Rice rice baby: Winter squash stuffed with brown rice, asparagus, zucchini, sunflower seed, pine nut risotto

I am days away from beginning a cleanse to control my asthma and allergies as well as boost my digestion. And it has been cold and rainy. Perhaps that is why I have been craving creamy and grain based food.  My counter top was full of winter squash – kabocha, acorn, butternut – and it made me think about a creamy squash risotto. However, I often find that the squash is lost and not as flavorful in a risotto. And squashes are great to stuff. So I decided to stuff kabocha and acorn squash with a flavorful sprouted brown rice risotto made with zucchini, asparagus, sunflower seeds and pine nuts. Creamy but full of texture. Flavorful. Nutritious. Satisfying.

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Break Bad and Bake Bread: Spiced Zucchini Pumpkin Chia Bread with Pecans and Cranberries

Up until two weeks ago, I was really on top of eating clean, but after the election, I found myself struggling to eat well. Thanksgiving this year really inspired me to make a change – get out of my rut. But that did not turn off my cravings. The cold weather combined with the holiday feeling left me with the craving for warm bread…so I made one that would keep me healthy and happy.  What better than a slice of a healthy flavorful bread and a cup of tea. This whole wheat, oat, zucchini, pumpkin, cranberry, pecan, chia bread made with psyllium husk, sweetened with dates and spiced with green cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove will keep you satisfied. It was moist, filling and full of flavor.

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Give quiche a chance: Black olive, sun dried tomato, spinach, zucchini, leek, mint quiche in a sweet potato crust

There is only one thing that I know when it comes to food – eat fresh, whole real food. But even with whole, fresh, real food, there can be problems. I learned about the FODMAP over the last few weeks through a friend. Some people can’t eat real whole foods that have short chain carbohydrates without seriously upsetting their digestive system. That includes foods like garlic, onions, avocado, cauliflower, nuts, seeds and so much my recipes and diet are dependent on. With a FODMAP, meat is not a problem –  but meat is a food that my own digestive system does not process and that I choose not to eat. Does that mean that someone with a diet on a FODMAP and a vegetarian can’t share a flavorful beautiful meal? Of course not – especially when that sparks creativity in me using the ingredients we share in common. I came up with a black olive, sun dried tomato, spinach, zucchini, leek, mint quiche in a sweet potato crust. Topped with either feta or an almond based “parmesan.” No processed foods, no short chain carbohydrates, no cream or lactose or flour.

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Talk dinner to me: Arugula and roasted vegetable salad with zucchini “ravioli” stuffed with basil almond “ricotta”

Hello again! It’s been six months since my last post. Life, job and motherhood got in the way again. Last year I began this blog to use food and diet as a way to look at my life differently, adjust my habits and patterns and change my life – and I succeeded. This year started on a downward slump and I was not feeling inspired or creative. I knew it was time to shake things up. Again. I tackled the one area of my life I knew I could control – my diet.

I recently completed a 21 day cleanse and now I feel leaner, meaner and cleaner. The last thing I want to do is turn right back into my old habits and overwhelm my system again. I have been making a lot of food I have previously posted here and coming up with new recipes that will help me stay on track and not reach for gut busting foods. One of my old standards for my family is a ravioli salad – rather than surround the ravioli with a rich sauce, incorporate it into a salad. However, I always feel heavy with the pasta and unless the ravioli is fresh made by an amazing chef or Italian nonna, I am usually not satisfied. So I crafted my veg based ravioli, eliminating the gluten, grain and cheese and grilled the veggies to enhance their flavor. Wait till you try this arugula and roasted asparagus, tomato and broccolini salad topped with faux ravioli made with zucchini, stuffed with basil almond ricotta. It will satisfy you at dinner and not weigh you down.

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The squash look very different today: Gluten-free butternut squash, zucchini and sweet potato patties with a vegan zucchini, avocado, cashew aioli

I have been a bit homesick in the last few weeks. Maybe it was thinking about all the fun my cousins and brothers had over the holiday and missing the time spent together in 2015. Maybe it was missing my NYC friends and that community I had. Maybe it was missing the streets of NYC and my old apartment after seeing the building I lived in for 11 years in a scene in Mozart in the Jungle. On top of that, it was cold and I wanted to stay under the covers. Whatever it was, I wanted something comforting. But this whole food challenge does force me to think about how I can achieve comfort without relapsing into my old food habits. So I had to think about how I could make something that was tasty and veggieful with protein that could satisfy my craving and my body at the same time. And so a tasty snack and appetizer was born: Dairy and gluten-free butternut squash, zucchini, sweet potato patties with an avocado, zucchini and cashew aioli.

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Whoa tell me baby, do you like it like this: Mashed purple potato, beluga lentil and vegetable bake

It’s finally winter in southern California…if you can call a high in the low 60’s winter (The east coaster in me thinks it is summer year round here and can’t tell one year to the next). But it’s all relative and given that it is no longer 90 degrees F outside, I can wear my boots, sweaters and scarves and actually feel like eating the potatoes that make an appearance in my CSA box every so often. In a healthy way – layered with veggies and lentils, garnished with either goat cheese or smoked shiitake “bacon” for an extra boost of flavor.

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Let’s bowl, let’s bowl, let’s rock-‘n-roll: Breakfast bowl of egg whites, spaghetti squash, mushroom, zucchini, spinach, and avocado

I’ve been wanting to incorporate more veggies into my breakfast without making yet another hash,omelette or sauteed veg side. I’ve been playing with more squash for breakfast – baking an egg on top and treating it like a baked potato but I really scored a hit with a bowl of spaghetti squash. I make it during the week and for brunch – egg whites with sauteed veg, spices and mixed with avocado and spaghetti squash. I especially like it topped with hot sauce…sriracha to be precise.

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Sometimes you just feel like an impasta: sweet potato pasta with zucchini ribbons, arugula, baby spinach, almond slices and walnuts topped with nut power green pesto

Who needs real pasta when there are so many veggieful imposters out there: sweet potato, zucchini, rutabaga, yellow squash and so much more. I love the real slim shady – that fiberless, refined, calorically dense carbohydrate that loves to wreak havoc on my body, but as I always say,if I am going to eat it I want it to be the best. So I’ll wait until I have an opportunity to consume the perfect handmade al dente pasta which is few and far between. In the meantime I would rather an impasta. I usually use a spiralizer to make noddles, but lately I have been craving a flater wider noodle – like pappardelle or even fettuccine would do. On a recent trip through an airport, I saw a beautiful picture on the cover of Food & Wine Magazine of pappadelle with pesto, arugula and walnuts and wanted to make it my way. Sweet potato noodles with zucchini, baby spinach, arugula, almond slices and walnuts and topped with a power pesto made of leafy greens, basil and nuts and a cashew nut based parmesan. Not as pretty as the front cover, but very very tasty.

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All we are saying, is give peas a chance: Fresh green pea falafel with vadouvan spiced cashew cream and zucchini-nut hummus

This has been a monumental week in American history. People in my family will have the right to share the same privileges that I do with my significant other and Americans will continue to have access to healthcare. There is nothing more important than health. If we are sick, we cannot take care of ourselves or others. Maintaining our health – mentally and physically – is of paramount importance to be able to contribute to others and the world. I suffer from chronic depression, and for the most part is not apparent from the outside, but it is a part of my life. As I near the completion of the fourth decade of my life, I am able to better recognize the signs and symptoms and try to work through it, rather than feed into it, literally. When I suffer through a period where it lays a dark veil over my eyes, I crave comforting food that does not make me feel better. So I make every effort to create food that both comforts me, but lifts me up so that I can continue to work towards brighter days. One way to brighten up my life, is to brighten up my plate. Recently, on a work trip to Chicago, I dined at Trencherman, and had the most amazing green pea falafel with grilled carrots and a coconut, hemp, vadouvan spiced cream. As I took my first bite, my first thought was “OMG” and my second thought was I need to make this, my way – gluten-free, dairy-free and full of protein. It was comforting, satisfying, and keeps me light and happy, even during darker times.
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Food glorious food: Zucchini “ravioli” bundles filled with savory beet puree, cashew nut goat cheese and chard

Taste and smell are linked to memories and have the ability to pull old memories from our brains. I find the reverse to be true as well – if I remember a food I ate, my mouth waters and I can smell it in my mind’s nose. On a stroll through my former work neighborhood, I passed Fig and Olive where I had the most amazing ravioli filled with goat cheese and herbs –  I could not let the thought go. I wanted to taste that soft doughy bundle of dairy.

I am lucky that if I am faced with craving, it awakens the creative problem solving side of myself and I can come up with a tasty gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian , protein filled, balanced and satisfying alternative.

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