Roasted Pumpkin Risotto with Crispy Sage

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I just KNOW you have some pumpkin around…and am here to help you make it into the best savory side dish on your Thanksgiving table. Or as a main course as the ultimate show stopper at your next dinner party. Yes, this dish has the WOW factor. Click to continue reading »

Local Food Revolution

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In case you haven’t heard…there’s a revolution going on!  It starts in the ground, is grown to feed the earth and to nourish its inhabitants. Food.  A precious yet vital source and the key to sustainable health.  For some, access to food is more difficult than others.  Here in the Napa Valley, we live in a climate that is temperate and suitable for planting a variety of crops.  Sure, we’re known for our grapes, but there are so many possibilities for additional food production that we are just beginning to uncover…

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Holiday Herbs and Spices

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As we prepare our Thanksgiving menus, many fresh herbs come unto play which not only taste good, but are good for you.  From appetizers to dessert, herbs like sage and thyme sprout from the garden into the kitchen.  The wafts of their fragrance bring back fond childhood memories which come to life again and help with everything from digestion to stress.

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Handle With Care

A lot can happen from the time produce is picked off the vine or pulled from the earth. Some fruits and veggies go to a packing house; others are cooled and transported an average of 1200 miles before reaching the consumer.  Freshness equals nutrients, not to mention color and flavor.  But we certainly can’t eat all of our purchases in one day.  And while I’m trying to keep up with summer’s bounty by roasting tomatoes and making pesto, if I have to store my fresh-picked produce for a few days, I’ll want to keep it as close to its most natural state as possible.

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Flour Power

I figured if I’m starting a feature called “Savvy Substitutions” and it focuses heavily on baked goods, it might be advisable to explain different types of flour and their ratios in baking compared to the ‘other white stuff.’  Of course you know it begins with whole-grains, and organic whenever possible.  Wheat is one of the most pesticide laden crops in America, so it truly pays to buy the purest product available.  This way you can go right to your pantry when a recipe calls for spelt (a cousin of wheat) or another alternative and know how it might affect the taste and texture of your creation.

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Savor the Earth and Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Happy Earth Day!  What are you doing for this holiday?  While that might not mean ‘day off work…’ it IS a reason to celebrate, for all that we do, eat, and live by is a result of how we nurture it.  Since my mission is all about ‘promoting a healthy appetite for a thriving planet,’ I thought it was only fitting that I devote this post to food as it relates to the earth (and, as you know, they are intricately connected.) Click to continue reading »

Eating for Health

It’s nice to hear positive news every now and then, especially when it comes to money and our health.  Yesterday the NY Times published an article about our first lady, Michelle Obama, committing to eating healthy and spreading the good word. How encouraging that someone with such visibility and influence is taking a leading role by influencing everyone from our children to those who need it most.

The day before, our friend in real food, Michael Pollan, solicited readers to share thoughts on ‘smart eating’ and has received over 1,900 responses to date!  Comments range from “Cook every meal at home using real ingredients and you will be eating healthy,” (which I will expand upon in ‘how to save food $ at home’); “Food rule : enough is too much,” to “Don’t eat anything you can buy at a gas station.” Click to continue reading »

Salad Bowl to Dust Bowl?

In his first major interview since becoming U.S. Energy Secretary, Steven Chu did not ‘mince’ words with regards to the status of California’s agriculture.  The state is in its third year of drought, which is compounded by higher global temperatures preventing snow accumulation.  That runoff is what feeds our rivers and reservoirs, ultimately leaving our farms high and dry.  With California as a producer of half of all U.S. vegetables, the future of our food chain could be severely impacted by the end of this century. How can we help? Click to continue reading »

Go Wild with Salmon

We’re still in the throes of summer and I always look forward to putting that piece of wild salmon on the ‘barbie.’  But at $25+ per pound, it takes a lot more consideration if I want fresh King salmon from Alaska.  As most of you know, the current state of the salmon season from California to Washington is in peril. This time of year usually provides a bounty of the fish to satisfy our need for fresh sources of heart healthy Omega 3s.  But several factors have canceled the season here which challenge us to look for alternative types of salmon or other fish to savor.

Now if you’re thinking that Atlantic salmon is your answer – think again.  Due to overfishing wild Atlantic salmon is now extinct, meaning the only type available at market is farmed.  Typical farmed and wild salmon have distinct variations in how healthy (or not) they are for our bodies and for the environment.  Let’s take a look at some of these considerations:

Choose your poisons: Farmed salmon is nearly ten times higher in PCB’s and other toxins than the wild variety.  The fishmeal that is fed to farmed salmon is more contaminated than even livestock feed, according to a study by the European Union.

Pollution contribution: Farmed salmon are raised in open cages, thousands of them in net-pens linked together in the ocean.  The fish pass fecal matter into the sea around them, contaminating the water with as much raw sewage as a town of 65,000 people.  A parasite known as sea lice also becomes a problem with the pens in such close quarters. Antibiotics and other chemicals are then used to treat the disease, all of which can leach into the ocean and infect other wild fish.

It takes a village: Over three pounds of small fish are needed to produce just one pound of farmed salmon.  These fish are an important food source for lots of other ocean life, such as bass, whales, sea birds and seals. Wild salmon eat fish that have feasted on red algae, providing the natural ruby color in their flesh.  Farmed salmon gets its color from red dye.

Un-health food: In addition to the other toxins that have plagued the farmed salmon, the wild variety provides more than three times the amount of Omega 3s than its counterpart.  Wild salmon are not only drug and antibiotic-free, they also have lower levels of harmful saturated fats. According to the U.S.D.A., farmed Atlantic salmon contain 200 percent more fat than wild Pacific pink and chum salmon. Aren’t we eating it for the health benefits?

The news is not all bad when you consider the options for variety in the wild salmon family.  Coho, pink, sockeye and Arctic Char are delicious and affordable alternatives to the renowned King.  When in doubt, ask your local fishmonger the origin of the salmon you choose.  Other options include wild halibut which is local in the West and in season, and California sea bass (not Chilean.) For more help on determining additional safe fish to buy go to www.seafoodwatch.org