Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Healing Foods: Chef Peter Yurasit's Pasta with Chunky Basil Pesto and Watercress

This week, my friends and I took a cooking class with New York chef and caterer Peter Yurasits. Peter is an amazing chef, known for using local and organic produce and products in his cooking. Our class included basil and watercress from his very own garden, as well as other fresh and delicious ingredients.

The Provençal themed menu was sublime. We started with seared slices of foie gras with an endive salad, then moved on to a pappardelle with chunky basil pesto and fresh watercress (recipe below!), roasted lamb chops with a creamy potato gratin, and finished with Tarte Tatin, a yummy caramelized apple tart. We paired our sumptuous food with wines from Provence, and savored every minute of our evening all together.

Now that farmer’s and produce markets are starting to offer locally grown foods of the season, introducing all of you to Peter’s pasta dish is a great idea. Not only will it give you a chance to try a delicious dish with the freshest ingredients, but the ingredients themselves carry great nutritional benefits. Organic garlic is crushed with basil leaves, sea salt and olive oil. Once the pasta is cooked al dente, the pesto is tossed with the pasta, freshly grated parmesan cheese, and a generous handful of fresh watercress leaves. Packed with vitamins, watercress is an excellent source of B1, B2, B6, C and E. It is also an excellent source of manganese for bone health and liver support, and carotenes for visual health. It is a good source of calcium and fiber as well.

This pasta is excellent as a main course, appetizer or side dish with your favorite protein. Thank you, Peter, for the wonderful cooking class, and for introducing all of us to this delicious, healing dish……

Pasta with Chunky Basil Pesto and Watercress

1 lb. pappardelle pasta

3 tablespoons butter

2 cups fresh basil leaves, washed

4 cloves garlic

1/2 cup olive oil

2 teaspoons sea salt

2-3 cups fresh watercress

1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Using a mortar and pestle, crush garlic, salt, fresh basil leaves into a chunky paste. Add olive oil and mix well to combine flavors.

Prepare pasta according to package directions. When pasta is al dente, drain and toss with butter, then add the pesto. Fold in the parmesan cheese and watercress. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Healing Foods: Chicken Breast with Miso Marinade

We all know of miso as the main ingredient in miso soup. But the healing powers of miso are many. It is recommended as a powerful B12 source, especially for vegan diets. It also provides daily needs for manganese (for healthy bones and blood vessels), and the trace minerals zinc (for aiding immune function and healing) and copper (for aiding in energy production and antioxidant defenses). An impressive source of protein—and it's a low calorie one at that! It is, however, high in sodium, so miso paste can serve as a salt substitute that reaps multiple health benefits as it flavors your food.

Miso is delicious as the base of soups, with the simplest miso soup recipe including tofu, chopped nori and scallions. I like to use miso as a marinade—and often mix miso, hot water, tamari and a little sushi vinegar together as a marinade for chicken or fish. In lieu of coffee as an afternoon pick me up, try a cup of miso broth instead of caffeinated drinks for an energy boosting, restorative drink.

While testing spinach recipes this weekend, I decided to pair a miso-marinated chicken breast with the spinach and shiitake mushroom recipe I posted last week. It makes a lovely meal, but this flavorful chicken can be served with sautéed spinach, kale, asparagus or peas. Add your favorite salad to make a quick, easy healing dish.

Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Miso Marinade

For the marinade, stir one tablespoon white miso past with 3 tablespoons boiling water.

Add 1 tablespoon tamari or low sodium soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon rice or sushi vinegar and 1 tablespoon sake or mirin (rice wine).

Stir until blended, add 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, seal and marinade for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat sauté pan over medium high heat.

Add 2 teaspoons olive oil. Add chicken breasts and sauté 5 minutes each side.

Reduce heat and add ¼ cup water. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer 5 minutes. Remove breasts and slice crosswise.

Arrange on platter and strained pan juices. Serve with sautéed spinach and shiitake mushrooms or your favorite green vegetable. Serves 4.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Healing Foods: Popeye Had The Right Idea!

“Eat your spinach!” was definitely one of those life lessons that we learned from watching old Popeye cartoons. He would squeeze a can of spinach, pour it down his throat, flex those bulbous muscles and---completely revitalized---get immediately back to the business of saving the day.

As it turns out, he had the right idea. Spinach is a superfood, and has multiple healing benefits when eaten hot or cold. Spinach is chock full of vitamin K, which aids in blood clotting, helps to absorb calcium and treat osteoporosis, and is known for having preventive and treatment benefits for cancer. 1 cup of boiled spinach contains over 1100% of the daily value of vitamin K. It’s also loaded with vitamin A (over 300% of the daily value), which is a powerful anti-oxidant and guards against bacterial, viral and parasitic infections.

Spinach is a great food to eat during chemo for its health promoting and cancer fighting properties. It is always best, however, to eat organic spinach, since any pesticides and chemicals that are used to treat it can cause the liver to work overtime to detox and cleanse the body.

I keep a bag of organic spinach in the fridge for quick meals. Delicious, healthy spinach dishes can be made in a matter of minutes. I like to sauté spinach in a few tablespoons of chicken or vegetable stock until wilted, and add roasted garlic, salt and pepper at the end. You can also add more stock, let it reduce a bit, and use the spinach as a sauce with orzo or your favorite pasta.

This Asian inspired recipe is both easy and flavorful. Serve with chicken breast or roasted salmon for a nutrient dense, restorative meal.

Spinach with Shiitake Mushrooms

1 bag organic spinach (about 3 cups raw spinach)

1 container shiitake mushrooms, washed and sliced thin (about 1 and ½ cups sliced)

3 cloves garlic, sliced thin

1 tablespoon neutral oil (safflower or canola)

2 teaspoons tamari or low sodium soy sauce

½ teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Wash and spin the spinach dry in a salad spinner (or drain in a colander).

In a sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté, stirring frequently for one minute. Add mushrooms and sauté for 4-5 minutes. Add spinach and stir frequently, sautéing for 5-7 minutes or until wilted. Add tamari, remove from heat, garnish with sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Comfort Food: In Honor of My Amazing Father

May 19th is my father’s birthday. If he were still alive, he would be celebrating his 86th year. Instead, I will be celebrating my father by making the soup that started me on my healing foods journey 16 years ago.

In late April 1994, my father was diagnosed with cancer that had lodged in his spine and had spread to other organs. He passed away on June 6, 1994, just weeks after being diagnosed. My father was a lover of family and food, and our family dinners--with menus both simple and and grand--are some of my best childhood memories--and were one of his greatest pleasures. He also loved gardening, and had a magnificent herb garden where he grew myriad herbs that he loved to use in our cooking.

It was so hard to watch this disease take over our father and invade our family so quickly. My brave father never complained about his illness, but we knew that he knew best how bad it was. He began to lose his appetite, and would wave away the trays of bland hospital food and Jell-O that were wheeled into his room. One afternoon, while cajoling him to drink a protein shake, I asked “Daddy, what would you like to eat?” He looked at me and said “your leek and potato soup.”

I inherited a love of food and cooking from my parents, and spent lots of time reading cookbooks, trying out new recipes on my family and studying the cuisines of every country I had the good fortune to travel to. A leek and potato soup that I learned to make from friends in France made its way into our family’s favorite things, and my father loved this soup garnished with fresh chervil or chives (or both!) from our herb garden served with a crusty baguette and butter.

I left the hospital that evening, stopped to buy the leeks and potatoes, and went out to the garden to gather the herbs he tended so lovingly. I brought him the soup, along with a few other of his favorite comfort foods, and he ate for the first time in a few days. The smile on his face when he tasted the creamy soup let me know that it was familiar and satisfying.

So tonight, I will make this soup for my family in honor of my wonderful Father. And I will toast the man who taught me so much about family, love, and the pleasure of good, comforting food. Happy Birthday, Dad.

Leek and Potato Soup

4 large Yukon Gold Potatoes

2 bunches leeks, washed scrubbed and cut to about 1 inch above the white part of the leeks

3 tablespoons butter

3 cups chicken stock

sea salt/freshly ground pepper

¼ cup chopped chives or chervil, or both

¼ cup heavy cream

Slice leeks into thin rounds. Saute in butter for about 5 minutes until transparent. Wash, peel and cut the potatoes into medium dice. Add to the leeks and stir another 5 minutes. Add chicken stock, and make sure it covers the mixture. Cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes, until potatoes are cooked through. In large bowl of food processor or blender, puree the soup in batches until smooth. Return to heat and add salt and pepper and cream. Adjust with additional cream, salt, pepper or stock to taste. Ladle into bowls and garnish with chives/chervil. Serve with warm baguettes and creamy butter.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Omega 3 For All: A Rich Stew for Healing and Comfort

We hear a lot about the importance of Omega 3 fatty acids (found in abundance in certain fish) as a powerful anti-inflammatory, to help lower cholesterol, and to help prevent cancer cell growth. Fish is a great source of protein as well. Protein rich foods are always a healthy choice, but loading up on protein and nutrient dense foods while undergoing chemo is vital to build stamina and keep your immune system strong. This rich fish stew is packed with Omega 3 fatty acids (read more about the benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids at With an onion, garlic and tomato rich base, it is great for heart health, liver support and cleansing the body of harmful toxins. It is also deliciously comforting. I hope you will add this to your healthy eating plan….

1/2 cup olive oil

2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

1 large onion, chopped

1 cup carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

2 pinches saffron

2 bay leaves

4 sprigs parsley

4-5 cloves garlic, crushed but not chopped

1 pound each boned and skinned cod and halibut, cut into 2-inch pieces

2 cups peeled and deveined medium shrimp

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Salt (I use ¼ teaspoon of pink Himalayan salt)

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup fish broth

1/2 cup white wine

6 slices toasted country bread.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes, onion, carrot, saffron, bay leaves and parsley. Peel and crush 3-4 garlic cloves and add to pan. Add the fish, shrimp and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and boil for 10 minutes. Add the fish broth and wine, bring to a rapid simmer and cook until the fish is just cooked through. Adjust the seasoning, adding more saffron, lemon juice, salt and pepper as desired.

Rub the toasts with the remaining peeled garlic clove. Set a toast in the bottom of each of 6 bowls and ladle the soup on top. Serves 6.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Healing Foods: Kale (Served With 15 Minute Rosemary Lambchops)

While cooking for my friend Glenn during his chemo for liver cancer, I was always looking for foods that both supported the liver, and that would be nutrient rich to help build up strength and stamina to get through the nausea that goes with chemo treatments. One of the superfoods I was happy to learn more about and discover new recipes for is kale.

Among the cruciferous vegetables, kale is packed with powerful phytonutrients and sulforaphane that cause the liver to produce enzymes to aid in the detoxification and cleansing of harmful chemicals. (Please read more about kale and its health promoting benefits in

Kale is delicious in soups and stews—but my two favorite kale recipes are sautéed kale with roasted garlic, and kale chips—baked crisp in the oven with olive oil and sea salt.

My favorite kale recipes are detailed below. Do your liver a favor and give them a try….

Sauteed Kale

I large bunch of kale, washed and cleaned well.

½ cup stock (I prefer chicken or beef stock, but vegetable stock works well too)

6 cloves roasted garlic (see recipe in earlier post)

sea salt and cracked black pepper

Remove the kale leaves from the thick center stem and tear into bite size pieces. In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, add the stock and let it simmer briskly. Add the kale leave and stir/sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the roasted garlic, and lower the heat and let simmer for 3 more minutes. Add sea salt and pepper to taste.

(NOTE: Glenn loved the kale when I served it with the Rosemary Lamb Chops, recipe below. Reprinted with permission from

Kale Chips (recipe courtesy of my friend Jeanette)

1 bunch kale

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a non-insulated cookie sheet with parchment paper. With a knife or kitchen shears carefully remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite size pieces. Wash and thoroughly dry kale with a salad spinner. Drizzle kale with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake until edges are brown but not burnt, 10 to 15 minutes.

15-minute Rosemary Lamb Chops (with Roasted Garlic Sauteed Kale)

Prep and Cook Time: 15 minutes


12 lamb chops

6 TBS fresh lemon juice

3 TBS chopped fresh rosemary,

3 medium cloves garlic, pressed

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper


Press garlic and let sit for at least 5 minutes to bring out its hidden health benefits.

Mix together lemon juice, rosemary, pressed garlic, salt, and pepper. Rub lamb chops with mixture. Set aside on plate.

Preheat broiler on high heat, and place a stainless steel or cast iron skillet large enough to hold the lamb chops under the heat for about 10 minutes to get very hot (about 5-7 inches from the heat source). Be sure that the handle is also metal.

Once pan is hot, place lamb chops in pan, and return to broiler for about 4-5 minutes, depending on thickness of lamb. Lamb is cooked quickly as it is cooking on both sides at the same time. This is our Quick Broil cooking method.

Serves 4

Healthy Cooking Tips:

You can refer to our Quick Broil animation for more details on this cooking method. Make sure your pan has had a chance to get very hot for best results. This seals in the juices of the lamb and makes it moist. This recipe is created for a quick and easy meal. If you can plan ahead the lamb is even more tender and flavorful if given a chance to marinate for a few hours. 'You can check for doneness by using a meat thermometer; it will read 165F/74C when lamb is ready to serve.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Comfort Food: Simple Roasted Chicken

Comfort Foods: Roasted Chicken

There are many things to love about the way the French cook. They have a way of making the simplest foods absolutely delicious. Sometimes that takes a bit of effort—with complicated sauces or cooking techniques that make the end result well worth it—but often the recipes are beautifully uncomplicated and yield amazing results!

One of the simplest, and most delicious, recipes I learned while studying French cooking and eating my way through France as a college student was roasted chicken. With a few simple ingredients—butter, lots of garlic, a few herbs, salt and pepper—a lovely main course is ready in about an hour. The trick is browning the bird on the stove on all sides first before roasting in the oven, to assure that you will have a crispy, golden skin on the outside with moist, delicious meat on the inside. Serve with mashed potatoes or rice and your favorite vegetable, and you’ll have a great comfort food meal….

Roasted Chicken

1 3 lb. chicken (I prefer kosher chicken)
10 tablespoons (1 stick plus two tablespoons butter)
2-3 tablespoons oil.
3 heads of garlic, with cloves separated but not peeled
8-10 sprigs of fresh thyme, or 5 sprigs fresh rosemary
sea salt and cracked pepper.
1 cup chicken stock

Preheat oven to 425 F. Rinse chicken and pat it dry. Cut up 1 stick butter, and add to a bowl with garlic cloves and herbs. Form into a ball and insert into the cavity of the bird. Truss the chicken closed with twine. Salt and pepper the skin. In a roasting pan or dutch oven, heat the remaining butter and oil over high heat. Brown the chicken on all sides, turning every 5 minutes to brown the skin. Once browned, place the chicken, breast side up, into the oven and roast, basting every 5-10 minutes for about 45 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh reaches 140 degrees. Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes before carving. Drain off most of the fat in the pan, and return to medium heat adding 1 chicken stock to deglaze the pan. Let the stock reduce by half, and serve alongside the chicken.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Healing Foods: Steamed Salmon and Roasted Asparagus with Mustard Dill Sauce

I have done a fair amount of research about foods to eat while undergoing chemo to cook for friends as they go through it. During chemo, it is important to fuel your body with high protein, nutrient rich foods to help stave off the extreme fatigue and nausea that often accompanies the treatment. To strengthen the body to prepare for treatment, and to sustain the body in the days post treatment, healthy eating is essential (even when you feel that you can't tolerate more than a few bites). This salmon dish is a delicious, nutrient dense way to give your body excellent sources of protein, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin K, niacin, selenium and tryptophan. Asparagus is an excellent source of folate for heart health, and potassium. This recipe is a gift from the World's Healthiest Foods website (reprinted with permission from George Mateljan, its founder.) I prefer roasted asparagus to steamed, which is in the WH Foods recipe, so I have adapted the asparagus dish here to roasted with olive oil and sea salt. This dish is wonderful hot or cold (for both the fish and asparagus). With gratitude to George Mateljan, and to my dear friend Glenn who enjoyed this dish, I am happy to introduce you to this wonderful healing recipe.....

Prep and Cook Time: 20 minutes


1-1/2 pound salmon filet, skin and bones removed and cut into 4 pieces
1+1 TBS fresh lemon juice
2 bunches asparagus, bottom fourth removed
1+2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and white pepper to taste

Mustard Dill Sauce
4 oz. silken tofu
1 TBS prepared mustard such as Dijon
4 TBS fresh dill chopped
1 TBS honey
2 TBS fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350F. Snap off tough asparagus ends. Cover baking sheet with aluminum foil, and spread asparagus stalks on sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Bake 15-20 minutes. Asparagus should be crisp tender. Remove from baking sheet to serving plate immediately.

Put all sauce ingredients except olive oil in a blender and begin to blend on high speed for about one minute. While blender is running, drizzle olive oil in a little at a time. Set aside.

Rub salmon with 1 TBS lemon juice and season with a little salt and pepper. Place salmon in a steamer basket over 2 inches lightly salted, boiling water. Steam until pink inside, about 3-4 minutes. Place salmon on a plate with asparagus and pour desired amount of sauce over it.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Comfort Food: Isabelle and Sophie's Favorite Cookie

When I showed my daughter Isabelle the food blog, she looked at it and immediately said "Mom, you have to put our chocolate layer cookie in there--it's Soph's and my favorite comfort food!"

This bar cookie has been in my family for years. My aunt used to make it for holidays, and it made its way into our family's holiday cookies as well. It's easy, rich, dense, chocolatey and yes, very comforting with a glass of milk or cup of tea. I used to only make it around Christmas time, but now it's made fairly regularly when knees are scraped, homework is unbearable, or when we just decide to cuddle up and watch a movie together.

So from our kitchen with love, the Mountain Family Chocolate Layer Cookie.....

1 cup flour
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup brown sugar
1 stick butter or margarine

Mix all ingredients together in a food processor, or in a bowl until a soft crumble is formed. Remove 1/2 cup for later, and press the rest of the crust mixture into a buttered 9X12 inch pan. Bake at 350F for 10 minutes, remove from oven and sprinkle over crust:

1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup flaked sweetened coconut
1/2 cup crumbled crust mixture

Spread the above ingredients over the crust and press down lightly into crust. Drizzle one can sweetened condensed milk over topping bake at 350F for 20 minutes. Remove and let cool, cut into bars. Enjoy!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Great Reference: World's Healthiest Foods Website

A while ago, a friend and I decided to take control of our nutritional health, and went to see a nutritionist here in New York. There is nothing like coming face to face with your own poor eating habits to make you realize that the power to change your life for the better is in your own hands. While researching better nutrition, I came across a life changing website, called World's Healthiest Foods (

I encourage you to visit this website, and begin your own research into living healthier, healing with foods, and understanding the power of the food that we put into our bodies. This site is a gold mine of information, and George Mateljan is its alchemist. Knowledge is power, as they say, and if we all understand how to eat better, we can hopefully stay healthy and strong to be there for as long as possible for those who love and need us. Please give it a visit at:

I now use this site daily, looking up the nutritional value and healing powers of certain ingredients or foods, deciding what to cook for my family's dinners, and looking for inspirational recipes, cooking and food tips. When I began my cooking project for my friend Glenn, he asked me to record this cooking journey and to write my recipes down. I plan to do that in future posts--and was given permission from George Mateljan, founder of WH Foods, to reprint two of Glenn's favorite dishes from the WH Foods website in our blog. Stay tuned for the healing menus that my friends and I cooked for Glenn, and some other great foods that heal, and feed the body and soul.

Healing Foods: The Power of Onions and Garlic

Everyone knows that garlic keeps the vampires away. But garlic and onions are also great for supporting heart health. They are also rich in sulfur, and help the liver to break down and detoxify a wide range of chemicals and toxins. While always most powerful in their raw state, garlic and onions can be added to many other healing foods to boost their nutritional and healing properties. The recipes below for roasted garlic and caramelized onions can be made and kept sealed in the fridge for up to one week. they can be added to sauteed vegetables, sauces, as a topping for chicken, pork, or steak dishes, or topped on an olive oil-toasted crostini and eaten as is!

Roasted Garlic

4-5 heads garlic
olive oil
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock

Arrange heads of garlic in the bottom of a souffle pan or small dutch oven with cover. Drizzle with olive oil and stock. Cover tightly and bake at 275 degrees for one hour. Turn off oven and let the garlic sit for another half hour in the juices. Season with sea salt and cracked pepper

Caramelized Onions

4-5 onions, sliced thin (I like to use Vidalia or sweet onions--but any will do).
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 generous teaspoon sugar

Thinly slice the onions. Heat butter in a saute skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook for 5-7 minutes until translucent. Add sugar and reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally to mix onions with the caramel that starts to form on the bottom off the skillet. After about 45 minutes of cooking on low heat and stirring, the onions should be a lovely caramel color and have a sweet caramelized taste. Season with sea salt and cracked black pepper.


As a consummate lover of food and cooking, yoga practitioner and teacher of yoga, I have always been interested in healing foods and yogic health. Recently, my interest became more passionate as my friends and I embarked on a culinary healing adventure to cook healing foods that would support and sustain our dear friend Glenn as he went through chemo and liver cancer. We lovingly prepared foods that would support his liver, sustain him and stave off nausea. It was a gift of love for Glenn, but it was a bigger gift of awareness for me as I realized the healing power of food, and the even bigger gift of friends coming together to cook for an important purpose.

I have now started this blog to share healing recipes, great food research sites and tips about healing foods for anyone in need of healing and comfort foods. I am grateful for all of my family and friends who allowed me to cook for them as they made their way through illness, chemo, broken hearts and grieving, and for those whose comfort foods sustained me in tough times--especially my amazing and loving mother. Her delicious cooking and recipes are some of the best medicine out there.

Please feel free to comment or ask questions about healing foods. I have been inspired by some incredible, insightful yoga teachers, healers, cooks and nutrition sites. I am happy to share what I have learned.

With Love and Healing Energy,