Beet Hummus

Wow. Somehow April is here. We’ve known it would come for a while now and all of a sudden it is upon us, sort of like the monsoon-type storm outside. The next couple of weeks promise to be as tempest-like as the rain beating against the window right now...filled with excitement, hecticness, new beginnings, and probably a touch of sleep deprivation, but oh, I can't wait. We're still waiting on the finalization of a couple details, but I look forward to sharing some exciting news very soon!

In the meantime, though, let's talk beets. Or rather, let's talk foods that are easy to prepare ahead of time and go grab when you're running from one place to another.

Beet hummus is one of them.

I first tasted this delicious dip at a party about a week ago. There it was on the table next to the olives and cheese, sitting quietly and yet drawing the gaze of every onlooker, like mosquitoes to a night light. I mean, look at it up there. Is that not an astounding work of nature? I will never cease to be amazed by what the earth produces. Unable to hold back any longer, I dug in and was delighted to discover that its taste was as mesmerizing as its color, which immediately landed it at the top of my next-project-in-the-kitchen list.

I am happy to say that beet hummus will now be a staple in our house. After you try it, I'm willing to bet it'll be one in yours too.

Beet Hummus

6 medium beets
1/3 cup tahini
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium clove garlic, pressed
3 tsp ground cumin
Juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash beets, scrubbing them well to get rid of all dirt. Slice each beet in two, put the beets in a medium pot, cover with water, and bring pot to boil. Lower heat so that water is at a light boil and cook beets for 40 to 50 minutes until easily pierced with a fork. Rinse beets under cold water and rub the skin off.

Put beets and all other ingredients in a food processor and process away.

Now, I made this recipe up, tasting and adjusting as I went so these ingredients (and quantities) are mainly suggestions; feel free to adjust to your heart's desire!


Salmon-Stuffed Jalapeños

It was one of those days. You know those days. The ones when you decide to eat two big spoonfuls of peanut butter before heading out on your 3 mile run (because for some reason you were craving peanut butter at 6 o’clock in the morning) and then you realize, one mile into the run, that that was a very bad idea and there’s no way you can go any further so you double back and walk all the way to your car feeling stupid for the self-induced stomach cramps, not to mention sabotaging your morning exercise. Of course by the time you get home you realize you should have been in the shower fifteen minutes ago, you can’t find your clothes because everything is piled on the back of your bedroom chair (which you swore you would put away last night...), you trip on your way to the kitchen and stub your toe because your shoes were left in the hallway, and after hopping up and down on one foot sucking in air for a minute (a minute you don’t have because, remember, you’re late) you finally limp your way to the fridge only to realize there are no leftovers for you to take for lunch and there’s no time to make anything. And it’s not even 8:30 yet.

Oh, and did I mention this is a Monday? As if Mondays aren’t hard enough just being Mondays.

We all know when it rains it pours, so I won't even get into the rest of the day. Needless to say, by the time I headed home that evening I was ready for something comforting, something that would excite my senses and bring a smile to my face.

My thoughts turned to the brightly colored sweet peppers in the fridge, to the green fiery jalapeños beside them, and I found myself craving a dish I had never even eaten...stuffed jalapeños.

The second the prospect of a new dish was on the horizon, the creative juices started to flow and the tension of the day began to melt away. I poured myself a glass of wine, put my apron on, and set to work. The chopping, mixing, tasting and altering, all started to soothe me in their usual way and by the time the peppers were ready to come out of the oven, I was feeling pretty good.

It turned out to be everything I had imagined: creamy sweetness from the salmon and goat cheese contrasting beautifully with the spicy kick of the roasted peppers.

The perfect aah-life-just-got-a-little-better food.

Salmon-Stuffed Jalapeños

10 large jalapeños
1 clove garlic, pressed
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil), soaked and chopped
4 oz creamy goat cheese
½ cup grated cheddar
1 6oz can wild Alaskan salmon
1 Tbsp parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Cover the sun-dried tomatoes with boiling water and let sit 7-10 minutes.

Slice the stems off the jalapeños and cut a thin strip along one side of each one making sure not to pierce the whole jalapeño. You want to be able to take all the seeds and membranes out, but have it hold together enough to hold the stuffing. (Note: Make sure you take all seeds and membranes out as those hold the spiciest part of the pepper. I would also recommend doing this with gloves; I decided to ignore this little piece of advice and my fingers burned for a couple hours afterward.)

Once the tomaotes are soft, chop them into small pieces. In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients except for the jalapeños. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Stuff the jalapeños with the mixture and set in a lightly oiled baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating once.

Serve as an appetizer or as dinner after a rough day. These little poppers will make your life better - I promise!


Roasted Vegetable Medley

One of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is to open the refrigerator door, look at what's inside and come up with a meal then and there.

Usually, I base what to make on what we have in the fridge (and what needs to be used before it goes bad), but for this particular meal I based everything on one big, round, beautiful dish.

When good friends of ours renovated their kitchen last year, we were the happy recipients of some of those we-haven't-used-this-in-years-we-should-probably-get-rid-of-it dishes. On a regular Tuesday evening in November, Josh led me by the hand into the sun room and showed me what he knew would make my heart skip a beat (or two, or three): a table covered in kitchen goodies.

There was a bundt cake pan (which I had always wanted even though I have never made a bundt cake in my life, but I will...), a pizza stone (I had literally been looking at those in the store the day before), 5X7 loaf pans, various rectangular baking dishes, and one beautiful, huge, round, and very colorful quiche pan. At least I assumed it was a quiche pan, although I had never seen a quiche that big in my life.

So on this particular evening, my goal was to fill this dish with as many colorful veggies as possible.

Mission accomplished.

Then I set out to make something edible with all of them. I present you with my result: a dish I dubbed Roasted Vegetable Medley. Which really is just a fancy word for Whatever-Vegetables-You-Have-Available-In-Your-Kitchen Medley.

It may not look like the fanciest of meals, but it really is delicious (I promise!). I urge you to give it a try. You won't be disappointed and your fridge will thank you.

Roasted Vegetable Medley

I happened to have the below vegetables this evening, although this would work with any mixture of vegetables (broccoli, zucchini, green beans...the sky is the limit!). I also happened to have some crumbled blue cheese on hand, which I decided to throw in and it was delicious. If you have any sort of strong tasting cheese I urge you to toss it in. I'll bet your results will be fabulous. Have fun!

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, pressed
3 medium tomatoes, diced
2 teaspoons herbes de provence
1 big bunch swiss chard, chopped
1 lb mushrooms, quartered
2 medium bell peppers (or about 10 mini ones), roughly chopped
3/4 cup white wine
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup parmesan
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

In a large pot, sauté the onion in the olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the bell peppers and cook about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, mushrooms, and herbs and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, the white wine, and salt and pepper. Cook about 2 minutes until the tomatoes break down. Add the swiss chard and mix well so that it is coated in the tomato juices and cook, stirring often, for another 3 minutes. Stir in the parsley, and cheeses. Pour everything into a baking pan and bake for 30 minutes.

Spoon into bowls and top with freshly ground pepper. Serve hot!


Peppers Stuffed with Kale and Ground Almonds

Spring is here! Colors are popping out all over the place in breathtaking bursts like gigantic bundles of cotton candy on sticks. Pinks, yellows, whites, reds…everywhere I look trees are in bloom.

In the garden, which we were sure would be devoid of survivors after this winter, the kale is making a triumphant comeback! The leaves are growing tall and strong, like proud little green warriors reaching for the sky.

This weekend, for the first time in 2011, we cooked our very first meal from the garden. Ah...*sigh of joy*

When deciding to make these stuffed peppers, I was on a mission to come up with a recipe that was both delicious and satisfying, while being free of grains. I turned to my books for inspiration, but everything I found contained rice or couscous or corn or barley or some other grain. So I turned to my pantry and, once again, pulled out my almond meal to the rescue.

The ground almonds in this recipe act as a filler but also provide a healthy source of fat that leaves you feeling full and satisfied. I often find that when I stuff vegetables with only vegetables, even if it tastes good, the meal usually leaves me wanting more. With this one, however, I was happily rubbing my tummy in satisfaction after just one of these brightly colored peppers piled high with goodies. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Peppers Stuffed with Kale and Ground Almonds

2 large bell peppers (red, orange, or yellow)
1 big bunch kale, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
4 large cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 cup wild mushrooms, chopped
1 Tbsp herbes de provence
1 large tomato, diced
1/2 cup parmesan (plus a little extra for sprinkling on top)
1/2 cup almond meal
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Slice peppers in half through the stem, making sure to keep the stem attached. Take out seeds, rub a little olive oil inside and out, and sprinkle the insides with salt and pepper. Place in a baking dish cut side down and bake for 15 minutes.

Put the kale in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly (this is important or the leaves will burn), until bright green and wilted. The water still clinging to the kale's leaves from when you washed them should be enough to prevent the leaves from sticking, but sprinkle a bit more water in the pan if it dries out and the leaves start to stick. The kale should wilt within two to three minutes. Remove from heat and put in a colander to drain while you prepare the rest of the vegetables.

In a large saucepan, sauté onions in olive oil until translucent (about 5-7 minutes). Add garlic and cook another minute. Add mushrooms and herbs and cook about 4 minutes until mushrooms are soft. Add tomatoes and cook another 3-4 minutes until they break down. Add the kale and remove pan from heat. Stir in parmesan, almond meal, and salt and pepper to taste.

Stuff the peppers (they will be very stuffed). Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake 20 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with a little extra parmesan (if desired) and bake another 5 minutes. Serve hot!


Tomato-Peanut Stew with Collards

Growing up in West Africa, peanuts were everywhere: on the side of the road overflowing from large tin tubs next to the brightly colored outfits of the women selling them; squeezed into little hand-tied plastic bags and sold at bus stops, kiosks, and street corners; mashed and fried and sold as delicious peanut rings…each mouth-watering option calling your name, enticing you to stop and buy it; which, inevitably, you did.

What I particularly remember, however, are the nights when the scent of roasted peanuts followed me from the street all the way home to my kitchen. I would walk through the door, take a whiff of the nut-scented air and immediately get excited about dinner. Whatever we were having, it involved peanut sauce!

In West Africa, peanut sauce is cooked in a multitude of ways. For special occasions, chicken or goat is used, but for the day-to-day version, the star ingredient is usually greens. Cooked in a base of onions, ginger, and tomatoes, the peanut butter elevates this dish of simple vegetables to a thick, rich, and marvelously satisfying meal.

When I lived in Kenya a couple years ago, I was lucky enough to befriend a wonderful woman from Nairobi who taught me all sorts of tricks in the kitchen. They eat a lot of greens in Kenya – mostly kale and what everyone there calls “spinach,” a term that refers to leaves much bigger and thicker than the spinach we are used to here in the U.S. – so one of the first things I saw her do was wash and chop leaves. Watching her work, I was reminded of the images I’d seen in college classes of workers in Cuba rolling big fat cigars. She would take eight or ten leaves, pile them one on top of the other, and roll them together as tightly as possible. Then, with the swiftness of a trained chef, she would take a knife and turn the cigar into a snake of winding green strips in a matter of seconds. It was mesmerizing.

Ever since then, I have rolled my greens into a Cuban cigar before slicing them. I’m afraid I’m still not as skilled as her, but I love that to this day I cannot slice greens without remembering our long afternoons spent in the kitchen together.

So although this is not a Kenyan dish, when I sit down at the table to eat, every bite carries with it a hint of Kenya sprinkled among the overwhelming flavors of my childhood.

Tomato-Peanut Stew with Collards

Any greens will work with this stew, so feel free to replace the collards with spinach, kale, mustard greens, or whatever else strikes your fancy!

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion
1 inch ginger, diced finely
1 green chili, diced finely (I kept the seeds, but remove them if you want the stew to be less spicy)
3 large garlic cloves, pressed
2 15oz cans diced tomatoes
1.5 cups water
1 bunch collard greens, chopped
salt to taste
2 tablespoons peanut butter

In a large pot, sauté the onion in the olive oil until translucent (about five minutes). Add the ginger, chili, and garlic and cook another two minutes. Add the tomatoes and water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer about 10 minutes. Salt to taste. Add collards and cook another five minutes. Stir in peanut butter until well dissolved and simmer another 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning and serve piping hot!


Kale and Sun-Dried Tomato Tart with Almond Herb Crust

Hi there. It’s been pretty silent in here. In my other world, the one outside this cozy corner of the internet, it’s been a time of inward reflection, giant leaps, and watching how early the sun rises every morning, that exact moment where the sky turns from black to dark grey, the one that beckons me outside to move this body of mine and greet the day.

For me, the end of winter always brings with it a time of retreating into myself, but like the soft clouds of white and pink dogwoods blossoming all over town, I am feeling a growing urge to pop back into the world. So here I am.

Hello world!

It's good to be back.

I think a picnic is in order, don’t you? Let’s lay out a spicy colored blanket under the soft white halo of a cherry tree in bloom and have a slice of kale and sun-dried tomato tart.

Kale and Sun-Dried Tomato Tart with Almond Herb Crust, adapted from The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook

This crust is the easiest crust I’ve ever made. There’s no rolling out of finicky gluten-free dough, no refrigeration, and, best of all, no grains or starch. You just throw together some almond flour, herbs, salt, water, and grapeseed oil and press it all down into a 9-inch pie pan and, ta-dah! You’re done. Plus, it’s delicious.


1 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon herbes de provence
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Mix the almond flour, sea salt, and herbes de provence in a medium bowl. In a small bowl whisk together the oil and water. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until well combined (I find a fork works best for this). Press the dough into a 9-inch pie pan.

Bake for 20 minutes, until golden. Let cool before filling.


1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, pressed
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil), soaked and chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1 bunch kale, finely chopped
3 eggs
1/2 cup parmesan
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Put the sun-dried tomatoes in a medium bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit 7-10 minutes.

Sauté onion in olive oil until translucent, about five minutes. Add tomatoes, garlic, and oregano and cook for another five minutes. Add kale and cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, until kale is bright green. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs and stir in the parmesan. Add the kale-tomato mixture and salt and pepper to taste. Pour mixture in pre-baked crust and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the pie is golden and the eggs are set.

Serve with a fresh green salad. Enjoy!


Coconut Fruit Pancakes with Berry Reduction Sauce

Who says no flour means no pancakes? I present you flourless pancakes! Grain-free and delicious to boot.

I stumbled upon a blog a couple weeks ago that quickly rose to the top of my favorite blogs list. Green Kitchen Stories is a wonderful mixture of simple healthy food, delicious pictures, and fun stories about life and travel from David, Luise, and Elsa. If you haven't checked it out yet, it's worth a visit!

It was on Green Kitchen Stories that I first saw a recipe for flourless pancakes and I knew instantly that I just had to try it. The recipe called for unsweetened coconut, which acted as the "flour" giving substance to the liquid fruit and eggs. It also called for coconut oil, which I had never used but had been curious about for some time. I couldn't wait to try my own version.

On Saturday morning, I surveyed the fruit in my kitchen: two bananas, two pears, lots of clementines, and a bag of frozen mixed berries. Wanting to use some of everything, I decided on banana-pear pancakes with a berry-orange reduction sauce.

Oh, it was heavenly. So light and fruity; it was tremendously satisfying without the heaviness of usual pancakes. And the best part is that the house smelled like coconuts for hours after we were done eating. Just another trip to the land of swaying palm trees...

Coconut Fruit Pancakes with Berry Reduction Sauce

The Sauce

Start the sauce first so that it can simmer and reduce while the pancakes are cooking.

3 cups mixed berries
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 3 clementines)
1/4 cup honey
Sprinkle of cinnamon

Put all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil, turn heat to low, and simmer about 30 minutes until thick and syrupy.

The Pancakes

2 bananas, sliced
2 pears (small to medium), finely chopped
100g/3.5 oz unsweetened coconut
2 tsp cinnamon
5 eggs
Coconut oil

In a large bowl, mix together the coconut and cinnamon until well blended. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the bananas and pears to the egg mixture and mash everything up with a potato masher. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until well blended.

Heat some coconut oil in a frying pan. When hot, spoon the mixture into the coconut oil using approximately 1/4 cup batter per pancake. When bubbles start appearing and popping on the top of the pancake, flip and cook for a minute on the other side. Serve hot with spoonfuls of berry sauce!

Serves 4.


Roasted Carrots and Beets à la Moroccan

Does it seem like I've been posting Moroccan and other faraway flavors a lot lately? Why yes, it sure does. And I'll tell you why: because it's winter and winter demands traveling to hot places where the sun blazes and the markets are bustling. And when you can't afford to constantly be hopping over to Morocco or Tunisia or Cuba (oh, how my heart longs to go there), you do the next best thing and you travel there on your senses. The colors, the smells, the flavors...you make all of these come straight to you and land right on that plate that you're setting on the small table by the kitchen window. And just like that, although it may be snowing outside that window, it's suddenly hot and sunny where you are. That's what happens when you cook.

It's magic.

Just like the flavors in this dish. The prunes and honey, like the sweet scent of honeysuckle on a hot desert night, bring a lightness to the depth of the spices. The chilies offer a touch of heat, but only every now and then, when your lips occasionally brush their skin. The beets and carrots throw in a satisfying earthiness, just enough to bring you back down from your reverie; or maybe, on the contrary, to plant your feet firmly on that desert sand.

Either way, wherever the spices may lead you, it's a trip worth taking.

Roasted carrots and beets, adapted from The Food of Morocco

1/4 cup olive oil
2 large onions, each cut into 6
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled and crushed
2 beets, peeled and chopped into bite-size pieces
1 lb carrots, peeled and sliced into bite-size pieces
1.5 teaspoons ras el hanout (recipe follows)
2 red or green chilies, seeded and finely diced
1.5 cups vegetable stock
1 cup pitted prunes
1 tablespoon honey

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Put the onions, garlic, and beets in a large baking dish and toss with the olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes. Add the carrots, ras el hanout, and chilies. Season and toss well. Bake for another 30 minutes. Stir in the vegetable stock, prunes and honey and return to the oven for another 30 minutes.

Delicious (and beautiful!) served with a side of sautéed greens.

Ras El Hanout

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons ground allspice
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons ground coriander
2 nutmegs, freshly grated (or 6 teaspoons ground nutmeg)

Mix all spices in a jar. Seal and store in a cool dark place.

Makes 60g/2 1/4 oz.


Moroccan Spicy Grilled Shrimp

Yesterday, after two days straight of rain and cold, we were finally treated to the crispest North Carolina blue sky I have seen in a long time. The temperatures decided to follow suit and in the warmth of the Sunday afternoon sun, we drank in the first glimpses of spring.

Like the eager daffodils that Josh spotted behind the house, people started popping out everywhere. Cyclists zoomed by on the street, runners broke out their shorts and tee-shirts, and dog walkers came out en masse. We decided to join the crowds and celebrate the burst of unexpected warmth by getting outside and grilling.

Grilling shrimp to be exact.

Grilling shrimp with a Moroccan make-you-travel-to-distant-exotic-places marinade to be more exact.

This marinade contains spices such as cumin (both ground and seeds!), paprika, ginger, turmeric, garlic, and fresh chiles that will transport you to faraway lands where palm trees dance and the sand feels hot between your toes.

As mentioned, this marinade is based in Moroccan flavors, and although it was quite easy to picture palm trees by an oasis in the desert as I inhaled the intoxicating scent, when I actually bit into the perfectly plump shrimp, it was the Caribbean I was whisked away to. I coud practically feel the salty breeze of the sea cooling my tingling lips.

Look at that image. Hard to believe I had to defrost my windshield when I left for work this morning and that they're predicting snow this Thursday. The harsh reality of winter is back, but what a wonderful gift yesterday was. And until the next glimpse of warmth, I will take comfort in dreams of spicy shrimp and ocean breezes...

Moroccan Spicy Grilled Shrimp

1 lb medium sized raw shrimp
1/4 cup olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, pressed
2 green chilies, chopped finely
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon paprika

Peel the shrimp, leaving the tails on. Devein them by slitting a thin line down the back of each one and pulling the vein out. Run them under cold water and place them in a colander. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt, stir well so that the salt coats all of them. Set aside.

To make the marinade, mix the olive oil, garlic, chilies, cumin, cumin seeds, ginger, turmeric, and paprika in a bowl until well blended. Add the shrimp and stir well making sure that all the shrimp are coated. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for four to five hours (or longer) in order for the shrimp to soak in all the flavors.

Skew the shrimp on skewers and grill 2-3 minutes on each side. Serve hot with a side of fresh greens. We decided on lightly steamed asparagus, sprinkled with salt and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Delicious!


Pesto in January

Last weekend I sat on the living room floor with piles of fresh basil in front of me, pinching leaves off of bright green stems in the warm afternoon light and listening to Jimmy Buffet sing about white sand and piña coladas. Lost in the smell of summer and images of the Caribbean, I felt very far from January. A brief but delicious escape from winter.

I’ve never made pesto in January, obviously. Usually, by this time of year, I’m digging in the far corners of my freezer looking for any remnants of the pesto I made and froze in the summer. I mostly come out of the icy depths cold and disappointed. I love pesto; it never lasts as long as I want it to, no matter how much I freeze.

But this past weekend, Josh stumbled upon a super sale at the grocery store where they were selling huge boxes of fresh organic basil for under two dollars. (Two dollars!) We couldn’t resist. We bought three boxes.

And so, for the first time ever, I made pesto in January.

Pesto, slightly adapted from The Moosewood Cookbook (the original edition)

This recipe reminds me of my mom in summer, of sitting at the kitchen table with mountains of freshly-picked basil from the garden, and of spending hours making bright green pesto. I remember watching my fingers slowly turn black as we pinched the leaves off, talking the afternoon away. Sitting there, I couldn't help but imagine the generations of women before us that spent their days working together in the kitchen, sharing stories and laughing as they prepared food that would serve them for the year to come. I remember feeling all warm and tingly inside at the thought of being connected to such generations past, like I was sharing a special timeless secret.

3 cups packed fresh basil (mine were packed and overflowing)
1 cup lightly packed parsley
3 large cloves garlic (I like my pesto garlicky; you may want to start with two cloves and then taste)
1/2 cup pine nuts and walnuts mixed
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tbsp melted butter
salt to taste

Put all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning. I love this recipe because it tastes so fresh, like a burst of herbs on your tongue. If you would like your recipe to taste a little less herby, just add more olive oil/parmesan/butter. There's no right way to do this, so have fun and experiment!

This makes a lot of pesto. The best way to store it is to fill empty ice cube trays with it as soon as it's ready and put it in the freezer before it oxidizes. Once the cubes are frozen, pop them out of the trays and store them in zip lock bags in the freezer. Now you have ready-made individual servings whenever you want!



On December 31st, 2010, I announced that my word for 2011 was Health. It’s the first word that came to mind when I thought of the year ahead. Little did I know how quickly it would make itself heard...

One week ago, I was sitting at my desk after lunch feeling bloated and uncomforatble. I had just had a bowl of rice with tofu and vegetables and my mind told me I should be feeling great, but I wasn’t. I have had a sensitive tummy from the time I was a little girl, so I’m used to the feeling; but it’s been growing worse lately. It got a whole lot better when I cut out gluten nine years ago, but over the last couple years, with all the new gluten-free baked goods, gluten-free flours, and gluten-free cookbooks out there, I have been eating a lot more starch and grains than I did when I first stopped eating gluten. And over the years, my stomach has gotten worse. Lately, it feels like my intestines twist and turn and yell at me every time I eat anything. So a week ago, I decided I had to do something about it. My body was trying hard to tell me something and it was time I listened.

I set to work trying to find possible solutions and after much research, I stumbled upon the book Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet. Something in me said this was it: the path that might lead to some answers.

The diet in this book - referred to as the Specific Carbohydrate Diet - is one that aims to restore intestinal health by eating a natural diet of mostly fruits and vegetables (some nuts, aged cheese, eggs, and all-natural fish and meat are also allowed), and by eliminating complex carbohydrates that are hard for the body to digest. It pretty much boils down to no grains, no starches, no sugar, and no processed foods. This diet, however, is neither a low carbohydrate one (just low on hard-to-digest carbohydrates) nor a low-calorie one. In other words, it's simply a return to the earth, to whole foods and to basics. It's about listening to your body and feeling what's right for you.

My hope is that over time my stomach will return to a healthy state and I can then try to reintroduce certain foods to see which ones work or don't work for me.

So I am off to a journey of recovery and renewed health!

I, in no way, see this as taking away from fun in the kitchen. I have a feeling that with some creativity and a willingness to tread the unfamiliar, it will be a ton of fun. So I look forward to posting new and exciting recipes that will (hopefully!) make tummies all over feel like dancing a happy dance.

Here's to Health and listening to these precious bodies of ours!


Black Eyed Peas and Collard Greens for a Healthy and Prosperous New Year

The New Year is here. Full of promise and expectation!

Here in the South the saying goes that to ensure a year of luck and prosperity, one must eat black-eyed peas and collard greens on New Year’s Day.

Apparently, the greens stand for money and the peas stand for luck and prosperity. I don’t know much about this tradition, but I do know that it’s been around since the time of the Civil War in the U.S., and much longer than that in other cultures. I also know that it is still alive and well today because when I went to buy black-eyed peas at the grocery store, the only shelves that were completely empty were the ones with signs advertising canned black-eyed peas and dried black-eyed peas. Luckily, I was able to snatch some of the few that were left on a nearby shelf not advertising them.

So in good Southern tradition (and in an attempt not to tempt fate), Josh and I decided to make the traditional meal on New Year’s Day. I couldn’t find any steadfast rule about how the peas and greens ought to be cooked, and since I had just made a trip to my favorite Indian store to replenish my spices and on impulse had bought a new jar of curry paste that I was

curious to try, I decided to make a curry sauce and to serve it over quinoa.

It turned out wonderfully. Richness of coconut milk, balanced by the slight bitterness of greens, the sweetness of tomatoes, and the earthiness of black eyed peas. The curry was mild and red with only a slight kick, bringing the flavors together beautifully.

We sat by candlelight and ate our first dinner of the New Year. I had a feeling deep in my belly that 2011 was going to be a good one.

Black Eyed Peas and Collard Greens Curry over Quinoa

1 cup dry quinoa
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, pressed
1 inch fresh ginger, minced
1 can coconut milk
3-4 tablespoons mild curry paste
1 15oz can diced tomatoes
1 big bunch collard greens, chopped
1.5 cups cooked black eyed peas
salt to taste

Cook quinoa according to package instructions. Once cooked, let it sit in covered pan until the sauce is ready.

While the quinoa is cooking, sauté the onion and ginger in the olive oil over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until onion becomes translucent. Add the garlic and sauté one more minute. Add the coconut milk, and curry paste and bring to a light boil, stirring until the paste is completely dissolved. Salt to taste. Add the tomatoes and simmer for five minutes. Add the collard greens and black eyed peas and continue simmering for another 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve piping hot over a bed of quinoa.

Happy New Year!
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