Shepherd’s Pie with Asiago Cauliflower Mash and Root Veggie Goodness

This dish proves that comfort food can be wholesome and nourishing.  And isn’t that what makes food so magical, so grand? Food is a vehicle to nourish our bodies and senses and this dish, a celebration of slow winter cooking is an opportunity to connect with the sensory and indeed sensual experience of working with whole foods to develop flavor, depth and soul.  In the process, transfusing love and creativity through your fingertips into the ingredients to craft a dish that will nourish you and loved ones on all levels.  The ingredients are easily accessible, seasonal, and affordable and with a little time, a little patience, and a healthy indulgence in wine & butter you can cultivate soul-satisfying flavor that will warm your belly and bones.  Cook with a good bottle on wine on hand, and enjoy a little for you, a little for the braise.  To your health…. and sensory indulgences.

Prep Time: 35 min

Cook Time: 45 min

Serves: 8-12



Asiago Cauliflower Mash
1 head of cauliflower
2 cups of veggie broth*
1 cup of asiago and/or parmesan
¾ cup of organic cream
¼ cup organic butter, softened

1) In a large saucepan or Dutch Oven add broth & chopped cauliflower.
2) Bring into a boil. Allow cauliflower to steam and soften into broth, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
3) Use a potato masher to start… mashing- until smooth and blended If you have an immersion blender have at it.
4) Add butter and cream and mix thoroughly. Then fold in cheese making sure mash is well blended.

Root Veggie Goodness
8-12 carrots, peeled & chopped into rustic bite size chunks
1 ½ cups of cooked chickpeas
1 ½ cups of cooked lentils
1 medium yellow
2 tbsp of tomato paste
2 shallots cloves, diced
5-7 cloves of garlic, smashed & minced
¼-⅓ cup of organic butter, softened
¾-1 ½ cup of red wine (I chose Bordeaux)

1) In a deep cast iron skillet or Dutch oven, over medium-high heat, melt ½ of your butter and slowly add onions, shallots, and garlic. Sautee, regularly stirring to prevent burning until onions sweat.
2) Add carrots, folding them into the onions. Then add tomato paste, thoroughly coating the mixture. If ever the mixture looks too dry, deglaze with small splashes of red wine, picking up all the browned bits. That’s where you develop flavor in the braising process, offering more depth and complexity with each swirl. You can always sneak in more slivers of butter as needed ;-)
3) Add chickpeas and lentils and continue the braising process, sauteeing in butter and using small splashes of wine to pick up browned bits whenever needed. Give it another 10 minutes to allow all the flavors to meld. Set aside

The Masterpiece
1) Preheat Oven to 400
2) Pour cauliflower mash over root veggie goodness in the cast iron skillet or Dutch oven, creating an indulgent creamy layer to bake over.
3) Bake for about 35-50 minutes until the cauliflower is golden brown. If desired, put the casserole under the broiler for that desired crispy golden brown texture you’re seeking.

BAM. To your health kiddos!

Heart Greek Yogurt? Make your own!

In sharing recipes for the BellySatva blog and newsletter over the past couple of years, I have in passing referred to using homemade lebneh or Greek yogurt as an accompaniment to many sumptuous dishes, including Lebanese dandelion greens, Turkish zucchini fritters, and smoky cocoa-infused Mexican chili.  I realize however that the process of straining  yogurt at home for that indulgently thick, creamy texture that has made bellies smile the world over may perhaps deserve more than a footnote.  This month’s recipe therefore is devoted to the art of straining your own yogurt at home. Aaaand, I might add, my first pictorial culinary how-to guide in the kitchen.  To your health!

Homemade Lebneh with Zaatar, Toasted Chickpeas and Drizzle of Olive Oil


Step 1: What You Need


  • Quality Organic Whole-Milk Yogurt (32 oz.) *if available, I recommend Brown Cow brand’s Cream Top Whole Milk Organic*
  • Mesh Strainer
  • Mixing  Bowl
  • Cheesecloth or Paper towels *cheesecloth is the purest of straining materials, but everyday kitchen towels will do just nicely :-) *

Step 2: Hook up your Straining Apparatus

Snug fit!

Hook the mesh strainer on top of bowl so it is suspended and excess liquid easily separates from yogurt solids.


Step 3: Commence Straining


Creamy Goodness Activate!


Line strainer with cheesecloth or paper towels and gently pour in yogurt.


Step 4: Walk Away


Seal tightly and walk away :-)


Seal tightly with plastic wrap, store in fridge overnight to strain.  Typically 6-36 hours is ideal for creating that rich, creamy texture that has become a fan favorite in foodie trends.  When removing from cheesecloth/paper towel lining, be sure to slowly, carefully peel lining off the yogurt and serve immediately or store in airtight container.

Enjoy in a parfait with granola/honey/dried fruit/nuts, as a sour cream substitute, or a Middle Eastern style lebneh dip as pictured above with zaatar, toasted chickpeas, and drizzle of olive oil. As you begin to make Greek yogurt with frequency, you’ll find no shortage or ways to savor.






Create the Shift

Spring is here, and though it has had a jumpy start this year, there is no denying the shift.  The crocuses and daffodils are in bloom and patiently serve as a reminder that rebirth is on the horizon- if only we chose to respond.

In my own experience I have found that in order to create major shifts towards meeting my goals for wellness and prosperity, I have had to honestly reflect on the things in my life that were holding me back and respond with fortitude and humility.   The hard life decisions, like ending a marriage or leaving a job or moving to a new city, can be really daunting, but when appropriate, can be the very shift that is needed to move forward with renewed purpose.

Most of my health coaching clients come to me at points in their lives when they are on the brink of a major shift and know that they need support of moving forward to reach their health goals.

Most recently, one client who just completed my health coaching program, first came to me struggling with overweight and wanting to avoid a family history of diabetes and other chronic diseases that had claimed  so many of her loved ones prematurely. She wanted off the fad dieting merry-go-round and its catastrophic effects on her physical and emotional wellbeing.  She needed to reprogram her approach to healthy living.  Over the course of six months, I am happy to report that she has lost almost 40 pounds, but more importantly she has learned to reclaim her agency over her health to become the healthiest, most vibrant version of herself. “I can’t unlearn what you have taught me,” she explained, “I can’t go back to how I was living before.”  The shift is there, if only we chose to respond.

Please join me for an exciting 7-Day Healthy Eating Challenge that I am leading at Pekoe Acupuncture & Wellness April 21st- 27th.  The challenge is this: Can you go for one whole week eating nothing but homecooked, unrefined or whole foods?  The program is designed to empower you to take control of your health through nourishing and cost-effective meal planning.  Create the shift towards sustainable weight loss and improved digestive health now!
Be well and lots of love.

Neti and Nasya: The Oldies but Goodies in Sinus Relief

Neti goes mainstream on Oprah!

In recent years, the neti pot - a device used in Ayurvedic medicine to manually irrigate the sinus cavities – has become increasingly become popular in alternative health circles.  Even touted on Oprah (see audience member demonstrating in pic above), the neti pot is shown to be be effective in relieving chronic sinus issues, as it flushes out bacteria, allergens, and other irritants that create allergies or chronic sinusitis.
However, as renowned Ayurvedic doctor John Doulliard explains, the neti ritual is only complete with its counterpart nasya ritual, an application of warm oil, usually oregano or sesame oil, to the inside of the nostrils.  The saline rinse of neti pot on its own without the application of oil can dry out the sinuses,  causing the body’s mucus production to compensate and go into overdrive trying to lubricate the lining of the nostrils.  The complete irrigating and lubrication process has been proven to be more effective than medicating.  And really- how exciting is that?! This can be your spring to enjoy all that is bloom, naturally allergy-free!

Uber-Simple Roasted Cauliflower

Cauliflower is increasingly becoming a trendy item on DC restaurant menus and it’s easy to see why.  When done right – roasted or seared – this cruciferous veggie with incredible antioxidant, cancer-fighting properties, is a delicately-sweet, epicurean treat.   This recipe is based on the one that would always come out of my mother’s kitchen… aaaand would  never make it to the dinner table because my brothers and I would nosh on all of it beforehand.  And it’s just so dang versatile- throw it in salads, wraps, or enjoy it as a side. To your health!


Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 35-40 minutes

Serves: 4-6


1 large head of cauliflower, chopped into bite size florets*

1/3 cup of olive oil

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp coriander

1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp turmeric



1) Preheat oven to 400

2) In large mixing bowl combine all ingredients until cauliflower is thoroughly coated in spices and pour in a large cast iron skillet, dutch oven, or casserole dish. Roast for 30-35 minutes uncovered until tender.

3) Optional: If you like it a little more browned, put cauliflower under broiler for 3-5 minutes (be sure to watch it!).

Serve immediately and enjoy!

*Cut a little larger than what you think bite size may be… cauliflower reduces significantly once cooked!

Spicy Red Kimchee

This month’s recipe comes from Katy Chang, a visionary in DC’s vibrant foodie scene. Proprietor of Artisanal Soy, makers of handcrafted natural soy products sold at Whole Foods stores throughout the mid-Atlantic, and founder of EatsPlace, a community commercial kitchen and marketplace with dining space to host pop-up restaurants and guest chef residencies in Petworth, she knows her food.  She understands that food is more than ingredients and flavor profiles, but a way for bringing communities together and for people to share their stories and traditions.  Indeed, her craft in born from a passion to breathe new life into family culinary tradition and share nutritious, artisanal foods.  Below she shares her recipe for kimchee, an incredibly tasty superfood rich in antioxidants, essential vitamins and minerals, and live probiotics to aid digestion. To your health!


Photo credit: Brad Edelman

Cabbage Brine:
1 head napa cabbage (approximately 2 lbs)
½ cup sea salt

Kimchee Seasoning:
½ onion, thin sliced
¼ carrot, julienned
4 green onions (spring onions), cut into matchstick-size strips
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
Chili, to taste (approximately ½ cup of red chilli powder if corsely
ground or 2 tablespoons if finely ground)
½ cup water

Quarter cabbage and place in a container. Sprinkle salt evenly
throughout cabbage. Use your hands to mix it in evenly. Cover and let
cabbage pickle for 3 hours. Toss and turn over and pickle for 3 more
hours. Add enough water to cover and pack into a crock, tamping down
to force air and water out of the cabbage.

Weigh down cabbage with a heavy plate so it is submerged in the brine.
Cover the entire crock  with a cheesecloth to allow air circulation.
Leave the crock to ferment at room temperature (around 70 degrees).
The cabbage will start tasting tangy after a few days, and the taste
gets stronger as time passes. After a few days to a week, the cabbage
is done pickling and it’s time to make the kimchee seasoning.

In a mixing bowl, combine all the seasoning ingredients. Let the
seasonings stand for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. With
your hands, spread the seasoning all over the cabbage — wear gloves
as the chilis will burn.

Ready to serve or tightly pack the kimchee in a jar and cover loosely
with cheesecloth. Store at room temperature for 24 hours for further
fermentation. Store covered in refrigerator for several weeks.

Tongue Love: Why Everyone Should Get Scrapin’

This month’s self-care tip comes from nationally-acclaimed expert in Ayurvedic medicine Dr. John Douillard of LifeSpa Center in Boulder, Colorado.  Diligent oral hygiene is an incredibly practical and cost-effective foundation of sound health. Western medicine continues to draw the links between inflammation in the mouth and larger health problems including cardiac disease and dementia. A tongue cleaner is a simple, yet powerful way to improve breath, digestive wellness, and overall health.  When I recommend a tongue scraping regimen to my health coaching clients, I caution that they will be surprised how much STUFF comes off and how they’ll never look back to self care without it.  


Dr. Oz scrapes too!

The tongue cleaner, an inexpensive yet transformative utensil, is a simple, thin, u-shaped piece of stainless steel. It consists of a blunted edge that removes plaque and build-up from the surface of the tongue. Dentists in America are recommending the tongue cleaner more and more because it helps to fight cavities by removing bacteria from the mouth. The tongue cleaner also prevents bad breath, especially for people who eat a lot of dairy and build up mucus in the mouth, nose, and throat.

The tongue cleaner comes from the tradition of Ayurveda, which asserts that people who use one are better at public speaking, express themselves more thoughtfully, and speak more sincerely and authoritatively. Some people ask if the same effect can be gained by brushing the tongue with a stiff toothbrush. Brushing the tongue moves stuff around and is helpful, but a tongue cleaner is more effective as it clears out the deep deposits and generally keeps the area cleaner, stimulated and alive.

Cravings can be reduced by cleaning the tongue of leftover food. When the mouth can still taste the food, you may experience cravings for previously eaten foods. A tongue cleaner reverses the process of desensitizing your taste buds, which has happened to everyone to a greater or lesser extent. It allows you to taste more subtle flavors in food so that you can eat vegetables, fruits and whole grains with greater joy. When old residue is removed from the tongue, you will be better able to taste your food and won’t need to eat as much since you will have gained greater satisfaction from your meal.

And finally, a big advantage is that it enhances kissing because it makes the tongue more sweet, fresh and sensitive. If you are in a relationship, we invite you to check this out with your partner. Make an agreement to scrape twice a day for one week, and notice the difference.


  • Apply a few quick strokes, 2-3 times a day, or after brushing your teeth
  • Use the rounded cleaning edge to scrape gently down the tongue several times, while applying slight pressure
  • Rinse under running water and gently scrape again until no white residue is left.
  • There should be no pain or gagging involved whatsoever—if you feel any discomfort,  you are probably scraping too hard or starting too far back on the tongue. And if you are wondering what those bumps are at the back of your tongue, they are your salivary glands and they are supposed to be there. If you found them you’ve gone too far.

© 2010 Integrative Nutrition 5/10

Mücver: Turkish Zucchini-Feta Fritters with Mint Lebneh Dip

Few things delight me as much as fried veggie goodness. Enter mücver, the Turkish zucchini pancake with feta and dill that are a hypnotic celebration of Mediterranean flavor.  Entering the season of the squash, these indulgent savories make a lovely addition to an early autumnal dinner party.  This recipe uses chick pea flour, making them a welcome treat for your gluten-free guests. To your health!
Prep Time: 35-45 minutes
Cook Time: 10-15 minutes
Serves 6-8
Lebneh (Strained Yogurt Dip)*
1 32 oz container of organic plain whole milk yogurt
3 mint leaves, chiffonade cut (stacked, rolled, and cut into razor thin strips)
Olive oil to drizzle
Mücver (Pancakes)
6 medium zucchini, peeled and shredded
2-3 large carrots, peeled and shredded
3 eggs
4 cups chick pea flour
1 1/4 cups feta, crumbled
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/3 cup fresh dill, chopped
3 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp ground marash pepper
1 tbsp kosher salt
1) Line mesh strainer with a thick paper towel or cheesecloth. Stack strainer securely on top of deep mixing bowl.
2) Carefully pour yogurt into straining apparatus. Lightly wrap with saran wrap and allow to strain in fridge overnight.
3) When ready to serve drizzle with olive oil and chiffonade mint.
Mücver (Pancakes)
1) In a large colander, combine shredded zucchini and carrots and strain for 30-60 minutes, allowing excess moisture to drain (for easier patty-making :-) )
2) In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly fold in chick pea flour, eggs, feta, fresh herbs, marash pepper, and salt and mix to even consistent texture.
3) Line large platter with sheet of wax paper. Create 20 evenly formed 1/4 cup round patties using measuring cup. Continue to use wax paper to stack layers.  Place platter in freezer for 5-10 minutes.
4) Heat cast-iron skillet over medium-high for 1 minute. Add 1 tbsp of coconut oil. Add 5-6 patties evenly spaced in skillet, sauteeing for 2-3 minutes on each side until they are golden brown.  Allow cooked patties to cool on platter lined with paper towels. Repeat process in 2-3 more batches.
5) Serve immediately and enjoy!
*You can easily buy the readily available strained greek-style yogurt.  I grew up making my own lebneh and to me it makes all the difference.  Purer, richer taste and texture and so little effort.

Raw Kale Salad with Coconut-Fried Polenta and Fruits of Summer

Consider this salad an delectable introduction for those not yet turned on to the raw kale trend. My test audience was two skeptical girlfriends I hosted one oppressively hot summer night when my a/c struggled to get below 87 degrees. I love the challenge of introducing crunchy foodie fare to my friends and winning them over. They helped me prep in the kitchen as we cooled off with a chilled chardonnay and they discovered nutritional yeast, the nutty, heady seasoning, for the first time. As we sat down to eat, floor fans a-blowing, I could see the delight in their faces as they took their first bites. The fried savory polenta was the bait, topping superfoods-du-jour kale and quinoa with the unexpected thirst quenching of summer sweets like blueberries and nectarines. Who knew, they exclaimed, the raw kale could be so dang tasty? Success! Share the love and to your health.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Servings: 6-8

1 bunch kale, thoroughly rinsed, pat dry, removed from ribs and ripped into one-inch chunks
2 nectarines, diced
1 avocado, sliced
1 cup of cooked black quinoa
1 tube of store-bought polenta, cubed
2/3 cup of blueberries
1 tbsp coconut oil

1 lemon, squeezed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp nutritional yeast

1) Over medium-high heat in a large cast-iron skillet, heat coconut oil for one minute.
2) Add polenta and sautee on one side for 3-4 minutes until golden brown. Turn onto other side and repeat. When down remove from skillet and allow to cool on ceramic plate lined with paper towel.
3) In a large mixing bowl, massage dressing ingredients evenly into raw kale. Add quinoa and fruit.
4) Transfer salad mixture to large platter. Top with avocado and polenta and serve.

A Place for Compassion in Healthcare

I’ve been obsessed with the HBO documentary series The Weight of the Nation, an intricate and engaging examination of the obesity crisis in the America that came out this month.  It analyizes the perfect storm of  environmental, economic, and political trends that have created this epidemic.  Media coverage of the issue has been done and done again. Very often it is superficial and offensive, focusing simply on the increasingly sedentary American lifestyle.  That more and more Americans, in fact the majority are overweight or obese, because they are lazy.It’s a convenient, uncomplicated approach to explain the crisis.  It’s why the reality series The Biggest Loser is such a hit. It’s why Michelle Obama named her childhood obesity initiative Let’s Move. It’s how the food industry shirks responsibility for dominating the market with processed, chemicalized junk passed off as food and targets our country’s most vulnerable populations in predatory marketing practices.  It’s how the federal government forges ahead with dangerous food policies and subsidies for the very foods that are making the nation sick.  Most importanly it’s how most of the American public can absolve itself of the need to be compassionate for those who are suffering when they need it most.What I appreciated the most about the documentary was its humanizing profiles and interviews of those struggling with unhealthy weight.  These were not the anonymous overweight people walking through the streets whose backsides are taped for cliched media coverage of the issue.  By really looking in their eyes as they descibe their sickness, it’s not so easy to turn our backs  and dismiss them as lazy and deserving of their fates.

I know from my own family history with obesity, I had grown up largely unsympathetic, thinking of the disease as a character flaw for those with whom I had difficult relationships.  With maturity I’ve come to accept that weight discrimination truly is the last acceptable prejudice in our society.  And perhaps it only really happened when I’ve allowed myself to be compassionate for my own shortcomings in taking care of myself.  This past month especially I have often buckled under the stress of moving and keeping up the entrepeneurial hustle, overindulging in espresso and sweets, and skimping on sleep and self-care.  At any given time, we all try to do the best with what we’re working with, and often we’re flawed.  These struggles create the foundation for our capacity for empathize with others in their times of need.

This is where professionals in integrative health seek to fill that gap for compassion in modern healthcare, by treating the whole person, not just a collection of symptoms.  The team of practitioners that I have joined at Pekoe Wellness and Acupuncture, a holistic health clinic in downtown DC, is inspiring not only becacuse we each share a mission that attends to the physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness of our clients, but above all, because we offer respect, compassion, and support.  Please check out all of our offerings at Pekoe, including nutrition & wellness services from your truly.

Please enjoy the contents of this month’s newsletter, including the spicy, rich Penang curry recipe I brought back from Thailand and summer musings of turning body image on its head.

Be well and lots of love.