Homemade cooking with healthy seasonal ingredients
I started this blog to share my desire to create and eat healthy meals with others. I grew up eating dinner out most evenings and I don't think that is the healthiest way to eat, so now I really value healthy, seasonal, home-cooked meals. But don't get me wrong, I do love to eat out on the weekends and take a break from cooking! I currently live in Northern California with my husband, two children and our (semi) feral cat. I am originally from Michigan and have lived in several different places in the US and for a very brief time in Hong Kong. I prefer to cook meals from scratch when time allows and I use organic ingredients when feasible. My cooking is not usually original, but I often tweak recipes from popular sites and magazines to suit them to my family's liking and to make them more nutritious and healthy. I enjoy cooking (of course), gardening (I really need to improve on this one!), skiing, biking, tennis, yoga, reading, traveling and wine.
Recipe updated Oct. 11, 2019. Added carrots, made it with chicken broth instead of vegetable for a more pleasant color and added more photos. Served it for dinner and all really liked it!
Happy New Year! When I made the Loaded Baked Potato-Style Cauliflower soup recently, my son and I decided that the same base would probably be really good as a clam chowder, and I could even make it completely dairy-free for those who prefer that. I love New England style clam chowder but it traditionally has a lot of milk and cream and butter…so I have not made it in many years and I am not inclined to order it in a restaurant because it is usually loaded with even more butter and cream than I would make at home. I am not lactose-intolerant, but I think that my morning latte and some cheese is enough dairy for…
Boy, did I get risotto wrong for all these years, I am so embarrassed! About a year ago we invited some friends over for dinner and I made the mushroom risotto recipe I have on this site, and just cooked it forever, until it was mush. Luckily the flavors were still good, but the consistency was all wrong — I now know! I always read in recipes here in the US to stir the risotto constantly which also I now know to be untrue. So there I was stirring continuously for what seemed like hours while our guests stood in the kitchen drinking and hungrily watching the risotto that seemed like it would never finish cooking. Not good.
This summer we vacationed in northern Italy and took a cooking class. The chef taught us to make risotto the real way, the Italian way. What a difference. It turns out that risotto is a quick little side dish that requires very little stirring or care! Who knew?
Give this a try. Add whatever vegetables you happen to have on hand, it is a terrific blank canvas for seasonal ingredients.
A simple and basic risotto recipe that can be personalized with vegetables or proteins of your choice.
About 4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 sweet onion, cut into a small dice
1 pound cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 cup carnaroli or arborio rice
3/4 cup dry white wine
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 oz fresh spinach
about a Tablespoon fresh sage, cut in a chiffonade
about a Tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus a little more for garnishing
Warm the broth in either a pot or if you are lazy like me in a glass measuring cup in the microwave (one less pot to clean).
In a large deep dutch oven or skillet heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onions and cook over moderate heat stirring until softened, about 4 minutes.
Add the mushrooms and cook for a few more minutes, until softened.
Add the rice and cook, stirring, until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. You should see a little white dot in the rice when it has been toasted enough.
Add the wine, give it a little stir and let it cook over medium heat until the wine is absorbed, about 2 or 3 minutes minutes.
Add about 1 cup of the warm stock to the rice mixture, give it a good stir and cook until nearly absorbed (don’t constantly stir while the rice mixture is absorbing the broth). Repeat adding the stock about 1 cup at a time and just giving it one stir after each addition of broth to get the broth and the rice mixed until the liquid is nearly absorbed between additions, for about 12 minutes (you may not use all the stock). Taste the risotto at this point. If it is cooked al dente (fully cooked but still slightly firm to the bite) at this point, you are finished cooking it. If not, add a little more broth and check again after it is absorbed.
Turn off the heat and add fresh spinach, a little black pepper and parmesan. Taste and add salt and more pepper to your liking.
Serve immediately, topping each potion with a sprinkle of parmesan and fresh herbs. Enjoy!
Note: I has some small cherry tomatoes lying around, so I added them half-way during step 6. My husband also sauteed a little lobster tail in olive oil, butter, sage and garlic, and we mixed that in during step 7. Other times we have kept it simple and subbed in some tomato sauce for the last cup of broth. The possibilities are endless.
So yesterday was mushroom barley soup and today is turkey chili, I am full-fledged into autumn now…except this is Northern CA and it will feel like summer again in a few days, but that keeps things interesting. I have made this chili recipe a few times and it is dramatically different from my beef and chicken sausage chili I posted a few years ago. I think this is lighter and brighter, not quite a rich as my other chili recipe, although both are pretty light calorie-wise. I lightened-up this Food & Wine recipe by omitting the lager (didn’t want to buy a 6 pack of beer to use only one bottle to make this chili), using two pounds of ground turkey breast meat instead of three (!) pounds of turkey, added some additional vegetables among other small tweaks. I hope you enjoy it!
2 – 28 ounce cans of low-sodium chopped tomatoes with the juice
1 cup of low-sodium vegetable stock or broth
1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
2 cans of low-sodium cannellini beans (or great northern or white kidney beans), drained and rinsed
Heat a large dutch oven or pot on Medium-high. Add a small amount of oil and coat the bottom of the pot. Add the onion, carrots, bell pepper and garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Add the turkey and cook for about 10 minutes or until meat is thoroughly cooked.
Add the chili powder, cumin, oregano, chipotle chile powder, black pepper, and salt to the mixture and stir for one minute until well-mixed and fragrant.
Add the tomatoes, stock/broth, cider vinegar, and the beans. Stir well and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for one hour. Stir occasionally.
Uncover and cook for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat and serve in bowls. Garnish with chopped chives or onions if desired.
NOTE: This also works well to follow recipe up to step 3, then once you add the beans put the mixture into a slow cooker, set on medium and leave it to cook for the day. I do this in the mountains, so it is about 45 minutes preparation and then dinner is ready when I come home from skiing!
Today actually felt like autumn, so I decided to make soup. I had a hard time coming up with the right soup that both my son and I would eat and I finally decided on mushroom barley soup. It is a vegetarian version, I remember loving my aunt’s mushroom barley soup as a kid, but I remember it having beef chunks in it. Since I decided to make this vegetarian I made a side of homemade meatballs to add some extra food for the growing teenager. We were both happy this way and there was plenty of leftover soup for lunch tomorrow and for freezing for future meals.
It is officially Fall, but since the temperature hit 96 degrees today I really wasn’t feeling it! I went to the market with only a vague plan, cook something that requires little heat, fairly light and easy. I was thinking some juicy late summer tomatoes would be nice, maybe with some fresh mozzarella and add some pasta for my son. It was just the two of us tonight, so I was trying to make both of us happy and avoid the oven. Turned out my market had a terrible selection of heirloom tomatoes, so I had to come up with a new plan on the fly…I bought some shrimp, baby bok choy, and snow peas. Smallest market trip in a long time! I am really excited about this recipe since it was pretty fast and easy and you can put in any vegetables you happen to have in the fridge if you don’t feel like shopping. And the flavors are simple but delicious! Thank you again Woks of Life for the inspiration for this. I love your recipes!
Brine the shrimp by mixing 2 Tablespoons salt with 1 cup of water. Stir well and add shrimp. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes.
Prepare vegetables while shrimp is brining.
Drain shrimp and dry on a paper towel.
Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add a bit of oil to pan and spread. When oil is hot add 1/2 the ginger and stir for about 30 seconds in the hot oil. Add the onion and carrot to the skillet and cook for a few minutes, add the mushrooms and cook for a few more minutes, add the bok choy and broccolini, cook another minute and then add the snow peas and cook another minute or two or until the vegetables are all tender but still a bit crunchy. Remove from pan and place in a large bowl.
Add a little more oil and when heated add the rest of the ginger. Add the shrimp and let sear for 30 seconds, then stir and add the vegetables and the wine, sesame oil, white pepper, sugar and soy sauce. Stir until well combined and coating the ingredients. Remove from heat and place stirfry in a bowl.
Serve with rice in bowls. Enjoy!
I bought bok choy and snow peas for this and then used the vegetables in my refrigerator – carrots, mushrooms, onions, and broccolini, and it was delicious. I think the vegetables you use are pretty flexible, good dish to make to clean out the produce drawer.
The pictures are 1/2 recipe since I was only cooking for two people when I photographed the recipe, so don’t be alarmed if you have a lot more vegetables.
Brining the shrimp is optional, but I find that it makes the shrimp a lot firmer and less fishy when you are using generic farmed shrimp because that is all one can access.
I went to the farmer’s market this past Sunday and there were piles of beautiful plump english peas. I kept looking and commenting on them even though they were not on my shopping list. Finally my husband suggested I just buy a bag of them and figure out what to do with them in a day or two –what a good idea! Sunday I made the fresh corn soup with crab for my mother-in-law’s birthday because she really likes that soup, therefore Monday was my day to use the peas. I searched the Internet for a good recipe for them but couldn’t find anything. So what to do now….they were calling me, you know? I had two ripe heirloom tomatoes on my counter, and a big bunch of basil from the farmers market as well so I eventually came up with this salad and added some farro to make it a little more filling for my family. We all really enjoyed it, the flavors were just bright, fresh and summery. I hope you enjoy it!
Best of summer's sweet heirloom tomatoes combine with fresh sweet english peas and nutty farro for a filling but healthy summer vegetarian salad
1 cup uncooked farro (whole grain)
1 pound of fresh english peas, shelled (about a cup when shelled)
1/4 cup diced sweet onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 large heirloom tomatoes, cut into a large chunks
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup of shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus a little more for garnishing
handful of basil leaves, roughly torn
Cook the farro according to the directions on the package.
While the farro cooks, saute the onion and garlic for about 5 minutes in a little olive oil. Add the peas and a couple of tablespoons of water to the pan. Season with salt and pepper and cook for another 5 minutes or until the peas soften and sweeten. (Optional to add a little butter if you want some extra richness. A splash of white wine would probably add some dimension as well).
Remove the peas and set the pea mixture aside. Add a little more oil to the pan and turn the heat to low. Add the tomatoes and a little salt and pepper and just warm them up a bit. A few minutes and a stir or two will do. Turn off the heat, add the basil and stir.
When farro is cooked add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 cup of the parmesan and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well.
Spoon a layer of the farro on a plate and top with tomatoes and then the pea mixture. Garnish with a little cheese. Enjoy!
I have made this recipe all summer and it is really delicious! It is like summer in a bowl. It is a recipe from the New York Times Cooking site and I have modified it slightly by leaving out the cream, butter and jalapenos, and adding crab. It has a pretty short list of ingredients and is very light and healthy. I will say that shucking 12 pieces of corn can take some time, so it isn’t quick, but healthy natural food is often not quick, but worth the extra time.
Credit: The New York Times Cooking – I can’t post a link because you have to pay for their website now, so I no longer have access to it
12 ears of corn
1 sweet onion, small dice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 yellow or orange bell peppers, small dice
1 bay leaf
10 whole black peppercorns
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of fresh crab, shelled
8 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade them
Remove the husk from all of the corn.
Cut the corn off the cob and put the cornless cobs in a large stockpot. Fill the stock pot with 16 cups of water, bay leaf, peppercorns and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and turn down heat to medium and lightly boil for 30 minutes.
While the corn cobs are boiling, cut the vegetables.
Saute the onion and bell pepper with a little oil in a large dutch oven or stock pot until it is soft and the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the corn and saute for 10 more minutes.
Add 6 cups of the corn stock to the corn mixture (avoiding the peppercorns and bay leaf). stir and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
Puree about half the soup, so it turns creamy, but you still have a lot of vegetable chunks. Pour into bowls, garnish with fresh crab and basil. Enjoy!
My family and I love, love, love potstickers! Unfortunately in restaurants they are often made with pork, and I don’t eat pork, and they can be very greasy. I have been trying to make them periodically since we moved back from Hong Kong almost 10 years ago, often without much success. I have followed many recipes and they have all stuck to the pan and were always a disaster. Then a friend’s nanny gave me a cooking lesson on how to make them and that greatly improved my luck with them, so only about half the time they stuck to the pan and fell apart…some work still needed to be done. She also didn’t have a written recipe for me to follow, leading to mixed flavor results as well. A year or two later I had a breakthrough, I bought a non-stick Scan Pan (no they are not paying me…but can if they want to 🙂 ). Finally the potstickers don’t stick to the pan and fall apart, but the flavor and texture of the filling was not great yet…
Recently I found a terrific recipe from The Woks of Life. I have seriously loved every recipe I have tried from that site! A big thing I learned from this recipe is to stir the chicken and vegetables together with chopsticks until it forms a paste. Bingo! That makes the texture of the filling perfect! I also really like their simple dough recipe. I add a little salt to it since that is the way my friend’s nanny taught me, but otherwise follow their dough recipe. I upped the veggies in the recipe, but otherwise it is pretty true to their recipe.
4 Tablespoons vegetable oil (I used safflower and olive oil) divided
1 small onion, cut into a small dice
2 large carrots, cut into a small dice
6 large shiitake mushrooms, cut into a small dice
6 dried shiitake mushrooms, reconstituted and cut into a small dice
2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
1 pound ground chicken breast
2 teaspoons sesame oil
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar of choice (probably fine without if you want to avoid added sugar…but it is a small amount)
2 Tablespoons Shaoxing wine or dry cooking sherry (or use 2 T of the dried mushroom liquid if you don’t want to use anything alcoholic)
Fresh ground pepper
Mix 1 Tablespoon of salt with the 1 cup of hot water. Set aside.
Put the flour in a large mixing bowl. Gradually add the hot water while mixing it. Turn dough out onto a large cutting board and knead for about 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and not sticky. Add additional water or flour as needed. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and a damp towel. Set aside in a warm part of the kitchen to rest for an hour.
In a large pan heat some oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté for about 5 minutes or until beginning to soften. Add the carrot and continue to sauté for another 3 minutes or so. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or so and lastly add the spinach and cook until spinach is wilted. Remove from heat and let cool a bit.
Add the chicken to a medium bowl along with the sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar, shaoxing wine, several turns of the pepper mill, and 2 more Tablespoons of vegetable oil. Add the slightly cooled vegetables and mix vigorously with two chopsticks until the mixture forms a paste. (A spoon really doesn’t do the trick) Cover the chicken mixture and refrigerate for a bit while you wait for the dough to finish resting.
Divide the dough into three equal parts. Work with one part at a time, keeping the rest covered, and roll the dough into a log. Cut the log into equal pieces.
Roll each piece of dough into a rough circle about 3 1/2 inches in diameter. We often have one person rolling the dough and one filling them with the chicken mixture so the dough doesn’t sit out too long and dry out.
Drop about 2 Tablespoons of the chicken mixture in the middle of each dough circle, rub a little water around the perimeter of the dough, then fold dough in half and pleat the potsticker to ensure it is completely sealed. Dust bottom with a little flour and set on a parchment or silpat lined tray (something that will fit in your freezer if you plan on freezing some). Don’t let the potstickers touch each other. Here is a video on different ways to fold the wrapper.
Repeat steps 6 and 7 until all the dough and/or filling is used up. Now you can either cook them or freeze them raw to use at a later date. If you freeze them lay them single layer in the freezer for a few hours and when frozen transfer to a ziplock freezer bag. I usually freeze some and cook some.
To cook the potstickers, whether fresh or frozen, it is really important to use a non-stick pan. Add a little oil to the pan and heat it on medium high heat. Add the potstickers to the pan so that they are not touching each other. Allow to fre for a few minutes, or until the bottoms become lightly golden brown.
Add warm water to the pan, about a 1/4 inch up the side of the pan. Cover the pan until the water is nearly steamed off. Uncover and allow the potstickers to continue cooking and browning on the bottom. When all the water is gone and the bottoms are crispy remove from the pan.
Serve with dipping sauce and Enjoy! Here is a really good dipping sauce from The Woks of Life.
The usual quandary of what to cook tonight was worse than normal…I felt really stuck today! I think this was because we came back a week ago from our trip to Japan, which was amazing, but we ate so many gourmet and LARGE Japanese meals, and then on top of that this past weekend we went to Sonoma and ate an incredible 11 course meal at Single Thread, I just feel stuffed and want something light but also teen son friendly. Uninspired, I took my daily trip to the grocery store and bought some boneless, skinless chicken breasts, since I have mostly been eating fish (a lot) and beef. I really had only a vague idea of what I was going to do with them, maybe some generic asian marinade, leftover brussel sprouts and rice? Not exciting by any means. Then a delicious Korean recipe popped into my inbox from The Woks of Life.I made a few changes, such as doubling the recipe, exchanging chicken for the beef, using the vegetables in my refrigerator, and using shirataki noodles instead of the traditional dangmyeon (sweet potato starch noodles). We all really liked it and I hope you do too. Enjoy!
2 – 7 ounce packages of shirataki konjac pasta (I used Miracle Noodle brand that I bought at Whole Foods)
About 3/4 pound of boneless skinless chicken breast, sliced very thin
5 garlic cloves, minced
6 teaspoons of coconut palm (or whatever kind you prefer) sugar, divided
~1 1/4 teaspoons ground black pepper, divided
7 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce, divided
2 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sesame oil, divided
oil of choice for cooking (a neutral oil is best, like safflower oil)
1 onion, sliced thinly
3 medium carrots, julienned
3 stalks of celery, julienned
4 shiitake mushrooms, sliced and cut into thin strips
1 small red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
handful of lacinato kale, de-stemmed and sliced into thin strips
5 scallions, cut into 2-inch long pieces and thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
Rinse the noodles in water and cook according to the package directions. Drain. Mix together 1 Tablespoon sesame oil, 1 Tablespoon soy sauce and 1 teaspoon sugar. Pour onto the noodles and mix well. Set noodles aside.
Mix 2 cloves garlic, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, 2 Tablespoons soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon sesame oil in a medium bowl. Add the sliced chicken, stir well and set aside.
Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a bit of oil to pan and spread. When oil is hot add the carrot, celery and onion to the skillet and cook until tender but still a bit crunchy. Remove from pan and place in a large bowl.
Add a little more oil and cook the mushrooms until browned. Remove from pan and place in bowl with carrot mixture.
Add a little more oil and cook the bell peppers until tender but crunchy, add the remaining garlic, kale and scallions. Cook until kale is wilted, then remove from pan and add to the carrot mixture in the bowl.
Turn the heat up to high, and add a little more oil if needed. Cook half the thinly sliced chicken until slightly browned, then add to the bowl of vegetables. Cook the other half of the chicken and add to the bowl.
Add the noodles and sesame seeds to the bowl.
In a small bowl whisk together 4 teaspoons sugar, 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, 4 Tablespoons soy sauce and 1 Tablespoon sesame oil. Pour into the vegetable, noodle and chicken mixture and stir well.
Serve in bowls. Enjoy!
I made this with the vegetables in my refrigerator – carrots, celery, kale, cremini mushrooms and brussel sprouts, and it was delicious. I think the vegetables you use are pretty flexible, good dish to make to clean out the produce drawer.
This traditionally is made with dangmyeon – which are sweet potato starch noodles. I made this with Shirataki noodles, feel free to use what you like and experiment.
This also is traditionally made with a little thinly sliced beef, I really enjoyed it with chicken though. I think it would also be delicious vegetarian as well (maybe add tofu or egg strips).
This has been a family favorite since my children were small. One of the few baked items I can successfully make but I forgot about it for the last few years and just bought cakes for birthdays. This year for my son’s 15th birthday I made it, not once but twice! He somehow has celebrated his birthday three times this year – once when his grandmother was at our house, second the day after his birthday because he went skiing on his actual birthday and again today with his friends. Lucky kid! Lemonade Layer Cake is based on an old Cooking Light recipe. I have always been troubled with the frozen lemonade concentrate in the original recipe, so I have finally changed that part and added some lemon extract and fresh lemon juice. Totally delicious, cuts down on the sugar and eliminates whatever artificial and strange unpronounceable ingredients that might be in frozen lemonade concentrate. I also reduced the sugar in the frosting by a whole cup, and my whole family still loved it! I honestly think 3 1/2 cups sugar in the frosting would be way too sweet.
Coat two 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray, set aside.
Beat together at a medium speed the sugar, butter, lemon rind, lemon extract and lemon juice until well blended.
Add eggs and egg whites one at a time to the mixture and beat well after each egg addition.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda, stir with a whisk.
Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to the sugar mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat well after each addition.
Pour batter into the two round pans, sharply tap pans on the counter to remove air bubbles. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool in the pans 10 minutes on a wire rack, then remove from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack.
Prepare frosting by placing butter, lemon rind, lemon juice, lemon extract, vanilla extract and cream cheese in a bowl. Beat until fluffy. Add powdered sugar and beat at low speed just until blended – do not overbeat. Chill one hour.
Frost the first layer, top with the remaining layer and frost the top and sides of the cake. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Enjoy!