Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Slow Cooker Chicken Provençal

I made you some chicken provençal. I mean, I wanted chicken provençal, but I knew, just as the craving occurred, that I'd write it down and give it to you, my readers. I've made this dish countless times on the stovetop and have taken massive liberties with it (Red wine instead of white? Sacre bleu!), so I know what I'm doing, and I knew it would be simple to translate into a slow cooker recipe.  And simple is what I wanted--no pre-cooking of chicken thighs, no removing skin, no fuss. I wanted to dump it in the pot and go.  And you know what? I succeeded.  This dish is delicious.  I hope you love it too!

Slow Cooker Chicken Provençal
Serves 4-6

6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, crushed
6 oz white wine
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tsp lemon zest
1/3 cup kalamata olives, quartered
Minced parsley for garnish

In the bowl of your slow cooker, combine the chicken thighs, onion, garlic, white wine, tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme, oregano, herbs de Provence, bay leaf and salt. Cook on low for six hours, remove from heat and add the lemon zest and olives. Salt to taste. Serve over pasta or polenta and garnish with parsley.


If you want more delicious slow cooker recipes, check out my book, Before Baby!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Research Round-Up: Mediterranean diet and gut microbiota

I've been reading a lot of research lately: research for my second book, research on heart health for a consulting contract I have coming up at Microsoft, and just general interesting tidbits here and there because I think it's fun.  Yes, you heard me. Fun. I love keeping up on current research trends and assessing study construction to see if the author's interpretation of the results is a true assessment of the data.

Since I'm preparing for Microsoft, which is counseling for mainly cholesterol and weight loss, I've been focusing on dietary trends that affect those two topics, and this study popped onto my radar.

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of the Mediterranean diet. If I had to pick one diet to rule them all, one diet to recommend to clients, this would be it.  In fact, this is the diet I recommend to clients. It's also how we model our eating at home. (For a quick Mediterranean diet starter guide from the University of Wisconsin click here).  I'm always on the lookout for any new research about the diet and to be honest, I haven't seen anything negative.

This latest piece of work, examining how the Mediterranean diet impacts the gut microbiota seems really basic: you eat more vegetables and fiber and your have healthier gut flora because all the little bacteria in your gut eat it (check out this informative infographic from Scientific American), but I think it's worth talking about because so much emerging research is examining the impact of the microbiota on our health. It effects everything--our weight, our mood, our nerves and of course, our gut. For a quick article on the microbiome's impact on our overall health, click here.

So how was this study designed? The took a group of Italians and broke them down by eating pattern: vegan, vegetarian and omnivore. Most of the vegans and vegetarians and about 30% of the omnivores followed a Mediterranean-style eating pattern. They then assessed the health of the gut flora and determined that the more vegetables and fiber you eat, the healthier your microbiome. If you follow a vegan Mediterranean diet, your intestinal bacteria will be the healthiest, but if you follow an omnivore Mediterranean diet, you won't be doing too badly. And of course, the more meat you eat, especially red meat, the worse off your gut flora will be.

What are the practical implications? Eat vegetables at lunch and dinner, and snack on fruits and nuts. Eat beans most days, whether it's refried beans with tacos, hummus with carrot sticks or a garbanzo beans in a curry chicken stew. And eat whole grains like whole wheat bread, quinoa, millet, brown rice and bulgur. I know this all seems like old hat, but changing this one thing can drastically improve your mental and physical health.  You could have more energy, suffer less depression and have an easier time losing weight (if that's one of your goals). An apple a day really can keep the doctor away.

Want more science? Check out my posts on non-celiac gluten sensitivity and FODMAPs here and here.

Want more Mediterranean diet-style recipes? Before Baby has a fantastic balance of vegetable-rich recipes, plus a little meat.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Salmon Cakes with Sriracha Mayo and Ratatouille

I've started and stopped writing this post several times over the past couple of weeks, never quite sure how to start or what to say. I want to write something peppy and merry about Fall or perhaps talk about all the great and wonderful activities we did over the summer but the truth is, we've suffered a tragedy and it's cast a pall over the Hoverter household. Ben, Teo and I are fine.  Well, mostly fine.  Teo is amazing, a vibrant soul with unimaginable energy.  It's his parents that are feeling a touch beat up.  Recovery has been slow, measured in inches rather than miles, but I know it's going to be OK because I'm cooking again.  Actually, saying I'm cooking again feels like an understatement: I'm spending hours and hours in the kitchen, taking copious amounts of time preparing our meals.  We have soups and stews and casseroles and fresh stir fries and salad and bread.  When I'm feeling particularly anxious or stressed I bake cookies or brownies or muffins. We are eating so well.

This brings me to salmon cakes. These salmon cakes won't take you hours to cook.  They take minutes!  I got the recipe from The Kitchn so I will send you there for guidance on their actual preparation.  The only thing I would change after making the salmon cakes twice is that I like using two eggs instead of one. I feel like the cakes hold together better.  And the Sriracha mayo is a must.  If you don't have Sriracha, try mixing smoked paprika or another hot sauce with mayo.  The creamy spice finishes the dish and even Ben, who doesn't care for mayo, loved the dressing.

So, what did I serve with these delicious cakes? What is that indistinct brown blob in the back of the photo? Why, ratatouille of course. I've made Grilled Ratatouille in the past and honestly, that's the only time I've managed to take a decent picture of it.  Whenever I make it in the oven, which is my preferred method, it's a giant brown heap, albeit a delicious giant brown heap. I cribbed off of Mark Bittman's recipe from How to Cook Everything, though ratatouille is so simple, you can probably make it without even reading my barebones recipe.

I used Japanese eggplant because you don't need to peel and salt it.  You can really add any baking veggies you want, including yellow summer squash and bell peppers, but I used what I had in my fridge. If you choose to use large tomatoes, peel and seed them before adding them to the baking dish.

Oven Baked Ratatouille

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Roughly chop two medium zucchini, 4 Japanese eggplant, and one onion. Line a baking sheet or pan with parchment paper and scatter on the vegetables. Toss in two handfuls of cherry tomatoes, stems removed. Peel 4-5 cloves of garlic and add them to the vegetables. Drizzle on a generous amount of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and add a few whole oregano leaves or a pinch of dried oregano. Toss the vegetables gently with the oil and then roast for about an hour, stirring about every 15 minutes. The vegetables should be tender and falling apart when the dish is finished. Garnish with fresh basil and serve at room temperature or slightly warm.


Want more awesome recipes? Check out my book, Before Baby, today!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

It's early in the morning and I'm sitting on the couch working and drinking tea out of my lovely double walled bodum cup that Ben got me for my birthday.  Drinking tea is a habit that I got from my mother, who got it from her mother, who I'm sure got it from her mother because she was from England.  We all drink tea.  Being a nerdy Seattlite who didn't become a parent until her mid-thirties, I've had lots of time to develop my taste for different teas, explore tea shops, and generally build up a huge collection of exotic tea leaves.  Long gone are the days of Lipton tea bags, luke-warm water and a little milk.  Here now, I decide between Assam and Darjeeling with honey and soy creamer.

Sitting quietly drinking tea in the morning is the thing I miss most in my transition to parenthood and now that Teo sleeps through the night I try to get up early just so I can drink tea.  I'm actually supposed to be working in those early hours but it's more enticing to think that I'm awake just so I can sip my Asaam and listen to the birds twitter their early morning song.

The other day I got to visit with a four week old baby, and the early sights, sounds and physical sensations all came back.  The sleeplessness, constant swaying back and forth and the love.  It's a trip to look at Teo now and think back to when he was a tiny, mewling baby, just trying to get control of his body.  Somehow, despite my parenting, he's become a vibrant, talkative toddler who runs as fast as his legs can carry him wherever he goes.

Preparing for my trip to visit my friend, I started thinking about what to bring her.  It would be food because it's always food with me but what?  A casserole?  Fresh fixings for a salad?  What should I make?  Then it occurred to me that I've written a whole book on the topic (seriously, I'd forgotten).  So I whipped up some Coconut Chicken Soup, threw it in a bag and froze it, which turned out to be a good thing because my visit got postponed twice.  So I was able to show up with some food, a little gift for the bebe and lots of love and cuddles.  And I brought my own tea!

Friends, if you've purchased Before Baby and enjoyed it, would you be so kind as to write a review on Amazon?  We need reviews to boost our rankings and get the word out about Before Baby!

Photo courtesy of

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Before Baby is 75% off! And here's a free recipe...

Coconut Chicken Soup

For the next 24 hours only, Before Baby is offered at $1.99.  That's 75% off the cover price!  If you're thinking of getting pregnant (shhhh, we won't tell anyone!) or have friends who are, now is the time to purchase Before Baby.  And if you're in no way expecting or involved with babies but you love freezer meals, then get Before Baby for the awesome recipes and freezing tips and ignore the rest!

I'm excited to share with you a recipe from Before Baby.  This is on of my all-time favorite recipes, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Coconut Chicken Soup

coconut chicken soup

Makes  4 quarts
Prep Time  20 minutes
Cook Times
Stovetop  50-60 minutes
Slow Cooker  6 hours on low

This is, hands down, Ben’s favorite soup.  We make it with 2 teaspoons of green curry paste because I’m a spice wuss, and then Ben adds more curry to his bowl.  I prefer to add toasted sesame oil instead.  Either way, we’ve found that you need a little more green curry when making this soup in the crock pot.  

For extra creamy goodness, replace the second can of coconut milk with coconut cream if you can find it.  It’s how my family prefers the soup!

   1   tablespoon olive oil (Stovetop only)
  ½   onion, diced
   2   large carrots, diced
   4   cloves garlic, minced
  ¼   teaspoon red chile flakes
 3+   teaspoons green curry paste (4+ teaspoons in the slow cooker)
   8   cups chicken broth
   2   chicken breasts (approximately 1 pound)
  ½   cup brown rice
 10   ounces or 1 bunch kale, torn into bite-size pieces
   8   ounces or 1 head broccoli , chopped into bite-size florets
   8   ounces green beans, cut into 1-inch chunks
   2   14.5-ounce cans full fat coconut milk (use coconut cream if you can find it)
   1   lime’s juice

 Optional Garnish
    Ume plum vinegar
    Toasted sesame oil
    More green curry paste

To Make the Soup on the Stovetop
Sauté the Aromatics   Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and carrots, turning down the heat to slightly below medium, and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions and carrots are soft.  Add the garlic, red chile flakes and green curry paste and cook for 30 seconds, until the spices are fragrant but not burned.

Make the Soup   Add the chicken broth and bring soup to a boil.  Add the chicken breasts and brown rice, cover, bring back to a boil, and then turn down to simmer.  Cook the chicken breasts 15-20 minutes, until cooked through, and then remove to a plate with tongs.  Cook the rice an additional 10 minutes and then add the kale, broccoli and green beans.  Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes more, until the veggies are tender but not mushy.  While the veggies cook, shred the chicken into bite-size pieces, and then add it back into the soup along with the coconut milk and lime juice.

To Make the Soup in the Slow Cooker
Place the onion, carrots, garlic, red chile flakes, green curry paste, chicken broth, chicken breasts, and brown rice in the slow cooker.  Cook on low for 5 hours.  Add the kale, broccoli, green beans and coconut milk (or coconut cream) and cook for another hour.  Turn off the slow cooker and remove the chicken breasts to a plate.  When they are cool enough to handle, shred them into bite-sized chunks and return to the soup.  Stir in the lime juice.

NOTE   This soup will not suffer one bit if you add the vegetables at the beginning of the cook time, they’ll just be softer.  Definitely still add the coconut milk (or coconut cream) and lime juice at the end.
To Make it Vegetarian    This soup is just as tasty when veggie!  Substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth and use 16 ounces firm tofu in place of the chicken.  Add the tofu when you add the green vegetables.  You could even bump up the brown rice to ⅔ cup for a bit more substance.
To Make it Veggie-licious   Add zucchini and/or cauliflower with the other vegetables.


Monday, May 18, 2015


In December of 2013 Ben and I decided to write a book.  I had outlined the idea a couple of months before but then let it drift as life took over.  I was teaching at the Bastyr Center for Natural Health, seeing patients in my private practice and doing contract work, so I was pregnant and busy!  But in December, something shifted.  Both Ben and I love to write, and I was already making and freezing food for when Teo arrived, so we decided to write it all down.  In fact, we got the bulk of the book researched and written before Teo's arrival, and then it took several more months of working with recipe testers, tweaking timelines, reshooting photos, and generally rewriting draft after draft before we could even start the process of self-publishing.  

And oh, what a process!  Ben gets all the credit for getting this book from google doc form into something you can purchase and read.  He's a full-time teacher, so he was only able to troubleshoot the thousand little problems in fits and starts, and I think we spent every day of his winter vacation and spring break thinking we were going to publish, only to discover another issue that needed to be addressed.  This book would not be here without him!

And so, without further ado, I give you Before Baby, available as an ebook through Amazon.  Read it on your honest-to-goodness Kindle or on any of the Kindle apps for your tablet or phone!  You can even give it as a gift through Amazon (click "Give as a Gift" right below where you normally purchase it).

So, who should read this book?  Anyone expecting a child, or supporting someone expecting a child.  Future grandparents could use this book to stock the freezer for their children, or friends could each make a dish for the expectant family.  Before Baby makes a fantastic baby shower gift.  And if you aren't expecting a child but like to cook meals to freeze ahead, just ignore the references to pregnancy and breastfeeding and skip right to enjoying our delicious and nutritious recipes!

We are so excited to share this book with you.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

'Tis the season for fish sauce...

Life is rolling by fast and furious here in the Hoverter household.  We moved into a fixer-upper and somehow the house, the kiddo, the dog, the cats, our jobs, our friends and our family have taken every iota of our time, energy and money.  It's been a fantastic change (yard, anyone?) and a brand new adventure getting to know our new neighborhood in northeast Seattle.  It's a slightly more suburban area with significantly fewer restaurants and amenities, but one lovely surprise has been a superb Thai restaurant just two minutes from home.  Thai One On has gloriously fresh vegetables, high quality meats and some exotic flavor combinations to accompany the usual favorites like pad thai and green curry.  Their curry fried rice is to die for.

One of our family's current favorites is the Neua Naam Tok, or steak salad.  Thin-sliced flank steak, fresh spinach and sticky rice commingle to produce a tangy, spicy, funky experience we apparently can't get enough of.  So, naturally, we had to try to make it at home.

It turns out that the secret is the sauce.  Whatever combination of meat, vegetables and carbs you choose to put in this salad, it's the combination of fish sauce, lime juice and spices that makes it so delectable.  This sauce can go on anything.  Remember when Homer Simpson said "Marge, this is Thai food.  I want it for breakfast, lunch and dinner"?  This is why. 

For this simple meal, we grilled up some chicken thighs and veggies and threw it all over soaked rice noodles.  We added the sauce, then garnished with cilantro and green onions.  For the dish I photographed, we used broccoli, zucchini, cherry tomatoes and sugar snap peas, but feel free to mix it up however you like.  And if you don't have a grill basket for your small vegetables, I suggest you get one--it makes life so much easier.

Neua Naam Tok Sauce recipe:
Modified from Pok Pok, by Andy Ricker

3 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (I use Squid brand)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons beef broth
2 teaspoons sugar
1 stalk lemon grass, tender parts thinly sliced
pinch of cayenne

Place all the ingredients in a teeny-tiny sauce pan and heat just until the sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat but serve warm.