Monthly Archives: January 2012

Beet and Fennel Cakes



This might look like a rare burger, but fret not.   It is an delicious vegetable “burger” with added nuts and seeds.  It is full of protein and healthy fats and is oh so flavorful.  You can make little patties and add them on top of a salad for a delicious lunch or dinner or you can make a bigger patty and serve it with a bun.       I saw this recipe and, since I love beets, it struck me right away.  The original recipe calls for about 2 cups of shredded carrots but  I only had one carrot in my fridge.   I had  just bought fennel the day before, however,  and it was staring me down in my vegetable drawer.  Why not?  And it works really nicely.  A little less sweet and a nice depth of flavor.   The cayenne pepper also adds a surprise heat.   It’s not overpowering though, and you could certainly skip it if spicy isn’t pleasing to your  palette.

I  used quinoa instead of Brown Rice, mainly because I wanted to have it for dinner that night and I didn’t have time to make brown rice.  Quinoa only takes about 15 minutes and is a complete protein because it contains all 8 essential amino acids.   If I am going to make rice, I soak it that morning because it makes it easier to digest and it releases the phytic acid.   Phytic Acid binds to minerals preventing their absorption.   Soaking grains prevents this.  Quinoa doesn’t need to be soaked but it does need to be rinsed well because the grains are covered in saponins, naturally occuring plant chemicals which can be bitter.   I also like to toast quinoa in a pan for about 5 minutes before cooking because it gives it a nice toasty flavor.

There is a good amount of prep work to this recipe…a lot of grating and toasting, but good food takes time.     I made this two ways- baked and pan fried and they were both delicious.  If you are short on time, pan fry them in about 1 tsp of coconut oil for about 3 minutes on each side.

This recipe makes a lot so I suggest you half it if you aren’t making it for a party.  You can make this a day ahead too, and the leftovers are great.

Adapted  from Alison Clarke at Sustainable Table


(makes about 14 large patties and 32 small patties)


2 cups grated Beets
1 cup chopped Fennel
1/2 cup grated Carrots

1 1/2 cups cooked Quinoa (or 1 Cup  Brown Rice)

1/2 cup grated Onion (about 1 medium)
1 cup grated rBGH-free Cheddar cheese
1 cup Sunflower Seeds, toasted
1/2 Cup Raw Pumpkin Seeds, toasted

½ cup Sesame Seeds, toasted

2 large free-range Eggs, beaten
½ cup Sesame Seeds, toasted
1/2 cup grated Onion (about 1 medium)
¼ cup Coconut Oil (melted) or Olive Oil plus extra if pan frying.
3 tablespoons Flour ( I use a GF Flour)
3 tablespoons chopped Parsley
4 Garlic Cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Soy Sauce ( Shoyu or Tamari)
Cayenne, to taste


Combine all the ingredients into a bowl and mix.    Put half the batter in the Cuisinart and pulse until  all ingredients are mixed but with some chunks remaining.   Repeat with the rest of the batter.

Form mixture into 1 1/2 inch patties and bake 20-25 minutes or until firm and vegetables are cooked through.   OR form into patties and pan fry in coconut oil for 5-8 minutes.

Green Lentil Soup with Curry and Cauliflower


This week has been a little strange for me as I have recently given up Gluten. Six months after my first child was born I found out I was  hypothyroid.  It was such a relief  to have an answer to why I had been feeling so awful for the last half of a year. I thought I was going crazy, couldn’t focus, was tired to my bones, not to mention I was a total B*#&@ from time to time, and I couldn’t lose my pregnancy weight no matter how much I exercised while Max was napping.   That last one was very depressing for me.   And a clump of my hair was turning white. Yup, white. (I was 32). I chalked everything up to “new mom” and was probably too tired to talk to the doctor about it.  After getting test results back from a community health fair blood test, I learned that my TSH was off the charts. The first thing I did was google TSH.     I learned that it meant Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, and then I googled everything about Thyroid.   And the I smiled. YAY!!   There is a reason I am going INSANE!! Normal TSH is between about 1-4 and mine was 56.

I called my doctor right away and she didn’t think the test could be right and had me take another blood test.   My TSH came back at a 92. She wasn’t sure how I was functioning.  Me neither! I was told I was hypothyroid ( which is a condition) and then later told, after asking my doctor more questions, that it was Hashimoto’s Thyroidosis, which is a disease.  I was given a little pill to take every day and I couldn’t have been more happy to take it. But, after some time when I returned to my  normal self, the idea of having to take a little pill everyday for the rest of my life didn’t sit well with me. I mean, what if I was traveling for months and couldn’t get my prescription filled, or what if I was snowed in for a month and couldn’t get to the pharmacy?!?…what would happen to my thyroid?   I also learned that the longer I take synthroid or armour thyroid, the more lazy my thyroid becomes. Wasn’t there anything else I could do about it?

It turns out there is. Gluten is the enemy. My immune system attacks my thyroid every time I eat Gluten. For any of you who don’t know, Gluten is the protein found in wheat (including kamut and spelt), barley, rye, and malts and it is what makes dough elastic. I don’t know if I have a gluten intolerance or Celiac disease ( I have an appointment with a naturopath next week to get tested), but I do have this auto-immune disease called Hashimotos Thyroiditis, which is fairly common.

Chris Kresser ( explains the Gluten and Auto-Immune Thyroid Disease (AITD) connection well. He writes, “What explains the connection? It’s a case of mistaken identity. The molecular structure of gliadin, the protein portion of gluten, closely resembles that of the thyroid gland. When gliadin breaches the protective barrier of the gut, and enters the bloodstream, the immune system tags it for destruction. These antibodies to gliadin also cause the body to attack thyroid tissue. This means if you have AITD and you eat foods containing gluten, your immune system will attack your thyroid.”

Upon learning that my immune system was attacking my thyroid every time I ate a slice of pizza, a cookie or dipped my sushi into soy sauce (yes, there is gluten in regular soy sauce but thank goodness, there is Tamari which is a GF Soy Sauce), I decided to give up gluten and see how I feel. Our bodies need time to heal though. Just as our bodies don’t get disease in one day, we don’t heal in one day either. The good news for me is that I hear many people at least start feeling better right away. Giving up white flour (and white sugar) is something I should have done a long time ago as they are probably the worst things for our bodies. They both turn into sugar when digested and have very little to no nutritional value. Studies show that sugar, which causes inflammation, leads to high Cholesterol more so than eating eggs or meat.

I already had Tamari in my fridge and have been making my kids gluten free pancakes for years and bake with almond, brown rice and quinoa flour. This isn’t a sudden about face for me but gluten sneaks up in unlikely places so it will be a challenge.

For the time being, you can expect mostly Gluten Free Recipes. They will still be very tasty though….promise!   I have an awesome GF homemade soft pretzel recipe to share with you (it’s a big hit with kids and a great football watching snack), as well as a GF orange gingerbread biscotti.   And if you don’t have any issues with gluten, it is very easy to turn a gluten free recipe into a gluten recipe.   If you do have problems with gluten, hopefully this will be helpful and I will share with you what I learn along the way.   One thing I know is that it’s not healthy to go from a processes pretzel to  a GF processed pretzel.    Many processed GF  snacks on the market are made with white rice or other highly processed flours without the enriched nutrients that enriched wheat snacks contain.  It’s really a lose-lose.

And now for the recipe!   It is winter after all and the best time for a warm bowl of soup.   I have been making lots of lentil soups this winter and this one is a favorite.    I used Coconut Oil as the fat.   If you aren’t cooking with Coconut Oil, I recommend you go to the store right now and get some.   It has a naturally occuring saturated fat which is very different from saturated fats created by hydrogenation processes.   It contains Lauric Acid with is shown to reduce the bad cholesterol and Coconut Oil boots immunity.   It is also stable enough to withstand the high heat.  There are many health benefits and here is an article if you are interested. ..


6 cups of homemade vegetable broth

2 cups of green lentils, washed well

1/2 head of cauliflower (about 2 1/2 cups) broken into small pieces

1 onion, chopped

2 large carrots, chopped

4 garlic cloves

2-3 Tbs Coconut Oil

1/2 tsp Paprika

2 tsp Curry

dash of Cayenne

2 tsp celtic sea salt

Rinse the lentils in a sieve strainer until the water runs clear.   Add the Vegetable Broth, Garlic Cloves and Lentils to a large pot and cover.   Cook on Medium heat.   In a medium pan,  saute the chopped onion in 1 Tbs Coconut Oil for about 4-5 minutes.  Add the Carrots and cook another couple minutes.    Then add the onions and carrots  to the pot.     Using the same saute pan, add another Tbs to the pan and saute the chopped Cauliflower.   Add the Paprika and Curry and stir until well mixed.   Cook for about 5 minutes.    Add the Cauliflower to the soup and a dash of Cayenne Pepper (more or less to taste) and 2 Tsp of Salt.    Cook for about 20-30 minutes, adding more broth or water if needed until it’s at the desired consistency.

Green Beans with Shallots and Almonds


This is a recipe I have been making for years and is adapted from Ina Garten.   It is a great side dish and always gets lots of thumbs up when I make it.    I like that you don’t have to cook the green beans for too long because it mean the beans are retaining a lot more nutrients.  Shallots are in the onion family and are a little sweet.

I had more photos to share but they came out blurry.    Some little peanut must have been pulling at my arm while I was trying to take photographs:)


4 cups string beans (haricots verts), ends cut off

2-3 Shallots, chopped

2 TBS Butter or Olive Oil (or a little of both)

1/4 cup Slivered Almonds


Blanch the string beans in a large pot of boiling water for 1-2 minutes.    Drain and immerse string beans in a bowl of ice water.     In a large saute pan or a cast iron pan, heat butter or olive oil and add shallots.  Cook for about 5-8  minutes until lightly browned and then put aside is a dish.   In the same pan, toast the almonds for about 3-5 minutes and then set aside in a small bowl.   If your kitchen isn’t equipped with tiny bowls, these just came out of my kiln!   (

Drain the String Beans and add them to the pan with about a 1/4 tsp of salt (to taste), the shallots and the almonds.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, until beans are hot.   Serve.

I have been adding vegetable sides right into my salad lately, so that is another option.

Spaghetti Squash with Pistachio Pesto


I wish spaghetti squash had come into my life earlier!   This is a great dish to have for a vegetarian night or as a side dish.    It is lighter than eating  a big bowl of pasta and much better for you.  And hopefully your kids will like it.    I am trying.   I really am.  But my kids are not that adventuresome when it comes to food.   I always ask them to try what I make but with little success.   If I  buy a different type of chicken nugget than they are used to- oh boy.  It’s as though I have committed a terrible crime and I have to spend then next five minutes convincing them that it will taste the same as the other chicken nuggets and to just PLEASE try ONE bite.   After much convincing (and yes, sometimes bribing) I will get Max to try a bite and usually he will say. “I like it!”  but sometimes he doesn’t.  It’s the trying that counts.  Right?   The other night Max tried a spinach leaf from my salad without much convincing.  He liked the first bite but not the second bite.  Small steps…

Last night I was making them sweet potato slices which I bake in the oven.  I thought I would put multiple vegetables on their plate in hopes that they would eat more vegetables since there was more variety.   I sliced cucumbers (in small triangle for Cecilia and in long strips for Max), red peppers and baby carrots, as well as the baked sweet potato slices.  Cecilia, my 2 year old,  looked at her plate, pointed to each item and said, “I don’t like that, I don’t like that, I don’t like that and I don’t like that.”   So much for my strategy!   But there was a small victory…Max hasn’t eaten a cucumber in months but since then didn’t look the way I usually slice them ( and I took out the seeds), he ate them without a word of coercing from me.     Another vegetable I can add to his “like” list.

I don’t usually hide vegetables in my kids’ food, mostly because they don’t eat food with sauces- not even ketchup.   I am hoping they will learn to like the vegetable for what it is.   So far on the “like” list are sweet potatoes, red peppers (and yellow and orange), broccoli (with soy sauce), soy beans, and now cucumbers.   Cecilia also likes fennel and sometimes cauliflower.   Carrots somehow are on the “no” list right now but maybe if I slice them up differently they will eat them.  Who knows?   For a while Max would only eat the skin of the apple at his Nonna’s house, as though the skin on her apples are so different from the ones I buy.    He also would only eat his Grandpa’s eggs.  That was problematic since Grandpa lives in Denver.   But it’s all in due time and they are always surprising me.   On New Years Day, Max ate the eggs his Dad made, said they were delicious and that he wanted to eat eggs for breakfast every morning.     It was a good culinary start to 2012 and I hope he continues to move in that direction.

Anyway, back to the squash.   This is a simple dish.  I could probably eat pesto on anything and it goes nicely with the spaghetti squash.  If you wanted a vegetarian dinner, you could have this and a salad and be done.   I actually just made this and called it dinner.  Luckily Eric had a big lunch that day.

Pesto is quick and easy to make and the pistachio adds such a great flavor.  I added some whole pistachios on top for texture and taste.   You could certainly make a traditional pesto using pine nuts but if you like pistachio’s give this a try.   I had it for lunch the next day after heating it in a skillet and it got a little crisp and was delicious!   I would not recommend using the microwave to reheat food…it kills the nutrients of the food, makes food mushy and really isn’t good for your health.

Squash can be hard to cut into.   One thing you could do it cook it in the oven whole for about 10 minutes and then take it out and let it cool.   Then cut into it.  But if you have the strength and a good knife, go for it.

Spaghetti Squash with Pistachio Pesto


1 Spaghetti Squash

Olive Oil

2 cups Basil

1/2 cup shelled Pistachios

1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1-2 garlic cloves

1/2 cup Parmesan

1/2 teaspoon Salt (add more to taste)

To Make:

Heat oven to 400 degrees.   With some muscle strength and a good knife, cut the squash in half, lengthwise.    Remove seeds and brush with some olive oil or butter.  Bake for 45-1 hour, until squash is soft and starting to brown.   Meanwhile, make the pesto.   Toast the pistachios in a skillet for about 5-8 minutes, watching that they don’t burn.   In a cuisanart, Add 1/4 cup of the toasted pistachios and pulse several times.  Then add the basil, garlic, salt and olive oil and pulse until blended.   I like a coarse pesto, so I can see the pieces of basil.   Add the parmesan and pulse for a few seconds.       When the squash has cooled slightly, take a fork and go back and forth and spoon to spaghetti into a bowl.  Add the pesto and mix well.   Sprinkle with the remaining pistachios and some Parmesan and serve.

Rigatoni with Roasted Red Pepper and Toasted Almond Breadcrumbs


Happy New Year!   I hope 2012 brings good health, good food, good company and fun adventures to your life!

After holiday parties, cooking nice meals for family and just being more social that I am normally,  I thought a nice, quick and simple dinner was in order.   This is a recipe from Giada DeLaurentiis and take about 15-20 minutes, which is mostly cooking the pasta!    Sometimes I change  recipes  to be gluten free, vegetarian or vegan but this time I actually added cheese.

The parmesan adds a nice flavor and saltiness to the dish, especially since the breadcrumbs I used were plain.   If you have seasoned breadcrumbs, that would be a nice addition.   This dish also makes really good leftovers.   Reheat the pasta in a saute pan until it crisps a little bit.    I have made this with whole wheat pasta as well as a gluten free brown rice pasta (and gluten free breadcrumbs) and they were both delicious.    I used jarred red peppers but  you could certainly roast your own at home

Again, it’s quick –  about 15 -20 minutes, including boiling the water!


1 pound Rigatoni (or any pasta with ridges)  I had Pipe Rigate so that is what I used.

2-3 Roasted Red Peppers

1/2  cup Slivered Almonds

1  cup Breadcrumbs

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

1/4 cup Olive Oil

salt and pepper


Boil water  and add a generous amount of salt.  The salt water flavors the pasta, and it’s the only time you can do this in the cooking process.  Meanwhile, toast the almonds in a saute pan for about 4-5 minutes on medium to low heat on the stove. Watch the almonds – they can burn quickly!  Add breadcrumbs, almonds and 1/4 cup  Parmesan to a cuisinart and pulse several times.  Cut the roasted red pepper into short strips.   Pour cooked pasta into a serving bowl, adding a few tablespoons of the pasta water.   Pour breadcrumb mixture on to pasta and the olive oil and mix together until pasta is coated.  Add Red Pepper slices and the remaining Parmesan.