5 Essential Foods for Life – Outside Magazine


One of my assignments in a college writing class was to write an article for Outside Magazine.  If my memory is correct it was about rafting down the American River.  (It was a long time ago).  However when I was sent this article and slideshow from Outside Magazine about some important foods to have in your pantry I felt compelled to share.  For nostalgia sure.  But also because these are some of my family’s favorites and were always trying to get more of these items in our diets.  To see the entire article and slide show with recommendations for choosing and preparing these foods click here.

Here’s an excerpt…

You’re getting older. It’s time to accept the fact that you can’t stay out for last call, then make it up for a 6:30 A.M. mountain-bike ride. And enough already with your daily routine of coffee-and-bagel breakfasts, takeout lunches, and pizza-and-beer recovery meals. A study in the International Journal of Obesity found that the highest rate of adult weight gain happens between ages 25 and 35—roughly one pound per year.

And on top of your slowing metabolism, you’re producing fewer digestive enzymes, meaning you can’t absorb nutrients as easily. Here’s the good news: you can still run and bike like a 25-year-old—as long as you’re smart about what you put in your body. What’s more, quality food needn’t be expensive, and prepared right, it’s much faster than waiting for the delivery dude.

The key is simplifying your meal plan. Instead of spendy, ad hoc grocery runs, develop a set of go-to recipes and stock your pantry with all the ingredients you’ll need. More importantly, anchor those recipes with high-quality, nutrient-rich staples—these five. —Jen Schwartz


For a day-to-day routine, there’s no better source of animal protein than salmon—just four ounces packs roughly 30 grams. That same fillet has more than 250 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin D, which is necessary for the absorption of calcium and protects against a range of cancers. It’s also loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which are thought to boost brain function. Plus, this iconic fish is notable for what it lacks: mercury. Its levels are significantly lower than nearly every other popular species, including tuna, sea bass, cod, and halibut, which means it can be consumed regularly.


No food is as misunderstood as the mighty egg. Eggs are rich in 13 essential vitamins and minerals, everything from A and E to B complex and D. They also contain high-quality protein, antioxidants, and the brain-boosting nutrient choline. “But the cholesterol!” critics shout, pointing to research on heart disease, including a 2012 study that claimed eggs were as bad for your arteries as smoking. But that study looked at correlation, not cause and effect—in other words, plaque buildup was observed to occur more frequently in people who regularly consumed eggs, but those people were just as likely eating their eggs with bacon, too.

Most agree that the human body absorbs protein from eggs better than from almost any other food. So embrace moderation. Six large eggs per week will give you roughly 36 grams of protein and as much as 1,500 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids—and still limit the fat that contributes to plaque buildup in arteries.


The United Nations declared 2013 International Year of Quinoa—and for good reason. The gluten-free seed contains sky-high concentrations of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, which tackle tissue-damaging free radicals. And unlike wheat, barley, and oats, quinoa is a complete source of protein. Compared with processed pastas, quinoa has roughly four times the amount of iron and twice the calcium, yet takes the same amount of time to cook.


No green compares with the nutrient-to-calorie ratio of this dark leafy vegetable. It has off-the-charts levels of vitamins K, A, and C and is a good source of fiber—one cup has nearly 25 percent of the daily recommended amount. Per calorie, kale has more iron than beef and more calcium than milk, and it trumps broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cabbage for its broad range of flavonoids, compounds that help prevent muscle inflammation and cancer. All of which are compelling reasons to stock up on it, but here’s the best: as a cooking staple, kale is endlessly flexible. Throw a shredded handful into soups, casseroles, or frittatas. You can even use it in smoothies and juices.


For the money, these little nuggets, also called garbanzo beans, are unbeatable. They’re rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber (the former makes you feel full and helps regulate blood sugar, the latter keeps you regular); you need both for a healthy diet, and two cups of these legumes pack 100 percent of the daily recommended amount. And just half a cup contains five grams of protein and ten different vitamins. Chickpeas are also wildly versatile. Just ask the guys behind the blog (and forthcoming book) Thug Kitchen, which offers profanity-laced recipes and kitchen tips that dispel the notion that healthy cooking is a realm of rarefied luxury. “Chickpeas, garbanzo beans, whatever you want to call them, they do all the heavy lifting in my kitchen,” says the site’s anonymous founder.


Herbed Garlic Polenta Fries – I Heart Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Cookbook

Sometimes I heart Trader Joe’s and sometime I do not.  This week I was not happy as TJ’s discontinued my kids’ favorite spicy spinach pizzas.  These were pizza bread rounds with a spicy cooked spinach on top.  They were great to dress up with cheese or wrap around veggies or just toast and eat plain for a quick lunch or snack.  Well they’re gone and I’m bitter.

However I do heart their vegetarian cookbook.  This is great for quick meals using their products.  Everything from breakfast items such as Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes (made quick by using their precut pineapple), to creating hearty dinners including a Classic Pot Pie (using their artisian puff pastry).  The recipes use Trader Joe’s products as short cuts however you can use your own ingredients just as well.  Not only are the ingredients bent towards a plant based vegetarian and vegan items but also are touted as budget conscious.  Who doesn’t heart that?

My family’s new favorite side dish is the Herbed Garlic Polenta Fries.  Next time I’ll try some different herbs such as sage and rosemary salt.  They were good in a quick aioli I whipped up using Veganaise, lemon zest, garlic and olive oil.  They could also be dipped in tomato sauce, pesto or catsup.


Herbed Garlic Polenta Fries

(page 46 from I Love Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Cookbook)

1, 18 ounce log Trader Joe’s Organic Polenta (find near pasta)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat the oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Prepare the polenta slices by cutting into 1/4 inch discs, then strips (about 3 – 4 strips per disc).  In a small bowl whisk the olive oil, garlic powder and oregano to combine.  *Gently toss the polenta with the olive oil mixture and spread in an even layer on the prepared pan.  Sprinkle with salt.  Bake until slightly browned and crispy on the edges, 35 to 40 minutes, flipping halfway through.  Serve the fries warm with aioli.

Makes 4 servings.

*I found it easier to lay out polenta strips and use a brush to coat the oil and herbs.


Tips from The SimplyRaw Kitchen – Kale Salad


I’m always up for eating healthier and getting my kids to try new flavors, textures and foods.  So the idea of eating raw while not an everyday thing for my family and our lifestyle we are trying to incorporate some raw ideas and dishes.  If you’re questioning your diet (Should I go vegan? Follow a gluten-free regimen? Should I eat raw or cooked foods?) and looking for info, tips and recipes about a raw lifestyle then Natasha Kyssa’s new book The Simply Raw Kitchen: Plant-Powered, Gluten Free and Mostly Raw Recipes for Healthy Living cookbook is for you. Natasha Kyssa offers answers and an inspiring collection of mostly raw, whole-foods recipes that will improve your health, no matter what your age. Natasha is a former international fashion model who transformed her unhealthy lifestyle by turning to raw foods almost twenty-five years ago; she is now a raw foods consultant and restaurateur who also runs marathons in her spare time.

This book seemed a bit intimidating to me at first because I really don’t have time to prepare some of these dishes in my everyday life.  I’d like to think I’d remember to soak walnuts overnight to make sweet corn chowder, but that won’t happen often.  Also many of the foods have nuts which I can’t serve to some friends or in my kids’ school lunches.  However I’ve made some great dressings and salads and smoothies, incorporating flax and chia seeds.  And some of the tips of how to not cook vegetables such as as kale have opened my family to great new idea.  I never really understood how restaurant raw kale didn’t have the hard and rough texture and now I know.  Just a little massage with lemon and salt and it’s more pliable and edible (and agreeable to my kids).  And now I don’t need to buy a sauce for my Vietnamese summer rolls as the author provides a great Dragon Dipping Sauce recipe.

So though a total raw lifestyle is not in the cards for my family The SimplyRaw Kitchen does provide some great information, ideas and recipes for taking small steps which can always lead to more.  Here’s our new favorite kale salad…

Award Winning Marinated Kale Salad (pg. 116 of The SimplyRaw Kitchen)

1 large head kale, stems removed and leaves finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon Himalyan salt (I used sea salt)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 orange or yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes


1 garlic clove

1 celery stalk

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon gluten free tamari (can use soy sauce)

1 avocado, chopped

dash cayenne pepper (optional)

Makes 2 – 4 servings

In a large bowl sprinkle salt over kale, then massage with your hands until kale wilts about 3 – 5 minutes.  Add lemon juice and massage again for about 1 minute.  Add peppers and tomatoes and toss.

In a blender, puree all dressing ingredients until creamy.  Pour over kale and toss to combine well.



Summer Wrap Up – Top 5 Food Flavors and Fun

I have to admit it…the kids are back in school and summer is over.  I feel like I kind of took the summer off from writing many blogs and recipes.  Sorry if I was remiss.  I was just having too much fun with my kids.  However we were cooking and eating.  So here are our top 5 favorite food flavors and experiences from the summer.

1. Home made Chopsticks.  My son was inspired to make chopsticks at mountain bike camp.  Yes…really.  He noticed his camp counselors were eating with homemade chopsticks they has wittled (carved?).  Each day he came home from camp and headed straight outside to find the perfect sticks and widdled away his own.  He then made some for our family and the camp counselors.  So sweet and yes, they really do work.


2. Fresh Organic Peach Salads.  Nothing says summer more than a ripe, juicy peach.  We found them in abundance at the farmer’s market and in salads on many Bay Area restaurant menus.  One of my favorite was at our local Mill Valley Pizza Antica.  However this recipe for Grilled Chicken and Peach Salad from Epicurious served our craving when creating a wonderful light dinner at home.

3. S’mores. This is a family favorite any time of year, but particularly sweet when shared on warm nights with friends.  We do s’mores pretty much anywhere at anytime – from camping to our own backyard.  Yes, we added a fire pit pretty much for the s’mores potential.  We may not have the biggest house or yard, but friends and family know where to gather for s’mores. We sometimes use food color pens to draw on the marshmallows before going into the heat.


4. Padron and Shishito peppers.  These are available at the farmer’s market and some local grocery stores during the summer.  Simply put whole peppers in a pan with olive oil and heat over medium heat until blistered, using tongs to turn.  Then sprinkle with sea salt.  Eating these is a game at my house as they are mild in flavor, except for a few which are quite hot.  The level of heat varies according to the capsaicin of each pepper. Although it’s not always the case, the peppers grown towards August/September tend to contain more capsaicin than the ones of June/July.  My son thinks the biggest peppers pack the heat so he passes them to me and watches to see if my face explodes.

5. Coconut smashing.  This isn’t necessarily a summer food, however it’s when we have the most time to deal with the whole coconut (meaning smash it, drain it, cut and peel it).  We love the taste however there is more fun in the activity of getting it open, so we rarely end up eating the whole coconut before it starts to go bad.  However it was an activity that kept my kids busy and cooperating for quite some time.  No waste in that.