Monday, December 8, 2008

Happy Holidays - Sugar is Here

Happy Holidays!
I have been a bit slow in blogging lately (thank you to my loyal followers who still checked in!) and I promise you some great things have been brewing for L. Little Food Coaching for 2009 in the meantime.
I wanted to take some time this month to talk about some of these holiday things that creep up and share with you how I have dealt with them successfully over the years. I thought I would start with sugar.
I not only love to cook, but I love to bake. And above all else, I just love to eat and feed people. I love the smiles, the satisfaction of nourishing them and the simple sharing that happens when you eat with people. Plus, I like the compliments! In any case, I have a few things I make that are classics and Ina Gartens Outrageous Brownies are in that group. Oh me oh my a recipe that starts with a pound of butter and 2 lbs of chocolate cannot be bad...seriously. There are also 2 cups of sugar and white flour in there. Now, these are not foods that are nutritious (they actually do the opposite), they are not something I would recommend you seek out, but every now and then it is fun and it is great for memory lane to make baked goods with these ingredients.
Lesson 1: Moderation. These are ingredients for the every now and then. Try on a regular basis to use substitutes like sucanat or honey for sweetness instead of white sugar, but if you find a great recipe that you like as is, just keep it that way but don't go overboard.

This particular recipe of hers makes 20 large brownies. I made them because I was going to a friends house for an event and brownies sounded good to both of us. I forgot to cut it in half, so there are still about 16 brownies to do something with. They are still in my fridge and this is the reason I was reminded to do this post. DO NOT KEEP THEM THERE!
Lesson 2: If you make extra, keep enough for yourself to just satisfy your indulgence or sweet tooth (one small square per day for a few days) and then stir up that feeling of St. Nick and share with friends, co workers, etc. You just don't need all that and keeping it in the house will provoke you to eat it.

All in all, keep white sugar and white flour and these refined foods out of your kitchen, but every now and then let it in and really enjoy it with a solid recipe and share it with friends and family. If you feel bad taking something out of your kitchen, put something back in - like carrots, celery, bell pepper or the like. Basically something healthy to snack on that nourishes you!

Remember, whole foods, whole meals

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thanksgiving Meal Marathon Day 5

My all time favorite dinner, lunch, breakfast or appetizer is a frittata. You can make this a hundred ways but here is my favorite. The key is to make sure your veggies are already cooked before you put the eggs in.


½ cup spinach
½ bell pepper, chopped into small pieces
½ small onion
2 slices nitrite and nitrate free bacon or 3 slices natural ham
8 eggs
3 tbls butter or olive oil

Turn on the broiler.

In a medium pan that is safe to go in the oven, heat 1 tbls olive oil. Cook the bacon until just crisp. Drain the fat except for one tablespoon. Cook the onion until translucent. Toss in the bell pepper. Cook until tender. Toss in the spinach until just wilted. Set aside.
In a large bowl, crack the 8 eggs and whisk. Season with a bit of salt and pepper.
Turn the burner onto a med-high heat with the veggies and remaining olive oil. Throw in the eggs.
Gently move the eggs and veggies around with a spatula until the eggs are relatively set. About 1 minute into the process stop touching it and let the bottom get nice and golden.
Put the pan under the broiler. Keep an eye on it – this will take no more than 5 minutes – until golden brown.
Take out – WITH POTHOLDERS, the handles will be HOT- set aside. Loosen the frittata and put on a plate to cool. This is an important step so the eggs don’t overcook.
You can also thinly slice potatoes, roast at 400 for about 30-45 minutes with olive oil and salt and pepper until just tender. Put these in the bottom of the pan along with the veggies and then the eggs.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thanksgiving Meal Marathon Day 4

This weekend I will be attending a pie workshop taught by my friend, fantastic chef and caterer, Beth Brann. I think Thanksgiving is made complete with pie and I cannot wait to learn how to make her specialties! That being said, I think fantastically cooked fruit dishes have been forgotten as delectable too. This is a good example of one that you can modify however you like.

Baked Apples and Pears with Yogurt and Honey
1 cup dried fruit of your choice, chopped (I like Turkish apricots and raisins or cherries)
3 apples of your choice, peeled, cut in half and cored
3 pears of your choice, peeled, cut in half and cored
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
3/4 cup water
zest of one orange
1 cup plain whole milk yogurt
Local honey

Lay fruit in a pan and top with the pears and apples, cut side down. Sprinkle lightly with the pumpkin pie spice. Pour in water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 20-30 minutes until tender.
Scoop out some dried fruit and a pear or apple, top with a nice dollop of yogurt and a spoon of honey. You can also put some toasted slice almonds or walnuts on top and you will be in heaven!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thanksgiving Meal Marathon Day 3

This recipe comes from a favorite of mine. It is a book titled 'Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen' by Donna Klein. I spent one year as a vegetarian (an experiment that didn't work out so well for my body) and approximately 10 years without any kind of dairy. I got where I am today with a passion for food and health through food because of these challenges and it gave me hours of experimenting and tried and true ideas to make food that pleased everyone, but didn't get me sick. This is one of those books that I enjoy for just that reason. It has great vegetable dish ideas and anyone, vegan or not, can really appreciate them. It is a nice lesson that we can have warm and memorable holiday meals without the highly processed and bad-fat -high sugar dishes usually prepared.

Provencal Butternut Squash Gratin

1 (3LB) butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, coarsely chopped (you can do this part the night before)
1 cup packed flat leaf parsley, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground sage
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup vegetable or chicken stock
2 tbls extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly oil a shallow casserole dish about 2.5 QT.
In a large bowl, combine the squash, parsley, and garlic. Sprinkle with the flour, sage, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Toss well to combine. Add the broth and 1 tbls of the oil. Stir well to combine. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and drizzle with the remaining olive oil.
Bake for 50 to 60 minutes. Stir halfway through the cooking time. Bake until the top is nicely browned and the squash is melting and tender.
Serve hot.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thanksgiving Meal Marathon Day 2

Day 2's recipe comes from my mother in law. The queen of great stews, homemade savory pies and soups. For years I took this original recipe and modified it to be dairy free so I could eat it. I would do this by replacing the ricotta with silken tofu. It works. However, today instead I would thicken it with a rue or arrowroot powder to take out the soy. It imparts a flavor that is not as neutral as I would like with the ricotta, and my soy phase is gone since I have become more educated about it's effects on our body (I can write about that after Thanksgiving).
This pie is great because you can assemble a day or two ahead, and then just bake right before serving. I like it because it is a nicely balanced pie. It's an easy way to get non-veggie people interested too. Enjoy!

Maria’s Spinach Mushroom Pie
1 large (8 oz) finely chopped onion
½ lb mushroom thinly sliced
2 slices nitrate and nitrite free bacon (optional) finely chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 Tbls chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dry tarragon leaves
2 pkgs (10 oz each) frozen chopped spinach thawed and moisture squeezed out or 3 large bunches chopped and cooked down
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup soft homemade bread crumbs
2 large eggs
½ cup grated parmesan cheese (tofu parmesan combo cheese)
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley

In a 12 inch fring pan or 4 to 5 qt pan over medium heat, stir onion, mushrooms, bacon (or a little olive oil if no bacon) garlic and tarragon often until liquid evaporates and onion is golden brown. (about 20 minutes)
Remove pan from heat. Crumble spinach and add to pan along with the ricotta, bread crumbs, eggs, parmesan and parsley; beat to mix well.
Pour filling into a 9 inch pie pan or dish
Lay pastry (*) over filling, fold edges under and flush with pan rim.
Bake at 400 degrees F oven on the lowest rack until pastry is well browned and filling is hot in center (40 to 55 minutes)

(*) Cream Cheese Pastry
In a food processor or bowl, combine a 1¼ cups flour, ½ cup butter or margarine in chunks, and 1/3 cup (3 oz) Neufchatel (light) cream cheese. Whirl or rub with fingers until coarse crumbs form. Ad 1 large egg; whirl or stir with a fork until dough holds together. Pat into a ball. If made ahead, chill airtight up to 3 days. Roll out into a 10 inch diameter round. It good to make dough ahead and chill- easier to roll out.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thanksgiving Meal Marathon Begins!

By far, my most favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. In our family, I always do it at my house. Everyone loves my cooking and I love to cook, so despite our smaller space, it is a perfect combination. This is the first year I have the blog during Thanksgiving and at the same time I was featured in this months Coast Views magazine and promised some fantastic recipes! So what better way to celebrate than with a marathon from now until Thanksgiving with side dish and appetizer recipes. Yummy!

Here is the first one where you can replace your canned sweet potatoes and marshmallows with this delicious and warming sweet potato dish.

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Ginger and Honey
3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup honey
3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons walnut oil
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
In a large bowl, toss together the sweet potatoes, honey, ginger, walnut oil, cardamom, and pepper.
Transfer to a large cast iron frying pan.
Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven.
Stir the potatoes to expose the pieces from the bottom of the pan.
Bake for another 20 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are tender and caramelized on the outside.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Featured Article - Coast Views Magazine

I wanted to announce that I was featured in our local Coast Views magazine this month!

Check out the article here:

Check back this week for the recipes mentioned in the article - they will be tasty and fantastic!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Giving in Times of Difficulty

I wanted to write this sooner, but here I am, barely in front of the food drives probably asking you for donations already. I wanted to post about it sooner because every year I donate and then volunteer at the food bank in our county (sorting food, packaging up, etc) and every year I do it around this time of year. That is good and giving to your community in any way is essential - remember it takes a village to raise a family. But what they remind us of each time is that people need to eat year round!
Right now is tough with the economy the way it is. And I am not here to whine about that. I have a degree in economics and fortunately that made me pretty comfortable with market fluctuations a long time ago. That is not what this is about. Instead, recognize that it is not easy for anyone, and reach out. A little goes a long way. Truly.
And in your own home, consider whole foods and whole meals. Just because the economy is taking a dive doesn't mean you should only eat ramen noodles and toast. It is the perfect time to be mindful about your eating and bring more of it to your home, eat locally and seasonally. Because as I talk a lot about on this blog, that is not just the healthiest way to do it, but it is also the most cost effective way to do it!

If you live in the Bay Area and are interested in donating or volunteering, you can find more details here:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Ol' Fashioned Way

I heard something funny the other day (okay, possibly this won't be funny to you, but humor me). Someone said 'Oh yeah I am going to try to lose weight the old fashioned way - Weight Watchers'.
Where to begin here. True, that is a program that has worked for a number of people including many celebrities. True, it can teach people how to eat without overeating.
False, it is in NO way the old fashioned way. Eating foods from a box, counting calories and points is not how generations before us kept healthy.
So let me share with you that the old fashioned way to managing weight is focusing on whole foods and whole meals. No counting calories, no counting points, no warming up food from a box in minutes in the microwave, no eating on the run. I get that people are busy and I get that it can be stressful to plan meals and put it all together (I can help with this, don't forget to check out my web site at But remember that every little bit counts, and with each week you can add a new habit from the real old days that brings you back to a way of life that uses nutrition to stay healthy.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Celebrity Chefs and the Home Cook

I was watching a commentary show with Anthony Bourdain yesterday with him and about 5 other professional chefs. They were basically sitting around eating fabulous food, and commenting on various questions and opinions about food, international experiences, worst restaurant experiences, etc. One of the questions Anthony asked was 'do you think the rise of celebrity chefs has been helpful or will it be detrimental?'. He adds to it 'let me give you the worst case scenario - Rachael Ray'. I started laughing. I like Rachael, but the way he phrased it.

Funny question to ask I thought, but I listened. Everyone had the same opinion as me, which is that anything that motivates people to get excited about food and cooking in their own home is a good thing. I am a big FoodTV person, as well as Fine Living Network and then I have a few shows on PBS I watch too. I just set the DVR to record a variety of shows, and then I spend probably a total of 1-2 hours a week watching them. I don't watch the whole thing, I skim - kind of like when you skim a book. Just so I get the idea. Plus most all of them post their recipes online now. It is great for inspiration, learning new techniques, history and recipes.

So if you don't already, try to find some inspiration from a celebrity chef to get you cooking more at home.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Snacks: Nut free and Handy

One of the challenges of snacks, especially for school age children, is having something that is healthy, handy (doesn't require utensils or complicated preparation), interesting, and in many schools today, nut or peanut free. I came up with a few ideas I wanted to share to build on my Super Snacks posting . I have also recently heard feedback that schools are not allowing chips or anything that resembles a chip or cracker allowed on campus....comments on that later. Let's get to snackin'!

Good ol' ants on a log: Remember these? Perfect to go snack with vegetables, fruit and then your choice of a filling can add a dairy or good fat serving in there too. I like celery with peanut butter and raisins, but you can also do almond butter (some schools are only peanut free), cream cheese, or goat cheese. You can also do currants (a more sour fruit) instead of raisins. Other dried fruits would be fun and tasty as well. All you do is cut the celery stalk into thirds. Fill with cheese or nut butter and line the fruit on top - as if they were ants crawling on a log.

Date rolls: Dates are great for to go snacks and they combine really well with a number of flavors. They are also quite sweet, but because we are talking about a whole fruit and not just juice for example, it has all the fiber and vitamins and minerals needed to best digest it. I like dates processed in the food processor with a bit of water, good coconut flakes (no sulfites added), perhaps a bit of pure cocoa powder, pine nuts or almonds if nuts are ok - all rolled into small balls. 2 of these little bad boys is the perfect amount to regulate blood sugar and keep someone going until their next main meal.

Raw Vegetables: Simple, I know. But one of the best snacks is some raw carrots, celery, bell pepper, broccoli, cauliflower, snap peas or edamame (generally I steer clear of processed soy products and try to focus on either fermented soy like miso or whole soy like edamame).

Asparagus Rolls: Usually you see these at fancy dinner parties, but I think you can make them a tasty and fun snack. Lightly blanch your asparagus stems in lightly salted water. Wrap with a bit of good quality ham or turkey that has been thinly sliced. You can also add a bit of goat or cream cheese in between the meat and asparagus.

Flax Muffins: There is a really great recipe for flax muffins on the back of Bob's Red Mill flax meal. You can also find it on their web site here:
You could easily take the nuts out, and I don't add the sugar at all - you have enough with all the fruit. If you really wanted to, add half the amount in the form of sucanat (a better sweetener to use as it is a more whole product). These would pack a good carbohydrate, fruit and fat punch. Please don't fear fat, it doesn't make you fat...more on that another time.

Sushi Sammies: In our family we call sandwiches, 'sammies'. And I like to make my own sushi - it is easy! No need for fancy rollers - just use a tea towel. Basically lay a tea towel out, and put the nori (dried seaweed) on top. Put about 1/4 cup cooked brown rice on top and then add thinly sliced cucumber, carrots, smoked salmon, goat or cream cheese and/or cooked mushrooms at the top of the nori roll (you pick what to put in). Start the roll by hand, and then wrap the tea towel around the nori and keep tightly rolling. Cut carefully with a sharp knife into equal pieces.

Bagels and Cheese-Veg Spread: I think this is a perfect area to make your own cheese spread to add to a wholesome bagel (think whole wheat, spelt, etc with no weird ingredients). You can pulse some cream cheese, ricotta or goat cheese in a food processor with your favorite herbs, salt and pepper, a bit of olive oil and some steamed spinach, artichoke hearts and/or eggplant. Top with a slice of tomato and you have a tasty to go sandwich. Instead of cheese you can also make baked veggie patties or maybe chicken nugget patties with extra vegetables added in.

A friend and fellow blogger of mine makes these, and you could easily adapt to remove the nuts:

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Dim Sum

Typically when I eat out it happens because of convenience, social situations or I simply can't make it at home (amount of time, recipes, difficulty). Dim sum falls into this last category. We love dim sum in the LL household.
In case you are not familiar with dim sum, it is a Chinese style of cooking/cuisine with little bites and dumplings of tasty fixings. Ranges from savory or sweet, steamed or fried or baked and spicy or mild. It is typically a brunch/lunch time event and accompanied with tea. Once you are seated you are typically offered tea. Then the fun begins as the various carts circle around the room displaying what just came out of the kitchen. You point at the cart and they put the basket of goodness on your table and stamp your card with the marker for the dim sum (price depends for the various dumplings). And if you don't want it you do the no thanks face and shake your hand across the table - that is not mandatory but it is my husband's trademark for dim sum and probably the main reason all of our friends like going with us - to watch him manage the dim sum intake.....moving then have several dipping options: none, soy sauce, Chinese mustard or hot sauce. Dip and eat!
My major gripe with dim sum is I have no idea what is actually going into my food. I know there is MSG (mono sodium glutamate - a preservative used as a flavor enhancer in many Asian cuisines) and MSG is terribly bad for you (and I myself am quite sensitive to it). That aside, like any other place you eat out, you simply don't know where the ingredients came from and who is making it.
So here is the really exciting part of this post, I made my own! And it turned out great. A good friend of mine has a book from the late 70's that her mom used to use called 'Dim Sum' by Rhoda Yee. This is my new dim sum bible. It is by no means a task to do alone, and it is time consuming. However, it is the perfect get together for friends to just sit and talk and enjoy food. Plus when you start something like this, you make a ton, eat some that day and then have the rest frozen for another time. It is kind of the same as when Latin families get together to make tamales.
So here was my favorite recipe of everything we made yesterday:

Siu Mai (shoo-my)
Makes about 10 dozen

1 lb ground pork sausage
1 lb fresh ground pork
2 tsp salt
1 can water chestnuts, finely minced
2 tbls ginger, finely minced
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tbls light soy sauce
1 tbls salted turnips, finely minced (you could omit, but this was an interesting ingredient we found at our local Asian specialty store)
4 tbls sugar
1 tsp teriyaki sauce
1 tsp sherry
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 cup cilantro,finely minced
1 stalk green onions, finely minced
1 package round wonton skins

Mix all the ingredients into a bowl together.

Take about 1 heaping tablespoon of the filling and put into the center of the wonton skin. You are going to leave the top open so what you do is fold the edges around the meat mixture. Then, holding from the top and the bottom, pat the mixture so it is flattened and secure in the little pocket pouch. Set inside a tray of some sort and cover with a paper towel.

Fire up your stove and warm up a couple of inches of water in a pot with a steamer basket - do not let the water touch the basket. When boiling, put your dim sum in the basket and steam for about 15 minutes.

Take out, eat when cooled enough to not burn your mouth. Serve with soy sauce, hot sauce and/or sesame oil. Enjoy!

Note, when you are working with won ton skins they should be kept moist. So keep covered with a wet paper towel, or keep them in the package they came in as you take one at a time out. Do not take them all out, separate and then try to stuff - you will be upset that you just ruined a whole package :)


I love chocolate. Typically I always have some kind of good quality chocolate in the house for when I have cravings and to add a little something extra to dessert or when guests are over.

The definition of good quality is something without extra additives, a dark chocolate (I prefer to go in the 70% cocoa range), and preferably something organic. I think it is a good idea to keep things like chocolate in your house because that way if you are craving it, you have already made the choice before hand to give yourself a good quality product.

Yesterday at the farmers market I came upon the Go To Chocolate booth and stopped because my friend had just picked up one of their Go To bars on Wednesday at a different farmers market and was RAVING about it. So we stopped and spoke to the owner and her daughter about the products and process. Fantastic philosophy, great packaging (I don't care, packaging is sort of a big deal to me - at least I am aware of it :) ) and nice people. So I bought the vegan sample box and tasted it today with my husband. He is not a choco-holic and he really appreciated these bad boys. All natural products, and just really great flavor combinations.
I am adding Go To Chocolates to my list of favorite gifts to give and favorite chocolates to have around. I particularly liked the blood orange olive oil chocolate truffle (they infuse the olive oil with blood oranges in the pressing process and Go To uses olive oil to soften the chocolate). And I am not an orange and chocolate person - this was different.
You can look them up on the web at:

Apologies for no photo.....they were too good :)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Balance it Out

The responses I get are interesting when people find out I am a food coach. Generally I think a food coach is associated with a rigid eater with nothing but salad and poached chicken...ok kidding, no one thinks I eat that way. However, with the holidays approaching especially, I am getting a lot of 'This is terrible for you I know' or 'You would die if you knew what I ate this weekend'. And this comes up with simple things like chocolate.
Truth is, it is about balance. It is about having good moments and bad - in a day or a week. I don't have the source at my fingertips, but there is some statistic that Americans gain an average of 5 pounds between Thanksgiving and the New Year - every year. Top that with a serious problem of not getting on track again and dropping the weight again, we get the current obesity epidemic.
So know that I don't believe in dieting, I don't believe in cutting food out of your diet (if you are a healthy person without food allergies or sensitivities, etc), but rather focus on enjoying food and cooking and find a program that for the most part serves your health!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Crockpot Success: Black Beans and Pork

I want to begin this post with a note about my crockpot history. I will keep it short - I have only made one thing I actually liked in it. This made #2! It was great, and really really easy. The great thing about anything crockpot is it has the taste and love of an all day cooked meal, and really all you have to do is throw the ingredients into the pot, and set it. I actually made this on Sunday because I knew I would just want to warm it up after my long day today. We made some homemade salsa, cut up an avocado and scooped out some organic Greek yogurt and served with a salad and it was DELISH!

We used thick Greek style yogurt instead of sour cream like the recipe called for. Two reasons, whenever I buy sour cream it is usually for one recipe - and I don't like to waste. This week I am doing two other recipes that use yogurt as a sauce, and the plain thick yogurt tastes just like sour cream. Better for you too - give it a try next time.

The recipe originally came from Real Simple magazine. You can find it here:

I made it spicier and I would recommend not adding the salt until the end. It made the bean skins hard on the outside and if you add the salt after it cooks it should eliminate that issue. Two other things we changed is we seared the pork in a pan before putting in the crockpot, and we cooked this for 5 hours, not 4 thus making it more like a stew and not soup.


2 12 oz bottles of lager beer (I used Sheiner Bock - highly recco this choice)

2 tablespoons chopped canned chilies in adobo and 1 tbls of adobo sauce

1 tsp cumin

1 large onion, chopped

1 pound dried black beans, rinsed

1.5 lbs boneless pork butt

Kosher salt

Greek style yogurt




Heat a pan to high with a tsp of oil. Sear the pork on all sides.

In the crockpot bowl toss in the pork, beans, beer, cumin, onion, chilies, adobo sauce and 3 cups water. Cover and set on high for 5 hours (depends on your slow cooker and whether you want this more like soup or like stew).

Add 1 tbls kosher salt. Stir and adjust according to taste.

Top with a scoop of yogurt, avocado and salsa.

Re-use in tacos, casseroles or eat on it's own!
Excuse the lack of photo. I was experimenting with the new light box, and it wasn't working and we were we ate :)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Weekly Menu

I am kick starting another round of recipes in our house, which means I am going to have to spend a bit more time than usual in the next few weeks researching recipes, seasonal ingredients and testing recipes. This week I have recipes inspired by a few things I have been craving lately, and a few things I have been wanting to try to make to recommend to clients.
Try along with me!
Monday: Slow cooker braised pork and black beans with green salad and possibly corn bread (thinking of skipping this)
Tuesday: Kibbeh pie, hummus, yogurt and cucumber sauce, sauteed zucchini
Wednesday: Turkey meatloaf, sweet potato mash, green salad
Thursday: Kibbeh sandwiches with cucumber salad
Friday: Leftovers

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Back in Style

I'm back after a few weeks of not blogging - but back in style!
It has been busy and hectic, but one of the things that has kept me going are freezer meals, adding salad and quickly sauteed vegetables to relatively plain meals (like brown rice and chicken), and good quality snacks.
I wanted to share another power snack item with you. I call them Quinoa Power Drops (if you wanted to entice someone who is more timid you can call them cookies - but these are no conventional cookies). The original recipe was something I found on the Bauman forum, but modified slightly.
These are great for a substantial snack because they pack good protein, carbohydrates, fat (anti microbial from the coconut oil and flakes) and just enough sweetness from the fruit to be tasty.

Quinoa Power Drops

1 cup quinoa
1/2 banana. mashed
8 Medjool dates, chopped
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1 heaping tablespoon organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
1 heaping tablespoon organic roasted almond butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Makes approximately 16 cookies
1. Rise 1 dry cup of quinoa in water. Add 2 cups of water to quinoa in a medium pot. Bring quinoa to a boil, and then simmer for about 12 minutes.
2. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
3. Transfer the quinoa to a large mixing bowl.
4. Add coconut oil and mix it into the quinoa.
5. Mix in banana, almond butter, and dates.
6. Add sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and shredded coconut, and mix thoroughly.
7. Sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg into the dough and mix everything together.
8. Grease a baking sheet with coconut oil or use a silpat pad.
9. Use a large spoon to pick up a heaping tablespoon of the dough and form it into a ball with your hands. Place the ball onto the greased cookie sheet and press the middle of the ball down gently to form a circle a bit more than 1/2 an inch thick. Repeat until all of the dough has been made into circles on the baking sheet.
10. Bake for 50 minutes.
11. Turn off the oven and allow the cookies to cool for 15 minutes on the baking sheet. Then transfer the cookies into a sealed airtight container.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Weekly Menu

This week's menu is inspired by a few things I have been meaning to make, but had not gotten to in awhile or at all.
Monday - Gumbo (delish! made Sunday evening as it takes about an hour to make - perfect meal to come home to)
Tuesday - business meeting, dinner provided
Wednesday - Beet, Fennel, and Cabbage Salad with Orange Fennel Dressing and roast chicken
Thursday - Vietnamese Bun with grilled pork, thin rice noodles, lettuce, shredded carrots and napa cabbage
Friday - beets with blue cheese and toasted almonds and roast chicken caesar salad

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Success of Beef Stout Pie

I get really excited when the Williams Sonoma catalog comes, simply for the recipes. I can check online, but I always forget that this is a great source for either inspiration, or comfort classics that I wouldn't normally make or seek recipes for (note to self, add it to favorites list). This last catalog that came is focusing on gastropub food - pub food revamped and made popular again. My husband and I both dig on the whole pub scene as a casual place to grab a pint, eat a good hearty meal and be in good company. Doing it in our own home is fun and cheaper. This is definitely a meal that falls into good entertaining food.
One of my major philosophies about entertaining and food is that while a gourmet meal may be very tasty and impressive, the best conversation and mood setting is with casual and home style food that has been done really, really well. This pie falls into that category. It is a comfort favorite of beef stew, but kicked up with the deep flavors of the stout and mushrooms and pearl onions and a pie crust with blue cheese folded in. Serve it with a nice red wine and a simple salad and I am sure you will be able to please all your guests and they will walk away thanking you.

Here are the modifications that I made:
1) I only did 2 lbs of meat. Then I cut everything else roughly in half. I think that would feed a family of 4-5 easily. If you wanted leftovers for a family that large, certainly do the whole thing.
2) I did half lamb and half beef. It is a flavor combo that we appreciate more in this house. If you don't like lamb skip this, but if you do, try mixing these.
3) I used baby portobellos instead of white mushrooms because that is what I picked up at the farmers market. Definitely let the onions and mushrooms cook down as long as they say - the smell was amazing!
4) I used blue cheese instead of specifically stilton and it was still tasty as heck.

Here are some pictures, but the smell will make your mouth water alone. Try it!

Here is the original recipe.

Beef Stout Pie

7 Tbs. olive oil
1 lb. white button mushrooms, quartered
2 cups frozen pearl onions, thawed
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 1/2 lb. beef chuck roast, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbs. tomato paste
2 1/2 cups Irish stout
1 cup beef broth
1 lb. carrots, cut into chunks
1 lb. red potatoes, cut into chunks
1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh thyme
One 16-inch round Stilton pastry (see related recipe at left)
1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp. water

In a 5 1/2-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the mushrooms, onions, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Season the beef with salt and pepper. Dredge the beef in the flour, shaking off the excess. In the Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm 2 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add one-third of the beef and brown on all sides, about 7 minutes total. Transfer to a separate bowl. Add 1/2 cup water to the pot, stirring to scrape up the browned bits. Pour the liquid into a separate bowl. Repeat the process 2 more times, using 2 Tbs. oil to brown each batch of beef and deglazing the pot with 1/2 cup water after each batch.

Return the pot to medium-high heat. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Add the beef, stout, broth and reserved liquid, stirring to scrape up the browned bits. Add the mushrooms, onions, carrots, potatoes and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beef and vegetables are tender, about 3 hours.
Preheat an oven to 400°F.

Brush the rim of the pot with water. Lay the pastry round on top, allowing it to droop onto the filling. Trim the dough, leaving a 1-inch overhang, and crimp to seal. Brush the pastry with the egg mixture, then cut 4 slits in the top of the dough. Bake for 30 minutes. Let the potpie rest for 15 minutes before serving. Serves 8 to 10.

Stilton Pie Pastry

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. sugar
16 Tbs. (2 sticks/250g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/3 to 1/2 cup ice water
4 oz. Stilton cheese, crumbled


In a food processor, combine the flour, salt and sugar and pulse until blended, about 5 pulses. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 pulses. Add 1/3 cup of the ice water and pulse 2 or 3 times. The dough should hold together when squeezed with your fingers but should not be sticky. If it is crumbly, add more water 1 Tbs. at a time, pulsing twice after each addition. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into a disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let stand for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the top of the dough lightly with flour, place on a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper and roll out into a 12-by-16-inch rectangle. Sprinkle the cheese over half of the dough, then fold the other half over the cheese. Roll out the dough into a 16 1/2-inch square. Using a paring knife, trim the dough into a 16-inch round.

Refrigerate the dough until firm, about 10 minutes, then lay the dough on top of the beef and stout pie and bake as directed in that recipe. Makes enough dough for a 16-inch round.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Small Salad

I am guilty of having checked out the new 90210 show last night. For those who know me, you know that is sooooo not something I normally watch, but there was so much hype on the radio I wanted to give it 15 minutes of my time.
I was sorry I did that, but this is not about my rating of the show exactly.
I am sharing this moment with you because in the 15 minutes that I did watch the show, I caught the cafeteria scene. And do you know what every single woman in that shot was eating? Either nothing, water, or a small salad. And I mean small. At first I thought "oh she is going to grab another thing from the line to accompany that salad", but no. That is all 'Kelly' ate for lunch. Then it pans to the new girl who is the Principal's daughter, and all she is eating is the same tiny salad. Like literally not more than a cup of salad with a bit of cut up fruit or veg.
This aggravated me to no end because there are millions of young people watching this show, and while it wasn't painfully obvious that all that was for lunch was this small rabbit like lunch, it is going to stick in the sub conscious and message that popular girls and celebrities only eat small salads for lunch. That is not enough to feed a growing child, and honestly not enough for an adult!
There have been so many articles written about the media and it's influence on kids. See my posting about Michael Phelps - I believe that better habits have to be implemented by parents and teachers, etc on an ongoing basis. I am not writing about it to say they shouldn't have the show (although, I would appreciate it if they plugged healthier habits in the sub conscious). I am writing about it so anyone who didn't notice, sees it, and can register that a proper lunch is a balanced and portioned lunch.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Summer Pasta Toss

Change of plans on the ricotta being added to the pasta (too much traffic to go out and get it). However, it still turned out fabulous. Pasta tosses are nice when you are doing an emptying of the fridge, but also are great for summer. Summer is almost at an end and I wanted to do something special with the blossoms and artichokes I had picked up on Saturday. Lemon and just a hint of pecorino or Parmesan are a nice touch to make this dish still light but flavorful - so you don't feel like you are eating something really healthy. You can change the ingredients up based on what you have locally and what you like. The trick to this dish is seasoning as you go, layering veg in according to how quickly it cooks, and topping it off with just the right amount of zing to entice the palette.
Here is the recipe:

1 large handful angel hair pasta
Water to boil pasta

4 baby artichokes, trimmed and outer leaves peeled, thinly sliced
1 small red onion
3 tbls olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 small zucchini
1/2 cup swiss chard
1 cup mushrooms
1/2 cup beef broth (or water or chicken stock - I had beef broth from the beef stout pie recipe already out)
1/4 cup red or white wine (optional)
1/2 lemon zested
1/2 cup pecorino romano
4 zucchini blossoms sliced

Boil the water for the pasta.

Warm the oil over medium high heat and saute the red onion for 2 minutes. Toss in the artichokes hearts, saute for 2 minutes. Toss in the red wine and beef broth and cover to let the artichokes steam for 2 minutes.
Salt your pasta water and toss in the pasta. Should take about 4 minutes. You want it al dente.
Toss in the zucchini and mushrooms and cover for another 2 minutes. Add more broth or water if it gets too dry.
Toss in the chard and cover for 2 more minutes. Season at each layer of veg you add.
Toss the drained pasta into the vegetable mixture. Plate the pasta mixture up and top with cheese, lemon zest and zucchini blossoms.

Weekly Menu

Our week of dinners was nicely kicked off with inspirations from our Slow Food Nation trip, the Williams Sonoma catalog and meals my friends at work have been preparing (more specifically I am attempting to make Indian food again!).
Monday - Sauteed zucchini blossom (one little stand had these at the farmer's market and I couldn't resist - wanted to stuff them, but too small to stuff), zucchini, baby artichoke and angel hair pasta tossed with riccota and lemon.
Tuesday - Williams Sonoma Beef Stout Pie. Actually made the fixings for this today to then assemble and bake for dinner tomorrow.
Wednesday - Indian style okra, Indian style cauliflower and pototoes, grilled steak
Thursday - Roast chicken, brussel sprouts with leeks, roasted potatoes
Friday - Indian style spinach with 'paneer', rice and chicken

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Slow Food Nation

Today we walked into my comfort zone - The San Francisco Slow Food Nation 2008 Tasting Pavilion event. This movement/organization is a fantastic idea - getting people to rely on themselves and home cooking, knowing the source of their food and doing it all in a way that is sustainable, rather than fast food and over commercialized production of food. You can check them out on the web at
The tasting pavilion event we chose to attend is a collection of artisan food makers and educators that align with these Slow Food values. Let me walk you through our day:
Started at the fermented booth (they call it something cuter like Pickles and Chutneys...but it was fermented stuff) and I was re-inspired. A number of them rely on Sandoor Katz's "Wild Fermentation Book" which I myself have not purchased but might after realizing that their stuff tasted a lot better then mine - salt was the big one to actually add flavor. They had about 6 types of kraut, kimchee and one other thing I can't remember, and an amazing rye bread. Similar to the rest of the event each item at the tasting table is served and explained to you by people from all over the U.S. who make it. Adds a real nice touch.
Second we went down to Honey and Preserves - fantastic little vanilla cupcake with rose cream icing and a pistachio. Then a cheese roll with sweet potato butter (which is like apple butter but with sweet potato). This was tasty. They also had some nice jams and bread - tasty but nothing super exciting.
Then we headed over to the fish - they had a really cool display to show all the different types of local fish, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium was there talking about sustainability and sound practices with fishing. The food was interesting - smoked salmon on toast, marinated calamari with tomatoes and basil, tuna with white beans and dill and parsley and a herring wrapped around mozzarella, tomato and basil. This was nice because it all tasted fantastic and except maybe the white beans I would not have done this on my own.
Next in line was the spirits section. This of course was my husbands favorite (until we got to the meat section or 'Charcutiere'). There were about 6 bartenders and/or spirit makers present to let you taste ingredients separate, or mix you a drink. All were extremely tasty and our favorite was that we learned about this other style of gin (Dutch Gin vs London Gin which is what you usually have here in drinks like Bombay or 209). It was something I had never given any thought too, and the taste was pretty amazing - best of all we can visit the distillery here in San Francisco.
After that was coffee, which my husband didn't want to do, but he thanked me afterwards. We were greeted by a perky woman (dipping into the company yummies perhaps....) and a very chill red haired man who gave me a high five when I stopped at his station. He proceeded to tell me all about coffee processing techniques, where this one was from and then let me enjoy it in a nice little espresso cup. It was a nice break in my day for just a moment to sip on that loveliness (I generally don't drink coffee, but I do love the taste and flavor so I indulge here and there).
Then we hit up the ice cream booth which was not terribly impressive. There were some really good ice cream sandwiches that I hope to find in a grocery store soon. The guys are from Portland who make it.
Next was Indian - 3 types of naan (Indian bread) one was garlic, another chilies and the third was a sweet one with raisins and walnuts. They gave two chutneys with it and this was a fantastic snack while we waited in the long line for meats.
Meats were great. It may not be fashionable to be a woman who loves cured meats as much as my husband does for example, but I attribute it to my German heritage and growing up with a Dad and Grandmother who had an appreciation for the Old World connection to it. Anyway, point is I was pretty dang excited about this station. My husband wants to start curing his own meats and making more of his own sausage and everyone on this line was really helpful explaining to him where to start and what to look for. The people in line might have been mad because they just wanted to plug through, but thank you for waiting and thank you to the meat dudes who took the time. Here we had mortadella, sopprasata, pork confit with pepper jelly on toast and salami - all without nitrates/nitrites, all natural meat. It was a good moment.
We skipped cheese, chocolate, wine and olive oil because the line was around the corner and out the door for cheese, and the lines were long for the others and we just didn't see anything compelling to taste. Lines were the biggest problem at this event. Otherwise, so worth it. Pretty kid friendly too I would say.
We ended the day at the American Indian food booth - where I asked a woman in front of me if the Cheese booth was waiting in line for because I saw she had a plate. She looked at me and said 'oh yes, and actually we got two plates would you like the other'. THANKS! yes yes yes yes. And it was worth it. So although I skipped that booth, and although the chili and wild rice cakes at the American Indian booth were tasteless, I got some great cheese. After the American Indian booth we walked right across to the beer booth. Both full as heck by this time, we picked two each and that was the end of what our stomachs could handle. My favorite was this ale aged in pinot noir barrels- really unique.
All in all, a great day and I would recommend going next year. Definitely take the time to ask questions at the booths and the people standing around - most are working for a really great cause that you make want to take part in.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Phelps and the Corn Flakes

Another TV at the gym story....
It was a basic interview with some reporter and a spokesperson from some national obesity society. They were talking about how this society opposes Michael Phelps signing with Corn Flakes to be their new spokesperson. The basis of the opposition is that Phelps should be encouraging children to eat broccoli and not corn flakes, and that parents already have a hard enough job and he is going to contribute to the obesity problem getting worse.
No. I don't think so. To be more specific, yes I would have liked to see Phelps promoting something I believe in more, like broccoli, but this is America and these are the behaviors of basic economics. Furthermore, this is not a new concept for any of these large food conglomerates. They know how to sell and it works.
Luckily, I was on the bike when I was watching this so at least I got a really good workout in, but I was fuming when I heard this spokesperson raging on about how terrible the Corn Flake deal was with Phelps. The truth is, the responsibility is on the parents, educators, and other support figures that are involved in the everyday life of our children. There are parents out there successfully keeping their kids away from junk food and high sugar cereals like corn flakes. Maybe not everyday, but they have a way of managing the manipulated food dilemma in our country. So it begs the question that if some have done it, why are we pinning the problem on a third party for the growing population that is not addressing this issue in their home.
Quite simply, Phelps cannot be held accountable for that. Nor can Kellogg's. Everyone has a choice and everyone has the right to raise their children and provide an education - whether it be about books, finances, food or love - they have the right to do it how they want and it is up to them to get the message across.
Also, if you don't want your kids eating corn flakes, and they ask in the store, you can always say no. Phelps is not in the store telling you that you have to.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Quinoa for Breakfast

I made an amazing quinoa cereal for breakfast. I got the idea from the Bauman recipe exchange (thank you JamieL). Before I give you the recipe though, I thought I should talk a little bit about what quinoa is (besides amazing).
Quinoa (pronounced 'keen-wah') is just about one of the most amazing grains. It is non glutinous, meaning it does not contain gluten and which also means it is not as inflammatory to our bodies as wheat is for example. It is the only grain that contains all 9 essential amino acids (meat also contains all 9 essential amino's on its own, but all other grains have to be combined with something else to make a 'complete' protein).
It tastes somewhat nutty, and it's texture can be a bit like couscous meets rice. It takes no more than 15 minutes to cook, and you always follow a 2 to 1 ratio of liquid to quinoa to cook it. It makes a great salad, cereal, side dish, and main dish. It absorbs whatever you put into it.
About 1/2 cup on it's own is one serving and that packs approximately 12 grams of protein!

Here is the recipe for the cereal. If you have 15 minutes in the morning to make this, it would be best fresh. Otherwise, you can make a batch and re-warm with a bit of almond or rice milk.

This would serve about 4 people
1 cup Quinoa
2 cups almond milk
1 medium apple, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/3 cup goji berries
4 tbsp golden flax seeds
1 tbls agave nectar or honey

Bring quinoa, almonds milk, spices, agave or honey, goji berries and apple to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
Stir in flax seeds and top with a bit more almond milk if you want.

The flax seeds really should be stirred in at the end as the extreme cooking heat is damaging to flax. You can use regular milk, rice milk or something else in place of almond milk of course, but I encourage you to just try the almond milk - for some it may sound too alternative, but you never know if you will like something and your body might just be waiting for the right recipe to come along - and HERE IT IS!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Weekly Menu

Here is this weeks menu. Trying to savor the last few weeks when it really feels like summer.

Monday - Chile verde casserole (using leftove chile verde from this weekend)
Tuesday - Turkey meatballs and whole wheat pasta with Nonnie's sauce and a salad
Wednesday - Grilled chicken with brown rice and grilled radicchio salad
Thursday - Panini night (grilled vegetable and pesto sandwiches - using leftover veg from Wednesay)
Friday - Napa inspired appetizer and a movie night - olives, wine, cheese, bread, steamed artichokes and a salad

Something this menu utilizes is reusing ingredients in different forms. For example on Wednesday, the grill will already be fired up for the chicken so I will do some extra vegetables on the side because they reheat well, and use them in panini's on Thursday. This helps cut down on cooking time, but makes sure I have the components to assemble a fresh meal for myself each day.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Title: Dang Good Potato Peeler

That is me at about 7 years old in my Omi's restaurant. She owned it for 21 years - it was an authentic German restaurant and she made the best. People still run into me and talk about her food today. She passed away last year. I loved her, and her food very much.
I grew up in that restaurant and I can't express how valuable it was to me, and how much I wish to share that love of food with everyone, and hope to pass a similar experience onto my own children someday. I was put to 'work' starting when I could walk practically. My first job was peeling potatoes -and I was dang good at it. I 'washed' dishes (more like played with bubbles in the sink), made what I called 'kinky' cookies (basically sugar cookies that are fed through a meat grinder like device to make a tube shaped cookie and we would arrange them in weird shapes), and I dusted and vacuumed. Eventually I took orders, cooked apple streusel with her, learned key techniques like keep the stove on medium heat and don't rush pan frying of breaded meats!
So I learned some valuable restaurant and home management techniques, but I also learned how to make things from scratch, how to appreciate that effort, and how to express myself with food. I look back on it now and I think wow, I was so young when I started running around in that kitchen. I got yelled at for getting in the way don't get me wrong (Omi wasn't exactly the sweet southern kind of grandma ;) ) but imagine how important I felt being able to have a job in the kitchen and participate in bringing all that joy to people.
My heartfelt story comes to you because I wanted to share that the kitchen is a place where big things can happen - for kids and adults. It is a place of expression, sharing, love, satiation. It's just a dang good place to be. I don't know if my Omi or parents ever thought growing up in the restaurant would impact me like it did, but I can tell you that my friends who had similar experiences share the same healthy love of food I do, and I will go on record saying it has a huge impact.
By the way, thanks Mom for cutting my bangs....using scotch tape as a guide.....kidding, they don't look that bad :)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Super Snacks

I think snacks are often overlooked when packing a lunch (assuming one even packs their lunch). Snacks help regulate your blood sugar, keep your metabolism going, and keep you from overeating. A well thought out snack can be really easy and does not require a ton of effort. Here are some ideas:
  • Plain yogurt with an ounce of almonds and dried cranberries
  • Almonds or walnuts and cranberries
  • Hard boiled egg and a handful of raw vegetables like carrots, celery and bell pepper
  • Hummus and raw vegetables
  • Brown rice cakes with peanut butter
  • A piece of fruit or veg
  • 3 slices cheese on ak mak with celery or carrots

Snacks can also be a little more fancy. Here are some ideas:

  • Mini tofu, lettuce, tomato and avo sammy - 'Marinate' 2 slices of tofu in soy sauce and toasted sesame oil. Pan fry or grill to get a bit of carmelization on it. Toast 2 slices of Ezekial bread (sprouted grain bread), spread 1/2 avocado over the two slices, layer the lettuce, tomato and tofu. Could also add sprouts.
  • Nori-Romaine boats - Take 2 whole romaine leaves and layer in a sheet of nori (toasted, dried seaweed) in each. Spread a dollop of hummus and top with more veg or slices of roast chicken.
  • Spinach salad - take spinach and toss with a bit of balsamic, garbanzo beans, walnuts and cranberries.
  • Fruit smoothies - I have a number of favorite combinations but here are a few: frozen cherries and blueberries with almond milk, banana and strawberry with soy milk, strawberry, blueberry and banana with rice milk or there is also the Orange Julius style with orange juice, banana and egg white protein powder.
  • Not really a fruit smoothie, but I love 1/2 banana, with rice or soy milk and 1 tbls peanut butter with vanilla protein powder (we primarily use a pure egg white protein powder with no weird ingredients in it)
If you have kids many of these can be adapted. Try separating the ingredients out and letting them assemble. Or try making fun shapes. Many of these involve various colors so it can turn into a learning game too. And if they are going through a phase where they don't dig on veg, don't worry - just focus on good quality and wholesome ingredients so you feel good about whatever it is you are giving them. Meaning, choose brown rice cakes over white rice, or organic/natural vegetables and fruits and organic dairy products.

Imagine Food 50+ years Ago

About a week ago I was having a conversation with a couple who are family friends - they are in their early 70s. We were talking about food, cooking, meal planning and eating throughout the day and I was so pleased to find that they never touch convenience foods that so many people couldn't imagine a vocabulary without. For example, we were talking about snacks, and one of my favorites is sliced turkey or chicken with a dollop of hummus on a romaine leaf with a sheet of nori (what they wrap sushi in). I immediately assumed convenience and said 'an all natural deli turkey could work' and they both looked at me and said 'Oh no honey, too salty and I can make it so much better'. THAT ROCKS!
(shame on me too for assuming convenience)

This is why I love thinking about food in the same way several generations ago treated it. You know, simple stuff like the idea that chickens have legs and should run free. Or you really should only eat what you need to and get it fresh from your own garden - not from a shelf with stabilizers and additives and other weirdness.

The original idea behind convenience foods might have been good - food that you can grab quickly and prepare without much effort so the now hard working man and woman in the house can be extra productive. But the food that comes pre-packaged is largely manipulated to only slightly resemble real food when you look at the actual ingredients (try actually reading the ingredients from time to time and see if you can pinpoint exactly what each is - I guarantee it will be a difficult exercise). We have gotten so used to the idea of having foods so readily available, and not reading the packaging, that we have also forgotten what real food is!
Times are different now and while both men and women work full time most of the time, and run a family and household etc, our economy, our accessibility, awareness - it has all changed since these foods first came out. So let's adjust our eating habits to re-align with traditional choices in a modern manner.

I won't say don't ever reach for the convenience foods - that is not realistic. But take the time to shop the farmers markets and eat seasonally. Take the time to prepare at least 4 dinners a week at home, and pack your lunch half the time when you go to work. Instead of buying a cake for your sweet craving try to make a new recipe from your favorite baking book. Just pick one thing to add each week and in a year you will have added 52 good habits!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Kombucha Update

This is my first time making kombucha and the process has been really interesting. I know it is a SCOBY (see my earlier post, but the whole thing is still so surreal to me. Let me walk you through it.

Here is a picture of the kombucha after a week. It has been sitting in a ceramic bowl in our cabinet covered with a paper towel to keep bugs and such out. Let me tell you, the smell is not light. This stuff is good, but there has been a faint vinegar smell in that part of the kitchen. Kind of freaks me out, but I am willing to sacrifice some things in the name of food and traditional eating!

So what happens is the 'mother' SCOBY I started this with last week has now duplicated and spread to the size of the vessel I put it in. This SCOBY started out as only about 3x3 inches - and grew to the full size of this bowl. Underneath this white mass is the kombucha liquid.

What I did today since it appeared to be ready (smell was right - fermented (NOT rotten), taste was mostly un-sweet as the SCOBY used the sugar we brewed with the tea to feed itself), and jarred the liquid and put it in the fridge. The liquid not being sweet is what you look for because it shows that the sugar has been consumed by the SCOBY. Here is a picture of our kombucha for the week:

By tomorrow, because I put a lid on this jar, it will have some natural carbonation forming and we can drink it. You really should have no more than 8 oz a day (more if you are sick, stressed or had some trauma).

I then took some of the liquid, plus part of the SCOBY (it grew too large for the new vessel I bought for this) and put it in a jar. I brewed some organic oolong tea, mixed it with organic turbinado sugar, and let it cool to about body temperature. Then I mixed the tea and the SCOBY from my original batch in the jar and put a new paper towel on, put it in the cupboard and there is going to be another batch ready for me next week.
What is so odd to me about this beverage is that it starts with something, the SCOBY, that just about can't be killed. You want to keep the process sanitary, but basically, that SCOBY will just keep replicating and producing as much kombucha as you choose to make. The kombucha itself then has these amazing properties of other fermented products such as aiding in digestion, providing good bacteria and promoting good cleansing.
Fermented food is actually pretty easy to make (with the exception of the coconut kefir -that is best done with a group because of all the work). I think when people hear that term though, they think rotten and gross. When I say people I don't mean all on earth, because the Russians love kvass (fermented beet juice which is a great blood tonic and was often drank more frequently instead of water because water was tainted), and the Koreans love kimchee (fermented cabbage with carrots and radish and chilies), and the Germans love sauerkraut - just to name a few. Making the kombucha looks disturbing, I know this. But, it is producing an amazing beverage and like other fermented foods deserves a try.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Weekly Menu

Sundays are my big day to cook and we started it off right this morning! Here is a picture of breakfast

Simple and Delish - it is my take on perhaps a hash equivalent except cleanse style (meaning no potatoes). We took some ground turkey yesterday and mixed it with some thyme, salt, pepper, cayenne, onion powder, and garlic powder. We usually just bake or pan fry with a bit of olive oil into little sausage patties to be able to make a tasty breakfast on busy days.

So the mock hash is 3 sausage patties chopped up, sauteed with 1 artichoke heart (leftover from this week), 1 tomato and 1/4 roasted red onion. Then fry 2 eggs and serve on top. Delicious way to start the day with good vegetables and protein.

Lunch was also tasty and the leftovers will be lunch for the next few days for each of us. It was a delicious roast chicken which we brined before roasting this time, with a HUGE medley of veg roasted along side it (brussel sprouts, cauliflower, carrots, onion, garlic and summer squash). We had an arugula salad with avocado and balsamic vinegar on the side.

Here is the menu for this dinners this week:
Monday: Ground turkey kebabs with stewed okra in tomatoes and onion and grilled radicchio
Tuesday: Quinoa salad with basil, baked chicken, tomatoes, and zucchini
Wednesday: Roast chicken with brown rice, salad and roasted cauliflower
Thursday: Meatball soup with kale
Friday: Lentil soup with kale, tomatoes and zucchini

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Quick Chicken Soup

This is a great recipe for weeknights when you need something nutritious but don't want to spend an hour and a half making chicken soup. It is also a good way to clear out the fridge which I love. More than a recipe it is a technique - so feel free to swap any of the ingredients. This has been a cleanse staple for us this past week. Enjoy!
Serves 2
4 cups homemade chicken broth
1 cup roast chicken chopped up
1 cup brown rice already cooked
1/2 cup each chopped of onion, celery and carrots
2 tbls olive oil
1 cup large pieces of chopped napa cabbage

In a pot saute the onion, celery and carrots with the olive oil over med-high heat until just softened. Put the broth in and bring to a boil. Add the chicken and rice. After 3 minutes add the cabbage. Serve in large bowls and savor.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Easy Does It

I was working out at the gym today and this commercial came on for some dieting product where you 'eat 35% less without even trying' by eating their supplements with your meals or something. The tag line at the end was 'dieting is hard and our product is easy!'. Nevermind that the whole thing was animated and showed this cartoon who was a little pudgy going to impossible and unhealthy skinny.
It reminded me of two things:
1 - I don't advocate 'dieting'. Atkins, South Beach are all good in their own way, but none are sustainable and none advocate a wide spectrum of wholesome and nutritious foods that work for your body (because remember, we are all unique in how we digest our food based on genetics, toxic exposure, tastes and physiology). A well balanced diet is what helps maintain weight, good health, immunity and happiness. Not to mention, depriving yourself of a fabulous glass of wine, or a piece of cake to celebrate with friends is just plain wrong and will drive you nuts to the point where you binge and ruin your mindset and weight management goals.
2 - Food should be about more than just key words like 'easy'. Eating is something that keeps you alive and healthy and energetic. You do it at least 2-3 times a day, EVERY DAY! I really feel that on the whole, our culture has lost sight of how much of a direct impact food has on your health, your skin, your mood, your hormones, my list goes on. I will talk a lot about food quality and that is part of it, but really what I am trying to address here is that it is not always about getting a meal done in under 30 minutes, or picking up to go food - you have to feed yourself properly! And don't get me wrong, I love the 30 minute meal uprising in the last few years, but I also have a significant appreciation for a slow cooked roast, or stews that cook for hours and I love to shop for that meal, plan it out and feed myself and those around me with it.

Some people don't share this same opinion, and I admit, food and food quality are very high on my priority list in life. I have some core values about food, and I just simply stick to it.

The next three weeks are going to be interesting. We are doing a cleanse (a program through Standard Process (a vitamin company) ) and it basically does not allow sugar, alcohol, dairy, and caffeine. Vegetables are unlimited, fruit is ok (twice as much veg as fruit though), meat and eggs are ok but no more than 8 oz a day and the only grains allowed are brown rice and lentils and quinoa (the non glutinous ones for their properties of being easily digested). Good fats are allowed so flax, olive oil, grapeseed and coconut - in moderation. There are shakes and supplements along with this program to aid in the cleansing and re-mineralizing process. Great program. Cleansing is something good to do seasonally, and at least once or twice a year. It gives our drainage organs (kidneys, liver, etc) a break, lets our digestive system regenerate, and gives us an opportunity to add back to our mineral and vitamin reserves.

Monday - Baked chicken bites tossed with heirloom tomato, quinoa, zucchini sauteed with leeks

Tuesday - Roast chicken with roasted brussel sprouts, zucchini, carrots and red onion

Wednesday - Chicken soup with veggies and a salad and a steamed artichoke

Thursday - baked salmon or halibut (plan to go to fish market that day) with sauteed brussel sprouts and leeks and quinoa

Friday - roasted eggplant with onion marinated (grate the onions) baked chicken kebabs with quinoa tabbouleh

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Kombucha and Coconut Kefir!

I briefly mention in my profile that I could not eat dairy (more specifically the milk protein, casein) for about 8 years. And with some changes in my diet including better food combining, and cultured foods, I was able to turn my digestive wellness around and can now eat dairy again. It was a sweet day when I figured that out.
The key to the whole thing I am convinced, were the cultured foods. I made cultured vegetables out of cabbages, kale, carrots. They are good, and I still make them occasionally, but they are not really convenient for bringing into work (and actually, don't do this if you make it - it can be mistaken for sewage or something totally rotten). And you may ask why eat these things that smell so bad - but I tell you, they taste great and when you eat anything that has been cultured you feel amazing. It takes away sweet cravings, aids digestion and just balances you out. Truly, truly amazing stuff.
The other thing I cultured was young coconut juice and the meat inside. I got this from The Body Ecology Diet This book changed my life (Thank you Donna Gates!). Now this stuff is amazing for you, and tastes fantastic. It does not have a strong coconut flavor, but has a light essence. And because it is fermented, it has a bubbly champagne like mouthfeel.
Culturing I think is a job best done with a group. First of all, it is a bit cumbersome so it is nice to split the duties. Second, food and health are about community and I have found a great group of friends to share in this culturing exercise with me about every 6-8 weeks.
This weekend was all about culturing. We always do coconuts, and then one new thing. And I finally found a kombucha mother to make our own kombucha (You read my posting about limiting the budget to no more than $120 - and $2.50 bottles of kombucha are not in the budget but I love it dearly and so does the hubby!).
So many people have asked me 'what is kombucha'. I looked it up and it is a 'SCOBY' - Symbiotic Colony of Bacterial Yeast. It is so, so simple to make. Really the hardest part is getting a mother from someone (the mother is the starter - kind of like what you do with sourdough bread). And I found someone in Alameda (thank you again Melissa).
Basically what you do is boil some water, dump some sugar in and brew tea (pure black tea or green tea - no herbal, oils, flavors, etc). Let it cool and then add the kombucha mother. This should be done in a glass container. Cover with a paper towel and let sit for a week in a dark, 70 degree-ish area. After a week, the mother will have split and created 'babies' and the babies can be made for a new batch, composted, or shared with a friend. You drain the liquid out, put it in the fridge and brew a new batch with the mother or babies.
So every week you can continue to make your own kombucha, and the mother just keeps regenerating. Makes for some interesting symbolism.
It seems odd. But let me tell you, it is only in the last 50-75 years that we as a society stopped culturing our food. We have lost this part of our relationship with food and it is sad because cultured foods are so amazing for you - vitamins, digestive aids, probiotics.......the list goes on. It takes a little bit of work, but this is your health and well being - take the time to invest a little extra in it.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Friday night we had just sat in a reasonable amount of traffic on the Bay Bridge and were driving along 80E - preparing to sit in more traffic in Sacramento on our way to our favorite lake. I was sitting in the passenger seat - zoning out and getting to a happy place. Then out of nowhere, comes what I will call the McObsession car. It was a late 80's ish sedan with McD red, and McD yellow stripes, Ronald dolls hanging inside and "Supersize" me stickers on the outside.
It fired me up and made me yell "I have to write about this on the blog!".
So here I am. What the heck is the obsession?!! Just two days before I was sitting in the lunch room at my regular office job the other day and overheard two co workers talking about breakfast the next morning.
Co worker 1: Ooooo before I come in do you want me to get you a McD breakfast sango?
Co worker 2: hmm yeah that might be a good option
Co worker 1: OMG yay?! They are so good, like the best breakfast ever.

And there was no sarcasm there. It was a serious conversation. I don't really know the point of this posting other than to point out that real food, made with love, real ingredients and with a conscious in mind not only make sense and make for good health, but they just down right taste better.
I get the idea that it is convenient. I get that it is cheap. But for Pete's sake it takes less than 5 minutes to assemble a sandwich, or pour a bowl of cereal and scramble an egg!

Like any habit it takes time to break. So if you have a McObsession (or something similar), try spending an extra 5 minutes a day or 20 minutes a week preparing your own food. I imagine you will feel better about the mindful choice and have more energy!

Meal Planning and Vacation

We went up to the lake this weekend and I am always reminded when I go away for a weekend how well my meal planning works to make sure I eat food I make, and that we eat balanced meals. However, weekend getaways always muck that schedule up because I do everything on Sundays. Keeping a well stocked pantry and freezer helps when we get back, but I am now determined to figure out a more improved plan for when we go away - perhaps cook a few meals on Thursday or Friday before we go (that doesn't really sound appetizing or realistic), make fully frozen meals (more chili, stew, etc), stop at the store on the way home for just a bit of produce to hold us over until we can catch up. I don't know yet.
What do you do to make sure you eat wholesome meals when you get back from vacation?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I love my brussels

Theme this week seems to be ingredients I didn't have in my house as a kid, and am now obsessed with. I grew up about a mile away from fields and fields of brussel sprouts. You might be saying "so what". No. It was a big deal. They stink! It's like this huge, thick cloud of brussel perfume that sticks to your nose and throat. In their raw state and while growing, they just didn't seem appetizing.
A woman I refer to as my second mother converted me. She makes them the best way - literally, us kids all fight over them. She can never make enough. I have posted my recipe for roasted brussels below and then her modifications (which if you have the time and forethought - try it and you won't regret it).
Nutritional Value and Selection
These bad boys belong to the cabbage family - which means leafy green which means high in vitamins B, C and K, thiamine, potassium and beta carotene and a really great source of fiber too (1 cup contains 4 grams!) according to Dr. Michael Murray in "The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods".
If you find them in the store/farmers market you want to pick the smaller ones - they are the most tender and tasty. They should be pretty firm and green - not brown or yellow or sad looking.
I will also add that now when I drive past the fields of brussel sprouts, I salivate. I think about the end product and get excited. Yes, I do really love brussel sprouts that much. I have converted a number of people into liking them by cooking them this way - so get them fresh, and give this a try and you will thank me later!

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

1 lb brussel sprouts, ends trimmed, cut an 'x' in bottom, cut large ones in half
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Toss the brussel sprouts with olive oil, salt and pepper on a cookie sheet. Cook for 25-35 minutes (or until tender and golden).

Modification for uber tastiness: Boil the brussel sprouts first. Then, while roasting a chicken, place the brussel sprouts on the bottom. Allow to soak up the lovely chicken juices and roast. Really, really delish.

Monday, July 28, 2008


What is favish you ask? That is actually the Portuguese dish with fava beans - a real classic, easy and wholesome way to cook them. It's probably not spelled like this, but this is how we refer to it amongst my friends. I am not Portuguese, but the first time I had these was at my friends parent's home and they are from Terceira, an island in the Azores, and I have loved fava beans since. I don't know what it was about them other than the fact that we never ate them in my own household growing up, but I just didn't have the urge to pick them up from the store or cook with them. The D family changed my relationship with fava beans.
They are interesting little things. You can see in the picture though that they look like oversized green beans crossed with pea pods. When you open them the inside is fluffy and soft - cushion to protect each fava bean. The beans each have a white skin on them, but the smaller ones (second one in from the right) are more tender and the skin can stay on. The larger beans have a more bitter skin that you can remove by blanching and peeling, or just digging your nail into and peeling off. The fava bean on the far right is a peeled bean. Just taste one when you open a pod to see what you think and if it needs to be peeled. See, not that mysterious after all.
I like them raw and tossed into a salad. But here is one of my favorite recipes. It was inspired by a Jamie Oliver recipe I saw on TV where he makes posh beans on toast - he used fava and peas and puts them on toast. First problem I was presented with was that the peas didn't look good at the farmers market, and second was that I don't really eat bread in my house. So I made this and it was fabulous. I use it on quinoa but you can easily use it on rice, on its own, on potatoes - you have options here.
Posh Fava Beans on Quinoa
Take about a pound of fava beans and peel the pods and take the beans out. Remove the outer skin if too bitter. If peas look good that day too, you can add those.
Pulse the raw fava beans in a food processor with 1 clove of garlic, about 1/3 cup of olive oil (the good stuff), salt and pepper, pecorino romano or parmesan (I like pecorino), and a squeeze of lemon juice. Add olive oil or water to thin out if needed.
Cook 1 cup of quinoa.
Toss the fava mixture into cooked quinoa.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Weekly Menu

This weeks menu is continuing the theme of budget and focus on seasonality. Really looking forward to it because I have already sampled some of my goods from the farmers market and this weekend was particularly successful. Here goes.
Sunday: Delightful arugula, grilled nectarine and prosciutto salad (see recipe below) and a fabulous glass of wine
Monday: Pesto pasta, beets with blue cheese and toasted almonds, grilled chicken
Tuesday: Chard rolls stuffed with lentils and onions, topped with goat cheese, roast brussel sprouts
Wednesday: Vietnamese chicken soup (broth from our own freezer), fried Vietnamese spring rolls (also from the freezer), green salad
Thursday: Steamed artichokes, roast brussel sprouts, pesto chicken, posh quinoa and fava beans
Friday: Crockpot stew with polenta squares

Indulgent Arugula Salad with Grilled Nectarine and Prosciutto
Serves 2
This recipe is inspired by something I saw on Jamie Olivers "Jamie at Home" show on FoodTV. I love his show - he cooks the way I like to and he has a mindfulness about the environment and food growing that other chefs don't talk about on that network. It's my own rendition based on what I found at the farmers market and what I had on hand. Enjoy!
1 bunch arugula, chopped in large chunks and washed
1 small-medium red onion, sliced in large rounds
1 beet, steamed or baked and peeled, chopped
2 nectarines, cut in half and pit removed
4 tbls blue cheese, crumbled
8 olives
olive oil
1/2 lemon
8 slices prosciutto
Toss the red onion with olive oil and salt and pepper. Grill on med-high heat until tender and tasty.
Sprinkle a bit of olive oil and salt on the nectarines. Flesh side down, place the nectarines on the grill. Cook until you have good char marks and carmelization.
Meanwhile, lay 4 pieces of prosciutto on each plate in a fan like shape. In a bowl toss the arugula with the juice squeezed from the lemon, olive oil (about 3 tbls), salt and pepper.
Place the arugula on top of the prosciutto. Lay the beets and olives on the side.
Lay the nectarines on top of the arugula, top with a few rings of grilled red onion, and crumble the blue cheese over the top.
About the wine featured in the back of the picture - A good friend of ours went to college with the owner and winemaker of Fontanella wineries. While I have not met them personally, I have heard many amazing stories about the hard work of the family producing this wine. This is a new endeavor for them and in the next few months their tasting room should be open at which point I will be rushing up there to taste and meet them. This was their first release and it's an amazing cab. I had been waiting for the perfect time to pop it open (our friends grabbed us a bottle a few months ago while visiting) and what better way than a meal that reminded me so much of Napa (forget Disneyland, Napa Valley is the happiest place on earth). It was a fabulous bottle of wine! You can check out more about Fontanella at

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Farmer Market Therapy

Strolled down to my local Farmer's Market today and left feeling amazing! It is really like therapy. Think about it - you get some fresh air, get some food (always a high point in the day), see lots of pretty colors (kind of girly, but guys I know you can appreciate this comment too), and just the act of going straight to the person who grew your food - WOW! Speaking of which, when was the last time you talked to a farmer? This is actually my favorite part about the farmers market (aside from leaving with amazing food). They are some of the most down to earth and friendly people - you can't go into their booth, talk to them, and leave feeling bad. Not possible. I love talking to them about the growing process, what is good and what is going to get better, what I liked from last week and what they do to prepare the food. They love food just as much as me.
I left with a huge bunch of basil that literally perfumed my entire house. I bought corn that was so fresh, I didn't cook it at all because that would have ruined it - just ate it right off the cob. We had artichokes that were full of tasty meat and the most amazing flavor.
I don't know where else to get these experiences. Food is about this kind of love and attention.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Warming up without microwave

Some of you may be wondering - 'ok, she does not have a microwave, so how does she warm up her food?'.
Here are some of my tricks:
Chicken, beef, lamb or pork- Warm your toaster oven up to anywhere between 350 and 450. Get some foil, put the meat inside, and close the foil up like a pouch. I can almost guarantee you that after 5-10 min in the toaster oven you will have moist, warmed meat ready to eat.
Rice - put a small bit of water in a pot, toss your cooked rice in, put the lid on and set burner heat to med-high. Cook about 5 minutes and the rice should be perfect.
Pizza, flat bread, things of the like - warm the toaster oven up to 400 F and lay the pizza on a sheet of foil. Warm for about 5 minutes and the cheese should be bubbling again and the crust just crisp enough.
Soup - reheat in a pot
Chili or stew- follow the meat method in the toaster oven
Veggies - whether they are grilled, roasted or steamed, you can lay them in a foil pouch or on a sheet of foil and reheat at 350 for a few minutes and they will be good to go.

I often put a whole balanced meal on a sheet of foil and warm that up (meaning, for example, 1/2 cup of baked sweet potato, 1/2 cup roasted brussel sprouts, 1/2 chicken breast). Warms up just fine and tastes delish without having done it in the microwave!
All the toaster oven things can also be done in a conventional oven - especially for a whole family. Parchment paper also works well with the pouch method. As a general rule if something is prone to drying out from over cooking, use the pouch method. Otherwise, if you can warm it up sufficiently in under 10 minutes, you can just lay it on a sheet pan and warm it up.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Grilled Summer Salad and Fried Baby Artichokes

I digressed from my original plan for Tuesday night dinner. No worries I didn't run to the store or cannibalize any of the other meals for the week. And let me tell you, it was worth changing it up. Not sure what prompted me to do this other than that I felt like fried baby artichokes (forgot I bought those when I made the menu) and I felt like grilling. First, the friend baby artichokes (yes, I fry occassionally and these are delish and I eat them about once a year in my own house and about 2 times a year at my friends parent's house - moderation is key).

Fried Baby Artichokes

Serves 2

2/3 cup flour
1 1/4 cup water
good pinch of salt
good amount of fresh ground pepper
good quality olive oil

1 dozen baby artichokes, peeled until you get to the tender leaves, trim top and bottom and cut in half. You can put in a bowl of cold lemon water if you don't want them to turn brown.

Mix the flour, water and seasoning together so the consistency is viscous, but not watery - the artichokes have to stick. Toss the artichokes in and get them nicely covered (not drenched).

Warm the olive oil in a heavy bottom pot. Test the oil temp by dropping a bit of the batter in - it should bubble a bit around the edges but not go black immediately. Fry each side of the artichoke until nice and golden. Remove onto a plate with a paper towel and sprinkle with a bit of fine sea salt or kosher salt, and if you like, pecorino romano cheese grated on top.

Grilled Summer Salad

Serves 2

1 zucchini, thinly sliced length wise
1 head radicchio, cut into quarters leaving the stem
1 tomato, cut into wedges
1/2 cucumber, cut into thick slices
1/4 cup chopped parsley
8 olives
pecorino romano (optional)

Sprinkle a reasonable amount of olive oil over the zucchini and radicchio and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill the zucchini until just tender (under done and it is too crunchy, over done you get soggy and flavorless). Grill the radicchio until just wilted on the outer leaves.

Chop the radicchio and remove the hard stem portion.

Arange however you like - I chose to sort of build all the ingredients up on top of each other. Throw the parsley on at the end and grate a bit of pecorino over the top.

The salad was a big hit tonight in the LL household. The flavors were fresh, light, yet flavorful and filling. There is a variety of color, crunchy and leafy vegetables. I also want to highlight that I still use ingredients like cheese, but I pick a good quality one that I love, and use it sparingly to just give a little kick to the dish.

Try it!