined, then set aside.

In a large bowl, toss the squash slices with olive oil until well coated. Spread the squash out in an even layer across the baking sheet, making sure each piece is touching the surface of the pan to ensure even browning. Sprinkle with the sea salt. Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, then flip the squash and roast for another 20 minutes on the opposite sides. When the squash is fork-tender, remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.

While squash is roasting, make the salad. In a large bowl, add vinaigrette, quinoa, and kale, then toss gently to coat. Add cooled squash, apple slices and pepitas to finish. Toss well to coat and serve immediately at room temperature.

Pumpkin Mochi Tea Cake (Yields a single 8-inch loaf)

  • coconut oil or cooking spray for the loaf pan
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup organic white granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup unrefined coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons canned light coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup canned 100% pure pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder

How-to: Preheat the oven to 350º F. Grease an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan with coconut oil or spray with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar. Whisk in unrefined coconut oil, coconut milk and pumpkin puree. Slowly whisk in rice flour, pumpkin pie spice and baking powder.

When fully combined, pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool before slicing into tiny bite-sized slices.

*Note: this recipe will not fill up the entire loaf pan (depth-wise). It makes a small loaf.

Adventures in Rockaway Beach

My friends and I hit up Rockaway Beach last weekend for the ultimate beach adventure! I never realized how many great beaches there are in NYC. Is it just me? Rockaway is definitely one of the gems! Best of all, it’s accessible by subway. (How did I not discover this sooner?!)

Rockaway Beach
As soon as we arrived, we stopped for a snack. Priorities! There’s a boardwalk right near the beach, with tons of different food vendors (Mexican food, American, beer, juice bars, ice cream — you name it!). We picked up some food and drinks, and sat down with our snacks. These Trader Joe’s organic blue corn tortilla chips with sprouted amaranth, quinoa and chia seeds were a big hit! I also ordered a Del’s Shandy — basically the same as a summer shandy. Lemony beer… way better than lemonade!

Rockaway Beach

Eventually, we ventured down to the beach for the remainder of the afternoon. It really wasn’t too crowded! We found a spot and plunked down.

That night, we stayed at the Playland Motel, which is just a short walk from the beach. It was super convenient and close to all of the bars, restaurants and coffee shops we visited as well. (Thinking about it now though, I am curious to try Airbnb next time. It would also be cheaper.)


On our last morning, we stumbled upon the cutest juice bar/coffee shop called Anna Bow. I was obsessed with the colorful mural out front! How fun!

Anna Bow in Rockaway Beach

I ordered an iced coffee with almond milk (not pictured) and mango chia pudding. This hit the spot! Perfect refreshing breakfast for a hot day. Yum! I’m excited to recreate it at home.

Mango Chia Pudding from Anna Bow Rockaway Beach

After hitting the beach on Sunday, we headed to Rockaway Beach Surf Club for snacks and drinks. I opted for a margarita. (PS — check out all the cool murals in the background!)

Rockaway Beach Surf Club

I also ordered tofu tacos from Tacoway Beach, a pop-up / food stand dealio inside the bar. All I can say is YUM! These were some of the best tacos I’ve ever had, and yes, they had tofu in them. That good. And the guac was extra. Obvi worth it. 😉

Tofu Tacos from Tacoway Beach

The weekend went by SO fast, but I’m really glad we went! I’m already thinking about my next visit to Rockaway.

For anyone else in the NYC area, I highly recommend checking out Rockaway for a weekend, or even the day. Not only is it accessible by subway, but there’s no fee for the beach (like many other beaches, e.g. Long Beach), and all the food options are affordable (and downright delicious!). 😀