All posts by Risa

Veggie Moo Shu with Homemade Hoisin

Moo Shu may not be the most authentic Chinese dish, but it is one that I love. When I was growing up, my mom would often cook it at home. With savory filling, irresistible sauce, and chewy pancakes – it wasn’t just delicious, it was fun to eat.

Recently, when looking for something easy to make for dinner, a bag of coleslaw mix inspired me to bring Moo Shu back. This time, it’s veggie-based and gluten free (and easily vegan by omitting the egg). Using pre-shredded cabbage and canned jackfruit makes for quick prep, but takes nothing away from this incredibly flavorful and satisfying meal.

Veggie Moo Shu with Homemade Hoisin

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

Hoisin Sauce (Double for extra sauce.)

  • 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp gluten-free tamari
  • 1/4 cup tahini (recommend Soom)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp miso
  • 1 tsp gochujang (recommend Coconut Secret) or sriracha
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • black pepper

Moo Shu Vegetables

  • 2 tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil (or cooking oil of your choice)
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 14 oz can of jackfruit, rinsed under cold water
  • 8 oz of mushrooms, sliced (recommend shitakes)
  • 4 tbsp gluten-free tamari, divided
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar, divided
  • 4 green onions, sliced + 2 green onions, chopped for garnish
  • 12 oz bag of coleslaw mix
  • 2 eggs (omit for vegan)
  • For serving: tortillas or wraps of your choice, about 3 per person (recommend Siete Cassava Flour Tortillas)
  1. Make the hoisin sauce by whisking together all ingredients. Set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook until they begin to turn translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add garlic, jackfruit, and mushrooms. Stir and cook for 1 minute. Add 2 tbsp of tamari and 1 tbsp of rice vinegar. Stir and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
  4. Add 4 sliced green onions and bag of coleslaw mix. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add remaining 2 tbsp of tamari and 1 tbsp of rice vinegar. Stir and cover with lid. Cook until cabbage is wilted and cooked through, just under 10 minutes.
  5. While vegetables are cooking, prepare the egg, if using. Heat 1 tsp oil a small frying pan over medium-low heat. Whisk the 2 eggs in a small bowl, and transfer to pan. Cook until set, about 5 minutes, then use a spatula to flip and cook 1 more minute. Transfer to plate or cutting board, then slice into thin strips about 1-2″ long.
  6. Remove lid from vegetables. Using a wooden spoon, smash the chunks of jackfruit to break down into smaller pieces. Cook for 1-2 more minutes.
  7. Add egg to vegetables, along with 1/4 cup of the hoisin sauce. Stir then remove from heat. Serve right from the pan, or transfer to bowl. Garnish with chopped green onion.
  8. Prepare tortillas by wrapping them in a damp paper towel and heating on a plate in the microwave. Heat about 30 seconds per 3 tortillas.
  9. To eat, put a heaping spoonful of veggie moo shu in one tortilla, and drizzle with hoisin sauce. Enjoy!

A Reintroduction

Hello! I’m back, 6 years later (almost to the day). I’ve been doing a lot of creative cooking recently. At the request of those enjoying the meals, I’m now writing down some recipes.

A lot has changed in the past 6 years – I started a cidery, got married, bought a house, lived through a pandemic – and notably for this blog, learned a lot more about my body and dietary needs.

After many years of learning and experimentation, I have a pretty clear list of what foods are good and bad for my body. I eat a primarily grain-free and plant-based diet. To go into more detail:

  • Avoid grains (absolutely no gluten)
  • Avoid dairy
    • Goat’s milk dairy on occasional has been okay!
  • Limit animal protein
    • Avoid red meat and poultry
    • Limit fish (1-2x per week)
    • Limit eggs
  • Limit sugar
    • Go for in-season fruit, coconut sugar, local honey, and maple syrup
  • Limit lectins (read more about lectins in Plant Paradox – overall it sounds a little out there, but eating low-lectin worked well for my body)
    • Avoid soy, peanuts, cashews
    • In season fruit and vegetables, avoid skin and seeds
    • Legumes pressure cooked or fermented only

So what do I eat? A lot of resistant starches (sweet potatoes, plantains, cassava), almond-based foods (almond butter, almond-milk yogurt), healthy fats, and fermented foods. You’ll see me building meals around tempeh, jackfruit, and hearty veggies often. And there’s a lot of great grain-free and almond focused brands that I love, including Kite Hill, Simple Mills, Siete, Mikey’s, and Soozy’s.

However, my approach to diet has always been that it’s personal. There is no one size fits all. While my recipes accommodate my needs, I will always recommend substitutions or alternative options so you can make them your own.

Tried and True Egg Substitutes

Tried and True Egg Substitutes | The Fresh Day
I have resisted seeing a nutritionist for years. Through all my digestive issues, I have read so much about nutrition and experimented with so many foods that I developed my own (fairly strong) beliefs and opinions. I worried seeing a nutritionist could mean spending time and money just to hear about things I already knew or had tried.

Recently, I got a recommendation from a friend for a nutritionist who is incredibly thorough, analytical, respectful, and understanding. Once I made an appointment, I was amazed how much her perspective and experience aligned with mine. I was able to get incredibly comprehensive tests looking at vitamins, minerals, antibodies, allergies and more, which she explained to me line by line. I learned hoards of valuable information about my diagnoses and deficiencies, but also a new allergy – eggs.

Honestly, this was not entirely surprising. While there are times when I really enjoy an omelette, sometimes just the thought of eggs make me a little nauseous. I’m not alone among my friends, and also know that eggs are one of the most common allergy-causing foods for children.

So what to do if you can’t use eggs? They’re harder to swap out than flour or milk, but in many cases, it can be done. I’ve got a few tried and true natural alternatives so that skipping eggs doesn’t have to mean giving up baked goods or breakfast scrambles.

Flaxseed
1 egg = 1 tbsp of ground flaxseed + 3 tbsp warm water
Mix the flaxseed with warm water and let sit for a few minutes before using. Fairly versatile, it helps with leavening and binding – I would use for baking, breading, mixing into meatballs, etc.

Banana
1 egg = 1/2 banana
Good for binding in baking – think cookies. It does add some sweetness so adjust your recipe if needed.

Applesauce
1 egg = 1/2 cup applesauce
Good for binding in baking – just like bananas but a more mild flavor.

Tofu
1 egg = 1/4 cup silken tofu
Helps add moisture to baked goods, but more important, makes for an awesome breakfast. Tofu can make a mean frittata, and I’ve had tofu breakfast scrambles that I liked even better than the real thing.

Cook Zucchini Like This.

I used to not like zucchini. But the other night, I ate an entire zucchini and wanted more. With vegetables, it’s all about where you get them and how you cook them. Out-of-season and over-steamed, it’s easy to say “pass.” Farm fresh and on the grill? Yes please!

Grilled Zucchini Halves | The Fresh Day

I haven’t been grilling as much as I’d like to this year, but the other night made up for it. In addition to some killer beef kebabs, we made what was hands down the best zucchini I’ve ever tasted. A recipe inspired by weeknight laziness, it was also the easiest to make. The zucchini itself is from my farm share, and was tasty enough to eat raw in a salad. But cooked over charcoal, it was charred, soft, sweet, and flavorful. If you have a charcoal grill, you must try cooking your summer squash this way! The same method can be used with a propane grill, but you will miss out on the distinct smokey flavor.

Grilled Zucchini Halves

makes 4 servings

Ingredients
• 4 small zucchini
• olive oil
• salt

1. Heat the charcoal grill to about 400˚F.
2. Cut off the tops of the zucchini and halve lengthwise.
3. Rub the zucchini halves with olive oil (top and bottom) and salt.
4. Place zucchini cut side down on grates.
5. Cook until zucchini begins to char, approximately 8 minutes (the actual time will depend on your grill and the size of the zucchini).
6. Flip the zucchini and continue to cook until soft, about another 7-8 minutes. Remove from the grill and eat warm.

What’s the Story with Ramps? (And How Do I Cook Them?)

Between dining in the city and freelancing for a farm share, I’ve been lucky to try quite a few diverse, delicious, and unique foods. But until this year, the often sought-after ramps have managed to escape me. If you’re familiar with ramps, you might know that they are notoriously tricky to procure. If you aren’t, well, therein lies the reason.

The Fresh Day | What's the Story with Ramps?

So what is the story with ramps? Why do they disappear from farmers markets almost immediately? Why are they coveted by chefs, touted when on menus, and WHY are they illegal in Canada?

No, it’s not because they’re not hallucinogenic or anything. Simply put, ramps have very limited availability. They can’t be grown domestically, and are only found by foraging in the wild. On top of that, they have a very short growing season – sometimes only a few weeks. The scarcity makes them a novelty, but that alone didn’t earn them their reputation. They are also seriously delicious. Ramps taste reminiscent of leeks and garlic, but they are sweet, smooth, and flavorful in a way that is entirely their own. They’re fantastic plain, sauteed in a little olive oil (see my recipe below), but also add a unique tone of flavor into any dish they’re in.

Where can you get your hands on some? I got them in my farm share last week, but they’re also popping up at farmers’ markets around the city, which are finally all open for the season. Try the Rittenhouse or Headhouse markets this weekend – just get there early!

Sauteed Ramps

• 1 bunch ramps
• 1 tbsp olive oil
• salt to taste

1. Clean ramps by placing in a bowl of water and swirling around, letting all the dirt or sand fall to the bottom of the bowl.
2. Once clean, remove and cut off the tip of the bulb with any roots. Leave the rest of the ramps whole.
3. Heat olive oil in skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium heat.
4. Add ramps and sauté in oil for 4-5 minutes, until very soft.
5. Season with salt and serve!

Sauerkraut Stew: A Savory, Sour, Spicy, Sweet Flavor Combination You Need to Try

The first time I made this recipe, it was incredible. The second time I made this recipe, I decided that it was so good, there was no way it couldn’t be shared. While sauerkraut stew isn’t something you hear about often (if ever), it really is the perfect combination of savory, sour, spicy, and sweet.

Sauerkraut Stew | The Fresh Day

This past Christmas, I was lucky to receive a gorgeous fermentation crock so I could make large batches of sauerkraut and kimchi at home. Very large batches. The abundance of sauerkraut left me looking for some new uses for it, so when I saw this soup recipe I had to give it a shot. Using the ingredients I had on hand, I tweaked it and was very happy with the result. There’s a lot that goes into this recipe – sausage, potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes, and more – but sauerkraut is the namesake for a reason. The delicious tang that sauerkraut offers is what makes this stew such a game changer.

Even though there are a lot of ingredients, this recipe is really easy to make. Different than other soups and stews, you add almost all the ingredients at once and then just simmer. It’s a simple, flavorful, and satisfying one-pot meal.

Sauerkraut Stew | The Fresh Day

Sauerkraut Stew

Makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients:
• 1 large onion, diced
• 8 garlic cloves, chopped
• 1 cup cremini mushrooms, chopped
• 3-4 white or yellow potatoes, diced
• 6 dried apricots, diced
• 3 cups sauerkraut, in brine
• 1 lb of fresh hot sausage, sliced 1/4 inch thick
• 6 cups chicken stock
• 15 oz can crushed tomatoes
• 2 pickled jalapenos (or 1 fresh jalapeno)
• 2 dried chiles, crushed (I used chiles de arbol)
• 2 tsp cayenne
• 1 tbsp paprika
• 1 tbsp caraway seeds
• 2 bay leaves
• sea salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large pot, combine the onion, garlic, mushrooms, potatoes, apricots, sauerkraut, sausage, and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then turn the heat down to medium-low and let cook for 30 minutes.
2. After the 30 minutes, add the tomatoes, peppers, and spices. Let cook for another 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft and completely cooked.
3. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Sauerkraut Stew | The Fresh Day

The Healthiest Dessert You’ll Ever Make

It’s no secret that I have quite a sweet tooth. It seems that every meal is better when rounded out with a little dessert. Of course, that’s a habit that could easily derail a healthy lifestyle. So I love to  find and create the healthiest dessert recipes possible – and make something sweet part of my daily routine.

The recipe I’m about to share with you possibly takes the cake (no pun intended) for healthiest sweet. I will candidly say that if you are someone whose idea of dessert involves lots of buttercream icing, these may not satisfy you. But if you love the bittersweet flavor of dark chocolate, these will hit the spot and fit right into a healthy lifestyle. I began making these Coconut Carob Bites as a treat while on my cleanse because they are gluten-free, dairy-free, and optionally sugar-free. However, they are still super rich and delicious, starting with a nut butter base that can be customized to your liking. High in fiber, protein, and healthy fats, they are not just a dessert but a healthy snack for anytime.

Coconut Carob Bites | The Fresh Day
Coconut Carob Bites

Makes 10-12 balls

Ingredients:
• 2 heaping tbsp almond butter or cashew butter
• 2 heaping tbsp tahini
• 2 tbsp of carob powder or cocoa powder
• 2 tbsp chia seeds
• 1/2 cup of unsweetened, dried shredded coconut
• 20 drops stevia liquid, or about 2 tbsp of honey, agave, or liquid sweetener of choice
• 1/2 tsp of salt
• 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
• additional 1/4 cup shredded coconut for rolling balls

Equipment:
• Food processor

1. Combine all ingredients (except the coconut for rolling) in a food processor and blend until well-combined. The mixture should be an even, thick paste.

Coconut Carob Bites | The Fresh Day
Coconut Carob Bites | The Fresh Day
2. Prepare a small plate with about 1/4 cup of shredded coconut and unplug the food processor.
3. Using a teaspoon, scoop out the mixture and roll into about 1 inch balls using your hands (just like making cookies).
4. Gently roll balls in coconut to coat. Place them on a plate or in a tupperware container, not allowing them to touch.
5. Refrigerate balls for at least half an hour to allow them to firm up, or place them in the freezer for 10 minutes if you want to eat them sooner. Enjoy without worries and store in the fridge!

Socca: Provençal Chickpea Flatbread

Many of the best gluten-free foods are those that are meant to be. When serving a crowd, rather than baking a cake and substituting the flour, I’ll make a meringue pavlova that has none to begin with. Everyone is happy, and no one thinks about missing gluten. Socca is one of those recipes. The naturally gluten-free chickpea flatbread is crispy on the outside, a bit custardy on the inside, and wholly unforgettable. It came to us by way of Nice in the South of France, where it is traditionally served sprinkled with sea salt in wedges to eat with your hands. This might be my favorite way to eat it, but socca is entirely versatile as a canvas for any number of spices or toppings. A restaurant I love in the city serves it alongside a delicious ratatouille.

Socca | The Fresh Day

It is incredibly easy to make – the base of the recipe is simply equal parts water and chickpea flour. From there, you can add more or less water, making it thin and flexible or thicker and cake-like. Socca is perfect for a cast iron pan, though any skillet will yield tasty results. Just make sure you eat it hot, fresh from the oven.

Socca (Chickpea Flatbread)
(naturally gluten-free)

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:
• 1 cup chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
• 1 cup water
• 1 tbsp + 1.5 tbsp olive oil
• 1 tsp salt

Equipment:
• 12″ skillet (preferably cast iron)

1. Mix the chickpea flour, water, 1 tbsp of olive oil, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk until the batter is smooth, there should be no lumps.
2. Cover the bowl with a paper towel, set aside and let sit for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
3. While the batter is resting, heat the oven to 450ºF.
4. When the batter is almost ready, pour the remaining 1.5 tbsp of olive oil into the skillet, then heat it in the oven for 2-3 minutes.
5. Remove the skillet from the oven and pour in the batter. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until the top is crisp and beginning to blister. Watch closely so that it doesn’t burn.
6. Sprinkle with additional salt and cut into wedges to serve.

A Healthy Way to Cleanse

Between the holidays and the heart of cold season, January always leaves me feeling a little sluggish. After all the sweets, feasts, and drinks, it’s the perfect time of year to “reset” and initiate a healthy new year. For me, a cleanse is not a resolution or a diet, it’s just part of the plan to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

I came across the Clean Program five years ago, the book was sitting innocently on a side table at my boyfriend’s parents’ house. His father had heard good things and bought it, but not yet read it or tried the cleanse. Struggling with chronic digestive issues and feeling all around lousy, I was intrigued by it’s claim to “restore the body’s natural ability to heal itself.” Willing to try anything to feel better, I embarked on my first cleanse.

These days, you hear a ton about cleanses. From talk shows to food magazines, the term is everywhere. Juice cleanses tend to be the most talked about, and the most criticized, for good reason. Juice cleanses, and many others, are less than a healthy choice. Anything that has you avoiding solid foods and consuming under 1200 calories is not a cleanse – it’s a crash diet. A good cleanse should provide proper nutrients and support your body’s natural process of detoxification.

The Clean Program does just that. The 21-day cleanse focuses on two main concepts: eliminating foods that are potential allergens or triggers of health issues, and providing the body ample time to clean itself up. The foods not allowed include sugar, caffeine, alcohol, dairy, gluten, soy, corn, and peanuts, among other things. You start the day with a raw fruit and vegetable shake, have a hearty lunch made from permitted foods, and then another shake for dinner. And you always allow 12 hours between your evening shake and breakfast. The goal is to condense the energy your body spends on digestion, so that the immune system can go to work elsewhere and the body can move on to detoxifying.

A Healthy Way to Cleanse | The Fresh Day

This week kicked off my fifth annual cleanse. It’s hard to believe I’ve been into it for this long, but the Clean Program keeps me coming back. It’s not a cure-all – in fact, that book states that flat out. But it’s safe to stay that you will feel the positive effects, which can be anything from cured headaches to better digestion to more energy. Before our first cleanse, my boyfriend was plagued with frequent sinus infections. Despite getting sinus surgery when he was younger, almost every cold he had turned into a full-blown infection and perpetual congestion. Since the cleanse, he hasn’t had a single sinus infection. Seriously worth it.

Several of the years I’ve done Clean, it has kept me cold-free for six months afterwards. With my track record for getting sick, that is nothing short of miraculous. So as I sit here fighting off the second of two back-to-back colds, I am really looking forward to the weeks ahead of cleansing and a fresh start.

If you’re interested, you can peruse the Clean Program blog and find the book on Amazon. I would definitely recommend doing the book version of the cleanse, as opposed to the kit that they sell. It’s expensive, and you can achieve great results without it.

Drink Local: The Best Hard Ciders

The Best Ciders | The Fresh Day

It seems crazy that I haven’t written about cider yet. If you know me in person, you know I can talk for hours about it. This fall, I’ve spent my weekends volunteering at my favorite cidery, fermenting my own, and, of course, drinking the stuff. When I speak of cider, I mean dry, sparkling, hard cider – nothing too sweet. A good hard cider should be reminiscent of a sparkling white wine or a sour beer, not apple juice. Cider is naturally gluten-free and one of healthiest forms of alcohol, with antioxidant levels the same as red wine. But the taste alone is enough to make it your new favorite drink. My personal mission is to spread the word of real cider; to crowd out what’s syrupy sweet and replace it with the good stuff.

Once upon a time, hard cider was America’s most popular drink. President John Adams was known to drink a tankard every single morning of his life. Ben Franklin was quoted saying, “It’s indeed bad to eat apples, it’s better to turn them all into cider.” But when prohibition came around, the apple trees died out. And once it was repealed, it was far easier and cheaper to start making beer using grain. So just like that, cider fell from popularity. Only recently is it making a resurgence, but unfortunately, most ciders on the market are far from what our forefathers drank. Instead of the real thing, you’ll find apple concentrate and high fructose corn syrup.

I highly recommend you stay away from those impostors.

But I’m not writing to tell you what not to drink – I want to share the good ones! With Pennsylvania being a huge apple producer, some of my favorite ciders are made locally. Here’s my top picks:

Frecon’s Cidery

What seemed like an innocent purchase at Headhouse Square Farmer’s Market has seriously changed my life for the better. Frecon Cider is what opened my eyes to what cider can and should be. Frecon comes from a family-owned fruit farm in Boyerstown, PA that devised an ingenious use for their extra apples. They have three main ciders and a few special releases, all in the range of 6-10% alcohol. They are very dry, complex, funky, with a slight taste of apples. Their Farmhouse Sour might be my all-time favorite. If you’re a craft beer lover (and particularly sour beers), these are the ciders to chose.

Find them at their store in Boyerstown, the Foodery at 17th and Sansom, or at Philadelphia area farmer’s markets during the season.

Jack’s Hard Cider (Original)

Jack’s Original Hard Cider is my go-to when drinking a few. If everyone else is drinking beer at a party, you’ll find me with a can of Jack’s in hand. Jack’s is dry, clean, and crisp, with effervescence that will remind you of a champagne. One of my the best things about Jack’s is that somehow, the 12 oz can contains 5.5% alcohol and only 100 calories. Lighter than most light beers, but way more delicious. Jack’s is made at Hauser Estate Winery in Biglerville, PA, a partially solar-powered, eco-conscious facility.

You can pick up Jack’s at stores throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, and Georgia – including local Philadelphia distributors and Wegmans.

Commonwealth Ciders

If you live in Philadelphia, you’re probably familiar with Philadelphia Brewing Company. They make great beer, and now, great cider. I thank them for that. Commonwealth’s three ciders include Traditional Dry, Razzberet Tart, and Gregarious Ginger. The Razzberet is sharp and fruity, without being sweet. The Ginger is super spicy and incredibly satisfying, boasting only 1 gram of sugar. To put that into perspective, Angry Orchard Crisp Apple contains a cloying 23 grams.

You can find Commonwealth the same place you find Kenzinger – at the PBC Brewery in Kensington and most distributors throughout Pennsylvania.

I’m constantly seeking out new ciders and learning all I can. There’s no doubt you will hear more about my adventures on the farm and in fermentation. And if you want to know what I’m drinking in the meantime, you can find me on Untappd (@risanicole) racking up those Johnny Appleseed badges.