Jan 27 2015

The Power of Pesto

It’s nice to try out making new, delicious recipes at home, but, for when things get hectic during the week, it’s essential to have some clutch recipes on the menu. You know the ones: you could cook them blindfolded, with even a couple of ingredients missing. Clutch meals make it to the table fast and with a happy reception when you wondered what to cook for dinner. Among our household’s clutch players is a super simple pasta plate from the blog Kath Eats Real Food


This recipe is a diving board for improvisation. Kath calls for zucchini, bell pepper and shrimp, which is an awesome combination, but if we have none of these, and they are out of season, any local produce and protein do just fine. You can make it an easy vegetarian recipe by used tempeh, seitan, tofu, beans or nuts. The angel hair can be swapped for whatever box of pasta is lurking in the back of the pantry. Whatever you throw into the pot, the pesto sauce pulls it all together. So if we don’t have the ingredients to blend up some pesto or a jar of the stuff around, we’re out of luck then, right? Nope.
Pesto, like salsa, is open to interpretation. Four elements are necessary: leaves, cheese, nuts and oil. Traditionally these are basil, Parmesan, pine nuts and olive oil. But uniquely delicious pesto sauces can be made from just about any four of these ingredient types. When I cooked Kath’s pesto pasta this week, we actually had all the ingredients called for – except the pesto. We had the Parmesan and olive oil, but definitely no basil or pine nuts. I looked through my copy of Farm Fresh Nutrition and became inspired with the Pesto made with Arugula or Other Greens on p. 149 so I threw the winter green arugula and some pecans into the food processor. The book has several other pestos and I typically add a little of this and a little of that until the consistency and taste fits what I am serving. If you are aiming for a thick, textured sauce, so be sure to not over-blend. Many greens, arugula included, are much bitter than an herb like basil. This bitterness can be balanced with an extra dash of oil, cheese, salt and pepper. Try switching around any of the four elements to create your unique pesto. Kale, Romano, pecans, and sunflower oil? Hey, could be a hit…


Creativity in the home kitchen is perhaps the most crucial ingredient when it comes to keeping favorite recipes fresh and versatile. Cooking the same stuff the same way all the time is the recipe for diminishing enjoyment of go-to foods. Keep your clutch players in the game by allowing life and inspiration to mix up the ingredient roster.

Pesto Made From Arugula or Other Greens

4 cups local greens, washed stemmed, torn

1/2 cup pecans

1/2 cup hard cheese grated

2 cloves garlic

1/4 cup olive oil

Salt & pepper to taste

From Farm Fresh Nutrition


Contributing Writer



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Jan 26 2015

Warm Your Heart-Good for Your Heart Supper!

It is cold outside and its the time of year for comfort food! When I think of comfort foods, I think about warm and carbohydrate, however, I realize that in order to have a balance of nutrients-I need to mix it up with a little vegetables and some other healthy recipes. I wanted to share a special recipe with you from my Great Grandma Ida. Some of you may already know about my Grandma Ida, her delicious strawberry shortcake is in my new book Farm Fresh Nutrition. Her original recipe called for hamburger meat and my mom, Betty changed her recipe to stew beef. When I got the recipe, it is now a vegetarian recipe that is completely plant based. When my son was in elementary school and he asked me to fix Grandma Ida’s soup for his birthday meal. I am happy to share a family tradition that has celebrated at least five generations of my family. I hope that it finds a special place in your home regardless if it has lean hamburger, stew beef or my favorite the vegetarian version. It is a great way to get your comfort and get healthy too!


Grandma Ida’s Famous Vegetable Soup

Serving size: 8
46 ounce tomato juice or tomato and vegetable mixture

2 1/2 cup vegetable broth

1 stalk chopped celery

1/3 cup chopped onions

1 ½ cup sliced carrots

16 ounce frozen mixed vegetables

3-4 potatoes, cut into ¾-1 inch chunks

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1-2 large bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon salt

15 ounce can tomatoes

½ teaspoon pepper

½ head cabbage-cut into wedges and chunks

In a large stock pot saute onions, potatoes and carrots until softened. Add 2 ¼ cup water for and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Add frozen vegetables, ¼ teaspoon salt, 15 ounce tomato sauce and pepper. Simmer 30 minutes longer.


If you are lucky to have frozen tomatoes from a local farm, that is a bonus! You know where your food came from also. You can also use local potatoes and carrots if they are available also!

Happy comfort, health & family memories!


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Jan 23 2015

Perspective from an Ex-Burger-and-Shake-aholic

Published by under local food nutrition

Being the son of a dietitian has meant entering young adulthood with tons of kitchen skills and food know-how. It has also meant rebelling against making good use of these resources. After growing up with healthful meals, most of them plant-based, I left home hungry for some junk food – and some meat! But it didn’t take me long to realize fast food burgers and shakes don’t make for a sustainable diet. I was growing up – and outward – in all the wrong directions. So I started reading into whether there were foods out there that could give me that “junk food fix” without making me feel like junk.
And, unfortunately, this is a case where I must admit Mom knows what she’s talking about. Home cooked meals made with fresh ingredients are simply the better choice. You forgo all the excess salt, sugar, and fat purveyed by the food industrial complex. The challenge here is feeling satisfied with the healthy foods you’re eating; otherwise, if you’re willpower is anything like mine, you’ll sooner or later be back on the junk.

The first way to ensure having satisfying foods at home is to break free of our dependency on excess sugar, salt and bad types of fat. By no means do I recommend trying to cut these out altogether (when I tried to do that, I didn’t quite make it through week two.). Instead, take a mini-vacation from foods rich in these elements to let your cravings for them subside. When you come back to them, you may find you can enjoy them more when you don’t have that feeling of needing them to be satisfied.

The second way to make this a smooth transition goes along with the first: replace the so-called rich foods with foods that actually are rich in nutrients. Just make sure its stuff that you get excited about. If all day you’re dreading the Tuscan skillet on the dinner menu, you should probably fix something different. Plan a pizza with fresh toppings. Or whatever foods get you excited. Being satisfied with the healthy alternative is key in mastering junk cravings. As my taste for unhealthy food has diminished, it’s been replaced with an absurd enjoyment of fruits and vegetables. It was when I found myself looking forward to a snack of grape tomatoes and almonds that I knew I had lost my mind along with the extra weight.

School Garden 005

  Cherry Tomatos (2)

     The final bit of insight I can offer from my experience is to make sure you cheat. Improving the healthfulness of your lifestyle isn’t a diet; there isn’t a list of foods you can and can’t eat. If that ice cream looks really good, I say go for it. There is a time and portion for every food. It’s all very zen. Denying yourself food you enjoy is a good way to start resenting the whole challenge of living healthfully. So Reader, I commission you – go forth on the adventure of finding a healthy balance of foods on which to jam!




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Jan 20 2015

Healing Foods: Building a Healthier Immune System

Winter time is cold and flu season and one of the best ways to stay well is to eat a healthy diet! Eating meals and snacks rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low in saturated fat is the best way to build a strong immune system. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight and adequate sleep also helps prevent colds and flu. Be cautious of the many products that claim to boost or support immune systems because many may not have been scientifically proven. Probiotics can do a lot to help build a healthy immune system and the best kinds are refrigerated. Managing stress with healthy coping skills help keep us well by lowering stress levels. Stress breaks down the immune system. Vitamins C, A and E, zinc and selenium are all are immune building choices. Vitamin C foods include kale, peppers, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Vitamin E foods include nuts, oils, wheat and greens and vitamin A choices are sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach and collards. Nuts, beans, milk and beef are rich in zinc and meat, dairy, grains and eggs contain selenium. The more colorful the diet, the healthier that it is. You are what you eat, is one of the best things to remember when it comes to staying healthy this new year. Check out my book, Farm Fresh Nutrition for some great recipes full of foods rich in all of these foods and much more!


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Jan 16 2015

Beat the Winter Doldrums: Start a Kitchen Herb Garden

Published by under local food nutrition

If you are looking for something new and fun to do this weekend or you need a little pick-me-up-plant a kitchen herb garden! My husband got me these cute little pots and herb seeds over the holidays and I took a few minutes to start them up today! Check in periodically to see how my garden is growing and I will share some recipes using herbs!


If you are not feeling up to sprouting seeds, you may even find some herbs that are ready to be planted. Starting an herb garden from seed is a low cost way to get some summer joy on a cold winter day and you can save lots of money not buying fresh herbs every week. I planted three of my favorites, basil, parsley and cilantro but there are many others that you can easily grow inside, check out this article on starting your own window herb garden:



I used some seeds from a local company, if you don’t have local seeds available, choose heirloom seeds from a small independent company. Here is information on sow true seeds:


Here is what I am growing! Would love to hear from you to hear what you are growing in your kitchen garden!







Seeds like a sunny window, facing south if possible. If your kitchen doesn’t have one, you could grow somewhere else in your house. Herbs have a lot of nutritional value just like fruits and vegetables. They are rich in antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals. They also have healthy plant oils that are unique to herbs.


Think of all the great things that you can make with fresh herbs that you have grown yourself! I am already making plans for my crop: pesto from my basil, tabouli with my parsley and cilantro in my burrito! It is a great way to get a little fresh local food in your diet too! If you are looking for more recipes with fresh herbs, check out more recipes on my Fresh Off the Vine blog and I have lots of them in Farm Fresh Nutrition. Please share how your new herb garden is growing!



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Jan 15 2015

3 veggies to Eat and Grow this Winter

Celebrate the New Year by eating more local food in 2015 with growing some winter greens. Arugula, kale and collards are easy to grow when it’s cold. These power greens will continue into spring fairly easily also. Having them readily available is a great way to add them to your weekly menu!
Growing Tips
We often sow the seeds directly in the ground and try our luck growing which may not always work when the winter is very cold but you can protect your harvest with some of these easy steps :
1. Building a micro-climate- Make a small hoop house by using garden hoops or other type of support frame with either clothespins or earth staples and some garden fabric to provide shelter for plants. Several types of fabric are available for warm or cold seasons. Here is a little more about making a small hoop house:

2. Container Gardening-You can grow winter greens in large pots and on those very cold days, you can bring them in or make a protective cover similar to the micro-climate instructions . Here are a few good website on how to do a winter container garden.



3. Grow Varieties That Do Well In Winter- According to Mother Earth Living, some kale varieties that do well in the colder weather include Russian or Siberian. Mother Earth News recommends the Champion collard seeds or others from Virginia. Both of these are available from Sow True Seed.
Arugula varieties that do well are roquette and dragon’s tongue, these are available from Territorial Seed
Why Eat These 3 Greens
Arugula has a sweet, peppery flavor and contains vitamin A, B, C, K phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, zinc and copper.
Kale has a mild cabbage flavor. Massaging it for a few minutes softens its texture for salads or smoothies. Kale is rich in vitamin A,C and K as well as the minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus. It also contains anti-cancer properties and protects our eyesight.
Collards have a strong taste and are sturdy to hold together for many cooked variations or even added to a salad. These greens provide vitamin A, K and C as well as calcium and iron.
Here are some fresh and tasty ways to serve these winter greens.
Arugula Salad with Roasted Trout and New Potatoes
1 pound red new potatoes, quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 pound trout fillet
3 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
1 clove of garlic minced
10 ounces baby arugula
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. On a large cookie sheet, toss potatoes with 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast 10 minutes. Toss potatoes, and push to sides of sheet; place trout in center, and season with salt and pepper. Roast until potatoes are soft and trout is opaque throughout, about 10 to 15 minutes. Move trout to plate; chunk into large pieces with a fork. While potatoes and trout are cooking, whisk together lemon juice and ¼ cup oil in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add arugula and potatoes and toss to combine. Top salad with roasted trout.
Sausage, Kale, White Beans and Sweet Potatoes
Whether you use a locally made sausage from Hickory Nut Gap Farm or a new vegan version made from wheat from No Evil Foods, this recipe can be made almost entire from foods available in the winter from WNC sources.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound sausage, Hickory Nut Gap or No Evil Foods
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large sweet potatoes, finely diced
1 large potato, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon thyme
4 cups cooked locally grown, North Carolina white beans
2 bunches kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
6 cups homemade vegetable broth, or store bought
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add sausage and brown, breaking into small crumbles. Add onion, sweet potato, potato, and thyme. Season generously with salt and cook until vegetables soften, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and beans, and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add kale, and cook until it wilts. Add vegetable broth, salt and pepper, and cover with lid. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes until soup thickens.

Pasta with Collard Greens and Onions
One bunch collard greens, stemmed and washed.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, preferably a red onion, cut in half lengthwise, then sliced across the grain
Salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
2 garlic cloves, minced
Freshly ground pepper
8 to 12 ounces pasta, any shape
1/2 cup cooking water from the pasta
1 to 2 ounces grated local blue cheese
2 tablespoons of pecans
Slice collard greens into thin strips. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large lidded frying pan and add the onion. Cook until it is tender and translucent, about 5 minutes stirring often. Add collard greens with salt and pepper until greens begin to soften and cook 5 more minutes. Add pinch of salt, red pepper flakes and garlic. Add 1/2 cup water, cover and continue to simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes, stirring often, until the greens are tender. Taste and adjust seasonings. Meanwhile, cook the pasta. Bring the water in the pot to a boil and add the pasta. Before draining the pasta, ladle 1/2 cup of the cooking water from the pot into the frying pan with the collard greens and onions. Drain the pasta and toss with the greens. Top each serving with blue cheese and pecans to taste.
Yield: 4 servings.

Here are some pictures from Linda Patterson’s garden! Linda is the owner of Mountain Rainwater Systems in Asheville, NC and has a passion for teaching people to grow their own food with raised beds, container gardens and rain barrel installation!





If you are looking for more recipes using winter greens, check out my new book Farm Fresh Nutrition: Eating Green and Clean. Supporting Your Local Economy! I have included lots of seasonal recipes using local ingredients!




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Jan 09 2015

Happy New Year! Eat More Local Food to Improve Your Health!

January is the time of year we set goals to help achieve weight loss, mange a better blood sugar, reach better blood lipid or high blood pressure levels. Healthy eating also lower the risk of cancer, reduce uncomfortable GI symptoms and much, much more. Most of us are not patient when it comes to lasting lifestyle change but instead want the magic bullet, year after year. Just like the tortoise wins the race in the Aesop’s fable, slow and steady is the way to succeed when changing food habits long term. Adding more whole, fresh food and finding new ways to prepare it are both great ways to begin the new year! If eating local is a new concept in your eating plan-start off slow. You may first need to check out what food is available in the winter where you live and if there are places to purchase it, if you don’t grow it. If you live in Western North Carolina, there are several winter markets in the area where you can pick up locally grown and raised food:


One of my favorite local foods available this winter is potatoes.  During the winter this Potato and Kale Frittata uses ingredients found locally in the winter, give it a try. My family and I love a winter frittata and it makes a quick supper served with soup or salad and toast. I hope that you enjoy!






Stayed tuned for interesting meal planning ideas, tasty recipes and other nutrition information to help you achieve the healthy, new you in 2015!  Read my Fresh Off the Vine nutrition blog, stay tuned upcoming for new learning experiences coming in 2015 and check out my book Farm Fresh Nutrition! Hope you come back and see what’s cooking soon!

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Jan 07 2015

Warm Your Heart! Soups On!

Published by under local food,recipes,winter

As the temperatures begin to head towards zero degrees where I live and the fact that many of us are trying to eat healthier for new year, a bowl of soup is a tasty option! Canned soups are high in sodium and low and flavor. Many soups that are eaten out on the run are made with processed ingredients. Although that is not true everywhere, I know some great restaurants in Asheville has some delicious soups made with local ingredients.

Making soup and using seasonal ingredients is a great way to stay warm and get your daily intake of vegetables. Here is a great soup that I love to stay warm this winter! Give it a try! Full of carrots, carrots, cabbage and white beans, it provides a variety of colors and nutrients. It is one of the healthy recipes using local foods in my new book Farm Fresh Nutrition: Eating Green & Clean. Supporting Your Local Economy.  There is a lot more recipes and meal ideas in there including some ways to eat more local in the winter! Please feel free to share this recipe with your friends!

happy days

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Dec 08 2014

Local Food in the Winter: Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Pears and Goat Cheese

butternut squash jpg

This is a salad from my new book, Farm Fresh Nutrition: Eating Green and Clean. Supporting Your Local Economy. You can find most of food locally during the winter.

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Pears and Goat Cheese

1 large butternut squash, seeded, peeled, and cut into one inch cubes, or other squash you have on hand
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary from the garden
Salt and pepper
4 cups arugula
2 medium pears
1-2 tablespoon goat cheese
1-2 tablespoon pecans
2 pounds arugula
Balsamic dressing:
1 teaspoon of honey, ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, 1 teaspoon garlic, ½ cup olive oil, salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees as you seed, peel and chop squash into one inch cubes. Roast squash tossed with one tablespoon of olive oil for about 30 minutes until it gets soft and begins to caramelize. In a small pan add pecans in oven and toast for 5 minutes. Take out and let cool. While the squash is roasting, wash arugula well, drain and add to a large shallow bowl. Make dressing with balsamic vinegar, mustard, olive oil, chopped fresh rosemary, salt and pepper. After squash is finished allow to cool slightly and add on top of arugula. Drizzle with dressing and top with crumbled goat cheese and toasted pecans.

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Dec 08 2014

Maintain Don’t Gain Holiday Challenge Week 4: Snacking Your Way to a Healthy Holiday

How have you been doing on the holiday challenge so far? If it has been challenging, keep working at it.

For most of us, the holiday season is a time of snacking. Eating snacks is not such a bad thing  unless it is too much of a good thing. What you choose and how much makes a difference. Snacks in between meals may help prevent overeating. A planned snack with a source of protein and vegetables are a healthy choice and are filling. Think mini cheese platter and make it an event. Here is what you will need to get started:

Small decorative plate

One protein serving: 1 ounce cheese, 1-2 tablespoon hummus, 1 ounce cooked meat or fish

1 serving vegetable or small serving fruit: carrot, parsnip, locally made pickled vegetable, apples, pears, dried figs

1 serving whole grains: crackers, bread, bread sticks

Condiments: whole grain mustard, small serving preserves, balsamic dressing

If you are in Asheville and want some fresh new twists on some of these ideas, West Village Market http://www.westvillagemarket.com/ has some great options available. Some of these include:

Trio of Dips
Green Goddess (vegan & gluten free)
Rosemary Carrot Cashew (vegan & gluten free)
Beer Cheese
Crackers and Crudite

Fruit and Cheese Tray
Selection of Gourmet Cheeses
Seasonal Fruits

Mediterranean Tray
Giardiniere (Italian garden pickles)
Pita Points

You can change up your mini cheese platter to provide variety and keep fueled this holiday season. Enjoy the season and limit your less healthy snacks and choose more real food! Check out some of the previous holiday appetizer ideas on the Fresh Off the Vine Blog! Here are some of my favorites  http://healthconceptsnutrition.com/blog/2013/12/health-concepts-nutrition-holiday-challenge-week-three-surviving-the-holiday-party/

Happy snacking!



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