Category Archives: Green

Penne with Swiss Chard

Penne with Swiss Chard

Penne with Swiss Chard

Penne with Swiss Chard, Carrots, Onions & Garlic

I prepared several different dishes using Swiss chard this week using a 2-3 minute steam or pan-sauté. But for the last ten years my daily green juices included chard with a variety of other greens, ginger and a green apple. Why? Because this vibrant rich dark green leafy vegetable is a nutrient powerhouse!

But cooking with chard is new to me and I was surprised and pleased at how quick, easy and versatile it is to work with. It can be added to soups, salads, used as a wrap, added to sweet  and regular potato mashes, stuffed in roasted onions and simply sautéed with onions, garlic and an array of other vegetables, then tossed with a whole grain like rice, farro or a soba noodle or pasta. Make sure the soba noodle or pasta is 100% whole grain–not just an “organic whole grain” because unless it is appropriately labeled it is impossible to know how much whole grain the product contains.

The key to working with chard is to remember that it is done cooking in less than 3 minutes– whether it is sautéed or steamed. Remembering this tip will result in vibrant, rich greens that make dishes pop with color as well as retain the most nutrients.

Ingredients per person:

  • yellow onion, 1/2 diced
  • whole garlic, minced
  • 1 small carrot
  • 1/2 sweet bell pepper
  • 6 small-medium rainbow chard, remove stalk and save
  • 2/3 cup 100% whole grain penne
  • quality California extra virgin olive oil – 2t
  • fresh squeezed lemon juice – 1 to 2T
  • fresh ground salt and pepper to taste


  • Dice onion and mince garlic and let sit 5 minutes to release healthy sulfurs.
  • Wash chard, remove stalks, fold and cut into ribbons; then roughly dice.
  • Wash carrot and use spiralizer for quick julienne cuts. Turn carrots and cut again so the carrots are about an inch or so long.
  • Boil water for pasta. When you use 100% whole grain pasta, it generally takes about ten minutes. I like my pasta and vegetables al dente.
  • While pasta is cooking (be sure to stir to prevent clumping) warm sauté pan on medium heat. Add 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil for each serving.
  • Add onions. Use water from the pasta for any additional liquid you need to prevent sticking. The starch from the water adds a wonderful flavor and texture allowing you to cook with less oil and yet retain wonderful flavors.
  • When the onion is brown, add garlic and carrots and sauté for another minute or so. The thinly sliced carrots allow you to quickly cook the vegetable resulting in the retention of more flavor and nutrients.
  • Add the chopped chard. Turn heat to low, add pasta water, if needed, stir and cover for 2-3 minutes.
  • Your pasta should be done by now. Drain pasta and toss with chard, onions, carrots, olive oil, lemon juice. Add fresh ground salt and pepper to taste.



Beets – The Surprising New Pasta

Barbabietola Pasta d'oro

Barbabietola Pasta d’oro

If you have been following my blog this week, you already know my favorite way to eat beets is raw and prepared with a spiralizer using a thin blade. Prepared this way it seems as if I am eating an exotic pasta: the colors are bold and beautiful and captivate even those who don’t like beets–I know because a close friend (who I’ve given the handle of “Max”) who rarely eats vegetables and is use to eating a box food with a twenty-year shelf-life, loves “beet pasta”. And because Max loves Italians (he’s Italian–I’m not sure what happened to the Italian ‘cooking gene’) and to give it more flair, I’ve named the dish Barbabietola Pasta d’oro (Golden Beet Pasta).

As I’ve mentioned when root vegetables are prepared using a spiralizer with a thin blade and small teeth their rather heavy and distinct tastes become light, mild and quite refreshing.

This pasta is made with raw golden beets and raw sweet potatoes. After washing the beets and sweet potatoes, I generally leave skins on and use a spiralizer with a thin blade/teeth. I like the  Benriner spiralizer because it is easy to clean and you can quickly change the blades.

I typically add whatever I have on hand but Max likes Kalamata olives, sliced sweet bell peppers (I only use organic because sweet peppers are one of the “Dirty Dozen“) and chopped cherry tomatoes. I toss the pasta with a balsamic vinaigrette and always use a high quality California extra virgin olive oil. The variations on this dish are endless, prep time is quick and clean-up minimal since there are no pots or pans.

Red beets will bleed and have a more distinct taste–even when using a spiralizer. If I use red beets and I know I have someone who is “beet shy”  I use it as a garnish.

Bits & Bites

  • Beet roots are a source of fiber, folate, potassium, iron, magnesium, manganese, vitamin C.
  • What’s red? After some people eat red beets, their urine or stools turn red. This is  a “harmless condition called beeturia or betaninuria. Because this looks like blood, someone who doesn’t know it is caused by beets can become alarmed…” For more information see Beeturia and World’s Healthiest Foods.
  • For everything you’ve ever wanted to know about beets–their health benefits, the healthiest methods of cooking beets, beets and oxalates and whether beeturia could indicate an iron deficiency see the World’s Healthiest Foods. And enjoy your beets!
  • If you need information on a spiralizer see this post.


Fennel in February –Tracing farm to table

Organic fennel from the Imperial Valley

Fennel from Lakeside Organic Gardens’ Imperial Valley farm

Finding where your produce is from

Justin, produce manager at Placerville Natural Foods Co-op pointing to High5Picks!

Justin, produce manager at Placerville Natural Foods Co-op pointing to High5Picks!

You won’t find fennel in the typical Foothill garden this time of year–it’s too cold.  This month Justin Barbus, produce manager at our local Placerville Natural Foods Co-op is bringing this crunchy, slightly sweet organic vegetable/herb in from two California distributors:  Produce Express and Veritable Vegetable.

Jim “Pops” Boyce and wife Barbara “Mom” Boyce  started Produce Express in 1984 with one truck. Today the company has 27 trucks with over sixty employees serving the Foothills and the greater part of the Sacramento area. Their web site features a great seasonal chart, which lists what’s local. Produce Express informed me that our fennel was grown by Lakeside Organic Gardens. Lakeside is a family owned, California operated business with organic farms in Watsonville and the Imperial Valley. According to sales representative, Kyle Vilhauer, February’s fennel is from their 800+ acre farm located in the Imperial Valley.

Veritable Vegetable, originally The People’s Food System, began in the 1970’s in the San Francisco Bay Area as part of a movement seeking to bring low-cost, nutritious food to neighborhood co-ops and community storefronts by providing alternatives to the existing corporate food system. It’s actually quite large today with over 100 employees, many of whom are artists, musicians, photographers, writers, chefs, dancers, poets, parents and social activists who believe through their work they can make a better world. Currently they have trucking routes throughout California, to parts of New Mexico, Southern Colorado, Arizona and Nevada. They also ship to New York and Hawaii. Fennel delivered to Placerville Natural Foods Co-op from Veritable Vegetable was grown at the Frazier Lake Farm in Hollister. 

For an extensive list of resources covering Agriculture and Education, Alliance Building, Ecology and Conservation, Eater/Activist, Growing Foods, GMOs, Farm Tools, Seed Starts, Organic and Sustainable Certification, Community Supported Agriculture and more check out their impressive resource links.

Frazier Lake Farm

Quoting from JoAnn Bartwic at Veritable Vegetable website:

There’s little risk in becoming overly proud of one’s garden, because gardening by its very nature is humbling. It has a way of keeping you on your knees.

I had to laugh because it’s so true!

Consider growing your own but plant after the last frost  . . .

If you have a garden, consider growing fennel but plant after the last frost and expect to harvest 100 days later. For more information visit Peaceful Valley or Heirloom Organic’s How to Grow Fennel.