Category: WFW

WhyFoodWorks is dedicated to people who want to understand what is happening to their food and their bodies when they eat. Each blog entry offers a question or concept about why a particular food or food component has an effect on your physiology. When you know better, you make better choices because you understand the value of food on a whole new level.

Because the understanding doesn’t stop at “why,” each entry will also include a recipe to show you how to integrate more of the right stuff into your diet – and hopefully get you excited to try some new things!

Recipe Redux: simple breakfast salad

Put an egg on it!

There are over 50,000 instagram photos with the #putaneggonit tag – and rightly so!  Eggs are one of my favorite and most misunderstood sources of protein, and from risotto to burgers to pastas to soups to toast, there are few savory foods that you actually can’t put an egg on.  They are the gold standard for protein, matching the essential amino acids humans need very closely, a concept also known as “biological value.”  All the micronutrients they contain – B12, riboflavin, selenium, and a bit of vitamin D – and about half the egg’s protein are found in the yolk, so never opt for just the whites!  Yes, there’s cholesterol there too, but pairing the eggs with high fiber foods like veggies and whole grains will prevent some of the cholesterol’s absorption, and most of your body’s cholesterol comes from what your liver makes, anyway.

Eggs for breakfast…lunch, or dinner, or snacks…

I usually aim to eat about a dozen eggs a week myself.  On mornings when I’m not at the farm (ie, waking up at 6!) and I get to sleep in a little, I’ll usually have an egg-based breakfast. (These are from my instagram feed over the past year!)

I’m lucky that PVF also does eggs, so I know the chickens personally (and they eat veggie scraps we grow!), but if you want to figure out how the eggs you buy at the grocery store are grown, brush up on some key definitions first.

Road trip to New England

A few weeks ago my boyfriend and I took a long weekend to visit Vermont and Maine…it was a ton of driving, and he threatened to stop at every Wendy’s we passed.  Luckily, I found a sweet little breakfast spot after we broke camp the first morning called No. Six Depot that satisfied the requirements of being quick, having good coffee, and offering some kind of nutritious breakfast in the pre-brunching hours.  Any menu that offers veggies in the AM is good in my books, and I ordered this lovely salad:


Since the RecipeRedux theme this month is food inspired by vacationing, I thought I’d share my take on a breakfast salad with eggs.  The eggs from Six Depot were perfectly cooked, and had a creamy tangyness to them that I thought might be a hint of vinegar, so I tried it this time with great results!  The trick is to fry the egg on one side (not too high to avoid browning), then flip and just after the whites have fully congealed, add a tablespoon or two of white vinegar. The rest is just assembly; greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, and I added quinoa and parmesan cheese!

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School lunches made simple (+6 ways to use tortilla shells!)

August is upon us

While the weather is still sweltering here in the mid-Atlantic, belying the fast-approaching new school year, it’s almost time to start thinking about getting those kiddos back to class fueled up with the nutrients they’ll need to succeed.  And it matters a lot – kids who have better nutrition tend to get better grades and are less likely to have behavior problems (not even to mention the health benefits)!  Below I’ve put together a few guidelines for building meals, recipes, and tips for pulling it all off successfully.  What are your best tricks?  Feel free to add in the comments below!

Lunch: the approach

  1. Get kid’s buy-in: they’re more likely to eat what they participated in selecting.  But as the parent, you’re controlling what they chose from.

    • During grocery shopping, let them choose veggies – “do you want carrots or celery?  Green beans or broccoli?” There are an overwhelming number of choices so framing between two comparable selections keeps things simple (don’t just set them loose in the produce section!).
    • During home prep, let kids help pack…the wrap ideas below are all kid-chef friendly, and packing veggies in containers helps them to realize the work that goes into food prep.  It doesn’t have to be every single day – start weekly and go from there!
  2. Use these guidelines to make sure the box is balanced:

    • Protein + produce – whether it’s meat or plant-based, protein is a crucial meal component – beans, dairy, meat, eggs, nuts, and whole grains contribute protein, while produce like fruit + veggies complements with fiber.  The tortilla wrap combos below always follow this rule!
    • Veggies and fruits + dip = kids eat more produce!  A savory garlic & onion “ranch” dip made from plain greek yogurt works well for bell peppers, carrots, celery, and cucumbers, while creamy peanut butter dip is perfect for apples, bananas, and strawberries.
    • Sweet treats should be nutrient dense – ie, not cookies, cakes, or candies!  Save those for a special occasion and try energy bites (recipes below) or chia pudding (just put all ingredients in a lidded container and SHAKE & refrigerate!).  A low-sugar yogurt (like Siggi’s) with berries or granola (Michele’s is my favorite brand, while this is the best homemade recipe for granola I’ve found) is also perfect for a snack or dessert.

      (Energy bite recipes above from The Yooper Girl, The Creative Bite, and Gimme Some Oven, respectively.)

  3. Pack it up securely (and get that sharpie out to put names on anything you want to see again!)

    • Good Housekeeping has done the work of listing the best and 100 Days of Real Food has a small round up too…the ones below are Amazon-prime-ready to be at your door with no fuss, click to order! Target also has a wide selection – this is another great opportunity to provide 2 options for kids to choose between (after you narrow down what you want them to chose from!).

6 ways to use whole wheat tortilla shells

That word “whole” is crucial – if it’s not on the package, you’re likely holding a white-flour product, and minimizing refined grains in favor of whole grains is a great way to boost your fiber intake (which is dismally low for most people!).  If it says “100% whole” then all the better!  Easy to keep on hand (store in the refrigerator to extend shelf life) and dress up sweet or savory…there are countless combos and options (toast them to make chips!  Spread with sauce and cheese to make thin crust pizza! Breakfast wraps!) but here are six that kids will love:

  1. banana + Soom chocolate tahini spread (tahini is sesame butter; this brand is a great alternative to Nutella at 1/3 the sugar and only 3 ingredients!)
  2. apple + peanut butter (sweet enough for dessert, nutritious enough for a snack)
  3. turkey (or turkey meatballs!) + mozzarella cheese stick (microwave for a melt!)
  4. mexican cheese + black beans + diced peppers (microwave to bind into a quesadilla roll; serve with salsa)
  5. hummus + rainbow veggies (bell peppers, avocado, carrot, cucumber)
  6. cucumber + tuna with soy sauce (or just mayo if your child’s palate is less adventurous)

 Hope this helps!

Enjoy the end of summer and the fresh start of the fall…and stay in touch!  Find me on Instagram and Facebook…or stop by Potomac Vegetable Farms, where I’m working and learning how to grow the best food outside of Washington, DC.  I’m often working our stand at the Arlington Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings – come say hi!

Kiwi-lime pie with Zespri SunGold kiwi

IMG_4045Zespri kiwi: the yellow fruit with smooth skin!

I’m always game to try a new fruit variety, and had never even heard of Zespri kiwi, let alone their new variety call SunGold.  They have yellow flesh, no fuzziness on the outside, and are sweeter and less tart than the ones you’re probably familiar with.  Now, you can actually eat the skin on all kiwi varieties – fuzz and all! – but these are softer and even easier to eat sliced or whole.  They’re richer in vitamin C than oranges and as much potassium as a banana in 2 small fruits.  I’m sold! Look for these in the grocery store…and then think about making a pie!





  • 4 Zespri kiwis
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • juice of 1 large lime

Meringue topping

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350F.  Melt the butter and coconut oil in a 10″ tart pan.  Add remaining crust ingredients and mix with a fork until evenly combined, then press with the back of the fork until distributed over bottom of the pan.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, combine filling ingredients in a high speed blender (save a few slices of kiwi for garnishing!) until completely smooth.  When crust is baked, pour on top and spread out to edges, then bake for an additional 20-25 minutes.  To make the meringue topping, whip egg whites in a blender on high speed, adding the other ingredients when froth starts to form.  When filling is baked, top with meringue and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, until top turns golden brown.  Cool, then chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

I received free samples of Zespri SunGold Kiwifruit mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Zespri Kiwifruit and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

Featuring Tawnie Kroll (+roasted beet & greens salad)

Meet a fellow Reduxer!

TheRecipeRedux, a monthly blog link up and frequent contest host, has introduced me to lots of inspiring dietitians doing amazing things with food.  I’ve learned a lot about everything from post formatting to staging pictures from this group, but the thing I really love is that it’s full of RD’s who are food lovers and want to make nutritious food appealing and easy.  Tawnie Kroll (aka Kroll’s Korner) is the perfect example of all the best parts of this link up – I’ve followed her on Instagram for a long time, but we haven’t met (yet!).  Her photography is stunning, and her recipes are simple, balanced, and delicious.  This month for the round up, we’re featuring our take on the recipe of another Reduxer, and her Roast Beet with Feta salad was the perfect fit for the first harvest of beets we have from the farm!

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Can you beet this?

Beets are a good source of folate, very low in calories, and sweet and soft when properly roasted.  Their greens are an OUTSTANDING source of vitamins K and A and an excellent source of potassium.  You can’t always find them with the greens attached at the grocery store, so grab them up when you see them at a market!  I sauteed them lightly and added them to this salad for some extra color and vitamin content.  Whatever you do – don’t throw them away!


Roasted Beet & Greens Salad

Make this for your next cookout!  We enjoyed it for an al fresco father’s day dinner at my brother’s place, and it was just as delicious when I had it the next day, too.  I added the pecans for some crunch – just an option!


  • 5 red beets
  • Beet greens, chopped and lightly sauteed
  • 1 lemon’s juice
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans
  • Slivered basil (for garnishing)


Follow the directions on Tawnie’s recipe – when beets and greens are cool, toss all to mix (save the feta to sprinkle on last or it will be bright pink!)

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The Blue Waldorf – a salad with an elegant twist

Walnut week comes to an end

This is the third and final walnut recipe I’m putting out – for now!  I love a challenge and a feature ingredient assignment, because just having a few guidelines makes recipe development a lot easier.  And it’s great to see the roundup of everyone’s recipes at the end…TheRecipeRedux is the best for that because everyone featured looks at food through the lens of nutrition AND flavor. Be sure to browse the gallery at the end of the post!

Walnuts are not only incredibly nutrient dense, they can go sweet, savory or even both ways at the same time (as in this recipe).   They pair particularly well with apples and berries at the same time as getting lots of flavor depth from spices like cumin and coriander.  A classic Waldorf salad called for chopped apples and grapes; my version ups the fancy factor by using thinner julienned slices, adding jicama, and blueberries instead of grapes.  The walnuts are spiced with a salty-sweet-savory combo that offers a lot of flavor depth to this summer recipe favorite – bring it to your next potluck picnic!

IMG_3800The Blue Waldorf


Spiced Nuts

  • 1 c raw walnuts
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp oil


  • 2 apples – one sweet like Fuji, one tart like Granny Smith
  • 1 c chopped spiced walnuts (from above, cooled)
  • 1 c jicama slivers
  • 3/4 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery


  • 1/4 c mayo
  • 1/4 c greek yog
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • dash salt & pepper


Preheat oven to 350F.  Toss walnuts with oil, mix spices separately and then toss with walnuts to coat.  Bake for 10 minutes, then remove and cool.  To make the salad, use a mandolin or julienne by hand to cut apples and jicama into slivers.  Add to the rest of the salad ingredients in a large bowl.  Combine dressing ingredients and whisk to blend, pour over the rest of salad.  Serve over greens or alone.

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I received free samples of California walnuts mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the California Walnut Commission and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

Warm walnut bread pudding


A new dessert go-to

“This might be the best thing I’ve ever made?”

“It’s up there.”

That was the entire conversation I had while enjoying this little dessert with my boyfriend last night…we were too busy savoring bites to say much else!  The recipe is really simple, but this was my second try – the first was too dense, and a little chewy…but with the addition of milk and a bit of baking powder, second time was the charm!  And it’s my second entry to the California Walnuts contest for TheRecipeRedux – one I’ll definitely be entertaining with at the next opportunity.  Desserts based on walnuts offer lots of fiber and protein, and I kept the sugar reasonable.  The crust is crunchy and salty, the filling soft and melt-in-your-mouth sweet and spongy.  It’s definitely a treat, but making them in these cute 3″ ramekins means portion control is easy…I highly recommend serving with a drizzle of cream or whipped cream!

IMG_3782Warm walnut bread pudding



  • 1/2 c chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 c quick cooking oats
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 c melted coconut oil


  • 1 c raw walnuts
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c milk (or milk alternative)
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • dash ginger
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 4 tsp honey
  • extra walnut piece for garnishing


Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray ramekins with cooking oil (or use a little extra coconut oil) and combine the crust ingredients in a bowl, mixing with the side of a fork until oats and nuts are coated with oil.  Portion out 1/4 into each ramekin and press with the bottom of the fork (see picture below).  Bake for 12 minutes.  Meanwhile, combine all the filling ingredients except honey in a high speed blender or food processor and puree until smooth.  Pour evenly into ramekins over the baked crust, then drizzle 1 tsp of honey over each.  Bake in the 350F oven for 25 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool to touch.  Serve warm. (Can be reheated in the microwave after baking.)

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I received free samples of California walnuts mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the California Walnut Commission and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

RecipeRedux Walnut Contest: a new dip you can impress with!

A nut a day!

I am an avid believer that everyone should be eating at least a serving of nuts or seeds daily, so I was excited when California Walnuts sponsored a contest for RecipeRedux…there will be some amazing recipes in this roundup, I promise!  Walnuts contain 2.5 grams of the essential plant-based omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and 4 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber, all of which amounts to a great snack (one palmful) at your desk or on the go.  I’m entering a few times, so stay tuned this week for a couple of walnut recipes – they sent 2 pounds of walnuts and a silicone baking sheet liner which was enough to keep me in the kitchen all afternoon yesterday.


My new favorite spread

I wanted to try some new things and reinvent some classics, so I started doing some searching and came upon one that intrigued me: muhammara.  It originates in Syria, and there are lots of variations but all seem to contain walnuts, roasted red peppers, and some sort of smoky flavor.  The idea of walnuts and red peppers together seemed a little strange to me, but I’ll try anything once!  And I’m so glad I did: this is a better-than-hummus spread that people will be delighted by (and surprised to learn the secret ingredient!).  PLEASE TRY THIS.  Seriously delicious, and incredibly nutrient rich – perfect for dipping or as a sauce on a quinoa bowl.

Spicy Muhammara


  • 3/4 c walnuts
  • 1 c roast red peppers, drained
  • 1/4 c + 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 lemon’s juice
  • 1/2 tsp chili pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • dash salt
  • 3-4 fresh basil leaves, chopped


Place all ingredients (except basil and the 2T olive oil) in a food processor or high powered blender and puree until smooth.  Garnish with olive oil and basil.

I received free samples of California walnuts mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the California Walnut Commission and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

Getting sauced for the weekend (+chipotle tahini schmear)

Get saucy for summer

A sauce can make or break your dish – where else can you pack so much flavor into so little volume?  Nutritionally, sauces can also add a lot (of calories!) or just the right balance of savory, sweet, and salty for the perfect smear.  Burgers, veggies, hot dogs, wings, fries, sandwiches…all are elevated by a great sauce or drizzle!    Here’s a roundup of some amazing dietitian-approved homemade sauces that are based on whole foods and condiments you might already have in the fridge – most are vegan, all use real ingredients and cover all the bases: BBQ, mustard-y, herbacious and Asian-inspired.  They’re rounded out by the delicious chipotle dressing I made for this sweet potato noodle salad last week, thanks to the inspiration from Pinch of Yum (scroll to the bottom for my adapted recipe for the sauce!).

Sauce smart:

Click the pics for the recipes!

Easy Honey-Mustardroasted-broccoli-quinoa-salad-honey-mustard-dressing-4

Allergy-Friendly Barbeque Saucehomemade-barbecue-sauce-recipe

Spicy Habanero Avocado Cream SauceSpicy-Habanero-Avocado-Cream-Sauce2

Sesame Ginger Teriyaki Sauceteriyakisauce3-1-of-1

Chimichurri SauceChimichurri-Shrimp-5

Easy Peach Hot SauceEasy-Peach-Hot-Sauce-from-Primally-Inspired

Chipotle Tahini Schmear

Nothing better than a spicy/smokey flavor combo for the summer – make and keep this in the fridge for up to 3-4 weeks and enjoy as a dip, spread, or dressing! Click here for the original recipe, and how to make sweet potato noodles!



  • ⅓ cup canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp smoked chipotle seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried minced onions
  • 1 tsp agave or honey
  • 3 Tbsp tahini
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • dash of salt


Blend all ingredients in a high speed blender until smooth and creamy.  Add more water to thin if making a dressing or leave it thick to put on sandwiches or burgers!


Virtual apartment tour (+mezcal-orange glazed bok choy)

Happy housewarming to me!

This weekend, my boyfriend and I threw a party in our new apartment – the finishing touches are finally all on the walls, and we wanted to show the place off!  Also, now that we’re in Reston most of our DC friends are a lot farther away, and we needed an excuse to see people…and make them come to us.  We tempted them out with tacos and Moscow Mules with homemade ginger lime syrup.  David is a huge fan of Momofuku, so he made Dave Chang’s pork shoulder and this amazing slow cooker Mexican chicken, while I threw together a pineapple salsa and one with roasted corn, tomatoes, tomatillos, and red onion.

My sister just got back from Mexico, so we did a mezcal tasting before the party got started – she provided the authentic cups, salt seasoning, orange slices, and even crickets to go along with it!

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Take a virtual tour of the apartment!

Time for tapas!

There were leftovers from the party, and the RecipeRedux theme of the month is tapas, so for dinner tonight we did a few tapas plates – a great way to upcycle your cooking for a second life!  There wasn’t enough of anything left to make a full meal of, but altogether we shared these tasty little plates and were perfectly satisfied.IMG_3561

The chicken and pork were just plated up with some quinoa, radishes, and avocado, but I had a lovely bunch of baby bok choy from the farm that was fresh and just waiting to be cooked up.  Inspired by the mezcal, we made a glaze that perfectly balances spicy, sweet, and smokey.  So fast and easy – and of course filling in that veggie gap that was missing!  Great as a side dish, but if you added some tofu you could easily serve it over rice for a full meal.  Bok choy is one of the greens highest in calcium, and it’s always tender and mild, so try it with people who don’t love greens!

Mezcal-orange glazed baby bok choy


  • 10oz bok choy (~2-3 cups chopped)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • juice of half a large orange (1/4 cup)
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • zest of half an orange
  • 2 Tbsp mezcal
  • 1 Tbsp honey or agave
  • dash of chipotle powder
  • dash of salt


Heat the oil in a large skillet on medium and add bok choy.  Saute for 3-4 minutes, until tender.  Remove from pan.  Whisk cornstarch with orange juice and zest in a small cup; pour into empty skillet over medium heat and add the remaining ingredients, stirring to mix.  When sauce thickens and bubbles, it’s ready – add back in the bok choy and turn to coat.  Serve!

Check out the other tapas recipes below!

On planting potatoes (+peruvian causa recipe)

Farm life: potato planter edition

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This is an old potato.  Which you plant to make new potatoes…each potato can grow into 5-6 of its size, and you only have to plant part of it.  Each eye will root, so you can cut it into 3 or 4 chunks.  I happened to work on a day PVF was using a new potato-planting tractor attachment, and got to ride on the back!

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All the potato planter has to do is place piece of potato into each slot on the circle and, they’re dropped one by one into the trench the wheel digs. Those two big silver plates on the left cover each up with a neat pile of dirt.  As the season goes, they’ll go back out and plow more and more dirt over to disrupt the weeds and give the potatoes the cozy earth they like.

The continuously moving grid isn’t too hard to keep up with – this sure beats planting them all by hand!  We finished about an acre in a few hours.

The Peruvian causa

I was recently introduced to causa, a layered Peruvian potato salad. Traditionally served with shrimp or seafood salad, since the fishermen of Peru would go out for the day with mashed potatoes and then have them with their fresh catch.  My version has a salad with greens, spring peas, and diced red pepper, since I was making a vegan version (shrimp optional!) for the Watercolor + Self Care event I did with Marcella Kriebel and Gracy Obuchowicz last weekend.  And I used both white and sweet potatoes…so it’s not very traditional, but then again I’m not very Peruvian, so go figure!

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Sarah’s Causa


  • 1.5 lbs white potatoes, chopped and boiled until soft
  • 1.5 lbs sweet potatoes, chopped and boiled until soft
  • 3 lime’s juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh chives, chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup peas (defrosted from frozen work if fresh aren’t available)
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 2 Tbsp amarillo paste
  • 1 cup mixed greens, roughly chopped
  • Avocado, sliced
  • Shrimp, cooked (optional)


Mash the potatoes separately (I leave the skins on for extra fiber!) and add the juice of 1 lime and 2 Tbsp olive oil to each.  Add the chives to the white potatoes and the amarillo paste to the sweet potatoes (I use a hand mixer to blend).  In a greased springform pan, layer the white mashed potatoes, pressing until even with the back of a spatula, then toss the salad greens with the peas and pepper and the juice of the last lime.  Spread on top of the white potatoes, then top with the sweet potatoes and spread with a spatula.  Refrigerate for 3-4 hours, or overnight.  Top with avocado slices and shrimp when ready to serve, and remove the spring form from the base.  Present with a flourish!

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