My First Zucchini!

I am so proud of the first zucchini from my garden so I decided to share it with you! I almost feel like I gave birth to it! In creating a recipe I knew I wanted to experience the essence of this vegetable from the earth without too many ingredients to take away from the true flavor. I also have an extensive herb garden so everything I make in the summer incorporates herbs.  Zucchini is really a great health food. It is high in fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium. Because of all the vitamins and minerals it is helpful in boosting your immune system and also benefits the heart, skin, lungs and eyes.

This is a simple recipe that is both healthy and tasty!

Maria’s Herb Zucchini

I large zucchini – you can also use 3 small ones cubed. You should keep the skin on when cooking as that is where the nutrients are.

Unrefined coconut oil – thinly coat the bottom of the pan
1 medium vidalia onion diced
3 cloves of garlic
2 tomatoes diced or grape tomatoes cut in half
1 teaspoon of ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
I like to just pick a handful of herbs but if you are using jarred use 1 teaspoon of the following:
        – Basil – just tear it with your hands if you are using fresh
        – Oregano
        – Sage
        –  1/2 teaspoon Rosemary – finely chopped ( it will release the flavor)
Sprinkle of sea salt (according to taste)

1. Put the coconut oil in a sauté pan on low heat. In addition to its great health benefits, coconut oil is high heat oil which makes it a winner for sautéing, or frying. Remember never fry or cook on high heat with olive oil. It damages the oil and can release cancer causing properties.
2. Add the turmeric and cumin to the oil and let it cook for a few minutes. This releases the flavors. Then add a dash of sea salt. Don’t add too much as you can always add more later. The amount of salt is all about preference of taste.
3. Raise the heat to medium then add the onions, garlic, tomatoes and pepper. Let them sweat a few minutes.
4. Add the zucchini and combine everything together. Let it cook just about 5 minutes and then turn off the flame. I like my zucchini to be slight al dente and it will still cook once the flame shuts off.
5. Add all the chopped herbs. Cover and wait another 5 minutes. At this point taste it and see if you need more salt.

Bon Appetite!

The Benefits of Cinnamon….and a Great Recipe for Acorn Squash!

Cinnamon is one of my very favorite spices. Nothing can be better than the inviting warming smell of cinnamon around the holidays.

  Research has found that there are many other reasons to celebrate cinnamon……..

  •  A 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon per day can lower LDL cholesterol.
  • Cinnamon may have a regulatory effect on blood sugar, making it especially beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes.
  • Cinnamon has shown an amazing ability to stop medication-resistant yeast infections.
  • In a study at Copenhagen University, patients given half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder combined with one tablespoon of honey every morning before breakfast had significant relief in arthritis pain after one week and could walk without pain within one month.
  • Adding Cinnamon to food inhibits bacterial growth and food spoilage, making it a natural food preservative.
  • Smelling cinnamon boosts cognitive function and memory.
  • It is a great source of manganese, fiber, iron, and calcium.

Whew! Talk about a spice that packs a punch of health!

 You can add a ½ teaspoon to your hot chocolate, oatmeal or any cookie recipe. It will even spice up chicken! Below one of my favorite fall recipes that will be featured in my next book. Acorn Squash is not only delicious but it is a real health food. It contains Vitamins A, C and B6. It is rich in phytonutrients, which helps the body get rid of toxins and may help prevent cancer and heart disease. You will also get a healthy dose of dietary fiber, beta carotene and potassium from this wonderful fall favorite!

 Autumnal Acorn Squash

1 acorn squash
1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of coconut oil
1 tablespoon of agave syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon clove
1/8 teaspoon fresh nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
2 tablespoons of unsweetened coconut

Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Melt the butter and coconut oil then add the agave, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and allspice. Place the squash flesh up in a baking dish and pour the mixture evenly on to both halves. Roast the squash for 45 minutes then take it out and add the cranberries and coconut and put back for another 5 minutes. Serve warm.



Love Your Fruit A Little Bit Longer!

It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention. This will certainly support that theory. I wanted to share a great way to use fruit that may be “on its way out” so you don’t have to throw it out. This is especially great for those of you that shop at stores like Costco, BJ’s and Sam’s where you buy things in bulk . I only buy at a local farmers market or Whole Foods but my problem is that I buy only organic fruit and if you don’t eat it right away it goes bad. So last month I was overwhelmed with all the beautiful fruit colors and bought peaches, plums, figs, bananas and grapes. It’s only me and my husband so we would have had to eat fruit for every meal to consume it before it went bad and they were starting to get soft. So I thought for a minute (especially because organic anything is so expensive but also because it’s a shame to waste such beautiful food) and I took out my beloved food processor. I put all the fruit in the food processor with the skin on (minus pits), added my favorite spice which is cinnamon (you can add your favorite), a little orange juice, almond extract and about a half cup of soy milk then put it in a big bowl with a cover and put it in the freezer. A day later I had the most delicious fruit dessert. The soy milk and bananas makes it like ice cream but I don’t add much soy milk because the taste of all those other ingredients is delicious! In addition it’s low fat and healthy! You can do it with any fruit you like…great for the kids.
Another tip: I don’t know if you have ever done this but freeze your grapes! A day later you have little round ice pops and they are delicious!

Bon Appetit!

A Better Brownie

No one will ever know that the main ingredient in these delicious brownies is beets. They are much better for children than store bought. Just don’t tell them about the beets and they will love them! Beets are a good source of folate and a source of Vitamin C and potassium. They provide Vitamins A and C, calcium and iron, and add fiber to the diet. For the sweetener instead of sugar, I use xylitol. Xylitol is a substance found in the fibers of many fruits and vegetables, including various berries, corn husks, oats, and mushrooms. It is a product that appears in animal metabolism, and so is perfectly safe. It is known to help support the immune system, and to help reduce the effects of aging. Xylitol can replace sugar in most of its uses, including in baking and as a natural sweetener and you use the same amount as you would regular sugar. It is also used extensively in chewing gum as a sweetener that does not cause dental cavities due the acid caused by bacterial attack on the sugar. You can also safely use it if you are a diabetic.

2 large cooked beets or one 14 ounce can of beets rinsed and drained. I don’t like using canned beets but they are ok in a pinch. Some stores also sell beets peeled and cooked in packets or in the salad bar. You just need one cup once they are pureed.
¼ cup of unsalted butter melted (I use grass fed butter)
¾ cup of xylitol. You can use 3/4 cup of cane sugar if you dont have xylitol.  If you like them a little sweeter, up the suger to one cup.
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large organic eggs
½ cup all purpose flour
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
½ cup mini dark chocolate or carob chips

Preheat the oven to 350. Coat a 9 inch square baking dish with cooking spray. Puree the beets in the food processor until you have one cup. Set aside. Whisk flour, cocoa powder and espresso powder in a separate bowl and set aside. Use a mixer to blend together the butter and sugar until smooth. Add vanilla, then eggs one at a time. Stir in the beets. Fold in the flour mixture until combined. Stir in the chocolate or carob chips and pour into prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and cut into squares.

Enjoy and Have a Happy, Healthy  & Safe  July 4th!


Just a Quick Thought and Recipe to Start the Week!

It takes at least 40 times as much water to produce beef compared to a pound of potatoes. Try a meatless meal once a week. It will help the environment, save you money and help your weight… (just don’t replace the meat with white carbs and sugar:) Here are a few ideas. You don’t have to use organic if it’s too pricey but try to do so whenever possible. Refer to my post about buying organic under my recipe section to see the essential fruits and vegetables thatare heavily sprayed and should be organic.

Maria’s Veggie Pasta
Organic whole wheat pasta (you can use any other variations such as brown rice pasta or spelt pasta if you want to be daring.  They are all tasty.)
About 2 tablespoons organic extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
3 cloves organic garlic chopped – chop them and let them sit for 10 minutes before cooking. Letting them sit brings out all the nutrients.
1 medium organic shallot chopped
1 bag frozen organic edamame or lima beans
1 cup organic shredded carrots
1 cup organic shitake mushrooms chopped (shitake are great for the immune system)
3/4 cup organic chopped parsley – also chop and let sit
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup organic mushroom broth
2 tablespoons of tamari – this is similar to soy sauce in that it is made from soybeans but it is naturally gluten free. It is much better than soy and you can get a low sodium version.
Grated cheese
Sea salt/pepper to taste – wait until the end to add these since tamari is salty (even the low sodium version). You may not need any more salt.
Boil your pasta. Meanwhile, sauté the garlic, shallot, carrots and mushrooms in the olive oil with pepper until cooked about 10 minutes. Cook the edamame or lima beans according to the package. When they are done, add then to the vegetables; throw in 1/2 cup of mushroom broth (you can always add more but can’t take it out so start slow), the tamari, 1/2 cup of chopped parsley and the sesame oil. Add all this to the pasta and toss. Put it in a nice big serving bowl and then add the rest of the parsley over the top and some grated cheese! This is not only delicious but healthy too!

For a nice salad to accompany this dish, use mixed spring greens or any lettuce you like. The only one I wouldn’t use is iceberg since it has zero nutritional value although I must admit my husband likes his iceberg! That is how you know he went food shopping…a green leafy bowling ball appears in my fridge! Ok, back to real nutrition….here is the recipe for the salad;

Mixed greens
Red or Golden Beets (you can buy them already made in places like Wholefoods)
Goat or feta cheese (according to what you like….I love goat for this)
Salad Dressing – I never measure this so you have to play around with the ingredients;
Sesame oil – about 3 tablespoons (you may have some dressing left)
Brown rice vinegar – about a tablespoon
Lemon juice – about a teaspoon
1/4 clove finely chopped garlic
Very finely chopped basil – about a tablespoon. If you don’t like basil, try rosemary, parsley, sage, cilantro or any other herb that you like.
1 teaspoon honey or agave nectar – this is optional…try it with and without
Sea salt/pepper
Mix it all together and let sit for about 15 minutes. Toss the lettuce and the dressing first then add the walnuts, beets and goat cheese on top and serve!
Bon Appétit!