Easy One-pan Meal: Low-carb Green Bean Casserole

My mom is famous for her Italian green bean casserole. Not to be confused with anything involving cream of mushroom soup or fried onions, she layers canned green beans, Italian breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, Lawry’s seasoned salt, and olive oil, in a pan, puts it in the oven, and that’s it. Simple, delicious, full of flavor and childhood nostalgia. 

healthy green bean casserole low carb one-pan mealFresh Green Beans

As a general rule, I try to minimize canned foods and maximize fresh veggies, and since we’ve been super lucky this season with our green bean yield in the garden, I decided to create my own one-pan meal inspired by my mom’s famous recipe. 

If you’re like me, you want dinner to be easy prep and easy clean-up. Since my food-making workshop is a 1950’s kitchen with zero upgrades (no dishwasher, no disposal), I like to dirty as few dishes as possible with one-pot or one-pan meals. 

This recipe works great for a low-carb lifestyle full of flavor and joy without the hassle of exact measurements and tons of dishes.

I like to call my no-measure style of cooking “intuitive cooking” because it involves trusting your instincts and going with what looks and feels right. That being said, I know that intuitive cooking isn’t for everyone, so I will give some estimates so you can get the hang of it. 

healthy green bean casserole low carb one pot meal

Ingredients for this recipe are super simple (serves 4):

  • Fresh green beans (enough to line a large plan without really stacking them on top of each other)
  • About 1 lb of your favorite ground meat (beef, turkey, chicken, pork, loose sausage)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (to avoid a greasy dish, use very sparingly if you choose loose sausage, which tends to have a higher fat content)
  • Your favorite hard cheese (Parmesan, Romano, and asiago all work great), shredded or grated
  • sliced almonds
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • Lawry’s Seasoned Salt (affiliate link)
  • Water and a pinch of salt

Healthy Low-Carb Green Bean Casserole one pot meal

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Rinse and snip the ends of the beans
  3. Place a layer of beans in a baking pan and add 1 inch of water and a pinch of salt
  4. Braise in the oven for 10 minutes
  5. While the beans are in the oven, warm a skillet and add your ground meat, browning completely
  6. Drain off any liquid in your skillet and set cooked meat aside
  7. Once the beans have been in for 10 minutes, remove from the oven and drain remaining water from the pan
  8. Layer the remaining ingredients on top of the braised beans in the following order:
    1. ground meat 
    2. garlic powder (light sprinkle over the entire surface of the dish)
    3. onion powder (light sprinkle over the entire surface of the dish)
    4. shredded almonds
    5. shredded cheese
    6. Lawrys seasoned salt
  9. Bake at 350F for 12 to 15 minutes until the cheese turns a golden brown

 greenbean casserole

Easy Japanese Cucumber Salad – Sunomono Recipe

If you’ve been to a Japanese restaurant, chances are you’ve had the Japanese appetizer sunomono. If you haven’t, then I’ll tell you that it’s a simple cucumber salad lightly dressed with oil, vinegar, soy sauce, and a little sugar and allowed to sit in its own juices for a while for enhanced flavor. I love ordering it with chopped octopus — as long as I know that the restaurant cooks the octopus well and doesn’t give rubbery grossness. Rubbery octopus is a bummer, but perfect octopus is divine!

cucumber salad sunomono

I’ve made this dish a couple of times out of a need to use up the giant cucumbers sprouting endlessly in our front yard. They aren’t Japanese cucumbers (which are smaller, so if you use those you might want to use 2 or 3), but they’ve done just fine every time I’ve made this dish. And when I say giant, I mean giant — I used one and made a massive bowl that Loren and I split and still had leftovers (split as an appetizer … I’m known to cook a lot of food). Also, the variety I have growing out front is “burpless” for those of us out there who find that cucumber “repeats” on us. This variety doesn’t do that, so if you’re into gardening, consider growing them.

cucumber salad sunomono

Anyway, this recipe is simply the easiest thing to whip up you could imagine. I literally measured nothing to make it, so the following instructions might not be for everyone. If you want exact measurements, you might want to find another version of it somewhere on the interwebs. I can promise you that this is very hard to screw up though, so go with me down the path of intuitive cooking this one time and see how it turns out. This could be the first step you take toward trusting your own instincts in the kitchen! You won’t be sorry that you didn’t dirty your measuring spoons.

Also, as you’re slicing in the kitchen, I suggest saying “sunomono” to the tune of the Muppets singing in this video. I can’t help it and do it every single time I make or order it. It might be compulsive but I’m not sure. Either way, it’s fun! Or you might hate me for putting this song in your head.

Easy Japanese Cucumber Salad (Sunomono)

Ingredients (serves 3 or 4):

  • 1 giant burpless cucumber or 3 Japanese cucumbers
  • Unrefined expeller-pressed sesame oil — check out my Ultimate Guide to Cooking Oil to find out why “unrefined” matters (about a 5 second pour)
  • Maple syrup Maple Syrup (about a 3-second pour)
  • Gluten-free Tamari (just a dash, maybe 5 shakes through the plastic filter on sunomono Japanese cucumber saladthe spout of the bottle)
  • Black sesame seeds (black ones are more nutritious than white ones, but white works too — use as many as you want)
  • Rice vinegar (about 10 shakes through the plastic filter on the spout)
  • OPTIONAL: fish sauce (2 or 3 shakes, only a 1-second pour if there’s no plastic filter)
  • OPTIONAL: sesame chili oil (start slow with this so it doesn’t get too spicy and add what you want for your own taste)

Directions:

  1. Slice the cucumbers as thin as possible into a large sunomono Japanese cucumber saladbowl. (I use a stand-up grater that has a mandolin-style blade on one side. It’s super simple and safe to use)
  2. Drizzle in all the liquid ingredients
  3. Toss using tongs and make sure everything mixes thoroughly
  4. Add in sesame seeds and do another light toss
  5. OPTIONAL BUT RECOMMENDED: Let sit in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving

 

japanese cucumuber salad sunomono


FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains an affiliate link, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. I only link to products that I USE and LOVE. All opinions are my own.

Spring Sugar Snap Pea Salad |Cultivated Wellbeing

I’ve had a very busy week running around 4 work sites and propagating health and wellness information to the masses of employees at my day-job. It’s wellness fair season, which means I’m halfway through two weeks of back-to-back events.

Cra-zy.

This time of year might be the most exciting but it’s also the most stressful, which means that eating well and sleeping as much as possible are the objectives to meet for my life outside of work. (I successfully slept 10 hours a night all three nights of this long weekend, by the way. I’d call that a SUCCESS!) I will not be getting sick or wearing myself thin. Not while I’m telling everyone else how to be healthy all day. This week’s recipe is one of sheer joy for me to share with you, and it hits the spot where “eating well” is concerned — especially if your definition of “eating well” involves a delicious requirement just as much as a healthy requirement. Both are equally important. sugar snap pea recipe

I’ve recently started listening to an NPR show called Splendid Table, which alluded to a variation upon what I’m about to share, and (like always), I encourage you to be creatively inspired to make this recipe your own. I’ll give you some suggestions at the end to spark your imagination. I served this dish at a backyard BBQ last weekend, and even guests who weren’t all that into sugar snap peas went back for seconds and thirds. We had zero leftovers, much to my disappointment. (I LOVE leftovers!) It really is mind-blowingly good.

Sugar Snap Pea Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs snap peas
  • 2 lbs red grapes
  • 1 large red shallot sliced
  • 1/4 medium sweet yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 to 6 chopped green onions
  • 6 to 10 sprigs of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/3-1/5 lb pecorino romano, coarsely grated
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds
  • Dressing: 1/3 cup EVO and 1 tbs raw apple cider vinegar mixed well
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Snap off the tough ends of the sugar snaps where necessary. I just use scissors and do a few at a time. It saves time and prevents accidental pea mutilation.
  2. Rinse the peas and grapes and drain very thoroughly. I let them sit in a colander for a few minutes and then toss a few paper towels into it to soak up the extra.
  3. In a large bowl with room to toss, add all ingredients (dressing last) and toss

This dish is absolutely fabulous, because it marries the natural sweetness of the peas and grapes with the salty umami of the pecorino romano. And the fresh herbs give a boost of not only flavor complexity but trace minerals and antioxidants too! Healthy and delicious — it’s heaven in your mouth! Seriously. sugar snap pea recipe

Sugar Snap Pea Recipe Variations

A few variations I can’t wait to try that might help get your juices flowing in your own kitchen:

  • swapping peaches, nectarines, or a berry combo for the grapes (UPDATE! Just did this with white nectarines for another BBQ this weekend and the whole salad was gone before the last guest arrived!)
  • swapping out other potent hard cheeses for the romano like parmesan or asiago
  • trying a Mexican cheese, lime, and a TON of cilantro with the peas only, or maybe even with peas and mandarin oranges
  • adding garlic to the onion mix or swapping it for the shallots
  • trading chopped pecans for the slivered almonds

The possibilities are endless here! I encourage you to choose your own adventure with this sugar snap pea recipe — and then share your results with me below! I’d love to hear about it!

9 Reasons You Need Coconut Oil In Your Life

I am SO excited to share a guest post today written by my long-time friend, Dana Gelsomino, RN. She’s been a force for good in my life for over a decade, and I can’t say enough about her medical knowledge and personal wisdom. I’m thrilled to see a  conventionally trained nurse ready to profess the wonders of coconut oil in her new book, Coconut Oil Made Easy: Answers to the 102 Most Frequently Asked Questions. Check it out on Amazon — TOTALLY FREE through May 17th at midnight.

Take it away, Nurse Dana!

coconut oil made easy

Hi, I’m Dana, and I’m a coconut oil devotee. I discovered coconut oil about 6 months ago, and the radical changes to my health that have come as a result are truly hard to believe. But first, a little background on me …

For years I suffered with severe, chronic depression — to the point that I was hospitalized for it twice. I was also diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which means my hormones had gone rogue, and I was prone to acne flare-ups, irritability, weight gain, and painful periods. You can also add chronic back and neck pain to my list of complaints.

Like most people with chronic pain and health challenges, feeling sub-optimal had become my new normal. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I didn’t try to feel better—believe me, I tried everything. Over the years I have been on Accutane, a handful of different anti-depressants, prescription pain killers and muscle relaxers. I’ve gone to chiropractors, massage therapists, doctors (was even physically carried into urgent care once for debilitating pain), physical therapists, herbalists, nutritionists, live blood cell analysts, Reiki practitioners, acupuncturists … You name it, odds are I tried it.

My First Teaspoon Of Coconut Oil

I first tried coconut oil at the behest of a good friend from Columbia. He said that he mixed some into his coffee every morning, and it really helped increase his energy. In no way was I expecting an effect on any of the health challenges I just mentioned.

The idea of oily coffee both disgusted and intrigued me — I had to try it for myself. After adding that first teaspoon of coconut oil to my coffee, the physical signs and symptoms of every one of my health challenges began to reverse, and now they are completely gone. I have no more chronic pain in my back or neck, no more severe PMS, no more depression and no more low energy. I don’t even take an Advil for cramps, because I don’t have cramps!

If I hadn’t experienced this first hand, I wouldn’t believe it. I began researching coconut oil and learned that my experiences are not unique! Thousands of people swear by the healing properties of coconut oil and have so many amazing stories to tell. Fascinated by Coconut Oil Made Easywhat I was reading, I decided to commit to using coconut oil for thirty days and recording what happened. Over those thirty days I learned more about coconut oil than I ever knew existed on the topic! I cooked with it, I used it on my body and face, I drank it in my coffee, and I replaced a few beauty products with it. I also  began telling anyone who listen about my experience and found myself answering the same questions over and over again.

And thus a book was born!

Here’s a sneak peak of some of the information you’ll find in my new book, Coconut Oil Made Easy: Answers to the 102 Most Frequently Asked Questions. I hope you enjoy exploring this amazing, healing food as much as I have — it just might change your life.

9 Reasons You Need Coconut Oil In Your Life:

  1. Lauric acid’s “Anti’s”
    Coconut oil is packed with over nine “powerhouse components” including perhaps the most important one, lauric (aka monolauric acid). This acid is anti- “bad” bacterial (fights off “bad” bacteria, while leaving beneficial bacteria alone), anticarcinogenic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial/infection fighting, antioxidant, antiparasitic, anti-protozoa, antiretroviral, and antiviral.
  2. Easy way to go chemical free
    Using coconut oil is an easy substitute for lots of chemical-laden products in our health and beauty routine. You can replace tens, if not hundreds or products  with a jar of $12 organic extra virgin coconut oil. There is no complicated labeling to decipher and no added ingredients—it’s just coconut oil. I’ve successfully rid my cabinet of eye make up remover, shaving cream, face and body moisturizers; all have been replaced with one jar of coconut oil.
  3. Few if any side effects
    Prescription and over the counter drugs often come with potential side effects. Some of these side effects are long-lasting, permanent, and can even be fatal! I’ve replaced my dog’s arthritis medication with coconut oil, and you won’t believe the spring in his step! The vast majority of people aren’t allergic to coconut oil, and those who are often find that any reaction they may have disappears with discontinued use.
  4. Saves money
    You can either spend hundreds of dollars on multiple products, or you can use a $12 jar of organic, extra-virgin coconut oil. The small list I named above are great examples from my own bathroom cabinet.
  5. Saves the planet
    By using one jar of coconut oil in place of so many other products, you are consuming less in general, which means less manufacturing, storing, packaging and shipping. Not to mention there is no toxic run off into the water table when you use coconut oil!
  6. Reduced transdermal exposure
    Our skin is our largest organ. Everything we slather on our bodies is absorbed to some degree. Most people find this fact interesting, but don’t take it as seriously as they should when it comes to choosing body care products. Lots of different medications come in a transdermal form — nicotine, birth control and pain patches as well as burn gels and creams, to name a few. Transdermal medications are just as effective as the oral medications or herbs that we swallow. Coconut oil can replace your chemical-laden moisturizers for your face and body. Good rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t eat it, you shouldn’t put it on your skin.
  7. Easy way to simplify your life
    I live in a small house where storage space is a luxury. Using one product instead of tens or hundreds, is an easy way to begin simplifying your life.
  8. The refreshing aroma
    Most people love the smell of coconuts — it’s like summertime in a jar! I love to throw it in a pan for stir fry and fill the house with the smell of the tropics.
  9. Fantastic flavor
    I encourage you to try using coconut oil as your main cooking oil for one week. The flavor is a lot milder than most people expect — I was a skeptic at first myself! Some delicious dishes to cook with coconut oil are fried plantains and sweet potato fries. Just pour a tbsp of coconut oil in a frying pan, chop up the plantains or sweet potatoes, let brown and serve! YUM!

Author bio:

Dana Gelsomino is a Registered Nurse practicing and writing in Haslett, Michigan. Her miraculous experience using coconut oil to address her severe depression, low energy, hormonal issues and chronic back and neck pain has turned her from a skeptic to a coconut oil devotee. Dana recently published her first book on coconut oil, Coconut Oil Made Easy: Answers to the 102 Most Frequently Asked Questions. She has several other coconut oil related books in her writing pipeline, and is always open to any coconut oil related conversation and success stories! She is most easily reached through her Facebook group Real Coconut Oil or by email at dana@realcoconutoil.com.

 

 

Heart-Healthy Nutty Turmeric Chicken Salad

1chixsaladbreadname

I love chicken salad for so many reasons. One, it’s a great way to use chicken breast, which I otherwise find to be the most boring part of a chicken. Two, it’s a super flexible and very hard to mess up — you can take a chicken salad recipe in nearly any culinary direction your heart fancies. Three, it keeps well in the fridge for advanced meal prep that doesn’t have to be reheated. Four, it can be served on any number of different vehicles including bread, salad, bell peppers, or avocado. Four, it leaves room for creativity in the kitchen and isn’t dependent upon measurements of basically any kind. You just keep adding until you like the way it looks, tastes, and feels. That’s my kind of recipe!

I’ve written a few posts about the benefits of bone broth and how to make it, one of which touts the amazing acne-curing effect I experienced after drinking it every day for 2 weeks. I mostly use chicken (or poultry) bones in my broth, and the secret to success for my newly zit-free face is to always have bone broth on hand, which means making it in bulk and freezing it. Bulk bone broth (say that three times fast!) requires collecting the bones of the chickens my husband and I eat, buying organic turkey necks and chicken backs at the butcher (super cheap!), and almost always throwing a whole raw chicken into the pot.

The trick is to get two uses from the whole chicken, and that’s where this chicken salad comes in!

While I try to keep the broth cooking on the stove top for at least 12 hours, I aim to remove the meat from the whole chicken after 6 to 8 hours (before it gets boiled to death) so that I can use it for chicken salad or some other delicious purpose. I’ve also been known to purchase a roasted chicken from the grocery store, serve the legs and wings for dinner, and make a batch of chicken salad with the roasted breasts. One thing to note when saving the carcass of a roasted chicken: lots of the gelatin ends up on the bottom of the little plastic tray. You want all that, so scrape that into your freezer bag with your bones.

1chixsaladbones

YUM!

Now onto this awesome chicken salad recipe!

Heart Healthy Nutty Turmeric Chicken Salad

You might be asking what makes this particular chicken salad recipe ‘heart healthy.’ Well I’ll tell you! First, I cut the store-bought mayo which typically contains factory eggs and industrial oils (both of which are inflammatory foods and not great for heart health) and replaced it with high-protein Greek yogurt or a homemade mayo. Then I add in celery, parsley, turmeric, and cherries, all of which are anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich foods that are great for maintaining healthy cardiovascular function. (This can also be said of garlic and onions — I use dried powders here so that effect is minimal, but you can use fresh if you have the time to chop them up!) Next there’s the array of nuts and seeds, which also reduces inflammation in addition to containing healthy fats, fiber, and a nice satisfying crunch. Pair this awesome recipe with a big salad, a bell pepper, or a healthy whole grain or paleo bread and you’ve got yourself one heart-healthy powerhouse!

1chixsaladavo2

Ingredients:

  1. 4 cooked chicken breasts
  2. 3 tbs Dijon mustard
  3. 2-3 tbs Greek yogurt (or homemade mayo)
  4. 2 tbs dried cherries or currants
  5. 2 or 3 stalks celery, chopped
  6. 7-10 sprigs fresh parsley
  7. 2 tbs almond slivers
  8. 2 tbs pecan pieces
  9. 2 tbs sunflower seeds
  10. 1 tsp kelp powder/granules/flakes
  11. 1 tsp seasoned salt or REAL salt
  12. 1/2-1 tsp turmeric
  13. 1/2 tsp black pepper
  14. 1/4 tsp onion powder
  15. 1/4 tsp garlic powder

Directions:

  1. Using two forks, start shredding the chicken breasts lightly
  2. Add in the wet ingredients (mustard and yogurt) and all seasonings (9-14) and begin to incorporate as you continue to shred
  3. Add all other ingredients and incorporate

1chixsaladsteps

As I said before, the beauty of this recipe is in its flexibility. I provided measurements for you as a guide, but this is the type of thing you can eyeball and adjust according to your own preferences. Do you like a drier chicken salad (I do, as this recipe reflects), or do you prefer it to be a little more creamy? If you like it creamy, add more mustard and yogurt. You can also take it in a new direction entirely by changing the mustard from something spicy to something sweet, by, replacing the turmeric with curry, by swapping the garlic and onion powders for other dried spices like tarragon and fennel seed. The possibilities are endless! Don’t be shy, make this recipe your own!

And then come back here and tell me about how it went!1chixsaladname

Gluten-Free Pancakes – Lemon Poppy Seed

Toot toot toot! Do you hear that? it’s me tooting my own horn for the unapologetically sweet, rich healthy gluten-free pancakes I invented. I have kept my promise to continue experimenting with grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, high-protein pancakes, and today I present to you a gluten-free lemon poppy seed pancake recipe that will knock your socks off.

 

I’m not one to gloat (well, I might be), but I impressed myself with these little goodies.

gluten-free pancakes

The back story: Loren and I went to brunch a few weekends ago at a new little spot in Oakland, and on the menu were lemon pancakes. We saw them on the table next to us, and I was mesmerized. Of course they weren’t gluten-free, but I had to try a bite of Loren’s short stack anyway. I just couldn’t pass it up, plus I had an ulterior motive: I was determined to make my own version at home that I could enjoy in all its glory, and I needed a point of reference. They were indeed superb pancakes. Not too dense, not too mushy, not to thick, not too chewy — just right (said Goldilocks).

gluten-free pancakes

To be perfectly honest, lemon isn’t usually my flavor of choice for sweet foods. In something like a custard or cake, I much prefer rich flavors like caramel, chocolate, or coffee and tend to shy away from fruity, and especially citrus-y, flavors. But these pancakes (and yes, I consider pancakes a sweet food, even if I’m eating them for breakfast) stuck out to me. They reminded me of the one lemon-flavored treat that I absolutely love: the lemon poppy seed muffin.

gluten-free pancakes

After this brunch, I was determined to create the perfect grain-free lemon poppy seed pancake. Following some of the guidelines I’d found to be successful in my first grain-free pancake experiment, I went to it, first with just the lemon, then with the poppy seeds and almond extract. Both were delicious, so it’s up to you which way you go.

The beauty in these flap jacks is that they’re full of fiber, protein, healthy fat, and phytonutrients from the lemon zest. And in the entire recipe there’s only 1 tbs maple syrup, so they are low in sugar too! Of course, how much syrup you add to your stack of jacks could dramatically increase the sugar load, so be careful if you’re concerned about such things — which we all should be.

These can be dairy-free or you can use butter or ghee in the pan as I did, totally up to you.gluten-free pancakes

 

Gluten-Free Lemon Poppy Seed Pancakes

Makes 8 pancakes – enough for 2 or 3 people

Dry Ingredients

*I like this gelatin because:

  1. it’s from grass-fed cows
  2. it’s easy to digest
  3. it’s great for muscle growth, bone health, and immune function
  4. it won’t gel and make your pancakes weird

Wet Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup coconut milk (CWB Favorite Pick)
  • 4 pastured whole eggs
  • 1 tbs maple syrup
  • 1 tsp almond extract (CWB Favorite Pick)
  • 1.5 tsp extra virgin coconut oil, melted (plus extra for the pan, or butter/ghee)
  • Zest from 1 lemon (about 2 tsp)
  • OPTIONAL: have an extra lemon ready for zest topping at the end
  • Juice from 1 lemon (about 2 tbs)

Directions

  1. Mix the dry ingredients in a small bowl and set aside
  2. In a microwave safe bowl, warm 1.5 tsp of coconut oil in microwave until melted (about 20 seconds)
  3. In a large mixing bowl, add all wet ingredients, and then slowly whisk in coconut oil
  4. Once all wet ingredients are mixed, whisk dry into wet
  5. Heat a skillet on medium heat and add coconut oil or ghee to the pan
  6. Use a spoon to scoop the mix into the pan (about two spoonfuls per cake) and let cook for a few minutes on each side
  7. OPTIONAL: Sprinkle a little extra zest on the top of the stack before adding pure maple syrup

gluten-free pancakes


FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. All opinions are my own.

 

Wild Goat Bistro in Petaluma

Adding to my list of favorite things this week is a sweet little restaurant in downtown Petaluma, CA called Wild Goat Bistro. You can get a healthy dinner (that accommodates special diets!) here for a reasonable price. It will feel home-cooked with a fine-dining flare.

wildgoat

Nestled right near the water, this tiny restaurant feels like a cross between a European bakery/bistro and your grandmother’s kitchen. We felt right at home walking in and being seated immediately at a cozy table against an exposed stone wall.

My parents were visiting for the weekend, and on our way home from a trip to the wine country, we stopped in for an early dinner. I was drawn to their “menu of honest food that uses local fresh ingredients in a variety of culinary traditions,” (quoted from the website) along with quite a few gluten-free offerings (including dessert!).

Feeling indecisive and wanting to try as much as possible, my mom and I decided to share a few small plates.

nuttygoat2

We started with the Nutty Goat – a delicious pistachio and fruit-encrusted ball of goat cheese, accompanied by gluten-free crostini and a black currant compote. My dad was so excited when he saw it that he dug in before I could get a clean shot off.

Cast Iron Seafood

Next we had the Beans and Greens, the Cast Iron Seafood, and the Polenta Pot Pie. I loved all three, but the polenta was especially satisfying (I didn’t get a good picture of it, but rest-assured, it was delicious).

When I saw that the polenta included mozzarella cheese, I was imagining a baked polenta-crusted pizza totally covered in cheese (and the stomach ache that would have accompanied it), but my mom really wanted to try it, so we went for it anyway. I’m so glad we did! The amount of cheese was exactly right, not over the top at all; the perfect balance of polenta and vegetables, and very modest with the tomato sauce as well. I appreciated this dish a lot, because I love polenta so much and am often disappointed when the flavor is drowned out by too much sauciness.

My mom raved over the Beans and Greens and couldn’t wait to get to the grocery store after dinner for ingredients to try to replicate it at home (I suppose the cooking gene runs in my Sicilian family…). The dish featured mustard greens and large white and red heirloom beans simmered in a white wine broth.

The men at the table went for the meatball sub, and both gave it two thumbs up.

I really hope I can get back to Petaluma before they change their menu, as we didn’t get to try the Slow Pork dish or any of their scrumptious-sounding desserts, which I’m super curious about.

The service was great, we were there early enough that we didn’t have to wait for a table, and the food experience was phenomenal. I would recommend putting Wild Goat Bistro on your list of restaurants to try if you find yourself in the area. Local, home-grown, California cuisine with a touch of Italy and a nod to the gluten-free folks among us. What more could you ask for?

Coconut-crusted Delicata Squash

coconutdelicata1I love winter squash. It can go sweet or savory, light or heavy, creamy or chunky. I love that I can buy winter squash on a whim with no plan, and it can sit on the counter for weeks until I’m ready to use it, remaining just as fresh as it was the day I bought it. With all its versatility, I could find a use for winter squash at every meal — if only I had the time to prepare it.

I fell in love way back in college when I found myself eating at the first home-grown restaurant I’d ever been to. Eastside Cafe (in Austin, TX) grew its own produce right outside the back doors of the building (and I hear now they have chickens!). I’ll never forget this dish — baked acorn squash with a sesame ginger glaze — it was like dessert as a side dish. At the time, I had never even heard of acorn squash, much less did I have any confidence whatsoever that I’d be able to replicate something resembling this dish at home.

Fast forward 10 years and here I am, still in love with winter squash and trying new healthy recipes with the different varieties all the time. (Check out this super thorough round up of all the winter squashes and the easiest and best ways to prepare them.) 

I have to be honest though. Sometimes preparing winter squash can feel like a lot of effort — pumpkins can be hard to cut through, butternut squash takes forever to cut and peel (and it rolls all over the cutting board), and you always have to clean out the seeds, which can be a mess. But this year, I discovered a new variety of winter squash: the beautifully easy-to-work-with delicata squash provides all the wonderful pleasures of a winter squash with virtually zero hassle. No need to peel, easy to slice open long-ways and chop into pieces, and easy to clean by simply scraping a spoon down the center — I love this squash! You can do a lot with it, although before this exciting creation, I’d only tried a simple roast in the oven.

coconutdelicata5

In 5 easy steps, I give you a healthy recipe for a side dish that will impress your palate and that of the guests you host: slice, scrape, chop, season, toss, roast, DONE!
coconutdelicata3 Ingredients:

  • 1 medium-sized delicata squash
  • 2 tbs EVO (extra virgin olive oil)
  • 3 tbs finely grated dried unsweetened coconut
  • 2 tsp dried tarragon
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp pinch red pepper flake
  • 1/2 tsp ground pink Himalayan salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
  2. Cut the squash in half long-ways and scoop out the seeds
  3. Slice 1/2-inch thick pieces all the way down (it make sense to cut the smaller ends thicker and the larger ends thinner for even cooking, so that they’re all about the same mass and bake evenly)
  4. In a large zip-lock freezer bag, toss squash and all other ingredients until well-coated (make sure there are no holes in the bag … you’ll be sad if there are)
  5. Lay squash flat on baking surface (I used a ceramic baking dish, but I’m not sure if it makes a difference)
  6. Bake on 400 for 30 minutes. No need to turn them over
  7. Enjoy — and eat the peel, it’s good for you! (more fiber, more phytonutrients)coconutdelicata2

Pig and Pie

This is my first restaurant review!

When I launched this site, I knew I wanted business reviews to be part of it, but I’ve been waiting until something really amazing came along before adding in another category to this very broad site on how to create a sweet, rich life. Granted, Yelp already exists, but this new section is going to be different — more like a running log of restaurants, spas, tea houses, coffee shops, specialty stores, etc., that are aligned with my personal health and wellness philosophy. I won’t be doing any negative reviews here, just giving a shout out to cool places I find on my journey. And while I won’t be providing an interactive rating system (mostly because I don’t know how), comments on the reviews are definitely welcome if you’ve been to these places! And maybe one day I’ll figure out an interactive rating system too…

On Thursday last week, I had a meeting in the Mission District of San Francisco, so I decided to bring my laptop with me and spend the afternoon working in a nice, quiet coffee shop. My meeting was at SF General Hospital, and the walk from 24th St. BART was so full of choices that I was struggling to make a decision.

I stopped to look at a few menus and, realizing that I was hungry for lunch, revised my search from coffee shop to lunch spot, hoping I could find a place to eat with wi-fi. Almost immediately after making that switch this door appeared in front of me.

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Pig and Pie — I love both of those things! The enticing name and cute chalk board menu above the register drew me in — I had to at least see what this place was about, and I’m so very glad I did. (And yes, they do have wi-fi.)

As I approached the counter, I noticed a sign next to the register that indicated that the animals served here were pasture-raised on family farms in Texas, eating the foods they were meant to eat and getting plenty of sunlight.

Score! I made the easy decision to stay for lunch (and the rest of the work day actually).

Next, to decide what to eat…this was a tough call. Check out this amazing menu! I can’t wait to get back here to try the brunch.

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I settled on the Allspice Pork Shoulder with brown sugar maple bacon baked beans and frilly mustard greens. I was expecting cooked, southern-style greens, but what came out with the other two gems was a delicate salad of lacy baby mustards with a very light dressing. All three elements of the dish were delicious. The pork was perfectly tender but still plump, and the beans were sweet but not too sweet. Perfect!

PigandPieBraisedPorkShoulder

And the woman who took my order was very sweet too. I was there literally all afternoon and no one bothered me or asked me if I wanted to spend more money for staying there all that time. It was peaceful and awesome.

The two parts of the menu I missed out on for this first trip to Pig and Pie were the beer and the dessert. Mid-day beer and pie just didn’t seem right with all the work I had to do, so I promised myself another visit sometime soon. Check out this drink menu.

PigandPiebeer

I’m especially curious about the Squid Ink India Black Ale and the Nautilus Hibiscus Saison.

All the pies are home-made with the option of ice cream for an additional $2. If memory serves, the day I went, they had apple pie, a grape crisp, and pecan pie. As a Texan, I like to think I know a little something about pecan pie, so I plan on going back for that too. I assume that the pies aren’t gluten-free, although I didn’t ask, but I’m perfectly willing to scrape the filling out of a pecan pie — in fact I think I did it twice in Texas on my last visit.

As an East Bay dweller, I hesitate to go to SF by myself unless I can BART, as the traffic and parking challenges tend to be more than I’m willing to deal with. This restaurant is a 5 to 10 minute walk from 24th St. BART, right on 24th St, and worth every minute of the commute. I was there at lunch, and it wasn’t busy, but with food this good, I imagine the dinner crowd is much larger. Definitely check this place out!

Grain-Free Crab Cakes with Spicy Olive Dipping Sauce

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It’s Dungeness crab season! Since moving to California, nearly every Thanksgiving has included Dungeness crab alongside the turkey and casseroles. We’ve also hosted at least one crab feast nearly every year as well — sometimes 2 or 3. The season lasts through the winter, and this year, we tripled the celebration — 2 birthdays and a crab feast, all on the same day. Yum!

Growing up in Texas and then moving to Maryland, I’m very well-versed in blue crab. I can pick them and dunk them into butter (or ghee) all day long, never tiring, never getting full. It’s heaven. 🙂 But since moving to California, I’ve discovered the blue crab’s boss — DUNGENESS CRAB! Nearly every bit as delicious, with 5 times the meat in chambers 5 times the size, these monsters are far more bang for your buck. You can eat every single leg (not so on the blue crab unless they’re exceptionally big), and even the joints have little morsels of goodness. Perfect for a party if someone is new to crab picking, and perfect for the hungry!

Due to an awesome deal we got through our friends at Cassis Catering, we went a little overboard on our crab order, and ended up with 2 extra enormous crabs. This is where these beautiful crab cakes come in!grainfreecrabcake1

Crab Cake Ingredients:

  • cooked meat from 2 whole Dungeness crabs (We boiled ours with onion, garlic, Old Bay, bay leaves, lots of salt (more than you might think), cracked red pepper, and lemon juice. We also had corn, carrots, and potatoes boiling in with them for the party)
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 2 to 3 green onions, chopped into thin slices
  • 1 to 1.5 tbs dijon mustard
  • 1 tbs coconut flour
  • 1 tbs ground flaxseed
  • 1 tsp Old Bay
  • 1/4 tsp celery seed
  • 1/2 tsp lemon pepper
  • (optional) red pepper flake to taste
  • sea salt to taste

Directions: Add all ingredients in medium mixing bowl and incorporate with fork, taking care not to completely shred the crab (I prefer large chunks of crab meat instead of shredding it into mush. In my mind, you aren’t searching for the crab amid tons of breading in a good crab cake. The crab is front and center.)

grainfreecrabcake

Spicy Olive Dipping Sauce:

  • 4 tbs mayo (I was too lazy to make my own, but would recommend it if you’re going strict paleo)
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp wasabi powder or paste
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp EVOO
  • 2 tbs chopped green olives
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • pinch of garlic powder

Directions: Whisk all ingredients except olives until well incorporated and smooth, then stir in olives.

Enjoy!

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Bulletproof Peppermint Mocha

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So I’m new to this “bulletproof” thing, and I’d hate to use the term incorrectly since I’m not using the beans sold on the Bulletproof Executive’s website, but I really like the concept, so I made my own version of it based on a few different ideas. That was one long sentence!

The main concept comes from the recipe on the Bulletproof site and an instructional video on the Fat Burning Man‘s site, which Abel calls “Fatty coffee.” (I guess “fatty coffee” is to “Bulletproof” as “cotton swab” is to “Q-tip.”)

I’m using really good, organic, fair-trade, small-batch coffee (and mine’s decaf using water extraction), but I haven’t tried the official Upgraded label yet. (I figure if I link to it, they won’t get too mad that I’m using the name for this blog post, and if they do get mad, I’ll rename it. No biggie. 🙂 )

To be honest, there’s so much commentary online that claims that it’s not worth the price, so I have been putting it off. But it’s really not that much more expensive than the coffee I buy, so maybe I’m just too impatient to order it when there’s great coffee walking distance from my house.

I’m still interested though and will probably get some sometime soon just to try it out — if they make decaf. My body just doesn’t do well on fully caffeinated coffee anymore. I start clenching my jaw, getting headaches, and my skin doesn’t like it much either.

So for those of you who don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, let me tell you about this awesome concept.

The whole idea behind bulletproof coffee (or fatty coffee) is to start your day with a healthy dose of saturated fats like those in coconut oil and butter (I use ghee to avoid the lactose and casein in butter). These awesome saturated fats are high in a type of fat called medium-chain fatty acids, or MCTs. MCTs have been shown to improve memory in as little as one dose for

peppermintmocha4those suffering from cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. It’s also great for optimizing brain function in general, as it provides the brain with nutrients it needs to work at the peak level. My recipe uses coconut oil and ghee, but you can purchase pure MCT oil here — I haven’t tried this yet, but I’m told it’s tasteless, so can be added to salad dressings, smoothies, etc. (Yet another example of something I just haven’t made time to purchase online yet. That sentence started and ended with “yet.”)

The recipe for today is a holiday rendition of fatty coffee. I love it because it’s festive for the season, and also because I love love love chocolate peppermint flavored things (as evidenced by the recipe I posted yesterday on my other blog for a Peppermint Bark Smoothie). It makes my morning cup of coffee feel special and fancy, which takes the monotony of the morning routine and spins it into something fun. There’s a life lesson for you.

Bulletproof Peppermint Mocha

(makes 1 large cup of coffee)

You’ll need a bowl that’s big enough for you to whisk or blend your ingredients, or you can just put them in the blender. I use one of these nifty little things.

Ingredients:
  • enough coffee to fill 2/3 of your coffee mug
  • 1 tsp – 1 tbs coconut oil (start small and then start working your way up. If you start with 1 tbs right off the bat, you might have lots of visits to the bathroom)
  • 1 tsp – 1 tbs ghee (I use ghee instead of butter because the lactose and casein in butter bother me, but feel free to try butter if it doesn’t bother you. Just try to get either the butter or the ghee from pastured cows, organic at the very least.)
  • 1/4 cup – 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk (I like this one because it’s BPA-free and 100% pure with no extra thickeners or additives.)
  • 1/4 tsp peppermint extract (like this)
  • 1 to 1.5 tbs raw cacao (like this)
Optional Ingredients:
  • pinch of stevia or 1/4 tsp pure maple syrup
  • 1 to 2 tbs gelatin (like this)

Put all ingredients into a bowl and whisk or into the blender and blend until frothy. You want to make sure the oil has emulsified into the drink so that you don’t end up with a funky oil slick on the top of the beverage.

Enjoy your delicious Peppermint Mocha on its own for breakfast or with something small like an egg. You’ll feel clear-headed and full of energy as you start your day.

peppermintmocha2

 

Black Sesame Cabbage Cups

Poor Loren (my husband) spent his entire 33rd birthday traveling. We started the morning with a drive to the airport, had a layover in LA, arrived at the airport shuttle, which took us to a train, which dropped us at a bus stop so that we could walk 4 blocks home from there.

truetthurst

Then he got in his car to drive 30 minutes away to take a test for his new certification at work. He didn’t get home until late. What a day! Feeling terrible for him, I decided to make something special for dinner the following evening. And in declaring this week his birthday week, I opened up a nice bottle of wine from our new wine club at Truett Hurst. This 2011 Zinfandel was delicious and the perfect complement to the lamb in our meal.

For dinner, unless we’ve had a particularly grueling day at the gym, I try to keep our meals limited to meat, veggies, and fat, leaving out complex carbs, since it’s so close to bed time and we won’t have time to use them up. When I make dinner this way, the only way Loren will stay full is if I load up on the fats. For this meal, I didn’t drain off the lamb fat before throwing in the veggies, but that’s up to you. I also used high quality palm oil (sustainably harvested), a healthy saturated fat, to sauté the onions before adding in the meat. (This is the palm oil I like.)

As for the black sesame seeds, these little nutrition powerhouses boast a healthy dose of calcium and magnesium, as well as a lot of other valuable trace minerals (check out more at Livestrong.com). I added these in mostly for flavor, but also for the relaxing quality that magnesium can have on our muscles and our minds. The wine helped with that too. 🙂

We’re really lucky to live where we do with access to wonderful farmers’ markets that feature local ranchers selling the meat of happy animals. I say “happy animals” as a tribute to my favorite high school teacher in Houston, TX. She was a lacto ovo vegetarian (not an easy thing to be in Texas back then) who insisted that she only ate eggs from happy chickens, which, at 18, we all thought was equally hilarious and ridiculous.

14 years later, I know what that means — do the animals roam freely? Are they given a diet they were meant to eat? Are they healthy and vibrant? Are they free of hormones and antibiotics? Do they spend time in the sun every day?

This meal is made with ground meat from a happy lamb, and that makes me happy too. It’s full of plenty of healthy fats, as pastured animals have the proper ratio of omega 6 to omega 3s in their body fat (feedlot animals have far too much inflammatory omega 6).

Black Sesame Cabbage Cups

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Ingredients (serves 4)
  • 2 lbs ground lamb
  • 2 tbs red palm oil or ghee for sautéing
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 big bunch of broccolini, chopped
  • 3 small bunches tatsoi or a few fistsful baby spinach
  • 12 large raw leaves green cabbage (for the cups)
  • 1/4 cup black sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp – 1 tbs lemon pepper to taste
  • red pepper flake to taste
  • REAL or sea salt to taste
  • OPTIONAL 1/2 tsp sesame oil (for drizzling)
  • OPTIONAL hard cheese for grating over the top
Directions
  1. Warm your skillet over medium heat
  2. Once hot, add 2 tbs palm oil or ghee
  3. Add in diced onions and let them sweat for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly (you don’t want them to get brown, just translucent. Turn down the fire if you need to to avoid burning them)
  4. Once the onions are translucent, add in ground lamb and the minced garlic
  5. brown the meat completely, allowing the water to evaporate before adding veggies
  6. Add broccolini only, and cook until it softens slightly
  7. Add in salt, spices, and black sesame seeds
  8. Once the broccolini is just about as tender as you like it, add in the tatsoi just to wilt it. You want all the veggies to retain their vibrant green color.
  9. To serve, place 3 large cabbage cups on your plate and fill to the brim with the mixture from the pan. Drizzle a bit of sesame oil and top with your favorite dry cheese (we used Pecorino Romano)

cabbagecups2

Apples, Apples Everywhere!

apples

After a recent trip to Apple Hill, I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with the mountain of apples I came home with. I bought Muzu, Pink Ladies, and Gala, totaling out at about 7lbs. That’s a lot of apples for a two-person household!

In addition to eating a bunch of them slathered with my homemade almond butter, I also baked this awesome bread!

Fall Apple Bread (inspired by this gem from Eating4Balance)

INGREDIENTS:
  • 3 small apples, chopped (I used 2 muzus and 1 pink lady and kept the peel on for extra fiber)
  • 4 large organic eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup organic ghee (butter or coconut oil would probably work fine too)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 cups nut flour (I used 1 cup almond flour and 1 cup hazelnut flour)
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour (Bob’s Red Mill is probably the easiest to find, but you can also run unsweetened shredded coconut through your food processor if you’re having trouble getting Bob’s)
  • 2 tsp ceylon cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp clove
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 9×5 loaf pan with parchment paper.
  2. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. After separating the eggs, place the egg whites in a food processor and blend until stiff.
  4. Add the egg yolks, ghee, honey, banana, and vanilla. Blend until smooth
  5. Toss about two-thirds of the chopped apples into the dry mixture. Then pour in the wet mixture and combine well.
  6. Pour the bread batter into the loaf pan. Top with remaining apple chunks.
  7. Bake for 90 minutes or until it springs back when touched. (If the top starts to get too dark, cover with aluminum foil to slow down browning).
applebread

great for breakfast or a midday snack, packed with nutrition and full of flavor. this loaf lasted less than a week — maybe I’ll make double next time!

Kitchen Alchemy: Cran-Strawberry Sorbet

I have to admit, I don’t like cranberry sauce. Every year at Thanksgiving, I try it, and every year I don’t like it. Whether it comes right out of the can or someone offers me a “family recipe” that’s been perfected over the years, it’s just not my favorite thing. But for some reason, when I was wandering through the produce section at Berkeley Bowl, I felt compelled to buy a box of fresh organic cranberries.

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When I brought them home, my husband asked what I’d planned on doing with them. I said maybe I’d make a holiday smoothie, and he laughed, suggesting that I try a raw cranberry before making that commitment. SOUR!!!

I decided that if anyone could make a cranberry sauce that I’d like, it would be me. Even though I’ve never made one before. Even though I had no idea what I was doing.

Because I was doing 4 things at once, and because my heart wasn’t really in it, I threw the cranberries into a pot, filled it with water, turned on the stove, and proceeded with my other kitchen tasks (baking muffins, mixing homemade humus, and making chicken salad out of leftover chicken breasts). As a result of this unplanned process, the recipe will read more like a story. Hopefully it will inspire creativity when something doesn’t go quite right in your kitchen. This post is about a poorly thought out experiment, so the measurements will be very approximate. But my mess of an attempt at cranberry sauce transformed into something delicious! Creamy sorbet!

After about 30 minutes on the stove in a covered pot, my cranberry sauce was a red soup. I uncovered it and let it cook a bit longer and then I gave up and poured it into a glass bowl. I squeezed the juice of 1/2 a lemon in and tasted. SOUR!!! And really really soupy.

Crans1

I thought maybe I could add some gelatin and leave it in the fridge over night to see if I could turn it into a “healthy jello” type concoction. The gelatin I use comes from grass-fed cows on pasture and is designed to dissolve in cold water. I’ve only ever used it in smoothies, and only very recently, so I had no idea how much to add and no idea what it would do.  I would guess that I used about 3 or 4 tablespoons.

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I also added in roughly 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/2 a box of my favorite coconut milk (Arroy D).crans2

After dinner the following night, I pulled my bowl out of the fridge, and it was still soup, although it tasted pretty good. After a few soupy spoons a lightbulb went off. Freeze it! I poured what was left in a silicone ice tray and stuck it in the freezer for a while.
crans4

My impatience got the best of me, so I pulled out the ice tray and threw some frozen strawberries (maybe like 10) and about half of the not-quite frozen cubes into the food processor, and voilà!

Cran-Strawberry Sorbet was born!

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I still have the other half of the cranberry coconut gelatin in the freezer. I think when I do this again, it will be a more solid sorbet because the cubes will be completely frozen, but this was definitely delicious, creamy, and refreshing. I’d say that my fresh cranberry purchase turned out to be a success after all!

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