Tag Archives: Olive oil

On the Menu, A Missed Week’s Ketchup..Er, Catch-Up

The Cooler Challenge series was awesome, and a lot of fun. I hope you enjoyed it as much as Gaylin and I did, and let us know if you try any of the recipes. Or, maybe you’ll take the challenge yourself, and share what you came up with! Either way, it did means some of my regularly-scheduled stuff got put off, including last week’s On the Menu. So, here is what we were eating last week:


Sunday: Leftovers. We each had plans that meant we wouldn’t be home to cook or eat together, so we cleaned out the refrigerator.

Monday: Grilled Indian  tofu and vegetable kebobs, with grilled salt & olive oil porgi, over brown rice in stock. Twin Oaks tofu is hand-made from local, non-GMO soybeans, and it’s spoiled me for other tofu. It’s got an amazing texture and a really meaty, nutty taste (I realize those two things sound weird together, but trust me). The veggies & tofu are rubbed in an Indian BBQ rub, and the chicken is cooked in homemade chicken stock. Now, here’s the weird part, I guess. We had some porgi, which is a fish, in the freezer. It’s kind of a long story as to why, but it needed to be eaten. There wasn’t enough for a meal in and of itself, so we decided to put it with another light main course.  I brushed it in olive oil, sprinkled it with black sea salt and fresh-crushed pepper, and tossed it on the grill. It was great!

Tuesday: Homemade multi-cheese mac & cheese, with fresh vegetables and smoked sausage. Served with salad. It was a week to clean out the refrigerator, apparently. Turns out we had a bazillion small bits of cheese, from smoked mozzarella to cream cheese, all local, that needed to be used up ASAP.  I tossed in some squash from our awesome neighbor, who has a garden the size of Toledo I think, some spinach, and a few other bits of veggies that I had lying around. I also put in some smoked sausage, though it wasn’t (unfortunately) local. We really need to buy a quarter hog. Anyway, the whole meal was rounded out with a fresh greens salad.

Wednesday: Cauliflower and Potato burritos. Vegetarian night. This recipe was originally from Vegetarian Times, but since their server is apparently having issues I can’t link it right now. It’s hefty and spicy and wonderful! It was also made with potatoes from that same awesome neighbor who gave us the squash.

Thursday: Grilled Chicken and Potatoes, with grilled balsamic squash. Thadd’s night to cook, and I am on the go. We’re using up potatoes and squash here, too! We did “hobo potatoes,” which is essentially a foil packet with olive oil, butter, pepper, sea salt, onions, and potatoes tossed on the grill. The squash were sliced lengthwise, the salted and allowed to set for about 15 minutes to remove some of the water. The salt was wiped off, and they were coated with a blended mix of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and basil.

Friday: Jambalaya. I have no idea why, but I have been craving this for a while now. It’s a great way to stretch meat, though I leave the chicken out most of the time.

Saturday: We had some friends over for Ethiopian!

Luches:  Leftovers for the most part, though I’m doing a lot of raw milk smoothies because I don’t get hungry in the heat. Breakfasts: Greek yogurt, fruit, homemade bread for toast, lots of pastured eggs, raw milk. Snacks: raw milk yogurt cheese (made from our milk), edamame and walnut mint pate, boiled eggs, fruit, other cheeses, nuts.

What’s your plan for the week?


Weekend Cooler Challange Recipe: Spinach Gnocchi with Asparagus & Peppered Bacon

Without a lot of babbling from me, let’s just get to the Weekend Cooler Challenge’s next recipe, shall we? Take it away, Gaylin!

Spinach Gnocchi with Asparagus and Peppered Bacon

Although I’ve taken the pasta plunge and started to make my own ravioli and pasta, I’ve not yet had the time to try gnocchi on my own. The bulk of my gnocchi making experience comes from sitting in an Italian kitchen listening to about three generations of women bicker and laugh and tell stories. That alone makes this little Dutch girl to try and it’s only a matter of time. Until then, however, I get my gnocchi from Tracina’s, a local pasta maker who sells at our farmers market. They’re one of the vendors that cooks samples and lets you try them. In most cases the pasta was made the day before or that morning. When I can’t make my own, this is usually what I buy. Their flavors vary from week to week, ranging from the spinach, which I purchased, to red pepper, plain potato, truffle, and ricotta. There is a vendor at the Charlottesville City Market that sells homemade pasta, sauce, and on some weeks gnocchi. All of it is fantastic! I can’t, for the life of me, remember their name right now, though; so, if anyone knows, please post it in the comments and I’ll link it here!

While the water was coming to the boil for the gnocchi, I chopped half a pound of peppered bacon from John Henry’s and fried it up in the biggest frying pan I own until it was cooked through but not quite crisp. Their bacon is so fresh and meaty that it doesn’t give off a ton of fat, but it was enough to use as the fat in the rest of the dish. Once this was done, I added about a cup of finely chopped leek and continued to cook until it was softened. Into the still-hot pan, I added about a pound of asparagus that I’d chopped into bite-sized pieces (about as long as the tips) and fried it up until it was bright green and crisp tender. I set this aside to cool.

Once the water was at the boil, I dumped in the gnocchi. Because it’s fresh gnocchi, it only takes between 3-5 minutes to finish cooking. I know it’s done when all of them float at the top of the water. I drained these out (saving the water, more on that in a bit) and quickly ran cold water from the tap over them to stop the cooking, then let them drain again thoroughly. Once drained, I added them to the pan with the bacon and asparagus and tossed everything around. I adjusted the seasonings a little with some sea salt and then set it all aside to let it cool completely before I put it in the fridge.

Now, about that water I saved. It was still hot when I drained out the gnocchi, and since I’m all about saving time, I drained the gnocchi so that the water fell right back into the pot I was going to use next for the pasta I was making. I do something similar. It saves time, and it saves water. Also, pasta water makes a great base for soups, or as the liquid for homemade mac and cheese. It can also be used for some breads. If all else fails, it’s great water for my garden (once it cools down, of course)!

The Challenge continues tomorrow, with a squid-ink pasta recipe!

Grain Free Week & On the Menu

I am going grain-free for a week, though Thadd will not be joining me. I thought about blogging my grain-free journey with recipes and everything, and then I realized that the menu really doesn’t look much different from any other menu I post. With the exceptions of homemade (super-yummy) breads, we don’t eat a ton of grains.  When we do, it tends to be quinoa, bulgar, etc., mostly because I like cooking weird stuff.

So, I’ll keep you generally posted, but don’t expect any real revelations. Maybe I should have done this in the winter, when we’re a bit more grain-heavy. Regardless, here’s the menu for the week:


Monday: Seared pork loin with homemade BBQ beans and vinegar & herb 3-potato salad.  This meal was to use up some of the leftovers from our party. I made crockpot beans to go with our burgers (yep, all pastured and local, etc.), and had some leftover. My potato salad is one of my most-requested recipes, and has no dairy. It’s a wonderful combination of cider vinegar, olive oil, and fresh herbs, with lemon zest over the top!

Tuesday:  Asian salmon over zucchini “noodles”,” with large salad. They store had made a mistake in pricing their salmon filets, so I grabbed them! I love making zucchini, beets, spaghetti squash, and other veggies into noodles, and it’s a fun way to get kids to eat their veggies, too! Greens are in hot and heavy right now, so they’re a featured item in many of our meals.

Wednesday: Beef, with whipped sweet potatoes and seasonal vegetable. We just got a load of beef in from one of our favorite farms, and this is Thadd’s night to cook, so he gets to choose what kind of beef we’ll have. I’m going to hit the Green Market to see what’s fresh for our vegetable, and we’ll pull some sweet potatoes out of storage.

Thursday: Duck egg & greens frittata with soup and salad. Organic, free range duck eggs…so good! I’ll put together some “stone soup” from leftovers and homemade stock, and serve it with a big salad of fresh greens, strawberries, and elderberry & sage vinaigrette.

Friday & Saturday: Birthday parties. Lots of birthdays this month! So, the menu is on hold until we hear whether these are cookouts, etc.

Lunches are leftovers for the most part. Breakfasts include some combination of: milk, eggs in some form, cheese, fruit, yogurt, and honey.

What are you eating this week?

Back to Basics: Nutrition Rule #7

Eat lean proteins. If you can’t afford quality meats, find an alternative.

Now, I probably don’t mean the same thing by “lean protein” as you’re used to hearing. I do not mean ripping the skin off your chicken, taking the fat off your milk, or using low-fat anything. Leave the fats on your foods: stop taking the skin off your chicken breast, quite buying skim milk, and throw out the “low fat” whatever it is in your cupboard.  However, what you should be looking for is non-corn fed. Why? Because this causes a different kind of fat, and lots of it. Starches like corn do a variety of things to animal products, none of them good (at least not for you–they’re great for large agriculture, though). I won’t go into all of it here, because there’s a good bit of science heavy boring stuff that is beyond the scope of this blog series; but, one good example of why to look for non-corn-fed is grass-fed beef, which has up to 1/2 less fat than corn-fed. Now, there are a lot of issues with “grass fed” and “corn-finished,” as well. Start with going grass-fed, for now. I’ll do a post on how to choose meats of all types here in the future to help you figure out what is okay with grains, but starting with this rule will make things easier.


-Fats and protein play an essential role in brain function. You need them.

-When you buy “low-fat” products, what you’re actually getting is more carbohydrates, empty calories, and additives like salt.

-Buying quality proteins gives you more protein and quality fat for your dollar.

-Low-quality proteins are often high in undesirable types of fat and chemicals.

-Protein helps keep you feeling full.

-A diet of all carbohydrates is going to make or keep you fat. You need to be eating at least 30% of your diet in good fats (grass-fed animal products, olive oil, etc.), and another 40% in protein. Don’t stress about the numbers, though. Just start replacing carb-heavy meals with veggies and protein, and it’ll all work out.


-Donate or throw away “low fat” items. I promise you the fats they do have in them are bad for you, and what they’ve replaced the rest of the fats with to retain flavor and texture is even worse.

-Look for grass-fed dairy, eggs, and meats either in the supermarket, or (preferably) from a local farmer.

-It will be more expensive, so make it stretch. Don’t eat whole cuts of meat, instead use it  in soups, stews, and casseroles with other good ingredients (like those veggies from rule #6). American tend to eat too much meat as it is. That said, truly lean meats–meaning lean in their whole, not just lean when you trim all the crappy fat off of them–can be expensive, and hard to find in some areas. So, you may need to supplement with other protein sources.

-If you can’t find or afford quality animal products (or, if you prefer not to eat them), there are a lot of great substitutes:

-Lentils & beans. These are your frugal friend, with good proteins. Add some olive oil to them, or butter, to make sure the appropriate fats are there.

-Fish. This is a complicated issue, and one I’ll do a blog on at some other time. I will say that if you’re eating farm-raised salmon for it’s health value, you’re wasting you money, because it doesn’t really have any health value. Some fish are fine farm-raised, some are pointless and even harmful. Start by doing wild-caught salmon, and farm-raised swai (it’s a mild whitefish) now, and work other fish in as you do the research and find out what is healthful and what is harmful.

-Tofu & tempeh. (I am NOT going to get into the soy argument here, so all of you who found your way over here to tell me the dangers or wonders of soy, go do it on your own blog; this is meant to be basic nutrition info, not a thesis on phytoestrogens). If you are going to do this, you need to look for ORGANIC tofu and tempeh, preferably ones labeled “Non-GMO.”

-Eat protein-rich vegetables, like broccoli, in combination with grains. There can be a bit of complexity to this, so if you’re vegetarian, I recommend you do a good bit of research to make sure you have complete amino acids.

-Eat quinoa. It’s a complete protein, and is great with some olive oil and sun-dried tomatoes, or in place of rice or mashed potatoes.

-Eat nuts!

-Eat protein rich snacks like cottage cheese, nuts, and boiled eggs. Reach for a slice of cheese and almonds when you want a snack, instead of the Doritos. Even if it’s not grass-fed cheese (which can be really hard to find), the protein and fats in these foods will give you a slow energy boost instead of the sugar spike you get from starches and sugars. They’ll also fill you up faster, and keep you that way longer.

Great Things Come in Small Packages: Turkish Dolmas!

I love the cuisines of so many different countries, but I have to say that traditional Turkish cuisine holds a special place in my heart. Partly it’s because I love the rich flavors and unexpected flavor combinations, and partly because my amazing teacher-mentor-friend Chef Channon Mondoux’s passion for the  cuisine is really infectious! She wrote an amazing e-book full of traditional recipes, called “Celebration at the Sarayi,” and just watching it makes my mouth water (yep, you too can cook amazing Turkish cuisine–the book is downloadable!). I didn’t use the recipe from the book for this particular batch, but it was definitely my inspiration.

I started by mixing up the filling:

Cooked brown rice, parsley, onions, walnuts (you can use pistachios, but Thadd’s allergic), mint, dates, dried currants,  dried apricots, EVOO, and spices.  Once that was all mixed, I popped open my jar of grape leaves, drained them, ad then washed the leaves. Wring them out well after you’re done washing. Then, lay them out and put a spoonful of stuffing onto the closest corner of the leaf to you:

Starting at the edge closest, roll the leaf, tucking in the right and left “ends” to form a packet:

Layer your packets tightly in a large saucepan. This is what one jar of leaves made for me:

Cover with broth or water about 2/3 full, and cover tightly. I simmered mine for about 45 minutes. Eat chilled or cold–they’re great!

A Fail and a Win

So, the fail is that I didn’t post a “Monday Healthy Eating blog” as I’d promised. This week is nuts for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is playing catch-up from the week I took off between Christmas and New Year’s. It’s pretty difficult to find a convenient time to take a week off in my business, but the week between two holidays is almost always good timing for the majority of my clients; so, I make the most of it. Anyway, the point is that I was so busy catching up that I apparently fell behind.

The win is I had a spectacular time over my break, and you’ll see some of it coming up in the form of wine pairings using local vintages. So, there’s that to look forward to.

But, to remedy my fail from Monday, here’s some more catch-up:

Healthy Eating Tip of the Week: Vegetables. Eat them. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but I wanted to reiterate it here because so many people tell me “I don’t like vegetables,” or “my kids don’t like vegetables.” And I wanted to say, to quote a friend “Suck it up, buttercup.” You need those veggies, and so do your kids.  They have fiber, they have antioxidants, they have vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy.  Find good ways to prepare a variety of colorful veggies, and you’ll be healthier all around, from the tip of your not-running nose to the bottom of your strong-boned toes.

And, that’s the catch. You need to find good ways to prepare vegetables. Mushy and gray is not a recipe for yummy. So, here’s a few ideas to help you start this year off with veggies:

-Roasting is your friend. You can roast almost any vegetable and it gets better. Many of my clients, kids included, thought they hated broccoli until they had it tossed in olive oil and roasted. Carrots coated in some balsamic vinegar and roasted caramelize into these wonderful orange nuggets of fabulousness.  Even many kids like beets that have had a bit of salt, pepper, EVOO, and garlic tossed into a roaster for 45 minutes or so. And, roasting helps preserve many of the lost in steaming or boiling.

-Do not overcook your vegetables. Al dente, trust me.

-Flash fry your green beans in a dry pan, adding a coating of garlic powder and a touch of salt a minute or two before they’re done. The garlic powder will sear, and give the beans a smoky garlic flavor that goes really well with everything from Chinese to Pot Roast.

Kabob. Kids love kabobs. They’re a really fun way to do vegetables. Just cut into 1 inch chunks, toss with (you guessed it) some olive oil, skewer and grill, bake, or broil. You can add some spices or a marinade if you want. Serve over rice.

-Use your peeler to make zucchini and squash into noodles, and use like spaghetti. Or, roast up a spaghetti squash and use the meat instead of pasta (this is great with pesto or red sauce, but also with richer dishes like stroganoff).

Those are just a few ideas. Get creative! It’ll not only keep you healthier, but also help trim your budget, since veggie are typically cheaper than meats.

Roasted Cranberry Orange Sauce

This stuff is great. I used this recipe, with some modifications. Here it is, with my mods:

1 orange
1 lb. fresh or thawed cranberries
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground cardamom seeds
1/2 tsp. ground cloves

1/2 tsp. freshly ground cinnamon

1 1⁄2 tbsp. port

Zest the orange into the cranberries. Juice orange into the cranberries. Add sugar and spices, toss to mix. Put in roasting pan at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until berries start to burst. Remove from oven, add port, stir, and allow to sit overnight in refrigerator.

This is a great alternative to HFCS-laden jellies from the store, and full of yummy antioxidants, too!