Category Archives: Recipes

More $5 meal ideas.

The Slow Food Movement has had people blogging on their website about how they accomplished the $5 meal challenge. 

Please check out their page for sharing recipe ideas (and pictures) here: and let your own creativity about meal planning grow and prosper.  When I looked a little further for $5 meals I came across the $5 dinner website that is chock full of ideas about meals to cook on the cheap and easy.

Eating cheap, fast, easy and healthy is definitely doable!   To increase your pleasure, invite some friends over and make it fun.

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$5 Meal Challenge Report

As I promised earlier, I would report to you the results of my own $5 challenge (cooking a fresh, local, healthy meal for $5 or less and sharing it with others that was initiated by the Slow Food Movement).  As it turns out, I cooked my own meal and shared it but I also participated in the Katy Trail Slow Food Movement $5 meal challenge fundraiser for Centro Latino. 

The meal I made falls into my category of “healthy fast food.”   Just as a reminder “healthy fast food” has the following requirements.  Has to be EASY!

  1. Doesn’t take a lot of time.
  2. Not expensive.
  3. Tasty and delicious.
  4. Good for you (loosely defined on purpose)
  5. When possible, it includes ingredients that can be found locally and are seasonal.

I prepared organic polenta, black beans, and goat cheese and served it with an organic spinach salad topped with tomatoes.  Talk about healthy, quick and easy.  All I did was get the polenta that comes in a roll.  I cut the roll in pieces and sautéed them in olive oil until they were lightly browned.  I placed them on a plate, poured the warmed up black bean soup over it, and topped it with goat cheese.  I love the “black bean soup” by Goya and definitely prefer it over their can of “black beans.”  The black bean soup is much more flavorful and I use them just as I would black beans.  I can usually find it at World Harvest and always ask them to order it if I don’t find it on the shelf.  For the salad, I just bought organic spinach.  Spinach is one of those foods you really want to buy organic.  I had prepared so many tomatoes at the fundraiser the night before, that I was able to take some home to use for my meal the next day.  They had been prepared for the pasta that was served, so they had been lightly sautéed in olive oil with garlic.  I’ve broken down the cost of the meal below.  It is approximate on the tomatoes because I borrowed them, but I’m close enough.

Per person cost:

Organic Basil Garlic Polenta – (Food Merchants) (bought at the locally-owned health food store) –  $1

Black Bean Soup (Goya) – $.45

Fresh Goat Cheese (Goatsbeard Farm) – $1

Organic Spinach and Local Fresh Tomatoe Salad – $1.50

TOTAL = $3.95

This is just one simple suggestion for having a cheap, healthy, fast, locally-produced meal.  Get to your farmers market this weekend and pick up some fresh squash, green beans, sweet potatoes, or anything else that strikes your fancy.  A sweet potato with some black beans and goat cheese makes a meal.  Cut a squash in two and bake it in the oven.  Fill it in the middle with your favorite toppings.  I love brown rice, feta, and raisins inside.  Be creative! Taste the goodness of fresh and easy.

Have a glorious fall weekend!

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Buying and eating seasonal food!

More and more people are asking me for tips on the right food to eat and food preparation.  It seems that we have forgotten how to eat and cook of our own food in this crazy busy world and could use a few pointers.  I completely understand. 

The first important consideration for me is to buy food that is seasonal.   There are many reasons for this.  When you buy food in season you will be buying fresher food and fresher food is going to be more nutritious.  Produce that has traveled a long distance will be lower in nutrients than produce grown locally and in season and it tastes better when it’s fresh.  If those aren’t enough reasons, remember the  carbon dioxide emissions associated with food that travels miles to your plate.  Buying local helps save the environment.  Remember that what you eat makes a difference to the health of your body and its also a social, political, spiritual, and environmental statement.

Find what’s local and seasonal in your area with the ingredient map on the website that include recipes and tips to optimize flavor.  You might discover new foods that you’ve never tried before.

For instance, I just received an email from one of the best cooks I know and is very skilled at buying and cooking seasonal food.   She described how she just discovered sweet potato greens.  She recently made friends with a woman from Malawi in southern Africa who told her that sweet potato greens are a staple food there.  Then on her next trip to the farmer’s market in Columbia, there was a vendor who had sweet potato greens for sale.  She got the recipe on how to cook them and shared it with me.

So, in case you run across a bunch of sweet potato greens before they wind up in the compost pile (or worse), here’s what to do:

 Wash the leaves and chop roughly. Heat a little bit of oil in a sauté pan and put in the greens. Salt lightly. As they cook, chop some tomatoes (I used small roma tomatoes and simply halved them). Use whatever ratio of tomatoes to greens you like. Squeeze in a little lemon juice. Add a tablespoon of peanut butter, especially the kind that is just the ground nuts (I used almond butter because that’s what I had). Cover the pan and let things cook in just the liquid from the leaves, plus the lemon juice, for just a few minutes. Uncover and stir things around so the nut butter sort of melts into the liquid in the pan. Then enjoy! The dish is not highly seasoned but has some texture and a delicate complexity of flavors. Apparently, sourness of the lemon juice is they key in their preparation of the dish.

Try something new, local, and seasonal.  Taste the difference. Feel the pleasure of doing something good for your body and the rest of the world.

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Healthy Food on a Budget

I’m always having people ask me for tips about how to eat healthy on a budget.  I just found this great blog that calls itself “Healthy Food on a Budget: Tips from a registered dietician in Boston.” Please avail yourself to it. 

I’ve looked through it and found lots of wonderful writings that I’m sure you’ll enjoy (e.g. Soda Free Summer Campaign,  Healthy Recipes, Stocking a Healthy Kitchen,  The Benefits of Beans, Cooking with Kids, and on and on.)

I really love this blog!


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“We have to eat to live, so why not enjoy food to its fullest?” (Cooking Wild in Missouri, Bernadette Dryden)

I am honored to be able to send you this press release about the new cookbook created by a friend and Slow Food companion, Bernadette Dryden, called “Cooking Wild in Missouri.”  I’ve seen the book and it is a “must have” even if you don’t cook.   It is a book put together with love and bursting with love for food, for life, and for all things Missouri.  I hope you avail yourself to it! 

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) has published a colorful new cookbook that emphasizes local and seasonal ingredients in a tempting collection of appetizers, fresh salads, savory stews, elegant entrées and delectable desserts.

 “Cooking Wild in Missouri,” created by author Bernadette Dryden, presents more than 100 kitchen-tested recipes that will inspire beginner and advanced cooks to savor Missouri’s game, fish, nuts, fruits and mushrooms. The 200-page book also features color photographs on nearly every page and tips to make time in the kitchen easy, efficient and fun. Continue reading

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More Healthy Fast Food to Cook and Enjoy!

I thought it was time to add to the “healthy fast food” recipes.  My requirements are it “Has to be EASY! Doesn’t take a lot of time. Not expensive. Tasty and delicious. Good for you (loosely defined on purpose). When possible, it includes ingredients that can be found locally and are seasonal.”  Here are a couple of meal ideas from Martha. Continue reading

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Break the Fast!!!

I’ve always loved breakfast.  I can’t wait to get up and have my cup of coffee for the day (after I meditate, of course) and fix my current breakfast of choice.  Right now this consists of plain yogurt, fruit of your choice, chopped walnuts, and granola (I am particularly fond of some kind of vanilla almond).  I have the pleasure of having a college student working with me this semester and she has offered her own version of her love for breakfast. Read on–you might be able to mix up a little homemade granola if you’re snowed in like I am today. Continue reading

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Healthy Fast Food–easy as one, two, three

You asked for it.  You got !  Everyone is always wanting to know the alternatives to driving through the fast food lane–how to eat healthy without a lot of work or money.  So, I have decided to find, try out, and blog a “healthy fast food” recipe or meal idea from time to time that meets the following criteria:

  1. Has to be EASY!
  2. Doesn’t take a lot of time.
  3. Not expensive.
  4. Tasty and delicious.
  5. Good for you (loosely defined on purpose)
  6. When possible, it includes ingredients that can be found locally and are seasonal.

Continue reading

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Eat your Brussels Sprouts!

First of all, I apologize for not getting a blog posted for a couple of weeks now. First I was busy getting ready to go on vacation, then I went on vacation, and now I’m almost back.  I say “almost” because I’m writing this while flying back from St. Kitts, a little island in the Carribean.  While I was there, I had the pleasure of having Thanksgiving dinner with a number of new found friends who got together to share the holiday and form a brief family away from home.  A wide variety of vegetables are not readily available on the island, but the friend I was staying with had just bought a few packages of Brussels sprouts and as luck would have it, I came prepared with just the right recipe.  Continue reading

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All About Pumpkins!!

As I mentioned in my last blog, I love anything with pumpkin in it. Not only is it tasty (in my opinion), it is also very nutritious (see nutrition facts below).  In an effort to help you enjoy the bounty of this beautiful fall, I’m dedicating this week to my favorite pumpkin recipes.  If you have any of your favorites to share, please send them to me at

Pumpkin Bread (my mom’s recipe)

2 cups sugar
1 cup salad oil (or substitute ½ oil and ½ applesauce for a healthier version)
3 eggs
2 cups canned pumpkin
3 cups flour
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
Raisins (optional) – ¾ cup
Nuts (optional) – ¾ cup

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Stir the sugar and oil together, add the eggs and pumpkin, then the flour with all the seasonings. Add raisins & nuts.  Pour into two loaf pans that you’ve lined with wax paper.  Cook for 1 to 1-1/4 hr.

Pumpkin Leek Soup with Pumpkin Seed Crema

This recipe came from a Delicious Living magazine (October 2001) and was the first time I actually used fresh pumpkin.  It is a little work, but well worth the effort.  I’m also describing how to bake pumpkin below.

Pumpkin Seed Crema

¼ cup pumpkin seeds, roasted
2 tbsp. fresh sage
2 tbsp. low-fat milk
½ cup nonfat plain yogurt

In blender or food processor, mix all ingredients and blend well. Keep refrigerated until use.


3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. chopped garlic
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 small onion, chopped
2 leeks, chopped
1 medium sugar pumpkin, seated and cubed (or 3 cups canned pumpkin)
1 32-ounce package vegetable stock
1 cup low-fat milk
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped sage, to taste
1 pinch ground cloves
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
roasted pumpkin seeds, to garnish
sage leaves, to garnish
pumpkin seed crema, to garnish

1. Heat olive oil in large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add garlic, potatoes, onion, carrot, leeks and pumpkin. Sauté over medium heat until the vegetables have begun to brown, about 7-8 min. (If using canned pumpkin, add with stock below.)

2. Add stock and milk; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 10-12 min.

3. Add sage and purée mixture in blender or food processor. Add cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and pepper, to taste.

4. Serve in individual bowls, garnished with a drizzle of pumpkin seed crema, roasted pumpkin seeds and a sprig of sage.

Ginger Pumpkin Cheesecake

This is my favorite dessert at Thanksgiving. I make it instead of pumpkin pie (much to my mother’s dismay). By the way, I’m still looking for the perfect pumpkin cheesecake recipe, so if anybody has one to send me please don’t hesitate.

8 ounces gingersnap cookies, finally crushed
3tbsp. butter, melted
2tbsp. sugar
2 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened (I never use low-nonfat cream cheese!)
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
2tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 can (15 ounce) pumpkin
1tbsp. flour
2tsp. pumpkin pie spice (OR 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2tsp. nutmeg, 1/2tsp. cloves, 1/2tsp. ginger)
whipped cream
pecan halves

1.      Preheat oven to 325°. Combine crumbs, butter and sugar. Press into bottom and sides of a 9 inch cake pan or springform pan. Bake 15 min. Set aside.

2.      Beat cream cheese and brown sugar until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time. Add remaining ingredients and beat until smooth.

3.      Pour into prebaked crust. Bake for 50 min. or until filling barely moves when gently shaken. Cool, then chill in refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Garnish with whipped cream and pecan halves. Makes 12 slices.

Roasted Pumpkin Black Bean Chili

I almost forgot about this delicious recipe.  I’m serving it at my next potluck!

6 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 pounds lean, boneless pork, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
1 large onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow pepper, seeded and diced
1 can (13-3/4 ounces) beef broth
2/3 cup cream sherry or cooking sherry
1 can (14-1/2 ounces) stewed tomatoes
2 1/2 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. brown sugar
Cayenne pepper to taste
Sea salt to taste
1 can (15 ounces) puréed pumpkin
2 cups cooked black beans
Shredded cheddar cheese, toasted pumpkin seeds, sliced scallions, to garnish

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pot and brown pork in batches over medium-high heat, adding more oil as needed. Once pork is browned on all sides, reserve. Add onion, garlic, pepper to the pot; sauté about 10 min. Stir in broth, sherry and tomatoes. Add spices, sugar, cayenne pepper and salt to taste. Stir well. Add pumpkin purée, stirring until smooth. Add black beans and ground pork. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally for one hour. Ladle hot servings.

And… just for fun!  Pumpkin Pudding

Easy, fast, and good! This recipe was taught to me by Leslie Alhanati, a psychology intern I worked with at the Long Beach VA hospital.

1 cup pumpkin
2 cups milk
Instant pudding mix (vanilla or butterscotch)
Pumpkin pie spices to taste

Follow directions on the instant pudding mix and enjoy.

Using fresh pumpkin

I know it’s really tempting to use canned pumpkin all the time. However, when you take the time to use fresh pumpkin, it always pays off. Here is a relatively easy way to cook pumpkin. I hope you give it a try.

Cut a pumpkin in half lengthwise, remove the stem and scoop out the pumpkin seeds. Cut each half into four quarters and place flesh side down onto a parchment or foil lined a clean sheet. Bake the pumpkin parts in a 350° oven for 45 to 60 min., or until the pumpkin flesh is tender. Allow to cool, then scoop out the flesh and purée in a food processor.  Fresh pumpkin!

Pumpkin Nutrition Facts from

High in fiber (high fiber diets aid the digestive process; help with weight management by helping you feel fuller sooner; help lower cholesterol; help fight heart disease by reducing the tendency of the blood to clot.

  • High in Vitamin C (Vitamin C help the body’s immune functions; helps fight free radicals, which cause cellular damage; helps in the body’s production of collagen, which is very important for those recovering from wounds and injuries; may offer cancer fighting properties.)
  • High in vitamin E (Vitamin E has antioxidant properties, which are essential to skin health and skin care; offers anti-aging benefits for the skin; help regulate Vitamin A in the body; aids in treating sun burns and various skin irritations.)
  • High in Magnesium (Magnesium is an importabt mineral that is essential to many normal biological functions of the body; important in the formation of bones and teeth.)
  • High in  Potassium (Potassium is an important mineral that helps regulate blood pressure and proper heart function.)
  • High in a variety of carotenoids (Dietary carotenoids assist in lower risk of a variety of cancers, heart disease, cataracts and blindness, as well as helping fight the effects of aging; provides anti-inflamatory benefits; protects against cholesterol build up.)
  • High in Zinc (Zinc is great for reproductive health; helps to reduce prostate size)
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