Copper penny cooked carrot salad


Turn carrots into a delicious, make-ahead party salad.

Pot luck party time

“What are you bringing to the pot luck picnic tomorrow, Vinny?”

Vinny looked at his super slim and very athletic friend. “Think I’ll bring a crunchy curried cauliflower salad, Val. It’s easy. I took it to a party on the weekend and it was a hit. I just added curly lettuce leaves and my own cabbage slaw to Farm Boy’s offering and I was done.”

“Crunchy?” asked Val. “Does that mean uncooked?”

“Why, yes,” said Vinny.

“Guess I won’t be eating any, then.” Val smiled.

“Oops, I forgot! You can’t eat uncooked fiber! Sorry!” said Vinny.

“No problem,” said Val. “There will be plenty of other things there I can eat.”

But Vinny loves a challenge and began to think how he could turn his salad into something his friend Val could eat too. Easy, he thought. Cooked carrots. Just peel, slice, and add a  dressing.

He’d recently had something like this on a trip to Western Canada. The original recipe called for a cup of sugar. Good though it was, that wasn’t going to happen in Vinny’s salad. Here is Vinny’s version of the copper penny salad he enjoyed at Marlene’s, spiced up with ginger and curry.

Cooked carrot salad

Copper penny cooked carrot salad
Serves 1216

  • 2 pounds carrots, cut into pennies
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, finely chopped  or 1 teaspoon ginger powder if you are avoiding fiber
  • 1 can tomato soup
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seed oil (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut palm sugar or to taste (optional)… or an equivalent amount of liquid stevia.
  • 1/2 cup vinegar (preferably apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 2 large green onions,  sliced, for garnish (optional)
  1. Slice carrots into coins, then cook in boiling water until tender yet crisp, about 10 minutes. Drain, then submerge in cold water to cool.
  2. Combine soup, oil, sweetener, vinegar, ginger and curry powder and simmer for 10 minutes to bring out the ginger taste.
  3. Pour the tomato dressing over the carrots. Chill till serving time. You can make this up to 3 days ahead. Increase the carrots to 3 pounds for  a bigger crowd. There is lots of sauce, enough to dress a larger quantity.
  4. For a nice presentation: Heap the saucy carrot coins in the middle of a large, deep serving platter. Ring the carrots with quartered tomatoes. Decorate with chive flowers.
Heritage carrots... not perfect, but perfectly delicious!

Heritage carrots… not perfect, but perfectly delicious. And just as nutritious!


Carrots make an excellent choice for a healthy future…  crunchy, tasty and highly nutritious. Carrots are a particularly good source of beta-carotene, fiber, vitamin K, potassium and antioxidants. They are friendly to people trying to watch their weight and are linked to lower cholesterol levels and improved eye health. The carotene antioxidants in carrots contribute to a reduced risk of cancer.

Vinny uses the natural sweetener stevia in place of sugar. He sometimes adds a little coconut palm sugar to enhance the taste of caramel but this is entirely optional. Stevia users learn how to adapt the amount of stevia to their own taste, getting just the right sweetness without going overboard. Too much leaves a bitter taste, which should be avoided🙂.

In salads, Vinny likes to use olive oil. But in this recipe, with so few ingredients, olive oil might be a bit strong.

Instead, he chose avocado oil for its mild taste. Then he added a bit of sesame seed oil to give a lovely nutty flavor. Other nut oils would also work. These are Vinny’s oils of choice because they have a healthy ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids.

Spices all add unique disease-fighting properties through their high levels of antioxidants. This recipe features ginger and curry. Vinny loves to add spices to all his recipes to increase the nutritional impact, and, of course, the flavor.


Dorothy’s amazing tomato salad


Vinny pays homage to the tomato

Vinny has been remiss! That means he’s made a big mistake, has been careless, or both. For although he has featured tomatoes in many posts, especially those where he is extolling the virtues of a bunch of super foods, he’s never devoted a post solely to these delicious vegetables… er, fruits, actually.

Recently, though, we were invited to a summer dinner party where tomato salad was the star. To my mind, it earned the “most delicious dish on the table” medal… which was quite a feat seeing as everything on the table tasted wonderful and was beautifully presented.

The hostess kindly shared her recipe with me, but before we go there, I want to salute the tomato.


Make your own tomato sauce to increase lycopene content.


Of all the plant compounds found in tomatoes, lycopene is the one to look out for. This compound is linked to better heart health, reduced cancer risk, and healthy skin, including increased resistance to sunburn!

Lycopene is the most abundant nutrient in the ripened tomato and is found in the highest amount in the skin.

The redder the tomato, the more lycopene it has.

Cooking increases the amount of lycopene in the tomatoes. Ketchup, tomato juice, and tomato-based sauces are thus the richest dietary sources of lycopene going. They provide more than 80% of  dietary lycopene in the U.S.

Other foods affect how well your digestive system absorbs the tomato’s lycopene. Eating some healthy fats along with tomatoes increases absorption of lycopene by up to 4 times.

Even though processed tomato products are higher in lycopene,  fresh, whole tomatoes are your best choice for good nutrition (unless you make you own tomato products at home, with less sugar and no preservatives).

Other tomato benefits

A tomato weighing in at 125 grams has only 22 calories. Eat your fill, without guilt.

Tomatoes give you lots of vitamin C, potassium, vitamin K and folate. Vitamin C is a key antioxidant and disease fighter. Potassium and vitamin K keep your heart and bones in good shape. And folate is essential for moms-to-be.

Now that fresh, local tomatoes are showing up in stores and farmers’ markets in North America, it’s the perfect time to try this easy salad for yourself.

Dorothy's tomato salad

Single-serving, in a martini glass

Dorothy’s Amazing Tomato Salad
Serves 10-12

  • 4 to 6 large tomatoes, with seeds removed, diced, and drained to remove excess liquid
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • 8 slices cooked bacon, diced
  • ¼ cup chopped green onion


  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup vinegar
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (or the equivalent amount of stevia)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Combine dressing ingredients. Refrigerate.
  2. Just before serving layer the ingredients in a serving dish: first tomatoes, then eggs, bacon and green onion last. Use a glass dish if you want to behold the layers and lovely color.
  3. Pour dressing over all.


This recipe combines many ingredients to give you the best possible nutrition from tomatoes. It contains lots of fresh tomatoes, with their lavish servings of lycopenes, vitamins and minerals. The ketchup ups the lycopene content even higher. The fat in the salad dressing, from the oil and cheese, helps with lycopene’s absorption. Plus there is a generous dose of protein from the eggs.


I cut the recipe in half to serve 4-6 and presented each guest with a single serving in a martini glass. I used avocado oil and apple cider vinegar, because it was what I had on hand. My hard-boiled eggs came out perfectly using Vinny’s technique, here. I boiled the eggs and crisped the bacon a day ahead.

Dorothy’s salad tastes as good as it looks. Make tomatoes a part of your summer fun and give your family a healthy boost.

Dorothy's tomato salad

Thanks, Dorothy!


Vinny’s on Yum Goggle

Ile de Re: Fish market

Vinny’s been updating older posts recently and putting them up on Yum Goggle. Yum Goggle features food photography from contributors around the world. The photos whet your appetite for the recipes you can get simply by clicking on the pictures or the words GET THE RECIPE. It’s a great site and we’re proud to be a part of the team. More

Healthier Happy Birthday cake-pie

Chocolate cream pie with figs

It’s Sharon’s birthday today, so Vinny brings you a rich, chocolatey tart with no  flour in the filling, that you can stick candles in and sing happy birthday around, merrily. With this dessert, you can enjoy a slice and know that along with your birthday calories, you are also getting a decent helping of nutrition.

If you are gluten intolerant, you must either not eat the crust, or make it without a crust, in which case it would be quite a different dessert, entirely.

It’s easy and reasonably quick to make, so your partner or kids should be able to whip it up in a flash.

I served this for my gourmet dinner group last month without candles, but with more fresh figs on the side, on crystal plates dusted with cocoa. Sadly, I forgot to get a picture. But I include a picture below, taken without decoration. I admit, I can’t make a decent pie crust, so I buy my crusts in the frozen foods section of the grocery store (hang my head in shame).

The gluten-free filling is like a French silk pie, AKA, chocolate ganache. It’s often served with whipped cream and more chocolate on top, but I think that is overkill. So good just as it is.


French chocolate-and-figs tart
Makes one 9-inch pie

Prepare the figs

  • 6 fresh figs
  1. Wash the figs and cut each fruit into quarters.

Bake the pie shell

  • 1 frozen 9-inch (23-cm) deep-dish pie shell, pricked with a fork
  1. Bake the shell on a cookie sheet at 375F to a soft golden brown or according to the package directions, about 15 minutes.

Mix the chocolate custard

  • 115 grams dark chocolate, cut into chunks
  • 90 grams coconut oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 100 grams coconut palm sugar
  • 20 grams cocoa powder
  • 50 grams white chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons Grande Marnier, optional
  1. Melt the coconut oil in a pot suspended over a pan of simmering water.
  2. Add the chopped chocolate and stir with a wooden spoon until the chocolate is nearly melted. Turn off the heat and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat and allow to cool, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.
  3. Add the Grand Marnier to the chocolate when it is cool.
  4. Beat the eggs with the sugar in a large bowl using a hand mixer, until the batter lightens in color, and gets thick and bubbly (about 5 minutes).
  5. Pour the cooled chocolate over the egg mixture slowly, and mix in gently with a plastic spatula.
  6. Add the cocoa and fold in with your spatula. Fold in the white chocolate chips.

Finish the pie

  1. Pour the chocolate custard into the shell and shake it a little it to even it out.
  2. Arrange the fig pieces on top of the tart.
  3. Bake at 350F for 20-30 minutes, just until the filling is set. It should lose its shine and not wobble when shaken.
  4. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Wrap in foil and refrigerate until time to serve.


I use coconut palm sugar because it has a lower glycemic index than granulated sugar. The protein from the eggs helps retard the absorption of the sugar into the blood, as well. The coconut oil has special health-giving properties. And cocoa is the healthiest form of chocolate you can buy, as it has no added sugar or fat. Click the links for more discussion on these foods. Did I mention the filling is gluten free?

Will's cake begins to erupt!

Happy birthday, from Vinny!

Shrimp gumbo rocks the year of the pulse

Shrimp gumbo with ancho chile spice rub

Year of the pulse…

In honor of this versatile food group, we present a dish starring beans, lentils and dried peas. We served our spicy shrimp gumbo as the opening course for our Spanish tapas gourmet dinner this year. But it works well in larger amounts as a main course, too. More

Watermelon cheers us up with coolers and salads


Watermelon is a mood food

As most of my friends fly south for the winter, I thought I’d inject a little sun into my own life with watermelon. Deep into February as we are, a food to lift our spirits seems in order.

I’ve covered some of this before, but for newer readers, are you surprised to learn that watermelon is a good source of  the mood vitamins B1 (thiamine) and B6 (pyridoxine)? I was. Turns out thiamine is important for maintaining electrolytes and transmitting nervous-system signals throughout the body. Pyridoxine works with enzymes that convert food into cellular energy.

Who needs warm weather… Let’s party!


Watermelon pepo

Watermelon is a berry

Another surprising fact about watermelon… its fruit is a pepo, a special kind of berry with a thick rind and fleshy center.

Watermelon pepos offer the most nutrition per calorie of any common food.

Red is the give-away. Bright colors signal a big pay-off in  lycopene, an antioxidant repeatedly studied in humans and found to protect  against a whole slew of cancers…  prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and colorectal, for starters.

Watermelon offers lots of  beta-carotene and another antioxidant, vitamin C. Besides helping lycopene to ward off cancer, these vitamins also battle heart disease, arthritis, and asthma.

Then there is the mineral potassium, guardian of our cardiovascular system, brain, and kidneys.

Finally, watermelon provides lots of the master mineral magnesium. Magnesium  is the big boss for over 300 cellular metabolic functions. Poor soils make magnesium scarce in today’s foods. Lack of magnesium is related to irritability, tension, sleep disorders, and muscular cramping, including the heart muscle (attack!).

How to enjoy watermelon

Watermelons retain most of their nutrition even after being cut and stored in the fridge. But watermelon is best eaten at room temperature when the flavor, plus the phytonutrient capacity, is at its best.


Eat plain

Just quarter a large watermelon berry and slice off slabs. Eat the flesh right off the rind and spit out the seeds.

Watermelon salad


Watermelon salad
Serves one

  • one cup watermelon cubes
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • one cup kale, ribs removed and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon avocado oil
  • 1 ounce goat cheese
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  1. Chop the flesh into bite-sized chunks.
  2. Drizzle them with lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, or vodka. Let them soak it up for a few minutes.
  3. Use them to top a plateful of greens, kale in my photo, which I drizzled with  avocado oil and massaged well.
  4. Top with crumbled feta cheese or, my favorite, goat cheese.


Watermelon fizz cocktail

Vinny’s pink watermelon cooler
Serves four

  • 2  cups watermelon cubes, frozen
  • 4 ice cubes
  • Juice of one fresh lemon (1/4 cup)
  • Juice of one fresh lime (2 tablespoons)
  • 2-4 tablespoons of any sugar syrup you have. I used home-made red-current couli, But any fruit syrup, even grenadine (from pomegranates) or maple syrup, will do. I use an equivalent amount of stevia unless it’s a special occasion.
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • 2 pinches of black pepper
  • 3-4 ounces raspberry vodka (optional)
  • ¼ to 1/3 cup club soda, depending on whether you add alcohol or not and the size of your glass
  1. Blend the whole works except for the club soda for a few seconds.
  2. If you want to serve some of the cocktails without alcohol, leave the vodka out and add it back to the glasses of  the folks who want it.
  3. Fill each glass about halfway with the watermelon fizz. Add 1 ounce alcohol to each glass if you didn’t include it in the mix. Top up with club soda. Adjust flavor with more lemon juice if needed.
  4. Spoon some of the pink foam into each glass and top with a raspberry or a mint leaf to garnish.


When the winter blahs get you down, break out some watermelon and smile🙂.




Heart-smart sweet potato pancakes for your valentine

 Luv U... B mine?

Luv U… B mine?

Here’s a terrific treat for the family on a day that celebrates all things close to the heart. It’s terrific because this valentine doesn’t involve candy, but it tastes wonderful, anyway.

My mystery delight involves sweet potatoes. They release their sugar gently, taking their time, so you don’t suffer from sugar spikes associated with refined white sugar that is added to most sweets.

I published this 4 years ago with all the good news about sweet potatoes. But I’ve since updated the photos and made the recipe even easier (there as well as here).

sweet potato pancakes

Light and fluffy!

Heart-y sweet potato pancakes
Serves 2 or 3

  • 3/4 cup mashed sweet potatoes (1 medium potato boiled until fork tender, then peeled, mashed, and measured)
  • 1/4 cup flour (whole grain if possible)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 eggs (omega-3 if possible)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons liquid oil (coconut, if possible)
  1. Boil your sweet potato until fork tender. Then peel, mash, and measure. Use 1/4 cup mashed potato per egg, for each person. My recipe serves 3 people from 1 potato.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk and canola oil. Of course you can use any kind of eggs, milk or oil…. but on a day we are celebrating love, I think we should be as kind to our hearts as we can be with these healthy ingredients.
  4. Whisk the sweet potato puree into the liquid ingredients. Then stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until they are just blended.

Cooking and Presentation

  1. To follow through with hearts on Valentine’s Day, spray a large nonstick or cast-iron frying pan with oil and add a dab of butter for flavor. Heat the pan on medium heat until oil sizzles a bit.
  2. Fill the pan with 1/4-cup scoops of batter. I had room for 3 or 4 at a time. When bubbles rise to the surface of the pancakes, lift a corner and check the underside. When golden brown, flip the cake over, using a spatula. After a minute or three, once the second side is golden as well, flip the cake onto a wooden cutting board.
  3.  Using a heart-shaped cookie cutter, turn each pancake into a love-note for your sweetie. I presented these golden treats with a splash of maple syrup and some berries on the side.


Sweet potato

Hey, sweet patootie, I yam keen on you! B mine?

 “You are berry cute,” I said. “I think we’re cut out for each other!”

Melting moments – Christmas in bows


Pinecone cake – a labor of love

With the Christmas season fast approaching, time is running out for Vinny to finish his baking, and shopping, and mailing, and merrying.

So we thought we’d use the next few weeks to re-post some items from previous Christmas seasons for readers new to Vinny’s blog. We hope our tried and true fans will be prompted to cook up some of these recipes for their own celebrations, too, and let us know how it goes.

Below is a Christmas story focused on food, family, legacy and love… not to mention reading. More

Meringue ghosts hone egg-cracking skills


Here’s another easy recipe for small fingers. Kids learn how to separate eggs. Then they can make up these cute, tasty little Halloween ghosts and marvel at the mysteries of food chemistry.

Use eggs at room temperature for frothiest results. Or put eggs from fridge into warm water for 5 minutes or so to warm them up. More

1,2,3-Ingredient brownies with low-sugar, nutty spread

3-ingredient brownies

Low-sugar brownies have a secret ingredient

Kids, get your aprons on. We’re going to whip up some brownies that are as good for the body as they are for the soul. Including time to wash up the dishes, these treats should take no more than a half hour away from your Minecraft play time. More

The berry scary pie

Berry pie

“That’s scary!” Isla declared, her wide eyes shifting from the cooking pot to the finished product. I knew Halloween had been on her mind, now only a couple of weeks away.

“How so?” I asked. More

A hogbake from Redwall Abbey… and a little kale magic


Crispy egg ‘N onion hogbake

This recipe, inspired by the Redwall Cookbook for kids, has nothing to do with pigs. For the life of me, I can’t come up with a reason that explains why they named it a hogbake. Perhaps it’s a typo, and they meant to call it a henbake.

Regardless, I loved its simple healthy ingredients. More

Lazy-boy’s basic risotto

Easy no-stir risotto

Easy no-stir risotto

This risotto’s easy!

Or is it? What’s easy for me may be hard for you. You might not have the equipment to make quick work of the tasks. Your kitchen may require too much walking, lifting, and reaching. Or you may not have had enough practice…  the first time around is always hard. Finally, you may not realize that dirt and food are never best friends. In fact, the combo is darn-right dangerous. So you can’t ignore the sink and shun the dish cloth. Accept cleaning up as a basic part of the art, or you’ll never enjoy cooking. And there’s more… More

Ms. Manners makes easy work of cheaters’ lemony cheese cake

Cheat on your diet with this lo-sugar lemony cheese cake!

Cheat on your diet with this lo-sugar lemony cheese cake!

“That Mr. Crank is such a witch,” complained Vinny, about his neighbor. “He spends his days dreaming up ways to make my life miserable.” More

Making sweet potato fries in the oven – perfect every time

sweet potato fries

Sweet potato fries, perfect in the oven

Sweet Patooty’s back! I raved about the fab qualities of sweet potatoes in an earlier post. But I’ve never posted a recipe for my favorite of all ways of having them… oven-baked fries. That’s because I never felt I’d gotten it quite right. But now, I think I can confidently tell you how to make these beauties come out delicious every time… crispy, not soggy, and definitely not burnt! More

Flash sale today, on-line at Blurb Books!

Healthy eating as a question of balance

Healthy eating is all about balance

If you have ever been tempted to buy a copy of Sharon Rudnitski’s book Cook Up A Story: Good Food Sets the Mood… now is the time.

For the next 3 days (until April 13), you can get it on-line for 35% off… the largest discount I’ve ever seen. Use the promo code APRILFLASH35 at checkout.


My mandolin’s iceberg salad, starring kohlrabi…


Mystery veggie

Kohlrabi – Huh? My picky eater surprised me the other day. Will’s vegetarian school buddy had given him a taste of this odd veggie and it turned out to be a hit! I had to look it up. More

Cranberry troll cream and the three gruff goats

Cranberry troll cream

A Norwegian tradition

A Tale of Three Goats

Once upon a time, three little Billy goats were feeling a bit gruff. They hadn’t eaten since they left the barn in the morning, because during the night, their meadow had been grazed to the ground by a herd of reindeer, one of whom had a red nose!

The goats trotted and trotted, looking for fresh grass under the snow. But they had no luck. At last, they came upon a raging river. On the opposite bank, rows of cranberry bushes poked their heads up through the drifts. Lunch called!

The water looked deep and cold. But they soon spotted a stone bridge. The littlest and liveliest goat boy danced ahead. When he jumped onto the bridge, a troll leaped at him, all smelly and ugly.

“I eats goats for lunch,” the troll roared, “and you looks mighty tasty!” More

A cake cup for Krista – Chocolate rules!

cake cups

The candles spluttered out in a blast of air, as 9-year-old Krista blew across her birthday cake and made a wish.

“What did you wish for?” asked Vinny. “A unicorn for the backyard shed? A chest of gold Lego?”

“No… and no,” said Krista. “I wished I was skinny!”

“What? No!” Vinny was aghast. More

Look who’s on first: Avocado Crostini

Avocado crostini

Green is clean

Avocado crostini with goats cheese and chouriço, garnished with pistachios and red endive

The little bites at the start of a meal are often what we remember best. Here’s an easy appetizer that should hit a home-run for the crowd.

Choose an artisanal baguette baked fresh that day. If you must buy it ahead, wrap it well and freeze it for up to a week. A crusty-type loaf works better with this recipe than a chewy loaf. The chewy ones don’t toast as crisply and it’s harder to break off dainty bites. I learned this the hard way.

If you can find a loaf made from whole grain bread, take bonus points for good nutrition! Some more tips… More

Banana crepes


 Banana crepes banish the blues with just two ingredients…

No lie. This is the easiest pancake recipe on the planet. Make this gorgeous breakfast crepe from only two ingredients.  Forget the milk and the flour. All you need are eggs and bananas. Sprinkle some cinnamon to garnish. Then wave good-bye to Little Boy Blue. More

Make sardines taste good and boost your memory

No added salt - just wild Canadian sardines and water.

No added salt – just wild Canadian sardines and water.

More on the omega-3s…

Omega-3 fats are vital to the workings of our brain, the most important organ of our body. They keep our memories sharp and our minds on target. Sadly, the average North American diet is not a welcoming place for these guys. More

Nothing fishy about green chili salmon baked in banana leaves

Salmon in banana leaves

This recipe from Chef Mo captured my imagine. Then it seared into my soul!

Banana leaves

When a reader from Texas told me where to find purple yams here in Canada, I figured it wouldn’t be that hard to find banana leaves, either. Sure enough, a small store just 10 minutes away sold them.

Giant leaves in hand (these things are humongous), I set about getting dinner ready for guests coming to a birthday party.

The night before the big day, disaster struck. More

Fabulous Fennel, plus an Italian side-dish

Braised fennel with chinese chicken

Fennel makes a great side for barbecued chicken.

What’s Fennel?

Fennel’s a bit of an odd vegetable. Although it turns up in the produce departments of most super markets, it’s not really a regular guest at most people’s tables. Fennel’s best pals with Celery, another kind-of-blah veggie that is often left languishing. These two veggies have the same pale greenish-white crisp flesh. And Fennel’s stalks grow around one another like Celery’s stalks do. Both veggies can be served raw or cooked. And both have a fibrous, mild flavor.

But Fennel deserves a closer look. Once you get to know it, you’ll see it’s loaded with character. More

Walnuts stewed: An earthy walnut and mushroom soup


Finishing with walnuts…

Walnuts stewed (see Verse 4 in an earlier post) might seem a bit unusual, but they are indeed easily chewed.

This walnut soup idea grew from a recipe I had saved from a teenage chef in Texas, who says his friends loved it. He’s probably grown up by now and very smart indeed if he’s continued down the walnut-tree-lined road of healthy eating.

I found the earthiness of the walnuts in my Texan’s dish very nice.  His recipe might be something the kids in the family would take to. But for me,  I needed a little more oomph on my spoon. More

Walnuts raw: Crunchy party salad comes packed with nutrition


Walnuts slash diabetic risk by a quarter. Click pic for more.

Continuing with walnuts…

Walnuts raw (see Verse 4 in my previous post) not only develop the jaw, they also strengthen teeth as well as bones in your whole body.

Then too, walnuts help you remember things… like the make-ahead party salad in last week’s blog entry I promised to post. That’s because of the huge amounts of the rarer fat component omega-3 that walnuts have.  More

Where’s Walnuts?

One walnut hiding among other tasty nuts

Can you spot the walnut hiding among all these other tasty tree nuts?

Verse 4

Walnuts, raw
Develop the jaw,
But walnuts, stewed,
Are more quietly chewed.
with a gentle nod to Ogden Nash

I’m nuts for walnuts…

I lied, when I promised I’d stop waxing poetic about nuts. I forgot about the walnut, one of nature’s treasures! Carrying on with my nutty soliloquy, I present verse 4.

Crunchy or pureed, if we’re smart, walnuts will be found hiding on our plates in everything from soup to salads! I’m so impressed with walnuts’ healthy benefits, I hardly know where to begin… perhaps with the letter A. More

Round Vinny Grette’s kitchen in pictures – best recipes of 2013

Here Vinny presents his best efforts for 2013 –
easy, healthy, and kid friendly food.
For a glimpse into Vinny’s kitchen, click on any picture.

For recipes, copy and paste the link that appears below each caption. More

Almonds two ways: Another pineapple dessert plus gluten-free cookies

Chewy almond butter cookies

 Verse 2

My little granddaughter
Came to visit me,
And all for a taste
Of my almond cook-kie.

Another pineapple and almond dessert…

Last week’s post featured Verse 1 of Vinny’s ode to almonds and the grilled pineapple dish with almonds I pictured there.

This time, I made another version, using the microwave instead of the barbecue. I drizzled some liqueur over the pineapple (which I sliced really really thin and spread across the dinner plate in a single layer). Then I nuked the plate for 1 minute in the micro. Finally, I topped the pineapple with Greek yogurt sweetened with stevia, then with lots of chopped  almonds, candied ginger, and cinnamon. It tasted like Paris. OO-la-la!

Gluten-free almond-butter cookies

Here’s an easy recipe you can make with the kids. You can even serve these cookies along with my pineapple dish for a special treat. It uses almond-butter. My friend Esther sent along the idea. She says, “These are tasty, just sweet enough, very nutty, and a touch chewy, as long as they are taken out of the oven when just done (no darkness on the bottom).”

I liked that there are only a few ingredients, no special tools needed except a hand-mixer, and no temperamental mixing instructions. These cookies taste like a treat straight out of a candy box🙂. Yet, they’re packed with good nutrition. Yay Esther!

On the left, no quinoa flour. The cookie is oilier and more crumbly than the one on the right, made with my recipe. Both taste the same.

Some tips

  • When I opened the jar of almond-butter, all the oil had pooled at the top. I had to pour the oil into the mixing bowl, scrape out the nut solids, and mix vigorously with a big spoon to incorporate the oil again. Thinking things over, this may have been because I used almond/hazelnut butter, because that was what I had in the cupboard. Hazelnuts are considerably more oily than almonds.
  • I halved the sugar in Esther’s recipe, using a scant half cup. I wanted each cookie to have an acceptable level of sugar (the guide is 5 grams a serving). My cookies clocked in at 7 grams each. They taste plenty sweet.
  • I added a third of a cup of quinoa flakes to the mix. The cookies didn’t hold together well without it. The quinoa absorbed the oil that seemed to leak all over everything without it. If you don’t have quinoa flakes, use oat flour… or even whole wheat flour if you aren’t allergic to gluten. Five ingredients make for an easy recipe kids can whip up themselves.
  • I buy quinoa flakes at the health food store. The beauty of quinoa is that it has no flavor of its own, unlike whole wheat. The cookies with quinoa flakes taste identical to the cookies without it – they just handle better. Plus they have a bit more protein and fiber.

almond-butter cookies

Vinny’s no-flour, no-butter almond cookies
Makes 16 cookies

  • 1 cup natural almond butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup quinoa flakes (available at health food stores)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • almond slivers to garnish (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Using a hand mixer, mix all the ingredients together on low speed.
  3. Scoop 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough 1 1/2-inches apart onto the baking sheet. I used my hands to make nicely shaped round balls.
  4. Flatten the dough balls (gently) with a fork, making a cross pattern on the cookies.
  5. Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes. Watch them the last few minutes and take them out once they start leaking too much oil and before the bottoms darken. Mine were done at 9 minutes. Let the cookies rest on the counter in the pan for 2 or 3 minutes so that they have time to set before transferring them to a cooling rack.

Nutrition per cookie made from Vinny’s recipe

  • 150 calories
  • 10 grams fat (of which 9 grams is monounsaturated)
  • 13 grams carbohydrates (of which 7 grams is sugar)
  • 3.5 grams protein

I . love . turtles… the chocolate kind

Apple turtle

Mother Turtle, made from apples here, casts a healing spell among First Nations people.

The turtle myth…

In Native American stories, the turtle is a symbol for Mother Earth. This ancient animal commonly lives as long as 150 years. Its shell keeps her safe. And her slow even pace through life sets an example for people to keep going when the going gets tough. Turtle always makes time to enjoy each moment life has to offer.

To honor the turtle, I suggested to my friend Isla that we could make some for Christmas. “They’re so tasty!” I said. More

Hey, Toronto!

Vinny-p03Please pass the word to your friends🙂

Howdie! If any of my faithful readers are in downtown Toronto on Saturday, November 9, why don’t you drop by for a visit?

Sharon and I are in town for a child-development conference sponsored by Sick Kids, Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, talking about our book Cook Up A Story. We’re at the Novotel Toronto Centre, 46 The Esplanade, second floor, from 8:00 am to 3:30 pm. Come by for a chat. It will be so nice to meet you! More

Study Guide – Turning a New Page

A family's guide to healthy eating

Making nutrition fun through stories

I’m helping Vinny set up a new page in his main menu, called Study Guide.

The plan is to present a guide to healthy eating at home and school, for parents and teachers, based on Cook Up A Story.

Cook Up A Story started out as a way to introduce kids and their families to healthy eating ideas. I hoped to make nutrition fun through stories.

I began with a print book of six adventures for kids, where food is a part of the plot. The stories make bridges to nonfiction articles on the basics of nutrition the whole family can enjoy. The book also features recipes with healthy ingredients, so families can cook up the dishes that star in the tales. More

Sweet potato stars as the main course

Sweet Patooty dresses for dinner

Sweet Patooty dresses for dinner

Sweet potato’s qualities

Our Sweet Patooty is not just another pretty face. There’s so much goodness under her skin, I hardly know where to start. She comes from a large family.  There are at least 18 relatives you might meet at the supermarket. All of them bring great qualities to the table. Some have orange or reddish skins, while others are purple-skinned. The purple ones can have white or purple flesh. But we don’t discriminate based on the color of the skin… More

Sweet potato makes flaky scones a snap

Sweet potato biscuits

Flaky, moist and healthy eating.

The sugar quandry

In my last post I came down pretty hard on refined white flour.  I was referring to the silky white wheat flour that bakers love to use in cakes and cookies. That’s because upon contact with the acid in our stomachs, refined flour breaks down quickly into the sugar our body uses for energy.

What’s more, refined flour likes to hang out in baked foods with ordinary sugar. Thanks to refined flour plus added sugar, our favorite cakes, cookies and biscuits deliver sugar to our blood stream in double doses. More

Watermelon cooler… It’s the berries!

Watermelon fizz cocktail

Cool off with fizzy watermelon

Click  for an up-dated version, with more photos and a new recipe.

Who would have thought the common watermelon is a berry? Botanists call its fruit a pepo, a special kind of berry with a thick rind and fleshy center.

Like other berries we love, the watermelon is packed with goodness. It has the most nutrition per calorie of any common food. Click the link for the latest info. More

Pineapple kings them all with this salsa

Pineapple Chutney


Pineapple wears a crown for a reason. It is royally healthy. In fact, it may be the healthiest fruit we can eat. More

The sunshine food…mushrooms make omelets good to go


Add sunlight and grow your own vitamin D! Mushrooms are the only item in your produce section that can provide this important nutrient.

Grow your own mushrooms

Enjoy Vinny’s photo story about the magical mushroom garden he grew in his own home. Put your store-bought mushrooms in a sunny window with the gills facing up and increase their vitamin D content in a 2 days by up to 1000 times. “Majic!!!” Then make yourself a tasty, easy mushroom omelet, packed with vitamin D.


Check out the recipe at the end of this post.


Warm mushroom salad works majic for the Faerie Queene

Blue oyster mushrooms weave a safety net for your heart

Blue oyster mushrooms weave a safety net for your heart

Story time – The blue-haired one’s majic cure

The Faerie Queene hung her head. Her heart ached and she knew not what might mend it.

She summoned her trusty knights to her fortress deep in the forest. “Dear Sirs,” she began. “Your mission is to find a way to chase the chill from my blood.”

Sir Woe-be-Gone spoke first. “Rub a paste of mustard and lemon over your neck,” he said. “And get a good night’s sleep.”

Sir Cry-No-Tears piped up next. “Balderdash! What’s needed is a steamy tea, flavored with  garlic and thin slices of onion.”

Then a sweet voice sang out above the rest. More

Heavenly healthier chocolate angel cake

angel food iced with avocado

Angel food cake iced with avocado cream

If a kid can read, he can likely cook. But the watchful eye of experience is a wonderful thing. Witness the action in Vinny’s one-act play and decide for yourself… More

Mushroom soup

Adela's shitake and spinach party soup

Mom’s shitake mushroom and spinach soup

Boost your soup’s healing power, flavor, and presentation

Turn your Cinderella leftovers into a healing soup stock fit for a princess.  Here are a few magical ways to take my basic recipe for garbage soup and boost the healing power of your bone broths.


Avocado & Comice… a Great Pair of Pears


The Avocado and the Pear

Story time

Short and squat, Miss Comice Pear rolled into his office. “I want you to defend me,” she exclaimed, blushing a rosy red.

A desk plaque proclaimed the man she was addressing to be the Honorable V. H. Avocado, LL.M. “What is the charge?” the lawyer asked.

“They say I’m harboring a load of sugar. They accuse me of doing great harm. But it’s not true!” Comice was distraught.

“Calm down,” replied Mr. Avocado. He adjusted his dark green jacket over his rather-rounded middle. “Perhaps if you began from the beginning?” More

Sauerkraut’s probiotics sweeten Polish cabbage and chicken dish

Bavarian chicken


Will and Isla carefully chop through mountains of cabbage.

“In the old days,” Vinny says, “people made their own sauerkraut so they would have veggies to eat during the long winters.Your great grandpappy was a sauerkraut-maker extraordinaire. People came from all over to buy his home-made kraut. Now, we just go to the deli. It comes in jars or cans, too, at the grocery store. I like the Polish kind best myself. It’s good to keep the old ways alive. Keep chopping!”

“Val deree, val derah, val deree, val der-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha,” sing Will and Vinny at the top of their lungs. Isla just hums, too busy chopping to get involved with words.

Today we know that the old ways were healthy ways. Sauerkraut is what you get after cabbage is well salted and allowed to rest for a few weeks in a crock, closed off  from air. Salt pulls water from the cabbage to make a brine.  The little bugs that thrive in this environment are good bacteria. They make the brine acidic, in a process called fermentation.


Cabbage makes good sauerkraut


These healthy bugs go by the name probiotics. They work against the bad bacteria in our stomachs to improve  digestion.

Many people think the healthy bacteria protect us by keeping inflammation in check, reducing allergies, preventing constipation, and boosting our brain power. The science is still young. But to be safe many nutritionists recommend two servings of probiotic foods a day.

Probiotics are found in fermented foods… like pickles, yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, and, of course, sauerkraut. You can also get probiotics in supplements. But unless you’re taking antibiotics, which wipe out the good bugs along with the bad ones, it’s best to rely on real food for your probiotics.

Sauerkraut processed in cans or jars doesn’t have any live probiotics, because heat kills all those cute little helpful bacteria. Instead, buy it raw at farmer’s markets or delis for the real stuff. Or make it yourself!

But processed or cooked sauerkraut still has all the nutrients from cabbage. Enjoy it both ways. It’s packed with vitamin C!

Meal suggestions

Pair well-rinsed raw sauerkraut with soft poached eggs in the morning. The meal has a nice tang and makes a satisfying start to the day.

At lunch, sauerkraut makes a tasty addition to salad. But what I like best is putting a big scoop into the bottom of my bowl before pouring hot soup over it. Yummy!

For dinner, Vinny suggests a Polish chicken dish, starring a heap of sauerkraut.

Bavarian chicken

Vinny’s Polish chicken
serves three

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil (optional)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 large apple, cored and chopped
  • 8 ounces sauerkraut, well rinsed to remove salt (if you have raw sauerkraut, reserve some to add to the plate at serving time)
  • 12 medium Brussels sprouts, stemmed and cut in half
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seed
  • 1/2  teaspoon paprika
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 3 chicken breasts or legs,  or a small roasting chicken
  1. Sauté the onions, ginger, and garlic in a large soup pot, using a bit of oil.
  2. Add the rest of the veggies, spices and other ingredients and  over medium heat, bring to boil.
  3. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.


  1. Before you start cooking the veggies, put a  small chicken in the oven to roast or prepare three boneless chicken breasts for  the barbecue. If the meat is ready first, keep it warm, then serve the chicken on top of the veggies.
  2. Alternatively, poach the chicken breasts in the soup pot, submerged in the liquid. Add the chicken after the liquid has come to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow the meat to cook through, about 20-30 minutes. This method is easier, but I like roasted or grilled chicken better🙂.


  • 2 teaspoons fresh dill weed, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons paprika

Paprika boosts metabolism and fresh dill contains vitamins.

This dish is one of my favorites. The stove-top veggies are good with lots of  lean meats… tasty even for folks who say they don’t like cabbage (or Brussels sprouts).


The veggies (per serving): Calories (kcal)100.1, Fat (g) 3.6, Sodium (mg) 377.0, Potassium (mg) 433.1, Fibre (g) 5.1, Vitamin A (RAE) 27.4, Vitamin C (mg) 48.7, Calcium (mg) 60.9, Folate (DFE) 51.4.  The chicken: a 6-oz breast has 252 calories and 46 grams of protein.


A Polish meal is all I need
To make my day complete.
It’s hard to keep account of all
The cabbage that I eat.


Garbage soup makes a magical bone broth

Garbage soup

DIY with a different soup every time

The story of how bone broth came to be

On a winter’s night after a long day’s walk, a ragged beggar finds himself in a quiet farming village. He dreams of a warm fire and a hot meal. He knocks on the door of a tidy house. A pair of eyes peer out at him from behind the printed curtain. But no-one opens the door. At the next house a young woman with a crying baby tells him she has nothing to spare. He is even turned away from the Ukrainian church, where a few women are sewing together on a patchwork quilt. More

Fish for omega-3s with BBQ salmon



Eat fish for omega-3s

If you hate smelling up your kitchen, don’t let that stop you from enjoying the deliciousness of  fresh or fresh-frozen fish. Just cook it on the barbecue, outside! It’s easy for every day and delicious enough for any special occasion.

Fish is full of those hard to come by but oh so important omega-3 fatty acids. They are important, first, because we can’t manufacture them in our bodies. More

eGgs and veG… Breakfast many ways


Humpty on the half-shell, with hard-boiled egg and beets on toast

“What experiments are we doing, today, Vinny?’ asks Will, poking his head into my basket of vegetables.

“So many ways to cook eggs for breakfast,” says Vinny with glee. “Today, we’re going to try three of them.” More

Saint Paddy Revisited

I’ve never tried reblogging before, but thought I’d give it a try this 17th of March. It’s St. Paddy’s day! Vinny’s Irish tea party from last year has lots of great links to recipes, songs and stories to help you celebrate the day with your family. Erin go bragh!

Cook Up a Story

“It’s Saint Paddy’s day tomorrow,” says Vinny, “Let’s throw an Irish tea party! Get out your top hats and Irish bowlers, invite Tiger and Firefox,  and set the table.

“But what should we serve?” ask Will and Isla.

View original post 741 more words

Simply squash

Squash-o-copia - butternut, acorn, ambercup
Squash-o-copia:   butternut, acorn, and ambercup

“Simple!” Dr. Mike says. “Roasted squash is a delicious, low-fat side dish. Enjoy it on my 17-day diet, once you’ve completed the first cycle.”

So I decided to give it a try. The roasted butternut was so good, my friend ate the skin! I suppose that’s one way to boost your fiber – but not one I’d really recommend🙂. Squash tastes wonderful with lean poultry or pork.

Tip: to make the squash easier to cut, More

Kick up your heels for kasha and mushroom soup

Ukrainian Christmas stars kasha, AKA Buckwheat Groats… ♪♪♭♪

Vinny’s soup recipe today features an ancient food called kasha, AKA buckwheat groats. If you aren’t of Ukrainian or Russian descent, kasha might be new to you. This slow-carb staple, though, is not a grain. It’s a flower bud. How lovely is that! More

The 17-day diet, starring Dr. Mike Morano

17-day diet

A doctor’s plan for rapid weight loss
Sharon talks to Vinny about her adventures with the 17-day diet

Vinny: How fast can you lose weight on this diet plan?

Sharon: Ok. Right off the bat my radar goes up. Anybody knows you can’t expect to lose weight fast… and keep it off. But Mike says, yes you can! He promises results that last. It’s right there on the front cover.

When I crack the book open, his first words to me are, “Just give me 17 days.”

Vinny: How is this plan any different from all the other pitches out there? More

Garbanzos, Gangnam style!

It's not as fishy as it seems.

There’s nothing fishy about garbanzos!

Fad food

Hey…Hey… Foxy Lady.  You gotta try this healthy recipe! Garbanzo beans, AKA chick peas, are the talk of Pinterest right now… hot hot… hot hot hot. Folks are roasting them whole by the bushel and popping them down as a handy snack. More

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