Asking The Right Questions

Though I haven’t written on my website in over a year, I’ve been writing more than ever. (Take a look over on my Writing page to see what articles I’ve been writing.) I’ve also had the opportunity to work on several really, really cool ghostwriting projects.

In my work with Memory Lane Jane, I take hours of interview with beloved family members and turn it into a full-blown autobiography book. In July 2020, I had the chance to start this type of project with my own grandmother, Margaret Rose Husnian, a woman who grew up in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina.

The youngest of five siblings, my grandmother’s family lived off the land—common for the lower income families up in the Henson Cove (the rural area in which she lived). Many of the men in Canton, NC went to work in the paper mill, which my grandmother described as an environment that required workers to leave their values at the door. It was a rough, narrow-minded place.

Margaret married an “otar,” a foreigner. My grandfather was full-blooded, first-generation Armenian-American. His family’s traditions were unlike anything my grandmother had experienced. She became a military wife and raised two daughters overseas in Lebanon and Israel. Her world was split open in the best way, its contents spilling into all corners of her consciousness and flooding her soul with color, spice, and language. I imagine her world as a ball of burrata.

I learned things about my grandmother that I had never known before. I learned things about my grandmother that her own daughters had never known before. When it comes down to it, and when people ask me about what I do, it’s all about asking the right questions. Sometimes, it’s just about asking any question.

I learned that my grandmother loved to date men with boats. Once, when she was water skiing in Del Rio, Texas (where she was stationed in the Air Force with the Medical Corps), her bathing suit top flew off. “My boobs were pretty perky then, though,” she laughed. A very human thing we can all relate to, right? I had only known the woman with deepened laugh lines around her eyes patting biscuits on Saturday morning. I hadn’t known the wild water skier.

It is in our nature to share stories. After all, we want to be fully known to in turn be fully loved. To be fully known, we have to self-disclose. In telling her story, my grandmother expressed that she wanted her grandkids to know that she wasn’t always old and grumpy. True to the way our natures work, Grandma had witnessed her grandkids see her mother, my great-grandmother, as a late-80s-through-mid-90s-year-old woman in a nursing home—not the lively and independent woman who valued her daughters’ education. My Grandma Margaret had known a very different woman. All we see is what’s in front of us unless we ask the right questions.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to know my grandmother better.

I encourage you to ask just one more question.

Grain-Free (But Still Dope) Peach Cobbler


Comin’ atcha with grain-free, refined-sugar-free, gluten-free peach cobbler! Is it really summer in the South without it? I love this peach cobbler recipe because it isn’t so sickeningly sweet that it makes your teeth hurt, but it still feels very much like dessert. The golden bits of topping get crispy and the cinnamon brings a little warmth at the end of every bite. The only thing that could make it better is a big ol’ scoop of Nadamoo (not sponsored, but very willing!).

I use tapioca starch in this recipe because I find it to be cheaper than arrowroot—but it’s just as consistent. You can, however, sub arrowroot into the recipe if that’s what you have. You can also make this recipe vegan by subbing in 1/4 cup unflavored oil of choice for the butter. Do your thing.

I used frozen peaches that were thawed, drained, and patted dry. Fresh peaches would make it even better—and a little extra juice never hurt any peach cobbler filling.

Grain-Free Peach Cobbler


5 cups of peach slices (can be fresh or thawed from frozen)
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. tapioca starch
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1/4 cup butter or ghee, melted
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups almond flour
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1/2 tsp. baking soda

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Combine all of the filling ingredients in a large bowl, and toss gently until the peaches are completely coated. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine melted butter, almond milk, salt, and vanilla. Whisk to combine. Add the almond flour, coconut sugar, tapioca starch, and baking soda on top of the milk mixture, and stir gently until combined.
  4. Spread peach mixture evenly on the bottom of an 8×8 pan. Imagining your cobbler as a grid of nine, plop spoonfuls of the topping three across by three down until each section has topping. With any remaining filling, drop extra bits here and there until the surface is generally covered. Use the back of your spoon to spread the topping where needed.
  5. Bake your cobbler at 400°F for 15-18 minutes, until the topping is golden brown. Serve warm with ice cream. Makes about 6 servings.

Avocado Pesto for Creamy, Dairy-Free Pasta


I’m dairy-intolerant, which most people don’t know because of my voracious passion for cheese. So, when it comes to easy swaps, I like to lay off the alfredo and dress my pasta in something a little more Abbi-friendly. Avocado Pesto is an easy pasta sauce swap because you don’t feel like you’re missing out on anything—you get a creamy, thick sauce with tons of flavor while slicing that calorie count into bits. Healthy fats, people!

Each element of this recipe brings a different little something-something to the table. The base is avocado, of course, but the star of any pesto will always be fresh basil. I prefer Sweet Basil (what you normally find at the store) or Genovese Basil (a little more peppery) to Thai Basil, which lends some whiffs of licorice to your cooking (not for me).

Some pesto recipes are super oily. I love the flavor of olive oil, so we’re not omitting it—but we also don’t need to use olive oil as the thinner. Before you know it, you’ve added 1/2 cup of olive oil and you end up with a greasy pasta. My healthier swap is vegetable stock, which thins and adds fullness to the flavor. If I’m out of stock, I’ve been known to throw in a few tablespoons of unsweetened original almond milk (not vanilla) which is kinda good, honestly. Fresh lemon adds a brightness to your pesto, as well as some balancing acidity to the richness of the avocado. I’ve added a clove of garlic for flavor (a necessity in any good pesto) and seasoning to taste.

Fold your Avocado Pesto into warm pasta and top with toasted walnuts and fresh Pecorino, or mix it into your favorite kitchen-sink pasta (i.e., me throwing all the vegetables that need to be used up into a sauté pan and going from there).

If you are not worried about dairy, you can add a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese to your pesto. Be sure to taste the sauce before adding any additional kosher salt, as the cheese will lend saltiness.

Avocado Pesto

1 ripe avocado
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 chopped fresh basil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1-2 Tbsp. vegetable stock (for desired consistency)
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese (optional)

Add all ingredients to a small food processor and blend until smooth. Use immediately, or store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 3-5 days.

Makes enough to coat 4 servings of pasta.

Almond Flour Mixed-Berry Scones


On day 4 or 5 of Whole 30, I start thinking about baked goods. Y’all know this. We also know that they’re not technically Whole 30 because of that whole “baked goods” rule, so just scroll right on by and don’t report me to the Whole 30 authorities if you’re following the plan by the book.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way… these scones. If you’re familiar with baking, you’ll probably look at this ingredients list and notice something major missing: sweetener. These Almond Flour Mixed-Berry Scones are not sweet, other than the natural sweetness you get from whatever berries you choose. If you would like for them to be sweet, omit the applesauce and add 1/4 cup of honey (or maple syrup or agave or liquid sweetener of choice). I have not tested with a dry sweetener, but I think you could get away with 1/4 cup of coconut sugar and just end up with a drier scone. If you’re adding sweetener, mix it into that melted butter and brush a little bit on top at the end.

They have a fantastic moist texture, which is perfect for those (like me) who can’t stand dry pastries. I’d liken them to biscuit or muffin moisture (albeit, with a different texture). If you’ve mixed up your scone dough and it seems too wet, add an additional tablespoon of almond flour and teaspoon of tapioca. NOTE: Your dough will be sticky. But, it should be able to hold together once you’ve patted it into a circle. If you’re really having issues with it, refrigerate for 20 minutes to make it easier to mold. It has been consistently sticky for me, but it bakes up just fine.

Fresh or frozen? Fresh berries are ideal for this recipe because they don’t have all the extra moisture of frozen berries, but, that being said, fresh berries are pricey and you can’t get that good mixed berry blend. So, I used frozen berries. I put my berries on the stove to thaw them—you could also pop in the microwave for 10 or 15 seconds—and then spooned the berries (not the extra liquid that came out of them) onto a paper towel. Once it had absorbed some of the moisture, I added to my wet ingredients.

Almond Flour Mixed-Berry Scones

2 3/4 cups almond flour
3/4 cup tapioca flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

2 eggs
2 Tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
3 Tbsp. ghee or butter, melted (and an extra tablespoon for brushing on top, if desired)
1 cup mixed berries of choice (I used blackberries, raspberries, blueberries & cherries)


  1. Preheat your oven to 375°F. Start by whisking together your dry ingredients until combined. Make a well in the middle of the bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat eggs with applesauce. Pour in 4 Tbsp. melted ghee/butter (shouldn’t be too hot—just enough so that it’s melted) and whisk until wet ingredients are combined. Add in berries (see my note above about moisture).
  3. Add wet ingredients to the center of the dry ingredient bowl, using a wooden spoon or fork to gently combine until just incorporated. If your dough needs a little more structure, add in those extra flour amounts I listed above. Turn dough onto a parchment paper-lined pan dusted with a little tapioca. Pat dough into a circle.
  4. Cut dough into halves, then fourths, then eighths, like a pizza. Gently separate the scones about 1 inch from each other so they have room to bake on all sides.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes, and then rotate your pan in the oven. Bake for another 12-15 minutes, until scones have started to brown. Move scones to a wire rack to cool, and then brush with melted ghee/butter.

Almond Flour Mixed-Berry Scones taste best right out of the oven—but if you want to heat up on the next day, pop them into a toaster oven (or conventional oven) to maintain that crisp exterior. If you heat them in the microwave, you’ll steam them and they’ll become mushier.

I will also be using these scones as a vessel for berry shortcake. Crumble it up in the bottom of a dish, add fresh berries, and top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (this is my favorite kind). Everything is just a few steps away from being dessert, friends. Remember that.



Healthy Pineapple-Coconut Smoothie Recipe


I don’t know about you, but I’ve looked up “Disney World reopen date” more than twice over the past three weeks. The warm May weather has me thinking about all things Florida, including that creamy Dole Whip pineapple ice cream situation that mocks me while I sit at home. Then, I start daydreaming about the beach, which leads me to think about sitting on the sand along 30A, clear blue and turquoise waters in front of me, and sipping something coconut.

To make up for land-locked Tennessee, I’m indulging those summer beach cravings the best way I know how—a frozen drink. This pineapple-coconut smoothie has only four ingredients and takes under four minutes to make. And, let’s be honest—if you stir in 1.5 oz. of coconut rum, you’ve got yourself a piña colada. I made this at 10 a.m., but I request all after-4 p.m. versions to include rum.

For the coconut milk: I choose to use the full-fat canned version from Trader Joe’s. You’ll get a thick creamy layer on top (if you keep in a cool spot) that is my preferred 1/3 cup addition to this smoothie. However—any coconut milk, including thinner versions, will work. If you choose a thinner version, you may want to throw in some ice cubes to thicken it up. Or, better yet, freeze that coconut milk into ice cubes and use those!

Healthy Pineapple-Coconut (Almost Colada) Smoothie

1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup frozen pineapple chunks
1/2 frozen banana

Add all ingredients to a high-powered blender and blend until smooth. Maybe add rum. As Tabitha Brown would say: That’s your business. Pour into a glass and serve immediately.

Each recipe makes two servings (about a cup each) at 175 calories or one big serving, like I recommend, at 350 (approximate) calories. NOTE: The calorie count goes down with the type of coconut milk you choose.

Sip sip hooray! (I know. It’s the piña talking.)

Ginger-Lemon Wellness Shots


Shots! Shots! Shots!

When I first got a juicer, one of my friends said to me, “Trust me—the appeal will die down.” As it turns out, I’m a seasonal juicer. I will juice the heck out of some summer produce (lookin’ at you, watermelon) but can’t bring myself to juice in the winter—albeit, when it’s most needed. (This is the juicer I have, and it’s very easy to use.)

Now, more than ever, a strong immune system is vital to staying healthy (and keeping others healthy, in turn). I wanted to start taking a daily wellness shot—also called immunity shots—when I went into quarantine, but shots at the grocery store run $3-$5 apiece. With this recipe, you can make 30+ wellness shots at under $1 each. Sounds pretty good, right? If you invest in a juicer, you’ll save a lot in the long run. Plus, you’ll have a killer fresh watermelon margarita to share in the summer.

These shots contain six key ingredients: ginger, turmeric, apples, lemons, garlic, and cayenne. Here’s a quick run-down on the reasons:

  • Ginger is an anti-inflammatory LOADED with antioxidants. It lowers pretty much everything bad in your body.
  • Turmeric is also anti-inflammatory and is great for cognitive health and function. It boosts liver and thyroid function. This is a little harder to find at the grocery store, but I can usually find at Kroger. However, it’s much cheaper at your local international market!
  • Apples promote a healthy gut and, in this recipe, they’re lending the flavor that keeps these shots palatable.
  • Lemons are great for your skin—but they’re also incredible for your heart, blood pressure, and immune health.
  • Garlic is a long-loved, anti-inflammatory wellness ingredient. It improves cardiovascular health and boosts immunity. In lab tests, it even appears to kill cancer cells.
  • Cayenne lends a kick and aids in digestive health, pain relief, and lower blood pressure.

One thing to keep in mind when you’re making your shots is that turmeric stains. It is potent and wonderful for you, but it’ll stain your countertops, clothing, metal sinks—anything it can touch. For this reason, be extra cautious as you juice your turmeric. If a little gets on the counter (it does for me every time) you can clean it up with some Comet.

Ginger-Lemon Wellness Shots

2 lbs. fresh ginger (I use 7-8 large pieces)
1 lbs. fresh turmeric
3 lbs. apples (I use gala)
2 lbs. lemons
3 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. ground cayenne pepper (depending on your heat tolerance)

Juice ginger, turmeric, apples, lemons*, and garlic. Whisk juices together in a pitcher, and then add ground cayenne. Keep mixture refrigerated in a sealed container or pour into individual 2-oz. glass bottles. If you’re not using individual bottles to keep your shots in, drink 2 oz. of wellness shot liquid (about 1/4 cup).

*I have recently started peeling my lemons before juicing them to make it a little easier on my juicer.

You can take shots every day. I even take two-a-days when I’m feeling extra vulnerable. The mixture has kept for two weeks for me, but if you make a lot and feel like you won’t be able to drink it all, just pop it in the freezer in a container where it has room to expand a bit. Then, simply thaw when you need more shots.

To good health!

Gluten-Free Crispy Shrimp Scampi


Who knew it would take a global pandemic to get me back on my blog?

This past Mother’s Day, my mom requested a dish I’d never made before: Shrimp Scampi. She said, “It’s been over 10 years since I’ve had it!” That, in itself, is some pressure. How can you live up to a memory that’s been preserved for 10 years? Answer: You can’t. You just have to do your best.

I found a shrimp scampi recipe online (here’s the original), but my family always requires some modifications—we’re gluten-free and generally dairy-free. Also, I almost always forget to pick up an ingredient at the store before I start cooking. But, much to our delight, this modified gluten-free shrimp scampi checked boxes all around. It was crispy—not soggy—with crunchy bits, savory herbs, and the mere breeze of wine, like you live next to a family whose cousin owns a vineyard in Napa. It was, shrimply, a hit!

Here’s how to make it:

Gluten-Free Crispy Shrimp Scampi

PREP: 20 minutes
COOK: 15 minutes

1/3 cup GF all-purpose flour mix
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 lb. shrimp, shelled and deveined without tails (easy shrimpin’ explanation here)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4-5 cloves garlic, minced (I used 5)
3 green onions, finely sliced
2/3 cup fresh parsley
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 cup white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)

  1. Combine the flour mixture and spices (through paprika) in a bowl. Once you’ve cleaned the shrimps, dredge them in the flour-spice mixture.
  2. In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat up olive oil. Add shrimp in a single layer to the hot oil. Turn the shrimp several times to keep it from burning. Once the shrimp is cooked (think crispy little C shapes), remove from oil and place on a paper towel to absorb excess oil. My shrimp only took 3 or 4 minutes to cook. Transfer shrimp from paper towel to serving dish.
  3. In the same pan as your remaining oil and little crisp bits that fell off of your shrimp, add the garlic, green onions, parsley, and oregano. Sauté for a couple minutes—look for onions to become semi-translucent—and then spoon the herbs over the cooked shrimp and toss together.
  4. Add white wine to the skillet to deglaze, getting all those yummy bits off the bottom. The wine will bubble up. Give it 30 seconds or so, swirling around and letting some of the alcohol burn off, and then pour skillet contents over the shrimp. Serve immediately.

I’d recommend serving with lemon slices and additional fresh parsley to garnish. We served our crispy scampi over rice alongside roasted veggies. It was delicious!

NOTE: If you want a distinctly buttery taste to your shrimp, sub 1/2 cup butter in for the olive oil. Only thing to note here is that your butter will brown in the high heat—but Brown-Butter Scampi sounds good, if you ask me.

Enjoy, enjoy!

Whole 30 Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins


Whole 30 sticklers, please don’t come at me with the “you can’t bake anything” rule. It was my mom’s birthday this weekend, so these lemon-poppyseed cupcakes (albeit sweet muffins) were a fun and yummy way to celebrate. Y’all, they are GOOD. If you’re not Whole 30-ing, please drizzle with some fresh lemon juice whisked with honey (or a powdered sugar glaze!). Here’s the recipe:

1/2 cup shredded zucchini (patted dry)
1/2 cup chopped apple, like Gala
1 banana
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. coconut oil
9-10 pitted dates
3-5 drops lemon essential oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Zest of one lemon

2 cups almond flour
1/3 cup tapioca flour (or arrowroot)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 Tbsp. poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 350˚.

Combine all wet ingredients in the food processor and puree until smooth. Combine almond flour, tapioca flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl and whisk. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients gently with a spatula, being careful not to beat too much air out of the mixture. Stir in the poppy seeds.

Spoon into a muffin tin lined with parchment paper muffin cups. Cups should be about 3/4 full (mixture won’t rise too much). Bake at 350˚ for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.


GF/SF Mixed Nut Florentines

My dad is a fiend for salted mixed nuts, so when I came across a recipe online that looked like it could be a fit, I decided to test it out for our Christmas cookie plate. However, if you’ve ever baked with me, you’ll know that I usually end up making so many substitutions to a recipe that the end result doesn’t look like the original recipe at all. Here’s what I started with: Mixed Nut Florentines from The Sugar Free Mom. But, here is my adaptation of the recipe (and, some things I’ll change for next time):

2 cups salted mixed nuts
2 Tbsp. GF all-purpose flour
1/3 c. butter
3/4 c. coconut sugar
1/4 c. honey
2 heaping tablespoons coconut cream

Pulse the mixed nuts in a food processor until they’re finely chopped. Stir in the flour and set aside. In a saucepan, melt the butter, coconut sugar, honey, and coconut cream together, bringing it to a boil. Let it boil for 30 seconds to 1 minute, and then turn off the heat.

Pour the “sugar” mixture over the nut mixture, and stir to coat thoroughly (it will be syrupy). Let the nuts sit for 15-20 minutes to cool, and then use a spoon to scoop out mixture onto a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet. These *hella* spread, so give yourself plenty of room between them on the parchment paper. Bake at 350˚ for about 10 minutes, switching the racks halfway through. At this point, check the color of the sugar lace on the cookies. If it looks like it could be a little more brown, leave them in a little longer. I ended up baking mine for a total of maybe 14 minutes, but one batch ended up too dark.

Move the parchment paper on your baking sheets onto racks, and let the cookies cool for at least an hour. If they start to harden on the edges, you’ve done your job. I had some that were still soft after that time, so I put them back in the oven for a few minutes to get some more moisture out.

NOTE: The adjustment I need to make to the recipe is with the butter that it calls for. I’ve adjusted the quantity, but these still end up feeling a little greasy. You can pat with a paper towel when dry, but do not pat when fresh out of the oven – they are too soft at this point and will deteriorate. If you’ve tried this recipe and have any comments or adjustments, let me know! We will master the mixed nut florentine together.