Paleo Tropical Coconut Chicken – Bringing Home Aloha

paleo tropical coconut chicken

It’s been about two weeks since I returned home from 10 days in Hawaii, and I’m happy to report that I’ve managed to completely avoid the usual “post-vacation blues” that I sometimes get after a long break. This trip was absolute perfection, and I’ve brought the aloha back with me in the form of a renewed (although never completely abandoned) coconut obsession. I’ll share a super quick and easy Tropical Coconut Chicken recipe today that features shredded coconut that I brought home with me from Oahu. And stay tuned for more coconut-themed awesomeness inspired by the trip in the next few posts!

Quick Coconut Story

Loren and I did not randomly select Oahu as a destination.paleo tropical coconut chicken One of our good friends (and one of my favorite people) moved there a few years ago, and we’ve been meaning to make a trip out ever since. We finally made it happen, and we had the pleasure of experiencing full immersion into the lives of two local dudes making a living climbing up into coconut trees and removing the nuts for folks all over the island — and making awesome stuff with their spoils. I’m actually planning on dedicating a full post to the two of them and their business (Roots and Branches if you want a sneak peek), but suffice it to say that Al Smith and Hans Heinz — R & B founders — know their coconuts. 

One of the projects Hans was working on during our visit was to supply shredded coconut to a local brewery for a coconut porter, and I got to sit in on initial sample production — and take home the winnings! In my carry-on luggage, I brought home a zip-lock bag full of fresh Hawaiian shredded coconut, which will be featured in today’s recipe! 

I have so much more to share about all things coconut I learned from Hans, but for now, this recipe will have to suffice. It’s super easy and pretty quick too. And as always, it’s just the baseline for your own intuitive cooking. I encourage you to switch up the herbs and spices or to add in some heat if you want (my body doesn’t love spicy lately, but this recipe lends itself really well to spice). Whatever flavors suit your fancy will work with this simple starting point.

paleo tropical coconut chicken

You better believe I drank that coconut creme right up too! Some went in my coffee, some went into smoothies, and some went right in my belly on its own.

Quick Chicken Story

If you’ve ever been to Hawaii, you know that chickens wander freely the way pigeons do on the mainland. I wouldn’t say they’re present in enormous flocks, but there are LOTS of chickens EVERYWHERE. paleo tropical coconut chickenDespite having been to Kauai back in the late 90’s, I hadn’t known about the chicken situation, so seeing them roam freely on roadways, in parking lots, on the hillsides, along the beach, and even passing through our outdoor seating at a restaurant was pretty amusing to me.

We had a whole family of come through as we enjoyed our signature margaritas at Cholo’s Homestyle Mexican after our Sunday beach cleanup with Hawaii Ocean Ambassadors. The babies were so cute that Loren couldn’t resist picking one up mid-meal. I was a little nervous that he might be bringing chicken germs a little too close to our meal, but the little chicky was so cute that it didn’t matter.

Seeing these little guys and gals running around everywhere gave new meaning to the classic joke about chickens crossing roads — which wasn’t lost on one of my travel buddies who is obsessed with puns and dad jokes. So going forward, chickens will make me think of Hawaii. That’s why I chose to make this coconut recipe with chicken. 

Paleo Tropical Coconut Chicken
Serves 2
super easy recipe, adaptable to every palate by switching up the spices and/or adding some heat to it with cayenne or habanero.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
  1. 4 oz chicken tenders (about 8 tenders)
  2. 1.5 cups shredded coconut (unsweetened)
  3. 2 eggs
  4. 1/2 cup coconut oil
  5. Seasonings - I used Simply Organic Lemon Pepper and Real Season Salt
  1. Crack eggs into a shallow bowl and beat until completely uniform
  2. Spread shredded coconut out on a large flat plate
  3. Heat coconut oil in a shallow cast iron skillet at medium-high heat
  4. When oil is hot (test by dropping a piece of coconut in and seeing if it sizzles)
  5. dip chicken tenders into egg on both sides then into shredded coconut on both sides until coated
  6. Place coated chicken into pan and cook on both sides until done in the middle (a few minutes each -- the coconut should brown a little)
  7. Cover a large flat plate with 3-4 paper towels and place cooked chicken on paper towels to absorb some of the oil
  8. Season immediately on both sides (make sure at least one of the seasonings you choose has some salt in it, otherwise they'll be a bit bland)
  9. Repeat until all chicken is done
Cultivated Wellbeing

FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. All opinions are my own.

Cook-Ahead Meal: Italian Turkey Meatball Recipe

turkey meatball recipe

It’s been a while since I shared a recipe, and this Italian turkey meatball recipe has been on the docket for literally months at this point. It actually took me a while to dig up the pictures I took. Life has been BANANAS lately in the way of making time for CWB, which makes me simultaneously sad for the blog but excited for all the things that are happening in life outside of this project. I hope you haven’t forgotten about me in my infrequent posting lately! I hope to get back to at least weekly posting now that I’ve gotten a better handle on my routine. Now, on with the show!

turkey meatball recipe

Kitchen Hack: Cook-Ahead Recipes

Speaking of life being bananas, making time to cook every night has become increasingly challenging, so in an effort to continue to eat at home (and at a decent hour) while still getting everything else done, I’ve started making bigger pots of food and eating them for many meals — including lunch the next day. This is not a new concept by any stretch, but sometimes it’s hard to actually carry out in the CWB household. Sometimes, we plan to eat the same thing for a couple of nights and then we gobble it all up at once (not a great plan for me, zero consequences for the tapeworm I live with). 

Still other times, I intend to make enough food to eat for a few nights and then freeze the rest for next week, but then I forget about it and it goes bad in the fridge. And I really REALLY hate wasting food. Not good.

All this is to say that making meatballs can be the answer to a lot of these problems. So today’s kitchen hack is really just MEATBALLS. I mean, obviously this can apply to lots of different foods, but meatballs are SUCH an easy thing to make and freeze, and they’re small enough that they’ll cool while you’re eating dinner and be ready for the freezer by the time you’re done (no forgetting about them!) In fact, if you feel as strongly as I do about having a few meals for now and a few for the freezer, you might even double this recipe (depending on how many people you’re feeding at home). 

turkey meatball recipe

Cook-Ahead Italian Turkey Meatball Recipe

This recipe fed us for a night or two, me for lunch a few days, and we even invited a couple of friends over for dinner and finished them off with them. Depending on how hungry you are, 2 or 3 will do the trick.

Each time we ate them, we did something different — that’s the beauty of a really tasty meatball. It isn’t limited to just pasta and tomato sauce. It can work as a meat dish all its own with whatever sides you want; it belongs in Italian Wedding Soup (or any broth-based soup); it can sit on a bed of greens for a salad; you can even eat one with your eggs and greens in the morning. They’re a lot more versatile than you think. And the dirty dishes for this project include 1 cutting board, 1 chef’s knife, 1 cookie sheet, and 1 bowl. That’s it. 


Cook-Ahead Italian Turkey Meatballs
Yields 18
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
45 min
  1. 2 lbs turkey (1/2 light, 1/2 dark)
  2. 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  3. 1 large egg
  4. 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley (stems removed)
  5. 1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese
  6. 1/2 tsp REAL salt
  7. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  8. 1/4 tsp red pepper flake
  9. 1/2 tsp lemon pepper
  10. avocado oil for greasing the pan
  1. preheat oven to 375
  2. add all ingredients to a large bowl and mix gently by hand
  3. form meat balls about 1.5 inches in diameter (slightly bigger than a golf ball) and place them about 1/5 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet
  4. bake for 15 minutes
  1. makes 18 to 20 meatballs
  2. great for freezing for later
Cultivated Wellbeing

Make the Most out of Your Slow-Cooked Meal + Lamb Shank RECIPE

It’s that time of year — the time when we dust off our slow-cookers to make hearty stews, chilies, soups, and braises. It might be my favorite culinary time of year, because I LOVE SOUP!!! It’s kind of an obsession. When it’s cold outside, I could eat soup at every meal, including breakfast. I never get sick of it. Ever! And once you bust out the slow-cooker, you step up the game with a ready-to-eat, home cooked meal waiting for you when you get home. What’s better than that on a cold winter evening? 

Here in the Bay, it’s been raining and cold — a weather recipe for feeling chilled to the bone. In both Ayurveda and in Traditional Chinese Medicine, a cold, damp winter calls for warming, grounding foods like soups, stews, hearty slow-cooked meats, and root veggies. This simple, slow-cooked lamb shank hits a home run in all of these categories.

make the most of your slow-cooked meal

Prepping your Lamb Shanks and Veggies

I love starting something in the morning and coming home to the aromas of dinner already made and waiting for me in the kitchen. I will say though, that when I first dipped my toe into the slow-cooker experience, I was surprised to learn that there can sometimes be a bit more prep than you’d expect if you want the best possible outcome.

Sure, you can throw everything into the slow-cooker raw and hope for the best, but you likely won’t get it. You could get something good, but not the best. The best is when you use time-honored cooking methods that bring out the most mouth-watering flavors in the foods you’re planning to toss into the slow-cooker. If you must toss everything in raw, I recommend sticking to vegetarian dishes, but even those are made better with a quick trip to the stove top before ending up in the slow-cooker. For meat recipes — especially red meats like lamb, beef, pork, and wild game — browning the meat first is an important part of the process.

Is it optional? Technically, yes. Do I recommend skipping it? No. Why? 

Make the Most out of your Slow-Cooked Meal

1. The Maillard Reaction

The Maillard reaction is a chemical process that takes place on the surface of the meat when you sear it on high heat (without burning it). It’s kind of like caramelizing, but it’s also a bit different. The Maillard reaction is what imparts that rich, nutty, meaty flavor to the cut you’re cooking. It alters the amino acids and sugars on the surface of the meat and melds them together for that beautiful, rich flavor we expect when we bite into a steak or a pork chop. Caramelizing involves sugar only, no aminos.

make the most of your slow-cooked meal

Common lore is that searing will seal in the juices, but that’s actually not true. Searing does not magically plasticize your meat into an impermeable surface. But that doesn’t mean that searing isn’t important. Even when you plan to toss your cut into the slow-cooker and immerse it in cooking liquid, starting with a good, hot, dry sear to brown the outside of the cut is crucial for achieving the rich flavor you’re expecting from the finished product. 

Skipping this step will result in a sad, grey-looking finished product that won’t be as flavorful as you’d hoped. And being disappointed in a slow-cooked meal (at least for me) is a much bigger bummer than being disappointed in something you threw together in a few minutes (even if the slow-cook prep took the same amount of time). I’ve made the mistake of skipping the browning step and ended up with a pot full of very bland, disappointing chili (yes, you should even brown ground meat).

2. Sauteing the Veggies

This step, while (again) technically optional, will ensure that your veggies impart the most flavor to your  slow-cooked meal. I remember the first time I saw a recipe that told me to saute all my veggies first, and I was like, “Whaaaat??? I can’t just throw it all in?? WTF?? I’m not doing that.” I’ve since learned my lesson (reference disappointing chili above). Sauteeing doesn’t take as long as caramelizing — you just need to cook everything for a few minutes to unlock the glory — it’s worth it. I wouldn’t skip it.make the most of your slow-cooked meal

Kitchen Hack: Timing Your Slow-Cooked Meal Prep

All this is to say that it does take a little bit of time to get your ingredients into the pot, but if you can give yourself 20 extra minutes in the morning to get this meal started before you rush out the door, you’ll thank yourself. All I ask is that you pull your meat out of the fridge before you do anything else so that it has time to warm to room temperature (or as close to it as you have time for) before you brown it. I recommend you take the meat out, do your whole morning routine (shower, make up, hair, walk the dog, whatever), and then get everything ready for the slow-cooker. 

Rosemary Citrus Slow-Cooked Lamb Shank
Serves 2
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
8 hr
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
8 hr
  1. 2 lamb shanks
  2. 5 ribs celery, finely chopped
  3. 2 large carrots, finely chopped
  4. 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  5. 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  6. 1 large root veggie of your choosing (potato, celery root, parsnip, sweet potato), coarsely chopped
  7. 1 naval orange, thinly sliced
  8. 1 cup bone broth or veggie broth
  9. 1 cup red wine (I used cabernet)
  10. 2 tsp salt
  11. 6 sprigs fresh rosemary
  12. 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  13. 1 tbs coconut oil
  14. 1 tbs avocado oil
  15. 1 tbs tomato paste
  1. If possible, pull lamb out of the fridge and allow to sit for at least 20 minutes (preferably 45 minutes to an hour) before browning
  2. Heat the skillet and brown all sides of the lamb shanks
  3. Move shanks to the slow cooker (leave the cooker off for now)
  4. Toss coarsely chopped root veggies on top of the lamb
  5. Melt coconut oil on the heated skillet
  6. Add finely chopped red onions, carrots, and celery
  7. Allow to soften and sauté for at least 5 minutes
  8. Stir in finely chopped garlic and avocado oil, and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, taking care not to let anything burn
  9. Pour sautéed veggies over lamb inside slow cooker
  10. Add tomato paste, wine, broth, salt, rosemary, and thyme to slow cooker
  11. Top with sliced oranges
  12. Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours
  13. Enjoy a nice, warm, home-cooked meal after a long day's work!
Cultivated Wellbeing

Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey Pot Pie [RECIPE]

Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey Potpie

Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey Pot Pie 

We had a big crowd for Thanksgiving this year. But apparently we had an even bigger turkey, as it was the only thing leftover by the time we all packed up to head home from our Thanksgiving trip to Bend, OR — our unexpectedly epic, snowy adventure.
I’d intended to experiment with a few different ways to use the Thanksgiving leftovers, but alas, turkey was the lone-leftover. Everything else got gobbled up, but don’t be too upset, because I’m about to share with you the most outrageously delicious paleo pot pie you’ll ever sink your teeth into.
Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey Potpie

Smith Rock State Park, OR 

It’s completely free of corn starch and wheat flour, and the only dairy in it is the butter in the crust. You’ll never believe what makes the filling creamy! (Don’t worry, I’ll get to that in a minute.) The crazy part is, you’d never even know it was missing anything! I would be willing to wager that if I handed you this dish in a blind taste test, you would have absolutely no idea that I’ve used only wholesome, healthy ingredients, OR that it’s both gluten-free and grain-free. I’m so excited for you to try it!
But first, full disclosure. I like to give credit where credit is due. Before this experiment, I had never made a pot pie in my life, so I scoured the web for grain-free, gluten-free pot pie recipes that didn’t seem too complicated. I ended up landing on this one from Every Day Maven, and I took a page out of her book to concoct my own version of this paleo treat. I pretty-much use her exact method for the crust. I just changed some of the seasonings to fit my own palate. I suggest you check hers out and see which one sounds better to you. She also has some great step-by-step pictures, which I’m not going to include here.
As far as not being too complicated — this recipe has a lot of steps and it does take a while, but it’s very straight forward, and I’ve laid it out in the simplest way possible, so just about anyone can follow along. Which leads me to my next point … 

A Kitchen Helper

Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey PotpieI’m lucky enough to have a helping hand in Loren when I make multi-step recipes like this (at least most of the time). This recipe has a lot of moving parts, and although it’s certainly possible to get it done solo, it’s more fun to have someone in the kitchen with you to share tasks — or at the very least to wash some dishes so you don’t have a mound a mile high waiting for you when you’re done.

That being said, there are some “cooling periods” in this recipe — you stick the dough in the freezer twice for large chunks of time — so you can chop and prepare other things while you wait. I’ve laid out the tasks in the order that makes the most sense for a solo home cook.

This recipe in total takes well over 2 hours — not quite sure where the Maven’s math came from at an hour and 50 minutes — so if you’re anything like the skinny man I live with and need dinner right away, have a snack. Or make this on the weekend. I’ll be honest, it’s one of the more labor-intensive recipes at CWB, but it’s SO worth it. Even the skinny, hungry man agreed!

Coconut Cauliflower Puree

This is my little not-so-secret, secret ingredient for this masterpiece. Your average pot pie recipe calls for either white flour or cornstarch + either milk or heavy cream to create the thick, creamy, saucy consistency of the filling underneath the dough. Everyday Maven chose to replace those ingredients with russet potatoes and coconut milk. I took it a step further and replaced the potatoes with steamed cauliflower for a lower-carb option. I like to pack in the phytonutrients wherever I can, and not being a fan of eating too much potato, I decided to give a nod to some of my other creamy cauliflower recipes (Creamy Vegan Cauliflower Soup and Cauli-freddo Sauce) and make the swap. It turned out FANTASTIC. It took some doing not to just start spooning out the puree and eating it before it ever made its way into the frying pan. And since I eliminated the potato chunks as well, I added some umami to the mix with diced cremini mushrooms, which I sautéed with the onions and carrots. Yum! 

Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey Potpie

Note #1:

You need your butter to be rock-solid cold for the crust in this recipe. I happen to buy lots of butter at a time and keep the extras in the freezer, so it worked out for me to be able to make this recipe on the spot, but you will be sad if your butter isn’t frozen when you start this recipe. Just giving you a heads up.

Note #2: 

Getting everything done in the right order is the best way to ensure a timely dinner. 
  1. Start with the dough and get it into the freezer as quickly as possible. 
  2. Then get to steaming your cauliflower (don’t forget to add a pinch of salt!)
  3. Then start chopping. 
  4. Then preheat the oven.
  5. Then start sautéing the veggies.
  6. Then get the dough worked out flat and stick it back in the freezer.
  7. Then start blending.
  8. Then get everything else into the pot.
  9. Then grease your dish.
  10. When the dough is ready, you’re ready for the oven. 
Step by step details are below in the actual recipe, but I wanted to give you an outline first.
Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey Pot Pie
Serves 6
I'm including the time freezing the dough as prep time and assuming that's when you'll be doing your chopping and simmering. If you do the dough on another day and freeze it to use later, the prep time will be shorter because you won't be waiting for the dough.
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Prep Time
1 hr 30 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
2 hr 30 min
Prep Time
1 hr 30 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
2 hr 30 min
Crust Ingredients
  1. 1 cup blanched almond flour (CWB Favorite Pick)
  2. ¾ cup tapioca starch (CWB Favorite Pick)
  3. ½ tsp garlic powder
  4. ½ tsp lemon pepper
  5. ½ tsp Real salt (CWB Favorite Pick)
  6. ¼ tsp baking powder
  7. ¼ cup frozen butter (I use Kerrygold pastured butter)
  8. 1 large egg
  9. 3 tbs ice cold water
Pot Pie Ingredients
  1. 1 tbs butter or ghee for sautéing (CWB Favorite Pick)
  2. Avocado oil for greasing (butter or ghee works too, but I sprayed with my Misto Sprayer to make it easier)
  3. 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  4. ½ cup full fat coconut milk (CWB Favorite Pick)
  5. 3 medium carrots, diced
  6. 8 cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
  7. 1 head cauliflower
  8. 1 pound leftover turkey meat, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  9. ⅔ cup frozen peas
  10. 1 tbs finely chopped fresh rosemary
  11. 1 cup bone broth (CWB Favorite Pick)
  12. Dash of apple cider vinegar (CWB Favorite Pick)
  13. Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Place almond flour, tapioca starch, garlic powder, lemon pepper, 1/2 tsp salt, and baking powder into a food processor and pulse a few times
  2. Shred your frozen butter right into the flour mixture using a cheese grater
  3. Add in the egg
  4. Gently pulse just enough to incorporate the egg without over-mixing
  5. Stir in the cold water with a spatula or spoon
  6. Spread a sheet of parchment or wax paper over a cookie sheet or cutting board and dump your dough -- it should be a lump of dough, not liquidy
  7. Place dough in the freezer for 30 minutes
  8. While the dough is freezing, chop up your cauliflower and start steaming it on the stove with a dash of salt
  9. Chop your onions, carrots, and mushrooms, and cube your turkey
  10. On a very large skillet, heat about a tablespoon of ghee and add in the onions
  11. Sauté onions until translucent
  12. Add in carrots, mushrooms, and the bone broth, and turn down the temp to a simmer
  13. Pull the dough out of the freezer and place another piece of parchment or wax paper on top before rolling out or shaping with your fingers to fit your dish (I used 6 personal pie dishes, but it was too hard to make perfect circles to top each pie. I ended up cutting the dough into 6 pieces with a pizza cutter after the final freeze and just placing "squares" on top instead of fitting the dough completely around the top of the pie. If you fit your dough around one larger pie, cute some slits into it to let the heat out as it bakes)
  14. Place rolled out dough back in the freezer for another 30 minutes
  15. Once the cauliflower is steamed, transfer it to the blender and add the coconut milk and a dash of apple cider vinegar
  16. Blend until completely smooth and set aside
  17. Add turkey, frozen peas, and rosemary to your veggies on the stove and turn up the heat
  18. Cook for another 2 or 3 minutes until the peas have thawed and all the veggies are cooked
  19. Turn off the stove and stir the cauliflower/coconut mixture into the meat and veggies
  20. Grease your baking dish(es) -- I sprayed avocado oil to keep it simple
  21. Transfer your filling into your baking dish(es)
  22. Pull the dough out of the freezer, remove the top piece of parchment paper, and either flip over directly onto the one dish or use a pizza cutter to cut into equal pieces to top your individual pies.
  23. Bake at 350 -- 1 hour and 10 minutes for one big pie or 50 minutes for little ones
Adapted from Every Day Maven
Adapted from Every Day Maven
Cultivated Wellbeing

FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. All opinions are my own.

Mexican Stuffed Acorn Squash [RECIPE]

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a beautiful kitchen hack for preparing winter squash. For those of you who missed my post on this ground-breaking topic, the secret is … wait for it! … putting the whole thing in the oven uncut, unpeeled, un-punctured, and roasting it on 375-400 for 30 to 45 minutes. It’s super simple, super delicious, and it works for all winter squash, including pumpkin. I recently did it with butternut squash for a party (roasted 4 of them on the same cookie sheet for about 45 minutes total) and spaghetti squash for lunch with a friend (roasted 1 big one for about 30 minutes), and they all turned out great.

When I shared this kitchen hack, I also shared a delicious ground lamb and purple cabbage recipe to go along with it — to stuff in the halved, roasted squash. Today I’m sharing another awesome “squash stuffing.” This one is all about Mexican spices, and I love it even more than my first stuffed acorn squash recipe. 

stuffed acorn squash recipe

Seasoning and Timing

When seasoning with delicate herbs and spices, I’ve found that timing is everything. Adding cilantro too soon can mean wasting it because the flavor will be cooked out before you serve the dish, but there IS a flavor difference between cooked and raw cilantro. This recipe uses both, because I love both, and I feel like they both need to be there to get the right balance of flavor. I never ever use dry cilantro (or parsley or basil) because it’s just a waste — they basically taste like nothing once they’re dried. If you can’t find them fresh, start searching for some other way to flavor your food.

Same goes for lime juice: timing is everything. Squeezing a lime into a marinade is a great way to flavor a piece of meat or veggies, but squeezing it into a hot pan too soon when there hasn’t been any time for it to sink into the other ingredients is a waste. If you want lime or the acidic effect of lime, marinate or add close to the end. Otherwise it’s a waste. 

A Word on Preparing Beans

If you’ve read my post on maximizing phytonutrients, you may have checked out the book I reference by Jo Robinson, Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health (affiliate link). If not, I’ll share another food hack with you from that book. Canned beans have more antioxidant value than dried ones. Somehow the heating process increases the nutrient value, bringing more phytonutrients to your plate. Fascinating, right?

The only problem is that canned beans aren’t soaked before they’re cooked, leaving all the phytic acid and other antinutrients present. These components make it difficult for us to digest beans and properly utilize all the protein they offer us. They can also make calcium difficult to absorb, which can be a problem for those with brittle bones or osteoporosis. Soaking beans before cooking with water and a touch of acid (like raw vinegar, lemon juice, or kombucha) will diminish the phytate content and make beans a much healthier food to consume.

But canned beans are already cooked. Guess what? You can still soak them! Compared to soaking and then cooking dried beans, this won’t seem like a chore at all, trust me.

Simply rinse your beans in the morning and place them in bowl filled with lukewarm water. Drop about 2 tsp of raw apple cider vinegar into the water, and swish it around. Cover the bowl with a plate or towel on the counter, and head off to work. (Don’t refrigerate.) When you come home 6 to 8 hours later, drain the liquid and rinse the beans one more time before adding them to your recipe. 


    Mexican Stuffed Acorn Squash
    Serves 4
    Servings for this recipe are tricky. The stuffing will feed 3 to 4, but how many the squash will feed will depend on the squash. I always like to find the smaller squash and make more so that 1/2 a squash is about 1 serving. If you end up with a huge squash and only two people eating, consider scooping out half of each one for lunch the next day with the remaining stuffing.
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    Prep Time
    10 min
    Cook Time
    40 min">
    Prep Time
    10 min
    Cook Time
    40 min
    1. 2 small acorn squash
    2. 16 medium to large shrimp, peeled and deveined
    3. 2 cups cooked black beans*
    4. 1/4 small red onion, diced
    5. 1 small red bell pepper, finely diced
    6. 1/4 jalapeno (you decide the heat -- I don't use the seeds)
    7. 2 cloves garlic, minced (let sit at least 10 minutes before adding to fire)
    8. 2 tbs avocado oil
    9. 20 sprigs of fresh cilantro, leaves only, chopped
    10. 1 tsp dried savory
    11. 1 tsp dried marjoram
    12. 1 tsp cumin powder
    13. 1/4-1/2 tsp REAL salt (to taste)
    1. Heat the oven to 400 (no need to preheat)
    2. Place two small acorn squash on a cookie sheet and roast for 35 to 40 minutes while preparing everything else
    3. In a warm skillet, add 2 tbs avocado oil, onions, and peppers
    4. Allow onions to "sweat," stirring on low heat for about 3 minutes before adding in half the chopped cilantro leaves
    5. Stir in cooked, strained black beans
    6. Stir in minced garlic and simmer for another 3 to 5 minutes before adding shrimp
    7. Clear some space on the skillet so that the shrimp hit it directly to cook
    8. Give each side about 30 seconds and flip, then incorporate into the beans
    9. Stir in salt
    10. Once the shrimp are completely cooked through (but not overcooked), add the other half of the cilantro leaves and the juice of 1 lime and turn off the heat
    11. Slice the roasted acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds
    12. Stuff the halved squash with the Mexican shrimp stuffing and consider the optional toppings below
    1. OPTIONAL: top with sour cream or greek yogurt, cilantro pesto, guacamole, sunflower seeds, or some combination of these
    2. * see note about preparing beans
    Cultivated Wellbeing

FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. I only link to products that I USE and LOVE. All opinions are my own.

The Perfect Zucchini Lasagna

This recipe was many iterations in the making in the CWB kitchen. I tried a version of it that ended up too “crunchy” with slightly under-cooked zucchini, and one with vegan cheese (the cashew cream from this recipe minus the fresh herbs). I’ve seen many versions of it online, most of them stuffed with what I consider to be WAY too much  cheese (some had up to 4 cups of mozzarella + even more ricotta!). While I bet those recipes are delicious, I just can’t justify eating that much cheese in one meal.

Not only is all that lactose and casein hard on the bowels, we can’t forget that lactose is a sugar. Whether dairy challenges your digestion or not, cheese — and especially soft cheese like mozzarella and ricotta — is mostly sugar and fat. We often consider cheese a source of protein — which it is — but it’s not necessarily an ideal source if you’re working on minimizing your sugar intake or watching your waistline. As delicious as it is, cheese isn’t something we should over-consume, no matter what lifestyle plan we’re following.zucchini lasagna

The Perfect Balance

In my quest for a perfect zucchini lasagna, I wanted something that was cheesy, but not too cheesy. I chose to feature goat cheese because it’s easier to digest than most cow cheeses. I also chose parmesan as the topper because hard, dry cheeses have less sugar and less fat than the softer varieties. And parmesan provides a delicious, classic Italian flavor to a modified yet still classic dish. 

My goal was to create a dish just filling enough — I wanted it to be satisfying, but to stop short of the overstuffed, pants-unbuttoning feeling we sometimes get from lasagna or other cheesy Italian dishes. And I wanted to avoid a greasy mess. Nothing is more unappetizing to me than seeing orange oil ooze out of my food. (Ok, I can think of more unappetizing things, but that one is up high on the list.) I found my balance by creating a light tomato and lamb ragu packed with spinach and aromatic herbs, skipping the pasta, and going light on the cheese.

zucchini lasagna

One Important Extra Step

Most recipes I checked out online simply layered the raw zucchini in the baking dish between the sauce and the cheese. I see two problems with this strategy. First, when I tried that, I ended up with some unwanted crunch in the final product, which I wasn’t happy about. Likely I just didn’t cook it long enough, but we were too hungry to wait any longer, and when I reheated it in the oven the next day, it was still crunchy. Second, zucchini is a very watery vegetable. When you cook it, the water leeches out, so you could/will likely end up with a soupy mess that falls apart when you cut it if you simply throw the slices in raw.

I avoided both of these potential snags by doing a quick roast of the zucchini before putting together the layers. The explanation about how to do it is included in the recipe below. Another option is to salt the zucchini and let the water leach out of the raw strips before baking, but I’ve found that you run the risk of making the final product too salty, plus it takes almost as long to do that as it does to put them in the oven. I had mine roasting while I made the sauce, so the only extra time it took was the time to wash the cookie sheets I used to roast them. Ultimately, it’s up to you. You can skip the roasting step and see what happens, or you can do the quick roast and add that much more flavor into the dish.zucchini lasagna

One more thing…

When I sent Loren to the store with a grocery list that included “goat cheese,” he came back with honey goat cheese. At first, I thought about running down the street to get what I’d really wanted, but then I just decided to try it with the honey. Equal parts curiosity and laziness yielded the sweet addition to this recipe. It’s actually really good and not too sweet at all! Makes for a unique version of this popular variation on lasagna. Just enough to give the dish something extra. (Way to go Loren!)

It’s up to you if you want to use it or just go for standard goat cheese, just giving you full disclosure on how it came to be in this recipe.">
The Perfect Zucchini Lasagna
Serves 6
Write a review
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 10 min">
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
  1. 4 zucchini
  2. 1 lb ground lamb
  3. 1/2 large red onion, diced
  4. 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced or pressed (set aside for 10 minutes before adding to the fire)
  5. 2 big fists full of baby spinach
  6. 1 small red bell pepper, diced
  7. 4 green onions, sliced
  8. 2 cups strained tomatoes (CWB Favorite Pick)
  9. 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  10. 3 to 4 sprigs each of fresh rosemary, thyme, oregano, tarragon (or whatever fresh spices you have on hand) - using twine, bind them together so that they will be easy to fish out later
  11. 2 tsp salt + more for sprinkling
  12. 1 tsp lemon pepper
  13. 1 tbs EVOO + more from a Misto for spraying (CWB Favorite Pick)
  14. 1 small tube honey goat cheese** (CWB Favorite Pick)
  15. 1/2 cup grated fresh parmesan
  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Using a mandolin, slice zucchini long-ways to create long, thin strips (like noodles)
  3. With a Misto sprayer, spray a layer of EVOO on two large cookie sheets
  4. Place a single layer of zucchini on each cookie sheet, spray again with EVOO
  5. Sprinkle lightly with salt and squeeze the juice from 1/4 a lemon on each pan of slices
  6. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes
  7. While that's baking, start browning the ground lamb in a hot skillet
  8. Allow to cook all the way through, breaking it up so that it remains loose as it cooks and the water can steam off with some of the fat
  9. Once the lamb is totally browned, add in red onion, red bell pepper, green onion, spinach, and garlic
  10. Allow flavors to marry for about 5 minutes before adding in strained tomatoes and vinegar
  11. Place fresh herb bundle in the center of the pan and cover entirely with sauce
  12. Cover pan and cook on medium for about 15 minutes
  13. While that's cooking, place the first layer of roasted zucchini in a baking dish and get the rest of the raw zucchini in the oven on the cookie sheets
  14. Stir the sauce to better incorporate herbs, then remove and discard the herb bundle
  15. Add 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp lemon pepper, and 1 tbs EVOO, and turn off the fire
  16. Divide the meat sauce in half in the pan
  17. Place the first half on top of the first layer of zucchini, then add the next layer of zucchini followed by meat sauce again
  18. Then spoon out half of the tube of goat cheese in chunks across the second layer of meat sauce and add the rest of the zucchini on top of that
  19. Now one final layer of the other half of the goat cheese and shredded parmesan on top of that
  20. Bake at 400 for 15 to 20 minutes or until the cheese is slightly browned
  21. Allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving
  22. Use a sharp knife to cut
  1. **You don't have to use honey goat cheese if you can't find it. Regular works great too.
Cultivated Wellbeing

FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. I only link to products that I USE and LOVE. All opinions are my own.


Celery Root Soup with Fried Sage [RECIPE]

I’ve been sick twice in the last month (including right this moment), and I’m super bummed about it. After starting my bone broth regimen in January of last year, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been sick, and two of them just happened this month (the other two were horrific food poisoning). As a result, I’m sitting at home surrounded by balled up tissue, binge watching Nurse Jackie while I drink my bone broth and kombucha

We were out of town this weekend and didn’t get in until yesterday (yes, sick on vacation), so I’ve lost track of what day it is and almost forgot to post this recipe today! I’m sure you would have forgiven me, but I’ve been really excited to share this celery root soup recipe with you — I made it for an impromptu dinner party last week, and it got rave reviews. I started with a huge celery root, so it ended up being quite a bit of soup. It freezes well, but if you don’t want to make as big of a batch for yourself, just use smaller root veggies and less broth.

celery root soup with fried sage

I took this picture when I made my buttery sage celery root recipe, but I just had to use it again for this post. She’s too cute for words. (Click the picture to check out that recipe)

Kitchen Tools 

I learned with my blended beet borscht recipe that sometimes an immersion blender just doesn’t cut it to get the consistency you want in a pureed soup. I learned this again with the recipe I’m about to share — once I dumped my cooked soup into my (BRAND NEW!!) NutriBullet Rx, this soup went from good to great.

If you don’t have some form of Nutribullet in your life, I really suggest you consider it. Their top of the line model is half the price of a Vitamix (the gold standard for blenders), and I can personally vouch that it works just as well. And while the link I just shared is an affiliate link, no one asked me to say that. (Not that I wouldn’t be thrilled if they paid me to share my love of their products, but for the record, they didn’t. Maybe some day they will…)

Celery Root Soup">
Celery Root Soup with Fried Sage
Serves 10
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
30 min">
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
30 min
  1. 1 whole large celery root, peeled and cubed
  2. 1 whole parsnip, chopped
  3. 1/2 large fennel bulb or 1 small one, chopped
  4. 1 large leek, sliced (the white part only)
  5. 2 tbs chopped fresh sage + more whole leaves for frying
  6. 1 tbs REAL salt (CWB Favorite Pick)
  7. 1/2 tsp cracked red pepper (use 1/4 if you prefer a milder heat. I was shocked at how much impact this amount had on the final product)
  8. 2500 mL chicken or vegetable broth (I used homemade bone broth -- if you have it on hand, go for it, but it's not necessary to use homemade for this to be delicious)
  9. 2 tbs full fat coconut milk (CWB Favorite Pick)
  10. 3 tbs extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  1. In a large, deep pot, place celery root, parsnip, fennel, leek, and chicken broth
  2. Bring to a gentle boil and cook until a fork runs through the root veggies easily (about 10 minutes)
  3. Lower the fire to a simmer and add salt, sage, cracked red pepper, and coconut milk
  4. Let simmer another 2 to 3 minutes, stirring to incorporate
  5. Turn off the fire and allow to cool under oven vent for about 10 minutes
  6. Stir in 1 tbs EVOO
  7. Blend ingredients in a high speed blender (like the Nutribullet Rx) until completely smooth -- it will need to be done in batches
  8. When you're ready to serve your soup, heat a skillet and add remaining two tbs of EVOO
  9. place whole sage leaves into hot oil and fry on each side for 20 to 30 seconds until crisp, taking care not to burn them
  10. Serve soup warm topped with three fried sage leaves and an extra drizzle of EVOO
  1. The soup doesn't have to cool to room temperature to be placed in the blender, it just needs to not be piping hot to avoid damaging the blender.
Cultivated Wellbeing

Lamb-stuffed Whole Roasted Acorn Squash [Recipe] [Kitchen Hack]

As you might know from previous posts, I love a good winter squash recipe. My best friend in high school had a gourmet chef for a mother, and she would make butternut squash soup with sage and heavy cream — I’d sneak seconds out of the fridge when I’d go over there for dinner. And my first memory of biting into a winter squash was life changing — roasted acorn squash topped with a sesame soy glaze at a locally sourced restaurant in Austin, TX sometime in the early 2000’s. I was hooked.

While I loved these starchy veggies, I found them unwieldy and downright frightening to prepare myself. I’ll admit to buying the pre-cut, pre-peeled butternut squash at Whole Foods in the produce section and paying an arm and a leg to have someone else risk their fingertips to cut that thing apart for me. They roll all over the place!lamb-stuffed whole roasted acorn squash recipe

Life-Changing Kitchen Hack: Roasting a Whole Squash

A few weeks back, I learned an amazing trick to save time AND my fingers, and guarantee excellence each and every time I make winter squash. And that trick is to do NOTHING to it before sticking it in the oven. Nothing. Turn on the oven, stick it in whole, let it roast from the inside; and then slice it open, scoop the seeds, and do as you please. It’s amazing! And today’s recipe will feature an acorn squash roasted like this. It’s literally the easiest way to cook winter squash while avoiding the emergency room! 

Time-Saving Tip

Roasting this way is also a great way to multi-task in the kitchen — or even prepare extra for the rest of the week. Depending on how many squashes you’re cooking (yes, that’s a plural form of squash, I just looked it up), the time in the oven will shift slightly, but this is a set-it-and-forget-it way of preparing a base for your dinner. Tossing a squash in the oven gives you time to focus on the rest of your meal. And if you’re preparing for the whole week, why not mix it up? Throw a spaghetti squash in there too and get the base for this recipe started for later in the week.

For this dish, I started some ground lamb and cabbage going on a skillet while my squash did it’s thing in the oven. If you’re shooting for a vegetarian dinner, you could work up some quinoa and veggies, or make it super easy by pulling out a BPA-free can of veggie chili (affiliate link) for the easiest healthy dinner on earth. Or you could stick with my recipe below. lamb-stuffed whole roasted acorn squash recipe">
Lamb-Stuffed Roasted Acorn Squash
Serves 4
Makes 4 very generous servings -- unless you're really hungry, prepare for some leftovers for lunch tomorrow!
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  1. 2 whole acorn squash (small to medium in size)
  2. 1.5 lbs ground lamb
  3. 1/2 a red cabbage, chopped
  4. 1 red bell pepper, diced
  5. 1 cloves fresh garlic, chopped or pressed
  6. 4 tbs fresh rosemary
  7. 1 tbs fresh sage
  8. 2 tsp REAL salt + more (CWB Favorite Pick)
  9. Black pepper
  1. Roast 2 whole acorn squash on 400 for 40 minutes, let sit for at least 10 minutes before slicing to avoid a steam burn
  2. While the squash is in the oven, start browning ground lamb on a hot skillet
  3. When the meat's about halfway cooked, sprinkle in 2 tsp salt and add chopped red cabbage and bell pepper
  4. When the meat's about 3/4 of the way browned with 1/4 still red and uncooked, stir in garlic, sage and 1/2 the rosemary.
  5. There should be lots of juices sizzling and bubbling at this point, and the cabbage should be pretty close to done.
  6. Once it's all cooked, add 2 more tbs fresh rosemary and cook for another 5-7 minutes
  7. Slice the top off the acorn squash and cut them in half
  8. Scoop out the innards and seeds, saving the seeds for toasting later
  9. Sprinkle all 4 halves with salt and black pepper
  10. Plate the squash and fill each center with the ground lamb cabbage mixture
Optional but Awesome Toppings
  1. cashew cream
  2. OR
  3. Greek yogurt
  4. OR
  5. sour cream
  6. AND
  7. fresh sprouts
  8. AND
  9. raw sunflower seeds
Cultivated Wellbeing


FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. I only link to products that I USE and LOVE. All opinions are my own.

Roasted Curry Carrots and Fennel [RECIPE]

I’ve decided that I need two ovens, because I love roasting things so much. Doubtful that will happen in my tiny kitchen any time soon, but a girl can dream right? I’ve sung my praises of roasting many times, but I have to say that lately I’m loving it more than ever. I want to roast my dinner almost to the exclusion of every other cooking method. All you do is chop things up, spread them on a cookie sheet with some oil and seasoning, and throw them in the oven. And that’s saying nothing of the fact that the final product is so much more delicious (and nutritious) than what you get in a saute pan.  What could be more amazing than that?

Every vegetable on this plate was prepared in the oven. Every last one. Even the tomatoes. Roasting is simple, it retains the nutrients (and beautiful colors) of the veggies because it’s a dryer form of cooking than boiling, steaming, or sauteing, and it just tastes better. In short, roasting is the bomb. 

roasted carrot and fennel recipe

I Hate Cooked Carrots

Ok, maybe as an adult I’m less of a brat about it, but when I was a little kid, you couldn’t pay me to eat a cooked carrot. (That’s not to say that I didn’t accept bribes to try other foods, but a cooked carrot was a nightmare.) My grandmother would tell me that they would make my eyes pretty; my mother would smother them in butter and even brown sugar sometimes to try to entice me. They’d try to hide them in a pot roast — the most egregious of offenses in my child-sized brain. But I just couldn’t get behind a cooked carrot. I really don’t know why they tried so hard — I’d eat them raw. Anyway, enter the solution I love so dearly, featured in today’s post: ROASTING! 

Digestive Support with Fennel and Ginger

The other two major components of this recipe are fennel and ginger, both ripe with nutrients to support healthy digestion and decrease inflammation. Since we’re just finishing up with the Why Gut Health Matters series, I figured I’d keep in step with this week’s recipe and encourage some ingredients that are good for the belly and body. 

Fennel bulb has a very mild anise flavor, but it feels more like celery in your mouth. It’s delicious raw or cooked, and it provides a ton of vitamin C, folate, anethole, and quercetin, all free-radical fighters, all inflammation extinguishers. (source) The seeds are hailed for their medicinal properties, which include relief from heartburn, gas, bloating, and quite a few other ailments, so they’re a great alternative to prescription drugs that can wreak havoc on your gut biome.

Ginger is a well-known digestive supporter. It helps relieve nausea, intestinal gas and bloating, and discomfort in the digestive tract. It’s also a potent anti-inflammatory and promotes healthy circulation. 

On to the Yum!

This recipe features carrots, fennel, and a touch of spice with an Indian flare — which you can totally skip if you’re not into it, but just give it a try. It’s a super simple recipe that’s great for digestion, full of filling fiber, and absolutely delicious. 

Even a cooked-carrot hater can’t resist this recipe.
Trust me. 

roasted carrots and fennel recipe">
Roasted Curry Carrots and Fennel
Serves 4
Write a review
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
20 min">
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
20 min
  1. 4 carrots, chopped 1/2-inch diagonally
  2. 1 large bulb fennel, sliced
  3. 2 tbs avocado oil
  4. 2 tbs minced fresh ginger
  5. 2 tsp fennel seed
  6. 2 tsp yellow curry powder
  7. 1/2 tsp REAL salt (CWB Favorite Pick)
  8. black pepper to taste
  9. 2 tbs fresh green fennel tops, finely chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Lay chopped veggies flat on a cookie sheet
  3. Add minced ginger, curry, fennel seeds, salt, and pepper evenly across veggies
  4. Drizzle with avocado oil
  5. Roast for 10 minutes
  6. Remove from oven and toss with a spatula to better incorporate oil and spices
  7. Sprinkle fresh green fennel tops over veggies and put back in the oven for another 5 minutes
Cultivated Wellbeing

CWB-Style Blended Beet Borscht [Recipe]

My first Borscht

The first time I ever ate (or even heard of) borscht was back in Baltimore when I visited my good friend, Chef Jack Starr at his restaurant about 8 years ago. Maybe more like 9. My how time flies! Way back then, I had not yet acquired a taste for beets, so I was more than slightly hesitant when he put a steaming bowl of blood red liquid in front of me. He’d pureed all the ingredients and turned what’s usually a red brothy soup with chunks of beet, potato, and cabbage into a smooth, creamy masterpiece. He was excited for me to try his take on this traditional eastern European soup, and I absolutely loved it.

I’ve since seen tons of regional variations of this soup. Some include beef or pork; some use savoy or green cabbage instead of purple. Some use tomatoes and very few beets, while others leave out the beets all together. I’ve seen recipes that include potatoes and recipes that don’t. There’s cold borscht and hot borscht, the two prepared totally differently. The spices vary, the consistency varies, and surprisingly, the color varies too. I learned recently that there’s actually a green borscht that features spinach instead of cabbage. Who knew?! 

blended beet borscht

CWB-Style Blended Beet Borscht

Before we left for our 5-day visit to Texas at the beginning of the year, I realized that we had quite a bit of produce in the fridge that we weren’t going to be able to eat before our departure. Included were beets and cabbage, so I asked my buddy Jack what else I needed to make his amazing red pureed borscht. I didn’t want my anthocyanin-rich red and purple ingredients to go to waste. In typical chef fashion, he rattled off the ingredients with no proportions or measurements, so I figured all that out myself. I also used one yellow beet instead of two red ones to tone down some of the earthiness that can sometimes be a bit too much (for me) with red beets. Then I added a few extra ingredients of my own to boost the nutrition and make a CWB-style Blended Beet Borscht
blended beet borscht

Kitchen Tools

One thing I learned in this process is that, as much as I absolutely love my immersion blender, sometimes it’s just not enough to get the fine consistency I want. When I was using it for this recipe, I was disappointed to see that the fibrous ingredients weren’t breaking down the way pumpkin and sweet potatoes do in some of my other soup recipes. I ended up pouring everything into my NutriBullet Pro 900 Series (affiliate link), and was relieved to find that it made all the difference in the world. Use your judgement with your own appliances — you might have a better immersion blender than I do. Just keep in mind that this soup is meant to have nothing “chewable” in it — it’s an entirely smooth, silky consistency, and my little gizmo just couldn’t hack it.">
CWB-Style Blended Beet Borscht
Serves 12
A new take on a hearty traditional Eastern European dish, totally vegetarian and vegan if you use vegetarian broth and skip the sour cream topper.
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  1. 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  2. 1 red onion, chopped
  3. 4 ribs celery, chopped
  4. 4 medium carrots (use any color you want)
  5. 1 large red beet, diced
  6. 1 large yellow beet, diced
  7. 1/2 head red cabbage, sliced and chopped
  8. 3 tbs fresh grated horseradish
  9. 1/3 cup chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
  10. 3 tsp real or sea salt
  11. 10 cups chicken or veggie broth
  12. 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  13. Topping: 1 dollop of sour cream per bowl
  1. Heat a stock pot on medium and add the olive oil
  2. Cook the next 6 ingredients for 10 minutes before adding the horseradish, dill, and salt
  3. Cook another 5 minutes, then add broth and vinegar
  4. Reduce heat and allow flavors to meld for another 10 to 15 minutes
  5. Transfer to a high-speed blender and blend until completely smooth and creamy
  6. Serve hot with a dollop of organic sour cream on top
  1. If you have a very high-quality immersion blender, you might be able to save yourself from dirtying up the blender. I found that my immersion blender wasn't strong enough to get the job done.
Cultivated Wellbeing

Anniversary Post + NEW eCookbook with 10 Pumpkin Recipes!

Happy Anniversary to Me!

It’s officially been 1 year and 3 days since I started Cultivated Wellbeing, and my, what an amazing year it’s been!! I’ve learned so much in this past year — about blogging, about myself, about the type of work I really want to do, about the community of bloggers I’m so excited to be a part of, and about the wonderful people reading, commenting, sharing, liking, and responding to the work I’ve brought to the blogosphere and social sites.

I am so grateful to everyone who’s been instrumental in the growth of this blog, especially my husband and biggest fan Loren, my friends and family who are always encouraging, and Meghan Ward of, who taught an awesome class for new bloggers last summer at the Grotto in San Francisco, helped me find my voice, and showed me that html is not impossible to figure out and tweak here and there. Her class opened my eyes to the possibilities of what I could accomplish in addition to exposing me to new opportunities and networks like BlogHer. All the wonderful women at the BlogHer14 conference — the speakers, the presenters, the workshop leaders — they were all amazing and inspiring. The sky really is the limit for these women, and I felt lucky to be in the presence of such talented and driven people.

Let’s Celebrate with a New eBook!


In celebration of CWB’s 1 year anniversary, I’m putting out a new eBook! We harvested a whopping 13 pumpkins  from our front yard garden this year (are you sick of me telling you that yet?), and being surrounded by pumpkins inspired an influx of new recipes from my brain. I’ve done some simple roasts, both sweet and savory, desserts, a smoothie, soup, chili, and more. While some of these recipes are new twists on old favorites, I tried to bring as much creativity to the table as possible, both to show you that cooking winter squash can be as simple or as involved as you want it to be, and to give you some fun examples of healthy dishes that will please every palate. Each one is  absolutely fool-proof-delicious and actively good for you, and while you might find something similar on a different site, it won’t have the “Toni touch” that these 10 beauties do. My goal in creating each of these sweet, rich recipes was to combine happiness and health, flavor and phytonutrients, nourishment and nutrition.

Healthy food can be delicious AND filling, and these 10 recipes are proof!

All recipes are gluten-free and vegetarian with very easy adjustments to become vegan if they aren’t already (probably with the exception of the custard). They all include pumpkin or pumpkin seeds, both absolute powerhouses of nutrients. Pumpkins are rich in vitamin A and beta carotene, a full array of antioxidants, and fiber. The seeds are a great source of minerals, especially phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc and iron. They’re also a great source of monounsaturated fat and amino acids, including l-Tryptophan, which promotes a balanced mood and restful sleep. Both the fruit and the seeds are low-glycemic foods rich in antioxidants and vitamins. The other ingredients in these recipes were chosen with nutrition and flavor in mind, each full of herbs and/or spices to enhance the micronutrient content and flavor profile. I used real maple syrup to sweeten when necessary, also rich in micronutrients and minimally processed.


the proud gardener #DexterLove

How do I Get this eBook?

If you have already subscribed to my monthly newsletter, then you likely have the eBook in your mailbox right this very minute. If you haven’t, then it’s time to sign up! You’ll receive a reply email with the eBook inside once you complete the sign up process.

Get excited to access these 10 delectable pumpkin recipes with the click of a button!


The line up:

    • Pumpkin Spice Latte



    • Pumpkin Pie Pancakes



    • Sugar and Spice Smoothie



    • Vegan Creamy Pumpkin Soup with Fried Sage



    • Roasted Pumpkin and Braised Red Cabbage



    • Toasted Zesty Pumpkin Seeds



    • Pumpkin and Black Bean Chili



    • Dessert for Dinner Sweet Roasted Pumpkin



    • Raw Pumpkin Cheezcake Bites



    • Pumpkin Coconut Custard



Sneak Peak Photos of What You’ll Find in this eCookbook:

2014-11-11 11.17.48 eBook pumpkin recipes 2014-11-14 08.20.32 eBook pumpkin recipes 



Spaghetti Squash and Cauli-Freddo Sauce

Today’s post is a celebration of creativity in the kitchen. I love finding new ways to enjoy familiar foods and add more vegetables and healthy fats into my diet, all while creating something delicious in the process. When I make something new, I like to get Loren to guess the ingredients after he’s taken his first bite. He couldn’t figure this one out, especially after I told him it was completely vegan and nut-free. 

A good long while ago I was listening to the Fat-Burning Man podcast, and the guest was talking about her experience in healing with real foods. She had suffered from multiple chronic conditions, was in constant pain, was overweight, and overall miserable. She healed herself by completely changing her diet, eliminating trigger foods and making vegetables her primary source of calories. One of the ways that she’s maintained all the positive changes she’s seen in her life is to make sure that the food she’s eating doesn’t feel restrictive and limited, and to do that, creativity is a must. I wish I remembered her name — I looked through the list of guests and just can’t find the episode I listened to — but one creative idea that stuck out in my mind from that interview was as cauliflower-based cream sauce. I finally decided to try it last week, and inspired by a version of one that I found on OhSheGlows, I came up with my own version of Cauli-Freddo Sauce! It’s delicious and a perfect topper for regular pasta as well as veggie options like spaghetti squash and zucchini “veggetti.”  

I love this recipe because it looks, feels, and tastes dairy-based but is completely vegan and made primarily with cauliflower. It feels decadent, but not only is it ‘not bad’ for you, it’s actively good for you, as cruciferous veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts offer a host of phytonutrients that protect us from cancer and other degenerative and chronic diseases. I served this dish with cajun catfish and roasted asparagus. It was a hit!
cauliflower cream sauce

Cauli-Freddo Sauce (Cauliflower Cream Sauce)


  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • juice from 1/2 lemon or 1 lime
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • Sea salt to taste 
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked cayenne pepper
  • Fresh parsley, for garnish


  1. Chop cauliflower into pieces and rinse
  2. Place steaming basket inside a large pot and add about 2 inches of water 
  3. Place chopped cauliflower in steaming basket, sprinkle with salt, and cover
  4. Steam cauliflower until a fork will easily go through
  5. Remove steaming basket and cauliflower and dump remaining water
  6. Place pot back over fire and add olive oil and chopped garlic
  7. Let gently sauté without burning and turn off fire
  8. Add cauliflower, sautéed garlic, another 1/2 teaspoon salt, and all remaining ingredients (except parsley) to a high-speed blender
  9. Blend until completely smooth
  10. Plate your “pasta” with sauce on top and sprinkle with chopped parsley 

cauliflower cream sauce

For the Spaghetti Squash


  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • avocado oil or olive oil
  • salt


  1. Preheat oven to 400 F
  2. Cut squash in half and grease each half with oil 
  3. Sprinkle lightly with salt
  4. Place face-down in 1/2 inch of water 
  5. Roast on 400 for 30 minutes
  6. Using a fork, scrape out the flesh into a bowl

cauliflower cream sauce

Sicola-Style Roasted Tomato Puttanesca Recipe

I don’t mean to mislead you into thinking this is a “Sicola family recipe” — it’s not. In fact, it’s my take on a recipe a friend shared with Loren over Facebook a few weeks back. I loved the idea of roasting tomatoes in the oven instead of making a stove top sauce like I usually do, so I took the nuts and bolts of that recipe and tweaked it to fit my fancy. I’ve never been great at following recipes to a T anyway; in the end, it always becomes my own concoction. This roasted tomato sauce is no exception.

What makes it Sicola-Style?

1) It’s easy; 2) it’s basically measuring-cup-free; 3) it’s flexible (if you don’t like something in it, just trade it for something that suits you!); 4) it’s nutrient-dense (anchovies=omega 3, tomato peels= extra lycopene); 5) it’s chalk-full of rich, sweet flavor — just like this blog — and last but not least, 6) you don’t have to peel the tomatoes! Sweet relief + extra phytonutrients! What could go wrong? I’m starting the tradition right now, and for years to come generations of Sicolas will make this sauce and sing its praises! I know you will too when you try it at home. Tonight we enjoyed it with zucchini noodles, Sicilian sausage, and fresh basil. A healthy twist on my pasta-loving Sicilian family roots! 

roasted tomato sauce puttanesca

What Kind of Tomatoes to Use?

I used giant red heirlooms and cherry tomatoes from my backyard tomato jungle, but I’ve seen similar recipes using Romas or San Marzanos. At the end of the day, if you start with a good tomato, your sauce will be good. Don’t use gross pink flavorless conventional beefsteaks and you won’t get gross watery flavorless sauce. It’s that simple. In my book, you start with good organic ingredients and you’ll get good results. Don’t skimp on quality and your taste buds and body will thank you. If you need help picking your tomatoes, here are a few tips:

  • The deeper the red color (both inside and out), the better. If you’re having doubts, get a produce employee to cut one open for you before you buy. 
  • You want only a little give when you gently squeeze the fruit, but some give is important. If a tomato is too firm, it’s probably not quite ripe, which means it was super green when it was picked and probably tastes like nothing (another reason to ask to peek inside one!)
  • You want a tomato you like — try a few varieties if you’re not sure what you like best. Certainly the flavor will change and be enhanced as you cook and add seasonings, but if you don’t like the raw materials, you’re less likely to like the finished product.
  • If you can get your tomatoes from a local farmers’ market, you’re almost guaranteeing that they were sun-ripened and recently picked, which means rich, deep flavor. Opt for the farmers’ market if you can!

Kitchen Hack: Tomatoes lose their flavor and nutritional value rapidly when refrigerated. Buy your tomatoes the same week you plan to use them and store them on your counter, not in the fridge. You’ll get more flavor and more lycopene, an antioxidant important for eye health and prevalent in tomatoes. In fact, the lycopene increases when you cook and is more bioavailable when fat is added, so this sauce does the trick — cooked in olive oil to guarantee a healthy dose of lycopene in every serving!

Let’s Get Started!


Your Shopping list*:

  • 3 lbs fresh organic tomatoes
  • Organic olive oil
  • 1 can black olives, coarsely chopped (a Sicola family favorite!)
  • 1 small jar capers
  • 1 small jar anchovies fillets in olive oil
  • fresh oregano (or your favorite fresh herbs — other options are rosemary, marjoram, thyme, or some combo)
  • cracked red pepper
  • REAL salt

*I’m giving you a shopping list instead of an ingredients list because you will not use the whole can of olives or jars of capers and sardines. My leftover olives are long gone (in my belly) but the capers and sardines will store in the fridge for a very long time.


  • 2 large cookie sheets
  • Blender
  • Jars for freezing/storing (leave about 1.5 inches at the top of each jar you plan to freeze to avoid sadness and broken glass disaster in your freezer)


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 while you prep your cookie sheets and ‘maters
  2. Coat the cookie sheets with a thin layer of olive oil
  3. Cut the tomatoes in half if small, into quarters if large, and line the cookie sheets
  4. Generously drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt over tomatoes
  5. Roast at 400F for about 25 minutes, then reduce the heat to 225F and cook for another hour
  6. Remove from the oven and evenly distribute about 1/2 the can of olives, a couple spoonfuls of capers, and about 10 chopped anchovies over the two sheets of tomatoes
  7. Add about 5 sprigs of fresh oregano — simply strip the leaves from the stems, no need to chop
  8. Sprinkle cracked red pepper to your desired spice level (start small, you can always add more at the end!)
  9. Replace sheets in the oven and cook another hour or so
  10. Remove from the oven and add all contents to blender
  11. Add about 5 more sprigs of oregano
  12. Pulse lightly for a thick, chunky sauce or puree for a smoother texture
  13. Store in jars in the refrigerator for up to one week. Freeze what you don’t eat to save for a rainy day!


Flashback: Cambodian Cooking Class [Recipe]


Angkor Wat

Cambodian Cooking Class – Fish Amok with Morning Glory

We’re back in Southeast Asia for this flashback post featuring a classic Cambodian dish I learned how to make on our honeymoon a few years back. Some of the best parts of our trip were the parts we didn’t plan in advance, and this cooking class was one of those things. 

Loren and I spent a few days in Siem Reap, Cambodia mostly to see Angkor Wat and all the surrounding temples in the Angkor Archeological Park. We had our first Fish Amok with Morning Glory in a tiny open-air restaurant just outside the park, so I had a good idea of how my dish should turn out when I made it in class.

fish amok recipe

in tourist mode at Angkor

Our tour of Angkor was one full day of a 3 day visit, so we found ourselves winging it for our extra time in Cambodia. Of course, we got foot massages every day and spent some time by the pool enjoying cocktails and being silly, but we were thrilled to find a cooking class advertised in the window of a beautiful restaurant on the main drag in downtown Siem Reap.

fish amok recipe

Angkor Palm Cooking Class

Each of us in the intimate cooking class was able to select the dish we wanted to make from a list of menu items. I chose Fish Amok with Morning Glory, Loren chose Sour Soup with Chicken, and we all agreed that the Tapioca and Banana dessert would finish off our meals nicely.

fish amok recipe

cooking action shot

We were presented with photo copies of hand-written recipes and guided through the process by the Head Chef of Angkor Palm Restaurant. Today I’m sharing the Fish Amok with Morning Glory recipe, which I love because it’s an authentic regional food chalk full of vegetables (a feature sometimes hard to find in places where rice is the main staple food). It was so fun to see all the beautiful fresh ingredients and learn from someone who had probably been making this dish his entire life.  

fish amok recipe

the variety of seasonings everyone used for their Cambodian dishes

fish amok recipe

fresh garlic, turmeric, galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves

fish amok

fresh long beans and red chilis for a dish another student made


Fish Amok
Serves 2
Amok is a national culinary tradition and staple dish in Cambodia. It's served in every restaurant and perfected in every home, and it can be made with fish, beef, or chicken. It's commonly served with morning glory or some other leafy green.
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  1. Chinese cabbage (6 leaves, thinly sliced)
  2. Oyster mushrooms (6 to 8 torn into small pieces)
  3. Large handful spinach (or noni leaves if you can find them) sliced thin
  4. 1 lb catfish cut into 1.5 inch chunks
  5. 8 tbs coconut oil
  6. 6 tbs curry paste*
  7. 1 cup coconut milk
  8. 1 tsp salt
  9. 2 tsp chicken stock
  10. 2 tsp palm sugar
  11. 4 tsp fish sauce
  12. 6 ladles of water
  1. Heat a large skillet and add oil and curry paste
  2. Stir until the curry becomes aromatic then add in the coconut milk, 3 ladles of water, and the fish
  3. Cook 5-7 minutes
  4. Add remaining vegetables and cook about 3 more minutes
  5. Add the rest of the ingredients including 3 more ladles of water
  6. Stir another minute and turn off fire (make sure the fish is cooked through)
  1. *curry paste can either be purchased or made from scratch. Unless you're really ambitious, I recommend simply purchasing a Thai curry paste at your local Whole Foods or Asian super market. It will be the closest to making it yourself. If you would like to make it yourself, the ingredients are (all fresh): galangal, turmeric, yellow ginger, kaffir lime leaves, garlic and lemongrass, blended and refrigerated.
Adapted from Angkor Palm Restaurant, Siem Reap Cambodia
Adapted from Angkor Palm Restaurant, Siem Reap Cambodia
Cultivated Wellbeing

Morning Glory  (aka Water Spinach)

And now for the morning glory recipe. You might be asking yourself what morning glory is. It’s a beautiful leafy green veggie pretty similar to spinach. If you’ve had sautéed leafy greens at a Cambodian, Vietnamese, or Thai restaurant, it very well might have been morning glory. It’s also called water spinach if  you’ve ever seen that on the menu at your favorite Asian restaurant. I love it because it holds up in cooking but still has a delicate grassy flavor completely absent of bitterness. It has fibrous, hollow stems, and this recipe calls for them to be cut and then either smashed with a mallet or crunched in your hands before preparing. 

raw morning glory and catfish for my recipe

raw morning glory and catfish for my recipe

Stir-fried Morning Glory (Water Spinach)
Yields 2
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Cook Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
  1. 1 large bunch morning glory, chopped and smashed
  2. 1 cup chicken stock
  3. 2 tsp palm sugar
  4. 2 tbs oyster sauce
  5. 2 ladles water
  6. 4 tbs coconut oil
  7. 2 cloves garlic
  1. Heat a large pan, then add the oil and garlic
  2. Stir until golden and add morning glory and water
  3. Cook 1 minute and add remaining seasoning
  1. This dish can be enjoyed with a number of main courses with an Asian flare.
Adapted from Angkor Palm Restaurant, Siem Reap Cambodia
Adapted from Angkor Palm Restaurant, Siem Reap Cambodia
Cultivated Wellbeing
I’m planning to share the Tapioca and Banana dessert sometime soon, so stay tuned for that! In the meantime, enjoy this authentic regional cuisine from Cambodia! 


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