Cooking Authentic Pad Thai with To

A few weeks ago I told my workout groups about making Pad Thai for my family and how delicious it was. My client, To, from Laos, was quick to suggest that my recipe was not the traditional way she would make Pad Thai and offered to show me with a hands-on cooking lesson. I quickly jumped at the opportunity, and this weekend learned a very great recipe from a native expert in this type of cuisine.

Begin with fresh ingredients, most of which can be purchased at any asian grocery store

Begin with fresh ingredients, most of which can be purchased at any asian grocery store


4-5 garlic cloves, chopped fine

3-4 whole shallots, sliced thinly

Olive oil

Tamarind (wet, seedless, in package)

Dried shrimp (tiny, in package)

Grated palm sugar 2-3 Tblsp (or more to taste)

Salt, pepper, paprika 1 Tsp each

Fish sauce 2-3 Tsp

Pad Thai Style Rice Noodles (vacuum packed & soft, just need to be rinsed)

Eggs (2)

Choice of protein (Prawns, Tofu, or Chicken)

Bean sprouts


Garnish with fresh squeezed limes and roasted, shelled, ground peanuts

Saute the garlic, and shallots first in the olive oil, then add rinsed and drained, dried shrimp

Saute the garlic, and shallots first in the olive oil, then add rinsed and drained, dried shrimp

Prep the dried shrimp, by soaking them in a bowl of water for at least an hour. This takes some of the saltiness out of the shrimp. When you are ready to add the dried shrimp to the garlic, shallots and olive oil, make sure to drain and rinse them well.

Prep the tamarind as well, by placing in a bowl of water. When ready to make the tamarind sauce, you will strain the tamarind through a small strainer and just use the liquid that is left, discarding the thick paste.

Also, prep the packaged noodles by taking them out and placing them in a colander and rinse them under water to separate, set them aside until they are needed later in the recipe.

Peanuts can be roasted ahead of time and skins taken off prior to crushing. We did this using a pestle and mortar, and crushing the fresh peanuts.

To begin the sauce, heat a few Tblsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add the finely chopped garlic cloves, and thinly sliced shallots. Next, stir in the drained and rinsed dried shrimp. When most of liquid is absorbed, add the tamarind juice to pan. Next, you will add a tsp of salt, pepper, and paprika. Add the fish sauce last, using only 2-3 tsp.

Set the sauce aside, and heat a larger wok or dutch oven to prep the noodles and protein. Begin with a few tsp of olive oil. Add the protein (we used raw, cleaned, prawns) and cook until done, then remove to bowl and add eggs to pan. Cook eggs in oil, then add protein back to pan, add noodles and sprouts slowly, adding a little bit of water at this step also helps the noodles not to stick. Only use as much as you are wanting to plate for the meal. Add spoonfuls of sauce to the noodles and protein, then add sprouts and chives. Stir together, making sure sauce and noodles are well mixed. Plate the dish and garnish with fresh lime wedges and crushed roasted peanuts.

The meal is delightfully, fresh and full of flavor. Use more salt and sugar, and crushed red peppers to taste at the end to get the end result just right.

Up next, on my cooking lessons with To, will be green papaya salad! Yum!!!

A New Version of "Boring Kids Pasta" - A Vegetarian Ditalini Dressed Up


I get tired of making my kids buttered noodles and frequently like making 1 pot meals.  I make this in my favorite Le Crueset dutch oven and it is a dish that the whole family will enjoy.  The key to making this yummy pasta is using a good olive oil, and a good tomato paste (best ones are in a tube & not a can).

Begin by dicing the vegetables, I use 2 large carrots, 1/4 of a yellow onion, and few (4-5 large) fresh kale leaves.  Then, heat 2-3 Tblsp. of olive oil in large dutch oven pan on stove over medium heat.  Mince 2-3 cloves of fresh garlic & add to oil.  Meanwhile heat 4-5 cups hot water (I use tea kettle)  on stove to add to pan later.  Then add 3-4 Tblsp. tomato paste and blend in oil.  Add vegetables to warm oil/paste and saute a few minutes.  Add a few Tblsp. white wine (if you have on hand-otherwise can skip this step).  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Measure dry ditalini pasta with a measuring cup, & add 3-4 cups dry ditalini to pan.  Then pour 4-5 cups hot water over pasta and turn heat to med-high for 1-2 mins., making sure to stir bottom so it doesn't stick.  Add a few more dashes of salt and fresh parmesan (chunks or shredded), then turn down heat to simmer and cover with lid.  Stir every few minutes while it simmers, and pasta is ready when most of liquid is absorbed.  Serve with extra grated parmesan and salt and pepper.


2 large carrots

1/4 yellow onion

4-5 large kale leaves (cooking greens ok)

2-3 garlic cloves

4-5 Tblsp. olive oil

4-5 Tblsp. tomato paste from tube

3-4 Tblsp. white wine (optional)

1 box ditalini pasta

4-5 cups hot boiling water

Fresh parmesan (desired to taste)

Salt & pepper

This is an easy dish to play around with, & add things to your liking.  For example, I often serve it on a bed of arugula to add vegetables to the meal.  My husband prefers to add protein, could use cooked chicken or sausage or even nuts at the end.   But the best part, is both my 6 & 8 year old love eating this pasta and frequently ask for seconds!

How to make a "Bomb Kale Salad"


One of my favorite perks of being a trainer, is getting to meet new and interesting people everyday.  I'm fascinated to learn about client's professions and hear about their interests and hobbies.  A more recent trainee, Joel Gamoran, is the national chef for Sur La Table and has his own series Scraps on the FYI network.  I asked Joel during a recent workout what the secret to making a great kale salad at home was.  I struggle with finding a recipe that I enjoy making at home, but always like kale salads at restaurants and pre-made from fresh local markets.

 He had some great tips, and this is what I learned.

It starts with using a good, fresh, bunch of leafy, organic kale.  Separating the leaves from the stalks, and then chopping the leaves to desired size for salad.  Making the dressing is the next step.  Begin with a good olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and Joel says the key when using lemon is to include the zest, & it will give it a much stronger lemon flavor.  Fresh minced shallots and a little sugar & pepper are then added.  Massage the dressing with your hands into the kale leaves and then let it rest for at least 20 minutes.  The final touch is to top with freshly grated parmesan, toasted breadcrumbs, and salt.  This recipe is simple but works, and is a great healthy salad you can make at home with a few easy ingredients.  


1 large bunch of leafy, organic kale

4 Tblsp. olive oil

2 Tblsp. fresh lemon juice

zest of lemon

2 tsp. minced shallots

1 tsp. sugar

Freshly grated parmesan

Toasted breadcrumbs

Pepper & salt to taste


Nutritional Jump Start

Photo by DragonImages/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by DragonImages/iStock / Getty Images

I often get asked questions about diet and nutrition.  Watching clients struggle with weight loss has been my greatest motivator in advancing my knowledge of how diet and exercise work together.  Nutrition is the largest contributor to overall health and wellness, as well as a major player in preventing disease.  What foods we put into our bodies will determine how our bodies perform.  If we do not provide our bodies proper nourishment, we will continue to feel hungry and never completely satisfied or fully energized.  Researching many different viewpoints on nutrition has helped me compile a list of the best foods for optimal health, disease prevention, and weight control.


All fruits

All vegetables


Olive oil

Coconut oil

Avocado oil

Herbs and spices


Sweet potatoes

Rolled & Steel cut oats

Almond milk (unsweetened)

Some full fat dairy ( Cheese, Greek yogurt)



All Lentils & Legumes

Grass-fed organic beef

Organic/hormone free chicken

Turkey (hormone free, minimally processed)

Least processed, nitrate-free, cuts of pork

Salmon & other fish



All Seeds (ex: chia, flax, sunflower)



Water (sparkling ok too)


Moderation is key to any diet or lifestyle.  Try to incorporate a variety of foods everyday and keep meat and the more complex carbohydrates to a minimum.  Eat as many vegetables and fruit as you like.  Don't deprive yourself of an occasional sweet dessert, but pay attention to the portion size and try not to indulge in treats everyday.  Mindful eating is another concept that I encourage.  Mindful eating means to only eat when you are hungry and pay attention to cues that signal your body is full.  Instead of "dieting" to change our weight; think of fueling your body as the reason to eat.  The less stress you place on eating, the less you think about food, and the easier it is to have a healthy relationship with food.  

November Super Foods Challenge

Top superfoods offering super health protection:

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— - Super Foods

Almonds - 1 of best whole food source Vitamin E, heart healthy monounsaturated fat, high antioxidant, 13% protein

Apples - apple skin is high in quercetin (flavonoid antioxidants), pectin which lowers LDL bad cholesterol due to pectin helps inhibit absorption of fat

Avocado - rich in B vitamins, vitamin K, contain phytosterols & carotenoids, helps lower blood cholesterol levels of LDL, & increase the good cholesterol HDL levels

Avocado oil

Beans - excellent source of fiber, great antioxidant source of phytochemicals which incapacitate cell-damaging free radicals in the body.

Beets - excellent source of folate & manganese, betaines(nutrient) unique to beets helps protect cells from environmental stress & fights inflammation

Blueberries - highest of any fruit for antioxidants, good source of fiber & vitamin C

Broccoli - contains sulforophane which has cancer fighting properties, good source Vitamin C, beta-carotene, fiber.

Cauliflower - contains sulforophane which has cancer fighting properties, good source Vitamin C, vitamin K , fiber. 

Tart Cherries - increases melatonin levels, reduce gout attacks, reduce pain & inflammation associated with osteoarthritis

Sweet Cherries - high in fiber, vitamin C, carotenoids & anthocyanins (cancer prevention)

Chia seeds - high fiber, high protein, omega 3 source, high in Calcium, Manganese, magnesium, & phosphorus

Coconut oil - contains medium chain triglycerides, which metabolize in a way that can have therapeutic effects on several brain disorders. It also helps increase energy expenditure by up to 5%, aiding in weight loss. Contains lauric acid which can kill harmful pathogens; preventing infections. Improves cholesterol numbers, reducing risk of heart disease.

Cranberries - high in antioxidants primarily proanthocyanidin, helps to prevent UTI's, tooth cavities, and inflammatory diseases

Eggs - contain many nutrients, some of which are rare in our modern diet, such as choline. High in protein, healthy fats (omega 3 rich eggs even better). Also contain Lutein & Zeaxanthin, powerful antioxidant that can reduce the risk of cataracts & macular degeneration.

Farro - high in protein, fiber, & calcium. Good, healthy carbohydrate

Flaxseed - high in omega-3 fatty acids, very nutrient dense food. High in fiber, protein, vitamin B1, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium. Helps with sugar cravings, fat loss.

Garlic - high in a sulfur compound called, Allicin, which brings most of its health benefits. Reduces severity of flu & common cold. Improves blood pressure levels.

Ginger - contains gingerols, powerful anti-inflammatory compounds, aids in digestion, prevents cancer, helps with nausea associated with many ailments.

Leeks - contain many flavonoid antioxidants, good source of fiber, good source of many vitamins.

Lentils - high in folate, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B 6, phosphorus, iron, & zinc. High in protein & fiber.

Kale - great source of protein, fiber, Vit A, C, & K. Rich in folate, omega-3 fatty acid, Lutein & Zeaxanthin- which helps prevent cataracts & macular degeneration.

Oats - great fiber source, reduces risk of coronary artery disease, lowers level of cholesterol, and reduces risk of colorectal cancers.

Oranges - contains over 60 different flavonoids, more than 170 different phytonutrients. Immunity booster, cancer prevention, good fiber source.

Pistachios - great protein source, contain mono-unsaturated fatty acids & antioxidants. Also rich in many vitamins: E, B complex groups. 

Pumpkin - high in vitamin A, high in fiber, high in antioxidants such as lutein, xanthin, & carotenes. Low calorie vegetable.

Quinoa - great protein & fiber source. Good source of iron, lysine, magnesium, riboflavin, manganese.

Salmon - omega-3 fatty acids source, great protein contains many essential amino acids. Also, high in Vitamin E.

Spinach - high in niacin & zinc, good source of protein, fiber, Vitamins A, C, E, & K & many more. Abundant flavonoids protect body from free radicals.

Strawberries - rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, folate, potassium, manganese, dietary fiber, & magnesium.

Tea (green tea & black tea) - flavonoids in tea are good for the heart, may reduce cancer. High in EGCG-most potent flavonoid.

Tomatoes - rich source of antioxidants, including lycopene. High in many vitamins & minerals, like Vitamin C, K, potassium, & iron.

Turkey - antioxidants that help to prevent cancer, selenium good for thyroid gland and immune system. Good source of amino acids & B complex Vitamins.

Walnuts - high in plant based omega-3 fats, high amounts of copper, manganese, molybdenum, and biotin. Contains amino acid, l-arginine, which offers many vascular benefits.

Greek yogurt - good protein source, great source of probiotics, high in B12.