Tuesday, January 3, 2017


a pause or gap in sequence, series or process

Since my last post in *gasp* 2014, hiatus seems like the appropriate term.  I experienced a period of shifted priorities from the moment I discovered I was pregnant through the first year of being a new mom.  What an amazing adventure it has been albeit a bit tiring. [Did I mention it was TIRING?!] Tiring yet miraculous and wonderful. Rather than writing my blog I wrote a journal to my daughter, Zoe. I look forward to giving that to her one day, the story of my experiences during pregnancy.  But now that she's eating REAL food and not just a diet of breast milk and/or formula, it's time to bring my focus back to food. There's no better legacy than cultivating a love of wholesome food that's been made with love from fresh ingredients. And right now that is my mission.

Even though time is a commodity I never seem to have enough of, I make all of Zoe's food. Thanks to the amazing Vitamix I can grind whole grains and make fresh cereals like barley, millet and brown rice. In the beginning the cereals were very simple, just grains cooked with water and breastmilk added for creaminess. They have since evolved as Zoe's palate has evolved, becoming more of a base for the introduction of new tastes and textures. After the Vitamix, my food mill (a Moulinex crafted of stainless steel) jumped up to second favorite kitchen appliance on my list as it helped me easily transform fresh apples, pears, peaches, mangoes, blueberries, squash of all varieties, sweet potatoes, green beans and even peas into soft foods fit for an infant. At first I took the time to introduce foods individually, giving her time to experience each one and see how her body reacted. To my delight she ate them all!  In addition she ate peanut butter, bananas, eggs and creamy avocados without any ill effects. Fast forward to Zoe growing teeth and the real fun with food begins!

As a good breakfast initiates a positive start to a new day, I'll kick off this fresh start with one of Zoe's breakfast staples: quinoa cereal.
The basic formula is about 1/4 to 1/3 cup cooked quinoa, 4 ounces of yogurt and 1/2 to 3/4 cup puréed fruit. Some of her favorites include banana with vanilla yogurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon, strawberry-banana and apple-mango.  Each batch makes one fresh serving and also fills an ice cube tray (about 1 1/2 ounces per cube) so you can freeze it.  
Once frozen I store the cubes in a freezer bag so we can pop out a cube for a fast and easy breakfast later in the week.
Banana with vanilla yogurt and cinnamon
I like to keep a few types on hand so there is a bit of variety in her diet.  A smoothie cube (I'll save that for another post) and some cow's milk round out the breakfast feast. It's an energizing meal that fuels the start to Zoe's day.
Vintage tableware: the Peter Rabbit cup and spoon were actually mine when I was a child.

Fresh strawberries and bananas mashed with cooked quinoa and strawberry-banana yogurt

Bananas and Monkey-Friend are two of Zoe's favorites!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Zucchini "Pasta"

Warm the zucchini just prior to mixing in with the sauce.
In my quest to consume healthy food that tastes awesome, I came across the concept of using zucchini in the place of spaghetti. It's not really a new concept, I substitute spaghetti squash pretty frequently, but I was not entirely sure how using zucchini would turn out. First, how to cut the zucchini into such fine strands seemed a bit daunting. I read about the fancy spiralizer devices that make pretty quick work of a zucchini, but was not convinced it was time to make that investment. For Christmas I received a beautiful julienne peeler, so I decided to give it a try. All the spaghetti-like strands pictured here were created with the peeler. I used three fairly small, tender zucchinis (about 6 inches long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter) to make this mound of "pasta." There was enough to feed two hungry people. Just before peeling (leaving the skin intact), I thoroughly washed each zucchini. I worked around the zucchini creating four sides as I peeled from top to bottom, leaving the very center with all the seeds uncut.

For today's dish I tried a sauce from a great food blog by Gina Matsoukas called Running to the Kitchen. The recipe, Zucchini Noodles with Sausage, Cherries and Ricotta, can be found at this link: http://www.runningtothekitchen.com/2013/08/zucchini-pasta-with-sausage-cherries-ricotta/. It is an excellent summertime dish when zucchinis are emerging from the garden and fresh cherries are in abundance. If you decide to give it a try, you will be delighted by the wonderful pairing of flavors. I cook the sausage first and then let it drain on paper towels. I combine the basil, fennel, cherries and sausage while the zucchini warms up a bit, and then add it along with the delicate lemon-honey-olive oil dressing. It's pretty tasty! The creamy ricotta cheese is a milder choice than a salty asiago or parmesan and it works really well. All in all each component of the dish complements the others well. I recommend trying it. You might be surprised what a delicious substitute zucchini is for spaghetti.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Favorite Grows Up

As a kid, there was nothing more comforting, not to mention yummy, than pasta with butter and cheese. In an Italian family there is always plenty of good-smelling food bubbling on the stovetop or in the oven, but sometimes kids want something simple and known. On such days I felt like the luckiest kid around when I was allowed to eat pasta dressed with butter and freshly grated cheese. Even though my childhood days are a little farther behind me than I'm entirely happy to admit, I still find comfort in a hearty bowl of simple. That's why I was delighted as I thumbed through my newest cookbook, Bountiful, and came across a recipe for Lemon and Cream Spaghetti. While it is still ridiculously simple, it adds a bit of sophistication to my old favorite. The sauce is simply olive oil, white wine and heavy cream gently simmered and then mixed with hot spaghetti, fresh lemon zest, fresh lemon juice and freshly grated Locatelli cheese. How could any of that disappoint? Let me tell you that it did not. To make myself feel just a bit more decadent I added in a lobster tail. Why not? If you have to be grown up, may as well go with gusto!
Snap the center of the lobster shell, loosen the meat from the shell and season it as you like. Bake in a 375-degree oven for about 1 1/2 minutes for every ounce of lobster meat. 

A glass of white wine rounded out my meal.
To check out more about Bountiful or its authors, Todd Porter and Diane Cu, check out their blog at WhiteOnRiceCouple.com.

Saturday, July 26, 2014


I remember the excitement that Saturday brought when I was a kid. I loved waking up to play with toys and watch Saturday morning cartoons. Mind you, this was a time well before the Cartoon Network, so kids actually had to get up and watch cartoons when they were available! It was such a thrill to tune in and see what sort of mischief my favorite characters would get into. My all-time favorite cartoon was Captain Planet. I can still sing the song, lucky for you I'm not including a video of me singing with this blog! "We're the Planeteers, you can be one too, because saving our Earth is the thing to do! Looting and polluting is not the way, hear what Captain Planet has to say!" Oh I really loved that cartoon.

Piping hot straight out of the oven!
I also loved playing with my toys, a habit I have not really grown out of. On this fine, and slightly hot, Saturday morning I was motivated enough to get up and run. The terribly hot and sweaty experience reminded me why I usually take the summers off from running, but since I suffered from amnesia two weeks ago and signed up for a half marathon in November...the responsible thing to do was get started on my training program. My reward for enduring the heat was to play with my Vitamix. Enter redemption! I started off with a recipe from my Vitamix Whole Foods Recipes cookbook called Blueberry Breakfast Cobbler. Naturally, if you have the good toys to play with you may as well go all the way, so I started by grinding a fresh batch of whole wheat flour before jumping into the recipe. I felt good about mixing up the fairly virtuous list of ingredients and then popping the dish into the oven to bake.

Blueberry Breakfast Cobbler
As the cobbler baked, my sweating came to a halt and I began to notice that my stomach was growling. I decided to try my hand at fresh carrot juice to help rehydrate my cells and tide my stomach over until the cobbler was ready. I loaded up the Vitamix with water, carrots, freshly grated ginger, freshly squeezed lemon juice and ice, and then blended it to a frothy-juicy consistency. I was not quite satisfied with the flavor so I added an apple, 1 1/2 teaspoons of maca powder (why not beef up the antioxidants, right?), some lemonade-flavored coconut water and a little more ice. After another whirl in the super sharp blades my juice was ready and absolutely delicious! I started to think that maybe my hot run wasn't quite so bad afterall. In fact, maybe it was a pretty darn good run! When I finally sat down with a heaping serving of the cobbler, my amnesia fully returned and I was plotting out what an amazing runner I was going to be- heat or no heat. Each satisfying bite of the warm treat that seemed like part dessert, part baked oatmeal transported me a little farther from the discomfort I endured on the road only a short time ago and gave me a glimpse of those old Saturday mornings when my toys and some cartoon dreaming were all a kid could want.
Saturday morning treats

Blueberry breakfast cobbler and fresh carrot juice

Monday, July 14, 2014

From Scratch

You make time for the things you want to do. I always want to eat well and will make time for preparing a tasty morsel. There is a sense of accomplishment when the dish is complete, particularly if the process was challenging or tedious. There is excitement from trying something for the first time, and a deep sense of satisfaction when going back to an old favorite. Sitting down at the computer however, is something that comes less naturally. Maybe I should put a computer in my kitchen to increase the chances that I'd want to sit in front of its screen, which makes my eyes feel tired. At any rate, my lack of posts does not reflect a slow-down in the kitchen. Here is something I felt particularly excited about making because I got to create it from scratch. Mmmm...homemade is always preferable, especially when the ingredients are good for you.
Step one: measure out whole wheat berries for grinding.
A last look at the wheat berries before they become pulverized into flour.
Fresh flour smells wonderful and has natural moisture, meaning your recipes will require less oil or other type of fat.
Fresh flour ready to become anything you want it to be.
This time I used it to make blueberry and orange bread.
Plump blueberries and fragrant orange zest make this bread a delicious treat for any time of the day.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Turkey...take 5?

Bringing the soup to a simmer.
Where did April go? It came and went in such a blur (please don't remind me that it is now late May). To ring in a new month, I wanted to make something new.  Well, maybe not new but there is a twist that is new for me. I've read plenty about the benefits of using ground turkey rather than ground beef, and I've tried it on more than one occasion. Typically those experiments failed for one or more reasons, but mostly because I had a hard time with the texture and strange odor of ground turkey. I never had Whole Foods or Trader Joe's before though. What a difference quality makes. Now that I've tried good ground turkey (and there was no strange odor at all!), it makes me feel a little queasy thinking back about that weird odor and wonder why it was present on more than one occasion?! At any rate, new data suggests that ground turkey can be wonderful, actually quite tasty.

Meatballs in a muffin tin.
It started with meatballs. I love them. In sauce, in soup, on a sandwich. Meatballs are good. Experimenting with ground turkey in something that I already enjoy so much makes sense to me because it is hard to make a meatball I don't like. These meatballs are particularly tasty because they incorporate a fair amount of something else I really enjoy- fresh herbs. The herbs, fresh sage, basil, thyme, rosemary, parsley and arugula, get finely chopped in a food processor along with onion and garlic. The aroma is incredible! The herb mixture is all you need to keep the meatballs together, no need for an egg or breadcrumbs. I like to make small meatballs and cook them in a mini-muffin pan in a 375-degree oven for about 30 minutes. Delicious and so much less work (and fat) than frying them!

Amazing turkey meatballs with herbs.
From there I imagined a nice clear broth with greens floating alongside my meatballs. I saved some of the herb mixture from my food processor to start the soup, and got it sizzling in some olive oil. I added fresh broccoli, as well as some shredded carrots, and let it get bright green before adding water (about 4 1/2 cups), salt and pepper. Once the water came to a boil I tossed in a chunk of Locatelli rind, which is one of the secrets to flavorful broth if you ask me, and the cooked meatballs. The soup simmered for about 30 minutes or so. Toward the end of cooking I added some coarsely shredded arugula and kale, along with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. I am so happy I decided to give ground turkey another try because these meatballs are yummy, and the soup turned out to be more flavorful than I anticipated.

Meatball Soup with freshly grated Locatelli.

A crisp, refreshing white that doesn't overpower the herb flavors.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Blender Dreams Continued

Banana Apple Oatmeal Smoothie
Last week I was blessed with a second full day play date with my Vitamix. The morning started off amazing with glorious sunshine and warm air that beckoned me outside for a run. Oh that all runs could be so delightful. A recent article in Runner's World talks about the "runner's high" that all runners crave, and I am happy to say it found me this morning. Maybe it happened in part because I was so happy in my surroundings, the world is so beautiful when it is in full bloom. I followed up that joyful experience with a delicious breakfast smoothie with banana, apple, cranberries, yogurt, cinnamon, maca powder and oatmeal. Having made this smoothie more than once, I have to admit that the quality of the yogurt really makes all the difference in the smoothie's flavor.  The first two times I made it with Skyr (pronounced skeer), an Icelandic style yogurt with a smooth, rich flavor and creamy thick texture. The third time I made it with plain, non-fat Greek yogurt. Skyr was the hands-down winner! It is high in protein but not high in fat, so give it a try if you see it in the dairy aisle.

The Best Green Juice
As is the cast on most days off, time really flies. Before I knew it my stomach was grumbling for lunch when an idea came to me. Months ago I purchased It's All Good, a cookbook written by Gwyneth Paltrow, and was eager to try a recipe entitled, The Best Green Juice, but without a juicer or even a blender I was out of luck. I decided today would be the day! I blended up kale, a lemon, an apple, a knob of ginger and fresh mint to create a refreshing juice with a nice zing at the end. Drinking it made me feel energized to get busy with the remaining chores on my list for the day...such as going to Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. Ha, ha, neither of those places is really a chore, in fact you don't have to twist my arm to head over there in search of something delicious.

By the time dinner rolled around I was still in a green sort of mood, so broccoli became the object of my attention. The Whole Food Recipes cookbook by Vitamix has an interesting recipe for Quiche with Brown Rice Crust that I decided to master. I like the idea of using brown rice in place of a pastry crust, it makes me feel like I am doing something healthier for my body. It's remarkably simple too. Once the crust is initially baked, top it with steamed broccoli and then pour on the egg mixture. The Vitamix takes all the work out of the egg mixture- dump in eggs, soy milk (well, I used almond milk because I am not a fan of soy), cheddar cheese (and here I used freshly shredded Gouda because I had some and wanted to try it), fresh parsley, basil, salt and onion powder (for which I substituted garlic powder), and then blend away! You could also whip the ingredients by hand, so those without a powerful blender fear not. The quiche is baked at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes and ready to eat. Bon Appétit!

Mix cooked brown rice with an egg, press into a sprayed pie dish and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.

The finished broccoli quiche

A yummy slice of the pie

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Oh, Happy Vitamix Day!

A long awaited dream finally delivered itself into my reality. A Vitamix blender. How wonderful! Not sure why someone should be so excited about a blender? Well then, you have never encountered a Vitamix. It is one of the best inventions for making a whole food diet simple, and I now have the distinct pleasure of owning one. As if that wasn't joy enough, I was able to devote a whole day to playing with my new super food machine!

Oatmeal Cranberry Pancakes
As a new Vitamix owner, I was incredibly responsible and read the owner's manual. *Yes, if you're one of my family members you can sigh and laugh now.* One recommendation mentioned in the literature on more than one occasion is to start by following some of the recipes in the accompanying Whole Food Recipes cookbook to help develop a feel for the proportions of ingredients and the operation of the machine. Ever interested in doing the best job I can do, I agreed this would be a wise approach. Since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I figured it would be a great place to start. Enter Oatmeal Cranberry Pancakes...made in a blender. Okay, well not totally, I did have to cook them on a nice hot griddle, but consider my enthusiasm growing as I embarked on my first Vitamix culinary adventure! Topping the hot and hearty pancakes with some honey and banana slices was a totally inspired decision that made my taste buds very happy. Let's call this one blissful breakfast.

Garden Fresh Cocktail
One of the amazing things about a Vitamix is its ability to juice whole foods. There is no loss of fiber- it gets pulverized so that your body can easily digest it. By the time lunch rolled around I thought some vegetables would be appropriate and so I pulled out tomatoes, spinach, carrot, onion, red bell pepper and parsley for a delicious "cocktail." Maybe the thought of V-8 juice is coming to mind right now? Well let those thoughts, along with all that sodium, flow right back out of your mind because V-8 juice does not hold a candle to this refreshing drink. While I sat enjoying my drink and coming up with the weekly dinner menu, an idea for making my new favorite beverage even better popped into my head- add pea shoots! Pea shoots have a fresh, crisp flavor that would complement the other veggies nicely; they are like spring in a beautiful edible package. If you  haven't tried them, toss some into your next salad and taste for yourself.

Chicken Potato Spinach Soup
When dinner finally rolled around I was ready to test out another amazing Vitamix feature- the ability to cook hot soups. Yes, this time the cooking really did take place right in my blender. The blades generate enough friction to create cooking heat. I know, it's amazing. I decided to try Chicken Potato Spinach Soup because such a gray, rainy day called for something warm and comforting. The soup base, potatoes, onion, chicken broth, milk and rosemary, is blended to smooth, steamy perfection and then other ingredients are added in at a slower speed so they retain some texture. The book advised chicken and spinach, which I was more than happy to try. BUT, since my earlier experiments were so successful I was feeling bold and threw in some additional ingredients- red bell pepper, mushrooms and green onions. Delightful! What a pleasant way to make soup, and cleaning up the kitchen was ridiculously easy. The Vitamix is like its own dishwasher. Rinse out what's left clinging to the sides of the container, fill halfway with warm water, add two drops of dish soap and blend for 30-60 seconds. Clean! A satisfying end to a wonderful day for this food lover.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Polenta, Take 2

Have you been sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for the results of my polenta dinner to post? If I remember correctly, there was a homework assignment. Did anyone make a batch of polenta yet?  How did it turn out?  Here is a picture of my finished polenta dish. To the steamy polenta I added freshly grated gouda cheese, roasted butternut squash and pine nuts. I allowed the polenta mixture to set in the refrigerator for a few hours prior to baking to allow it to solidify a bit. Once in the oven it got nice and bubbly, and I sprinkled some freshly grated Locatelli on top. There really isn't such a thing as too much cheese, right? I decided to top my bowl of polenta with sauteed cremini mushrooms and fresh baby spinach. It added another layer of texture to the dish along with rich flavor.

Steaming pot of polenta, see blog on 3.29.14 for the recipe.

Roasted butternut squash.  Spread about 4 cups of peeled and cubed butternut squash on an oiled baking sheet and roast on 375 for about 30-40 minutes, or until tender.  Mash the squash a bit before adding to the polenta.
Freshly grated gouda.
Toasted pignolis (pine nuts).  Coarsely crumble these before stirring into the polenta.

The finished baked polenta.    

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Breakfast Treat

Sometimes there is nothing like a rainy day. Instead of feeling guilty because the outside is glorious and calling your name, you can spend time nesting indoors. Today was one of those gray days so I felt inspired to spend time in my kitchen. On the menu: a very special baked polenta dish. The steps for the polenta were many so getting a jump on it early in the day guaranteed the meal would be ready to go for dinner even if I ended up busy with another project later on. Stirring a warm pot of polenta is nearly as good as therapy, with delicious results far more rewarding than the therapist's bill.  If you haven't tried it, you certainly should. As I stirred, the half a grapefruit I ate for breakfast was not quite satisfying my hunger, so I snuck a small bowl of polenta and topped it with a poached egg. Creamy goodness!

Stay tuned for part two of this story...the amazing baked polenta dish I served for dinner. For now try making some polenta. It's extremely versatile and can be topped with just about anything you like. Serve it fresh from the pot or chill it so that it will hold its shape. Once solid you can cut it or slice it, bread it, bake it, layer it with other ingredients like lasagna, or really anything you can think up. Be creative.

Basic Polenta
Step 1: Season the pot- I used 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and lightly sautéed one minced shallot, two finely chopped green onions and two cloves of minced garlic.
Step 2: Add the broth or water- I used 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth and 2 cups water.  Bring the liquid to a boil.
Step 3: Whisk in the polenta- Pour 2 cups of coarse cornmeal into the boiling liquid in a steady stream, stirring with a whisk.
Step 4: Simmer- Lower the heat to medium low and stir frequently for 25-35 minutes, or until the polenta has thickened.
Step 5: Add cheese- Sprinkle the polenta with 1/4-1/2 cup of grated cheese, typically parmesan. For today's recipe I used smoked gouda instead of parmesan.