Monthly Archives: October 2014

Crunchy Sweet Coleslaw

Short post today!  It’s sunny and 70+ degrees in Chicago!  A beautiful, take-it-all-in-don’t-miss-a-moment-of-it kinda day!  Last week at Healthy Bites (cooking class) we put together this wonderful coleslaw.  It’s simple, crunchy and sweet.  It’s super easy to throw together and includes a few of my personal seasonal favorites . . . apples, carrots and cabbage.  What makes this coleslaw unique is the fresh lemon zest and juice . . . really makes the flavors pop!

If the mayonnaise makes you nervous, consider that with 10+ servings per recipe you’ll get less total fat (and about the same saturated fat, 1 gram) than you would in a serving of Light Dressing.  It easily works into a healthy diet when used in small amounts.  In this recipe it’s more of a medium for holding the lemon juice to the crunchy goods!

The group assigned to this recipe in class played with the flavors and ended up really leaning into the lemon juice, so adjust to taste!   Oh, and we used Fuji’s!

1 small cabbage, shredded (or half a large)
2 apples, chopped
2 carrots, shredded
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp lemon zest (or more to taste)
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (or more to taste)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Combine cabbage, apples and carrots in a large bowl and set aside.
Whisk together the mayonnaise, sugar, lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper and adjust as per taste.  Toss with the cabbage mixture. Enjoy!

Recipe Gently Adapted From,, lemon apple coleslaw




Spinach Cakes

The cooler weather has brought us greens . . . Kale and spinach in abundance!  It’s a good thing Mick’s growing kale this year as we’re sharing our harvest with a new housemate – His birthday present, a bearded dragon named Moe.  He’s cute (as far as reptiles go).  He always looks like he’s smiling.  And when I go down to turn off his light at night and interrupt his sleep, he slowly opens his eye (just one) and when he see’s it’s me he closes it again and goes back to sleep.  I think we’ve bonded (as far as that’s possible)!

Anyway, I came upon this recipe that’s loaded with spinach and a few of my other favorites – ricotta and Parmesan cheese and garlic!  I’m always looking for easy lunchbox ideas for Mick, the kind with plenty of leftovers for myself!  These Spinach Cakes are perfect.  I doubled the recipe first time out and also made them for a cooking class . . .  they were a hit all the way around!  Total thumbs up . . . and they’re delicious served warm or cold.

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting this past week.  Our Seattle-like weather, days on end of overcast skies with gentle drizzle can cause me to do that.  With it being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I got to thinking.  A lot of the things that people shared with me when I was in treatment for breast cancer, have been words that have served me well in so many ways in the 16 years that have followed.  Their words and stories I carried with me (and still do), like a child holds onto a tiny caterpillar that he takes with him every where, not ever wanting to let go of the magical find.  They gave me hope of getting to the other side.  And I so wanted to get to the other side.

Breast cancer survivors, cancer survivors, are very brave people.  Full of courage, each day, facing the challenges before them . . . . sometimes with gusto, sometimes quietly, but always with great strength.    I think one of the most powerful things that was shared with me, was something my beautiful friend Frannie wrote to me in a card.  Perhaps it’s a quote from someone, I’m not sure, but it goes like this . . . .  Sometimes courage doesn’t roar.  Sometimes courage is that quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.”  

I think, we are all survivors of something, and most probably we become survivors of many things.  What life seems to keep teaching me is, it’s the people in our lives who can see the light for us when things are foggy, who make all the difference.  Their words bring comfort and hope and when there are no words, their willingness to walk the journey with us, to be present, is enough.  I like that we can be a light for each other . . . . Like a flock of geese, we take turns at the front of the V and shelter each other from the winds.  I think this is what keeps things bearable.    

So I’m way off the topic of greens though my hope is you’re weaving them into your days, and often.  They’re filled with antioxidants and phytochemicals for combating not only cancers but heart disease, high blood pressure and many other various health concerns.  Most people I’ve come across, shy away from greens simply because they’re not sure what to do with them.  Snipping a few kale leaves into a salad along with your romaine is a great place to start.  Sauteed in a bit of olive oil with a sprinkle of kosher salt is also good or perhaps added to your vegetable soup.  You could try these spinach cakes . . . . definitely double the recipe if you do, you’ll be glad!

Oh and one last thought . . . as we left Karen’s house from violin lessons this afternoon I said to Mick, “What’s changed Mick, do you notice anything different?”  He replied with a smile, “The sun’s out mom, doesn’t it feel good!”


spinach cakes1spinach cakes2Spinach Cakes
12 cups spinach, finely chopped
1/2 cup part skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

1.   Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2.   Finely chop spinach OR pulse spinach in batches in a food processor until finely chopped and transfer to a bowl.
3.   To the spinach, add the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, garlic, salt and pepper and stir to combine.
4.   Spray 8 muffin pan cups with non-stick spray and fill the cups with the spinach mixture.  They will be rather full.
5.   Bake the spinach cakes until set, about 20 minutes.  Allow the spinach cakes to stand in the muffin tin for 5 minutes and then loosen the edges with a knife.  Gently remove the cakes from the pan onto a cutting board or parchment paper.  Serve warm Or cold (they’re delicious either way)!

Recipe gently adapted from,, Parmesan Spinach Cakes

Recipe Notes
The original recipe suggests using mature spinach for it’s sturdy texture and flavor.


Simple Spaghetti Sauce

Going, going, gone . . . . Our tomatoes that is.  There’s a lot less of them at the farm stand this week.  If you’re lucky to still get your hands on some, you can easily sub-out half the can of crushed tomatoes in this recipe and finely chop and add the fresh!  But, as the cold approaches, I got to thinking that sometimes, every once in awhile, it’s nice to have a back up.  A plan B.  This recipe from Cook’s Illustrated Magazine was written by Keith Dresser, who set out to create a vibrant fresh sauce using canned tomatoes.  Perfect for those crazy days when dinner needs to come together ASAP (anyone with me?!)!

I love it when I find a recipe that’s quick and simple, using only a few (typically on hand) ingredients, that still tastes fresh!  This definitely delivers!  With a refrigerator full of locally grown onions and garlic and a precious last few tender basil leaves on my plant out back, I quickly threw together this awesome sauce!  I served it over whole wheat pasta with plenty of grated Reggiano (what else?)!!  It’s like meet-you-in-the-middle tomato sauce – not totally from scratch and not from a jar . . . . We added a tossed green salad to round it out!  Happy Weekend!

MickYearbook1 434Simple Spaghetti Sauce
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp butter
1/4 cup onion, grated
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp salt
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/4 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
Additional salt to taste
Fresh Ground Pepper to taste
1.   Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until melted.  Add onion, oregano and 1/4 tsp salt.  Cook, stirring occasionally until the liquid has evaporated and the onion is golden brown (about 5 minutes).
2.   Add the garlic and cook about 30 seconds and then stir in the tomatoes and sugar.  Increase the heat to high until the  mixture begins to simmer and then lower the heat to medium-low and simmer until thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.
3.   Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the fresh basil and olive oil and season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Prep Notes:
The original recipe suggested using a high quality crushed tomato like Tuttorosso or Muir Glen (which is what I used).  Also, I pulled back a smidge on the butter and salt.

Recipe Gently Adapted from, Cook’s Illustrated Magazine, Boston Common Press Limited Partnership, Recipe by Keith Dresser 

Vegetable Soup

Fresh. Warm. Comforting. Nourishing.  That’s what I crave the first chilly days of October . . .  and they’ve arrived!  Didn’t expect them so soon (but I always say that, which is kinda funny as I live in Chicago)  Something happened between Wednesday and Thursday, we dropped about 20 degrees.  Yikes!  I located my fleece jacket and this wonderful new vegetable soup recipe.

Mick decided back in April that he no longer wanted to eat meat.  Technically, he’s a pescetarian, as he’ll eat small amounts of seafood.  He also eats eggs and dairy products.  It’s not the first time this has surfaced in Mick’s life.  He’s always tipped toward the plant kingdom.  He’s grown up surrounded by fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains so it hasn’t been much of a stretch though keeping this, on-the-edge-of-13 child full is always a challenge!  I’m guessing some of you can relate.

Back to the recipe.  I had this rather large zucchini from the farm stand that needed to be used, so as I stood in my kitchen, in my fleece, I decided it was time to make the soup.  I added cheese ravioli for a little extra protein, creaminess, and yum!  It was so delicious, I put a text out to my sister to stop by for a quick bowl, but she never showed up . . . probably a good thing . . . there’s more for the weekend (to see us through the first cold snap)!   Enjoy!

October14soup 001 October14soup 004Vegetable Soup
1 (15-ounce) can canellini beans, rinsed
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 small zucchini, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
2 tsp chopped fresh sage (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
32 oz vegetable or chicken broth
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
2 cups spinach leaves, chopped
Parmesan cheese, for garnish, optional
Cheese Ravioli, cooked al dente, optional

1.   In a small bowl mash half of the beans with the back of a spoon and set aside.
2.   Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic and saute until vegetables just start to become tender (about 3-4 minutes).
3.   Add the zucchini, thyme, sage, salt and pepper and continue to cook for an additional 2-3 minutes until the zucchini begins to soften.
4.   Add the broth and tomatoes (with the juice) and bring to a boil.  Add the mashed and whole beans and the spinach leaves and cook until the spinach is wilted, about 3 minutes more.

Prep Notes:
I used extra fresh thyme as I didn’t have sage on hand.  Also, I used vegetable broth and shaved Parmesan Reggiano and we added the ravioli.  If you don’t have ravioli, I’m thinking it would also be great with a few small pasta noodles (maybe whole wheat), like the ditalini style – Or, simply as it is!  Please choose low sodium beans, broth and tomatoes as per preference.  The original recipe is from Registered Dietitian, Ellie Krieger.

 Recipe Adapted From, Tuscan Vegetable Soup, Ellie Krieger,


Farro Salad

Ohhhh . . .  it’s been awhile!  OK, a long while.  Sometimes life is like that.  It taps you on the shoulder and says, “Hey, over here”, and the next thing you know your rhythm shifts and you’re out of your groove.  I’m always so happy when I find my way back.  Like a turtle, that somehow finds himself upside down . . . . and then someone comes along and flips him back over . . . and he finds his feet.  “Oh yes, that’s where I was, thank you!”  He just picks up where he left off . . .  I like that!

It’s a gorgeous day in Chicago!  There’s a blanket of golden leaves across my front lawn.  My pink geraniums are still in bloom and it’s that time of year in the Midwest when Summer meets Fall – and we’re blessed with the beauty and bounty of both seasons!  That said, the squash and kale have arrived and because we did have a few weeks of cooler weather followed by plenty of warm sunshine, our farmer’s are still picking green beans!!  It’s awesome!

So there’s a group of us that meets monthly for a cooking class, and recently we tried this new Farro Salad.  Though I work with a lot of whole grains, farro is one that’s a bit unfamiliar to me.  I’ve had it mixed with greens in a tossed salad but never really attempted anything hands-on.  This recipe was a great first attempt at a new and delightful grain salad!  It’s perfect with a grilled chicken breast or turkey burger or like many of these salads, front and center (with extra Parmesan or feta?!)!  There’s a lot of textures and flavors going on! If you’re lucky . . . you’ll nab a few red peppers at the Farmer’s Market (along with those green beans)!!

And because it’s October 1st, and everything around me is Popping up Pink, but mostly because I’m immeasurably inspired by all of the beautiful, courageous and strong women in my life (and the millions who aren’t) who have had, or are currently fighting breast cancer   . . . . Happy Breast Cancer Awareness Month . . . . YOU are amazing!  More thoughts on that to follow . . . .


Farro Salad
3 cups farro, cooked
2 cups green beans, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1/2 cup pitted black olives, sliced
1 red pepper, cut into thin strips
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese (crumbled or shaved)
1 small bunch chives, snipped (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Kosher salt to taste

1.   Bring a medium pot of water to boil over high heat.  Add a pinch of  salt.  Add the green beans and stir.  Cook for approximately 2-3 minutes, until the beans are crisp tender.  Drain the beans and quickly place into a bowl of ice water to cool.  Drain again and set aside.
2.   In a small bowl combine the red wine vinegar, olive oil, mustard, and kosher salt and pepper (to taste) to create a vinaigrette.  Mix well and set aside.
3.   In a large bowl combine the cooked (and cooled) farro, green beans, olives, red pepper, Parmesan cheese and chives.  Drizzle with the vinaigrette and toss to combine!

Prep Notes:
We used approximately 1/2 tsp kosher salt for the salad and then adjusted to taste.  You may find you need a bit more.  Also, the original recipe called for sherry vinegar, but I’m a red wine vinaigrette junky, so we went with that!  If you’ve never cooked farro, it will need about 30 minutes to simmer over medium to low heat per package instructions.  I made it the night before assembling the salad.  Enjoy!

Recipe Adapted From, Mediterranean Farro Salad, Giada De Laurentiis