Are you a pod person?

invasion of the body snatchers

Kevin McCarthy as Dr. Miles J. Bennell in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Well, not that kind of pod person. A Chia Pod person. You know, one that likes these cute little things:

chia pod

Vegan and 100% natural, Chia Pods provide a nutritious snack or breakfast option. And they’re portable–just toss one into your lunch box; its compact packaging even contains a spoon! (The lid, cup, and spoon are all recyclable and are made from 30% recycled content.)

Now, if you’ve never tried Chia Pods or chia seeds and you’re sensitive to textures, I will caution you: chia seeds develop a gelatinous coating once they’re exposed to liquid. They have a tapioca pudding-like texture. And if you aren’t used to it, it can be a little weird.

chia pod 2

That being said, there are plenty of reasons to love chia seeds in general, here are a few:

  • high fiber
  • contains 18% of your daily recommended calcium
  • good source for protein
  • may help increase “good” cholesterol while lowering “bad” cholesterol
  • may lower blood sugar for diabetics
  • rich in omega-3 fatty acids
  • the gel coating that develops increases the size and weight of the seeds, helping you feel full

So, where do you find Chia Pods? Locally, here in Abingdon, Virginia, you can find them at Whole Health Center. If you’re not in Abingdon, Virginia, some grocery stores such as Earth Fare, Whole Foods, and Fresh Market carry them.

Have you tried Chia Pods? If so, what do you think?

Going overboard on sea veggies


In my pantry sits a whole galaxy of sea veggie snacks: two bags of seaweed salad, six packs of SeaSnax, eight bags of Sea Veggies, and four sleeves of sesame nori. Once I get locked into a serious snack food collection, the tendency is to push it as far as I can. The only thing that worries me was the dried seaweed salad. There’s nothing more disheartening than sea vegetables that are chewy and taste weird while you’re in the depths of a nori binge. (Yep, that was a nod to one of my favorite books, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.)

Ok, so here’s how my latest obsession started: Recently, while I was at Whole Heath Center, I saw a little eye-catching display of SeaSnax. Since I love sushi, I picked up a pack to try. It was all down hill from there.

Toasted nori (also referred to as “kim” in Korea) is the type of food that you either love or hate (like Marmite). These crispy snacks are paper-thin sheets that have been toasted in a little oil and salt. Some brands use sesame or other plant oils, but SeaSnax uses olive oil, which I think makes it taste better.

Sea vegetables like nori are full of vitamins, too, such as vitamins E, B1, B2, B5, B12, iron, protein, potassium, iodine, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, amino acids, omega-3, and selenium. They’re also easily digested by the body.

If you try toasted nori and decide you’re addicted, too, here are a few ways to enjoy it:

  • Chop it up and sprinkle it on steamed rice
  • Eat as a potato chip substitute
  • Use as a wrap instead of traditional grain wraps
  • Chop it up and sprinkle it on an Asian salad

So have you tried these? If so, what do you think? How do you like to eat them?

sea veggies

Garlic Expressions Vinaigrette

Oh my gosh. How do I even begin to explain how wonderful this versatile dressing tastes: It’s light, slightly sweet, and has just the right amount of garlic and herbs.

Last week, I stopped by Whole Health Center and spied an unassuming green bottle of Garlic Expressions Classic Vinaigrette on the shelf. Having never tried it, I asked Chris if it was overly garlicky, and she said, “No, it’s wonderful!” So I brought it home to try.

She wasn’t joking. It’s fabulous! I marinated Lightlife organic tempeh in it overnight.  David then seared it and poured the remainder of the dressing in the skillet, along with celery. (Awesome!)

What I like about this vinaigrette is that you can use it as is or you can dress it up by adding other ingredients, such as pesto. It’s great on salad, too.

Garlic Expressions Vinaigrette

Windmill Cookies

Oooh! Heaven Scent Windmill Cookies!

Other than their obviously fun, retro windmill shape, what I like about them is that they aren’t overly sweet and have a hearty wheaty, almond taste, so they’re excellent when dipped in coffee. Plus, fruit juice is used to sweeten them, no refined sugar, no high fructose corn syrup And they’re vegan. However, note that they are made with wheat flour, so they aren’t gluten-free.

I suspect that they might be great on a plate alongside with Biscoff Cookies and Spread, but I am not even going to go there. . . And I have just noticed that I seem to have a love for European cookies.


windmill cookies

Moroccan Pumpkin Hummus

It’s no secret that I love cookbooks, so much that I really need another bookshelf to hold the ones that are currently stacked on the floor.

And knowing about my love of cookbooks, Susan gave me one for Christmas: Quick-Fix Vegan by Robin Robertson. This book has simple, inexpensive ingredients–you can easily find most of them at the grocery store, health food shop, farmers’ market, or your pantry. And as the title suggests, the recipes are quick, taking 30 minutes or less prep time.

vegan cookbooks

The recipe for Moroccan Pumpkin Hummus intrigued me, so I made it first. If you don’t have this cookbook but are considering purchasing it, you can find it here on Amazon. To see this recipe, click “Search inside this book” and flip to page 21. (While you’re “thumbing through” the pages, you’ll get a sense of the other recipes and how the book is laid out. It’s also available on Kindle, but if your cookbooks look like mine—well-worn, wrinkled, and splattered— I would opt for the hard copy.)

Moroccan Pumpkin Hummus is a beautiful, unique dish to serve, but I have a few suggestions that you may find helpful:

  1. I recommend adding more lemon juice (to taste). For some reason, when I made this recipe according to directions, the lemon juice was lost.
  2. I also recommend a bit more salt (to taste).
  3. Definitely allow it to meld in the refrigerator versus serving it immediately.

pumpkin hummus

Overall, the addition of pumpkin provides some sweetness along with vitamin C and beta-carotene, so this version is more vitamin-packed than traditional hummus. And pistachios. You just can’t go wrong adding pistachios to anything.

Burning out on Sriracha

I have a really bad habit: If I try something and like it, I have a tendency to quickly burn myself out on it. I do this with music and food. Lately, it’s been Alt-J’s “Fitzpleasure” and  Sriracha. Soon, I’ll delete that song from my playlist and tuck Sirarcha back into the nether realm of the bottom shelf in my refrigerator door. Maybe. Or it could wind up being a sporadic star, like Santigold’s “Disparate Youth” on my iPhone, or an occasional major player on my dinner table like Carolina Treet. Too soon to tell.

So who’s responsible for getting me on the Sriracha train? Sean Bossie of Abingdon’s Whole Health Center. (He carries it in his store, by the way.) Recently, he posted an alternate version of Michaelangelo’s Creation of Adam (below) featuring the incendiary condiment, and being a devoted Frank’s Red Hot fan, I questioned the authenticity of this artwork. Sean agreed that Frank’s is great but explained that there is a big difference between these two sauces, and he is absolutely correct. I would never put Frank’s Red Hot on Asian food nor would I add Sriracha to pizza. They each have an important void to fill.

Sriracha and Adam

Sriracha is pretty warm—if you’re not careful, you’ll have to chase it with Silvadene, but it seems the more you eat it, the more docile it becomes. Maybe it’s the addictive smoky chili shining through the heat. The next thing you know, you’re looking for bland foods (e.g., steamed vegetables, tofu, and rice) just to have a vehicle for it. Or, you can do what I did at the office last week, keep a spoon and a bottle on your desk and whenever you get a craving, take a spoonful. This is especially helpful if you’ve been working on a rote task all day, and you’ve hit the 3:00 slump.

empty sriracha

So my preoccupation with Sriracha has been going on for about two weeks, without wavering. So tonight’s dinner plans? Kelp noodle soup with sticky rice and. . .well, you know.

Healthy Snacks for Picky Kids

A few years ago, I went to Houston on a business trip and found various NASA inspired retail products at the airport, including Astronaut Ice Cream. So I bought a pack and surprised my son with it when I got home. He really, really liked it. And you have to love a company that lists “Astronauts eat this stuff” among its product features. But, unfortunately, I don’t love the ingredients.

Recently, however, during a visit to my favorite local store, Whole Health Center, I found freeze dried strawberries. While they’re great for snacking during a hike, stirring into oatmeal, or adding to muffin batter, my picky 10 year old loves them right out of the bag, and his first reaction after trying them was “It tastes like Astronaut Ice Cream!” Score.

The brand is Just Tomatoes Etc. They have everything from bananas, pomegranate, and raspberries to persimmons and “fruit salad.” While fresh, organic, local fruit is best, during the winter months or when your finicky child wants a bagged snack on the go, this is an awesome alternative to chips, candy, or Fruit Roll-Ups.

As you can see from the photo of the bag below, my son was rather enthusiastic about getting into these.

Dried Strawberries

Whole Health Center Display

Easy Eggplant Marinara with Baby Spinach

I love eggplant, and during the winter months, I miss it terribly. I actually go through withdrawal. So until I can find it again at the local farmers’ market when it’s in season, I buy Dominex Eggplant Cutlets, which are very good and great for quick meals, like this one:

Bake eggplant cutlets in the oven according to package directions. Then, when they’re ready, remove them from the oven, and stack them on a plate, placing spinach leaves between each cutlet. Next, cover the stack in homemade marinara.

Unlike eggplant parmesan, this dish is practically guilt-free, but it’s certainly not taste-free.

Creamed Corn with Roasted Peppers

After staring blankly in the freezer for a few seconds and trying to decide on a side dish for dinner, I spotted two freezer bags of sweet corn.  Back in the late summer, I bought several ears of local corn because I knew I’d miss it in the winter. I was right.

Now, the measurements below depend on a few factors: the sweetness of the corn and Scoville units.  The corn I had was a mix of sweet and not-so-sweet. So I used 3 tablespoons of cane sugar. If you have super sweet corn, you may want to reduce the amount of sugar you add. And since I used low heat peppers, I added hot pepper flakes. However, if you use jalapenos, chipotles, or habaneros, I suggest you leave out the flakes. I only used the flakes to improvise since I didn’t have the hotter peppers on hand.

Creamed Corn with Roasted Peppers
This recipe makes plenty! I like to cook large amounts so I can bring leftovers for my work week lunches. It beats opening a can of soup. (How drab!) Note that you can add a couple of tablespoons of vegan cream cheese to this recipe, if you like.

2 Tbsp. Earth Balance
2 Tbsp. all purpose flour
2 Anaheim peppers
1 Red or orange bell pepper
5 ½ c. corn
½ c. unsweetened soy milk
1 tsp. kosher salt
3 Tbsp. cane sugar
1 tsp. hot pepper flakes
Black pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Lightly oil a baking sheet.

Cut peppers in half and remove the seeds.  Place the halves sliced side down on the prepared baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes. Keep an eye on them; the skins should bubble, and at that time, turn them over to roast the other side for a few more minutes. Make sure they have a nice brown hue around the areas where they’ve bubbled. This will indicate that they’re done.

Remove peppers from the baking sheet, and place in a bowl. Tightly fit plastic wrap over the bowl and let them steam for a few minutes.

Next, in a food processor, process 3 cups of the corn, reserving the rest.

In a large pot, with the Earth Balance and flour, make a roux. Add the processed corn and the whole kernel corn to the pot and stir.

Then add the soy milk, salt, sugar, black pepper, and hot pepper flakes. Continue stirring.

Remove the skins from the roasted peppers and dice. Add them to the pot. Cook on medium heat for about 20 minutes. Serve.

Roasted Sweet Potato with Spinach and Thyme

So I had an extra sweet potato lying around when I was making Thanksgiving dinner. It seemed wasteful not to use it, especially for this meal. I had to think quick—I was already harried—roasted? Yes. That would do it. But don’t misunderstand. This is a great side dish to any fall meal, not just Thanksgiving.

Roasted Sweet Potato with Spinach and Thyme

1 sweet onion, coarsely chopped
1 large sweet potato, coarsely chopped into 1 ½  -2” pieces
1 Tbsp. EVOO
Kosher salt to taste (I used about a tsp.)
1 heaping tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
Pinch white pepper
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
A handful of raw baby spinach leaves

Pre-heat the oven for 400.

In a medium mixing bowl, toss the sweet potato and onion with the EVOO. Next, add in the dry ingredients, reserving the spinach for later.

Place the veggies on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove the veggies from oven and scrape them into a medium casserole dish. Stir in the spinach and cover the dish. The heat from the potato and onion will slightly wilt the spinach.