Sunday, July 5, 2015

Easy Summer Zucchini Pasta with Oregano

In season, locally grown, and organic fruits and vegetables are no match to the supermarket varieties. Summer is here and it is time to thrive off of the bounty of goods it brings. Visiting the local farmer’s market is a great way to get the biggest bang for your buck. Not only are you supporting the local economy and reducing environmental impact, but you are also getting the most vibrant, nutrient rich foods possible. Purchasing freshly harvested produce will ensure the highest quality. Not only can you see the difference but you can smell and taste the difference as well.

Did you know that the COLOR and SMELL of fruits and vegetables is due to their phytonutrient content??

The more vivid in color and the more aromatic a fruit or vegetable, the more concentrated the phytonutrients in the product. Phytonutrients are important compounds that have been found to have a wide variety of positive effects on the human body, including reducing inflammation, acting as powerful antioxidants, aiding in hormone regulation, and even playing a powerful role in preventing cancer. So lets get to know some of summer’s earliest rock stars!


Although thought of as a vegetable, tomatoes are actually fruits that are rich in the phytonutrient lycopene. Most abundantly found in tomatoes, watermelons, pink grapefruits, and apricots, lycopene has been found to be inversely related to developing cancer found in the prostate gland, lung, and stomach and may also be able to inhibit tumor growth (1).  Furthermore, lycopene has been found to be a potent antioxidant, which may also help reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by reducing inflammation (2).

TIP: Make sure to eat tomatoes with a high quality oil, like extra virgin olive to aid in the absorption of the fat soluble phytonutrients.


Rich in powerful anti-inflammatory compounds, anthocyanins found in cherries have shown to act similar to NSAID drugs, dampening the inflammatory response within muscle tissue. Furthermore, reductions in serum inflammatory marker CRP were noted after 2 servings of Bing cherries (3). This is an indication that cherry consumption may help reduce systemic inflammation within the body.

TIP: Anthocyanins are more concentrated in dark and tart cherries.


This abundant garden vegetable is not only rich in fiber but also rich phytonutrients that have shown to have many positive effects including reducing the risk of ulcers, promoting the growth of friendly bacteria, and supporting overall health via anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capabilities (4, 5). Plus due to its rich fiber content it can help balance blood sugar levels and fuel friendly bacteria in the colon. It's a win-win situation.

Tip: Turn zucchini into a delicate pasta by using a julienne or spiralizer. Then toss with your favorite pesto or sauté with garlic and extra virgin olive oil.

So I hope you skip the grocery store and head to your local farmer’s market to load up on these delicious goods! Every color and every smell offers something special. May the natural beauty of your exciting market finds transform into a delightful dish to share with friends and family.

Summer Zucchini Pasta
Serves two as a side (or 1 as an entree)

1 large yellow zucchini
1 ½ tsp ghee or extra virgin olive oil 
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
½ tsp fennel seeds
¼ tsp chili flakes
1 ½ tsp packed fresh oregano, finely minced
Sea salt and ground pepper
Handful fresh feta
Handful finely grated parmesan (I used a microplaner)
Garnish: fresh thyme


Using a julienne peeler peel the zucchini into thin ribbons. Stop peeling once you get to the seeds. Set the peeled zucchini strands aside.

Heat the ghee over medium low heat and add the finely minced garlic, fennel seeds, and chili flakes. Sauté until fragrant. 

Add the zucchini ribbons and the freshly minced should sizzle in the pan...if not then increase heat to medium. Stir to combine. Add a generous pinch sea salt and fresh ground pepper.  Allow to sauté another 2-3 minutes until the zucchini is tender. Be careful not to overcook because it can become too soft quickly. Once the zucchini is tender turn off the heat and toss in a handful of feta and grated parmesan. Stir to combine. Season with additional sea salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, use a large fork to twirl the pasta onto a large spoon and serve in little pasta mounds. This dish tastes great along side a salad and grilled meats or seafood, topped with a Bolognese sauce made with freshly picked tomatoes, or simply just eat the pasta on its own…its that delicious!!

1. Gajowik A, Dobrzynska M. Lycopene – Antioxidant with Radioprotective and anticancer properties-A Review. National Institute of Public Health. 2014;65(4):263-271.
2. Burton-Freeman BM, Sesso HD. Whole Food versus Supplement: Comparing the Clinical Evidence of Tomato Intake and Lycopene Supplementation on Cardiovascular Risk Factors. Adv Mitr. 2014;5:457-485.
3. Bell PG, McHugh MP, Stevenson E, Howatson G. The role of cherries in exercise and health.  Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2014;24(3):477-90.
4. Sharma D, Rawat I, Goel HC. Anticancer and anti-inflammatory activities of some dietary cucurbits. Indian Journal of Experimental Biology. 2015;53:216-221.
5. Sharma D, Rawat I, Goel HC. Antioxidant and Prebiotic Potential of Some Cucurbits. Res J Med Plant. 2012;6(7):500-510.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Ginger Citrus Spritzer

Wow! Five years of school are now behind me. Two years of prerequisites, 2 years of graduate school, and a 9-month dietetic internship has all finally come to an end. Wednesday marked my last day as an intern and the culmination of my time at Bastyr University, a leader in natural health education. My journey was long and my journey was hard, and it truly seems surreal that I am here today. But now I am more than ready to be the change I wish to see in this world. Just one more thing….I still need to pass my board exam. Although it is daunting it seems minor in comparison to all the sweat, tears, and long nights I have already given up to be where I am today. And, soon I will finally be able to call myself a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist!

However, sadly today I cannot toast with a glass of champagne, as I have been dealing with a painful wisdom tooth extraction. Instead I will toast with a fresh ginger citrus spritzer perfect to celebrate this huge accomplishment and to stay cool in the summer heat. Plus its loaded with nutrients to help reduce inflammation and help ease stress!


Most people already know that ginger can help ease nausea and vomiting (1). But did you know that ginger just like turmeric has powerful anti-inflammatory phytonutrients that have shown to reduce pain and swelling by suppressing pro-inflammatory compounds and reducing oxidative stress in the body? Studies have found that 75% of participants struggling with arthritic pain had a reduction in pain and/or swelling (2).

Furthermore, for you ladies out there, a recent study has found ginger to be effective in reducing heavy menstruations. Research has shown that elevated prostaglandin and prostacyclin levels have been found in women with heavy menstrual bleeding. Interestingly, specific compounds found in ginger inhibit the synthesis of these prostaglandins to provide an anti-inflammatory effect and reduce the amounts of blood loss (3).


Unlike other mammals, humans do not have the ability to make vitamin C (4). Therefore it is really important to get enough from you diet as it has many important functions in the body. It acts as a cofactor in multiple enzymatic reactions. For example it plays a crucial role in the synthesis of collagen, it acts as a powerful anti-oxidant protecting our cell membranes, and it is an important vitamin for adrenal health.  Did you know that our adrenal glands especially store really high concentrations of vitamin C?  That is because vitamin C is needed to produce hormones called epinephrine and norepinephrine when someone is responding to stress (4). Therefore, if you are acutely, or more importantly, chronically stressed, you need to make sure you are getting enough vitamin C rich foods in your diet to support your adrenal health as it can easily get depleted! Some foods rich in vitamin C are below…you may be surprised!

Papaya (1 cup)
Bell Peppers (1 cup)
Broccoli (1 cup)
Brussels Sprouts (1 cup)
Strawberries (1 cup)
Pineapple (1 cup)
Orange (1 medium)
Kiwifruit (1 medium)
Cantaloupe (1 cup)
Kale (1 cup)

However something to keep in mind is that the impact of heat and oxygen really affect how much vitamin C content is in a food. The more the fruit or vegetable is exposed to heat and oxygen the less vitamin C will remain. For instance, broccoli stored at room temperature for 6 days can loose almost 80% of its vitamin C and cooking vegetables will rapidly reduce the amount available as well (5). Although it is fine to eat cooked vegetables, just make sure to get in a couple servings of raw fruits and vegetables throughout the day to meet your needs especially if you are stressed emotionally or are feeling like you are getting sick. The National Academy of Sciences recommends that women and men get 75-90mg of vitamin C per day respectively (6). However, if you are stressed you may need more than that.  Just to note, the Tolerable Upper Intake of vitamin C is 2000mg for adults, but if you are eating a whole foods diet, which I recommend for getting adequate vitamin c, you will probably never come close to that upper limit. Just continue to focus on getting multiple servings of raw fruits and vegetables per day and make sure they are as fresh as possible!

So get out your microplaner, and get out your fine mesh sieve, because you are going to want to make a big batch of this delicious tonic! It’s super tasty and easy…and it can help melt the stress away!

Ginger Citrus Spritzer
Makes 4 servings (you can easily double this recipe)

½ cup lemon and lime juice (~ 2 of each)
¼ cup raw local honey
2 thumbs lengths of ginger (2 T grated via microplaner)
1/8th teaspoon cayenne
Generous pinch of Real sea salt
Ice cubes
Sparkling water


Juice your lemons and limes until you have ½ cup of freshly squeezed juice, pour into a glass bowl or large liquid measuring cup. Add the honey and stir until dissolved. Peel the ginger by scraping the skin off with a spoon. Then using your microplaner, grate the ginger into a fine pulp. Measure 2 tablespoons of this pulp and add to your mixture. Then add the cayenne and the generous pinch sea salt and stir until dissolved. Pour the mixture into a sealable mason jar and allow to sit at least 4 hours of over night in the refrigerator. This ensures the best flavor.

Then place a fine mesh sieve over a large glass bowl and pour the mixture into the sieve. With the back of a large spoon scrape/push the ginger pulp back and forth against the sieve until no more juice remains and the pulp is dry. Discard the pulp and pour the remaining clear tonic into a sealable mason jar for storage. Keep in the refrigerator.

Now fill up a large glass with ice cubes, pour over 2 tablespoons of the ginger citrus tonic, and top off with sparkling water. And if you want to get extra fancy, swap the water with some champagne.

1. Viljoen E, Visser J, Koen N, et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect and safety of ginger in the treatment of pregnancy-associated nausea and vomiting. Nutrition Journal. 2014;13(20):1-14.
2. WHF. Ginger. Accessed June 19, 2015.
3.Kashefi F, Khajehei M, Alaviniia M, et al. Effect of Giner (Zingiber officinale) on Heavy Menstrual Bleeding: A Placebo-Controlled, Randomized Clinical Trial. Phytother Res.  2015;29:114-119.
4. Patak P, Willenberg HS, Bornstein SR. Vitamin C is an important cofactor for both adrenal cortex and adrenal medulla. Endocr Res. 2004;30(4):871-875.
5. WHF. Vitamin C. Accessed June 19, 2015.
6. Linus Pauling. Vitamin C. Accessed June 19, 2015.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Old World Lamb Liver Pâté

What a wonderful three-day weekend full of old friends, new friends, and exciting memories! 
The annual Ski to Sea celebration occurred this weekend, changing Bellingham, the city of subdued excitement, to one bustling and exciting community. Everyone is out to race as part of a 7-leg relay race starting on top of Mt Baker and ending in Bellingham Bay. Days, weeks, and even months of training are showcased and celebrated.

However, after a long day in the sun racing and cheering, I am thankful for a peaceful and quiet rainy Memorial Day Monday. The perfect time to clean the house, spruce up vases with beautiful fresh flowers, and get bustling in the kitchen with jazz playing in the background…and perhaps an afternoon nap might be in order. But first, since I have a little spare time on my hands, and a super amazing food co-op find in my fridge (organic pasture-raised lamb liver), I am going to make lamb liver pâté!

Now, for some of you, I know liver may not sound appealing since it is not commonly eaten in the American culture…..and it definitely has an acquired taste. However, in my family, since I am German, liver is a staple amongst many other organ meats. If you are new to liver, liver pâté is a good way to start, as it is seasoned well, and acts more like a spread or dip than like a cut of meat. I love to serve liver pâté as an appetizer with gluten-free crackers or sliced veggies like cucumbers. Or, simply spread it on toast or fresh crusty bread. Just use the liver pâté anyway you would use hummus.

Why liver?? 
Liver is simply amazing! Cultures have eaten liver and other organ meats for centuries, regarding them as the best part of the animal. And not surprisingly so! Since the liver plays multiple roles within the body it requires many vitamins and minerals to complete it’s functions. Therefore, the liver is a storage house of nutrition and consequently it is known as nature’s natural multivitamin. For example, it is extremely rich in B vitamins, biotin, choline, vitamin A, iron, copper, selenium, and zinc. The amounts found in 3.5 oz of liver far outreach what you can find in plant foods. Therefore, eating a little bit of liver as part of a whole foods plant-based diet can be a very easy way to quickly increase the nutrient density of your diet. Since liver is very high in vitamin A and cholesterol, limiting it to small amounts a couple times a week is advised. And just as a reminder, you must make sure to buy organic and pasture-raised liver to ensure the highest quality.

Who should eat liver?? 
I think everyone that enjoys liver should eat liver occasionally. However, those that benefit most are those that eat very little animal protein, those that have digestive issues of some sort (IBD, IBS, SIBO, etc), high-intensity athletes, or women of child-bearing age. Often times these populations either are not meeting their micronutrient needs through diet alone or they have decreased micronutrient absorption. Therefore, because liver is so rich in important vitamins and minerals it can be a wonderful restorative food item to incorporate into your diet. Below you can see how liver stacks up to other foods, including other animal protein (6).

APPLES (3.5oz)
CARROTS (3.5 oz)
RED MEAT (3.5 oz)
Lamb Liver (3.5 oz)
3.0 mg
3.3 mg
11.0 mg
7.0 mg
6.0 mg
31.0 mg
140.0 mg
360.0 mg
4.8 mg
6.2 mg
15.0 mg
19.0 mg
139.0 mg
222.0 mg
370.0 mg
310.0 mg
.1 mg
.6 mg
3.3 mg
7.3 mg
.05 mg
.3 mg
4.4 mg
4.6 mg
.04 mg
.08 mg
.18 mg
7.0 mg
Vitamin A
40 IU
24,332 IU
Vitamin D
16 IU
Vitamin E
.37 mg
.11 mg
1.7 mg
.63 mg
Vitamin C
7.0 mg
6.0 mg
4.0 mg
.03 mg
.05 mg
.05 mg
.35 mg
.02 mg
.05 mg
.20 mg
3.6 mg
.10 mg
.60 mg
4.0 mg
16.0 mg
Pantothenic Acid
.11 mg
.19 mg
.42 mg
6.0 mg
Vitamin B6
.03 mg
.10 mg
.07 mg
.9 mg
Folic Acid
8.0 mcg
24.0 mcg
4.0 mcg
228.0 mcg
.42 mcg
2.08 mcg
96.0 mcg
Vitamin B12
1.84 mcg
90 mcg

What are the health benefits of liver?
As you can see, liver stacks up pretty nicely, especially in regards to B vitamins. B vitamins are very important for proper energy production and metabolism, DNA synthesis, nervous system function, and the list goes on (1-3). If your diet is low in B vitamins, more likely than not, you may feel low energy and fatigue. Therefore, liver generally is a great addition to support overall energy and well-being. Don't be surprised if you eat a little liver pâté and get an energy boost after! Also, liver is a good source of zinc and selenium which are important co-factors in reducing oxidative stress in our bodies, and help support healthy immune and thyroid function (4-5).

So if you are feeling adventurous, or are already a liver connoisseur, I recommend trying this delicious, super easy liver pâté. Seriously, make a batch and freeze some for later.  You never know when you may crave some extra nutrition. Plus, it can even make a great hostess gift if invited for dinner on the fly.  Serve it with crackers, apples, olives, and some aged hard cheeses and you got yourself a gourmet antipasti plate! If you want another recipe idea for liver check out this post!

Old World Lamb Liver Pâté
Makes about 2 ½ cups

½ cup + 2 tablespoons organic grass-fed butter (I use organic valley, green label)
2 cups diced yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely minced
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely minced
1 pound organic grass-fed lamb liver, diced or thinly sliced
2 tablespoons half and half
1 teaspoon Real sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground allspice (I use a clean coffee grinder to grind up allspice berries)
½ teaspoon ground pepper


In a large skillet (not cast iron), heat the butter over medium heat until melted. Reduce heat to medium low and add the yellow onion and sauté 10 minutes. Then add the garlic and the freshly minced herbs. Sauté another 10 minutes until the onions are caramelized.

Meanwhile cut away any membranes on the liver. Sometimes this is already done depending what liver you buy, and if you can find it, it will surely save you a bit of time! See this post for pictures if you still need to cut away membranes.

When the onions are starting to caramelize reduce the heat to low and with a slotted spoon transfer the onion mixture into a food processor. Return the heat to medium and sauté the liver until no longer bloody, but still slightly pink inside, just a couple minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the lamb to cool a bit.

Meanwhile process the onion mixture until smooth. Then add the liver, half and half, sea salt, allspice, and ground pepper. Process until smooth.

Line a container with plastic wrap and pour the liver pâté into the container. Smooth with a spatula and cover. Refrigerate. Once cool and hard you can turn the container over onto a plate and peel away the plastic wrap, allowing you to slice the pâté  OR just pour into a container from which you can spoon the pâté out of.

Note: This recipe makes a lot of pate. You can easily freeze the pâté and thaw for use later if you need a quick and tasty appetizer or breakfast spread.


1. Vitamin B6. Accessed March 27, 2015.
2. Folate. Accessed March 27, 2015.
3. Vitamin B12. Accessed March 28, 2015.
4. Zinc. Accessed March 27, 2015.
5. Selenium. Accessed March 27, 2015.
6. SELF NutritionData. Lamb Liver. Accessed March 27, 2015.
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