Recipe: Roasted Baby Tomatoes

Thanks in large part to greenhouse and hydroponic farming, tomato season in the mid-Atlantic region is pretty long these days. Tomatoes start to emerge at the farmers’ market in April and often stick around until October. I’ve found that large tomatoes aren’t quite as sweet or tasty unless they are grown in the soil in the summer sun. But cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes are often sweet, tart, and juicy as soon as you can get them. All the more so when they are roasted! Whenever I get baby tomatoes at the market, I roast them the same day using this recipe. I keep them in a container in the fridge and use them all week in salads, pastas, scrambled eggs — anything really!


2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea Salt


Toss tomatoes on a sheet pan with a generous drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. Roast at 400 degrees. The tomatoes will blister open and become very juicy. YUM. Store tomatoes and their juices in an an airtight container in your fridge. But I promise, you’ll eat them all sooner than one week.

Recipe: Squash blossom and sweet corn fritters

I’ve always loved squash blossoms as nostalgia by proxy.  My mom remembers her Italian grandmother cooking the blossoms for Sunday night dinner in her south Philadelphia kitchen.  I’ve also cooked them before, stuffing the blossoms with goat cheese and frying them in olive oil, for a kind of crispy outside with a soft, tender inside.  It’s certainly delicious but I don’t love frying food, mostly because I tend to getsquash-blossom-and-sweet-corn-fritters splattered with hot oil and because every apartment I’ve lived in has somehow had the most sensitive smoke detectors ever.  In past years, I remember squash blossoms as being a special guest star at farmers’ markets, making a brief appearance for just a couple weeks of the summer (and never at the grocery store). But since I kept seeing these blossoms weekly at the farmers’ market this summer, I told my mom that I was tempted to buy and cook them. But the work of stuffing and frying them felt daunting.  That’s when she explained that my great-grandmother usually prepared the blossoms by chopping them up and making fritters. Good ole’ Grandma Gesina! That sounded delicious and much more practical. I decided to give it a try, with my own twist of adding in farm fresh sweet corn and spicy peppers.

Squash blossom and sweet corn fritters

Makes 8 fritters


8-10 squash blossoms

2 ears of sweet corn

2 teaspoons plus ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 small hot pepper such a jalapeno, diced (optional)

½ cup whole wheat flour

6 tbsp milk

1 egg

½ tsp baking powder



Gently wash the squash blossoms.  Make sure any little bugs that found the blossoms to be a good home have been evicted. Slice off the rough bit around where the stem adjoins the flower. It’s safe to eat these parts, but they are tougher and not as tender and tasty. Chop the blossoms into small pieces.  

In the meantime, cook the ears of corn, either by dropping into boiling water for 5 minutes, or roasting in the oven at 400° for 15 minutes.  Let the corn cool and then cut the corn kernels off the cob by holding the corn upright on a cutting board and slicing the kernels from the cob with a downward motion of the knife.  

In a large skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the blossoms, corn, and diced hot pepper (if you want one). Then add a small sprinkle of course salt.  Stir as the corn and blossoms cook until they are just tender, about 5 minutes. Spoon them into a medium-large mixing bowl.  

Allow the vegetable mixture to cool, then add to it the flour, milk, egg, baking powder, and ¼ teaspoon salt.  Stir together with a spatula until fully blended.  

Coat the same skillet with a thin layer of olive oil (about ¼ cup) and set heat to medium.  When you can flick a bit of water onto the skillet and it sizzles, use a ¼ cup measure to drop a spoonful of the batter into the pan to form each fritter.  Turn each fritter when it’s golden brown on the bottom side, approximately 4 minutes. When the second side is also golden brown use a spatula to remove each fritter and transfer it to a paper-towel lined plate (to drain excess oil).

Then, as Grandma Gesina would say, “mangia” (eat)!

Reusable Makeup Remover Wipes

I would undoubtedly be a much more eco-friendly human if I didn’t add cosmetics to my regular consumption of products, but it’s one thing I haven’t yet been able to give up.  I have done a lot of research on which makeup products are the healthiest for my body and which companies have sustainable sourcing and production practices. But the makeup removal part of the equation is just as relevant in my quest to reduce my consumption of manufactured products. After all, how many are made in the form of disposable wipes that get one use and then are dumped into the trash can?  And also of concern, how many makeup remover products include chemicals that are irritants or hormone disruptors? A lot of them! I should know, I feel like I tried them all over the years.

For the past few years, I have used something for removing eye makeup that I’ve discovered to be as effective as the complexly formulated products sold in stores.  Coconut oil. A swipe of it over my eyes removes the makeup and, bonus, moisturizes my under eye area. I already had a container of organic coconut oil in my kitchen for baking recipes, making granola, greasing baking pans, etc.  Now, I also keep a container in my bathroom for removing mascara at the end of the day.

Although the product itself could not be more simple or natural, using cotton balls to apply the coconut oil (and witch hazel for astringent that I use daily) felt wasteful.  1-2 cotton balls per day doesn’t seem like much. But I pictured every cotton ball I’ve used in my life piled up in a landfill, and decided there had to be a better way. So one day, as I was retiring some bath towels that had become faded and thin, I decided to sub them in for cotton balls.  I cut the towels up into little squares, about 3” x 3” and quickly settled into a new routine. Each night I use a mini towel square to apply the coconut oil to my eyes. Because the oil is solid at room temperature, I rub the towelette onto the oil rather than dip it. One gentle swipe on each eye and my makeup is gone and my eye is moisturized! Then I fold over the towelette and use the other side to apply witch hazel to my whole face.  I throw the little towelette in with the rest of my laundry and, voila! Reusable makeup remover wipes.

Do you have any DIY hacks to cut down on consumption? I’d love to hear about them!

Recipe: (Extra) Green Goddess Dip

Hi there, world!  I haven’t posted anything in quite a bit because I’ve been in graduate school, a completely rewarding and eye-opening experience that also unfortunately ate all of my free time.  I spent an intense year studying public health and more specifically, nutrition and food access. My interests in sustainability, food production, and overconsumption were piqued even more this past year, so I plan to post in the coming months about some of the fascinating topics I researched.

Now that I’m back to real life and have more time to spend in the kitchen, I decided to perfect a dip recipe that would be tasty with fresh vegetables.  I’ve come across many green goddess dip recipes over the years, but wanted to make one that packed in as much greenery as possible, and swapped out much of the mayonnaise for greek yogurt.  It’s easy to make a batch to divide into several small containers to take to work and one larger one to keep at home.  

Green Goddess Dip


½ cup parsley

½ cup chives

½ cup dill

1 cup fresh spinach leaves (or ¾ cup frozen spinach)

¼ cup mayonnaise

1 cup Greek yogurt

1 tsp. Lemon juice

1 anchovy (or 1 teaspoon anchovy paste)*

5 turns freshly ground pepper

Generous pinch of salt



Prepare the herbs by washing them all thoroughly.  A colander and lightly flowing cool water usually works best, but really get in there and move the leaves around because they can be gritty and dirty.  Dry the herbs on a clean kitchen towel. For the parsley and dill, pull off the leaves/fronds and discard the stems.  For the chives, just trim any dingy-looky ends.  

Put all of the prepared herbs into a food processor fitted with a regular blade.  

Wash and drain the spinach and add that to the food processor.  Pulse to blend into a rough chop.  Finally, add the other ingredients and blend again until smooth.

Serve with fresh vegetables or chips for dipping.  You can also use it as a salad dressing.


* Don’t be weirded out –try it!  It won’t taste fishy at all, it simply adds a salty and umami flavor.  And, anchovies are the secret ingredient in delicious foods you love like caesar dressing and puttanesca sauce too, so you might as well keep a tube of it in the fridge!


Organic? Natural? Confused!

What is organic food versus non-GMO? What does the word ‘natural’ mean on a food product?  I would wager that every person who has been to a grocery store has been confused by the labels on the sea of products on the shelves. It’s important to always read the ingredients label and to really consider what is printed on a product — from beef, to orange juice, to chips. Remember, food manufacturers are businesses.  The logo, pictures on the box, recipes on the back of the package, and words like “healthy”  and “natural” are all ways to try to sell their product and make a profit.  We should be knowledgeable about the food we buy and what the following labels mean:

USDA Organic

In 2002, the U.S. Department of Agriculture began using an official USDA Organic seal on food that is certified organic. For a food to display the official seal, the farmers raising the crop/animal have to follow strict guidelines issued by the FDA to meet the requirements. It’s not just a matter of not using pesticides — there are other criteria that organic food products must meet. According to the USDA, organic farms and processors:

  • Preserve natural resources and biodiversity
  • Support animal health and welfare
  • Provide access to the outdoors so that animals can exercise their natural behaviors
  • Only use approved materials
  • Do not use genetically modified ingredients
  • Receive annual onsite inspections
  • Separate organic food from non-organic food

When you buy organic food, you know that not only was is grown without toxic chemicals, but it also promotes sustainable organic labelenvironmental practices, and if it’s an organic animal, it’s feed met those same standards.

Be sure to look for the organic logo on products noting that it is officially recognized as meeting these requirements.  Although, sometimes you may come across a food item with the word ‘organic’ on it but not display the USDA seal. This does not necessarily mean that the product is not organic. Some smaller manufacturers, farms and farmer’s markets don’t turn enough profit to meet the requirements to apply for certification and do not consistently use the label. Whenever there is any rule or regulation, there are some rule-breakers so it is possible to come across foods claiming to be organic when in fact, it is not.  However, the USDA is strict about enforcing the term and violators can be fined several thousand dollars for non-compliance.


Genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) are a hot-button topic in the U.S. and globally.  Advocates say GMOs are a crucial way to feed the world’s growing population and combat hunger in third-world countries. Opponents argue that genetically modifying products all along our food chain will have a definite negative effect on our health. Delve into some (credibly-sourced!) research of your own to decide where you stand on the matter. However, when it comes to food labeling, know this. For a food to be labeled organic, as mentioned above, one of the criteria it needs to meet is being non-GMO. However, a food can be non-GMO but not organic. Food producers who can’t or don’t want to meet all the criteria for organic certification but who don’t use GMO crops in their production can still tout the non-GMO on their label.

Natural & Other Claims

You have probably seen terms on many food items like: Healthy, All-Natural, Raised Naturally, Made with Natural Ingredients/Flavors. Currently, there is very limited regulation on food products labeled ‘Natural.’  The exception is meat/poultry which can claim it’s natural if it does not contain artificial ingredients or added color and is only minimally processed.   However, because the regulation is not air-tight, food manufacturers can take advantage of the context of wording.  According to the USDA, “For example, claims indicating that a product is natural food, e.g., “Natural chili” or “chili – a natural product” would be unacceptable for a product containing beet powder which artificially colors the finished product.  However, “all natural ingredients” might be an acceptable claim for such a product.”  Consumer Reports did some really interesting research on the topic, showing 7 foods labeled as natural but revealing the very unnatural added ingredients.

On your next trip to the grocery store, take a closer look at the food packaging.  On any given product, you will often see an important-looking statement like “Made with All-Natural oats”, “X Grams of Whole Grain”, or “100% Whole Wheat”.  A statement about one thing like whole grain or protein content, can be a distraction and it is often used as a marketing ploy.  You will focus on how much protein it has but not turn the box over to read how much sodium it contains, or that the top five ingredients include sugar AND malt syrup AND invert sugar.  Don’t rely on the bold statements on the front of the package, but instead on the legally required information on the back which will allow you to draw your own conclusion about the product.
wheat thins full

The more you get into the practice of reading food ingredients, the less confusing it will be when you do your shopping.  You will start to pick up on the marketing tricks of food manufacturers.  There is a lot of progress to be made to improve food labeling regulations, and that requires us as consumers putting pressure on the food product industry.  But the most useful resources that we have right now are our hands and eyes.  Don’t just put food into your shopping cart.  Turn it over and read!


Share your comments or questions!  What labeling do you look for when you buy food?

5 Secretly Peaceful Places in Washington

Spring has sprung here in DC, and one of my favorite ways to relax and turn off my worries about everyday life is to find a quiet and beautiful place to explore.  Washington, DC is full of majestic memorials and green parks but they can often be so swarming with tourists that visiting becomes aggravating rather than peaceful.  So beyond the standard monuments, presidents’ homes and national parks in the area, here are a few peaceful places around the city that feel miles away from the stress of everyday life.  They may not exactly be a secret, but they are off the beaten path.  

#1. The Hillwood Museum

Hillwood is an estate located near Rock Creek Park in Northwest DC that once belonged to Marjorie Merriweather Post (think the Honey Bunches of Oats fortune) and is truly a gem in the middle of the city.  The mansion displays her collection of rare art, furniture, and jewelry from around the world.  But the real joy of Hillwood is exploring the surrounding estate.  There is a proper English garden, traditional Japanese water garden with waterfalls and stepping stones, a bright flower garden, and a chalet used to house rotating displays of art.  At $18 per adult ticket, it’s expensive compared to the free Smithsonian museums, but well worth the money. Be sure to go when the weather is nice!


Learn more about Hillwood

#2. Glen Echo Park

Glen Echo Park is just a few miles outside of Washington in Montgomery County, MD.  At the turn of the 20th century, it was an amusement park with everything from bumper cars to an outdoor pool.  Glen Echo is now run by the National Park Service and currently serves as an arts community.  Walking through the park is a throwback to art deco architecture and you can take dance classes in the Spanish Ballroom, or pop in to a free art show featuring prominent and amateur artists.  It is a wonderful place to spend some time if photography is your hobby.  Plus, the historic carousel still runs from May-September for just $1.25 a ride.

Learn more about Glen Echo Park

#3. Franciscan Monastery

Did you even realize that Washington had a Franciscan Monestary?  We’re talking monks in belted brown robes, and all.  I only recently discovered it myself, and it’s beautiful.  Regardless of your religious inclination, this is a wonderful place to visit for some cultural and architectural enrichment.  On Mondays-Saturdays you can take a free tour of the monastery (the church interior) as well as the gardens as a walk-in or part of a guided tour.

Learn more about the Monastery

#4. U.S. Botanic Garden

The National Mall and its museums are often overcrowded with tourists, but right next the the Capitol building is the lesser-known U.S. Botanic Garden, a beautiful greenhouse and surrounding outdoor gardens filled with a plethora of plant species, exotic flowers, trees, etc.  The Botanic Garden is open everyday from 10am-5pm and admission is free. 

 Learn more about the U.S. Botanic Garden 

#5. National Park Seminary at Forest Glen

This place imparts the feeling of being in a fairy tale.  The National Park Seminary (near Silver Spring, MD) was a girls’ boarding school in the early 20th century and later became an annex to Walter Reed army hospital.  The seminary is unique because of the unique structures that were once part of the school campus including a Japanese pagoda, Swiss chalet, Dutch windmill, formal ballroom, and beautiful walking paths framed by greenery.  Many of the structures have been converted into private homes, but you can still take a guided walking tour around the grounds and enter some of the buildings.  Tours are the fourth Saturday each month for $5 per person.

Learn more about National Park Seminary 

(Images for this post are a combination of my own and Google images.  Visit these cool places and snap some pics of your own!)

Friday Favorite: Tolerant Lentil Pasta

I love me some pasta.  Picture the Cookie Monster going to town on some chocolate chip cookies, and that’s pretty much me every time I’m around macaroni and cheese or spaghetti pomodoro.  It’s delicious, filling, and works with all kinds of sauces as well as in soups and in casseroles.  So what’s a girl to do when trying to cut back on refined white flour?

There are a lot of gluten-free pasta options available.  Always read the ingredients on the back of the box so that you know exactly what it’s made from.  I was too naive the first few times I bought gluten-free pasta, only to get home and see that the pasta I had bought was made with corn or rice flour.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with those ingredients, but the rice pasta sat in my stomach like a rock, and the corn pasta came apart into a mushy mess when cooked.  I also tried a few brands of lentil pasta but it didn’t hold its shape and created a slimy foam when I cooked it.

Then one day I walked down the pasta aisle at the grocery store and a light from heaven shone down over a box of Tolerant brand red lentil penne.  Actually, it wasn’t that dramatic — my best friend recommended the brand to me.  But it did end up being a game changer.  NOTHING can really be a substitute for real pasta, so I recommend saving that for your favorite recipes. But for a quick and healthy (Lentils provide protein!) mid-week meal, throw together some Tolerant red lentil penne with marinara, or their green lentil elbow macaroni with pesto.  You can find it at most natural food grocery stores, or on  And skip the spiral shape kind which is too dense and hard.


Recipe: Cashew Broccoli Stirfry

I like meat, but sometimes I just don’t feel like I need or crave it in my meal.  And it seems from recent research that skipping meat a few times a week is fine, even healthier (psssst…Americans eat too much protein).

Asian cuisine is one of my favorites, and I’m always tempted by the cashew chicken or the chicken and broccoli dishes on Cashew Broccoli Stirfry menus.  But what I really like is the combination of crunchy cashews and tender broccoli in a savory brown sauce.  And anyway I can never get the chicken into those thin slices while cooking at home like the restaurants do.  So I set out to make a go-to recipe with just cashews and broccoli as the main stars.  You can easily add chicken chunks to this recipe and I like to serve it over brown rice but it’s also great with noodles or just on its own.

  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
  • 4 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp natural ketchup (such as Tessemae’s)
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger (fresh or jarred)
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups cooked broccoli florets (steam and then run under cold water to stop cooking)
  • red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup cashews
For the rice:

Put the rice and 2 cups water in a small pot and stir together.  Bring to a boil, stir, and reduce to a simmer.  Cover and stir periodically until the water is absorbed.  Test the rice and add more water if needed until it is tender and cooked-through.

For the stirfry:

Heat the sesame oil on medium heat in a large pan. Add the sliced garlic and cooked until golden and fragrant.   With a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked garlic to a bowl.  In the same pan, combine the soy sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, minced ginger and rice vinegar.  Stir as the sauce simmers.  Combine the 1 cup of water and the cornstarch in a small pitcher until the cornstarch is dissolved.  Stirring constantly, slowly add the cornstarch mixture to the sauce in the pan.  Stir the sauce slowly as it simmers and thickens.  Add the cooked broccoli and cashews and coat with the sauce.  Remove the pan from the heat.  Serve the cashew-broccoli and sauce on a bed of the brown rice.

Bag It Up

How many plastic bags do you use in an average week?  It may be more than you realize.  Think about buying green beans or apples at the grocery store — what do you put that loose produce in?  How do you bag your groceries when you leave the store?  And if you bring grapes or crackers to work, what do you put those in?  It’s so easy to use lots of plastic bags for food without noticing it.  But cutting back on that excess plastic is completely doable with reusable alternatives.  

Let’s start with the source — produce at the grocery store.  Hopefully you’re eating lots of fruits and vegetables (they should be taking up half your plate at every meal!).  For a while, I was going to the grocery store and farmers’ markets and feeling really good about the large variety of vegetables IMG_4872and fruits I’d bought for the week, yet feeling badly that everything I bought was in lots of separate plastic bags.  What a waste!  I did try to reuse them as much as possible, but they often got wet or sticky or tore apart.  Reusable produce bags are a game-changer.  These sheer mesh bags hold all the produce that I buy, and I never have to worry about throwing them out and creating waste.  When they get dirty,  just throw them into throw washing machine with the laundry.  You can buy sets of them online at retailers like

For grocery bags, recyclable paper bags are certainly preferable over non-biodegradable plastic bags.  But even better are reusable tote bags.  It’s pretty easy to accumulate these.  They’re given out at special events all the time, or you can buy them from grocery stores.  The tough thing is remembering to use them.  Try to keep them by your front door, or in the trunk of the car where they are easily accessible when you’re going on a grocery run.  After a few times of remembering them, it will come ingrained in your memory to bring them into the store.

I’m also a big proponent of bringing lunch and snacks to work.  It saves so many dollars and calories compared to buying over-proportioned and over-priced meals out.  But after munching on those carrot sticks or trail mix, the zip-locked baggies get immediately tossed in the trash.  What a waste of plastic to use something for a few hours and then send it on to a landfill!  Luckily, there are a lot of companies that now make reusable snack bags.  My favorites are Lunchskins and Itzy Ritzy.  And lots of Etsy stores sell these reusable bags.  I wash these in the laundry or dishwasher after each use.

So try cutting back on plastic with reusable bags.  It will keep heaps of plastic out of landfills, and will save you money in the long run!

Recipe: Cold Soba Noodle Salad with Vegetables

This noodle dish is like pasta primavera with Asian flavors.  Just whole wheat noodles, fresh veggies, and a slightly cold-soba-noodle-salad-with-vegetablestangy and savory dressing.  It’s great for leftovers because it’s meant to be eaten cold, and the flavors continue to meld together after day one.  You can substitute your favorite vegetables or whatever is in season — aim for a colorful mix!

(4 servings)

12 oz. buckwheat soba noodles
1 small onion, peeled and cut into thin strips
2 cups broccoli, washed and chopped
1 cup bell peppers, washed and chopped
1 cup mushrooms, washed and sliced
1 cup summer squash, washed and sliced
2 tablespoons sesame oil
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, washed and rough-chopped


1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/8 cup vegetable oil (like safflower)
1/8 cup sesame oil
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon oyster sauce


Boil noodles according to package directions. Drain, rinse thoroughly with cold water, and toss with 2 tablespoons sesame oil (so that it doesn’t stick together in a clump) and cool in a strainer. In a large pan or dutch oven, heat sesame oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and vegetables.  Stir occasionally until the onions are translucent and the vegetables are just tender. Remove from heat and let cool.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl or jar, combine dressing ingredients and whisk together.  Mix noodles together with the vegetables, add the cilantro, and pour the dressing over all the ingredients. Toss together until the noodles are well coated.