Healthy Protein Balls


This is my first post as a post-grad! Blame my thesis and the race to the graduate finish line for the lack of updates. Most days I was lucky to have time to eat, much less try new recipes or write blog posts.

At the beginning of this year I did make a real effort to make time to work out and to eat healthier – which meant a lot of meal prepping and healthier snacking. I wanted to up my protein intake, but from non-meat sources.

I absolutely had to try these no-bake protein balls from The Healthy Maven. This is my first time making and eating “energy balls” and this one had all the ingredients I love. There are endless versions out there of these little protein-packed snacks in tons of flavors from carrot cake to chocolate chip. Try ’em all and find your fav!


You’ll need:

  • mixing bowl
  • measuring spoons
  • liquid measuring cup
  • dry ingredients measuring cup
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup vanilla whey protein powder (*I used a vegan protein powder that I had at home)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup smooth nut butter (almond, peanut, cashew, whatever you like!)
  • 3 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup add-in (e.g. chocolate chips raisins, etc.)
  • 2-4 tablespoons of liquid (I used almond milk, but you can use water, soy, regular milk)
  • air tight container

In your large mixing bowl add in the oats, protein powder, cinnamon, and chia seeds. Mix. 25901572902_86c4a35835_z

Next add in the nut butter, honey and vanilla. Stir, stir, stir! 25901667012_4139594f84_z

After everything is thoroughly mixed, it should be sticky but still dry and crumbly. Add in your raisins, chocolate chips, or other add-ins you desire. This gives it some extra flavor and texture.

Here’s the fun, messy part. Start with 1 tablespoon of the liquid and mix everything with your hands. If the mixture is still pretty crumbly and not holding shape, then add another tablespoon of liquid. Repeat this until it is the desired texture and you feel like you can shape it into balls. If it’s too dry, it will fall apart, if there’s too much liquid it will be very messy and won’t hold it’s shape. 25393375863_90d61dd5ca_z

Roll into bite-size balls and place in a container. Put it in the fridge for 30 minutes to set.

The 30 minutes felt like such a long time, I couldn’t want to try it! When I finally did, I was so excited to find a recipe for a delicious, healthy, super-filling, and protein-packed snack! These are easy to take anywhere, great for a mid-afternoon snack to carry you over to dinner. The energy balls look small but are so dense with nut butter and oats that just one will make you feel pretty full. I added raisins and they were the perfect touch of sweetness! These should keep for about 2 weeks in the fridge. 25393600673_b87260bc89_zNow that school’s out (forever!), I hope I have more time to try and share new recipes. Don’t worry, I may be trying to eat healthier, but that does not mean the end of desserts and decadent sweets for Sweet Therapy.


Easy Creamy Spinach Dip

Summer means BBQs, pool parties, and picnics – and this is one of my go-to recipes for something fast and easy to make but also a crowd pleaser. This creamy spinach dip is great if you don’t want to show up empty- handed but want to bring more than chips and a jar of salsa.
20356543796_e5cb85f384_oThe first time I had this was 10 years (!) ago when my one of my roommates made it, I thought it was magical…she said it’s Knorr. I’ve been making it for BBQs every since. It uses simple ingredients that you can find in most major supermarkets, even the water chestnuts (Hint: they usually hide in the “Asian” or “Ethnic” food aisle.) 

20194822858_d971bd28e3_oThe best part is your shopping list is at the store, pick up a packet of Knorr vegetable recipe mix (there’s other brands of veggie mix out there but I just have not tried it.) and get started. 

  • 1 package of 10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 16oz container of sour cream (use Lite if you’d like)
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (again use a lite or “olive oil” version if you want)
  • 1 packet of Knorr vegetable mix
  • 1 80z can of water chestnuts, drained and chopped (optional)
  • 3 green onions (optional)

20194816858_fa0a4fc41e_oOkay, it’s not very pretty or appealing when you are making it and in such large quantities, if you are freaked out by how much mayo goes into this like I was, breathe….it’s worth it in the end! Super easy steps: prep all your ingredients, dump it all in a large mixing bowl and mix well. Cover with saran wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill. Very important to give it the full 2 hours (or more) to chill and to really let the vegetable mix “meld” with the other ingredients.

A few tips:

  • make sure the spinach is “chopped” – you don’t want stringy leaves of spinach hanging from people’s mouths. Awkward.
  • use clean hands to squeeze out the water from the thawed spinach- it’s the best way to get all the water out and I’d usually squeeze in small fistfuls and at least twice
  • unless you or someone really loathes water chestnuts- I highly recommend adding them in. They really add texture to the dip and a great crisp crunch that balances out the creaminess.
  • This goes great with any sort of veggies (cucumbers, carrot sticks, bell pepper slices, celery) or crackers but my absolute favorite pairing is French baguette slices! I usually pick up two fresh baguettes from the store bakery section and ask them to slice them up for me.
  • Serve in a hollowed out bread bowl for extra fancy presentation! 20382795205_81dee26520_o

Hope you all are having a wonderful summer (with good people and good food)!

Spam Musubi

Yup that’s right…SPAM. Mystery meat in a can.

Before you make a face and turn up your nose, if you’ve never tried spam musubi- you need to try this! Spam musubi is the ultimate Hawaiian snack- it’s delicious, filling, cheap, and easy to make. 2015-04-18 22.25.15In this post, I will actually be showing you two assembling methods- using a musubi mold OR if you don’t have one-do not despair-you can use the original Spam can!

I actually did not follow a single recipe, but just to make sure I did not go in blind I reviewed Momfuku’s Spam Musubi recipe and Eating Richly’s recipe – both give you the basics and also shows you how Spam musubi can vary! There’s tons of recipes out there you can follow.

Pre-recipe step: make the rice! I used premium grade sushi rice. Sushi rice is moist, sticky, and slightly sweet and can be bought at most large chain grocery stores. But if you don’t have sushi rice, not a big deal, you can use regular rice too. I’ve actually used brown rice (for a “healthy” version) and it was fine, except it’s not as sticky, so the rice may fall out.

Prepare 2 cups of cooked rice according the instructions on the bag.

2015-04-18 22.32.32This recipe makes 8 servings.

You will need:

  • 1 can of spam (they have turkey, low sodium, teriyaki, etc.)
  • 2 cups of sushi rice
  • 4 large sheets of nori, cut in half (sushi seaweed you can get at Japanese/Asian grocery stores)
  • sweet soy sauce (optional)
  • a musubi mold OR save the spam can!!
  • saran wrap
  • small bowl of water

Slide the spam out of the can, cut in half and then cut those halves evenly, and cut them in half again. You should have 8 even slices. Spam from the can is not very pretty to look at, but I promise it will look more appetizing later.
2015-04-18 22.27.20Heat up a wide non-stick pan at medium heat. DO NOT put oil in the pan- it’s not necessary since there is fat in the spam. Place the spam slices in and cook on each side until it’s caramelized and a little crispy. If you want extra flavor, you can add some sweet soy sauce on the top before flipping it over. Wait until the sauce is bubbly and has thickened. 

2015-04-18 22.30.12Now we are ready to assemble! Here is my assembly station already to go (except for the wine!).  

2015-04-18 22.41.50First I’ll show you guys how to make the musubi with just the can! Wash the grease from the can and line it with saran wrap. Fill about 1/4 of the can with sushi rice. Pack it in with a spoon, make sure the rice is super-squished in. 

2015-04-18 22.43.16Lay a spam slice on top of the rice layer and fill up the rest of the space with more rice. Wrap up the saran wrap and gently pull it all out. Take the “naked” musubi and place it on top of half sheet of nori (shiny side down) and roll it up! 

2015-04-18 22.43.41While I think the can mold is a brilliant way to do it if you cannot get your hands on a mold. I really do recommend getting one though. You can get it online and I bought this one from the local Japanese grocery store for $3 and it was the best $3 spent!! Made a huge difference in neatness and speed of making them.  

2015-05-17 22.44.23With a mold, you want to set it on top of the nori sheet, slight off center. Again fill it will a little bit of rice. Use the little handle to press the rice layer down flat. 

2015-05-17 22.53.58Place a slice of spam on top, press it down with the mold so it “melds” to the rice better. 

2015-05-17 22.54.26Rice layer #2 and press again. Pushing down on the handle, lift the mold up….

2015-05-17 22.55.32It’s it perfect? Now tightly wrap the nori around it. Dip your finger in a small bowl of water and spread it across the edge of the nori to help it stick and seal close.  2015-05-17 22.55.51As much as I hate waiting to devour these, I’d advise to leave them for about 15 minutes so the nori soaks some moisture from the rice and spam and softens or else your nori will be crunchy and may rip and fall apart when you bite into it.

2015-05-17 23.01.03I like to wrap the musubis in saran wrap so the rice does not dry out and it makes  a really awesome grab-n-go lunch/snack! The musubis should be eaten within a day or two. You should fridge them after a day since it is meat,  but know that if you do -the rice can harden. You can microwave them too- they are really best when warm.

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On nom nom nom. Hope you like it!
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Overnight Oatmeal aka “Summer Porridge”

Summer is no where near Seattle right now but I am completely obsessed with overnight oatmeal and it’s a great breakfast any time of the year. When I first tried this, I couldn’t believe how amazingly delicious and easy this was. After the first time I tried it my only thought was: “Next time, must double recipe!”

The Yummy Life has a great starter recipe with five different variations like Blueberry Maple which so far is my favorite one.

For the basic recipe you will need:

  • 1 airtight container or mason jar (everything tastes better in a mason jar!)
  • 1/4 cup uncooked old fashioned rolled oats (do not try to use steel cut or other kinds)
  • 1/3 cup milk (e.g. soy, almond, hemp, rice, cow, coconut)
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoon dried Chia seeds
  • 2 teaspoon pure real maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup blueberries
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Ch-ch-chia! These little guys are a great healthy, vegan source of Omega-3, minerals and fiber. When they come into contact with liquids, they form gelatinous coating and provides satiety.

2015-01-08 20.43.52For a busy grad student like me I need a meal I can throw together fast and overnight oatmeal is a dream come true. I grab a jar, throw in the oats, milk, yogurt, and chia seeds. Then I add the maple syrup and shake it all up! 

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Lastly add the fruit and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

2015-01-11 12.56.22Voila, you have amazing, delicious, healthy, satisfying, convenient breakfast for any time of the year.

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Basic Zucchini Pancake

My mom calls this an “Italian Pancake” – I have no idea what makes it Italian (Google ‘Italian pancake’ and this does not come up)! But with this super easy, über-basic recipe you can definitely give it whatever cultural spin you want. This savory pancake is similar to vegetable fritters (less crispy and oily) or Korean zucchini pancakes called Hobak Buchim. When my mom made this years ago, I was blown away and asked her for the recipe. As a true home cook, she never used precise measurements but attempted to give me some guidance:

You’ll need:

  • 1 zucchini
  • 2 eggs
  • chopped deli ham (optionally of course)
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup of water (or broth for extra flavor!)
  • a large shallow pan
  • large spoon or small soup ladle
  • spatula
  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

Makes about 2-3 pancakes about 6″ in diameter

Start off by washing, peeling and grating the zucchini with a medium cheese grater- you don’t want it to be too fine or else it starts getting mushy.

Combine the flour, eggs, broth or water in a large bowl then add your vegetable or meat ingredients last. Make sure it is well mixed and the zucchini is coated with the batter.

2014-03-31 18.50.18Heat the pan to medium and add the oil, wait until the pan is nice and warm-hot and drop about 3/4 cup of the mixture into the pan and cook like you would a breakfast pancake.

2014-03-31 18.32.26When you start seen bits of golden brown (after about 5-6 minutes) you can flip the pancake over and cook for about another 5-6 minutes.

2014-03-31 18.36.19These pancakes are delicious and best served piping hot. You can eat it by itself or get creative and eat it like a crepe! Below I made zucchini pancakes and added ham afterwards for a quick lunch!

2014-03-31 18.54.58You can go crazy with the recipe and substitute or add other vegetables or experiment with different types of squash. I would, however, avoid vegetables that have a high water content, cheese, or extra sauces so the pancake does not get soggy. Some ideas for additions:

  • bell peppers
  • jalapeños (for a KICK!)
  • mushrooms
  • fresh herbs
  • thinly sliced onions
  • sun-dried tomato slices
  • artichoke
  • julienned carrots
  • spinach
  • hashbrowns (!!)

Note: if you do decide to add much more ingredients then you may need to adjust the batter to make sure its well proportioned.

2014-03-31 18.51.06Thanks ma!


Spinach Dip Mini Bread Bowls- Tailgate Snacks

I’m still learning a lot about my new home city, first thing I learned: Seattle loves the Seahawks. When professors walk into class wearing blue and green jerseys- you know this is serious. I was invited to my first tailgate party (well semi-tailgate, we watched the game from the comfort of the warm indoors). My first thought was “what should I bring?!”

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When it comes to football, I’m pretty clueless, but at least knew that tailgating entailed a specific type of food. This isn’t a fancy-chocolate-ganache-fruit-tart kinda thing, this is a nachos-chips-and-dip-burgers kinda thing.

I admit, I enlisted the help of Google: “tailgate appetizers”

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I found Picky Palate’s Baked Spinach Dip Mini Bread Bowls and I was excited to try it out.

2014-12-14 10.27.20

  • 13.3 oz roll of refrigerated french bread loaf (Pillsbury is a good choice)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups baby spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 1 clove fresh garlic, minced (or 1/2 teaspoon of Trader Joe’s minced garlic)
  • 3 oz softened cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons fresh shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon chili pepper powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Start off by preheating the oven to 350°F and spraying your mini muffin pan with cooking spray. Pop open the french bread dough package.

Anyone else get really freaked out when it *pops*?

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Slice the whole roll into about 1 inch thick pieces. The recipe said it only makes 10 but I managed to make about 1 1/2 dozen minis. Re-roll, flatten, and press the dough into each muffin cup.

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In a medium bowl: add the cream cheese, sour cream, parmesan cheese, chili powder, garlic salt, salt and pepper. 2014-12-14 10.49.48

Add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a pan and heat to medium. Cook the spinach for about 2 minutes and add the garlic then cook for another 1 minute. The spinach cooks very quickly so be careful not to overcook.

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Add the cooked spinach to the mixture- stir and mix until well combined. If the cream cheese was not quite softened it’s okay the hot cooked spinach helps melts it. Spoon the dip mixture into the dough cups.

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Sprinkle some shredded mozzarella cheese on each and bake for 16-18 minutes until the tops and edges just start turing brown.2014-12-14 10.58.35

I had a problem stopping myself from “taste testing” more than 1 because they were so yummy!! The creamy cheese and spinach was a perfect balance for the warm fluffy french bread.

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I made these for the first time so I stuck with the basic recipe but imagine the possibilities of adding sausage, artichoke, jalapeños, or bacon! 2014-12-14 11.34.21

These were a hit and redeemed me as a San Franciscan among hard-core Seahawks fans.

Broiled Grapefruit Crisp

With the new year comes resolutions, with resolutions comes diets. Diets = grapefruit. Like many people I’m lured by the pretty gemstone pink fruit but hate the bitter/tart/sour taste that it’s known for. BUT I found this Broiled Grapefruit Crisp recipe that gives the grapefruit-eating experience an extra little something-something and I am addicted!


To prepare the sweet crisp top, you will need:

  • 1/4 cup dry oatmeal
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • dash of salt
  • 2 teaspoon butter (I haven’t tried any healthier alternatives but I’m sure you can try coconut oil or margarine.)

Mix this all up in a small microwavable bowl and microwave the mixture for just 15-20 seconds to melt the butter. I find this a good trick since I do not usually plan ahead and don’t want to wait for the butter soften.


Prep the grapefruit:

1. Use a knife to cut the grapefruit in half.

2. Scrape out all the seeds.

3. I like use a paring knife and carefully “pre-cut” all the flesh out so it’s easier to scoop out with a spoon later. I run my knife along the sides and then cut along each section.

3. Take the crisp mixture and spread it evenly over both halves. (I sprinkled some hazelnuts on top just for fun.)

4. Pop this in a toaster oven or regular oven and set to broil for about 8-10 minutes, no more than that or else you’ll get “Blacktop Grapefruits”.


In ten minutes you’ve got yourself a warm, sweet healthy little snack/ dessert!

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Dig into your resolutions! Before you know it you’ll be reaching for the second half.