During the recent holidays past, I was given the gift of a yoga calendar by my beloved friend Lee. Tearing off a page every morning has now become an especially joyful and expectant way to start my days. Most of the pages are filled with beautiful messages (some of which are so very special that they get pinned to the cork board the next day), or sometimes a special yoga-position-of-the-week. Very occasionally, I find an inspirational recipe. What I find most awesome of all is the kinds of spices, and the fact of roasting them to bring out their complex flavor profiles. Here, below, are the recipes I’ve enjoyed most of all (so far).

The original recipes are made with ghee, a type of clarified butter that you can easily make yourself, but you can also substitute coconut oil if you prefer, like I do. With regard to Medjool dates, if you are not familiar with them, they are unusually sweet, soft, and delicious, and, therefore, worth searching out for this recipe. My local supermarket carries them in the produce section. If you cannot find Medjools, use whatever you can find and plan to add a couple extra teaspoons of warm water if the chutney seems too dry.

Tomato Date Chutney

1 1/2 Tbsp. ghee or coconut oil
1 small dried red chili pepper
3/4 tsp. mustard seeds (whole)
4 medium tomatoes, diced
6 Medjool dates, pitted and quartered
1 Tbsp. coconut sugar
3/4 tsp. cumin, ground
1/2 tsp. salt

Melt the coconut oil or ghee in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the chili pepper and mustard seeds, and saute approx 2 minutes, until the mustard seeds begin to pop. Add tomatoes, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes soften. Smash tomatoes with the back of a fork, and stir in dates, coconut sugar, cumin, and salt.

Simmer approx 10 minutes more, uncovered, over medium-low heat, until chutney begins to thicken. Remove from heat and allow to come to room temperature. Remove chili pepper and serve.

Fennel-Toasted Brussels Sprouts

1/2 tsp. coriander seeds
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts (approx 5 cups)
2 Tbsp. ghee or coconut oil
juice of 1/2 lemon

Heat oven to 450F. In a small, dry pan over medium heat, roast the coriander, cumin, and fennel seeds for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly, until fragrant. Allow the seeds to cool for 5 minutes, and grind to a coarse powder using either a spice grinder, or a mortar & pestle, or a large, sharp, patient knife on a large cutting board.

In a large bowl, combine the ground seeds with the turmeric, salt, and pepper. Add Brussels sprouts and ghee or coconut oil, and toss well until coated.

Spread the Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet and roast 20 minutes, shaking once midway through, until the sprouts are getting crispy and the outer leaves are beginning to darken. Transfer to a serving bowl, squeeze with lemon, and serve immediately.

Hearty appetite, and thank you to Yoga Journal for prior versions of these recipes.

What About Weight Watchers?

A while ago I got a letter from a reader named Emily, who reported that she had joined Weight Watchers some time back, and found it especially helpful for portion control. Having watched the movie “Fat Head,” read Gary Taubes’s book “Good Calories, Bad Calories,” and read Your Health is On Your Plate, she wants to know if she can follow my recommendations and Weight Watchers at the same time. Plus, she wants to know what I eat.

Okay, here’s how I do it. First, I don’t make menus or plan meals very well. Working full time gets in the way of that.  What I really do most is to follow Michael Pollan’s advice: Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much. Breakfast today was a sweet potato with a generous spoonful of peanut butter, and black tea. For lunch, I had leftover roasted chicken (with carrots, zucchini, and celery) and an apple. I had a cup of green tea in the afternoon with a piece of dark chocolate, and an orange. Dinner yesterday consisted of scrambled eggs, cucumbers, and flax-seed crackers. Friday night dinner, with 10 friends at the table, was fish chowder; a beautiful salad with red-leaf lettuce, cabbage, avocado, sesame seeds, tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers; roasted asparagus; quinoa; salmon; and fresh fruit (berries +  mangoes) for dessert. We don’t eat like that every day, but we try to have a nice meal together at least twice a week.

Next, Emily wanted to know how much grain she should be eating: “Some seem to say that I shouldn’t eat grain at all, though steel-cut oats, bulgar, quinoa, or even air-popped popcorn when eaten in moderation seem OK. How many grains do you eat in a day?”

If you are struggling with this, then I recommend not actually planning to eat any grains in a day, but saving them as opportunities come up, like if you happen to stop at your friend’s house just as a loaf of homemade bread is coming out of the oven. [This doesn’t mean to make a regular habit of running errands when you know your friend is baking!] Also on special occasions, like a wedge of corn bread at your family’s weekly Sunday dinner, a slice of cake at your sister’s engagement party, or a piece of challah on Friday night. That kind of thing. Special.

There is not one right answer for how much or how often. It depends on your metabolism, your activity level, your stress levels, and what else you ate that day. As long as you doesn’t start to feel like you need bigger pants, you can feel pretty comfortable that you are making healthy choices. If your pants are getting tight, on the other hand, you may want to try reducing the amount of grain you’ve been eating.

Now, with regard to combining my recommendations with Weight Watchers, I would say that it’s a great idea. Real food, with guidance about how much for those who need it. Weight Watchers does a great job teaching portion control, but the real secret to its success is that it specifies the amount of manufactured calories you can eat. Fruits and veggies are “free” because they are real, nourishing foods filled with color, fiber, and phytonutrients. All of which adds up to the fact that this program fits very nicely with my recommendations, and you, dear reader, should feel free to post below if you’d like to share your own examples of how you’ve make them work together.

What I liked most about Emily’s comments was this: “I want to maximize the nutrients I put into my body and minimize hunger.” That is key. Improving the nutritional value of the food you eat is the key to improving your health, and your nutritional status. Because being well nourished is the best solution for hunger. How does that work?

Let’s imagine you went to the movies, ate a big bag of candy, and then went out for dinner. Totally believable scenario, right? This happens every day all over this country. But what if they sold roasted Brussels sprouts and grilled salmon at the movie theater? No one would go out for dinner! Why? Because, despite the fact that your belly is filled with 300 calories worth of sugar and gelatin, your brain knows it hasn’t been nourished yet. And it’s still hungry, and rightly so.

The key to satisfying your hunger, therefore, is to eat real food.

The Box-of-Real-Food Diet

I write Your Health is On Your Plate because there are a couple of things that I want everyone to really understand. First, I want you to understand that there’s a big difference between real food and manufactured calories. A huge difference, really. Real food nourishes; manufactured calories entertain (at best). Manufactured calories also cause a lot of very serious medical problems. Like diabetes and obesity, for starters. And strokes and heart attacks. Continue reading

Ten Steps to Preventing Diabetes

Let’s say that you’re not diabetic and, of course, you want to keep it that way. But you have a couple of family members with diabetes, and you’re wondering if it’s inevitable that it’s going to happen to you, too. Not necessarily. Here are some things you can do to dramatically reduce the likelihood of developing diabetes. Continue reading


Last week I posted an essay to help make sure that you find the nourishing crackers (instead of other ones), and I included a recipe. Here’s a second great recipe if you’re up for making yourself a batch of homemade — These are full of tiny little seeds and absolutely delicious. They are easy to make, and then you can eat a handful without any worries about whether you’re eating a whole bunch of nonsense that isn’t really food. Continue reading