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September 15, 2017

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

By mid-September we’ve all had plenty of chance to see the annual return of pumpkin-spice buzz, from flavored oatmeal and lattes to custards, Oreos, and even (!) Pringles potato chips.  Pick your pumpkin with care!  While real pumpkin is plenty nutritious and a food worth eating, many processed pumpkin-flavored snacks and sweets are full of non-food ingredients and mainly empty calories.

I shared some seasonal favorites with a local club this morning, featuring dishes with apple, pumpkin, and sweet potato.  I’m so grateful to those ladies for their enthusiasm, and I’m happy to share the pumpkin pancakes they sampled.  These are gluten-free and grain free; they make a familiar breakfast or brunch food, and they would also work well served at room temperature with a topping of your choice for an hors d’oeuvres.    Happy fall y’all!

Paleo Pumpkin Pancakes (adapted from Practical Paleo)

4 eggs

½ cup pumpkin (from a can of organic pumpkin)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons melted ghee or butter


Whisk together the eggs, pumpkin, vanilla, and maple syrup.  Combine the cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking soda and stir into the pumpkin mixture until well distributed.  Fold in melted butter.

Good for you paleo pumpkin pancakes!

Prepare a griddle over medium heat.  When a drop of water sizzles on the surface begin making pancakes.  I prefer bite-sized pancakes made from 1 tablespoon batter, but, of course, you can make any size you choose.  When you begin to see the surface bubble, your pancake is ready to turn over for about a minute on the second side.

August 30, 2017

Rosemary Raisin Crackers

My first batch of homemade crackers was made years ago teaching pre-kindergarten in New York City, and we made cheese straws in the classroom kitchen to be served at parents’ night.  Though I knew making crackers was easy enough for pre-schoolers to do, it seemed to me there were plenty of good crackers to purchase, so it wouldn’t be worth the trouble.  These crackers are so easy to pull together in five minutes flat while your oven preheats, and they are totally worth the clean up — especially if you whip up a few batches.  

Rosemary Raisin Crackers

1 cup blanched almond flour

2 tablespoons raisins

2 tablespoons cold water

1 tablespoon raw sunflower seeds

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1 ½ teaspoons olive oil

½ teaspoon sea salt


Special Snack for a Party or Any Day!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  

Blitz all the ingredients in the food processor.  Process for about 10 seconds, or until thoroughly combined.  The dough will form a ball in the food processor bowl.  Roll out the dough to  ¼-inch thick between two sheets of parchment paper.  Transfer the bottom sheet with dough to a sheet pan.  Using a large chef’s knife, cut the dough to make 1-inch wide rectangles or the shape of your choice.  Bake 12-15 minutes, until golden.  Let cool on a rack 15 minutes, and then break crackers apart.  

August 28, 2017

Jicama, Orange, and Fennel Salad

Nutrient dense and delicious!

Jicama, Orange & Fennel Salad

I don’t often think of serving oranges in summer, but this salad is so refreshing and the familiarity of the oranges encourages people to try it even if they aren’t familiar with jicama or raw fennel.  Because the jicama is a great source of prebiotic fiber and the arugula is a cruciferous vegetable, this dish is an especially healthy choice to add to summer cookouts or fall tailgate buffets.  

To make enough for a small platter of about six servings, you will need 4 navel oranges, 1 small jicama about the size of a small orange, 1 small fennel bulb, and 1 five-ounce box of mixed baby arugula and spinach.  

Prepare the oranges by slicing the segments away from each membrane, and set them aside.  Peel the jicama and fennel and slice them into thin strips.  

Whisk together for a dressing: 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 garlic clove, minced, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and 2 teaspoons maple syrup; then whisk in 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. You can also boost the flavor by adding 1 teaspoon toasted fennel seeds to the dressing.  

Refrigerate the ingredients and dressing until shortly before you plan to serve.  Assemble the salad by putting down a layer of arugula and spinach and layering jicama slices over the greens.  Drizzle with dressing and then top with fennel.  Arrange the orange sections on top and perhaps add more dressing.  

Playing around:

Spicy: You could spice things up using radishes instead of jicama or add them to these ingredients.

Sweet: You could add blueberries or watermelon, or use either of these in place of the oranges.

Green: You could add cilantro or parsley to the bed of greens.

Serve at brunch after eggs, or with burgers and hot dogs at a cookout, or as an accompaniment to shrimp or fish tacos.  For a light lunch you could add pumpkin seeds and avocado and serve the salad on its own.

March 10, 2017

Think Outside the Box…

Think Outside the Box … of Crackers

Sweet Potato Toast 

Here’s a great healthy food swap that’s oh so versatile.  Use a round of toasted sweet potato in place of a cracker or bread for an hors d’oeuvres or even breakfast.  It’s Whole 30 compliant, and it’s a neutral start you can adapt for lots of different palates.  Make it savory or sweet… the possibilities are pretty much endless! 

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees or use a toaster on the highest setting if you are preparing one or two large slices.  Scrub the sweet potatoes and leave their skin on.  Any variety of sweet potato will work.  Slice them evenly to ¼” thickness.  I slice them crosswise if I’m preparing an hors d’oeuvres, as pictured here, and lengthwise if I’m using them for a larger gluten-free toast.  Lay them flat on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or place them directly on the racks of your toaster.  Bake them for up to 20 minutes, flipping over about halfway through cooking, until the slices are beginning to brown.  

For a light savory hors d’oeuvres with a distinctive taste, I paired Japanese sweet potato toasts with a bit of arugula and some Goat Lady Dairy Smoky Mountain chevre.  

Try it any other way you can think of or check out the nearly 7,000 posts at #sweetpotatotoast.


Toasted Sweet Potato topped with sweet or savory flavors

  • Almond butter, banana slices, chia seeds, and a sprinkle of cinnamon
  • Kite Hill non-dairy cream cheese and fresh blueberries
  • Good ole’ PB&J
  • Avocado and freshly ground black pepper
  • Cream cheese, smoked salmon, tomato, and chives
  • Goat Lady Dairy goat cheese and arugula or rosemary
  • Bacon, egg, and avocado
  • Beet Hummus and chives
December 29, 2016

A Southern Tradition for the New Year

> Picture

Starting the New Year with Luck and Money
Here’s a regional tradition this transplant to the South is glad to embrace. These are good for you, for sure, and they taste great.  Of course, the traditional dish calls for collard greens, but a couple months ago I discovered Brussels Greens at our local farmers market, and I like them even better because they are a bit more tender and sweet, like very small collard greens would be.  Black eyed peas are usually the only field peas available locally at this time of year, but if  there are others in your area, don’t hesitate to use your favorite.
Ring in the new year with a helping of smoky stewed greens and black eyed peas.
Brussels Greens and Black Eyed Peas 
for 6 servings
1/4 cup olive oil
1 yellow onion, minced
2 lbs. Brussels greens (or collards), stemmed and chopped into 1/4 inch ribbons
a big pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups cooked black eyed peas
3 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon adobo sauce from chipotle peppers
Warm the oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot.  Add the onion and cook until it is soft and beginning to brown. Meanwhile, toast the red pepper flakes in a dry pan for about two minutes over medium heat.   Stir the chopped greens into the onions and add the toasted red pepper and a big pinch of salt. After a couple minutes, add the wine and reduce the heat to medium low.  Stirring occasionally, cook for 30 minutes or longer, depending on your greens, until they are soft.  When the greens are tender, stir in the cooked black-eyed peas and the cider vinegar.  Bring to a simmer and stir in the adobo sauce and salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer 10 minutes.

This recipe is adapted from the James Beard award-winning Ashley Christensen, whose contributions to North Carolina’s food renaissance showcase the best of our foods from mountains to coast.

November 30, 2016

Green and Gold Immunity Boosting Stew


I’d rather not fill a prescription at the pharmacy, and it’s not just because of the crowds in line.  The first seasonal colds and viruses circulating through my community, and more recently in my own body, remind me of the value of a good homemade “medicine.”  It’s a boost to our immune systems when we eat whole foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, especially foods that deliver a great Rx of anti-inflammatory properties.  I’ll take a bowl of soup or stew over a dose of NyQuil anyday!
You probably already have your favorite recipes for bone broths or chicken soup to nurse a cold or ward one off, so this recipe is a plant-based alternative that counts on shiitake mushrooms, butternut squash, lima beans, and kale to deliver a healing elixir.

Green and Gold Stew
makes 2.5 quarts, or 6 hearty servings
stems from wild mushrooms to make mushroom stock
extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 lb. shiitake mushrooms or other wild mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
5 cups butternut squash, cut in 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups frozen lima beans
1 bay leaf
​8 cups homemade mushroom stock
6 cups thinly sliced Lacinato kale (leaves from a small bunch)
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Clean the mushrooms one by one with a damp paper towel and cut off their stems.  Place the mushroom stems in a medium saucepan with 8 1/2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil and simmer while you prepare the rest of the stew.  Heat about 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Cook the onion until soft and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.  Transfer the onion and garlic to a large bowl and set aside while you cook the mushrooms.  Add a slick of oil to the hot pot and toss in about half of the mushrooms, cooking and stirring occasionally until they begin to brown.  Add the browned mushrooms to the onion mixture and repeat with the remaining mushrooms.  When all of the mushrooms have been browned, return the onion and mushrooms to the pot and add the squash, lima beans, and bay leaf.  Remove the mushroom stock from the heat and strain it through a sieve into the bowl that held the onions and mushrooms. Discard the stems. Pour the stock over the stew vegetables and bring everything to a boil, then reduce to simmer.  Season with a few big grinds of black pepper.  Cook 40-50 minutes.  Remove the bay leaf and add the ribbons of kale, stirring to combine.  Cook 5 minutes longer until the kale is tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

January 29, 2016

Lentil Cashew Stuffed Peppers


Lentil-Cashew-Stuffed Peppers
serves 4

1 tablespoon curry powder
1 cup raw cashew milk (recipe below)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 cup curly kale leaves, roughly chopped
¾ cup diced tomatoes
1/3 cup unsulphured raisins
½ cup cashews, roughly chopped
2 cups cooked French lentils or brown lentils
sea salt, to taste
4 red, yellow, and/or orange peppers, cut in half lengthwise, cored, and seeded

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a small bowl, whisk the curry powder into the cashew milk.  Set aside.  In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent.  Add the kale, tomato, and raisins, and sauteé for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the kale leaves begin to wilt.  Reduce the heat to low and add the chopped cashews and curry cashew milk  to the skillet.  Stir until the kale and raisins are evenly coated and allow to cook for about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat, combine with the cooked lentils, and season with salt to taste.  Stuff the pepper halves with the lentil-cashew mixture, arrange in an oiled baking dish, and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the peppers are tender and the lentil mixture is heated through.

Homemade Raw Nut Milk: Almond Milk, Walnut Milk, or Cashew Milk
(makes 4 servings)
1 cup raw almonds, walnuts, or cashews, soaked overnight in refrigerator
3-4 cups water
Seeds from ½ vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon good vanilla extract
3 Medjool dates (optional)

Combine the nuts with just enough water to cover.  Soak overnight in the refrigerator.  Drain the soaking water and discard.
Combine the nuts, water, vanilla, and dates (if using) in a blender.  Using 3 cups of water makes a creamy milk, and 4 cups of water makes a thin milk.  Blend on high speed until smooth.

Strain the nut milk through a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer to remove any lumps or nut skins. Refrigerate in an airtight jar for up to 3 days.  Tastes best after being chilled for several hours.  If separated, shake vigorously or give a quick pulse in the blender.


December 8, 2015

Chocolate Peppermint Brownie Bites

Healthy Holiday Tip #3: Serve your favorite sweets in smaller portions. When there’s a big spread, a one-inch square of fudge or brownie is more than enough.  Remember most people would rather sample a bit of everything than commit to larger portions.  Serving bite-sized sweets and hors d’oeuvres sends a subtle signal about reasonable portions.  


Chocolate-Peppermint Brownies
from Food&Wine December 2015
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for greasing
1 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 teaspoons pure peppermint extract
4 large eggs
1 3/4 cups packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 candy canes, crushed (1/3 cup)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and line with parchment paper; allow 2 inches of 
overhang on the long sides.
  2. In a heatproof bowl, combine two-thirds of the chopped chocolate with the 2 sticks of butter. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and stir until melted. Scrape the chocolate into another bowl and let cool slightly. Add the remaining chopped chocolate and the peppermint extract to the heatproof bowl and melt over the simmering water; remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk 
the eggs with the brown sugar 
until combined. Whisk in the chocolate-butter mixture until glossy and thick. Sprinkle the flour and salt into the bowl and stir until just incorporated. Spread the brownie batter in the prepared baking pan. 
Dollop the peppermint chocolate onto the brownie batter and swirl in with a table knife.
  4. Bake the brownies in the 
center of the oven for 15 minutes. Sprinkle the crushed candy canes on top and bake for 10 to 15 minutes longer, 
until the edges are set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Let the brownies cool in the pan for at least 2 hours. Cut into squares and serve.

This recipe appeared in Food & Wine December 2015.  It comes from Clarie Ptak, the California native who opened London’s hugely popular Violet Bakery.  If you’re looking for a new baking cookbook, the American edition of The Violet Bakery Cookbook could just be it.
December 8, 2015

Healthy at the Holiday Table


Keeping healthy habits can be a challenge at the holiday table.  In all the enthusiasm for making special memories and serving dishes we remember fondly, it’s all too easy to end up with a buffet of foods that offer mainly empty calories in unhealthy fats and sugars. Good enough while you’re caught up in the moment, but oh so regrettable when your body rebels the next day.  Moderation makes all the difference.  I don’t shy away from making special sweets and rich dinners at this time of year, but I’m sure to serve them alongside beautiful salads, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats.  Keeping a base of solid nutrition is especially important at this time of year when festivities, busy schedules, and travel have us indulging day after day.

So today I’m sharing some easy tips and recipes to brighten your holiday table with good food that’s good for you, too.

Healthy Holiday Tip #1: Always serve a salad.  Make it colorful and interesting with fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.  Start your meal with a hearty salad and you’re less likely to overdo it at the cheese platter or dessert cart.  If there won’t be a salad where you’re going, grab some raw vegetables or a green smoothie before you go.

Healthy Holiday Tip #2: Lighten up old favorites with whole grains, natural sweeteners, or more healthy fats.  The cheese balls pictured here swapped out cheddar and cream cheese for two lighter alternatives.  It’s easy to makeover baked goods, rice, dips, and dressings.  Try whole grain rice instead of white rice, white whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour, and plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.

Healthy Holiday Tip #3: Serve your favorite sweets in smaller portions. When there’s a big spread, a one-inch square of fudge or brownie is more than enough.  Remember most people would rather sample a bit of everything than commit to larger portions.  Serving bite-sized sweets and hors d’oeuvres sends a subtle signal about reasonable portions.  

Christmas Beets for an Hors d’ouevres or for a Salad
I served these at a recent party alongside assorted cheese, brownies, spiced nuts, olives, and biscuits.  The beets recipe was the most requested.  So they’re that good.  Because beets are high in antioxidants, folate, manganese, and potassium, they make a great immunity booster to counter the sugar at the holiday table.

This recipe makes a lot – about 6 cups – but they’ll keep well for a week in the fridge, and they make a beautiful gift – just fill small Mason jars with your beautiful red beets and tie a ribbon around the jar.  Pass along with a button of goat cheese for a delicious winter salad.  ​

​Spiced Pickled Beets
adapted from Food&Wine December 2015.
Makes about 6 cups

3 pounds medium beets
coarse sea salt
1 ½ cups apple cider vinegar
1 ½ cups sugar
3 bay leaves
one 3-inch cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons whole allspice berries
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
¾ teaspoons whole cloves
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Scrub the beets and put them in a large baking dish with 1 cup of water and a pinch of salt.  (I used a combination of golden and red beets, but they were all red after being pickled overnight.)  Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour, or until a knife slides easily through the center of the larger beets.  Uncover and set aside to cool.  When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel them and cut them into ¾-inch wedges.  Transfer to a large Pyrex bowl or deep dish.

In a large saucepan, combine 1½ cups water with the sugar and vinegar.  Add the bay leaves, cinnamon, allspice, peppercorns, cloves and 2 teaspoons of salt.  Bring to a boil, and then simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.  Pour the liquid over the beets and let cool before covering.  Refrigerate over night or for at least 8 hours.  Drain before serving or some time within a day.  The drained beets will keep well in the refrigerator for up to one week.

These were a beautiful addition to a salad.  I served the beets over baby arugula and spinach with toasted walnuts and tiny rounds of seasoned goat cheese.

December 7, 2015

Granola for a Special Day


There is always homemade granola in my pantry, and as much as I love it, that everyday granola is not much like this one.  Here is a granola worthy of birthday mornings, special weekend get-aways, and gift-giving.  I’ve adapted this recipe from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, and you can make it your own by changing the nuts, seeds, and fruits you use.

Granola for a Special Day
½ cup raw almonds
½ cup pecans
½ cup cashews
3 cups thick rolled oats
½ cup raw pumpkin seeds
½ cup raw sunflower seeds
¼ cup sesame seeds
¼ cup water
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup honey
1 cup chopped dried apricots
½ cup dried cherries
½ cup dried blueberries

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.  Coarsely chop all the nuts and combine them in a large bowl with the oats, and seeds.  In a small saucepan over low heat, gently warm the water, salt, oil, syrup and honey.  When it is warm, pour it over the nut mixture and stir until well combined.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the granola over it evenly in a thin layer.  If it is thicker than ¼ inch, spread it out on two baking sheets.
Bake the granola for 40 minutes, turning it and spreading it back out in a thin layer every 15 minutes.  Set aside to cool on a rack.
Five minutes after you remove it from the oven, stir in the dried fruit.  Leave to cool in the pan.  Store in an airtight container.
Enjoy this granola with your favorite yogurt or milk, or as a topping for a frozen dessert.