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!

Beyond cookies: 6 homemade holiday food gifts you’ll be excited to share

Good morning, Washington!

There’s still plenty of time!

This collection of food gift ideas was hand-picked to fit the bill: they all feature seasonal flavors or scents, can be made in bulk, and are a step outside the box of the cookies you make every year.  (You should still make those too…I’m all about traditions that evoke those warm, nostalgic feelings!) So grab a friend or prep ’em solo – you can knock all of these out together in just a few hours…use individually as little host/hostess gifts, or make a elegant gift basket for a huge hand-crafted surprise.  Check out my Pinterest board for more versions!  Click the pics below for the full instructions, and see the spot I did on Good Morning Washington to talk about the recipes!.

1. DIY soup in a jar

You’re giving the gift of warm soup on a cold day…and it’s beautiful to boot!  There are lots of great recipes out there for these self-mixed dry ingredient jars, just remember if you go off book that everything you put in should have roughly the same cooking time (ie either all beans or no beans, look for quick cooking versions of grains, and always include some instructions in a note!).  Pro-tip: layer smallest ingredients first and the larger ones last; otherwise tiny pieces will slip through layers and mess up your stripes.  It has to be functional and beautiful!

2. “Artisan” dark chocolate bark

There are lots of pretty chocolate barks in stores now…and let me tell you, they’re pricey!  Here are the secret cheats: you be the artisan, and get a high-percentage dark chocolate bar (I like Trader Joe’s 73% dark bar; $1.99 – and over 70% is where the heart-health benefits are!) and add your own nuts, dried fruit, pretzels, coconut…check your pantry, I’m sure there are lots of things you could add!  A sprinkle of cayenne or salt, some leftover candies, or even peppermint tea leaves could be easy adds.  Skip melting chips, tempering, and dirtying bowls and just use a 300F oven to melt the bars right in their foil – 3-5 minutes is usually enough to soften!  Just make sure you press all the toppings in a bit so they stick.  See my full instructions here or do it the old fashioned way.

3. Rosemary-spiced nuts

Another easy diy that has about a million variations to choose from – I like this one because the rosemary is a unique twist, but of course there are gingerbread, cocoa-coated, and candied options that are equally delightful.


4. Coconut-vanilla salt scrub

I have a whole Pinterest page dedicated just to foods you can use for your skin too – but salt scrubs are one of my favorites because they’re SO easy, inexpensive, and darn effective!  This one is three simple ingredients: 1 cup of salt (coarser for a foot scrub, finer for hands), 1/3 cup of coconut oil (unrefined), 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.  I keep this one in my shower to use after the soap stage – just rinse with lukewarm water and towel dry for glowing, fresh (and beautifully smelling) skin!


5. Fruit & nut loaf (the REAL fruit cake!)

I wish I could remember who gave me this recipe…like most people, I was not a fan of fruit cake.  Especially the weird gummy bits!  But this recipe changed my view: they’re delicious and decadent when made with just nuts, dried fruit, and enough flour and egg to hold it together.  The recipe easily doubles, so you could churn out lots of mini loaves or a few big ones if you’re hosting.  So please, this season give a fruit cake a second chance (and just call it a nut loaf so people aren’t scared!).


  • 3/4 c all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar, light or dark
  • 3 cups roughtly chopped nuts
  • 3 cups coarse chopped dried fruit
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla


Mix flour, baking soda, powder, and salt. Toss nuts & dried fruit in flour mixture to coat. Add brown sugar and mix well, then add eggs and vanilla and use handes to work into a sticky dough. Spray a loaf pan or oil with canola oil, line with parchment, and spray/oil parchment too. Pack the dough into the pan, pressing down until even on top. Bake in oven at 300F for 1 hour to 1.5 hours, depending on size of pan. Cake is done when golden brown on top. Tent with foil if it starts to get too dark. Remove from oven, allow to cool,a nd remove from pan to wire rack. Slice when completely cool.

6. Frankincense scented salt-dough ornaments

This one I can’t take credit for…the lovely folks at Simply Earth sent me an essential oil subscription box to try and I simply LOVE it!  You can opt for a one-time box, a quarterly box, or a monthly box – all come with a variety of oils, recipes, and other goodies to make their concoctions.  This box was perfect for the season: the oils it came with were pine, rosemary, and frankincense, along with an orangey blend called “Happy Joy.”  I’m sharing their recipe for ornament dough here because it’s SO easy and the texture is amazing.  I decorated mine with stamps, paints, and some little plastic bedazzles.  Here’s the process, 5x faster than real time:


  • 15 drops Franckincense oil
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1/2 cup corn starch
  • 3/4 cup water


Mix all ingredients together in a small sauce pan over medium heat.  Stir continuously and allow to boil until a dough forms.  Remove from heat and allow to cool completely (I cooled mine wrapped so it wouldn’t dry out).  Roll out dough, using extra cornstarch if it’s sticky, and use cookie cutters to make ornaments (I used a chopstick to make the ribbon hole).  Dry for 24 hours, flipping after 12.  (I also found you could bake them for ~10 minutes at 300F to dry them out enough to decorate; this can cause bubbles in some so drying is preferable!)

Some more shots of my ornaments are below; you should note that Simply Earth gives 13% of its profits to help end human trafficking (I love a company with a cause!) and they’re very passionate about their customer’s experience being positive and engaging.  So check them out!

‘Tis flu season – mocktails to hydrate & heal

Smug as a bug

I was sitting pretty and feeling great when my boyfriend got a bad cold last week…I’d been drinking echinacea tea almost daily, getting enough sleep, and eating lots of wonderful winter veggies like squash and kale.  My immune system is strong, I thought, I am not susceptible.  Too smug!  It started in my throat and moved up to my head.  While I’m hopeful that this means I’ve paid my dues and will be healthy for the holidays, it got me thinking – what to drink when you want to feel festive, but know that alcohol will make you feel even worse?

Mocktails to the rescue

On top of being alcohol-free, mocktails are actually a great opportunity to get some much-needed hydration and virus-fighting vitamins & minerals.  But many of them call for added sugar in the form of concentrates, syrups, or sodas.  Here are 3 mocktails I “mocked” up to improve the nutrient balance.  It’s always a good idea to offer a non-alcohol beverage if you’re hosting, but you could bring one as a guest to contribute, too – most people just bring wine, so your concoction will get special attention.  Other great times to use these recipes: for kid’s parties, Christmas morning brunch, pregnant women’s groups, or church events!

Non-Alcoholic Sangria
Cut out the 1/2 cup of sugar; instead brew with a fruit-infused black tea (less astringent!)

Cranberry apple cider punch
Sub OJ for orange juice concentrate; infuse with sliced fresh ginger instead of ginger ale; add club soda

Blueberry Mojito

Muddle blueberries with mint; eliminate sugar & add Buchi’s Elderberry Blueberry Coconut Kombucha to taste instead.

I’ve also pinned some on my Pinterest boards – check them out for extra inspiration!  If none of these hit the spot (though I’d be surprised!) try this: type in *herb of choice* + *fruit of choice* + *cocktail or mocktail* (use Pinterest or google) and something will come up…I haven’t found a combo that doesn’t yield something delicious-sounding yet!  Rosemary peach?  You bet.  Thyme apple?  Sure.  Lavender kiwi?  Sounds weird, but…yup, it’s there.  Post below if you do find a combo that doesn’t exist…maybe there should be a recipe for it!

Plant-powered lunch bowl: farro, shaved brussels sprouts, and fermented beets

Bowls are the new salad

I’m a HUGE fan of a well-balanced lunch bowl.  They’re easy to pack to bring to work, and the options are limitless – which is why I am really excited that they’re this month’s RecipeRedux theme!  I can’t wait to see all the other members’ combos (links below) and give folks some inspiration for lunches that taste and feel awesome.

How to Bowl

Here’s my guide to building a bowl from scratch:

  1. Pick a base: a whole grain (quinoa or millet work well), rice, or legume like lentils or beans – aim for 1/2 cup

  2. Pick your greens: kale, spinach, collards, lettuces – 1-2 cups

  3. Pick 2 proteins: cheese, diced meats, tofu, hard-boiled eggs, nuts, seeds – roughly 20g worth; consult the labels to make sure it adds up

  4. Add 2 other veggies (green beans, diced pepper, onion, tomatoes, even a cooked diced sweet potato) – roughly a cup total

  5. Herbs + acid + oil (chopped fresh basil or cilantro, lime or lemon juice, and olive or grapeseed oil) – about 2 Tbsp

I recently brought a bowl to a potluck – they make fantastic side dishes, too!  I cooked up farro, which is wheat’s higher-protein cousin (not gluten free!), then added:

  • Chopped roasted carrots
  • Raw edamame
  • Shaved raw brussels sprouts (I used a mandolin)
  • Fermented beets (my first ferment!)
  • Feta cheese
  • Dried cranberries
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Chopped pecans
  • Pomegranate arils (alleluia, it’s pom season again!)


Gorgeous colors, right?  And the result:


I dressed it with some rice wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and EVOO – the ingredients themselves had so much richness and diversity in flavor, texture, and temperature that it didn’t need much!  If I weren’t going to a potluck, I’d have stored all the ingredients separately and made different combos through the week for lunch – here’s what a single serving looks like:

img_4313img_4316YUM.  Try your own – what’s your fav combo?  And don’t forget to check out the rest below!

Winter squash: 7 unique & easy recipes


Fall has…fallen

And alleluia!  As my first season working on a farm comes to a close, I can say from all of us outdoor laborers: PHEW!  We were so, so hot for so, so many days.  Winter squash is planted during high summer, mulched with hay to keep weeds down, and then we wait…as the plants begin to die off, they leave behind their beautiful bounty.  All one needs to do is walk into the field with a big clipper to cut the stems and pick them up! (Purple Crocs optional!)

2016-09-27-15-21-38 2016-09-27-15-21-50

Which winter squash?

You may hear the family winter squash belong to generically called the to the “gourd” family, but it also contains the summer squash like zucchini and yellow squash, cucumbers, and even canteloupes and watermelon.  Winter squash fall in between low and high starch veggies on the carbohydrate scale; they have about 15g per cup.  Where they really shine is Vitamin A & C content (300% and 50%, respectively per cup) for only about 60 calories.  They’re unique from summer squash in their storage capacity – they can be kept at room temp or cooler (but above freezing) for months; just rinse and wipe when you purchase so bacteria on the surface don’t start to eat them!  Buy extra at your markets starting now through December and enjoy them through February – Potomac Vegetable Farms has lots of butternut for sale at all our markets in Arlington, Tacoma Park, Falls Church, Reston, and Leesburg!  CSA customers will also get acorn, delicata, and kabocha (my personal favorite for its bright orange flesh and soft, edible skin).  Here’s the feature segment from Good Morning Washington today:
The pumpkin spice granola recipe I mentioned is right here!

Diced, sliced, roasted, sauteed, pureed – these babies are versatile.  They can go savory or sweet, or walk the line between both.  Most have edible skin, so skip the peeling and save some fiber and vitamins while you’re at it.  Acorn is the only one I’ve found that has a skin too tough to consume.  Below are recipes that will allow each variety to shine: treat yourself to one of them this week!  Click for link to the sources…and keep scrolling for info on my fall retreat, November 4-6 at Mountain View Farm in Purcellville, VA.

pumpkinpieenergyballsPumpkin Pie Energy Bites

dsc_7159Raw Pumpkin Cranberry Ginger Parfaits

Roasted Delicata Squash Salad with Bulgar

Roasted Acorn Squash with Quinoa Cranberry Walnut Stuffing

30-Minute Squash Coconut Curry

Creamy Butternut Squash Alfredo

this-healthy-pumpkin-spice-granola-is-loaded-with-delicious-fall-flavours-made-with-easy-ingredients-and-takes-only-10-minutes-of-prep-to-make_-4Healthy Pumpkin Spice Granola

Retreat with me

I’m hosting a culinary learning retreat next month to give people a small taste of what farm life is like – fresh food, bulk prep techniques, and a focus on fermented and pickled foods are the themes of the weekend, and there will be opportunities for hiking, crafting, and just enjoying a hot drink in the fresh mountain air. We’ll get a tour of the farm and have our own farmhouse to stay in.  Click for more info and registration!backtoroots

Lunch wrap hack (+Sabra chickpea spread)

The good & bad of wraps

There’s so much potential for a wrap to be the perfect lunch: veggies, protein, some zingy flavors, all ready to eat quickly in a handy whole grain sleeve, no silverware required!  Unfortunately what you’ll usually find in restaurants and stores is a huge portion of deli meat, mayo spread, and a white tortilla that could be over over 300 calories before anything even goes inside.  And if you choose a vegetarian wrap, there’s usually not enough protein to make a full meal’s serving.  Not worth your time or money!  Instead, try stocking up on some 100% whole grain shells, a variety of veggies, spreads, and some interesting flavor ingredients (fresh herbs, capers, pickles) to make your own unique combo.

Sabra spreads

These are a new spreads from one of the best known hummus companies in the country – Sabra bottles them for easy squirting, and the first ingredient is always chickpeas.  Check out the links below in this RecipeRedux Roundup contest using three of their new flavors – Salt & Pepper, Garlic & Herb, and Honey Mustard – this is a great way to add flavor and help bind your ingredients together!

Wrap hack: 4 components for a winning combo

Flavor, color, and texture variety are all keys to a well-balanced wrap.  Shake on your favorite seasonings, add a vinaigrette, or pop some pickles in to hit the right tasting notes, and choose some soft or cooked and some crispy elements so each bite is interesting.

  1. Pick your protein – beans, cheeses, tempeh, leftover meats from roasts or chicken entrees, or canned salmon or tuna are all good options; aim for the portion to provide ~15g.
  2. Veggie serving – a serving of vegetables is about the size of your fist, so do not skimp here!  Roasted red pepper, spinach or other greens, cucumber, carrots, cooked eggplant, cucumber…grab at least 2 for color variety.
  3. A spread, sauce, or dressing – preferably with an acid element!  My wrap below features a quick-pickled carrot, which counts as part of the veggie volume and really adds some great flavor notes.
  4. 100% whole grain wrap, 6-8″ – this is key; the wrap I use here is 8″ and has 6g of protein and 5g of fiber with 210 calories (34g carb) so my meal is clocking in at less than 500 calories (which is a good ball park if you’re in a sedentary job!)

Here’s my combo:

  1. Chickpeas lightly sauteed, then crush with half a lemon’s juice (1-15 oz can; 1/3 of the chickpeas per wrap)
  2. Roasted red bell pepper (I made my own but canned work too!), cucumber, and quick-pickled shredded carrots
  3. Sabra Garlic & Herb Spread (2 Tbsp)
  4. 8″ whole wheat wrap


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

The future of health: personalized nutrition assessment (+what’s a food sensitivity?)

The year is 2116…

Just over a hundred years ago, in 1912, vitamins were categorized as food components necessary to maintain health.  Diseases like scurvy & rickets (simple deficiency diseases caused by lack of vitamin C and D, respectively) were finally easily curable and nutrition science was on its way to defining a host of other maladies.  Today, only a century later, we’ve developed complete blood workups, antioxidants in pills, fresh food prepared and delivered to your door, and genetic analysis to help us obtain optimal health.  Imagine where we’ll be in another hundred years!logo

I’m going to stake a claim here: nutritional counseling will advance to the point where we will be able develop hyper-tailored nutritional goals centered on individual physiology.  We are already developing tests that will show which nutrients you are over or under consuming, how quickly you metabolize those nutrients, and which foods to avoid altogether.  Best of all, these tests will be as easy and time consuming as getting a haircut.  And I say this with certainty because in some ways the future is already here!

There are many organizations exploring this field, and one that caught my attention is Everlywell.  Everlywell is a company that provides at-home kits for testing for all kinds of things – fertility, heart health, sleep hormones, and you guessed it: food sensitivities.  When they reached out to me about trying a test, I was most curious about that one.  I eat all foods, enjoy all food groups, and have never noticed any symptoms distinctly related to any particular food, but I’ve also heard people say that they didn’t know how bad they felt until they tried cutting out something that turned out to be a trigger.  Could I be sensitive to certain foods and not realize it? I was curious, and while the Everlywell test measures IgG levels, not IgE (more below about what that means) I am never opposed to more information when the test is low-risk!

Testing, testing…

I wasn’t sure how easy I expected the process to be – many food sensitivity tests require you to obtain a doctor’s order, visit a lab for a blood draw, and then mail the results back to your doctor. It can take weeks before you get the results. (Pro tip: ALWAYS ask your doctor for a copy of any test results – keeping an ongoing file as you move around is important!)  With Everlywell, the process is pretty straightforward:

  1. Create a profile on their site, and order your test. It should arrive within 7 days, right to your door.
  2. Take the test.  Some tests require urine collection, others a finger prick.  The food sensitivity test is a blood test, so it comes with 2 easy-to-use lancets for a finger stick.  I tried to use mine first thing in the morning and found it hard to get enough blood flowing to fill the circles on the test, so I stopped and did it again right after I exercised.  Blood flow, no problem!  If you’re queasy or anxious about this, make sure there’s someone else in the room with you.  I promise, it doesn’t hurt any more than a rubber-band snap, and it requires less blood than what you’d get from a paper cut!
  3. Mail it back in the pre-labeled envelope and wait.  But not for long.  My test results came back within 7-10 days; they’re posted right on your Everlywell profile online so no need to wait for snail-mail!

Food allergy vs sensitivity vs intolerance

There are actually many ways your body can react poorly to food, and each specific reaction dictates how it is categorized.


Your body creates Immunoglobin E (IgE) antibodies (tiny proteins) in response to a food that it identifies as harmful.   These initiate histamines and a cascade of other hormones which result in acute (very quickly occurring) responses such as rashes, itchiness, and swelling, the latter of which can be fatal if it inhibits airways.


Your body creates Immunoglobin G (IgG) antibodies in response to a food.  Some studies show that eliminating foods identified by an IgG sensitivity test can result in decreased symptoms like systemic inflammation, migraines, irritable bowl syndrome (IBS), and even skin conditions like eczema.  IgG proteins may or may not indicate that you shouldn’t have a food; just that it could be one to try eliminating if measures are high.  Symptoms can take hours or even days to develop and can take just as long to disappear after withdrawing  the offending food.  This is what the Everlywell test measures.


Your body is missing an enzyme needed to break down a food, or the bacteria living in your gut aren’t the right kind or are improperly balanced.  Lactose intolerance falls into this category.  If a person’s body doesn’t produce lactase (the enzyme needed to break down the sugar lactose found in milk) it proceeds into your intestines where bacteria break it down – in a very gassy reaction!.

Got it?  There’s a more in-depth explanation and references here if you want more information!

So what does it mean?

Everlywell clarifies that just because you have an IgG sensitivity to a food, you may or may not need to remove it from your diet.  It analyses 96 foods and puts them into one of four categories (0-3) based on how strong the strength of the IgG reaction (3 is the strongest). So you can start by removing the foods in Category 3 to see if you notice a difference.  You should definitely share results with your doctor or dietitian to get their feedback, and to focus in on other tests that might be necessary.everlyreactivityscale

Since I want you to really see what the test results look like, I’m making mine available for anyone to check out: click here to view!

You can sort the list by food group or by reactivity in descending order.  I have only one food in Categories 3 & 2 each, about 20 in Category 1, and most fall into Category 0.  According to this test, the most likely foods to cause a reaction for me are brewer’s yeast and cashews.  Both found in many things I love!! Like I said, I’ve never noticed any particular reactions to foods, but now I’ll pay closer attention and maybe try taking a few weeks off of beer and cashews.

Want to get tested?  Use this link and the code “EVERLY10” to get 10% off your order!

A few things to note: the tests aren’t diagnostic; that is to say, you should visit your doctor and share it with him or her to get a professional opinion.  It’s not available in 4 states due to regulations: NY, MD, RI, NJ.  The labs they use are CLIA certified with 95% 3rd party validated accuracy.

Taking control of the food you eat is the first step to controlling your overall health – and the more you know, the better you can decide what to eat more of, and what to avoid.  A simple habit swap can have a huge impact on health!  Have you ever done food sensitivity testing?  What’s on your “avoid” list?  If you haven’t, would you choose to?

Everlywell sponsored this post and offered me a complimentary testing kit.  I’m planning to order more from them in the future at my own cost because I liked the quality of information and their ease of use.

Vegan coconut-peach crisp (+5 other fruit crisps!)

 Summer = peaches

There is NOTHING like a fresh summer peach, right?!  The crops were drastically reduced in some areas of the Mid-Atlantic this year due to a late spring freeze; those poor baby blossoms died right on the branches, leading to much smaller yields than normal.  But the ones that did make it produced big, amazing peaches, and we are just seeing the end of the season.  Last weekend, I cooked up a big meal for Gracy’s newest group of women, and we finished off a meal of ratatouille (I used this recipe; first roasting the eggplant to dehydrate it a bit, and served over spiralized zucchini noodles instead of including them in the stew!) with a coconut-peach crisp.

I’m not vegan myself, but when I cook for large groups I try to accommodate all eating patterns, so I swapped the butter normally found in a crisp for cold coconut oil and added some shredded coconut to really up the flavor!

Baking usually requires precision, but crisps are VERY forgiving.  I eyeballed most of the recipe; you could try swapping out or adding ingredients (maybe some nuts?  Chia seed?  Raisins??)  and still end up with a delicious outcome.  This crisp is light and crumbly, others can be crunchy or doughier.  Here are 5 more recipes to check out as you’re thinking about crisping:

  1. Triple Berry Crumble

  2. Easy Apple Crisp

  3. Paleo Strawberry Crisp

  4. Perfect Plum Crisp

  5. Asian Pear Maple Crisp

Most fruits are very crisp-friendly…start experimenting!  Oh, and if you want to enjoy my home-cooked food on a cozy retreat at a farm in Virginia…you’re in luck.  This culinary retreat with a food-prep focus will be the perfect way to transition to cold-weather eating.  Join me as you are, or with a significant other, friend, or family member in November!

Vegan coconut-peach crisp



  • 5 peaches, pit removed and chopped into large chunks (I never peel mine!)
  • 1/4 c cornstarch
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • Dash salt


  • 1 c rolled oats
  • 1/2 c shredded dried coconut
  • 1/4 c ground flax
  • 1/2 c packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Dash ground ginger
  • 1/3 c solid coconut oil


Toss the peaches in a bowl with the cornstarch and sugar; set aside.  Preheat oven to 350F.  Combine dry crisp ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir until evenly distributed.  Add coconut oil; cut in with a fork or use fingers to rub into the dry ingredients, allowing some larger lumps to form.  Spray or oil a baking pan (9×9 or 9×13) and add peaches, then pour crisp mix on top.  Bake until bubbly on the sides and golden brown on top, ~45 minutes depending on size of the pan, peaches, and oven – check occasionally and cover with tinfoil if the top is getting too dark too fast.  Serve warm; drizzle with cream or a thick almond or cashew milk with a bit of honey or agave!IMG_4137 IMG_4102 IMG_4104 IMG_4111

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.