Sunday, October 23, 2011

Roasted red peppers.......and sauce too.

Many folks purchase roasted red peppers in a jar.  I like to roast red peppers myself because they taste so wonderful when they are freshly roasted.    I roast several red peppers at once, that way not only can I enjoy the peppers as a side dish (or add to a plated dinner for pretty color), I can also make a roasted red pepper sauce with the extra peppers.  Here's my recipe for roasted red pepper sauce.   This sauce is thick and slightly chunky.  It's really good on grilled meats.

Pre-heat oven to 375. Wash and dry two large organic red bell peppers.  Cut them in half lengthwise, remove seeds and stems.  Line a large baking sheet with tin foil and spray it generously with olive oil spray.  Place the peppers, cut side down on the baking sheet.  Spray the peppers lightly on the tops.

Then place on middle rack in oven for 1/2 hour.  Check the peppers to see if they have begun to turn dark brown on the tops.  If after 1/2 hr they aren't brown, roast them for another 5-10 minutes until they turn dark brown on the tops.  When that happens, they are ready.  The photo below is how they should look.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 15 minutes.  Then slip as much of the skin off as possible.  Discard the skins.

Next, place one garlic clove in food processor and process to a fine mince.  Add  the red peppers, 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning, a little salt and pepper and approximately 1/3 cup of your best Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Process well until smooth or chunky. Add more EVOO for a smoother sauce.   Taste and adjust seasoning.  Enjoy warm as a topping on grilled meats or cold as a dipping sauce.

Monday, October 17, 2011

An Apple a Day....Steve had the right idea!

We will all miss you and your brilliance.  Thank you for giving so much to so many.  Rest in peace.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Important information about using canned beans

I know you don't have the time or inclination to purchase dried, organic bulk beans, then soak them overnight, then cook them.  It's very time consuming and requires advance planning.  As a working Chef, I do this frequently because I believe there is nothing better than re-constituted beans.  However, if you're like most people who want to consume more beans now I'd like to recommend canned organic beans. I'm speaking of kidney beans, black beans and garbanzo beans mainly.  Here's the important thing to remember when using canned beans of any kind:  RINSE THE BEANS IN COLD WATER USING A STRAINER.  DRAIN THEM WELL, THEN ADD TO YOUR RECIPES.

There's nothing like homemade soup!

With infinite ways of making soup, there's only one way to start:  select good, fresh ingredients. When selecting your produce, whether it be onions, garlic, green beans, potatoes or any other vegetables using ripe but firm produce assures that clean fresh taste.  (Although I will admit to chopping up a tomato that's over the hill for a salad but not completely gone. Tomatoes are supposed to break down when simmered in a soup anyway.)
I begin with a medium to large saucepan if I'm making soup for just 4 servings.  However, if you find a soup you love, go ahead, double the recipe, get out a larger pot, and make lots!  Here is a hearty Fall soup that's pretty much a meal in itself.  (make extra and freeze some - good for 2 months in freezer)

Autumn Vegetable Soup

  • 2 tablespoons EVOO
  • 3 medium carrots, diced to ¾” cubes
  • 1 large onion, diced medium
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups of butternut squash that has been cut in ¼” cubes
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • Pinch of cayenne, more to taste
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 quart homemade or lower-salt chicken broth
  • 1 – 14oz can diced tomatoes
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme or generous ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • 1 cup canned (or freshly cooked) garbanzo beans

Heat oil in large pot.  Add carrots and onions and stir a occasionally until they begin to soften, about 6 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for another minute.  Add squash, allspice, cayenne and 1 tsp. salt and stir to combine. Add the broth, tomatoes (with juices) and thyme.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add the kale and the chickpeas and cook uncovered until the squash is tender and the kale has wilted, about another 10 minutes.  Discard the thyme sprigs before serving.  Season to taste with salt and cayenne.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

ARTICHOKES - baked, not steamed

Artichokes are so delicious now and they are plentiful in the markets, even at Costco.  And, the good news is they are on the "safe list" of produce that need not be organically grown.  (Always wash and scrub lightly all vegetables whether they are organic or not.  Then pat them dry before further preparation.)  Here's what I have to tell you about artichokes (in addition to them being a good source of fiber, flavor and nutrients, they are so healthy)!

For as long as I can remember I steamed artichokes to cook them but today I discovered baking them in a 425 degree oven. I trimmed them first, washed them well, embedded 3 peeled, smashed garlic cloves underneath several leaves, drizzled them with white white (or you can use freshly squeezed lemon juice),  EVOO and a little salt and pepper, then wrapped them tightly in tin foil . Bake for 75 minutes. OMG, they are awesome cooked this way. It's a bit more time consuming than steaming.  (If they are jumbo chokes,  bake for 90 minutes).   It's well worth the time. (The time it takes to bake them is unattended so do it while you're prepping the rest of your meal.Try's the best.  I'll never steam another artichoke.  And, here's a huge plus about baking them in foil.  There's no pot to clean.  Don't you just love that.  

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My 4-Year Blog Anniversary

I can hardly believe I've been writing this blog for four post at a time.  I am easily inspired to write, post recipes and provide health, nutrition and exercise tips because so much of my life revolves around this mindset and action.  I'm passionate about eating right, helping others to do so also, and encouraging people to exercise.  I am a testament to this because I feel so healthy, strong and empowered by enjoying great organic foods and by continuing to get good cardio work-outs as well as twice-weekly upper body strength training.  The quality of my physical life is truly awesome and I firmly believe it is because I eat right and work out.  At over 50, I don't have one iota of pain or stiffness. Quite the contrary....I have more energy and strength than ever.  Life is good!

Monday, July 11, 2011

There's just nothing like the produce of summer be it from your personal garden, the local farmers market or the organic section in the supermarket. Now is the time to enjoy the bounty.

I highly recommend organic produce whenever possible, but if you absolutely can't get it or don't want to go to the expense, always make sure to wash produce well in cold water, then let it drain or pat it dry before slicing or chopping. Same thing goes for fresh herbs.

One of my all-time favorite foods is tomatoes and now is the perfect time to eat plenty of them.

So, here's an easy recipe for Tabouli - the hardest part of this recipe is purchasing/finding bulgar wheat. I prefer to purchase bulgar wheat at my local community health food market which justs happens to be "The Co-Opportunity Market" in Santa Monica. (They have a fabulous "bulk section". ) You can find bulgar wheat in the bulk section or in the dried grain isle (near the pasta, rice, and other sorts of grains). It is also called "cracked bulgar". Bulgar is a wonderful grain, low on the glycemic index, easy to digest, and requires no cooking (at least in this recipe).

1 cup bulgar wheat
l large tomato or a handful of cherry tomatoes, chopped small
1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint
2 large green onions
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (or more to taste)
4 tablespoons EVOO
salt and pepper to taste

Place the bulgar in a large bowl and pour in hot water to cover it completely. Let it soak for about 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare and place the next five ingredients in a separate large bowl. Toss. Next, drain the bulgar well (squeezing out excess water), then place in bowl with vegetables. Add the remaining ingredients, mix well and voila. Chill for a while in refrigerator or serve at once, either way, it's delicious and very healthy.

Sometimes I add firm fresh finely chopped cucumber, finely chopped red or green pepper, even chopped firm avocado. It's all good! Heck, why not throw in a little finely chopped jalapeno or serrano pepper too to kick it up a notch.

Chopping is a big part of cooking, at least if you're a savory chef like me. I personally love to chop -- I suppose I like wielding a knife -- keeping them very sharp and never putting them in the dishwasher. And because I care about keeping my knives at their finest, I use an "Epicurean" cutting board -- it's the best!

Enjoy your summer, eat lots of fresh vegetables, get outdoors, wear sunscreen, and take a walk under the full summer moon.  Next full moon:  August 13, 2011.

And here is a variation for Cauliflower Tabouili:

Grate 1 head cauliflower into grain-size pieces with a box grater. Toss with 2 diced plum tomatoes, 1/3 cup lemon juice, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce, 2 chopped scallions, 1 bunch chopped parsley and 2 tablespoons chopped mint in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Now is the perfect time to enjoy the fresh vegetables of summer.  Preparing and consuming fresh vegetables keeps you healthy and glowing.  If you eat just two types of vegetables (1/2 cup each) at lunch and another two at dinner you are well on your way to the daily recommendation of 5 vegetables and fruits per day. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Summer is heating up in Southern California!

It's 93 degrees at my house right now, time for a tall cool one. Since I have plenty of mint growing in my garden, an ice cold Mojito is what I'm brewing up. I'm not really a rum drinker, so I'll make mine a virgin drink. For the real deal, use the below link for the perfect Mojito recipe. And stay cool friends.

Don't you just love summer!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Papaya - A most wonderful and healthy fruit!

Large green papayas from Mexico are perfect now and Costco has lots of them at a reasonable price.  Choose an almost ripe papaya (green with just a hint of yellow coloring on the skin and firm, but not real hard, to the touch.)  Let it sit on your counter for a day or two and it will begin turning yellow on the skin.  Then it's ready to slice.  I slice it right down the middle.  Remove the seeds, then lay it on it's side and slice it in rounds.  Now  use a sharp knife and circle it around the skin on each slice, to remove the skin.  Then I slice in slices again.  Serve chilled with several lime wedges.
And you all know how much I advocate eating's the perfect breakfast fruit.  Sometime I cut it up in little pieces and blend into my morning "health cocktail."   Just add it to your morning smoothie like you would any other fruit.  And don't forget to add some ground flax seeds, too.  Way healthy!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Pizza for Breakfast!

Today I made what I call "breakfast pizza".  No, it's not leftover pizza ordered in the night's my version of what looks like a pizza, but there's no flour or's eggs.  It's a split between an omelette and a flat crepe.  So easy to make.  Just saute whatever ingredients you like (I used finely chopped onions, garlic, mushrooms and red, orange and green peppers), then I pour in beaten eggs to fill the saute pan and cook on medium/low heat for about 5 minutes.  I sprinkle grated cheese on top, then I put the pan under the broiler for just a few minutes to melt the cheese and set the egg/pizza.  Delicioso!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Tomorrow I harvest home grown sunflower sprouts

Fresh homegrown sunflower sprouts are a delight in a salad, on a sandwich or as a nice touch as a garnishment to create an eye appealing plate.  I decided to try my hand at growing my own.  I purchased the seeds at my favorite market in Santa Monica, "The Co-opportunity Market".   I soaked 3/4 cup of the seeds overnight then lined a large plate with parchment and spread out some organic potting soil on it.   I sprinkled the seeds atop the soil, gave it a good water spray, then covered it with wet newspaper (yes, that's right, newspaper) then put it in a large dark brown lawn and leaf bag. I placed this in a dark closet for 3 days then I uncovered the brown bag and saw little sprouts popping up.  I placed this in the sun outside and sprayed it with water every day for 4 days and now I have wonderful sprouts for my next salad.  This was a fun project and I love that I get to have a supply of sprouts for the next several days.  If you love sunflower sprouts growing your own is fun, easy and economical.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Middle Eastern/Mediterranean Salad Dressing

Louisa, a new friend of mine,  gave me a supply of ground sumac from a local Armenian market.  So....what did I do?  I got creative and made a tasty salad dressing to toss over dark green and red romaine lettuce, toasted walnuts and sliced avocado. Here's the recipe for Creamy Sumac Salad Dressing.

Put all the below ingredients into a blender or food processor:

1 small or medium clove fresh garlic, pressed (use the entire clove)
Juice of one medium to large lemon
½ cup Greek non-fat yogurt (Chobani brand is really good) – or for a vegan version, use tofu
1 teaspoon ground sumac
¼ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Several teaspoons fresh parsley leaves
¼ cup EVOO

Process to a smooth consistency.  
For a thicker dipping sauce, use more greek yogurt.  For smoother more liquid salad dressing use slightly more EVOO.

Thanks for the sumac Louisa!

Monday, April 11, 2011

This week I'm cooking Mediterranean

I love to cook a variety of ethnic cuisines.  Last month I cooked a lot of Indian food for clients, family and friends.  Now with the beginning of Spring and warmer weather, I am gravitating to cooking Mediterranean.
I made tahini from scratch (all it really is, is sesame seeds and olive oil finely ground in a food processor.)   Easy.
Using the freshly made tahini, I prepared a wonderful roasted red pepper hummus.  I always make hummus from organic dried garbanzo beans (not canned).  I soak beans overnight, then cook them, then make the hummus in a food processor.  Yesterday I made dolmas - stuffed grape leaves.  Oh, oh, oh.....nothing like freshly made stuffed grape leaves.  I prepared the filling first (bulgar based) then rolled it up in the pretty grape leaves, then steamed them for 1/2 hr.  
First I laid out the grape leaf,

I added the filling then rolled up the grape leaf

Voila, stuffed grape leaves to die for!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Time Flys When I'm Cooking #2

Last year I wrote the same headline for a posting and now once again I'm writing it a second time because it's simply the honest truth.  I've been so busy cooking lately that I just haven't had the time to write.  Funny, I make a whole bunch of wonderful dishes and I even take pictures of them but I rarely like the way the photos turn out so I don't post them here.  Perhaps the issue is that the camera in my cell phone isn't the greatest, or perhaps I'm just not a great photographer....probably a little of both.  Anyway, the good news is that I've been cooking a whole lot.  Last week I was on a roll with Asian dishes, this week it's Indian food.  Today I made Chicken Tikka with a nice yogurt sauce for dipping.  One of my clients got me started on the Indian cooking  when she asked me to make dahl (lentils) and she loaned me an Indian cookbook.  I've been marking recipes I want to make so I'll be cooking Indian foods now too.  Many of the dishes are very healthy and I just love the spices.  Ah, very, very good.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The best comfort food is SOUP!

This is a perfect time of year for hot soup.  I like to make soup from the seasonal winter vegetables available now in our markets.  Asparagus soup is a favorite of mine and my clients and not only is it delicious, it is very healthy.  Here is my recipe for Asparagus Soup. The following recipe serves 8 but you can cut it in half easily.   Serve with crusty bread.

  • 3 pounds fresh asparagus, rinsed
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup minced shallots
  • 1 cup minced leeks, whites only, well rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (or fat free ½ & ½)
Trim the attractive top tips from the asparagus, about 1 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Set aside. Cut the woody stem ends from each spear and reserve. Cut the remaining tender stalks into 1/2-inch pieces.
In a medium pot, bring the stock to a boil. Add the tough woody stems, lower the heat and simmer to infuse with asparagus flavor, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and discard, reserving the stock.
Add the decorative tips to the stock and blanch until tender, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Remove with a strainer and refresh in an ice water bath. Drain on paper towels and reserve for the garnish. Reserve the stock.
In a medium stockpot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. When foamy, add the shallots and leeks and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chopped asparagus stalks, salt, and pepper, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the reserved broth and simmer until the asparagus are very tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat.
With a hand-immersion blender (or in batches in a tradition upright blender or a food processor), puree the soup until smooth. Adjust the seasoning, to taste. If serving right away, return to medium heat and add the cream (or ½ and ½) and reserved asparagus tips. Cook, stirring, until the soup is warmed through, about 3 minutes. Do not overcook.
Alternatively, if serving the soup later, do not add the cream and let cool at room temperature (or in an ice water bath). Cover and refrigerate. Before serving, add the cream and asparagus tips, and warm the soup gently over medium heat, stirring occasionally.