Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Tips, Tricks, and Tidbits to Connect You with Your Food

The food we eat, the methods we use, and how we eat illustrates just one of the myriad of ways one may experience their own health and evaluate their relationship with food. Food is a basic need. Accessibility to food however can be a privilege, but with great privilege comes great responsibility. A fundamental responsibility each and every one of us has is to listen and tend to our bodies. Rather than seeing it as a burden, it serves as an opportunity to manage our own happiness via managing our health and well-being. In a world where so much is out of our control, if accessible, let us control what we can. First stop, preventative care by means of nourishment.

Nourish- nurture; to promote the growth of; to furnish or sustain with nutriment; feed; maintain, support (Merriam Webster).

Nourish- provide with the food or other substances necessary for growth, health, and good condition (Dictionary.com).

Notice that neither definition of “nourish” states anything about nutrients. The closest we get is “nutriment” which translates to sustenance. What does it look like to eat in a way that’s good for the body AND good the soul? Mary Catherine Bateson said, “Human beings do not eat nutrients. They eat food.” Your body (and soul) deserves love by the way of food- brilliantly colored and distinctively textured, bold aromatic pleasures to the nose and unparalleled tastes to the tongue.
Below is a list of fun and simple tips to encourage you to get more in touch with your community and your body through food. These are non-strict guidelines to propel you to develop intuitive skills in order to manage these things no matter where you’re at in your food journey or healing relationship with food.

·      Go to your local farmer’s market and commit to buying the freshest produce, herbs, dairy, and meats. Interact with whomever is selling your food; ask questions like: “Where was this grown?”
“How do I store this?”
“What’s your favorite way to prepare this in a dish?”
“Do you spray with herbs or pesticides?”
·      Eat seasonally for rhythm and ritual
·      Think vibrant, nutrient-rich, whole foods, fresh herbs, and whole spices
·      Variety and Diversity in the diet
·      Be hands-on: touch your produce, smell it, examine it
·      Eat local when possible- whether it be checking out neighborhood farmers markets, dining in the town, supporting home-dwelling artisans and home cooks, or foraging wild foods.
·      Try new foods when traveling to connect with the culture. Notice preferences, restrictions and limitations; does this affect your ability to connect with people or even even aspects of yourself?
·      Pick your own fruit at a U-Pick Farm for a small fee
·      Demand transparency à Read your labels and count ingredients over calories
·      Look for grass-fed, pasteur-raised (and grass-finished), and organic when it comes to meat, poultry, and eggs. If you're already buying like this at a grocery store, shorten the distance between you what's happening on the land by buying animal products at a farmer's market. Already doing that? Visit the farm!
·      Fish should be wild-caught
·       Look for raw dairy products like raw goat, cow's or sheep's milk, and cheese made with raw milk
·      Consider adding raw honey to your diet as it is a powerful antioxidant, containing loads of protective properties and minerals
·      Look for cold-pressed oils, organic ghee (clarified butter), and cultured butter
·      Use the oven and stove top more and microwave less
·      Utilize fresh herbs and grind your own whole spices to enhance flavor of dishes, consume more vitamins, and make nutrients more readily available
·      Use cooking as a gateway to manage your relationship with food. How often do you cook? Do you tend to use the microwave for most of your meals? Is there a balance between home-cooked meals and dining out? Are you cooking the same thing repeatedly or do you spice it up?



Sunday, June 28, 2020

3 Homemade Savory Snack Recipes

Am I the only one that darts straight to the bulk aisle when given the luxury of strolling through a health foods store? Without fail, nuts invariably sneak their way into my cart. Buying nuts can be tricky. Looking for raw and organic is especially important for this recipe as store bought roasted, candied, and conventional nuts typically undergo high-heat mechanical processes that leave the nuts devoid of nutrients. Rancid oils coat these nuts, which create dangerous free radicals and destroy helpful and neutralizing antioxidants that would otherwise prevent the damage (Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. 112, 512). Baking nuts in your home gives you control over ingredients and technique. Below I’ve shared a sweet, buttery recipe with a method that supports digestibility.



Roasted Rosemary Butter Pecans



4 cups pecans, soaked*

¼ cup butter

¼ cup maple syrup

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-2 teaspoons salt

1 ½ tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced (1 ¼ teaspoon if using dried rosemary)

Pinch of cayenne




1.     Set oven to 300 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.     Add the soaked pecans to a large mixing bowl and set aside.

3.     In a small pot, melt the butter. Add the maple syrup and cinnamon, and stir to combine. Remove pot from heat and add the vanilla extract. Pour liquid mixture over nuts and coat evenly. Add salt, rosemary, cayenne and mix.

4.     Spread nuts on baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, flip and rotate nuts every 15 minutes. Turn oven to 275 F and continue slow baking for another 30 minutes, checking and flipping occasionally so that nuts do not burn.



Yields: 4 cups roasted pecans

Time: 40 minutes without soaking, or 6-8 hours with soaking


*Soaking nuts benefits the body as it breaks down the phytic acid found in the nuts that can interfere with proper digestion. To soak pecans for this recipe, place pecans in a large mixing bowl and use about 6 cups of filtered water and two teaspoons of salt. Cover and either let them sit over night, or at least 4-8 hours. Strain with colander and rinse thoroughly with cold water. For more on nut health and hacks, check out Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions, and any information from the Weston A. Price Foundation.


Copyright 2020, A. Chavez, Original recipe.

What prepackaged food items do you tend to buy repeatedly just because it’s easy? For me, crackers are always going to be at the top of the list.  But I do so hesitantly as it almost always turns into a process: the modern, minimal marketing on the recycled plastic catches my eye. Before I can read the listed ingredients, I’m easily distracted by the cooing of the box to my left with bold lettering that reads “100% Organic.” Shoot, loads of sugars are baked in these crackers along with a few ingredients I can’t pronounce. Solution? Make your own.

Herbed Quinoa Crackers 


1 ½ cup quinoa flour, plus more for dusting / rolling (I blend dried quinoa myself and use a grittier texture versus smooth)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon herbs de Provence

½ teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried rosemary

½ cup warm water

3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

Maldon Sea Salt to garnish



1.     Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a baking tray with parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, salt, and herbs and whisk to combine.

2.     Create a small well in the center of the dried mixture and add the water and melted coconut oil. Mix all the ingredients together, using your hands to knead into a dough to form a ball.

3.     Lightly dust a cutting board, rolling pin, and parchment paper with remaining quinoa flour to prevent any sticking. Roll the dough flat until it’s about ¼-inch thick.

4.     With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut 2x2 inch squares and place on the baking tray. Use a fork to poke the center of each cracker, then sprinkle with Maldon salt and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden. Check often to prevent burning.


Yields: 20-24 crackers

Time: 35 minutes



 Adapted by Ashley Chavez from an original recipe by Jessica Martin, 2019.

In the kitchen, I do my best to practice resourcefulness by utilizing every part of a food; minimizing food waste invites major creativity. More often than not vendors at the farmers market will ask if I want them to cut off the green, feathery tops of carrots. For them to throw away? Carrot tops are a great addition to an already mouthwatering pesto recipe I love. I usually use ½ to ¾ of the bunch after giving them a good wash, the greens that aren’t suitable to eat will be apparent. Use your best judgment in the amount to add to the recipe, and adjust with other ingredients as needed.  

Carrot Top Pesto 


Carrot Greens

3 cups arugula

½ cup basil leaves

¼ cup walnuts, lightly toasted (pine nuts and cashews to substitute)

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

3-5 second count slow, continuous stream of olive oil

Salt and black pepper to taste



Blend all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor or high-speed blender. Next add the olive oil in slowly. Taste and adjust with seasonings.


Yields: 8-oz jar

Time: 10 minutes


Copyright 2020, A. Chavez, Original recipe.







Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

My Culinary Farm Immersion Experience: One Week at Quillisascut Farmstead



            Quillisascut represents the mecca of modern-day trending ‘grow-your-own, farm-to-plate, sustainable living, etc.’ movements.

            Last week one of my former culinary professors, Maribeth Evezich invited me to an online lunch-n-learn to share my experience at Quillisascut School of the Domestic Arts with her first-year nutrition and culinary students. A wave of nostalgia rushed through my body. I instantaneously projected myself back to that mustard yellow kitchenette, where all stages of a sourdough’s life were present, and aromas of the active cultures filled the air and danced with the yeast rising the proofing bread.

            Experiencing Quillisascut is to know and experience true farm-to-table and farm-to-restaurant eating and cooking firsthand. This special plot of 26 bountiful acres sits right outside the Colville National Forest in Rice County, WA. Rick and Lora Lee Misterly, the homesteaders behind the farm school, hosted an intimate group of culinary nutritionists and educators for a weeklong farm immersion in Fall of 2018, each of us beckoned on a journey to connect deeper with our environments, the various cycles of life, and ultimately ourselves. Quillisascut’s approach remains very aligned with mine- seeing food as the common unifier that brings people together, with a wholistic undertone to it all. 

Everything is connected; there is no denying that.

Immediately upon stepping foot on the farm, I glimpsed into my future; the vision of one day living off the land bloomed into existence- a possible reality. Over a dozen goats and chickens, roosters and ducks roamed the grounds. We harvested and foraged just about everything we ate directly from the farm, if not it was sourced from neighboring farms or acquired from the occasional ‘restock-for-bulk-items’ trip to the local co-op, PCC. The magenta fields of scattered amaranth complemented the daily pink sunsets. Wild, edible treasures flooded the garden, from walnut trees (which, after cracking walnuts by hand I now know why they are so expensive!) to tomatillo plants, a plethora of peppers, root vegetables, and squashes, to an abundance of leafy greens.

Lauren and I barehandedly skinning a goat

Everything served a purpose. Nothing inhabited for no reason.

The chickens hatched the eggs, and combined with a little culinary magic in the kitchen, we feasted on savory breakfast dishes. The goats yielded pungent and tastefully tangy milk (yes, WE did the milking at 5 o’clock in the morning) transformed by Lora Lee to make goat milk coffee creamer and the farm’s bestseller, goat cheese. The ducks and goats spent their lives contributing to the farm’s cycle, but with life comes death. Rick selflessly completed the butchering of a goat as well as three ducks, while the fellow attendees and I partook mostly with our eyes. If willing or felt called to do (which I most certainly was), an opportunity arose to skin the carcass of the goat, pluck the feathers of the still warmed bodies of the headless ducks, and gut out all of their insides. Vegans, are you having second thoughts about this farm utopia? Side note: I spent two years of my life adhering to a VERY strict vegan lifestyle, so with the appreciation and respectability of animals still in the forefront of my mind, it was a humbling experience to say the least. Just as life yields to death, life also emerges from death. Not a single part of those animals weren’t eaten (deep fried goat testicles are a hit!). A newfound reverence. 

Students from Bastyr University plucking duck feathers

                We broke bread together; we feasted, we indulged, we cooked, we learned, and sipped a little too much wine until we laughed and cried in unison. I have kept so many magical moments from that week on the farm to myself and those I shared them with. My path led me to Quillisascut in a very unique way, but I assure you this lifestyle and deep reverence for nature are much more tangible than you think. If you’re reading this blog, consider yourself in-tuned and connected. It’s ok to give a f*ck! It’s ok to challenge modern ways of living. It’s ok to take a leap of faith, sell everything, and start farmsteading. Ok, slightly joking. But trust each step you walk on your path, listen to your gut, hold tight to your wildest dreams, put ideas into action, and make your dreams a reality. A fruitful life awaits.

Wood Fired Brick Oven in the backyard where pizzas were baked, featuring whole and cracked walnuts


To learn more, go to http://quillisascut.com/ and follow their instagram @quillisascut

To see the style of curriculum I trained under, check out Maribeth Evezich at www.wholefoodsexplorer.com and follow her instagram @wholefoodsexplorer



Monday, May 18, 2020

Bison and Cactus Chili

Nopales Cacti, more commonly known as Prickly Pears, are discoverable by their round, flower-producing petals. These blue-green pads are edible and when processed, add a citrus punch to any dish. They can be purchased at select health food stores, farmers markets, or harvested with a trusted guide.


  • Use freshly ground black pepper for deeper, more potent flavor.
  • Leave some jalapeño seeds for an added kick.
  • Go for all beef or all bison if that’s what you have in the kitchen, or to get the full taste of one type of meat.
  • Be vigilant when purchasing broths and stocks. Read the list of ingredients, less is more. Look for low sodium. Some trusted brands include Pacific Foods, Kettle & Fire, and Bonafide.
  • Consider serving this chili recipe with polenta (pictured below) or cornbread. 

1 cup Nopales cactus, diced
5 jalapeños, halved, deseeded
1 yellow onion, diced, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup cilantro, chopped

5 tablespoons ghee (substitute olive oil, lard, or butter)
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of cinnamon (or two!)
1 ½ pounds ground bison
1 pound ground beef
2 cups beef broth
2 ¼ cups water
2 tablespoons masa harina (cornmeal)
1 tablespoon coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
1 ½ tablespoons distilled white vinegar

Optional Toppings:
Sour cream
Lime wedge

Cactus Salsa

1.     Set oven temperature to broil. Place cactus, pepper, jalapeños, and ¼ cup of onions on a baking tray. Add olive oil, salt, cumin, and pepper and toss to fully coat. Broil until golden brown (about 8-10 minutes).
2.     Remove from oven and place ingredients in a high-speed blender. Add the cilantro and pulse until a thick, even texture is produced and adjust with salt and pepper as needed. Set the cactus salsa aside as it will be used as your chili’s base.
3.     Heat a large pot or Dutch oven to medium-high and add the fat. Add rest of the onions and sauté for a few minutes, until aroma develops. Add the garlic, cactus salsa, and spices. Stir occasionally to heat mixture evenly- it will begin to thicken.
4.     Add the meat and quarter into smaller chunks to help separate it, mixing to incorporate. Pour in broth, water, and masa harina, and mix to avoid any clumping. Bring liquid to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer (light bubbles surfacing), cover the lid, and let cook for about 2 hours. Stir occasionally.
5.     Stir in the sugar and vinegar and add salt if needed. Let simmer for another 10 minutes to impart more flavor.
6.     Serve with a dollop of sour cream, freshly chopped cilantro, and a lime wedge.

Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

Prickly Pear Cactus Variety

Recipe adapted by Ashley Chavez from Epicurious at https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/true-texas-chili-355049
 , author Stanley Lobel, September 2009.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Pickled Radish Spring Salad and Citrus Vinaigrette

Resembling a slaw, this raw salad refreshes the palate with each crunchy bite.
This salad is a go-to when needing a lighter lunch or meal prepping.

Vegetarian | GF

·      Save the blood orange pulp to later blend in a smoothie.
·      Great options to swap out ingredients include radicchio, endives, Cara Cara oranges, and grapefruit.
·      This salad is so flavorful on its own that it doesn't need the pickled radish to complete it (as pictured above).

Salad Ingredients:
3 tablespoons yogurt
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
¼ red cabbage, thinly sliced
½ fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 cup snap peas
1/3 red onion, thinly sliced
½ Persian cucumber, thin circles
¼ cup pickled radish (see recipe below)
2 large rainbow chard leaves, destemmed and stems saved
3 sprigs fresh thyme, destemmed
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

Vinaigrette Ingredients:
Juice from 1 blood orange
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1.     In a small mixing bowl, add the yogurt and salt. Whisk in the olive oil and set aside.
2.     In another bowl, add the cabbage, fennel, snap peas, onion, cucumbers, and pickled radish. Set aside.
3.     Stack the destemmed chard leaves and roll tightly starting from the root side. Make thin, vertical cuts to produce “ribbons” of chard, and cut those in half so they fit on a fork. Set the leaves aside or in their own bowl. Slice stems thinly and add them to the other vegetables.
4.     Peel the blood orange and use a lemon squeezer to juice it into a large mixing bowl. (If you don’t have one, do it by hand and pick out the seeds). Add the red wine vinegar, honey, and whisk in the olive oil until the colors and textures homogenize. Adjust dressing with salt and pepper.
5.     Add the ribboned chard leaves to the dressing, gently massaging them until fully wet. Add in the rest of the vegetables, tossing salad until evenly coated.
6.     To plate your art piece, smear the yogurt with a kitchen paintbrush or rubber spatula onto a plate. Add heaping spoonfuls of salad, sprinkle with fresh thyme and poppy seeds. Option to add blood orange slices before serving.

Time: 25 minutes + 24 hours for the pickling
Yields: 4 servings

Adapted by Ashley Chavez from an original recipe by Haley Hazell, 2020.

Quick Pickled Radish

Quick pickling is a simple solution for those that enjoy the tangy, lip-puckering sensation that fermented veggies bring but don’t quite have the time or equipment to make it. This recipe brings a pop of color and a zing of flavor to any dish.

1 bunch radish, thinly sliced
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
¾ cup distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup water

1.     Place radish in a 20-oz Mason jar and set aside.
2.     In a small saucepan, add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Make sure the sugar is dissolved and stir if necessary.
3.     Pour mixture into Mason jar to fully submerge the radish. If radish is not covered, pour in as much water as needed.
4.     Seal the jar and place in refrigerator. The radishes are ready to eat in 6-8 hours, but the longer they sit, the more flavor! Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.

Time: 15 minutes + 1 day for optimal flavor
Yields: ~ 1 cup

Adapted by Ashley Chavez from an original recipe by Alex Vido, 2020.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Sweet Potato, Radish, and Fennel Kale Salad with Dill Caesar Dressing

This recipe is inspired by Half Baked Harvest’s rendition on a spicy Caesar salad. It’s the go-to salad to support the body’s transition from winter to spring. Its rooting yet refreshing vegetables can be found at a local farmer’s market. 

Vegetarian | GF


  • Get creative with the cuts. If you’d rather halve, quarter, or rustic chop a vegetable for palatable or plating purposes, go for it!
  • Always taste as you go and adjust seasoning accordingly- the salad dressing, the crispy chickpeas, etc.
  • If using dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans) not in a can, make sure you prepare them a day or a few hours in advance by soaking them in water.
  • Parsley is a great substitute for fresh dill! I stumbled upon dill’s delicious punch by accident, as it was the only fresh herb left in the fridge.
  • This salad is little on the spicy side. Cut back on the chili powder if you want to tame the flavor.
  • If fennel and radish aren’t your jam, try shaved Brussels sprouts to add to the kale base.
  • This is an ideal salad to add cold, grilled chicken to.

Salad Ingredients:
2 small sweet potatoes, cut into ½ inch circles
¼ cup olive oil, divided
1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
Black pepper
1 (14-oz) can chickpeas, rinsed, drained, and patted dry
1 large head of kale, destemmed and chopped
3 radish heads, thinly sliced and halved
½ bulb of fennel, thinly sliced
1 large avocado, cubed

Dressing Ingredients:
¼ cup olive oil
Juice from 2 lemons
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons tahini
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 grated BellaVitano cheese (or Parmesan)
2 tablespoons freshly chopped dill
Salt and pepper to taste

1.     Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
2.     Line a large baking tray with parchment paper and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sweet potatoes, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, chili powder, paprika, salt and pepper, tossing to evenly coat ingredients. Transfer to oven and bake for 20 minutes.
3.     Add the chickpeas and remaining olive oil to the sweet potatoes, and a few pinches of salt if desired. Return tray to oven and bake for 25 minutes. Check doneness by tasting a chickpea- they should have a nice crunch, as they will be the “croutons” of the salad.
4.     In that same large mixing bowl, add the kale and hand massage it for 1-3 minutes in the leftover oil and spices. Kale will begin to soften and turn a vibrant green. Add the radish, fennel, half of the avocado and toss again.
5.     To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth. Adjust with salt and pepper as needed.
6.     Toss the roasted sweet potatoes and chickpeas with the rest of the salad. Add the dressing and continue to toss. Top the salad with the remaining avocado and enjoy!

Time: 60 minutes
Yields: 6 servings

Recipe adapted by Ashley Chavez from Half Baked Harvest at https://www.halfbakedharvest.com/kale-caesar-salad/#bo-recipe , author Tieghan Gerard, January 2020.