Category: Recipes

Were You a Vegan in Another Life?

saskia coachingHi everyone! Continuing on our “open your mind” journey about food and cooking, today we have an interesting guest , Saskia,who is an energy healer.  She believes that food behavior affects personal development. Take a read and see what you think-vegans will be especially interested in this piece…..   Is there a connection between personal development and food behavior? For more than 6 years I have been transforming my life and so I became a business coach, life coach and spiritual mentor. Previously I worked in a family owned company as CEO, leading our company to becoming one of the TOP 100 corporations in Germany and doubling the profits. Although I was very successful in business, there was still something missing. I felt a deep need to quit my job to become a coach to guide other people to transform their own lives. During this process I got in touch with spiritual works, as I have been spiritually gifted since I was a little girl. The spiritual part of me wanted to be seen and expressed. That was that something I had been looking for. To execute my job as a coach and spiritual mentor, I became a “Quantum Healer Practitioner”. This energetic work supported me in my new life and helped me to find myself again. A couple of month ago I cooked a delicious chicken curry for me and my daughter, and something strange started: I bit into a piece of meat and my entire body reacted: The bite of chicken tasted horrible and I immediately felt sick and I was close to throwing up. I thought that the meat was passed its expiration date, but actually I was paying close attention to buying fresh meat. But a few weeks later, I had another similar experience: I  loved steaks so I tried a piece of the steak my daughter ordered in a restaurant. Again I suffered from the same reactions: my belly felt like a blown–up balloon and I had stomach cramps. On top of that the taste of the meat wasn’t  pleasurable at all: Surprisingly I really felt that I was eating a dead animal. I didn’t understand what was going on with me. My mother reminded me that I never ate sausage and meat when I was a little girl and the fact that I forgot all of this, proves that I lived someone else’s life instead of mine. So yes, there is a connection between personal development and food behavior: If you find out who you are, everything falls into place: your career, your job and your health. You may automatically start eating the things which are doing well for you. Saskia Winkler Coach & Mentor “ a different perspective on life”

Stephen Colbert and The Syrians

Hi everyone! MDT223025Z_HRE01 We attended a fundraiser for the Montclair Film Festival a few weeks ago where Stephen Colbert and Jon Oliver spoke about the state of our country after the election. Many people are afraid for their futures, of not being treated fairly or with kindness and humanity. Mr. Colbert, acknowledging that we cannot control for everything to come, said a few words that I can’t seem to forget. “Get to know your neighbors.” We took heed and invited a family of Syrian refugees to our house for Thanksgiving through a local program. We were able to host this family who has been through hell and back; they’ve lost their home, their city destroyed, they’ve had to resettle in a new country amidst a political climate that is increasingly unwelcoming to them. We wanted our invite to be meaningful. We wanted them to know that there are people who care, people who want to get to know them, people who would be honored to have the opportunity to host them in the most intimate of spaces, their home. We also wanted to nurture them. To make them feel comfortable, relaxed, cozy on a cold day. And because I am a lover of cooking, I wanted them to be nurtured through the food that I prepared for them. I wanted them to not just receive nourishment without having to worry about the cost of the food, the time it would take to make it or the clean up afterward, but I wanted them to be well fed, to enjoy every bite and to learn about us through the dishes that we chose and planned for them to enjoy. This is not new to me, to nurture through food. I have enjoyed cooking for others my entire life.  What was different, however, was that I never realized how much of a gift it would be for me to share my food as a way to bridge the cultural and religious gap between different people in my own home. I remember so vividly how I loved the elementary school International potlucks and how proud everyone was to share their food in the cafeteria; Robert Rowan’s Swedish meatballs, Patrick McCort’s chili con carne and Esther Chin’s shrimp toast. As I got older, I got more skilled with cooking and became part of an International cooking club. I later cooked for my family and my friends. I  now cook dishes from around the globe because I love to eat them and serve them. I also have a recipe blog and business where I teach people to overcome their obstacles to cooking to be able to cook. But this meal brought a new and exhilarating experience of food and connection. On Thanksgiving Day with the Syrian refugees, food brought us together. What started as an awkward kind of social experiment where no one spoke the other’s language, technology (thank you, google translate!), hand gestures, smiles and most of all a leap of faith helped us get to know our neighbors and I was grateful. I was grateful for our new Syrian friends. I was grateful to my family and friends for being open to sharing our meal. I was grateful for the team that paired the Syrian family with us. And I was grateful to Stephen Colbert who inspired me to take control of something I can indeed do, something we can all do, to get to know our neighbors. Very importantly and for the purpose of this post,  I was grateful that I had the ability and skill to make food which was the conduit for connecting with this family. My hope is to share this gift of cooking and entertaining. Of cooking ethnically diverse meals to educate, to learn about other cultures and to nurture one another. Isn’t that what community is all about? I am donating 25% of my Take Back the Kitchen individual sessions purchased until January 1st and to be redeemed within the next six months to helping relieve the financial burden that my new Syrian friends have weighing on them. This money will help pay for their airfare to the United States that they owe to the US government. Please contact me to donate to this cause or purchase gift certificates for yourselves or your loved ones from Take Back the Kitchen this holiday season!

Convent Cooking? Why Not?

IMG_0036 Hi everyone! As we slim down after the massive feasts many of us took part in, I present to you a number of guest bloggers in the coming weeks who will get you to think out of the box about cooking and eating. The first one is by Mary Lou who will discuss her days in the sisterhood and the convent diet that helped her keep her weight off! by Mary Lou Reid Here’s how I lost 50 pounds and kept it off for 50 years without doing any yo-yo dieting in between. I entered a convent at age 18 as a very overweight, insecure but idealistic teenager determined that devoting my life to God would mean living the perfect life.  I had no thoughts of losing weight. I simply entered the convent and followed the program. The food “program” was nothing special.  After all, nuns take a vow of poverty so we weren’t eating pheasant under glass…maybe baked chicken.  This is exactly one of the keys to success: eat what you know, like and can afford.  Change is hard.  No one can follow “hard” for a lifetime.   Our meals included basic food groups plus a bit of sugar. We had dessert after lunch and dinner plus homemade sweet rolls on Sunday morning.  Voila – principle #1 – Always Eat Dessert. Here’s why eating dessert works: something yummy and decadent finishes the meal and takes away the craving for seconds.  How many times after eating a slice of chocolate fudge cake have you said to yourself…I think I’ll have another serving of chicken and dumplings?  Probably never. And now, for those of you who say, “How many slices of chocolate cake can I eat?” Or as one lady asked, “how many rows of thin mint girl scout cookies can I eat in a box?” Here’s the bottom line: if you eat less, one row of cookies instead of two for example, you will lose weight. In time you will be satisfied with only 2 or 3 cookies; cut back gradually and you can do it for a lifetime. Because eating dessert is not only allowed but prescribed, the guilt of eating what you love is gone. Guilt goes away and another holy habit for permanent weight loss principle kicks into place, “after me you come first,” which means take time for yourself…how about slipping away to the spa after some no longer forbidden dessert? RECIPE FROM THE CONVENT: Refreshing Cantaloupe Soup by Sister Kate Hendel, BVM INGREDIENTS: 1 medium sized cantaloupe, 1 c. cottage cheese, minced fresh cilantro leaves (dried may be substituted) INSTRUCTIONS: Peel cantaloupe and remove seeds. Place melon in a food processor with cottage cheese.  Mince several fresh cilantro leaves, add to mixture and blend until smooth. This refreshing soup may be served immediately or chilled.

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I’m in the Wall Street Journal-Front Digital Page no less!


Hi everyone! Yes, I am on the front page of the Wall Street Journal on line and I’m even in the hard copy! I was interviewed about the irony that I am a therapist and cooking coach, eat very well, exercise, am thin and am still diagnosed with pre diabetes. The belief by some is that prediabetes is overdiagnosed and turning healthy folks into patients.

Wall Street Journal Article with Alma

You’ll have to read the article (and some amusing/bashing comments) and let me know what you think!

To read more about my Prediabetes Predicament, a six part series on my journey of getting diagnosed with prediabetes, go to Diabetic Lifestyle.

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Sun dried Tomato Strata for the Creative Cooking Personality!

Hi everyone!

Every Friday I make a different kind of strata, a.k.a. egg casserole, for the special needs parenting group I I host. I made this simple one a few months back with some leftover mashed potatoes that were looking for a home. It gave the strata a nice creaminess. This dish may be especially appealing for the creative cook who wants to add in leftover ingredients-just be sure that all vegetables are sauteed first! Enjoy!

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Grow Color for Health-Easy Vegetable Gardening

Hi everyone!

Today’s post is for whomever wants to cook delicious food with their own homegrown vegetables. As Beth will show us, planting our own garden does not have to be as intimidating as we think. Whether you are the carefree cooking type who just wants to throw stir frys together or the perfectionist cooking type who wants to make a perfectly layered vegetable trifle, we can all benefit from healthy vegetables. Enjoy Beth’s guest post on how to grow them!

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Beef Shish Kabobs and Pork Tenderloin Bundles Cooked Camping Style!

Hi everyone! A lot of people say they can’t cook because they are on vacation. Well, my guest poster claims that you can do both! Below is a recipe for Shish Kabob and Pork Bundles. Enjoy!

The National Park Service celebrates its 100th anniversary in August 2016, and will be gearing up for a number of fantastic events that will be taking place across the country. Hopefully, you’ve given some thought to marking your calendar for the dates you want to visit any of the 59 remarkable national parks.

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Rice and Bean Pie with Spicy Plantain Crust

Hi everyone!
I’m not going to lie, this recipe has a few steps but the steps are not difficult unless you psych yourself out that they are. I got the crust idea from an old Vegetarian cookbook from the Millennium Restaurant that called for a tofu filling but I didn’t know how well that would go over. I have tried to lay the steps out for you clearly so please email me if you get stuck. It is a tasty play on taco pie and I dare say you will LOVE IT! Serve it up like a pie in triangles.
Rice and Bean Pie with Spicy Plantain Crust

Plantain crust:

1/2 large onion, chopped
2 tsp garlic, minced
2 large, ripe sweet plantains, sliced in 1/2 ” chunks
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 cup water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Boil all the above ingredients together for about 20 minutes until soft.
Let cool and then blend in a food processor or mash well with a fork.
Mush the batter into a pie plate and cover with foil.
Bake at 400 degrees on the middle rack of your oven for 45 minutes.
While it is baking, start the next steps for the rest of the pie.

Bean layer:

1 15 oz. can black beans rinsed and drained
3-4 tbsp Greek plain yogurt
1/4 tsp each:
smoked paprika
kosher salt
black pepper
garlic powder

Puree above ingredients in a food processor or mash well with a fork until fully combined and smooth.

Rice layer:

1 1/2 cup cooked brown rice

Use up leftover rice or follow instructions for whatever kind of rice you are using. I like brown.

Corn Layer

1 cup frozen and defrosted or fresh corn
1/2 tsp oil
1/4 tsp smoked paprika

In a small saute pan, heat up the oil and cook the corn until heated through.
Sprinkle the corn with the paprika.
Set aside in a small bowl.


2 scallions, washed, sliced thinly into little rings
1 tsp oil of your choice

In the same pan that was used for the corn, heat up the oil and saute the scallions until heated through.

Final Steps:
Remove the pie plate from the oven and spread the mashed bean mixture all over the plantain mixture, totally covering it.
Sprinkle the rice on for the next layer.
Sprinkle the corn on for the next layer.
Add the scallion garnish on top.

Red Cabbage Thai Slaw

Hi everyone!
Few salads are as simple and as pretty as this one. It always impresses and is pretty foolproof if you follow the instructions and taste it. If it’s too salty or sour, add a bit more sugar. If it’s too sweet, add a bit more fish sauce.Trust your taste buds and take it from there but be careful not to overdo the fish sauce at first-go slowly or your slaw will taste like dirty feet. That’s not impressive. I hope you like it!

Red Cabbage Thai Slaw

5 cups chopped, washed red cabbage
1 small carrot, shredded or peeled
1/2 cup Thai or regular Italian basil leaves, washed and chopped
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, washed and chopped


2 tbsp Thai fish sauce, also known as nam pla (can get at many supermarkets and any Asian market)
3 tsp coconut sugar (from Asian market) or regular sugar
juice of 2 limes

1/3 cup chopped, roasted or fried peanuts


Combine slaw ingredients in a large bowl.
Whisk dressing ingredients in a small bowl until fully combined.
Pour dressing on slaw and stir until all of slaw ingredients look coated with the dressing.
Top with the peanuts and serve.

Red Lentil Pasta With Clams and Rosemary

Red Lentil Pasta with Clams and Rosemary

Hi everyone!

Once agan I want to remind you to treat yourself when you are dining alone. Eating by yourself is an opportunity to prepare something extra special with just a few ingredients, not to scarf down a bowl of cheerios or the mac and cheese that the rest of your family may be eating. I highly recommend practicing dishes on yourself if you are uneasy about serving others. Practice reduces your anxiety and promotes confidence, as we well know.

I am very into this red lentil pasta lately but use whatever pasta you like. Better yet, use some leftover pasta and make your life even easier. I swooned over this dish and it was made with mostly pantry items and a few cherry tomatoes from my garden.

Red Lentil Pasta With Clams and Rosemary

1 cup cooked red lentil pasta

2 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, slivered thinly

1 tsp fresh rosemary, washed and minced finely

1- 6 oz. can clams, drained and chopped

pinch kosher salt

fresh ground pepper

A few sliced grape tomatoes


Boil the pasta according to instructions and set aside.

While the pasta water and pasta are boiling, you can make the sauce.

In a small frying pan, add in the oil, the garlic, the chopped clams and the rosemary and stir for a few minutes.

Drain the pasta, place one cup of it in a bowl and add in the mixture from the frying pan. Salt and pepper your dish, add on some pretty tomato garnish and enjoy!