Sunday, November 22, 2020

Cookbook Review: The Plant-Based Slow Cooker


 Veteran chef and cookbook author Robin Robertson' latest publication features many wholesome and economical food choices. The book has 14 chapters and 225 recipes, most made with whole foods and spices found in many cupboards. There is a nice selection of whole grain, bean and lentil recipes and many seasonal vegetable choices. There are selections for dinner, breakfast and snacks. There are recipes for desserts and condiments.

I like that the cook arrived in autumn, when my basement was stocked with pumpkin and winter squash.

Butternut squash butter (like apple butter) was perfect wrapped in a sourdough pancake.

The Spiced Pumpkin Cake was super easy and pretty in a spring-form pan that fit inside my cooker.

Overnight Pumpkin Breakfast Quinoa smelled like pumpkin pie with generous servings for several breakfasts.

Bread "Stuffing" and Country Green Beans would be a nice addition to Thanksgiving, and free the oven and stove for the rest of the meal.


While the Ribolitta and Paella were tasty,

My favorite recipe was the Country Gravy, a marinara sauce that is now my favorite!

Marinara Sauce

(8 servings)

Saute onion, garlic and peppers in olive oil 5 minutes.
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup onion, diced
2 garlic glove, minced
3 mini sweet red peppers, diced
Stir in tomato paste and seasonings. Saute for 1 minute.
1-6 ounce can tomato paste
2 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Pour sauteed vegetables into slow cooker.
Add tomatoes, wine, sugar, salt and pepper.
2 (14 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup wine
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Cook on low 6-8 hours.   

There are no pictures in the cookbook yet the method is easy to follow. The recipes are labelled for allergens. 

Thank you Quarto Group for the complimentary review copy.  The above post and pictures are my own.  I received no other compensation for this review, other than the pleasure of an enjoyable read and eating experience! 


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Pasta Creations: Ravioli


The crowning jewel of my pasta creations may just be these ravioli. Pillows of dough are made with farro flour and eggs, kneaded, rested and rolled into sheets.  To fill, I place one sheet of pasta dough over a ravioli plate.

Press the forming plate to form a pocket.

Fill pockets

Place second sheet of dough over the filling.

Cut into rounds.

Refrigerate or freeze until ready to cook.


I make the filling earlier in the day and refrigerate.

Spinach and Ricotta Filling

(8-10 Servings)

Remove stems from spinach. Chop fine in a food processor. Steam and drain onto a clean cloth.
4 ounce fresh spinach

Saute onions and pepper in olive oil. Drain these with the spinach on a clean cloth. Cover vegetables and squeeze cloth until much of the moisture is removed.
2 teaspoon olive oil
2 mini red peppers, chopped fine
1/2 medium onion, chopped fine

Beat egg, then mix with cheeses, pepper and drained vegetables.
1 egg
1 cup part skim ricotta cheese
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 tablespoon finely grated Parmigiana cheese
Drained vegetables 

Refrigerate until ready to fill ravioli. Freeze the rest to make lasagna on a later date.
I then take all of the scraps of dough and combine to roll and cut into other pasta forms, lasagna, noodles, spaghetti and more. I dehydrate the pasta in a 150 F oven, cool and freeze to make 6 more meals. Nothing goes to waste. 


Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Creating the Healthiest of Food Service Environments


In 2014, the HSC Cafeteria of WVU Medicine was chosen by the Food Service Director Magazine to represent the "Healthy 15". These 15 operations, chosen across all market segments, were designated to be "at the forefront of creating a healthy food service environment."

Our mission was to entice customers to choose healthy foods through customer service, the environment and the menu. Attentive and friendly service, attractive and sanitary environment and made from scratch recipes made from whole foods evolved over a 20 year span. 

A content, productive staff was a must; equipment upgrades, sanitation and marketing routine; an evolving menu developed with over time to include the latest in science based recommendations.   


Nutrition labels were posted at point of service for all items.  The labels also included the ingredients.On-line menus were linked to the nutrition labels for each item.

A good portion of the food was sourced locally, with whole grain salads, sides, breads and desserts offered as the norm.

The daily lunch feature, comprised of a nutrient dense foods with 500 calorie and less than 600 milligrams of sodium was matched with a 400 calorie, 20 grams of high quality protein breakfast.


Turkey (for hot and cold items) and roast beef was baked on site with unseasoned raw meats to control the sodium.

Most of the desserts contained less than 12 grams of added sugar per portion.

Healthy and wellness items were the norm on the menu, not featured at specific stations but throughout the operation.

The "Healthy Cafe" community service extended to the local farmers market. The Health Fair exhibits contained the signature recipes with colorful photos of the foods made in the cafe.

This recipe for our Flax Muffins was published in The Amazing Flax Cookbook in 2004:

Flax Muffins 

(Makes 18)

Mix flours, flax, oat bran, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup ground flaxseed
3/4 cup oat bran
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Stir in carrots, pineapple and raisins.
1 1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 cup pineapple tidbits, drained
1/2 cup raisins
Combine eggs, milk, lemon juice, applesauce and vanilla in a separate container.
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon egg
2 tablespoon unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup skim milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Add liquids to dry ingredients, stir until moist (batter will be lumpy).
Coat muffin tin with non-stick spray. Pour batter in tins.
Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes.
I retired in 2015. The Healthy Cafe was closed in the later part of the decade in a public-private partnership agreement which promised an upgraded dining room. The partnership failed.