Napa Recap!

What started out as an educational-slash-foodie trip to the Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives Conference for me (birthday/Christmas gift from Tim), morphed into a work-slash-play-slash-”babymoon” for Tim and me when we realized this might be our last getaway for a while. We left Austin in the middle of a house re-model, another house newly on the market, our family business relocating and under construction… and unexpectedly had one of the best trips ever.

A recap from our food filled vacation, plus recommendations below.


A dietitian friend told me about the conference that spurred on this trip, Tall Tim talked me in to attending, and I talked him in to joining me.

(If you are interested to know more, The Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives Conference is put on by the Harvard School of Public Health and held at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, California near Napa. The conference presents the latest nutrition research by the Harvard researchers themselves, and trains chefs/educators on healthy cooking techniques. The majority of folks that attend are physicians and Registered Dietitians, with a few Health Coaches and educators in the mix like me. The conference sells out, so watch for the 2015 dates and reserve as soon as possible if interested.)

We talked about re-visiting Northern California before we ever left. Considering that most of my time was spent at the conference, we didn’t get to fit everything in, but here are our highlights worth considering yourself:

  1. The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) – A constant flurry of student chefs, teaching chefs, the historic building, the herb gardens, the aromas coming from every different kitchen… if you appreciate anything culinary, you will find something to love about this place. Tours and shopping available if you are just stopping through.
  2. Tim discovered real fast that the little town of Calistoga where we stayed was known for Hot Springs – it seems fitting to enjoy a spa treatment of some sort while in the Napa Valley, and Golden Haven Hot Springs & Spa provided that for my guy while I was conferencing.
  3. Our first and last stop on the way in & out of the San Francisco airport was Tartine Bakery. The pastry chef, Chad Robertson, is a James Beard Award Winner that is after my own heart – baking classic french pastries and incorporating ancient grains in his recipes; this bakery has the most decadent croissants in the same pastry case with ancient sprouted grain breads that change daily. Check out his James Beard nominated cookbook Tartine Book No 3, and see his contagious passion for bread in this short documentary. Chad, if you can hear me, open a bakery in Austin! I will measure flour, sweep the floors, anything.
  4. There were over 300 recipes presented/demonstrated/fed to us over the weekend at the HKHL conference. This Avocado Panna Cotta was so unique and beautiful, a favorite of Tim’s, and a sneak peak of some of the recipes I would be criminal not to share with you soon.
  5. The vineyard scenery on the drive up and down Highway 29 (the road connecting much of wine country) is a vacation in itself. We had time to visit one winery, Frogs Leap, and enjoyed a beautiful tasting on the back patio of the Vineyard House which was designed like something out of a House Beautiful magazine. I took pictures of everything, including the inside of the women’s restroom, and am awaiting a reply email regarding the paint color used on all the interiors. I could have moved in.
  6. It was an enormous treat to attend a cooking class taught by a CIA chef/professor focused on cooking with fruit from around the world. You can attend classes at the CIA with out attending a full conference – check here for weekend classes.
  7. The Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives Conference presenters and workshops were a collection of Who’s Who in nutrition research and Hot Topics in healthcare and healthy cooking. So much rich and relevant information was presented, but the stand outs for me were a keynote address by Dr. Walter Willett (a leading researcher/champion of the Nurses Health Studies, only the largest & longest nutrition study, ever), Top Chef Masters’ Suvir Saran’s workshop on cooking with herbs and spices, and the Culinary Institute’s Registered Dietitian and nutrition professor Sanna Delmonico’s session on Helping Parents Raise Healthy, Happy Eaters.
  8. The food in the Napa Valley is exceptionally well done, and I recommend every single place we ate – all suggestions from friends with great taste: The Girl & The Fig (French, country style food in Sonoma), Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch (farm to table in St. Helena), Mustard’s Grille (American fare in Napa, lemon meringue pie, oh my), Gott’s Roadside (fancy burger joint, several locations in the valley). You need a reservation for all except Gott’s.
  9. We did the obvious musts on the way in and out of San Francisco and were glad we did – Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory, and an unplanned lunch on Fisherman’s Wharf at Crab House that we are still talking about. Musts at Crab House: crab chowder, whole roasted crab, and crab & shrimp Louie salad. San Fran is a walkable city, so you can believe that your indulgences are earned like we did!

Kefir Oat Pancakes with Berry Syrup

Every once in a while the stars align on a weekday morning; Tim doesn’t leave the house in the wee hours and just the right ingredients are in the frig to make a real breakfast. Those mornings are the best. Something about a good breakfast with your guy before the workday begins.


The kefir in these pancakes provides a tang like buttermilk, but with the added bonus of probiotics that are great for gut health.  (I wonder if the probiotics lose some of their power in the cooking process? Tell me if you know!)

Fluffy, slightly sweet, a light crust on the top… I may never use another pancake recipe again. This mix is worthy of putting in a mason jar and giving as gifts. You would have to make the recipient promise to use kefir as the liquid because it’s creaminess puts them over the top.

Clean Tip: Kefir is a fermented milk product that tastes similar to yogurt. Try using kefir if you have digestive issues or while taking antibiotics. The probiotics help regulate the healthy bacteria in our guts easing digestion, and replace some of the good bacteria that antibiotics remove. Look for plain kefir (no added sugars or flavorings) and add your own sweetener if needed – mix in honey or fresh squeezed orange juice, or even blend some banana and cinnamon into your drink. The fuller fat kefir options you can find the better!

kefir-pancakes-afterSo much for leftovers.


Kefir Oat Pancakes with Berry Syrup (makes 8 pancakes)


  • 1 cup whole wheat, or gluten free flour of choice
  • 1/2 cup (heaping) rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut sugar (or whatever sweetener you prefer)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup kefir
  • 1/3-1/2 milk or water
  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter or coconut oil (plus additional for cooking)

*Extras that work well in the mix – 1/4 teaspoon almond extract or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts


  • Heat 2 parts chopped and/or slightly mashed berries with 1 part maple syrup. Allow to cool and thicken slightly before serving. Serve on the side as the water in the berries can make your cakes soggy.


  1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together kefir, eggs, and melted butter. Add dry ingredients to the wet and stir just until moistened. Add an additional 1/3 to 1/2 cup milk or water to thin the batter as desired. Do not over mix, or your pancakes will lose their fluff.
  2. Heat a large skillet or griddle to medium heat. Lightly butter the skillet for each pancake. Using a 1/3 cup measurement, drop batter in skillet and cook until pancake reaches desired coloring (2 to 3  minutes). Flip pancakes and cook until browned. 

*I have made these several times now, and can vouch for both using left over batter kept in the frig AND freezing the cooked pancakes for later use (pop them in a toaster and place on the “defrost” setting to re-heat).

Chicken Bone Broth & Other Cold Killers


If there is a running list out there of things “they” don’t tell you about pregnancy, I have two to add to the list… One – first time preggos do not start showing until well into the second trimester. Tim and I keep expectantly looking for a cute bump, and there just isn’t anything obvious enough to get excited about yet. Two – your immune system is working so hard for baby that it slacks on mommy.

A nasty cold tried to take over last week. I smothered it with nutritional home remedies, and it worked. If you feel something coming, try this no-mercy, drug-free approach. (My cold was bad for one full day, and then it vanished!)

  1. Act fast. At the first signs of sickness (itchy ears, coated or sore throat) start to drink lots of fluids (water, tea, OJ, green juice) and eliminate white foods – sugar, flour, dairy – these are inflammatory foods that prolong sickness.
  2. Get the crockpot out and make THIS chicken bone broth. There are actual healing powers in the warm, salty broth that fight infection and reduce upper respiratory cold symptoms. I like to add extra parsley and the juice of one lemon to Dr. Amy’s recipe.
  3. Garlic infused olive oil – I forgot to throw this one in the picture above, but believe it was one of the most effective things I did. Smash 2 garlic cloves, and simmer them on low heat with 2 tablespoons of olive olive for 10-15 minutes (do not need to brown the garlic). Strain garlic out of oil and allow oil to cool. Use a dropper to fill the ear canal with the oil, allow the oil to penetrate the ear canal, and then use half a cotton ball to plug the canal. Sleep with the cotton balls in! The garlic has has an antibacterial effect and combined with the oil will lubricate the sinuses. Hydrogen peroxide works to eliminate germs and soothe itchiness as well. Instead of plugging the ears with cotton you can wait for the hydrogen peroxide to stop bubbling, soak up the excess liquid and go to the next ear.
  4. Oregano oil vapor - Fill a humidifier with water and add 20-30 drops of oregano oil. Sleep with the humidifier on and you will inhale the antiviral/anti-fungal herb that is also helpful for a sore throat and stuffy nose.  (I dragged the humidifier around the house with me during the day as well. Swear by it.)
  5. The tried and true warm salt water gargle will absolutely soothe a sore throat but also help heal it (unlike throat lozenges). If you need some additional reinforcement during the night to cool coughing and discomfort, this numbing herbal throat spray by Herb Pharm that contains echinacea and propolis which can improve the immune response. Throw in a couple echinacea tablets a day as well; studies have shown the herb can cut the chances of catching a cold and and shorten the duration if you already have one.

DSC_0412Warning: Your house will smell like a pizza parlor, but your family can benefit by using these same remedies to prevent catching the sickness their selves. Do it. Give that cold no mercy.

Feeding the Bump: 3 Winter Smoothies


Welp. We’re having a baby. It’s plum crazy. (More like peach crazy because the baby is the size of a little peach right now!)

There has been some serious radio silence in the kitchen through the first trimester. Since I like to keep the blog true to what I’m actually making and eating, that explains the duel radio silence here lately.

I completely understand the food aversion thing while pregnant now. It’s no joke. My personal food aversions have schizophrenia, so it’s not worth going in to every changing avoidance, but the staples that have filled our pantry are things like rice crackers, cheese, fruit, grass-fed ground beef, yogurt, avocados, chicken tenders (yikes!), eggs, ice cream and potatoes. Not exactly a Nutritionists dream menu all the time, which is just fine, and I supplement with some great whole-food prenatals and sneak superfoods into these sweet smoothies.


Note: These are sweet smoothies that work for a pregnant lady with food aversions. Consider replacing some of the fruit with veggies if you’re so inclined!

Cherry Chocolate Co-Co (current fave)

    • 1/2 cup no-sugar added coconut water
    • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
    • 2 Tbsp. raw cacao powder
    • 1 heaping cup frozen cherries
    • 1/2 frozen banana
    • 1 Tbsp. chia seeds
    • honey to taste
    • ice if none of your fruit is frozen

Spicy Mango & Coconut (well, maybe this is my current fave)

    • 1/3 cup full fat coconut milk (Goya brand has fewer additives compared to others)
    • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
    • 1 heaping cup frozen mango
    • 1 small orange OR 1/2 cup orange juice
    • tiny pinch of cayenne pepper
    • 1 tsp. honey
    • 1 cup ice

Green Grapefruit Detox (because grapefruits are so abundant right now)

    • 1 grapefruit, peeled
    • 1 scoop barley max (or handful of greens)
    • 1/2 frozen banana
    • 1 Tbsp. hemp seeds
    • honey to taste
    • 1 heaping cup ice