Tuesday, December 25, 2007

...... Gratitude .......

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.“
-- Albert Schweitzer

Today I am most grateful for the people in my life who have been very supportive during some challenges I face – Jeni, Laura, Sonia, Danny, Mark, Mom, Kathryn, and Trish. Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart,for your love, honesty and support.

I have many things to be grateful for. That I am healthy and strong and live in a beautiful, clean and safe neighborhood where I can take long walks to the beach and back is very gratifying to me. I am grateful for an abundance of nutritious and delicious foods available to me. I am grateful for my luxurious down comforter on these chilly nights, hot and cold running water, a car to drive me where I need to go and this computer that helps me expand and keeps me connected and informed. So many other things I take for granted but as I take my daily practice of gratitude to a new level, I remind myself that life is good in beautiful Santa Monica.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Wishing you good health, lots of love and inner peace now and always. Make 2008 a year of renewed health in body, mind and spirit.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Don't Forget to Eat your Salad!

Food for Life – Green Salad
Fresh, crisp, green salads, you’ve got to love them. Something about the taste of green and fresh has always appealed to me as far back as I can remember…even in my childhood at the age of 7. I have been enjoying salads in simple and exotic forms ever since. A day does not go by that I don’t partake of the gift of a fresh green salad. Here, I offer a simple salad recipe delightfully healthy with a subtle Mediterranean taste.

Wash, spin/dry and chop into 1-1/2 inch strips one head of the freshest, greenest lettuce or spinach you can find and place in the bottom of big bowl. (I highly recommend using a salad spinner but if you don’t have one, drain/dry lettuce on paper towels. The secret to a good salad is that it not be wet or soggy). Add to the bowl.
1 sliced medium to large tomato
8 fresh, firm crimini mushrooms, sliced
½ red or orange pepper, chopped
2 ounces sliced or crumbled feta cheese
½ cup sliced fresh peeled cucumber
10 large (pitted) black olives sliced in half
Now, put the bowl in the refrigerator. While you:

Make your own dressing. In a small glass jar with tight fitting lid, add:
1 small/medium clove garlic, pressed
4 tblspns EVOO
2 tblspns lime juice (freshly squeezed) (or lemon juice)
Fresh cracked pepper
Dash of salt
Shake well, add atop salad and toss and serve. Serves 3-4.

MY FAVORITE FEATURE OF ‘THE SALAD’-- YOU CAN PUT JUST ABOUT ANYTHING IN IT. I opt for seasonal, fresh, firm, eye pleasing colors and the finest EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil I have in my cupboard.)

Monday, October 1, 2007

Food for the MEN of Football Season

I like Sunday televised football games because while the guys watch the game in the den, I get the kitchen all to myself to cook up something creative and delicious. Can you imagine that! I love hungry men who appreciate good food. Yesterday I made Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo and served it over organic white basmatic rice. This recipe is so easy, a bit on the spicy side, and man pleasing with it's shrimp, andouille sausage, and red peppers. So, ladies, send me an email and I'll send you the recipe.

Healthy food tip: High quality rice is good eaten in moderation and balanced with other healthy foods. Select white or even better, brown organic basmatic rice and cook it according to package instructions. (White basmati takes only 20 minutes to cook. Brown basmatic takes 40 minutes, but it's definitely worth the wait. It's low in fat, high in fiber - almost a perfect food and once you get use to it's wonderfully nutty taste, you'll find it becomes like a regular comfort food.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Creating from scratch...

I've been cooking so much lately that I haven't spent much time blogging, but tonight I'm staying up late to share a recipe I just made up from scratch and created. Well, I imagine the people of Tuscany make something very similar and that this dish has probably been created way before me, but tonight I just decided to go with my intuition and make this up.

Italian Bean & Corn Stew

1 cup dried garbanzo beans
2 cups water, 1 cup chicken broth
1 cup fresh off-the-cob or frozen corn, thawed
1 cup chopped onion
2 tsp chopped garlic
1 tblspn Italian Seasoning (Morton & Bassett)
1 cup chopped red and/or yellow peppers or combo
1 cup diced tomatoes (canned or fresh)
Parmesean Cheese for grating
Chopped fresh basil

In a medium (6 cup) pot, soak garbanzos in water for 24 hours. Drain and rinse. Add three cups liquid (2 cups water and 1 cup chicken broth) to pot with beans. Bring to boil, turn heat down to low and simmer 25 minutes until soft (but not mushy).
Add corn to beans 5 minutes before beans are done. Remove bean and corn mixture from heat.

While beans cook sauté onion over medium/high heat for about 5 minutes until soft. Add chopped garlic and sauté another 2 minutes until just beginning to brown. Add Italian Seasoning and stir well. Add peppers and sauté another 2 minutes. Then add tomatoes with juices. (Add additional ¼ cup water if mixture is dry). Simmer 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper.
Add onion, garlic, tomato mixture to beans/corns. If needed, add another ½ to 1 cup chicken broth (or water) and bring to boil. Then simmer 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Allow to cool on stovetop for 2 hours. Reheat on medium before serving.

Serve in bowls with freshly grated Parmesean and top with chopped fresh basil.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Home Grown Herbs

I love fresh herbs, there’s just nothing quite like them. That’s why I have a planter box herb garden on my east facing balcony, just off my kitchen. It gets good morning and early afternoon sun exposure, perfect for the delicate herbs. My favorite “handyman” and friend, Mark, was kind enough to anchor the wooden planter box onto my balcony railing. My herbs are thriving in this space. On the left is Greek oregano, parsley in the middle, and thyme on the far right end. It is such a delight to snip a few sprigs of fresh herbs for a recipe I am making, right then and there! I find that my herbs are even better tasting and more fragrant than the ones I have purchased at a market…..I think it’s because mine are so very fresh. Many times I don’t even cook the herbs, I just wash, dry, chop and sprinkle them on pasta or brown basmati rice or a salad.
Oh, and by the way, this is my very first photo from my new (and very first) digital camera! Last month I mentioned in this blog that I didn’t have any fancy photos because I’m not a photographer, I’m a chef. Well, my favorite housemate, Danny, gifted me a wonderful digital camera and now I’m on a mission to learn how to use it and play with it. I’m amazed that this tiny device (gosh, it’s only 2-1/4” by 3-1/2”) takes stills and video. Don’t you just love technology? Now I can take photos of my meal and recipe creations for you.

Friday, August 31, 2007

For the love of Tomatoes

As we near the cusp of Summer we are seeing a gallery of wonderful fruits and vegetables in local Farmers Markets as well as the corner grocery store. By far, the most outstanding pick this week is the tomato….and for that, I give you this recipe for Gazpacho…..a wonderful cold tomato soup. There are many recipes for Gazpacho, but this version delights in a Thai twist to include lemon grass and ginger. The flavors meld unbelievably.

4 large ripe tomatoes
1 medium cucumber
2 stalks lemongrass
1 piece fresh ginger – thumb-sized
Juice of 4 limes
Salt to taste, 1 teaspoon superfine sugar (or Splenda).
1 small white onion, peeled
1 ripe avocado
½ lemon

Blanch 3 tomatoes in boiling water for 1 minute. Rinse under cold water, remove skins, wrap in plastic, put in refrigerator for 1 hour until thoroughly chilled.
Quarter & seed the 3 tomatoes over a bowl, strain, reserve any juice. Peel, seed and coarsely chop cucumber.
Remove woody outer layer of lemongrass. Use only finest white heart – mince finely. Peel and coarsely chop ginger.
In blender combine 3 tomatoes, juice, cucumbers, lemongrass, ginger, lime juice and salt and sugar – whiz until blended and smooth. Refrigerate.
Seed and dice remaining tomato, onion, & ½ avocado, and combine with juice of ½ lemon and set aside.
Pour Gazpacho into 4 bowls. Add a tablespoon-sized scoop of avocado atop each then atop that add the tomato/onion/avocado salsa. Serve at once or chill until serving.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Happy Chefess

photo by Gabriel Shea

Scroll down and read
why I'm so happy!

Sensual Eggplant Dip

What's so sexy about Eggplant? Ah, ah, now, now, now.....I can hear your mind going wild....good.... try this recipe and you'll be hooked on this smooth, sultry, silky Baba Ghanoush.

Baba Ghanoush (Roasted Eggplant Dip)

2 medium/large eggplant
2 tblspns Tahini (a sesame seed sauce found in the ethnic food department)
1-2 cloves Garlic, chopped
1 tblspn freshly squeezed Lemon Juice
1/2 tsp (or less) salt (optional)
3 tblspns best quality EVOO
1 tblspn finely chopped fresh Parsley

Preheat oven to 400.

Cut eggplant in half lengthwise. Place in baking dish or baking sheet. Pierce several times with fork. Drizzle or brush with 1 tblspn olive oil on top of eggplant. Roast 45-50 minutes until soft and slightly brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool (about 15 minutes).

Scoop out eggplant flesh and place in food processor. Add tahini, garlic, lemon juice, 1 tblspn Olive Oil, and salt. Puree/pulse until smooth.

Transfer to shallow serving bowl and garnish with 1 tblspn olive oil and parsley.

Serve with pita (cut in triangles) and/or crudités for dipping.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Fast is not always better

I don’t have fancy pictures to put up on my posts…..I’m really not a photographer…..I’m a chef. And hopefully, I am perhaps a better writer than photographer and maybe even a better chef than writer. Anyway...
Today was my Mom's birthday – she turned 79. She wanted to go to Typhoon (restaurant) at the Santa Monica Airport. I picked her up at her house and we drove to the restaurant – a delightful venue overlooking the runway with sightings of small aircraft taking off and landing right before our eyes. During lunch I gave her a framed photo of me in my Chef jacket (same photo as on my blog). She got teary-eyed taking in the photo for a minute and then said....”you look so happy.” Truer words could not be spoken….yes, I am a happy cook.

Why do I love to cook and why am I so happy?

I love the scents, the colors, the textures. I love feeling the food in my hands…working with it, looking at it, selecting it, holding it, washing, chopping and mixing it. I even love treating it like precious jewels that I care for by mindfully wrapping it for storage when necessary. It’s my art and it is my therapy. I love to present a pretty plate with vivid colors and textures placing them just so, so that they create a pleasing picture.
Much of my time is spent thinking about what I will prepare, how I will create it and what I need to create it. And that doesn’t even include the time it actually takes to prepare it…..as you know…..it can be time consuming. Which brings me to share this: Several days ago I watched, for the very first time, the Food Channel Show “30 Minute Meals” with Rachel Ray. I was fascinated. Fascinated at her ability to put together some pretty good dishes in less than 30 minutes, but also I was a little unnerved at the franticness of being sooooo fast. I don’t want my life to be so fast that I can’t savor the moment. However, I do respect her for her passion about fast and good and I give her credit because she is good and slick. I see how our lives here in the US, and especially California, have become based on how fast we can accomplish things. That is the message I got from “30 Minute Meals”.
So, this evening I spent 3 delightful hours in my kitchen preparing a meal and eating it with a friend. I loved every minute of it and I am grateful I have the time in my life to spend doing what I love – cooking.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Worlds Healthiest Foods

Let us be mindful of the healthiest foods to put into our body temples - for both nutritional and palate enjoyment. When cooked with love, herbs, and mindfullness these foods are sure to please your body, mind and spirit. ENJOY!

The Worlds Healthiest Foods

Spinach, Chard, Dark Leafy Green Vegetables
Cabbage, Eggplant, Brussel Sprouts, Bell Peppers
Broccoli, Asparagus, Beets
Garlic, Onions
Wild caught fish – salmon, tuna, sardines
Almonds, walnuts, flax seeds
Apples, blueberries, raspberries, black berries, strawberries, papaya
Tomatoes, carrots. squash
Non-fat plain yogurt
Lentils, black beans, garbanzo beans, red, kidney and pinto beans, peas, lima beans
Oats, (oat bran, oatmeal) barley, organic aromatic brown basmati rice
Shiitake and Maitake mushrooms

This is a partial list of the healthiest foods. Please visit www.whfoods.com for a complete list.

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Chefess and her 4-legged friend

This is me and Mable...do not be fooled by her stearn look...she is the sweetest, most well-behaved friend...she's not much of a cook, but she sure likes eating!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

A good time for Eggplant

I was so delighted to see such a variety of eggplant at the Farmers Market last Wednesday. Big fat ones, little round ones, purples, greens, even multi-colored ones. So naturally I purchased several and I'm happy to say that they all tasted absolutely rich and delicious. Even though we can all get eggplant year round, right now I do think they are at their finest in flavor. Eggplant is very nutritious -- did you know it's one of the top ten vegetables in antioxidant content....so it's heart-healthy. Try this easy recipe along with a little pasta or simply by itself for a light meal.

Stuffed Eggplant (for two)

1 medium black eggplant
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon ground cumin
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 ripe medium tomato, peel/seed/chop
1 teaspoon tomato paste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup dried bread crumbs
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 cups boiling water
2 tblsps minced Italian flatleaf parsley (optional)

Cut eggplant in half lengthwise. Score the flesh, scoop it out, coarsely chop if pieces are big, and put into a bowl. (Leave ½ inch thickness of flesh and skin – for stuffing later). Preheat oven to 400.
Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add onions and eggplant and sauté for 5-7 minutes until onions are translucent and eggplant is tender. Add cumin, garlic, tomato, tomato paste, salt and pepper to taste and mix thoroughly. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer mixture for 3-4 minutes, turning several times to mix it well and almost all the moisture is absorbed.
Stuff the eggplant shells with the mixture, top with breadcrumbs, then with cheese and finally drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil atop each. Place shells in baking dish and try to prop them up evenly. Pour boiling water into bottom of dish making sure it doesn’t come close to the top of the shells. Cover dish with lid or foil and bake for 40 minutes. Carefully remove shells to plates using two large spoons. Sprinkle tops of eggplant shells with parsley (optional) and serve.

Friday, July 27, 2007

A Healthy Lifestyle in Santa Monica

Ah... beautiful Santa Monica... with it's abundant weekly Farmers Market, friendly people, cool ocean breezes and some very wonderful restaurants, bookstores, outdoor venues and entertainment hotspots. Because I value cooking, eating and enjoying fine quality foods, especially organic produce, I look forward to the Farmers Market on Wednesdays. I plan meals around the organic seasonal produce I know I'll find at the Market. I find as much fun, pleasure and therapy in shopping for quality food as I do cooking it and eating and sharing it with friends and loved ones. One of the reasons I love the Farmers Market so much is because it's outside!

Speaking of the outside...I am grateful to reside in the wonderful area bordering Montana Avenue. Early in the morning I walk/jog along the tree lined streets amongst beautiful homes and gardens. I always stop to smell the glorious roses along the way and have a good stretch.

Speaking of stretching...I am a firm believer in stretching and have done so all my life during the various forms of exercise I've engaged in. I think this has kept me relatively pain and injury free. I encourage everyone to take a minimum of ten minutes for stretching early in your walk/jog or whatever exercise routine you are doing (after a 5-10 minute warm-up -- never stretch on cold muscles), and then again at the end of your workout.

I hope to bring and share encouraging and helpful information to you over the course of the life of this blog. I'll be sharing recipes, cooking and nutrition tips, talking about things I have experienced, things I need to remind myself of and hopefully things that will encourage you to live a healthier lifestyle. Some of the information I share will sound familiar....simple things you've heard before about how to live a healhty lifestyle but may not be doing now. Take one thing at a time and enjoy the reward of knowing you've made small changes to feel empowered. I want you to feel empowered, strong and healthy.

Suggestion: get out in the early morning air and walk briskly for at least a half hour. Breath and smile and don't forget to stretch!