The Real Food Journal

Roasted Veggies Get Sexy with Pomegranate Glaze and Pistachios

Pomegranate Makes It Beautiful!

Are you planning a big holiday meal? Looking through pinterest for recipes, or digging out your folder of Grandma’s hand-written favorites?Can I put in a plug for good old fashioned cookbooks, too? And of course, pomegranate.

This month is prime time for big sit-down dinners with family and friends, and I’m betting that you need a new side dish. Like this easy Pomegranate Glazed Roasted Veggies with Pistachios. Sweet, tart, and savory, this is a great vegetable side that sparkles with pomegranate jewels and bright green pistachios.

It’s a little Middle Eastern, a little homespun, and will go well with whatever you are serving. Parsnips, sweet potato and carrot give the dish a hearty, comforting quality, and cauliflower roasts alongside them to melting tenderness.

The only trick in this recipe is cutting the vegetables a little differently than you usually do. Basically, I cut each veg into long planks, then divided those into strips. Then I cut each one, moving the angle of the veg under the knife, to cut triangles instead of just straight across. I think it’s a modified roll-cut, just moving the vegetable so it cuts at irregular angles.

I just thought it would look a little more exciting, but if you want to cut them the usual way, go for it. The main thing is that everything is similar in size so it will cook evenly.

Give Your Veggies Room

You need a big pan, so all the pieces have their own little piece of hot metal on which to caramelize. If you crowd them, they end up steaming and soggy, instead of browned and concentrated.

The glaze is the easiest thing, if you buy pomegranate juice concentrate. I keep it around for adding to salad dressings, kombucha and other drinks, or anything that needs a dash of sweet and sour.

If you are looking for more fun with pomegranate, check out these holiday friendly recipes, too:

Pomegranate Bubbly Cocktails

Pomegranate Chocolate Shots and Popcorn for Parties


Pomegranate Glazed Roasted Veggies with Pistachios

Give your holiday meals a kick with a new side dish- sprinkled with sparkling pomegranate and pistachios for a red and green color scheme.

Course Side Dish
Servings 4
Author Robin Asbell


  • 1/4 cup pomegranate juice concentrate or 3/4 cup, boiled down
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 small sweet potato cut in angular pieces, 2 cups
  • 1 large carrot cut at an angle
  • 1 large parsnip cut in angular piece, 2 cups
  • 2 cups cauliflower large florets
  • 1/2 large red onion vertical slices
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • coarse salt
  • 1/4 cup roasted pistachios chopped
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate arils


  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F. In a small pot, combine the pomegranate juice concentrate, sugar and salt and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking until the sugar is dissolved.

  2. Slice the vegetables into long slices, then cut on angles to make interesting shapes. Place in a large roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil. Add a couple of sprigs of rosemary and a sprinkling of salt. Toss to coat. Cover with foil and roast for 20 minutes. Uncover the pan and drizzle with the pomegranate mixture. Return to the oven and roast for 20 minutes longer.

  3. When the vegetables are tender when pierced with a paring knife, and the souce is coating them thickly, serve.

Bake Some Cranberry Sweet Potato Scones for Wintry Breakfasts

Whole Grain Cranberry Sweet Potato Scones

Drizzle your cranberry sweet potato scones with a pop of cranberry pink

Not Just For Holidays Anymore

Did you know that Wisconsin is the biggest producer of cranberries? Take that California, with your sunny, temperate weather. The snowy Midwest is the source of 60% of the bright red berries that we eat by the bushel at the holidays. As we lead up to Thanksgiving, we need our traditional foods, and suddenly the scarlet berry is in everything from sauce to these Cranberry Sweet Potato Scones.

The hardworking cranberry growers would love it if we embraced the cranberry all year long, and not just as something to pop into dishes from November to January. This native born superfood is poised and ready to become a part of your meal planning year ’round, in the form of sweetened dried cranberries, frozen cranberries, and juice.

You eat blueberries in winter, why not cranberries in summer?

Fresh, Frozen or Dried-Subbing is Easy

Just remember, these scones will be just as good any other time of the year, and you can use frozen or dried cranberries, no problem. To use frozen, use the same volume, and just stir them in frozen, then bake 5 minutes longer. To use dried, use 1/2 the volume and chop them coarsely, and bake the same amount of time.

Try my Cranberry Sauced Sage-Quinoa Croquettes, or a simple blended Cranberry Maple Frappe for more delicious cranberry experiences.

Cranberry Sweet Potato Scones

Take a bite, cranberry sweet potato scones with crunchy streusel

There’s tons of research on the health benefits of cranberries up at the Cranberry Institute. Suffice to say, these are some amazing berries, full of Vitamin C, polyphenols, and other phytochemicals that fight disease and cell damage. A cup of raw cranberries has 25% of the Vitamin C and 20% of the Manganese you need for a day, with a few other trace minerals.

It’s really all about the phytochemicals, which show great promise in preventing cancer and other diseases. Anything this red has to be full of good antioxidants, and they are. There are studies showing that regular consumption of cranberries and their juice prevents heart disease, lowers cholesterol, and more.

Cranberry Sweet Potato Scones

Serve these to a crowd, or save them for yourself

Cranberry Sweet Potato Scones, with or without Extras

If you are looking to simplify, you can always make these scones without the streusel and the glaze. The sweet potato and cranberry part is exciting enough on its own. But if you want a little more crunch and curb appeal, you might as well gild the lily a little.

I love using the cranberry juice to make the glaze, and making good use of the color of the juice. No food color needed, just natural pigments. The tangy, tart juice is perfect with the sugar, giving it just enough bite to be interesting, with very little effort.

Cranberry Sweet Potato Scones

You really don’t need any jam, these are already topped with extras

You don’t have to tell anyone that these are 100% whole grain, and have all the healthy goodness of white whole wheat. There is so much going on, with cinnamon and sweet potatoes and berries, that the mildly flavored flour just steps into the background.

Go ahead, bake some cranberry scones for the holidays.

Maybe you’ll still be baking them next Spring!

Cranberry Sweet Potato Scones

Tender, sweet scones are built on a barely detectable base of white whole wheat flour, and adroned with crunchy oat streusel and cranberry juice glaze.

Course Breakfast
Servings 8
Author Robin Asbell


  • 1/2 cup chilled coconut oil or organic butter


  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons hazelnuts toasted, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Scone Dough

  • 2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour or ww pastry
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 cup pureed sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries


  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pure cranberry juice approximately


  1. First, measure and chill the coconut oil. Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

  2. Make the streusel by mixing the oats, hazelnuts, sugar, cinnamon and salt, and chill.

  3. In a large bowl, combine the white whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. Stir to mix.

  4. Grate the chilled coconut oil or butter into the flour mixture, tossing to coat.

  5. In a medium bowl, stir the sweet potato, maple, milk and vanilla. Stir the mixture into the flour mixture, and when it is nearly mixed in, stir in the cranberries.

  6. Lightly flour the counter, and scrape the dough onto the flour. Pat and shape into a disk about 3/4 inch thick. Cut in eight wedges, then sprinkle the streusel mixture over the wedges and pat to adhere.

  7. Carefully transfer the scones to the baking pan, leaving a 2 inch pace between wedges. Bake for 15-18 minutes, just until firm and golden around the edges. Cool on a rack.

  8. When the scones are cool, mix the powdered sugar and cranberry juice in a cup, then drizzle over the cooled scones. Let the glaze dry, then store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Feed America with “Goya Gives” Coconut Milk and Dig into Jamaican Rice and Peas

Jamaican Rice and Gungo Peas

Taste the Tropics and Give Back with Goya

Goya Gives Back

‘Tis the season! This fast-moving month between Thanksgiving and the end of the year can be a flurry of shopping, cooking, and family togetherness. To make life just a little easier, I’m thrilled to bring you a chance to give a gift, simply by buying something you probably already buy. During the months of November and December, when you buy Goya brand coconut milk and coconut cream, Goya will give food to a food bank somewhere in the US. So, while you enjoy this delicious Rice and Peas recipe, or anything else you make with coconut milk, you will be feeding someone less fortunate.

Stock Up on Coconut Milk

It might be a good time to stock up! I know I’m always running out of coconut milk. I keep a few cans in the pantry because it’s great for Thai, Jamaican, Indian and other cookery, baking, desserts, sauces, even smoothies.

Because I’m a Meatless Monday blogger, I was offered some Goya products to try out, and included in the package was a can of pigeon peas. In the US, you don’t hear much about pigeon peas, also known as “gullah peas,” so seeing that can prompted a very pleasant memory.

Jamaican Memories

Several years ago, we made a trip to Negril, Jamaica, at Christmastime. Of course, in Jamaica, it’s always about 70 degrees and sunny, and the Christmas decorations look fabulous on the palm trees. The white sand beaches are gorgeous, too.

Robin Asbell on the beach in Jamaica

Can I help but love the foods that remind me of this place?

I love to learn about the food whenever I travel, but in Negril, when I asked our driver, Jim, about cooking classes, he kept telling me that there were none. I kept pestering him, finally offering $100 for someone to come to our hotel, where we had a shared kitchen. The next day, he brought his girlfriend, Lovey, and together we made fresh coconut milk, callaloo, ackee, a rundown made with a fish that had been pulled from the water moments before, and of course, rice and peas.

Jamaican food

A Homestyle Cooking Class at the Hotel

They told me that gungo peas are a Christmas tradition. The produce stand in front of the hotel was selling the round, green peas freshly shelled, and with a list he jotted down, I bought everything for our feast for a few bucks. We spent a lovely afternoon making coconut milk in the blender, stewing greens and frying ackee, the egg-like fruit that is served for breakfast all over Jamaica. Then we sat down to a meal of real, homemade Jamaican food, with none of the faux Jamaican dishes that the resorts served.

It was one of the most memorable meals in a lifetime of memorable meals.

So, when my package of Goya foods arrived, I knew I would soon be cooking up a big pot of rice and peas, with coconut milk, pigeon peas, and for a little healthy twist, short grain brown rice.

Jamaican Rice and Peas

Merry Christmas with Jamaican Rice and Gungo Peas

The rice and peas we made in Negril was a little plainer than this, with no spices, just the coconut milk and rice and peas. For this one, I wanted a few more of the flavors that were in the rest of the meal, so I added fresh turmeric, a jalapeno, a tomato, some garlic and ginger. Using brown rice meant it cooked longer, so I stirred the peas in after it was cooked, so they wouldn’t get mushy.

You could build this into a full meal with my Jamaican Curried Greens.


Jamaican Rundown Greens

Jamaican Rundown Greens

I hope you’ll give my rice and peas a try, and buy some Goya coconut milk and coconut cream. I feel a little bit warmer inside after eating a meal that feeds others.

Especially when it reminds me of warm and sunny Jamaica.

Goya Gives Back

Here’s more info on the promotion:

*For every can of GOYA® Coconut Milk and GOYA® Cream of Coconut purchased from 11/1/17 – 12/31/17, Goya Foods, as part of their “Goya Gives” initiative, will donate an average of 4 oz. of Goya food products to Feeding America® to help provide balanced meals to food banks nationwide. Guaranteed minimum donation of 600,000 pounds from this offer combined with similar offers during the period 6/1/17-5/31/18. Learn more about Feeding America and how it supports local food banks at

Jamaican Rice and Gullah Peas

Try a tropical twist on Christmas with this lush, coconut-laced rice and pea dish. If you can't find pigeon peas, use kidney beans.

Course Main Course
Servings 4
Author Robin Asbell


  • 4 scallions white and green parts separated
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh turmeric chopped
  • 1 large jalapeno chopped
  • 1 large tomato chopped
  • 1 cup short grain brown rice
  • 1 15 ounce can Goya coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 15 ounce can pigeon peas drained
  • cilantro for garnish


  1. Chop the white parts of the scallions, chop the green parts and save for the end. In a 2 quart pot, warm the olive oil over medium high heat and add the white parts of the scallions, stir for a few seconds, then add the garlic. Stir. Add the ginger, turmeric, jalapeno and tomato and stir until the jalapeno is slightly softened, about a minute.

  2. Add the rice and stir, then add the coconut milk, water and salt and stir, then raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to low, and cook for about 35 minutes.

  3. Uncover, and if the rice is tender, stir in the peas and reserved scallion greens. Cover and let steam for about 5 minutes. Serve garnished with cilantro.

Try Sushi for Thanksgiving-With Wild Rice, Sweet Potatoes, and Apple!

Maple Roasted Sweet Potato, Wild Rice and Hazelnut Sushi for Thanksgiving

Shake up Thanksgiving with Sushi!

Try Thanksgiving Sushi, Really

Last week, I posted an updated Shepherd’s Pie, with a few delicious tweaks that made it oh so delicious. This week, I’m giving you a Thanksgiving option that might seem a little bit radical. Are you ready for Thanksgiving Sushi?

Before you hit the brakes, let me tell you just what qualifies this sushi to serves as an appetizer or side at this most hide-bound and traditional of meals. First, the sushi rice is laced with wild rice, a Thanksgiving regular. Inside the roll, you have sweet potatoes that have been roasted in a maple syrup and soy sauce glaze. Then there are crisp apples alongside. To take it a step further, a dab of sage-laced mayonnaise, and crunchy roasted hazelnuts complete the theme.

Are you with me? Good.

If you are sharing a meal with people who love sushi, or just a bunch of people who like a little something different, this could be your new tradition.


Thanksgiving Sushi

You Can Make Simple, Round Rolls, Too

It’s still sushi, with vinegar-laced, tender sushi rice, nori, and the usual dipping sauces and condiments. Trust, me, all the flavors work together. I love the snap of the honeycrisp apples and toasty hazelnut chunks.

Thanksgiving Sushi

Arrange Your Sushi Like a Flower

Sushi may seem intimidating, but don’t worry. You can make it at home. I did use an bamboo rolling mat, or takisu, to make the rolls, and then shape the roll into petal forms. It’s such an easy trick, once I show people at my sushi classes, they get it right away. If you don’t have a mat, you can use plastic wrap to form the roll, too.

One caveat: you do need to use real, hand harvested wild rice for the filling. It cooks in the same amount of time as sushi rice, so you can cook them together. If you must use cultivated wild rice, cook it separately and fold it in. But seriously, the real thing is worth seeking out.

Thanksgiving Sushi with Hazelnuts

Pretty Little Sushi Rolls for Thanksgiving

Have a great holiday meal, no matter what you serve. This sushi would be a perfect meal for the week after, too!

Thanksgiving Vegan Sushi

It’s Easy to Make Your Sushi Into Petal Shapes

Thanksgiving Sushi with Wild Rice, Sweet Potatoes, and Apple

Ditch those tired sweet potato sides, and try roasting slices of sweet potato with maple, tamari and sesame oil, then rolling it in sushi with wild rice, hazelnuts, and crisp apple.


  • 12 ounces sweet potato a small one
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon tamari
  • 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 cups sushi rice
  • 1/2 cup real wild rice
  • 2 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1 large honeycrisp
  • 6 nori sheets
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts toasted, skinned and chopped
  • wasabi, pickled ginger, soy sauce for dipping


  1. Put the sushi rice into a bowl of cold water and swirl and swish until the water turns white, then pour off the water, drain well. Put washed rice, wild rice and 2 1/4 cups water in pot on stove and bring to a simmer. Stir and cover, lower heat. Cook 15 minutes, until water is absorbed; stir, cover, and cool. Stir together vinegar and sugar, stir into rice.
  2. While rice is cooking, heat oven to 400 degrees. Slice sweet potato into long french fry shapes, toss with maple, tamari and sesame oil on a sheet pan. Roast uncovered for 15 minutes, then turn the strips and bake for 20 minutes longer, until tender when pierced with a paring knife. Remove to rack to cool.
  3. Slice the apple into 1/2 inch thick batons, about the same size as the sweet potato pieces. Mix the mayo with sage in a small cup.
  4. To assemble, place a sheet of nori on a bamboo rolling mat. spread 3/4 cup cooked rice on each sheet of nori, leaving a strip about 1 inch wide along the top edge exposed. Sprinkle hazelnuts over the rice. Smear a teaspoon of mayonnaise across the bottom of the rice. Lay two rows of strips of sweet potato on the bottom third of the rice, place a couple rows of apple. Brush water on exposed nori. Roll up with even pressure, lay with seam side down to seal.
  5. To make the flower petal shape, use the mat to shape by pressing down on one side after you've made the roll, using the mat to create the angle down to a point.
  6. Let sit to firm up for a few seconds, then slice with moistened serrated knife into 6 to 8 slices per roll. Arrange each on a plate. Sprinkle hazelnuts over the slices, and garnish with wasabi, pickled ginger, and shoyu or tamari for dipping.











Try Roasted Garlic Parsnip Spinach Pie With Your Holiday Sides

Thanksgiving Sides to Share

A Thanksgiving Side that Everyone Will Love

Thanksgiving is all about Thanksgiving Sides

Has your search for the perfect Thanksgiving menu started yet? I won’t decide on the final picks until it’s time to shop, but I like to let some ideas percolate in my mind for a few weeks prior. The days fly by, and it’s far better to have my Thanksgiving sides in mind than to be blindsided by the big day.

Thanksgiving sides are a big deal to me, and most meatless diners, because they are our way to integrate into the traditional Thanksgiving feast. Someone else can make a turkey, we bring our best Thanksgiving sides, and plan to eat them as main courses. It all makes for a great spread, and in my own way, I tempt my friends and family to crowd that plate with plant-based food, perhaps nudging into the space where another slice of turkey would go.

They can save that for tomorrow’s lunch.

 Bringing People Together

There are plenty of reasons to avoid your family, but food should not be one of them. This holiday is about giving thanks, and is a throwback to ancient harvest celebrations. It can be as pagan or religious as you make it, or you can focus on the mashed potatoes and keep it all about the food.

I’m lucky to be a guest this year, invited to bring sides to share with one of my oldest and dearest friends, and her extended family and friends, and I can’t wait. Because I don’t have to do the heavy lifting of making the main course, I’m free to explore the Thanksgiving side dish, in all its harvest season glory.

Roasted Garlic Parsnip Shepherd's Pie

Creamy Spinach and Veggies Topped with Oven-Crisped Parsnip Puffs

So I’m trying out this creamy, herb-laced version of shepherd’s pie. Usually shepherd’s pie is covered with a deep, boring layer of of mashed potatoes. So, I roasted some whole garlic cloves until they were sticky and sweet, and pureed them with parsnips. I love parsnips, and can’t believe that I still meet people who don’t know what they are. Try my Easy Thai Roasted Red Curry with Parsnips, or my Comforting Parsnip Soup, to explore the long white root. You can pick your milk- almond, coconut, or if you are into dairy, go for half and half. As you can see from the photo, I did a quick piping job- it only takes a few minutes to pop them into a piping bag and make decorative dollops on top of the filling. Of course, you can just spread them on top, too.

Roasted Garlic Parsnip Topped Shepherd's Pie

Just-piped parsnips on top of my shepherd’s pie.

As I contemplated the usual shepherd’s pie filling, I wanted to freshen it up, so I went for spinach. I’ve found that dishes with spinach appeal to just about everyone, and the bright green just gives the casserole curb appeal. A few carrots for color contrast, a creamy sauce, and a generous dose of fresh sage, and I have a  winning Thanksgiving side.

Parsnip Topped Shepherds Pie Thanksgiving Side

Just a Quick Pass Under The Broiler

Make Your Thanksgiving Side into a Main

For the vegetarians, you can make it a main with a package of seitan, a can of mock duck, or a can of white beans. Just drain and stir into the spinach mixture before topping. Gluten-free folks can use white rice flour instead of unbleached for thickening the sauce.

Because making sure there is a good option for everyone is one way to share love and compassion this Thanksgiving. As well as great food.

Roasted Garlic Parsnip Spinach Shepherd's Pie

For a hearty, colorful side dish, make this creamy, comforting casserole. For a hefty main, add some chopped mock duck or cooked white beans to the spinach filling.

Course Side Dish
Servings 6
Author Robin Asbell


  • 8 cloves garlic whole, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds parsnips 5 cups chopped
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk or milk
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper


  • 12 ounces spinach washed
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large onions chopped
  • 2 large carrots chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unbleached flour or white rice flour for GF
  • 3 tablespoons fresh sage chopped
  • 1 cups non-dairy milk or milk
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 2 teaspoons tamari
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces seitan, or a can of drained white beans optional


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 F. Place the garlic cloves and olive oil in a small metal bowl and cover with foil, and roast for 20 minutes. The garlic should be very soft and browned. Take out to cool.
  2. In a large pot, place the parsnips and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium low and simmer until the parsnips are very soft. Test by piercing with a paring knife. Drain well.
  3. Transfer the garlic and oil to a blender or food processor, and add the parsnips and salt. In a food processor, puree completely before adding the milk. In a blender, add the milk and puree. When smooth, transfer to a large piping bag with a large star tip, or just reserve to spread on the pie.
  4. Prepare a 9x13 inch pan or other medium casserole.
  5. For filling: Boil a large pot of water and drop the spinach in, cook for about 2 minutes, then drain. Rinse with cold water, squeeze out, then spread on a thick kitchen towel, roll up, and squeeze until very dry.
  6. In a large pot, heat the olive oil and saute the onions and carrots until golden and tender, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the onions in the pan and stir to coat the vegetables with flour and eliminate any lumps. Gradually stir in the milk and stock, and cook over medium heat until thick. Add salt, tamari and pepper and stir. Take off the heat and stir the spinach (and seitan or beans, if using) into the sauce, then spread in the 9x13 inch casserole.

  7. Pipe the parsnips on top of the spinach filling as shown, or place dollops on top and spread them with a spatula. Spritz with a little olive oil, then bake at 400 for 35 minutes. I cranked up the broiler and watched carefully for a few minutes to get my parsnip topping nicely browned.











Make a Mindful Moment with Homemade Chai

Chai Tea in a Let That Shit Go Mug

Really, Let it all go

Get Mindful with Hot Chai


Are you busy? Do you feel a little stressed? You’re never too busy to find a moment to be mindful.

I promise.

We’re all busy. Any time I ask someone how she is, invariably, she’s a little overwhelmed, a little stretched, and just plain busy. Of course, I’m really talking about myself, and the fact that I routinely sum up my existence with that oversimplified, uninformative word, “busy.” So, I’m trying to carve out moments for mindful focus, and let that busy “stuff” go.

You’re so much more than busy

So where exactly do we find time to break away from our cycling thoughts and worries, and take a moment of mindfulness? Perhaps place ourselves in the larger scheme of things, rather than in the minutiae of daily tasks? Of course, it would be great if we all meditated every day.

I even took a mindfulness course this Spring, and meditated almost every day for the whole eight weeks of study. Everyone in the class felt so much better when we took that half hour every day. Despite out best intentions, I’m sure I’m not the only one who hasn’t kept up the habit.

But my meditation teacher said it best: “You always have time to take a breath.”

Just a breath, if you do it right, can separate you from the monkey mind that chatters in your head all day. Just breathe.

Let it all go for a moment

I’ve come up with my own little practice, if you’ll indulge me. All it takes is a cup of hot tea. You can make the chai recipe I’ve provided, and that will add a warm, exotic scent to your mindfulness exercise. But you can just grab a cup of joe from the office pot, or pour hot water over a slice of lemon, if that’s your thing.

As long as it’s hot.

So here’s how I step away from my busy mind for just a few minutes, when I really need to let it go.

Chai Meditation

Pour yourself a mugful of hot chai. Sit down, grasping the hot mug with both hands to feel the warmth, and press the warm mug to your solar plexus. Breathe.

Focus on your breathing for a minute or so, just breathe in the scent of the tea , breathe out. If thoughts arise, focus back on your breath and let the thoughts pass away, you can even imagine they are floating away with the steam drifting up from your cup. As you focus on your breath, focus on the warmth of the cup, and the surfaces of your palms and chest that are warmed by it.

Breathe in the scent, feel the mug, and really pay attention to it. Keep letting your thoughts fall away, and don’t worry about anything. Just focus on the warmth, and the tea.

Take a sip occasionally.

In this moment, just be present, not thinking about the past, or the future, just about this warm, fragrant cup resting against your center. It’s enough.

Right now, you are feeling the comfort and warmth of a hot drink. If you expand your thoughts outward, imagine that some of your neighbors are also enjoying a hot drink, and feeling just as you do. Expand to your whole neighborhood, and then your town, and on and on. Right now, you are sharing in a basic human sensation, with millions of people. Every one of us needs this comfort, right now.

It makes all your worries seem smaller, doesn’t it?

By the time the tea starts to cool, you may want to get back to doing something else. But you’ll feel better, after taking a moment to just be in the moment.

I hope that you’ll give yourself just a few minutes of stillness, and enjoy my recipe for chai. Mindfulness works.

Homemade Chai Masala and Mindful Chai

Make this spice mix yourself, so you can make a lightly spiced hot or cold chai at home. That way, you control the sweetness, and you can use coconut milk, almond milk, or dairy milk, for a custom drink.

Course Drinks
Servings 6
Author Robin Asbell



  • 4 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon


  • 5 cups water
  • 4 teaspoons masala above
  • 2 tablespoons black tea leaves or your favorite
  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • 1/2 cup honey or other sweetener to taste


  1. Make masala of ground spices and whole fennel seeds. Mix well and store tightly covered.
  2. For tea, put masala and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, add the milk and vanilla if using, return to the boil, add tea and steep for 4 minutes off the heat. Strain the tea and stir in honey to taste.

Smoky Trumpet Mushroom Pizza is Perfect for Fall

Smoky Trumpet Mushroom Pizza

Smoky Trumpet Mushrooms and Roasted Squash for a Fall Pizza

Smoky Trumpet Mushroom Pizza Celebrates the Mushroom

Remember when wild mushrooms were, well, wild? Oysters, shiitakes, all the wild mushrooms had to be hunted and foraged, and only made brief appearances during mushroom season. Now, we have mushroom growing operations that have made great mushrooms a year-round thing. So Smoky Trumpet Mushroom Pizza can happen anytime of year, but right now, it feels so right.

Get To Know Your Mushrooms

In the great recycling scheme of the natural world, mushrooms occupy a fascinating niche. Existing invisibly as a fine network of fibers underground or symbiotically on a host, the organisms whose fruits we know as mushrooms live off the living and the dead. While that might sound creepy, these natural wonders produce some of the tastiest things in the produce aisle.

The mushrooms we buy are actually the fruiting bodies of much larger networks of microscopic fibers, called hyphae. Each specific mushroom grows this network next to the food it is capable of digesting. Some varieties are less picky, living on decomposing leaves or animal dung. The “mycorrhizal” symbionts, like truffles and chanterelles, live in happy balance with their host tree, synthesizing sugars from the environment and sharing them even as they borrow other nutrients. A few parasitic mushrooms eventually kill their host plants.

The “saphrophytic” mushrooms that eat decomposing matter have proven to be the easiest for humans to grow. Most of the mushrooms we buy are cultivated, using decaying matter as a growing medium. Yes, those black crumbs at the base of your button mushroom are manure, but it’s heat-sterilized manure, if that makes you feel better.

Cooking With Mushrooms

The unique biology of the mushroom makes it a joy to cook with. Mostly water, but with no fat, your mushroom will yield completely different textures depending on how you handle it. Raw, most mushrooms are soft and springy. Seared, they can develop a snappy crust that holds the concentrated juices inside. Chopped and cooked over lower heat, the mushroom pours out its liquids and becomes meltingly tender-but if you keep cooking, it will reduce down to an intensely flavorful essence and become firmer as you go.

Seared Trumpet Mushrooms

Seared on a Hot Pan

For this pizza, I quartered meaty, fresh trumpet mushrooms and tossed them with olive oil, smoked paprika and smoked salt. I pre-heated a heavy baking sheet in a 425 F. oven, then scattered the mushrooms on the hot pan. The heat of the oven seared the outside of the mushroom quarters, creating firm edges and intensifying the flavor inside.

Paired with roasted squash and aged Asiago or your favorite vegan cheese, this is a fantastic pizza to celebrate the miracle of the mushroom.

Whole wheat pizza crust recipe

Smoky Trumpet Mushroom and Squash Pizza

No need to fire up the grill, just use a hot oven and smoky salt and smoked paprika to give these meaty mushrooms a fire-kissed flavor.

Course Main Course
Servings 2
Author Robin Asbell


  • 2 8 ounce whole wheat pizza crusts
  • 1 cup peeled and cubed squash
  • 8 ounces trumpet mushrooms
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • smoked salt
  • smoked paprika
  • 1 cup shredded Asiago or non-dairy cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil shredded


  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Put your pizza crusts on pans for baking.

  2. Toss the squash with olive oil and salt, roast for about 20 minutes, until just tender.

  3. Quarter the trumpet mushrooms vertically. Put n a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with smoked salt and paprika. Place a heavy baking sheet in the oven to pre-heat for five minutes, then spread the mushrooms on the hot pan. Roast for 20 minutes, turning the pieces over on the pan halfway through. Depending on the size of the mushrooms, you may need more time to get them browned and slightly shrunken. Let cool.

  4. Cover the pizza crusts with squash and mushrooms, drizzle with more olive oil, if desired. Sprinkle with your cheese of choice, and bake for about 15 minutes. Serve hot.







Roast Wedges of Purple Cabbage for a Dramatic Side

Purple Cabbage Wedges, Roasted with Herbs

Purple Cabbage Wedges with Lemony Aioli

How often do you eat purple cabbage? Is it relegated to a supporting role in salads, where a few slivers give your greens a little pop of color? If you haven’t celebrated the awesome purple cabbage by giving it a starring part yet, it’s time to give it a solo.

Your dinner table needs a little drama, beyond the usual veggies on the side. These deep purple, wedge-shaped little sculptures add an architectural element to your “tablescape.” When your family tires of steamed broccoli, purple cabbage wedges will wake them up.

And don’t forget the steak knife. You get to carve these up like filets of cabbage.

Purple Cabbage is Just as Cool as Kale

Now that we have brought kale from its role as a salad bar garnish to a respected vegetable, it’s time that we did the same for purple cabbage. Kale got so much buzz for its antioxidant levels, but purple cabbage is no slouch in that department. There are 20 antioxidant flavonoids and 15 phenols in cabbage, and purple cabbage adds the health benefits of anthocyanins, the pigments that are so colorful and protective at the same time.

Purple CAbbage Wedges Before Roasting

Purple Cabbage Wedges Before Roasting

Those very pigments are the reason that I like to use purple cabbage solo. If you’ve ever thought it would be pretty to add some to a soup, you may have experienced the awesome power of anthocyanins. The potent purples will leak out and tint the whole dish. My batch of red lentil soup that turned murky brown in the refrigerator overnight was so visually unappealing that even I had a hard time eating it.

High Heat and Herbs

That’s why this dish is a perfect way to put purple cabbage on the table. Like all cabbages, it is both sturdy and wet, so so high heat roasting is a fantastic way to soften it, sweeten it, and get some tasty caramelized crispy bits around the edges. Savory herbs and olive oil accentuate the sweetness, and make it a great dish to pair with Mediterranean flavors.

Roasted Purple Cabbage Wedges

Soft in the Middle, Crispy Brown on the Edges

The aioli couldn’t be easier, it’s a trick all the restaurants have been using for years. Just start with good mayo and gussy it up with some olive oil, lemon and garlic. It’s infinitely faster then making your own fresh aioli. It also gives you the choice of what kind of mayo you want to start with- there are so many options, you can go vegan, high fat, low fat, whatever pleases you.

Learn to Love Purple Cabbage

So buy yourself a purple cabbage. It will be a strikingly good bargain, one of the cheaper foods you will buy all week. Make wedges. If you save a raw wedge or two, in a zipper-top bag, you can sliver them into salads and over bowls. But go ahead and roast the rest.

Shake up your veggie routine with a platter of these purple cabbage wedges, and you’re sure to please.


Roasted Purple Cabbage Wedges with Lemony Aioli

Use that purple cabbage for more than salads, and make these dramatic, deep purple wedges. A hot oven and some olive oil and herbs makes the cabbage soft and sweet inside, and crispy around the edges.

Author Robin Asbell


  • 1 medium red cabbage
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary and thyme
  • coarse salt
  • freshly cracked pepper
  • 1 large lemon zested and juiced
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise your choice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped


  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F, and if you have convection, set it to 400 F.

  2. Cut the bottom of the stem from the cabbage, and cut it in half vertically. Slice it in wedges, about 2 inches thick at the widest part, leaving the core intact.

  3. Spread olive oil on a sheet pan, and place the cabbage wedges on the oil. Sprinkle with herbs, salt, pepper, and more oil.

  4. Roast for about 20 minutes, then carefully turn the wedges and roast for 10 minutes longer. The leaves will be crisped around the edges. Let cool.

  5. For aioli, stir a tablespoon or so of lemon juice and a glug of olive oil into the mayo, stir in parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed.

  6. Serve wedges napped with aioli and sprinkled with lemon zest and more herbs.










Orange Appeal; Savory and Sweet, Recipes for a Kiss of Orange

Orange Appeal by Jamie Schler

Savory Orange, Onion and Olive Focaccia photo by Ilva Beretta from Orange Appeal

Orange Appeal, Savory and Sweet

Oranges are one of the fruits we take for granted, aren’t they? Thanks to their keeping qualities and a steady supply on grocer’s shelves, we expect to be able to pack a navel in our lunches whenever it strikes us. But really, oranges deserve our full attention, with their balance of juicy sweetness and bracing tartness. There are culinary possibilities galore in the blazing orange pulp and zest. These fruits are way more than juice.

All Oranges, All The Time

Just in time for citrus season, we have a new gem of a cookbook, Orange Appeal; Savory and Sweet, by Jamie Schler, Photos by Ilva Beretta, published by Gibbs Smith.

I know Jamie Schler as the brilliant writer behind the Life’s a Feast blog, where she writes evocatively about her life, food, and France. She also collaborates with talented photographer Ilva Beretta on the Plated Stories blog, and Ms Beretta did the beautiful photos for this book, as well.

Jamie Schler grew up in Florida, with all the oranges she could eat, and never tires of the sweet, tart flavor and citrusy perfume of her favorite fruit. Schler spent her childhood smack in the middle of the most celebrated citrus growing region in the World. In her home, oranges, grapefruits, tangerines and other juicy citrus fruits were always on hand for meals and snacks.

But when she grew up, learned to cook, and delved into the foods of other cultures, she realized that she had been missing out. Eating fresh fruit had been enough, for all those early years, but her family had never really cooked or baked with the beloved orange.


Orange Appeal-Jamie Schler
As Jamie traveled the world, and became a professional cook and food writer, her love of oranges never waned. But she began to dig deeper, investigating the play between sweet, sour, savory, and spice. Orange Appeal is the culmination of years of creative play with the sunshine drenched fruit.
Savory and Sweet, in Every Course
Orange Appeal is a beautiful book, packed with information and unique recipes. It starts with a guide to the many varieties of orange that will be appearing in stores this winter, just in case you are a little baffled by blood oranges, or unsure as to what a sour orange is really all about.
The recipes, covering everything from sauces, dips and dressings, to starters, all the way to desserts, are sure to whet your appetite, especially with the mouthwatering photos. Vegetarians will find plenty to like here, even though fish and meats are well-represented, too. If you like the sound of Orange Rosemary Wedding Day Chicken, you can always make it with mock chicken, or even tofu, if you know your way around the kitchen.
It’s time to start seeing oranges, for the kitchen chameleons that they are. Orange Appeal will open up a whole new world of orange scented, sunny dishes that just might help you get through the winter darkness.
Try this delicious recipe, and check out Orange Appeal; Savory And Sweet.

Savory Orange, Onion, and Olive Focaccia

Makes 1 large 10 x 14-inch (25 x 35 cm) or larger rectangle

WHETHER BAKED UP THICK AND FLUFFY or rolled out thin and crispy, this focaccia highlights the delicious combination of onion, orange, and olives, making a fantastic, unusual bread for dinner, a snack, or as part of a light meal. The amount of topping you use will depend on the size of your focaccia as well as the size of your oranges and onions; just know that the flavors mellow and the onions shrink when baked. The focaccia is best eaten warm from the oven but is excellent eaten when cooled.

1 1/2 tablespoons granulated white sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons (1/4 ounce / 7 g) active dry yeast

1 1/4 cups (315 ml) warm water, divided

4 cups (19 ounces / 540 g)  all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for kneading

2 teaspoons salt

3 oranges, finely zested, about 1 1/2 tablespoons

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 to 2 oranges

1 to 1 1/2 yellow or red onions

1 cup (100 g) cured black, green, or purple olives

Sea salt flakes, preferably smoked, coarse salt, or Orange Salt (page 22)

Freshly ground black pepper,  to taste

Fresh oregano or thyme leaves, optional

Place the sugar, yeast, and 1/4 cup (65 ml) of the water in a bowl, and let stand for 15 minutes until the yeast has dissolved and the mixture is foamy. Place 3 3/4 cups (500 g) of the flour, salt, and zest in a large mixing bowl and rub together with your fingers until blended and there are no clumps of zest; make a well in the center of the flour. Pour 2 tablespoons oil, the yeast mixture, and remaining water into the well and stir with a wooden spoon until a rough dough forms; if there are any pockets of flour that won’t blend in, add 1–2 tablespoons more warm water at a time, only as needed.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead in the remaining 1/4 cup (40 g) flour. Knead the dough for 6 minutes, dusting both the dough and the work surface lightly with more flour to keep the dough from sticking. The dough should be soft, smooth, and elastic.

Oil a large, clean mixing bowl with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Place the ball of dough in the bowl, turning to coat the surface of the dough with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise for 1 hour until double in size.

Prepare the toppings by peeling the oranges, cutting away all the white pith, and slicing across the core into 1/4-inch (1/2 cm) slices, about 6 slices per orange. If you prefer, slice each round into 4 triangles. Peel and trim the onion and slice as thinly as possible—cut the onion in half if easier—separating the slices into rings. (continued)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

Scrape the risen dough onto a lightly floured work surface and roll out into a 10 x 14-inch (25 x 35 cm) rectangle. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and roll and press back into shape. If you like, use wet fingertips to make indentations across the surface of the dough where a little oil can pool. Brush dough with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and arrange the oranges on the surface; pressing gently into the dough. Spread the onions evenly over the focaccia. Dot with the olives, pressing firmly into the dough, and dust with salt, pepper, and oregano. Bake for 30–40 minutes until risen and golden.







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