kitchen apothecaryAs my scientific career advanced over the years, I found myself getting further from the lab bench where I practiced the art of science in experimentation.  My exposure to science evolved to more of the mentor and a designer of scientific experiments.  Instead of learning how to use the newest state-of-the-art equipment, I participated in scientific discussions, managed employees to produce scientific results, and helped people interpret data, write results and design follow on experiments.

After more than a decade of being away from the lab bench, I find myself returning to a new sort of lab bench, my kitchen.  My scientific career has always revolved around improving the health of people.  But my recent experiments have taken on a new flavor and my new-found motto is “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” a wise phrase by Hippocrates that underlines the connection between our food and our health.

This holiday season, transform your kitchen into your own apothecary and create traditions that ensure healthy associations with food.  In particular, I enjoy the aroma-filled traditions of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and cardamom. My mortar and pestle are my tools resembling that of ancient times and allowing me to grind fresh spices into healthy, tasty traditions.  Many spices contain anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, or anti-microbial properties.  Think how you can spice up your holiday and create a tradition of tasty, healthy and aromatic memories.

Here’s one of my favorite winter holiday pies: butternut squash pie.  It satisfies most dietary restrictions too! I use butternut squash instead of pumpkin because I find it easier to steam, cut and scoop out the fruit.   This dessert is filled with phytonutrients and anti-oxidant properties that are sure to brighten your long winter nights.

 Butternut Squash Pie (1)

Butternut squash is packed with nutrients and is just as sweet as sugar pie pumpkins.  It adds some variety to pumpkin pie and I think it is easier to handle.

  • Pie crust


½ c coconut flour

½ c of almond flour

½ c of rice flour (for Paleo diet, do ¾ c coconut flour and ¾ c of almond flour)

½ c coconut oil

sprinkle of salt

1 T of cane sugar

4T of cold water

1 T of ground chia seeds (I use coffee grinder)

Add coconut, almond, and rice flour to bowl.  Add ground chia seeds, salt, sugar.  Soften coconut oil for easier handling.  Work oil into flour and add water until dough can be worked into pie dish.  Grease 9-inch pie dish with coconut oil.  Work dough into thin pie-crust shape and trim off extra dough. Bake 350 F for 10 minutes.

  • Butternut Squash Filling

1 butternut squash

1 t cinnamon

2 large eggs, lightly beaten (substitute 2 T ground chia seeds mixed with 3 T of water for egg-free)

1 c coconut milk or other dairy-free alternative

1/4 c raw honey

1 t ground cinnamon

1 t  ground ginger

1/8 t ground cloves

1/8 t ground nutmeg

1/8 t salt

Steam butternut squash in a shallow tray of water at 350F for 45 minutes or until tender with fork.  Preheat oven to 425F.  Cut squash and scoop out seeds.  Scoop out 2 cups of squash meat into Vitamix or equivalent. Add coconut milk, honey, egg and spices.  Blend on high until mixed.  Adjust spices to taste.  Pour batter to rim and bake at 425F for 10 minutes.  Lower heat to 350F and cook additional 40 minutes.  Cook until custard comes out clean when pricked with toothpick or fork.