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Inventing your own pesto is easy! Mix and match the herbs you like (or have on hand) as well as the nuts and/or seeds you prefer most and follow the basic instructions below:

  • 3-1/2 cup of herb leaves (basil, cilantro, anise hyssop, mint; you can also use the flowers of plants like basil, sage and rosemary.
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1/3 cup of roasted nuts or seeds (pine nuts, walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds….)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

To prepare you will want to put the leaves, garlic, salt and Cheese, if you are using it in a blender and mix until you have a paste. drizzle in the oil slowly and blend until you have the consistency you desire. Note that if you use a nut like cashew, you will get a somewhat creamy result, especially if you add a tablespoon of lemon.

Keep tasting your creation. If your pesto tastes a little bitter, try throwing in a little basil or nuts like almonds or cashews; any one of these ingredients will sweeten it up – without sugar. If it tastes a little too oily, you will want to throw in some more herb leaves. And if it just seems like it’s missing something a teaspoon of lemon may just be the right touch.

Let yourself explore until you come up with the perfect pesto! Let me know how it goes!

If you are not feeling all that adventurous, check out these recipes, and do let me knowhow it goes.


Bitter, but better for you; and a perfect side dish for holiday meals.

Photo: Bigstock

Photo: Bigstock

Brussels sprouts come from a family of vegetables called crucifers. They are called the flowering part of the plant grows in the same of a cross. Like other cruciferous vegetables, Brussels sprouts contain high amounts of glucosinolates, plant nutrients known to fight cancer. Brussels sprouts have a special combination of four specific glucosinolates that set Brussels spouts apart from other crucifers in their cancer fighting capacity. These glucosinolates also make Brussels sprouts bitter. Research shows that Brussels sprouts kill more human cancer cells than all other cruciferous vegetables ( They also contain high levels of vitamins C, A and K, as well as folic acid and dietary fiber.

Brussels Sprouts are best when freshly harvested, and should be cooked within a day or 2 of bringing them home.When shopping look for bright green sprouts with tightly wrapped leaves. If they look wilted or have a cabbage scent they have been around a long while after harvest and have lost most of their sugars and nutrients  (Robinson, 2013).

Steaming Brussels sprouts releases their nutrient power. It is only when they are old and overcooked that they off a strong sulfur smell. This smell and their bitterness may be why many Americans often leave them out of their daily vegetable choices.

I like to steam sauté Brussels sprouts in 1/3 cup of water and a tablespoon of butter. I add a little caraway seed and then serve them with a Dijon and maple syrup sauce. Delicious!


  • Robbins, J. (2013). Eating on the wild side. Little Brown  & Co: New York.
  • The World’s healthiest Foods http://


Serves 6, approximately 1 ¼ cups each, 148 calories) This soup has a rich flavor and is super delicious. Preparing butternut squash isn’t the most fun. First, it’s difficult to cut into. I use a large knife and my lemon juicer to tap on the top of it….


Lemon juicer

Tap the top of the knife

Tap the top of the knife

Second, it “sweats” a sticky, sappy substance that stays on your hands like Elmer’s Glue (R) while you are working with it.  But, I have to say, its well worth it!

My classmate Josh Smith, MS serving up Butternut Apple Soup at St. Vincent de Paul's Church in Baltimore MD. Photo by Darriel Harris

My classmate Josh Smith, MS serving up Butternut Apple Soup at St. Vincent de Paul’s Church in Baltimore MD.
Photo by Darriel Harris


  • 1 large butternut squash, about 2-3 lbs, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-2 inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, peeled and cut into 6-8 large chunks (in my house we use fennel)
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled (if you are shy about garlic, use 1-2 cloves, but don’t leave it out!)
  • 2 tart apples, peeled, quartered, and cored
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Mild chili powder
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth

How to make it:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large roasting pan, combine the squash, apple, onion, garlic, and oil. Season with salt to taste and sprinkle with chili powder to taste. The more chili powder, the more “bite.” Roast for 45 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes, until veggies are tender and lightly browned. In a food processor, combine half of the roasted veggies with 2 cups broth and puree until smooth. Repeat with the remaining veggies and heat over medium heat in a saucepan, stirring occasionally. Add more broth as needed if soup is too thick. Add more salt and chili powder if needed for more bite.

Butternut squash is rich in beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. The beta carotene in the squash is more able to converted and used by the body as vitamin A when it is cooked with some kind of fat, so don’t leave out the olive oil!

Just reposting an oldie but goodie… I thought you’d like to see all the information in one place…

It really makes a difference when you start the day with a good dose of protein. I know that for me – I feel more alert, have more energy and less snack attacks; and I even stay warmer on these cold winter mornings when I serve up the protein before 8 am.

To that end, I want to share with you a dozen protein-rich breakfasts in the coming weeks and months. Most of theses next posts will have a protein packed breakfast idea, many may even come with a recipe; I will indicate how much protein each has and an indication of about how much you’ll spend on your morning protein load. In most cases, the price will reflect an investment in stocking your pantry and/or refrigerator with some good protein sources.

There is a lot of conflicting information out there on what constitutes a healthy diet – so it’s hard to know exactly how much protein your body needs. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that 10-35% of your daily calories come from protein – so the best way to calculate this is really based on your height, weight and caloric need. The chart below is a ballpark estimate from the IOM on the Recommended Dietary Allowances for different age groups:

Recommended Dietary Allowance for Protein
  Grams of proteinneeded each day
Children ages 1 – 3


Children ages 4 – 8


Children ages 9 – 13


Girls ages 14 – 18


Boys ages 14 – 18


Women ages 19 – 70+


Men ages 19 – 70+


For adults who struggle with weight control, a great secret to keeping in check your food cravings [and therefore daily calories] is to start the day with at least 10-15 grams of protein

So from now through the first week of April, you’ll find weekly suggestions and recipes to boost your protein power  in 2013! Here are the ones that have been posted so far!

1- Homemade Turkey Sausages

2 – Hot Buckwheat, banana, flax and walnuts 

3 – Black Lentils 

4 – Whole wheat toast with peanut butter and yogurt 

5- Egg and spinach greens fried in coconut oil  

6- Leftover brown rice porridge 

7- Oatmeal and milk 

8- Cottage cheese, strawberries and almond slices  

9- 2 Egg cheddar cheese omelette with mushrooms

10- Boiled Quinoa, Berries and Walnuts

11- Fruit and Yogurt Smoothie

13-  Tofu Scramble

14- Variation on a previous protein-rich breakfast 

For more information on protein RDAs see:

Protein-rich Breakfast #10: Part of the protein-rich breakfast dozen


  • 1 cup quinoa (12.14 g protein; $7.99/lb)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon,
  • ¼ cup blueberries (1/2 gram protein; 4.99/cup)
  • 7 walnuts (4 grams protein; 6.99/lb).

How to: Measure out 1/2 cup of quinoa and rinse it through a fine mesh strainer – or a colander lined with a round paper coffee filter. Place the rinsed quinoa in a saucepan with 1 cup of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes until water is absorbed and you see the spirals coming from the quinoa grains. Scoop out one cup of quinoa, sprinkle with teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 cup of blueberries and walnuts.

12.14 grams of protein; total cost $19.97 (you should have quinoa and other ingredients left over for future meals).

Note: Quinoa is a high protein grain indigenous to Bolivia. This grain is low in sodium and cholesterol, and is a good source of micronutrients, especially magnesium manganese and phosphorus. To read more nutritional data on quinoa see:


Protein-rich Breakfast #9Part of the protein-rich breakfast dozen


  • 2 eggs (12 g protein; $3.49/dozen)
  • pinch of salt and black pepper to taste;
  • 1 ounce of grated cheddar cheese (4 g protein; $4.89/lb);
  • ½ c mushrooms (1 g protein; $5.00/lb)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

How to: Whisk together eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl. Clean and slice mushrooms into thin strips. Grate cheddar cheese. Slice mushrooms into thin strips. Heat oil in a frying pan and when it is warm add the eggs to the pan. Watch as edges of the egg mixture solidify. When edges harden carefully flip the egg onto its uncooked side and add the sliced mushrooms and cheese. Reduce heat and cook for 3 minutes while cheese inside the omelette melts.

17 grams protein; total cost: $13.38.

Protein-rich Breakfast #7Part of the protein-rich breakfast dozen


  • 1 cup of Oatmeal (6 grams protein; 1.99/lb)
  • 1 cup milk (8 g protein; $3.79/gallon) and
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds (5 g; $4.96/lb)

How to: bring 1-3/4 cup of water to a boil and add a pinch of salt; add one cup of oatmeal and bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook for 5 minutes, until much of the water is absorbed. Serve with 1 cup of milk and sprinkle with 1/4 cup of sliced almonds. If you prefer a sweeter flavor add 1 tbsp of maple syrup.

19 g protein;  total cost $10.74.

Stuffed sweet potato

Stuffed sweet potato
photo credit: Shenandoah Gale and Deb Delavan

When thinking about what to have for dinner for a few friends on Wednesday night I came across this recipe from theKitchn, and decided to give it a try with a few variations. I highly recommend this recipe as a simple yet delicious and satisfying supper with a key ingredient – beauty!

The meal is vegan using olive oil, curly kale, great northern beans, garlic, pepper flakes, rosemary and lemon. I used fennel rather than the recommended shallot, which I found contrasted well with the pepper flakes and kale.

Try Savory Stuffed Sweet Potatoes when serving guests, or when treating yourself to a sweet and savory supper! Added to its beauty, flavor and fun, this meal is packed with nutrients. Sweet potatoes are packed with vitamin C, calcium, folate, potassium and beta-carotene. They have a lower glycemic index than white potatoes which means that they will not cause that sugar rush you feel after eating white potatoes and other starchy carbohydrates. Great northern beans will give you protein and fiber and kale , also loaded with fiber, is a great source of antioxidant vitamins A, C, K, and calcium.


Protein-rich Breakfast #3Part of the protein-rich breakfast dozen.


  • 1 cup boiled black lentils (16 g protein; $3.49/lb)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil or refined coconut oil
  • 1 small fresh tomato, diced (8 g protein; $1.99/lb)
  • 2 Tbsp of chopped onion (optional) (.5 g protein. $.89/lb)
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 cup spinach greens (3 g protein; $1.99/10 oz bag)
  • reheated in a little oil with salt, pepper, a little tomato (8 g protein; $1.99/lb) and onion (.5 g protein. $.89/lb) with dried basil, over 1 cup fresh spinach greens

How to: Heat 1 Tbsp of olive or coconut oil, add chopped onions (optional) and cook until soft, add cooked lentils, diced tomato and dried spices and continue to sauté on medium to high heat for 8-10 minutes until lentils are heated through. Serve the lentils over a cup of fresh spinach greens.

Total protein 27 – 27.5 g; Total cost: $7.47.

27.5 grams protein

Protein-rich Breakfast #2Part of the protein-rich breakfast dozen.

Recipe from Mark Hyman’s The Ultra-Metabolism Diet p. 162:


  • 1 cup of buckwheat groats ($2.16),
  • whole; 2 cups plain soy milk ($3.69 – 2 Qt container);
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon;
  • 1 small banana mashed;
  • 2 tablespoons of flaxseed , ground ($.30 – .84);
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped walnuts( $.46)

How to: Place the buckwheat, soy milk, cinnamon, salt and mashed banana in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Cover the pan and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until the buckwheat is tender. Top with ground flax seeds and chopped walnuts. 43 g protein per ½ cup serving.  Total cost: $7.30-$7.86

dairy free; 43 g protein per ½ cup serving

Hyman, M. (2007). The ultra-metabolism diet Cookbook. New York, NY: Scribner.

Health & Nutrition Counseling

An integrative approach to health and nutrition which includes Earth consciousness.


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