Monday, December 16, 2013

How I Meal-Plan

Soba w/ Veggies was the new recipe this week.  See instructions on how to make it here

I know I've written several posts on this site about meal planning, but the topic comes up often, and not just in conversation with patients.  One of my friends has a 3-month old and is feeling ready to get back into cooking.  She recently asked me how I meal plan and... I wrote her a bit of a novel.  Planning meals is a big deal!  Yes, it is possible for people to eat well on a budget without meal planning, but that usually involves purchasing the same items every week with very little room for life to happen.  

Since I wrote it out, I thought I'd share exactly what I do with you all.


Here's how I meal plan, and writing it out, it sounds time-consuming, but remember, most of this happens in just a few minutes in my head.  I grocery shop on Sundays, so that's when I start my menu, and there are some days that the same thing always happens, like Friday (pizza or gyoza night).  We also eat leftovers for lunch, so I start the week with bigger meals and choose smaller meals with less leftover for the middle of the week if we are going to have enough food.  I freeze leftovers if it's obvious we aren't going to finish the food and save it for a busy night.
To start, I look at my calendar.  What's my week like?  Am I really busy with work or other obligations?  Is Ben around at all in the evening?  (If I ask, Ben will take over some of the cooking responsibilities.)  How's my energy level?  How creative am I feeling?  Do I have some recipes I want to try or should I just go with tried-and-true to keep it simple?  What's on sale at the market? What am I craving?
I look in my fridge and pantry.  Is there anything I need to use up that I can plan a recipe around?  Is it the end of the month, and therefore the end of the grocery budget?   
Even if the meal plan below doesn't name a particular veggie, I put veggies in the dish or make them as a side dish.  I usually just purchase what's on sale.

I was working 11-hour days M-Th, though I tried to be a little creative with a new recipe
on Monday night.
I can tell you the fish tacos didn't happen on Wednesday,
 and that's OK, because we had SO MUCH FOOD!
Then I start writing it out.  This is an example of how I look at my week:
Sunday:  Need something hearty with leftovers, so it's soup/stew or pasta with meat sauce and lots of veggies.  Examples include beef stew, coconut chicken soup, chili, etc.  I always double the veggies so we don't need a side, or I throw a salad together with it.  
Alternatively, I may get a bug in my bonnet to make something creative.  Lately I've been making quiche on Sundays, so I make sure that Monday's meal is filling.
Monday:  I've been working from early in the morning until after 6:00 pm, so I've been doing slow cooker this day.  I have a selection of recipes I choose from; sometimes I want to try something new, and then I pull out a new recipe while meal planning.  I always put the meal together in the slow cooker the day before, and then just throw it in the fridge to be put on to cook in the morning.
T/W/Th: These days vary by schedule and energy level.  Thursday is traditional guys' night (though it just switched to Tuesday, so I'm all confused) and I either don't cook and Ben grabs something out, or we eat leftovers.  Lately I've been cooking to save money.  T/Th were slow cooker days while I was working a contract job, but now I'm working at home on those days.  I almost always pre-make dinner during the day because I'm so exhausted by the evening.
Friday: Pizza or Gyoza, two special meals that we love, though we sometimes go out with friends. 
Saturday:  Variable.  Sometimes we go out, sometimes we eat leftovers, sometimes we have plans with friends, sometimes we pick up something to cook.  I don't plan this day.
I was working a lot this week.  I doubled or tripled the veggies in every recipe and made sure we had a lot of leftovers!
And if you want to see how I make my gyoza, click here.
I have a list of 20-minute meals or meals I can get together with barely any thought to use on days/weeks I have very little time or energy.  Ideas include: 
  • Fish tacos (20 min in the oven and I prep other ingredients while the fish cooks.  We used to have this every Monday night b/c the fish was fresh after shopping.)
  • Pesto pasta with smoked salmon (I usually have frozen pesto in the freezer... just not right now.)
  • Beef tacos
  • Tofu green curry with rice
  • Stir-fry
  • Red lentil soup
  • Chicken soup
  • Any pasta dish 
Finally, I try to get a variety of meals/proteins in during the week.  I usually have a vegetarian dish, a fish dish, a chicken dish and a beef dish.  I don't eat lamb/veal and we don't digest pork well, so I avoid those sources.  I tend toward more chicken and less beef, except pregnant Autumn LOVES beef and doesn't like fish!   
If chicken is on sale that week, we'll have more chicken.  And I'm not afraid to modify what I'm doing: meals change nights or mutate.  Squash and sausage soup turned into squash and sausage with kale hash because I didn't feel like soup.
I'm not working as much, can you tell?  I think this week shifted and I made dal on Sunday, cassoulet on Monday and quiche on Tuesday.  It all worked out in the end.
The meal plans I've shown you here aren't perfectly balanced, so it's a good example of how I work.  Unfortunately, you can't see the accompanying schedule that I planned around, but you can see that there are some repeaters.  We had a lot of gyoza filling in the freezer (bought supplies on sale and made a lot), and we both like gyoza, so we ate it and loved it!  There's also a lot of beef; I think Ben got a family pack of ground beef on sale at the beginning of November and split it into one-pound chunks, so we had that to use.   
During a couple of those weeks I was still working my contract, so you can see what an exceptionally busy week looked like (lots of slow cooker).  Also, I don't always mark it down, but if by Wednesday we have a ton of leftovers, we sometimes just have leftovers that night and I save what I was going to cook for later.  What it comes down to for me is energy, schedule, cravings and motivation.   
I love variety, so some weeks I spend 30 minutes to an hour planning out the week and making a grocery list.  I look through my cookbooks and magazines and get really creative.  Some weeks I'm exhausted/stressed/unenthusiastic, and I just plan meals around what we already have in the freezer or foods I know I can make quickly.   
The trick for me is not having a schedule I follow every week, but rather changing from week to week.  I know some people who really thrive on having a monthly meal plan, but that wouldn't work for us because my energy, time and motivations vary frequently.  You have to decide what will work best for your family and do that.  Don't be afraid to experiment and change if things aren't working.  What works one week (lots of different meals) might not work the next, so you do a pre-roasted chicken and bag salad and call it good.

I'd love to hear how you plan your meals.  What works well for your family?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to you!  Today we are having Maple Bourbon Pumpkin pie in an almond buckwheat crust. I'm sure there'll be other food, but this is what I'm most excited about.  Oh, and of course, friends and family!

We are hosting a small gathering in our tiny apartment here in north Seattle and I'm so happy everyone is willing to squeeze around tables placed in the living room and bring a dish to pass. It will be tight, but there will be friends and laughter and food.  And gratitude. I am so grateful for my life and the ability to make a gorgeous meal and share it with those I love. 

There seem to be difficulties in the world as of late. Our government fighting itself, the typhoon in the Philippines. Some challenges here at home, too. In the past few days we've had issues with family, and in the midst dealing with that, our baby shower gifts were stolen. All of them. 

It was heartbreaking, but friends and family have really stepped up to make sure baby Hoverter has clothes to wear. The outpouring of love and generosity has been amazing. And so, I enter this holiday season, not with anger, but with hope and graditude. 

"Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good."
                                                                          - Maya Angelou

A happy and peaceful Thanksgiving to you all!

Friday, November 22, 2013

What We've Been Eating

I just finished a 2 1/2 month contract job that I was working along with seeing patients and teaching at Bastyr.  I'm ecstatic!  I'm also wiped out.  Instead of inundating you with the going ons at FoodWise and chez Hoverter, I thought I'd give you a little sampling of what we've been eating recently, because really, I know you're here for the food!


Ramen in tamari broth with turnips, tofu and broccoli
I played with this Bon Appetit recipe to create a dish Ben and I loved!  I added in a few more veggies and some baked tofu for protein, but the bones of the broth are essentially the same, except that I used gluten-free tamari.  We've been eating this gluten-free brown rice ramen and loving it!  Don't be thrown by the fresh turnips, they add a much-needed bite to the dish.

Apple Cake
Cinnamon gives me heartburn, along with most other foods (thank you baby boy Hoverter) but I've been on a real apple kick.  The Wednesday Chef posted this lovely and mild Apple Cake that she modified from one of Dorie Greenspan's recipes.  I used 2 T of bourbon and eliminated the milk, then used this mix of GF flour: 33 g sorghum flour, 33 g brown rice flour, 14 g potato starch, 14 g tapioca flour.  It's a mild and sweet cake that's delicious for both dessert and breakfast.

Poached egg over avocado and spinach
Just in case you thought I'd stopped eating poached eggs, I give you eggs over avocado and sautéed spinach!  There was a week in which I wanted spinach at every meal, and so it was.  I can and do put poached eggs on everything!

Mostly cheeseless gluten-free pizza
I've been making gluten-free pizza using this recipe for years.  "But wait," you say, "I just clicked the link and it's a bread recipe!"  Right you are.  I make that recipe exactly as-written, divide up the dough (usually makes 5 crusts), freeze 4, and roll out one for pizza!  Bake it on a pizza stone for 12 minutes at 500 degrees.  I roll out my dough on parchment paper and cook it on the parchment paper for the first 5 minutes.  BEWARE!  Parchment paper in the oven at 500 degrees is a fire hazard!  I leave it to your own judgement, and I am not responsible for you burning your house down.

Kasha and bean soup
I love kasha (roasted buckwheat) in place of barley in soups and stews.  We've been living on soup over here while I've been working 10 and 12 hour days, and I've been making a version of this soup every week.  Sometimes I include beef, sometimes not.  This rendition includes leeks, garlic, vegetable broth, tomatoes, kasha, kidney beans and zucchini (added at the end of cooking).

Vegetarian Tamale Pie
A LOT of friends have had babies recently, so I whipped up a big batch of tamale pies for food deliveries.  This particular recipe plays off the recipes in Cover and Bake from Cook's Illustrated, and as CI guards their recipes like prize ponies (as they should), I'm not going to share it here.  I can tell you the tamale pie freezes well, and I will be making a batch for myself in the next couple of months!

I hope you all are having a lovely fall.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

His and Her Dinner

I haven't been craving meat lately.  I mean, I still eat it, but mostly it doesn't sound good.  Instead, I've been rocking whole grains, fruit, peanut butter, edamame, beans and lots and lots of vegetables.

This is no big deal.  The way we eat at our house has changed significantly over the past several years: I was diagnosed gluten and dairy intolerant in March of 2008, and though small amounts of cheese have come back into my diet, gluten makes me incredibly ill.  On top of that, Ben has discovered that dairy makes him sick, so the only true dairy we have in the house is a little bit of parmesan that I just can't quite give up.

Meat has moved from center stage to the role of garnish for vegetables, and we joke about being vegans who eat a little meat.  We've never named how we eat ("flexitarian," anyone?), it's just what we do.  No preaching from pulpits, no ideology to spread far and wide, just lots and lots of well-seasoned vegetables.

Turns out nameless eating is in vogue.  Have you seen Mark Bittman's VB6 program?  I heard about it ages ago, and I'm finally getting around to blogging about it.  His basic premise is that he eats vegan before 6 pm and then enjoys meat and dairy in moderation.

My initial reaction to the premise? Love the vegetables, hate the restrictions! My concern is that if you restrict your intake earlier in the day, you won't eat enough calories; you'll be starving by dinner and overeat before going to bed. It takes a strong soul to eat moderately after a day of not being allowed to consume major food groups.

That being said, I like "The Six Principles of VB6."  They are:

1. Eat fruit and vegetables in abundance
2. Eat fewer animal products
3. Eat (almost) no junk food
4. Cook at home as much as possible
5. Consider quality over quantity
6. See your weight as just one component of good health

Yes.  Do all of these things!

As for us, the other night I really didn't want meat, but Ben isn't the biggest fan of tofu.  My solution?  Tofu and beef stir-fry with lots of veggies.  Since I'm not actually vegetarian, I don't mind beef-flavored tofu.  A little tamari, brown rice vinegar, mirin, and hot sesame oil with lots of garlic... and voila.  Dinner!

What are your favorite fall veggie dishes?  And what do you think of VB6?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Purple Potatoes and Poached Eggs!

I'm going to tell you a secret: I've never met a potato I don't like.  Seriously.  I'd eat potatoes in every variation at least three times a week if I could.  Come to think about it, why can't I?  Seriously?

Potatoes get a bad wrap nutritionally, even though the skins have more potassium than a banana and they're chock full of energy.  Oh yes, I forget, we're supposed to be hating on carbs right now...   Well, too damn bad!  I love me some whole grains and potatoes and last time I checked, I'm not busting out of my dress pants.

Except that I am.  Because I seem to be growing a baby.  Whoops!

It's been a struggle to eat my veggies the last few months, and somehow they seem more appealing in the morning when my energy is high than in the evening when it just feels like a whole lot of chewing.  I've taken to sautéing spinach or kale and storing it in the fridge so I can eat it over a few days for breakfast.  On Sunday, I cooked up onions, kale and potatoes to have with my eggs (or chicken breakfast sausage).  The trick to quick morning potatoes is to mix your potatoes with salt and a little olive oil, cover, and microwave for about 6 minutes, stirring half way through.  Then throw them in the pan and crisp them up.  Done in 10 minutes!

Give it a try and tell me what you think!  And if you'd like to know how to poach an egg, check out my previous post.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Monday Meal Plan

This is last week's meal plan.  As you can see, it suffered some revisions.

I started my 9 week contract at Microsoft, which means that every Tuesday/Thursday I'm working 11-hour days, not including the awesome commute between Seattle and Redmond.  Monday/Wednesday I teach at Bastyr and see patients at FoodWise.  Fridays are "off", which means I catch up on grading and administrative work and generally drool on myself while clothed in yoga pants.  It's an insane schedule, but it's only for 9 weeks.  At least, that's what I tell myself.

Anyway, I've started cooking again, and I'm loving every minute of it.  I feel like a small piece of me has finally returned.  The world is once again a happy, ordered place.  Along with my new, all-consuming schedule, Ben has started tutoring again, and he's also starting his quarter at the community college this week.  The result?  We either become incredibly organized with our meals and make use of the slow-cooker... or we eat out every single night of the week.

I chose option A.

Let me tell you a little about our meals and how they evolved throughout the week.  Sadly, there are no pictures because I ate my food instead of photographing it.  Maybe I'll do better this week.

Sunday:  The lasagna came off without a hitch.  I cribbed off a recipe (that I can't find now, naturally) that used cashew cream mixed with eggs, salt and parsley for the ricotta.  I made a lovely meat ragu with lots of veggies and layered it with par-boiled Tinkyada pasta and the cashew cream.  We've been testing out Daiya Cheese, so I threw a bit of the "mozzarella" on top but can't say I loved it.  Ben thought it was OK, but somehow it ended up with a hydrogenated taste.  Once I scraped off the "cheese", the lasagna was delish, and fed us for lunches for a good part of the week.  Bag salad on the side and we were good to go.

Monday:  Green Curry, loosely based off of the recipe from the Thai Kitchen curry bottle.  I just read the Saveur article on curries, so instead of just using a can of coconut milk, I put a second can in the fridge and added the coconut cream to the pan as well.  The addition of the coconut cream created an extra-thick curry, more similar to those found at Thai restaurants, and I'll definitely be repeating the technique.  So: coconut milk, coconut cream, green curry, brown sugar, tamari, organic tofu, lots of veggies and red rice.  This created several left-over meals.

Tuesday:  I forgot to defrost the chicken, so instead I made pea soup loosely based on this recipe, except with a potato and 3 times as many vegetables.  I put the soup together (minus the liquid) the night before and put it in the fridge.  Ben put it on the next morning at 9 am and voila, warm dinner!  And more leftovers!

Wednesday:  The fish was frozen and we had SO MUCH FOOD, so we switched to leftovers for Wednesday evening.  It was great, because I was exhausted after work.

Thursday:  I did defrost the chicken, but Ben and I were both catching colds so I switched to soup.  I didn't precook anything.  Into the slow cooker went: skinless chicken thighs (bone in), carrots, celery, onion, garlic, bay leaf, oregano, basil, and Better Than Bouillon.  Again, I had Ben add the liquid on Thursday morning before putting it on the heat and again, put in 3 times as much veggies.  I'm all about one-pot meals.

Friday:  I had no frozen pizza dough.  I then attempted to make it, but we were out of eggs.  Whoops.  Fortunately, I discovered this several hours before dinner and was able to defrost some gyoza filling from the freezer.  I love my freezer.  I threw together the gyoza with sautéed broccoli and spinach.

Saturday:  This baby loves tomatoes, but we were out of lasagna.  I needed another red sauce!  Put together a simple beef ragu with pasta in the afternoon and froze some for a later date.  Yum!

This was our week.  Yes, Virginia, you can have yummy, home-cooked food while working full time, you just have to plan like crazy - and be willing to improvise when the plan fails!  I'll admit, the lasagna was work, but it was Sunday and I wanted to put in the time.  The green curry took about 20 minutes, though the rice was a little longer.  While the green curry simmered, I put together the pea soup, which took about 10 minutes.  The fish tacos would have taken about 20 minutes to put together and the chicken soup took about 20 minutes, mostly because I had to peel the skin off of partially frozen chicken thighs.  The gyoza and ragu took a little longer but hey, it was the weekend!

What are your favorite quick meals?  Any great slow-cooker suggestions that don't take much time to prepare?  I have 8 more weeks of this craziness, and I need suggestions!

Disclaimer: I have received no compensation monetary or otherwise from the companies listed above. The opinions stated above are my own.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Getting Back On The Horse

I'm proud of this meal.  Not because it's pretty (it's not).  Or because it's complicated (it's really not).  I'm proud because I conceived of it and even prepared most of it myself: a complete meal, including spices other than salt! 

I haven't wanted to prepare or even eat food for the past few months, and I can't tell you what a mind-bender it's been for this food-obsessed nutritionist to abhor food. I've been living on the good graces of my husband, the PCC deli and a few meals that have made it into the crock pot; I LOVE my slow cooker.  

I've made split pea soup, lentil soup and a few chicken dishes just by throwing ingredients in the pot and plugging it in on the porch so I didn't have to smell it.  Ben has been grilling and making beautiful salads.  PCC has given me an endless supply of chicken, potato and tofu salads.  Between all of us, we seem to be growing a healthy baby.

At 16 weeks (I'm 19 weeks now.  I guess I wrote this 3 weeks ago!) I still throw up occasionally, and I still suffer bouts of nausea.  I have the nose of a dog, and strong smells send me over the edge--if I never have to see/taste/touch/smell or otherwise be in contact with coffee and bacon again, it will be too soon.  But things are better.  I can tell I'm starting to feel more myself because after 4 months of pregnancy, I came home from vacation and needed to sort out my spices (we were out of several) and make sure we had a variety of grains in the cupboard.  I wanted to cook.

Grilled Whitefish with Summer Squash and Mashed Potatoes

Use any whitefish you can find on sale.  We purchased sole and it was delicious, though it fell apart.  If I were to use it again, I'd stack the pieces in the foil instead of laying them side by side.

Fish: Lay fish in foil.  Rub with olive oil, salt, and fresh dill.  Place sliced lemons on top.  Wrap completely in foil and grill on a low heat until the fish is cooked through.

Summer Squash: Slice and rub with olive oil and salt.  Grill until tender.  I tossed mine with this lovely Za'atar Vinaigrette from David Lebovitz (though I added a little sugar).

Potatoes: Slice and boil skin-on red potatoes in salted water until tender.  Drain and mash with organic grass-fed butter (trust me, it makes a difference) and almond milk.  Adjust seasonings.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Is it possible that's I've only written 4 blog posts this year?  I suppose so.  I'm busy and I think I've fallen into the trap of the perfectionist; I don't want to post anything unless the pictures/recipes/ideas are perfect.  This is a tragic trap so many amateur bloggers fall into and it makes me sad that it happened here because there is so much I want to tell you!

The first, most exciting and most important news is that I'm pregnant!  Baby Hoverter will be joining us around Valentine's Day 2014 and we couldn't be more thrilled.  The last months have been a haze of nausea and fatigue and I'm hopeful that I'll start to feel more myself very soon.

I was going to tell you all about teaching and writing and seeing patients and playing with Duncan but suddenly growing a baby seems like enough (and I might need to go throw up).  Suffice to say, I'm thinking of you all and I'm still here, just very, very quiet.  Enjoy the day!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Trip to Jerusalem

It's spring.  Can you imagine?  We've had sunshine for 3 days straight and I'm still not used to it, I just keep staring out the window in shock and awe.  Yesterday I worked outside for a bit, though I'll be the first to admit there was less working and more staring at the light playing off the tulips.

I've spent the winter months writing furiously on our elimination detox, developing recipes and making sure every statement we make about food allergies and intolerance is well-researched and supported by facts.  Our testers just started with the first week of the menu and what do I keep hearing?

"This is good."

People are shocked that a diet that eliminates all the major allergens, most grains, and many meats tastes like anything at all, let alone delicious (yes, it tastes like delicious).  This, my friends, is why this project is taking so long.  When Julie and I embarked on creating the ultimate elimination diet guidebook and meal plan, the very first thing I said was, "The food has to be real food, and it has to be delicious."  There will be smoothies and cleansing options (and they will be equally amazing), but if smoothies aren't your schtick, you don't need to drink them.

So, outside of elimination recipes, what have I been cooking?  Ben and I have been loving on the recipes from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.  I know this cookbook is old news; it's circulated through the national consciousness and people have moved on, but I can't.  Not quite yet.  Vegetables flavored with za'atar, sumac and harissa speak to me on a visceral level.

In my practice, I tell patients that I don't care how they eat their vegetables, as long as they eat them and low, here is a cookbook that gives me plethora of vegetable choices in lip-smacking combinations.  Their roasted butternut squash and tahini recipe has been a revelation, though I'll admit that more often than not I make this recipe with unpeeled sweet potatoes because it's easier.

Here are a few of the recipes I've made (and remembered to photograph before gobbling up!):

Pureed beets with coconut cream and za'atar

I use these recipes as a guide, a map toward unknown flavors and a hint of places I've never been.  Of course, they must be modified to suit your particular brand of dietary intolerance.  Most of the veggie and meat dishes are naturally gluten-free, but they're definitely not dairy-free.  There's yogurt everywhere, and in our house the best we can tolerate is a little butter, so I've been making substitutions.  In the pureed beets with yogurt and za'atar, I used coconut cream mixed with lemon juice and honey instead of date syrup (not that I haven't tried to find date syrup, it just doesn't exist where I live).  It was lovely, served with pita for the gluten-eaters and crackers for the rest of us.  

Tuna steaks in chraimeh sauce

A few weeks ago we hosted a small birthday dinner for a friend and true to form, decided to prepare a number of dishes for the very first time the day of the party.  One was tuna steaks in chraimeh sauce.  Mr. Ottolenghi's recipe calls for salmon steaks, but we had tuna in the freezer.  The sauce was delectable and I followed the recipe exactly (rare, I know).  There was paprika and caraway, cumin and cayenne, cinnamon, chiles and tomato paste.  Ben declared that he'd like to eat this sauce on everything, and the entire table scraped pita bread across the bottom of the pan until it was gone.

Hummus with golden raisins, toasted pine nuts, fresh parsley and olive oil

Do you make hummus?  I do, every week it seems.  I have my recipe memorized and can throw it together in about 5 minutes, so I was a little suspicious of a new hummus recipe.  I shouldn't have been, because everything we'd tried thus far was amazing.  Jerusalem's recipe calls for a lot of tahini and to drizzle the olive oil over the hummus at the end.  Through many, many batches, we've reduced the tahini a bit and add olive oil to the beans while processing so we can easily consume hummus on the go.  However, now that's we've experienced decorated hummus, I'm not sure we can go back.  Dried fruit perfectly complements the savory complexity of the tahini, lemon, garlic and garbanzos, and we've even taken to sprinkling bits of sumac and za'atar over our plates.

Roasted cauliflower and hazelnut salad

Roasted vegetables, slightly cooled, with nuts, pomegranate and spices: I have a new way of cooking vegetables!  I'm not the biggest fan of green salads unless it's high summer (yes I know, what kind of nutritionist am I?) but a cooked vegetable salad... that I can embrace with my whole heart.  When I made this I was missing a key ingredient: hazelnuts.  Do you ever make a great grocery list thinking you have certain ingredients in the cupboard and then come home only to discover you were utterly mistaken?  This happens to me constantly, and necessity breeds invention.  Pistachios are sort of Middle Eastern, right...?  At any rate, that's what I used, and the salad was fabulous.

Stuffed eggplant with lamb (or beef) and pine nuts

In the grey days of March we prepared stuffed eggplant twice and both times it was utterly amazing.  The flavors were both grounding and complex and the cinnamon added just a hint of fun.  I don't eat lamb, so we used ground beef, and though I have nothing to compare it to, I'm sure it was just as good as the lamb would be.

Baby spinach salad with dates and almonds

Just two paragraphs back I said I don't care for green salads, yet I'm now showing you one.

Oh, the hypocrisy!

But this salad is different.  It has sautéed pita (or GF bread) and warm almonds thrown on top.  It has marinated dates and chili and sumac.  This salad has weight to it.  In fact, I've taken to making it with a poached egg on top for suppers, and I think you should too.

Are you sold yet?  Ready to run out and buy Jerusalem?  Good!  Meanwhile, I'm taking what I've learned and playing.  Last week we had grilled chicken legs rubbed with ras el hanout and garlic salt.

I wonder what I'll cook this week?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Duncan the dachshund is with me, always.  Or he'd like to be!  He lays at my feet while I'm working at home, occasionally poking me in the leg when I've been sitting too long.  He sits at the edge of the kitchen while I'm recipe testing.  He gets underfoot while I move photography lights and snap photos.  He goes grocery shopping with me, even though he can't go into the store and but is a hit everywhere else we go: the hardware store, the bookstore, the coffee shop, even the emissions testing center.  Sadly for him he doesn't come with me to see patients because he thinks he's the center of attention and I like to give my energy to my clients, so he sits forlornly at home.  Duncan is curled beside me now as I sit on the couch and type this post, quietly waiting for his walk and constantly reminding me that however busy, tired, elated, stressed, bemused and overwhelmed I am, real life is waiting for me when I choose to look up from my computer.

I've been looking at my little neglected blog and I'm reminded of Julia Child saying "Never apologize."  I know there's more to that quote but I'm going to truncate it because it fits my needs.  Life is busy at FoodWise Nutrition and I'm doing exactly how much I can and want to do but I'm thinking I need to make a bit more time for writing in this space.

I've started another business.  I hate to tease you with this because we aren't quite ready to announce but I'm so excited I can't keep it in a second longer.  It's going to involve a guidebook written with my business partner and myself and recipe book, written and photographed by yours truly.  I'll tell you more in the next few months but know that all the fabulous recipes that aren't appearing on this site are going into a cookbook!!

I've also written a weight loss starter guide and I'm working on the art assets.  Whenever I get those done it will be self-published in e-book form but everything takes three times longer than you think it should, especially when the process is new.

Amongst all this writing and recipe testing and photography I'm still teaching at Bastyr University and FoodWise is flourishing.  I introduced Mediator Release Testing, a food intolerance test into my practice last summer and it's really taken off!  I'm so excited to be able to offer this service to clients and it's making a huge impact on patients lives to be able finally identify why the have diarrhea/constipation/heartburn/chronic headaches/nausea/etc.  If you have IBS, call me because chances are, we can get rid of most of your symptoms by eliminating problem foods!

In thinking about all these projects, it's easy to get overwhelmed but I'm remembering to do one thing at a time and then the next thing and then the next.  Google calendar had been a savior throughout this process.  I don't make New Year's resolutions but I do make one word themes for the year and this year's theme is PRODUCE, as in write like a wild woman and get these projects done!  So, happy belated New Year to you all.  2013 is going to be amazing.

Monday, January 7, 2013


I was supposed to make cassoulet.

After a long day at work I came home, took care of the animals, had a cup of peach tea and read Saveur, then generally bitched about dinner to myself.  Should we order in?  Thai sounded good.  What about the Thai food was appealing?  Well, I didn't have to cook it, but beyond that it sounded fresh somehow, light and full of veggies.  We'd been eating beef bourguignon for a few days and it was delectable, full of layers of butter just like Julia makes it.  But cassoulet on top of beef bourguignon?  It was too much heavy stew, even in these dark Seattle days of grey and cold.

Mark Bittman wrote a piece about cooking with what you have, and one quote rang out to me: "I'd choose what seemed most appealing and figure out what to do with it when we got to the kitchen."  This is how I love to cook--to create.

Don't get me wrong, having a meal plan is sensible.  It allows us to plan for the week ahead and have all the ingredients we need.  We have a weekly meal plan.  Sometime I even follow it.

But more often than not, I use it as a guideline to create new dishes, some of which work and some of which flop horrendously.  I cook nearly all our meals, but I don't want to be bored by it.  I want to be inspired!

Just thinking about making something other than my lovely cassoulet got me moving.  What's in the fridge?  Vegetables were calling to me, fennel and zucchini and green beans.  We ran out of vegetables the week before so I over-bought to compensate, and I could really cook as many as I wanted!

I started with honey sesame roasted green beans: a little honey mixed with sesame oil, tamari, and chili flakes baked at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes and garnished with sesame seeds.  What's next?  Chopped zucchini and fennel in a bit of olive oil and sel gris, roasted for 15 minutes at the same temperature.

Now I needed a protein source.  Eggs were the obvious choice because the rest of our meat was frozen, and since I had the oven on I went with a modified version of Herb Baked Eggs by the lovely Ina Garten.  Dried basil and oregano, fresh garlic and parmesan.  Soy creamer and real butter.  Two eggs instead of three.  I over-cooked the dish, but I learned my lesson and will make it properly next time.  I rounded out the meal with a freshly sliced Asian pear that has been hanging out on our front porch in a box of apples we brought home from Eastern Washington.

I don't have pictures of this meal.  We ate at 8 o'clock at night by candle light, chatting and laughing about our long days.  I wasn't thinking about working or blogging.  I was eating spontaneously prepared, slightly over-cooked eggs and loving every minute of it.

Oh, I will make the cassoulet.  Nothing goes to waste here.  But this night, I got to create, and those are the meals I remember.