Viewing entries tagged
seasonal food

Turmeric: What's the big deal? How to consume in a tea form

TURMERIC, known for it’s powerful anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties are added to my new blend of healing homemade tea. The key to turmeric’s healing power is the chemical compound curcumin. What’s it good for?

Spaghetti Squash Comfort Food

Thinking of my east coast friends surviving winter. My first year living without snow, yet I still choose to cook heavy, flavorful winter inspired foods. 

Surprise Youself With A New Food Every Week

We came home from vacation and my friend who had been dog sitting had left two persimmons on the counter. I looked at the beautiful orange fruit as a gift and a sign to prepare my next meal with a new food. I’m sure I’ve eaten this fruit before, but my memory could not bring up the flavors so I pulled up some info on the characteristics and then looked into my favorite recipes to find a place for it. persimmon

Get out of the rut of eating the same foods over and over again. When you are at the grocery store make it a habit to try a new fruit, vegetable or grain every week. Maybe try something you recall disliking as a kid and see what you make of it now. Not feeling very experimental, start with a different brand of apple, or type of potato. Get to know your spice rack to change the flavors in a dish you make frequently.

Having just come back from vacation I wanted to incorporate the persimmon into a dish I was already familiar with. Try this experiment next time you pick up a new food at the grocery store. Substitute it for something common in one of your favorite dishes. Keep it simple.

persimmon salad

I had been eating fish all week in Hawaii and still wanted to keep on that path so I took my recipe for pecan crusted chicken and substituted tilapia. I served this over a salad of baby spinach, pre-cooked red beets, avocado, and substituted persimmon for orange sections. To add some depth to the flavor and texture I added homemade purple cabbage sauerkraut (so easy to make and it can be kept in the refrigerator for 6 months) and homemade sprouts. Before trying this dish I had no idea what to do with persimmon and now I have a new seasonal fruit to look forward to eating in the fall.

Some tips if you want to try persimmon. The fruit is native to China and was later introduced to California. Check where your grocery store fruit came from and try for as local as possible as opposed to Asian imports. It’s harvested in the fall in California and typically available through December. One fruit is about 70 calories and is a good source of fiber. It has anti-infective, anti-inflammatory, and anti-hemorrhagic properties. The orange color it a tip that it is high in carotenoids, helping to prevent age related macular disease. One fruit provides 80% of daily requirement for vitamin C. It’s a good post workout food as it is fairly high in minerals like potassium, manganese, copper and phosphorus. There are two common varieties, the hachiya (more astringent) and the fuyu (more sweet) shown in my recipe. The hachiya variety has a shape similar to a plum tomato and requires more ripening if you want to experience a sweet taste.

Now that I know I like the fruit and understand it's texture and taste I'm going to try it in a Caprese Salad. Give this a try and tell me what you think.

Lose Weight Eating Spaghetti

You think I’m kidding?  Not Spaghetti pasta, spaghetti squash.  I love this vegetable as a seasonal transitional food.  I’m pretty much ready to give up the winter squashes in favor of lighter spring foods, but compared to others this one  has a light and sweet flavor, delicate texture, is incredibly versatile and can actually substitute pasta in many dishes.

Spaghetti squash is low in calories, but high in vitamins and antioxidants.  One cup of cooked spaghetti squash is only 10 grams of carbohydrates and 42 calories compared to regular spaghetti pasta, which is around 43 grams of carbohydrates and 221 calories per cup.  It ranks very low on the glycemic index, so will not cause blood sugar levels to spike and then drop suddenly.  This vegetable is an excellent source of beta carotene, also known as vitamin A which helps to boost the immune system and maintain healthy eye function.  Spaghetti squash also contains significant amounts of niacin, vitamin B6, potassium, manganese, fiber and vitamin C.

To cook spaghetti squash cut the whole squash in half and remove all the seeds.  You will need a large sharp knife, as she skin and flesh are tough.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the halves cut side down in a roasting pan, or glass baking dish along with half an inch of water.  Bake for 30-45 minutes depending on size, until it is tender but not mushy.  You can also microwave it, but I have not tried that method.  Take a fork and scrape the stingy squash out onto individual plates and top with the food you would normally place on top of spaghetti or place in a bowl and toss in other ingredients.

Each squash will provide at least 6 servings so make each meal a little different.  Treat it just like pasta and top with a homemade tomato sauce, meat, and sautéed vegetables.  Serve it cold and toss like a salad with lightly steamed vegetables.  Use it as a base for a meal that is a little saucy that you would typically serve over rice.  You can treat it like a side dish and toss with olive oil, a little nutmeg, ground pepper and Parmesan cheese.  Take the components of a Greek salad and cook them (onion, garlic, tomato, olives, feta cheese), replace the greens with spaghetti squash, toss and serve warm

Roasted Harvest Vegetable Medley

Someone asked me recently how I roasted the vegetables for a dinner and I laughed.  I thought everyone knew how to roast root  vegetables to make a sweet and savory side dish,  so I decided to share this one.  This is a very flexible dish for fall or winter and most of the ingredients can be gathered at a local farmer's market.  You can switch up the veggies and select whatever is available (focus on root vegetables).  If you end up with more cut vegetables than what the recipe requires just add some extra olive oil and herbs (the herbs and garlic are key).  Keep in mind that the Brussels sprouts and potatoes are the most dense and will take longer to cook, therefore make sure those are cut to an appropriate size.

Serves about 8

1 lb small Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half

1 small butternut squash, halved, cut into chunks (1 1/2 lb)

1 head cauliflower, separated into 2 inch florets (1 lb)

4 medium leeks, white parts only, trimmed and quartered lengthwise

1/2 lb baby carrots

1/2 lb parsnips, peeled and cut to about the same size as the baby carrots

24 cloves garlic, peeled (2 heads), plus 3 garlic cloves minced (1 Tbs) divided

1 Tbs chopped fresh sage, plus 24 leaves, divided

1 Tbs chopped fresh rosemary

2 red bell peppers, in chunks

Adjust oven rack so it is close to the heat source.  Preheat oven to 450 deg.  Bring saucepan of water to a boil.  Add Brussels sprouts and cook 3 minutes, or until bright green.  Drain, rinse under cold water, then pat dry.

Toss squash, cauliflower, potatoes, leeks, carrots, parsnips, garlic cloves, 3 Tbs. olive oil, chopped sage, sage leaves, and rosemary in large roasting pan.  Season with salt and pepper and spread into single layer.  Roast 25 minutes, tossing vegetables twice.  Add bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, minced garlic, and remaining 1 Tbs oil.  Roast 15 minutes more, or until vegetables are browned on edges and tender.

If you have a lot of leftover you can also make a soup.  Just take vegetable stock, add the leftover vegetables and puree.

Colorful Raw Kale Salad with Sweet Root Vegetables

I made this salad for the NYC Marathon party we threw last weekend.  There was some discussion in my household about my planned menu that led me to question my choice of kale for a salad for a moment, but I stuck with my gut feeling that this one would be tasty.  If you are not familiar with preparing kale, don’t fret, this salad is raw, pleasing to the eyes, and was the most talked about dish at the party.  In a good way!  Although the recipe did not suggest preparing ahead of time, I made the salad the night before and allowed the lemon juice to tenderize and mellow the flavor of the kale.  Makes a great salad to bring to holiday parties- colorful, healthy, flavorful and filling.

Choose the tender, long-leafed Lacinato kale if available, but any variety will do as long as you cut very thin strips and give the greens a thorough rubdown with the salt, vinegar, and oil mixture.  Be sure to strip the leaves from the thick stalk and discard the stalks.  The suggested root vegetables can be substituted.  For instance I made this with turnip, beets and parsnips, which added both a sweetness and great color.  You can also save time by using the shredding blade of a food processor instead of grating the root vegetables.

Serves 8 as a side dish


2-12oz bunches of kale, stems removed, leaves cut into thin strips of chiffonade (too much is better than too little)

2 Tbsp. Olive oil or Flax oil

1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1 ½ tsp sea salt, divided

1-cup whole pecans (or more)

¼ cup pure maple syrup

2 Tbsp Canola oil

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

1 medium turnip, peeled and grated (1 cup)

½ medium rutabaga, peeled and grated (1 cup)

1 medium carrot, grated (1/2 cup)

2 green onions, cut thin on diagonal


2 Tbsp lemon juice

1 Tbsp olive oil or Flax oil

1 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce

1 Tbsp agave nectar or honey

Place well-drained kale in a large bowl and pour olive oil, vinegar and 1tsp salt over the top.  Gently massage the mixture into kale about 2-3 minutes by hand, or until kale starts to wilt.

Stir turnip, rutabaga, carrot, and green onions into kale mixture

Whisk together lemon juice, oil, soy sauce, and agave nectar in bowl. Season with salt and pepper if desired.

My suggestion is to add the salad dressing to the salad and allow to sit about 8 hours, but if you are pressed for time you can dress the salad about 30 minutes before serving.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Toss together pecans, maple syrup, canola oil, remaining ½ tsp salt, and cayenne in a medium bowl.  Spread nut mixture in single layer on prepared baking sheet; bake 8-10 minutes, or until pecans are brown and fragrant, stirring frequently.  Cool in pan.  Add the pecans just prior to serving the salad.

Adapted from vegetarian times magazine

IN SEASON: Watermelon

No other fruit says summer quite like thirst-quenching watermelon.  I had my first triathlon in Connecticut two weeks ago and at the end of the race there was plenty of food for the competitors to enjoy.  Unfortunately at this race there was nothing on the menu I wanted.  Then I saw a guy munching on a watermelon.  “Where did you get that”?  Man did those few wedges of sweet, juicy watermelon hit the spot. Much of the watermelon’s health-giving powers, as well as its blush color, are due to an abundance of the phytochemical lycopene.  By helping counter oxidative stress, lycopene may play a role in taming, inflammation, certain cancers and maintaining healthy eyesight.  Watermelon is also rich in citrulline, an amino acid used to make arginine, which relaxes blood vessels to help maintain a healthy heart.  And the seeds that we tend to discard?  They are packed with magnesium, a mineral vital for nerve function, blood pressure regulation, immunity, and bone health.  No wonder I was craving watermelon after swimming a mile, biking 25 and running 6.2 miles.

Want to know the best ways to eat this health giving summer delight?  

  • Juicy watermelon wedges are perfect fare for a picnic, beach day snack, or post exercise on a hot day.
  • Lay ½ inch thick watermelon slices on the grill and heat both sides
  • Puree extra watermelon and add to ice cube trays, freeze and add to your favorite beverage.
  • Chop or puree and add to salsas, chutneys, compotes, and vinaigrettes.
  • Add to a summer spinach salad.  A favorite of mine is spinach, watermelon, feta cheese, and mint leaves tossed with lime juice and olive oil.
  • For backyard parties carve out the watermelon and fill with other seasonal fruits.


Here are answers for only a few questions I hear regarding shopping locally, reading labels, and shopping for organic foods. Why do people need to use local farmers’ markets?

When you buy local you are choosing food that is closer to the date of picking and therefore higher in nutrients than foods that came from a greater distance.  Also, many organic farmers don’t want to or can’t afford to pay the fees for their produce to be certified organic, so you have to ask them.  Talk with them to find out about their farming practices and whether or not they use pesticides.  Most farmers will also advertise where their farms are located.

What should I look for on food labels?

This is a loaded question but here are a few answers.

Whole grains: look for the word “whole” in the ingredients list before grains like wheat and look for at least three grams of fiber per serving.

Fats: The nutrient list should say “0 trans fat,” the fat that raises the risk of heart disease.  Check the ingredient list as well for partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated fats, also forms of trans fat.  Take special care when purchasing “low fat” foods and look for artificial sweeteners.

Sugars: Aside from dairy products, aim for less than 10 grams per serving, the lower the better.  Take special care when shopping for “low fat” foods and check the label for artificial sweeteners.  Many manufacturers will add sugar or artificial sweeteners on reduced fat products.  These products should be avoided.  Go for the full fat versions instead, unless they contain trans fats.

Sodium: Avoid products with more than 480 milligrams per serving.

Which organic foods are most important to buy to avoid pesticides and additives like hormones?

Organic fruits and vegetables should top your list, particularly those where you eat the skin like berries, greens, and summer squash. Aim to buy organic dairy, meat, and chicken to avoid the added antibiotics and hormones.  Whenever possible buy locally; not only has a lot of energy been expended to get that organic apple from Ecuador to you, but the apple has also lost a lot more nutrients en route than a local organic one picked the same week you buy it.


When I speak to people about dietary habits I find for the most part there are about 20 foods that consistently make up 80 percent of a persons diet throughout the year.  It’s summer now, time to switch things up again.   Look for these foods on your next shopping adventure. Buffalo is grass-fed, which means you are getting a better balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.  Most often you will find it as ground meat or in patties but you may find steaks at quality butchers and farmers' markets.  The meat is much leaner than beef but has many of the same characteristics.

100% pomegranate juice with its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory flavonoids may slow aging and lower heart disease risk.  Adding small amounts to water is a refreshing way to enjoy the juice and may help you increase your water intake.

Bulgur Wheat is the spine of tabouli salad.  Follow package directions, and then toss with a little olive oil, lemon juice, tomatoes, and parsley.  It’s a great base for many fresh summer salads.  Add a variety of fresh chopped vegetables for a cooling side salad or snack.

Asian noodles like soba or buckwheat are high in fiber, and their rich stores of flavonoids may lower your cholesterol and blood pressure.  I love them in the summer because they make for great cold salads.

Fennel bulb is an aromatic vegetable high in vitamin C, fiber and potassium.  Slice it very thin and add to salads.

In Season: Pineapple

Although pineapple is available year-round, it’s peak season runs from March through July.  Aside from the irresistible taste, there are some healthy reasons to indulge in this flavorful fruit.  It’s a great source of vitamin C, which protects from heart disease, cancer, and cataracts: it contains manganese, which helps keep your bones strong.  Pineapple is also a good source of bromelian, a natural anti-inflammatory that is helpful for addressing the symptoms of sinusitis, gout, arthritis, swelling and bruising.  Plus, pineapple contains an enzyme that helps relieve indigestion; making it a dessert your tummy will appreciate. One cup of raw pieces weighs in at 76 calories, 1.9 grams of fiber, .6 grams of protein, .7 grams of fat (none of it saturated), 2.0 milligrams of sodium, and no cholesterol.

For both flavor and health benefits, fresh is best when it comes to pineapples.  Select one that is heavy for its size and a sweet tropical aroma at the stem end.  It should have a strong color and be slightly soft to the touch, with crisp, dark green leaves.  Signs of over ripeness are yellow or brown tipped leaves as well as soft or dark areas on the skin.

Cut it up and store in an airtight container with some of its own juice for a healthy treat.  If you are unable to use it within 3 days, freeze for use in blended drinks.

Suggestions for eating:

Eat it plain.

Kebob it:  Thread fresh pineapple chunks on skewers with meat and veggies for grilling.

Add wedges or chinks to all types of salads- fruit, tossed green, chicken, and tuna to name just a few.

Grill or broil pineapple slices for a great burger topping or dessert.

Use it in relishes and serve with simply prepared chicken and pork dishes.  See my Mango Pineapple Salsa Recipe.

Take leftover rice or other hearty grain and pan fry with pineapple