Is it time to get back to “normal” ?

I know so many people are itching to get back out there, to get back to pre COVID-19 “normal.” But the truth is we are far from that possibility. At some point we will all, personally, be touched by this virus. 

Today, July 2, 2020 there have been 516,000 deaths reported worldwide from COVID-19.

FWIW I think in the end we will find that this is a significant underrepresentation of the numbers as it now appears that this virus was circulating for months before we caught wind of it. I bet anything that thousands of people in the US, or even tens of thousands who were thought to have died from pneumonia or stroke actually died of COVID-19 related pneumonia or stroke.

But let’s stick with reported numbers for now. In the US alone today total confirmed cases in the country have reached more than 2.7 million, with more than 130,000 deaths. 

And it’s not just old people or those with chronic illnesses who are falling prey to this virus.


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Product Review: Chia Goodness Cereal


I was skeptical about this cereal because of the whole Chia pet thing. I mean, you eat that?

But, as it is it’s my job to taste all things healthy I went ahead and bought Chia Goodness Cereal to give it a try. And I’ll be…it’s actually good!

Chia, or salvia hispanica is an extremely nutritious seed with high levels of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. The brand Chia Goodness has mixed chia seeds with various things to come up with some mighty delicious cereal. The only deal breaker here for some may be texture. If you like tapioca you’re all good but if that texture doesn’t work for you, you should skip this cereal.

My son likes the apple almond cereal which has chia, buckwheat, hemp, dried fruit, a little bit of sweetener and of course, cinnamon. You prepare the cereal by adding milk (or milk alternative) and letting it soak for about 5 minutes before you eat it- I prefer to add double the amount of milk they recommend. We use unsweetened Tempt vanilla hemp milk and it is just the right amount of sweet. Personally I like this flavor mixed with the plain unsweetened version. There is also a chocolate/cocoa version that is delish…but that’s dessert, not breakfast.

You can add additional nuts, or a dollop of yogurt…or even some extra dried fruit if you’re they sweet type.

Gluten free, even.



-Dr Samantha

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Cook This: Hazelnut and Honey-Roasted Acorn Squash.

roasted acorn squashWhen I was in college I lived in a 75 year old poorly built house with only a wood stove for heat. In Oregon that would be bad enough but I was in Western Massachusetts. Somehow it became my job to get the stove going in the morning to get the house warmed up. I’d set my alarm for 6am so I could get the fire started and hop in the shower (thank goodness we did have a water heater.) After my shower the temp in the living room would be up to about 45 degrees on a good day. I would sit in front of the stove to dry my waist length hair while the house warmed up.  My 3 roommates would one by one emerge from their rooms with countless layers and most often wrapped in blankets or down sleeping bags. Our 4th “housemate” lived in an actual cabin another 20 yards into the woods. He had no bathroom or kitchen at all. He also had no job so he would typically wait until after we’d all left to shower and make breakfast.

But this story isn’t about the cold, it’s about squash.

That year we would each pitch in $25 a week and one of us would go to Bread and Circus (the big health food store a few towns over) and do the household shopping. We would take turns cooking. All vegan, all whole foods, and usually delicious.

One day our most eccentric housemate left as usual to do the shopping. He came home and a few hours later called an emergency house meeting. We sat in the living room and watched him pace around a bit. He was agitated, and excited. Once he had his audience he announced his big news. On his way to town to buy the groceries he passed a farmer selling butternut squash out of the back of his pickup. He pulled over and was somehow talked into buying a bushel of butternut squash.  There was even enough money left over, he beamed, to buy soy milk and oatmeal too! As we wondered exactly how many squashes comprised a bushel, and how many different ways we would have to eat it before we could go shopping again, the roommate opened our pantry to reveal that he had physically removed the bottom 5 shelves to make room for a 4 foot high stack of squash. First question answered.

Needless to say that was a long, long week. And we ate off of that bushel of squash for almost a year.

It was a solid decade before I could enjoy squash again.

Which leads me to today’s recipe: Hazelnut and Honey-Roasted Acorn Squash adapted from the same cookbook I used for my last post the Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook.


  • ¾ cup roasted hazelnuts (Pre-roasted or you can roast at 350 degrees and then peel off skins in a dish towel. Be careful though, I once caught a tray of nuts on fire doing this.)
  • ½ cup soy free Earth Balance
  • 1 TBSP honey
  • 2 medium acorn squash cut into 1 inch wedges
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 ºF

  1. In food processor pulse nuts until coarsely ground.
  2. Add Earth Balance (original recipe calls for butter) and pulse another 15-20 seconds until combined.
  3. Put in bowl and whisk in honey.
  4. Lay squash on baking sheet and slather with hazelnut butter.
  5. Roast 30 min or until squash is soft and topping is golden brown.

This can be served hot or reheated later. My four year old and I each took it for lunch a few days later and although the texture changed slightly, warming it up in the microwave worked just fine.

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Cook This: Causa (round 2)

My girlfriend Stephanie bought me a fabulous cookbook for my birthday called The Mitsitam Café Cookbook. The cookbook is recipes from the Smithsonian Museum Café and features American Indian (including Central and South American) recipes. The photographs are stunning and the recipes look divine. I was excited to see a causa recipe and decided to make it to compare it to the one I posted a few weeks back.

As usual I messed with the recipe based on what I had available so the following reflects my adjustments. It would have been even better with the sauce from the last round, or something similar.

Serves 4-6

  • 1 pound unpeeled purple potatoes
  • 1 pound unpeeled Yukon gold potatoes (we used regular yellow potatoes)
  • 3 TBSP cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 TBSP light olive oil or canola oil (taste preference)
  • ¾ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 thinly sliced white onions
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red, yellow, or orange peppers (we used orange, I would add red for color next time)
  • ½ cup green olives pitted and sliced or chopped
  • 2 hard boiled eggs (we used more- one egg per plate)

Place purple potatoes in one pot with salted cold water and cook until fork tender.

Place yellow potatoes in another pot with salted cold water and cook until fork tender.

Drain and cool to touch then peel each batch and put through a ricer or strainer keeping purple in one bowl and yellow in another.

Add  1 TBSP of oil, ½ tsp salt, and 1.5 TBSP lemon juice to each bowl. I’d recommend adding the lemon slowly so it doesn’t get too lemony. We overdid it a bit so my 4-year-old didn’t like them as much as the last version.

While potatoes are cooking sauté onions on a low flame until soft.

Add peppers and place lid on pan. Leave lid on until peppers are softened.

Remove lid and turn heat up. Slightly brown the onions.

Form potatoes into patties, and stack one purple and one yellow ‘puck’ with onion mixture in between and on top.

Sprinkle olives on top and place sliced egg on the plate.

For fun I made a yin-yang symbol with my patties. I was thinking it would make a cool appetizer for a dinner party. Maybe with Yucatan Pork Stew as the main dish? Hmmm…

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Cook This (or heat it up, anyway): Quick Meals.

quick mealsTo say it’s been a busy month would be the understatement of the century. Year end inventory. Two newly trained front desk folks. Patients trying to get in before their deductibles reset. Then our freshly trained, lovely new front desk hire was offered a job closer to home, with better hours and in the field she’s been hoping to break into. We’re sad to see her go and wish her joy and success in her new venture. Her replacement, 2 days into training found it wasn’t the right fit for her skill set or personality. Another round of hiring and tomorrow we start afresh with training for our fabulous new office assistant.

What does that have to do with cooking? It means I haven’t. My weekend cooking days for the last 7 weeks have been spent nose to the grindstone behind my desk instead of flitting about the kitchen in my apron and slippers. Pizza and take out for my family seems to be the only way to go. But wait! We don’t do pizza and take-out. So my husband has been making gourmet meals and having them waiting for me on the table when I get home. But wait! My husband couldn’t cook his way out of a paper bag (ok, that’s an exaggeration but really, it’s not pretty.)

So…here are some ideas for quick dishes (or meals) that don’t require much prep time. Not as good as putting all the time and love into it that I usually do, but still landing healthy food on the table.

1. Spinach and garlic. Take 3 boxes of frozen spinach and put in a strainer. Run under hot water until thawed. Squeeze out well. Throw a big splash of olive oil in a sauté pan and add 5 cubes of frozen garlic (Trader Joes) or a tsp of pre-chopped garlic from a jar (New Seasons.) Cook garlic for a few minutes until just starting to brown and add spinach. Toss for 3 minutes or until warm.

2. Chicken sausage. Pick up chicken sausage from the meat department from the health food store. Boil until cooked. Brown in a pan. We also sometimes cook it then slice it and brown it in little slices. Cook extra and freeze it then next time you can just pull it out of the freezer in the morning and it will be ready for dinner.

3. Quinoa. Bring two cups of water or stock (I like pacific simply stock) to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Add one cup of rinsed quinoa to the boiling liquid. Return to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. Check the quinoa to make sure the water is absorbed into the grain if not, leave on a little longer. Remove the pan from the heat and let it stand for a few minutes.Fluff with fork.

1+2+3= fabulous meal combo separate or all mixed in a pan prior to serving.

4. Salad with protein. Salad mix (wash it, even if it is “pre-washed,” trust me.) Grate carrots and beets (peel first) into the salad. Toss in a few handfuls of nuts or seeds. Consider a thinly sliced apple or pear. Maybe some cucumber? Whatever you’ve got that sounds good. Protein options- poach salmon in a little water with a squeeze of lemon, canned tuna mixed with a bit of organic mayo, sliced steak, chicken breasts, deli turkey from the health food store chopped up into bite sized pieces. Again, whatever you’ve got.

5. Roasted chicken. Get a cooked chicken from the store. Serve with steamed broccoli, a salad and whole grain bread with olive oil and garlic.

6. Hot dogs and beans (a staple at our house and a Brody tradition on Christmas eve- don’t ask). Walnut acres baked beans. Whatever your regional well treated non-chemmie chicken hot dog brand happens to be. Heat beans in pan with sliced hot dogs. Serve with 1 or 2 veggie side dishes.

7. Tomato soup. I adapted this recipe from the Muir Glen website. Follow instructions but you can use frozen basil cubes from Trader Joes if you don’t have fresh herbs, olive oil not butter, skip the sugar (tomatoes are sweet enough) and use mimiccreme instead of whipping cream. Also I use pacific simply chicken stock or just water for the broth. We use a hand blender, which I highly recommend as part of your kitchen set up. Serve with whole grain toast and spinach (as above), steamed broccoli, or side salad.

8.Guatemalica (yes, we made that up). We adopted our son from Guatemala and when we were visiting him it was easier not to haul down to the restaurant every night so we had plenty of dinners in our tiny hotel apartment. The stand by? Just what they would serve us in the restaurant for breakfast (desayuno chapin). Eggs sauteéd with onion and tomato, sliced avocado, refried beans (from a pouch) and corn tortillas. I’m not sure why refried beans in Guatemala come in a pouch and in America they come in a can but other than that we have repeated it countless times. In Guatemala they serve it with plantains, which we didn’t do in our apartment, but we often do here, I’ll post that recipe soon.

9. Pasta and meat sauce. Cook some whole grain pasta, any shape, any size. While it is cooking, sauté an onion in a fry pan. Add a pound of range fed beef, buffalo, ground turkey, ground chicken or TVP if you must. When cooked through add a jar of muir glen or your favorite pasta sauce. Check the label though, many brands of commercial sauce are sweetened with corn syrup. Don’t eat that. Add a bag or two of frozen spinach to the sauce- we usually thaw and squeeze it out first so it doesn’t get too watery. It would be even better to add fresh spinach but we’re more likely to have frozen around for those quick meal nights. You can serve this with a side veggie too.

I can think of a few more but this post is getting a bit long so I’ll call it here.


Dr Samantha

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Cook This: Causa (Peruvian Layered Potatoes)

peruvian food dish causaAbout a month ago I took a cooking class with my partners in cooking crime (J & E). The class was put on by a local Peruvian restaurant called Andina– by far my favorite restaurant in town. Not only did one of the chefs teach the class but Mama Doris, the owner of the restaurant, was on site to talk about Peruvian food and history as well as her own experience growing up and eating in Peru. As if that weren’t enough, the restaurant sommelier also came to pair wines with each course prepared. The class and the food were absolutely sublime.

Tonight I got together with J & E and we prepared dinner for our families and a few friends. We made several dishes from the Andina class and a few others from a class at another local restaurant called Trebol. More about that class later as for now I’d like to focus on one particular dish from the Andina class. Causa.

One Peruvian cuisine website says this about causa: “Causa is one of the most popular dishes all along Peru’s coast. Besides being delicious, the traditional causa is fairly economic and easy to prepare, making it accessible to the rich and the poor, great chefs and terrible cooks. Moreover, it’s a versatile dish that allows for many variations, both in the purée and in the fillings.”

Of course we didn’t follow the recipe verbatim and it wasn’t as amazing as it was in the class. But it was good. Very good. And it was pretty easy to boot. A scaled down version could easily make it to a family dinner table. One of the cool things about this dish is that the potatoes can be topped with many different things. At Andina they have 3 versions on their menu: chicken salad, green bean and cheese, and spicy tuna with crab salad and crispy shrimp.

The one we made was vegetarian with piquillo peppers, roasted squash and onions per the recipe. But please note that below is a simplified version to make it a little easier to do at home.

Potato Base

  • 2 lbs purple potato
  • 1 lbs limes, juiced and strained through a sieve
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 3 T canola oil

Put potatoes in a small saucepan and just cover with water. Add a few pinches of salt. (Prep “topping” below while potatoes are cooking.) Cook potatoes until fork soft, drain, and peel while hot. If they are too hot to handle use a dish towel. Put the peeled potatoes through a food mill or potato ricer, add canola oil and mix well with your hands. Once potatoes are cool, add lime juice and salt. Taste as you’re going until the mixture is slightly salty and tangy with a dough-like consistency that can be easily formed into balls.


  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1-8oz container of piquillo peppers (available at mexican or specialty markets)
  • 2 red onions
  • 1 Tbl kosher salt

Peel onion and take out root and stalk. Slice into ¼ inch rounds and place on cookie sheet (foil lined or not.) Cut squash in half and slice into ¼ inch rounds then peel the skin off. We used acorn but I think then neck of a butternut squash would work great for this dish. Put rounds on cookie sheet (again, foil lined or not.) Baste each round of onion and squash with olive oil. Flip and baste the other side. Cook about 15 min until soft and golden.

Sauce (Directly from the class…it was too amazing to mess with.)

  • ½ lb rocoto peppers (available in jars at mexican or specialty markets)
  • 1 lb quince paste
  • 1 T canola oil
  • 1 pinch of kosher salt

Slowly blend the pepper, quince paste and 2 tbl of lime juice. Add 1 T oil then a pinch of kosher salt to the blender, continuing to blend slowly. Add salt and/or lime to taste. The sauce should be tart and spicy. Put in a squeeze bottle if you have one. Or you can put in a ziploc baggie and cut a tiny little hole in the corner so when you squeeze the sauce comes out as a thin ribbon.


Divide potato dough into 4-6 servings and shape into hockey pucks. Plate each serving. Top with the piquillo pepper, roasted onions and squash. Decorate the plate with the sauce. We also put some on top and served it on the side. My 4 year old gave this dish a double thumbs-up.

Enjoy! (And go eat at Andina)

-Dr Samantha

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