Root Veggie Ragout

Root Veggie Ragout, photo by Sarah Schatz

If you’re looking for something new for this holiday season, here is something very yummy you can make that is also healthy for you!  It is also dairy-free, gluten/wheat-free, soy-free, egg-free and sugar-free, but full of taste!  It is semi-sweet, smooth and has a hint of parsnip. My husband, Dave, and I created it together.  Enjoy!


6 carrots, peeled and sliced

4 parsnips, peeled and sliced

1 small sweet potato, peeled and sliced

2 cups organic, gluten-free chicken broth (Imagine is gluten-free)

1/2 can of coconut milk

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp ground ginger

dash of nutmeg

1 tsp salt

1-2 tsp agave or maple syrup

Find more great holiday recipes at Just the Right Spice for the Recipe Roundup

Find more great holiday recipes at Just the Right Spice for the Recipe Roundup


  1. In a medium saucepan, steam the carrots, parsnips and sweet potato in a steamer basket and about 2 inched of water.  Steam for about 10-15 minutes or until thoroughly cooked.
  2. Transfer cooked veggies to a blender.  (You can also use a blending wand right in the saucepan without the steamer basket.)  Add the chicken stock and coconut milk and blend until smooth.  Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until thoroughly mixed.  It should be thick but you can add more stock if you want it more soupy.
  3. Serve and enjoy!

Why chocolate can help you be healthier this holiday season

It seems like a paradox, I know.  Chocolate, healthy? Everything we have been taught about health and nutrition seems to be challenged with this statement.

But keep reading and you will find that chocolate can be one the healthiest and yummiest things you can eat.

Brand matters!

First of all, I am not talking about your regular Hershey’s bar. I know all too well what happens when I eat regular chocolate like this.  My heart races, I get a headache, and I might be grouchy and irritable.  Basically, not worth it, especially since Hershey’s is a far cry from what I consider truly delicious chocolate.

What I am talking about is raw, pure, unprocessed cacao, or raw chocolate.  In its natural, unadulterated form, “it is the highest antioxidant food on the planet, higher than any other fruit or vegetable.” Because it is so high in antioxidants, it naturally combats the free-radicals in our bodies which cause illness and disease.  The following is a brief list of conditions raw cacao can help with:

  • diabetes
  • heart disease or edema
  • asthma – decreases frequency and severity of attacks
  • cough/lung problems (in a study it was 1/3 more effective than codeine syrup!)
  • weight loss – by decreasing sugar/dessert cravings and satisfying the appetite
  • vision/ocular/eye health  (high antioxidants improve eye health overall)
  • gum disease – extremely beneficial for oral hygiene
  • seasonal allergies
  • depression
  • lowers blood sugar levels
  • lowers blood pressure
  • lowers “bad” cholesterol

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Fall and Winter dishes 2008-09

If you are looking for a sneak preview of what is to come this fall and winter of 2008-09, the following is a list of entrees and sides I am planning on including in the Nourishing Foods Menu Planner. Everything on the list is made gluten/dairy/soy-free.  There will also be a vegetarian/seafood option for each dish if it has poultry or red meat in it.

Vegetarian and Seafood:
Seafood Coconut Soup
Autumn Vegetable Paella
Potato Crusted Mahi Mahi
Tangine of Moroccan Veggies and Chickpeas
Cuban Black Bean Soup
Mahi Mahi with Cashews
Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas
Sweet potato black bean tacos
Nutty Vegetable Rice Pasta
Cashew “Alfredo” Gnonchi or Linguini
Salmon with Almond Lemon Stuffing
Lentils with Spinach and Sweet Potatoes

Chicken or Turkey:
Moroccan Chicken Kabobs
Orange Sesame Turkey Cutlets
Oven Fried Chicken
Turkey Mushroom Patties
Spiced Chicken with Kuri Squash
Spicy Chicken Tomatillo Soup
Turkey and Dressing
Chicken Pot Pie
Lemony Rosemary Ginger Chicken
Chicken with Peanut Sauce
Chicken Cornbread Pie
Turkey Sandwiches with Arugula-Walnut pesto
Vegetable Spaghetti and Meatballs
Serrano-Lime Chicken Fajitas
Chicken breasts with Parsnips, Leeks and thyme

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Spiced Kuri Squash and Chicken Stew

I bought this beautiful squash over a month ago at the Common Market in Frederick, MD, not knowing how delicious it would be. I was also simply enjoying looking at it because it is so beautiful.  It is called a Kuri Squash and it dark orange and round like a pumpkin but a little pointier on top.  Inside are large seeds which you can toast if you wish like pumpkin seeds.

Delicious Organics describes it this way:

“Also known as a Baby Hubbard, since it closely resembles the hubbard in shape. This (is) known as the Sweet Potato Squash with it’s orange to yellow colored flesh. It has a delicate flavor, some say akin to chestnuts, and is smooth and creamy. Nice in savory or sweet dishes. Also known as the Japanese Squash, Orange Hokkaid,o or Uchiki Kuri squash. Can be prepared like any other hard squash or try something new:

Lamb Stew with Kuri Squash and Almonds

Kuri Quinoa Bake

Lilac Ridge Farm’s Kuri Bake

Red Kuri Soup with Spiced Pepitas

Spiced Kuri Squash and Chicken stew, recipe and photo by Sarah Schatz

When I was thinking about how to prepare my Kuri squash, I decided to go sweet and spicy with cumin seeds, mustard seeds, garam masala, cinnamon and other wonderful spices.  I had some chicken defrosted so I started imagining a chicken stew with orange chunks of sweet kuri squash.  What came out ended up being a delight to my senses, I cannot help but share it here, especially since it’s the season of winter squashes. Here is my recipe:

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Why timing is everything

Take a minute and think about our beautiful natural world and how everything tends to follow a kind of order; where trees change according to seasons, the sun rises and sets at a specific but changing time each day, and the birds know that winter is coming and begin to migrate south.  All of these things define many moments in our lives and give a resting place to know that at least something in life is following a specific timing.

Our lives in the city and as humans usually aren’t this simple.  Add in raising a child or two and expect any kind of time table you have to fall of your map.  Things simply don’t get done at the time you may have expected or wanted them to.  And if they do, it may appear to be a miracle of your day.

When it comes to cooking though, timing is a huge part of how a dish is going to turn out.  And although I believe there is definitely room for error or even personal taste, timing is simply one of those rules you don’t want to mess with too much.

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The Miracles behind the creation of the Nourishing Foods Menu Planner

I want to take a few moments and diverge away from the topic of food and talk a little bit about how this website came about.  There are in fact a handful of miracles that made the creation of this site possible.

The first one is named Dawud Miracle.  And I have to say that his name describes what he does in his relationships with people.  Meeting him for the first time this past summer on the phone, I immediately felt as if I was simply talking to an old friend, catching up on the latest of our lives, and sharing what it’s like to be a parent and a business owner.

That first conversation with him re-sparked an idea I had started a year before during my pregnancy.  He not only encouraged me to follow this direction again and create a menu planning service, but also made it clear that it should be for people who struggle with food allergies.  It only made sense because this is where I have spent most of my time with food and cooking.

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Where to Buy Gluten-Free Ingredients

You might be surprised when you start looking for the flours and gluten-free ingredients needed to make gluten-free breads and treats.  It is very possible that the grocery store you go to already has a gluten-free section for baking and will contain many if not all of the ingredients called for in the recipes I publish in the menu planners.  If you live near a health food store, your chances are even greater that you will find what you are looking for.

If, however, you don’t live near a grocery store that supplies these ingredients, there are many suppliers whom you can order them from.  There are many different ones that you can find by searching the Internet, but I will list a few here.  I will say that it pays to shop around because the prices can vary quite a bit.

Ancient Harvest Quinoa: (whole-grain quinoa, quinoa flour, quinoa flakes and pastas).  www.quinoa.net

Authentic Foods:
(baking mixes, Garfava flour, Bette’s Four Flour Blend, brown and white rice flours, tapioca starch, potato starch and flour, and other GF flours and baking ingredients).  www.authenticfoods.com or www.glutenfree-supermarket.com

Ener-G-Foods, Inc.: (ready-made GF products plus gluten-free flours for baking including Egg Replacer and dough enhancer).  www.ener-g.com

The Teff Company
:  (fine-milled teff flours and whole grain).  www.teffco.com


Gluten-Free Ingredients

The following is a list of gluten-free flours and additional ingredients that I use when baking gluten-free breads, muffins or desserts.  I personally have used Bette Hagman’s books to learn the process of creating gluten-free breads that taste just as good as regular wheat products.  I like what she says about gluten-free baking:  “don’t believe anyone who tells you that gluten-free has to taste gritty.”

It wasn’t until I started baking my own gluten-free breads that I came to discover that what she says is in fact very true.  I had tried out the commercially made gluten-free products; some were okay while others turned me off completely.  I admit I was very happy when I discovered her recipes and flour combinations that create wonderful alternatives to wheat bread.

Bette gives a thorough explanation of the different gluten-free flours in her books, which I highly recommend purchasing if you are serious about making your own gluten-free breads and desserts.  However, I will list the main flours, which I use when baking and a brief explanation for each.  Most flours listed here work much better in combination with other flours.

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Cooking Tip: Cooking butternut squash

In my recipe, Creamy Butternut Squash Soup, I describe cooking butternut squash by placing it in the oven at 350 F face down in a little water for about 45-50 minutes.  After it is cooked, it is super easy to just scoop out the butternut squash.

I usually prefer the “bake” method because it is the easiest; you don’t have to go through the process of peeling the squash.  However, it actually takes the longest because of the bake time in the oven.  One way around this is to bake the squash the night before you plan to use it while you are fixing your dinner.  It doesn’t take that much more time and then it is cooked for you when you want to use it the next day.

If you are looking for quicker ways to cook your squash for your soup, you may want to consider the following ideas:

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Making a Beautiful Meal

Something I consider and play with when I am preparing a meal is how to make it visually appealing. This is where the artist in me comes out as I think about the colors and shapes of the vegetables, herbs and other ingredients that will make up the “work of art.”  When you think about it, isn’t food more appetizing when it is beautiful and created with care?

These considerations don’t have to take long.  In fact, before you know it, you will simply be thinking about them while you’re making dinner.

These are some different aspects to think about:

Try to bring some variety to the dish so that it’s not all one color.  You can start learning a little bit about colors and how they work together simply by experimenting.

One dish I make is very beautiful simply because of the colors – pink/red salmon, green spinach, and orange peaches.  I would call this a very “complementary” colored meal.

Also, nutritionally speaking, it is better to have an array of colors on your plate.  This is because the differently colored foods tend to contain different vitamins and minerals your body needs.

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