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The Healthy, Easy Spaghetti-Squash

step-by-step infographic-RecoveredWhen people think “squash,” it’s likely that they think of soup, or maybe some sort of buttery mash. But there’s one squash that doesn’t look like baby food or need copious amounts of butter to make its flavor shine. That’s right, it’s all about the spaghetti squash. However, I have to be honest:  the first time I made this gorgeous veggie, it didn’t turn out picture perfect. Or even picture “okay.” Actually, it was a disaster! After I baked the squash, I poured a jar of Prego spaghetti sauce directly on top of it, didn’t even heat it, then sprinkled it with cheap parmesan cheese. This was 15 years ago when food blogs didn’t exist. You are probably too savvy to make such a culinary faux pas. However, here are a few tricks to help you along the way.

Now, the great news: spaghetti squash is carb-free, gluten-free and holds an almost nonexistent fat content which makes it a perfect replacement for pasta. Still not hooked? Check out how healthy it is for you:

  • Filled with omega-3 fatty acids which help to prevent heart diseases, inflammation, arthritis and different types of cancers. Also, contains omega-6 fatty acids which promoting proper brain function.
  •  Contains potassium which has been shown to lower blood pressure.
  • Filled with folate which helps strengthening blood vessels walls,  enhances blood circulation and great for pregnancy.
  • Good source of beta carotene as well as vitamin C and vitamin A, which are also antioxidants (which can prevent cell damage).

Historical Curiosities:

“Vegetable Spaghetti” was the original name of this blond creature. She comes from humble beginnings: grown in both China and North America but not very popular in either countries.  She gained some acceptance as a staple during  WW II, but once the food shortage was over, she disappeared again. Until, that is, Frieda Caplan gave this squash a glamorous make over. First a name change – “spaghetti squash” –  and next Frieda started selling it at her wholesale produce market in 1962.  Californians were hooked.  As for Frieda Caplan, she turned her small business into a women run food empire that  introduce items such as kiwi, asian pear, pine nuts, sunchokes and purple potatoes to the supermarket shelves all over the US.

The simplest way to prepare it is to bake it then toss it with some garlic and fresh herbs  or any of your  favorite pasta topping! Of course, if you want to up the ante:

Cheesy piespaghetti_squash_pie

http://www.naturalcomfortkitchen.com/spaghetti-squash-pie/

Parmesan ricotta frittersSquash_Fritters

http://thepigandquill.com/2014/10/22/parmesan-ricotta-spaghetti-squash-fritters-with-crispy-fried-sage/

Feta and olive pasta sauceSquash_Veggie_marinara

http://cookinglsl.com/mediterranean-veggie-marinara-spaghetti-squash/

Garlickygarlic_spaghetti_squash

http://pinchofyum.com/garlic-spaghetti-squash-with-herbs


Storage Tip:

Spaghetti squash can last for up to 2 months in a cool, dry place. Don’t refrigerate it or it will start to rot. Once cooked, take the flesh from the skin and store it in a glass air tight container. It will last about a week in the refrigerator.


2014 Thanksgiving Food Trends

Everyone loves Thanksgiving. It’s non-denominational, totally appropriate to have friends at the table, and it’s focused around FOOD! What could be better? How about a Thanksgiving that doesn’t also require a gallon of Pepto Bismol and a Coscto-sized tub of antacids. This years trends are centered around flavor, adding new unexpected spices and more fresh organic ingredients. Take a look at the trends that pay homage to the past with a modern, tasty, and wholesome twist.


Organic Turkey

You guessed it, the trend continues to center around organic, free range, Heritage turkey.  Not only does free range/organic turkey taste better but its healthier. Who needs more hormones, chemicals and antibiotics in their body? Turkey is high in protein and low in fat. Even the dark meat isn’t too bad for you as long as you don’t eat the skin. It may come as a surprise but turkey meat is actually the healthier option when compared to chicken. Dark turkey meat is comparable in nutrients and calories to white chicken breast, but it’s tastier. However, chicken thighs have 3 times the fat as a turkey drumstick.

I have 30 people coming to my house for thanksgiving this year, no pressure but my bird has to be perfect!  Thank goodness for this blogger who outlines the process from brining  to roasting. Don’t forget the v-rack, this is paramount to the perfect bird!

Brined Turkey

http://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/main-course/poultry/brined-roast-turkey/


Gravy

Honestly, gravy is always trendy. Everyone loves creamy, savory gravy, but no one needs the boatloads of extra calories, For a low fat option, I use a cheese cloth to catch extra fat when you strain the dripping from the bottom of the pan. This year, I am making 2 different types of gravy’s: traditional with the dripping and a healthier vegan mushroom option. Adding mushrooms and shallots to gravy this holiday season is a great way to decrease fat, add flavor and increase the nutrients. As you know, I am always on a mission to add extra nutrients to every dish. Mushrooms are  high in vitamins, minerals and a good source of potassium, selenium, copper, three B-complex vitamins and vitamin D. The good news continues! Mushrooms are one of the vegetables that actually release more nutrients when cooked rather then raw, so don’t be shy to sauté, grill or stir-fry your mushrooms to bring out that irresistible meaty flavor most people love.  Check out this yummy recipe: http://ohmyveggies.com/recipe-shallot-shiitake-gravy/


Salad

My second favorite trend this year is to add a crunchy fresh salad as a first course. It’s unexpected and can be prepared in advance.  We choose to highlight Crystal’s  brussels sprout recipe. She combines unique flavors, nutritious veggie while keeping it holiday “festive.”

Brussels Sprout Salad

http://www.applesandsparkle.com/2014/11/brussels-sprout-salad-2-ways.html


Stuffing

People are on a mission to reinvent the stuffing experience this year with exotic Moroccan spices, oyster mushrooms, wild rice, quinoa, corn bread mixtures and lots of veggies. Let’s face it, no one is skipping the stuffing – doused with gravy, it’s the next day sandwich moist-maker!  If you are feeling adventurous try this recipe: http://healthyaperture.com/blog/post/make-ahead-meals-vegetarian-cauliflower-cornbread-dressing-with-mushrooms


 Sweet potatoes

Another hot trend is coconut oil and cinnamon which helps highlight the sweet potatoes brilliance. Coconut oil is a great addition to sweet potatoes because its sweet flavor, in addition to cinnamon, negates the need for sugar that the classic American sweet potato recipe calls for. Coconut oil is also high medium-chain fatty acids which allows it to withstand high heat cooking temperatures and preserves the nutrients and health benefits (make sure to buy virgin coconut oil to receive the full benefits). Coconut oil is good for your skin, hair, heart, immune system and it reminds you of sitting on a sun drenched beach. If the taste of coconuts doesn’t send you swooning then try this classic recipe with a healthy twist.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

http://www.reciperighter.com/thanksgiving-day-mashed-sweet-potatoes-recipe/


Dessert

My favorite trend this year is savory desserts and whole fruit desserts.  The pie is here to stay but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for some drama and flair on your dessert table. I love the taste and health benefits of this whole poached pear in a sweet tea brew created by an engineering professor / photographer / foodie.Seckel Pears

http://www.theotium.com/?p=858


Happy Thanksgiving everyone – may you be surrounded by family, friends and yummy food.  And super big thanks to my Wild Skillet team and talented foodie bloggers everywhere.

Tomales Bay

If you are up for a delicious adventure  go visit an oyster farm! Tomales Bay hosts some of the best oysters in California and my favorite spot is in Marshall at the Hog Island Oyster Company, where the moto is “Live to shuck, Shuck to live.”

It was started by 2 biologists in July of 1983 with a family loan of $500 and a borrowed boat.  Today, it has transformed to become a thriving 160-acre farm full of oysters and hungry tourists. Be warned! This wonderful gem is getting more popular by the day so you need to make reservations weeks in advance to nab one of these coveted outdoor wooden picnic tables.
photo (18)
It’s rustic, pure and delicious.  You can also bring your own wine and/or veggie to throw on one of their many outdoor grills.

The weather is getting colder but that’s clearly no reason to despair. After all, that means that oyster season is right around the corner. Happy Shucking!

Miracle Pantry Item

I was fighting a cold for about 2 weeks so I popped into one of those “famous juicerys” that are sprouting up on every street corner and ordered myself a Garlic Elixir (AKA cure for the common cold). Have you heard about these elixirs? Picture the chic counterperson juicing 3 lemons, a handful of ginger and several cloves of raw garlic then pouring everything into a fancy shot glass. I desperately shelled out the $8 (ouch) and received my shooter. Words fail to explain the explosion of acidic, pungent, and overtly spicy flavor that overpowered my tastebuds. I may have even lost consciousness for a minute. It was intense, crazy, and surprisingly interesting all at the same time – like riding a roller coaster. It’s abundantly clear why the Romans thought feeding their soldiers garlic made them more courageous. As for my unrelenting cold, it ran for the hills, actually into the next galaxy. This got me thinking about this misrepresented and oddly nick-named (stinking rose) ingredient. Garlic seems to scare a lot of people (not to mention those creepy dudes from Twilight) because of its rather potent aroma. However, the nice people at Ohio State University figured out a way to neutralize garlic’s noxious effects. It’s as simple as neutralizing the sulfide compounds by eating an apple, sipping green tea or sucking on a lemon after your garlicky meal. No need to be scared of garlic anymore unless of course you are a vampire.


Garlic has a rich history, 7000 years worth, it was one of the first cultivated plants and native to central Asia. It was bestowed with sacred qualities and placed in the tombs of Pharaohs. This wonder ingredient has been used for various things throughout its history. However, just recently scientist have been able to  confirm its benefits of  improving circulatory, digestive and immunological systems in the body as well as lowering blood pressure, detoxification and healing. Garlic’s extensive health benefits include:

– Strengthening body’s defenses against allergies – Helps loosen plaque from artery walls – Help equalize blood pressure (both high and low) – Helps regulate blood sugar levels –  Kills and expels parasites from human body – Can thin blood similar to the effect of aspirin – Acts as an anti-inflammatory –  Reduces the incidence of common cold by 50% in a double blind, placebo-controlled study.

In order to receive these health benefits you need to eat garlic properly. When you crush, mince or cut garlic it releases a cascade of chemicals, however, you need to allow the garlic to sit on the cutting board for 15 minutes before changing the PH (i.e. the temperature), otherwise you lose a significant amount of the health benefits. Hmm, do you wish they taught this in science class. Me too!

Now the fun part, incorporating more garlic into your daily/weekly food? Try roasting (see video) a head of garlic at the beginning of the week then throwing a clove into your stir-fry, salad dressing, stews, sandwiches, mash potatoes and sautées. It’s an easy way to boost the nutritional value of all my meals.

Some creative inspiration:

Garlic Tahini Dressing
GarlicTahiniDressing

http://tasty-yummies.com/2014/06/19/cucumber-ribbon-salad-with-garlic-tahini-dressing


 Black Garlic Chocolate Cake
BlackGarlicChocolateCake

http://www.siftandwhisk.com/blog/black-garlic-chocolate-cake/


Roasted Garlic Aioli
garlic aioli

http://www.urbancookery.com/roasted-garlic-aioli/


Pumpkin Garlic Souppumpkingarlicsoup

http://wheresoulfoodmeetsbody.wordpress.com/2014/08/22/roasted-pumpkin-garlic-soup/



Storage Tip: Do not put garlic in the refrigerator or in a plastic bag, these things will cause them to mold and sprout. Always keep it in a location with good air circulation such as a mesh/wire bowl or paper bag in a well-ventilated spot. To remove the smell from hands, try washing them with soap and water then rub them against stainless steel.



The Half Shell

Everyone has heard the old adage “the world is your oyster” by Sir William Shakespeare. But, the real question is…why haven’t you made the oyster your world. This handheld, portable food has captivated foodies for centuries with its elegant appearance, unique taste, and mysterious aphrodisiac properties. Most people fall into the category of lovers or “shruggers” of raw oysters. It took me at least a dozen oyster tries over the course of 15 years to finally fall in love with these gorgeous salty treats. As with all infatuations, I have become obsessed with the history, healthy benefits and yummy recipes. In 1870’s, most San Francisco residents ate oysters daily from successful gold miners to the local street vendors straight out of the bay. Today, 98% of the oysters we eat are farmed/sustainable and delicious. They provide a source of protein and minerals, low in cholesterol and carbohydrates. Basically, every foodie dieter’s dream. They are high in omega-3 fatty acids, great for your skin, heart and helps lower cholesterol. These important fatty acids also improve brain function which helps release happy brain boosting chemicals. If that wasn’t enough, these tiny creatures also have anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants that boost your immune system. It’s difficult to find a more nutrient dense food. They are most delicious in the cold, winter months, but are edible year round.

How are you going to eat them? It can be as simple as shuck the oyster, squeeze a little lemon and add a dash of fresh horseradish. Does this sound intimidating?  It’s easier then you think, watch Cindy Ressi (a complete newbie open an oyster):

Joshua from H&H Fresh Fish

Creative Inspiration:

Mignonette Sauce
mignonette sauce oysters

 http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/mignonette_sauce_for_oysters/


Oyster trio:
Rockefeller, Spicy Harissa and Citrus Butter
trio_large

 http://hogislandoysters.com/oysters/recipes/oyster-trio-rosemary-citrus-butter-harissa-and-rockefeller


Low Fat, Low Salt Tartar Sauce
pix-057

http://fritosandfoiegras.com/2013/08/spicy-lowfat-tartar-sauce-and-castello-moments-recipe-roundup.html

Happy Shucking!

Read about our delicious adventure for oyster tasting in Tomales Bay!
Click here to check out our On the Road article

Dancing to the Beet

These groovy red, yellow, candy stripped beets are back in style. They are gorgeous, they are healthy, and…lucky you…they are in season! If you thought the only way to eat them was in a 1980’s terrine with dry goat cheese and sub par pistachios, welcome to this millennium. They are in everything from sweets to meats and those greens tops are showing up in the fanciest of juice establishments. We have collected our favorite curious moments, health facts and recipes to share with you, enjoy.

Vibrant Health Benefits:
  • Good source of folate, potassium, vitamin C and fiber
  • Has shown to prevent artery and cardiovascular disease as well as lowering blood pressure
  • Boosts your stamina during workouts by reducing oxygen consumption during submaximal exercise
  • The juice/extract contains betanin, which has strong antioxidant activity and has been seen to have protective effects in various cancer cell lines (such as breast, prostate, liver, skin)
  • Supports detoxification in the body and liver
  • Helps fight inflammation in the body

I like to roast 6-7 beets in the beginning of week then add them to salads, quinoa, sandwiches & entrees. It’s an easy way to boost the nutritional value of all my meals. It’s super easy, just watch our  3 minute “how to video”:

Scientific & Historical Curiosities:
  • The Romans were the first to cultivate the beet and use it in recipes, especially as an aphrodisiac. In 1975, during the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, cosmonauts from the USSR’s Soyuz 19 welcomed the Apollo 18 astronauts by preparing a banquet of borscht (beetroot soup) in zero gravity.
  • Beets have a ton of natural sugar and are often used in cake recipes to add sweetness and moisture. In fact, those clever bakers from the Victorian Era used beet juice to make gorgeous pink cakes and deserts. No red dye # 40 only natural ingredients to make that velvety pink color, just like in the cake recipe featured below.
  •  Don’t throw out those gorgeous green tops, actually people used to eat the tops more than the roots. The beet is part of the spinach family and those groovy green tops are filled with nutrients and minerals (Zinc, Vitamin A &C, Magnesium, Iron) that can be cooked or processed much like any other greens. Sautees, stir fries, soups, chimichurri….the world is your Beet!
  • If you eat too many beets, your urine may turn pink – don’t be alarmed, its a harmless and temporary side effect. Likewise, you can take their ruby hue off your fingers with a mixture of wet salt and lemon juice, followed by a cold water rinse (also works on cutting boards).

beets copy

Tipsy Moment:

Beets can be turned into a wine which tastes like port – because? well, why not? Ironically, the beet is also a natural hangover cure!  Beta cyanin, the pigment that gives beets their jewel-toned hue, speeds up detoxification in your liver, which enables your body to turn the alcohol into a less harmful substance that can be excreted quicker than normal.

If you are feeling adventurous,
try one of these recipes:

Chocolate Beet Cake
with Vanilla Buttercreamchocolatebeetcake

http://heartbeetkitchen.com/2014/cookingtips/chocolate-beet-cake-vanilla-buttercream/

Roasted Cardamom Beet Salad
with Coffee Yogurt SauceRoasted-Cardamom-Beet-Salad-with-Coffee-Yogurt-Sauce

http://whatjewwannaeat.com/cardamom-coffee-beet-salad/

Roasted: http://www.paleopluslife.com/salt-roasted-beets/

Burger Style: http://www.greenkitchenstories.com/grilled-beet-burgers/


Storing Your Beets: Fresh beets from the farmers market will last approximately 7 days, while store bought last apx 3 days if you store them properly. Trim the leaves 2 inches from the root as soon as you get them home otherwise they will sap the moisture from the beet, but do not trim the tail. Store the leaves in a separate plastic bag and use within two days.