Your guide to glutamate (+vegan queso salsa dip)

On savory flavor

There are many foods and food components that make food taste savory – that rich, complex taste that’s independent of salty, and sometimes described as “meaty,” and known as “umami.”  One molecule that contributes to those flavors is glutamate – an amino acid that’s found in meat, cheese, and even vegetables including mushrooms, broccoli, and tomatoes.  (Read more here about sensitivity to glutamates, MSG, and the low-glutamate diet for people who are sensitive.)  It’s also found in nutritional yeast, a flaky protein and vitamin-rich product made from yeast cells (I’d write a whole article about its uses, history, and nutritional properties, but this blog post does that quite nicely!).

A word about yeast & yeast extract:

In full disclosure, I was sponsored to help create that video – and I’m grateful to be given a platform for the message!

I was really excited to see my friend Elaine post a recipe that uses nutritional yeast and is both Superbowl friendly and genuinely healthy!  The yeast provides that cheesy flavor, while the creamy texture and cheddar color come from tahini and carrots, respectively.  And it’s nut-free for those concerned about allergies!



picture from EatingByElaine


I decided to do mine with another twist, and sub canned tomatoes and chiles instead of soy milk for a Ro’tel-esque spin.  And let me tell you: this tastes AWESOME.  It even got the boyfriend seal of approval to bring to his friend’s Superbowl party today (which is not a healthy foodie oriented kind of crowd).


Have you used nutritional yeast before?  Any other recipes I should know about?  Without further adieu, here’s the recipe – enjoy!

Vegan queso salsa dip (adapted from EatingbyElaine)


  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup fresh, room temperature tahini (runny is best, Soom brand is excellent)
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • ½ large lemon, juiced
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 can (15oz) diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • Garnish: sprinkle of paprika, sliced green onions, fresh cilantro


  1. Bring a small pot of water to a rolling boil and add carrots
  2. When carrots are cooked (soft to a fork, ~10 minutes), drain and add them with all other ingredients except tomatoes to a high speed blender and puree until smooth
  3. Fold in tomatoes and chiles with a spatula
  4. Serve warm with chips or veggies and garnish with sliced green onions, paprika and fresh cilantro. You may want to microwave just before serving.


Healthy 2016: nutritious food prep for fast, delicious meals

quionoa bowlphotocred & recipe: the cozy apron

Sick of setting New Year’s resolutions to diet? Tired of feeling confused about what foods are healthy? Frustrated that there isn’t enough time to prepare healthy food? Pants a little tight after the holidays? Disorganized and haphazard in the kitchen?

Start fresh with a plan, customizable recipes, and learn to do it all with cooking demos with me in a MessHall workshop!

Reset your defaults.

Eating healthy is a habit. Your “defaults” – the things you do and eat on a daily basis – are the most important elements of your health. When those are healthy and structured, your life becomes healthy and structured. Don’t go on a diet – have a healthy, intentional diet. It all starts with a plan! This workshop provides you with a hard copy guide to target the areas that matter most, and customize them to fit in your real, busy life.

Learn to meal plan & prep like a pro:

We’ll lay some ground work with a short presentation to highlight some key elements of a healthy diet (for any eating pattern!), show how to make food prep an easy, structured part of your weekend (that won’t take all day!) and enjoy an adaptable meal you can use to plan lunches and dinners for weeks. Then comes the REALLY fun part: creating make-your-own jars to start you off right at home!

What’s included during the workshop:

  • Healthy eating workbook and planner
  • A crash course in nutrition science
  • A delicious, freshly prepared meal
  • Make-your-own chia pudding, granola, and overnight oats jars to take home
  • Improved sense of confidence and mastery in the kitchen – and beyond!

Make 2016 the year you start to do food right.

Diets work…as long as you’re on them! Only make changes you intend to keep – for a lifetime – and ditch the “I’m doing this to lose 10 pounds” mentality. You’ll be able to apply the info you learn here all year long, and far beyond.


Get tickets here –>

Hope to see you there!

RecipeRedux: National Nut Day!

I guess there’s really a day for everything these days, isn’t there?  Really though, I try to encourage everyone to eat nuts on a daily basis – a handful is a serving, they’re high in protein, fiber, and unsaturated fats, and they can be stored at room temperature.  The perfect snack, breakfast component, and wonderful in dishes sweet and savory alike.   Easy to store and portion in the office, the car, your purse…and there’s got to be a seasoning mix to please everyone out there!  Ok – my ode to nuts is over, but definitely worth consideration if you aren’t already eating them regularly!

What if I’m allergic?

Turn to seeds – sunflower, pumpkin, chia, flax…these have generally the same nutrient profile as nuts, but are different enough that most people with nut allergies aren’t triggered.  Make sure to check with your doctor if you aren’t sure which allergies you have!

Back to nuts

This recipe packs everything that tastes good about fall into one bite: pumpkin, pumpkin spice, apple, and almonds!  Add chocolate chips if you want a sweeter treat, and sub maple syrup for brown sugar if you have it on hand.  Delicious enough for dessert, but healthy enough for breakfast (try enjoying with plain greek yogurt!) – my favorite kind of recipe.  Don’t forget to check out the other nutty recipes by clicking the blue frog at the end of the post!

Pumpkin spice almond bars



  • 2 cups old fashioned (rolled) oats
  • 1 c slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup dry quinoa
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 apple, diced (keep skin on for more fiber!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 very ripe banana, mashed
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chunks or chips (optional)


  1. Pre-heat oven to 325° F.
  2. Spray an 8 inch by 8 inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. In a large bowl combine the oats, quinoa, almonds, chocolate chips, apple, pumpkin pie spice and salt.
  4. In a blender combine the sugar, banana, and pumpkin puree until smooth.
  5. Add pumpkin mixture to oat mixture and stir until all the oats are coated.
  6. Place oat mixture into the prepared pan and spread to be flat and even, packing down with the back of a spatula. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until golden brown.
  7. Let the bars cool, and cut into desired size (makes 10 snack sized bars).

Back to the table: chunky market veggie gazpacho


Produce, produce, everywhere

It’s getting to that point of the summer when I actually have more produce than I can handle around my kitchen…between bringing home a load from the market weekly and visiting my mom’s garden on Tuesday, I have a glut of cherry tomatoes, beets, corn, peaches, and peppers.  One of the best problems to have, right?  Since this month’s RecipeRedux theme is “back to the table,” I decided to put out a bunch of yummy dishes and have an al fresco smorgasboard for a friend visiting from out of town.  Summer dinners are much more casual, but convening around food at the end of the day is an important family ritual to keep up, even if you don’t need to use silverware for all the food!

A word about gazpacho

Gazpacho should be easy.  After all, it’s basically a vegetable smoothie that you eat with a spoon.  Some recipes call for blanching and deseeding of tomatoes, peeling cucumbers, and chilling overnight but that all seems overly complicated to me.  Yes, my soup will have more texture than a restaurant version, but that means more fiber and other nutrients.  This article reviews the “5 mistakes of gazpacho” – and I’m making that one on purpose!  My friend said it was the best gazpacho she’d ever had, and that she loved the texture, so it goes to show that a few extra peels never hurt :)


Chunky market veggie gazpacho


  • 3-4 medium [fresh, local] tomatoes (or about 3 cups of cherry tomatoes)
  • 2 small bell peppers (yellow, orange, or red work best)
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 clove garlic (this may be the only thing you want to roast – left raw, it gives the soup a spicy edge!)
  • 1 small English cucumber
  • 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • toppings: fresh basil, corn, croutons, parmesan cheese…try what you like!


Put all ingredients in a blender and pulse into chunks; puree to desired thickness.  Optional: add breadcrumbs for a thicker texture.

Tomato pie with cashew cream


Summer is the only season to eat fresh tomatoes

At least, if you live in the northeast, where the most amazing heirloom tomatoes start coming around mid July and stick around through October.  Tomatoes bred to travel well don’t usually taste like much, but the ones from local farmer’s markets are good enough to eat whole!  I’m lucky enough to have access to fantastic heirlooms working at Chesley Vegetable Farms in my neighborhood on Saturdays, and got some yellow ones last weekend.

Another thing that happened last week: cashew cream.  I guess most people call this cashew cheese, but I think the consistency is more like a spread than a true cheese, and I like to add some extra water so it’s a little saucier (also great over noodles this way!).  A new friend introduced me to this recipe and I promptly made a double batch (note: my friend added a little nutritional yeast to hers, which really put it over the top!).  Since the cashew cheese is vegan, I figured baking it in a vegan crust would fit nicely – and voila, a summer treat that is loaded to the brim with fiber, protein, and veggies.

Summer tomato pie with cashew cream

  • vegan crust (I used 100% whole wheat flour; olive oil would work best)
  • cashew cream (I added 1/2 cup of water and used roasted garlic cloves)
  • 5-6 medium tomatoes
  • dash black pepper

Preheat oven to 350F. Press the crust into a 9″ pan, up the sides and evenly onto the floor.  Add half the cashew cream and spread over the bottom with the back of a spoon.  Slice tomatoes across the side (perpendicular to the stem, not through it) and gently push seeds out to remove moisture.  Place de-seeded tomatoes in a single layer, then add the rest of the cream, spread, and add another layer of tomatoes.  Garnish with black pepper.  Bake for 1 hour, then remove and let cool for 20-30 minutes before serving.  (This would probably also be great with herbs between the cream and tomatoes, and might work well with other summer veggies…maybe some zucchini or eggplant??)

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A Rocket Retreat (+southwest corn chowder with smokey paprika)


Rocket, round 2

Same gorgeous spot, more challenging Rocket yoga, and a different menu this time – back in October during the last retreat I did with Jonathan, fall foods were in peak season and the menu had more raw, fresh foods.  January is a very different story, and the recipes centered around cold-weather comfort foods like chili, soup, and curry.  We were all too happy to be tucked away in the well-appointed house on the bay…with a brief excursion for a couple of brave souls to do a quick polar bear plunge!

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Air temp was around 30F, I believe…a cold shock to the body is great for the cardiovascular system, as long as you can get warm again soon enough thereafter!  Between the fire, hot drinks, and warm meals, these two were well covered in that department.

We did 3 Rocket classes, an arm balance workshop, an acro workshop, and had two designated times for discussion about the Rocket sequence and nutrition between Friday and Monday.  Jonathan’s retreats are less a retreat and more of a “charge” if you ask me…here are some highlights from the trip:

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RecipeRedux: smokey & spicy!

Coinciding well with one of the dinners I made, this month’s RecipeRedux theme is “heating up with smoke & spices.”  I made the retreat meals a veggie-rich, vegan base that rocketeers (rockettes?) could load up with their choice of garnishes.  Smoked paprika is a fantastic way to add depth of flavor and richness to vegetables, especially a good creamy corn chowder.  My secret for “cream” is to puree a few scoops of the cooked soup and add it back to the pot, making the broth thick and rich.  Try this if you’re cooking for a crowd of eaters who don’t all like the same level of spice, dairy, or meat in their diet!  I paired them with these vegan biscuits – subbed whole wheat for most of the white flour she calls for, and added some chopped rosemary.  Don’t forget to check out the other recipes this month by clicking the blue frog at the end of the post, and as chance would have it, my last Rocket retreat feature recipe was also smokey – spiced sweet potato wedges!


Southwest corn chowder with smokey paprika


  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 c corn
  • 30 oz canned diced tomatoes
  • 4 c vegetable broth
  • 3 medium potatoes, diced (skins on for more fiber!)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 red bell peppers, diced
  • 2 orange bell peppers, diced
  • 2 Tbsp corn starch
  • 1 Tbsp dried thyme
  • 1 Tbsp dried marjoram
  • 2 Tbsp smoked paprika (I used McCormick’s)
  • 24 oz can white beans, drained

For garnishing (optional):

  • 1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 3 limes, halved
  • 1 lg plain greek yogurt
  • 2-3 c seasoned croutons
  • 2 c shredded white cheddar
  • 1 c parmesan
  • 3 chicken breasts, boiled and shredded, lightly salted

Heat the oil in a soup pot on the stove (at least 6qt).  Add garlic, onion, peppers, potatoes, and spices and saute until well blended and softened.  Add the tomatoes, corn, beans, and broth and bring to a simmer, reducing heat, and cook for at least 45 minutes.  Remove 2-3 cups and puree with cornstarch; add back into soup.  Add toppings of choice and enjoy!  Serves 8 meal sized portions.

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The Original Friendsgiving (+cauliflower herb gravy)


I’m jut going to put this out there: I started Friendsgiving.

I mean, I think I did – this year will be my 10th annual consecutively hosted event!  I started in college (Friendsgiving 2005), and as I’ve moved from Lancaster, to DC, to Philly, to Gettysburg, back to DC…I haven’t missed a single one.  It seems to me that the phenomenon started getting really popular 3-5 years ago (the first Urban dictionary listing of the word appears in 2009), so if you know of anyone else who predates 2005, I want to hear about it!

Mine is always held the weekend before the real Thanksgiving, which is strategic: everyone is pretty much chomping (pun intended) at the bit for the holidays, are still in town, and no one is yet sick of turkey.  Or turkey sandwiches.  Or turkey casserole.  Or turkey curry. Or turkey mousse (it’s a thing).  At the first one, in my row house next to the F&M campus, there were about 15 guests, and our oven stopped working halfway through cooking the turkey.  I had to call my friend EJ to come pick it up, take it to his house, finish roasting, and bring it back…he was dubious that he could make the quintessential Thanksgiving dish, and worried he would mess it up, but the secret is this: the turkey is the easiest, yet most impressive, part of the meal.  (To be fair, I “cheat” and use a roasting bag…but those suckers WORK.  Get some.)  Every year, it’s just a great gathering of awesome people who I love and am so thankful for, and the perfect start to my holiday season.

Friendsgiving today

Over the years, it’s grown – last year’s event had 45+ guests, and now it’s a potluck, which makes having enough food for that many possible.  Today we had around 40 guests, over 15 dishes, and plenty of wine.  The company changes, the food trends shift, but I always end the day with a full stomach and heart.



Cauliflower, the new kale:

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I was excited to experiment with an alternative gravy this year. Knowing there would be some vegetarians, I wanted to have an option for them even though my usual go-to is to make a quick gravy with the turkey drippings (which I also still did, it’s too good not to).  I was gifted a beautiful cauliflower by Gracy of Beautiful Life Self Care and decided this was the perfect use for it.  (By the way, she’s amazing, and leads groups to balance and wellness online; if your life feels out of control you should check her out!) Silky, rich, and fortified with olive oil (gravy’s gotta have some fat!), you will swear this is as good as the real thing.  And if you can boil water, you can make it.

It fits perfectly with the RecipeRedux theme this month: a food memory I’m thankful for, healthified.  My family’s Thanksgiving meal always includes homemade turkey gravy, with neck meat and giblets.  If you don’t pour it on everything, you’re doing it wrong, scrape the plate, lick the spoon, really great gravy.  This cauliflower version is delish and has the benefit of containing a vegetable!  Click the blue frog below to see the other Redux member’s recipes :)

Cauliflower herb gravy


  • 1 medium head cauliflower, broken into small florets
  • 3 c vegetable broth (low sodium, or don’t add the salt)
  • 1 Tbsp tahini (I like Soom)
  • 1 Tbsp Worchestershire sauce
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1 tsp Mrs. Dash garlic & herb seasoning (or some garlic and onion powder)
  • 1 tsp Mrs. Dash Italian seasoning (or a blend of oregano, rosemary, and sage)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

In a medium pot on the stovetop, bring broth and cauliflower to a simmer.  Cook with lid on until soft to a fork, ~10 minutes.  Pour cauliflower and broth into a blender and add all other ingredients.  Puree until smooth (I let mine run for ~3 minutes; be careful, it’s hot – hold a tea towel on top of the blender or allow to cool for a few minutes).  Makes 5 cups.

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