Rudolph and friends

Look who's coming to lunch tomorrow:

Rudolph......... and his buddies

Oh yes, plus my book club friends - so we can all celebrate our Christmas lunch together!  Think its going to be a fun day!

I'll have to take their photos too and see how photogenic we all are!

Looks like we might need some soft food for the reindeer! What do you think?


Birthday lunch at the French Laundry

As I said yesterday, I was lucky enough to celebrate my friend's 40th birthday with her on Sunday, with lunch at the French Laundry. There were 10 of us in the private dining room. They looked after us so well.

The food was a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds.  Such beautiful plates and glasses and different styles of presentation. Even the water glasses were so fine that you noticed them and it made the water taste better.  The dishes and how they plated the food was gorgeous - definitely worthy of a few photos.

We also got a tour of the kitchen and it seemed a nice calm atmosphere.  Busy people but not frenetic.  They've done it all many times before.

There were so many dessert courses - I lost count and then they give you gifts to take home too.

It took us 5 hours to eat our meal.  Five happy hours where all our senses were stimulated, and we enjoyed each others company with lots of laughs.

What a wonderful celebration.  Yes, I ate things that I normally don't eat, but a visit to French Laundry isn't a regular event!

Have you ever been?

Strategies for making diet and lifestyle changes: When in doubt, throw it out

How did you get on last week in finding daily motivations for change? Did you spend a little time writing out your "advantages" card which tell of the advantages of making changes in your lifestyle and diet?  I hope you did and didn't let that sabotaging voice in your head stop you from doing it.

This week we are going to look at preparing your home for diet change. Its time to get organized. The state of your kitchen can influence how your follow your diet or lifestyle chosen plan. If these rooms are messy and disorganized, it can make you feel out of control and less confident.

So spend a little time organizing your food space.  If you have food items in your cupboard or fridge that aren't on your current eating plan - just throw them out.  You may hear a voice in your head saying
I don't want to throw away food. It's a waste of money.

But the money is already gone so don't add to the waste by wasting calories on bad food.  If the food isn't in your current eating plan, eating it means you waste the food in your body. Your body doesn't need that food and the likelihood is that it doesn't contain good nutrients for healing and health.  So in my reckoning, I'd prefer to see it as a waste of money and thrown in the trash instead of a waste in my body.  Let the garbage have the waste instead of my body.  I want to focus on putting food in my body that is healing and nourishing.  Not waste.

See if you can spend sometime in your kitchen and reorganize.  Throw out those foods that aren't nourishing for our bodies.  Get rid of that processed food. You can do it and then you'll feel more empowered to stick to your plan.

If you look at something and aren't sure if you want to keep it or throw it - remember
When in doubt, throw it out
You want to put good nourishing foods in your body, not waste.


Healdsburg Shed

On Saturday we went to Healdsburg Shed.  It's been open about 10 weeks and we had only just heard about it - so thought we'd give it a go for our Saturday lunch.  We try, as often as possible, to go somewhere different to have Saturday lunch together.

Healdsburg Shed is "a food community that sustains people, our environment, and our local economy.  Our inspiration comes from the words of Wendell Berry."

An agrarian mind begins with the love of the fields and ramifies in good farming, good cooking, and good eating.

We both really enjoyed it.  It's a wonderful open and light space.  You can shop, drink and eat there.  The cook shop had a few unusual items, but we found more interesting stuff in the food area.  We bought

  • chocolate that was made from the beans of a single farm in Madagascar 
  • 24 blackbirds chocolate - which I thought was a lovely name : >
  • celery bitters - not sure what I'm going to do with those yet, but I'll let you know
  • some Godello wine from Spain - as we grow Godello and our release is this August
  • small batch tonic - as in gin and tonic - made with quinine, lemongrass and orange peel. You add sparkling water or soda to make it into tonic water! Can't wait to try it.
They also sell shrubs - which are fruit vinegars that you drink. Lots of things to try which is always fun.

We had a great lunch. I had a bean and pea salad and roasted padron peppers with figs.  It was all very yummy and in a great atmosphere.

They hold classes there too and rent out for the space for events. 

If you live nearby, give it a try. We'll be going back, so maybe we'll see you there.

Mindful eating

We've had such a great crop of Santa Rosa plums on our tree this year - the most ever.  And yet, I don't like plums.  It seems odd to me - as I love fruits.

So I decided I would try one - freshly picked off the tree and see if I just didn't like it much or really didn't like it.

To my surprise, when I took a bite into it - I had a flashback to eating plums probably about 30 years ago - and I absolutely hated the texture and had to spit it out!

Now I get my dislike of plums - its the texture or rather what the texture makes me think of. The flashback I had was of me sitting on the lawn at Longleat house in Wiltshire. I used to work there at the weekends and school holidays.   I was sat on the lawn near the boat trip, watching the sea-lions, eating my lunch which included 2 or 3 plums.  My friends used to drive the boats so I was busy watching them and not really thinking about what I was eating.

Then something didn't taste right and I looked down and saw that the half plum that was in my hand looked vile - with crawly things in it and horrid creatures....and that the other half was already in my mouth!  Ugh.  Lots of horrid - bitten in half - bugs!!!! Yuck.

And this was the image that came flashing back to me as I tried a plum off our tree.  I had forgotten why I didn't like plums - but it was still in my subconscious!

All those years ago, I had been aimlessly eating - and ever since, it has changed my appreciation of a fruit.  I guess I should have been watching and thinking and being mindful of my eating then.  Yet I often follow that same pattern today hand keeps reaching for something as I'm busy doing something else, and I'm not mindful of what I am eating.

My plums episode this week has reminded me to be more aware and eat consciously.  There are many reason to eat mindfully - and avoiding a mouthful of bugs is up there on the list!!

Have you ever had any nasty eating experiences that put you off a certain food from then onwards.

Moroccan carrot dip

We have new friends coming around tonight for nibbles, and then we are all going out to dinner together.  I was hoping I had some basil to make the white bean basil dip, but didn't I made a moroccan carrot dip instead, which I haven't done in a while.

I'm serving it with poppadoms and also slices of apple.

The dip is very simple, and so creamy.  You wouldn't think with carrots as the main ingredient that it would be thick and creamy.  Thanks go to the addition of a few cashew nuts: 1 cup carrots to 1/3 cup cashews. Put everything in the Vitamix and blend.  Carrots, cashews, cinnamon, coriander, cumin,.....gosh its a C-dip!!  Also has some vinegar, fennel seeds and ginger. Oh - and of course my sprinkle of black cumin seeds on top!  They get everywhere nowadays!


Travel snacks - Sweetsalt Crunch

I leave for England on Wednesday - two weeks, visiting family - and lots to catch up on.  We have three new homes that family members have moved into since we were last there in February, so will enjoy seeing happy people in happy new homes....then there is my sister's 50th birthday to celebrate.....and then there are two adorable grandchildren to see and be amazed at how much they have changed since June!  Never mind catching up with a few friends too......

Here is Evelina learning the difference between penguins and ducks, and Max dressed in his tuxedo ready for a party:

To prepare for the flight, I'm making a few yummy snacks.  After bad experiences with airplane food when I'd ordered gluten free and they forgot it, I always take all my own food with me.

The first yummy snack I made today was a sweet and salty mix - my "Sweetsalt Crunch". However, at this rate, I may need to make another batch before Wednesday, as it is going down rather rapidly!

It's a lovely balance of sweetness and salty. Not too much of either. And gluten free, sugar free and dairy free. Here's the recipe:

Sweet Salt Crunch

1/2 cup raw cacao nibs
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
2 teaspoons of coarse sea salt
Drizzle of olive oil (optional)

Mix all the ingredients together and enjoy!

Obviously you can use substitutes very easily....and I know I'll never make it the same way more than once!

Another travel snack is in the dehydrator I'll show you that tomorrow.

Tastiest food of the week - sun warmed fresh figs

Picking a fresh fig from our tree, when it is gently warmed by the sun is just heaven!  The figs are soft, with such jammy red sweet interiors.

I could - and do eat them all day! I'm not a fan of dried figs so when the fruit is ripe, we need to eat it up!

I've made fig and ginger jam, fig chutney and other preserves in the past and think I'll have to start on some soon with this years crop, but for now we are just enjoying them - and giving plenty away for friends.

My morning cereal- yes there is a little cereal under those figs!
What was the tastiest thing you ate this week?

New food of the week - Jujube dates

When I work with clients, one goal that I frequently give them when they are trying to make adjustments to their diet, is to try at least one new food a week.  There are so many foods available nowadays, so it's quite easy to try something new, whether that be a spice, or a fruit or vegetable at the farmers market or try a new non-dairy milk...It's a great goal to have and opens up your horizons, looking for new things rather than focusing on things you may be missing. It's OK to also choose something that you've only ever tried once too, and give it another go.

Generally each week, I practice what I preach! So I have decided that a regular blog post will be sharing with you the new foods that I try.

This week when I was in Whole Foods, I saw fresh Jujube dates on sale.  These are also known as Chinese dates. They were organic and grown from a farm a little further south than where I am.  I had heard of Jujubes before, but never seen one or eaten one, so I bought them.

There is a potent chemical in jujubes - Jujuboside A that affects the hippocampus in the brain and is often used as a natural sleep aid.  Jujubes are therefore used to treat both insomnia and anxiety.

Hmmm. I don't have insomnia nor anxiety....and having tried them,  I don't particularly like the probably won't be buying them again!  They have a single small stone in the middle and taste a teeny little bit like an apple, but softer in texture than an apple.  I hesitate to suggest you try it, as it really doesn't do much for me.

One interesting fact however is that the smell of the flowers is believed to make teenagers fall in love!  Boys in the Himalayan regions take a stem of sweet smelling jujube flowers and put them on their hats to attract girls!  In China, the Jujube is often placed in the newlywed's bedroom as a good luck charm for fertility.  I think both of these are a better use than eating them! They don't taste bad, just not that nice either!

Have you ever had one? Maybe I should dry some and see if they improve??? Let's hope next week's new food works out better!

Add some color to your life - Chioggia beets

Look at this salad! Isn't it just a feast for the eyes with all these colors?

The prize ingredient is Chioggia beets.  I only heard about them recently so bought one to try in my salad.  You just eat it raw, thinly sliced and it puts a big smile on your face because it looks so happy there on the plate or in the bowl!

I remember being excited the first time I saw golden beets -but now, they seem positively boring compared to Chioggias!  The Chioggia beet came from an Italian coastal town called Chioggia (!), near Venice.  The beet has been around since the early 19th century and tastes a little sweeter than a red beet. 

As well as looking great, beets have lots of fiber, potassium, iron, folic acid and B vitamins.  The pigment that gives them their great color is called Betacyanin and is a powerful antioxidant.

Obviously, as well as slicing them raw in salads, you can sauté them with greens, roast them, pickle them, add them to soups etc etc, however the stripes fade a little with cooking.

They are going to be a regular in my colorful house from now on! Let me know if you try them.  Maybe I need to grow some....

Invalid Fruit Tart

It's all in a name! Invalid Fruit Tart! Does it make you want a slice?  Somehow, I think psychologically, it's not going to make you feel better if you aren't well!

Courtesy of the BBC Great British Bake Off

This tart creation comes from the archives at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh from the 1950's.  The recipe - one of 24 in the archives - was designed with the health of patients in mind.   This was in the time when the first dietician was appointed in the UK and these recipes were created in the context of the growing importance of the role food could play in health - both preventing illness in the first place and helping patients to recover.

Here's the recipe:

1 large apple
1 piece of stale sponge
142ml milk
1 egg, separated
1/4 oz granulated sugar
1/2 oz castor sugar

Wipe, peel, core and slice the apple and place in a pan with a dessertspoonful of sugar and a little cold water. Stew the apples until pulped.
Beat the egg yolk with a teaspoon of sugar and add the milk.
Place the stewed apples in a pie dish and cover with strips of sponge cake.  
Pour the custard (egg and sugar mix) over the sponge and bake in a cool oven until slightly set.  
Fold the castor sugar into a stiffly beaten egg white and heap onto the pudding. Dredge with sugar and cook slowly until slightly brown. 

I love the idea of cooking something in a "cool oven"!!!  Does that mean you don't have to switch it on?

It does sound like it probably tastes pretty good - apples and sponge, custard and meringue.....but I never think reading "stale" anything as an ingredient is very appetizing!  I'm sure it was soft to eat and good comfort food....but maybe nowadays, for "health" benefits, we'd have to make a couple of adjustments!

If you are feeling ill today- maybe you'll give it a try????!!!  Feel better soon....

This recipe was featured on this week's Great British Bake Off on BBC in the UK.  I'm so excited because I got to watch it! My sister told me about it and thought I'd enjoy the program so I got a VPN (virtual personal network) that I've been resisting for a while, and can now watch the BBC here in the US :-D

Food Textures - More Crispy Snacks

Here's another snack I choose when I'm craving something crispy:


Yummy puppodums, or poppodoms, or puppads or a variety of other names!

You need to microwave them for 45 second each and get this tasty gluten free snack, around the size of a tortilla.


They originate from Indian cuisine but don't have a particular strong flavor so are nice to snack on anytime.

Have you ever tried them? In the UK they are eaten a lot and you can buy them in packets, like potato chips, already crisped, but I've never seen them like that here in the US.

Food Textures - More Crispy Snacks

Here's another snack I choose when I'm craving something crispy:


Yummy puppodums, or poppodoms, or puppads or a variety of other names!

You need to microwave them for 45 second each and get this tasty gluten free snack, around the size of a tortilla.


They originate from Indian cuisine but don't have a particular strong flavor so are nice to snack on anytime.

Have you ever tried them? In the UK they are eaten a lot and you can buy them in packets, like potato chips, already crisped, but I've never seen them like that here in the US.

Food Textures - Crispy

Texture is a very important character of every food we eat or drink.  To many people it is even more important than taste.

If we think of the different textures we distinguish, there is: crunchy, chewy, crispy, juicy, squashy, runny, solid, hard, soft, soggy, firm, creamy, fatty, etc.

The components and ingredients within foods plus the processes they go through determines their textures.

So do you have a favorite texture?  Is there one texture that you tend to prefer to a snack?  In this series of blog posts, I'll be exploring different textures and some healthy snack options that can satisfy those textures. This means that if you crave your usual snack that maybe isn't so healthful, by identifying the texture of the snack, you can try substituting a more healthful snack that has the same texture.

For me, my favorite texture is crispy.  I love that firmness and the sound as you crack through it.  When I fancy a snack, it is crisp that I tend to go for.  In my not-so-healthy eating days, potato chips would be what I'd grab.  In identifying "crisp", it seems similar to crunchy, but the difference is that crisp is something thin, whereas crunchy is a thicker texture.

So I have a few alternatives that I now go to for my crispy fix. The first is Edwards and Sons Baked Brown Rice Snaps.

They come in different flavors but my favorites are the Tamari Seaweed ones. This flavor has no added oils or preservatives. The plain unsalted ones similarly have no oil, but I find them a little too plain! Some of the other flavors have added oil, so read the label. Here are the ingredients.

They have a great snap when you bite into them. They are good for dips and worth a try! I'll share some more crispy healthy snacks with you soon.

Dirty Money

Here is a video describing the results of a study that looked at fecal bacterial contamination of banknotes obtained from different food outlets in different countries!

Sadly, the USA had the highest contamination of E. coli.  May you want to check next time you buy food to see if money and food are being handled by the same person!

Thanks to for the news!


Jamie Oliver on Teaching children about food

Jamie Oliver's Wish for America, from the TED2010 - Teach every child about food.  Look out for the segment on children identifying vegetables - it's pretty shocking.   


I just downloaded a new food app to my iPhone today called  "Fooducate" .  It looks really good. It is basically an app that, through reading the barcode on food packaging, analyzes the ingredients and nutrition information and simplifies it to show you which foods are healthy and which are not so healthy.  Each food gets a grade, A - D, and then: the product's highlights are listed - both good and bad; other products are compared; and healthier alternatives are suggested.  The scoring system takes into account processing, fat content, nutrients, plus lots of other factors, thus whole foods or minimally processed foods score higher than processed foods.

Highlights they report to you include:

  • excessive sugar
  • too much salt
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • controversial food colorings
  • high fiber
  • additives and preservatives etc, etc

It utilizes the iPhone's camera to scan barcodes of food items.  If a particular food item isn't listed, it then asks you to take three photos of the item and they will then update their list.  Currently more than 200,000 unique foods are in the database.  They are also keen to get feedback from people if they think a product isn't analyzed correctly.

Screen shot of the phone scanning the barcode

The system was created by dietitians and concerned parents with the idea that people will check on items as they are doing their shopping and choose the healthiest version.

I got the free version but there is a $3.99 version too, but I'm not sure what the difference is...maybe just no ads. Fooducate won AppStore 2011 best app in Health and Fitness category. They also have a blog where they educate you even more about food. It seems a good quick guide for people to use.

Have you tried it?  Let me know if you give it a go.  I'm going to try scanning my cupboard now and see what I'll have for dinner tonight.  Eat something healthy tonight.