Ode to Cabbage — the unsung hero!


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Your inspiration for the week: don’t overlook cabbage! I call cabbage the bocce ball of the cruciferous set. A bowling ball, a big, heavy dense, ball of leaves. In terms of nutritional benefits, cabbage rocks. It’s chock full of goodness! Fiber, potassium, choline, B12, iron, selenium, pantothenic acid (B5), manganase…. But. It’s like the stepchild of broccoli and kale. It’s the humblest of vegetables. Nobody even thinks about it.

But I have something to say about cabbage, and why it’s number ONE on my list: it’s crunchy. You can eat it raw or cooked. It’s durable. You can do a zillion things with it. It’s always there for you, in your crisper drawer. How many things can you say that about?

My love affair with cabbage began when my grandmother served cabbage leaves stuffed with all manner of things and topped with a lovely sauce. With such an elegant introduction, I never thought of it as boring!

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For Valentine’s Day, I’m enchanted with red… beets!

With Valentine’s Day approaching, I could be thinking about chocolate... but I’m thinking about the color red. And I might be thinking about strawberries… but I’m thinking about beets!

What inspires me about beets?

DEFINITELY the color. Of all the plants in the plant kingdom, beets have the most electrifying color. I have my kitchen workshop and my art-making workshop, and I play with color in both! Sometimes it’s fun to take a food and look at all the colors that make up the color of that food.  

Red is a primary color, but beets are not a singular, primary red. Beets have other colors in them: a little blue, a little purple, some magenta, and fuschia. Beets can look very dark and ruby-esque; or blended into soup, they can bright and magenta-y. Chioggia beets are swirled burgundy and white. Golden beets are a deep, earthy gold.

The key to heavenly flavor: roasting.

When I was little I hated beets. They used to come out of a jar. They were called Harvard beets. Ugh! It took me awhile to start loving beets.

And then I discovered roasting. Beets are VERY sweet when roasted, a whole new, almost addictively delicious thing. Oh, yum.

One of the most electrifying dishes I learned to make in Italy is pasta a la rubino, “ruby” in Italian. Basically a pasta with garlic, olive oil, chili flakes, roasted squares of beets tossed together on a blue plate. An electric purple!

Now I do roasted root vegetables or roasted root vegetable salads, which are very elegant, or pickled beets, or a borscht (both blended and not). I make a stunning electric slaw out of beets (an absolute smash hit on a buffet line!). I slice them very thin and make them into chips, an unexpected and delightful topper for salad or soup. (Don’t you love crunchy things?)

There is nothing better than a beet salad with a little feta, fennel, blood orange… OMG! Or valencia orange and beets! Electrifying.

Conquering Mountains: Triumph Trail Mix

 

There are some things we do because we know they work, like exercising and brushing our teeth. There are other things we do simply on faith. Prayer is one of those things.

 

A number of years ago I was chaperoning a group of teenagers on a cycling trip through the Swiss Alps. The route was beyond my skill and physical fitness level. And, it didn’t help that I was also recovering from the flu. As my legs grew increasingly fatigued, the distance between the nearest student and my puttering bike grew like a deep chasm.

 

The mountain stretched in front of me as far as my eye could see. Up. Up. Up. My thighs burned, my breathing was labored, and tears were threatening to stain my cheeks. In a fit of utter hopelessness, I began to pant under my breath, “Please help. Please help me.”

 

Since we were riding through military land, only bicycles and official vehicles were allowed on this desolate stretch of road, but I had yet to even see a vehicle. To my sheer amazement and delight, a few minutes later, a Jeep drove by. My jaw nearly fell to the ground. Although totally enamored with my good fortune, I was too embarrassed to flag it down. This was not uncommon for me at that time in my life. On a number of occasions, my prevailing shyness had prevented me from actualizing my heart’s content and speaking my truth.

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Kitchen Creativity

One of THE great books of 2017, and sure to endure: Karen Page and photographer Andrew Dornenburg’s Kitchen Creativity: Unlocking Culinary Genius—with Wisdom, Inspiration, and Ideas from the World’s Most Creative Chefs.   


That’s a tall order! And in this, their 11th book, they deliver. A couple of delightful quotes from the mountains of dazzling praise for Kitchen Creativity:


“Utter genius…If Leonardo da Vinci wrote a book on culinary creativity in 2017, this would be it.” — Michael Gelb, NY Times bestselling author of How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci


“A delectable mix of sensuality, intellect, insight 
and surprise that reveals not only the secrets of creative chefs, but of creativity itself.” —MacArthur Fellow Robert Root-Bernstein and Michele Root-Bernstein, Authors, Sparks of Genius: The 13 Thinking Tools of the World’s Most Creative People.


What I love about her new book: Karen is putting people at ease.


She lays out creativity in 3 stages:

  • Mastery. Mastering the Fundamentals | Studying the Past | Learning by Copying
  • Alchemy. The Evolution of Classics | Converting Food Through Flavor | Flavor Dynamics | The Flavor Equation
  • Creativity. Cooking with All Your Senses | The WhoWhatWhenWhere&Why of Creating a Dish | Evolving to Interdependence


Kitchen Creativity
 pulls back the curtain on “a world of infinite culinary possibilities.” For the chef, it truly comes down to the basics: the quality of your ingredients, how you’re going to make your ingredients shine, and how you’re going to tell the story of your dish.


This is where I always feel that her books are so masterful and useful for a cook whether a beginner or expert. She piques our curiosity: Have you thought about this ingredient with that?  But here she goes beyond heightening our knowledge and skills to cultivating our creativity— increasing our confidence, autonomy and leadership in our own kitchens. Did you know that “chef” means “chief” in French? Dear reader, you can be the chef/chief of your domain!


Lots of people think, I’m just not the creative type. But EVERYBODY has creativity. Whether you’re right- or left-brained, there’s an intuitive part of yourself that knows. You can be an accountant or coder and be incredibly creative. When you’re familiar with your world, there’s a way in which you can use your instincts to confidently move forward.

Kitchen Creativity Open Book

Clean Your Kitchen, Change Your Life



Earlier this week, I spent two whole days cleaning every nook and cranny in my home. I organized the cupboards, got rid of expired food, found new homes for items I no longer use, and I even scrubbed all the cabinet doors in my kitchen and laundry room. After exhausting so much time and energy bringing the sparkle back into my home, you’d better believe I was hovering over the stove, sponge in hand, the moment the cranberry sauce bubbled over. And, I’ve been following the dog and cats around like a hawk picking up the chunks of hair that they seem to leave everywhere.

 

Since my home is now filled with the bright, joyful energy of a space that’s well cared for, I find myself treating it with increased respect, and by extension, I notice that I’m even treating myself with more respect. After putting it off for weeks, I finally got a much-needed haircut, and I’m eating better, dressing better, and even feeling better. It’s remarkable to see how it snowballs.

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Mastering the Stir-Fry

Here’s a woman who inspires me: Grace Young, who is THE absolute grand dame of the stir-fry. She’s been called the Stir-Fry Guru and the Poet Laureate of the Wok. I think of her as ne plus ultra, a major-award winning cookbook writer and food journalist who is THE one to teach and inspire us all to become sit-fry masters.


The Why of Stir-Fry

Why stir-fry? Because it is one of THE great healthy, fresh, quick-cooking techniques to get colorful, tasty, comforting foods on the table even on a weeknight. In other words, invaluable! I easily stir-fry one or two times a week. I shop and get my gorgeous fresh ingredients. I prep as instructed (see below). I pull up my sleeves and, quickly, employing my ultra stir-fry skills, create a glorious, sure-to-please meal in minutes. You can, too.


Grace’s book: Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge

A stir fry can be lots of things. You can, as I used to, clean out your fridge, chop and throw everything in the pan. But:  there are stir-fry skills to master that bring the technique to a whole nother level.

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My word for this year is… inspiration!

Where does inspiration come from? Often from the strangest things. You go in the kitchen, you want to cook something, and you wait for something to whisper in your ear, and give you the divine answer for what to make for dinner tonight. Or you wait in front of a blank computer screen, or a blank canvas. As I start to talk about inspiration, what’s the first thing that happens? Nothing!


Immediately when I thought, “inspiration,” I went into freeze mode. Then I started looking around in my space. I walked away from my computer, looked outside my window, and saw the blood oranges growing on the tree outside. Last year it wasn’t doing well. This year I’m going to have a bumper crop. I’m seeing the color orange, and the plants in my garden… Turning, I see the wooden spoon collection in my office, shelves full of favorite books, and my and my friends’ artwork. I see a very colorful throw on my office couch.


This is where my inspiration comes from—from paying attention to what’s around, in any given moment.


Two stories arise in my mind as I look at the oranges, for example.

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Holiday pleasures: the anti-guilt trip!

A spot-on post from the archives: be kind to yourself this holiday season! Have fun. Savor those special treats! I wave my magic culinary wand, thus decree. Enjoy! :)

Why do we do it? We have this tendency over the holidays to put ourselves on a LONG nonstop guilt trip, like a first class ticket to Hong Kong and back, on the most expensive airline you can imagine. We splurge and purge AND beat ourselves up over it. I have a better idea: find a way that works for you to relax and enjoy life! If you have a brownie, enjoy it! And so you don’t massively overdo, and truly feel awful, plan ahead.

If you’re throwing the party, do what my friend Julie does and anchor your table with soups! Julie puts one on either end of her buffet, with lovely 5-ounce glass mugs, and peppers the rest of the table with different morsels (not mountains!) of yum. Hot smoked salmon. Serious mouthfuls of baked goods (she’s a fabulous baker). Beautiful cheeses. She replenishes as needed, rather than start with overwhelming masses of food. I watched how her guests interacted with all the tempting offerings this year, and noticed people kept filling their cups up with soup. The conversation flowed happily, and no one felt compelled to say, OMG, I’m going to pay for this! 

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Give the gift of yum!

What is more precious than the gift of time? Unless it’s the gift of yum. :) How about giving both to dear friends and neighbors, the ones who will TRULY savor the delicious, delectable treats that you drop off for their enjoyment? Some might love DIY kits, with all they will need to make something marvelous, and others might like a fait accompli. I’ve got some suggestions for both!

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Your Gift Guide: The absolute best cookbooks for 2017

We live in a world where we are SATURATED with information. Gone are the days when we had wait with baited breath for the latest and the greatest. We are ALWAYS confronted with the latest and the greatest! But there is also a place for savoring the very best. One of those places is inside the covers of a superb cookbook. These are the books that have penetrated the constant barrage during 2017 for me, the ones that I REALLY like and recommend!

For me, the criteria are:

  • Does the author have a point of view?

  • Is the author telling a compelling story through the recipes?

  • Is the photography enticing?

  • Is it original? (That’s a big thing! So much of what is “new” is not original. Been there. Done that)

  • Does the front matter of the book set you up for success?

  • Is it well designed?

Otherwise, you could just go online. But then again, I haven’t had that much luck online. I get frustrated with the poor quality of the recipes. These books have all passed the litmus test of true value.

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Count Your Blessings

While preparing Christmas Eve dinner a few years ago I sliced the tip of my finger on a sharp blade. Although it wasn’t a particularly bad cut, it was deep. I wrapped it tightly and went outside to catch the final rays of evening light. While I was sitting on the porch, feeling sorry for myself, a neighbor popped over. As we chatted over the fence, I held my finger in my palm and grumbled about having cut myself. After offering me a pair of latex gloves so I could continue making dinner, he told me that he’d had a difficult few days. A close friend of his family, a woman with four children, had died in a tragic accident.

 

The weight of his story sunk in deep. I kept picturing the children without their mother on Christmas, or any future Christmases. In an instant, the life of this family had been irrevocably changed.

 

I returned to my house with a heavy heart. I felt deeply for my neighbor and the family dealing with this awful tragedy, but I realized that my sadness wouldn’t serve anyone in that moment. My sorrow would never bring back the wife and mother, nor would it put their family back together. The only thing I had control over was my feelings. I could continue to feel sad, or I could say a prayer for the family and make a greater effort to appreciate every moment. And, so that’s what I did.

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9 Proven Health Benefits of Pumpkins + 9 Truly Healthy Pumpkin Recipes (That Taste Delicious!)

Bright orange pumpkins are popular symbols of fall. But pumpkins are much more than something to carve or serve in a pie.


You can use pumpkin in a variety of sweet and savory dishes. And when you discover all the powerful health benefits of pumpkins, you’ll see why the humble pumpkin can be an easy and affordable way to boost your health and add color to your meals.

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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).    


Convinced?


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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Already Here: A Doctor Discovers the Truth about Heaven

Already Here: A Doctor Discovers the Truth about Heaven

Already Here tells of the death of Leo Galland’s son, Christopher, at the age of 22; the direct visual evidence Christopher showed him that our souls do go on; and the communications he received from Christopher’s spirit that dramatically changed Leo’s understanding of life and its meaning.

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