April 23, 2015

Wonderful One Pot Meals For Spring

Give yourself time to rest and rejuvenate.

Make a simple meal that can be re-heated in the oven and served at dinnertime with enough leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

During the time you would spend cooking in the evening, try doing one of these things.
Go for a walk. Sit in the sun. Talk with a loved one. Hold someone's hand. Breathe deeply, in and out, offering gratitude for another day on the planet.

Quinoa Casserole with Spiced Roots

You will need:
4 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons lime or lemon juice
1 teaspoon each: thyme and oregano
3 red potatoes, chopped into cubes
4 carrots, chopped into ½ inch rounds
2 sweet potatoes, chopped into ½ inch rounds
1 beet, chopped into cubes
1 bunch kale, spinach, or chard, chopped
Sea salt to taste
1 cup cooked quinoa
½ cup walnuts

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add the spices, stir and sauté on low heat for 2 minutes.
Add chopped roots. Raise heat to high for 2 minutes.
Add lime or lemon juice, cover and reduce heat to low. Add spices. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Chop greens. Add to skillet. Add water if anything is sticking to the bottom.

Meanwhile, cook 1 cup quinoa in 2 cups water.
Add nuts towards the end of cooking.

Grease a casserole dish with vegetable oil.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
When roots are soft, place in the contents of the skillet bottom of the casserole dish.

Once quinoa and nuts are cooked, spread it on top of the vegetables.

Bake for 20 minutes.
Enjoy! Serve with sesame lemon sauce if you like.

Sesame Lemon Sauce

In a bowl, whisk together:
2 Tablespoons tahini
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
½ cup water
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon tamari

Use as a salad dressing or garnish for casseroles.

Millet Leek Casserole with Tempeh

Start with the millet.
Soak 1 cup millet for 2 hours or so. Strain and rinse millet.

You can also cook without soaking. This process removes phytic acid, making millet more digestible.

Pour into a cooking pot with 3 cups water.
Bring to a boil; then reduce to simmer.
Simmer until millet begins to thicken (about 20 minutes). Stir occasionally, as though cooking oatmeal.

3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 carrots, grated
½ teaspoon each: thyme and nutmeg
Cook on low heat and stir occasionally until millet thickens.

Meanwhile, chop 2 leeks.
Place in a deep skillet with 2 tablespoons olive oil.
Sauté for 5 minutes.

Chop 1 8-ounce package of tempeh into cubes.
Place tempeh in a bowl and add:
1 teaspoon tamari
1 teaspoon tahini
1 teaspoon brown mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon coriander

Mix well.
Pour contents of bowl into the skillet with leeks.
Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes, until tempeh is browning slightly.

Meanwhile, chop kale – about 2 packed cups.
Add kale and ½ cup water to the skillet.

Cover and cook on medium low heat for 5 more minutes.
Set aside.

Grease a glass baking dish (9x9) with olive or sunflower oil.
Pour one third of the millet into the baking dish and flatten it evenly.

Cover with half of the vegetable mixture.
Add another layer of millet, followed by vegetables.
Finish with millet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, or until the top is turning golden.

Buckwheat Cauliflower Casserole

Place 1 cup dry kasha (buckwheat groats) and 2 ½ cups water in a stock pot.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes until kasha begins to thicken.
Add ½ teaspoon each: salt, coriander, nutmeg
Stir vigorously until grain reaches porridge-like consistency. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Chop 1 large head cauliflower into florets.Chop 3 large carrots into crescents.

Oil a rectangular baking dish.
Add carrots and cauliflower to the baking dish.
Season with ½ teaspoon each: salt, turmeric, cumin, and cinnamon.
Toss well to coat.
Roast for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and reduce heat to 350 degrees.
Mix as many peas as you like with the cauliflower and carrots. Remove from baking dish and set aside in a bowl temporarily.
Cover the bottom of the baking dish with a thin layer of cooked kasha.
Cover kasha with the vegetables.
Cover vegetables with the rest of the cooked kasha.

Bake for 15 minutes, cool and enjoy!

April 16, 2015

Healthy Eating Inspiration from India

When I was traveling through Northern India, I spent as much time as possible absorbing the aromas, textures, flavors, and cooking techniques of roadside vendors and food kiosks.

It is amazing to get to watch food prepared in a way that's so connected to cultural creativity.

Try these recipes and food meditation, inspired by the healing culinary gifts of India.

Aloo Saag – Potatoes and Spinach

You will need:
2 tablespoons sunflower oil or ghee (clarified butter)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
2 large potatoes, cut into chunks
½ tsp each: salt, cumin, turmeric, and garam masala
1 tablespoon mustard
2 cups spinach leaves

Heat the oil in a large pan.
Add the onion, garlic and ginger, and fry for about 3 minutes.
Stir in the potatoes and spices.
Continue cooking and stirring for 5 minutes more.
Add a splash of water, cover, and cook for 8-10 minutes.
Check the potatoes are ready by spearing with the point of a knife, and if they are, add the spinach and let it wilt into the pan.
Take off the heat and serve with grilled chicken and rice.


Ghee, or clarified butter, is unsalted butter that has been separated from its water and milk proteins. When heated, butter will separate into three layers: the casein, a frothy layer on top; the clarified butterfat--the ghee--in the middle; and the milk solids, and proteins in the bottom.

Heat 1 lb. of unsalted butter in a stainless steel stock pot. When it starts bubbling, reduce heat to low.
Fetch a small bowl and spoon.

Stay with the butter, skimming the foamy white casein that rises to the surface with the spoon.  Repeat the skimming process for about 15 minutes, or until the ghee has stopped making any bubbling sounds.

Remove from heat immediately. Strain through a fine mesh tea strainer or cheesecloth into a glass mason jar. This process removes leftover milk solids. Ghee can be used to cook for people who are lactose intolerant.

Allow it to cool completely before closing.

Ghee stores at room temperature for 2-3 weeks.

Cooking Meditation

Slow Cooking
1. Begin from the very first moment you place the water on the heat, or pour the oil in the pan. Listen to the sounds, the smells and the sensations.

2. As you begin to cook the various foods, notice how the addition of each new ingredient affects the overall fragrance of the dish. Allow yourself to be present with the different senses, rather than being lost in thought. Each time the mind wanders, just gently bring the attention back to these sounds and smells.

3. Try to be aware of how your mood and thinking change throughout the cooking process. Do you find the heat oppressive? Do you find yourself getting anxious trying to keep all the different things going at once, or confident and in control? Don’t try and change any of these things for now –- simply building up a picture is enough.

4. As you observe the mind, use the physical senses as a safe place to come back to when you feel the emotions running off. For example, rather than feeling anxious about feeling anxious, come back to the smell of the food. Instead of getting increasingly frustrated at feeling frustrated, bring your attention back to the sounds of the food cooking.

5. As you become aware of these things, notice where your mind wants to travel. Does it drift off to memories past, perhaps associating the smells with previous meals? Or does it race ahead to the future, perhaps imagining what the food is going to taste like? This doesn’t require any analysis or thinking, it is simply a matter of being aware. Being aware of the thoughts in this way will help you to get much better at the exercise, which, for most people, means enjoying a more peaceful experience in the kitchen.

with gratitude to Headspace.com 

Cooking Inspiration: Cashew Cream Sauce

Watch this fun video and learn how to make your own cashew cream sauce. This is another dish that I originally sampled while in India.

April 12, 2015

Food Justice, Food Sovereignty

Many who live in Vermont have unique perspectives on food. These voices are the catalyst that can bring a new narrative of health, empowerment and solidarity to the food justice movement. 

By interviewing members of this state’s food system, I have learned a great deal about food justice and public health in Vermont. The stories of food shelf staff, migrant workers, and Abenaki elders reveal the need for a new conversation: one that is more radical and inclusive.

Thanks to the Farm to Plate Network (F2P), Vermont is working to connect all people with their sources of nourishment in the way that upholds the values of public health through wholesome nutrition, affordability, and equity. I invited some of those whom I interviewed to share their stories at the F2P Network’s convening in October 2013. Storytelling proved to be an effective way of engaging with the audience on topics of food justice, culinary traditions, and public health.

At an F2P Food Access Working Group meeting, John Sayles, CEO of the Vermont Foodbank, stated that, “we ought to be working to put ourselves out of a job”. This subtle acknowledgment of the way in which the emergency food system has become institutionalized and thus generated dependency is a step in the direction of identifying pinch points in the system and leveraging them for change. A fellow food activist re-iterated that comment to me later in the day and followed it with his belief that, “we cannot accept the status quo anymore, which is stuck in managing and maintaining poverty”.

To this end, the Foodbank has partnered with Capstone Community Action to create the Community Kitchen Academy (CKA), a culinary training program aimed at providing graduates with sustainable employment in the food system. I conducted an interview with a woman who used to visit the Barre Food Shelf to find supplemental nourishment. Now, she manages it.

As a single mom supporting three children, she realized that change was necessary in order to move from poverty to stability and health. By attending the CKA program, she gained the skills necessary to participate in the local food system and support her family. Because she was once a recipient of the services she now provides, she gave the feedback necessary to change the system. The Barre Food Shelf now distributes whole fruits and vegetables and prepared meals made with local ingredients.

Some of those who labor to cultivate these Vermont ingredients are migrant farm workers. These folks are crucial to the success of this state’s agricultural economy. Yet, their voices may go unheard because of their non-resident status. They endure treacherous travels from Mexico to find work on dairy farms. Often, they leave their homes because their land has been taken and there is not any work available for them any longer. Ironically, displaced farmers who are forced to migrate to support their families are working to maintain many of Vermont’s rural farms, which are also barely able to survive. 

 “It is essential to educate others about the traditional seeds and honor the native people who have grown and saved them”, one farmer explains to me. This is food sovereignty, which respects the right for all people to define their own food systems from the ground up. Originally elucidated by La Via Campesina in 1996, food sovereignty is rooted in the ongoing global struggles over control of food, land, water, and livelihoods. This international peasant movement focuses instead on people re-gaining and maintaining access to their land, enjoying the food they produce, honoring culinary traditions, and valuing all members of the food system.

Food sovereignty is at the core of the radical approach necessary to re-define food access as food equity solidarity, self-reliance, and inter-dependence. The Farm to Plate Network continues to bolster momentum within Vermont’s food system by collaborating on initiatives that leverage food-related successes as stepping stones towards the goal of all Vermonters consuming 10% of the food produced in-state by 2020.

Vermont needs a new narrative: one that is radical – rooted in prevention and empowerment – and more inclusive – acting on the needs of all people who live here. By updating the food access narrative, Vermont can make significant strides in addressing the root causes of food insecurity and engender system-wide behavior change to meet its goals.

With gratitude:

Barre Food Shelf Coordinator Kristin Hall
Vermont Food Bank CEO John Sayles and staff member Michelle Wallace
Farm to Plate Network Directors Erica Campbell and Ellen Kahler
Migrant Justice Network Coordinator Abel Luna and Farm Worker Enrique Balcazar
Interaction Institute for Social Change staff Cynthia Parker and Curtis Ogden


Food First: statistics from Director Eric Holt-Gimenez (2013)
La Via Campesina: food sovereignty statistics (from 1196 to the present)
Hunger FreeVermont: food access and poverty in Vermont statistics and report (2012)
Farm toPlate Network Report: statistics about local food distribution, access, consumption (2014)
Gottlieb et al. Food Justice. MIT Press, 2013.
Wittman et al, editors. Food Sovereignty. Fernwood Publishing, 2010.

April 8, 2015

The Poetry of Food


You slide an Amarone bottled in 1992
from your Vermont farm house wine rack
where it dutifully collects telling dust.
“Dalla cantina di Nonna Dina”: you name
our grandmother’s treasured cellar, cool
even in summer’s noon, like your
tincture room that holds plants’
healing alchemy.
Being sent to the basement in those days
seized me with dreadful delight
as I went downstairs weaving
wordless images of what might lurk
behind that cellar door.

Deep breath.

Open wide to the sweet, dank scent
of white mold-crusted sausages dangling from top shelves
where Fontina wheels peer their butter-dulled rinds
in feast anticipation. Lower yet –
shiny jars of apricot jam;
proud dark bottles of elderberry syrup;
dried wild mushrooms bagged in muslin; crusty rye bread wrapped
in brown paper – all carefully preserved
with the simple patience essential
to mountains.

There, gleaming with egg-wash
on the metal work table,
I spotted my charge. Crostata di mele.

Bravely I carried the delectable apple tart
upstairs to the kitchen.
I did not imagine that this realm
could become memory’s anchor
through gusts of years.

When you show me
this wine in your kitchen, I remember
the rubbled road that leads from the house
to the stream and back, walked so often

that I never feel lost again.

Workshop: The Poetry of  Food

Would you like to write about the poetry of food?
Join Jesse Lovasco and me 
on Tuesday, April 14th from 6 to 8 pm 

April 3, 2015

Eggs: Incredible, Edible ... Allergens?

Happy Egg Moon, Sap Moon, Passover, Easter, Hanuman Jayanti, and more!
In many cultures, the first signs of spring are cause for celebration of life's renewal.

The full moon tomorrow morning will be marked by a lunar eclipse visible in the Northeast around 5:45 am. If you do not want to set the alarm and rise before dawn, take a moment when you do get up to honor this transformative time.

As spring comes on, chickens start laying more eggs. This perfect protein is nourishing, balanced and vital for many. However, with the advent of large-scale agriculture and grain-fed chickens raised in contained settings, the nutritional value of eggs has declined.

All pastured animals can eat grass, which is high in omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. The animals kindly convert the fatty acids in the grass into a bio-available form that humans can digest. Thank you!

However, when these animals, from chickens and turkeys to cows and lambs, do not graze on grass, no one receives the omega fatty acid benefit.

What does this mean?
Without the crucial presence of these fatty acids, the body doesn't recognize the egg as food. Eventually, our systems begin to treat eggs as allergens.

In short, know your food sources! Meet the chickens that lay your eggs. It will help your body to digest and assimilate this potent protein.

Try making eggs poached in beet greens to celebrate the full moon of spring.
They make a great brunch dish alongside shredded carrot and zucchini bread.

Healthy Eating Program

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