Friendly Food – Ginger Chicken and Broccoli


I am embarrassed, it has taken me as long to write this blog post as it would have to wash the dishes from this meal when I was in college. I really let things marinate.

I invited myself over to my friend Patti’s house to cook up some “Friendly Food”, I knew I would be in good hands as she has always provided me with healthy eats. It was great catching up with Patti who is a Board Member at The Woodland Park Zoo and is the Executive Co-Chair and responsible for gathering a crew of amazing ladies to aid her in launching this year’s Jungle Party “Show Your Stripes”. Saving Tiger’s is what this lady is all about.

On the menu this night was Ginger Chicken and Broccoli from Against All Grain: Meals Made Simple by Danielle Walker. I had never heard of Danielle Walker so I hopped on her website and was truly inspired by her story, a self taught chef who used food to heal herself after a diagnosis with an autoimmune disease.

Danielle wanted to still enjoy the food she had prior to getting ill so she recreated her favorites while eliminating grains, gluten and dairy.

The meal was easy to prepare and cook and even easier to eat! If this is what Paleo, grain free eating tastes like I am sold!


Ginger Chicken and Broccoli

3 tablespoons expeller- pressed coconut oil or ghee, divided
6 cloves garlic, minced
1½ tablespoons peeled and minced fresh ginger
6 scallions, white parts only, chopped
2 heads broccoli, cut into florets
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat and cubed
1 cup coconut aminos
2 tablespoons toasted (or dark) sesame oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 large egg yolks

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the coconut oil in a wok or deep skillet over medium-high heat.
2. Add the garlic, ginger, and scallions. Stir constantly for 30 seconds.
3. Add the broccoli florets and continue cooking and stirring for 5 minutes, until the broccoli is bright green.
4. Transfer the vegetables to a plate and return the pan to the burner with the remaining 1 tablespoon of coconut oil.
5. Add the chicken and cook, stirring frequently, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the chicken is browned and cooked through.
6. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to the plate with the broccoli and return the pan and juices to the burner. If there is less than ¼ cup of liquid in the pan, add water or chicken broth to make ¼ cup.
7. Pour in the coconut aminos, sesame oil, and salt. Bring to a simmer.
8. Beat the egg yolks in a bowl. Temper the yolks by slowly pouring in ½ cup of the hot sauce while whisking constantly.
9. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the hot pan, then stir constantly for 3 minutes to thicken.
10. Add the chicken and vegetables back into the pan and stir to coat. Cook for an additional 7 to 10 minutes, until the chicken and broccoli are fully cooked.
Collage 2

Friendly Food – Pizza

It is not uncommon for me to invite myself over to my friend Jason and Brenna Profit’s home for dinner. Jason is a good friend from college, and Brenna likes me enough that she allowed me to officiate their wedding several summers ago. :) That’s right, in addition to my ever growing culinary skills I am also a wedding officiant, technically I could invite myself over for Friendly Food one night and cap off the evening with dinner nuptials. Any takers??

Jason had prepared a menu of fresh baked pizzas using Trader Joe’s pizza dough. Honestly, I am fairly new at this whole cooking thing but I don’t know how healthy our meal really was. I am pretty sure the pizza dough was better than your average processed dough and the toppings consisted of fresh veggies and cheeses, but there was cheese and ham….everything in moderation they say, though, I did go back for additional slices.

There were two delicious pizzas that I helped Jason create, and by create I mean I occasionally popped up from my chair to spread sauce or add ingredients to the pizzas. The first had a tomato sauce with ham, onions, mushrooms (I insisted they were only on half, I am not a fan) mozzarella and topped with basil. The second pizza was an olive oil garlic base with goat cheese, prunes, and caramelized onions also topped with basil.

I brought ingredients for my favorite salad, mixed greens, wild smoked salmon, avocado (we had to nix this as it wasn’t ripe enough), apple and feta cheese.

I had no doubt that the evening was going to be fantastic, good food, good wine and even better friends! Also, it wasn’t a bad idea for us to do this prior to the arrival of their baby this summer!

Congrats and thanks Jason & Brenna!

Friendly Food 1 friendly food 2 Friendly Food 3

Friendly Food – Thai Tofu Salad Wraps

I remember as if it was yesterday, having just moved back to Seattle I was looking for a new hair stylist. I was sitting in a chair nervously glancing around at the surrounding stylists with brightly colored hair and tattoos, the cape was already snapped around my neck making a run for it difficult. My new stylist, Jennifer Cassady, sensed my unease, placed her hand on my shoulder and said “we do normal too”. A friendship was born and twelve-ish years later I am standing in her kitchen asking her to teach me her favorite recipe.

I arrived at Jenn’s house and Parker her five year old opened the door, greeted me and before long was taking me on a full house tour. It was time to get down to the business at hand, dinner. Jenn had already pre-marinated the tofu making this a very easy meal to create.

We placed the marinated tofu cubes into the oven to broil for fifteen minutes, taking the time to turn them every five minutes. While the tofu was broiling we prepped the salad ingredients. Easy peasy, clean, chop and toss.

I think the most difficult part of the meal was creating the salad dressing, and by difficult I mean it was more involved than opening a salad dressing bottle and pouring, I actually had to zest!

We were able to squeeze in a game of Cat in the Hat before dinner, that had me jumping around a thingamastick with Parker while Miller headed to bed.

Dinner, was delicious! It was vegetarian, fresh and filling! We took individual lettuce leafs and filled them taco style with our salad mix and marinated tofu.

Since the end of my road trip I have really been missing these moments, hanging out with friends in their space, playing with their kids, really getting to know them, getting a glance at their home life, Friendly Food is giving me a chance to continue connecting with my friends and for that I am grateful!

On another note….if you are looking for a great hair stylist/salon check out Jenn’s new salon Arrow Hair & Beauty located downtown Seattle.

Tofu Marinade:
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for broiling
2 tablespoons Thai red chili paste
2 teaspoons sugar

Salad Items:
1 head living lettuce
2  cups cubed cucumbers
2 cups green beans, chopped
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup chopped fresh Thai Basil leaves
Cilantro leaves for garnish
1 small Thai red chile, seeded and thinly sliced, for garnish

Juice of 2 limes, plus zest of 1 lime
3 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

cassady 1

Cassady 2

Thai Tofu Salad recipe Tofu Marinade Recipe

Friendly Food – Mediterranean Feta Lamb Burgers

This was mFriendly Food Logoy second “Friendly Food” and I have to say that I really think I am on to something here. Catching up with great friends, learning new cooking skills and recipes and getting to feast on tasty food is as close to a perfect night as it gets in my book.

This particular night had me at my friend Ariane and Darren’s house. I have known Ariane for over ten years, we became fast friends at work and even had the opportunity to travel to Spain together. I have known Darren for approximately the same amount of time, having met him through mutual friends. I remember going to a birthday party for these mutual friends and seeing Ariane walk through the door, color me confused! It turns out two spectacular people in my life found each other and were soon to be married, become parents to Sienna & Blake and have me over to cook dinner with them!

After some cuddle time with Baby Blake and a scene which had Darren giving Sienna a mint in the other room without us knowing and then us chasing after her to get the “little blue pill” that she had just popped in her mouth we decided to get down to some serious cooking business.

Ariane had laid out all the ingredients in little dishes which again had me mentally pretending I was on my own cooking show. We started by making homemade tzatziki sauce out of greek yogurt, lemon, garlic, cucumbers and dill. We tested the mixture before deciding that it could use a little more garlic which I remedied with four more cloves, perhaps a tiny bit of overkill. I was next instructed to put on gloves to dice the jalapeno pepper and mix the ingredients into the lamb. I have NEVER liked the feeling of raw meat on my hands or the burning of my eyes after rubbing them after playing with peppers, these gloves are brilliant! We rounded out the meal with sweet potato fries and a everything but the kitchen sink salad.

I left with a full stomach and a happy heart and some new tricks up my cooking sleeves.

Big thanks to Ariane and Darren!!


Ariane & Darren

Lamb Sliders

Tzatziki Sauce

Baked Sweet Potato Fries


What is Friendly Food?

“Friendly Food” is a blog feature; combining social hour with hands on learning that culminates into a well crafted meal, an expanding recipe collection and ever growing knife skills.  I am inviting myself over for dinner at friend’s houses (or at least heavily hinting until they invite me), asking them to pull out their favorite healthy recipe and playing the role of sous chef.











Friendly Food – Cauliflower “Bread” Sticks & Eggplant Pizza

Friendly Food Logo

I am constantly inviting myself over to my friend’s Jayden & Marco Godina’s house for dinner so I thought this would be the perfect first stop for “Friendly Food”.

I walked into a kitchen prepped with the ingredients in little bowls, it felt so official, the only thing missing was the camera crew! We quickly got down to business, they entrusted me with a knife and I was soon sous “cheffing” my way through the meal. I chopped eggplant, cauliflower and basil before hopping over to the food processor and “ricing” the cauliflower into small bits for the bread sticks. I was only asked once to hand the knife over for a knifing tutorial.

The meal was wonderful, quite easy and something that I would definitely make again, you can find the recipes at the bottom of this post.

This was the perfect launch of “Friendly Food”, I spent quality time with two great friends, learned new skills and some new recipes. I didn’t win at the game of Life but I certainly feel with nights like this that I am winning at Life.

A huge thank you Jayden & Marco! XOXO


My fabulous hosts: Jayden & Marco Godina


The friendly ingredients


Eggplant slices, salted to remove moisture and wiped clean, ready to bake in the oven.

Marco Instruction 1

Friendly lessons. Marco instructing me on what 3/4″ really looks like.

Sarah Smiles

Patting the cauliflower mixture into the pan to bake, apparently this is funny.


Cauliflower “Bread” Sticks ready to be “sticked”


Eggplant Pizza





Lunchbox chewing on the sandwich I brought him.


Friendly Food turned into a Friendly Game of Life.

Cauliflower Bread SticksEggplant Pizza


What is Friendly Food?

“Friendly Food” is a blog feature; combining social hour with hands on learning that culminates into a well crafted meal, an expanding recipe collection and ever growing knife skills.

I am inviting myself over for dinner at friend’s houses (or at least heavily hinting until they invite me), asking them to pull out their favorite healthy recipe and playing the role of sous chef.

Introducing Friendly Food!

Friendly Food Logo

What may at first seem like me inviting myself to dinner is really a solution to more than just my hunger. I often times find myself scheduling happy hours to socialize with my friends while the healthy groceries I purchased over the weekend sour in the refrigerator, and when I do make it home I am at a loss of what to make for dinner. Enter my brilliantly designed “Friendly Food” blog feature; combining social hour with hands on learning that culminates into a well crafted meal, an expanding recipe collection and ever growing knife skills.

I am inviting myself over for dinner at friend’s houses (or at least heavily hinting until they invite me), asking them to pull out their favorite healthy recipe and playing the role of sous chef.

Up next…my first “Friendly Food” experience with my friend’s Marco and Jayden Godina. On the menu…Cauliflower “Bread” Sticks and Eggplant Pizza!













Changing Leaves My Heart Full

Weld 1

It may seem to most that I am just randomly meandering the country, however there are places that I planned to be  at a specific time, namely the Northeast in early October. I was a bit fearful that I was going to be too early to see the seasonal color change but the colors were gorgeous, so gorgeous in fact that I almost drove off the road several times.

I was heading to a rural town, Weld Maine where a friend of mine, Anne, from Seattle had relocated with her boyfriend and son. They live in an adorable chalet/cabin at the back of 100 acres of property on his parents land. Check out their Airbnb listing here!

We shared a lovely dinner at the parent’s house of sauteed fresh vegetables, harvested from their garden. The desert was served when the entire family picked up various instruments and started jamming. I was in awe, tapping my foot declining an offer to join them in singing. It was better that way, believe me. Anne’s boyfriend Garnet and his brother Snow are in a band The Blakes which originally started in Seattle. The talent was dripping from every vocal and every touch of the piano keys.

The next day I joined Anne and Snow’s girlfriend Bri for a walk amongst the changing leaves. Bri was a wonderful wealth of information regarding a healthy diet. She recently had to undergo emergency surgery for a brain tumor. The surgery was a success and when speaking with her doctors about treatment options she was limited due to being pregnant. She has worked with a nutritionist to create a very specific diet. She shared some of her favorite snacks and plenty of hugs and support!

Her suggestions to me included pomegranates (you have to work to eat them and they are full of flavor and good for you!), freeze dried berries, rice cakes with almond butter, non gmo organic popcorn, oatmeal with dried fruits and nuts and roasted pumpkin seeds.

My trip to Weld was relaxing, supportive and loving and I walked away with a substantial pile of healthy snacks and The Blakes CDs. I drove off with a happy heart, a full stomach and music to my ears!

A carrot we harvested from the garden!

A carrot we harvested from the garden!

One of the many lakes on my drive through Maine.

One of the many lakes on my drive through Maine.

Cleveland Still Rocks!

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The second half of my trip to Cleveland rivaled the first in friendly hosts and fun times.  I had met John and Michelle several years back at a friend’s wedding and decided immediately that they were my new best friends. When I let them know I was coming to town they invited me to stay with them and I am so glad that I did!

The first evening we had dinner at their restaurant; John Palmers Bistro 44 is located in Northeast Ohio. I had heard about the restaurant and was excited to try the cuisine. I dined on a perfectly cooked filet mignon with a side of brussels sprouts and gorgonzola redskins which are a heavenly cheesy potato side. I was also encouraged to try the tater tots which were unlike anything I had ever had and amazing. If you are thinking this doesn’t sound like the cuisine to lose weight…you may be right sometimes you have to bite the bullet or the steak rather.

The next day they played tour guide and we went downtown for some good old fashion casino gaming. I skipped the slot machines, hovering around the black jack tables before settling down at a table for an hour or so and making about $500! Fresh off a good run I was tempted to map out all the casinos on my upcoming path to help bankroll this trip but decided that was probably not my best idea.

The next morning John and Michelle hooked me up with their personal trainer for a session. I met with Troy, Owner of Body Physicans at his studio in Concord Ohio. Upon walking in to his studio you can see that it is not your typical gym. Troy has developed and created all of his own equipment. The pieces look like an average piece of equipment you might find in your gym but at a closer look you can tell there is something different. After a good stretch Troy had me hop on one and the range of movement was different than any I had ever tried before. He has been working for years on developing his machines and has sold them to other trainers and football teams in the past. When my workout was complete Troy asked if he could pray for me. It caught me completely off guard. I don’t want to get into religion here, just as I won’t be speaking to you about politics but regardless of what you believe it is nice for someone to take a moment, put his hand on your shoulder and pray for your safe journey.

Troy’s studio is located at 9853 Johnnycake Ridge Road in Concord Ohio, his number is 440-853-8472 if you want to contact him.

Cleveland was amazing for me, mostly because of the people but also because of the cool city. It was common to hear “why would you go there” from people when I listed Milwaukee, Detroit and Cleveland but all provided me great experiences and I truly enjoyed what they had to offer.

Sadly I didn’t take any pictures. I need to stop having so much fun and start photo journaling my journey!

Cleveland Rocks!

SJM Weather

Chief Meteorologist here, weathering the storms of this trip, there has been plenty of sunshine, a rainbow or two and an occasional shower. Cleveland was a definite ray of light, I was hosted by two different groups of friends. To keep the post somewhat short I will be writing two posts.

My first two nights were spent with my friend Meagan and her family. One of the highlights of this trip is experiencing how other’s live. On my first morning Meagan and I got up early to drop her two daughters off at school, not being a parent this was my first school drop, let me tell you it is very much like you see in the movies. The kids were eager to hop out of the car having spotted their friends and they were off, it was like a whirlwind. We squealed (ok, not really) out of the school driveway eager to start our tour of downtown Cleveland.

On our agenda for the day was the West Side Market, Cleveland’s Public Market which recently celebrated their 100th anniversary. It is natural to compare things to your home, in this case Pike Place Market, however I couldn’t choose a market I preferred. I liked West Side for the set up of its food vendors, they were organized in square pods with a different vendor occupying one quarter of the space. I liked the ability to look around from one vantage point and see the various offerings of meats, poultry, seafood and cheeses. Pike Place seems a bit more disjointed in its placement of vendors. However, that said, I preferred the fruit and vegetable set up at Pike Place over The West Side Market. There seems to be more vendors, more variety and less heckling. As we walked through I felt like I was unable to shop in peace as the vendors were all yelling trying to get my attention.

We next headed to the Cleveland Museum of Art for a quick bite before perusing the exhibitions. The Provenence Cafe, was another museum surprise, offering locally sourced authentic cuisine. I ordered a tandoor-baked chicken claybread sandwich and a side salad. The man in charge, Chef Douglas Katz, hopes to align the food to the quality experience that art lovers encounter throughout the rest of the museum. If my meal was a representative of the rest of the menu I would say he is right on target! Our only complaint…the sandwich wasn’t served with a bib.

Our final stop of our tourist day was at the Lakeview Cemetery. It might seem like an odd stop, a cemetery where I knew no one residing there but it was a very interesting and informative visit. You can get a sense of the people who built a city by the engravings in the headstone. The Cemetery houses graves of some pretty prominent individuals to include President James A. Garfield, John D. Rockefeller and Eliot Ness.

There is a free tour of the monument of President Garfield, a quick hike up the stairs to the top of the building provides a birds eye view of the cemetery. Additionally, the Wade Memorial Chapel is not to be missed. This chapel was was designed by glass artist Louis Comfort Tiffany. The intricate details are breathtaking.

Our day was complete when I got to sit in on a filming of a pre-game show called Tailgate 19. It was my first time in a news studio and I was able to sneak in some time at the weather desk before heading off to dinner.

I had so much fun that there was danger to me extending my visit, however, I know that its best to leave when the ratings are high so I took my departure.

West Side Market

West Side Market

Cleveland Market 2

Westside Market

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Cleveland Museum of Art

Feeling Cocky

Feeling Cocky

President Garfield Monument

President Garfield Monument

President Garfield's Monument

President Garfield’s Monument

The Chef’s Garden

Chefs Garden Sign

I am not sure if I have told you yet, but I am a horrible cook. Actually, that isn’t entirely fair, when I have tried my hand at a recipe it turns out well, I just don’t enjoy cooking so rarely find myself tinkering in the kitchen. When I head to the grocery store I push my cart around the perimeter of the store, knowing that is where all the good stuff lives. I fill my cart with loads of produce, having actually no idea what I will make with the ingredients but know that it is healthy. On occasion I have been known to detour on my way to checking out and have found myself in the freezer aisle throwing in a package of pizza rolls. Pizza rolls, you know the ones, the overly processed little bites of molten lava heaven. These things are my kryptonite, or at least a part of my kryptonite family. I head home and over the next few days I have been known to “dine” on the rolls while my produce turns brown with anger in my refrigerator.

My lack of skills in cooking is a huge part of my weight issue. I turn to convenience items such as frozen meals and……happy hours. Cooking is not easy for me, in fact it is incredibly challenging. This personal struggle with being able to throw ingredients together and create an edible meal has haunted me for years. It is because of this I have great adoration for those who are able to creatively cook food that is both nutritious and flavorful. I have had the pleasure of meeting a handful of chefs throughout my life and while I don’t fully understand their crazy choice in pants I do marvel at their artistic ability as well as their love to provide quality food to those around them.

It is with this adoration for Chefs that I eagerly pulled my car in front of the Farmhouse that is the administrative offices for The Chef’s Garden, located in Huron, Ohio.

What originally started as the Jones Family Farm has turned into a niche micronutrient garden focused on supplying Chefs  from all over the world, some as far away as Hong Kong, with items that are difficult to procure elsewhere. In the 1980’s after a devastating loss of crops the family met a chef at a local farmer’s market who was interested not in the squash, but in the squash blossoms. It was a unique request at the time, but they were able to fulfill it and before long word got around and more and more culinary professionals were reaching out to them for unique and specific items.

A new business was born and is coming up on its 30th Anniversary of sustainable, eco-friendly, socially responsible and economically viable farming.

It is not an easy feat being economically viable, there is a lot of man power needed to run the Chef’s Garden. Their 300 acres are farmed by one team member per acre where a typical farm would employ under five people total for the same 300 acres. They also legally employ migrant workers from Mexico, flying them to the farm every season and paying them a fair wage, 401K and a bonus. In addition to the farm hands every Chef is assigned a Product Specialist who become their eyes, ears and taste buds at the farm, providing them with inside information on what produce is looking the best at that time.

The Chef’s Garden has over 500 Chefs visit their farm yearly to see first hand the over 600 different species which are grown in chemical free soil and harvested by hand.  Many spend spend time at the Culinary Vegetable Institute and given access to a professional kitchen where they are able to work with their team and play around with various foods.

You don’t have to be a professional Chef to enjoy the bounty of The Chef’s Garden. They have expanded their business to provide quality produce to the at-home Chef through Farmer Jones Farms. They have several memberships to choose from but all result in fresh, in-season produce that you often times cannot find at your local grocery being delivered to your door.

I can honestly say at this point in my journey that I would rather receive a box from Farmer Jones than I would from Totinos Pizza Rolls, and that is saying a lot.

The main office at The Chef's Garden

The main office at The Chef’s Garden

Me, the non-Chef, wannabe Chef in front of the farm.

Me, the non-Chef, wannabe Chef in front of the farm.

Road snack, fresh from the garden!

Road snack, fresh from the garden!