03 Nov, 2015

True Food Kitchen—Our Favorite Restaurant in San Diego

Posted by: Dina Eliash Robinson In: Uncategorized

Squash PieFor Thanksgiving 2015, True Food Kitchen has generously offered its super-healthy Squash Pie recipe to patrons who wish to make it at home. Least we can do is pass on to you their graceful gift:

2 packages vegan graham crackers, pulverized
4 Tbsp. sesame tahini
5 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp grape seed oil

6 cups pureed squash
1 cup sugar (half light brown, half white)
1-1/8 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
3/8 tsp. ground cloves
1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
4 Tbsp brandy
1-1/2 cup coconut milk with
4-1/2 Tbsp. arrowroot powder
scant dash of nutmeg if desired

For Crust:
1. Blend all ingredients until well combined.

By Dina Eliash Robinson

Serendipity is my best friend in the kitchen. Especially when a vegetable intentionally omitted from my shopping list seduces me and changes my plans for next week’s menus.

Which is exactly what happened recently, when a gorgeous butternut squash pushed itself into my peripheral view while I was bagging some red Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 4.14.25 PMonions nearby. Normally, I would have ignored it, since it was too large for a two-person household with no imminent plans for hosting a dinner party, but I could not resist its perfect shape—a symmetrical gourd, shaped like a padded figure-8—-and the silky-smooth, unblemished, pale skin with a hint of its pulp’s golden amber color showing through. But what clinched the sale was its unexpectedly solid weight, which promised enough raw material for a variety of dishes.

Hefting the squash from hand to hand, I wondered, “What on earth am I going to make out of this beauty without wasting a drop of it?” I imagined seasoning and oven-roasting a cubed batch of it to mix into a garden-fresh salad; boiling, peeling and mashing another batch and serving it as a side-dish with chicken, fish or mushrooms; and turning the last portion into my famous ‘mystery chocolate pudding’ (see our recipe under “Desserts”).

In the end, however, as it happens with most proverbial ‘best laid plans,’ these daydreams gave way to an improvised (i.e. Jazz Cooking) recipe that turned out to be a one-course meal that is easier and faster to prepare, hearty, filling and more delicious than any squash dish I’ve ever cooked before.

So, I scrubbed my meaty gourd with a Dobie™ pad and Pure Castile soap (a liquid, plant- and eucalyptus-oil-based food cleanser), rinsed it well, wiped it dry and set to work (see recipe below).

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 4.14.15 PMCounting Virtues: While most squashes are among nature’s super-foods, the butternut squash is also an energizing powerhouse for both body and brain. Not only does it contain off-the-charts amounts of vitamins A and C, but it is also rich in molybdenum—a still somewhat mysterious mineral which, however, is known to play an important role in the metabolism of our nervous system’s messaging molecules (i.e. neurotransmitters). What’s more, butternut squash is a treasure-trove of manganese, potassium, vitamins E, B6 and B1, magnesium, copper, pantothenic acid and fiber.

Nothing but a soup could make the best of these benefits and not waste a drop of them. A thick, well-seasoned and nutrition-rich soup that tastes equally delicious whether eaten hot or cold and not only keeps fresh for 10 days or more, but deepens in flavor daily, as the herbs and spices seep into every molecule. When served cold, a big dollop of plain goat yogurt will enhance the soup’s creamy texture and add an interesting hint of tartness to it.

Gilding the Lilly: Pushing my ‘jazz cooking’ envelope, I decided this was my chance to use up some fresh-frozen greens that have been patiently waiting in the freezer for some time. So I pulped to a coarse consistency several stalks of leftover beet greens and kale leaves, part of a fennel bulb with a few stalks and dill herbs still attached, a small bunch of basil leaves and another of flat, Italian parsley and added to the bowl of already puréed butternut squash, painting its gold with a becoming light green hue. As a bonus, they fortified the mixture with more nutrients, flavor and fiber.

Nutritional & Economic Benefits of “Gilding the Lilly”: Since these frozen greens (about half of a gallon-size freezer bag) were my own Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 4.12.53 PM‘found foods,’ they are not mentioned in the recipe below, to leave such possibilities for your culinary imagination.

I’m happy to report, however, that combining the squash with these greens increased the amount of soup to 10 servings or more (depending on portion sizes). It also lent it a noticeably energizing ‘punch,’ as well as packing a huge bang for the buck—we estimated our cost at about $1.80 per average serving (including the prices of frozen greens and all the herbs and spices listed below).

Health Tips: In addition to our standard advice to use organic ingredients in all our recipes, if at all possible, we also highly recommend that only stainless steel pots, pans and other kitchen implements be used, since reliable scientific research has been, for some time now, showing that aluminum might be a possible cause or precipitator of Alzheimer’s disease.

Although scientists tend to be cautious and wary of absolute certainties when they report their findings in books and papers, all of us here at believe it is best not to ignore their warnings—even when they use words such as ‘might’ and ‘possible.’ We decided, therefore, since the earliest warnings appeared in scientific papers many years ago, to err on the side of caution—or as the old adage goes, ‘better safe than sorry’—and switched to stainless steel kitchen- and tableware.


The following basic, simplified recipe awaits your additions and imaginative improvisation. Enjoy!


  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 1/3 red onion
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic (depending on clove sizes)
  • ¼ cup of good quality, extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon of Worcestershire Sauce
  • 4-5 fresh leaves of basil (finely chopped) or 1 tablespoon dry basil
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley (finely chopped) or 1 tablespoon dry parsley
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1-2 pinches of nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon powdered ginger
  • ½ teaspoon (sweet) paprika
  • pinch of cayenne pepper (to taste)
  • ¼ cup of fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon orange- or lemon peel zest
  • ¼ teaspoon sea-salt or Himalayan pink salt (optional)Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 4.12.38 PM


  • Wash & scrub butternut squash.
  • Cut squash in half (crosswise) & then into quarters; scrape out & eliminate seeds.
  • Place squash quarters into pot large enough to leave room for plenty of bottled spring water to cover them completely; cover the pot with tight-fitting lid & cook until squash is soft & easy to peel.
  • Save the water in which the squash was boiled & use it in the soup.
  • Purée squash & keep it in a bowl.
  • Pour olive oil into large soup pot.
  • Chop onion & garlic — (1) add the onion to the olive oil & sauté until it turns glassy. (2) Add the chopped garlic & sauté for about 8 seconds or until it releases its aroma.
  • Add squash & the saved water to the soup pot & turn up the heat but just a little; mix well, cover with tight-fitting lid & cook until it starts to bubble. To be safe, stir from time to time to prevent burning.
  • In a soup bowl, mix all the herbs & spices & uncovering the pot, mix them well into the soup.
  • Add orange juice & Worcestershire Sauce—mix well & continue stirring from time to time.
  • If soup becomes too thick or difficult to stir, add a little spring water, ½ cup at a time so it does not get too diluted. (Choose the thickness you prefer.)
  • Cook soup for 15-20 minutes; turn off burner, stir well from the bottom; cover & leave it on the burner to cool slowly (for about 10-15 minutes) & remove from heat.
  • Soup is now ready to eat—on its own or with seasoned croutons.
  • Note: If you have pulped and added raw greens (as mentioned in the column above), make sure they are also cooked before removing soup from burner.




By Dina Eliash Robinson

If you have ever been ridiculed by in-laws at the family Thanksgiving dinner with stories of your pastry baking disasters; or had a cooking class instructor roll his eyes as you pulled a collapsed, rock-hard or gooey cake out of the oven, you, too, might have given up making baked desserts—just as I did, for many years.Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 9.03.26 AM

My self-confidence as an oven-jockey survived only because of the praise lavished by family and friends on my casseroles, turkey loaves, roasted vegetables and other savory baked dishes I like to improvise. Anyway, I’m glad that the only cooking gene I seem to be missing is the one for pastry baking.For a while, our friend and FRC partner, Catharine—a nationally syndicated food columnist and talented pastry chef, known to her fans as The Kitchen Shrink—covered for that missing gene by providing generous assortments of her home-made goodies, which always turned our dinner parties and occasional English High Teas into celebrations.

In the end, however, it was my frustration about not being able to find store-bought pastries that were free of toxic chemicals, trans-fats and genetically modified (GMO) ingredients when I craved them, that pushed me to risk humiliation by giving the art of home-baked desserts another try. That—along with my newly adopted and quite liberating attitude of “why should it matter what others think?”—spurred me to improvise some recipes Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 9.04.28 AMthat did not require rising dough, tedious steps, precise weights and measures of prescribed ingredients or perfect timing, which even I could pull off.

The three recipes below are the ones that have pleased most of those who not only had the courage to taste them, but who kept coming back for more—thankfully, without suffering any adverse effects.

If you’re familiar with the “Jazz Cooking” recipes we’ve been posting on this site over the last 10 years, you might notice the similarities between the improvisational method used in those and the one in the “Jazz Baking” recipes below. Other similarities include…

  • the use of nutritious, organic and otherwise health-protective ingredients;
  • tastier, fuller and more varied flavors than are found in most other, same-kind foods—in this case, other low-sugar and low-caloric (and gluten-free) pastries;
  • a wonderful “mouth-feel” (i.e., moist and chewable);
  • that even small servings are satisfying and filling; and, Eureka!
  • how inexpensive these desserts are when made with locally grown, in-season harvested fruits.

Flaky Apple Strudel

 Ingredients (organics preferred—but you are free to adjust ingredients, proportions and measurements to your pleasure, creativity and taste):Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 9.10.51 AM


  • A box of frozen, Organic Filo Dough (sold at Whole Foods and elsewhere)
  • 6-8 medium size apples—Fuji, Honey Crisp, Gala or other hard and crunchy types
  • Approx. 2/3 (two-thirds) stick of butter (if preferred, canola, grape-seed or other oil appropriate for high temperature baking can be substituted or used in combination with the butter to lower the cholesterol content of this recipe)
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup dry cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons raw or brown sugar—or 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon peel zest
  • 2 whole eggs
  • ½ cup egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon ground walnuts or almonds (optional but recommended for nutritional value)
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon Turmeric
  • 1-tablespoon cognac or liquor (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon (or less) of liquid vanilla extract
  • pinch of sea salt or pink Himalayan salt
  • 2/3 cup of crumbled cinnamon crackers to combine with the ground nuts for a crunchy, toasted topping.



  • Choose the size of a stainless steel or Pyrex-style glass (my preference) baking pan that best fits the size of strudel you plan to make.
  • Unroll and lay out separately, on flat surfaces, 3 sets each of 4-5 Filo Dough sheets carefully separated and reassembled to allow some air between the sheets; sets to be large enough to completely cover the bottom of the entire baking pan and each of the 2 (approx. 1-1/2 inch thick) layers of mixed apple ingredients between the bottom layer and second set of sheets and between the second layer of ingredients and the top set of Filo Dough sheets (each of the latter to be well tucked in around the fillings).

NOTE: Don’t worry if some of the Filo Dough breaks up as you work with it. Just layer them as densely as possible to look as if the sheets are whole.

  • Cover the baking pan’s bottom with half of the melted butter and cover it with the first batch of Filo Dough sheets. Set pan aside.
  • Prepare (i.e. wash with Castile soap, dry and core) the apples.
  • Cut up 4 -5 of the apples into bite-size pieces and put them into a big bowl.
  • Purée 2 apples (i.e. turn them into apple sauce) in a food processor & add to the bowl.
  • Rinse the raisins and cranberries and add to the bowl.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients (cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric, sugar or honey, vanilla extract, lemon juice and zest, eggs and egg whites, half of the remaining melted butter—or equivalent in canola or grape-seed oil—salt, etc.) and mix well. (Note: If you prefer, more nuts could be ground up and included in the filling—i.e. the mix—in addition to their use for the topping.)
  • Spread first one layer of the mixture onto the bottom set of Filo Dough, then cover it with the second set of Filo Dough and spoon some of the melted butter (or cold oil) on top of it.
  • Repeat by spreading the rest of the mixture on top of the second set of Filo sheets; cover it with the third set of sheets.
  • Crush, crumble and spread cinnamon cracker crumbs, mix them with the remainder of the ground nuts and spread as evenly as possible on the top Filo Dough set of sheets.
  • Spoon the rest of the butter on top. (Note: It might be better to have butter on the top sheets, rather than oil—your choice.) f needed, sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of additional melted butter on the top set of Filo sheets to achieve a rosy, crunchy crust during baking.
  • Bake at 350 degrees until cubed apple pieces are soft and visible Filo sheets are rosy and crisp—start checking for ‘done-ness’ after 30 minutes; if apples are still too hard, turn up the oven to 400 degrees and bake for another 10-15 minutes.

Mixed Fruit Pie

Ingredients: (organics preferred—but you are free to adjust ingredients, proportions and measurements to your creativity and taste):Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 2.20.35 PM


  • Buy frozen “Organic, Whole Wheat, 9” Pie Shells” (they come 2 per package—refreeze the one you do not use)
  • 6-8 medium size apples (we prefer the crispier species, like Gala, Honey Crisp, Fuji)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon Turmeric
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup dry cranberries
  • ¼ teaspoon liquid vanilla extract
  • 1 whole egg
  • ½ cup egg white
  • ½ bar of butter (Note: To lower the cholesterol content of this recipe, you could use half butter & half grape-seed or canola oil, which are high-heat tolerant)
  • pinch of sea-salt (or pink Himalayan salt)
  • 1 cup (crushed) cinnamon cracker crumbs
  • ¼ cup ground walnuts or almonds

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 2.19.55 PM


  • Remove pastry shells from freezer & leave one out for 30 minutes before using (return the unused one to the freezer).
  • Core, cut & purée 2 whole apples in food processor or blender & pour into big mixing bowl.
  • Slice the remaining 3-4 apples into whole or half slices (judge the quantity you need to fill the pie shell), but not so thinly that they fall apart; & add them to the bowl.
  • Rinse raisins & dry cranberries & add to bowl.
  • Melt butter (but remove from heat before it completely liquefies & let the remaining solid parts melt on their own) & set aside.
  • Add to mixing bowl: honey, cinnamon, vanilla extract, eggs, egg whites, salt & turmeric & mix all ingredients well, but gently so as not to break up the apple slices.
  • Pour 1/3 of the melted butter on the shell, slowly, covering its entire inner surface.
  • Pour 1/3 of the melted butter (or oil) into the mixing bowl & carefully blend it into the rest of the ingredients, coating them.
  • Pour the contents of the mixing bowl into the pie shell. (It is OK if the content forms a mound, as long as it is not too tall & bound to collapse or overflow. If you are left with too much of the mixture, don’t worry about wasting it—just coat with UNmelted butter an oven-proof Pyrex-style glass bowl of an appropriate size & pour the excess mixture into it & top it the same way you will top the pie itself:)
  • Mix the cinnamon cracker crumbs with the ground nuts.
  • Top the pie & the leftover filling (if any) with the mixture of crumbs & nuts—and pour the rest of the melted butter over the top. If the melted butter is not enough to cover the pie (& the extra filling if necessary), melt a few more pads of butter to finish the job.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for as long as it takes the crust to be crisp & rosy, & for the sliced apples to be soft. If it takes longer than 35 minutes, turn up the oven to 400 degrees for 5 or 10 minutes, which should complete the process.

Biscotti With Nuts, Currants & CranberriesScreen Shot 2015-10-08 at 9.28.56 AM


 ½ cup almond flour

½ cup unbleached all purpose flour

¾ cup canola or grape-seed oil or melted butter

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 pinch salt

½ cup brown or raw sugar & 2 tablespoons honey

4-5 drops vanilla extract

3 whole eggs, beaten

½ cup crushed walnuts or pecans

½ cup dry cherries or cranberries

Directions:Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 9.25.43 AM


  • Mix wet ingredients first;
  • blend dry ingredients into mix;
  • cut into 5-6 loaves;
  • lay them out on a baking sheet (best to have baking surface covered with baking-proof parchment paper);
  • bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes;
  • take out of oven & cut into ‘biscotti’ slices; &
  • return to oven & bake for another 10 minutes.




By Dina Eliash Robinson

The quick and easy-to-prepare Ruby Yam Delight is not only an inexpensive, nutritious and delicious dessert, but a perfect gateway recipe to “Jazz Cooking.”

Intended as a reference to culinary improvisation, this musical moniker brings to mind a freestyle approach to cooking favored by those who have the knack to practically ‘taste’ the foods and ingredient combinations they invent, and who prefer not to follow other cooks’ recipes.

Hope you find the following ‘jazz’ suggestions liberating—especially since it leaves up to the preparers such decisions as whether to include the basic four, or five, six or even more ingredients, and in what quantities. What’s more, the Ruby Yam Delight was created to accommodate the budgets and super-busy schedules of my career-track and college student friends. It is intended to thoroughly satisfy any craving they might have for a between meal snack or after dinner dessert.
RYamRuby Yam Delight (Organic components preferred)
• One or two ruby yams, depending on the roots’ sizes and the number of servings planned
• Half a cup to cup-and-a-half applesauce (unsweetened)
• ¼ teaspoon liquid vanilla extract
• ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
• One tablespoon (sweetened or unsweetened) cocoa powder (optional)
• One tablespoon raisins or dried cranberries, flash-scalded to puff up (optional)
• Two tablespoons almond milk if ‘pudding’ is too thick (optional)
• Berries or nuts for decoration (optional)

• Scrub well, trim & cut yams into large (about 2”) pieces
• Boil (preferably in spring water—which can be reused for other cooking) yams with skin on until soft enough for a fork to get through the larges piece
• Mash yam(s) with fork or potato masher (with skin on to keep more of the nutrients, or peeled after boiling, if preferred)
• Mix with applesauce and the rest of the ingredients
• Add almond milk only if the yam “pudding” is too thick—or if you prefer it to be more moist
• Decorate top with berries or nuts (optional)

Why Jazz Cooking?
Following recipes always seemed to me as boring as coloring by numbers and as constraining as being strapped in a straightjacket. Which explains why, during my nomadic childhood, I was delighted whenever wartime shortages or economic setbacks forced my parents, aunts and uncles—all talented home-chefs gifted with gourmet taste buds—to substitute ingredients, invent and improvise until they surprised themselves and the rest of us with some novel, but always delicious dishes.

In my own kitchen, Jazz Cooking means freedom to be flexible with ingredients—by adding more or leaving some out, playing with proportions and experimenting with changeups from stovetop sautéing and stewing, to oven roasting and baking. It makes meals—both eating and preparations—adventurous, fun, a bit risky and creative.

02 Sep, 2015

Apple & Almond-Flour Cake

Posted by: lrobinson In: Dessert|Desserts and Snacks|Recipés

(Organic preferred. Feel free to adjust ingredients, proportions and measurements to your taste & creativity.)

• One box of frozen, Organic Filo Dough (sold at Whole Foods and other health food stores)

• 10 small or 8 medium size apples—choose the crunchy & somewhat tangy types, such as Fuji, Honey Crisp, Jonagold, Gala, etc.

• Approx. 2/3 stick of butter (if preferred, canola, grape-seed or other oil appropriate for high temperature baking can be substituted or used in combination with the butter to lower the cholesterol content of this recipe)P1020565

• ¼ cup raisins

• ¼ cup dry cranberries or currants

• ¼ cup dry apricots (if available)

• 1 teaspoon lemon zest

• 2 whole eggs

• 1 & ½ cups of gluten-free, Finely Ground Organic Almond Flour (such as Bob’s Red Mill)

  ¼  teaspoon or more of powdered cinnamon

• Pinch of turmeric

• Pinch powdered ginger

• Pinch of nutmeg

• Pinch of nutmeg

• ¼ teaspoon liquid vanilla extract


• Choose the size of a stainless steel or Pyrex-style glass (my preference) baking pan that best fits the size of cake you plan to bake.

• Unroll and lay out separately, on flat surfaces, 3 sets each of 5-6 Filo Dough sheets, carefully separated and reassembled to allow some air between the sheets so they don’t stick to each other. One set of Filo sheets to completely cover the bottom of the entire baking pan & the other 2 sets to cover he filling. (NOTE: Don’t worry if some of the Filo Dough breaks up as you work with it. Just layer them as densely as possible to look as if the sheets are whole, so they completely cover the bottom of the pan & each of the two, 1-&-a- half-inch thick layers of filling. Each set of Filo sheets that cover the filling should be well tucked in around the filling.)

• Soak raisins, cranberries, currants &-or dry apricots in bottled water.

• Melt the butter, but be careful to remove from heat well before it is hot enough to start smoking. (If you use oil, this does not apply.)

• Cover the baking pan’s bottom with a third or more of the melted butter and lay down your first batch of Filo Dough sheets on it. Set pan aside.

• Prepare the apples—i.e. wash them with Castile soap, dry, core and cut them up into approx. 2” chunks.

• Run the UNpeeled apple chunks through a food processor & pulp them to a coarse consistency. Transfer to large bowl.

• With a slotted spoon, remove the raisins & other dried fruit from the soaking water (or drain water through strainer) & add fruit to the bowl.

• Beat the eggs & add to bowl.

• Add the rest of the ingredients (almond flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric, vanilla extract, lemon zest) & mix well.

• Spread first one layer of the mixture onto the bottom set of Filo Dough, then cover it with the second set of Filo Dough and spoon some of the melted butter on top of it.

• Repeat by spreading the rest of the mixture on top of the second set of Filo sheets; cover it with the third set of sheets & pour all the remaining melted butter evenly over the covering Filo Dough. If needed, crumble more butter over it.

• Bake at 380 degrees & bake for about one hour, or until the top Filo sheets are rosy. Turn off oven but leave cake in for another hour to cool slowly.


Catharine’s Book

Jolene loves junk food. She loves it so much she wears red licorice in her hair—and pink taffy underwear! The Munch Bunch calls her "The Junk Food Queen." Then, one night in her dreams, she meets a bunch of cool characters who take her on an incredible, edible journey into a world of juicy fruits, super salads and yummy smoothies.
Book acclaimed by The Diabetes Research Institute Foundation - which uses it in its fundraising drives.


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  • Giovanna DiBona: Thank you for this recipe! It looks much healthier than the vapid pumpkin pies usually served at Thanksgiving dinners. Thanks also go to True Food Ki
  • Giovanna DiBona: You hit another chord Dina! I've always passed the butternut squash by when selecting my vegetables, as I, too, was clueless as to how to prepare it.
  • Giovanna DiBona: This entry really hit home. I have NEVER been a baker, though I pride myself on cooking healthy meals. I am so grateful to Dina for these natural rec

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Foods Containing Health-Protecting & Immune System-Boosting ANTIOXIDANTS Dina Eliash Robinson — Researcher & Editor in Chief of Being Interviewed by Talia Raoufpur — Student at San Diego State University

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