The Real Food Journal

Roast a Whole Stalk of Brussels Sprouts for a Showpiece Dish

Brussels Sprout Stalk with Balsamic Reduction

Brussels Sprout Stalk with Balsamic Reduction

We’ve all been there. As the family sits around a table, a roasted turkey or ham is carved into slices. It’s a primal scene. It’s part of some hunter-gatherer genetic memory, one that’s baked into our brains. Well, I think I’ve found a vegetable dish that has the presence of a ham, and gives you the savage but civilized satisfaction of wielding a knife at the table. It’s a Roasted Brussels Sprout Stalk with Balsamic Reduction.

A Roasted Whole Brussels Sprout Stalk is Easy

To be honest, it wasn’t my idea. my friend Julie Kendrick, writer and hostess extraordinaire, served one at a party at her house. It was a delightfully surprising way to put a vegetable out on the buffet, and let everyone carve a few sprouts for her plate. Of course, I resolved to pilfer the idea, straightaway.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?

Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Reduction

Lop off a few sprouts

I soon realized that the whole stalk roast was a clever way to avoid the work of trimming and cutting the Brussels sprouts before cooking! The only obstacle is getting a whole stalk. Our local farmers grow the stalk, like a little tree, then as the season goes on, they lop off Brussels sprouts as they mature. The Brussels tree keeps giving, generating new buds until the weather just gets too cold. That’s why you only see the whole stalks in the market in late Fall.

Ask a Farmer for a Whole Brussels Sprout Stalk

I was on the prowl for one, so I asked all the farmers at the market who were selling loose Brussels sprouts. They didn’t have them that week, but promised to bring one the following week. I snapped it up. I think it cost $7, which is alot less than a ham!

Brussels Sprout Stalk with Balsamic Reduction

Simple and Good

Of course, if you garden, you can grow them yourself. I’m sure that is what Julie did, since she has a big garden, overflowing with veggies all summer long. If you are inspired, you can start planning your garden now, and make room for a few of these epic Brussels Sprout plants.

Balsamic Reduction is the Easy Sauce

So, while my massive Brussels Roast was in the oven, getting sweet and slightly charred, I boiled some balsamic vinegar to make a thick, syrupy drizzle. I’m obsessed with reduction these days, and the act of condensing foods down into intense concentrations. Balsamic has the ideal balance of sweet and sour to reduce, and it only takes a few minutes. Seriously, 10 minutes, tops.

If you can’t find a whole Brussels sprout stalk, you can still make this, just trim and halve a pound of sprouts and toss them with oil, and roast for 20 minutes. Then pile them on a platter with some white space around them so you can make the zig zag drizzle across the top.

Because plants deserve to get the same star treatment that hunks of animal do. Really.

Brussels Sprout Recipes: Szechuan Brussels Sprouts  

Brussels Sprout and Pumpkinseed Slaw



Whole Roasted Brussels Sprout Stalk with Balsamic Reduction

Head to the farmer's market at the end of the season to buy a whole stalk of Brussels Sprouts, then roast it whole, for a dramatic centerpiece dish.

Course Side Dish
Servings 6
Author Robin Asbell


  • 1 stalk Brussels Sprouts
  • avocado or extra virgin olive oil
  • coarse salt
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.

  2. Place the whole stalk on a large baking sheet, and spray or drizzle with oil, brush to coat. Sprinkle with coarse salt.

  3. Roast for about 20 minutes.

  4. While the sprouts roast, pour the balsamic into a small pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a medium simmer and let cook until reduced by half. It takes 10-15 minutes. The liquid will become thick and shiny. Transfer to a small pitcher or bowl.

  5. To serve, place the roasted stalk on a large platter or cutting board and drizzle with balsamic reduction. Serve the rest on the side. Proide a knife to cut the sprouts from the stalk at serving.

Make a Trip to DC for Fancy Radish, for Excellent Vegetables

Fancy Radish Restaurant

The Pastrami Spiced Carrots with White Bean and Sauerkraut Puree, Pumpernickel and Smoked Mustard

I don’t often review a restaurant, but once in a while, a meal is so singular that it just blows me away. Such is the case with my dinner at Fancy Radish; a vedge restaurant, in Washington DC. It’s the latest outpost of the talented Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby, the brilliant chefs behind Vedge restaurant in Philadelphia.

My dear friend, talented writer Ellen Kanner made the reservation, as she is in the know about all things vegan. We were in DC for the Reducetarian Summit, so we seized a chance to sample a multi-course plant-based meal from the chefs who are raising the bar and creating a whole new approach to vegetable cookery. I hope you’ll accept my attempts at phone photography, as I drank a glass of funky natural orange wine, talked, and attempted to capture a delightful meal in a dark room.

Ellen and I have both interviewed the chefs and read their cookbooks, Vedge and V Street , so our expectations were high. The menu is arranged in three categories: Urban Picnic, Farm Board, and Wood and Fire. Urban Picnic features cold food, including the Pastrami Spiced Carrots pictured above, and the Smoked Chiogga Beets, below.

What sets the food of Landau and Jacoby apart from other restaurants is the intense attention to detail, and multiple processes applied to vegetables to heighten, concentrate, and complement their natural flavors and textures. Using processes usually applied to animal foods, they do things like make a pastrami spice cured carrot, a multi-step, several day long process, then slice it paper thin and present it like charcuterie. It comes out infused with spice and salt, sweet as a carrot, but with depth and umami, and a texture that gives you just a bit of chewiness. The schmear of white bean and sauerkraut complements it with creamy, tangy elements, and piling the whole affair on a pumpernickel toast point with smoked mustard creates a bite as nuanced and satisfying as the Deli food it mimics in shape and form.

Fancy Radish Restaurant

Smoked Chiogga Beets with Smoked Tofu, Crushed Cucumber, Avocado and Capers

Our second course, the Smoked Chiogga Beets, was presented in a tower with a slice of beet on top, and was quickly destroyed with our probing forks. Smoke is the umami-boosting secret of the plant-based chef, and we were glad to see that it was not being used heavy-handedly. A hint of smoke in the beets and tofu didn’t overwhelm the dish, just added nuance. Tender, diced beets, crunchy bits of cucumber and silky avocado made a sweet and tangy base for a smoked tofu salad, and the crunchy microgreens capped it with hints of bitterness and crunch.

Plant Based Restaurant Dishes

The Fancy Radishes: Braised Green Meat Radishes, Yuzu Avocado, Smoked Tamari and Shiso

When the restaurant shares a name with a dish, you know it’s a signature, so of course we tried the Fancy Radish. As you can see, it looks like a pair of scallops, with seared edges, sitting in a pool of sauce. In pursuit of maximum flavor and texture, the simple radish had been browned and slow simmered in flavorful veg stock, to make a tender scallop, with a mild radish kick and plenty of savory and sweet notes. The creamy avocado sauce had enough tang to wake the palate in between bites, and a little smoke and peppery shiso leaf played it up.

Plant Based Dishes at Fancy Radish

Trumpet Mushrooms as “Fazoletti” with Grape Tomatoes and Basil

A plant-based meal isn’t complete without the meaty, umami-boosting mushroom dish, and this one didn’t disappoint. In the photo, it looks like a bowl of sauteed mushrooms, but somehow, it was one of the best dishes of the night. Thinly sliced, seared mushrooms in a broth, with a few slices of tomato and basil seems so simple, but it was intense. I’m betting that the broth is a multi-step affair, slowly simmered, strained, reduced, and emulsified with an industrial blender. It was just too good.

The plant Based food at Fancy Radish

Chermoula Grilled Tofu with Smoked Eggplant, Pickled Carrot, Olives and Preserved Lemon

I suppose this Tofu, from the Wood and Fire section of the menu, is the main course. These dishes have more richness and weight, and this one had a satisfying infusion of good olive oil. After all the sensory fireworks of the other dishes, it needed to have a strong flavor game, and it did not disappoint. The slab of tofu was dense and chewy, with plenty of texture. It was painted with a thick layer of spicy, citrusy chermoula sauce, that enlivened the weighty tofu. A smear of olive puree coated the plate, and tiny cubes of tender, lightly smoky eggplant and tangy carrots perched at the other side. Each bite awakened a different part of my palate, readying me for more.

We also had the sour cherry turnovers with sumac rose glaze and halvah buttercream. If you thought that eating plant-based meant losing out on pastry, you were so wrong. The sweet and tangy cherries are a favorite of mine, and they were perfect in the crisp, fried pies. Elegant, rose and sumac scents accompanied each bite, and the creamy, sesame cream on the plate was a revelation.

Plant-Based Dessert at Fancy Radish

Sour Cherry Turnovers with Sumac Rose Glaze and Halvah Buttercream

Our bellies full, Ellen and I agreed, this was destination dining, possibly the best vegan meal we had had in a restaurant ever, or at least within recent memory. Landau and Jacoby are elevating plant-based cuisine to new levels of inventiveness and sophistication. By systematically applying techniques and processes once used only for meat, they are adding complexity and intensity to vegetables, and showing us all what plants can become when they are given the attention that we have historically only given to animal foods.

The service was great, the wine list, all natural and intriguing, and the setting was tasteful and un-distracting. No loud music or reverberating voices to take away from the dining experience.

So, if you are in DC, or Philadelphia, make a reservation, you will be glad you did. Bravo to the chefs!

Bake a Raspberry-Nectarine Slab Pie, Make People Happy!

Raspberry-Nectarine Slab Pie

On a fine Saturday morning, everything seems possible. The day stretches before me, like a bottomless well of time, free to do something adventurous. Rested and ready, I make my way to the Farmer’s Market most Saturdays, where tables of colorful produce stretch out around me like a palette of juicy paints, begging to be stroked on a canvas. Sure, I tell myself, you have a bunch of work to do today, but those organic raspberries won’t last forever. Why not make a Raspberry-Nectarine Slab Pie?

Slab Pie Appeal

I always hit the market early, to beat the rush and get some of the more limited goodies before they sell out. This particular day, there was a table overflowing with just-picked raspberries. It’s Minnesota, and there is a short window for these Fall berries, before the cold snaps start. Fresh local fruit has a short window of time here. When I saw those perfect berries, I was overcome with the urge to make a slab pie.

Click here for my Apple Raspberry Galette

Raspberry-Nectarine Slab Pie

Before I could talk myself out of it, I had 2 quarts of berries in my rolling bag, balanced on top of a watermelon, corn on the cob and sprouts, and assorted onions and greens. What a haul. Once I got it all home and put away, I fortified myself with coffee and started making pie dough.

Whole Grain Pastry is Best

I’m lucky to have freshly ground flour from Baker’s Field Flour and Bread available to me. Their whole wheat pastry flour is fantastic. If you can’t get it, you can use a whole wheat pastry or white whole wheat flour.

Raspberry-Nectarine Slab Pie

I had a reason for making a big fat slab pie. I knew I was going out of town and leaving my husband home alone for a few days. A big slab of pie might give him some comfort and sustenance while I’m gone. I have a feeling that the pie will be gone when I get back.

Raspberry-Nectarine Slab Pie

Lest you think that a slab pie is somehow harder than a round pie, it’s actually easier. It’s basically two pies’ worth in one big rectangular slab, with a minimum of fuss.

Choose the Right Fat

I’ve been making my pastry with Melt Buttery Sticks lately, but I also use chilled coconut oil in the same way. You need a more solid fat that holds its shape when chilled, and creates a flaky texture. If you opt for coconut oil, choose refined for a mild flavor. I recommend melting the oil in the jar, either by placing it in a pot of warm water, or microwaving. Measure the liquid oil in a cup, then refrigerate until solid. Then you can grate it into the flour.

Wholesome But Still Dessert

I love dessert as much as the next person. I also love making them with real, whole foods, so that they aren’t nutritional disasters that pile nothing but sugar, fat and calories on the plate. Organic raspberries, nectarines, whole wheat flour and healthy fats give this dessert a firm foundation in the real food category. Don’t tell anyone it might be a little bit good for you, just let your family and friends revel in the luscious, juicy pie.

A slab pie is sure to make your family happy, even if it’s just one sweet guy left at home alone.

Raspberry-Nectarine Slab Pie

Feed a crowd with this fruit-packed pie, wrapped in a tender whole wheat pastry. Crystallized ginger gives the sweet and tangy fruit a little kick!

Course Dessert
Servings 8
Author Robin Asbell


Pie Crust

  • 4 cup whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 sticks Vegan butter or 1 1/2 cups coconut oil (measure coconut oil then chill until hard)
  • 1 cup ice water
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar


  • 1 1/2 cup organic sugar
  • 1/4 cup unbleached flour
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot
  • 4 large nectarines sliced
  • 4 cups raspberries fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 cup crystallized ginger chopped


  • 2 tablespoons agave syrup
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Turbinado sugar


  1. Make crust: Get out your 9x13 baking pan and reserve. In a large bowl, whisk the flour and salt. Using the large holes on a grater, grate the vegan butter or coconut oil into the mix, tossing every few strokes to coat the bits of fat with flour. in a measuring cup, whisk the vinegar and ice water. Stir gently into the flour mixture and use your hands to mix to form a dough. If needed, add a little bit more water. Form into a rectangular block about 2 inches thick on a counter sprinkled with a little flour.

  2. Cut off one third of the dough for the top crust; wrap each rectangle in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 1 hour.

  3. Preheat oven to 425 F. In a large bowl, mix the sugar, flour and arrowroot. Add the sliced nectarines, raspberries, and crystallized ginger and toss gently to coat the fruit. Let stand while you roll out the crust.

  4. On a floured counter, roll out the larger rectangle to make the bottom crust. To judge the size, place the 9x13 pan over the dough and continue rolling until the dough is 2 inches wider and longer than the pan. Use a metal spatula to carefully remove the crust from the counter, folding it gently in thirds. Transfer to the pan and press the crust up the sides of the pan, trim any extra dough and press to make a neat edge.

  5. Roll out the smaller portion of dough to the length of the pan. Use a fluted pastry cutter wheel or a knife to slice the dough in 3/4 inch wide strips. I used decrative cutters to cut the scraps into little hearts and flowers, which I placed on a small sheet pan.

  6. Fill the pie with the prepared fruit, spreading it to make an even layer. Place the strips of dough across the pie in a lattice pattern. In a cup, stir the agave and water and brush the top crust and the decorative dough scraps, if you are making those. Sprinkle with Turbinado sugar.

  7. Bake for 25 minutes at 425, then reduce the heat to 375 and bake for 25 minutes longer, then raise the heat to 400 F and bake for 20 minutes. If the top crust is getting browned, cover loosely with foil. Bake for 10 minutes, until the center of the pie is bubbling.

    Cool on a rack.

Make Life Easy with New Potatoes, Chickpea and Fresh Mint

New Potatoes with Fresh Mint

Minty and Fresh!

Fresh Mint Forever

You really only have to plant spearmint once. I can’t remember when I made the fateful move to put a little mint plant in my garden, but it was years ago. The mint flourished and spread and persists, year after year. After we eat tabouli and minty salads and make lots of fresh mint tea, I often have to rip out rafts of the fragrant plants just to keep them from choking out the tomatoes and basil. As much as I love the bracing flavor of fresh mint, it has to be willing to share the space.

All this lovely fresh mint means I need to get creative, and this New Potato Salad with Mint Pesto is one of many quick minty dishes I serve in summer.

(Try a Sweet Corn Salad with Fresh Mint, here.)

Fresh Mint is Great in Savory Dishes

While we often associate mint with sweet flavors, like mint-chip ice cream and minty chocolates, it takes on a different character when you go savory with it. Take away the sugar and add some olive oil, and you start to see how similar it is to sweet basil, in some ways.

fresh mint pesto potato salad

Simple and easy

T’is the Season for Potato Salads

New potatoes are happening at my farmer’s market, so I boiled some young Yukon golds and quartered them. I chilled them in the refrigerator, which made them a little dark in color, but still full of that buttery Yukon flavor. To keep it easy, I used canned chickpeas (saving the aquafaba for later in the freezer) and just rinsed and drained.

I’m so in love with pistachios, I keep both raw and roasted ones around at all times. In this dish, they make a lush pesto and also a crunchy garnish.

The fresh mint melds with the olive oil, garlic, and pistachios for an herbal, slightly peppery taste. With a jolt of lemon, the flavors feel fresh and lively. Red bell peppers add a pop of red against the green background, and a bit of juicy crunch.

This recipe barely made a dent in my fresh mint crop, but that’s ok. I’m thinking that a Minty Iced Tea is in my future. Mint is known to help with digestive upsets and have a decent amount of antioxidants, like most green leafy foods. It’s even associated with improving memory, so I should definitely eat more of it!

If you don’t have a mint plant, your farmer’s market should have some big fat bundles of it. Enjoy it in potato salad, and you might just remember some passwords while enjoying a delicious meal.

New Potato, Chickpea and Mint Salad with Pistachios

Cool off with this tasty salad, with mint and lemon to spark on the palate.

Servings 6 cups
Author Robin Asbell


  • 1 pound new potatoes cooked and cooled, halved
  • 1 can cooked chickpeas drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 large red bell pepper slivered
  • 1 large scallions chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh spearmint packed
  • 1 clove garlic peeled and sliced
  • 1/4 cup raw pistachios divided
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • mint sprigs for garnish


  1. In a large bowl, combine the new potatoes, chickpeas, peppers and scallions.

  2. In a food processor, combine mint, garlic and half of the pistachios. Process to mince finely, scrape down and process a few times, then add olive oil and blend. Scrape down and add the lemon and salt, blend again until smooth.

  3. Scrape over the potato mixture and toss to coat.

  4. Serve topped with reserved pistachos and garnished with mint sprigs.

Plant Based Fish in Summer Rolls? Meet Me at Veg Fest for Freebies!

Plant Based Fish Summer Rolls

Summer Rolls with Peanut Sauce, Yum!

Plant Based Fish, The Next Big Thing

Plant Based Meats have been the food trend to watch, in recent years. I even wrote a book about it. Hot on the heels of mock meats is a new growth industry: Plant Based Fish. The hunger for familiar, high protein foods that come from plants is driving a surge in the development and sales of mock seafoods, and I’ve had some pretty tasty “crab” cakes, faux “salmon,” and now,”Tuna.”

While researching my Plant Based Meats cookbook, I met and spoke to lots of people in the business of making plant based foods. One of the earliest adopters of the plant based meat concept was the Loma Linda company, who started manufacturing veggie meats back in 1890.It’s quite an accomplishment that heir product line goes back 125 years. They are now part of Atlantic Natural Foods, along with Neat, makers of plant based “eggs,”  baking mixes and prepared foods,  I spoke to  the inventor of Neat Eggs, Laura Lapp, in this post. They recently came out with their own version of tuna, called “Tuno,” and it is in packets or cans, packed in water or Sriracha, Lemon Pepper, Thai Sweet Chili or Sesame Ginger Sauce.

I’ll Be Giving Away Cans of Plant Based Fish at Minnesota Veg Fest

Thanks to Atlantic Natural Foods, I’ve got a large assortment of plant based proteins to give away at my booth at Minnesota Veg Fest on September 15th!

The first 500 people who come to my booth get to pick a can, from an assortment including Tuno, Taco filling, and more. You can toss one in your swag bag, and not worry about it spoiling as you frolic at the festival. We are expecting several thousand attendees, so come early. I’ll be selling my books Plant Based Meats; Hearty High Protein Recipes for Vegans, Flexitarians and Curious Carnivores, Vegan Meal Prep: A 5-Week Plan with 125 Ready-To-Go Recipes, and Big Vegan, Over 350 Recipes, No Meat, No Dairy All Delicious.

The Tuna Question

Much was made, in recent articles, about Millenials not eating tuna. The folks at Starkist blame them for killing tuna sales, claiming that Millenials don’t own can openers and can’t be bothered to open the can and get utensils. That bit of creative PR overlooks a 30 year decline in tuna sales, fueled by fears of mercury in the fish, concerns about overfishing, dolphins being killed in the nets, and yes, the smell.

I can assure you, the Tuno I used in this recipe did not stink up the kitchen. My cats did stroll in when they heard me open the can, and they did want to sniff it, but that’s a cat’s automatic response to the sound of a can opener. Had it been smelly cat food or tuna, they would have been frantic with desire.

Tuno Plant Based Fish Summer Rolls

Enjoy a Light Meal with Tuno

Nostalgia for Tuna Salads and Casseroles

For this recipe, I used the Sriracha Tuno. If you can only get water-packed, you can always just drain it and sprinkle with Sriracha sauce before putting it in the rolls. If you miss the tuna salad sandwiches and casseroles of your youth, definitely try making them with Tuno. It’s got a nice, lightly seafood-ish taste and a tender but chewy texture that does remind you of tuna in all your fave tuna dishes. It’s less salty and fishy than real tuna, but that’s a plus, for most people. It’s made from Non-GMO soy protein, so popping open a can or packet delivers an easy protein to your day.

Summer Rolls are Great with Tuno

I took a little swerve from making the hits and made these veggie-packed Summer Rolls. A typical Vietnamese Summer Roll or rice paper roll will have shrimp, and sometimes a little pork thrown in for good measure. I usually make mine with tofu, but I wanted to see how the mock-fish interacted with the rice noodles and veggies and peanut sauce. It was a huge hit with my husband, and we made quick work of all ten of them!

So, look for Tuno at your local grocers, and if you can, come to Veg Fest on September 15th, 2019, and share in the plant based celebration!

"Tuno" Summer Rolls with Peanut Sauce

Summer Rolls are a refreshing, light appetizer all year round. Try these and add the protein, texture and spicy flavor of Tuno to your meal.

Course Appetizer
Servings 10
Author Robin Asbell


Peanut Sauce

  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons red curry paste more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger grated
  • 2 teaspoons fresh turmeric grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter


  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon palm sugar or brown sugar
  • 4 ounces rice noodles I used red rice noodles
  • 2 cans Sriracha Tuno
  • 1 large avocado pitted, sliced in the shell and scooped out
  • 1/2 large cucumber peeled, seeded and sliced in strips
  • 1 cups thinly slivered red cabbage
  • 1 large carrot shredded
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint or Thai Basil
  • 10 large rice or tapioca wrappers


  1. In a 1 quart pot, combine the coconut milk, curry paste, ginger, turmeric, palm sugar and salt and heat over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Whisk in the lime juice and peanut butter and simmer just until thick, if needed, thin with water to dippable consistency. Makes about 3/4 cup.

  2. Put water on to boil for noodles. Mix the rice vinegar and palm sugar in a small pot and bring to a boil just to melt the sugar. Let cool. Cook noodles and rinse under cold water, drain. Place in a medium bowl and add the vinegar mixture, toss to mix. Drain the Tuno in a wire mesh strainer, don't rinse. Prep the vegetables, keeping them in separate piles.

  3. Prepare a lasagne sized pan of warm water, and a kitchen towel lying flat beside it. Put a wrapper in the water and submerge gently. When it softens, put on towel to drain. On each wrapper, place a couple tablespoons of tuno, then about a tenth of the vegetables and rice noodles, then fold the sides in, then roll up. Place on a platter, not touching. Cover the rolls with a damp towel as you go. Serve within a few hours with peanut sauce for dipping.

Golden Oats, Delicious Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Golden Oats with Turmeric and Ginger

Delicious medicine

Life is dangerous. No matter how careful you are, pain is hovering in the wings, waiting for its moment. I can’t help with all the emotional pains, but lately, I’ve been looking for foods to help out with the physical ones. Anti-inflammatory foods have become my obsession, as I try to heal my own joint pains. Our innate inflammatory response is important to our survival, and is the first line of self defense when our bodies are injured or invaded by bacteria. But when inflammation becomes a chronic, ongoing condition, it stops being a positive thing, and aggravates many health conditions, often causing pain, and causing damage in itself.

Anti-inflammatory foods to the rescue

There are two types of inflammation. If you fall and bang up your knee, pain, redness, heat and swelling are part of your inflammatory response, and signal you to stop moving and let the body start emergency healing measures. That’s acute inflammation. Chronic inflammation is when the condition is ongoing, and the body fights a never-ending war. You might have a problem with an internal organ, which has no nerve endings to feel pain, or some other less visible part. An example is clogged arteries, in which cholesterol plaques create inflammation in the artery wall, and swelling is as detrimental to the flow of blood as the plaques are. (Click here to read more.) Chronic inflammation plays a role in obesity, heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and other health problem.

In my case, I’m looking to cool down the inflammation in my joints. I didn’t fall and bang up my knee. It turns out that using my knees to exercise and work hard for all these years has convinced them that they need to be on high alert. When the doctor told me I had “Early overuse arthritis,” I was appalled. At least he said “early,” to cushion the blow. Arthritis was a mystery to me, something I expected might creep up on me much, much later in life. But there it is. It turns out that arthritis is a blanket term for several kinds of chronic, painful inflammation. The kicker is that the inflammation damages the joint, instead of helping.

(Link to a Harvard Health Publication on Understanding Inflammation)

Anti-inflammatory foods are good for lots of things

So I started researching anti-inflammatory foods. I can’t go back and undo what’s been done inside my joints, and I actually need to keep moving to keep the joint healthy. So, I’m taking charge of what I can, and filling my plate with foods that promise to calm the swelling and pain. In the bargain, I might just be helping all sorts of other things in my body as well, from my circulation to my skin, so it’s a good way to go.

Food as medicine

So, in my searches, familiar foods like turmeric, ginger, garlic, and green tea come up. I’ve written lots of posts about turmeric, like this  one with a recipe for Turmeric Carrot Tonic, this one with a golden turmeric sesame salad dressing, or this one with lots of info on on turmeric and a recipe for Dal.

fresh turmeric and ginger, anti-inflammatory foods

Fresh turmeric and ginger…

Other foods that seem to help include pineapple, sour cherries, strawberries, oranges, blueberries, tomatoes, nuts and seeds, leafy greens, whole grains, and the healthy fats from olive oil and either fatty fish or nuts like walnuts. Sour cherries, in particular, have antioxidants that have been shown to help with inflammation, and arthritis pain specifically.

Avoiding meat, refined flour and sugar, fried foods, lard, soda and junk food in general is a good practice for fighting inflammation. Of course, I was already avoiding the inflammation diet, so all I can do is double down on the anti-inflammatory foods I eat.

If you follow me on instagram, I’m posting my anti-inflammatory smoothies!

Golden Oats with Turmeric and Ginger


This is an easy overnight oat soak with turmeric, ginger, black pepper, and berries. It’s an easy meal prep for a breakfast that starts the day off right. I like to work out in the morning, so I figure eating anti-inflammatory foods afterward is a good plan.

Even if you have healthy, happy joints, adding some anti-inflammatory foods to your day is a smart idea. This one is pretty tasty, too!

Golden Oats with Berries

Anti-inflammatory foods star in this whole grain breakfast. Make it and keep it in the refrigerator for breakfast or snacks, and you can get a good start on your anti-inflammatory foods for the day.

Course Breakfast
Servings 4
Author Robin Asbell


  • 2 cups non-dairy milk I used cashew-almond
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups thick rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons sour cherry juice concentrate
  • fresh berries


  1. In a 2-3 cup storage tub, combine the milk, turmeric, ginger and black pepper. Whisk to mix well. Stir in the oats and cover the tub, refrigerate overnight, or at least 4 hours.

  2. Stir the oats until they are creamy. Serve topped with berries and drizzled with cherry concentrate.

Meal Prep: Make Chocolatey Zucchini Brownies

Vegan Zucchini Brownies

So deeply chocolatey that nobody will notice they are zucchini brownies!

Chocolate is always in season, isn’t it? Whether we are snuggled inside on a February snow day, or wilting in the heat of a humid August scorcher, chocolate always seems like a good idea. Right now, it’s zucchini season, and I can think of no better way to put a zucchini to good use than Zucchini Brownies.

The Secret Ingredient in Zucchini Brownies

These zucchini brownies are completely plant-based, loaded with chocolate chips, and completely discreet about their secret ingredient. Thanks to my trusty blender, the zucchini disappears into a rich, moist brownie without a trace. You’ll be too busy reveling in the bittersweet ganache and letting the chocolate melt on your tongue to even care how they stay so moist.

Brownies are Vegan Meal Prep

These brownies are a favorite meal prep recipe, too, so make a batch and take them for lunch all week long. You can even wrap them individually and freeze them, and have a chocolate fix at the ready.

Vegetable purees are a clever way to sneak a little plant goodness into all sorts of foods. In these zucchini brownies, the bland flesh of the zucchini slips quietly behind the assertive flavor of chocolate. It provides some of the bulk and moisture that eggs would have in a conventional brownie, with veggie fiber and nutrients.

The other plant-based secret in these chocolate bombs is aquafaba. If you haven’t tried it yet, aquafaba is the liquid leftover from cooking chickpeas, and it has many of the qualities of an egg, when you know how to bake with it. I used aquafaba from canned chickpeas, and I boiled it down to reduce it to “double strength.” Whenever I open a can of chickpeas, I drain the liquid and freeze it for baking.

For more on aquafaba, click here.

For an article and recipes I wrote for

For a recipe for Pastry Nests with Chocolate Mousse, click here.

Vegan Zucchini Brownies

Ganache and a dusting of powdered sugar to make them irresistible!

Add Some Veg with Zucchini Brownies

I know it’s hard to believe, but I let a batch of these brownies languish in my refrigerator for almost two weeks, and they stayed moist and delicious. The hard to believe part is that I was able to exercise that much restraint! I guess it means that I am a grown-up, right? Luckily for me, the zucchini brownies waited patiently, staying moist and delectable.

I’m convinced that the zucchini is the secret to their longevity. The puree is holding moisture and keeping the brownies from turning into sawdust, and that is a great contribution for a humble zucchini to make.

So whether it’s a hot summer day and the zucchini is overtaking the garden, or a freezing winter day and the icicles are gleaming against a grey sky, make these brownies.

Because chocolate is always in season!

Vegan Zucchini Brownies

Nobody will ever suspect that there's a zucchini in this pan of decadent, chocolatey goodness. Pureeing the squash makes it disappear, as it gives the brownies a little body and moisture.

Course Dessert
Servings 9
Author Robin Asbell


  • 1 1/2 cup aquafaba
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 8 ounces zucchini, 1 medium chunks
  • 3 tablespoons refined coconut oil melted
  • 1/2 cup unbleached flour
  • 3/4 cup organic sugar
  • 2/3 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips


  • 4 ounces very dark chocolate chopped
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • powdered sugar for sifting over


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F, and oil a 9-inch square baking pan, reserve.

  2. Place the aquafaba in a 1 quart saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer vigorously to reduce to 3/4 cup. Let cool.

    Place the cooled aquafaba, vanilla, zucchini and coconut oil in strong blender and secure the lid. Puree until very smooth, reserve.

  3. In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Pour the zucchini mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until combined, then stir in the chocolate chips. Spread in the prepared pan.

  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is dry and a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out with a little thick batter, don't overbake.

  5. Cool on a rack, then cover and refrigerate.


  1. For ganache: chop chocolate, then place the coconut milk in a small pan and bring to a boil. Take off the heat, add the chocolate and let stand for a minute, then stir. When the chocolate is melted, drizzle over the brownies. Spread evenly, unless you like the look of the drizzles Let cool.

  2. Chill the brownies so they will cut evenly. Slice 3 by 3 for 9 brownies. Sift powdered sugar over them and serve.

Keep Cool, Bake a Slow Cooker Dessert with Summer Fruit

Slow Cooker Dessert

Serve it right from the crock!

It’s an unavoidable truth. The summer fruits are perfect for baking into pies and crisps at the same time that you don’t want to turn on the oven. July and August are already heating up the house, and the last thing I want is to crank the oven for a couple of hours. That’s when you need to pull out the slow cooker, and start investigating slow cooker desserts.

( I made this slow cooker dessert on TV this week, click to watch the clip!)

Slow Cooker Dessert is the Cool Choice

The slow cooker is often thought of as the appliance for wintertime cookery, to simmer stews and pots of chili while we go about our day. But if you think about it, it’s really a self-contained stoneware oven. Turn on the slow cooker, and it heats an enclosed space, just like the oven. It’s just gentler, and because it’s tightly sealed, it stays moist.

Slow Cooker Dessert Crisp

Pick your favorite vanilla “ice cream” or top with whipped topping

Keep the kitchen cool

Once you start seeing the slow cooker as a free-standing oven, it makes perfect sense to “bake” slow cooker desserts. Cakes, cheesecakes, baked puddings, even this fruit crisp are just as delectable when prepared in the slow cooker.

Right now, nectarines and blueberries are ripe and ready. They are so good, they barely need any help to turn into a crowd-pleasing treat. I picked nectarines for this because they don’t need to be peeled, just sliced right into the crock. Throw in the berries, a slash of vanilla, that’s it.

Crumble is irresistible

The crumble topping is made from healthful whole grain flour and oats, but don’t tell anyone. It’s so sweet and crunchy, they don’t need to know that they are being a little bit virtuous. You can pick the fat for your crumble, coconut oil is really good in this, or you can go with buttery sticks or butter, if that is your thing.

Take off the lid, let it crisp

If you’re wondering whether the topping will be soft and moist from being in the pot for three hours, don’t worry. It is a little soft right when you take the lid off, but if you let is stand for a few minutes, the steam will escape and it will become crisp.

I hope this recipe will inspire you to make your own slow cooker dessert. Of course, you can use other fruit, like apples and pears in the Fall, whatever is good.

That way, you can make the most of the seasonal fruit, without breaking a sweat!

Blueberry Nectarine Crisp in the Slow Cooker

Course Dessert
Servings 6
Author Robin Asbell


  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar or sucanat
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil or buttery sticks melted
  • 1/4 cup crystallized ginger minced
  • 2 pounds nectarines
  • 3 cups blueberries
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot or cornstarch


  1. Lightly oil a large oval 4-quart crockpot insert and reserve.

  2. In a large bowl, mix the oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Melt the butter, margarine or coconut oil and add to the bowl, stir to mix well. Stir in the ginger. Refrigerate while you cut the fruit.

  3. Slice the nectarines into a large bowl, add the berries, vanilla and arrowroot and toss to mix. Pour into the slow cooker.

    Sprinkle the oat mixture over the fruit, close the cooker.

  4. Cook on low for 3 hours. Uncover and take the crock out of the cooker and place on a cooling rack, or a trivet at the table. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving with your favorite ice cream, whipped topping, or vanilla yogurt.

Craveable Crispy Potato and Sweetcorn Croquettes

Vegan Sweetcorn Croquettes

Tender Potato Cakes With the Sweetest Corn

Sweetcorn is here

August is peak market time in Minnesota. Since Spring, there has been a teasingly gradual roll-out of my favorite vegetables and fruits, starting with radishes and rhubarb, moving to asparagus and raspberries, then finally, tomatoes, sweet corn, and melons. This is the one month when the maximum bounty of locally grown goodness is piled high at the farmer’s market. It’s tradition at my house to make meals of sweetcorn and watermelon, and not much else.

Call it the cook’s holiday.

Sweetcorn is versatile

In between feasting on simply boiled or grilled corn, I also occasionally cook with it. The same crisp, sweet kernels that are so easy to devour off the cob are a delightful addition to soups, salads, stir-fries, and little croquettes like this one.

(Here are a few other recipes for sweetcorn from the past)

sweet corn sambal

Nosh on Indonesian Corn Sambal and Krupuk Before Dinner

Sweet Corn Sambal

Korean Sweet Corn Pizza

Sweet Corn Salad with Mint

Sweet, Crisp Raw Corn with Tangy, Creamy Green Goddess

Sweetcorn Croquettes are frugal food

The croquette is the original no-waste recipe. Using up leftover bits of cooked vegetables, mashed potatoes, and herbs to make crispy little bites is an old-school French idea. I’m sure they weren’t the first to smash some leftovers together and make them into little patties, either. Little savory cakes are popular in many cuisines, as well as the home kitchens of people everywhere.

In these croquettes, I won’t assume that you have mashed potatoes languishing in the fridge. People don’t think of mashed potatoes as a weekly staple anymore, and it’s summer, when we are more into potato salad than mash. The potatoes are great at the market, though, so you can boil and mash some, and get real, true potato flavor. You wouldn’t want to make this recipe with mashed potatoes that have had milks and fats added, because these rely on firm, plain mashed potatoes.

You may have cooked too may ears of corn on Monday, but don’t let it go to waste.You can use those two leftover boiled or grilled cobs of corn. Just cut the kernels off. I used raw corn, which stayed crunchy. Both are delicious.

Potato and Sweetcorn Croquettes

Crunchy Outside, Creamy Inside.

The potatoes alone will bind the cakes, instead of eggs or flour. They are tender and a little delicate because of it. Be sure to chill the mixture before frying, so they will hold together.

Because it’s August, I went with handfuls of fresh basil in the cakes and in the sauce. Keep it simple, just stir basil into your fave mayo from a jar, and voila, a sauce.

Sweet corn is one of the joys of the summer, and these croquettes are a basil-laced, crispy bite that shows off that precious corn flavor.

Give your sweetcorn a little zazz with this croquette recipe, and your family will thank you!

Potato and Sweetcorn Croquettes

When the sweetcorn is in season, make these easy croquettes. Fresh basil makes them extra summery!

Servings 10 croquettes
Author Robin Asbell


  • 1 pound Yukon Gold or other waxy potato
  • 2 medium ears of corn kernels removed
  • 1 cup fresh basil divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup panko
  • oil for frying
  • 1/2 cup avocado mayonnaise


  1. Boil the potatoes in their skins until very tender, then drain. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, slip off the skins and mash or put through a potato ricer. Put in a large bowl and let cool completely.

  2. Set up a large skillet and a large plate lined with a double layer of paper towels for draining the croquettes.

  3. To the potatoes, add the salt, corn kernels, and half of the basil. Stir to mix well. Form 1/4 cup portions, shape into patties, and coat with panko. Place on a plate and chill for at least an hour, or until time to cook.

  4. Place the large skillet over medium-high heat and let heat for a few seconds, then pour in oil to 1/4-inch deep. Let the oil heat to a "shimmer" and place one croquette in the pan. If it sizzles, add as many as you can fit without any of them touching. Cook, using a metal spatula to carefully turn them as they brown.

  5. Drain the finished croquettes on the paper towel lined plate.

  6. In a small bowl, stir the mayonnaise with the remaining basil.

  7. Serve croquettes with basil mayo.

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