Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Quinoa Sausage Artichoke Casserole

A few weeks ago I had accidentally defrosted an extra Italian sausage from our freezer, and I decided to make a pantry type casserole (meaning I use whatever I have in the kitchen at that time to put something together). I made some quinoa (soaked and then cooked according to package directions, except reduced the water by about half since I had soaked it), peeled and trimmed a few baby artichokes I had on hand and then par-boiled them (meaning I cooked them in salted boiling water until just tender), and then I browned the sausage. I then oiled a glass pan and laid the quinoa down, sprinkled about 3/4 cup chopped parsley and thyme, then the sausage, then the artichokes. I topped it with a dollop of goat cheese on each artichoke half and baked at 350 for about 30 minutes (until goat cheese was brown).
So easy and so tasty! Next time I am going to mix the quinoa, herbs, and sausage with 1 or 2 eggs to help hold that mixture together.

You can make casseroles like this ahead of time and bake the night of any time. They are great because it uses whole grains (you can use rice, quinoa or millet for gluten free versions or spelt for a non gluten free option), everything gets cooked in advanced and all you do is assemble. It is also an easy way to get herbs into your meal. It also creates a balanced meal with good proteins, carbohydrates and fat with vegetables. The best way to round it out is to serve with a side of vegetables like a salad and you are good to go.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Weekly Menu 5/24/09

I had mentioned that we are participating in a local CSA this summer and this was the first week I had a box from them! Here is a picture of our first box. This week we have:
Green garlic, spring onions, romaine lettuce, red lettuce, spinach, carrots (with the tops, which you can eat!), radishes, strawberries, red russian kale and strawberries. The carrots and radishes will make great raw veggie snacks as well as impromptu toppings for salads.
At the farmers market I picked up some of my favorites to supplement like the Guisti Farms baby artichokes (great taste, good for the liver and great for spring eating) and nectarines and apricots from the main fruit stand (if you walk by a booth and the perfume of the fruit overwhelms you - you can bet the fruit is worth buying).

So what we ended up with in our house is an abundance of lettuces and leafy greens, and some aromatics to enhance some meals (garlic, onion, etc). With more research, you can come up with some more extravagant meals for these ingredients, but I love keeping it simple - for both time as well as preservation of the flavors that come from farm fresh, organic produce. So this week there are more salads and simple balanced meals (meaning good quality carbohydrate, protein and fat supported with an abundance of vegetables).

Sunday:Thinly sliced, grilled Ribeye served over a bed of romaine and red lettuce with thinly sliced radishes, sunflower seeds, avocado, fresh corn stripped from the cob, topped with cilantro vinaigrette (I switched the vinaigrette up a bit since I had the green garlic I used that as the base, then mustard, honey, cilantro, oil, s&p)

Monday:Long rice noodles with Thai red curry chicken and mixed vegetables (onion, zucchini and spinach) with a side salad

Tuesday: Vegetarian night with Adzuki beans and rice with Mexican spices served over a bed of sauteed Red Russian Kale with onions and carmelized carrots with butter and garlic

Wednesday: Turkey slider hamburgers with cilantro-garlic-mayo dressing (no bun) over a bed of lettuce, avocado, fresh corn and sliced tomatoes (you can do regular burgers, I just like mini things :) )

Thursday: Mixed veggie soup with thinly sliced kale and chard, potatoes, zucchini, artichoke and chopped chicken

Friday, May 22, 2009

A Spring Meal to Entertain

I have talked about this before, but I wanted to share again.

The best way to entertain and leave people feeling taken care of and nourished, is to keep it simple.

Yes, simple is best! Some of my favorite TV chefs talk about this all the time - Mario Batali (an expert on cuisines of the different regions of Italy) and Ina Garten (a Martha Stewart type chef who puts high values on quality and refinement of food). If you pick, fresh, and good quality ingredients and cook them as they were made to be prepared, you will inevitable create a good meal.

A week ago we had guests over and I did just this. It was entirely driven from ingredients I found at the farmers market and my awareness about what spring menus should include. Here is what we prepared:Green Salad with Italian Dressing
Roast Chicken cooked on a vertical roaster and stuffed with lemon, rosemary, sage, thyme and oregano
Quinoa with fava bean and pea puree
Roast baby artichokes and zucchini (roasted in chicken drippings)

Why each item was selected
Spring is one of the best times for chicken. Eggs are also abundant right now. The herbs which were stuffed into the chicken not only impart flavor, but also have their own special nutrition and now that I have my herb garden out front, I have no excuse but to use them!
Spring is also a great time for veggies like artichokes and zucchini. Here in Half Moon Bay we almost always have artichokes. They are great for the liver and gall bladder, and spring is definitely a good time for cleansing and supporting the liver. I used baby artichokes for this meal - the trick with either baby or full artichokes is to peel back to the tender leaves, trim the tops and bottoms, par boil (boil for a few minutes until just soft) and then roast so you still get a tender but crispy texture.
Fava beans and peas are also some of the lighter plant items like fava beans and peas. Served with quinoa (which I soaked the night before to help with digestibility) is an easy way to deliver their taste without overbearing the palette.
Lastly, the green salad is a great way to get herbs, plus fat with the olive oil and very nice flavor. Not to mention fiber, vitamins and bulk to the meal.

Dessert was simply fruit (strawberries and raspberries) alongside Coconut Bliss ice cream. This is a great product based on coconut milk and meat, agave nectar (which in moderation I am a fan of compared to other sugar products). Again, really simple so it was easy on me, and everyone left feeling great.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Weekly Menu May 18 2009

To my loyal readers, my apologies for being so behind! The weather is definitely warming up, the day is lasting longer and my favorite Saturday activity of going to the farmers market is back!!! In addition to the market, I have subscribed to a CSA (Community Support Agriculture) for this summer and I am really excited to share with everyone the ups and downs of sharing in such a group as well as figuring out a menu based on what someone gives you in a box. You can read more about our local CSA here: www.bluehousefarm.org

This is what is on the menu this week :
Monday: "Hamburgers" and a salad
Tuesday: Impromptu Veggie soup with salad
Wednesday: Mexican Beef stew over polenta with sauteed spinach
Thursday: Casserole layered with goat cheese, quinoa, homemade Italian sausage and sauteed artichokes
Friday: Leftovers

Just a quick note, hamburgers on Monday are in quotes because we don't eat these with buns in our house (no gluten) and we grind our own beef so it is not your average old patty slapped on a grill and smothered in mustard and ketchup (or mayo for some of you). We caramelize red onions, roast anaheim peppers and add thin slices of raw milk jack cheese from Greenbank farms to make a healthy, and delicious version of a mex style burger. You may have also noticed the homemade Italian sausage. We keep this like bulk sausage - we tried the casings, but oh me oh my that was a little too much work. We use the grinder attachment for the kitchen aid mixer. It is great. Only about $50 and this process literally takes no more than 10 minutes. In exchange you know exactly what goes into your ground mixture (do you really know when you get it from the store?) and you can control the thickness of the grind (great when you want to make a killer burger to be able to do a coarse grind).

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Rice Pongal

This is great Indian comfort food. Super easy and delicious. Also a great vegetarian meal when eaten with a salad or sauteed greens - the combination of the rice and lentil builds a complete set of proteins so you won't be lacking anything without the meat.
I got this recipe about 10 years ago from a good friend I used to work with. I used to work at a company where most all of us ate lunch together and shared what we brought - that was a really fun and rewarding experience. I have since not heard of or ever worked for a company with a group of people like this. It was great because we had American, Indian, Cambodian, and British folks all eating a variety of delicious meals from their local areas. All were very simple, but if they were new to you, it really didn't matter because the flavors were unlike what you were used to.
Long story short, this is one of those completely simple meals I learned about and fell in love with. While you can probably use any kind of lentil, I recommend finding an Indian Grocery or going to New Leaf or Phipp's ranch to get the little yellow moong dal as they are called. They have a fantastic flavor and really make this dish.
This is a good re-heat dish and I actually will eat it cold - perhaps I am really that in love with it.

Rice Pongal
1 cup rice
1 cup moong dal

Soak the rice and moong dal overnight in enough lukewarm water to cover. Drain and rinse and bring 6 cups water to a boil. Dump in the lentils and rice and cook on medium-low for about 30 minutes. This is supposed to be more like a porridge, so watch it and do not get it super dry, but not watery still. Season with a good amount of sea salt until it meets your tastes. Set aside (this can be done a day ahead of time if you are pressed for time).

4 tbls grapeseed oil or canola oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 cup raw cashew nuts
1 tsp black peppercorns roughly crushed
1" piece of ginger, chopped
4 green chillies, cut in half, de-seeded and then cut in half again

In a pan warm up the oil over medium-low heat. This is important - do not heat the pan super high! Also do not walk away, this is a critical step.
When the oil is warm drop in the cumin seeds and stir well until the cumin seeds start to sputter and you can just smell the cumin. Then drop in the peppercorns. Then add in the cashews and continue stirring until they are lightly golden. Now add the green chilies and ginger and fry for about 1 minute.
Then add the rice-dal mixture and mix well. Season with additional salt or pepper if needed.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Weekly Menu 3/22/09

Sunday: Homestyle ribs (homemade rub, smoked and homemade bbq sauce), coleslaw, baked beans and sauteed greens

Monday: Simple sausage and green (cabbage and kale) soup

Tuesday: Garbanzo beans in Indian curry, mixed green salads with shredded chicken and balsamic vinaigrette

Wednesday: Vegetarian night with Rice Pongal (watch for the recipe this week-it's a delicious Indian porridge type dish that is well seasoned) and sauteed kale and chard

Thursday:Braised pork chops with sauerkraut and green apples

Friday, March 20, 2009

Velveeta and Cheddar Commercial

A family holiday staple when I was growing up was this broccoli casserole that was rice, frozen broccoli, onion and Velveeta basically. It was the tastiest thing I always thought.
Yes, the holistic nutrition educator and food coach used to eat Velveeta! Part of the reason I do what I do today though is from my own experiences. After eating in a more traditional way, I have found optimal health (oh I do apologize for the evangelical element of this post, but stick with me for a few more moments).
So onto my point - yesterday I watched a commercial where a mother and son are in the grocery store and she is on the phone and because of hard times is cutting everything she needs from the store in half because she is 'cutting back'. Then it pans to her picking up Velveeta and a block of cheddar and it says something to the effect of "You don't have to cut back because Velveeta is just as good as cheddar".
Of course they don't say they have the same nutritional value - that would be a lie. But by holding them up to each other, and saying Velveeta is just as good as cheddar implies that they are the same. Give me a break!
Read the ingredients on Velveeta next time you are in the store. It's plastic cheese basically. If you can't read the ingredients, why are you eating that? With everything else we have in terms of pollution, bad eating habits as a kid, health issues, etc etc, why eat these types of things? If your answer is that eating on a budget means cheap food, think again! Feeding the whole family for your health is more than feasible on a budget.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Curry Clarification

I wanted to let everyone know that I will be posting my Indian curried recipe next week. And I wanted to clarify that Ethnic Curries (Indian, Thai, etc) are not the same as the yellow curry powder you get from McCormick or find in egg salads or chicken salads.
Just for the record, I don't even have that in my pantry because something about those flavors just makes me sick.
Indian curries vary in technique, but are a mixture of spices like fennel, cumin, coriander (cilantro seeds), cayenne, paprika, turmeric and more. Sometimes the seeds are used, sometimes the ground versions. Just depends.
Thai curries I refer to usually are more chilies plus lemon grass, kefir lime leaves, coconut, etc.

If you were worried that I was using the yechy yellow curry powder, rest assured the recipes I am making are much more complex and tasty than that. I particularly like these recipes because they take something as simple as a vegetable and spice them up, make them fun and you will want to simply snack on just this. I kid you not!
From a health perspective, herbs and spices are considered a booster food in my book. They pack a good amount of trace elements that you don't get from other foods. We know that for example, yellow spices like turmeric and saffron are very good for liver support. We also know that things like

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spicy Turmeric Chicken Soup

I love making soups for dinner with random stuff in the fridge. Especially when I totally jack something as simple as chicken up in the crockpot...again, whoops.
In any case, dry chicken is great in soup because it gets all shredded and no one can tell! So you can still tell yourself that you are the perfectionist and Martha Stewart you always knew yourself to be...

In any case, I start my simple soups with 4 ingredients I always have in my fridge: onion, carrot, celery and olive oil or butter or your choice.

I get that all softened and then I toss in as much stock or a mixture of stock and water that I have on hand. Add salt and then add the softer vegetables and the chicken (if you have). This week I had the following in my fridge, and all just happened to go great with the turmeric chicken flavors (think Indian or Middle Eastern):
fennel, thinly sliced
green beans

Spinach cooks really quickly so it went in last. I had the soaked brown rice already cooked so it was simple assembly. You just simmer the stock with the veggies and the leftover chicken. Then place a portioned scoop of brown rice in each bowl, and ladle in as much soup as you would like.
EASY! Very nutritious.

Spicy Turmeric Chicken

I am trying extremely hard to find recipes that work in the crockpot. In our house, we are really picky about how dishes turn out in that tool. It is a super valuable tool, but it does take a bit of patience in mastering it.
My friend Catherine over at Studio 4 Pilates gave me a suggestion for this book called "Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Recipes" and I got the entertaining version. She likes it (and subsequently so do I) because not one recipe as far as I can see has canned soup, pre packaged rice, etc etc - it's all real, whole food!
I just got this book and the first recipe I decided to try was the Spicy Turmeric Chicken. She adapted it from Madhur Jaffrey and I just love her recipes so seemed like a win. I overcooked the chicken. I think the rule of thumb for not drying chicken out in a crockpot is low for 6 hours.... I knew this but for some reason had a lapse and did 8. Whoops.

Basically this is what you do:
1 tbls ground cumin
1 tbls paprika
1 tbls ground ground turmeric
1/2 -1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 1/2 tsp salt
you can add garlic, I forgot
and then either the juice of two lemons or water to make a thick paste

Skin a chicken and rub the paste all over the chicken inside and out.

Oil the inside of the crockpot, set on low for 6 hours. No need to add liquid, it will create it's own.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Weekly Menu 3/15/09

This week's menu is inspired by my having an extremely busy and packed last week (so doing most cooking on Sunday like usual was voted out), with the upcoming week being just as rigorous, plus my recent research to build a group class for eating sustainable and natural foods on a budget (oooo imagine that!).
So in general, this is simple, but good food. It uses ingredients from one meal to make another - which is good on the pocket and good for quick weekday meals.

Monday: Curried cauliflower and roast chicken
Tuesday: Chicken soup with a base of carrots, celery and onions with wilted greens and soaked brown rice
Wednesday: Pork and vegetable Thai curry over rice
Thursday: Roasted beet salad topped with a simple vinaigrette and toasted almonds with soaked quinoa
Friday: Leftovers

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Perfect Insurance Plan for a Recession

Today I was reading the March edition of Oxygen magazine and on page 104 is a blurb titled "Avoid Sick Days". It goes on to say that studies have shown that clean eating (this is an Oxygen favorite term which basically means you don't eat any processed, refined or fake food - just the real stuff and in the right proportions) leads to stronger immune systems and less sick days.

I don't think it is necessary to read this in a magazine to know it is true, but I thought it was a nice reminder to it's loyal readers that a cute figure is not the only thing you get with an active lifestyle and good eating habits!

I want to speak from personal experience that since I really cleaned up my eating, and furthermore, focused on having a truly healthy digestive system, I rarely get sick. And when I do, it is about 1/4 what my peers are going through. Winter 2007 a family member got the flu really bad - like literally out for 4 days straight. I took care of them through it, and I didn't get anything. Nada. Most people would think this was a death sentence to get it within hours. Not here.
Along these same lines, a conversation I overheard a few days ago where someone said they don't like going to the gym because they feel like all the germs make them sick. Let me correct anyone who thinks this, and instead say that germs don't make you sick - the inability for your body to fight invaders is what makes you sick.
And what is responsible for fighting invaders? Your immune system? And what is responsible for 70-80% of your immune system?
You guessed it, YOUR DIGESTIVE TRACT!!!

What you eat matters. Really it does. And when you think about how much it costs to be sick - preventing that by eating real food, and balanced meals looks a lot cheaper and less of a time burden. In a time where money is of high concern, stress is extremely high and unemployment (and therefore the possibility of having no insurance) is at an all time high, you need to be more forward thinking about what you put in your body.
So do yourself a favor, and take the time to eat real food!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Weekly Menu 3/8/09

This week's menu is another quick, but high on the flavor profile.

Sunday: Sushi Sunday (lazy man sushi combo's with brown sushi rice, nori, and then tuna salad, avocado, cucumber, line caught natural smoked salmon, jalapeno and sesame seeds)

Monday: Chicken from the book "Arabesque" and a simple salad. Will let you know how this goes. Stay tuned....

Tuesday: Vegetarian night with Indian curried potatoes and cauliflower, topped with yogurt and served over rice with chutney

Wednesday: Grilled fish over greens with potato and butternut squash hash

Thursday: Artichoke heart crustless quiche and salad and leftover hash

Friday: TBD. Hopefully something fun and delish

Monday, March 2, 2009

Salad Dressings

These can be used for green salads - warm or cold as well as grain salads. Make a full batch and keep them in the refrigerator to replace store bought dressings. These are better for you because they use ingredients you can control the quality of and freshness. It is also more cost affordable which we all love!

Italian Dressing
½ cup balsamic
¼ olive oil
2 tbls mustard powder or 2 tbls Dijon mustard
salt and pepper
2 tsp dried oregano
2 crushed garlic cloves, finely minced

Mix all ingredients and store in a jar.

Citrus Vinaigrette

2 tbls orange juice
1 tbls dijon mustard
1 tbls rice or cider vinegar
1 tbls olive oil

Whisk and store.

Cilantro Vinaigrette

1 tbls honey
3 tbls olive oil or veg oil
handful of cilantro
salt and pepper
½ tbls Dijon
1 lime, squeezed
½ -1 roasted jalapeno (optional)

Put all ingredients in blender. Adjust to your likings.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Weekly Menu 3/2/09

This weekend was majorly busy for us, and this week is equally nuts. Means no time to really think about a meal plan and no time to do serious grocery shopping and preparation. So what to do? We all have this happen on a regular basis. Typically the answer is not eating well rounded and balanced meals, or grabbing the telephone to call in an order. While that could still happen this week (and I am okay with that because 80-90% of the time, I do what it takes to eat as best as I can), I made a few simple efforts to make sure we had meals for this week.
Here is what I did:
1. Started defrosting a few soups I have in the freezer for quick meals when we come home so it is just there and ready. This has been easy since the past few weeks we have had a few soups. I just double the recipe or wrap up what we can't eat and in a few weeks you have another meal. Easy!
2. Made sure I had a few greens that cook quickly (spinach, chard, dandelion) and a few raw veggies to snack on. All I have to do is spend 20 minutes today chopping and sauteing and storing away for lunches throughout the week.
3. Bought a pre-made rotisserie chicken. $10 for a natural chicken at our local New Leaf is not too bad. I shred it, mix it with raisins and celery and walnuts and some homemade mayonnaise that we keep on hand (YES, this is worth the effort and learning curve) and top that on spinach and you have a delicious and healthy and quick meal with just a little help from the store.
4. Picked two proteins I could make quick and easy meals out of. This week we did a pork roast because it was on sale and will mix it with veggies and curry paste. The second is a good natural sausage with onion and bell pepper and a salad.
5. I have enough veggies that are quick cooking to do a nice vegetarian meal. I need to make rice for the curry anyway so all I have to do is soak lentils at the same time and cook those up. The lentils and the rice with the vegetables will provide a complete protein so we save money but nourish ourselves with a well balanced vegetarian meal.

All in all this should hold us over all week. Here is what we are doing:

Monday: Waldorf chicken salad over spinach with vegetable puree soup
Tuesday: Pork and vegetable curry over soaked brown rice
Wednesday: Celeriac root soup with sausages and bell pepper and onions
Thursday: Brown rice and lentils mixed with grilled zucchini and radicchio with citrus vinaigrette
Friday: Leftovers

Thursday, February 26, 2009

What do you do about Breakfast?

When I talk about breakfast, I want you to first clear your mind of the image of someone shaking their finger and saying in an old and crackly voice 'breakfast is the most important meal of the day'.

That said, it's true. Breakfast is THE most important meal of the day. I have a long list of why, but let me highlight the top three:
1. Helps regulate blood sugar
2. Great opportunity to get fresh fruit, eggs and whole grains like oats in your diet
3. Gives you energy to start the day

What does this all really translate to -Better able to manage your weight and a healthy body and immune system

There are three disservices you do to your body by not eating breakfast.

1. By not eating, signals are sent to your body that you are starving it. So it holds onto whatever food you do give it and stores it as fat for energy needed later.

2. By not eating regularly your metabolism will slow down and it becomes more difficult to lose weight.

3. By the time you do eat, you are so hungry you overeat and typically the wrong things like chips, sweets, etc. So you end up eating more of the wrong type of calories.

Now that I have convinced you that breakfast will keep you at an ideal weight and in good health, what do you eat?
Another time I will talk about cholesterol and eggs, but for now, trust me that they are fantastic for you. Whole eggs too - the white are hard to digest and rob you of nutrients. The yolks are truly the best part.
1. Frittatas, scrambles, nests (leafy greens and tomatoes made into pockets and eggs baked inside) are all great options.
2. Oatmeal, quinoa cereals with fruits and nuts are also tasty
3. Soups are great for breakfast too. They are warm and nourishing
4. Coconut smoothies with coconut milk, fruit, water, green powder are fantastic because they are portable and will definitely take you through to lunch

What about Cherios, Chex, and all the other cold, boxed cereals?
These all use a machine called an extruder to be produced...sounds scary in itself eh? You should be worried. They put the grains under tremendous pressure to puff and shape them. Studies are showing some serious side effects from this process on rats and while they are rats, I still would not use these as a staple item.
You have likely heard about all the sugar in these too, so read the label too. Simple grains plus sugar are going to spike insulin which causes a deep crash. You can't focus, you get more hungry and eat all the bad things again.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Weekly Menu 2/23

This week's menu is insipired by Dr. Mary Enig's "Eat Fat, Lose Fat" book. For those of you who cannot stand coconut, this is really not the book for you. For those of you who are fat phobic or not eating a balanced diet (with sufficient carbohydrates, protein AND FAT) and not feeling 100%, this is a really good resource to give you the science behind why you need fat, and why coconut is a great source and some fun meal plans to lose weight, to maintain weight and to reach optimum health.
I found that if I had to follow the meal plan laid out by Mary Enig it would be too much food in a week, and it would also be too much work - and for those that know me, you know I don't mind going the distance for food - so this needed some help. I took my food coaching tools out and made a meal plan, grocery list and list of to dos to get this all done and organized for the week. Went of without a hitch today! Don't think that this is too much work or too organized - for the rest of the week all I do is assemble and re-heat. I get all my nutrients, well balanced meals, no stress!

Monday: Red chile pork, steamed broccoli and cream of vegetable soup
Tuesday: Salad with baked chicken and coconut peanut sauce, green beans
Wednesday: Coconut corn soup, whole grain bread, raw cheese
Thursday: Egg scramble with natural bacon, sauteed spinach and cream of vegetable soup
Friday: Halibut, Indian curry vegetables with coconut milk, cream of vegetable soup and chutney

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Root Vegetable and Mushroom Pie with Rosemary Biscuit Topping

I received a subscription to Bon Appetit for the holidays and I am so happy I did. The photographs, the ideas, the recipes! This is a winner. I decided to swap the flour in the pie mixture with arrowroot powder - it is a great thickener with no weird flavor or texture. The trick is adding it more towards the end (where with flour you need it at the beginning). You could definitely do the BA recipe for biscuits, but I decided to try a gluten free biscuit. Your choice, but I wanted to highlight that this could easily be GF and DF (dairy free), and it is a much more interesting way to get your root vegetables (and it has pretty much every root veg in there!). Much of this can be done ahead, so this can be a slow cooked Sunday meal, or it can be a comforting weeknight meal that you just assemble the night of.

You can find the recipe at:

I have re-posted the recipe, but with my changes here:

6 cups homemade chicken or vegetable broth
2 very large carrots, peeled, quartered lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large celery root (celeriac), peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 large parsnips, peeled, quartered lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large rutabaga, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 turnip, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 oz dried porcini mushrooms, covered with hot water for 10 minutes. Reserve liquid and chop mushrooms into 1/2 inch chunks
3 tablespoons butter or oil
3 cups chopped onions
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
2-3 tablespoons arrowroot powder
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream (optional)
2 tablespoons imported dry Sherry
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley


  • Bring 6 cups stock to boil in large pot over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve bouillon. Add carrots and next 5 ingredients. Simmer until vegetables are tender, about 7 minutes. Drain; reserve vegetables and broth.
  • Melt butter in same pot over medium heat. Add onions; sauté until beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Mix in garlic and rosemary; stir 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in reserved broth. Cook until reduced by about half. Add the arrowroot powder. Then cream and Sherry. Cook until sauce is thick and reduced to 4 cups, whisking often. Mix in reserved vegetables and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer filling to buttered 13x9x2-inch baking dish. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover with foil; chill.
  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake filling, covered, until bubbling, about 50 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare biscuits.


Pre mix 1 cup rice flour, 1 cup tapioca flour, 1 cup cornstarch, 1 cup potato flour

7/8 cup of the flour mixture
1/2 tsp xanthum gum
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
1 tsp sucanat
1/2 tsp salt

3 tablespoons butter or vegan non-hydrogenated margarine
1/2 cup buttermilk

In a mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Cut in the butter until it resembles the size of peas. Stir in the buttermilk and work gently until the dough forms a ball. Roll out onto a dusted surface and roll to about 3/4" thickness. Cut the dough into rounds. Lay on top of the vegetable mix.

Final Preparation

Lay biscuit dough atop hot filling by heaping tablespoonfuls; sprinkle with pepper. Bake uncovered until tester inserted into center of biscuits comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool 15 minutes.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Weekly Menu 2/8/09

This weeks menu was inspired by the latest Bon Appetit I just received in the mail, and a soup book someone loaned me. I also wanted to build out some more freezer meals because I am still making efforts to save time, save money, but feed our family nourishing and whole foods. I pre-made most everything today (Sunday) so this week should be a breeze. And cravings for easy to go food should be obsolete with all this fantastic food in the fridge and freezer!

Sunday: Homemade Italian Sausage (pulled from our freezer reserves) with bell pepper and onions and sauteed kale and dandelion greens

Monday: Arroz con Pollo with mixed green and tangerine salad

Tuesday: Bon Appetit's Root Vegetable and Mushroom Pie (I am doing a gluten free version of the biscuits on top, and I have modifications for the flour they added to the mixture)

Wednesday: Fresh Greens Soup and Leftover Chicken from Monday's Arroz con Pollo

Thursday: Artichoke and Potato Soup with salad

Friday: Leftovers

This week's tip:
Try doubling your soup recipes. If you are a family of two, just make what it calls for and initially freeze half. You will have 2-3 meals ready for you whenever you are in a pinch. If you are a family of one, try partnering up with a friend to split the work, ingredients and risk of trying new recipes. Cook together or meet up to exchange your foods.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Gluten Free Coffee Muffins

Before you throw your arms up and say forget it because it's gluten free, take a look. I don't make things that try to mock a modern version. For example I don't get tofurkey, I don't like most gluten free bread....these are things that you just shouldn't try to replicate if you have a food sensitivity.
That is how I survived the 10 years that I had a sensitivity to milk protein. I ate as many whole foods as possible and tested recipes until I could make them just taste good and not 'ok, but dairy free.
So, these muffins. I was hesitant to try them, but I will tell you they are great! Give them a try next time you have guests over.
Coffee Muffins
Adapted from the "Gluten Free Gourmet Cooks Comfort Foods" by Bette Hagman
Before you start, mix 1 cup garfava flour, 1 cup cornstarch and 1 cup tapioca flour in a storage bin
1 1/2 cups flour mix
1/2 cup sucanat
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3 Tbls melted butter
2 eggs
2 tsp instant espresso
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup chocolate chips (to add right before baking on top of the muffins, otherwise they sink to the bottom)
Cupcake liners
1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line muffin tin.
2. In a medium bowl mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together.
3. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs, coffee and butter together.
4. Add half the flour mixture until just moist. The key with this is not to overmix or beat.
5. Add half the buttermilk, stir lightly.
6. Add the rest of the flour, stir. Then the rest of the buttermilk. Stir lightly.
7. Fill the muffin cups 3/4 full. Top with chocolate chips if you want.
8. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
I would suggest tasting the batter before. It doesn't taste good, so that is not why I am suggesting that. Instead, I just thought it was so cool how the bean taste gets cooked out and how baking is such a science!
According to the original author, each muffin packs 6 grams of protein! Enjoy with some tea or coffee.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

NT Eggplant Relish

Nourishing Traditions page 167 Eggplant Relish
We made this for our Superbowl party and I will say that it was a great addition. Served it with whole wheat pita chips. I love tahini and capers so smothering eggplant in them was heaven. I would suggest making sure you chop everything pretty small. Not into a pulsed paste, but really small chunks. We kept it large and while that was ok, it would have better mouth feel and dipping ability if you had it smaller.
Also, we didn't let the eggplant sit in a colander. I never do this. I think it is usually suggested to draw out the bitter flavor eggplant can have. I have tried both ways and never found a difference. Just make sure your eggplant are relatively young and not super bruised and I think you will be ok.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Nourishing Traditions Recipe Reviews

You will find that I have added a category called "Nourishing Traditions Recipe Reviews". Basically as I went to go conquer trying things from this book, I found that I didn't know where to start or in some cases, what to actually do. The ingredients, the techniques - they were all new to me. I Googled and came up with a few things, but I still have not found someone who is methodically going through the book, Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon, and reviewing and adding commentary about how to make the recipe better.
I am not going to list the recipe, because I really do think it's a key text to have in your own library. I will be referencing the Revised Second Edition from 2001. This is an easy book to find. Try starting with Amazon.

Natasha's Sheppherd's Pie

This is really one of those things that I put together based on flavors I knew were in a regular Shepperd's pie, but I either didn't want to follow an exact recipe or wanted to replace the typical 'white' products with something more nourishing. This is also a great recipe to make on Sunday and quickly re-heat for a nourishing and tasty weeknight meal. Just serve with a salad for a whole meal!
Specifically I did a mix of russet potatoes with sweet potatoes to top it. And I did ground beef and natural chicken livers (you really can't taste them in this application) to give the meat portion more nutrition. I also did a lot more vegetables in the mixture than you would normally find. Lastly, I didn't use flour to thicken the sauce and instead used arrowroot powder. Give it a try! The only thing I would change next time is to find an alternative to the worcestershire sauce. Additional herbs, some tamari and anchovies would probably do the trick if you didn't make your own full on batch of worcestershire.

Serves: 4 large servings or 6 smaller servings

1 small onion, finely diced
2 stalks of celery, finely diced
2 carrots, finely diced
1 lb beef
1/2 lb natural chicken livers (soaked in lemon juice for 2 hours, rinse and pat dry, remove filament), finely chopped
1/2 cup beef broth
1/2 Tbls arrowroot powder or cornstarch
1 Tbls worcestershire sauce
1 russet potato
1 sweet potato
Butter (optional)
Cream (optional)
Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 400 F.

1. Scrub the russet and sweet potatoes and poke with a knife. Toss in the oven and bake for 45 minutes until they are soft. Set aside and let cool.

2. Over medium heat, warm a bit of olive oil or butter and soften the carrot, onion and celery. Season with salt and pepper as it cooks. Set aside.

3. Warm another tablespoon of olive oil and toss in the beef. When mostly cooked, toss in the livers.

4. A minute after the livers are added, toss in the broth and worcestershire sauce and let come to a boil. Add the arrowroot powder (or cornstarch) and cook for a few more minutes until the sauce is thick enough to leave a line when you run your spoon through it.

5. Combine the meat and vegetables and put in the bottom of a medium casserole dish (I personally like Corningware products).

6. Take the potatoes out of their skins and mash in a bowl. Mix with just olive oil, or butter and cream (don't be afraid of the fat - remember, in moderation it is good for you and will satiate you.

7. Top the meat mixture with the potatoes.

8. Put in oven and bake until warmed through and potatoes are a little crispy on top.

Weekly Menu 2/2/09

This weeks menu was inspired by a desire to make more comfort foods. The weather has been warm actually, but I have just wanted to eat my favorite things. The shepherds pie for example was to satisfy a craving from one of our favorite restaurants, Sullivans, in La Honda where some of the best English food is made in this area. But being the food coach, I also wanted to make these nourishing and balanced, so I added my own twists. Enjoy!

Monday: Natasha's Impromptu Shepherds Pie - Food Coach Style
Tuesday: BBQ chicken with soaked brown rice, sauteed kale and chard and homemade balsamic vinaigrette
Wednesday: Sushi made with nori, brown rice and leftover chicken, spinach salad on the side
Thursday: Baked pork chops, polenta, sauteed greens (spinach, kale, chard) with onions
Friday: Portuguese cookoff with friends - to be determined and I will be sharing recipes with you!

Thursday, January 22, 2009


I was skeptical when Ben told me last week that he was going to make homemade carnitas....I just thought 'uhhh'. I like it from the taco shop and I rarely get it because it is so fatty and makes me nauseous, but I do like it. He found the recipe here: http://www.elise.com/recipes/archives/004198carnitas.php

I will tell you two things about this:
1. This is EASY!
2. This is the best carnitas I have ever had

I really recommend this recipe and I suggest trying this one week. You can use this for tacos, empanada filling, soup, burritos, etc etc etc! With a snappy little salad on the side and some mashed avocado, fresh radishes and fresh made salsa and lime, you can't beat a tastier meal. I wanted to add that we use non GMO corn tortillas in our house. They are readily available, and if you have a choice, why add more junk to your system? You shouldn’t! Most corn, unless otherwise noted, is genetically modified (GMO). I suggest reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivores Dilemma if you really want a nice picture of how this came about and what it is.
This was a great meal because we got to control how fatty it was, the quality of ingredients and we got to connect with our food.
A true whole food meal with a ton of flavor and love.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Fancy Food Show Reviews

This past Sunday I visited the Fancy Food Show at the Moscone Center in San Francisco - What a trip! I found out about the show from a friend who does catering, so I thought this was going to be more interesting than specifically useful to the food coaching business. I could not have been more wrong. Well, it was both extremely interesting and useful. Let me give you some general notes and some favorite product highlights:

General Notes
I started out in the natural and organic hall - hundreds and hundreds of vendors selling almost anything you can imagine. The most popular items were tea, crackers, nuts and chocolate. Not to mention that there were at least 7 or 8 specialty water companies selling basically the same thing. The market is clearly demanding these convenience snacks and a search for a 'healthy' sweet. What became evident immediately was that most all of these snacks are not whole foods (remember, a whole food is something you can read the ingredients on and it has less than 5 ingredients). They are purely trying to satisfy the new obsession with 'organic' as a title and the addiction to sweet or salty snacks. I had fun with the vendors asking what various ingredients were.
What was also interesting was the focus on packaging. I won't generalize and say all the companies are there to sell and profit, but I will say that many are. Rightfully so as so many people are not relying on whole foods to snack on, and prepare meals with. And they are reaching the masses through calculated packaging. Just a nice little reminder that you really need to turn the package over, read the ingredients and then make a choice....ask yourself 'do I want to put this in my body?'

Redwood Hill Goat Farm - I love the goat milk yogurt from this company and I was able to meet the owners. Really great example of how you can just ask about farming practices and as soon as you see the passion and know how it is done, you are instantly drawn to want that product because you know it is ok for you.
Indian Food To Go by Tandoor Chef- for a prepared food, I didn't mind the ingredient list for this company, and it actually tasted dang good. It was interesting to see that there were at least 5 Indian pre-prepared food companies in this one hall. It's easy to make! I will try to get you more Indian recipes this year just to prove it to you.
Alternative Milks - we found several, but two that interested me were Living Harvest's Hemp Milk. Neutral taste, a list of ingredients I don't really know what everything is so I have more research to do. The other was called Mimi Creme and it was cashew and almond milk. Also need to do more research.
Natural Sodas: GUS (Grown Up Soda) was really good. Vignette (non alcoholic soda made from wine grapes) also great. Fentimans and Dry soda were also good. More whole ingredients, but definitely something for every now and then.
Cleaning Products - I am a big, huge fan of the Mrs. Meyers brand. Natural cleaning products that are super affordable. That wasn't new to me, but I wanted to highlight that I really like their products and it was fun to visit their booth. I did come across something new called Twist. They use natural, biodegradable product to clean your home and dishes, etc with. I had not thought about what my dish sponges were made from until I spoke with them. Check it out.
Redneck Pepper - The food was good, but these guys are funny as heck. Check them out at www.redneckpepper.com
Pre-packaged Grains - This company is just a few miles from me and I didn't know it until today so I hope to find out where she is distributing and more about the business, but www.ourdailygrain.com had some tasty samples to hand out and I really like their mission statement.
Tasty Baby - www. tastybaby.com I stopped by this booth and learned some really interesting things. I would advocate making as much of your baby food as you can, but this is a great alternative. It is frozen baby food, and it is all organic and they have BPA free containers. They had samples, but I felt a little awkward tasting....moving on. What I found interesting is that I often recommend that people eat frozen over canned foods because canned undergoes tremendous heat and pressure which reduces the nutritional value of your food. I never thought about that in the context of baby food in a jar. Turns out for Tasty Baby they have to heat the food to 185 and then flash freeze it compared to over 200 degrees for at least 30 minutes in the jarring process.
Republic of Tea - This booth was HUGE! And they had each type of tea brewed and ready to serve. We tried about 5 of them and it was delightful. Their tea is very accesible and I like each one I try. I think they have a few organic types, which is my only gripe, but I like their stuff.
Portion Controlled Chocolate - Chocolate and sweets and cookies were HUGE at this event. I really couldn't believe it. There were two companies I found that I didn't mind the ingredient list, liked the people and liked how they packaged for portion control - which I think helps when you are talking about sweets. www.sweetriot.com has these tic tac like boxes that hold their chocolates and the most concentrated dark chocolate also has espresso and they were dang tasty.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Weekly Menu for 1/18/09

Monday: Liver and onions, herbed millet, sauteed spinach
Tuesday: Millet and Arab spiced chicken over parsnips and onions, celery root soup and sauteed zucchini
Wednesday: Posole with steamed greens
Thursday: Homemade carnitas tacos with taco bar fixings (avocado, radish, salsa, corn tortillas) and sauteed zucchini
Friday: Leftover posole and greens

You may be asking yourself, goodness gracious what is she doing on Monday! I have not spent a great deal of time talking about my involvement with the Weston A. Price Foundation or Nourishing Our Children campaign, but one of my goals for 2009 was to incorporate more principals from WAPF and the Nourishing Traditions book by Sally Fallon (given my profession, it is my duty to try things on myself first!). The last three weeks I have added raw milk. This next week I wanted to try organ meats. There is a lot more I can write about why organ meats are good for you, but the short of it is that they are rich in vitamins A and D which are good for a variety of things in your body. Each week I am going to be trying something from Nourishing Traditions - a great book I highly recommend you pick up, and will try to give a review of the recipe each week. My involvement with WAPF doesn't mean I am against vegetarianism - I respect and support each persons choice to do what they want. I also still have my own realistic ways to incorporate good food into a busy life. Stay tuned to see how I continue to do this!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Baking Soda - In Indian Food?

I learned something very interesting yesterday from an Indian friend. I had a hankering for some Indian take out at lunch (sometimes, you just can plan and plan your meals, but you crave something and I figure as long as I make good choices and I get the essence of my craving, it's in line with my general principals....anyway, moving on). She informed me that most of the Indian places she goes to don't satisfy her palette. Now, she is a good cook so I figured it was just about flavor, but she went on to inform me that they thicken the sauces with both cornstarch AND baking soda. I didn't believe her, had to ask again. She said, no, they definitely add baking soda.

So, this explains why it's hard to digest Indian food from restaurants and gives you the burps (pee yew). Your stomach is supposed to be acidic (some other time I will launch into my spiel about not using Tums or other antacids). It is a digestive need for the stomach to be acidic. If you are stressed, sick, eating poor foods or eating foods with baking soda in it, your body can't properly digest or assimilate (transfer the nutrients from food to the form your body can use it) because the pH is not correct.

Just another reason to take a class, read a book, watch a show - anything to try and cook more at home! I have mastered a few Indian spice combinations and next time, I will just wait until I get home to satisfy that craving.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Weekly Menu for 1/11/09

Here we are in the second week of the new year! This week's menu is simple, but nutrient dense. It is a busy week so I chose things I knew we could pre-make today (Sunday) and then either warm up or toss together throughout the week. Here is what we have:

Sunday: Homemade bratwurst with cabbage and potatoes (with skins)
Monday: Simple grilled shrimp over spinach with citrus vinaigrette and a side of brown rice
Tuesday: Lentils with Indian flavored cauliflower topped with cheese
Wednesday: Marinated flank steak over rice with black beans and spinach salad
Thursday: Chicken stuffed with goat cheese, wrapped in bacon and baked, sauteed spinach and quinoa
Friday: Fiesta fiesta!! Just kidding. Something fun and impromptu here.

A note about the homemade sausage. Friday night the husband took some time ( a few hours) to research and then make his own sausage. It was quite the experience, but I highly recommend it if you are a make from scratch type person. Sausage is usually packed full of nitrites and nitrates and fillers like non fat milk and such. These are just meat and spices. The best part is we get to season the way we want as well. Sausage is not a low fat dish either, but the important thing is to BALANCE the meal by having at least half the plate being vegetables. I will post more information about this after the husband does a write up for me.
Have a great week!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Winter Minerals

Something I have touched on in my blog, but perhaps never clearly said is that we are generally out of touch with our food. That is such a general statement so let me elaborate with an example. How many of you still buy tomatoes this time of year? How about peaches? Look around, and you will notice those are not in season. Your next question might be something like 'so what if it is not in season?'. Well, I am not trying to change the world here (just trying to mix our modern time restrictions, busy schedules and technology with more traditional ways of eating and living), but if you think about produce in your own home and how great it tastes when first picked you can imagine that the nutritional value of that food is much higher at that time. If you are eating out of season foods they have to travel from somewhere not near here. That means possibly eating foods that have been irradiated, genetically modified, waxed and who knows what else. The best way to know what to buy, is to go to the farmer's market and look around. Right now our farmers market is closed here in town for a few months, but there are several CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) available in most all communities that directly supply you with seasonal foods. You can also go to the grocery store and look around for what is abundant and priced right. Right now you will see a lot of root vegetables, squash and hardy greens like kale, chard, cabbage and brussel sprouts. All of these foods are extremely rich in minerals and winter is the perfect time to re-mineralize your body. Again, most people don't think of each season as a time to nourish yourself for a particular reason. As a result many people continue to eat the highly refined and processed foods without a regularly supported diet of seasonal foods and eventually they become depleted and sick (with a cold, digestive disorder, etc). You will notice that these foods are cheap too. Eating whole foods is not only nourishing, but easy on the pocket. Combined with organized meal planning and a good pantry and you are set! This posting was the inspiration for me making Sally Fallon's Winter Root Vegetable Soup from Nourishing Traditions. If you don't own this book, I suggest buying it or picking it up at the library. It is a good informational text, as well as cookbook. This soup is extremely tasty and will make you feel warm and nourished!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!
We started the year off in Napa, CA this year and let me tell you - that is the best way to start the year! Rang it in with a fantastic meal at the Culinary Institute (Greystone), massage and mineral pools, then our two favorite wineries Sullivan and Fontanella, ate at Bottega in Yountville (a Michael Chiarello restaurant - he was there and it was fabulous!) and then Ad Hoc (a Thomas Keller restaurant and a heck of an experience - make reservations!!). I am a seriously full, but happy camper right now.
A very special thanks to Jeff and Karen Fontanella for a fantastic tasting experience and visit! For those who love wine, love my blog, love to eat and know where your stuff is coming from, you have to visit them. Not only are they good people (that is a Southern term I picked up from my father in law), but they have a beautiful tasting room and property the winery is situated on, and....the wine is great! Anyway, I wanted to talk about them not only because I was appreciative, but if you are going to the Napa area, give them a call and stop by because you won't ever have a tasting experience quite like this. It is better than any winery on the main strip and the price is right and so are the people and the ambiance.
This was also a good trip because it was a reminder of how I practice food and food coaching. When we do Napa we stay away from the super touristy scene and go for really good food and wine and the experience. Like our trip with Jeff and Karen at Fontanella we were able to spend time talking about wine, the Valley, food, and how it all comes together. It's about connection. At Ad Hoc we had a really interesting upscale dining experience with a casual atmosphere and reasonable prices. Just things you don't do everyday, but when you do it you realize how much you love it and how everyday or week should have a little piece of that.
This year look out for more regular postings (sorry about the lag at the end there!) and more seasonal talk. To start this week for meals we have the following on tap:
Sunday: Slow Cooker Beef Stew with our Fontanella Cab we picked up on Friday
Monday: Winter vegetable soup (From Nourishing Traditions pg 213), roast chicken, Roast brussel sprouts
Tuesday: Winter vegetable soup with sausage and peppers (recipe from Lidia Bastianich), green salad
Wednesday: Veggie puree pancakes (Nourishing Traditions pg 412), salad and grilled flank steak
Thursday: White fish (fresh from Fisherman Porter) in a lemon caper white wine sauce, green salad, vegetable patties
Friday: Mediterranean fish soup, green salad

Stay tuned for an update on our Christmas Crab feast. I am having some issues getting photos up which is why I held off.