Monthly Archives: December 2015

Happy Healthy New Year!

This is a short blog post to thank you for supporting Sunshine & Kale over the past year. May 2016 bring you HAPPINESS, HEALTH and LOVE!



{Vegan & Gluten-Free} Christmas Mini Puddings

Christmas pudding or plum pudding is traditionally served on Christmas dinner in Britain. It’s made out of dried fruits held together with egg and suet, moisturized with golden syrup or molasses, and flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and other spices. It is normally prepared with thirteen ingredients, to represent Jesus and his twelve disciples. It’s usually stirred from east to west in honor of the three wise men that visited baby Jesus. Each member of the family traditionally stirs the pudding mixture and makes a wish secretly. A silver coin is then placed in the mixture and the person that finds it is supposed to find wealth. Sometimes, a ring is placed in the mixture, instead of a coin, to foretell a marriage or a thimble for lucky life.


In Spain, we follow a similar culinary tradition to celebrate Epiphany or the Three King Days, on Jan 6th. We prepare a cake called Roscón de reyes or Rosca de reyes (kings’ ring). It’s a brioche-like sweet bread topped with figs, cherries or dried and candied fruits. Like in the Christmas pudding, there is usually a trinket hidden in the cake. The person that finds it has good luck for the next 365 days. However, they have to pay for the next year’s roscón or Epiphany party.


These traditions are beautiful and the desserts are delicious but let’s be honest, preparing these pastries is time-consuming and not necessarily healthy.

This year for Christmas, I am preparing something equally delightful and healthy. I am making Christmas Mini Puddings, a la British style but with a twist. They are vegan, gluten-free and very easy to make. It only takes 5-10 minutes to prepare. Can you believe it? The original recipe was published by Teresa Cutter, The Healthy Chef, for the Natural Awakenings magazine. I then added a (vegan) maple vanilla frosting to cover each Christmas pudding. This is easily my new favorite Christmas treat! Enjoy it!

Merry Christmas! !Feliz Navidad! Frohe Weihnachten!

No-Bake Christmas Pudding Cake


{Vegan & Gluten-Free} Christmas Mini Puddings
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  1. 10 Medjool dates
  2. 8 oz dried apricots, chopped
  3. 1 ½ cups almond meal
  4. 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  5. 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  6. ¼ teaspoon of ground nutmeg
  7. ¼ teaspoon of ground ginger
  8. 2 tablespoons of orange juice
  9. grated zest from one orange
  1. Combine dates, orange zest, apricots, vanilla, almond meal, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in a food processor. Process until mixture is combined and looks like fine crumbs.
  2. Spoon mixture into a large bowl and add 2 tablespoons orange juice then mix again. Your pudding mix should come together in the hands when lightly squeezed. Divide puddings into 6 small puddings ( or 12 mini ones).
  3. The best way to do this is to line the base of your desired mold with plastic wrap and press the pudding mixture into it firmly. Invert the pudding and remove the glad wrap. Repeat until all the puddings are formed.
  4. Pour a little bit of maple vanilla frosting** or melted white chocolate over the top of each one of the puddings You can garnish them with dried cranberries, goji berries, nuts or more orange zest.
  5. Arrange onto a serving plate and set aside until needed. Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks
  1. ** To prepare the maple vanilla frosting, combine the following ingredients in a blender until smooth: 1/2 cup of raw cashews ( soaked for at least 4 hours), 1/4 cup of (melted) coconut butter, 1/4 cup of maple syrup, 2 tablespoons of water, 1 teaspoon of vanilla and a pinch of salt.
  2. Store any leftover frosting in the fridge.
Adapted from The Healthy Chef
Adapted from The Healthy Chef
Sunshine & Kale

Some people have asked me what the difference is between a (British) Christmas pudding and what they call in the US Christmas fruitcake. The main difference is that the Christmas pudding is steamed and the Christmas fruitcake is bake. Also, Christmas pudding is usually flamed after Brandy has been poured over it. This is an ingredient that you could be easily incorporated into my maple vanilla frosting for the adults in the family! Bon Appétit

The Force Awakens – Star Wars Cookies

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is set to be released on December 18th, just one day away. My little Storm Troopers at home have been waiting for this movie with great anticipation, so last week when I walked by William Sonoma and saw these Star Wars cookie cutters I couldn’t say no. 

Star Wars Cookie Cutters II Star Wars Cookie Cutters

There was just one itsy bitsy problem: I am a cook, not a baker. Give me three random ingredients and a knife and I’ll make something delicious for you. Now, give me flour and baking powder and I am lost. To me, baking is a science. You add an extra 1/2 of a teaspoon of baking soda to your mix and your cookies will end up with the wrong color, flavor or texture.  I usually follow my instinct when I am in the kitchen. I hardly ever follow instructions to a T. When I want to try new recipes, I tend to read the instructions twice, memorize them and start cooking without referring to them. You can’t do this when you are baking, unless you have extraordinary talent or lots of experience preparing desserts.

For this Star Wars project, I not only wanted to bake cookies but I wanted them to be vegan and gluten-free.  Let the force be with me!

I tried several recipes and failed miserably. Then, I came across Erin McKenna’s book “BabyCakes Covers the Classics: Gluten-Free Vegan Recipes from Donuts to Snickerdoodles”.  For those that don’t know Erin, she is the owner of Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC ( originally called Babycakes), the world’s premier vegan gluten-free bakery in Lower East Side Manhattan. Her bakery focuses on the under-served people with gluten, dairy, egg, and soy sensitivities, the health-minded, and, most importantly, allergic kids who are often unable to indulge.

Star Wars Cookies - In Progress

I reached out to Erin to make sure it was fine to share her recipe since it’s copyrighted. I forwarded her the pictures of my final product and she replied almost immediately with   “Permission granted–nice work!!” .  I feel honored!

Enjoy this treat, everyone! I know… I know, there is sugar in the cookies but you have to put a little bit of life into living sometimes.

DISCLAIMER: These cookies might transport you to a galaxy far far away!

Star Wars Cookies DONE 

Star Wars Sugar Cookies
Yields 24
These cookies might transport you to a galaxy far far away!
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  1. 2 1/4 cups rice flour, plus more for dusting
  2. 1 1/2 cup vegan sugar
  3. 1/4 cup arrowroot
  4. 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  5. 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  6. 1 teaspoon of salt
  7. 3/4 cup melted coconut oil or canola oil
  8. 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  9. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  10. 2 teaspoons lemon extract
  11. 1/2 cup of cold water
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the rice flour, the sugar, arrowroot, baking soda, xanthan gum and salt. Add the melted coconut oil, applesauce, vanilla extract, and lemon extract to the dry mix. Stir with a rubber spatula until a very thick dough is formed. Gradually add the cold water and stir until the dough is slightly tacky.
  3. Cover the bowl in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Dust a clean work surface with some rice flour. Roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thickness.
  5. Cut out the cookies with your desired cookie cutters** and transfer from the work surface to one of the prepared baking sheets with a spatula, placing them 1 inch apart. Repeat with the remaining of the dough.Bake for 7 minutes, rotate the baking sheets, and bake for 7 minutes more, or until slightly golden.
  6. Let the cookies cool on a rack for 10 minutes.
  1. **I used William Sonoma's Star Wars cookie cutters
  2. *Recipe from BabyCakes Covers the Classics: Gluten-Free Vegan Recipes from Donuts to Snickerdoodles by Erin McKenna. Published here with permission from the author.
  3. Photo Credit: Ciry DG aka @sunshineandkale
  4. Enjoy
Sunshine & Kale

{Vegan} Delicious Golden Milk

In 2004, I was introduced to the world of Ayurveda (an ancient system of life [ayur] and knowledge [veda]). I had just moved from New York to San Diego and landed a job five minutes from The Chopra Center at Omni La Costa Resort in Carlsbad. I visited this center several times during my lunch breaks and started reading Deepak Chopra’s books. The morning I finished reading Deepak’s Synchrodestiny, I received a call, an invitation to a wedding in India. This was an offer I couldn’t resist!


I traveled to Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam with four close friends. During our trip, we consumed large amounts of turmeric and dairy. This was my pre-vegan era. We were often asked, “What kind of tea do you want? “Chai Tea”, we would usually reply. I learned on my second day in India that the word “chai” means (plain) tea. Saying “I want chai tea” is like saying “I want tea tea”. No wonder everyone would smile at me. What we really wanted was “masala chai”.


In India, I discovered two Ayurvedic remedies: CCF Tea (made with coriander, cumin and fennel seeds) and Golden Turmeric Milk. Both drinks are incredibly powerful and good for the digestion (especially if prepared with nut milks).  In addition to this, turmeric has proven of value as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, digestive aid, skin remedy, an adjunct treatment for cancer as well as a prevention for heart disease, diabetes, and certain auto-immune conditions (Source:

After the wedding in India, I continued following an Ayurvedic lifestyle for many years. I still do many of the morning rituals (aka dinacharya) like drinking a warm glass of water as soon as I wake, daily self-massages (aka daily abhyanga), tongue scraping, etc… I also drink CCF tea regularly.

However, It wasn’t until recently that I re-discovered Golden Milk. It seems like a popular recipe nowadays. Ayurveda is going mainstream! Now that I eat 100% plant-based, I decided to give it a try with homemade Brazil Nut Milk (2 cups of Brazil nuts, 4 cups of water, 1 vanilla bean and a pinch of salt). I also tried it with homemade almond milk. It tastes good both ways.  My recipe was adapted from Dr. Andrew Weil.

Masala Dabba

My masala dabba

{Vegan} Golden Milk
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  1. 2 cups of non-dairy milk (I used homemade Brazil Nut Milk but you can use almond, coconut or cashew milk)
  2. 2 Medjool dates
  3. 1 teaspoon of turmeric
  4. 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  5. 1 teaspoon of ground ginger
  6. ½ teaspoon of ground cardamom
  7. ½ teaspoon of ground nutmeg (optional)
  8. a pinch of black pepper (optional)
  1. Place all the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.
  2. Transfer to a small saucepan and heat gently for a couple of minutes.
  3. Pour into your favorite cup and enjoy it.
Sunshine & Kale
Some interesting facts about turmeric:

  • Turmeric, called Haridra in Sanskrit and Haldi in Hindi, goes by the botanical name Curcuma longa. The herb grows to a little more than 3 feet in height. It produces both a rhizome and a flower. The rhizome being the most used part of the plant and the source of both the yellow dye and the spice.
  • In both Hinduism and Buddhism, turmeric is linked to fertility, luck and the sun. Because of this, turmeric is traditionally used in wedding ceremonies and the roots of its plants are often a gift to pregnant women. In nuptial customs, turmeric may be applied to the bride’s skin as part of purification ritual before the ceremony. Turmeric’s use is forbidden in a house in mourning.
  • In southern India, the dried rhizome is often worn in an amulet as protection against evil and to bring about healing or good luck.
  • The robes of the Hindu monks were traditionally colored with a yellow dye made of turmeric. Because of its yellow-orange coloring, turmeric was associated with the sun or the Thirumal in the mythology of ancient Tamil religion. Yellow is the color of the solar plexus chakra which in traditional Tamil Siddha medicine is an energy center.
  • India is one of the largest producers of turmeric. On average India exports approximately 50 thousand tons of turmeric every year. Pakistan is the second largest producer of turmeric. There are around 30 varieties that have been recognized in the type of Curcuma in which turmeric belongs. ‘Alleppey Finger’, ‘Salem turmeric’, ‘Rajapore’, ‘Erode’ and ‘Sangli turmeric’, ‘Nizamabad Bulb’ are some of the popular varieties of India.
  • Turmeric is popularly used in the cosmetic industry for preparing herbal products and natural hair dye.
  • The Assyrians knew about turmeric too. This orange root was described in a book of herbal remedies from 600 BC. The Greek physician Dioscorides used it in the first century AD during his time as “army doc” for the Roman Empire.

For more information on turmeric, click Blessed Herbs,  Wiki and Ayurveda College. If you want to explore more about Ayurveda, check Maharishi Ayurveda. I have purchased many Ayurvedic products from this site. They are truly the best!

{Raw} Date Energy Truffles

♪ Talk to me, baby
I’m going after this sweet-sweet craving, whoa-oh
Let’s lose our minds and go crazy-crazy
I-I-I-I-I-I keep on hoping we’ll eat DATE TRUFFLES by the ocean ♪

Yogi Runner

A little bit of stretching before running the RnR Seattle Marathon

These Raw Date Energy Truffles will jump-start your day. I usually eat them before my long runs on the weekends or as an afternoon snack to replenish my energy levels. For the endurance athletes out there, if you are looking for an alternative to GU Energy gels, Clif Bar Shot Bloks, etc… give this recipe a try! It will keep you going! Of course you don’t need to be an endorphin addict to enjoy these delicious energy truffles. My kids love it too!


{Raw} Date Energy Truffles
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  1. 20 medjool dates, pitted
  2. ½ cup of raw almonds
  3. ½ cup of pecans
  4. 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
  5. 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
  6. ½ tablespoon of vanilla extract
  7. 1 pinch of salt
  1. Soak the dates in hot water for 10 minutes.
  2. In a food processor, grind the almonds and pecans until fine.
  3. Drain the dates and add to the food processor with the peanut butter, cocoa powder and vanilla extract. Process until the mixture forms a ball.
  4. Roll into small bite-size truffles.
  5. Roll the truffles in shredded coconut, chopped nuts or coconut powder.
  6. Let your date truffles refrigerate for an hour or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  1. It makes about 24 small truffles.
Sunshine & Kale

Vital Restaurant & Juice Bar

On a recent trip Montclair (NJ), we discovered this casual Caribbean infused restaurant.  Their menu offers a great selection of vegan and non-vegan options and plenty of Jamaican favorites.

Vital Front

Vital Juice Bar -Blog

It’s nicely decorated with framed chalkboards and “earthy” messages:  “Your mind is a garden. Your thoughts are the seeds. You either grow flowers or you can grow weeds”.

Vital Sign II. jpg

Vital Signs III

We were seated almost immediately and ordered some drinks.  We enjoyed their signature Vitality smoothie prepared with pineapple, ginger, spinach and coconut water as well as their Milkless Milkshake made with raw almonds, dates, cinnamon and vanilla. Joining us in the background with its relaxing music, Bob Marley and the Wailers.

Vital Green Juice

Ciry at Vital Dining

For starters, we ordered their Stuffed Avocados with arugula, almonds, pico de gallo and house vinaigrette. Simple, yet rich in flavors!

Vital Salad

For the main entrees,  I ordered the Curry Quinoa Wrap with avocados, mixed greens and tomatoes. My husband ordered their Black Bean Burger with sun dried tomatoes spread, mixed greens and mango salsa.

Both dishes were offered with either  chips, okra fries or side salads. We decided to try the okra fries. Now, I am not  a big fan of okra ( I blame it on my Cuban family for making me eat Cuban Quimbombo)  but Vital’s fries won me over. I was pleasantly surprised with both its flavor and texture. 

Vital Wrap

Overall, the food was fresh and spicy, a feast for the senses! The service was fantastic and the Caribbean atmosphere was nicely recreated.  I can’t wait to go back to this place next year!   I strongly recommend Vital to everyone visiting New Jersey. 

For more information, check out their website: Vital Dining