Ode to Chai

I started drinking chai when I was doing my internship at The Chopra Center for wellbeing because we had to make it every day. There were an almost overwhelming number of spices that went into that chai recipe. OMG! And I was the newbie on the block. So guess who got to make the chai? 

And then it became addictive. When you have a cup of chai tea, it’s like wrapping yourself up in a cashmere blanket, it’s so cozy and warming. In this cool transition time of year there’s so much warmth and depth in a cup of chai. It feels just right. 

What is chai, exactly?

Chai is a beverage that is a blend of black tea, honey, spices and milk. And… you can riff on that. You don’t have to put milk in, or you can use nut milks of your choice. You can use green instead of black tea, or a little maple syrup to sweeten instead of honey (but not that much of it). 

Use the basic idea as a blueprint and make your own personal chai.

Why add chai to your culinary vocabulary?

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Culinary choreography: learning a few dance steps!

They say in life that you shouldn’t sweat the small stuff. So it goes in the kitchen. Many people are amazed to find that stepping into the kitchen is actually a relaxing, almost meditative experience. There’s a flow that takes place, an engagement of the mind that leaves us feeling refreshed and connected, as though all our senses were taken on an adventurous sojourn. Food and cooking demand that you be in the present, a place where yesterday’s follies and tomorrow’s peccadillos hold no sway. But to be fully present, it helps to learn a few tricks of the trade as a way of turning your kitchen into an inviting space filled with culinary gifts that feed the soul.

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Quick, simple and sensational: the Frittata

I’ve rediscovered the frittata! You know those periods when life overwhelms? When you just need somebody to tell you what to eat? Something in your back pocket to reach for? For me, the frittata is IT. My Soup Sister, Julie Burford, reminded me of this by recently bringing me two  gorgeous, tasty ones! What an amazing gift. Granted, I’ve made frittatas MANY times… but it hasn’t always been my go-to dish. I’d kind of forgotten. Now it’s back!

Sometimes, I get in a cooking groove, a rhythm, and I sort of forget some old chestnuts. Like a favorite shirt that ends up in the back of the closet until one day you spy it and think, Where have you been??? And wear it 2 weeks straight.

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Eating with the seasons: orange is for fall

Here's a favorite from the archives! Who can resist those gorgeous squashes stacked in groceries and farmers markets this month? And they are SO good for you. Don't miss my soup hack for an easy and delicious Curried Butternut Squash Soup. Isn't it nice when life can a little easier?

Fall… that invigorating time, filled with crisp air, glowing woodlands, and a feeling of the world settling down for a long winter siesta….  And how many of you have already flirted with colds during this change of seasons, hmmm?

Time to focus on boosting your immune system!  

I’ve got a (delicious!) culinary cure, brought to you by the letter “A” and the color orange.

“A” is for vitamin A, a superstar because of its major importance in:

  • Vision (you knew that one, right?)
  • Skin health (acne & psoriasis are often responsive)
  • Adrenal & thyroid function
  • Cellular growth
  • Nerve cell function
  • Brain health & performance: plasticity, memory, cognitive functioning, learning, mood, mental energy
  • Inflammatory function
  • Digestive health & detoxification (can help the body get rid of pesticides & microorganisms).    


It’s best to obtain vitamin A through your diet, not supplements. Why? Because it’s a fat soluble vitamin, meaning that it’s best absorbed along with some healthy fat, such as olive oil, coconut oil, coconut milk, or ghee (clarified butter).  

Looking for food sources? Vitamin A is conveniently found in anything orange and anything green, such as all winter squashes, carrots, kale, and collard greens.

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Start with soup!

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My favorite season is coming up, and that’s soup season! My neighbor and Soup Sister Julie Burford and all the folks on the block are getting revved up, and I can already see the steam coming out of the kitchens. The first stage of soup making is broth making, so we’re all busy making Magic Mineral Broth (see below) and bone broths and freezing them in quart jars, ready to incorporate them into big colorful vats of nourishing, comforting, savory soups! 

I celebrate the beginning of the season of soup. 

I feel like the happy soup chef in Maurice Sendak’s Chicken Soup with Rice (here in a video with Carole King singing the verses, so adorable). 

I fervently believe that everybody feels better after a bowl of soup. 

Throughout my twenty-year culinary consulting and cooking career in the food-as-medicine movement, I’ve been, first and foremost, a soup maker. Soup is my wheelhouse, where I firmly stand. Soup is the greatest form of nourishment, period, end of story, and I think it has been since they were putting the pot over the open fire thousands of years ago. I’ve always felt a connection with soup makers through the ages, from the dawn of fire to my ancestors, especially my great grandmother, my grandmother, my mother, and now me! 

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“In the Flow” Apple Pancakes (Gluten- and Dairy-Free)

I nearly ran out of gas this morning. The orange light glared at me from the dashboard with its menacing, ominous glow. There’s a gas station just a couple blocks from my house, but I’d left my purse at a friend’s home, and there wasn’t enough fuel in my car to retrieve it. So, I ransacked my bedroom looking for cash, but apparently I’d already spent my “in case of emergency” stash. Then, I overcooked my eggs and tripped on the dog’s food.

Although there are myriad causes for feeling out-of-sorts, it can be valuable to ask yourself: “Am I stressed?” Often when I feel like the world is imploding around me and nothing seems to be going right, the root cause is stress. Once I acknowledge that my life doesn’t actually suck; I’m just feeling overwhelmed, I can find a way to change my state. It might feel unproductive to take time away from your busy day, but when I’m in a good mood and feeling relaxed, I’m both more joyful and more productive. Spending time outdoors seems to help me the most, but I’ve also found that exercising, cleaning the house, or meeting a friend for a meal can get me out of my head. In many ways, it’s like hitting the “restart” button on the computer.

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Obsessed with the new? Our ancestors already had the answers.

As James Hamblin points out in his recent cracker-jack article in The Atlantic, “New Nutrition Study Changes Nothing: Why the science of healthy eating appears confusing—but isn’t,” the term “neophilia” was coined by J. D. Salinger in 1965 to refer to our obsession with novelty. And while a degree of curiosity about what’s new is no doubt healthy, like so many things these days we seem to have taken our obsession too far — certainly with food and nutrition.

As Hamblin shares, editors and publishers aren’t interested in nutrition articles that don’t have sensational headlines, preferring to focus on narratives that upend conventional wisdom. The thought seems to be, if new research doesn’t change or challenge the way readers think about the world, why is a story worth publishing? 

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Meal Planning Strategies for Fall Sanity

Most of my clients are surprised to hear that I menu plan every single week. That's right. Even as a pro chef and nutritionist if I want to eat the way that best nourishes my mind and body I follow the same advice I give my clients. In my CALMTM approach to health and healing we discuss the importance of creating a meal plan, a shopping list, and carving out time to cook. The basic principles in every meal plan include: real food, plant-centric, seasonality, a rainbow of color, local (as possible), and variety. Notice, there are no measurements of calories, no over analyzing micro and macro nutrients. Keep to these simple principles and the benefits will come back to you in flavor and health insurance. 

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Turning in and letting go

This is the first ever guest post on my blog! Lately, some people in my close circle have been writing posts that touch me on a really deep level, and I want you to see them, too. It’s that feeling of OMG! Did this piece ever nail it on the head! It’s like a good book. You just want to tell your friends.

This post is from my dear friend Marti Wolfson, MS, who has appeared on my blog several times — most recently in Foods to take when you travel (when she was starving on an airplane at 26 weeks pregnant) and last fall in Soup Session with the extraordinary Marti Wolfson, when we had SUCH a good time chopping and cooking up Spicy Thai Carrot, Corn & Tomato Bisque soup (the video is great!).  

A culinary nutritionist who developed the CALM™ (Culinary and Lifestyle Medicine) approach to health and healing, Marti is brilliant, graceful, and wise beyond her years. And she’s about to become a mother! (Everyone send good energy.) She calls me FGA (Fairy God Aunt). We’ve known each other for 13 years, and have cultivated a lovely relationship even though we live 3,000 miles apart. I am so grateful for Marti!

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Grain-Free Maple Pumpkin Muffins


Grain-Free, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Naturally-Sweetened

“When God closes a door, he opens a window.”

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In love with lentils!

Lentils are the underdogs of the pulse, bean and legume food group, the unsung heroes, worthy of more attention and respect. If you’re not integrating lentils into your food world, I have some tips for you.  A few easy tweaks in their preparation makes their texture terrific instead of blah (a game changer!) and their flavor zooms up on the dial with a few well-chosen ingredients. 

Lentils have been part of the human diet since Neolithic times. Archeological evidence shows they were eaten 9,500 to 13,000 years ago, and that they were one of the first crops domesticated in the Near East.  

Healthwise, they are a good source of protein, folic acid, dietary fiber, and many trace minerals. In researching The Healthy Mind Cookbook, I learned they are exceptionally good brain food full of brain-friendly B vitamins with folate that helps keep our minds healthy and sharp as we age. Lentils support cognitive functioning (iron), focus (folate) and memory (zinc). Yay, lentils!

One of my favorite workshop food demos is a lentil salad recipe. It’s usually easy to find someone who isn’t wild about lentils, because they think they are bor-ing, or worse, mushy :( Ugh. I delight in DAZZLING them with lentils cooked the right way and tossed with bright ingredients, to make for a magically nourishing and utterly delicious mouthful! (Picture the spoon going into their somewhat reluctantly open mouth...the pause… then the involuntary spasm of vocal delight… yummmm!) I invariably gain countless converts to the humble lentil.

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A Gravenstein applesauce story

Every year around the 2nd week of August, Gravenstein apples make their entrance at our farmer’s market in Marin County, California. Gravenstein is an apple cultivar that originated in the 17th century or earlier. The fruit has a superbly tart flavor cherished for cooking, and it has such a short harvest! Blink and you miss it — which makes it all the more precious. My culinary co-conspirator Julie Burford is our spy. When she sees the apples come in, she orders 40 pounds from the farmer. We are preparing to preserve! 

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Savoring that last breath of summer

I remember Labor Day weekend as the last swim before the community pool closed. Getting ready for school, buying school supplies. New school shoes and clothes. The Labor Day barbeque. The last breath of summer, before you had to get back down to business. 

Even now as an adult, I can feel things are calmer and quieter in August, during the dead of summer, when people are taking a vacation or staycation. Labor Day is high tide, then it’s back to full throttle, nose to the grindstone, and It doesn’t matter if it’s still 102 degrees. We’re back on!

Culinary-wise, it’s the last of the picnic trio (Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day). Our traditions aren’t as elaborate on Labor Day as for the others, but it’s fun to savor and celebrate the swan song of the season, especially a season with such a glorious harvest of fruits and vegetables.

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Homage to summer’s sumptuousness

Let us take a moment to savor the sumptuousness of the summer harvest! And to select a few glorious things to do with it. My dear friend and neighbor Julie Burford and I already have our tried and true traditions and are happy to share. We’ve got you covered. (You may remember Julie from The soul of soup: cooking with my Soup Sister.)

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Cool as a cucumber!

My friends, cucumbers have changed! When I was growing up, cucumbers were fat and stubby with waxy skins and big, blah seeds. They were relegated to three uses: a garnish on the plate, sliced in a salad, or finely sliced in little tea sandwiches with butter on white bread. Honestly not a major player, nothing spectacular. The texture was unexciting, the seeds were annoying, the skin was bitter. Meh.

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Foods to take when you travel

Traveling this summer? When it comes to food, I suggest you be prepared! 

My dear friend and her husband came to visit us in California last month. She was 26 weeks pregnant and traveling from the east coast, a LONG travel day. She had planned ahead and ordered a special meal for the plane… which turned out to be disgusting, virtually inedible. Oh, dear! She asked the flight attendant if she could rustle her up a cheese plate. To which the attendant flatly said, no. We don’t have any extras. My friend said, I’m a pregnant woman! Get me a cheese plate!!!  You do not want to mess with a hungry pregnant woman!!!!  Startled, the flight attendant rummaged through the food cabinet, and wouldn’t you know, she found one. 

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Three Cooling Summer Smoothie Recipes

Rose Smoothie
Date Smoothie
Green Smoothie

Feeling the heat this summer? When the sun’s rays are stronger outside, you might notice fiery Pitta dosha heating up in your own body. Signs of healthy Pitta on the move include higher energy levels, feelings of optimism, and an overall brightening within. But if Pitta dosha gets overheated, you may start to feel a little irritable and frustrated, or even experience rashes, acne, and other skin disruptions. Fortunately, Pitta can easily be brought back into balance with a little cooling and sweetness.

For a fast and easy way to give Pitta dosha some TLC, try these three cooling summer smoothie recipes, below. Each recipe calls for Pitta-pacifying ingredients and is chock-full of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and healthy fiber. You may notice we’ve left out some smoothie-ingredient standards — like yogurt and banana — which can aggravate Pitta. We’re pretty sure you’ll love these sweet, creamy recipes just the same!

1) Fresh and Fruity Sweet Berry Rose Smoothie

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Gluten-Free Strawberry Cobbler

Checking in really quickly today with a recipe and step-by-step video of this gluten-free and vegan Strawberry Cobbler. I wasn’t kidding when I said I would be flooding this space with strawberry recipes this spring and summer :) Similarly to crumbles or crisps, cobblers are delightfully lazy fruit desserts that require no perfection on the cook’s part, but manage to come out a perfectly jammy and satisfying mess almost every time. Earlier this spring, I set out to develop a version that is both gluten-free and vegan, but also quick and with a manageable list of ingredients – here is the result!

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5 Ways to Get the Most out of Tea Leaves

Tea remains to be one of the most popular drinks in the world, served either hot or cold, it’s delicious no matter how you choose to drink it. Tea packs in both a variety of flavors and a number of significant health benefits. Tea is spiritual, calming and it brings people together.

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Quick Rhubarb Soft Serve

Have you ever heard of the quick soft serve ice cream technique, where you freeze coconut milk in ice cube trays and then blend the cubes with fruit, sweetener, etc. into into a perfectly spoonable frozen treat? It’s been on my radar for a while, but I have an ice cream maker, which I’m very faithful to, so I’ve been slow to warm up to the idea. I finally gave the whole thing a shot recently, and now I see what the big deal is about. This is entirely different from the typical ice-cream making experience. When I set out to make ice cream, I know that it will be a process, and I’m quite fond of the little bit of fuss that it takes. This soft serve is its own thing – delightfully quick and easy and with little fuss to speak of, especially if you already have the coconut ice cubes ready to go.

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