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Compromise: Cato Corner

August 2nd, 2012

Having been what I refer to as “bread ‘n dairy” vegetarians for several years (not the healthiest diet since it can be very low in fresh fruits and veggies), we do miss cheese and homemade bread occasionally. We avoid dairy and gluten because all of us don’t feel well when eating either regularly,  but we find things made with one or both everywhere we go.

Post-sports season pizza parties.

Birthday parties.

Family gatherings.

And the list goes on.

My kids do care about making healthy choices, but often find it hard to resist treating themselves to whatever is on hand and just suffer the belly ache and blahs later. I found myself wishing for better quality dairy products than were often involved. This didn’t seem like a good solution.

So, we talked it over and struck a deal. Once a month, we would get some local cheese and wheat flour and make somethings that showcase both ingredients over the weekend. During the rest of the month, we would keep it primarily  gluten-free vegan.

Because I support such endeavors where possible and because fresh is best, I prefer that our dairy be local and raw where possible from humanely treated cows.  Cows who hang out in large fields of grass, nibbling away the day.  In this, we are blessed to live not too far from a true Connecticut gem — Cato Corner Farm in Colchester, CT.

The tasting is by far the highlight of the experience. Delightful, knowledgeable people in the little shop will help you taste and select some wonderful cheese.

We like most of  their cheeses, but some of our favorites tend to the sharper end of the spectrum: Aged Bloomsday, Wise Womanchego (seasonal, I think), Molto Vivace, and Jeremy River Cheddar.

I like to be sure that we serve the cheese with lots of fresh fruits and veggies. This pleasing array includes Mary’s Gone Crackers, apple slices, red pepper pieces, watermelon and honeydew, strawberries and kale.

Sometimes we make sandwiches, or have soup, toast and salad for a quick, simple yet satisfying meal. Next month I’m thinking corn-chive waffles or pancakes — tho no cast iron waffle irons here  — (hmm, or maybe grilled corn bread; I’ll have to work out the details) topped with black bean chili and Jeremy River Cheddar, crema (in the guise of Velvety Smooth Cream Sauce), and  homemade salsa! Can’t wait!

Eat your rainbow!

Scrumptious Socca (gluten-free flat bread)

June 28th, 2012

Dante shows off his first socca

Dante shows off his first socca

I have a confession to make. I don’t care for most gluten free baked goods. I’ve tried everything from homemade bread to cupcakes from Babycakes in NYC. But I find that there’s a strange flavor that doesn’t work for me. Never mind that it doesn’t seem right to measure starch by the cupful.

Before we changed our diets, I loved baking. Especially making bread to accompany our dinner. I worked my way through The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum and was hard pressed to pick a favorite. I looked forward to berry and stone fruit season so we could have shortcake or crumbles. The holidays were a pie-filled delight. So it was difficult to transition away from gluten when we realized it was causing head- and belly-aches in our house.  Not finding an alternative flour or baking mix we liked (and discovering raw versions of the crumbles and pies that we  liked better anyway), I gave up on baking altogether.

For a while.

Then I discovered almond flour! You can read my previous posts on the new-found joys of gluten-free baking with almond flour (I love almond flour and patriotic shortcake) and I was happy to be able to bake again for my family.

One day, I was searching for a savory baked good to accompany dinner, and stumbled across a recipe for a street treat from the south of France — socca. I don’t have a wood-fired oven or an enormous copper pan to make it in, but I can assure you, it’s delicious even without these nods to authenticity! One word on equipment, however: this recipe calls for a 12-inch pan. The largest I have is a 10-inch stainless stockpot so I use that and cook it a few more minutes in the oven.

The best part — it’s only a few ingredients and you can make the batter ahead of time and let it rest for up to 12 hours, reducing the amount of last-minute prep and clean up.

socca ingredientsScrumptious Socca

  • 1 cup garbanzo bean flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4-5 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup water
  • spices as desired
  1. Mix dry ingredients (flour, salt, spices) with a whisk until combined and lumps are history.
  2. Slowly whisk in a thin, constant stream of water until all the flour is mixed in and you achieve a smooth loose batter (think pancakes). Whisk in 2 Tbs olive oil and set aside for up to 12 hours.
  3. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 450F. Once the oven is hot, put 2-3 Tbs olive oil in a pan and place in the oven for 5 minutes.
  4. Pull the pan out, swirl the olive oil to make sure the pan is evenly coated, pour in the batter and swirl again to cover the bottom of the pan evenly. Pop it back in and cook for 20-25 minutes. If I’m in a hurry, sometimes I pull it at 17 minutes or so and brown it under the broiler for 2-5 minutes, but it will brown in oven if you have the time (<– read this as: if you don’t have hungry children dying for a piece).
  5. I pull out the pan and sometimes have to use a spatula to release the socca from the bottom, sometimes not. I’ve read that to be uber-traditional, you need to tear it into pieces, but we find that no one argues that someone else had more than them if we hand out knife-cut quarters.

soccaWe have made socca a number of times now. I started with this plain version to get to know it, but have since embellished it based on the flavors that will also be on the table. I usually now mince several cloves of garlic and add it to the batter after the oil has been whisked in.

We’ve done a few versions with spices as well — cumin and chili powder was really good (am planning to add lime juice and/or zest next time and possibly cilantro);  rosemary and thyme went really well with the nettle soup we were having. We also tried a version with curry, but I didn’t put enough curry in and it was a little too subtle. Need to try that again.

I’d also like to explore this as a base for pizza — bake the socca, put it onto a half sheet, cover it lightly with our favorite pizza toppings, heat it if the ingredients require, and voila — gluten free pizza! Dante usually dips his socca pieces in olive oil or sauce and those are apparently delicious, so I think it would work.

I also think it would make great almost panini-like sandwiches.  So many things to try, so few meals!

Grapefruit Avocado Fennel Salad

May 28th, 2012

Sometimes I menu plan and find that life has interrupted and things don’t get made according to the plan. Adding insult to injury, ingredients get used in different recipies, leaving a random collection of their brethren behind. Part of me really enjoys the challenge this presents. And this salad is one of the successes born under those circumstances.

This salad is filling enough to serve as a light meal.

Grapefruit Avocado Fennel Salad

  • 2 romaine hearts
  • 1 ruby red grapefruit
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 cup loosely packed fennel
  • 2 Tbs hemp seeds


  • 1/2 cup grapefruit juice
  • 2 Tbs rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp Trocomare or sea salt
  1. Wash and tear romaine into bite-size pieces. Roll in a towel to dry.
  2. Cut grapefruit into wedges or pieces, removing that interior “skin”.
  3. Thinly slice or shave fennel, cut avocado into slices or chunks.
  4. Whisk dressing ingredients in a salad bowl  to combine. Add romaine, toss to coat. Arrange fennel, grapefruit and avocado on top and sprinkle hemp seeds to finish.

I wasn’t sure if  I would like the grapefruit-fennel combination, but I’ve come across that combo in a few recipes and decided to try it. I added the avocado after taste testing and finding I wanted something richer and creamier than the salad was without it. Glad I did — it worked really well and hit the spot for adults and kids alike.

Another delicious way to eat your rainbow!

Just Wingin It radio show interview

May 25th, 2012

Back in March, we joined Victoria Rose DeAngelis on her radio show “Just Wingin’ It” to chat about transitioning to a more healthful diet and becoming an educated consumer. We discuss oodles of tips and resources that will help you move forward improving your diet.

We mention the resources to the right of this post in our sidebar — the Environmental Working Group ( for both the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides as well as the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, the Center for Science in the Public Interest ( and the Physically Addictive Foods video with Neal Barnard.

Listen in to the March 19th, 2012 show!

Homemade Refried Beans – no BPA!

May 21st, 2012

homemade refried beansMy kids looove their refried beans. It’s one of the few foods we regularly buy that are in cans likely lined with BPA. The Eden brand ( BPA free cans for most non-tomato products) refried beans can be bland and stiff compared to Amy’s or WF 365 brand. Tho a good starting point (if you add spices, heat and lime), they are a bit difficult to find in stores around here. But the botheration all this BPA causes me  to explore making them at home.

What a pleasure to discover that it’s pretty darn easy!

Encouraged, I also wanted to see if it would freeze well, so that I could make it in big batches a month or so at a time. More success! You’d be hard pressed to detect the freezer in it’s past. The recipe below let me freeze 4 Chinese takeout containers filled PLUS 1 and a half glass storage dishes (6″ diameter, 2″ high).

And the best thing is I can now control the spices more easily and make various versions. We used pinto beans, but are making some refried black beans this week. I imagine these could be the start of bean burgers, but I suspect that will require some trial and error.

But I digress. Here’s the recipe and process for super easy (with just a tad of planning) refried pinto beans.












BPA-free Refried Beans

  • 6 cups dried beans, soaked, cooked, drained
  • vegetable stock as needed
  • 3-4 large onions, chopped fine or pureed
  • 1 head garlic, minced or pureed
  • 1 Tbs chili powder
  • 1 Tbs cumin
  • 1 lime, juiced
  1. Soak beans overnight at least. You can also sprout them by soaking 12 hours, draining, rinse 2-3 x the next day and they should be ready to work with the following day. Very little hands-on time is required, but some planning ahead and knowing if your calendar will allow for cooking when you will be, but it’s worth it. Worth the benefits to sprout nuts, seeds and beans before using them. This makes them easier to digest; therefore less likely to cause you grief of the gut.
  2. Rinse soaked beans, put into pot and cover with 2 inches water. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer until done. Depending on age of beans, 45 mins-2 hours. Drain and rinse. This is a great stopping point if you need it, you can pop the beans in the fridge and pick up here within a few days.  Or if you’re in the kitchen all day, keep on.
  3. Roughly chop the onion, toss it into the food processor and puree it. You can certainly just dice the onion and sautee it that way, but the kids were firm on wanting the bean dip to be “just like the can” so I was worried the cooked onions wouldn’t puree as nicely and I figured the puree would cook down quicker. The vidalia onions made the refried beans pleasantly sweet.
  4. onion + spices

    However you chop the onion, put it in a pan with a tbsp of oil and sweat it down until bubbling and aromatic, 5-10 minutes.

  5. Add minced garlic, spices,and lime juice and stir for one minute to let spices cook. Remove from heat til beans are ready
  6. Puree beans in food processor. I added just enough veggie stock to get it moving. You can leave some of them whole if you like your refried beans a little chunky. Again you could probably puree the entire concoction once finished, but I wanted to be sure the texture would match expectations so I pureed them first.
  7. Add bean puree to pot and return to heat. Cook 10 minutes and voila! Refried beans!

Not sure if I wanted to use all the pinto beans for this recipe. I measured it out in 3 cup batches. Three cups cooked beans to one onion, one garlic clove and spices to taste (about 1 tsp). The kids were “testing” it frequently and ate lunch from pot to table: a heaping spoonful of beans on top of shredded lettuce, tomatoes, onion and guacamole, with some Miranda’s hot sauce if you like.

We packed up the containers and defrosted them a week later for bean dip, party size. We put two containers of beans on the bottom of a 9×13 oven-proof pan. Topped it with black beans,  kidney beans, sliced black olives, and topped with salsa. Pop this in a 350-degree oven until it starts bubbling and serve with chopped avocado chunks on top, guac on the side, put some vegan Daiya or localish raw cheese and some chips for dipping.

We were too busy noshing to take a picture of the finished product, but it was as pretty as refried beans can be, I guess. Definitely worth giving it a try, if you suffer from BPA guilt as I did.

And don’t forget — most receipts (the ones that feel like old fax paper used to) are likely to be absolutely dripping with un-bonded BPA. So think twice about what you do with those receipts, or if you even need them! (google it!)

Heaped on top of a salad, refried beans goes a long way toward helping my kids eat their rainbow!

Delicious & Filling Fresh Rolls

May 19th, 2012

I have been dreaming of making  Thai Wraps again for dinner (post coming soon). My hopes were dashed, however, when I discovered that my children breakfasted on the  mangoes required by the wrap recipe, leaving none for dinner. Being too busy otherwise to go to the store, I moved on. Onto Plan B, with many of the same ingredients, but a whole different direction!  Best thing about this dish — it’s one of those that’s better for being made ahead of time. Make the veggie mixture and dip ahead of time so assembly is a snap. And you can even wrap these the night before and tuck them away in your lunchbox. Having all that time to salivate in anticipation will surely do more to improve the flavor than any ingredient possibly could!

Sioux-per Fresh Rolls

  • 1/4 head green cabbage, shredded
  • 4 medium carrots, shredded
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped mint
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1/2 vidalia onion, chopped fine
  • 1 cucumber, diced
  • 2 avocados
  • rice wrappers
  1. Grate, mince, dice and mix everything but avocados and wrappers in a bowl. This is what I had on hand — sprouts, beets, radish, greens, etc would be lovely too.
  2. Run rice wrapper under water, covering all of both sides with water. If you haven’t worked with them before, know this: it will still be a bit stiff when you put it on a clean cutting board, but it will be perfect by the time you roll, never fear. Don’t wash it til it’s droopy and soft, as that can increase chances of it tearing as you roll it.
  3. Put about 1/2 cup mixture plus 2-4 avocado slices about 2/3 down the wrap (like where a smile would be on a smiley face). You can also add tomatoes, noodles or tofu at this point if you like. Or mango. If your children haven’t eaten them already, that is.
  4. Fold up the bottom over the mound of veggies — I like to use this part of the wrap to squish everything down into a more compact roll, like you do when making burritos. Then fold in each side, and keep rolling til you have a gorgeous fresh roll ready to eat!

Based on some recipes from the internet and various cookbooks on loan from the library, I made a dipping sauce thusly:

Citrusoy Dipping Sauce

  • 1 lemon
  • 1 lime
  • 1 juicing orange
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 inch piece ginger, minced
  • 4 scallions, finely sliced, greens and all
  • 1/2 cup nama shoyu (this is saltier and seems more concentrated than tamari, etc)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 Tbs umeboshi vinegar
  • dollop Sriracha or 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbs maple syrup (optional)

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Best made at least an hour ahead so the flavors can meld together.

This won a HUGE thumbs up from adults and kids alike. The other cool thing is that working with strong aromas like citrus, ginger, garlic, mint, basil, cilantro, everyone kept walking into the kitchen with vehement exclamations attesting to the awesomeness of the smell. So much so it got me thinking about what a difference fresh herbs make. I love that both kids were happy to go get the mint from the various places it lives at our house. So excited for the rest of our herbs to kick in (c’mon weather! We had May in March, now April in May? what gives??) so we can keep up the good smells.

We served it with a cold cuke-avocado blended soup (also had celery, ginger, garlic, jalapeno, onion, fresh mint, cilantro, cumin, lemon juice and salt) which we garnished with tomatoes. I put in about a half jalapeno;  while Dante enjoyed  it, Lulu found it to be too spicy. Hard to remember to reign in the heat sometimes… especially in a cold soup. I like the warming quality it lends to something otherwise cooling.

We also made the drink with many names (this cookbook had it as Jamaica (pronounced /həˈmaɪkə/) but since I first knew it as sorrel tea, I’ll go with that. I did a post way back when on the tea, and today’s version was even simpler — I adapted it to this:

The Red Fairy: Maple Mint & Hibiscus

Pour 4 cups-ish boiling water over ~ 1/3 cup dried hibiscus leaves (look in the bulk spices section at the health food store, some ethnic grocers or get them from Mountain Rose Herbs) and let that steep. If you’re like me, let it steep all day since you’re busy doing other things. Strain it into a pitcher, add maple syrup to taste, toss in several mint sprigs and fill the pitcher with cold water. Voila! Impressive deep red color, tasty, tart and oh so good for you! And again, better for sitting, can definitely be made ahead of time. I might add lime next time, tho I’m not sure if it will tip the sourness into the realm of obnoxious. Will have to try.

And keeping me company during dinnermaking? Tim Minchin as castaway on BBC’s Desert Island Discs. The show has been running 42 years — I believe you can listen to the entire archive of more than 1000 shows! Lots of excellent folks in there –  from Nick Park to David Tennant to Sir David Attenborough to Roald Dahl and more!

I’ve been making lots of these wrap type rolls lately, either with collards or rice wrappers. I’m on the hunt for a new dipping sauce — what’s your favorite?

Enjoy this excellent way to eat your rainbow!

Health On Budget FREE seminar

May 16th, 2012

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Eating Raw Foods on a Budget
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Raw Food for Busy People
Getting Fit on a Budget
Budgeting 101
Raising Financially Responsible Children
Creating a Budget that You Love
Live More on Less
Gardening on a Budget
Getting Healthcare on a Budget
Natural Beauty on a Budget

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Forks Over Knives

October 3rd, 2011

I have been hearing the buzz about this movie for a few months now, and was delighted to hear that it is available for streaming on Netflix. I finally had a chance to sit down and watch it this evening and thought I would help keep the buzz rolling by sharing my thoughts on it here, in a new ongoing series I’m calling Media Monday!

The movie Forks Over Knives opens with an  introduction to our narrator, a Red Bull slurpin, Coke guzzlin, meat gobblin Sloppy Joe as he’s on his way to meet some doctors with a different take on health and wellness. He gets a physical and those results spur him to find better health by transitioning to a plant-based diet instead of a daily cocktail of medications. He takes things one step further, embarking on an odyssey to explore the connection between diet and health. He interviews such nutrition researchers as T. Colin Campbell and Caldwell Esselstyn and discusses their and other study findings that clearly demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt the direct link between eating primarily a whole-foods, plant-based diet and maintaining good health.

The encouraging news delivered by Forks Over Knives is that the damage done to the body by consumption of animal products can be reversed through changes in the diet alone. Esselstyn has successfully treated over 250 patients with heart disease using almost an exclusively whole foods, plant-based diet. Sit with that for a minute and let it really sink in.

When I was first out of college, I used to book appointments and type operation notes for a group of cardiothoracic surgeons at the Deaconess Hospital (now Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center), a member of the Harvard Medical School. Every weekday, the team of three heart surgeons performed 1-3 bypass surgeries where they took a saw, cut open the sternum (breastbone), opened the rib cage, sliced open the patients leg and replaced blocked veins near the patient’s heart with healthier veins from their leg.

Having typed the details of the procedure over and over, I cannot fathom why anyone can consider that the “normal” way to handle this problem, and a vegan diet the “extreme” solution. I love that Forks over Knives points this out, as other doctors like Dean Ornish have been for years. I hope this film helps people consider these “extremes” before they end up reading those books after emergency bypass surgery.

Another inconsistency that has bothered me since I began exploring nutrition is the “Milk — it does a body good” ad campaign. Every kid asked will tell you that milk gives you calcium for your teeth and bones. But actually, scientific data shows that countries with the highest rates of dairy consumption also experience the HIGHEST rates of osteoporosis!  What??? I wish the movie had explained why this is (Kris Carr does a fantastic job explaining this in her new book Crazy Sexy Diet if you’d like to know more) but I am so happy to find someone actually pointing out this discrepancy and get people thinking!

All in all, I’d highly recommend taking a gander at Forks Over Knives — especially if you have Netflix! And if you or a loved one suffers from a disease of diet — heart disease, diabetes, cancer — this movie just might be the inspiration you need to make that leap to really doing a body good! The movie follows a few people as they too eliminate chronic illness via diet, with discussions of the changes they experience before and after. It covers a little bit of everything concerning the effect of diet on our bodies and the effect of our food system on the earth.

If nothing else, it will get you thinking and hopefully help you make some shift in your diet that will benefit you and the world around you!

FREE program offer

September 19th, 2011

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Summer Pizza and Pesto!

August 24th, 2011

I love the bounty of summertime and basil is one of the tops for me. First of all, I think it is such a beautiful plant. The green of the leaves, the delicious aroma and the possibilities in the kitchen that are endless. It is part of the mint family nd in Greek, basil means “King”. It is high in Vitamin A, beta-carotene, magnesium and potassium. It has anti-inflammatory properties and is used for skin ailments as well as cold, headache, reducing fever and digestive aid. Medicinally, not only the leaves but the seed and oil of the plant are used for treating various ailments.

Basil is fairly easy to grow especially in the garden. It will also do well as a potted plant. Since it likes humidity and lots of sunshine, it is easier to grow in the summer than indoors in the colder months but it can be done and is quite worth the efffort. If you pinch back the plant, it will bush out a bit creating more and longer growth. Use the leaves as they are picked. Keep those stems! When mincing up basil for use in sauces or making pesto, use those stems.

Oooooo, speaking of pesto, what a treat it is to have in the summer! It is so fresh and makes you feel incredibly alive. I swear I get a jolt of energy when I eat the stuff. It is so easy to make and I recommend making a lot, I mean a hge batch so you can store the goodness away for the middle of winter as well.


2 cups basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
3 medium sized cloves of garlic
salt to taste

Put all the ingredients in the food processor and pulse until well blended.

Now, the great thing about making pesto is it lends itself to a lot of variation. Instead of pine nuts, you can use walnuts or a comination of the two. I like to use a bit less oil while making the pesto when I am going to be storing it. To do this, make the pesto minus a little oil. Fill an ice cube tray wwith eh pesto. Then, here is the little trick, top the pesto cubes with a little more oil. That helps seal in the color and it will brown less. Once the cubes are frozen, pop them out and store in the freezer in a container until you are ready to use it. The otehr reason I like to use less oil is so I have more flexibility withe the cubes. In winter, it is lovely to pull out a pesto cube, add some coconut milk and serve over veggies.

Let’s not rush things though. After all, it is still summer and we have plenty of sunny basil picking days ahead of us. Pesto is a great way to dress up a plate of veggies or add some fresh basil to your homemade salad dressing. A perfect appetizer or main meal for two is summer pizza. Using your favorite raw bread or cracker recipe, make one large or a couple smaller rounds and dehydrate. My new favorite is a cheezy cracker recipe. It is made with cashew and sunflower seeds as the base. Added in are tomatoes and red pepper. It is the loveliest orange color and really tastes like cheezy crackers. It compliments the color of the pesto superbly. Top your pizza with pesto and fresh sliced tomatoes. Rigth now there are a lot of great Heirloom tomatoes available in your garden or at local farmers markets and stands. The pizza takes only five minutes to make if you have preparred pizza flats stored away and is filling, full flavored and a divine treat!