Leena Has a Food Blog

One Woman's Quest for Organic & Seasonal
Eating in Los Angeles

Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies (VEGAN)

Spring is springing and you know what that means - time to break out the zester and get some citrus baking, salad-ing, steeping, or whatever else have you. I’m not here to judge. What? Anyway.

I love making these cookies. Last spring I adapted a  basic lemon poppy seed cookie to be egg/dairy free, which set it enough apart from the original recipe that I feel I can share it with you here free of oven-right infringement. 


Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies

1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup Earth Balance or other butter alternative
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup plain soy yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
zest of 2 lemons (writing this always feels akin to writing “eye of toad”)
1 1/3 cup flour - feel free to combine whole wheat and all-purpose
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt 
1 Tbsp poppy seeds + extra for topping

Preheat oven to 350℉.

In a saucepan, reduce lemon juice on low heat for about 3 minutes. Add 1/4 cup margarine, and turn off heat. Set aside.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. In another bowl, whisk remaining 1/4 cup margarine and 1/2 cup sugar. Add yogurt, then slowly add lemon-margarine mixture. Combine wet and dry ingredients, then mix in vanilla and almond extracts, poppy seeds, and lemon zest.

Place a tablespoon of dough into your palm, roll into a ball, and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Dip a small cyclinder (I used a mini-vase*) in water and then sugar, then lightly press down on each cookie before sprinkling a small amount of poppy seeds over the bunch. Bake in the middle rack of the oven for 10-12 minutes.

Enjoy in the lovely spring weather with a cup o’ tea!

*Shout out to Gina Fischer

Peanut Butter/Nutella Cake

Some days you come home from school, lace up your cross-trainers, and take a nice jog around the perimeter of UCLA.* Some days you return from a long day of class, grab a salad, and bounce right back out that door towards rehearsal.** Other days you come home from your Spanish Lit final and just need to make some f#*@ing cake.

The following post regards the last statement. 

Peanut Butter/Nutella Cake 
A very special thank you to my family of sweet eaters, Awaken A Cappella. I can always count on these folks to eat whatever I make with enthusiasm and a smile. We are a group of singing epicureans, and I actually think we ought to start marketing ourselves as such.


For the Cake
1 box chocolate fudge cake mix from Ralph’s*** 
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable/canola oil
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

For the Sauce
1/4 cup nutella
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup milk 

Make cake batter using directions on back. I used one less egg, a bit less oil, and a bit more water. Don’t ask me why - I couldn’t tell ya but it worked!  Separate into two greased 9” pans lined with parchment on the bottom. Add chocolate chips on top.

In a small sauce pan, combine the peanut butter, nutella, and milk on low heat. Stir until the delicious sauce begins to fill the air with an aroma so delicious you could slap yourself. Add half of the sauce to each pan in a spiral pattern. 

Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes. Let cool and serve with a glass of cold milk! 

*And by jog I mean you jog down hills and walk the rest of the way to Yogurtland.
**Later you might purchase a BBQ tofu wrap and an oatmeal cookie all for yourself from the Stage Canteen (the equivalent of my grade school’s Snack Shack, which was run in its heyday by yours truly and my fellow eight year old ITS-IT fans). 
***I don’t know what brand I used and today was recycling day. You’ll be fine. 

Broccoli Soup

  • Did you know that broccoli is a member of the cabbage family?
  • Did you know that broccoli has potent selenium, a mineral that has been linked to improving innate immune response regarding anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-cancer activity? 
  • Did you know that a delicious broccoli soup is a mere twenty minutes away, and that ten of those minutes can be spent taking a post-yoga shower and putting your pajamas on at 7:00pm? (WOAH, DREAM BIG).

I didn’t either until I googled “interesting facts about broccoli” and timed the recipe…the latter portion of which was indeed in my slippers and sailboat pants. At any rate, this is a staple around here as it keeps well in the fridge for a quick dinner reheat on the stove. I love this recipe for its soup-er (sue me) smooth/creamy consistency with very little added fat. I’m eagerly awaiting the approaching rainy days and thought I’d Magic Bullet up a batch and get ready to hunker down before the closing weekend of "Angels in America." Come see the play! 

1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, loosely chopped
1 head (or about 3 florets) broccoli, washed & sliced including stems
2 russet potatoes, washed & cut into crescent wedges
4 cups water (or you can use vegetable broth for a slightly different flavor)
salt & pepper to taste

Add onions and olive oil to a pot on medium heat. Cover with lid and let sweat, stirring occasionally for about five minutes. Add chopped onion, broccoli, potatoes, and water. Add salt and pepper (I usually use about a teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper). Bring to a boil, cover with lid, then simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and blend* ladle by ladle, transferring the blended soup to a new pot or serving dish. Optional: garnish with cheese of your choice - a sharp cheddar does the trick for this lil’ lady.

*Ideal to blend this soup in heatproof glass! 


Birthday (Dutch) Baby

Jordan’s birthday brought our little cottage lots of excitement this past week - a birthday party, midnight treats on the anniversary itself, and of course, a special birthday breakfast. This year I made Dutch Babies after hearing that it was the easiest breakfast treat around. Indeed it was. This recipe comes from Sunset Magazine, where it has resided for several decades. 


-4 oz. butter
-4 large eggs
-1 cup regular flour
-1 cup milk (I used nonfat and it worked just fine)
-1 tsp. salt


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Melt butter in a cast iron skillet on medium heat while making the batter. Whip the eggs until light and frothy. Add milk and salt, and whip thoroughly. Add the flour a bit at a time until the batter resembles a very heavy cream. Before the butter browns, pour in the batter and place in the oven. Bake for 25 minutes or until the pancake fluffs and the peaks begin to brown. 

-lemon juice and powdered sugar
-jams/maple syrup
-fresh fruit 

When the butter is completely melted in the pan, before it begins to brown, pour in the batter. Bake for 25 minutes or until the pancake puffs up and the tips of the paks begin to brown. Serves 2-3, depending on how good it looks (and tastes…).


Caramelized Onion & Mushroom Grilled Cheese

There’s something so wonderful about Friday afternoons. Whether you spend the last half of the day behind a desk or (in my case) enjoying the post-class/pre-rehearsal time to veg, there is an incredibly comforting element to the respite of a coming weekend, even if it involves a bit of work. This afternoon I headed home with a few very specific goals, a few things I simply had to get accomplished if I were going to be able to relax at all:

1. Make a grilled cheese sandwich.
2. Eat said sandwich while watching “Downton Abbey.”

 And truly…a brilliant to-do list - all panned out just perfectly.

1 teaspoon butter
1/4 yellow onion, sliced
1/2 cup baby portobello mushrooms, sliced and washed
1/8 cup smoked gouda
1/8 cup skim mozzarella
2 slices cracked wheat sourdough bread

Begin by typing “watch ‘downton abbey’ online for free season 2” into Google. Follow series of null links until you find one that you can stream illegally. Commence loading.

Heat cast iron skillet to medium high heat. Melt 1 teaspoon butter in pan. Toss in onions, and turn heat to medium low. Let the onions caramelize for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding sliced mushrooms around 15 minutes in. While onions and mushrooms cook, grate cheese.

Turn heat to medium and place both bread slices on skillet for 20 seconds. Flip, and then flip once more. Add half of each cheese to each side, then cover with caramelized veggies. Cover with pan lid for 1 minute. Remove lid and put sandwich sides together. Grill for another 2 minutes on each side. 

Hunker down with Friday afternoon comforts and be happy that gravity exists. At least we’re pretty sure. Isn’t it still technically a theory?


Vegan Peanut Butter Pudding

I adopted a vegan foodstyle for a couple of months last year, and while my diet remains probably about 75% animal-free, there are couple of things (coughicecreamcough) that I prefer the old fashioned way. Still, my kitchen remains a testing ground for all sorts of vegetarian/vegan dishes and on this cloudy afternoon I decided to try my own hand at something I love from a vegan restaurant in my neighborhood: Peanut Butter Pudding. Results were good!

12 oz. Organic Tofu (I used firm but it should work with softer tofu as well, maybe even better!)
1/4 cup unsalted peanut butter
1/3 cup brown sugar, agave, or maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups almond milk


Add all ingredients to a food processor (I used a Magic Bullet doing half of the ingredients at a time) and blend until creamy. Separate into five serving dishes and chill for a minimum of 2 hours. Optional: sprinkle with a few chocolate chips and shredded coconut. Serve cold!

Cheers to tofu’s versatility - hope this post finds you sweet as ever. 

Sprouts and Sundry

What the what? My luck was brilliant. After taking care of the babies yesterday morning, I came home for a quick run around the perimeter and returned with a total of 35 minutes before rehearsal to makes something wholesome and filling for the afternoon’s work. I knew I wanted to make the brussel sprouts that were neglected and looking more forelorn (I would go so far to even say bitter) with each passing day in the chilly dark box. But enough personalization of food. 

My mom found this great brussel sprout recipe in the SF Chronicle Food section and made it over winter break last year. The combo was fantastic, and though I rarely have the basics of what was in the recipe (local grapes seem especially hard to come by these days), I opened my fridge to toss in a couple other items and lo and behold: BAM.

This isn’t the exact recipe from the Chronicle, but the combo deserves a cited source.

Sprouts and Sundry

Soak brussel sprouts in a bowl of cold water. Shirk the clock and take photo.

Chop the remaining stems off of the sprout and halve.

Slice 1/2 cup of red onion and toss into medium-high heat pan with 1 teaspoon olive oil.

Add two tablespoons water and cover to carmelize, turning occasionally.
When the onions have begun to carmelize, add brussel sprouts, and a pinch (or 3) of salt and pepper. Drizzle with 1/2 teaspoon more of olive oil and cover.

As the brussel sprouts and onions brown, rinse 1/2 cup red grapes and halve. 

When sprouts and onions have browned, remove from heat and toss with cold grapes and one teaspoon of white balsalmic vinegar. Meat eaters: Bacon? 


For the past month or so I’ve been spending my Sunday mornings at the ocean. It’s my one day off these days and I find it incredibly helpful to sleep until I can sleep no more before heading down to the sea. The shore affords the perfect place to run lines, and I hope that the passerbys who notice my punctuation walks in the sand while speaking Elizabethan text are amused. Long gone are the days of trying to appear sane: I gave those up when enrolled in theatre school.

My second favorite part of Sunday morning is the farmer’s market. I can easily walk to the collection of near and nearer goods from the beach, and it always makes me feel incredibly grateful to live where I do and have a job that affords me good eatin’. I also notice that the food tastes better when I can smile at its caretaker during the hand-off. Pictured above is a week’s worth of loot from this morning. Stay tuned for a little video in the upcoming weeks. 

Hope this post finds you well and well-fed. 


Roasted Beets with Onion Greens

I had never roasted beets before a few weekends past. There, I said it: The blog’s title has been a SHAM! I had actually never really liked beets until a few years ago when I tried a salad that had arugula, chevre, and the most beautiful golden beet I’ve ever seen. Still, some people think they taste like dirt, and I suppose that’s only natural.  

A couple brief facts on beets:
-Studies have shown beets to reduce oxidative stress, a trigger in many diseases such as Chronic Fatigue, Alzheimers, SCD, heart failure, and Schizophrenia*
-Ancient Romans used beets for the treatment of fevers, constipation, and aphrodisiacs. (Again, the importance of the Oxford Comma becomes apparent).
-The rise of the sugar beet in the 19th century really put beets back on the map as they were now able to produce a highly-tradable good around the globe.

And now, Roasted Beets with Onion Greens:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

Trim greens off the beet and leave to soak in a bowl of cool water. The dirt should sink to the bottom after letting them chill out for a couple minutes. After removing from the water, rinse once more and gently pat dry with a towel. These can be used immediately or stored for a few days in the fridge (I wrap mine in a dry towel and seal them in glass tupperware.)

Wash beets, giving them a good scrub with a vegetable brush. Pat dry and place whole in an oven-safe dish. Drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Cover baking dish with aluminum foil and place in the oven at for 45 -75 minutes. Roasting time will depend on the size/quantity of the beets but I roasted three large beets for about 60 minutes. A fork should glide easily into the beet without making it fall apart.

After removing from the oven, let them cool for five minutes before removing the skin which should now fall off the beet without too much hassle. You may have to use a knife for some sections. Slice beets and refrigerate for up to four days.

When you’re ready to make the salad, here’s what to do.

Heat skillet on medium. Chop a quarter cup of onion (yellow/white will absorb the beet’s gorgeous colour best). Toss into pan and let them sweat. Give the beet greens a rough chop, including the stems. You may want to remove the section directly attached to the beet. Add to pan. Let the combo get friendly until the greens are steamed but not limp and remove from heat. Plate with chilled beets for a hot/cold dream team.

Hope you are enjoying the beautiful weekend!

*My favorite OkCupid message of the week: “Roses are red/ Violets are blue/ I’m a schizophrenic/ And so am I. -Frank P.S. UR CUTE!”

Wishing a very happy birthday to my lovely friend, Lindsay. I am grateful for the incredibly fun gal by my side, and celebrate her today with beautiful friends, beautiful food, and beautiful weather.And lots of wine.

Wishing a very happy birthday to my lovely friend, Lindsay. 
I am grateful for the incredibly fun gal by my side, and celebrate her today with beautiful friends, beautiful food, and beautiful weather.
And lots of wine.